Best mppt Solar Charge Controller Review
Harnessing the power of the sun and converting it into energy is not as straightforward as it seems. In practice, it requires a set of top-notch tools, and one of the most important is the best solar charge controller.
In a nutshell a solar charger controller acts as the voltage or current regulator. The main purpose is to prevent the battery from overcharging. By regulating the voltage and current that comes from the solar panels, it makes sure that the battery receives the power that it needs.
Looking for the best mppt solar charge controller? We’ll make things easier for you. Keep on reading and we’ll talk about some of the most notable options in the market. We’ll also help you understand what makes a charge controller important and how you can differentiate the choices available.
What is a Solar Charge Controller and What Can It Do?
As mentioned in the introduction, a solar charge controller regulates solar output, making sure that the voltage and current are suitable for the battery. This prevents overcharging. It maintains the peak performance of your solar set-up to maximize energy production of the cells while promoting safety.
Aside from preventing overcharging of deep-cycle batteries, it also prevents power from running backwards. Otherwise, the battery will drain and it will not be functional when you need it, which is frustrating! Depending on the product you will choose, some charge controllers can also control load.
While a charge controller is an important component of your solar array, this isn’t always necessary. In some instances, the system can do without it. If you have small devices that need a trickle charge, then you do not need to use a charge controller. There are also some applications that won’t require a controller. However, it is best to have a charge controller to optimize your set-up.
How Does a Solar Charge Controller Work?
The key to understanding the purpose and benefits of solar charge controllers is to learn how it works. In this section, we’ll try to explain things as straightforward as possible, with the hope that you will understand its purpose.
The best way to explain its function is to describe it as a flow regulator. The electricity that the system receives should not be more than what it can accommodate. It is responsible for managing the potential mismatch.
To add, a solar charge controller also works by preventing battery overcharging. Regardless of the battery that you have, it is built to handle only a specific power. After reaching the latter, it can no longer accommodate additional power. Continuous charging results in increasing voltage. In turn, hydrogen and oxygen molecules will separate. This is a hazard since it will lead to ignition, and consequently, an explosion. The right charge controller prevents this from happening.
More so, you can find solar charge controllers that will work by compensating for any changes in temperature. If the temperature is lower than what is necessary, the controller will help to change the voltage.
The Two Main Types of Solar Charge Controllers
If you are looking for the best solar charge controller available in the market, one of the most important is to know the two main types. In this section, we’ll have a detailed look at your options.
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
A popular choice for those on a budget, PWM acts as an electronic switch that controls the solar panels and battery. While bulk charging, it continuously connects the solar array to the battery. In turn, it pulls down the output voltage so that it will match the battery voltage. When the battery charges, on the other hand, the voltage rises.
While it is cheap, PWM is considered to be an obsolete technology. It is also inefficient, so it isn’t a good choice if you want consistent energy production despite the external conditions, such as the temperature. More so, it can reduce your solar set-up’s voltage.
Multi Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
Between the two, MPPT is the better option. Unsurprisingly, all of the products we’ll be talking about in this buying guide will belong to this category. It is considered a smart DC to DC converter. It matches the panels with the battery so that the entire system can deliver peak performance. It is considered smart because it monitors the maximum power that the panels can reach. This depends on several external factors, such as shade, temperature, and angle, among others.
One of the advantages of MPPT over PWM is that it can handle higher voltages, making it an excellent choice if you have a high-powered system. This will let you use more solar panels. It can also be up to 95% efficient. This is as against PWM, which can only be up to 65% efficient.
Despite the good things about MPPT solar charge controller, you also need to know some of its drawbacks. They are larger and more expensive. So, this is ideal only for those who have the luxury of space and budget. Nonetheless, the cost is easy to justify because of its exceptional performance and features.
Understanding the Ratings of Solar Charge Controllers
As you try to narrow down the possibilities, one of the most important is to look at the ratings. For the uninitiated, they may seem nothing but numbers. Truth is, they are important since they are indicative of the overall performance that you can expect from the solar charger controller.
