|Item Weight||1 pounds|
|Product Dimensions||4.2 x 7.2 x 2 inches|
|Item model number||60032|
|Manufacturer Part Number||60032|
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Sunforce 60032 30 Amp Digital Charge Controller
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- Charge controller prevents overcharging of 12 volt batteries
- Intended for use with 12 volt solar panels
- Handles up to 30 amps of array current and up to 450 watts of solar power
- Continuously displays the charging current or battery voltage on the LCD digital meter
- Automatically indicates the charged condition of your battery on the LED bar graph
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The Sunforce 60032 30 Amp Digital Charge Controller prevents overcharging of 12 volt batteries. It is intended for use with 12 volt solar panels, and can handle up to 30 amps of array current and up to 450 watts of solar power. The controller will continuously display the charging current or battery voltage on the LCD digital meter, and also automatically indicates the charged condition of your battery on the LED bar graph. The 60032 is designed to work with a variety of 12 volt solar panels for indoor use.
From the manufacturer
Sunforce- 30 Amp, 12 volt Digital Charge Controller
About the Digital Charge Controller
The Sunforce 30 Amp, 12 volt digital charge controller will prevent overcharging your 12 volt batteries when charging with a 12 volt solar system. Its digital display helps you keep track of battery status and current flow.
It is recommended to consider the power capacity of your solar system in order to choose the right charge controller.
It is also important to choose the proper wire gauge (thickness) based on your solar system's capacity and installation distance.
*Note: Solar Panel and Battery are not included
Key Features of the 30 Amp Digital Charge Controller
- Prevents overcharging of 12 volt batteries
- Indicates charging conditions on the LED bar graph of the controller
- Handles up to 30 amps of current or up to 450 watts of solar power
- Recommended to be used with solar panels 15 watts and higher
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The new one was actually a newer model that cost more than what we had paid, and it worked perfectly, even better than we had hoped for!
We are not only satisfied with its performance, but have recommended it to many others - all of whom have been completely satisfied. This was actually the third of these we have purchased, and we will continue to recommend them to everyone we know.
MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking, which sounds like a good thing, and it definitly is a must for large house size systems, but what exactly is it? Simply put MPPT finds YOUR solar array's Maximum amount of power for a given condition (full sun/overcast/panel tilt). It is always searching for the best voltage and current conditions to maximize power from the panels, which after all is what you paid big bucks for, right?
Let's explore how MPPT works. Normal power regulators like this one interface between the solar panel array and the storage battery. When the battery is full, they quit charging to protect the battery from boiling the electrolyte away. Pretty simple. But what if you need more power from your solar panels than the simple case? It turns out that MPPT can, using more electronics and some intelligence, harness more power from your solar arrays than a simple on/off charge regulator. How? by using a small IC chip that searches for the highest POWER from the panel, hence the name maximum power point tracking. The tracking just means that as the sunlight changes, so does the maximum power location.
Unfortunately Solar Panels are not just a source of simple DC power - that is they don't behave like a battery does. The fewer amps you draw from the panel, the higher the panel's voltage across the wires becomes. This is where most MPPT discussions end but with a couple simple equations (ohm's law) we can dive deeper into what MPPT does and why its good (and costs more).
Ohms law is really simple: there are two parts: Voltage = Current times Resistance (V=I x R)
Of course we can re-arrange it other ways: R = I/V, I = V/R Where I is in amps, V in volts, R in ohms. If we connect a 1 ohm (R) resistor across a 12V battery (V) then solving for I must be 12 AMPs flowing through the resistor.
For POWER (one P in MPPT) we need to know another simple equation Power = Volts x Amps (DC version)
In the above example, the resistor is most likely a power resistor (i.e. big) because 12 volts x 12 amps = 144 watts which gets hot real fast. In this case, the 144 watts is a power point from a battery. They are simple since small currents do not make large swings on the battery voltage and we can assume it to be nearly constant when using large storage batteries. Solar panels are quite the opposite - their voltage changes with current change. With power being the multiplier of voltage and current, you can see how this function can be maximized, which is the aim of a MPPT tracker. So how do they work this magic? read on....
