The essential part of almost all solar power systems, which makes use of a charging battery is the solar charge controller. This is the core part of the system responsible for the transmission of power in and out of batteries. With the best solar charge controllers, you can regulate and improve the efficiency of your solar system to as much as 30% or even 50% if it's been properly installed.
With a bit of mathematics and a touch of research finding the best solar charge controllers is quite simple as you will get to discover in this article.
BEST SOLAR CHARGE CONTROLLERS COMPARISON CHART
Top 8 Best Solar Charge Controllers & Our Reviews
There are several solar chargers, but we reviewed only the best and top eight available on the market with a view of helping you make the best choice. They include:
Our Top Pick
1. Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller
This is one of the best solar charge controllers available. It accommodates a variety of battery types and system designs. It is suitable for off the grid systems which are synonymous with rooftops of rural dwellers and has a vast input voltage capacity.
Also, it is easy to use and is designed with a backlit black casing and a green screen. This feature is an ideal addition to the design system of any solar panel needed for beginners and also higher solar experts. It has a sturdy construction and is made of high-quality materials; there is also a swift and efficient technical support service that quickly responds to customers complains.
With the Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller, battery efficiency is increased by 30%. Its input PV can handle as much as 150VDC open circuit that charges batteries from 12 to 60VDC.
It also comes with an in-built 80-character display which shows data logs as far past as 128days. This is not all; it has an automatic temperature control with which the device can use a thermal control system to bring down the temperature of the system to ambient temperature.
Pros + Key Features
- The charge battery voltage can be programmed from 12VDC to 60VDC
- It increases the MPPT output up to 30%
- It has a discreet 80 character display which shows the operational status
- It gets more amp from the solar panel to the batteries daily
2. Renogy Wanderer 30 Amp 12V Advanced PWM Negative Ground Solar Charge Controller
This is a four-phased PWM controller which includes boost, bulk, float and equalizer. It prevents the linked battery from over-charging or over-discharging, it is also negatively grounded, a feature that is normal for most PWM controllers.
It makes use of its wanderer to make up for changes in temperature and automatically corrects the parameters used in measuring optimal performance. What's more, Renogy Wanderer 30 Amp 12V Advanced PWM Negative Ground Solar Charge Controller can work well with a remote temperature sensor, but this has to be purchased separately.
Furthermore, it comes three green LED lights which are found in front of the unit display primary data. It has multiple functions as it can connect to sealed, gel, and flooded batteries. It also comes with safety features which ensure that the battery is guarded against over excessive charging, discharging, short-circuiting, and reverse polarity. This product is what you need if you are in search of quality and versatility.
Pros + Key Features
- It has a negatively grounded wanderer
- It has a 4-phase PWM charging mechanism
- It compensates for temperature thereby leading to longevity of the battery
- It has LED indicators which shows you the status of the charge controller
- It works well with sealed, gel and flooded batteries
3. Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/35 Solar Charge Controller
The Victron Smartsolar has an in-built Bluetooth device which can be connected to the Bluetooth of any Bluetooth-enabled device example of which is a Smartphone. Users can also make use of the Victron Remote Management Portal by using its MPPT controller in any part of the home without charge. This feature is ideal for setting up, updating as well as monitoring of the remote system like those which are installed in an RV.
The controller can also be updated by purchasing an extra Victron battery monitor, specifically the MMV-700 series; this additional feature helps to monitor the level of the battery. With the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 150/35 Solar Charge Controller you get to see live status information such as the voltage, the current, solar watts and so much more. So go ahead and purchase this product, you will be glad you did.
Pros + Key Features
- It has advanced management systems
- Its advanced technology makes it perfect for RVs
- It can be connected via Bluetooth
- The battery is compatible
- It has a max input voltage of 150V and a max current output of 100A
4. EPEVER MPPT Solar Charge Controller
This product comes with automatic system voltage recognition of about 12V to 24V and also an auto-saving function which helps to remember its settings. This is not all; the product also features an LCD system with multiple services which is used to display information, this can be connected to a computer or even an MT50 tracker to help monitor the battery regularly.
The charge controller is compatible with sealed, gel, and flooded lithium types of batteries and has a diverse load control mode, which includes a manual, light timer, and lighting. This is not all; the EPEVER MPPT Solar Charge Controller comes fully equipped with safety features which help protect the battery against overcharging, overloading, discharging, PV short-circuiting or reverse polarity and so on.
Also, it has 150V/138V input and is negatively grounded, with its serial connection string of PV modules, charging current is reduced, a feature that helps save energy. It has an advanced MPPT technology that is up to 99.5% efficient. This product surely will give you value for your money.
Pros + Key Features
- The MPPT controller is quite affordable
- It is very efficient
- It has a 4-phase charging system
- It has an ultra-fast tracking speed and also tracking efficiency
5. EPEVER Upgraded 30A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
This is an upgraded version of the EPEVER solar charge controller. With its advanced MPPT technology, it has a tracking efficiency of 99.5% and a peak conversion efficiency of 98%. It also can accurately recognize and track a series of PowerPoint.