Below are some of the most important things to understand:
• Maximum Input Current: This is related to the maximum output of the solar array that you have. This should be lower that the input limit of the charge controller.
• Maximum PV System Voltage: It is the maximum voltage on the coldest temperature that the PV array allows.
• Operating Input Voltage: Throughout the day, voltages will fluctuate. The controller must have limits that fall under the restrictions of the solar array.
• Maximum Continuous Output Current: This should match the maximum current that a device can generate for charging the battery.
• Nominal Battery System Voltage: The nominal voltage of the battery must match the specifications of the controller you should choose. Most batteries will have a voltage ranging from 12 to 48 VDC. Some can be 60 to 72, but this is common only for those used in industrial applications.
Essential Considerations when Searching for Solar Charger Controllers
While the options are plenty, do not take this as an excuse to decide in haste.
The most advanced charge controllers will have a digital display, which is often in the form of LED. This is a good way to easily monitor the functions and performance of the controller. You can see details like battery voltage, state of charge, and the amps from the panels, among other things. Pick a display that is large enough so that you can see it clearly. It is also good if it comes with a backlight, which will be easy for you to see day or night.
If you are looking for the best charge controllers, find a product that logs statistics about its performance in a given time. This is a good thing because it allows you to closely monitor the performance of the system. It will give you an idea of how the solar array is doing, and you can execute the necessary solutions when the performance is dismal. This is important for the identification of faults in the system.
External factors like weather will impact your choice of solar charge controller. If you are from a place where weather is unpredictable, you are better off with an MPPT solar charge controller. It has good temperature and voltage compensation. On the other hand, in areas where weather is more consistent, then you should have no problem if you are using a PWM solar charge controller.
Appliances to Power
You also need to consider the appliances and devices that you will connect to the system. If you will be using it only for small appliances, you will not have a problem with a controller that features a low voltage disconnect. If you have larger devices, then you will need a more powerful controller. Again, this is one good reason why you should choose MPPT over PWM. The former can handle even large-scale applications.
It is also important to evaluate the safety features that are present in the charge controller. It should have features that protect against over-charging and under-charging. Short-circuiting and over-loading protection are also necessary. These can make you more confident of the system’s optimal functionality while also prolonging service life.
If you want to have peace of mind, then make sure to find a controller that comes with an extensive warranty coverage. It is common for manufacturers to cover their products for one year. It is better if you find one with a longer warranty. However, make sure to read the terms and conditions so that you will be eligible for the warranty. Do not do anything that violates the terms, or else, the manufacturer will not honor the warranty.
When talking about solar energy set-up, the panels get the most attention. Some people are unaware that it is a system that includes other parts. Among others, one of the most important is the best solar charge controller, which prevents the battery from overcharging.
If you are buying a solar charge controller, consider our insights above. Focus on our recommendations, and you can hardly go wrong. From construction to functionality, those products are some of the best choices you will ever find.
Our Top Picks for the Best Solar Charge Controller
Ready to start shopping for a high-quality solar charger controller?
From efficiency to reaction speed, this is one of the most exceptional choices if you are searching for a charge controller. It may be quite expensive, but the price is worth it given its exceptional performance and superb features.
Comes with Almost Everything You Will Need
One of the best reasons to choose this product over many of its competitors is that the package is inclusive of almost all the components you will need to connect the controller to your solar array. Aside from the controller, you will also receive a remote meter and remote temperature sensor. Not to mention, it comes with the USB cables you will need to complete the connection.
Designed for Effortless Installation
Right out of the box, you will not have a hard time completing the installation of this product. It has plug and play functionality, so within minutes, it is ready to protect your battery and maximize the performance of your solar panels.
However, while installation is easy, operating the unit can be quite tricky. It is common for its users to complain how it is better if it is more straightforward to operate.
