If you’re in a hurry and want to know which is the overall best solar charge controller we found, check out the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100V/30A Charge Controller .
This post contains affiliate links. We may get paid an affiliate commission if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of the links on this web page. This does not affect your purchases or the price you may pay, but helps support our team continue to provide you with the best and most up to date information.
If not, check out the links above first.
The solar charge controller will go in between the battery bank and the solar panels to protect your batteries from spikes in voltage coming from the solar panels.
Knowing what type of solar system you have with regard to voltage and amperage will help you understand which charge controller will be right for your needs.
If you’re new to building solar systems, then you may be a little lost with all the components and terminology being slung at you.
But we’ll take it slow, and try to explain everything in as plain English as possible to help you make sense of everything.
In this article we will review the following solar charge controllers:
- Renogy Wanderer Li 30A 12V PWM Negative Ground Charge Controller Compatible with Lithium, Sealed, Gel, and Flooded batteries and Renogy Bluetooth Module
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100V/30A Charge Controller
- EPEVER 30A MPPT Charge Controller 12V/24V Auto, 30 amp Solar Charge Controller MPPT Max 150V PV Input Negative Grounded Solar Regulator for Gel Sealed Flooded Battery
- Renogy Rover 30 Amp 12V/24V MPPT Solar Charge Controller Battery Regulator Compatible with Lithium Sealed, Gel, Flooded Batteries & Bluetooth Module
- Growatt 24V 6kW Split Phase 120V/240V Package 2 x 4500W MPPT (2 x SPF 3000TL)
If you would like to read each of the reviews on how we came to our decision, you can jump to them using the table of contents below.
Or read on to understand how you can determine which is the best solar charge controller for yourself.
What To Look For In The Best Solar Charge Controller
There are two types of solar charge controllers:
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) Charge Controllers and Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) Charge Controllers.
MPPTs are superior to PWMs, as they maximize the power output from your solar panels.
But, there are certain scenarios where a PWM will suffice and an MPPT is not necessary.
A solar charge controller may seem pretty straight forward, but there are many things to keep in mind when choosing one that is right for your solar system.
First, make sure the voltage capacity of the charge controller is high enough for your system.
For example, when using a PWM charge controller in a 12V system, meaning 12V panels and 12V battery bank, you will need a 12V charge controller.
You wouldn’t use a 12V charge controller with a 24V system.
Some MPPT charge controllers have settings that allow you change the voltage up or down, i.e. from 12V to 24V, or 24V to 48V.
But you will need to check the settings of the charge controller you choose to see if it’s possible.
Next, you will want to make sure the charge controller has a high enough amp rating. It will need to handle the current coming from the panels and going out to the system.
When looking at the physical characteristics of the charge controller, you will want to be sure it’s of the highest quality.
Cheap charge controllers break easily and can damage your system, or worse, cause a fire.
Check to make sure the input/output terminals are big enough so you can over-gauge the wires and prevent an overload.
If they’re not big enough or made with cheap material they can break and burn out your charge controller or, again, cause a fire.
Fires are for roasting marshmallows, not your house, RV, or boat.
You will want to see if the controller comes with safety features. It’s important it can prevent overcharging, overload, short-circuits, reverse polarity, and electric arcs.
Ideally, you will want a charge controller with a temperature compensation sensor. This is especially necessary if you have a lead-acid battery bank that tends to run hot.
If your batteries run hot, the sensor will prevent the charge controller from charging at a full rate. This will save your batteries from degradation and a shorter lifespan.
Look at the enclosure. It’s hard to tell online, but in general, manufacturers use cheap plastic, hard plastic/nylon, or die-cast aluminum for their cases.
We prefer die-cast aluminum frames because they dissipate heat better than the plastic cases, but they will cost a little more.
Next on our checklist is the monitor. Check to see if it has a screen that will show you the information you need to know.
For example, you will want to see how much power is going through the charge controller.
You’ll also want the ability to change profile parameters depending on what type of battery you’re using.
Having a monitor will also enable you to check the data logs for troubleshooting. It can also help you keep an eye on the current temperature of the battery if it has a temperature sensor.
Most charge controllers today have a built-in screen, but some of the cheaper ones won’t.
