6 Best Solar Charge Controllers | 2021 Reviews (MPPT)

Regulation is required for every solar-powered system in order to prevent battery degradation, and that is why we’ve put together this comprehensive list of the absolute finest solar charge controllers for a number of applications. All solar panel users, whether they are eco-conscious homeowners or self-taught underground bunker builders, require some form of battery regulation when using a system larger than small trickle systems. Solar charge controllers provide this regulation, and they are available in a variety of configurations.

The majority of solar charge controllers need a significant initial investment, often in excess of $600 in some cases. Since solar system controllers are expensive, when taken into consideration with the costs associated with solar panels and batteries, solar system users may be frightened by the wide variety of models available on the market. However, there is some good news: determining the voltage required to properly service your solar system, whether it is for an RV, trailer, barn, workshop, or a dwelling, is a reasonably straightforward process.

Finding and purchasing the finest solar charge controller for your system can really be pretty simple if you use a little bit of arithmetic and a little bit of investigation. It goes without saying that there are various key things to keep in mind, such as safety features, the reputation of the manufacturer, and the price point.

Top 6 Solar Charge Controllers

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How to select a solar charge controller

To choose a solar charge controller, you must first determine what type of system you will be utilizing it with; whether it is a 12, 24, 48-volt, or 110-volt/220-volt alternating current system. Furthermore, you must be aware of the overall number of batteries in your system’s battery bank, as well as their amp hour capacity. Finally, based on the type of batteries you intend to use, decide whether or not you want any kind of blocking diodes inside your controller.

In the case of premium MPPT models, the purchase of a high-quality solar charge controller represents a significant financial commitment. In order to select the most appropriate charge controller, it is critical to analyze your individual use case before making a decision.

Apart from the actual math involved in working out what your solar array and batteries are capable of producing, there are a number of other considerations to bear in mind. Additionally, each user will need to evaluate the type of equipment they wish to charge, whether it is for a large family with an off-grid system or an RV with deep-cycle batteries.

What type of weather will your panels be exposed to?

Ironically, solar panel kits perform their best when exposed to cold, overcast weather with direct sunlight. Due to the fact that temperature has an effect on the efficiency of a solar panel, a 100-watt panel at room temperature will become an 83-watt panel at 110 degrees, for example.

Having said that, if your solar panels are routinely exposed to rainy or cold weather, the input voltage ratings of a PWM controller will be reduced when the temperature lowers, resulting in reduced performance. In addition, at extremely high temperatures, the voltage input may fall below the level required to completely charge the battery, resulting in a short circuit.

In these situations, an MPPT controller is the most appropriate choice because it regulates temperature while also compensating for voltage fluctuations. In fact, with an MPPT charge controller, you may expect to see a 10-15 percent increase in power in the summer and a 20-45 percent increase in power in the winter, although this can vary based on a variety of other conditions.

Some solar controllers are equipped with battery temperature sensors, which increase the capacity of the battery. This is a fantastic alternative for individuals who want to install solar panels in a variety of regions with varying weather patterns, such as coastal areas.

What is the voltage of your solar panels and battery?

Because the voltage of your solar panel may be sufficient, you may not even require a charge controller. It is not required to use a solar charge controller when working with small solar panels that produce 2 watts or less for every 50 amp-hours of battery power produced. Charge controllers, on the other hand, should be installed on every solar panel and battery that produces more power than this general standard. Your system’s production and efficiency will be regulated as a result of this.

The majority of battery bank voltages are in the 12-48VDC range, which means that the charge controller’s output voltage must be in the same range. The ability of the controller to handle the current generated by your solar panel array, on the other hand, is the most significant factor to consider. You’ll need to conduct some arithmetic in order to find out how many amps you’ll require.

Here are two different equations you can use to calculate the amps requirement:

  • Solar panel wattage/battery bank voltage = amps requirement
  • Short circuit current of the solar array X 1.56 = amps requirement

On the other hand, if you’re working with a high voltage system with grid-tie solar panels, it’s best to use an MPPT controller. These can take up to 150 volts DC input and can convert the amps to max power so you’ll lose minimal power during the process.

