Solar Panel Controller: How to Choose a Solar Charge Controller in 2018

Theoretically speaking, installing a solar system at home is straightforward. You need a couple of 12-volt solar panels,and you connect them to a battery. In between these two key elements you need to have a solar charge controller. This ensures that when the battery needs charging, current can easily flow to the battery and when it is full, it automatically disconnects from the solar panels.

What is a Solar Charge Controller and Why Do You Need One?

A solar charge controller is a crucial element that makes sure your solar system works correctly. Finding a good quality one does´t have to be complicated or expensive. It is important to remember that the solar charge controller you select is going to entirely depend on the capacity you need and how your actual system is set up. In this article we will be looking at the three top solar charge controllers available on the market, to help you decide which one will be best suited to your needs.

So, Let's Do the Math:

Commonly, PV panel charge controllers come in 12, 24 or 48 volts. Amperage ratings will be between 1-60 and voltage ratings 6-60. Now if we assume that your solar system was 12-volts and your amps are 14, you will need a controller that has at least 14 amps to be able to work properly.

If like me,however, you aren’t a fan of doing the math, then it’s a good idea to spend some time doing some research of your own on each individual product listed and if they would work for your solar system. Thankfully, there is a multitude of forums online that can answer your questions!

Here are the top 3 Solar Charge Controllers of 2018.

Renogy Wanderer

Renogy Wanderer

Price Range: $

Renogy have gained an excellent reputation for the standard of high-quality solar equipment they manufacture. They were amongst the first companies who brought the latest technology in high-efficiency solar panels to the consumer market and if efficiency is a priority for you then look no further than Renogy.

Features:

The Wanderer is one of the most affordable negative-ground controllers around. It offers complete protection from overcharging, short-circuit and overload as well as reverse polarity. The cleverly designed 4 stage PWM charging system is there to prevent your batteries from over-charging as well as over-discharging. You can easily see the solar charge controller’s status at any time during use via the featured LED indicators. This is one of the most versatile solar charge controllers available,and it is compatible with Gel, Sealed and Flooded batteries.

PROS:

  • One of the safest solar charge controllers you can buy
  • Extremely affordable at just under $40
  • The Wanderer corrects charging and discharging parameters automatically, thus improving the longevity of your battery.
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    Easy to use
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    Excellent customer support

CONS:

We didn’t find any drawbacks worth mentioning, making the Wanderer an excellent choice at a low and affordable price.

Windy Nation P30

Windy Nation P30

Price Range: $

This compact and affordable product from solar manufacturing giants WindyNation will deliver heightened efficiency to your solar system. It uses a unique charging technique that Works to increase the longevity of batteries,and with all of its features combined, it can work very efficiently.

Features:

One of the features we like most about this solar charge controller is the fact that it automatically maximizes solar power production in line with battery charging. It is equipped to withstand up to 30 amps of array current and ensures that your battery will always be properly charged.

Pros:

  • Can be used to charge 12 and 24-volt batteries
  • Very affordable
  • Electronic protection against reverse polarity, over current, extreme temperatures and short circuits
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    12- volt batteries will always be kept fully charged for optimal functionality
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    LED clearly indicates battery charge and load status

Cons:

  • It is not water resistant
  • Some customers reported frequent failure of the device
Solar Epic 40A Charge Controller

Price Range: $$

An extremely popular choice among off-gridders worldwide- the Solar Epic charge controller is epic! And while this product is on the more expensive side compared to the other items mentioned in this article, the countless positive reviews it has received means it is clearly well worth spending the extra bit of cash.

Features:

This all singing, and all dancing solar charge controller comes highly recommended by people who live entirely off-grid. It is built to last, offers excellent quality, and is easy to use.

Pros:

  • Inbuilt smart tracking algorithm maximizes the energy produced by your solar panel (s) while simultaneously charging the battery
  • Low voltage disconnect stops the battery from overcharging or discharging
  • Optimized charging process to preserve battery life while improving system performance
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    It can communicate with other solar accessories
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    Features 4 different charging options: sealed, gel, flooded and user-defined

Cons:

  • It falls into the higher price category

Conclusion:

As you can see, there are some incredibly affordable solar charge controllers available on the market this year,and many of them are so well priced, that you can buy one that is going to definitely meet your budget- no matter how limited that might be.

However, when you consider what you actually get for the price you pay and the difference in quality between the cheaper and more expensive products, it's clear that you would be better off spending more to get more.

If you need a basic controller, then don’t waste money on all of the bells and whistles that you will likely never use. If you want a product that is going to last a lifetime and has been designed to be robust and durable, then you are going to have to spend more money.

Take some time to consider your needs and make sure you understand what the necessary essential components are before rushing to buy one,and you will be all set to enjoy joining the world of living off-grid!

Laura Day
 

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