Are you having issues finding the best solar charge controller for RVs? It’s important to know you aren’t alone, as many rig owners struggle with this task. There are a lot of moving parts, which causes much more confusion than necessary.
However, I intend to reduce these issues by guiding you through the entire process. This guidance will include various essential topics, such as determining buying factors, benefits, and what type fits your needs the best. I’ll even review 14 solar charge controllers, which I find to be the best available.
All these discussions should supply a buyer with everything needed to make the right buying decision. Keep reading, and I’ll make sure this entire process ends with your perfect choice.
|Best Overall||Budget Friendly||Easy To Use|
|Preview||Renogy Wanderer Li||EEEKit PWM||EPEVER MPPT|
|Dimensions||6.45 x 4.31 x 1.76 inches||7 x 13.5 x 2.5 inches||8.98 x 6.46 x 2.17 inches|
|Weight||0.65 lbs||0.35 lbs||3.12 lbs|
|Input Power & Voltage||12 – 25VDC/ 400W||390W /12V; 780W/24V||390W /12V; 780W/24V|
|Battery Suitable||Sealed/ Gel/ Flooded/ Lithium||Lead-acid Battery||Sealed/ Gel/ Flooded/ User/ Lithium|
|Remote Monitoring||Home App/ Renogy BT-1 Bluetooth Module||–||Remote Meter/ Phone App/ PC Software|
14 Top-tier Solar Charge Controller for Your RV Reviews
This section will contain 14 reviews to provide a better feeling for what’s available. These RV solar controller reviews will be vital in ensuring you know what a top-tier solar charge controller looks like and offers an RV owner.
1. Renogy Wanderer Li 30A 12V PWM Solar Charge Controller
Renogy’s Wanderer Li 30A 12V PWM Solar Charge Controller couldn’t have a better reputation among rig owners who utilize solar power. It’s equipped with multiple features capable of using this renewable resource much easier.
An excellent example of one is its LED indicators, which alert users to pivotal battery info and charge status. These lights will ensure you always know what’s happening with your rig’s battery during its charging process.
I was also a massive fan of this product’s battery lithium battery mode. This design feature provides the versatility that most other PWM options can’t match. After all, this mode allows the controller to work with many 12V battery banks and types, including most 12V lithium models.
The device’s easy-to-use interface is another winning trait. Multiple buyers made it a point to note how simple using this device was compared to other models. As someone who values simplicity, I found this praise extremely appealing.
It only becomes easier when you factor in the product’s RS232 port, which allows users to connect to Renogy’s Bluetooth module. This feature provides the benefit of adjusting and monitoring everything from your smartphone through an app.
But none of these features can even compare to this product’s best one, its price tag. You aren’t going to find many solar charge controllers capable of offering effective results at this cost. It’s always nice to come across a bargain when searching for a device like this one.
2. EEEKit RV PWM Solar Charge Controller
If you’re looking for a simple model, EEEKit’s RV PWM Solar Charge Controller has you more than covered. It’s considered one of the most straightforward RV solar controllers available today. But don’t think its simplicity means it doesn’t have some outstanding features.
For instance, the product’s large LCD display is a feature that everyone will love. It’ll make sure reading the status and data info doesn’t require much effort. The icons and screen are very visible and aren’t hard to see even when a ray of sunshine enters your rig.
It also helps that this display allows you to switch modes and adjust specific charging process parameters easily. As a result, a user will never feel out of control when using this RV solar panel controller.
You should find this product’s various built-in protections appealing as well. These include short-circuit, reverse, overload, and open-circuit protections, ensuring that everything ends up running smoothly.
In fact, these protections will increase your battery’s lifespan and efficiency by a significant margin. Each one ends up being an excellent addition to ensure you can use both the charge controller and your rig’s battery for many years.
But again, the device’s main attraction is its easy installing and using processes. I don’t imagine anyone reading this article will have much difficulty setting it up or using it. Trust me; if I can do both, you should haven’t any issues.
3. EPEVER MPPT 30A 12V/24V RV Solar Controller
One of the most efficient options available is EPEVER’s MPPT 30A 12V/24V RV Solar Controller. This product utilizes advanced MPPT technology to offer an efficiency rate of no less than 99.5%. It’s a result that’s almost unmatched by most of its competitors.