Finally we need to know a little about DC to DC converters, as they are the logic controlled core of the MPPT solar battery charger. True they don't convert DC directly to another DC voltage, but they are pretty efficient (97%+) by taking an input DC POWER, making a AC voltage from it much like an inverter would, then converting that AC back to DC again for their output to the battery. And they may alter the battery voltage depending on temperature for optimal charging or even change the voltage depending on how many cells you choose to make a battery array (e.g. 12V, 24V, 48V etc). They are flexible and always seek to get as much power from your solar array as possible and put as much power in your batteries until they are full. Some models take the remaining power from your array and produce AC to be sold back to the utility company, but not all have this feature. Big Solar systems can use 6000 watt DC/DC converters that have a 240 Volt AC output as well. They are not small or cheap but they do work.
How does MPPT work? Shine a constant amount of light on a solar panel so that it's output can be characterized. A "12V" panel isn't really 12.000 Volts. It may be 16-19 Volts if you put a digital voltmeter across its output terminals. This is known as it's Voc or Voltage, open circuit meaning zero current flows because the circuit is open. The compliment to Voc is Isc which stands for Current (I) short circuit. Very few devices can have the Isc measured directly, but for small (60W give or take panels) it is safe to put an ampmeter across the same two wires from the panel and know how many amps flow when the voltage is zero (it's zero because you shorted the wires with the ampmeter - the definition of zero volts is a short circuit) If you were to plot on the X axis of a graph voltage, from the two endpoints, 0 and Voc (say it's 19V) and on the Y axis you plot the multiplication of amps times voltage, which we know to be power, you will find a curve with a peak. The MPPT seeks to operate your solar array at that peak. Without MPPT, the voltage is more a function of the battery's state of charge (from 11-13.8V) and the current that flows is on the graph of your panel's power function for a given voltage. In other words, without the dc/dc converter logic and MPPT smarts, the battery is a big tail that wags the dog (solar array) - I have a plot of the MPPT lines in my review of the 60W sunforce array - its located in the photos section and plots how the voltage reacts to the current, and where the maximum power point is - for those panels it's optimal for charging 12V lead acid batteries so MPPT controllers won't pay for themselves but the graph is interesting to understand Voc, Isc, and the curve in between.
If all this electrical stuff is getting confusing, lets change the example. Think of voltage (V) as RPM from your car's engine. Now think of Amperage (I) as being Torque on the crankshaft. Work done is RPM x Torque. If either is zero, no work is done. And just hooking the crankshaft to the differential doesn't give you alot of options, so we invented the transmission which allowed us to get the most work out of th e engine no matter the conditions. MPPT is just an automatic transmission - it finds the peak RPM and Torque for your conditions (accellerator pedal, slope, tire size, etc) and gets the most out of the engine (panels) for any operating point. For 12VDC systems, you don't alwyas need a transmission - just hooking the output of the panel (crankshaft) to the battery (differential) will work. Granted it's oversimplified but the idea is the same - you want to find the peak in the curve (in the sunforce 4 panel set I actually plotted the I vs V curve over the panel's entire operating range - its in the photographs for that product, the sunforce 50048 Sunforce 50048 60-Watt Solar Charging Kit look at the black photo - it's got pink and blue lines representing the voltage and current you can get from the panel. Think of the graph as an engine plot and it makes better sense but the analogy still isn't perfect, just close.
A 16V, 30 watt panel might give you 33 watts at a particular voltage, or an extra 10% using MPPT. In other installations, wiring your panels in series for higher voltages may be where the maximum power is found. The chip inside the MPPT tracker searches for this peak in your system and operates the solar panel (or array of panels) at it's absolute maximum power, which is sent to the DC/DC converter to charge your batteries.
We might get 10-30% more power doing this, but the voltage will be all wrong for charging our battery, or our battery array. And that's where the DC/DC converter steps in. As a simple example, say you find that 2 panels in parallel give you 14.5V at 1.9A going through your non-MPPT charge controller, or 27.5W delivered to your batteries. Wired in series using MPPT they give you 37V at 1.25A or ~48W. You would get more power by wiring in series for a higher solar voltage of 37V, which is too high to charge a 12V lead acid storage battery. Now you need a MPPT.
