Best Solar Charge Controllers for Your Home Power System

Review & Comparison, Last Update August 29, 2017
If you've decided to go solar to save on your electricity bills, sooner or later you'll come to realize the importance of having a right solar charge controller, to regulate voltage and current a battery's supplied. In this review, you can take a look at the best devices we've chosen for you and pick the one you find more appropriate for your home electric system. ...Read more ...Read less
BEST 2017
PROS
CONS
OUR VERDICT
Type
Input Voltage
Protection
Specific Features
Size
Warranty
 
PROS

The MPPT charging algorithm ensures the highest operating efficiency of your solar system.

CONS

The operating manual isn't detailed enough.

OUR VERDICT

With the Renogy Tracer 4210 MPPT Charge Controller, you'll be able to drastically increase the charging efficiency of your off-grid solar power system.

detailed parameters
Type

MPPT

Input Voltage

100V

Protection

Overcharging,
Over-discharging, 
Overload,
Short circuit,
Reverse polarity

Specific Features

The advanced maximum power point tracking technology optimizes the use of the PV system (corrects the charging and discharging parameters automatically).

Size

9.45 x 6.65 x 3.58 inches

Warranty

1 year

PROS

This compact and extremely easy-to-use device boasts maximum reliability and a long lifetime. Comes with a special telecom noise jumper.

CONS

Some telecom equipment can produce noise during a PWM regulation.

OUR VERDICT

Easy installation and precise operation make this solar panel charge regulator a great solution to be used by both beginners and advanced users.

detailed parameters
Type

PWM

Input Voltage

30 / 60V 

Protection

Overvoltage, 
Overload, 
Overheating,
Short circuit,
Reverse polarity,
Surges and spikes


Specific Features

The model features remote temperature probe and telecom noise jumper.

Size

6.01 x 4.14 x 2.17 inches

Warranty

5 years

PROS

Applied technologies ensure high reliability and flawless battery charging. The model can be easily used on boats.

CONS

LEDs don't provide all the measurement data related to the device operation.

OUR VERDICT

The Renogy Wanderer PWM Charge Controller ensures an excellent performance of the entire solar power system and increases the chargeability of the battery used.

detailed parameters
Type

PWM

Input Voltage

25V

Protection

Overcharging,
Over-discharging,
Overload,
Short-circuit,
Reverse polarity

Specific Features

The model automatically corrects charging and discharging parameters and comes with LED indicators. It is compatible with a remote temperature sensor.

Size

6.45 x 4.31 x 1.76 inches

Warranty

1 year

PROS

The large display shows all important parameter readings of the solar PV system.

CONS

Сonnection terminals are positioned very close to each other.

OUR VERDICT

This solar charge regulator will not only control the process of charging the battery but also will enable you to charge your gadgets!

detailed parameters
Type

PWM

Input Voltage

40V

Protection

Overcharging,
Overload, 
Low voltage,
Short-circuit, 
Lightning,
Reverse polarity

Specific Features

The model has a large LCD screen display and allows charging any of your mobile devices.

Size

5.31 x 3.94 x 1.18 inches

Warranty

30-day Amazon return policy

PROS

Thanks to an LCD display, you can conveniently adjust this model and switch between different modes.

CONS

Some users noted that the controller firmware comes with bugs.

OUR VERDICT

The ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller is an easy-to-install and efficient solar regulator which will be a great solution for every solar home power system!

detailed parameters
Type

PWM

Input Voltage

12 / 24V auto

Protection

Overcharging,
Overcurrent,
Lightning,
Low voltage,
Short circuit,
Reverse polarity

Specific Features

The regulator automatically controls operating modes of the solar system. It comes with two USB ports.

Size

5.9 x 3 x 1.4 inches

Warranty

1.5 years

What is a Solar Charge Controller?

Today, more and more people are using solar energy for a huge variety of purposes, which include powering consumer electronics, upgrading home lighting systems, heating the water, warming up swimming pools. By installing solar power systems for houses, users significantly save on electric bills as well as increase their house property value.

