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Old 31-01-2016, 17:44   #1
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which mppt controller

Putting 2 285 w solar panels on the cat. Wiring up in parallel, so this is about 25W per controller. Trying to decide on 1 or 2 controllers and which brand. Was hoping to hear from the forum regarding reliability , ease of use, etc. Would gladly spend an extra $100 or 2 to know that it's going to work well for the next 10 years.

Looking at

- 2 25A Blue sky controllers https://www.emarineinc.com/Blue-Sky-...Controller-12V
- 1 Magnum 100 A controller (overkill, but would allow me to expand to another panel)
- 1 Morningstar 60A controller
- 1 Victron controller.

Appreciate you input, and comments as well. Thanks
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Old 31-01-2016, 18:43   #2
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Re: which mppt controller

I also installed two new 280w panels on my boat. At the same time I replaced the old controller with a large "Tracer" MPPT controller. Because I live in China, it's easy to buy hardware/tools made here and carry them over to my boat in Thailand. I know a lot of people poo-poo the idea of "cheap Chinese stuff" but I've had very good results with 99% of the stuff I've bought here. This solar controller is no exception.

It's been on my boat 2 years now. Never had an issue with it.

Tracer Charge Controller

There's an external display/control screen, which I have also installed.

External Display


Significantly cheaper than the Western-branded stuff (which is usually made in China anyway).

On a typical sunny Thailand day, this controller starts putting out 15amps almost as soon as the sun comes up. If batteries are down 20~30% from the night before, they're back to 100% by 1PM.

I suppose the one downside is that it's a bit on the large size, and quite heavy. Of course once it's mounted, weight's not an issue. Not sure what else to expect from a 40a controller though!

Anyway, read the reviews on Amazon and you'll see others are very happy with this controller.

Good luck with your search!
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Old 31-01-2016, 18:48   #3
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Re: which mppt controller

ok. maybe good for you, however, I would like to call a 1800 number, I don't live in China or SE Asia. Glad it is working well for you.
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Old 31-01-2016, 21:04   #4
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Re: which mppt controller

Get the Magnum.
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Old 31-01-2016, 21:48   #5
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Re: which mppt controller

Two controllers can argue with each other, i.e. one sees the output from the other and drops into "float" mode prematurely, effectively taking it out of service. At least one of the brand names does make an interconnect cable for this purpose, so that JUST one of the controllers determines how both will behave. I don't recall which one, but if you can't "slave" them that way, just go with one controller.
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Old 31-01-2016, 22:07   #6
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Re: which mppt controller

Quote:
Originally Posted by jbinbi View Post
ok. maybe good for you, however, I would like to call a 1800 number, I don't live in China or SE Asia. Glad it is working well for you.
Many of the Amazon reviews state that customer service is good and easily available. I assume most of those reviewers are in the US (certainly not in China).

The reviews on Taobao (the Chinese equivalent of Amazon) are also highly positive about the quality and support, but I figured you'd prefer seeing the same via Amazon.

Since you're concerned about the perspective of buyers in your region, might make sense to read some of those reviews No need to take my word for it.
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Old 01-02-2016, 00:00   #7
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Re: which mppt controller

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Two controllers can argue with each other, i.e. one sees the output from the other and drops into "float" mode prematurely, effectively taking it out of service. At least one of the brand names does make an interconnect cable for this purpose, so that JUST one of the controllers determines how both will behave. I don't recall which one, but if you can't "slave" them that way, just go with one controller.
This won't happen if they're the same model and both are set to the same absorption voltage.
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Old 01-02-2016, 01:13   #8
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Re: which mppt controller

Quote:
Originally Posted by american View Post
I also installed two new 280w panels on my boat. At the same time I replaced the old controller with a large "Tracer" MPPT controller. Because I live in China, it's easy to buy hardware/tools made here and carry them over to my boat in Thailand. I know a lot of people poo-poo the idea of "cheap Chinese stuff" but I've had very good results with 99% of the stuff I've bought here. This solar controller is no exception.

It's been on my boat 2 years now. Never had an issue with it.

Tracer Charge Controller

There's an external display/control screen, which I have also installed.

External Display


Significantly cheaper than the Western-branded stuff (which is usually made in China anyway).

On a typical sunny Thailand day, this controller starts putting out 15amps almost as soon as the sun comes up. If batteries are down 20~30% from the night before, they're back to 100% by 1PM.

I suppose the one downside is that it's a bit on the large size, and quite heavy. Of course once it's mounted, weight's not an issue. Not sure what else to expect from a 40a controller though!

Anyway, read the reviews on Amazon and you'll see others are very happy with this controller.