Yet, now you’ll even find some of the more expensive charge controllers without a screen.
Many manufacturers use a Bluetooth connection now so you can manage the settings from your smartphone.
This is handy as long as you’re comfortable using technology and your phone has a charge.
If your charge controller doesn’t have either a screen or Bluetooth monitor you can get a separate remote display, and connect it to the controller.
The nice thing about the remote displays is that you can keep your charge controller close to your battery bank.
Then you can get a wire that’s long enough for you to mount the monitor where it’s more convenient for you to check and manage the settings.
But if you’ve set up your system correctly you shouldn’t have to check the screen all that often.
Another thing you want to consider is how easy it is to program the charge controller.
Most are easy to program for standard battery types and sizes.
But if you have a custom battery setup and need to modify particular settings, like upper voltage limits, you’ll need a charge controller with programming monitors.
Finally, if you’re really into details, then you will want to compare how long it takes for the MPPT controller to track the maximum power point of the solar panel’s power output.
The maxim power point is the highest voltage at which you receive the most energy from the solar panel.
By finding the maximum power point quickly, your solar panels become more efficient, and you can get more power faster.
Normally, it’s not a big difference, but they do vary.
How Does A Solar Charge Controller Work?
The charge controller regulates the energy coming from the solar panel to the battery bank.
It prevents the battery from overcharging and controls the current and voltage at which it charges. This keeps your batteries topped off without burning them up.
If you have a flooded battery, the charge controller will also help you keep them equalized. It does this by delivering a periodic boost to stir the acid and level out the voltage.
You need to do this to flooded lead-acid batteries every so often to keep them from degrading.
Some charge controllers have load control, where you can connect direct current loads to the charge controller instead of the battery.
This allows the controller to turn the device on or off based on the charge of the battery or the time of day, which keeps you from running the batteries too low and damaging them.
The charge controller will also prevent the reverse flow of energy from the battery back to the solar panel when they are not producing electricity, saving the energy you generated and, again, protecting your batteries from running too low.
More Questions About Solar Charge Controllers
Do I Really Need A Charge Controller?
As we mentioned, the charge controller protects the batteries from irregularities in the voltage that comes from the solar panels.
If you do not regulate these spikes in voltage, it will degrade your batteries and cause them to stop working much sooner than they should.
They also maximize the power output from your solar panels for the greatest efficiency.
Thinking you don’t need a charge controller is like thinking you don’t need a seat belt.
What’s The Difference Between A PWM And An MPPT Charge Controller?
A PWM, or Pulse Width Modulation, is a basic charge controller. It pulsates the incoming energy from the solar panel at a standard rate that regulates the power output to match the power needed by the battery for its specific state of charge.
For example, the charger will allow full power to enter the battery from the solar panel when the battery is in a low state of charge.
Then it can reduce the power to a trickle when the battery is already charged and just needs enough power to maintain its charge.
When using a PWM the voltage must be the same as the battery bank.
The voltage coming in from the solar panel will be the same that goes out to the battery.
It cannot increase or decrease the voltage.
Voltage is the force at which the energy flows from the panel to the battery.
Some charge controllers can support various voltages, but others can only handle one.
If a PWM controller says it can handle 12V/24V it does not mean that the solar panels can be one voltage and the battery bank another.
Both the battery bank and the solar panels must be either 12V or 24V. You can then set the PWM for the appropriate voltage to match the system.
An MPPT, or Maximum Power Point Tracking, controller also matches the voltage coming from the solar panels to the voltage needed by the battery.
The difference is it tracks the maximum power point of energy emitted from the solar panel.
Whereas a PWM will only let the amount of energy through at the rate at which it’s programmed to allow, the MPPT will continually search for the maximum voltage emitted from the solar panel. The result being an increase in efficiency of your system by up to 30% to 40%.
What does an increase in 30% look like?
Well, with the extra 30% from the MPPT alone you can charge your batteries and still have the remaining 100% that a PWM produces to use as you wish.
It’s also important to note that the MPPT works better with higher voltage systems.
It can also detect and change the charge going to the battery when there is a direct current (DC) load or appliance attached to the battery.