You should also be more than pleased with its 98% conversion rate. This aspect ensures the product can maximize the energy produced by your solar panels to charge up your solar power system.
If you aren’t impressed by these statistics, the overwhelmingly positive praise in this MPPT charge controller review section should provide a bit more sway. There’s no reason to believe this product won’t function and deliver the results its description guarantees.
The product’s isolated RS485 interface is another trait worth mentioning. It makes it easy to monitor and adjust parameters by using an app on your phone. You aren’t going to find a more user-friendly using process than one you can control in your hands.
As for its safety precautions, this EPEVER solar charge controller comes with several built-in protections. These include protections against over-discharging, overcharging, and PV reverse polarity to ensure your solar system performs safely and with more reliability.
4. Victron SmartSolar MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller
Victron’s SmartSolar MPPT 75/15 Solar Charge Controller tends to be a popular choice among rig owners because it’s one of the most advanced options available. Its design features top-tier technology, which provides it with aspects capable of offering excellent performance.
One of these aspects is the product’s usage of Bluetooth. As with any Bluetooth feature, it’ll ensure you can monitor and control the controller using a device like a smartphone. It makes sure you can operate the controller from almost anywhere.
This device also comes with access to Victron Remote Management Portal whenever the installed device uses your internet connection. It’s a feature capable of providing you with full control and power to this device regardless of the place or time.
As a result, these features work together to ensure you never miss a sunny day to charge your rig’s battery. Buyers were impressed with this product’s use of MPPT technology, which will prevent you from wasting any power produced by your solar panels.
The product’s load output function shouldn’t be overlooked, either. It’ll help prevent damage that might come from flat batteries to ensure further your batteries last a long time without issue. Honestly, any feature capable of increasing battery lifespan is always a winning one.
You should find the battery life feature impressive, too, as this aspect makes sure the SmartSolar attempts a 100% recharge process every day. If it can’t complete the recharge, this aspect will disconnect voltage daily, until your battery reaches full charge capacity.
5. OOYCYOO 12V 24V Auto 40/60/80/100A RV Solar Regulator
The OOYCYOO 12V 24V Auto 40/60/80/100A RV Solar Regulator is another MPPT controller that can provide effective tracking of your solar system’s charging process. It’ll ensure the power produced by your solar panels is used to their maximum efficiency.
Aside from its effective tracking results, buyers will also love its excellent durability. You can attribute this aspect to its ABS housing that offers resistance against heat, impact, and low temperatures. I can’t imagine a situation where this model wouldn’t perform to its usual high standards.
I was impressed by this product’s aluminum cooling teeth as well. This design aspect is included to promote better heat dissipation. As a result, it’ll keep the operating temperature low and reduce the risk of overheating.
The product’s LCD display is another fantastic inclusion to ensure you can easily track what’s happening. It’ll make sure you’re updated on important information, such as whether the battery and solar panels are connected to the controller.
You’ll also benefit from several other familiar features that I’ve discussed at length in our prior reviews. These include multiple layers of built-in protections, multi-stage charging, and being capable of working with various battery types.
Each of these features will only make this model more useful and appealing. It’s hard to imagine any rig owner being disappointed by what this RV battery charge controller offers. You even get a choice between nine color schemes.
6. RICH SOLAR 40-Amp 12V/24V MPPT Solar Charge Controller
Are you looking for a versatile solar charge controller? RICH SOLAR’s 40-Amp 12V/24V MPPT Solar Charge Controller could fit your needs perfectly. It’s capable of detecting both 12V or 24V DC system voltages automatically and with a top-tier efficiently.
This model is also compatible with numerous deep cycle batteries, including flooded, lithium, gel, and sealed. As a result, this device will have no issues appealing to a wide variety of situations needed for a solar charge controller.
You even get a choice regarding amperage as this comes in three variations: 20-amp, 30-amp, and 40-amp. RICH SOLAR clearly made an effort to ensure their product could work in as many scenarios as possible.
But if this product wasn’t effective, none of this versatility would matter. This isn’t the case with our device here, because it uses MPPT technology. This technology allows the device to provide high tracking efficiency of no less than 99%, which is top-tier among these products.
