Best Solar Charge Controllers : TOP 3 PWM & MPTT Solar Charge Controllers

Solar Charge Controller : If you are frequent camper or have an off grid cabin you have likely thought about Solar Power. Solar Panels, Solar Charge Controllers, Inverters and Batteries are the main components of an off grid Solar Panel System. The freedom of having solar electricity courtesy the sun is energizing, pun intended.

Solar Panel System : As a DIYer building your Solar Panel System, one of the critical components is the Solar Charge Controller. A Solar Charge Controller is an electronic device placed between your solar panels and the batteries. Click to read more about the other components of a Solar Panel Kit here.

PWM Solar Charge Controller Acopower
Acopower PWM Solar Charge Controller
In a hurry : Check out the top 3 PWM Solar Charge Controllers
Morning Star SS 20L 12V
Acopower 15W 12V
Renogy Wanderer 30A



Best Solar Charge Controllers : For the very impatient 😁 click on the link in the image to the right to get straight to the 3 best PWM Solar Charge controllers or the 3 best MPTT Solar Charge Controllers.

Here are some easy to assimilate facts about Solar Charge Controller and tips on how to choose the Best Solar Charge Controller.

MPTT and PWM Solar Charge Controllers : There are the two main types of Solar Charge Controllers: PWM  (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPTT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) Solar Charge Controllers.  The best solar charge controllers are manufactured with safeguards and control features to ensure the fastest most efficient charging of  the battery banks.

Additionally, the best PWM and MPTT Solar Charge controllers optimize and maximize the solar electricity generated by your solar panels to give the maximum power to your batteries.

Higher efficiency charging and panel power utilization by your solar charge controllers leads to faster and safer charging of your batteries.

Now that you have read the basics about Solar Charge Controllers, here are our recommendations for the Best Solar Charge Controllers : PWM and MPTT.

In the section following the recommendation, you will find more detailed information about each Solar Charge Controller and their specifications ; you can click on the image to go directly to the specifications too. ENJOY :

Best PWM Solar Charge ControllersMorningstar-Prostar-PS30-Solar-Charge-ControllerMorningstar-TS60-Solar-Charge-ControllerRenogy-Wanderer-30A-Solar-Charge-Controller

Best MPTT Solar Charge ControllersOutback Flexmax 80 Solar Charge ControllerRenogy Rover 20A Solar Charge ControllerSolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar Charger Controller

For the even more scholarly 👩‍🎓 minded, here is the technical lowdown on everything Solar Charge Controller.

About Charge Controllers

Solar Panels convert sunlight into electric power. This power then is fed into a panel of batteries to charge them. You then use the power stored in the batteries to power appliances on your RV, or your boat or your off grid cabin.

Charge Controller : This is an essential piece of equipment that resides between the solar panels and the battery bank. Solar Panels produce electricity at the beck and call of the sun. If you have bright sun, the panels will produce the most power. However, if a cloud obscures the sun, the power production suddenly drops close to zero.

Such wild swings of power produced by the solar panels cannot be directly fed into your batteries. It would damange them permanently. The solar charge controller is the control device in the middle to feed power into your batteries without over charging the batteries.

The solar charge controller also prevents overheating of the batteries. They also prevent over discharging of your batteries. Most batteries are designed to operate over a certain level of charge, and a discharge below say 50% significantly degrades their performance. Finally, the solar charge controller prevents reverse flow of current from your batteries to the solar panels during the night.

MPTT and PWM Solar Charge Controllers : There are two main types of solar charge controllers viz PWM Solar Charge Contollers and the MPPT Solar Charge Controllers. They are discussed in more detail here.

Batteries are designed to work for a set number of charging and discharging cycles. Over charging or over discharging your batteries reduces the number of remaining charging and discharging cylces thus dramatically reducing your batteries life. Thus, the solar charge controller is an indispensable piece of equipment in your solar panel system.

Solar Charge Controllers : Design Considerations

Voltage : The solar panel array will be rated to produce electricity at a certain voltage and current output. Batteries are rated at different voltages. For example many common battery banks are built with more or more 12 volt batteries connected in paralell. Such a battery bank is rated at 12 volts.

Solar Panel Voltage : In the above example, it would be essential to have solar panels producing power at atleast 14 volts or more. Unless the panels produce power at 14 volts or more, there wont be the voltage differential to make the electric power flow from the panels to the battery.

Most 12 volt Solar Panels have an actual voltage output range of between 17 to 22 volts, and these would be appropriate for use with 12 volt battery banks. You can also use higher power solar panels producing power at higher voltages, but that would require the use of a Solar Charge Controller that can reduce the input voltage down to the 12volts of your battery bank. MPTT Charger Controllers have in-built transformers to carry out this reduction automatically.

Solar Charge Contoller Voltage : All Solar Charge Controllers have a voltage limit. That is an important number to keep track of. The open circuit voltage of your solar panels must be less than your solar charge controllers voltage limit.

For example most 250 watt solar panels have an open circuit voltage of about 38 volts. If your solar charge controller has a limit of 25 volts, you will not be able to use this panel with your charge controller. You should instead look for 100 watt or lower solar panel which have open circuit voltages of around 22 volts.

