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Old 02-11-2014, 07:28 AM   #1
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Best Solar Charge Controller? And Series vs Parallel Wiring

My Xantrex XW Solar Chrg Controller (MPPT) with remote was problematic (probably because it was designed for much larger grid-tied systems). In 2012, when it failed just within the 5 year warranty, I had it replaced with a new unit which I sold new in box on ebay to a guy in England for $500.

So, any suggestions for a solar charger? I have four BP 380J pv panels fixed on the roof. The electrical characteristics of each BP 380 panel are:

Maximum power (Pmax) 80W
Voltage at Pmax (Vmp) 17.6V
Current at Pmax (Imp) 4.5A
Warranted minimum Pmax 76W
Short-circuit current (Isc) 4.8A
Open-circuit voltage (Voc) 22.1V
Solar Cells 36 cells (125mm x 125mm) in a 4x9 matrix connected in series

At this point I don't remember if I wired the panels in series or parallel, but series seems familiar.
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Old 02-11-2014, 07:52 AM   #2
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Re: Best Solar Charger?

Quote:
Originally Posted by E350
At this point I don't remember if I wired the panels in series or parallel, but series seems familiar.
Well that would make all the difference in a suggestion for a new controller. If you do have them in series you would probably be much better off if they were parallel. It also may explain problematic issues, especially if they were in areas of possible shade.

I have a Morningstar controller that I a happy with.

-greg
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:39 AM   #3
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Best Solar Charger?

Many have gone with a blue sky controller with the display panel to monitor things, a more expensive route. My solar guy recommended the Morningstar as well for a simpler (less expensive) option, so far it does what it's supposed to do, without all the bells and whistles of the blue sky unit. Very easy to install
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Old 02-11-2014, 08:57 AM   #4
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Re: Best Solar Charger?

The way I see it, there are two philosophies; a combination solar controller/battery monitor, or separate solar controller and battery monitor.

FWIW, I had battery monitor installed in my teardrop, and I'm planning on a stand-alone solar controller. One of my primary motivations for going this route was that I was oing to exclusivley use portable solar for my teardrop, and most portable solar panels come with their own controllers. My philosophy has shifted a little since then and my current thinking is a portable solar panel without a controller, and then place the controller closer to the battery, but still not an "installed" solar controller.


Herb

Battery monitor that I have. Uses a shunt to measure the current into or out of the battery, and lets you know the 'time to (dis)charge' based on current usage.
http://www.amazon.com/Clipper-battery-m ... im_sbs_p_6
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Old 02-12-2014, 09:00 AM   #5
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Re: Best Solar Charger?

I would think key attributes to look for would be:
- make sure that your Voc and Isc ratings of the controller match that of your panels.
This is where the in series or parallel becomes important. It would also drive if you stayed with MPPT or went with PWM. Your panel Vmp is high enough that you could get some benefit from MPPT especially in cooler weather. If you keep them in series you have to go MPPT.
- at least a 3 stage charger (4 if you include equalization)
- different set points for absorption, float, and equalization. (can you match your battery type)
Programmable option would be even better

Additional items (especially if you are picky about the voltage levels for charging
- Battery sense wires, these are no load wires that measure the actual battery voltage, it has improved accuracy
-Temperature sensor, this will compensate the voltage levels based on temperature of battery.

As far as monitoring functions, it really depends on how much of a data junky you are. I would think at a minimal that I would like to be able to see PV voltage and current, some units will keep track of total power generated.

I would put myself in the category of having a separate battery monitor.

-greg
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Old 09-23-2014, 09:02 AM   #6
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Re: Best Solar Charger?

If you guys don't mind, I am bumping this old thread of mine because there is another thread regarding best solar controller on the forum right now and I still haven't purchased a solar charge controller, so maybe there can be some cross-pollination between the threads.

My four 80w panels create a total combined 320 watts so, since the 20 Amp Eco-worthy MPPT controller is 300 watt max, I wouldn't be able to use it? Additionally, although I updated my research, I still don't know whether or not wiring in series or parallel would be best given the particulars of my four solar panels.

Scalf77, et al.: I never understood your statement: "make sure that your Voc and Isc ratings of the controller match that of your panels."

So, when looking at the ratings on the controller to see if it matches my panel array:

1. Is Voc additive if I wire in series? (Like Vmp is additive if you wire in series.)

2. Is Isc additive if I wire in parallel?

3. And if I wire in parallel, at 4.5A x 4, at 18 amps total could I use a 20 Amp controller (assuming there is one which will handle 320 watts)? But if I add another panel (which I have just enough remaining room for), wouldn't I be over the 20 Amp limit at 22.5 Amps total?

Any help would be appreciated.
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:33 AM   #7
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Re: Best Solar Charge Controller? And Series vs Parallel Wi

You pretty much want to wire the panels in parallel for RV. This would also allow you to use both a PWM or MPPT controller. If you wire in series you would be forced to use a MPPT or you would be leaving a lot of power on the table.

Voc would be additive in series for the charger you are looking at you have a max oc voltage of 15 to 42 volts, wiring in parallel would not be a problem , if two were series it would put you at 44.2 v. The Isc current would be additive in parallel. In the case of your 20 amp controller, you would be under 20 amps.

The max solar panel power is rated at 300w at 12 volts, You may want confirm with them on what this means exactly , but your panels at 12 volts would only be putting out 54 watts per panel.

In a nut shell even if you interpret the spec like that, you are pretty close to being maxed out, which would be a good reason to move to a higher rated controller at least 30 amp.

With a Vmp of 17.6 you are close to getting something out of a MPPT controller, but a lot will depend on the installation, voltage loss from panel to controller and the temperature and location that you are in. The voltage of a panel will drop in higher temp, so as the voltage goes down there is little room for a MPPT controller to squeak and extra power out.

-greg
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Old 09-23-2014, 11:46 AM   #8
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Re: Best Solar Charge Controller? And Series vs Parallel Wi

Scalff77/greg: Thank you for your detailed reply. I know it takes time and I appreciate it.

I will re-wire to parallel.

As far as the solar charge controller goes, do you have a recommendation for a 30 Amp?

I will go with either a PWM or an MPPT based on your recommendation. So what say you?

And do you have a recommendation for make and model? I am a big boy and if for some reason it doesn't meet my expectations there will be no repercussions on you, and I really appreciate all the help you and others provide.

And BTW, BP has been out of the solar business for years. But I do regularly search craigslist for one more BP 380J and I will buy it when I find it and that will put me over the 20 Amp limit.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:24 PM   #9
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Re: Best Solar Charge Controller? And Series vs Parallel Wi

When I was shopping I emailed Blue Sky and Arizona Sun and Wind, and both companies were super helpful with advice..I ended up with a Blue Sky Sun Charger 30 with 3 100W panels.
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Old 09-23-2014, 12:52 PM   #10
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Re: Best Solar Charge Controller? And Series vs Parallel Wi

When I was looking for a controller, Blue Sky and Morningstar were both on the top of my list. I agree with Rallypanam Arizona Sun & Wind are extremely helpful, and have been in the business for a while, as opposed to trying capitalize on recent solar trends. It might be good to contact them and see what input they can give you, I expect you will be very happy with there input. I can certainly come up with a recommendation if you like, or review what options they give you. Arizona Sun & Wind has a great FAQ also.

-greg
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