TOP 5 - MPPT Solar Charge Controllers

Updated: Oct 24



Hi everybody, we’re back with another AWESOME TOP 5 blog post for you all and this week we have decided to tackle MPPT solar charge controllers.


Solar is something that pretty much everybody converting a van wants or needs but it it yet another thing you have to learn and get your head around during your build if you want it and it can be very confusing to say the least.


MPPT Controllers are the best option for camper builds, boats, caravans etc as they are much more efficient and charging your batteries because you can use much higher voltage panels than you can with a PWM controller.


MPPT Means MAXIMUM POWER POINT TRACKING, the controllers can take many more volts from the panels allowing you to use much bigger and more powerful panels and even join them together in series (this doubles the voltage). The controller then does its magic and converts the power coming from the panels to the correct voltage to charge your battery bank in the most efficient way passible.



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What size MPPT controller do you need?


To work this out all you need to do is a simple piece of maths.


All you need to do is take the watts of your solar panel and divide it by the volts of your battery bank. For example...


415w solar panel ÷ 12v battery = 34.6 amps... It has to be higher than this number so 40 amp is the best option


2 x 150w solar panels = 300w ÷ 12v battery = 25 amps... it has to be higher than this number so 30 amp is your best option


1 x 100w solar panel ÷ 12v battery = 8.33 amps.. .it has to be higher than this number so 10 amp is your best option



Before we start we will just say all of these units are pretty much as good as each other when it comes to efficiency and how much power they will put back into your battery bank. They have been tried and tested along side each other numerous times by some very knowledgable people and NONE of them will charge your batteries any better of faster than the rest.


The differences between them are all in the build quality, added extras, interface and a few other bits and pieces that we will go into more detail on further down in the post.


So if you are on a tight budget or just want something that you can plug and play and let it do its thing the cheaper options will actually be better for you and will charge your battery as well as the rest.



So with that being said, here are our TOP 5 MPPT Solar charge controllers for your off grid set up...




5. RENOGY ROVER SERIES


At number 5 we have an awesome budget unit by Renogy and that is the Rover series.


These units like all of the rest of the units in this post have a maximum solar panel voltage input of 100v allowing you to attach high voltage panels so you can charge your batteries much more efficiently.


The Renogy Rover series are also one of the better looking MPPT charge controllers on the market in our opinion as you will notice as you scroll through this post so if you are looking for something that looks at home in your van rather than a hospital ward this might be the option for you.


The build quality of this unit is better than most too but the one thing we think that needs updating is the terminal size. You would have to install these units quite close to your battery bank because of this as they are only just big enough to fit 10mm2 cable so if you were to install the controller more than a few meters away from the battery the unit would not be able to fit the size cables you would need to cover the volt loss over the distance needed. This will not really be a problem for van life but could be for anybody wanting to install it to a double decker bus or yacht etc. One thing we have heard about these controllers is that it is quite easy to round off the terminal screws so be careful but get them tight.


They come in pretty much any AMP rating that you could possibly need for a vehicle with not much space for panels except for 10 amp but that would literally just trickle charge your battery anyway so not good for full time van lifers anyway.


You can also get a few extra bits and pieces for these controllers like a bluetooth module that will connect to the Renogy phone app so you can keep an eye on everything from your phone or tablet.





60 AMP - https://amzn.to/2VA5et1


40 AMP - https://amzn.to/3jy6QeV


30 AMP - https://amzn.to/3AjWpCu


20 AMP - https://amzn.to/3jBYAdI




Renogy Bluetooth Module BT-1(New Version)








https://amzn.to/3CC801Q







4. EPEVER TRACER SERIES


In 4th place we have another awesome budget unit and that is the EPEVER tracer series.


Again the maximum solar panel voltage input of 100v allowing you to attach high voltage panels so you can charge your batteries much more efficiently with the limited roof space you have.


Unlike the unit above we are not big fans of the look of this unit but when it comes down to it that is the least important thing about it for most people and will most likely be tucked away somewhere out of site anyway.


