Looking for the best solar charge controller?
Good news, you’re in the right place.
I’ve written this article to help you find a solar charge controller to suit your needs.
There’s quite a lot to consider when making a decision, so along with a list of product reviews, I’ve added in-depth information for you to consider.
Not sure about the difference between MPPT or PWM controllers? Or simply wondering what size charge controller you need? Well keep reading, because you’ll find all that knowledge and more below.
So let’s jump straight in.
What is a Solar Charge Controller?
For those unaware, a solar charge controller is a device used to control the flow of current between a solar panel and the batteries. Its basic function is to regulate the current and voltage to stop a battery from overcharging.
The charge controller is connected between the solar panel, which produces the energy, and the battery that stores the energy for later use. Using a solar charge controller, you can rest assured that you have complete control over the flow of energy, and your solar panel and battery are also protected.
Modern units now come with many more functions and modes to make them more user-friendly and adaptable. You can use a solar charge controller to monitor and adjust power settings, connect to a smartphone app, and even plug in USB devices directly for efficient charging.
MPPT vs PWN – What’s the difference?
There are two different types of solar charge controllers on the market today – MPPT and PWN.
MPPT – Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) is the most modern technology which delivers a higher efficiency, in some cases a 30% gain over PWN. MPPT allows you to pair non-matching voltages in panels and batteries which often occur in large home solar systems.
PWN – Pulse Width Modulation (PWN) technology is a less efficient but cheaper style of solar charge controller. It is generally best for smaller solar systems which have solar panels and batteries with matching voltage.
Best Solar Charge Controller Reviews
1. Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT
Starting off this list is a versatile unit that comes in a number of different capacities.
Victron Energy, based in the Netherlands, is famous for its high-quality products including smart solar charge controllers. If you are not too familiar with solar installation systems, this is one of the best solar charge controllers for you to choose.
You’ll love the intelligent and quick installation system that’s coupled with wireless Bluetooth control to enable remote monitoring and settings using a smartphone app.
Benefit from the new and fast SmartSolar technology to draw maximum energy from your solar panels in order to charge your batteries. The controller has enough power to recharge even a severely discharged battery. As long as your battery cells aren’t permanently damaged you can even work with a battery voltage as low as 0 volts!
The device uses MPPT technology to continually monitor the voltage and current output of your solar panels. It really makes sure that panels provide every single drop of power for ultimate efficiency. Included are all the important safety features while LED indicator lights deliver real-time battery information making any fault diagnosis effortless.
- SmartSolar MPPT technology
- Built-in Bluetooth
- Easy installation via smartphone
- Connection terminals a little small
2. Renogy Wanderer Solar Charge Controller
If you are looking for an advanced charge controller for your off-grid solar system, then you should check out the Renogy Wanderer. The benefit of Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) charging means you can hook it up to any battery, including lithium, Gel, AGM. This technology enhances the battery life and also gives better performance.
Happily use it with any 12V or 24V battery that provides a charging output of 10 amps, and it is ideal for use with solar panels. A self-diagnostic system offers complete protection to your battery from short circuits, overcharging, power overload, reverse current, and reverse polarity. Even if there is an installation mistake or a fault in the system, your battery is fully protected.
The innovative PWM algorithm offers a 4-stage charging (Bulk, Boost, Float, and Equalization) that increases battery life and improves system performance. Plus a backlit LCD screen displays system operations, diverse load control, and error codes.
The device is compact and easy to install anywhere from home to in vehicles. Adding to this, you can charge devices directly from its USB ports. The device is capable enough to charge completely discharged lithium batteries to get any system up and running.
A final neat touch is the smartphone app which you can connect up via Bluetooth to control your power remotely.
Perfect for adventures in a van or simply hook it up at home.
- Smart 4-Stage PWM charging
- Backlit LCD screen
- Integrated USB ports
- Compatible with Bluetooth Module
- Optimized for a 12V/24V system
- Heats quickly
3. PowMr 60a Charge Controller
Coming in at 3rd position is the PowMr 60a, another good option in our list of the best solar charge controllers. This controller can manage up to 60 amps of charge/discharge and works with a 12V or 24 V battery. It comes with an integrated auto-switch feature to detect the nominal voltage of a battery. A popular choice thanks to its balance of price and performance.
This compact unit also features the 4-stage PWM charge including boost, equalization, ABS, and float options. Plus you can charge devices straight from the USB port with 2A 5V. It comes with an additional feature of charge and discharges current, and energy recording functions. A backlit LCD screen displays PV, battery, load charge, and discharge details for easy monitoring. It comfortably operates with lead-acid batteries and can detect when the battery voltage drops below 8V. When low battery strikes, it automatically gets turned off, this is great for enhancing the lifespan of your battery.
