When you think about solar panels, what is the first thing that comes to mind? The chances are that you pictured massive fields of industrial-use panels or rooftop-mounted residential units. While these are some of the most commonly used types of solar panels, the technology has advanced substantially in recent years.
Solar panel manufacturers are able to create smaller and more efficient panels. This improvement has allowed them to use scaled-down panels for a variety of purposes, including in solar battery trickle chargers. These devices are a great way of keeping the batteries on certain pieces of equipment charged and ready for use.
Below, we discuss what a solar battery trickle charger is, how they work, and what they are best used for. If you are looking to take advantage of this convenient technology, keep on reading.
What Is a Solar Battery Trickle Charger Maintainer?
As the name implies, a “solar battery trickle charger maintainer” is a solar-powered device that is used to charge batteries. Trickle charges have been in use for decades. However, solar-powered variants are a relatively new technology.
A trickle charger is a safe and effective way to ensure that your battery keeps a charge, even if the device that it is installed in has not run for a long time.
Trickle chargers are typically used with a variety of different vehicles, but more on that below. Traditional trickle charges must always remain plugged into a power source, which makes them a bit tedious to use.
Conversely, a solar battery trickle charger only needs to be connected to the battery. This flexibility makes them much more versatile than standard trickle chargers.
As long as the trickle charger’s flexible solar panels are in direct sunlight, the device will keep operating as designed. The solar panels allow you to trickle charge batteries, even if you are not anywhere near a power outlet.
How Do Solar Panel Trickle Chargers Really Work?
Operating a solar battery trickle charger is incredibly easy. The typical charger has three components, which include the following:
- Flexible solar panel
- Power inverter
- Wires with alligator clips
In order to set up your battery maintainer, simply connect the alligator clips to the positive and negative poles of the battery that you want to charge. One clip should be attached to each pole. Next, place the flexible solar panel in a location that is in direct sunlight.
Depending on which model of trickle charger you purchase, there may be a small “on/off” switch on the inverter box. If so, make sure that the switch is turned to the “on” position.
Keep in mind that not all solar battery trickle chargers have these switches. If yours does not, it will automatically begin working once the clips are connected, and the panel starts producing electricity.
Before we discuss the difference between standard battery chargers and solar battery chargers, let’s cover a few frequently asked questions regarding solar trickle charger maintainers:
Can I Leave a Solar Trickle Charger On All the Time?
Yes, the most convenient aspect of using a solar battery trickle charger is that you can leave it on all of the time. Trickle chargers deliver a small, steady stream of electricity to the battery. The amount of electricity is so negligible that the device will not overcharge your battery, no matter how long you leave the device connected.
The only time you should disconnect your trickle charger is when operating your piece of equipment. For instance, if your solar battery trickle charger is connected to your boat, remove the alligator clips and secure the portable solar panel before starting the motor.
With that being said, it is important to note that trickle chargers are not suitable for “jump-starting” a battery that is completely drained. While a solar battery trickle charger will eventually recharge the battery, this process takes hours.
Trickle charger maintainers are designed for preventing batteries from going dead. They are also useful for recharging batteries that you do not need to use immediately. If you need to start a piece of equipment quickly, then you will need to use jumper cables, a standard battery charger, or a jump box.
Do Solar Battery Trickle Chargers Work?
Yes, solar battery trickle chargers work as well as, if not better than, standard trickle chargers. They are particularly useful if you are in a rural area and are not near a standard power outlet. These devices will steadily charge the battery that they are attached to as long as they are exposed to sunlight.
Can a Trickle Charger Ruin a Battery?
No, solar battery trickle chargers will not ruin a battery. However, a standard battery charger may. This discrepancy exists because a regular power battery charger is designed to rapidly recharge the device it is connected to. If it is left on too long, then it will diminish the capacity of the battery.
There is no risk of ruining a battery’s capacity when using a solar trickle charger maintainer. That is why these devices are becoming much more popular than traditional battery chargers.
What Size Solar Panel Do I Need to Trickle Charge a Battery?
The size of the solar panel you need to trickle charge a battery will depend on its capacity. For instance, let’s say that you need to charge a 100ah battery. The average device charges a battery at 12 volts and 20 amps per hour. Therefore, it would take approximately five hours to fully charge your 100ah battery.
In order to calculate the wattage you will need, multiply the amps by volts. Using the information from our scenario, 20 amps times 12 volts equals 240 watts. Portable solar panels are available in increments of 100 watts. In this scenario, you would need either one 300w solar panel or three 100w solar panels.
Want to skip all that math? If so, then check out our solar panel calculator. All you will need is some basic information about your battery, and our handy tool will do the rest.
What is the Difference Between a Battery Charger and a Battery Maintainer?
On occasion, the phrases “trickle charger maintainer” and “battery charger” are used interchangeably. While both devices are designed to charge a battery, they are not the same.
A battery charger is designed to recharge a battery as rapidly and safely as possible. These devices do this by delivering a large amount of amperage and voltage to the battery so that you can get your equipment running quickly.