You’re also not limited to the power output you can regulate.
The maximum power a PWM can regulate is around 400W. Any load greater than 400W and you will need to use an MPPT charge controller.
MPPT charge controllers in general are safer to use with higher output systems.
This is because to produce higher outputs using a PWM you have to connect your solar panels in parallel.
When connecting solar panels in parallel you increase the amperage to achieve the same power output.
Thus, with higher amperage, there will be a much higher current running through your panels, which makes it more dangerous.
With an MPPT controller, you could connect your panels in series with a higher voltage and a lower amperage, or lower current, and thus a safer setup.
Note: Connecting panels in series to where the voltage is greater than 30V is still dangerous. Consult a professional when working with high voltages greater than 30V.
Another advantage of using a MPPT charge controller depends on your location.
If you live far from the equator or in a place that receives less sunlight due to weather, an MPPT will convert more power than a PWM.
An MPPT in the same conditions can produce up to 30% more power on top of the extra 30% it naturally produces over the PWM’s capacity.
If you have limited space to mount your panels, for example, on top of your RV, camper, or boat, then using an MPPT will give you more power per area.
The PWM does have a much cheaper price tag, but it may be more expensive for you to use in the aggregate if you’re trying to power more than a small setup.
Many factors will affect the total cost of your system.
First, the voltage of the battery bank will determine the type of charge controller you must use.
The voltage setting on the charge controller must match the voltage of the solar panel and the battery bank.
Some MPPT controllers can take lower voltage panels and step them up to charge higher power battery banks and vice versa.
But most require that you have a solar array that is higher or at least equal to the voltage of the battery bank.
Be sure to check the specs of your MPPT charge controller to make sure it has the capabilities you need.
A higher voltage battery bank reduces the cost of the charge controller because you can use a charge controller with a lower amp rating.
The distance your charge controller is from the solar panel will also affect the cost of the wire. The further away, the more wire you need to use.
This will save you a substantial amount of money when buying wire long enough to reach your setup if your solar panels are far from the battery.
But, if you have a small system close to the charge controller then cost of the wire will be negligible.
Though having a higher voltage system will also decrease the voltage drop, which means more power will get to your batteries.
It’s important to check if the charge controller comes with a temperature sensor.
A PWM doesn’t normally come with a temperature sensor included, whereas an MPPT does.
If you had to choose one, an MPPT controller is superior to the PWM in every way.
While the MPPT and PWM do the same thing, the MPPT controller does it better.
You might have a simple array that works with a PWM now, but one day when you want to upgrade, you will have to rewire everything for the MPPT controller.
Save yourself the headache. If you can swing the higher initial upfront cost it will be more than worth it.
Can You Use A PWM or MPPT Charge Controller With Solar Panels Connected In Series Or Parallel?
You can use an MPPT controller in both cases. The MPPT can take the voltage of a solar array with a higher voltage than the battery bank, and step it down to match.
But, you can only use PWMs in a parallel setup.
This is because with a PWM the power going into the controller will be the same as the power going out.
When using a PWM, you must use a solar panel array with a voltage that matches the voltage of your battery bank.
Thus, it would not make sense to change the voltage by connecting it in series with another system.
Can You Connect Two Or More Solar Charge Controllers In Parallel To Charge The Same Battery Bank?
Yes. There’s no issue when connecting multiple charge controllers in parallel.
Each controller will optimize their respective solar panels to deliver the appropriate amount of power.
The controllers will determine the resistance of the battery based on its current state of charge and determine how much energy it should send to it.
You may notice that one charge controller provides more than the other.
But this is not because the charge controllers are competing with each other.
It’s because of the resistance created from the battery’s state of charge.
The charge controllers are actually working together to make sure only enough energy gets to the battery that it needs.
If one charge controller is able to do it on its own, the other charge controller will sense the resistance and reduce its output to not overcharge the battery.
What Size Charge Controller Do I Need?
Charge controllers are rated by amps (A) and voltage (V).
When calculating the amps you need for a PWM charge controller, you can calculate the amperage by finding the Short Circuit Amps (Isc) on the label of your solar panel.
Then take that number and multiply it by the number of parallel strings of solar panels you have.