What size of device are you planning to power?

A LOAD or LVD output is a useful choice for users who need to power modest loads, such as lights and small appliances. The load terminal is equipped with a low voltage disconnect, which will shut off any connected devices in order to prevent the battery from becoming exhausted.

This option is used for non-critical loads and can also be used as a lighting controller, in which case the device will automatically switch on at twilight as the sun sets. It should be noted that this system is only intended for use with extremely tiny inverters and should not be used with anything with a current greater than 60 amps, as it may cause it to malfunction.

In order to power a distant system, such as those in an RV or a solar lantern, a LOAD/LVD output is highly recommended. A PWM controller is also an excellent choice for these types of devices because it is a low-cost alternative that can only manage tiny loads in its current state.

The use of an MPPT controller is required for big devices, such as grid-connected solar panel systems…. When it comes to heavy loads, these technologically advanced and pricey controllers are far more appropriate.

Where will the solar panels be placed in relation to the battery?

If your solar panels are located a long distance away from your batteries, you may face severe power loss and voltage drop unless you use a wide wire to connect the two systems. In particular, those who do not have the space or the budget to run massive lines across long distances, like as those who use grid systems, may find this extremely inconvenient.

An MPPT solar charge controller, on the other hand, can allow you to use a lot smaller wire because it will convert the voltage for you. When compared to a PMW charge controller, an MPPT is the better option in this situation.

Selection Criteria: How We Ranked the Best Solar Charge Controllers

Type

The MPPT or PMW model of the solar charge controller is indicated by the kind of solar charge controller. MPPT controllers are commonly regarded as the best of the best, and as a result, they automatically rank first on our list. In addition to these high-quality solutions, we’ve included a few PWM controllers in our rankings because they’re occasionally more ideal for folks who are wanting to design modest systems to light solar lamps in a garden or mobile devices.

Battery Voltage

The majority of battery charging systems operate in the 12-48VDC range. Some people, on the other hand, may require a capacity of 60V or 72V. The base voltage standard is 12VDC, but for those running really big systems, such as entire compounds or entire households, a larger voltage capacity is required. The battery voltage capacity must suit your specific requirements, but we also take into account the flexibility to expand your system up if you so wish….

Max Input Voltage

However, while it may appear that a 12-volt panel and a 12-volt battery bank would be compatible, this is simply not the case in practice. The majority of solar panels do not operate at their specified voltage because the amount of power supplied by the sun might fluctuate based on a variety of circumstances, such as how bright the sun is on any given day.

Not only that, but some homeowners or business owners may wish to connect a number of panels together to form a grid tie system to save on electricity costs. Because of the increased power, the controller would require an even higher maximum input voltage in order to compensate for the increased voltage.

In order for customers to scale their solar charge controllers in accordance with their needs and interests, the finest solar charge controllers have a higher maximum input voltage. A greater maximum intake will also take into account the fact that weather patterns change over time.

Max Current Output

In order to establish what sort and size of devices you can really charge with your solar panels, the number of amps that your controller will send to your devices from the battery bank is vital. A reduced capacity is provided by those that are only compatible with 20-30A rather than those rated at 80A or above. While higher does not necessarily imply better, it is an important consideration to consider when deciding which model to purchase and why.

The majority of solar charge controllers are packed with a number of additional capabilities. Taking use of these characteristics, customers can create the ideal system for servicing their solar panels and batteries. The safety elements are probably the most significant added features since they prevent potentially dangerous mishaps from occurring, which is a very real risk when working with high voltage electric systems.

Here are the best solar charge controller features to keep an eye out for:

  • LED screens
  • Data logging
  • Remote-control management systems
  • Safety features that prevent overcharging, overload, short-circuits, reverse polarity and electric arcs.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How does a solar charge controller work?

