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11 Best Rated MPPT & PWM Solar Charge Controllers – Buyer’s Guide

W hen installing a solar structure, it is significant not to forget that you will need a device to guarantee that the energy collected by the panels reaches the batteries in a safe way. Thus, the scheme should comprise a charge controller that can handle possible electric flaws and prevent energy leaks.

In the comparison table below, you will find some of the best models obtainable in the current market, along with their most important specifications. Also, this article includes reviews, pros, and cons for each product, so you can easily decide on the model that suits you best.

If you are looking for a way to enjoy the benefits of renewable energy while on the go, check out our selection of portable solar generator kits. They will help you deposit the energy collected through solar panels and even transform it with the help of an inverter so you can use it for your home appliances.

Top 11 Charge Controllers Comparison

Photo Product Type Compatibility Grounding Type Nominal System Voltage Rated Discharge Current Max Gauge Size Warranty Price

Best Overall
1. Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12/24/36/48/60V 80A 4AWG 5-year Check Price at Amazon

Best for RV
2. Morningstar TS-45 TriStar 45 Amp PWM Lead acid, AGM sealed batteries No ground terminal 12/24/48V 45A 2AWG 5-year Check Price at Amazon

Editor’s Choice
3. SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar MPPT Sealed, Gel, Flooded and User-defined Batteries Negative 12/24V 40A 6AWG 2-year Check Price at Amazon
4. Victron BlueSolar MPPT MPPT Flooded, AGM or lithium batteries Negative 12/24V 30A 6AWG 5-year Check Price at Amazon
5. Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp MPPT MPPT Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12/24V 40A 4AWG 1-year Check Price at Amazon
6. PowMr 30A MPPT Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12/24V 30A 4AWG 3-year Check Price at Amazon

Best for Lithium Batteries
7. HQST PWM Controller PWM Sealed, Gel, Flooded, Lead-Acid, and Lithium Batteries Positive 12/24V 30A 8-12 AWG 1-year Check Price at Amazon

Best for the Money
8. The Renogy Wanderer — 30A PWM PWM Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12V 30A Up to 4 AWG 1-year Check Price at Amazon
9. XCSOURCE Intelligent 30A PWM Solar Panel PWM Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12/24V 30A 10AWG Check Price at Amazon
10. GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar PWM Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries Negative 12V 20A 11-15 AWG 1-year Check Price at Amazon
11. Y-Solar Solar Panel Battery Controller PWM Lead acid batteries: OPEN, AGM, GEL No ground terminal 12/24V 30A N/A 1-year; 45-day money back Check Price at Amazon

Is it conceivable to shove an entire energy system in a case and take it with you during your RV trips? It is. See our portable solar power kit ranking and reviews to discover a reliable source of energy that will make your travels more comfortable.

1. Outback Flexmax 80 FM80

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24/36/48/60V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 80A
  • Input PV Voltages: 150VDC open circuit for charging battery banks from 12-60VDC
  • Operating Temperature: Up to 104F
  • Display: 80 character-display
  • Highlights: Ground-breaking FLEXmax MPPT software algorithm
  • Warranty: 5 years

If you have decided to install a large power system that includes several panels and can harvest a lot of energy, you will need a device that can process a charge of these proportions. In this direction, this model is among the few that can meet both the performance and safety requirements to keep your system functioning efficiently with minimal energy waste. It is created by a dependable brand and is backed by last-generation technology that guarantees a longer life for the battery.

High Capacity

The revolutionary FLEXmax MMPT algorithm allows it to scan the solar array and find the points where the utmost combination of voltage and current is attained. This is important, as temporary clouding or shades can concentrate it only on some spots on the panel, thus reducing the overall power that is generated. By using this strategy, this unit can raise the PV array power harvest by 30%, which is a great bonus when dealing with large systems.

It also offers intelligent cooling control, as well as active cooling, which is essential in keeping the device running in high-temperature conditions. Thus, it can deal with ambient temperatures of up to 104F.

Regarding its capacity, it was created to work with many panels and large batteries. Thus, it can handle nominal system voltages of 12, 24, 36, 48, and 60 volts and can discharge a current of 80 amperes. It easily connects to 4AWG wires and presents negative grounding. Moreover, it is equipped with multiple safety functions, intended to maintain it and the system functioning in optimal parameters all the time.

