Step 3: Choose a Lithium Charge Controller

As reactive as Lithium batteries are all you really need to be safe is to have a circuit that controls the voltage going to your battery.

While you could make your own charge controlling circuit, it's far easier to just buy one that you know works. For this you have several options.

Adafruit is now on it's second generation of Lithium Charge Controllers that have several options for power input. They're very nice, but a bit on the large size. Not at all small enough for our Altoids tin sized enclosure.

I sell some small Lithium Charge Controller Modules on my site. These are the ones I use in my kit and in this guide. I like them because they're small, simple, and have status LEDs for charging and when the battery is full. Like the Adafruit charger you can also use the USB port on it to charge up the Lithium Battery if you lack sun. (Something that is very handy for any solar charger.)

No matter what you use, be sure that you know how to use it and what goes where.

<p>Really good instructable, but it would be very useful to have a circuit diagram - a picture is worth a thousand words, sometimes.</p>
<p>Will the 6V 80mA Solar Cell despite having a lower current (does the current affect the charge speed or something else?) work for something like an arduino as well? I am planning to use it intermittently on a low power demand project. So slow charge speed (if the low mA means that) is okay as long as the battery can slowly restore that power over a long period of time.</p>
<p>Great instructable!</p><p>I am trying to build one but to charge a 5v li-ion battery. what modifications would you recommend I do in order to do so?</p>
<p>Will the lithium ion battery exploded under the heat caused by the sun?</p>
<p>Will the lithium ion battery exploded under the heat caused by the sun?</p>
how could this be modified to be a UPS?
<p>Question: I have a 15watt solar panel with an output of max 18volt. How can i charge a 3,7V Lithium Ion battery. Most charge controller have an input voltage of 5V, could not found any charge controller with 18V input voltage. Any suggestions?</p>
<p>Hi there! If I use NiMH batteries instead of Lithium batteries can I just do not use the Charge Controller, connecting the Solar Panel directly to the batterie?</p>
<p>Eh you still need a NiMH controller</p>
<p>where would you put an analog volt meter in this project </p>
<p>+ and - battery</p>
* Zener 1n4734 5.6v
I was wanting to ask about the blocking diode no-one really explains why you pick that diode say over zener diode 1n437 5.6v. The reason i ask is iam attempting to build my own solar charger still waiting on alot of the parts to arrive. the solar cell will be 5.5v 266ma going to 4x 18650 cells in parallel setup. Will the zener diode that i have choosen work for the solar cell that i have.
<p>Adafruit has some sweet Li-Poly batteries which work well. What I'd like is to be able to add a LED strip to show how charged the battery is.</p>
<p>This worked very well for me. I simply just wired my battery up to it in parallel with the booster circuit.</p><p><a href="http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Lithium-ion-battery-voltage-capacity-percent-level-LED-indicator-18650-14450-/121047062972?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item1c2ef799bc" rel="nofollow">http://www.ebay.ca/itm/Lithium-ion-battery-voltage...</a></p>
<p>Unfortunately, you can't just add LEDs in and expect it to show a charge. You'd need the right kind of voltage meter or monitoring chip. You could easily wire in a small LED voltmeter (they're all of $4 on eBay) and that would give you a general idea of how charged it is. Otherwise the charge controller board shows when it's full.</p>
<p>can you wire the lithium bateries in series???</p>
<p>How did you prevent the lipo from discharging under 3 volt?</p>
<p>sssoooo.... wheres the lithium kit from the video on the website? all i see is this massive and expensive unit that has dual charging ports. where can i buy a kit that uses a simple Li-ion battery, and one usb connection fairly cheaply?</p>
<p>The parts are all still on the website. The new version addresses several issues that customers had, and gives a higher output and better charging. (The old version couldn't charge a tablet due to low amperage output. The new version can.) The prices are about the same as well between the old and new version.</p>
<p>what if i wanted to put 2 output port how should i connect it?</p>
<p>I actually have a 2 USB Port, higher output, circuit board on my website. IT works better with lithium batteries then the version I used in this write up years ago.</p>
<p>how can i charge &amp; use the lipo to charge my phone at same time? (solar charging Lipo -&gt; lipo charging phone -&gt; )? at same time while walking :) (panel installed on my bag or something, or cars front window)</p>
<p>That you can.</p>
<p>How would <em>I add a switch on to this?</em></p>
<p>It depends, what would you like the switch to do?</p>
hi plz answer me plz can I connect 3 or 4 AA batteries directly to the usb if not!can u please tell me what else can I use!I can't find charging controlers I cant access these things I m living in Afghanistan! can u plz plz help me make this stuff with easiest things!do you know I m talking resistors and other things from recycle electronics plz help me if one of u guys know! my email idris.amiry@hotmail.com BEST REGARDS: Edris
<p>how can i charge &amp; use the lipo to charge my phone at same time? (solar charging Lipo -&gt; lipo charging phone -&gt; )? at same time while walking :) (panel installed on my bag or something, or cars front window)</p>
Great project
<p>rather than the <a href="http://www.browndoggadgets.com/products/3v-to-5v-generic-dc-to-usb-booster" rel="nofollow">DC-DC USB Boosting Circuit</a> could i just use the guts from a cigarette lighter usb charger? since it contains the 5V regulator</p>
