Solar power is one of the world’s cleanest energy sources. More eco-conscious home or commercial building owners than ever are choosing to make the switch to solar panels.
However, solar panels aren’t always the eco-friendly dream they seem to be in theory.
Maintaining an optimal battery charge through solar panels is more complicated than it sounds because you can’t always rely on the perfect weather conditions. For this reason, many solar panel users choose to invest in solar charge controllers.
There are 2 types of solar charge controllers. These are the PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) charge controller and the MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) charge controller.
They both serve the same purpose: to help turn solar energy into battery charge without overloading the battery or wasting power.
PWM charge controllers do this by lowering and raising the power output according to battery status. MPPT controllers use power point tracking technology to adjust the battery’s voltage and amperage according to irradiance levels to achieve a full battery charge.
MPPT charge controllers are superior to PWM controllers in almost every way. They yield a higher energy conversion rate (99% compared to 75-80%). They’re also suitable for larger solar power systems of over 2 KW, thanks to their typically higher amperage ratings.
With that being said, MPPT chargers are significantly more expensive than their PWM counterparts. Therefore, you’ll want to narrow your search down to only the very best MPPT chargers to ensure a worthwhile investment.
Today, we’ll be sharing our shortlist with you for the best MPPT solar charge controller.
Can’t stop? Check out our top pick:
Victron Energy’s SmartSolar MPPT charge controller is one of the best MPPT charge controllers on the market for maintaining optimal power levels, even in substandard weather conditions.
The Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT charge controller uses ultra-fast Maximum Power Point Tracking Technology to monitor and adjust solar panel output. In doing so, the controller enables batteries to reach full charge as quickly as possible, even at night!
Not only is this kind of monitoring and adjustment both time and energy-efficient, but it will also do wonders for your battery life.
The reason the SmartSolar MPPT is so efficient (98%) is that it’s able to charge a battery from completely flat to full charge. While most PWM controllers only perform optimally when the battery is already nearing full charge, this MPPT can continue to operate even at 0%.
This 30-amp controller is able to produce stronger currents than the best PWM chargers. This makes the SmartSolar MPPT suitable for small systems and larger ones, although it will be less effective in low-power systems.
This charge controller is able to support 24 and 12-volt systems equally well through its auto-select compatibility.
Something else we like about the Victron Energy SmartSolar is its built-in safety features, including protection against overheating, reverse polarity, and short-circuiting.
Best of all, Victron Energy has manufactured the SmartSolar controller with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. This allows users to connect their SmartSolar to another smart device (like a smartphone or tablet).
The SmartSolar’s Bluetooth connectivity enables access to the VictronConnect app, which provides users with their own charging profile. You can use the app to track your real-time charging status and charging history.
However, there is a noticeable design flaw in the construction of the SmartSolar MPPT. The input terminals are positioned so close together that connecting thicker wires may present a short-circuit risk.
The EPEVER BN Series MPPT Solar Charge Controller is one of the highest-reviewed solar charge controllers through online retailers.
With a rated current output of 40 amps, the ability to switch between 12 and 24 volts, and a maximum power input of 150 volts, the EPEVER BN MPPT is a versatile, heavy-duty solar charge controller. It’s able to support 600-watt panels on 12 volts and 1,200-watt panels on 24 volts.
The EPEVER BN MPPT is compatible with virtually all battery types, from lithium batteries to gel and flooded batteries.
In terms of efficiency, this MPPT Solar Charge Controller surpasses most other chargers of the same type as well as PWM models.
Boasting over 99.5% efficiency, this controller will allow you to sleep well at night knowing that your power supply is in good hands.
Alongside the controller itself, you’ll also receive a remote meter. This is a small handheld device with an LED display that allows charging processes to be monitored and charging parameters to be adjusted.
Included with the controller and the remote meter are a battery temperature sensor and a PC monitoring cable.
The former is designed to measure battery temperature, allowing for temperature compensation. The latter is used to track other controllers on the network.
