A charge controller is a significant portion of the system which charges the battery and its objective is to avoid damage to the battery due to overcharging.  

The investment in a solar charge controller is a must in many situations. It is especially necessary when you charge batteries using a solar panel. It is also important to use these devices when you have a grid-tied system that features a battery backup. In these circumstances, it is possible to continue using the solar panel or other devices, but doing so will put the battery at a risk of damage.

Finding the best solar charge controller for you just might be the difference between extending the lifespan of your battery and putting it at risk of serious damage. 

If you're thinking about buying an intelligent charge controller that could offer performance and endurance, then you need to read our best solar charge controller reviews and ratings for 2018:

 

Our 2018 Best Solar Charge Controllers Reviews

Best Solar Charge Controller  NO. 1 - RENOGY WANDERER 30A PWM

Renogy has created a name for themselves as a producer of top quality solar gear. They have been among the very first into the consumer marketplace with the most recent batch of high-efficiency monocrystalline panels.

The Wanderer has a simple, contemporary design which will look great on almost any system. The black enclosure is both slick and smooth, with slightly curved edges that contrast with the sharp edges. Along the top, there are three LED indicators.

This innovative negative-ground control was created for off-grid solar software and can be employed with a 12V battery or battery bank.

Integrating highly effective PWM charging, the Wanderer raises battery life and enhances system performance and is considered as one of the best solar charge controller available in the market. It contains 4 Phase PWM charging including Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization which will stop the batteries from overcharging and over-discharging. Moreover, it includes a totally comprehensive self-diagnostics that will stop harm from system defects. The LED signs will notify you of the status and the remote temperature sensor will assess the battery's temperature. Additionally, the remote utilizing this information to get accurate temperature compensation.

Main Features

  • The Wanderer is a negative ground controller. This ensure compatibility with any negative ground system, which is the standard and most conventional way of grounding. Any negative connection on the solar module, battery and load can be safely earth grounded as required.
  • 4 Stage PWM charging (Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization) prevents batteries from over-charging and over-discharging. Protection against: overcharging, overload, short-circuit, and reverse polarity.
  • Compensates for temperature, automatically corrects charging and discharging parameters, and improves battery longevity.
  • LED Indicators that inform you about the charge controller's status
  • Compatible with Sealed, Gel, and Flooded batteries.

Pros

Cons

* Easy installation, Safe, Easy to useThe operation manual is not detailed enough
Display uses LED’s to indicate charging statusDoesn’t feature an LCD Display
Compatible with Sealed, Gel, and Flooded batteries. 
Controller offers numerous options that determine when the load is powered 

Best Charge Controller For Solar No. 2 - SOLAR EPIC TRACER MPPT 40A

SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar is a smart charge controller that could provide both performance and endurance. This is a small device, powerful but affordable.

This charge controller meant for off-grind solar system and has the ability to control both the charging and discharging the battery. The battery charging process has been optimized for long battery life and improved system performance. Its features a smart tracking algorithm that maximizes the energy out of your solar PV module and also charges the battery.  It support 4 charging options: Sealed, Gel, Flooded and User-defined

This best charge controller for solar comes with numerous protections, such as overcharging, over temperature and PV and loading short and PV (battery) revered protection. The electric protection function along with also the comprehensive self-diagnostics will stop damage from installation issues or system faults.

Main Features

  • Negative Ground, Max 150V PV input.
  • Advanced maximum power point tracking technology to optimize using the solar system.
  • Support 4 charging options: Sealed, Gel, Flooded and User-defined.
  • Over temperature, over charging, PV and load short, PV (battery) revered, over current protection.
  • With supporting PC monitoring software and remote meter MT50(optional).

Pros

Cons

* Small and easy to install so it is perfect for RVs, hiking or camping.* Hard to find out how to download and install the firmware and how to check the firmware version of the device.
* MT50 remote meter is useful to provide system information, along with the temperature sensor.* You have to buy MT50 remote meter, it is a must-have item.
* Supports 4 stages charging options: sealed, gel, flooded and user-defined 
Ultra-fast tracking speed and guaranteed tracking efficiency. 
* 2-year warranty 

Best Solar Charge Controllers  NO. 1 - MORNINGSTAR TS-45 TRISTAR 45 AMP

Morning-star corporation is one of the world’s best suppliers of solar charge controllers and inverters. Their products have been installed in over 112 countries worldwide. Their solar charge controllers are made of metal and have efficient cooling fins.

