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 Solar controller
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Enchantment II
1st Mate

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USA
76 Posts

Initially Posted - 01/09/2020 :  12:33:06  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Any suggestions on selecting a Solar Controller? I plan on using it on a flexible solar panel . I know that I need to know the panel capability. I want to use it on a gap 27 battery. What should I look for?

Joseph Henderson

Edited by - Enchantment II on 01/13/2020 10:10:10

Davy J
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
1487 Posts

Response Posted - 01/09/2020 :  17:14:13  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
I wont go into all the details, but I just replaced all of my solar panels and the controllers.

I went with the Victron SmartSolar MPPT controllers.

You can connect your phone through Bluetooth, with the app you can see more info about the relationship of you panel to your battery than you may ever need to know.

The app shows, panel wattage, panel voltage, amps at panel, battery voltage, amps at battery and state of charge, bulk, absorption, float. Also shows graphical history and trends. Other controllers may have these capabilities, but Im pretty impressed with Victron so far.

Davy J


2005 Gemini 105Mc
PO 1987 C25 #5509 SR/SK
Tampa Bay
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Voyager
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4458 Posts

Response Posted - 01/10/2020 :  03:24:32  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Hi Joseph,
It seems like DavyJ got a very nice controller. For cruisers and live aboards with a large bank (3-6) of batteries, this is a requirement. You need to be able to determine the full parameters of the panels and batteries at several times a day. The Bluetooth option is also very handy.

If, however, you have one or two 30 watt panels and one battery, you might not need all the bells and whistles.

There are two types of controllers. MPPT uses sophisticated electronics to take in the raw voltage and current from multiple panels and chop it up into pulses of energy to charge your battery like a 3 stage battery charger. It handles bulk, absorption and float phases of charging. This is really nice. They can handle currents up in the 10s of amps.

The simpler and less costly on-off type voltage regulators can handle up to about 7 amps or 120 watts in total (e.g.: four 30 A panels) very competently. They work by charging up your battery to about 13.6 VDC, then shutting off to allow the battery to settle back to about 12.8 V. As the battery drops a little more, it switches back on and the cycle repeats. This is a very good charging process for the batteries, however any power generated during the OFF period is wasted.

So if you have one battery, or even two, and a few small solar panels, a low cost on-off regulator will fit the bill. If you go over 120W and more batteries, the MPPT controller is for you.

One note however, never run a 10W or more panel without a regulator or you could cook your battery.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain Milford, CT

Edited by - Voyager on 01/10/2020 06:03:10
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Davy J
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
1487 Posts

Response Posted - 01/10/2020 :  05:56:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Ill add that the smallest SmartSolar controller is the 75/10 model. It will handle single panels up to 100 watts. At around $ 108.00 its giving very good performance compared to the on-off models.




Davy J


2005 Gemini 105Mc
PO 1987 C25 #5509 SR/SK
Tampa Bay
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Voyager
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4458 Posts

Response Posted - 01/10/2020 :  06:05:10  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Id agree that for 100W, the MPPT unit is a great option, especially if you have at least two batteries. Its surprising how economical solar is becoming with mass adoption.

Bruce Ross
Passage ~ SR-FK ~ C25 #5032

Port Captain Milford, CT

Edited by - Voyager on 01/10/2020 06:06:31
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Enchantment II
1st Mate

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USA
76 Posts

Response Posted - 01/13/2020 :  10:11:23  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Stinkpotter

Good stuff here! Joseph: Would you edit your original post and correct the spelling of "Soler" in the topic header--it would be great if this showed up when somebody searches for topics on "Solar".

Thanks!


Joseph Henderson
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GaryB
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4120 Posts

Response Posted - 01/14/2020 :  20:43:40  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Who makes the best brand(s) of solar panels? Of those, which vendors have the best prices?


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GaryB
Andiamo
'89 SR/WK #5862
Kemah,TX
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Leon Sisson
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
1774 Posts

Response Posted - 01/14/2020 :  22:57:37  Show Profile  Visit Leon Sisson's Homepage  Reply with Quote
Here's a summary of my somewhat recent experience with solar panels and controllers on my Catalina 22.

Round 1:  A couple years ago, installed two 30W solar panels [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B06XVSKT15], a 10A charge controller [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01MU0WMGT], and a new deep cycle group 24 flooded cell battery.  Verified everything was up to spec when first installed.  After a promising start, the full sunlight output from the solar panels tapered off to almost nothing, ruining the battery.  That first controller also stopped limiting maximum charge current.  But, because of weak panel output, that wasn't obvious until after replacing one of the bad panels (below).

Round 2:  A year or so later (after unsuccessful attempt to get vendor to replace bad panels), bought two 18W solar panels [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07BD585LR], a different 10.A charge controller [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01J5A61B2], two power monitors, one for charging [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B017FSED9I] and one for discharging [https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B07KXCF8F8] (because each only tracks current flow in one direction), and another new group 24 flooded cell deep cycle battery.

