How to Choose the Right Solar Controller

A solar controller – AKA a solar charge controller – is critical to ensuring solar panels and the battery interact properly. It assists in regulating the flow of the current between the panels and the battery. By doing so, it avoids the dangers of overcharging. This is especially vital because the very nature of solar generation – with a potential oversupply of power available each day via sunshine – means an overload could easily occur in absence of a device to regulate the current. Choosing the right solar controller can be a challenge, but let’s proceed now through the essential considerations required to make an informed choice.

Unique Needs Require Unique Choices

No two solar installations are alike. This isn’t surprising when understood, but many are surprised when they first hear of the sheer diversity in the solar industry surrounding different projects and their unique needs. Central to this misperception is the uniformity of solar panels. As solar installations invariably see a row of solar panels lined up one by one, many can mistakenly understand the difference between projects and their power output is simply a matter of adding (or subtracting) more panels from the installation.

The Difference in the Detail

The reality is appearances can be deceiving, as even two installations that otherwise look exactly alike in dimensions could’ve had a very different setup, and consequently different operating process. A key example of this is the difference seen between solar controllers.

Deciding Between the Two Main Types of Solar Controllers

Choosing the right solar controller requires recognising the differences that exist between the two main types most commonly used. Solar controllers are widely available in Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPP) and Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) formats. Each have their benefits and drawbacks, depending on the solar installation and what the ideal outcome is envisioned to be. Although MPP’s are more expensive than PWM solar controllers, they are also far more efficient.

With a MPP an energy transfer of up to 97% from panel to battery can occur. A PWM by contrast is more affordable, but can only perform this same task at a rate of around 70%. This said, in certain instances – although a MPP usually is ideal – sometimes a PWM will be perfectly suitable. It’s just critical to ensure a selection is made with an understanding not only of the needs of a solar installation and its battery at present, but also how those needs may evolve in time ahead.

An Eye on the Future

Although it’s necessary to make decisions today based upon which solar controller is ideal, it’s also prudent to factor in the future while doing so. This is because just as energy prices are rising and demand for solar panels is increasing, so too is the need for energy. Compared to 10 years ago – indeed even just a few years ago! – there’s been an exponential increase in the demand on electricity due to the rise of smartphones, tablets, portable gadgets like smart watches, and other smart devices that are used day by day. By choosing a solar controller that not only meets the installation’s needs today but could be utilised in future with an expanded installation where new panels are added, it’s possible to have some ‘future-proofing’ in the solar setup done now.

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