Best solar charge controllers: top-rated MPPT controller reviews
A solar charge controller is a necessary part of any solar electric system. It is what mediates your battery bank and the solar panels that power it, regulating both the voltage and current flowing to the battery (1).
A solar charge controller ensures your battery remains safe from overload, over-discharge, and overheating. It also draws maximum power from your solar system, resulting in higher efficiency (2).
In this article, we’ve rounded up our top 13 best solar charge controllers you can buy this year to help guarantee your success with your solar setup, and help you avoid getting stuck with a lemon. In addition, there’s a buyer’s guide at the end with valuable tips you can use when shopping for one yourself. Without further ado, let’s get started with our quick comparison of the top picks before we get into the real nitty-gritty – the reviews.
Quick Comparison of our Top 12 Best Solar Charge Controllers (For Those in a Hurry)
Here is a quick look at the 13 best solar charge controllers.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC125110210 250V/100A (Best Overall): With high voltage and amperage limits, advanced MPPT technology, and easy installation, this is by far the best overall option.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT CCTRL-VT-MPPS-85A 150V/85A (Budget Pick): For those who want a budget option that still has high voltage and amp limits, this controller happens to be a great pick.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC125085210 250V/85A: If you’re looking for a medium solar charge controller that you can monitor and control with a smartphone app, this Victron model is a great pick.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC115070210 150V/70A: If you want to chain your solar charge controllers together, you should get this controller. It comes with great CAN bus ports that allow you to connect more than one easily, reliably, and efficiently.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC125060210: With a five-year guarantee on the controller and two years on the battery, this is our top choice to buy with a great warranty.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC115060210 150V/60A: This Victron offers pre-programmed charge algorithms so that you can find the best mix of volts and amps, and you get this customization at a reasonable price.
- AMPINVT MPPT-120A 12V 24V 36V 48V 120A: With multiple load control options and an LCD, this controller works for arrays of all sizes.
- Outback Flexmax FM80 12V 24V 36V 48V 80A: The Outback brings multiple load control modes, a reasonable price tag, and a reputation for reliability.
- Victron SmartSolar MPPT CCTRL-VT-MPPS-100A 150V/100A: With intelligent MPPT and remote control, this smart system can bring the most power, even in cloudy conditions.
- MidNite Solar Classic 150 150V/96A: This controller works on all sizes of arrays and allows you to control voltage, and it has modes for wind and hydropower.
- Morningstar Corporation Tristar MPPT TS-MPPT-60 150V/60A: This internet-connected controller can work in hot conditions and has impressive efficiency.
- MidNite Solar Classic 200 200V/79A: Best for small arrays, this controller works in extreme conditions and with wind and hydro.
Solar Charge Controller Reviews
Here is a closer look at the best solar controllers. Read our in-depth solar charge controller reviews to find the perfect one for your solar setup.
1. Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC125110210 250V/100A (Best Overall)
This model is our best overall option. It has a lot going for it, including the MPPT functionality and the 250 volt and 100 amp limits. If you have an especially large solar array and need a charge controller that can handle that much power, then it’s hard to do much better than this.
On the other hand, even if you have a small set up, but plan on growing it soon and need a charge controller you can grow into, this is still an excellent choice.
While this solar charge controller certainly isn’t cheap, it is worth the money if you take advantage of its abilities, and it continues Victron’s tradition of making high-quality products.
2. Victron SmartSolar MPPT CCTRL-VT-MPPS-85A 150V/85A (Budget Pick)
If the SmartSolar charge controller before this one sounded too expensive for you, then this one should make for a better deal. At about two-thirds of the price, it sacrifices neither quality nor functionality, and it is our top budget pick.
The voltage and amp limits are still very high at 150 volts and 85 amps. This product is also an MPPT controller, so it should track the maximum power point under all weather conditions.
It also contains Bluetooth capabilities, allowing you to set it up and monitor it with any Bluetooth enabled device. What’s more, it comes with a solid five-year warranty.