Offers Plenty of Safety Features
You can have peace of mind when using this solar charge controller as it packs a plethora of safety features. It has some of the most advanced features to protect its users. Some examples of this include protection from PV short circuit, battery over discharge, night reverse charging, battery over-heating, and controller over-heating, among other things.
High Speed and Efficiency
Looking at the performance of this product, it is almost impossible that you will not be amazed. For instance, it has up to 99.5% tracking speed, which is faster than most of its competitors. To add, the controller also has 98.7% transfer efficiency, so you can anticipate that the performance will be second to none. It also helps that it has real-time recording capabilities, which will let you monitor its functions better. Aside from this, you can connect it to a compatible computer program, although, we feel that its accompanying software can benefit from a lot of improvements.
• Offers a wide array of full-protection features
• Provides real-time data recording
• Solid construction ensures long-term functionality
• Easy to install
• Can be quite tricky to use for beginners
• Software is tricky to use
This is one of the most expensive of our list, so the price can instantly set many people off. However, that should not be the case. Look at its features, and you can be convinced that it is worth every dollar. From its durability to functionality, you have a lot of things to love in this solar charger controller.
Maximum Power Point Tracking Technology
One of the many things that justify the steep price of this product is TrakStar technology, a feature exclusively developed by the manufacturer. This is the one responsible for improving the efficiency of the controller, making it an ideal choice even in large-scale uses. It can support a solar set-up with power of up to 3kWp. This means that even for demanding applications, it delivers unmatched functionality.
Includes On-Board Ethernet
With the built-in ethernet feature, this is great in terms of connectivity. Although, some users note that it can benefit from firmware improvements. The ethernet helps maximize the performance and functions of this controller. The latter promises to make web monitoring possible. This will let you know the performance of the system even remotely. It seems too good to be true and can be further polished.
Built to Perform
Looking at the overall construction of this product, you will have more reasons to believe that the price is justifiable. It has a solid build, which is indicative of its durability. It is also a good thing that it comes with a fan-less design, which will make it quiet as it operates. Despite being fan-less, it is designed to manage extreme temperatures, so overheating will not be a problem when you are using this controller. There is an oversized heatsink, which the manufacturer claims to protect from high temperatures, even up to 45 degrees Celsius.
Extensive Warranty Coverage
We also like how the manufacturer offers a five-year warranty coverage. This alone is already a good reason to choose this product even if it is expensive. This means that within five years, you can rely on unmatched support from the company, such as when you need repairs. Nonetheless, before using this product, take the time to read the terms of the warranty to be eligible for all the benefits that come with it.
• Solid construction
• Fan-less design
• Accurate data logging
• Exceptional warranty coverage
• Possible firmware problems
For small renewable energy systems, this is one of the top choices for a solar charge controller. It meets the strictest requirements, making sure that the quality is hard to match. Even in marine environments, you will be happy with how well-constructed this product is.
Detects When a Generator is Running
This is a great option for a portable solar panel that connects to a generator. One feature that you will love is Automatic Generator Start. This is the first in the global market to sport this innovation. The latter detects the generator as it runs. It can do so without the need for voltage sensing or installing additional wires in your system.
Adjustable Built-in Lighting Controller
Another revolutionary feature that you will find in this product is the lighting controller. This will automatically turn lighting on when it starts to get dark. You can program the setting depending on the duration that you want the lights to be on. This is a fully-adjustable feature, which is also the one responsible for making it more energy-efficient and convenient.
Intuitive Control Panel
The control panel of this product has an intuitive layout. Admittedly, the display is quite small, but it shows the most important information that you need to know. It also comes with a backlight, so that it will be effortless to see whether it is day or night. We also love how there are three LED bar graphs, which will indicate the status of the battery. More so, it has a good keypad access for tweaking the settings depending on what your solar set-up requires.