The most basic definition of a solar charge controller is that it regulates the amount of energy that is transferred from a solar panel to a battery. Use of a charge controller is critical since it increases the efficiency of a solar-powered system by up to 50%, prevents batteries from being overcharged, and extends the life of batteries when used properly. Using a charge controller is simple. If there is no regulation, batteries can be easily destroyed, which will result in a financial and time investment to repair them.

There are two primary types of solar charge controllers: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). MPPT solar charge controllers track the maximum power point of the solar array (PWM). Each type serves a distinct purpose, however MPPT controllers are the most widely utilized in the end.

What is a MPPT charge controller?

There is a significant difference between the two in that the MPPT controller can handle up to 30% more power than the PWM controller and can be used at higher voltages. While MPPT controllers are more energy-efficient (up to 98 percent), they are much more expensive as compared to PWM controllers due to their higher cost of acquisition.

These controllers are capable of withstanding severe weather since they will maintain battery output while compensating for reduced power. The device will also convert the voltage of both the input and output sources, with minimal power loss coming from the conversion process. The controller should be capable of controlling a solar array with a voltage of up to 150VDC, depending on the type.

What is a PMW charge controller?

This switch connects the solar array and the batteries through the use of pulse width modulation (PWM). When the outside temperature is extremely high or extremely low, it frequently results in limited power production. It also forces the output voltage of a solar array to be reduced to the same level as the battery’s output voltage.

As the number of solar panels on your roof grows, you’ll need additional big wiring to accommodate the increased area covered by the panels. This will be quite expensive, despite the fact that the controller itself is the least expensive choice available on the market.

After all is said and done, the PMW is more out of date in terms of technology and does not offer nearly as many advantages as the MPPT charge controller when it comes to battery regulating.

Is the MPPT charge controller always better?

The quick response is that this is not always the case.

PWM charge controllers should only be used by individuals who need to power a modest number of electronic devices and appliances. They are more cost-effective and are capable of handling lower voltage.

MPPT charge controllers, on the other hand, are recommended for individuals who want to install solar panels on their roofs or power huge systems with solar energy. They can assist in keeping the amperage low and the wire diameter small. They do this while connecting a series of high-voltage panels to the main power supply.

Rankings & Reviews

With our set criteria of controller type, battery bank voltage (V), maximum input voltage (V), maximum current out (A), and additional features in mind, we’ve identified the finest 6 solar charge controllers for you to choose from.

When compiling our rankings, we took into account a variety of uses and purposes. Not only are MPPT controllers affected, but so are other controllers. As a result, we place a high value on safety and quality criteria when determining our rankings.

Our #1 Pick: EPEVER MPPT Charge Controller

  • Type: MPPT
  • Battery voltage: 12-24V
  • Max input voltage: 100V
  • Max current output: 30A
  • Extra features: Four stage battery charging, temperature compensation, LCD screen, PC software, supports remote meter and multiple load control methods.
  • The high points: A cheap MPPT controller compared to other top-tier models with great safety protections.
  • The low points: Doesn’t offer as high of a max input voltage or max current output as other MPPT models.

When it comes to battery regulation, MPPT controllers are the undisputed king of the hill. There are MPPT models available that include additional features and bells & whistles.

The Epever solar charge controller, on the other hand, comes out on top in terms of cost-effectiveness. In comparison to other high-quality models, it has a price that is close to half of the competition. However, you get a lot of value for your money with this charging controller.

Overall, the Epever solar charge controller boasts a high tracking efficiency rating of no less than 99.5 percent, according to the manufacturer. Other variants are available from the manufacturer with current outputs ranging from 20A to 40A. The 30A version, on the other hand, is a nice medium ground for regular purchasers who aren’t wanting to build large solar arrays of their own.

A excellent option for people wishing to build off-grid solar panel systems to power a home or bunker is also available. Epever simplifies the process of harvesting energy-efficient and environmentally beneficial solar electricity by providing free system design and technical support from the company.

What do reviewers say?

Customers are raving about the incredible value offered by a high-quality MPPT solar charge controller. In addition to solar panels on travel trailers and dwellings, they have used the gadget to manage solar panels on ponds, among other things. Because of the remote display, they claim that it is simple to set up and operate the system.

