Are you pondering the question, “Can you use a solar battery while charging?” If so, you’re not alone. This article aims to provide a comprehensive answer to this query, delving into the mechanics of simultaneous discharging and charging of solar batteries. We’ll explore key factors such as the amount of current required by the connected load, time of the day, and weather conditions that influence this process. Additionally, we’ll discuss the types of batteries best suited for this operation, like Flooded Lead-Acid batteries, and the role of solar charger controllers in mitigating risks like overheating and overcharging.
Firstly, it’s crucial to understand that you cannot discharge and charge a solar battery simultaneously; one process will dominate the other. For instance, most solar panels can send large currents for charging the battery, but when a load is connected, it uses only a small percentage of this current. The excess is then used to charge the battery.
Various factors come into play here, such as the amount of current required by the connected load. If the load consumes more current than what’s flowing into the battery, the battery will discharge. Time of the day also matters; solar batteries generally charge only during daylight hours. Weather conditions like winter can also affect the charging process.
Lastly, safety is paramount. Using a solar battery while it’s charging can lead to overheating and even explosions in extreme cases. Therefore, the presence of external solar battery controllers like solar battery tenders and solar battery trickle chargers can be beneficial.
Can you use a solar battery while charging?
You cannot discharge and charge a solar battery simultaneously. One of the processes will have to be stronger than the other. In most cases, most solar panels are capable of sending large currents to the solar battery for charging.
When a load is connected to the solar lighting system for charging, it only uses very little current. The excess current is used to charge the solar battery. In most cases, the current turnover is solved by the system itself.
The question of whether you can use a solar battery when it’s charging is a very broad topic. You might connect a load that consumes more power than the current produced. Sometimes, the sun is too dull to provide the usual energy it produces on normal sunny days. All these and other variables below will determine if the solar battery is charging when it’s in use.
1. Amount of current required to charge the connected load
This is the primary reason that affects the charging of a solar battery when the battery is in use.
- If the load charging using the solar battery consumes too much current than that flowing into the battery, then the solar battery will be discharging.
- Suppose the load consists of small appliances like phones or laptops, then the excess current produced by the solar panel will be used to charge the solar battery.
2. Time of the day
By now you know solar panels harvest energy from the sun, store it in a solar battery, and then convert it into electricity energy to light our homes. This means the solar battery only charges during the night.
Although the solar panel is left connected to the battery at all times, it does not charge at night. So, when you are using the solar battery at night, the battery will not be charging.
3. Weather condition
The weather conditions determine the flow of current to the solar battery. During winter, little or no solar energy is harvested. When you use the solar battery, it discharges despite being connected to the solar panel.
4. Type of battery
Flooded lead-acid batteries are master of charging when being in use. Most solar batteries overcharge and overheat when they are charging and charging other appliances. Flooded lead-acid batteries are mostly 12V and can withstand large currents flowing in and out of the battery. However, the lifespan will gradually decrease over time. To reduce this effect, invest in a high quality solar battery maintainer.
5. Solar charger controllers
The presence of external solar battery controllers like solar battery tenders and solar batter trickle affects how the battery charges.
- A solar battery trickle will improve the charging rate of the solar battery while preventing total discharge.
- A solar battery tender improves the rate of charging of the battery. It prevents the battery from overcharging. You can also check the level of battery charge to know if it’s charging or discharging.
Charging the battery while powering other devices might cause some implications for your battery. Your battery might;
- Overcharge and overheat which might cause an explosion or even worse things.
- The rate of discharge of the battery will increase.
- Decreased battery lifespan.
Solar battery monitors can be helpful if you constantly use the battery when it is charging. You can check the level of the charge of the battery. This will help you know when to stop using the battery to let it charge.
Can I charge the solar battery while connected to the inverter?
An inverter is vital when you are using appliances that use AC. It converts DC into AC. What happens when your solar battery charge runs low? Do you still use an inverter?
An inverter draws the required amount of charge from the solar battery. If you use the right side of the inverter, you will not have any issues with your battery. It reduces the Amps used while still protecting the solar battery from overheating. You can therefore use an inverter when the solar battery is charging. Provided you are using solar battery controllers.
Can a solar panel overcharge a battery?
It depends on the size of the battery. Standard solar batteries are 12V. When the solar panel produces more than 12V, the battery will be overcharged. Solar batteries cannot detect if the battery is fully charged. It continues to send more current to the battery.
Invest in high quality solar battery monitors and controllers to protect your solar battery from overcharging.
How do I keep the battery charged when not in use?
Use a high quality solar battery trickle. A solar trickle will provide the battery with a small amount of charge, reducing the chances of the battery draining.
Ensure you store the battery in a cool room and inside a battery box that can be sealed. Store away from the reach of children.
Should I let the battery run down before I recharge?
When there is a steady supply of solar energy and the battery is fully charged, it can last up to 5 days. If you let the battery drain before recharging it, the battery lifespan will decrease gradually. It is however impossible for a solar battery to run down as the solar panel is always connected to the solar battery.
Do I leave the solar panel connected to the solar battery overnight?
Yes. Since there is no sunlight energy during the night, the battery cannot be overcharged. A solar panel charges the battery only during the day when there is sunlight. However, if you live in humid areas, ensure you cover the solar panel. This will prevent any moisture from sipping inside the solar panel.
Can a solar battery power a refrigerator?
A refrigerator requires a steady supply of high current. The current might be too high than the solar panel can harvest. Solar energy is therefore not ideal when trying to keep your food products fresh in the refrigerator.
Eng. Matthew Joseph Nandirio is the Founder of walkingsolar.
After graduating from the University of Houston in 2002, matt started working as a Solar Electrical Engineer for several multi-national solar energy companies.
He has a wide range of experiences including solar system requirement analysis, planning, maintaining, debugging and even solar device development through research.
He now shares his 20 years of expertise through his articles on the walkingsolar website.
Further, he is also the author of two books on Solar Technology, “Solar Power for Villages” and “DIY Solar System for Dummies”.