The selling point for this particular Victron model is that it offers many of the features of the SCC125110210, with a slight reduction in the maximum amperage, which makes it our choice for the best for medium arrays. The lower amps naturally lead to a small decrease in price for those who want something cheaper but still feature-rich.
You can opt for the SmartSolar control display, which shows your battery’s status at a glance. Best of all, it has a remote control and monitoring capabilities via your Smartphone.
This Victron SmartSolar MPPT charge controller has many of the same features as the others in its family. It is our top choice for daisy chaining. At 150 volts and 70 amperes, its limits are lower than usual. However, considering the great price, it’s a good buy and offers good value for money.
The best feature of this solar charge controller by far has to be the addition of CAN bus ports. CAN, in this case, stands for Chain Additional Units.
You can chain it with other SmartSolar chargers via a single RJ45 cable, allowing them to synchronize their charge states and draw energy from your solar system more efficiently.
The rating on this controller is even lower than the one above. It has 150 volts and 60 amperes. This product is for those with smaller solar arrays who don’t want a powerful solar charger but still need lots of features.
It uses MPPT technology to draw power from the solar panels, and it has an efficiency rate of 99%. It also features CAN bus ports if you would like to create a daisy chain of solar charge controllers. Best of all is that it comes with a five-year warranty.
Yes, yet another 60-ampere limit solar charge. It has many of the same features as the one above, and it comes at roughly the same price point. So what makes it so special?
This product comes with eight pre-programmed charge algorithms so you can toggle between them, going for the best mix of charge voltage and amperage for your battery. However, if that doesn’t satisfy you, you can also program a unique charge algorithm, tweaking it according to your needs.
My favorite thing about this model is the multiple load control options. It can supply 12, 24, 36 and 48 volt systems adequately, and comes with a maximum 120-ampere limit, making it great, even for large arrays.
It also comes with an LCD that shows you real-time statistics so you can stay on top of your controller operation.
This product is another great solar charge controller with multiple load control modes. The only difference here is that this one has a lower total amperage limit of 80A. It is, therefore, cheaper as a result.
The Outback can quickly charge batteries of different voltages, ranging from 12 VDC to 60 VDC, has an LCD, and operates on reliable MPPT technology.
This Victron solar charge controller comes with intelligent MPPT tracking, which tracks the maximum power point, even when the sky is partially cloudy, and your solar array isn’t operating at maximum capacity.
It has a remote control and monitoring capabilities that work both with and without an internet connection, so long as you have a Bluetooth device. With an exceptionally high 100A limit, it can work even with large solar arrays. It doesn’t come with an LCD, but you can buy the optional one.
This excellent solar charge controller happens to be the most popular offering from MidNite. It can output 96 amperes and has a 150V maximum. These specs make it suitable for use on all sizes of arrays, even large ones.
It is also versatile with MPPT modes for solar, wind, and hydropower. I also like that it has HyperVOC technology, which extends the open-circuit voltage when necessary.
Morningstar has an excellent reputation for making high-quality products, and this controller does not disappoint. It runs on MPPT technology, is rated to operate efficiently, and works at temperatures as high as 45-degrees C and 113-degrees F.
And speaking of efficiency, it has up to 99% efficiency. It also comes with an ethernet port, allowing you to connect it to your wired network and control it from anywhere.
And finally, we have another solar charge controller from MidNite. This one has a max amperage of 79A, which makes it great for small solar arrays.
However, it still has a high voltage limit at 200V and can charge batteries from 12V to 72V. The terminals are also very resilient, with a temperature limit of up to 75 degrees C. Finally, it can work with solar, hydro, and wind, making it highly versatile.
Buyers’ Guide: Top 5 Tips – How to Buy the Best Model for You
When shopping for a top-rated solar charge controller, it is essential to know which factors are most critical to consider before you buy. We know it can often feel overwhelming when you’re not sure what to give a priority and what to leave out.