It has an automatic detecting system voltage and can work with sealed, gel, or flooded programs. Also, it has a multiple load control method and a limit for the maximum amount of power that can enter the battery; this ensures that it does not overcharge and that its safe for users.
Its remote meter MT-50 enables you to have firsthand knowledge of what is happening to your solar panel per time, it is also able to regulate the battery temperature and protects it from short circuit, reverse polarity and overcharge. It also comes with a two-year warranty and an expert after-sale service that can be done within the first 24 hours of purchase. The EPEVER Upgraded 30A MPPT Solar Charge Controller will give you value for your money.
Pros + Key Features
- It is very efficient
- Has an automatic system voltage recognition
- It works with gel, sealed or flooded battery types
- Helps you keep track of your solar panel per time
6. Richsolar 20Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
Richsolar 20Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller features a multi-peak tracking technology in that when a part of the panel fails, or it's shadowed which results in several peaks on the I-V curve, the charge controller still tracks the MPP efficiently. This multiple tracking algorithms also ensure that there is an accurate tracking of the maximum working point on the I-V curve, and this is done within a minimal time.
Also, with its in-built MPPT algorithm, it can increase the energy being utilized by the photovoltaic system, a situation that increases the charging efficiency of the solar panel by 15 to 20% as against that obtained from the conventional PWM method.
It has a tracking efficiency of about 99.9% and an advanced digital power supply technologies which increase the ability of the circuit's energy conversion up to 98%. So if you are on the lookout for a solar charger that is efficient, then this is just the product for you.
Pros + Key Features
- It has a high tracking efficiency that is as high as 98%
- Multiple load control
- It has a four-stage charging capacity and has an MPPT output electronic guard
- It is designed with die-cast aluminum to aid dissipation of heat
- It has a one year warranty
7. MOHOO Solar Charge Controller
This is yet another quality product which has been tested and found reliable as it automatically manages the charge and discharge of your 12V/24V solar battery, thereby leading to the long life span of the cell. Its three charging states (gel, flooded and sealed) come with a default value system. And this can be adjusted to suit the technical abilities of your battery.
Also, it is affordable and features a unique machine designed to guard the charge controller from insects, rain, and heat. With its automatic management you need not adjust the settings as it can be left in the default setting. If you don't want to do this, then you can set your values to correspond to the battery charging state.
This is not all; the charge controller can also automatically locate and choose either 12V or 24V nominal battery voltage. With all these features mentioned, it's evident that the MOHOO Solar Charge Controller is a right choice to make.
Pros + Key Features
- It has a dual USB port which includes a charge and discharges current of 30A
- It has an ease of installation and operation
- Dissipates heat effectively
- It can effectively manage the working of the solar panel and the battery found in the solar system
8. GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar Charge Controller
The last but certainly not the least is the GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar Charge Controller. It features a 20A current and supports 12V/24V batteries. It also has an automatic LCD control with which you can monitor your charge controller and adjust its setting if you wish to. It not only guards against overloading, but it also takes care of the fluctuating temperature.
It has a USB output voltage of 5V with a 3A total USB current. It is so cheap that it is thought to be of low quality, but this is far from the case, it has advanced features which makes it a quality product. What's more, it guards your battery against lighting, over-discharge, overcharge, overheating, and overcurrent.
However, it cannot be used for larger solar panels as its battery is too small, it is also a PWM technology rather than MPPT and can be improved upon if it is to function optimally. Despite these minor setbacks, GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar Charge Controller will serve you well for a long time.
Pros + Key Features
- Ease of operation
- It has a dual charging output inter
- It is very efficient
- Features full protection against overloading, overcharging, over-discharging, and so on.
What Is A Solar Charge Controller?
This is used to control the power going into the battery bank from the solar array. It makes sure that the deep cycle batteries are not excessively charged during daylight. It also ensures that the batteries do not run in a reverse direction during the night, a situation that drains the battery. There are some controllers which have extra features such as lighting and load control; this however does not stop the controller from doing its primary duty which is to manage the power input into the solar array.
Types of Solar charge controller
Solar charge controllers exist in two different technologies, PWM and MPPT, and they each have a very different method of operation.
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Solar Charge Controller
The Pulse Width Modulation works by connecting directly to the battery bank from the solar array. An increase in the charging capacity also leads to a rise in the voltage, and hence the voltage output is also being increased, this is done by making use of more solar power. Thus, it is essential that as it charges, the nominal voltage of the solar array is the same as the voltage of the battery bank.
The Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
The Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) is often used for larger systems; it performs better by the ability to suck up all power available in a solar panel. It increases the efficiency of a solar array up to 30% thereby making it the most preferred choice for most users. Besides, it can connect strings of panels in a series pattern to produce more voltage; it lowers the amperage and reduces the size of the wire, especially for long cables.