It doesn’t matter how many panels you have in series within the parallel groups.
You already know you’re using the right number to match the voltage of the battery bank.
Then take that number and multiply it by a standard safety factor of 1.25, and round up.
For example, if the Isc of your panel is 8.68A and you have 2 strings of panels connected in parallel, you will have 17.36A.
Then you multiply that by the safety factor of 1.25 and you get 21.7A.
For extra safety, you round up and look for a charge controller that’s rated for at least 25A to 30A.
To calculate the amps rating you need for an MPPT controller, find the total wattage of your solar panel array.
Meaning if you have four 100W panels, then you would have a 400W solar array.
Then divide by the voltage of your battery bank.
Then multiply by the same safety factor of 1.25, and round up.
For example, if your solar panel array produces 400W, and your battery bank is 24V, then the amps will be 16.7A.
We then multiply that by the safety factor of 1.25, which is 21A, and we round-up again to 25A to 30A for extra safety.
When determining the voltage limit of the charge controller, you need to examine the open circuit voltage from the solar panel, not the nominal rating.
For example, a solar panel with a nominal rating of 12V actually has an open circuit voltage of 22V.
If you have three solar panels connected in series you will need a charge controller that’s rated for at least 66V, not 36V.
You will also need to consider spikes in voltage from cold weather.
If this applies to you, then factor in an extra 25% of voltage capacity to your charge controller.
Our Choices Of The Best Solar Charge Controller
Please note that we’ve linked to charge controllers with similar amp capacities so you can compare the prices of similar products.
Most of the brands will have higher or lower capacities if you need more or less for your particular needs.
The Best Solar Charge Controller | Pulse-Width Modulation (PWM)
Renogy Wanderer Li 30A 12V PWM Negative Ground Charge Controller Compatible with Lithium, Sealed, Gel, and Flooded batteries and Renogy Bluetooth Module
Sometimes you need a cheaper short-term solution for small setups that draw small loads under 400W.
In which case you may just want something that’s “good enough” to protect your batteries from getting cooked by your solar panels.
If that’s the case, a PWM charge controller may be appropriate for you.
Most people with a small setup use a 12V system, and so we’ve sourced what we found to be the best charge controller for that rating.
The Renogy Wanderer 12V 30A charge controller is a great option.
It’s affordable and comes with the peace of mind that you’re getting a product from a company renown for its solar products.
If you need a little bit less capacity, they do have a 10A rated charge controller as well.
But, you will need to get your own temperature sensor. And you cannot adjust the float voltage for the 10A version like you can with the 30A.
The 30A comes with a temperature sensor. It will also detect what voltage it’s connected to, with any type of battery bank you have, flooded or sealed lead-acid, gel or lithium.
The 30A version does not come with an LCD display that provides you with the battery information you need.
But it is compatible with a Bluetooth module so that you can add a Bluetooth app to manage the settings from your smartphone. (Bluetooth module sold separately)
These extra features of the higher rated charge controller may be worth the extra cost. It will also save you time and money if you want a higher rated solar system in the future.
It’s light-weight and compact which makes it easy to mount. But it is not waterproof, so you will need to mount it in a safe place protected from the elements.
Renogy provides a 12-month warranty for their products.
- Temperature Sensor
- Compatible with any battery type
- Automatically detects the voltage of the system
- Minimal programming
- Bluetooth Monitoring
- Remote monitor compatible
- Cannot program for custom battery banks
- Less efficient than MPPT controllers that track maximum power point
- Not waterproof
- No Built-in Display
- 12-month warranty
The Best Solar Charge Controller | MPPT For Lithium Battery Banks
If you’re looking for the best solar charge controller that will outperform all the rest, then the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100V/30A Charge Controller is your choice.
Victron is known for quality and protects their controller with a hard plastic nylon case.
Yet, it is not well ventilated and can run hot under high loads.
Despite the heat, it still outperforms the rest.
In a side by side comparison, the Victron’s performance output tops all the leading MPPT controllers on the market by a factor of 3% to 5%.
One thing we would like to see improved is the size of the input terminals.
They’re not very big, and it makes it difficult to use over-gauged wires.