Some users have reported that their controllers have failed. However, many have stated that the customer care provided by the manufacturer was prompt and kind. The large number of features is also well-liked by the reviewers. These include the regulation of load output for illumination and the control of battery usage.

Features & Considerations

With an automatic system voltage detection range of 12 to 24V and an auto-saving function to recall settings, the Epever MPPT solar charge controller is an excellent choice. A multi-function LCD display system is also included, which may be used to show information, as well as be connected to PC software or an MT50 tracker for continuous monitoring.

There are three different lithium battery types supported by the charge controller, and it has numerous load control modes, including manual, illumination, and light timer. On top of that, there are numerous safety features built into the controller, including protection against battery overvoltage, load overload, PV short circuit or reverse polarity, among others.

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The Next Best: Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller

  • Type: MPPT
  • Battery voltage: 12-60V
  • Max input voltage: 150V
  • Max current output: 80A
  • Extra features: Programmable, backlit display, logged system performance data, temperature control, and network integration capable.
  • The high points: Can handle high amounts of DC volts and convert them to 12VDC to 60VDC for battery banks.
  • The low points: Very high price point for system and customizable additions.

The Outback Flexmax FM80 solar controller is one of the best available on the market since it is capable of supporting a wide range of system designs and battery types. Featuring a massive maximum input voltage capacity, the Outback controller is ideal for off-grid systems such as those that people install on roofs or in remote locations.

In addition to its ability to provide easier management and programming, this device has a number of other important features. When connected to the MATE system display and controller, or when coupled to a branded inverter and a HUB communications manager, the manufacturer also enables for more advanced setups.

Along with being simple to use, the Outback solar charge controller was created with an unobtrusive black case and green screen, according to the manufacturer. This device is an excellent complement to any solar panel system design, and it is suitable for both advanced and novice solar enthusiasts.

What do reviewers say?

The Outback brand has received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers. This model isn’t an exception to the rule.

Reviewers had few concerns about the product’s robust build and high-quality design. Many of those who have had problems with their products have stated that the manufacturer’s customer support is swift and effective. They claim that they are able to resolve issues promptly.

One customer was dissatisfied with the fact that it did not include a data cable. A connection between the Outback controller and the HUB communications manager is required for this to work.

Purchasers will need to purchase a separate cable because it is not included with the package. To put it another way, if they wish to consolidate their data recording and system administration.

Features & Considerations

The Outback Flexmax claims to be able to improve PV array output by up to 30%, which is significantly higher than the majority of other models on the market. The input PV voltage can be as high as 150VDC open circuit, which is sufficient for charging batteries ranging from 12 to 60VDC. Because of its high voltage capacity, the Outback controller is an excellent choice for grid-connected solar panel installations.

It also has an integrated 80-character display that displays data records from the previous 128 days, which is unique to this particular FM80 model. Other advanced Outback technologies, including as an inverter, MATE3 controller, and HUB communications manager, can be used to simply centralize this data logging.

It is possible to employ sophisticated thermal management solutions to cool the system down to a comfortable temperature with automated temperature control enabled. You can also use an optional remote temperature sensor, which you can purchase separately, to augment your system.

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Our Next Favorite: MidNite Solar Classic 150 Charge Controller

  • Type: MPPT
  • Battery voltage: 12-72V
  • Max input voltage: 150V
  • Max current output: 96A
  • Extra features: Built-in DC-GFP and arc fault, solar, wind energy and hydro MPPT modes, and extension of VOC limit.
  • The high points: Very safe to use as it’s equipped with an automatic arc fault detection that trips a circuit when it detects dangerous electric arcs.
  • The low points: The built-in software has a few coding bugs that make difficult to navigate.

In terms of safety, the Midnite Solar Classic MPPT charge controller is one of the most reliable options available today. Its automatic arc fault detection serves to keep users safe from potentially hazardous electrical currents. Moreover, because all controllers are manufactured in the United States of America, the manufacturer can ensure good quality.