Charge Controller Sizing
Sizing solar charge controllers is easy. Rating and sizing depend on the solar arrays current measured in amp and the voltage of the solar system. Sizing of the solar charge controller ideally involves purchasing a charge controller vast enough to handle the amount of current to be produced by your solar energy system.
Most often, solar charge controllers come in 12volt, 24volts or 48volts while the ampere rating is usually between the ranges of 6 to 60 volts. This means that if for instance, you have a solar system whose volt is 12 and the ampere is 14; you will need to purchase a solar charge controller that is at least 14Amps.
However, there are factors which you will need to consider while making your choice, and they include light reflection, sudden and drastic increase in the level of current and so on. With regards to these factors, it is best to make provision for an additional 25% increase in the minimum amp you are to buy. So, rather than purchase the 14amp you had thought to buy; it's better to buy a 17.5amps controller. Approximately, you will need a 12volt and a 20 amp solar charge controller.
In conclusion, it's safer to have a solar charge controller with a higher ampere just in case you will need to increase the capacity of your solar energy system soon.
4 Factors To Consider When Choosing Solar Charge Controllers
Buying a solar charge controller of high quality is an investment, especially if you are going for the one that is top-of-the-line MPPT model. This is why it is critical to pay attention to what the solar charge controller is to be used for before going ahead to make a choice.
When it comes to making the right choice, a wide range of factors are to be considered; this goes beyond the mathematics involved in understanding the amps/volts/watts of your solar array. It also best you take into account the model of the device to be charged, also consider if it’s for a large household with an off-the-grid system or the RV type with deep-cycle batteries.
In choosing the best solar charge controller, consider the following:
1. Type of Solar Panel
MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) can be used to gain up to 30% efficiency and also enables a string of panels to be connected in a series to achieve a higher voltage. It also lowers the amperage and reduces the wire size most especially for long wires which runs to the PV array.
PMW (Pulse width modulation) on the other hand, is also excellent, and there some top quality ones as you will discover in this article. They are suitable for those looking for a simple system which can power a mobile device or perhaps solar lanterns in the garden.
2. The voltage of the battery
Ideally, almost all battery charging unit falls in the range of 12 to 48 VDC, it can be used to run simple devices. However, for those running an extensive system or powering an entire house there is a need to purchase a solar charge controller of a higher voltage (60V or even 72V). This is because the voltage capacity of your battery must be able to meet up with your personal needs.
3. Maximum Input Voltage
Yes, it may look as though a 12V panel may be suitable with a 12V battery bank; this is usually not the case. Most solar panels do not function at their supposed voltage, and this is because the power gotten from the sun can vary depending on several factors such as the intensity of the sun rays on a given day.
Also, some business owners may desire to have several panels connected to form a grid. In this case, there is a need for a solar charge controller with the higher maximum input voltage to enable the controller to balance the extra power that comes into it.
In purchasing the best solar charge controller, its best to go for the ones with a higher maximum input voltage as this will enable you to scale through systems depending on what is to be used for; a higher maximum voltage also helps in times of changing weather pattern.
4. Additional Features
Aside from the standard features which every solar charge controller comes with, there are other additional perks and features which you must look out for when making a choice. These features are what allow for customization as customers can get to design the ideal system suitable for their solar array and batteries.
When looking out for extra features, its best to consider the ones that have to do with safety, this feature will ensure that accidents do not occur as this is a massive possibility because you are dealing with electric systems of high voltage.
Before choosing the best solar controller, consider the following features:
How to Setup a Solar Charge Controller?
A solar charge controller can be set up in these easy steps; they include:
Step1: Power the Batteries
If your batteries are not charged, then you should charge them until full.
Step 2: Assemble the Batteries
Once the batteries are fully charged, assemble them in a box or a container. While doing this ensure the positive (+) terminal of the batteries are laid in the same path while the negative terminal (-) are also arranged in the same way following each other.
Step 3: Create Jumper Cables
You can create jumper cables from two AWG cable, with this you can link the terminals of both batteries together. After this link the batteries in a parallel line.
Step 4: Create Holes in the lid
The next step is to make a hole in the lid so a wire can pass from the controller to the inverter. However, this depends on where you want the solar charge controller positioned. If you want it visible then, it should be placed outside but if you desire it discreet then place it inside the container to conceal it.
Step 5: Connect the Inverter with the controller
At this stage, all the wires are expected to be connected. The only thing left to do is to connect the solar panel to the solar charge controller. Check if it works and if does then go ahead and enjoy your solar charge controller.
We cannot stress enough the importance of solar charge controllers. It is the bedrock of every solar system. With the best solar charge controllers, you can rest easy assured that your batteries are functioning at their optimum best and that they are charging as it should and not discharging.
Choosing out of the numerous products available can be overwhelming, but with the products outlined in this article, this should no longer be the case. We can guarantee that any of these products will serve you well and give you value for your money.