The build quality and material quality could be better as they do feel quite cheap and flimsy but they are very good at doing what they are supposed to do so if it is in a cupboard etc out of harms way you won't need to worry about this at all. The terminals are a good size too so you can easily over size your cables should you wish to do so.


This unit comes in 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60 amp so one more option than the Renogy above


You can also get an optional screen/remote (wired) so you can hide your controller away but still see what is going on with something slightly less medical looking.


One thing that puts this unit above the Renogy unit on the list is the fact that not only can you get a bluetooth module so you can view everything on your phone when you are near by but you can also get a WIFI module so you can keep an eye on it from anywhere at any time and that is a good quality to have. You will however need to have dedicated WIFI for your van instead of just tethering to your phone but that is easily done




60 AMP - https://amzn.to/3fHkjQw


40 AMP - https://amzn.to/3lIZBTZ


30 AMP - https://amzn.to/2WXNDvs


20 AMP - https://amzn.to/3AkBzD1


10 AMP - https://amzn.to/3fIzLvB





EPEVER Remote Meter MT50 for MPPT Solar Charge Controller


https://amzn.to/3ArFk9K






EPEVER eBox-BLE-01—RS485 to Bluetooth Adapter MPPT Solar Charge Controller Communication Wireless Monitoring by Android/IOS Mobile Phone APP(eBox-BLE-01)


https://amzn.to/2Xrtqyy





EPEVER eBox WiFi 01 Remote Monitor RS485 to Adapter for MPPT Charge Controller Tracer-AN, Tracer-BN, Triron-N, LS-B, VS-AU, VS-BN, Communication Wireless Monitoring by (Android&iOS) Mobile Phone APP



https://amzn.to/3AIYOqE









3. RENOGY ROVER ELITE SERIES


In 3rd place we have another unit from Renogy and that is the Rover Elite series.


This unit is basically an updated version of the Rover series above but is is much better quality all round including the materials they have used to make it. They have even made the terminal sizes bigger so you can fit 16mm2 instead of 10mm2 cable and that makes a huge difference.


They can still only take a maximum solar panel voltage input of 100v but for vans we don't really thing you will need to go any bigger at all.


Because of the colours Renogy use we always love the look of their equipment and this one isn't any different, we will warn you though they are a lot bigger than the photo makes them look and they are actually about the same size as most other MPPT controllers.


Again you can get a bluetooth module for this unit so you can connect to the Renogy phone app and can keep an eye on everything from your phone or tablet or if you prefer...


You can get a screen instead and attach it to you wall where you can see it and hide the MPPT controller away out of site!


These units only come in 20 amp or 40 amp but the 20 amp can take 260w of solar @12v and the 40 amp can take 520w @12v...





40 AMP - http://ebay.us/6lHfus


20 AMP - https://ebay.us/hD3Q9B



Renogy BT-2 Bluetooth Module Solar Charge Controller Wireless Monitor PV RS485




http://ebay.us/m4Hs0b



Renogy Rover Elite Solar Charge Regulator Monitor Screen Voltage Current Meter






https://ebay.us/7SV3oY





2. EPEVER TRIRION SERIES


In 2nd place we have another unit by EPEVER and that is their Tririon series


Ok so this is one of the units we were talking about earlier when we said some units would look more at home on a hospital ward but don't be fooled by the looks it is an awesome unit with feature that no other units on this list have.


First of all and shockingly it is actually the only unit on the the list with built in USB ports so you can charge phones, tablets and anything else you can charge with a USB cable directly from the unit itself.


It also has interchangeable modules on the front that you can switch out for different modules to be used for different reasons.


For example you can remove the module with the 2 x USB ports and slave socket (for the MT50 screen or bluetooth module) and replace it with a module that has just 2 x USB ports if you wont be using an external screen. You can also switch it to a module with relays for controlling inverters and slave/master connections so you can connect it to other EPEVER equipment like inverters and view the data from both on the MPPT controller OR MT50 screen below at the same time.


You can also switch the display modules if you wish to do so, there is a simple analogue looking battery status indicator, the screen with five buttons that you can see below in the picture or a screen with two buttons like the EPEVER tracer series above.


