Best solar charge controllers 2023
- 19 Apr 2022
- 7 min
A battery bank is likely the most expensive element of a PV system. So it’s much wiser to prolong the lifespan of your batteries as much as possible. To achieve it, make sure they are charged appropriately – use an optimal charging mode and duration, prevent overcharging and excessive heating. What follows is a list of the best charge controllers that will help you reach this goal.
Charge controller: The most underrated component of a PV system
Put simply, a solar charge controller acts like a pump that moves energy from your solar panels into the batteries. However, the process isn’t as simple as pumping. The current and voltage need to be controlled with precision to always keep the batteries in an optimal state. Overcharging must be avoided, and the whole process needs to be as efficient as possible. This is what a charge controller is responsible for. When it fails to do its job properly, this may lead to a long list of problems, from minor damage and gassing to irrecoverable physical destruction of battery cells.
Considering that solar charge controllers often represent less than one tenth of the total system’s costs, it makes sense to go for the highest quality. The reduced risks and a longer lifespan of the batteries will more than make up for this investment. After researching all the devices on the market, here we present the best five, carefully selected for your benefit.
The five charge controllers below are all based on the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology. Compared to less sophisticated Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) devices, MPPT controllers do not require a specific ratio between the PV system’s voltage and that of your battery bank. MPPT also allows harvesting up to 25% more energy, which makes it the best choice for residential applications.
MidNite Solar Classic MPPT 150 – Smarter than it seems
The best charge controllers must be reliable, efficient and based on cutting-edge technology. MidNite Solar Classic MPPT 150 has it all. The most salient feature of this model is the ability to learn. From the very first moment you turn it on, this solar charge controller will start gathering your system’s performance data. Leveraging the power of information, it will adapt its behavior to achieve the best results in your particular configuration. For more expert users, there is also an option to adjust the settings manually.
• Hassle-free stacking with other MidNite Classic models allows you to turn them into one large unit without the need for special hardware
• Update software, monitor performance and change settings via two-way USB, RS-232 and Ethernet ports
• With 32 MB of disk space, this charge controller has enough memory for installing any firmware updates
• A special sealing kit allows the device to be used in harsh environments. It will be protected from dust, humidity and salt
• HyperVOC technology protects this MidNite Classic model from excessive open-circuit voltages
Outback FLEXmax MPPT 80A – Never loses its cool
Meet a truly innovative charge controller made by OutBack Power Systems. The FLEXmax MPPT 80A employs maximum power point tracking to help you harvest up to 30% more power compared to a conventional controller. This solar charge controller features a state-of-the-art cooling system to provide reliability in temperatures as high as 104°F. This is achieved by combining intelligent thermal management algorithms with low-noise fans for active cooling.
• Compatibility with multiple battery voltages and step-down capability for lower voltage batteries support
• Performance tracking and enough memory to store up to 128 days of records
• 80 character LCD display to monitor vital information or change settings
• Remote access to monitor the state of the system or even reprogram the device
• Supported battery voltages start with just 12 VDC and reach a maximum of 60 VDC
Morningstar TriStar MPPT 60 – A little goes a long way
Being one of the top charge controllers in terms of efficiency, Morningstar TriStar MPPT 60 beats most competing devices with its incredible 99%. Even compared to other charge controllers featuring the MPPT technology, this TriStar model stands out due to reduced energy losses. The TrakStar algorithm developed by Morningstar engineers is responsible for much faster peak power point search. The device is an optimal choice for solar arrays up to 3,000 watts.
• Full-fledged web-interface with an Ethernet port for computer-enabled monitoring and reprogramming
• Excellent reliability backed by a 5 year warranty from one of the most experienced manufacturers of solar charge controllers
• The TriStar MPPT 60 keeps all important data for you during 200 days, allowing you to see the actual efficiency of your system and identify problems
• Mechanical relays and active cooling have been eliminated for more reliability
• To further enhance durability, a parallel circuit arrangement has been implemented to reduce wear and tear of the electric components
Schneider Electric MPPT 60 150 – A good bargain
Not only is Schneider Electric MPPT 60 150 one of the best solar charge controllers, it is also a truly universal solution for a range of applications. The device will do an equally good job as a backup solution or as part of grid-connected and off-grid systems. The device is able to control the charging voltage of the batteries with great precision, prolonging the lifespan of your storage system. A simplified design further reduces the costs, making SE MPPT 60 150 one of the most affordable among top inverters.
• Supports a wide range of battery voltages – 12 to 60 V
• Highest degree of safety with ground fault and backfeed protection, as well as mechanisms against current and voltage surges
• Comes with a sensor to prevent batteries from overheating
• The default 5 year warranty is extendable to 10 years
• No compatibility problems: all solar panel brands are supported
• Features remote configuration and monitoring functionality
• 99% efficiency at 60 V
Magnum Energy 100A MPPT – On the safe side
Up to 100 A output and 99% efficiency – this is Magnum Energy PT-100, one of the best charge controllers made in the USA. Forget about separate GFP breakers, the device comes with pre-installed ground fault protection. Other safety features are also up to the highest standards: the PT-100 can detect arcing, deal with excessive voltage and current, prevent power derating and short circuits. The device constantly makes performance logs and stores them for 255 days. The product is UL-listed.
• Automatic battery voltage detection in the supported range – 12 to 48 V
• An MPPT algorithm with tracking efficiency of up to 99% – one of the industry’s best
• Electronic mechanisms to protect against reverse polarity and current, excessive discharging and overloading
• An LCD screen and a set of comprehensive LED indicators give full account of the state of the PV system
• Bluetooth support for easy control via a smartphone app
This is not a ranking – each model can be the most optimal depending on your particular circumstances. We know how hard it is to make a choice, especially when picking from the very best. So, if you need more details on getting a perfect solar charge controller, we have you covered.
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