You’ll also benefit from its overall design, which is made from die-cast aluminum. This design material will keep everything cool to reduce the risk of overheating. There’s no reason to believe the product will suffer from any durability issues with a design like this one.
I was pleased with this device’s RS232 port, which allows the user to use Bluetooth communication. As with some prior options, this feature ensures you can control the device from an app on your smartphone.
7. Outback Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller
Outback’s Flexmax 80 FM80 MPPT 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller happens to be the most expensive option on our entire list. But there’s a reason for this higher price as it has features these other options can’t touch.
For instance, this solar charge controller is programmable to charge voltages ranging from 12 volts to 60 volts. This amount of variation isn’t something most of our other options have a chance at competing against.
I was also impressed with this product’s backlit display, which contains 80 characters. This display will offer more information about the process’s status than any other charge controller. The screen will even log system performance data for a whopping 128 days.
As a result, it’ll ensure you know everything needed to keep track of what’s going on with your solar panels and battery. The product also utilizes active cooling technology and thermal management cooling to ensure it provides its maximum rating even in temperatures reaching 104 F.
It doesn’t hurt that both the product’s using and install processes are straightforward, either. In fact, I found both tasks to be an absolute breeze during my experience with the device. The included directions being easy to read and follow certainly helped as well.
A lot of buyers complimented on Outback’s customer service, too, which is a rarity in the consumer world. Honestly, I couldn’t find a single person willing to give their client service a bad review.
8. ALLPOWERS 20A RV Solar Charger Controller
If you’re looking for an affordable option, buying the ALLPOWERS 20A RV Solar Charger Controller should be considered. It’s actually among the least expensive options on our entire list and doesn’t lack when it comes to high-quality features, either.
One of these features is the product’s easy install process. Numerous buyers even noted this product’s installation as a much simpler task than their prior controllers. Some were even shocked by how easy it was, considering the price tag.
I was also impressed by this product’s ability to offer top-flight heat dissipation. This aspect is essential because it keeps the core temperature down to avoid overheating. Due to this, the product can run effectively without any issues.
The two USB ports aren’t anything to overlook as well. Both these ports will become incredibly useful by ensuring you can help charge various products. It’s another aspect that points to ALLPOWERS’ willingness to make their products user-friendly.
You should also find yourself enjoying the product’s LCD display and multiple built-in protections. These features are vital in ensuring a safe and easy using process for whoever’s lucky enough to buy this fantastic product.
But even with all these great features, the central standout remains its price tag. Bargain buyers should be jumping at the chance to purchase this model from ALLPOWERS. It’s truly an impressive but affordable charger controller.
9. Onesolar 60A MPPT Solar Charge Controller
Onesolar’s 60A MPPT Solar Charge Controller is an easy contender to win the title of best MPPT charge controller for the money. It gains this status with features like its real-time energy stats function, which keeps users fully aware of everything relevant to the charging process.
This feature makes it easy to see operating data and the working condition of the device. Of course, its clear and readable LCD display is helpful in this aspect. Both of these traits work together to make this model practical for the person using it.
I was also intrigued by this product’s ability to work with 12V, 24V, and 48V solar panels. This aspect makes the product a usable tool for a wide selection of rig owners. In each of these situations, the product’s MPPT technology usage has made it more than sufficient.
You don’t have to worry about safety issues, either, as it’s loaded with built-in protections: short-circuit, reverse polarity, overload, over-discharge, overcharge, overheating, and under-voltage. In other words, anything capable of going wrong has been accounted for by this Onesolar device.
Aside from its impressive performance, I was happy to see this model provides a bit of color choice. It might not seem like a big deal, but I always find it helpful to have some style options even with these devices. It’ll ensure you don’t have to deal with something you hate looking at during your RVing trips.
10. Renogy Rover 40 Amp MPPT 12V/24V Solar Charge Controller
You shouldn’t be surprised to see another Renogy, given the quality of their previous two, on our list. Renogy’s Rover 40 Amp MPPT 12V/24V Solar Charge Controller separates itself from these other two models using MPPT tech.
