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Old 02-01-2017, 18:59   #1
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MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

We need to replace a pair of recently installed MPPT solar controllers that are unreliable. We want to get it right this time.

Following the advice of those forum posters who say "buy one of the good brands" we are now looking at the Morningstar range. The Morningstar Tristar MPPTs have been around for a long time and get a good wrap from owners. However compared with the units we have they are physically very large and heavy, consume a lot of power and do not have an inbuilt display/control screen. We are hoping to find a reliable, efficient unit without these downsides - yes we want it all! And hope we have found it in the new (how new I don't know) Morningstar Prostar MPPT 25A.

The Prostar MPPT series are smaller, lighter, consume less power and have an inbuilt LED display/ control. On the face of it they would seem to be an upgrade on the Tristar. Its the PS-MPPT-25M that we are looking at.

We want 1 controller per panel for redundancy. Both controllers to be wired to the same battery bank. Our requirement is for 2 x MPPT controllers to suit 2 x 327 watt panels (Sunpower E20) charging a single 675 ampHr 12v battery bank (3 x 225 ampHr Geltech gel batteries). STC open circuit voltage (Voc) of each panel is 64.9 V, STC rated voltage (Vmpp) of each panel is 54.7 V, STC rated current (Impp) is 5.98A.

Appreciate comment from anyone with experience or knowledge of the new Prostar MPPT range? Are they an upgrade on the Tristar or a lower quality to suit a different market segment?
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Old 03-01-2017, 03:54   #2
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

I'm also shopping for a new MPPT controller and will watch this thread closely. I've been impressed with two so far: the Outback Smart Harvest 20a MPPT (at only 99 dollars!) and the Blue Sky 3000i 25a (for the reasons below).

You might want to consider the Blue Sky 3000i (about US$270). It is programmable, displays a lot of data like voltage at panel and battery, amps out of panel and amps into battery etc. They are also designed to be used in parallel with multiple panels (they communicate data between them). Just another option to consider. As I don't have a battery monitor, I will probably go with this controller for the data it can give me on the state of my batteries.

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Old 03-01-2017, 04:29   #3
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Whichever you go with, buy double for backups and a tube of silicon glue to stick em on if the originals break down.
There's no shops out at sea, and my experience with solar panels on my campervan is that the controllers are UNRELIABLE.
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Old 03-01-2017, 05:05   #4
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Just a heads up, the OP is Australia and will probably find prices quite a bit higher than the US prices.

FWIW I am still happy with my Votronics regulator after a few years. It ticks all the OPs requirements but I concede it MAY be a budget brand.


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Old 03-01-2017, 06:12   #5
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Jill, I have run the same TS-MPPT-45 on two different motorhomes (650 watts) over the last four years and it has been perfect the entire time. I am now installing a new one on my boat.

In my opinion, running two controllers (for such a small PV array) just add's complexity as they must be connected to each other (networked) so they can work properly together. It would be less work to just go with one (larger) controller and carry a spare if you are that concerned about a failure. At least that way you would still have your total array available to you instead of only half of it. You will also spend more for two smaller controllers than one TS-MPPT-45/60 plus the $100 panel. Another plus, that panel is remote - you can put it somewhere convenient for viewing and bury the controller where you never have to see it.

Not relevant (IMO) but some of the MTBF guys will tell you that two of a thing is always less reliable than one (twice as many parts and all that). I think it is mostly an academic argument so only making the observation.

If you go with the PS controllers, be sure they can be networked.

Sorry, didn't attempt to answer your question. My understanding is that the TriStar line is the high end, ProStar is the middle ground, and SunSaver is entry level. I could be wrong.
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Old 03-01-2017, 09:37   #6
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

We have solar at home and we have a TS-60 with the optional display that plugs into the charge controller.
We will be getting a smaller unit for our sailboat, we do not need a 60amp controller for the boat.
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Old 03-01-2017, 10:16   #7
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

It may be useful info for some members to know the brand of the unreliable MPPT controller.
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Old 03-01-2017, 11:27   #8
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VICTRON BlueSolar

Have you checked the VICTRON BlueSolar series.
They have low consumption and reasonable prices and seems to have readout and programming via bluetooth and app.
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Old 04-01-2017, 02:42   #9
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Thanks for so many responses - the quest for the "best" solar controller is of interest to a lot of cruisers. And with electronics and solar generation improving all the time the "best" model is probably a newish model.