You also run the risk of stripping the screws or breaking the terminal.
You have to be extra careful with this, almost like a high-performance vehicle. They perform well, but they’re a little delicate.
The Victron is programmable for custom battery banks if you need to adjust the voltage limits.
You will notice that it doesn’t come with a built-in display.
Thus you will have to use the Bluetooth app, or invest in a BMV-702 remote display to get the information you need and program the settings.
Victron has a wide variety of amp ratings to choose from, and are trusted for use in high-voltage setups.
Even though the price tag is a bit high, we find confidence in the fact that it comes with a 5-year warranty to protect your investment.
- Programmable for custom battery banks
- Compatible with any battery type
- Highest output efficiency
- Very fast power point tracking
- Durable hard casing
- Advanced Bluetooth monitoring app
- Remote monitor compatible
- 5-year warranty
- Small input terminals
- Runs hot under high loads
- No Built-in display
- More expensive than competitors
The Best Solar Charge Controller | MPPT For Non-Lithium Battery Banks
EPEVER 30A MPPT Charge Controller 12V/24V Auto, 30 amp Solar Charge Controller MPPT Max 150V PV Input Negative Grounded Solar Regulator for Gel Sealed Flooded Battery
While the Victron will work with non-lithium battery banks, you may not want to pay the premium.
The EPEver 30A MPPT Charge Controller has nearly the same output as the Victron, but it comes in at half the price.
On top of that, the casing is ultra-durable die-cast aluminum.
This not only protects the charge controller from damage and the elements, but it dissipates heat much better.
It also has robust and large input terminals that you can crank down on and not worry about stripping the screws or breaking the terminals.
One drawback is that it doesn’t come with a monitor. You will need to get an MT-50 remote viewing screen or the Bluetooth module to program upper voltage limits and monitor its performance.
You will also need a temperature sensor to monitor the battery.
Luckily, the vendor we found includes both the MT-50 remote display and the temperature sensor in the total cost, and it is still half the price of the Victron with the same amp rating without the monitor.
We’re still waiting for information about the product warranty from the manufacturer.
But, EPEver is a brand renowned for quality products, and from what we’ve seen these aren’t going to be breaking down anytime soon.
- Affordable for a high-quality MPPT Controller
- High output efficiency
- Die-cast aluminum casing for durability and efficient heat dissipation
- Strong and large input terminals to allow for over-gauged wires
- Includes a temperature sensor and remote monitor display
- Programmable for custom battery banks
- Not compatible with Lithium batteries
- Unknown warranty
The Best Solar Charge Controller | Easy To Use
Renogy Rover 30 Amp 12V/24V MPPT Solar Charge Controller Battery Regulator Compatible with Lithium Sealed, Gel, Flooded Batteries & Bluetooth Module
If programming charge controllers isn’t your thing, we want to recommend a plug and play option.
The Renogy Rover 30Amp 12V/24V MPPT solar charge controller is great with nearly the same output as the Victron and the EPEver at a fraction of the cost.
There are some drawbacks to the Renogy that you can expect with the lower price tag.
First is the casing. Where the Victron and EPEver have durable cases, the Renogy comes in a cheaper plastic that may not hold up as well.
Although this Renogy does come with an aluminum heat sink that allows for efficient heat dissipation, it is not a complete die-cast aluminum frame like the EPEver.
The input terminals are flimsy, and cannot support over-gauged wires like the EPEver.
It does have a built-in display, but it is limited and you would need a more advanced remote monitor like the MT-50 if you want to access more settings.
But the point of this recommendation is that it’s a good MPPT option if you don’t want to tinker with the settings more than setting the battery type.
It also has a temperature sensor control to keep the batteries from overheating. This is especially important when using a lead-acid battery bank.
It is not waterproof, so keep that in mind when choosing where to mount it.
We’re not sure if there’s a warranty, but Renogy usually does provide at least a one year guarantee.
We’ll let you know if we hear back from the manufacturer.