As a result, buyers can expect better results from this model than the previous Renogy options. I was also pleased with the device’s ability to work with both 12V and 24V solar power systems.
The product’s four-stage charging process could benefit both system types greatly. In fact, it’ll work with the device’s ability to compensate for temperature to ensure your battery’s lifespan lasts much longer. Plus, it’ll increase your system’s overall performance.
You should also know this model is compatible with numerous deep cycle battery types, including lithium, flooded, gel, and sealed. It’s clear that this device from Renogy is ready to utilize its stellar MPPT tech in various situations without issue.
Other than these features, this device comes equipped with everything I’ve come to expect from a charge controller from this brand. These features consist of an LCD screen, LED indicators, aluminum heat sink, and Bluetooth capability.
I don’t see a single absent feature which I would want within this model. This brand did an excellent job covering all the bases in what a rig owner could need in a solar charge controller. It doesn’t hurt that it’s easy to set up and use, either.
11. Xantrex 40-amp Solar Charge Controller
The Xantrex 40-amp Solar Charge Controller does its job without providing the user any difficulty or trouble. It can offer this benefit due to its reputation for having a quick and simple installation process.
I was slightly shocked by how easy it was because this model does contain some advanced features. But the directions were clear, precise, and easy to follow for even a person who isn’t great with electronics like me.
Beside this simple install, I was also happy with this product’s powerful microprocessor that increases and maximizes your battery’s lifespan. You can rest easy knowing this aspect is built with stability in mind and has a low noise operation level.
The product’s 3-stage battery charging cycle is another appealing trait. This cycle will ensure that the current settings and voltage match your battery’s state of charge accurately. Due to this, the charging process will be as fast as possible and keep your battery in peak shape for longer.
You should find comfort in this product’s meeting both UL and cUL safety standards as well. These certifications prove the device went through extensive testing before being released onto the market. It’s another layer of safety precaution to ensure nothing dangerous occurs from its usage.
Buyers will also be impressed by its ability to work with 12V, 24V, or 48V systems. In each of these situations, the product’s PWM technology has been proven to be more than adequate in monitoring a solar power system’s charging process.
12. Sunway Solar Panels 12V Solar Charge Controller
Rig owners who don’t intend to use their solar power all the time might think about getting Sunway Solar Panels’ 12V Solar Charge Controller. It’s a simple, practical device capable of tracking your solar system’s charging process with ease.
Most buyers end up enjoying the easiness of this product’s install process. This attribute comes from its versatile quick connect and disconnect clips. These clips ensure attaching the controller onto your solar panels and battery doesn’t require much effort.
I found this product’s LED indicators to be appealing as well. These indicators will tell a user when the battery’s either experiencing low voltage (green), charging effectively (yellow) or having high voltage issues (red).
These three indicators make the monitoring much more straightforward than expected on a low-priced model like this one. The product’s ABS plastic housing makes it more durable than anticipated as well.
I couldn’t believe people were praising the product for being rather tough in their reviews. Honestly, an adjective like tough isn’t what I expect when examining a bargain buy, such as this device from Sunway Solar Panels.
But again, the main attractions with this model come from its easy using process and affordable price. Bargain buyers shouldn’t sit on their hands and let this deal pass. It’s almost too good to be true, given the product’s stable features and performance.
13. Go Power! GP-PWM-30-Amp Solar Regulator
If you’re looking for a highly functional PWM type controller, Go Power! ‘s GP-PWM-30-Amp Solar Regulator might be a perfect choice. It comes with an extensive list of outstanding features, which any rig owner would find appealing.
One of these features is the product’s built-in USB charging port. This aspect got me excited because it ensures you can charge all sorts of devices, ranging from phones to laptops. It provides a bit more versatility than you might expect from a charge controller.
The product’s 4-stage charging process is another feature which caught my eye. It’ll prevent any overcharging from occurring when you charge your rig’s batteries. You can attribute this benefit to the vital fourth stage of equalization.
Its equalization stage will make sure every cell inside a battery bank gets charged at the same rate, which will ensure undercharging or overcharging isn’t an issue. This results in your batteries working for a more extended period and more productively.