Performance Tracking

A great bonus is the incorporated backlit display, which can use up to 80 characters to show essential information. Nonetheless, what’s even more remarkable is that it can store the data for up to 128 days, so you can monitor your system’s performance.

You will also get a 5-year service contract, which is super generous.

PROS

  • Advanced MMPT technology
  • Integrated display
  • Memory function
  • Temperature management allows it to reach maximum performance even at high ambient temperatures
  • Increases solar array output by 30%

CONS

Verdict

Among the strongest models available today, it offers both impeccable functionality and the resources for you to keep track of its efficiency. The display with memory function is a great addition that will help you understand how your power system works and make decisions to turn it into an even more effective one. One more thing to add, the thermal management function helps it run in heat conditions, and, combined with the revolutionary technology that stands behind it, helps increase the PV output by 30%.



2. Morningstar TS-45 TriStar 45 Amp

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Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Lead acid, AGM sealed batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24/48V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 45A
  • Input PV Voltages: 125VDC
  • Operating Temperature: Up to 113F
  • Display: Sold separately (LCD)
  • Highlights: 8 LEDs, Programmable Lighting Control
  • Warranty: 5 years

This model is matching with lead-acid and AGM sealed batteries that have a nominal value of 12, 24, or 48 volts. It works on the PMW technology and offers three operating modes, namely battery charging, diversion management, and load restrain. Although you can only use one function at a time, if your large power system requires two or all of them, you can opt to buy multiple units and get all these modes covered.

The large heat sink and overspec’d parts guarantee that the unit can carry the highest charge without a problem. The unit also comes with numerous protection features designed to shield the system against short circuits, excessive temperatures, overcurrent, and reverse polarity. It can operate at temperatures of up to 113F.

It incorporates an RS-232 port, which enables you to connect it to a computer and track the data it collects, as well as to handle custom settings and data logging. You can also opt for a meter display, which unfortunately isn’t included in the price, and check the information without having to link the unit to a computer. Thus, you can easily select one of the 7 digital presets for DIP switches.

It has a fanless design and comes with low telecom noise, which can ensure the transition between PWM and on-off charging. Moreover, the device is covered by a generous 5-year service contract, so even if you will encounter a malfunction, you will be able to deal with it charge-free.

PROS

  • Optional on-board meter and remote meter
  • It provides extra bending room for large wires
  • Built for mechanical fit on Xantrex power panel or Outback PSDC
  • High reliability
  • Easy to reset
  • 5-year warranty

CONS

Verdict

If you are looking to acquire a device that offers charging and load control regulation, take a look at this unit. It is an efficient model that comes with a full-function tri-color LED system display and an RS-23 port. Additionally, it is very easy to use and it is covered by a 5-year service contract.



3. SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, Flooded and User-defined Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 40A
  • Input PV Voltages: 150VDC
  • Operating Temperature: N/A
  • Display: Sold separately
  • Highlights: Dot matrix graphic LCD screen, human-machine interface with key, Light control
  • Warranty: 2 years

A powerful model that would easily handle high electrical charges, it matches systems with a peak 150V PV input. The RS-485 port allows for easy installation and programming as it can quickly be connected to a computer. As expected, it integrates multiple protection functions that have the purpose of shielding the battery and prolonging its life.

It is matching with panels that have a power of up to 600W, and in this case, it connects to a battery system of 12 V, or with 1,200W panels and 24 V battery systems. The discharge current is 40 amperes. It presents negative grounding and is matching with 6AWG wires. Regarding battery compatibility, it can connect to sealed, flooded, gel, and User-defined models. It is backed by a 2-year service contract.

PROS

  • Innovative technology reduces energy waste
  • Multiple protection features guard it against overcharging or overheating
  • Can work with systems that include up to 1,200W panel energy
  • Self-diagnostic function warrants that the installation process doesn’t result in errors and system faults

CONS

  • You have to buy an MT-50 remote meter separately
  • Poor instructions

Verdict

Compared to its competitors, it uses a smart tracking algorithm, which helps it make the most of the energy delivered by the panel. Also, it comes with a low voltage disconnect function, which helps it prevent the battery from over-discharging.