If you decided to install a solar panel system for your home, you will need to pick the best components for it. A charge controller (charge regulator) is definitely one of the most important among them. In essence, it is a device, which regulates the voltage and current going from solar arrays and maintains proper charging voltage applied to the batteries. As the input voltage supplied from the solar module starts to increase, the charge regulator reduces the charging current correspondingly to prevent a battery overcharging.

By the way, here you can select the right solar panels for your off-grid or grid-tied solar power systems.

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What Features to Compare

Type

One of the major factors to consider when selecting an appropriate solar charging controller is its type. There are two main types of charge regulators: PWM and MPPT with the difference laying in the charging method used. The operation of PWM charge controllers is based on Pulse-Width-Modulation technology, while MPPT regulators use the Maximum Power Point Tracking. The PWM algorithm reduces charging current correspondingly as a battery voltage reaches a certain setpoint to prevent overheating and gassing of the battery. This charging method maintains high average capacity of the battery and results in increasing the battery charge acceptance. The MPPT solar charge regulators adjust the voltage and current applied to the battery to a certain level, at which solar arrays provide maximum output power. MPPT controllers offer the best efficiency and can be used for solar systems with higher power.

Main Features

The first thing to consider here is the output voltage of solar arrays used in your system. Most solar power charge regulators have 12V and 24V input voltage options, thus you need to know the solar array output voltage defined by the equipment used. It's no less important to make sure the solar regulator has enough capacity to handle the amperage of the current coming from your solar array. For calculating this current value, you need to divide the value of the output power of your solar module by the battery voltage, thus you get an approximate current value in amperes supplied to the controller input.

Protection and Special Features

In addition to the mentioned factors, you need to pay a special attention to the protection of controllers for using solar panel-produced power. Many models offer a variety of types of electric protection, including the protection from overheating, overcharging, overload, short circuit, reverse polarity. Generally, these protection features ensure reliable operation of the entire solar power system and prolong the battery life.
Finally, you can also select charge regulators that allow for manual voltage control, feature an automatic temperature compensation, have an LCD display, LED lighting, and USB ports.

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Renogy Tracer 4210

Ultimate Performance

The solar charge controller by Renogy is a great solution for ensuring efficient operation of your solar panel system. In fact, this is an advanced MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) controller, which significantly increases the efficiency of solar arrays use. Thanks to the special smart tracking algorithm, the Tracer 4210 delivers electric energy to the battery by the most adequate and efficient portions, optimizing the use of the entire solar PV system. More precisely, the solar charge regulator provides peak conversion efficiency of 97% and tracking efficiency of 99%, which is actually one of the biggest advantages of MPPT controllers over conventional charge regulators. It is important to notice that the tracking algorithm implemented is completely automatic, so you won't need to manually adjust the device parameters during the operation.

Review of Renogy Tracer 4210 Charge Controller

Optimal Efficiency and Advanced Safety

To ensure fast, efficient and, most importantly, safe battery recharging, the Renogy Tracer 4210 features the 4-stage smart charging algorithm, which employs Bulk Charge, Boost Charge, Float Charge, and Equalisation Mode. These four charging stages optimize the charging of your battery, preserve its overall efficiency for a long time and, therefore provide its long-term performance.
The advanced protection features prevent the solar charge regulator from being oversupplied by solar arrays as well as from undersupplying the connected electrical loads. The model is equipped with advanced features, such as built-in protection from overload, short circuit, and reverse polarity. Way to go!

Renogy Tracer 4210 Charge Controller in the use

Important Safety Instructions

Use of an MPPT solar charge controller requires careful reading, understanding and observing the installation, operating and safety instructions. Please, read the following instructions carefully:

1. Do not disassemble or attempt to repair the charge controller by yourself.
2. Do not let the water get inside the solar charge controller.
3. Ensure that all electric connections are tightened.
4. Never connect the solar panel module to the charge controller without a battery connected. Always connect the battery first.
5. Verify that the controller input voltage does not exceed the 100 VDC to prevent a permanent damage to the equipment.
6. For the Tracer-4210RN, the Short Circuit (Isc) of the solar array have to be less than 40A.
7. Use only sealed lead-acid, flooded, or gel batteries of the deep cycle type.
8. The battery may emit explosive gases while charging. Be sure that the room has a ventilation capable of removing such gases.
9. Do not allow the positive (+) and negative (-) terminals of the battery connect.