Good luck with your search!
I bought a Tracer 4210A and tested it out. I'm not pleased at all with it's performance, it's incapable of selecting and tracking the proper MPP of the solar panel. If you watch it closely, it's constantly hunting up and down the voltage range trying to find the MPP. That's not a good sign, good MPPT controllers lock onto the correct voltage within seconds and if it gets shaded, recalculates the new voltage very quickly.

AFAIK, all of the Tracer MPPT controllers have the same MPPT algorithm, thus they are all wasting precious solar power while they futilely hunt for the proper voltage. They claim they will come up with a firmware upgrade to fix it but it's been over a year and no upgrade that I know of. It's the same phenomena demonstrated in this youtube video.

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Old 01-02-2016, 02:14   #9
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Re: which mppt controller

A 40 amp MPPT charge controller like American uses will be fine.

Wire the two panels in series for the higher voltage (less amps through the wire, so the wiring runs a lot cooler so gives more system reliability and efficiency. Even the cheap MPPT controllers will handle up to 100v input, and deliver the correct voltages to your battery (configure the voltages correctly for boost, etc, and set it so it won't let the batteries go below 12.2v - a 50% discharge level for long term reliability). Put the MPPT controller close to the batteries (you will have higher feed voltages to it with series wiring so losses won't be an issue - within reason of course) so you can use very short runs of at least double the amperage of the amps going through it (150+ amps wire is cheap and won't even break a sweat with 50 amps going through it) also helping to keep the system running cooler. Cooler = less resistance. Less resistance = less losses. This helps prevent the wire deteriorating through overheating. Don't forget to over spec on connections to complement this.

If you want 10+ years of reliability in the system, do NOT use Polycrystalline panels! A friend is heavily involved in testing panels to destruction, and hasn't found one yet that goes much beyond 5 years, so stick with Class A monocrystalline. He hasn't found one yet that doesn't deliver more than specified after 25 years of service life. Polycrystalline will probably 'get there' at some point, but that point isn't yet.

If you need a 1-800 number to hold your hand, get more knowledgeable so you don't, so you can ensure your own reliability and your system reliability. You can guarantee you will be suckered and ripped off if you don't.

Good luck.

PS You have to be aware that counterfeiting of products is rife in China, including counterfeiting the products of their own manufacturers (not just Apple, etc). So use a reliable supplier. On Ebay that means a seller with huge numbers of sales and a very high positive feedback. After the issues with deliveries after China boycotted the EU's stupid attempted imposition of a carbon tax (so deliveries to the EU could take several months, through no fault of the suppliers), once the EU inevitably backed down, formerly 99.9% + positive feedback suppliers, were down to about the 99.1% to 99.2% feedback level, due to cheesed off customers that hadn't had their goods. Avoid any below 99.1%.

These have been ok for me (from Taiwan):

http://www.ebay.com/itm/60X-3KW-PV-m...item1e86df3215

They also do MPPT controllers with pure sine wave inverters built in.
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Old 01-02-2016, 02:49   #10
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Re: which mppt controller

Oh if there's a 'Make an Offer' option, I always try knocking off the value of the postage. I haven't had one turned down yet, but I am sure there will be first time.

Plus of course don't stress anything so you get greatly extended service life and reliability. With the amps and voltages input , knock about 25% off as a minimum. Same with the output (which will be determined by the input). Lower is better, and with over specced system infrastructure (cables, etc) it all contributes to things running sweetly for a long time.

it bears repeating, make sure each of the charging stages is configured correctly for the batteries you are charging.

In that demo above, I noticed the user was overstressing the controller, and there was somehow surprise that the controller was complaining about it. The infrastructure didn't look very competent either, which didn't help. I do wonder how hot that wiring was getting, as the 12v DC runs off that roof were obviously pretty long.

It's why my home setup is high DC voltage to the controller, controller close to the battery bank to reduce cable runs and reduce heating and stress on the way to the battery bank, cable is 170 amp, my battery bank is 48v to reduce heating and stress, fittings are extra heavy duty, cable to the inverter is 350 amp, and my 8kw/24kw 220v 50hz pure sine wave inverter is fed at 48v.
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Old 01-02-2016, 03:25   #11
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Re: which mppt controller

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Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
Two controllers can argue with each other, i.e. one sees the output from the other and drops into "float" mode prematurely, effectively taking it out of service. At least one of the brand names does make an interconnect cable for this purpose, so that JUST one of the controllers determines how both will behave. I don't recall which one, but if you can't "slave" them that way, just go with one controller.
This is correct.
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Old 01-02-2016, 05:10   #12
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Re: which mppt controller

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This is correct.

I'd like to see your source on this one.