Built for Marine Environments
This is one thing that makes it different from many of the options on our list. If you plan to set-up a solar system in your boat, then this controller is an exceptional option. It has marine-grade construction. It is sealed to protect against harsh elements that can damage the internal components. To add, when you buy this product, it even comes with a bracket for ease of installation on a boat.
• Reliable customer support
• Sturdy construction
• Comes with free mounting bracket
• Excellent versatility
• Can have inaccuracies in voltage reading
• Small buttons
It is easy to fall in love with this solar controller because of its price. If you are looking for a budget-friendly alternative, then this is an excellent candidate. Nonetheless, it is not as full-featured as its higher-end counterparts. To add, there are also some who were unhappy over how it can be quite flimsy.
Monitor Operating Data Easily
When you are using a solar charge controller, one of the most important is to be in the know of the operating data. This is easy with this controller. It comes with an LCD. The display can be quite basic, but we love how it shows the most important information you need to know. The power generation and current curve will be shown, among other crucial details.
Your Safety as a Priority
Similar to most of the options that made it to our list, this model also promotes your safety. From overcharging to overloading, it has several safety features that can provide you with peace of mind. This lessens the chances that it will cause irreversible damages to your solar array or appliances. It is amazing that even if it is cheap, it boasts of exceptional safety.
High-Quality Electrolytic Capacitor
Inside the controller, you will see impressive components, which allow the unit to deliver decent performance despite being budget-friendly. One of the most amazing is its capacitor. With its high-frequency and low-resistance capacitor, it ensures better current and voltage stability. This does not only promotes reliability, but it also prolongs service life.
Versatile Charging Options
The versatility of this product is one of the many reasons why it is included on our list. You can use it with multiple types of batteries. Whether you have gel, flooded, sealed, or user-defined battery, you can expect that the performance is acceptable. It is also compatible with different voltages, so it will work on different battery sizes (60amp Panel Battery Charger Controller 48V 36V 24V 12V Auto Max 150VDC Input).
• Lots of options for customizing settings
• High tracking and conversion rate
• Wireless function
• High-speed control chipset
• Durability can be an issue
• Potentially erratic charging
The brand name alone can already provide you with a compelling reason to choose this product over many of its competitors. It also has a reasonable price, especially considering all the features that you will enjoy.
Rapid and Efficient Battery Charging
While there are many things to love in this product, one of our favorites is the 4-stage charging. It has bulk charging, constant charging, boost charging, and float charging. More so, take note that equalization should be done once a month at a pre-determined schedule. This is a process that requires overcharging the battery intentionally to increase voltage.
Several Load Mode Options
As the user, you will have complete control when you are using this controller. It offers several modes depending on what you would like the system to do or accomplish. There is even an option for manual mode. One of the most useful is the debug mode, which will come in handy when it comes to testing. This will help in the troubleshooting of the terminals, making it quicker to address any problem that might come your way.
Made for Different Batteries and Voltages
You will also love how it is compatible with different solar arrays. For instance, it works with different types of batteries, such as gel and lithium. More so, the controller is smart enough so that it can automatically adjust its functionality depending on the voltage of the system that it detects (60 Amp 12V/24V/36V/48V MPPT Common Positive) . This is also a great way to optimize its performance regardless of where it is connected.
Instant Alerts and Notifications
With this controller, you will never be left guessing. Instead, you will always be in the know. One of the reasons for this is the convenient LCD, which shows the information you need to know while the controller is connected to the solar panels and battery. More so, it also comes with LED indicators. Plus, you will know error codes in an instant, and in turn, you can determine the best approach to solve any problem that you are confronted with. There are also customizable parameters, providing options for personalization as you deem necessary.
• Sleek construction
• Works with different battery types
• Efficient 4-stage charging
• Comes with a Bluetooth module
• Poor quality of gate holding the wires
• Difficult installation
Value for money – this is one thing that you can expect when you buy this product. This is one of the most affordable of the products on our list, yet it can deliver an acceptable performance. From design to functionality, this model can offer plenty of benefits to its users.