4. Victron BlueSolar MPPT

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
  • Compatibility: Flooded, AGM or lithium batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: 100 VDC
  • Operating Temperature: N/A
  • Display: Sold separately
  • Highlights: Intelligent battery management
  • Warranty: 5-year


What distinguishes this model from all the other top-quality alternatives is its ability to connect to a computer or phone through Bluetooth. Thus, both the programming and diverse monitoring operations can be managed from the distance, and there’s no need for you to invest in a monitor. Nonetheless, note that you will need to acquire and install a Bluetooth dongle for this feature to become functional. The company supplies the software free of charge.

Regarding its capacity, it is able to handle medium-size systems with a power of 450W or 900W that boost 12V or 24V respectively. The rated current is 30A and it works with three types of batteries, namely lithium, AGM, and flooded. Furthermore, it employs MPPT technology, which means that your system will remain efficient even in shade conditions.

The company offers a long 5-year service contract.

PROS

  • Fast MPPT technology
  • Easy to operate due to Bluetooth compatibility
  • Backed by an attractive service contract
  • Offers day/night timing

CONS

  • The manual can be a bit confusing
  • It lacks an output for unused DC power

Verdict

Starting from the sturdy casing and carefully crafted parts and ending with the high-speed technology and smart options, this unit is one of the cleverest investments you could make. It is dependable and highly-efficient in keeping your battery safe while making the most of the energy collected.



5. Renogy Tracer 4210 40 Amp MPPT

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 40A
  • Input PV Voltages: 100 VDC
  • Operating Temperature: 95F to 131F
  • Display: Sold separately
  • Highlights: High tracking efficiency of 99%
  • Warranty: 1-year


By using the 40 Amp MPPT, you will be able to amplify the efficiency by up to 30% by enlarging the solar panel yield to the battery bank. In short words, it can reduce the number of panels required by up to 30%. In fact, it’s significant to know that it works on a state-of-the-art MPPT technology, which will optimize the use of the PV system.

It presents electronic protection features and reverse protection, including PV reverse polarity and battery reverse polarity defense. It can revise the variables automatically to improve battery life.

It is matching with gel, flooded, and sealed batteries that can have a nominal value of 12V or 24 V. The rated charge current is 40 amps. The highest solar input voltage it can resist is 100VDC. It presents negative grounding and fits 4AWG wires. Furthermore, the company offers a service assurance that extends for 1 year from the date of purchase and covers all possible material and processing errors except for the ones resulted from incorrect handling of the product.

PROS

  • Excellent protection against over-discharging, load short circuit, etc.
  • Can correct the variables to expand battery life
  • Advanced MPPT technology
  • Detailed installation and operating guidebook

CONS

  • It doesn’t allow regulating the parameters for the type of battery connected. It only offers the possibility to select from AGM, Gel, and FLA
  • It may interfere with your radio systems

Verdict

Created for medium or small systems, this model can help you get more energy by offering a peak conversion effectiveness of 97% and a high tracking performance of 99%. It integrates all the essential mechanisms to prevent accidents that can lead to battery destruction like overcharging or short circuits, and, besides that, it is easy to install by using the provided user manual.



6. PowMr 30A

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: 50VDC
  • Operating Temperature: N/A
  • Display: LCD
  • Highlights: Floating charge Voltage, Load Mode
  • Warranty: 3 years


This unit comes with a 12V/24V system. Due to its LCD feature that allows you to see and adjust the voltage according to your needs, it is extremely easy to operate. It is a 4-stage model that includes 4 different settings. Along with these, it also comes with a commercial-grade STM 8 microprocessor that extends the battery life. It is well-protected. It features 8 PWM safety features, including memory protection, overheat, and dual MOSFET reverse current. The minimum level of the reached temperature is -35C, and the top reached level is +60C.

It works with three types of batteries, namely sealed, gel, and flooded, and is matching with negative grounding systems, which are the most customary and pose the lowest risk of malfunction. It connects through 4AWG wires and is easy to install if you follow the provided connection diagram. In case you encounter any fabrication material flaws or process errors, the company will handle them for 3 years from the moment of the acquisition.

