A good solar panel setup during off-grid camping would include not just solar panels but also a quality battery, like a LiFePO4. Having these two put together allows you to camp even in remote locations to fully enjoy the peace and quiet instead of staying in crowded campsites just so you can hook up to a power source. Of course, you don't simply connect a solar panel and battery bank to each other. Since the voltage and/or current generated by your solar panels won't be the same as your battery's voltage, you would need a solar charge controller in between them. A solar controller mainly regulates the energy coming from your solar panels that flow into your battery to avoid overcharging.
For a little refresher, a solar regulator can either be a Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controller or Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controller. The main difference between the two is that an MPPT solar charge controller matches its internal resistance to that of the solar panel, drawing power at the maximum power point. A PWM regulator, on the other hand, pulls the solar panel's voltage down to match it just above the battery's voltage. In terms of performance, MPPT is up to 30% more efficient, although this doesn't mean that all solar power systems would generally be best paired with it.
Currently, among the most commonly used MPPT solar regulators is the 30 amp MPPT Solar Charge Controller. In terms of brand, some of the prominent names would be the Epever Solar Controller and Victron MPPT Regulator. Here at Outbax, we also offer these types of solar panel accessories, sometimes even incorporated in solar panel kits along with other essentials for easy installation.
What Size of MPPT Controller Do I Need?
Sizing MPPT Controllers is easier than you think. You simply get the total watts of your solar array and divide it by the voltage of your battery pack to get the output current you need for your regulator. For example, if you have a solar array with 1000W and a 24V battery bank, 1000W / 24V will give you 41.6A, so you need a solar charge controller with at least 40A.
How Many Watts Can a 30 Amp Solar Controller Handle?
Most of the time, charge controller sheets don't indicate the maximum power rating as this can easily be determined through volts and amps. What makes it complex is when dealing with devices with multiple input and output voltage. Your output volts can be pre-set depending on the controller to allow you to charge battery banks with higher voltage levels like 12V, 24V and 48V. Generally, your solar controller's power rating in watts can be determined by the output current and output charging voltage. If it's a 30 amp charge controller with a nominal 12V output, it can handle about 360 watts. This same charge controller topping off a battery with 24V nominal voltage can handle 720 watts.
Can You Oversize an MPPT Charge Controller?
Yes, it is possible to oversize your charge controller, meaning you put a higher wattage on it than what it is rated for. This will give you more output during the day and when it reaches the "peak output," the charge controller will automatically clip it and limit its rating to whatever its amp level is. Another interesting suggestion would be "undersizing" your array, so your regulator is not required to work to its full rating all day, thus extending its life.
If your solar system has a higher output than a single charge controller can handle, you can use multiple solar regulators to manage it. These will work together to form an intelligent network for an ideal charging process.
More from Outbax
Upgrade your camping power source now and pair up some quality RV solar panels and lithium RV battery for the most comfortable outdoor adventure. Visit Outbax and get everything you need here. We have different solar panels for your every need like flexible solar panels and fixed solar panels. Lithium batteries? We have those too! From the basics down to the accessories, Outbax has you covered so don't forget to browse through our available outdoor gear including inverter generators and power stations before your next camping trip. Shop now!