10 Best Solar Charge Controller Reviews and Guide 2020
The solar charge controller is the lifeblood of your solar power system.
This critical device regulates the charge flowing from your solar panel(s) into your battery—shielding your battery from possible damages due to overcharge and discharge.
This way, it extends your battery lifespan while maximizing your solar power system efficiency.
With soo many charge controllers out there, however, choosing the best solar charge controller for you can be pretty overwhelming.
In the following guide, we’ll walk you through the basics of the controller…plus some of the best controllers currently available at the market.
How it works?
A typical solar charge controller regulates the current and voltage flowing from the solar panels to the battery. Most 12V solar panels produce around 16-20V. If this power isn’t regulated, it can lead to overcharging of your battery. And this means damage and shorter lifespan of the battery.
To regulate the solar panel power, the controller works in 3 phases as explained below…
Now that you know how a typical solar charger controller works, let’s look at the best solar charge controller reviews…
10 Best Solar Charge Controller Reviews:
1. ALLPOWERS 20A Solar Charger Controller
Our list of the top solar charge controllers reviews starts with this 20A charge controller from Allpowers. This controller is designed to automatically manage your working solar panel and battery.
The incredibly easy to set up and use charge regulator comes fully dedicated to protecting the lifespan of your battery. It will automatically turn off whenever your battery voltage drops below 8V. It also comes with built-in short-circuit, reverse, open-circuit, and overload protection.
The regulator’s secret to top performance revolves around the industrial-grade STM 8 microprocessor it’s equipped with. This ensures the charge from your solar power is always under control, and your system is working at high efficiency.
Because this controller comes with an easy-view LCD display, you can easily view the status and crucial data of your solar energy system.
Keep in mind that this regulator is ideal for small solar energy systems. It works with lead-acid batteries—including the OPEN, AGM, and GEL. The controller is backed by Allpowers warranty.
2. Renogy Wanderer 30 A Advanced PWM Solar Charge Controller
Renogy is a reputable brand in the solar energy industry. They've got an extensive line of top-notch solar panels, solar charge controllers, and related accessories. This advanced Wanderer PWM charge controller made it to our list.
The regulator is optimized for 12V systems and has a charging capacity of 30 Amp. Since it’s a negative ground controller, it’s easily compatible with any negative ground system—which is actually the standard grounding method.
The PWM controller has a smart 4-stage charge regulation process which involves bulk, absorption, float, and equalization. This safe charging process, together with the excellent temperature compensation, helps lengthen your battery life while improving your overall system performance.
What’s more, the regulator comes armed with fully comprehensive self-diagnostics & electronic protection functions which help prevent possible system malfunctions and damages from installation errors.
Installing (mounting) this regulator is easy and convenient, thanks to the pre-drilled holes.
The LED indicators plus battery select button make this device 100% user-friendly. You can use this highly versatile device with sealed, flooded, and gel solar batteries.
3. GHB 20A 12V 24V Solar Charge Controller
GHB 20A 12V 24V solar charge regulator is another fully automatic device you can trust to bring efficiency in your home solar owner system. Like our first controller up there, this unit is suitable for use with lead-acid batteries only.
The controller is incredibly easy to set up and operate, thanks to the quick start-up included in the box. It features a clear, easy-view LCD display which lets you intuitively know the working status and condign of your system. Even better, it has backlight for easy view at night.
One thing that really makes this device special is the dual USB output (1A and 2A). This enables the controller to simultaneously two mobile devices or other devices that require 5V power.
Just like the other top-quality controllers, this device also offers your battery and the entire system full protection. This spans from overload to short-circuit, lighting, under-voltage, reverse polarity, and overcharging protection.
4. PowMr 10A Solar Charge Controller
If you’re looking for something with a wallet-friendly price to hook to your 12 or 24V system, this is it. This solar charge regulator is rated 10A and automatically controls your solar energy system to ensure maximum efficiency.
Like our previously discussed controller, this model charges your solar battery in 4 stages (boost, absorption, equalization, and float). It comes equipped with the same industrial-grade STM 8 microprocessor found in the top-end controllers. Needless to repeat, this microprocessor system has a track record for keeping solar batteries safe while extending their lifespan.
With the large digital display (with backlight), you’ll be able to get real-time updates on the status and data of your solar charge controller.
This regulator offers your system full electronic protection against overcharging, short-circuit, open circuit, overloading, and more. When your battery voltage goes below 8V, it automatically turns off to prevent to help safeguard its lifespan.
Again, this charge controller works with the lead-acid batteries. It comes with a well-illustrated diagram plus instructions to help you hassle-freely mount it on your solar power system.