Despite all of its superior features, however, we would recommend extra caution when setting the charging parameters for this controller, since some customers have reported experiencing voltage spikes.
Rich Solar’s MPPT Solar Charge Controller boasts a sleek, modern design with equally advanced technology.
Rated at 98% for conversion efficiency, the Rich Solar MPPT controller is available for purchase with 20, 30, or 40-amp current ratings.
It’s compatible with all battery types and can switch between 12 and 24 volts, automatically detecting the required voltage.
Thanks to its clear LCD display and helpful LED indicators, this controller allows you to monitor your solar charging system as easily and intuitively as possible.
You can use the controls to adjust charging parameters and check your charging status, and anything requiring your attention will show up on the indicators.
The controller even connects to Bluetooth for Android app monitoring, although the BT-1 module (sold separately) is required for this function.
The die-cast aluminum construction of the controller protects against overheating while a temperature sensor allows for remote battery temperature monitoring. There have been some quality control issues relating to the heat sensor cable, however.
Considering its advanced features and high functionality, this solar charge controller is surprisingly affordable!
As we’ve mentioned, this model is available in a choice of 20, 30, and 40 amps, with the higher amperages costing more than the lower-current options.
However, even the 40-amp model is cheaper than most high-quality MPPT controllers, so no matter what current rating you go for, you’ll be getting an excellent deal.
Onesolar’s MPPT Solar Charge Controller is a powerful, mid-range solar controller.
This controller is rated at 60 amps, so it’s suitable for large-scale solar power systems. Moreover, in addition to the usual 12/24-volt options, the Onesolar controller is able to support 48-volt systems. Best of all, it detects the different system ratings automatically!
The controller can be incorporated into sealed, flooded, and gel battery systems. There’s also a User-Defined battery option that allows it to be used with other types of batteries, although an electrician’s advice should be sought beforehand in this case.
You can expect an efficiency rate of 98% from this controller in terms of energy conversion, as well as a tracking efficiency of over 99%.
The LCD screen displays real-time information relating to your charging system and allows for remote load control. The display is also adjustable, with controls for brightness, contrast, sound, date and time, language, and charging parameters.
This controller model has built-in protection not only against the usual concerns like overcharging, overheating, reverse polarity, and short-circuiting but also against over-discharging and under-voltage.
Unfortunately, despite all the other great features it has to offer, this isn’t the most durable solar charge controller out there.
Some customers have reported the display screen malfunctioning just a few months after purchase. In theory, this is a fantastic solar controller, and it lives up to this in practice most of the time – but it’s still a bit of a gamble.
We’ve already reviewed EPEVER’s BN Series MPPT charge controller, and there’s no doubt that the BN model is one of the best out there. However, the EPEVER BN MPPT is on the expensive side, even for a pricey controller type.
If you’re looking for a less expensive charge controller that’s almost as effective as the BN-series model, why not take a look at the AN-series controller instead?
The EPEVER AN MPPT charge controller has a conversion efficiency rating of 98% and a very impressive tracking efficiency of over 99.5%!
Because it uses 4-stage charging to achieve full charge quickly, the controller is able to significantly extend battery life. It’s also compatible with 4 battery types (lithium, sealed, flooded, and gel) for maximum system compatibility.
Moreover, this controller is super convenient and easy to use. It automatically detects 12 and 24-volt DC systems, preventing incompatible connections. It has a maximum input of 60 volts and can attain a PV input power rating of 260 watts on 12 volts and 520 watts on 24 volts.
The AN series MPPT controller features an LCD display for monitoring purposes. Some users have reported issues with software bugs, but overall, the display and monitoring technology is very useful.
The screen is bright, easy to read, and provides important information about your charging status, such as voltage, current, loads, and temperature.
Speaking of temperature, this controller comes with built-in safety features, including protection from overheating. This is partly due to the die-cast aluminum case, which encourages fast cooling. The device also protects short-circuits, reverse polarity, and overloading.
