Top 5 MPPT Charge Controllers  The Definitive Buyer's Guide
Top 5 MPPT Charge Controllers  The Definitive Buyer's Guide
Whether you are looking to convert your entire home over to clean, solar energy, or you are just looking to purchase a small-scale, off-grid solar system for your RV or remote cabin, one of the most important pieces of equipment you will need to invest in is a high-quality solar charge controller.
Simply put, a solar charge controller, or solar regulator, will regulate the solar energy your solar panels collect, so it can be safely stored in your system’s battery bank. Regulating the flow of energy between the solar array and the battery ensures a proper charge and prevents overcharging issues, which can damage and weaken the battery over time.
Given the relative importance of a solar charge controller to the overall performance of any solar power system, it is worth investing in a quality unit. To help simplify the process, we have highlighted and reviewed five of the best solar charge controllers on the market today. For each solar charge controller, we will highlight some of the reasons why it stood out to us and list some of the unit’s key features.
The Top 5 MPPT Solar Charge Controllers:
- The Best Overall Solar Charge Controller: Outback Power FlexMax FM80 MPPT Charge Controller
- The Runner Up: OutBack Power FLEXMax FM60 MPPT Charge Controller
- Our Top Mid-Range Pick: MidNight Solar Classic 150 Solar Charge Controller
- The Best Budget-Friendly Option: Rich Solar 40A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
- The Best Choice for Small-Scale Solar Systems: Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/50 Charge Controller
1. The Best Overall Solar Charge Controller: OutBack Power FLEXMax FM80 MPPT Charge Controller
OutBack has established itself as one of the leading manufacturer’s of high-quality, affordable solar charge controllers and solar panel power inverters. Their products have a strong reputation for durability and reliability, so it is no wonder that their 80A MPPT Charge Controller found its way to the top spot for our best overall solar charge controller.
Outstanding Performance and Functionality:
OutBack’s advanced MPPT algorithm delivers as much as 30% more power to your batteries vs standard PWM controllers and other types of chargers. It also has a maximum conversion efficiency of over 98%. This impressive level of performance efficiency is down to the high-quality components OutBack outfits all of their controllers with.
In the event of a system fault, or similar error, the MPPT controller can self-diagnose and correct the issue.
While the 80A controller is perfect for those looking to install a basic solar system, those that are planning to run a large-scale solar array have the option to upgrade to one of their higher voltage controllers.
- The maximum power point tracking (MPPT) allows the unit to determine the best combination of voltage and current to maximize the amount of power it can send to your batteries.
- Thanks to active cooling and intelligent thermal management cooling, it can operate at their full maximum current rating, in ambient temperatures as high as 104°F (40°C).
2. The Runner Up: OutBack Power FLEXmax FM60 MPPT Charge Controller
The OutBack Maximum Power Point Tracking Charge Controller offers users the same reliability and durability that goes into all of OutBack’s high-performance solar products. The FLEXmax 60 just missed out on our top spot because it is priced higher than the EPEVER 40A; however, you do get a quality product for that increased price.
The OutBack FlexMax 60 uses FLEXmax’s innovative MPPT software to increase your photovoltaic array power yield by up to 30% over non-MPPT controllers. The FM60’s solar charging and solar harvesting algorithms ensure the controller is always actively monitoring your solar system’s performance and making sure adjustments are made when required.
Thanks to the FM60’s internal cooling mechanism and intelligent thermal management controls, the controller can operate at its full current rating of 60 Amps at all times, while still maintaining an ambient internal temperature no higher than 104°F (40°C).
A backlit display screen allows users to monitor the controller and even view its performance history.
Outstanding Adaptability and Versatility:
Out of the box, the FM60 can handle battery voltages ranging from 12 to 60V. This means you can use the controller with a 12V, 24V, 48V, or 60V battery. The 3-stage charging algorithm will ensure your battery is 100% charged, regardless of its size.
The voltage setting is easily adjustable, so even beginners will not encounter any difficulties pairing the charger with their battery bank.
All of OutBack’s charge controllers are designed for quick integration with other OutBack products; however, it will work just as well with components designed by other manufacturers.