Diverse Compatibility with Different Systems
If there’s one thing that makes this a good option, it would be its diverse compatibility. It will work with different solar arrays and batteries. It can automatically detect system voltages to optimize its performance depending on the system requirements. Not to mention, it also works with different battery types, such as gel and flooded. Regardless of the battery that you have, you can be confident that this controller will impress.
Good Heat Dissipation
Despite being an affordable controller, this model is notable because of its excellent construction. We love how the body is made of die-cast aluminum. Aside from being lightweight, it is also durable. Plus, it has excellent heat dissipation. This means that it can disperse heat efficiently. In turn, this will maximize the performance not just of the controller but all other systems that are connected to it.
Know System Information in an Instant
This solar controller is designed in such a way that it keeps the users well-informed. You will not be left in the dark when it comes to monitoring its performance. It is a good thing that it comes with a convenient LCD, which will come handy in checking how it works. However, if there osne thing you might not like, it would be that there is no backlight. This can make the display quite difficult to read in some situations, such as in low-light environments.
Advanced Electronic Protection
If there’s one common denominator in most of the products that are briefly reviewed in this buying guide, it would be that they are packed with state-of-the-art safety features. This model is no different. From over-charging to short-circuiting, you will be happy with the tons of safety features that you will find in this product.
• Space-efficient design
• Excellent electronic protection
• Good heat dissipation
• Terrible instructions
• Does not come with a backlight
This is an excellent alternative to the expensive solar charger controllers you will find in the market. Even if it is an economical choice, it is filled with impressive features, many of which are comparable to those in the higher-end market.
Efficient Power Tracking
One of the highlights of this product is the high-efficiency power tracking. This is also a major reason why it ranks high in terms of reliability despite being a low-end product. It has up to 99% charging efficiency. The tracking accuracy, on the other hand, is 99.73%. With these numbers, you will be happy with high high-performing the controller can be.
Another good feature in this product is the LCD. With its intelligent design, you don’t have to be left guessing about the performance of the system connected to the controller. It displays power generation, as well as battery status. You can also see in the display if the panels are not installed correctly, and hence, you can change the position to optimize the ability to harness the energy of the sun. the display is also backlit, which means that it is effortless to see whether it is day or night.
A major requirement when looking for a solar charge controller is to evaluate its safety features. That is one aspect where this product excels. Even if it is cheap, it packs a lot of safety features. For instance, it offers protection from over-charging, over-discharging, over-loading, and short-circuiting, among other problems. With these features, you can be more confident that the controller will withstand the test of time while maximizing the performance of your solar panels.
Wide Array of Charging Options
This is one thing that you will find in the other products on our list. It offers versatility since it can charge four batteries – user-defined flooded, gel, and sealed. This means that regardless of the battery that you have in your solar set-up, it will work! You don’t have to worry about changing your battery if it falls within the four categories earlier mentioned (12V 24V 36V 48V Auto,Max Input 150V PV Solar Regulator)
• Smart display
• High-efficiency power tracking
• Supports four battery types
• Durability can be an issue
• Poor customer support
This is another great choice for people who are on a budget. It proves that even without too much to spare, you can enjoy a great product. Nonetheless, because of its price, we recommend that you keep your expectations low.
Convenient Bluetooth Control
One of the best things about this product is its Bluetooth capability. Some people note that Bluetooth connection can be erratic at times. When it is stable, however, it can be useful in more ways than one. It unlocks a world of possibilities, making sure that using the controller will be easy. From setting up the controller to monitoring its performance, there is a companion app that will help you make the most out of this product.
Intelligent Battery Management
It is the job of the solar charge controller to regulate the battery in your set-up. And that is exactly what you can expect from this product. This will also help in load shedding. More so, because of this feature, you can expect the battery to deliver a longer lifetime while also increasing its serviceability. Plus, it will prevent the battery in the system from going flat. There is also a feature called Battery Life, which is responsible for making sure that the battery is always charged at 100%.