Rest easy with complete protection from reverse current, overheating, under-voltage discharge, short circuits, overload, and overcharge.
Its uniquely compact small size makes it a dream for RV, off-grid, or remote uses.
- Two USB
- 60a charge controller
- Backlit LCD screen
- Fit for Lead-acid batteries
- Complete protection
- Controls were difficult to set
4. Outback Flexmax MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller
Another good option on our list of the best solar charge controllers is Outback Flexmax 80. This charge controller also uses the Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) technology designed to squeeze out the maximum power from a PV to store in your battery. Simply put, this technology helps you get the maximum energy output from solar panels.
The Outback Flexmax 80 power controller also features an intelligent auto cooling system enabling you to operate at a maximum temperature of 40 °C (104 °F) at 80 amps. Its adaptability is awesome with the ability to work with various battery voltages with step-down voltage capacity.
For simple operation, an 80-character LCD screen displays the status of the controller. You can set it to manual or autocycles for the battery. Adding to this, power recording allows you to access historic data of up to 180 days previously.
A powerful and efficient no-frills controller!
- Suitable for 12 VDC to 60 VDC battery
- Remote temperature sensor.
- Built-in 128-day data log
- Voltage step-down capability
- Display is small
5. HQST 20A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
High-Quality Solar technologies bring one of the best solar charge controllers with MPPT technology. Its latest offering is the HQST-20 is an intelligent and multifunctional device featuring dual USB ports for modern chargeable devices. Its sleek design holds a microprocessor to automatically detect battery voltage of 12 or 24V.
The charging parameters can be adjusted automatically using the temperature compensation. It also features a plug-in LCD screen to give you added interaction and enable a wide choice of modes and applications. You can effortlessly reset all charging and controlling parameters as you need.
Its multi-protection system offers safety from short circuits, battery open circuits, and lightning protection. It also comes with a built-in maximum power point tracking system to optimize the energy efficiency of your solar panel which is a benefit over the old PWM systems. The high-efficiency charge controller comes with an active charging regulation feature and is suitable to work with most common batteries types such as sealed, vented, lithium, and colloidal batteries.
- Multiple Protection features
- High-efficiency controllers
- Offer high conversion
- Work with various battery types
- Display is a separate device
6. WindyNation 30A PWM Solar Panel Charge Controller
Next in our list of the best solar charge controllers is a premium offering from Windynation. The WindyNation P30L has an LCD screen that shows the controllers’ essential working information and easily configures the controller. Designed to work with 12V and 24V batteries, it comes with an auto-detect feature for battery voltage when initially connected to the battery and gives an output of 30amp DC.
Relax knowing you’ll have complete protection from power overload, reverse polarity, short circuits, reverse current, overcharging, and discharging thanks to its multi-protection system.
With its inbuilt battery temperature sensor and temperature compensation, you’ll love the enhanced battery performance and lifespan with minimal maintenance. The solid yet lightweight casing is built from durable plastic. All the while an LCD screen shows an instant reading of the charge, battery status, and error codes for faults.
If you already have the WindyNation solar kit for RV, the WindyNation P30L will be an ideal partner device.
- Suitable for 12V and 24V battery
- Complete protection features
- Compatible with many battery types
- LCD digital display
- Not high end, better for small systems
7. ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charger Controller
One of the top low-priced solar charge controllers is the ALLPOWERS 20A, a brilliant choice for newbies with a small solar system. You can use this happily with a lead-acid battery along with AGM, flooded, and GEL batteries. The controller is best suited for indoor use and can work well at most temperature ranges.
An adjustable power rate makes for easy operation while dual USB ports allow you to charge smartphones and other similar devices. The device also features an industrial-grade STM8 microprocessor with three-stage charge management, and its 4-stage PWM charge not only ensures the protection of the battery but also enhances its lifespan.
The easy-to-use LCD screen displays the power status and data of your system. You can quickly use the LCD screen to switch different modes and also for an effortless setup process. Its multi-protection features include safety from short circuits, over-current, low-voltage, and over-charging.
A budget-friendly controller for smaller setups.
- Features Industrial-grade microprocessor
- Multiple-protection features
- Good heat dissipation
- Easy to use the LCD screen
- Connection terminals are small
8. EPEVER MPPT 20A Charge Controller
If you are looking for an advanced charge controller the EPEVER MPPT charge controller could be what you’re after.
The MPPT technology helps you to reach an impressive conversion efficiency of up to 98% without breaking the bank. The EPEVER MPPT charge controller features a multi-function backlit LCD screen and can be used with many battery types like sealed, AGM, Gel, and Flooded.
Automatically detect the battery voltage with its intelligent regulator while communicating instantly with the mobile app and PC software for device settings and monitoring.
