It’s not easy to choose a suitable charge controller that supports the needs of your solar system. You have to consider plenty of variables plus the types of controllers available. There are two main types of charge controller: pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). Many home homeowners decide to buy the best pulse width modulation (PWM) solar charge controller for their setup. However, they might still feel lost trying to find the best PWM solar charge controller among all the options in the market.
If you are unsure about what to look for in a controller, this article will help you navigate the process of finding a suitable one for your setup. Plus, it will provide you with all the information you need to consider before making a big decision.
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14 Best PWM Solar Charge Controllers
Before we walk through the process of buying a PWM charge controller, let’s check out the best PWM solar charge controllers available in the market. Each solar charge controller has a review stating what we love and what we don’t love about them. Still, these controllers would make an excellent addition to your solar setup.
The Wanderer 30A is an excellent option when it comes to the PWM charge controller for solar panel installations. It is easy to use and has many built-in safety features, such as LED indicators and overcharging protection. The Wanderer also has a battery temperature sensor for improved temperature compensation, perfect for systems that experience abrupt temperature changes.
An astounding controller, the Wanderer 10A is one of the best options for lower-wattage 12 or 24 volt systems. It’s perfect if you have to power some lights or charge your phone as it can handle up to 130 watts of solar in 12 volt systems. Among its highlights, there is an LCD to show owners how the system is working. It also comes with two USB ports for charging phones and other USB devices.
The Morningstar SunSaver is, without a doubt, your best bet. It’s more expensive, but it’s worth every penny. Its materials are as durable as they come, and the company offers a 5-year warranty. It features marine-grade terminals and an anodized aluminum case. It also comes with a built-in temperature sensor and good voltage accuracy (according to Morningstar). The downside of the Morningstar SunSaver is that it works with sealed or flooded lead-acid batteries only.
If you have a 12-volt system, the Adventurer 30A would be an excellent addition to your solar setup. It comes with a 30 amp current rating and temperature sensor port. Plus, it has an LCD and 12/24V compatibility. It works great with 12 volt systems of up to 400 watts and 24 volt systems of up to 800 watts, making it a suitable option for RVs or vans.
Binen 20A Solar Charge Controller features the most popular design for cheap charge controllers. It’s easy to set up and very useful for a small project system. The best feature is its LCD Display, which indicates the battery status. It also has multiple protection functions, like short-circuit protection, open-circuit protection, reverse protection, and overload protection.
Victron Energy SmartSolar charge controller is another excellent alternative. It features state-of-the-art technology and high-quality materials. Users love its Bluetooth function, which allows them to monitor the controller remotely, so they don’t have to move to track and manage the controller settings. Victron’s high efficiency and astounding customer service also stand out.
Go Power! is a popular choice among homeowners. It is an updated model featuring a back-lit screen, USB port, connections for two batteries, and an inverter interface. The operation buttons are a helpful addition and much more intuitive than before.
However, the most astounding and unique quality is its capability to charge two different battery banks.
The Binen 30 is a powerful solar charge controller. It has a peak conversion efficiency of around 76%. Unlike other PWM devices, it can handle a maximum input voltage of up to 50 volts. The Binen 30A also has the highest charge current, 30A, offering faster charging than the other PWMs. It also features two 5v USB ports for mobile charging.
You can’t go wrong with the HQST PWM controller. A multi-functional and intelligent controller, it tracks all the charging phases and adjusts itself accordingly. HQST PWM 30A comes with dual USB ports to charge electronic devices. It also has overcharge and overload protection and short-circuit and reverse-connection protection. The HQST PWM controller has an excellent temperature compensation feature.
The 30A Esky is another excellent alternative for your solar system. Built with sturdy construction, it is an intelligent device that features an STM 8 microprocessor to monitor the charging process. The 30A Esky is also an adaptable controller, featuring multiple load control modes. Its heat balance design and natural air cooling 4-stage charge management are great functions, especially if you’ve installed the solar system in an area with higher temperatures.
HZRE is a heavy-duty and large controller. It features intelligent high-complex protection technology, like short circuit protection, overcharge protection, over-current protection, and reverse connection protection. The controller mainly stands out for its operating temperature. While other brands only have an operating range up to 109 degrees F, the HZRE goes up to 140 degrees F, making it perfect for areas with blazing heat.
Designed for use in mid-sized systems, the Morningstar – ProStar 30A has a maximum load current of up to 30A. It comes with extensive built-in electronic protection against surge, short-circuit, over-current, reverse polarity conditions. It also features constant voltage PWM regulation and low voltage disconnect functions, ensuring the batteries are always fully charged.