Morningstar’s TriStar™ is a three-function controller that provides reliable solar battery charging, load control or diversion regulation. It is rated at 45 or 60 amps, both can charge 12, 24,36,48 volt battery banks. It also has an optional meter, remote meter and remote temperature sensor. This product is durable, very good quality, nice design, very high efficiency and large scale. It´s aesthetics and the smartly laid cooling fans give it a unique look.

This best solar charge controllers features TrakStar Technology™, an advanced maximum power point tracking (MPPT) battery charger for off-grid photovoltaic (PV) systems up to 3kW. The controller provides the industry’s highest peak efficiency of 99% and loses significantly less power compared to other MPPT controllers.

The TriStar MPPT features “smart tracking” that maximizes the energy harvest from the PV by rapidly finding the solar array peak power point with extremely fast sweeping of the entire I-V curve. Unlike the MPPT TS-45, the MPPT TS-60 has an ethernet port for a fully web-enabled interface. Both products allow you to log up to 200 days of data.
There are two ‘processors’ in the unit: one for the charge control system and the other to serve web pages (via the built-in Ethernet port). Both firmware’s are upgradeable (via the RS232 port), and if the web server crashes, it won’t affect the charge control processor – making the TriStar a robust unit.

Main Features

  • 100% solid state microprocessor controller.
  • Rated for 45A at 12, 24, or 48 volts
  • Includes RS-232 communication port for customizing controller set points or data logging.
  • Optional on-board meter and remote meter.
  • Provides extra bending room for large wires.
  • Ratings to 45A at 48 VDC will handle solar arrays up to 4kW.
  • Designed for mechanical fit on Xantrex power panel or Outback PSDC.
  • MPN: TS-45.

Pros

Cons

* Highest reliability* Expensive
* Low Telecom Noise 
* Optional on-board meter and remote meter 
* Extra bending room for large wires 
* The programs are easily laid 
* Built for mechanical fit on Xantrex power panel or Outback PSDC 
* The Ethernet interface allows reading the daily amp-hours without the need to be physically in front of the controller to read the value 
* Easy to reset 
* 5-year warranty 

MOHOO 20A CHARGE CONTROLLER

Mohoo is the cheap and cheerful alternative to costly charge controllers. Even though it's priced in keeping with the majority of entry level controls, it features some functionality that make it ideal for smaller businesses. It has all the safety and regulatory requirements you need to keep proper battery state, and offers a handy interface that makes it possible to understand what's going on with your system at all times.

This Solar Charge Controller is a compact device, which distinguishes itself from its large and informative LCD screen. This is an inverted fashion screen, adding to the slick look. Though your batteries are charging, it shows you the charge current so it is possible to understand how much power your panels are producing. Additionally, it reveals the voltage of your batteries, providing you with an indication of how much battery life you've left.

All the electrical terminals are covered with a yellow fold-up panel. This keeps your connections visible, but protects them from being shorted. On the right side of your control there are two DC outputs, and 2 USB ports. These can be used to charge your phones or other digital devices, supplying a 5V 1A output.

1 area in which the control is a small restricted is that you cannot connect over the 20A of loading into the "load" terminals. However, there isn't any reason why you couldn't connect these items to the battery.

The kind of the battery that your system is equipped with does not matter, since the version works with both 12V and 24V options. However they need to be matched. You cannot connect a 12V panel to a 24V battery bank, and vice versa. What's more, the solar panel control regulator may be an excellent solution to power the lighting system in your home.

As a result of the pulse width modulated regulation algorithm, the Mohoo Auto Switch Solar Charge Regulator controls the output of the solar module in line with the battery condition and charging needs. It considerably enhances the efficacy of the solar PV system use and ensures rapid recharging as well as long service life for the battery.

Pros

Cons

*Wide LCD screen display* Inexpensive
* ability to see the output current * You cannot connect more than 20A of load to the “load” terminals
* can be used with both 12V and 24V systems 
* it provides bulk charge (up to 80% of the batteries capacity,) float charge (the final 20% of the capacity,) and an equalization charge 
*  Solid and sturdy construction 
* Intelligent control 
* Easy to operate 

Your Guide to Solar Charge Controllers

Choosing a solar charge controller for your battery comes down to the amount of power, amps, and volts the battery needs to work. Each battery retains a different amount of power to operate, and must be controlled correctly.

