If you have more than a single PV panel, or more than a single source of power (wind and PV) then you need a charge controller. This piece of hardware will provide the battery (or batteries) with the optimal current to keep them charged. More expensive models may have a number of other features like:

  • LED charge status indicators
  • temperature compensation charging
  • overvoltage protection
  • low voltage alarm
  • high voltage disconnect
  • high temperature disconnect
  • lightning and transient surge protection

If you only have one panel and one battery, you can leave the system in permanent circuit, with a constant trickle charge to the battery. I have had such a system sitting basically idle for five years now, doing just fine. --Eric 27 April 2006

This depends on the size of your panel and battery. A large panel that has an IV curve showing significant current above the 14.5V range can destroy a small battery or even a large battery with small or infrequent loads. A very simple charge controller, i.e. just a voltage regulator, is very important in any RE/battery system. -- 05:42, 1 July 2006 (PDT)

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