Off-Grid Solar Power
This, in essence, is a shopping list for my choices for the best renegade solar rigging for both quality and value.
These are products I use myself in my projects, so I have direct experience with them and know that they work, and (mostly) how they work, and also what are the preferred, recommended, and safe ways to integrate them into a project.
SOLAR CHARGE CONTROLLERS
Anytime you are using photovoltaics, you will need to connect them to a charge controller (off-grid, battery only system) or to a proper (approved for your jurisdiction), regulated grid syncing inverter. There are two common types available on the market - PWM and MPPT. I'll explain soon with an update to this article. Feel free to direct any questions about this to me in the meantime.
If you live in the USA, make sure to ALWAYS select charge controllers and other electrical devices with the NEGATIVE ground/earth/common.
MAKE SKY BLUE CHARGE CONTROLLERS
This is a great choice on Amazon - lotta bang for the buck. This is an MPPT controller. This type of controller is preferred, since it optimizes the power your solar panels generate.
A great plus for this unit is that it is voltage sensing and will work for 12, 24, 36, or 48 volt systems. SO anytime you want to upgrade your system to a higher operating voltage (which will allow you to expand/increase the power (watts) of solar your system can generate) - no need to replace this. You can use the same device.
Also, I recommend getting the 60 amp model, even if your current needs are less than that, since you will have to replace if you ever decide to increase generating capacity. The ONLY time I would get a lesser model is if you are creating a specialized system that is always going to be limited to one, or just a few panels.
(Product Notes: The fan may need to be replaced eventually, especially if you live in a dusty area, like I do. The manufacturer will often ship replacements for free. Otherwise, they are available online for a dollar or so each.)
DC BOOSTING CHARGE CONTROLLERS
MINI MPPT CHARGE CONTROLLER - VOLTAGE BOOSTING
What's great about this little guy, is that it can boost a solar panel's voltage up enough to charge a battery that may need a higher charging voltage than the solar panel provides on it's own.
This automatically senses the voltage of the battery it's connected to, and will operate between 12 and 60 volts! At 10 AMPS charging current limit, It's max charge will be 600watts on a 60 volt battery pack. This is great for single panel, or low wattage PV arrays. I use it with a single 300watt solar panel to keep my 36volt electric golf car charged. (I actually have not had to plug it in for about 2 years!)
(Product notes: Tricky setting it up for daily automatic start/on charging. There are instructional YouTube videos about the setup, which we will soon link to here.)