What Is A Charge Controller?
A solar charge controller is a voltage and/or current regulator that keeps the batteries in a solar panel-battery-inverter system from overcharging. A charge controller may be a stand-alone device which has to be bought and installed separately or it may be a control circuitry integrated within a battery pack, a battery-powered device or a charger. When bought as a standalone device, which is the case in most installations, it is often installed between the panels and batteries. A very important part of the system, they prevent the overcharging of batteries by limiting the amount and rate of charge of electricity from the solar panels to the batteries. They also prevent battery drainage by shutting down the system if stored power falls below the specified depth of discharge, mostly 50%.
Though there are other considerations beside brand, for instance, cost and size of the system, however, if every other thing is accounted for, we always try to convince our clients to invest in the best brands not only of charge controllers but also of panels and batteries.
Our most successful brands of solar charge controllers, those that we always recommend for our clients include the following: (They are not given in any order.)
The makers of Victron brands of charge controllers, the Victron BlueSolar and the Victron SmartSolar, also the makers of Victron inverters, Victron Energy, is a Dutch company. Victron has a stellar global reputation as the manufacturer of high-performance power conversion products.
Victron offers two range of solar chargers: BlueSolar and Smart Solar. They both incorporate a battery management system, remote management portal and though they lack a battery monitoring system, they are compatible with battery monitors. The difference in the two is that the SmartSolar controllers come with bluetooth connectivity while the BlueSolar controllers do not. The Victron SmartSolar offers built-in Bluetooth connectivity to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a smartphone. Also with internet connection, users can use the Victron Remote Management Portal to monitor the controllers anywhere at no charge. This makes them a great option for remote installations.
Victron offers a five-year warranty on its controllers.
Made from the superior of the two charge controller technologies, MPPT technology, Victron controllers give a lightning-quick response to power conditions. They are able to perform an advanced MPPT detection when the panels are partially shaded and by so doing extract maximum power from the panels.
Epever is a Chinese brand. Epever advertises their controllers for high MPPT efficiency rating of no less than 99.5% making them the king of controllers. With supreme technology, Epever adds a second attraction to their controllers, they are very cost-friendly. This is often the case with Chinese brands.
Epever come installed with an LCD screen, PC software, a remote meter and multiple load control methods. The only downside is that Epever does not offer very high input controllers like other premium brands. The highest input rating of any Epever controller in the market is 60A. In most residential installations, however, this is still at a higher limit.
Like Victron, Epever also uses the MPPT technology in the manufacture of its controllers. They come with an automatic system voltage recognition of 12 to 24V, and an auto-saving function to remember settings. They also comes equipped with a multi-function LCD display system to display information and can also be connected to PC software or special tracker for constant monitoring. They also have multiple load control modes, including manual, lighting, and light timer in addition to multiple safety protections features including battery overvoltage, load overload, solar panel short circuit or reverse polarity, et cetera.
The Outback FLEXmax is made by the makers of Outback inverters, Outback Power, an American company based in Washington that was founded in 2001.
The Outback FLEXmax is programmable. It comes with an in-built backlit 80-character display that shows the status of the system and performance data log reaching up to the last 128 days in the history of the system. Beyond its ease of use, the manufacturer designed the Outback solar charge controller with a discreet black case and green screen. This unit is a great addition to any solar panel system design for both advanced and beginner solar aficionados.
The manufacturer also allows for more advanced configurations when connected to their proprietary MATE system display and controller, or a branded inverter and a HUB communications manager. Built for high performance, the Outback Flexmax can handle high amounts of DC volts and convert them to 12V to 60V for battery banks. They come with a very high maximum input voltage capacity, up to 80A, making them perfect for large-scale installations.
The FLEXmax productline offers two charge controllers, with maximum current ratings of 60A and 80A (the FLEXmax 60 and the FLEXmax40). Incorporating a thermal management system, they are built to operate at their full maximum rating in temperatures as high as 40°C.
While being one of the best solar controllers on the market and while supporting a wide variety of system designs and battery types, the FLEXmax comes at a considerably high cost. This is the only downside to investing in them otherwise they return the value of their investment in the long run.
Midnite Solar Classic is one of the best brands of charge controllers in the market. The 'Classic' range of controllers are manufactured in the United States. The Midnite Classic includes additional features like arc fault detection, solar, wind energy and hydro modes, and extended VOC limit. Its arc fault detection technology that trips a circuit when it detects dangerous electric arcs, makes it very safe to use.
Via the Midnite Solar Local Application, users can remotely access their power systems with internet access.
Midnite offers its Classic controllers in three ranges: the Classic 150 with max current ratings up to 96A, the Classic 200, with max current rating up to 79A and the Classic 250, with power rating up to 63A.
These are the premium brands of controllers in the market. Because of their high-performance and their extra and more sophisticated features and also because they use the superior MPPT technology instead of the PMW technology, they are also the costliest in the market. SolarKobo has all these brands in our online shop. Other good brands supported in Nigeria includes, Mercury, Fangpusun (blatant copycats of Victron, Outback and others), TriStar, SRNE, Prag, SolarMate, Felicity, Renogy Wanderer, Pow Mr, Yohako, Cinemax, Suoer, Diamond, etc.
There are however, high-performance PMW controllers brands that can serve as good options especially when costs and system size are the primary considerations.
SolarKobo also helps its clients in Lagos and elsewhere in Nigeria make the best possible choice of all solar products including charge controllers. We also have university-trained engineers who provide the best installation services on order.