We all want reliability, optimal power harvest/conversion, compactness, low power consumption. And for me, built in display is on the wish list too. It's an option being offered by an increasing number of manufacturers.

To respond to those good enough to share their knowledge - the Victron Blue Solar (per Junk Viking) ticks many boxes but doesn't have a built in display. Votronics (per GILow, satisfied owner) does not meet my requirement that it be a well regarded brand. We have already invested in new gel batteries, high end panels (to optimise the use of the expensive frame to hold them!) and have decided its worth paying for efficient controllers to extract the most power.

We have done some more research today on the Prostar MPPT 25M (reading the extensive docs on Morningstar site and communicating with the local supplier) and it appears that this range is an update on the Tristar MPPT with more functions in a smaller package. As there is no 60 amp version we have no choice but to use one controller per panel. However this fits within our wish list as we like the ability to monitor each array separately. And yes to Undadar these units are designed to work in parallel - that is two controllers suppyling a single battery bank. And yes Tristar is still their highest spec range (150 Voc) but doesn't have the latest features. Prostar has slightly lower electrical specs but more than enough for the PV wattage we have. (see my OP).

It would still be good to get a report from anyone who has actual experience with a Prostar MPPT controller.
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Old 04-01-2017, 03:22   #10
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Quote:
Originally Posted by grjfield View Post
It may be useful info for some members to know the brand of the unreliable MPPT controller.
Jill posted about them on her other thread. They are the Jaycar house brand. I don't want to bag Jaycar, they are good for lots of stuff but Jill had a lot of problems with the regulators.

Jill is (correctly I believe) therefore not keen on trying my Votronics regulator. Once bitten, twice shy. I, on the other hand, am an electronics nerd so I am very happy to play on the electronics fringe. I am currently building my own wind generator regulator, which is,pretty nerdy.
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Old 04-01-2017, 09:22   #11
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Couple of things to consider.

The Tristar has a ethernet connection It also stores historical data. Connecting my computer through a router i can get real time data on maybe 20 parameters and historical on 15 or 20. I can see what has happened every day since installation. To date over 300,000 amp hours.

Would be more convenient with the optional remote panel, but has not been a problem. I did install a meters in the salon so I can monitor the net battery amperage and voltage, which is pretty much all I need on a continously basis.

2. My panels total 720 watts wired in parallel. The Tristar 60 has a programable limit which I set at 59 amps. It has only been invoked a few times over 4 or 5 years. The point is that you almost never see full rated output. By the time the sun is high enough for high output the battery voltage is such that the controller is already putting out fewer amps. I can't imagine that the Tristar 60 couldn't handle your panels as I've never had a problem with my 720 watts.

Have been very happy with mine, but unless constantly updated by the company, it is an older design.

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Old 04-01-2017, 11:56   #12
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jill on Maya View Post
We need to replace a pair of recently installed MPPT solar controllers that are unreliable. We want to get it right this time.

Following the advice of those forum posters who say "buy one of the good brands" we are now looking at the Morningstar range. The Morningstar Tristar MPPTs have been around for a long time and get a good wrap from owners. However compared with the units we have they are physically very large and heavy, consume a lot of power and do not have an inbuilt display/control screen. We are hoping to find a reliable, efficient unit without these downsides - yes we want it all! And hope we have found it in the new (how new I don't know) Morningstar Prostar MPPT 25A.

The Prostar MPPT series are smaller, lighter, consume less power and have an inbuilt LED display/ control. On the face of it they would seem to be an upgrade on the Tristar. Its the PS-MPPT-25M that we are looking at.

We want 1 controller per panel for redundancy. Both controllers to be wired to the same battery bank. Our requirement is for 2 x MPPT controllers to suit 2 x 327 watt panels (Sunpower E20) charging a single 675 ampHr 12v battery bank (3 x 225 ampHr Geltech gel batteries). STC open circuit voltage (Voc) of each panel is 64.9 V, STC rated voltage (Vmpp) of each panel is 54.7 V, STC rated current (Impp) is 5.98A.