On the other hand many MPPT Solar Charge Controllers have voltage limits of 150V and you can safely connect them to 250 watt panels. Of course you must be careful to not exceed the 150 volt limit. Connecting more than 3 250 watt panels in series would be dangerous as their open circutit voltage would exceed 150 volts. Hence the limit would be three such panels in series. You could add more panels if you desire by placing them in paralell, thus keeping the voltage under 150 Volts.

Solar Charge Contoller Current Rating in Amps: Each Solar Charge Contorller will also have a current rating in Amps. For example you might have a 15A rated solar charge contoler. If your solar panels produce more than 15 Amps, you will not be able to use them with this solar charge controller.

In the previous example we looked at using three, 250 watt panels as our solar panel array to power a 12 volt Battery Bank. The current produced by this array can be approximated by assuming the panels will produce about 90% of their rated power in real life conditions.

Thus 250 x 3 panels x 90% = 975 watts. To calculate the equivalent current, we divide by the voltage of the battery bank. 975 / 12 = 81.25 Amps. Thus we would have to make sure our Solar Charge Controller is rated at 100 amps to ensure safety.

MPTT Solar Charge Controllers vs PWM Charge Controllers

Pulse Width Modulation or PWM solar charge controllers do not control the input voltage coming in from the solar panels and provide a direct connection to the batteries. Thus connecting a higher voltage panel to a solar charge controller to charge a 12 volt battery is very inefficient. The solar charge controller will accept an input voltage of only 12 volts. The solar panel will charge your 12 volt battery, but since it is forced to works at 12 volts instead of its higher operating voltage range, it produces a fraction of the power it can produce.

Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Solar Charge Controller : You are better served in a situation like this by using a MPPT Solar Charge Controller. MPPT charge controllers have a built-in transformer to step down the voltage and increase the current fed into the battery bank. Thus you are able to utilise the full power of your panels to charge your batteries.

IMPORTANT RULE : Alway use an MPPT Solar Charge Controller when there is a large differential between the solar panel voltage and the battery voltage.

And now here is more information and pricing and features for all the solar charge controllers you have read about

Best PWM Solar Charge Controllers : Top 3 Winners

Morningstar TS-60 Tristar-60 Amp
40 Reviews
Morningstar TS-60 Tristar-60 Amp
  • Morningstar's TriStar 60 (TS-60) is a three-function solar battery charger that provides reliable solar battery charging, load control or diversion regulation, Highest Reliability
  • It is rated at 60 amps and features a wide voltage range of 12-48 volts, Communications Capability
  • Options include an internal meter, remote meter and remote temperature sensor, Fully Adjustable, Extensive Electronic Protections
  • Constant voltage series PWM design to provide highly efficient battery charging, Programmable Lighting Control
  • Multiple TS-60 charge controllers can be run in parallel for larger solar arrays up to 300 amps or more, Better Battery Charging, Low Telecom Noise

MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller, 30 Amp 12/24 Volts
74 Reviews
MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller, 30 Amp 12/24 Volts
  • ProStar Charge Controller
  • 12/24 VDC
  • 30A
  • Morningstar
  • --

Sale
Renogy Wanderer -- 30A Advanced PWM Negative-Ground Solar Charge Controller
247 Reviews
Renogy Wanderer -- 30A Advanced PWM Negative-Ground Solar Charge Controller
  • 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

Best MPTT Solar Charge Controllers : Top 3 Winners

Renogy Rover 20 Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
228 Reviews
Renogy Rover 20 Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
  • The Renogy Rover Series charge controller is suitable for various off-grid solar applications.
  • It protects the battery from being over-charged by the solar modules and over-discharged by the loads.
  • The Rover's charging process has been optimized for long battery life and improved system performance.
  • It includes a 4-stage battery charging algorithm for rapid, efficient, and safe charging.
  • LCD screen with programmable charging parameters; charging data with storage of up to 1 year.

Sale
SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar Charge Controller 150V PV input Tracer 4215BN
62 Reviews
SolarEpic MPPT 40A Solar Charge Controller 150V PV input Tracer 4215BN
  • 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)

Sale
Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller
57 Reviews
Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller
  • Programmable to Charge Battery Voltages from 12 VDC to 60 VDC.
  • Advanced Continuous Maximum Power Point Tracking Increases PV Array Output by up to 30%.
  • Backlit 80 character-display shows the current operational status.
  • Input PV voltages up to 150VDC open circuit for charging battery banks from 12-60VDC.
  • Gets more amp hours from your solar panels into your batteries everyday.

