What are the different types of RV/Boat solar charge controllers?

What are the different types of RV/Boat solar charge controllers?
Wilson Wang

As you sift through all the solar charge controllers on the market, you’ll probably keep coming across two acronyms: MPPT and PWM. These stand for Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) and Pulse Width Modulation(PWM).

These two acronyms are how we classify solar charge controllers into types. We’ll go over the critical details about each one below to ensure you know, which one is the right option for you.

Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)

These devices are the older models when it comes to solar charge controllers. It shouldn’t be a surprise they’re often cheaper as well. Understanding how these products work is rather simple: you see a PWM solar charge controller will regulate the current and voltage flowing from solar panel to your battery.

In doing so, it’ll provide enough current to the battery that it requires for its voltage size. After the right voltage has reached your battery, it’ll detach it from the panel and ensures the battery maintains the voltage point. Nothing too complicated, right?

We should also mention that while these devices are useful tools at preventing overcharging; it does have a significant disadvantage compared to an MPPT controller. You see these devices only supply enough energy to hit your battery’s voltage requirement.

Due to this, any energy produced after it meets this requirement is lost; therefore, these models aren’t the most efficient. Overall, these devices represent a good option when you’re in a bind and need something to get the job done at a low cost.

Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT)

MPPT solar charge controllers feature better technology than their PWM counterparts and work much more efficiently as a result. But it also means their operation is harder to explain as it’s a bit more complicated.

You see solar panels often generate more voltage during sunny days than your RV battery can handle, which is where an MPPT solar charge controller comes in handy. It can convert this extra voltage into more current.

It will then use this extra current at a lower voltage and does it without losing any power. With this ability, you can use your solar panel’s full power to charge your battery efficiently. And this useful quality isn’t the only one these devices offer.

MPPT solar charge controllers are also better suited for batteries and solar panels with higher voltages. Plus, you must understand that this type is the correct choice when your battery’s voltage and the solar panel’s voltage doesn’t match. In these circumstances, a PWM device will not work.

But it’s not all positives with these devices as these charge controllers are much more expensive than your standard PWM type. With this in mind, it’s essential you evaluate how frequently you’re going to rely on solar energy.

If you plan on using solar energy all the time, it’d be a wise move to spend the extra money on a high-quality MPPT model. But if you only plan on using your solar panels only during a summer trip, a PWM device would be the better option. MPPT hardware is more complex, High cost

How to Determine the PWM or MPPT Solar Controller

There are PWM and MPPT solar controllers in the market. The price gap is very large. Be careful about the fake MPPT that you buy.

we will briefly introduce the judgment PWM or MPPT solar controller:

When you connect the solar panel solar controller and battery, the system works normally. Use a multimeter to measure the output voltage of the PV terminal on the controller. If the PV output voltage is the same as the battery voltage, it is a PWM solar controller.

If the PV output voltage changes continuously, it is close to the solar panel parameter output V (max) / V (mp) voltage value, so that is MPPT controller

Why do you need a solar charge controller for OFF-Grid System /RV/Boat?

Weather conditions aren’t something people can control. We like to think that we’re capable of predicting them correctly; but let’s face it, a lot of the time we’re wrong. And this means solar energy is somewhat unreliable as well.

You see solar energy might be an excellent renewable resource, but the power provided by the sun can vary tremendously based on several factors: location, time of day, season, etc. As a result, there will be periods when your solar panels can’t gather enough energy to charge your RV’s battery effectively.

And there will be other times where the sun’s bright, away from clouds, and capable of providing a surge of energy that makes your solar panels work at their peak performance. Both of these scenarios create an amount of energy that can cause damage to your RV’s battery.

For instance, a total lack of solar energy might lead to an extremely low discharge that reduces your battery’s lifespan. Meanwhile, an excessive amount of power could lead to your battery overheating, which could also reduce its lifespan.

These outcomes aren’t something anybody using solar panels wants. And it’s why you need a solar charge controller. This device will sit between your battery and solar panels to control the energy your battery receives.

Therefore, it’ll ensure your battery doesn’t overheat or have such a low discharge rate that it ends up causing damage. Overall, it’ll make sure your RV’s solar energy system runs efficiently for years to come.

And that’s all you need to know about why these devices are such an essential purchase for an RVer using solar panels. Given this information, you can see why getting one these devices should be near the top of the list for an RVer using solar panels.

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