3A Solar Charge Control Circuit Schematic

3A 6V/12V Solar Charge Control

This solar charge control combines multiple features into a single design: 3A current rating, low dropout voltage (LDO), range of voltage adjustment (accommodates 6 & 12V lead-acid batteries), reverse polarity protection, low parts cost ($5.90) and low parts count (14 components). High performance is attributed to the application of the common LM358 op amp and TL431 adjustable shunt voltage regulator.


  • Max solar panel rating (12V): 43W (open circuit solar panel voltage = 18 to 20V)
  • Max solar panel rating (6V): 22W (open circuit solar panel voltage = 9 to 10V)
  • Maximum input voltage: 36V
  • Output voltage range: 4.5 to 15V (continuously adjustable)
  • Max power dissipation: 17W (includes power dissipation of D3)
  • Typical dropout voltage: 0.7V @ 3A (less @ lower currents)
  • Maximum current: 3A (current limiting provided by solar panel characteristics)
  • Voltage regulation: 5mV (voltage change no load to full load)
  • Battery discharge: 100µA (most commercially units discharge at typically 5mA)
  • Reverse battery protection: Control shuts down if battery is inadvertently connected reverse

Solar Charge Control Circuit Schematic

3A Solar Charge Control Circuit Schematic

Other solar charge controls that I have posted at

Bill of Materials

3A Solar Charge Control BOM

Link to Excel file

Operation at reduced current/power

While designed for 3A maximum, it will function just as well at low currents. If applied below 200mA, the heatsink may be eliminated. If applied below 1A, D3 may be reduced in size.

Nominal vs. actual charging voltage

When the voltage is stated (e.g. 12V), this is a reference to the nominal battery voltage (voltage in name only). Actual battery voltage ranges from 10.5V (fully discharged) to (14V fully charged).

Float charge voltage vs. full charge voltage in lead-acid batteries

The float charge voltage is the charging voltage that may remain connected long term—this is approximately 7V for 6V batteries and 14V for 12V batteries—actual manufacturer’s recommendation may vary somewhat, so it may be helpful to check the actual specifications. For faster charging, the voltage may be set slightly higher (e.g. 7.4V for 6V batteries or 14.5V for 12V batteries)—this charges the battery more rapidly, but requires that the control be intelligent enough to reduce the voltage to the float charge level after charging is complete. Most charge controls (like this one) simply charge at the float charge voltage—all automotive electrical systems do this.

Mismatched solar panel application—charging 6V batteries from 18V solar panels

Normally, solar panels are designed for a specific battery voltage applications. For 12V applications, the solar panel open circuit voltage is generally 18 to 20V. Similarly, for 6V applications, the solar panel voltage open circuit voltage is generally 9 to 10V. Since the 9 to 10V panels are relatively uncommon, it is not unusual to use 18 to 20V panels for charging 6V batteries. However, in this case the power dissipation of the series regulator transistor is multiplied by a factor of approximately 5. To prevent thermal destruction of Q1, the current rating in such cases must be derated from 3A to 1A.

A potential work-around is the addition of a 3Ω, 25W resistor in series with the solar panel—this reduces the control input voltage thus maintaining the 3A current rating.

The characteristics of a linear series regulator

The dissipated power is simply the voltage drop times the current. When there is current, but little voltage, the power dissipation is low—when there is voltage, but little current, the power dissipation is also low—when both current and voltage are present simultaneously, there is substantial power. Such is the nature of a linear regulator. The power is maximum when the battery starts to “top off” at the set voltage.

Dropout Voltage

The input voltage exceeds the input voltage by 0.7V when charging at the maximum rate—the lower, the better. Low Dropout Voltage (LDO) is the catch phrase for anything under approximately 2V. This is an important detail for 6V systems—for 12V systems, it is not generally a big issue.

Current Limiting

Current limiting is provided by the solar panel—it is not a commonly understood fact that the solar panel tends to be a constant current device. For this reason, a solar panel can withstand a short circuit. Therefore, the control itself does not require a current limiting feature.

Voltage Reference

The Texas Instrument TL431 is an inexpensive programmable shunt regulator. In this circuit, it is applied at the minimum voltage (2.5V) and does not require the usual voltage divider resistors. The TL432 is very similar, but the pin-out is different. Both are available in a variety of package outlines, but only the TL431 is available in the popular TO-92 package.