5. Binen 20A Solar Charge Controller
Binen 20A solar charge controller is another affordably priced device you can get for your 12/24V solar energy system. Like the above controller, this Binen is made for lead-acid batteries like AGM, GEL, and OPEN only.
It also introduced a 4-stage charging cycle in your home solar energy system to help no damages occur to your battery while maximizing the system efficiency. It automatically turns off when battery charge below 8V to help protect your battery lifespan. Moreover, it offers protection to your system against reverse polarity, overloading, overcharging, open-circuit, and short-circuiting.
Installing this controller into your solar system is super-easy, thanks to the included instructions. Not only that, operating it is a breeze…especially due to the included display which presents you with all the crucial system parameters.
6. MOHOO 30A Solar Charge Controller
If you’re looking for a charger controller for a solar panel rated around 30A, this MOHOO 30A is a sure bet. Like most of the other devices on this list, it’s also designed to automatically manage your solar energy system.
The controller comes with user adjustable voltage and can be used with both 12V and 24V systems. It’s extremely easy to set up, thanks to the included instruction set. likewise, operating it isn’t hard…especially due to the large LCD display which gives you a reading of the system current working conditions and other important data.
Your battery protection gets better with this controller. It’s designed to automatically go off when the battery charge drops below 8V—something which goes a long way in extending your battery lifespan.
Other forms of protection your solar energy system will enjoy from this charge regulator include reverse battery discharge and battery overvoltage, which further enhance your battery lifespan. Note that this controller is compatible with lead-acid batteries only.
7. EPEVER 40A MPPT Charge Controller
Looking for the best mppt charge controller for the money? If yes, you just found this device from EPEVER, with advanced Maximum Power Point Tracking technology. It has an incredibly high tracking efficiency of up to 99.5% and a peak conversion efficiency of up to 98%—ensuring maximum solar energy utilization.
The affordable negative ground regulator works with both 12V and 24V systems. It’s capable of automatically identifying the 12/24V DC system voltage. Not to forget that it can work with various solar batteries such as sealed, flooded, gel, and lithium.
This top-rated controller also offers full protection to your solar energy system against any form of harm. It has built-in protection against reverse polarity, over-discharging, overcharging, overload, reverse current, and short-circuiting.
It takes your battery through a safe 4-stage charging process which translates to increased battery lifespan. Plus, it offers temperature compensation, which further improves your battery health and system performance.
With the multiple load control modes and a backlit LCD screen, operating this system is super-easy for you.
8. Renogy Rover 60 A 12V/24V/36V/48V MPPT Solar Charge Controller
This is probably the best mppt controller you can get on the market today. The list of remarkable features plus performance track record speaks for this device. Just like our previous mppt, this one too has a tracking efficiency as high as 99%.
Rated 60 Amp, this charge regulator is ideal for use with 12/24/36/48V solar charge systems. Mind you, it can automatically detect the systems within this charge range for hassle-free setup. It keeps your battery safe from reverse polarity, over-discharging, overcharging, short-circuiting, overload, and reverse current. This goes a long way in ensuring maximum protection to your battery and improved system efficiency.
What’s more, the controller has a special ability where the controller easily charges over-discharged lithium solar batteries.
Other features that place this controller a step ahead of its competitions include durable anti-wear/tear shell, LCD screen with multiple indicators, and RS232 and USB ports for easily connecting with smartphone app and PC software respectively.
9. ZHCSolar 80A PWM 12V 24V 1920W Solar Panel Charger
This brand new 80A solar charge controller is the most popular of ZHCSolar products. It provides you with an efficient charging system and can handle power input as high as 1920W!
The controller comes equipped with the industrial-grade 8 STM microprocessor which actively controls the charge and discharge process. It also has perfect, liable battery charge/discharge period management. Its charge circuit boasts of high efficiency and low consumption by controlling the MOFSET of the ultra-low internal resistance w/PWM.
Keep in mind that this controller features multiple load control modes and a display screen for various system parameters and working conditions.
Above all, it has a durable ABS shell housing which ensures maximum strength and longevity. The high-quality aluminum alloy heat sink facilitates super-efficient heat dissipation.
10. Morningstar SS 20L 12V SunSaver 20A 12V Solar Charge Controller
Finally, we have the Morningstar SS 20L 12V SunSaver 20A 12V charge controller. This device has a rated solar current of 20Am, making it suitable for your home, camper, boat, cabin, etc. and other small solar energy systems.
The popular controller is pretty easy and quick to install, thanks to the easy-to-follow directions included in the box by the manufacturer. It works with 12V systems, which is essentially what makes up the small charge systems.
When it comes to your battery health and safety, this controller doesn’t disappoint. It automatically cuts the load off whenever the voltage falls below a given level—ensuring protection to your load and battery.