Buyers were over-the-moon about this product’s LCD display as well. In fact, many of them made a point to praise it for being more user-friendly than their previous models. It’s always nice when one of these devices makes tracking the charging process an easy task.
I should also point out this product can work with various battery types, including lithium, wet cell, gel, and AGM batteries. It’s just another aspect which shows this model’s overall versatility and convenience.
14. Renogy Adventurer 12V/24V PWM Charge Controller
Buyers looking for an option with easy-mounting capabilities need to consider Renogy’s Adventurer 12V/24V PWM Charge Controller. It was designed to flush mount right onto a camper or motorhome’s walls.
You should also love this product’s versatility as it’s capable of working with sealed, flooded, or gel batteries. Plus, it offers 12V and 24V compatibility to increase further the number of situations where it could be used effectively.
I found the product’s 4-stage charging more than sufficient as well. This four-stage process will help prevent batteries from suffering issues like over-charging and over-discharging. It’s a simple way to improve your battery’s longevity and performance within a motorhome.
As with our prior options, it has built-in protections to stop any further issues: overload, short-circuit, overcharging, and reverse polarity. The product even comes with a self-diagnostic system to add another layer of protection against system faults or install mistakes.
You can rest easy knowing that this model is more than capable of dealing with whatever issue presents itself. As a result, I think it’s fair to say Renogy managed to cover most of the aspects a buyer would be looking for in these devices.
The price tag doesn’t hurt the device’s case, either. It should fall right into the range of any realistic budget for a PWM solar charge controller. I wouldn’t have any issues spending this amount of money on the production and versatility offered by this device.
Solar Charge Controller for RV Buyer’s Guide
Buying an RV solar charge controller can be a hectic process, which requires a lot more thought than people might imagine. In fact, several crucial factors will play a significant role in determining what one suits your needs perfectly.
I’ll discuss these factors below to ensure a customer knows what the best solar charge controllers should look like and offer. As a result, picking the right choice will become a much more relaxed and simple task.
Charge Controller’s Amp Rating
One of the first factors to consider would be each product’s amp rating. This aspect comes into play because it’ll tell the highest amps can be outputted toward your batteries. For example, a person with 100-watt solar panels containing six amps of power wouldn’t want a 10-amp charge controller.
This situation would end up requiring an amperage need, which the charge controller couldn’t meet. In other words, your two 6-amp solar panels would create 12 amps, and the controller would only utilize 10.
It ends up being a waste, which isn’t what any rig owner will want. I’d suggest buying a solar controller with an amp rating 25% higher than your solar panel’s max power to avoid this issue.
This 25% wiggle room will help prepare for when solar panels produce more energy than the expected output. It tends to happen a lot more than people think during their RVing trips. You’ll want to have all the tools necessary to take advantage of it. Plus, this extra 25% will let you add additional solar panels down the road.
On/Off Button or Switch
Some charge controllers won’t come with one of the most convenient features available: an on/off button or switch. It might sound like a necessary design aspect, but a few options won’t come with them. If you’re anything like me, I’d suggest avoiding these products like the plague.
The reason behind it being essential is simple to understand. An on/off switch allows you to shut the device without removing the fuse at the battery. Therefore, this feature makes using the product much easier for an RV owner.
It ends up being an aspect that nobody should overlook during this process. So please, make sure your chosen RV solar charge controller has one before buying. It won’t be a decision any rig owner will find themselves regretting.
Another factor worth considering would be each product’s adjustability. Honestly, I’d recommend ensuring your chosen product has a feature called an adjustable charging voltage set point. It’ll allow a user to tinker with voltage during the panel’s charging process hinging on battery type: gel, AGM, or flooded lead-acid.
Rig owners who find themselves confused about the right voltage should contact the manufacturer for further information on their battery. These companies will have no issues providing the info needed to make the perfect adjustment.
In any case, the inclusion of an adjustable changing voltage setpoint will make the charging process easier and more efficient. Every single top-tier option will likely have this feature in its repertoire.
Does It Have a Dry Camp/Shore Power Switch?
Any rig owner would be wise to look for an option containing a dry camp/shore power switch. It’ll allow you to change your battery’s charge setpoint between standby mode and max power. As a result, you’ll be able to maximize the charging process’s efficiency.