I've installed 2 systems so far with 2 MPPT controllers of the same brand and they both charged until they hit the same setpoint.


Here is what Morningstar has to say about parallel controllers. I think they know a little bit about the subject.

Quote:
Key Factors of Parallel Setup:
Since Morningstar uses voltage based State of Charge (SOC) for voltage regulation, no direct communication between the controllers is necessary to ensure they charge correctly in tandem. The controllers will transition to and from the different charging states at approximately the same time if all of the following conditions exist:

All of the controllers are set with the same charging profile
Use the same DIP Switch settings for matching the charging control.
If creating a custom setup in MSView, save the custom setup configuration by using “Write to File” in the Setup Wizard to program all of the controllers with the same settings.
There is a connection from the battery bank to each controller’s Voltage Sense Terminal pair. This ensures each controller is measuring the same battery bank voltage. Note: paralleling between controllers’ Voltage Sense terminals, in order to share a single connection to the battery bank is an acceptable practice.
A battery Remote Temperature Sensor (RTS) is used with every controller. This ensures all controllers will be measuring the same temperature for regulation charging, voltage temperature compensation. If the batteries are located indoors in a climate controlled area it may be acceptable to omit an RTS. Note: An RTS is included in the TriStar MPPT box, but not with the TriStar. If using TriStar controllers, RTS’s must be purchased separately for each controller. A single RTS CANNOT be paralleled or shared between multiple controllers.
During absorption (or boost) charging, the parallel controllers will start limiting the voltage at approximately the same time, since they will all be sensing the same voltage and have the same charging profile. The RTS and voltage sense connections help to achieve this charging synchronicity.

The controllers may end absorption charging at slightly different times, but this will typically be of little or no consequence to the health of the batteries.
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Old 01-02-2016, 05:18   #13
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Re: which mppt controller

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Oh if there's a 'Make an Offer' option, I always try knocking off the value of the postage. I haven't had one turned down yet, but I am sure there will be first time.

Plus of course don't stress anything so you get greatly extended service life and reliability. With the amps and voltages input , knock about 25% off as a minimum. Same with the output (which will be determined by the input). Lower is better, and with over specced system infrastructure (cables, etc) it all contributes to things running sweetly for a long time.

it bears repeating, make sure each of the charging stages is configured correctly for the batteries you are charging.

In that demo above, I noticed the user was overstressing the controller, and there was somehow surprise that the controller was complaining about it. The infrastructure didn't look very competent either, which didn't help. I do wonder how hot that wiring was getting, as the 12v DC runs off that roof were obviously pretty long.

It's why my home setup is high DC voltage to the controller, controller close to the battery bank to reduce cable runs and reduce heating and stress on the way to the battery bank, cable is 170 amp, my battery bank is 48v to reduce heating and stress, fittings are extra heavy duty, cable to the inverter is 350 amp, and my 8kw/24kw 220v 50hz pure sine wave inverter is fed at 48v.
The reviewer's wiring may have been a little dodgy looking, but he had adequate instrumentation to prove his point: Tracer doesn't have a working MPPT algorithm. The wiring in question has nothing to do with the MPPT function. If you read the comments, the company admitted as much to him and promised an update, which I have not heard anyone say they have seen yet.

Travellerw also bought one and was in contact with the mfr about the firmware update and I haven't seen any posts from him about it yet either.

When I tested mine, the controller was connected directly to the solar panel's cables and the controller was connected to the battery with a 4' section of 10AWG cable. Virtually no losses, but the controller hunted all over the place, from nearly 40 v down to 19 v. MPP should have been about 36 v.
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Old 01-02-2016, 07:01   #14
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Re: which mppt controller

I am an Outback fan, but they are pricey although do come with a good 5 year guarantee,(there's a Chinese ripoff if you want lol) What I will add is get one with remote battery temp sensing, eg a separate sensor usually stuck on the side of the hottest battery, It will improve battery life & charging,

Tim
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Old 01-02-2016, 10:15   #15
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Re: which mppt controller

Socald-
"The controllers may end absorption charging at slightly different times, but this will typically be of little or no consequence to the health of the batteries."
Okay, you've just quoted Morningstar as saying "one ring to rule them all" will typically not be necessary. In simple English "typically" means sometimes, it won't work as well as a single unified control, either.
Apparently some other manufacturers think having one unified control beats having two controllers with specific wiring, temperature compensation, and "always" instead of "typically".
It sounded like the OP wanted to ensure he would not having dueling controllers. Not typically, but all the time.
Then too, there is something to be said about installing and using just one controller--and having a second one sitting in a box as a spare, instead of box of them being vulnerable to lightning strikes, etc. if two are in use all the time.
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