Detailed review of Renogy Tracer 4210 Charge Controller

Important Device

A multimeter is a piece of equipment any technician should have. Choose one that suits your needs best.

Renogy Tracer 4210 Charge Controller application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Renogy Tracer 4210
Renogy Tracer 4210
 

MorningStar ProStar PS-30

Reliable and Practical

The Morningstar ProStar PS-30 is a solar charge controller intended for the use with medium-power solar PV modules. The charge regulator is compatible with 500W solar arrays with the rated voltage of 12V and 1000W panels with the 24V voltage. One of the biggest inherent advantages of the device is that it detects the voltage level automatically. The patented optimized PWM charging algorithm efficiently and precisely controls the amount of power transferred to the battery and provides longer battery life and improved system performance. This charge regulator is perfect for both domestic and professional environment. As the final touch, the manufacturer covers the product with the 5-year warranty!

Review of MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller

Vitally Important Features

However, the Morningstar ProStar PS-30 has other important features. The automatic temperature compensation enables the charge regulator to dynamically adjust target output voltages during the charging according to changes of the battery temperature. The feature guarantees a safe and optimal recharging process, and positively influences the battery performance. The Night Disconnect function automatically disconnects the solar panel at night to prevent reverse current leakage from the battery. To ensure the most accurate charging, the model is equipped with special Sense wires that eliminate voltage drops. 
The system continuously performs a self-test and informs you of any errors or system faults detected. In addition, the regulator features many types of electronic protection: short circuit, overload, overvoltage, voltage surges and spikes, overheating, reverse polarity.

MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller in the use

Quick Start Instructions

1. The ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller is mounted on a vertical surface. Allow for a space above and below the controller that is needed for air circulation.
2. Ensure that the nominal output voltage of solar panels matches the nominal battery charge voltage.
3. Connect the battery to the controller unit first. Make sure that the Battery Status LEDs blink one time. Tighten the battery connections. 
4. Connect the battery Sense.
5. Connect the solar module. Make sure the Charging LED is on in the sunlight.
6. Connect the load. If there is an error or a fault, the LEDs will begin blinking (refer to section 4).
7. Choose the right charging option for the battery used.
8. The ProStar will automatically select the appropriate charge voltage for 12 and 24V batteries. If you use a 24V battery in the system, make sure that the battery charge voltage is above 15.5 volts. 
9. Make sure that the LEDs and digital meter show a normal operation of the regulator.
10. The manufacturer recommends grounding the system.

Detailed review of MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller

Wind Power

Did you ever dream about taking advantage of wind power? Now, your dreams can come true and you have an excellent opportunity to select the best wind generator!

MorningStar ProStar PS-30 PWM Solar Charge Controller application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


MorningStar ProStar PS-30
MorningStar ProStar PS-30
 

Renogy Wanderer

Reasonably Priced Solution

Renogy is a renewable energy company, which specializes in the manufacture of solar energy products for private houses, businesses, and vehicles. The company is recognized for its exceptionally high-quality and cost-effective solar energy solutions. The reviewed Renogy Wanderer is one of these solutions! Basically, it is a PWM charge controller providing a safe and efficient battery recharging. The charging is carried out in several stages (Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization) that ensure higher charging efficiency and increased battery life. One of the important factors is that the model is intended for solar arrays with the output current lower than 30A.

Review of Renogy Wanderer PWM Charge Controller

Advanced Protection Functions

If the battery is installed far from the charge regulator, you need to additionally use the special remote temperature sensor, which is required for an accurate temperature compensation. The sensor enables the device to automatically adjust target voltages during the charging process as the battery temperature changes. As practice shows, the sensor use results in a good system performance and a longer operational life of the battery.
To prevent different power-related problems and installation mistakes from damaging the solar charge regulator, the Renogy Wanderer is equipped with built-in protective features against overcharging, short circuit and reverse polarity connection.