The PowMr 30A is a sturdy controller featuring a moisture-tight coating to minimize damage from humidity and nesting insects. It is suitable for farm solar power systems, solar street lights, solar patio lights, solar billboards, outdoor camping solar systems, and ship solar systems. The PowMr 30A also comes with an industrial-grade STM 8 microprocessor to prolong the battery life cycle. It can simultaneously charge or supply power to two mobile phones, tablet PCs, and other devices that require 5V power. Users highlight how once the battery voltage drops below 8V, the solar controller turns off automatically.
Devko is a multifunction solar controller compatible with a 12V 24V system. Thanks to its built-in industrial microcontroller, you don’t need to reset it when the battery runs out because it will memorize various parameters the user sets. It has dual USB ports, so you can also charge your mobile phone, tablet, and PC. The Devko features outstanding protection functions to improve the system efficiency and prolong the battery’s life span.
How to Choose a Solar Charge Controller
Choosing the best PWM solar charge controller can be a tricky endeavor. However, there are a few variables that can guide you along the buying process. You mainly need to consider the budget, the weather in your area, your system’s voltage, and the size of your system.
Like most goods, not all solar charge controllers have the same value. For many homeowners, money is a defining variable when buying solar charge controllers. If you’re not ready to make a substantial investment or have a tight budget, you might want to explore the PWM market since they are cheaper or at least more affordable. Homeowners who can splurge a bit more can go for MPPT controllers, which are more expensive.
Weather in Your Area
Contrary to popular belief, solar panels aren’t the most efficient in hot weather. They work better in cold environments. Having said this, you need to get a solar charge controller that can compensate for the weather conditions your panels experience. If you live in an area where blazing heat waves are the norm, an MPPT solar charge controller would be a better option. If you live in an area where the weather remains stable throughout the year, you’ll cover your solar needs with a PWM controller.
The Device’s Maximum Input Voltage
Of all the factors we mention here, you can’t overlook this one when looking for the best PWM solar charge controller. Your controller’s nominal battery voltage must match the nominal voltage of your solar panels and battery bank. So, if you’re installing 24-volt solar panels, your solar charge controller must be able to support 24 volts. The same goes for the batteries. If you’re using a 12-volt battery, you need a solar charge controller with a 12-volt battery voltage.
Size of Your Solar System
What size your solar system is will define the kind of controller you need. As a general rule, PWM controllers work best in small or remote solar systems, whereas large solar installations will do better with MPPT charge control devices. As a heads up, you’ll measure the size of your solar array by looking at its current and voltage, not the wattage.
(Not sure about what size system you’ll be installing? Check out these articles to help out: How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Power a Refrigerator? or How Many Solar Panels Do You Need to Run Air Conditioning?)
How Does a Solar Charge Controller Work?
Solar Charge Controllers, or solar regulators, are devices that you connect to your panels and batteries. They fulfill an essential function within your solar system: preventing the overcharging and overvoltage of the batteries. Simply said, solar charge controllers ensure that your batteries receive an adequate amount of power from your solar panels. They do it by adjusting the amperage and voltage coming from the panels to the amperage and voltage of the battery system. They also make sure that batteries don’t drain when you don’t need to supply energy to appliances.
What is a PWM Charge Controller?
Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) is a type of charge control device. Essentially, it performs the function of all solar charge controllers, regulating the power coming from your panels to the battery bank. However, their process is different. PWM controllers slowly reduce the energy flow going into the battery as it approaches capacity. Once the battery reaches its total capacity, the PWM device continues supplying tiny amounts of energy to keep the batteries full.
When installing PWM controllers, your batteries’ and panels’ voltage need to coincide. Since it is rare for large-scale solar installations to have matching voltages, PWM devices work better in small systems whose components can match in voltages.
Advantages of a PWM Solar Charge Controller
- PWMs are more affordable than MPPT controllers.
- They are ideal for a small or DIY solar system.
- They’re lightweight and portable.
- They are durable, and most come with passive heat sink-style cooling.
- PWMs have a longer lifespan.
- They perform better when the battery has almost reached its full potential.
- They extend battery life since they slowly provide energy flow.
Disadvantages of a PWM Solar Charge Controller
- PWM controllers are less efficient than MPPT controllers.
- Many smaller PWM controller units don’t have fittings for the conduit.
- They are not suitable for larger systems since the solar panels and battery need to have matching voltages.
- PWM controllers have limited capacity for system improvement.
- Many smaller PWM controller units are not UL listed.
- You can’t use them on higher voltage grid connection modules.
As you can see, it may take some time to find the best pulse width modulation solar charge controller. Especially if you want to build a solar system on your own, you need to understand the function each component performs and how they’d work together. In the end, all components must be compatible to guarantee smooth performance and maximum output. Hopefully, this article will help you understand how controllers work and what variables you need to consider to find one that suits your needs.
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