PROS

  • Multiple protection features
  • Backlight LCD
  • Easy to set up
  • Protected by a generous service contract

CONS

Verdict

Compatible with most AGM and lead-acid batteries, this model is both versatile and easy to use. The company provides a diagram that will help you make the right connections without getting confused or losing a lot of time wondering where the wires go. Besides, paralleled to other MPPT systems, it comes at a very reasonable price.



7. HQST PWM Controller

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, Flooded, Lead-Acid, and Lithium Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: 55 VDC
  • Operating Temperature: 77F to 131F
  • Display: Dot matrix graphic LCD screen
  • Highlights: Dot matrix graphic LCD screen, human-machine interface with key , Light control
  • Warranty: 1 year


This model by HQST has become a very popular option due to its easy-to-read and use LCD. It comes with a 5V 1A USB output, so you can confidently use it to charge your devices such as phones, tablets, laptops, and more. Compared to many other similar controllers, this 30A Amp model features a dot matrix graphic LCD that will make operation much easier. The LCD is very easy to use and navigate. Like its above competitors, it offers overcharge, over-discharge, overload, reverse connection, as well as short circuit. Moreover, there is a light control feature. In simple terms, the light source will be turned off mechanically when daylight begins. Additionally, the batteries will be charged. Conversely, if there is no daylight, the light source will switch on without human intervention.

A nice bonus offered by this system is that it can help charge lithium batteries, noting that most models with sealed, gel, and flooded (it is compatible with the latter models as well). We’ve also appreciated the industrial design that allows you to use it in tougher conditions and the 1-year service contract, offered for possible manufacturing flaws.

PROS

  • Customized LCD display screen
  • Multifunctional controller
  • Multiple electric protections
  • Light control
  • The charging variables can be automatically adjusted

CONS

  • The programming instructions are a bit difficult to understand
  • The modes are not as intuitive as expected

Verdict

It is a multifunctional unit that comes with an easy-to-read LCD and a lot of load working modes that facilitate the device’s operation. It has light control and a convenient interface that will help you go through its functions and modes.



8. Renogy Wanderer — 30A PWM

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: 25VDC
  • Operating Temperature: 20F to 113 F
  • Display: LCD (not included)
  • Highlights: LED Indicators , RTS port
  • Warranty: 1 year


This is an innovative negative-ground model, which is built for off-grid solar uses and works with a 12V battery. Its main objective is to amplify battery life and enhance system performance. It integrates electronic protection functions, including overcharging, overload, short-circuit, and reverse polarity defense. In fact, it has 4 Stage PWM charging that will prevent the batteries from overcharging and over-discharging. It also features fully extensive self-diagnostics, which will prevent damage from system faults.

It provides a discharge current of 30A and has negative grounding. It can work in ambient temperature conditions of up to 113F and is compatible with wires that have a limit gauge size of 4AWG. Additionally, it is covered by a 1-year service contract through which the company promises to handle any flaws resulted from the fabrication process, irrespective if they have to do with the materials or processing.

PROS

  • Easy to use
  • Compatible with sealed, gel, and flooded batteries
  • Multiple PWM modes solve a series of problems that may occur in the process
  • Easy to reset
  • Resistant to high temperatures

CONS

  • The housing is made of plastic, which isn’t the sturdiest one
  • The connectors are rather sensitive, so you need to tighten them with care, otherwise, you may bend or break them

Verdict

It incorporates electronic protection functions and LED indicators that are expressly made to announce to you the status of the device. Though the casing is made of plastic, there were almost no reports of it not passing the test of time, and the good price surely compensates for this small downside.



9. XCSOURCE Intelligent 30A PWM Solar Panel

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: N/A
  • Operating Temperature: 95F to 131F
  • Display:
  • Highlights : 2 digital LEDs display, one-button operation, 5 load working modes
  • Warranty:


Based on an advanced microprocessor and dedicated control calculation, this model ensures a lot of benefits, including a more precise and reliable performance, more precise tracking of different battery charging states, and more precise implementing of various protection mechanisms, which are obligatory for every PWM controller, such as battery overcharging, discharging, reverse polarity, and short-circuit protection. Besides, it provides perfected charging efficiency and fewer voltage drops. Its LED screens report the current operation state in real-time, and the battery life is longer compared to the other PWM models.