Again you can get both bluetooth and WIFI modules for this unit just like the Tracer units so you can view and control your set up from anywhere if you have WIFI.


These units again have a maximum solar panel voltage input of 100v so perfect for us but the highest amp unit you can get is 40 amp...



40 AMP - https://amzn.to/3Artrkf


30 AMP - https://amzn.to/3yEeJpk


20 AMP - https://amzn.to/3jKesuL


10 AMP - https://ebay.us/RraNfG






EPEVER Remote Meter MT50 for MPPT Solar Charge Controller


https://amzn.to/3ArFk9K






EPEVER eBox-BLE-01—RS485 to Bluetooth Adapter MPPT Solar Charge Controller Communication Wireless Monitoring by Android/IOS Mobile Phone APP(eBox-BLE-01)


https://amzn.to/2Xrtqyy





EPEVER eBox WiFi 01 Remote Monitor RS485 to Adapter for MPPT Charge Controller Tracer-AN, Tracer-BN, Triron-N, LS-B, VS-AU, VS-BN, Communication Wireless Monitoring by (Android&iOS) Mobile Phone APP



https://amzn.to/3AIYOqE






1. VICTRON SMART SOLAR SERIES


In first place and probably not a big surprise to anybody is the Victron smart solar series.


Victron do not make cheap flimsy equipment and their MPPT controllers are no exception, the quality of the materials used to build these units far exceeds any of the units above and feels very solid.


These are also the smallest units on the list (not buy much) so that is another big plus point if space is a premium like most van lifers.


When it comes to the looks it could be better and could be worse however if you buy all matching Victron equipment like many choose to do because everything is the same colour the full set up looks AWESOME and is AWESOME.


Another thing that stands these units above the rest is the fact that it has bluetooth built into it and no buttons or screens on the actual unit. This means that you can hide it away out of site and never have to look at the actual unit if you want as everything can be viewed and controlled from your phone or tablet via the well thought through Victron app. If you install the full smart solar series you can link it all together and control it all through the app so if you are a bit of a tech head this is probably the best option for you. Once you have a full Victron set up you can then get a big wifi module and view everything from anywhere and be in full control at all times if you have WIFI in your van.


If you don't like the sound of having to control everything from your phone via an app for any reason you can also get a screen that you can plug in just like the rest of the units in this post


When it comes to the maximum solar panel voltage input and amp ratings of these units there are sooooo many choices on the market but for some reason they like to confuse us with the numbers on the front.


On the unit below the 100 | 30 means...


100v maximum solar panel voltage input

30 amps


For this post I have just added links to units with a maximum solar panel voltage input of 100v but they have so many other options on the market that it is hard to keep up with them but they include 75v, 150v, 250v, 450v etc


We think 100v is plenty for most van situations so that is what we have linked to today.


Another thing that some people find confusing about Victron is they have one unit called blue solar and one unit called smart solar. Smart solar is the only one with bluetooth built in even though blue solar has blue in the name.


Here are just some of the amp ratings...


50 AMP - https://amzn.to/3jBMbXg


35 AMP - https://amzn.to/3AiRrG4


30 AMP - https://amzn.to/37s07h0


20 AMP - https://amzn.to/3lLXKhl


15 AMP - https://amzn.to/3rYZEwj


10 AMP - https://amzn.to/3Coytjc





Victron Energy SmartSolar Pluggable Control Display


https://amzn.to/3jLHavx






A SPECIAL MENTION TO...



An awesome allrounder...


We actually rate this unit slightly above the Victron unit as it is totally awesome, the only reason it hasn't made it into the top 5 is because it is only available in a 40 amp version in the UK at the moment so will not be ideal for a lot of people. For example anybody with 200w of solar would be better off getting a smaller amp unit that works just as well and costs a lot less.


Its good points are it has a max PV input of 150v so if you have a lot of roof space you can join already high voltage panels together in series creating an amazingly powerful system that would not be possible on some of the cheaper MPPT controllers.


They are made from cast aluminium with no cheap plastic in sight so they dissipate heat very quickly and get nowhere near as hot as the plastic models.