Overall, this charge controller may lack the bells and whistles of the high-end models, but it gets the job done perfectly well for your small charge system. The 5-year warranty shows just how much Morningstar trusts their controller to deliver.
What Makes the Perfect Solar Charge Controller?
Though we stated that the market is choking with thousands of charge controllers, not all of them are compatible with your solar energy system
You’ll, therefore, need to evaluate different models to help you determine which one is perfect for you.
These factors will help you easily choose the best solar controller:
1. What’s the Amp rating?
One of the most important features to look for in a charge controller is its Amp rating.
This specification helps you determine how much current a given regulator can supply to your battery. A charge controller rated 30A, for instance, means it can supply your battery with a current of the same value.
Now, the ideal Amp rating for you should directly depend on the type of solar panel you’re using.
If your panel is rated 30A, we suggest that you get a regulator with 25% higher rating that it.
If you get it a regulator with similar rating, it’ll not go well with your system given that at times your solar panel can produce a higher output than the rated value.
And if you get a regulator with less output than the solar panel, so much of the harvested solar energy will end up wasted since the device can’t handle all of the panel’s output.
2. Type of controller
The other important thing to consider when buying a solar charge controller is the type to buy.
Most people might not know this, but these devices come in two main types: MPPT charge controller and PWM charge controller.
The KEY difference between these two is that the former (MPPT model) allows for up to 30% more power compared to the PWM model. It can also be in higher voltage scenarios.
In spite of being highly power efficient, the MPPT controllers are quite expensive than PWM controllers.
Overall, the MPPT models are more popular than the PWM. You can check some of the best mppt charge controller reviews in our list of top products above.
But we believe the right controller for you should depend on your unique needs and personal preferences.
3. Battery voltage
Knowing the voltage of the battery you’re using beforehand will help you easily choose the right controller for your system.
That said, most solar batteries fall between 12 to 48V DC range. And the solar panel’s rated maximum voltage output will give you a clue which regulator to pick.
IMPORTANT: unlike what most people think, a 12V panel doesn’t always mean that it must be paired with a 12V battery. Most panels don’t even output their maximum voltage, especially due to the fact that the sunlight varies from region to region.
What’s more, some homeowners might use several solar panels together to make a higher output system. Such systems will require a controller with an even higher input voltage that can accommodate the extra power.
Overall, the perfect controller is one that comes with a higher max. input voltage to allow you to scale your system depending on your specific needs and interests.
A controller with adjustable charging voltage is even more convenient for you!
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Do I really need a solar charge controller?
As we stated at the beginning of this post, a controller acts as the lifeblood of a solar energy system. This means it’s impossible to enjoy the free energy from the sun without a solar charge controller.
The reasons why a controller is important:
If you want to protect your battery’s lifespan and maximize the efficiency of your solar panels, then you need to invest in a good charge controller.
2. Can I use multiple solar charge controllers?
Yes, it’s possible to use multiple charge controllers for your system. This is especially helpful when a single controller can’t handle the combined output of your solar panel array.
By connecting the controllers through cables in a parallel fashion, they’ll work as one and perfectly regulate the charge flow from the solar panels to the battery banks.
3. MPPT vs PWM charge controller: which is better?
MPPT and PWM are the two main types of charge controllers you’ll find on the market today. To understand which of the two is better, we first need to understand each of them.
The MPPT has a higher power efficiency—up to 30% more than the PWM controller. And can be used for higher voltage systems. These devices are also capable of withstanding inclement weather in the sense that they can preserve the battery output and compensate for low power.
However, MPPTs are costlier than PWMs.
The PWM controllers, on the other hand, is simply a switch that connects the solar panel to the battery. It’s known to cause low power output whenever the output temperature gets too low/high. This device also causes the solar panel output voltage to fall down to that of your battery.
Overall, the PWM controllers are more outdated in terms of technology and don’t provide you with as many benefits as the MPPT models.
If you have a small power system, then you should go for a PWM controller as I can handle the voltage of such a system. Plus, it’s cost-saving. For larger systems, the MPPT charge controller is the way to go.
The solar charge controller is a must-have device for your solar energy system, no matter how simple or complicated it is. It regulates the amount of voltage and current that flows from your solar panel(s) and into the battery. And in so doing, it helps ensures maximum system efficiency while prolonging the health and lifespan of your battery.
When looking for the best solar charge controller for your system, you should pay close attention to key factors like the Ampere rating, voltage rating, and type of controller. You should also go through the product reviews to see how the previous users rate its efficiency and performance.
Our list of the top-rated charge controllers above has some of the best-performing units you can get on the market today. These products have a different specification to meet the needs of different systems.