It matches gel, sealed, and flooded batteries, and you can use connectors size 10AWG and under to set it up. It also fits systems with negative grounding. Regarding its capacity, it works with 12V or 24V systems and has a rated current discharge value of 30A. The 5 preset modes make the programming easier, and the operations more user-friendly. Furthermore, the company offers a warranty, but you will have to contact it for details as neither the period nor the conditions are specified.

PROS

  • Preset modes allow for easy operation
  • Large diameter wire terminal
  • Includes a set of protection features, designed to prolong the life of the battery
  • Intuitive LED system allows you to track the parameters with ease

CONS

  • Suitable only for small systems
  • The user manual is a bit confusing

Verdict

The fact that it uses a microprocessor is a major perk as it provides precision and excellent reliability. Another important factor to consider is that it comes with a LED screen that will provide information about the current operation state in real-time.



10. GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Sealed, Gel, and Flooded Batteries
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 20A
  • Input PV Voltages: N/A
  • Operating Temperature: 95F to 131F
  • Display: LCD
  • Highlights: Protection function , temperature sensor
  • Warranty: 1 year


This is a user-friendly microcontroller that will easily handle small solar systems. The LCD is clearer, more beautiful, and more modern as well. The unit has an output switch, intelligent control, and it is easy to manage. You can easily use the PWM&WPC mode to improve the system efficiency and prolong the lifespan of the battery.

It integrates the following protection functions: lightning, overcharging, under-voltage, overload, short circuit, and reverse polarity protection. It also has the subsequent technical specifications: USB output voltage: 5V; rated discharge current: 20A; DC output voltage: 12V; Total USB output current: 3A.

It works with flooded, gel, and sealed batteries, and the terminals will accommodate wires 11 to 15AWG. You just need to pay a little attention when making the connections to match the + and – ports, otherwise, you may deal with a reversed connection and damage the load.

PROS

  • Great protection functions
  • Output switch
  • Intelligent control
  • The PWM and WPC mode enhances system efficiency and prolongs the life span of the battery

CONS

  • The LCD isn’t backlit, so it may be difficult to read in poor light conditions
  • Suitable only for small systems

Verdict

It comes with a plethora of protection functions and an LCD that allows you to get all the data without having to buy a remote meter or connect it to your computer. It is also worth mentioning that it is one of the most affordable controllers out there.



11. Y-Solar Solar Panel

Check Price at Amazon


Specifications

  • Technology: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)
  • Compatibility: Lead acid batteries: OPEN, AGM, GEL
  • Nominal System Voltage: 12/24V
  • Rated Discharge Current: 30A
  • Input PV Voltages: 50VDC
  • Operating Temperature: 95F to 140F
  • Display: LCD
  • Highlights: Load mode
  • Warranty: 1-year; 45-day money back


It has been crafted with dual USB ports. The USB output is 5V/2A, and auto can reach a rate of 12V/24V. The rated discharge current is 30A. You will be able to adjust the modes according to your needs. Additionally, you don’t have to worry about the efficiency of the item due to the fact that it has protection to ensure longevity.

Once the voltage drops below 8V, the unit will turn itself off. Moreover, it has short circuit, open-circuit, reverse, and over-load protection. This means that you will have the freedom to use it for home, commercial, and industrial purposes. By considering this model, you will be protected for 1 year.

PROS

  • Easy to set up by beginners
  • Designed with automatic shut-off
  • The settings are straightforward
  • Numerous electric protection features

CONS

  • No connectors included
  • The display shows only the voltage and not the amps

Verdict

The reason why we recommend this model is that it’s easy to be controlled by beginners. The large LED display will indicate the status and the data that you need to switch the option to make it work as you need.



Why You Should Use a Controller


Increasingly more people choose to charge their batteries with a controller these days, due to various reasons. Anytime you use a panel that has an over 5W output, it is highly recommended to use one, as it protects your battery against several possible system flaws.