Rig owners should switch to max power when adventuring away from an RV park or campground. Basically, max power would be the right choice whenever you’re apart from a shore power source.
If you’re using shore power, you’d be better off going with standby mode. This mode will also be useful when storing your rig for long periods by maintaining your batteries. Given this info, you can see why this feature is considered a must for any top-flight option.
Durability will always play a role in buying devices like a solar charge controller. You’re going to want an option capable of providing excellent results for many years. Due to this, buyers should examine what materials went into making their chosen model.
I’d suggest reading both the product description and customer reviews for each product to determine their durability. These resources should provide everything you need to decide whether it’ll hold up for the long haul.
What About a Battery Temperature Sensor?
Most high-quality charge controllers will have designs, which include a battery temperature sensor. What does this aspect do? It’ll make sure your batteries won’t ever become over or undercharged to ensure peak efficiency.
Battery temperature sensors will provide this by examining your battery’s temperature and adjusting the charging setpoint accordingly. This action ensures problematic issues, such as excessive water loss or plate sulfation, don’t rear their ugly heads.
In other words, a battery temperature sensor will be another feature working to keep your batteries in good condition. It also doesn’t hurt that this aspect will ensure your batteries always remain at the perfect charging level.
Each product’s price tag will play a role in your final choice as well. Some of these solar charge controllers can be rather costly, which makes having a well-constructed budget a necessity. It’s essential to think about what you want from one and determine acceptable budget ranges based on your wants.
For instance, someone who wants to buy an option with a battery temperature sensor will need to pay extra. Your budget should reflect this increase to ensure it remains realistic. This tool can make the entire process more manageable by limiting your choices.
You should then have a much easier time wading through all the options available. After all, the budget will make sure you’re picking from choices catered to your needs. It’ll make for a more effective buying process.
Solar Charge Controller FAQs
Our FAQ section will attempt to cover and answer any remaining questions within your mind. It should be the last resource needed to make a responsible decision during this process. After reading this section, the right choice should be rather clear.
Who is this for?
The first thing to know about a solar charge controller is these devices function as your RV solar system’s heart. It’ll ensure everything within these systems works correctly and productively. It’s capable of fitting into this role because it regulates voltage and current coming from your solar panels.
In doing so, these charge controllers will prevent your batteries from becoming overcharged. If you don’t have one, your batteries won’t charge correctly and might end up damaged. It’ll at least shorten their lifespan by a sizable margin.
This ability makes them a must-buy for anyone looking to use solar panels during their RVing trips. Of course, this statement doesn’t refer to people using smaller panels, which are considered trickle chargers.
Advantages and disadvantages of using an RV solar charge controller
One of the main issues with having an RV solar power system is dealing with unpredictable weather conditions. It’s a variable nobody but mother nature can control or predict, regardless of what some weatherman/weatherwoman says.
As a result, weather conditions cause solar energy to be somewhat unreliable. The power provided by it actually depends on many factors, such as season, location, time of day, etc.
These various factors will result in some periods where your rig’s solar panels can’t provide enough power to properly charge your battery. In other cases, the sun might be a little too powerful and offer an energy surge ensuring your panels work at maximum performance.
Both of these cases would cause an amount of solar energy problems, which could end up damaging your rig’s batteries or battery. For instance, a lack of energy could cause an ultra-low discharge that’ll shorten a battery’s lifespan.
On the other hand, an overwhelming amount of solar energy might cause your battery to overheat, excessively reducing its lifespan. These types of scenarios aren’t something a rig owner wants to deal with on their trips.
This issue is where having a solar charge controller comes in handy. It’ll be placed between your solar panels and battery to control the amount of energy your battery gets. Therefore, it’ll make sure the battery doesn’t have a low discharge rate or experience overheating.
You can now understand what benefits come from owning one of these devices. It’s an adequate way to make sure your rig’s solar energy system runs with a top-tier capability for a long time.
As for disadvantages, I can’t come up with a single reason why any solar energy RVer wouldn’t want or need one. But these products will be an additional cost rig owners have to account for in their respective budgets.
How to size your solar charge controller?