Because of its high maximum input voltage and current output, the Midnite Solar Classic is ideal for big solar systems that power items such as warehouses and bunkers, as well as for residential solar systems. The MPPT charge controller also comes with an extended warranty that permits consumers to return their device to the manufacturer for a general tune-up for a small price.

Afterwards, they’ll add an additional two years to the warranty’s duration. First-time solar users will find the hefty upfront purchase less scary as a result of this additional layer of safety provided to them.

What do reviewers say?

The large power range of the Midnite Solar Classic has gotten overwhelmingly positive response from the majority of reviewers who have tested it out. Because of its 48-72 volt capacity, it is one of the most powerful generators currently available on the market today.

Buyers have also expressed a sense of security as a result of the additional safety measures and procedures implemented by the company. If you look at it in terms of monetary value, the investment is well worthwhile. Those who do not have a lot of roof space might make the most of their solar panels by extracting every last watt they can.

Not to forget about the tracking features. In a format that is straightforward to analyze and evaluate, it keeps four months’ worth of data in one location.

Some users, on the other hand, have expressed dissatisfaction with the firmware, claiming that it is poorly written and difficult to use. As a result, they begin to have reservations about the legitimacy of the corporation.

Features & Considerations

s+ When it comes to Midnite Solar Classic controller features, one of the most useful is the ability to access the power system from a distance using the Midnite Solar Local Application. Using the app, you can simply monitor your system from a distance using the internet, and you can also gain access to the system to troubleshoot any issues that may emerge..

This function is ideal for those who want to install solar panels in distant sites that are far away from their residences, such as underground bunkers, hunting lodges, summer homes, or agricultural operations.

It can also handle a range of DC sources, such as certified photovoltaic (PV), hydroelectric, and wind turbines, among other things. For use with big systems, you may also purchase a number of classic controllers and connect them in a parallel sequence. Thus, the power capacity of the system is substantially increased, thus providing a massive, one control center for your solar panels.

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4. Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/50 Solar Charge Controller

  • Type: MPPT
  • Battery voltage: 12-48V
  • Max input voltage: 150V
  • Max current output: 100A
  • Extra features: Bluetooth connection, remote management portal, battery monitor compatible.
  • The high points: The advanced technology and intelligent management system makes it perfect for RVs.
  • The low points: Requires an additional purchase for full battery monitoring.

Featuring an intuitive and lightning-fast technology, the Victron SmartSolar MPPT charge controller is a fantastic solution for people who are inexperienced with or new to the installation of solar systems. This MPPT controller is at the top of the list because of the digital features it has, such as the wireless Bluetooth management system.

Victron energy is well-known for producing high-quality power conversion equipment, and this model is no exception. Victron, based in the Netherlands, has been manufacturing battery inverters and chargers since 1975, with a focus on the automotive and marine markets.

What do reviewers say?

Especially when it comes to solar panels mounted on vehicles such as RVs and boats, buyers are raving about Victron’s reputation as a manufacturer of battery components. The Bluetooth feature, which allows users to connect their smartphones to the device, is, without a doubt, the most significant. This is said to be particularly useful while driving long distances.

Some purchasers, on the other hand, have complained that technical help is not always immediately available. That is problematic, given the fact that their primary selling point is cutting-edge technology. One buyer additionally alleges that this controller caused his batteries to get damaged as a result of overcharging and flooding them with power.

Features & Considerations

Bluetooth connectivity is included into the Victron SmartController, allowing it to connect to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone. Users can access the Victron Remote Management Portal, which allows them to manage the MPPT controller from any location with an internet connection. This is particularly useful for configuring, updating, and monitoring distant systems, such as those placed in RVs.

It is also possible to upgrade the controller by purchasing the Victron battery monitor BMV-700 series in addition to the controller. This add-on will keep track on the battery bank’s status. It displays real-time status information, such as voltage, current, solar watts, and other metrics.