<p>rather than using the <a href="http://www.browndoggadgets.com/products/3v-to-5v-generic-dc-to-usb-booster" rel="nofollow">DC-DC USB Boosting Circuit</a>, could i just use the 5V regulator from a cheap cigarette lighter usb charger?</p>
<p>where i can get a free battery charger contorler?</p>
<p>I made this neat little charger but I need a little help. It works fine with my old Ipod but it won't charge my Iphone 5. I bought the booster from BrownDogGadgets and modified it by taking out the battery contacts. ( I may have bought the wrong booster) I am working on making another one. But anyhow I found that this circuit would charge my Iphone 5 as long as I had the circuit in line with my car battery as it charged the Lithium Battery and my phone. That tells me that everything is all right. I just need more power or current flowing. I am considering adding another battery to the circuit. Any advise is greatly appreciated.</p><p>Thanks,</p><p>Jeff</p>
Just wondering because I can't seem to find this directly answered anywhere. Is it ok to be charging up your batteries via usb or solar while using them to power whatever you have plugged into them?
Nothing bad will happen if you do both at the same time. It's not going to harm the battery. <br> <br>Your'e just sucking power away before it even hits the battery.
<p>Will this then confuse the charge controller?</p><p>Is it thus necessary to use another type if charger? Like this one: http://www.adafruit.com/products/259</p>
<p>Thanks for this great project! I'm going to try it!</p><p>I have two questions:</p><p>1. There is a problem if you have connect the USB input and the solar panel at the same time? </p><p>2. It's possible to have connected any input source and charging a device at the same time?</p><p>Thanks again</p>
<p>1. I believe it is no problem as long as you protect your solar panel with a diode. However, the solar panel would only be able to contribute any power if the voltage is higher than the input USB power of 5V. Onto this the threshold voltage of the diode needs to be added too.</p><p>2. That is a good question. I found a forum post where the different possible szenarios for this setting are described: <a href="http://www.societyofrobots.com/robotforum/index.php?topic=15326.0" rel="nofollow">http://www.societyofrobots.com/robotforum/index.ph...</a></p><p>Moreover, there are special charge controllers which can connect batteries AND load together with a power source for charging: <a href="http://www.adafruit.com/products/259" rel="nofollow">http://www.adafruit.com/products/259</a></p><p>Unfortunately, I haven't found any cheaper alternatives. Therefore I have a question too:</p><p>Is it possible to build such a thing as DIY so that it also works for higher charge currents?</p>
<p>I found a cheaper way to get the items needed. I got a 12,000mAH battery and a lithium charge controller/3 to 5 volt Booster circuit and a case for $18 on Rakuten and I also got a 6 volt 320mA Solar panel on Ebay for $8. </p>
<p>Hi there, not sure if you're responding to comments, but I am trying to reuse an old iphone 4 battery for this project, and the contacts are very confusing! I was wondering if you had any experience with this? Mr Google couldn't help me out this time...</p>
<p>Not a good idea. I sent you an email about it.</p>
<p>Super fun to make. I got too big of a switch, but all is well. I taped two old phone batteries (1000 mA each) together for power.</p>
<p>Joshua does an amazing job explaining everything he does. Thanks to him we found a love for instructables. Take a look at what we made with a great instructable showing us how. </p><p>THANKS JOSHUA!</p>
<p>Cats Science Club,</p><p>Can I ask how you added the On/Off switch to your. What did you wire it to/from? Thank you.</p>
<p>Thanks for noticing the slight change! We have the positive from the lithium charge controller going to the switch and then to the positive on the usb port. In our picture the usb is covered with hot glue. We added the switch because the small red usb light being on all the time was draining the battery slowly. I believe Josh Zimmerman sells one with out a light or shows how to take it off the one he sells. Let us know if that helped and check out our site at <a href="http://catsscience.com" rel="nofollow">catsscience.com</a>!</p>
<p>Thank you for the detailed project. I've zero interest or knowledge of electronics prior to finding this site, now i'm stoked about building this and I have all the pieces to make my first project...at least I think so, we'll see. Thanks again for peaking my interest in something I think I can really use and will benefit me to have.</p><p>But please help, Can I use double AA batteries with the lithium charging board, if I use 3 aa batteries i'll be at 4.5V, shouldn't that work? I already own many rechargeable AA's and zero lithium batteries.</p><p>My reason in wanting to try this is for the lighting indications. I'll know when fully charged and they wont be over charged, etc.</p><p>Again THANKS!</p>
I followed your project but I am having a problem with the phone battery not charging even with phone off. I wired this as to the specs and double checked....Do I need to put another blocking diode to the USB controller? <br> <br>By the way, I like this solar charger.
We have used usb circuits that worked find for everything but Apple products. Could it be your usb circuit? Like it was for us. Is the battery on the charger fully charged to start with? Good luck!

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Bio: I used to teach middle school science, but now I run my own online educational science website. I spend my days designing new projects for ... More »
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