Appreciate comment from anyone with experience or knowledge of the new Prostar MPPT range? Are they an upgrade on the Tristar or a lower quality to suit a different market segment?
I am of the opinion that Morningstar is a good quality brand, but I also think they're overpriced for their output, and spending another $125 for a display is ridiculous. As for your question about the Prostar, it is a small step down from the TS series, but I think it's still overpriced.

I'd recommend the Victron 100/30 for about $225 ea. They sell a bluetooth dongle for about $50 and then you can view output and set parameters wirelessly via your phone, tablet or laptop.

Victron also has a nice range of other electronics that all interface with each other, in case you're looking for a BMS, inverter/charger, etc that all communicate as a complete system.
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Old 04-01-2017, 15:02   #13
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

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Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
I am of the opinion that Morningstar is a good quality brand, but I also think they're overpriced for their output, and spending another $125 for a display is ridiculous. As for your question about the Prostar, it is a small step down from the TS series, but I think it's still overpriced.

I'd recommend the Victron 100/30 for about $225 ea. They sell a bluetooth dongle for about $50 and then you can view output and set parameters wirelessly via your phone, tablet or laptop.

Victron also has a nice range of other electronics that all interface with each other, in case you're looking for a BMS, inverter/charger, etc that all communicate as a complete system.
Victron is tempting - respected brand, compact, price and interface options for the future. It also has a separate digital readout monitor/control gauge option. But I don't think it meets our panel (Sunpower E20/327) requirements as the Victron 100/30 specs say input voltage is capped at 40 volts and our panels have a Vmpp of 54.7 V (Voc of 64.9V). Please correct me if Ive got this wrong but I think this means that when our panels are operating at maximum power the controller would either reduce the power it accepts or maybe even shut down. (Do you know which?) Unfortunately not all controller brands include a specification for both maximum panel Voc and maximum input voltage.
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Old 04-01-2017, 20:43   #14
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Quote:
Originally Posted by socaldmax View Post
I am of the opinion that Morningstar is a good quality brand, but I also think they're overpriced for their output, and spending another $125 for a display is ridiculous. As for your question about the Prostar, it is a small step down from the TS series, but I think it's still overpriced.

I'd recommend the Victron 100/30 for about $225 ea. They sell a bluetooth dongle for about $50 and then you can view output and set parameters wirelessly via your phone, tablet or laptop.

Victron also has a nice range of other electronics that all interface with each other, in case you're looking for a BMS, inverter/charger, etc that all communicate as a complete system.
I agree, Victron is an excellent controller at a very reasonable price. They also have an optional display/programmer shown below. Not only does it display amps into batteries but it allows full adjustment of any Victron MPPT controller. Adjustments shown below as well.





Also you do not need the controllers to network if using 2 or more. The controllers see battery voltage and work together just fine. Just like you have no problem with solar and alternator charging.

In the area I am in the Morningstar 15 amp MPPT sells for almost twice the price of the comparable but more adjustable Victron 15 amp MPPT controller.
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Old 04-01-2017, 20:49   #15
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Re: MPPT solar controller: Morningstar Prostar v Tristar

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jill on Maya View Post
Victron is tempting - respected brand, compact, price and interface options for the future. It also has a separate digital readout monitor/control gauge option. But I don't think it meets our panel (Sunpower E20/327) requirements as the Victron 100/30 specs say input voltage is capped at 40 volts and our panels have a Vmpp of 54.7 V (Voc of 64.9V). Please correct me if Ive got this wrong but I think this means that when our panels are operating at maximum power the controller would either reduce the power it accepts or maybe even shut down. (Do you know which?) Unfortunately not all controller brands include a specification for both maximum panel Voc and maximum input voltage.
The Victron 100/30 will handle 100 volts open circuit voltage and 440 watts of panel(s) in a 12 volt system. Hence the product designation. I am a Victron distributor.

https://www.victronenergy.com/upload...-100-50-EN.pdf

The link is to the specs of both the 100/30 and the 100/50 controllers.
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