Here are some advantages that come with this type of device:

It averts overcharge

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

It improves charge quality

These units come pre-programmed with modifiable setpoints that can easily be edited and adjusted according to the user’s needs. Thus, they are a good match for both beginners and experts in the solar charging field, as the beginners can use the preset functions and get safe charging, while the professionals can adjust them to match more complex systems.

It prevents battery discharge in low or no light conditions

These innovative units can also prevent complete drainage of the battery, or execute controlled discharges, depending on the technology used, to protect the battery life. This is predominantly true for MPPT systems, which scan the solar array and identify the points that concentrate the best match between current and voltage. Thus, even in the shade, the battery gets the energy it needs.


How do Controllers for Batteries Work?


Their main function is to ensure that the current that reaches the battery matches its capacity, so no overcharging occurs. Besides these, many models offer additional functions that protect the battery and prolong its life, so let’s take a brief look at them:

  • Overload protection – it appears when a circuit faces a higher current flow than it can handle. This can be caused by a short circuit in the wires or a faulty consumer. This function protects the system from overheating, which can lead to a fire.
  • Overcharge security – Each battery has its limit when it comes to storing energy, and when this limit is attained, it is considered that the battery is full. Nonetheless, if more energy is sent toward the battery after this limit, the high voltage inside it can cause the water to separate into oxygen and hydrogen and start bubbling. Too much water is lost, and this can make the battery to degrade or even cause a small explosion. Controllers keep an eye on the charging process and cut the flow of energy when the limit is attained. Then, they send smaller quantities as the battery starts to discharge to maintain it full.
  • Reverse current protection – this phenomenon usually happens at night or in poor light conditions, when the panels don’t longer collect enough energy to feed the battery. In this case, they may start drawing energy from the battery, making the process more inefficient. Controllers use a semiconductor that ensures the current goes only in one way and cannot return to the panel.

Useful Buying Guide


Before acquiring a controller, it is significant to understand the value and importance of these innovative units. They work as regulators. They help to control the extent of voltage or current that crosses the system. These devices regulate the volume of voltage and current that comes from the panels and travels to the battery. Most batteries need 14 to 14.5 volts to be able to reach a fully charged state. Here are some important things you need to take into consideration before buying an item like this.

Key types to consider

The units available differ in shape, size, and features. For example, the simplest unit is 4.5-amp. However, you also have the option to choose an 80 amp MPPT programmable model, which is among the largest models.
1- or 2-stage models are the simplest versions. They have relays or shunt transistors that control the voltage in just 2 easy steps. The unit disconnects the panel when a parameter reaches a specific level. Consequently, the flow will be stopped, and the battery will be protected. This is a very basic and reliable solution. There are also PWM or 3-stage charge models. This is the industry-standard style.
MPPT units are also known as multiple power point tracking systems, and they are, without a doubt, the highest-end units available. They are more high-priced than the other models, but they are worth every penny, since they provide great efficiency, more reliability, and they also allow for more programmable options, including those that are specifically designed to interact with computer interfaces.

Voltage considerations

Depending on what type of panels you use, it is significant to consider the voltage to choose the right controller. A 12V unit is a common option. Lots of these units have a rated voltage of 12V or 24V, and they tend to have a voltage of resume power supply of 11.8V or 23.6V and a rated charging current of 10A. It is strongly recommended to follow the instructions on the existing unit to establish the necessary voltage. Too little or too much voltage can damage the battery.


Frequently Asked Questions



What size charge controller do I need?
There’s a simple way to find out. Just multiply the number of panels you have installed with the number of watts they feature. To get the number of amperes, divide this result by the voltage of your battery. Add 25% to this number to leave some space for your controller to work in cold conditions, and that’s it.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have three 140-watt panels. 3 multiplied by 140 equals 420 watts. Divide 420 watts by 12 volts (assuming this is your battery), and you get 35 amps. Now, add 25% to this number. That would be 35 plus 8.75, which equals 43.75. Round up. You will need a 45A controller.


How many panels can a controller handle?
It isn’t the number of panels that determine the size of the controller but the total amount of energy they can deliver. Thus, for a 45-amp total panel output, you will need a 60-amp controller, but this output can be divided among two or more panels.

