Solar inverters are a crucial apparatus in your Solar Power which converts the DC power into AC. For a system required to produce output 220V or 110V, consider installing an inverter. An MPPT charge controller is a tracking device that makes the inverter more efficient. MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking in Solar inverters.
The photovoltaic modules or PV modules in your Solar panels produce DC power by absorbing the solar energy. Most of the modern appliances at our home or work run on AC, so the inverter runs the electricity through the transformer to convert the DC solar power into AC to run our home. But throughout the day, we don’t get the maximum power out of our system due to weather conditions or variable solar irradiance.
With MPPT charge controllers installed, you can sit back and relax! MPPT controllers keep our circuit voltage and current at an optimal point to get the maximum power.
If you wish to get the best out of your system, you should connect an MPPT charge controller to your inverter. But is it okay to connect the MPPT charge controller directly to the inverter? How should we connect the MPPT in our solar system? These questions puzzle our minds.
Here I tried to give you a complete idea of the MPPT charge controller connection procedure and the do’s and don’t. Read to explore that.
What are MPPT charge controllers?
Solar charge controllers basically control the charging and discharging of solar batteries and power output to the load. Maximum Power Point Tracking or MPPT offers us maximized energy extraction from sources with variable energy.
Solar panels are made of photovoltaic cells or PV cells that generate electrical energy out of solar energy (sun rays, i.e., photons carry energy). But throughout the day, the Sun doesn’t shine equally, which means your solar panels do not produce equal amounts of electricity.
Also, the solar panel and battery voltage changes as per weather conditions, resulting in deviation in power output efficiency. This problem can be addressed by an MPP (Maximum Power Point) Tracker.
The MPPT controller constantly monitors and finds the optimal voltage-current array for which you can get maximum power all the time.
How do they work?
The most popular solar charger controllers are PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) and MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracker) charge controllers. MPPT charge controller checks the best power output that your PV system can offer you.
Then MPPTs adjust the battery voltage and fix the best voltage to get maximum current. MPPTs track your panel voltage and current spontaneously to find the maximum power point. For grid-tied systems, MPPT sets the optimal array voltage-current ratio that gives out maximum power to the inverters.
In the below situations, MPPTs do their job incredibly good —
- When the sky is cloudy or at times of lower solar irradiance.
- When the battery charge is very low.
If excess voltage is available from the PV, MPPT converts it to the current that is fed to the batteries. The tracking efficiency of MPPT charge controllers is up to 99% which gives a 97% efficient power generation of the whole system.
Should we connect the MPPT charge controller directly to the inverter?
Charge controllers need a battery reference to control panel input. You should not connect any charge controller directly to the inverter, and you must connect a battery to your charge controller first. After that, you need to connect the inverter to the battery. A direct connection between the charge controller and inverter can destroy your gadgets.
MPPTs need a battery connection for a reference voltage to stabilize voltage regulation. MPPT charge controllers help to flow the current efficiently into a depleted battery.
If we connect an MPPT charge controller directly to the inverter, your system can get damaged, but if not damaged, there will be zero input in the inverter. So connecting MPPTs directly to the inverter is a bad idea!
How to connect an MPPT charge controller?
You should connect any kind of charge controller to the battery first, and then the inverter needs to be connected to the battery. But at first, check the size of the inverter and the charge controller, if they are compatible. In most cases, a 10A charge controller is too small for inverters.
For all solar panel systems, we need to follow some general steps to connect an MPPT charge controller to the system:
- Even before connecting the solar panels, you need to connect the MPPT charge controller to the battery.
- You can find a male solar panel MC4 connector and a female too. Connect the male solar panel MC4 connector into the adapter kit female connector. And the adapter kit male connector has to be connected with the female solar panel MC4 connector.
- Connect the positive terminal of the MPPT charge controller to the positive solar panel line. And the negative terminal of the MPPT charge controller to the negative solar panel line. Don’t make any mistakes!
- Then finally, connect the negative inverter port to the battery’s negative terminal and the positive port to the positive terminal of the solar battery.
In this way, you can connect an MPPT charge controller correctly to your system without harming any of the equipment. So technically, MPPTs are connected to the inverters via battery junction.
Can MPPT charge controllers be connected in parallel?
Yes, MPPT charge controllers can be connected in parallel connection. If your panels might experience constant shading throughout the day, we suggest you connect your controller in parallel. When you go for a parallel connection, the voltage of your panels remains the same, and the current increases.
For example, if you have two 100W panels, each panel can produce about 5.3 amps. Connecting these panels in parallel with the MPPT will produce 200W and 10.58 amps under optimum conditions (Voltage remains the same at 18.9V). A system having high amperage needs a very thick wire to travel long.
A parallel connection works best if your panels are within 10 feet of your controller. So parallel connection is good for a short distance between panels and MPPT. Also, the parallel system requires branch connectors or combiner boxes as extra equipment.
Can the MPPT charge controller be connected in series?
You can connect your MPPT charge controller in series. Most MPPTs are connected in series to increase the voltage and keep the current the same. If the distance between your solar panels and controller is above 20-25 feet, a series connection is recommended for you.