Best RV Solar Charge Controller : Renogy Adventurer – 30A 12V/24V PWM

Sale
The Renogy Adventurer - 30A 12V/24V PWM Flush Mount Charge Controller with LCD Display
247 Reviews
The Renogy Adventurer - 30A 12V/24V PWM Flush Mount Charge Controller with LCD Display
  • The Adventurer 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
  • Designed to cleanly flush mount on walls, providing a sleek, integrated look
  • Compatible with Sealed, Gel, and Flooded batteries

Best Marine Solar Charge Controller : Windy Nation P30L LCD 30A

Sale
P30L LCD 30A PWM Solar Panel Regulator Charge Controller with Digital Display and User Adjustable Settings
141 Reviews
P30L LCD 30A PWM Solar Panel Regulator Charge Controller with Digital Display and User Adjustable Settings
  • WindyNation P30L PWM 30 Amp solar charge controller prevents battery from being overcharged and damaged by the solar panel. Ideal for 12 and 24 volt batteries. Controller can be configured for AGM, lead acid, gel and other battery types.
  • Advanced electronic protection: overload, short circuit, and reverse polarity protected
  • LCD digital display provides system information (amperage, voltage, temperature, load control etc.)
  • Battery temperature sensor (BTS) is included. See photo gallery.
  • System settings are user adjustable by using the MODE and UP and DOWN buttons

Best 80 Amp Solar Charge Controller : Outback Flex 80

The Outback Flex 80, one of our top 3 MPPT Solar Charge Controllers is also our pick for the best 80 Amp model.

Renogy Rover 20 Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
228 Reviews
Renogy Rover 20 Amp 12V/24V DC Input MPPT Solar Charge Controller
  • The Renogy Rover Series charge controller is suitable for various off-grid solar applications.
  • It protects the battery from being over-charged by the solar modules and over-discharged by the loads.
  • The Rover's charging process has been optimized for long battery life and improved system performance.
  • It includes a 4-stage battery charging algorithm for rapid, efficient, and safe charging.
  • LCD screen with programmable charging parameters; charging data with storage of up to 1 year.

Best 60 Amp Solar Charge Controller : Morningstar TS-60 Tristar-60 Amp

The Morning Star TS-60 is an excellent heavy duty PWM Solar Charge Controller rated for a maximum of 60 Amps. If you must have an 80 Amp Solar Charge Controller you will be better served by the Outback Flex 80.

Morningstar TS-60 Tristar-60 Amp
40 Reviews
Morningstar TS-60 Tristar-60 Amp
  • Morningstar's TriStar 60 (TS-60) is a three-function solar battery charger that provides reliable solar battery charging, load control or diversion regulation, Highest Reliability
  • It is rated at 60 amps and features a wide voltage range of 12-48 volts, Communications Capability
  • Options include an internal meter, remote meter and remote temperature sensor, Fully Adjustable, Extensive Electronic Protections
  • Constant voltage series PWM design to provide highly efficient battery charging, Programmable Lighting Control
  • Multiple TS-60 charge controllers can be run in parallel for larger solar arrays up to 300 amps or more, Better Battery Charging, Low Telecom Noise

Best 30 Amp Solar Charge Controller : TRACER 3215RN MPPT

Sale
MPPT TRACER 3215RN Solar Charge Controller 30A 12V 24V EP
102 Reviews
MPPT TRACER 3215RN Solar Charge Controller 30A 12V 24V EP
  • MPPT technology; Excellent thermal design and nature air cooling; CE certificate;
  • Peak conversion efficiency of 97 %; High Tracking efficiency of 99%; Several seconds tracking speed;
  • Very fast Sweeping of the entire I-V curve; 4- Stage charge with PWM output; Temperature compensation function;
  • Full power output in ambient temperatures up to 45 degree; Sealed, Gel, Flooded battery type optional; ON/OFF, Dusk to dawn, 1-15h timer;
  • Diversified load control: Manual, Dusk to Dawn, Dual timer, TEST;

Best 20 Amp Solar Charge Controller : HQST 20A MPPT

The HQST 20 Amp MPPT Solar Charge controller is our pick for the best 20 Amp solar charge controller.

HQST 20A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
42 Reviews
HQST 20A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
  • Advanced Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology, with efficiency no less than 99.5%.
  • High quality components, perfecting system performance, with maximum conversion efficiency of 98%.
  • Reliable automatic limit function of maximum PV input power, ensuring no overload.
  • LCD panel display design, dynamically displaying tool's operating data and working condition.
  • Multiple load control modes: manual mode, light ON/OFF, light On+Timer and test mode.

Top Cheap Solar Charge Controller : Morning Star SS 20L

This is also our pick as the best 15 Amp and 10 Amp Solar Charge Controller as it is highly flexible and will out perform other lower powered solar charge controllers.

Morningstar SS 20L 12V SunSaver 20 amp 12 volt Solar Charge Controller with LVD
15 Reviews
Morningstar SS 20L 12V SunSaver 20 amp 12 volt Solar Charge Controller with LVD
  • 20A Rated Solar Current at 12VDC with Low Voltage Disconnect
  • Small system charge controller
  • May be used in parallel for higher current
  • 5 Year Warranty
  • 100% solid state

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Best PWM & MPTT Solar Charge Controllers

Last update on 2018-01-19 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Author: Michael Bennet

A solar energy professional with eight years of marketing and installation experience. Avid and passionate about the adoption of solar and related technologies in all homes. Blog about all things solar at mysolarhome.us.

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