As we mentioned earlier, the EPEVER AN Series MPPT Charge Controller has the huge additional benefit of being vastly less expensive than the more recent model.
In fact, it’s the cheapest of all the controllers on our list. So, if you’re looking for an affordable but still high-performing charge controller, this would be our recommendation.
MPPT solar charge controllers certainly do have a lot of features to consider.
Luckily, you only need to focus on the few most important factors to select a high-quality, high-performing controller that will work with your power system.
The first specification you should check on any MPPT charge controller model is the amperage, otherwise referred to as the rated current.
The standard amperage range for MPPT charge controllers is between 20 and 60 amperages. You won’t find many (if any) MPPT chargers rated at less than 20 amps, although heavy-duty industrial controllers can surpass 60 amps.
You’ll also need to pay attention to the voltage specified on your desired controller’s product information. The voltage ratings listed on an MPPT controller will indicate whether or not it will support your solar energy system.
We’d recommend choosing a solar charge controller that supports both 12 and 24-volt systems, which is why we’ve exclusively included these types of controllers in our best-of selection.
This will save you the trouble of reducing your search to only 12 or 24-volt charge controllers, helping you keep your options open. Some MPPT controllers can have maximum voltage ratings of up to 60 volts.
Moreover, many dual-voltage charge controllers now have the ability to detect the kind of solar power system they’re being connected to automatically.
This is a convenient feature and a huge bonus in terms of device safety and damage prevention because it means the controller won’t operate on the wrong voltage.
Speaking of safety, voltage isn’t the only thing you need to watch out for when considering your device’s safety – and your own, for that matter.
Some of the most common issues with solar battery charging are overcharging and overheating.
Most charge controllers provide built-in protection against this, and a die-cast aluminum casing should help bring temperatures down quickly if they get too high.
Additionally, most solar charge controllers protect against short-circuiting, overloading, and reverse polarity, just as you’d expect from a car battery charger.
We would also recommend making sure that your controller protects from over-discharge and under-voltage.
Models like the Victron Energy SmartSolar circumvent this issue for the most part by being able to charge batteries from 0 volts. Still, in most cases, under-voltage can damage electrical equipment, so protection against this is desirable.
The reason most people buy an MPPT charger is to take the guesswork out of solar charging. The idea is to make solar charging more reliable, manageable, and trackable.
If your controller is an absolute pain to use, your charging system may become more of a nuisance to you than before, negating the purpose of buying the controller in the first place.
Therefore, it’s a good idea to prioritize controllers with features that simplify the charging process.
The main thing is that you need to be able to monitor your charging progress effectively. This can be done through Bluetooth connectivity (via a smartphone app) or a built-in LCD monitor.
If you’re looking at controllers with built-in monitors, make sure that these are clear, bright, and ideally customizable. For example, you should be able to set your own charging parameters.
When coupled with indicator lights or sounds, setting parameters specific to your charging system will provide optimal, tailored monitoring and alert you if something needs your attention.
Often, in order to effectively integrate an MPPT charge controller into your solar panel system, some extra features or accessories may be required.
One thing you might need if you have other controllers set up in your solar power system is a PC monitoring cable. This will allow your controllers to communicate with each other for easier monitoring.
Not all solar charge controllers come with a temperature sensor, but it’s a good idea to look out for those that do. This way, you can remotely monitor your battery’s temperature at all times.
Depending on the climate and weather conditions where you live, you might not necessarily need an MPPT solar charger.
If you’re lucky enough to live somewhere where the sun is always shining, but temperatures rarely get too high, your solar panel batteries may not need much, if any, regulation.
However, such conditions are rare. With the climate changing the way it currently is, it’s probably not a good idea to rely on consistently optimal weather to maintain your solar charge.
Therefore, we would recommend getting an MPPT solar charge controller for your system regardless of climate.
If you have a low-power system, you may be able to make do with a PWM charge regulator. This type of controller will cost you less upfront, but you’ll have to compromise on energy efficiency.