In this section, we will look at our top five most important factors to consider before you buy a solar charge controller to further aid your search.
1. Know the voltage of your solar panels and battery
There are two aspects: the PV open-circuit voltage and the input voltage.
The open-circuit voltage, which is also known as the VOC, is the number of volts produced by your solar panel array when it has a load on it. You can find out what this number is by measuring the positive and negative leads with a voltmeter.
The VOC is significant because it’s the maximum number of volts that the solar panels in your array can produce. This number will tell you how many panels you can wire to your solar charge controller.
You want to go for a controller that can either handle the full open-circuit voltage from your solar array or make sure there are not too many solar panels in your solar array for your solar charge controller.
As long as the number of panels in your array remains below the solar charge controller’s limit, your system won’t get damaged.
For smaller arrays, a simple solar charge controller with a VOC of 50 volts should do. If you have an extensive system, you should get a charge controller with a VOC of 150 volts or more.
The next thing to consider is the maximum input voltage, which is especially crucial if you’re considering purchasing a PWM solar charge controller. Such controllers cannot convert the input power to match the output power the way an MPPT solar charge controller does.
Getting a solar charge controller with a high input power limit allows you to charge your batteries more efficiently and, therefore, spend less per unit of power.
2. Know the total wattage of your equipment you’re looking to power
You should also consider the maximum amount of power or wattage that your solar charge controller and solar system can handle at any given time, along with the total wattage of your equipment. You certainly don’t want to get yourself a solar charge controller incapable of handling all the power coming from your system (4).
The general rule of thumb is that for every 100-watt solar panel, you can expect about six amperes of power during periods when there is full sunlight.
If your setup is more extensive, you can expect a higher power output and will need a more powerful solar charge controller. If your solar system is simple, then you should be able to handle it just fine with a solar charge controller with a lower max power rating.
3. Know the two different types of solar charge controllers available.
There are two main types of controllers (3). These are the PWM and MPPT systems. PWM stands for Pulse Width Modulation, while MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking.
These two solar charge controllers have strengths and weaknesses and are suited to different situations. You must understand your solar system’s capabilities before deciding which type of solar charge controller to get.
The PWM solar charge controller is the most common type of solar charge controller on the market. It is simpler than the MPPT controller and much cheaper. It’s also easier to install and use.
On the flip side, PWM solar charge controllers are not nearly as effective as MPPT controllers when used with large solar arrays.
A PWM operates by slowing down the power input amount to the battery as the battery’s power approaches its capacity. By the time the battery is full, the PWM controller lets in just enough power to keep the battery power without supplying too much power.
PWM controllers need the battery and solar panel array to have the same voltage.
Another disadvantage of PWM controllers is that they are more sensitive to weather changes than MPPT controllers. When the weather gets either too hot or too cold, the PWM controller will lose some efficiency.
MPPT solar charge controllers are more complex than PWM controllers. As a result, they are more expensive. The functions of using an MPPT controller is pretty much the same as with a PWM. They reduce the amount of power input to the battery to a trickle to not overfill the battery.
MPPTs show their strength when it comes to big solar arrays. They can adjust their input, making sure they pull as much power from your solar system as possible.
MPPTs are also capable of matching their power output to the input requirements of the battery. This feature makes them far more efficient than PWM controllers.
4. Look for bonus features that excite you
There are other features that, while not necessary, might meet your specific needs. Here are a few you might be interested in:
Manual load control
Charge controllers often come with automatic load control, which turns off the output when the battery is too low. This feature will stop your battery from discharging completely, which prolongs its lifespan.
If, on the other hand, you also want to be able to turn the load off when you wish, you can opt for a charge controller with manual load control.
Perhaps you want to know the current, voltage, charge, and other details, so you know whether your solar charge controller is working correctly.
In that case, a controller with an LCD should come in handy. A good display should visualize all the crucial details of what’s going on in your charge controller.