Many RVers assume selecting a solar charge controller’s size is complicated. Honestly, it seemed a little overwhelming when I first looked at these products. But the entire process only requires dividing your solar system’s wattage by the battery’s voltage.
The result will be the amps your solar charge controller needs to work effectively. You can then use this information to narrow down the available options significantly.
So let’s say you have a 12-volt battery and an 800-watt solar system onboard your rig. Sadly, this setup needs a 66.7 amp solar charge controller. I can imagine a little bit of panic just invaded your mind as it’s clear that no manufacturer makes a 66.7 amp model.
What does a person who finds themselves in this situation? It’s a simple matter of rounding up the amperage. You’ll want to choose a 70 amp or even 80 amp model with excellent solar charge controller reviews.
A perfect fit would be Outback Flexmax’s 80 AMP Solar Charge Controller. This top solar charge controller will be more than capable of meeting our needs. Furthermore, it allows some wiggle room to expand our solar array down the road.
Do you always need a solar charge controller?
It depends on your particular situation. In fact, determining whether you need a solar charge controller will rely solely on your panel’s output. The easiest way to figure it out is by dividing your battery’s AH capacity by the panel’s max amp rating.
Finding these two pieces of information should be easy. The amp-hour capacity rating is usually written on your battery’s exterior or on top of it. Meanwhile, the panel max amp rating will be found on its packaging or within its manual.
If you divide these two numbers and the total is over 200, a charge controller for lithium ion battery or another battery type isn’t needed. But RV owners don’t often find themselves in this situation.
Instead, they often get a total below 200, so a charge controller is necessary for their solar system.
Another way to make this process easy is by following this simple guideline: any panel that puts out 4 watts or fewer for every 100 battery AH won’t need one.
Can you use more than one charge controller?
RV owners can use more than one charge controller within certain situations. Of course, this issue will arise when people are looking to expand their rig’s solar system.
It often makes them freak out when they realize their budget solar charge controller can’t handle the system’s output anymore.
So rig owners must purchase one or two more controllers to meet their needs. They also have to ensure the new devices are the same types of solar charge controllers as the old one. Otherwise, it could cause performance issues that nobody wants their solar system to experience.
But don’t settle for the cheapest or a DIY solar charger controller. Your additional models also need to be high-quality choices. It’s the only way to ensure your solar system ends up meeting your high expectations.
How big of a solar charge controller do I need?
RV owners tend to get a little bent out of shape when deciding what size solar charge controller is needed for their situation. But I promise the process of figuring it out isn’t as complex as you might expect. Honestly, it ends up being rather easy to figure out with the right guidance.
The first thing to know is these controllers are rated based on two factors, your solar array’s current (amps) and the voltage of your rig’s solar system. Due to this, buyers will need an option that’s large enough to handle the power and current provided by your solar energy system.
In most cases, buyers will need a controller with one of the following volt ratings: 12, 24, and 48. But it’s essential to note there are devices available with volt ratings ranging all the way from 6 volts to 60 bolts.
Likewise, their amperage ratings will range between 1-amp and 60 amps. This amount of variation is where people tend to get more confused than necessary. After all, it’s a large variety of choices to choose from for a consumer.
But again, there’s no need to worry as figuring out what’s right for you isn’t tricky. For instance, a rig owner with an RV solar system containing 14-amp and 12-volt ratings will require a charge controller with at least 14 amps.
You’ll also need to factor in other factors: light reflection, sporadic increase current levels appearing, etc. But you can deal with this issue by buying a model with an amp rating of at least 25% higher than what your solar system contains.
As a result, a 14-amp system would require a charge controller of at least 17.5 amps. I’d suggest buying a 12V model with a 20-amp rating to run your system. After all, you’ll need to round up a bit because no manufacturer will make a 17.5-amp device.
But doesn’t this extra amperage hurt your solar system? It doesn’t, as experts will often suggest buying one with more than a few additional amps. This action will let you add more solar panels without issue.
Which is better, PWM or MPPT?
You’ve likely come across these two acronyms during your search, PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking). We used them to separate charge controllers into two types.
As you might expect, each type has situations where they would be more effective options than the other. I’m going to discuss both kinds below to ensure you know what fits your situation best.