Renogy Wanderer PWM Charge Controller in the use

Achieve Maximum Efficiency оf Your Solar Panel

The installation of a solar array is a rather complex procedure, and if you don't possess all the necessary experience and skills, we recommend to seek the assistance of a professional installer.
To make the most of your solar module, its surface needs to be directed precisely toward the sun. In the northern hemisphere, for example, solar panels always need to face true south. At the same time, many specialists recommend redirecting solar modules seasonally.
If you're planning to install your solar panel on a horizontal surface such installation will give you freedom to adjust the tilt angle as required, thanks to an adjustable mount. If you plan to mount the module on the roof, the maximum of the panel tilt angle will be limited by the roof pitch.
A solar module is designed to be installed in a place without shades. Even a small shade can drastically reduce the power output of the solar array.

Detailed review of Renogy Wanderer PWM Charge Controller

One More Way to Use the Sun Energy

If you're wondering what's the best way to illuminate your yard, porch, and alleys, consider scattering around your yard these solar lights!

Renogy Wanderer PWM Charge Controller application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Renogy Wanderer
Renogy Wanderer
 

Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch

Smart Solution

The Mohoo 20A Auto Switch Solar Charge Controller is a compact device, which distinguishes itself by its large and informative LCD display. The display presents all important measured data including such parameters as the battery voltage, charge and output current, environmental temperature. The charge regulator can be used with solar arrays with the rated output current of 20A. The type of the battery your system is equipped with does not matter, as the model is compatible with both 12V and 24V options. Furthermore, the solar panel charge regulator can be an excellent solution to power the lighting system in your home. Quite a versatile device, isn't it?

Review of Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch Solar Charge Controller

Usability in the Details

It's worth noting that the solar panel charge controller comes with two USB ports that provide the output current of 3A — enough to recharge batteries in your smartphone and tablet in no time!
Thanks to the pulse width modulated regulation algorithm, the Mohoo Auto Switch Solar Charge Regulator controls the output current of the solar module according to the battery condition and charging needs.  It significantly improves the efficiency of the solar PV system use and guarantees fast recharging as well as long service life for the battery.
Additionally, the implemented over-load, over-charging, under-voltage, lighting, reverse polarity, and short circuit protection types provide maximum safety for your system. 

Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch Solar Charge Controller in the use

For the Reference

A 3-square foot area of your roof can make a huge difference! Actually, solar panels of such size can provide up to 120W of power, it's enough to use a computer. Solar arrays with an area of 33 feet are capable of producing 1kW of electric power! It is actually sufficient for powering a home lighting system, TV set, and a refrigerator. That capability is, by all means, a great technology advancement!

Detailed review of Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch Solar Charge Controller

Smart Lighting

If you're thinking of the way how to upgrade the lighting in your house, we'd recommend you to turn attention to these specialized smart bulbs.

Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch Solar Charge Controller application

Additional Info

User Manual     Manufacturer


Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch
Mohoo 20A 12V/24V Auto Switch
 

ALLPOWERS 20A

Functionality and User Friendliness

The ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller is a compact and multifunctional solution with many useful features. By its nature, it's a high-quality charge regulator for solar panels with an output current of under 20A. Like its more expensive counterparts, the device is compatible with both 12V and 24V batteries. As a standard feature of such control devices, the charge regulator automatically defines the charge voltage value to prevent the battery failure. A highly-efficient PWM algorithm uses 4 stages (EQU, Bulk, ABS, Float) that ensure an excellent functionality of the battery and its long lifetime. It is achieved with the industrial-grade STM 8 microprocessor that effectively controls the charging current applied to the battery and maintains a safe procedure of the battery charging.

Review of ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller

Versatile Solution

The ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller can be used as a part of small and medium-sized off-grid solar systems for different domestic and industrial applications. The comprehensive protection against over-current, overcharging, lightning strike, low voltage, short circuit, inverse connection ensures maximum safety of the equipment itself and the connected battery. The unit combines LED indicators with a large screen, which displays all important operation readings of the solar charge regulator and battery. Users will definitely appreciate convenience and usability of this compact charging equipment for a solar panel. As for the connectivity, the model has two USB ports for charging any of your USB-enabled mobile devices!

ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller in the use

Important to Know

Before installing the solar module, it's crucial to evaluate the ability of a roof to support solar panels. You need to check if the roof is in a good condition and calculate the weight load that the solar arrays and additional equipment such as mounting accessories will impose on the roof structure. It's equally important to consider the potential impact of snow and wind. And more to that, if you plan to install the module on a flat horizontal surface, make sure there is enough space between the roof and the panel for a proper air circulation.

Detailed review of ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller

For True Gourmets

Did you know that sunlight can be effectively converted not only into current? You could, in fact, make a perfect breakfast if you had a solar cooker

ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charge Controller application

Additional Info

    Manufacturer


ALLPOWERS 20A
ALLPOWERS 20A
 

FAQ:

Q: What is PWM?
A:
The Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is used as an efficient charging algorithm, which enables the batteries to be charged with less stress on them. Basically, this charging method slowly reduces the charging current according to the battery condition and recharging needs. It prevents batteries from heating and gassing, yet provides them with the maximum amount of electric energy in a short time.

Q: Do I need a solar charge controller/regulator?
A: It depends on the power of solar panels you're planning to install. Typically, small 10W solar modules can be used for trickle charging of large batteries without a solar charge regulator if the panels are equipped with blocking diodes to prevent reverse current. Using solar panels with the output power of 20W or higher with batteries always requires a charge regulator.

Q: Is temperature compensation an important feature?
A: Yes, it is. The temperature compensation feature adjusts charge control voltage based on battery temperature. The charge regulator that supports this feature increases regulation voltage when a battery is cold and decreases the voltage when the battery is warm. It's very important to prevent the battery from being overcharged.

Q: Can I use the battery with the solar charge controller connected?
A: Yes. Solar charge controllers are typically designed for a continuous usage and there is no need to disconnect the system during the battery use.

Q: What is an equalization mode?
A: The equalization charging is a special mode of battery charging. It makes all cells in the battery or battery bank of exactly equal charge. The equalization prolongs the battery life and provides better battery performance.

Q: What are the major benefits of MPPT solar charge regulators?
A: 
Usually, MPPT solar power charge controllers make it possible to draw 15-30% more power from your solar modules in comparison to PWM solar controllers. Despite the fact that MPPT solar charge regulators are typically more expensive than their PWM counterparts, they are an excellent investment for any solar power home system with the power exceeding 200 watts.

Q: How to measure operating current within the solar power system?
A: To measure the current supplied from solar arrays, proceed as follows:
1. Connect a solar panel to a charge regulator and a battery.
2. Make sure the multimeter is set to 10A.
3. Disconnect the positive cable connecting the battery and the charge regulator on the regulator side.
4. Measure the operating current by connecting the multimeter positive probe to the disconnected end of the positive cable from the regulator, and the negative probe to the positive battery terminal. This scheme allows measuring the current that flows from the panel to the battery.
Note that if the battery is fully charged it may not accept current, resulting in a low current reading.


Sources:

1. How to Choose the Right 12V Solar Charge Controller, eBay. July 1, 2014.

2. Frank Andorka How to choose the perfect charge controller, Solar Power World. September 16, 2014.

3. Everything you Need to Know About the Basics of Solar Charge Controllers, Northen Arizona Wind & Sun.

4. Bob Hopman Matching solar modules to MPPT charge controllers, Victron Energy. March 28, 2014.

5. Ben Gorman Sizing PWM Solar Charge Controllers, AltE Store.

6. Rinkesh Kukreja What is Solar Energy? Conserve Energy Future.

7. How do MPPT charge controllers work? CivicSolar.

8. Charge controller, Wikipedia.

9. John Rushworth Which solar charge controller: PWM or MPPT? Victron Energy. July 21, 2014.

10. What is a Solar Regulator/ Charge Controller, Energy Matters.

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Publish Date: 2017-08-29 13:53:13