When panels are connected in series with the controller, the voltage and wattage of the panel add up, and large voltage helps in voltage drop. So that current can run to the controller easily.
But in series connection, the system’s effectiveness depends on each of the panels. So if any one of the panels is shaded, the whole system will be affected.
Factors to consider while connecting the MPPT charge controller
- Place of installation: We must install the MPPT charge controller in a place easy to access. MPPTs need to be installed in areas with a solid surface.
- Safety Distance: You have to keep a little free space around the MPPT to keep it safe.
- Ambient temperature: Though MPPTs work finely in any climate, they work best in not-so-cold temperatures. A temperature range of 20°C~50°C is the best working condition for an MPPT charge controller.
How does an MPPT charge controller differ from an Inverter?
You need to understand its various parts to get the best results from your solar system. An inverter and an MPPT charge controller are important solar system components, and we use them for different purposes.
An inverter changes the DC power into AC, whereas the MPPT charge controller enhances the inverter capacity. As the MPPT charge controller helps to deliver maximum power output continuously, it enhances inverter capabilities.
A charge controller mainly aims to regulate the battery charging and discharging, and its main task is to prevent overcharging and overloading of the battery. Inverters also help in battery charging, but the primary purpose that we need is to transform DC into AC.
Does an MPPT charge controller always need an Inverter to work?
Almost every solar system consists of an inverter and charge controller. But if any solar system doesn’t have an inverter but a charge controller, it will work without hesitation!
But you can run only DC-powered devices in your solar system, and the inverter converts the DC power produced by the panels into AC. Without an inverter, you can run no devices that require AC.
Mobile phones, laptops, wall clocks, digital cameras even electric vehicles run on DC. The MPPT charge controller will monitor the panel production and give you the best power, and MPPT will help to protect the battery life too.
But there are many more electronic gadgets we need on a daily basis, and they run on AC. So not having an inverter seems impractical and incomplete.
Can an Inverter work without any charge controller?
Yes! An inverter works as it should be, even without a charge controller. Many inverters don’t require any charge controller. For grid-tied solar systems, you don’t even need a battery. Your system runs fine without a battery.
The excess power produced by your system goes back to the power grid, and you can draw energy from the grid whenever you need it. So, no need to buy and install a solar battery.
Grid-tied solars are quite famous as they are easy to install and cheaper than off-grid solar systems as you don’t need to buy a battery or any kind of charge controller.
Charge controllers focus on the battery’s charging cycle; hence you need one if you have batteries in your solar system. Using batteries and inverters without a charge controller is not what smart people do!
Can your Solar system work without an Inverter?
As long as you can run your house or work on DC power, you don’t need an inverter. As I said earlier, PV panels produce DC power from the sunlight. Any devices that run on DC can be connected directly to the panels, and there is no need for an inverter to change the DC power into AC.
So you can use your solar system without installing an inverter, but that will put a limit on your usage.
Does your Solar system need a Charge Controller all time?
Charge controllers are not a must-buy for your solar system. A solar system can run finely without a charge controller or even a battery. A grid-tied solar system feeds its excess energy to the utility grid and also draws energy from the grid if needed. They work just fine without a battery until there is a power outage.
For an off-grid system, it is mandatory to have a battery and a charge controller to get a 24×7 steady power supply. Charge controllers are a necessary safeguard for your battery. Otherwise, excess current can flow into the batteries and damage them.
But theoretically, you can run an off-grid system without a battery or a charge controller. But you will get electricity only during the sunny hours, and with the Sundown, there will be no electricity.
Some well-known MPPT charge controllers with their prices:
- Renogy Rover 20 Amp and 30 Amp 12V/24V DC input MPPT charge controller: These MPPTs are pocket friendly. If you are looking for an affordable charge controller with good customer reviews, Renogy can fulfill your requirements. The 20A Renogy Rover charge controller has a price tag of just $87.99, and the 30A costs $108.74. But yeah, some products are costly too. 100A Renogy MPPT charge controllers with up to 48V input cost $539.99. Renogy assures to give 99% tracking efficiency with advanced fault-tracking technology that shows system errors, if any.
- Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT 100V: SmartSolar MPPT charge controllers are hugely liked over the BlueSolar MPPTs. The basic difference between SmartSolar and BlueSolar is that the SmartSolar MPPTs have built-in Bluetooth. It helps you to monitor and configure them easily through smartphone apps. This model comes in varieties of ampere levels. A 15A charge controller costs $137.70. A 20A, 30A and 50A charge controller cost $156.00, $226.09 and $314.00 respectively. They are quite pricey but provide you with high efficiency.
- Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT MC4 250V 60amp 12/24/36/48V: It comes with a price of $638.35 and provides you with overall good performance as per customer review. Easy to install, but this product doesn’t have a display.
We all are looking forward to the wholesome use of renewable energy sources. More rapidly and conveniently. Solar energy comes first to our mind as our very own Sun is an enormous source of energy.
Also, solar power is getting noticeably common and cheap. Knowledge about different solar system parts can only ease your work as an owner. Knowing how to connect a device correctly in the system can help you set up the system quickly and efficiently.