PWM (Pulse Width Modulation)
PWM solar charge controllers are considered the older models within this market. Due to this, these devices are often much cheaper than MPPT models. These controllers work by regulating both the voltage and current flowing from your solar panel into the rig’s battery.
This PWM charge controller will then determine the amount of current your battery needs based on its voltage size. Once this voltage reaches the battery, it’ll separate from the panel and maintain your battery at the required voltage point.
Aside from a useful working process, these devices are known for reducing the risk of overcharging. But these products do have one large flaw when compared to MPPT options. They can only provide enough solar energy to reach a battery’s voltage requirement.
This flaw results in any energy produced over the requirement being wasted. PWM models end up not being the most efficient due to this issue. Buyers should only consider these devices when they want something simple and don’t have a lot of money to spend.
MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking)
As I previously mentioned, MPPT models are considered the more advanced type of solar charge controllers. This status comes from them being much more efficient than their PWM rivals. But explaining how they work is a little more difficult.
The first thing to know is your solar panels will produce more voltage on those gorgeous sunny days than your battery can handle. MPPT models are designed to deal with this issue by converting this extra voltage into additional current.
These devices will then utilize this additional current at a lower voltage, without losing any power. As a result, a rig owner can use their solar panel’s max power to charge a battery much more productively.
It’s also essential to note MPPT options are more capable and better suited for dealing with solar systems with higher voltages. You’ll want to buy this type when your voltage ratings on your solar panels and battery don’t match as well. PWM devices won’t work in this particular situation.
But one flaw does come with these all excellent benefits. The price tags on these devices are far more costly than PWM models. This issue makes it pivotal to think about how much you intend to use solar power during your trip.
If you plan on using it regularly, I don’t see how anyone could think it’d be wise to buy anything other than an MPPT option. Short-term solar power users would do better off with PWM devices, which won’t cause a massive dent in their bank account.
How many watts can a 30 amp charge controller handle?
It’ll depend on what model a customer ends up buying. In most cases, you can expect the max watt input of a 30-amp controller to be anywhere between 450 watts and 600 watts. Please ensure to check each product’s description for this aspect before making a final purchase.
How to install?
The installation process will vary from controller to controller. People might need to mount them alongside the solar panel, inside the rig with your battery, or outside their RV with the battery. Some may even need to install it as a different component located away from the panels and battery, but still connected to them.
In any case, the transmission losses should be minimized in a stand-alone system like an RV. This benefit comes from the generation of your rig’s panels being limited to electricity consumption provided by the load connected.
I would also suggest keeping the charge controller away from any heat generating equipment or moving parts. After all, this device is one of the essential parts of your RV’s solar system. It’s best to keep potential issues to a minimum.
Overall, a solar charge controller’s design will ultimately depend on your rig’s interior design and architecture. These aspects have a massive impact on the location and commissioning of a rig’s solar system and its parts.
How to use?
Solar charge controllers are considered the “brain” of your rig’s solar system. It’ll work in conjunction with the other parts to generate electricity for the rig by managing your battery’s discharge and recharge processes.
In particular, these devices will regulate and track the voltage and current, depending on your battery’s requirement. But the actual using process will depend on your chosen model. Some of these models come with an easy-to-use interface, containing buttons that control the adjustment process.
You’ll also encounter options with Bluetooth capabilities, which allow you to control everything from your phone. The using process does really change from product to product.
Any care and maintenance tips?
Taking care of a solar charge controller doesn’t take much work. It’s a simple process of checking its wire connections once a year and making sure they’re clean/secure. Outside of this task, there isn’t much to it.
You’ve now gained everything needed to make a smart, responsible choice about what’s the best solar charge controller for RV. At this point, it becomes an exercise of utilizing what you’ve learned and applying during your search.
Finding the right one should become rather easy from there. But if a question or two pops up, don’t hesitate to let me know in our comment section. I’ll make sure to answer your post as quickly as possible. Thanks for reading!
Hi, I am Dane Heldt, a full-time RVer since 2016. I am always passionate about building and joining an RV community where people share their love for RV lives. This blog is a dream of mine, as I can finally share my experiences to help people who want to start living differently. So, feel free to reach out to me!