What is meant by MPPT?
It stands for maximum power point tracking, which is a more sophisticated technology compared to PWM. These models sweep through the panel voltage to find the best blend of current and voltage and deliver the highest power available, no matter the weather conditions or the time of the day. Thus, they increase the amount of power produced by up to 30% compared to a PWM model.

What is meant by PWM?
It means pulse width modulation, and this method functions by creating a direct link between the solar array and the battery. Thus, it modulates the battery charging by using a switch, which remains open until the battery is fully charged. When this phase is reached, the switch works intermittently to maintain a constant voltage.

Which is better PWM or MPPT?
While MPPT models make the most of the energy gathered by the panels, PWM models tend to waste energy, as they pull down the panel voltage to make it match the battery voltage. Thus, in terms of efficiency, MPPT units are considered more efficient. They are a better pick, especially when dealing with more than one solar panel.

Does a charge controller drain the battery?
If it functions properly, it is highly improbable that this will happen. In fact, these devices are used to avert both overcharging of the battery and battery drain during the night when the panel doesn’t get solar energy.

Can you use a controller without a battery?
It is designed specifically for charging batteries, so the answer is no. On the other hand, if you are looking to power some equipment directly from the panel, you can use a voltage regulator that will transform the DC produced by the solar panel into DC that can be used by home equipment.

Can I connect the solar panel directly to the battery?
This is possible, although not recommended. If there isn’t a device between the source and the battery, the voltage produced by the panel cannot be adjusted, and the first phenomenon that appears, in this case, is battery overcharging, which can lead to battery damage.



Conclusion

If you have decided to set up a medium or large-size solar system, then installing a charge controller between the solar panel and your batteries is essential. It will guarantee the integrity of the connections and protect the battery against possible electric flaws.

These being said, at the end of our ranking, let’s do a short recap and see which models distinguished themselves through impressive qualities.

Best Overall: Outback Flexmax 80 FM80

A highly-dependable model that can handle high currents and protect large systems, it uses maximum power point tracking technology to collect energy more efficiently and deliver more amperes inside the battery. It incorporated an 80-character display, which is backlit for easy reading and offers info about the parameters in a facile manner.

It can be used for both residential and commercial purposes, especially as it comes with an integrated 128-day data logging output, which means that it will store the system data so you can compare them and determine the overall efficiency of your system.

Editor’s Choice: SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar

This unit’s functioning is impressive, and it boasts solid construction. The installation is easy to understand, but to get the most out of it, you should also consider buying the remote display. It is one of the models that work both on 12 and 24V systems. Similar to its above competitor, it supports well 4 types of batteries, including sealed, gel, flooded, or USER batteries. Besides, it is equipped with timer control and intelligent lighting that will let you know when changes regarding the charging process are made.

Best Charge Controller for RV: Morningstar TS-45 TriStar 45 Amp

It presents a special port that allows you to connect it to a computer or a smartphone and set the desired parameters, as well as to inspect and store data about the system’s functioning. It includes multiple protection settings and won’t allow for the battery to overcharge or be affected by possible short circuits. Besides, it is protected by a generous warranty, and the company is very responsive, according to most customers’ reviews.

Best Charge Controller for Lithium Batteries: HQST PWM Controller

Not only that it offers a wide array of electric protection features, but it is among the few devices that are compatible with lithium batteries. It comes with preset operating modes and integrates an LCD, designed to display the variables and make it more user-friendly. Plus, it is affordable and a nice pick for medium-size and small systems.

Best Charge Controller for the Money: Renogy Wanderer — 30A PWM

An accessible option that comes at a good price, it guarantees protection against overcharging, short circuits, and more. The LED indicator lights keep you updated with its status. If you are familiar with this kind of device, then you probably know that most chargers are designed for 12VDC and this is one of them. It is compatible with multiple battery types and comes with good service coverage.

Lexie Thorne
Lexie Thorne
Lexie is the newest member of the team, previously working for a local business that sold, among other items, robotic vacuums. She takes a keen interest in the latest tech and considers herself to be a veritable tech geek. Using her connections, Lexie makes sure that she always talks to experts when putting together reviews and articles to ensure the information you read is reliable and makes a difference toward aiding you to better understand how automated devices for home use work.