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5. Renogy Wanderer

  • Type: PWM
  • Battery voltage: 12V
  • Max input voltage: 25V
  • Max current output: 30A
  • Extra features: Four stage charging, temperature compensation, LED indicators and protection against overcharging, overload, short-circuit and reverse polarity.
  • The high points: Offers different ways of determining when the load is powered.
  • The low points: The device is only equipped with an LED indicator light and doesn’t have an LCD display for important diagnostic data.

The Renogy Wander is an intriguing option for a home-based solar system because of its clean and elegant black style. The Wanderer is a charge controller that is a part of the extensive Renogy family of charge controller models. It is one of the best because of its low price point and defensive features.

PWM technology, as opposed to MPPT technology, is used in the device, which considerably limits the possibilities of the gadget. However, despite the fact that the technology is less advanced, this model is still an excellent choice for individuals wishing to power modest systems.

What do reviewers say?

Despite the fact that some consider the gadget to be “bare bones,” testers have found it to be useful and dependable. The lighting in gardens or on the sides of barns is an excellent choice, but it will not work for huge domestic grid tie arrays.

Some consumers have reported that their controllers have stopped working after a few months of use. There has been one report of difficulty in connecting the unit’s connectors at the bottom. In general, people regard the Wanderer as a basic solar charge controller that may be used to satisfy the needs of non-complex and small-scale users.

Features & Considerations

It is possible to prevent overcharging or overdischarging of the linked battery by using a four-phased PWM charging system that includes bulk, boost, float, and equalization. It is also negatively grounded, which is quite usual for this type of composition.

The Wander is capable of compensating for temperature variations. It will automatically correct the parameters in order to achieve the best possible performance.

It can be used in conjunction with a remote temperature sensor. This will allow for the collection of data on temperature compensation. That device will have to be purchased individually. The three green LED lights on the front of the machine display the most important information.

Due to the fact that it may be connected to sealed, gel, and flooded batteries, the PWM controller is extremely adaptable. In addition, it incorporates safety features. Overcharging, overloading, short-circuiting, and reverse polarity are all prevented as a result of this feature.

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6. MOHOO 20A Charge Controller

  • Type: PWM
  • Battery voltage: 12-24V
  • Max input voltage: 24V
  • Max current output: 20A
  • Extra features: Auto shut-off, safety protections, moisture coating, LCD screen display, USB ports.
  • The high points: Can use it with both 12V and 24V systems, including charging phones directly.
  • The low points: Cannot connect it to more than 20A of load with the terminals.

The MOHOO PWM charge controller is the most affordable option on our list, and it is a terrific no-fuss solution for individuals who have small solar setups. It’s great for charging small electronic items such as flashlights and cellphones, as well as lighting. However, because of its restricted power capacity, it cannot be used for anything requiring more than 20A.

The MOHOO is one of the more capable PWM charge controller versions available. However, it is still not quite as powerful as an MPPT controller.

Regardless, this model is capable of providing bulk charging up to 80% of its maximum capacity. There is also an equalization charge and float billing for the final 20% of the capacity available on the system.

What do reviewers say?

The small MOHOO model has received positive feedback from the majority of reviewers. There has been some criticism that it is not particularly effective. However, this is a drawback that all PWM charge controllers have to contend with.

Others appreciate the additional USB connections for charging their iPhones. Nevertheless, they warn that leaving the phone unplugged overnight will cause the battery to drain.

A large number of users have acquired them for use in work trailers. According to them, they are simple to set up and operate. One of the most significant selling points is the ridiculously low pricing.

Features & Considerations

The huge LCD screen may display critical information about the unit’s specs, and it can also be used to adjust the lighting. When the battery voltage falls below 8V, the intelligent system will initiate an automatic shut-down, which will result in the display becoming blank.

Battery types other than lead-acid are incompatible with the controller, which means it will not function with lithium, nickel-metal hydride, or other components. However, the moisture coating will protect the unit from damage caused by dampness or nesting insects, which is a bonus for people who plan to put them in garages or barns, for example.

Aside from that, the MOHOO charge controller is equipped with two DC outputs as well as two USB ports for convenient charging. It is possible to get a 5V 1A output from the USB ports, which is sufficient for most tiny digital devices.

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