While using a battery charger is an effective way of cranking a piece of equipment that has a dead battery, these devices cannot be left plugged in all of the time. If you do, then the device will seriously diminish the capacity of your battery.
On the other hand, solar battery trickle chargers take a “slow and steady” approach to charging batteries. They deliver an incremental amount of electricity over several hours in order to recharge a battery or keep it from dying when not in use.
Solar Battery Trickle Charger Uses
Solar battery trickle chargers are versatile pieces of equipment that can be used for many different applications. If you need to charge a small battery and have access to plenty of sunlight, solar trickle charger maintainers present a great option. Some of the most common use cases for solar trickle chargers include:
Most lead-acid batteries have warranties of five years or fewer. You can expect to see warranties of ten years or more for lithium-ion batteries.
Solar Battery Temperature
Like anything using electricity, temperature is a constantly important consideration. Batteries won’t do well in either extreme heat or extreme cold. The best place for a solar battery is in a temperature-controlled space where it won’t be exposed to the elements.
Typically, you use your car often enough that the battery does not have a chance to lose its charge. However, batteries in cars that have not been driven for days or weeks will eventually go dead. In order to prevent this, you can attach a solar battery trickle charger to the car’s battery.
Trickle charger maintainers are also excellent for RVs and campers. Unlike cars, RVs frequently sit around for weeks or even months. During that time, the battery will likely go dead if it is not charged.
Remember, your RV does not have to be parked in direct sunlight. Only the flexible solar panel needs sun exposure to work. If your RV is stored in the shade or within a building, simply run wires from the panel to the battery. The flexible solar panel can be attached to the roof of your storage building so that it gets maximum sunlight.
If you own a boat or other marine equipment, you know just how frustrating a dead battery can be. You carefully plan a trip to the lake or bay, only to find that your boat’s battery is dead. Keeping your boat battery charged is often a challenge, especially if you store it at a marina, as there is little to no access to power outlets.
Fortunately, solar battery trickle chargers present the perfect solution. The solar panel can be placed on the deck of your boat, and the alligator clips can easily be connected to the battery. This setup ensures that your boat is ready to use all year round.
Solar battery trickle chargers are a great way of keeping all of your outdoor equipment charged and ready to go. This coverage includes four-wheelers, ATVs, side by sides, tractors, riding lawn mowers, and more.
You can quickly connect a trickle charger maintainer to any of these devices without having to break out the hundred-foot extension cords.
Trickle charger maintainers are a true “set it and forget it” way of charging equipment batteries. You never have to worry about ruining your battery or going out to mow the lawn only to find out that your equipment will not start.
That’s right; solar battery trickle chargers can be used to charge cell phones as well. The inverter boxes on many trickle charger maintainers include USB ports so that you can quickly connect the charging cord of your cellular device.
Solar-powered trickle charger maintainers have become hugely popular among avid outdoors fans, campers, and hikers. Small flexible solar panels can easily be deployed at a campsite or attached to a backpack.
How to Choose the Best Solar Battery Trickle Charger for a Solar Energy System
As you can see, solar battery trickle chargers are extremely versatile and user-friendly devices that can be connected to just about any type of battery. However, not all trickle charger maintainers are created equal. That is why it is vital that you do your research and carefully choose the right solution for your solar energy system.
There is no one-size-fits-all option when it comes to solar battery trickle chargers. You should consider several factors when selecting your equipment, including:
Number of Charging Ports Needed
Some trickle chargers and power banks include multiple USB ports. If you go camping with multiple people and want everyone to be able to charge their devices, then select a battery with more than one USB port.
On the other hand, if you are a solitary person who likes to venture out on your own, then a smaller device with only one port will work just fine.
Capacity of the Device
Another major consideration is the capacity of the device that you need to charge. For example, a deep cycle battery used for a large boat will have a higher capacity than your cell phone. If you are purchasing a solar battery trickle charger for your boat, then you need to select an option with large panels.
Whether or Not You Want to Charge Devices After Hours
The only real downside of solar battery trickle chargers is that they only work during daylight hours when they are exposed to direct sunlight. Fortunately, there is a way to remedy this shortcoming. You can supplement your trickle charger maintainer with a portable battery pack power bank.
If you are using your solar battery trickle charger with large equipment, such as an RV or boat, you may want to incorporate a power box into your system. These devices work like portable power banks, but they store much more energy.
Before selecting a solar battery trickle charger, make sure to consider all of the ways you plan on using it. You can also connect with our experts if you need additional guidance.
Quality Trickle Charger Maintainers from Renogy
If you need a solar battery trickle charger or other solar equipment, Renogy can help. We are the premier provider of trickle charger maintainers, home solar panel kits, solar panel monitoring equipment, and more.
No matter what type of home or vehicle solar equipment you need — car, boat, whatever — we have the perfect trickle charging solutions in our massive online inventory. Check out our learning center to find out more.