How To Select The Best Charge Controller For You?

First, and possibly most important issue to understand when choosing the best solar charge controller is its use -understanding the significance and value of the device is bound to influence your decision, and the way that it could ultimately affect the delivery and lifespan of your solar system, and overall - your life.

There are however, other factors to put into consideration including:

Voltage Requirements

Another factor crucial to choosing the most effective solar charge controller is that the current of the solar panels in use. Thus, to select the right product, it is best to follow the instructions on the device with regard to determining the required voltage. A number of solar charge control voltage choices are available, however a 12V charge controller is a favorite choice. Also, Charge controls with a score voltage of 12V or 24V generally have a charging current of 10A with electricity supply of 11.8V or 23.6V. Finally, in buying - bear in mind that too much or too little voltage won't meet you needed need.

Types

There are several types of charge controllers – most of which stem from these two; the Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) solar charge controllers, and the maximum power point tracking (MPPT).

The significant difference between both of the charge controllers is that with the MMPT is a higher likelihood of getting up to 30% higher efficiency than the PWM controllers.

MMPT controllers also feature modification which permits a range of panels to be joined in series for panels of greater voltage. On the flip side, the PWM is the perfect (and cheap) solution for smaller businesses -- especially when the solar cells are between 45 -75 degrees in temperatures. All in all, the PWM simply enhances voltage of this array to close that of the battery while the MPPT (being more sophisticated) adjusts the input signal voltage and change power obtained from the solar array to supply varying voltage requirements.

Other Attributes

Features like control relays, communications alternatives, electronic display and remote metering will also be available on some solar charge controller versions. These extra modifications allow for optimized performance with features such as digital screen making it effortless to track PV array performance, the control relays feature allowing other jobs to be performed and so on.

In the end, the best solar charge controller should provide most (or all) of these features - but it's ideal to get the most features for your best cost.

Things You Should Know About Solar Charge Controller
How does a solar charge controller work?

A solar charge controller is a current or voltage controller which helps to charge the battery as well as holds the electric cells from high charging.

It regulates the voltage and current coming from the solar panels going to the battery. Most "12 volt" panels put out about 16 to 20 volts, so if there is no regulation the batteries will be damaged from overcharging. Most batteries need around 14 to 14.5 volts to get fully charged.

Solar charge controllers work in a three-stage charge cycle, starting with bulk, absorption, and then float. 

Bulk charging stage

The charge control directly connects all solar panels to relevant batteries in the bulk charging stage.  The overall voltage of the solar panel comes down to match the voltage of the battery.  The complete solar panels’ current output is dumped into batteries. This stage contributes the maximum charge to the battery and known as the constant current stage. The voltage increases while the battery gets charged. This voltage level increases until 14.4V.  The overall charge of batteries in the 14.4V is around 80%. The maximum current through the continued charge in this volume level may lead to damage. As a result, the controller properly moves into subsequent stage.

Absorption stage

The charge controller gradually tops up the remaining charge in the absorption stage.  This process takes place due to the maintenance of constant voltage 14.4V. However, there is a limitation on the flow of current to the battery.  The overall chemical reactions take place inside the battery of the pulse with modulation solar charge controller.  This process prevents overheating and maintains the progress at the safest possible rate.

The float stage

 The charge controller immediately switches to the float stage after the battery is entirely charged. There is a trickle of current at 13.8V in the trickle-charge mode.  The battery can be maintained as safe as possible for a long period.

Why do you need solar charge controller?

solar charge controller protect against overvoltage, which can considerably reduce battery performance or lifespan, and may pose a safety risk. It will calculate the voltage of a solar panel at certain times and then it will bring it down to a safety level.

  • Protect the battery from high charging.
  • Monitors the flow of reverse current.
  • Maximizes the lifetime of a battery.
  • Minimizes the system maintenance.
Do You Always need a Charge controller?

Not always, but usually. Generally, there is no need for a charge controller with the small maintenance, or trickle charge panels, such as the 1 to 5-watt panels. A rough rule is that if the panel puts out about 2 watts or less for each 50 battery amp-hours, then you don't need one.

How does MPPT solar controller work?

In today’s solar systems, this type of solar charge controller is a sparkling star that finds the best amperage of solar panel and working voltage, which exhibits with the bank of electric cell.