- Very affordable for an MPPT charge controller
- Decent output efficiency
- Built-in display
- Minimal programming needed
- Remote monitor compatible
- Temperature Sensor
- Smaller input terminals
- Cheap casing
- 12-month warranty
The Best Solar Charge Controller | All-In-One 48V Solar System
Growatt 24V 6kW Split Phase 120V/240V Package 2 x 4500W MPPT (2 x SPF 3000TL)
Okay, so we know you’re here for just a charge controller, but we wanted to show you something that may pique your interest.
If you have a 48V system, or are building one, or thinking about upgrading to one after reading how much better higher voltage systems are, then this Growatt All-In-One 48V system will change your life.
Higher voltage systems will cost you less in the long run, weigh much less than bulkier lower voltage systems connected in series, and are more efficient using lower gauge wire that costs less and loses less power to resistance and voltage drop.
Not to mention they’re easier to build.
Building a solar power system has always been a bit of a headache, especially for those who are not electrically inclined.
In addition to the solar charge controller, you will also need an inverter, a battery charger, and a transfer switch if you have a home backup system that’s connected to the grid.
But Growatt has been nice enough to create a single box with everything you need to be up and running in under an hour.
It includes two 6kW inverters, two 4.5kW solar charge controllers, two 40A battery chargers, and built-in automatic utility power switches.
Not to mention all the circuit breakers and fuses that go in between.
All you have to do is provide the solar panels, connecting wires, and the batteries. Plug them in, and you’re done.
If you have a 24V system, you can just get one of these boxes and it will do what you need.
If you have a 12V system and connect it to this 24V/48V box it will not charge.
You need a higher voltage from your solar panels, and thus would need to connect your panels in series to increase the voltage. You will also need to reconfigure your battery bank to support the higher voltage.
But if you’re pulling small loads the conversion may not be worth it.
Although, the premium you pay to save yourself the headache of building everything yourself may be tempting.
People tend to shy away from using higher voltage systems because they fear electrocution. But with this, all in one system using high voltage has become very safe.
There is very minimal exposure to anything that could shock you aside from connecting your input wires to the box and the battery.
Even then, if done wire by wire, you will have very little risk.
Don’t hesitate to increase the voltage of your system because you fear you won’t be able to run your 12V appliances. This box is compatible with a 12V converter that will step down the voltage for you.
But again, if you’re just running small loads with a single panel setup, then you’re better off sticking with a smaller system. You can find the individual components and set them up at a minimal cost.
These boxes are also compatible with grid-tied systems. Make sure you consult a professional and have all the proper permits before connecting to the grid.
Growatt provides a 2-year manufacturer warranty.
- Plug and Play
- Super high output and efficiency
- Compatible with any battery type
- Very affordable considering the labor you save and the peace of mind knowing it’s all been done for you
- Parallel operation up to 6 units
- Can be set to 3 Phase System
- Remote monitor compatible
- Bluetooth compatible
- Built-in utility power switch
- Easy mounting holes
- USA telephone support
- We’re hard-pressed to find anything wrong with these. Yes, they have a higher price tag, but again, you’re saving money in the long run. If you find anything you don’t like about these please let us know in the comments below.
- 2-year factory warranty
If you need more information about what goes into building an off-grid solar system, check out our beginner guide here.
It will break down all the components you will need, including tools and hardware to build your solar system from start to finish.
If you’re considering upgrading your battery bank, be sure to check out reviews of some of the best solar batteries for your setup.
We also have more information about the best performing solar panels for your system here.
Well, that’s all folks. We hope you found this information useful in making a decision on which is the best solar charge controller for your situation.
If we had to choose just one option for every situation we would definitely recommend going with the Growatt 24V 6kW Split Phase 120V/240V Package. If it’s too powerful for your needs, then the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100V/30A Charge Controller would be our next choice.
We like the EPEver better than the Victron in terms of construction. But the Victron has a superior output efficiency, and easy to read Bluetooth monitoring.
Most importantly it’s compatible with lithium batteries, whereas the EPEver is not.
If you’re not using Lithium, we recommend you do, and you can read about why here. But, if you’re set in your ways, then you can save some money and go with the EPEver if you wish.
If you have any questions or concerns please let us know in the comments below.
As always we appreciate any value you can add to our community of people looking for better ways to survive in our ever-changing world.
Until next time.