Battery temperature sensor
Charge controllers can get very hot sometimes. They’re dealing in energy, after all, and are always sending and receiving it. Many manufacturers add a temperature sensor to the charge controller.
A temperature sensor prevents your controller from carrying out any overcharging, which can increase battery temperature.
The charge controller should be able to handle different amounts of charge coming from the solar array. Multi-stage reduction capabilities refer to the ability of a controller to move the energy through multiple processes. These processes include Bulk, Float, Absorption, and Equalization.
There is a reason for each process. Bulk, for example, allows the energy to reach the ideal voltage. Absorption ensures that the energy from the charge controller gets discharged into the battery. Meanwhile, float ensures that a specific charge is maintained before more power goes to the battery. Equalization assures that the voltage never drops during absorption.
Most charge controllers have at least Bulk, Absorption, and Float. However, you can also opt for a 4-stage model that includes Equalization as well.
Adjustable charging voltage set point
Charge controllers with so-called ‘multi-voltage functions’ have a charging voltage set point that is adjustable. That means that you can choose the voltage at which the solar charge controller operates.
Voltage can vary depending on the type of battery you’re charging. This feature is worth considering if you want to get maximum efficiency out of your solar charge controller.
Some solar charge controllers allow for remote access so you can change the settings via a browser or app on your phone. If you think you might spend significant amounts of time away from home, this is a great feature.
5. Find the top deal for you
If you want to get the best value, here are some things to consider.
Due to their high price, it makes sense to check for an attractive warranty when shopping for a solar charge controller.
If you look for a product with a decent warranty, you know that you bought a high-quality product and can trust its longevity. Generally, three to five years is a reasonable length of time for a warranty.
Some manufacturers offer limited-time deals, where they provide significant discounts on their solar charge controllers for a few days or weeks. These are great times to do your shopping as they allow you to get the same features and functionality that you would have got anyway but at a reduced price.
Considering how expensive these controllers can get, it’s always recommended to have a clear budget in mind and pay attention to the final price of the product you’re buying.
The final price will include all the factors mentioned above, and when weighed properly – will help you with getting the most ROI, or return on your investment.
Here are some common questions that people ask when purchasing a solar charge controller.
1. Which is better MPPT or PWM?
MPPT is the most efficient of the two, and the best way to draw energy from a solar system to a battery. They are about 15% better at charging than PWM controllers.
They also drain more energy from your system than PWM controllers. They can handle large solar arrays with high energy outputs, making them better at harnessing the power of solar arrays than PWM controllers.
2. How many solar panels can a charge controller handle?
The answer depends on the size of the solar charge controller. The number to look at in this case is the amperage. You want to get a controller with at least a 25% higher amperage than the solar system.
For example, if your solar panels and battery need 20 amps to work, you should have at least 25 amps on your controller. Therefore, the maximum number of solar panels a charge controller can handle is the number that provides 80% or less of the controller’s amperage rating.
3. Are MPPT controllers worth it?
Yes. You might have some doubts about this issue, considering how much more expensive MPPTs are than PWM solar charge controllers. However, given that they will charge your battery more safely, faster, and more efficiently, they are worth the price for most people (5).
The Bottom Line: What is the Best Solar Charge Controller to Buy Today?
And with that, we come to the end of our review. Now that you’ve seen our list of the best solar charge controllers on the market, a helpful buyers’ guide, and the answers to the most popular faqs – picking the perfect model for you should be a lot easier.
However, if you’re still not quite sure which is one is right for you, we highly-recommend our #1-rated model, the Victron SmartSolar MPPT SCC125110210 250V/100A. It has an excellent balance of features, functionality, and price. Also, it should serve your needs reliably for many years to come and allows you to grow your solar system without getting a new controller with each addition. Ultimately, it’s tough to go wrong!
Want more highly-reviewed solar gear to complete your setup like the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 250V/100A? If so, check out our best solar-powered generator of the year, and more here at YourEnergyBlog.com – where we work harder to find you the top solar equipment on the market.