So far, I've installed the controller, power monitors, one 18W solar panel, and the new battery.  I've been checking the system performance about once a week.  According to all three readouts, so far so good.  In daylight, battery voltage stays where I set the controller, slightly lower at night.  Battery seldom needs water.  The power monitors are overkill only got them for troubleshooting.

Types of charge controllers:  As others have pointed out, the two major types are pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT).  MPPT is far more efficient in converting sunlight into battery charge.

The basic difference is, PWM controllers only charge when solar panel output voltage is above battery voltage.  They waste energy above the regulated voltage, similar to linear voltage regulator integrated circuits, but with square wave output.

MPPT controllers act more like buck/boost switch-mode voltage converters, producing usable charge whenever panel output is above a few volts.  They can make use of morning and evening solar energy below the threshold voltage of PWM controllers.

If you'd like more details, including how to design and build your own micro-controller based MPPT solar controller, there is a lot of info out there on the Web.

Leon Sisson
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Davy J
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
1487 Posts

Response Posted - 01/15/2020 :  01:01:30  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
As far as the best solar panels and prices, my shopping criteria was more about the highest output for the space that I have to mount them.

I went from 225 watts of solar to 565 watts of solar in roughly the same space. Also the spaces that the panels are mounted, somewhat dictated the type of panel that could be used.

For me, my main panel is a rigid frame 365 watt LG with Victron 100/30 SmartSolar controller. The next two panels are mounted on my hardtop, they needed to be semi-flexible. They are Two Renogy 100 watt flexible panels, each using a Victron SmartSolar 75/10 controller.

I think the best way to judge a panels quality, is to look at the output for a given size. Sunpowers web site goes into a bit of detail on the cells that they use to obtain higher output than other mfgs same size panel.




Davy J


2005 Gemini 105Mc
PO 1987 C25 #5509 SR/SK
Tampa Bay
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GaryB
Master Marine Consultant

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USA
4120 Posts

Response Posted - 01/15/2020 :  19:33:31  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
Thanks guys. This should get me started on my research.


Association Member

GaryB
Andiamo
'89 SR/WK #5862
Kemah,TX
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sethp001
Mainsheet C-25 Tech Editor

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794 Posts

Response Posted - 01/16/2020 :  19:17:08  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by GaryB

Who makes the best brand(s) of solar panels? Of those, which vendors have the best prices?



Try renogy.com. I've been very pleased with their products and price points.

Renogy also sells the Sunpower flexible panels. When I contacted Sunpower last year, their minimum order was 10 panels. I recommend the Sunpower panels too.



Seth
"Outlier" 1987 Catalina 25 SR/SK/Traditional Interior #5541
"Zoo" 1977 Morgan Out Island 30
"Nomad" 1980 Prindle 16
"Lost" 1988 Catalina Capri 14.2 (sold - yay!)
"Marine Tex 1" Unknown Origin POS 8' Fiberglass Dinghy
https://whichsailboat.com/2014/07/27/catalina-25-review/

Edited by - sethp001 on 01/16/2020 19:38:21
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sethp001
Mainsheet C-25 Tech Editor

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794 Posts

Response Posted - 01/16/2020 :  19:28:54  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
quote:
Originally posted by Leon Sisson



Types of charge controllers: As others have pointed out, the two major types are pulse width modulation (PWM) and maximum power point tracking (MPPT). MPPT is far more efficient in converting sunlight into battery charge.

The basic difference is, PWM controllers only charge when solar panel output voltage is above battery voltage. They waste energy above the regulated voltage, similar to linear voltage regulator integrated circuits, but with square wave output.

MPPT controllers act more like buck/boost switch-mode voltage converters, producing usable charge whenever panel output is above a few volts. They can make use of morning and evening solar energy below the threshold voltage of PWM controllers.




MPPT controllers (like buck converters) cannot increase voltage. They only decrease voltage while increasing current.

MPPT controllers convert excess voltage into current by reducing excess voltage into higher current while the power transfer stays the same (P=IV).

The benefit kicks in when instead of wiring your solar panels in parallel, you wire them in series, increasing the voltage going to the controller. On cloudy days or when the sun is rising or falling, you can get high enough voltage for longer time to charge your batteries.



Seth
"Outlier" 1987 Catalina 25 SR/SK/Traditional Interior #5541
"Zoo" 1977 Morgan Out Island 30
"Nomad" 1980 Prindle 16
"Lost" 1988 Catalina Capri 14.2 (sold - yay!)
"Marine Tex 1" Unknown Origin POS 8' Fiberglass Dinghy
https://whichsailboat.com/2014/07/27/catalina-25-review/

Edited by - sethp001 on 01/16/2020 19:51:46
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cat25
Navigator

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USA
108 Posts

Response Posted - 01/18/2020 :  07:07:00  Show Profile  Reply with Quote
thinking of getting a genasun GV-5 12volt mppt charge controller. the cost is 72.95 0n amazon it is for lead acid batteries. was in sail magazine article seeing the light by peter nielsen. good article has mount for panel and magma bbq mount to adjust. good article. in sail magazine may 2014.

Ken
Chenango~
1990~TR~WK~C25~#6022
Stamford Ct/LI Sound
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