- Backed by a full 5 year manufacturer’s warranty
- Adjustable voltage output allows for compatibility with a wide range of battery types
3. The Top Mid-Range Solar Charge Controller: MidNight Solar Classic 150 Solar Charge Controller
If you are looking to find a reliable solar charge controller for your mid-range solar array, you cannot go wrong with the MidNight Solar Classic series. Their 150 Solar Charge Controller finds the middle ground between high-end performance and affordability, which makes it the perfect option for those looking to enter the solar market, without having to spend a fortune on the most expensive equipment.
Safety and Reliability:
The MidNight Solar Classic is one of the safest charge control devices on the market today. It uses an automatic arc fault detection system to protect your solar system and power bank from dangerous electrical currents and surges. It also comes equipped with an automatic battery temperature sensor, which will lower the charge voltage based on the internal temperature.
We also really like that MidNight Solar manufactures all of their solar charge controllers in the United States and backs them with an extended warranty. In fact, they even offer general tune-up services for buyers that want to extend the life of their charge controller. This level of customer service and the protection you get from an outstanding manufacturer’s warranty are a testament to the quality of MidNight’s product line.
Intuitive and Easy to Use:
One of the features that stands out the most with this Classic 150 is its remote accessibility via the brand’s unique MidNight Solar Local Application. The app allows users to monitor the performance of their entire solar system through any smart device. You can even troubleshoot performance issues remotely through a Wi-Fi connection. All of this can also be viewed and controlled from its built-in LCD display screen.
The controller is able to handle a variety of DC sources and features solar, wind, and hydro MPPT modes, so it is compatible with a variety of power sources. This explains why it is also a popular choice amongst home wind turbine users.
- Unique HyperVOC system extends VOC limits
- Optional sealing covers can be attached to protect the controller from salt, dust, and other debris
4. The Best Budget-Friendly Option: Rich Solar 40A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
For those that are either just starting out, or only plan on running a small-scale solar system for an RV or as a supplementary off-grid emergency power system, the Rich Solar 40A Solar Charge Controller is an excellent, budget-friendly choice.
High Performance at a Low Price:
Rich Solar offers one of the best performing charge controllers at its price point. The charge controller offers a reasonable maximum current rating of 40A and it is compatible with both 12V and 24V DC solar systems.
It is also compatible with a wide variety of deep cycle battery bank options, including sealed, flooded, gel, and lithium batteries.
More often than not, you would have to make do with a PWM charge controller at this price; however, Rich Solar uses MPPT technology, which increases the tracking efficiency up to an impressive 99% and offers a peak conversion efficiency of 98%.
To keep the price down and make their charge controller more accessible to entry-level buyers, it does not come with any sort of remote monitoring options. This means all adjustments and performance reads have to go through the LCD screen and LED indicators; however, buyers do have the option to purchase a BT-1 Bluetooth module, which can be connected through the RS232 port.
- Durable, die-cast aluminum housing protects the controller and allows for efficient heat dissipation
- Features built-in safety mechanisms to protect against overcharging, over-discharging, overload, short circuiting, and reverse current issues
5. The Best Choice for Small-Scale Solar Systems: Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100/50 Charge Controller
Victron Energy is considered one of the leading manufacturers of off-grid and standalone power systems. They have established an impressive reputation for building high-quality, reliable off-grid solar inverters and chargers. For those running a small-scale solar array, their SmartSolar MPPT 100/150 charge controllers are the ideal choice.
Typically, with a low-range charge controller you have to make due with less of the advanced features than you would get with a more powerful unit; however, Victron equipped all of their SmartSolar controllers with advanced monitoring systems.
This charge controller offers straightforward Bluetooth connectivity, which allows users to program and adjust their controller from any smart device. The charge controller can even receive wireless firmware updates with added features and safety options.
While the lack of an external display screen may not appeal to all users, the fast, accurate MPPT tracking, impressive build quality, and smart networking options are all features that are rarely found in solar charge controllers for small-scale solar power systems.
- Built-in temperature sensor and the ability to safely run at a wide range of operating temperatures
- Backed by a five year manufacturer’s warranty
Top 5 MPPT Charge Controllers: Final Words
You should view a solar charge controller as an investment, rather than an unwanted and expensive component. A solar charge controller will impact the overall performance of your solar power setup, so it is worth investing in one that will keep your system running efficiently and protect your battery from wear.
Any of the top 5 MPPT solar charge controllers we reviewed above are a great place to start. Assess the needs of your setup and invest in a solar charge controller that balances convenient features with durability and performance.
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