The state-of-the-art unit comes with a remote meter showing the real-time system data and faults. Plus a remote sensor enables compensation based on battery temperature.
The EPEVER MPPT charge controller is designed to work with open-circuit voltage from a solar panel of 100 volts and allows up to 390W on a 12V battery or 780W on a 24V battery. That’s fabulous adaptability and power capabilities.
Adding to all of this are multiple load modes giving you complete control of the charging and discharging process of your batteries.
Featured here is the 20A version but this modern unit comes in a range of different Amperage capacities to suit your system.
- MPPT technology for high-efficiency tracking
- Suitable for all battery types
- Multiple load control modes
- Backlit LCD screen
- Connection holes are small. It isn’t easy to insert a big gauge wire
Buying Guide: Best Solar Charge Controller
Here’s a few things to take into account when choosing your solar charge controller.
The first thing that you should look for in a controller is its compatibility with your battery type. Different battery types require different types of charging processes. A charging process can have different stages, and there can be a difference in how the process is executed at each step. Then you should also check your nominal battery voltage. The most common battery voltages are 12, 24, and 48, and your charge controller should be able to manage the same as your battery voltage.
Amps & Current Capacity
The size of a solar charger controller is based on Amps. You’ll notice you can get 20A, 30A, 40A, 60A, and many more different capacity products. This is a very important figure as you’ll require something that can handle your solar panel and battery setup. How do you know how many Amps you need? Well, there’s an easy way to work it out:
To calculate the Amps of anything simply divide volts by watts. All you need to do is solar panel Watts/Volts = Amps.
200W Panel / 12V Battery = 16.6 Amps.
MPPT or PWN
As we discussed earlier in the article you need to decide between MPPT or PWN type of product.
If you’re on a budget then a PWN controller offers a cheaper price but has less adaptability. These are usually better for smaller systems where the wattage and voltage of equipment is the same throughout, which might be the best option for vans, RVs, and trucks.
MPPT is more expensive and modern technology is generally favored by home and commercial setups. This is because you can use them with non-matching voltage solar panels and batteries. Plus they are a more efficient option allowing you to harness more of the sun’s power.
Nowadays these products come with a whole host of other features to add to the user experience. You should expect at the very least to have a digital display to help you monitor and use your system. Adding to this you might find features including:
- Bluetooth connection and app
- Power data saving
- Remote controls
- USB ports for charging
- Quick start
- Cooling system
- Easy installation
Safety is a big concern with any electrical grid. There’s a number of things you need to be protected against for your own safety. Firstly, you want to ensure you don’t damage your system or any appliances connected to it. Secondly, there are safety risks such as fire due to overheating. Here’s the safety protection you can expect on a solar charge controller:
- Over voltage
- Under voltage
- Short circuit
- Reverse polarity
Take into account where you will be using your charge controller as this will help you narrow down the selection. If you plan to mount your system outside then you need to look for waterproof and weatherproof features. Placement indoors might require extra cooling features to help in staying cool in a warm house. If you’re traveling in an RV or van then something small, lightweight yet durable should be a big box to fill.
How much do solar charger controllers cost? That massively depends on the type of product you buy. A good quality unit could cost anywhere between $50 and $500. A smaller PWN option like the Renogy Wanderer can cost you less than $50 while a top-spec 80 Amp option over $400.
Solar Charge Controller FAQ
MPPT devices are more efficient than PWN with 30% more efficient in charging.
It can be hard to tell the difference if it is not marked on the controller or you have lost the user manual. You should contact the manufacturer if you are not sure.
Solar charge controllers are the best practice to help regulate the charging of a battery. They also add safety features to solar panel systems to avoid problems such as overcharging and reverse polarity.
Yes, you can hook up a solar panel to a battery but it should be more than 5 watts. Any higher than 5 watts and you should use a solar charge controller to stop overcharging.
Final Words: Best Solar Charge Controller
Well, there you have it, everything you need to know about finding the best solar charge controller.
If you’re installing a solar panel system in your home, RV, or other remote location then a solar charge controller is essential.
Now you’ve read this far you will have a much better understanding of what you’re looking for, even the difference between MPPT and PWM.
Still need help deciding? Then refer to the list of solar charge controller reviews above to find a reliable solution.
Thanks for reading.
Hi, I’m Michael, the editor here at Watt A Lot.
After years of experience with off-grid power like solar panels, inverters, and batteries I decided I should share my hands-on knowledge with you. In my professional and personal life, I’ve needed to find electrical solutions for remote situations from owning a food truck, to running events at the top of mountains, to my converted campervan. So whether you’re looking for the best products or fixing an electrical problem, you can rest assured my advice comes from real hands-on experience.