Circuit Operation

R1 biases D1, the voltage reference diode. The 2.5V reference from D1 is compared with voltage feedback from the resistor divider. The op amp does all within its power to keep these two voltages identical. The ratio of R3 /R2 controls the proportional gain, and C1 is a compensation capacitor that blocks DC feedback, but responds to changes in output signal thus maintaining stability (prevents oscillation). Zener D2 prevents overvoltage at the gate of Q1—R4 limits op amp output current when D2 is conducting. C1 is the positive rail bypass capacitor. D3 prevents battery voltage from appearing across the solar panel and prevents unnecessary battery discharge when the solar cells are not generating power.

When the feedback voltage from the wiper of R6 drops below 2.5V, the output of U1A moves in the negative direction thus turning Q1 on. The increased current out of Q1 causes the battery voltage to increase and increases the voltage at the wiper of R6 until it is equal to the reference voltage.

It may seem like a waste to use a dual op amp when only a single is required, but the LM358 remains the least expensive and most available device. It also has an undocumented feature that provides reverse battery connection. When the battery voltage is reverse, the non-inverting input of U1 is driven below the negative rail (common)—when this happens, the output of the op amp swings to the positive rail thus turning off Q1 and protecting the circuit against this potentially damaging condition. While this ‘malfunction’ is perhaps well known in the engineering community, the application of this as a circuit trick is new to the world.


For the future

Reduced intelligence MPPT charge control dispenses with the microcontroller

Undocumented words and idioms (for our ESL friends)

work-around –idiom –noun, the solution of a problem that avoids redesigning key components—sometimes cumbersome


Join the conversation!

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  • Kiran

    Can this circuit be used for a gel battery or tubular battery?

  • shivanand

    Hello Good Afternoon & thanks Jim for circuit,
    P channel MOSFET is not easily available in market.
    If there is any alternative to them please suggest.

    Also, I am trying to connect LEDs as load.
    can I directly connect them to battery or use any other
    circuit like opto coupler for prevention.

  • Eduardo Camacho

    Good afternoon and Thank you for your response last time.

    I wish to know if this circuit protects the battery from over discharging. And if not, is there any way to do do it?

    Thak You very much

  • Eduardo Camacho

    Good afternoon
    Is it possible to replace the FQP27P06 mosfet for a IRF9Z34N mosfet?

    Thank you

    • Jim Keith

      The IRF9Z34N is an acceptable P-Channel power MOSFET device.
      Rdson = 0.1Ω (a little higher than the FQP27P06)

  • ashwini

    Where should i connect load of 12VDC? Can i use this circuit to charge 12V battery by using 60W,12V solar panel?

    • Jim Keith

      The load connects across the battery or output terminals (3 & 4).

    • Z

      @Ashwini, as per the schematics it supports max 12v 43W, but see the comments above [Jim Keith on June 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm] that says it can be expandable upto 8A.

      I’ve also same problem, for this modification I need STP80PF55 but I’m not getting it in Hyderabad. I’m still waiting for substitute for P80PF55.

  • Zoals

    Please let me know if I can use STP80NF55 instead of STP80PF55 for 8A current.

    • Zoals

      Thank you very much for clarifying it, appreciate if you please let me know any alternate P-channel mosfet instead of P80PF55, which is not available in the market.

    • Jim Keith

      STP80NF55 is an N channel and will not work in this application. Must be a P channel device.

  • Zoals

    I’ve done this on my PCB with regulator from 12 volts solar panel source to charge 6 volts battery.

    Could you please suggest if I can charge 12 volts 50AH car battery with this circuit?

  • Zoals

    Hello Jim, finally I got FQP27P06 and tested on breadboard with 12 volts 4.5AH Battery. I’m getting only 2.4 volts at D1 reference and 2.32 volts at U1A PIN2. Please suggest if something is wrong.

    INPUT: 12 volts 10W solar panel used for above.

    Also please let me know what changes required in the circuit to charge 6 volts 4.5 AH Battery.

  • Zoals

    Hello Jim, I am not getting FQP27P06. Could you please let me know the substitutes for the same.

  • jonseguin

    Im going to build this circuit, Do you also have a circuit for dc-dc converter 12v-19v?

Looking for the latest from TI?