The maximum power point tracking charge controller technology might maximize the effectiveness of the battery charging state.  MPPT is the higher efficiency DC-DC converter technology when compared to pulse width modulation and shunt controller technologies. Basically using non MPPT charge controller is quite similar to connect battery directly to solar module. However MPPT utilizes the entire module power by dictating voltage of batter charging state. In a simple term, it is the technique which is mostly used with photovoltaic solar system and wind turbines to increase power extraction under all kinds of conditions.

How does PWM solar controller work?

There are ever-increasing possibilities for damages to the battery when it exposes to overcharge and overvoltage conditions.  The pulse with modulation indicates how the charge controller emits electricity’s pulses to the battery in different lengths.  The charge controller switches off at the each pulse’s end to measure the capacity of the battery and adjustment of the output value to match.  A pulse with modulation solar charge controller acts as an intelligent switch between batteries. The best features of this set of solar panels control both the flow of current and the voltage to the batteries. A charge controller is not required for small panels such as 5Watt panels.

PMW VS.MPPT
PWM Controller
  • Used for years, and very durable
  • Built on time tested technology
  • Inexpensive alternative to MPPT
  • The solar input must match the battery bank, which makes regulation difficult to control
  • Available in sizes up to 60 Amps only
MPPT Controller
  • Increased charging efficiency to PWM
  • Much higher in cost
  • Retains a higher input voltage and converts easily for batteries
  • Available in sizes up to 80 Amps
  • Large in size
What Size Charge Controller do You Need?

Your solar charge Control is a device worth investing in and exploring as you build your own system. You will want to go for an alternative that's scalable and suitable to your electricity requirements, in addition to making certain you've got ample battery storage to your solar modules you have chosen to install.

Solar Charge controls are sized and rated by the solar module array system and current voltage. Amperage ratings normally operates from 1 amp to 80 amps, voltages from 6-600 volts. Most common are 12, 24, and 48-volt controllers.

For instance, if one module in your 48-volt system generates 8.05 amps and 2 parallel strings of modules are utilized, your system will produce 16.1 amps at 48 volts. Certain elements like light reflection or cloud effect at irregular intervals can raise current levels. This is very common. Therefore we increase the charge controller amperage by a margin of 25% bringing our minimal controller amperage to 20.13.

There is no problem going with a bigger controller, aside from the additional cost. This will allow you to expand the size of your system later on down the road if your load needs change or you find you need a bit more power.

Before the MPPT Charge Controllers, you'd assume that the nominal voltage of your battery and your solar module array are the same, and thus you would also select that voltage for your charge controller.
but this school of thought is no longer commonly used as more effective charging technology called Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) has become widely available on many charge controllers models. The main feature of the MPPT is that it allows you to have a solar module array with greater voltage than your battery bank's voltage. The MPPT charge controller by design converts the higher voltage down into the lower voltage.

MPPT Charge Controllers have an extra advantage of saving you money on wiring costs. A significant benefit for getting a higher voltage solar module array is that it allows you to utilize smaller gauge wiring to the charge controller. When you double the voltage (e.g. from 12 to 24 or 48 volts), you may reduce the current going through the wires by 50% which means you use much less copper, saving you more money.

Can you overcharge a battery with a solar panel?

In addition to the solar panel you will require some sort of voltage regulator to maintain the panel from overcharging your battery if left connected for long intervals. Even little solar panels can hamper the battery plates and boil off electrolyte on lead-acid batteries requiring you to buy a new one.

Some solar panels are traditionally known as "self-regulating" - which isn't entirely correct. A self regulating solar panel has fewer tissues, providing a reduced open circuit output voltage closer to 15 VDC, hence less likely to overcharge your battery life.

Charge controls are high efficacy (low loss) voltage regulators which are wired between the solar panel and the battery charge being charged. Their purpose is to disconnect the solar panel when the battery has fully charged and mechanically re-connect the panel once the battery voltage falls.

If not disconnected, a solar panel system will attempt to drive the battery voltage to as high since 18-19 VDC - a level most batteries take exception to.

Many charge controls have put points which may be varied so both m wet and gel batteries may be guarded. Some charge controllers have indicator lights that tell you whether the solar panel will be charging the battery or "floating" so that you don't need to guess whether it is functioning.

The simplest charge controller have a predetermined voltage set point without any signs of any kind to tell you exactly what's happening. The most sophisticated charge controls have electronic LCD display of battery voltage, charging current, and load current and might offer "Load Disconnect" - that the ability to eliminate any drain from the battery if the battery voltage drops too low.

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