Protection from High Temperature
This model comes with several features to ensure protection of the solar array. A good example of this is its protection from high temperature. The latter can result in power de-rating, so it is a good thing that there is protection from such. This will ensure the continuous functionality of the controller while protecting everything that is connected to the system.
For your peace of mind, it is also good to know that your purchase will make you automatically eligible for a 5-year warranty. This is one of the most generous you will find in the market. Make sure to read the terms and conditions of the warranty to be eligible for its benefits, such as free repairs and replacement of broken parts.
• Offers excellent value for money
• Easy to install and use
• Comes with a convenient app
• Good battery management
• Possible problems in Bluetooth recognition
• Bottom has a large opening that can attract dust
Wrapping up our list is the most affordable of all the products on our list. Not to mention, it is from one of the most recognizable brands in the market for solar equipment. Nonetheless, it is not as powerful as those mentioned earlier, so for some people, the performance is quite dismal.
Automatic Voltage Recognition
You do not need to manually change the setting when plugging a battery to the controller. It is built with automatic detection capability. Whether you have a 12 or 24-volt battery, it can deliver optimal performance. From gel to sealed, this controller is compatible with the most common battery types.
Protection You Can Rely On
Like other charge controllers from Renogy, we love how this product comes with exceptional features for your protection. Whether it is from over or under-charging, it has built-in technologies that will protect your solar array and batteries from potential problems. This can make you more confident that it will withstand many years of use.
Using this charge controller will keep you in the know of what is happening. We love how it comes with a backlit display, which is a great way to see the details that you need to see. Even in low-light environments, the light in the screen will let you monitor its functions. Although, given that the controller is small, expect that the screen is also smaller compared to many of its competitors.
Accurate Temperature Compensation
This is one feature that makes it more efficient while maximizing the performance of the entire system. It automatically measures the battery’s temperature. In turn, it compensates the temperature to extend the lifespan of the battery.
• Space-efficient design
• Easy to set-up
• Multiple protection features
• Can be prone to inaccurate readings
• Buttons can have better feedback
From its automatic voltage detection to built-in protection, you will have countless reasons to choose this product. Best of all, like many of those on our list, it is economical. This is a great pick if you are looking for the best bang for the buck.
Automatic Voltage Detection
One thing we find amazing in this product is its ability to detect voltage automatically. No need to manually input such in the setting. After establishing a connection, the system will immediately determine the voltage. Not only that, it also instantly connects to different batteries without worry that there will be damages or negative effects to overall performance.
Show Real-Time Data
It is frustrating when you are clueless about what is happening with your solar set-up. Luckily, with this controller, you will always be in the know. It detects real-time data, which also means that you can immediately act when there is a problem that needs immediate attention. There is also an LED that shows if there is a successful connection. You can conveniently check what is happening in the controller. The display can be quite small and may be hard to read in some environments, but we love how useful it is.
Die-Cast Aluminum Construction
At its price, you might not expect a lot in terms of its construction and durability. Surprisingly, this product is made of a high-quality die-cast aluminum as its outer shell. This protects the internal components from wear and tear, assuring its long-term functionality. To add, aluminum is a poplar material because of heat dissipation. This is a good way to prevent the unit from over-heating. Nonetheless, to prevent problems, pay attention to its proper installation. assemble the controller vertically and keep it away from direct heat, especially the sun.
100% Satisfaction Warranty
Need a compelling reason to choose this product? The 100% satisfaction guarantee that the manufacturer provides should be more than enough to convince you. You have 360 days to try this product. If there’s any problem, let the manufacturer know and they will do what it takes to make things right. We searched online, but there seems to be limited information about this.
• Great protection measures
• Shows real-time data
• Regulates voltage automatically
• Comes with a 360-day satisfaction warranty
• Might require a bit of a learning curve
• Lacks advanced features