The MPPT takes the 37V, 1.25A from your panels and gets ~48W, looses 2W in conversion inefficiencies(give or take) for 46W out, and converts it to 13.6V to charge your battery array at 3.38A [45.96W] whereas had you wired the two panels in parallel you would get about 27.5 watts in this illustration.
MPPT systems are found in high voltage solar arrays (100V+) because the peak power points in these systems are up high in voltage and low in current. It has a second advantage - by running lower current through the panels, you can get by with smaller wire which lowers the project cost given the price of copper.
To sum it all up -
For really small solar panels, (1w) and big batteries (100 AH) you really don't need a charge controller just a diode to prevent backflow when the sun is down. Car battery mainters are made this way.
As you increase power and run the risk of overcharge, some controller is needed. The cheapest is like the one sold here - the non-mppt which works well with solar panels that are close to the battery voltage and would not optimize much with MPPT.
And finally as you cover your house with solar panels, MPPT systems sqeeze every last drop of power so long as you operate them within their specified parameters (often limits on voltage and current comming in or watts converted) Outback is a major MPPT converter which can handle a VERY wide range of input voltages and run a grid-tie system with or without batteries. As for 4 stars - you can buy MPPT trackers about this size for $112 now.
After two years of ownership, this is an update, with information which my installer told me to add, having just installed another 6 of these units for us.
Why did we buy more when there're other 30 amp units out there at about half the price?
Firstly, our installer informed us that not all 30 amp controllers are created equally (I'm using his words, it's a bit Greek to me), but apparently most cheaper units have smaller heat-sinks and can only do 30 amps battery charging current, which he says is usually about 14 (volts) * 30 (amps) or about 400-425 watts. These are based on array current, typically about 19 (volts) * 30 (amps) or 550 - 600 watts. Apparently one should always simply look for the watts of array the device can handle. Essentially, I'm told, cheaper controllers are still 30 amp, they just measure it at a different place?
We now use 3 * 150 watt panels through a 3:1 solar connector and 8mm (#8) wire going some 15m to the controller, then #6 (10mm) wire from the controller to 2 deep cycle batteries, each battery is 250 ah.
I was told that charge maximum rate should be between 2% and 10% of battery capacity - I don't know for certain - just told, mine is 4%
We now have 12 units set up like this.
We are now totally 'off grid' and have a daily usage around 14.5 kw or 430 kw/mth.
Our batteries discharge by about 20% overnight - they usually are full by 2pm. On dull days, around 5pm.
The batteries normally charge under sunny conditions between 22 and 23 amps per controller.
I'm told that'd be 14.5 volts * 22.5 or around 325 watts to the batteries, or about 70% - 75%, which is apparently very good for solar.
I was surprised to be informed that one can buy a 100 watt panel, you will never get 100 watts into your batteries.
1. These are not MPPT, but are exceptionally effective with great conversion rates. In his opinion, for high sun areas, it'd be difficult to justify the extra $$ for MPPT.
2. They're for lead acid or gel, they don't have a setting for AGM, but will often work with AGM - just check the charging voltage. I use lead acid batteries, have had no overcharging, no boiling, minimal water use and no battery failures. Based on how its working my electrician said I should expect 8-10 years from the batteries.
3 I now own a round dozen of these, connected to 24 batteries - 2 years, no failures - 450 watts of solar connected to each charger.
4 They have very good quality heat sinks, better than most, should be very reliable.
5. They're for 12 volt only - connect to a 24 volt battery bank or array - you will kill them - instantly.
6. You can connect more than 1 controller to a single battery bank.
7. Each controller can operate over a large amp hour range of battery capacity.
8. I just love that they simply do what's advertized - I now have no grid connection at all - I run everything - freezers, fridges (2), TV's, waterheater, stove, cooker, laptops, coffeemakers, kettles and immersion water heater - everything is from solar.
9. I'm informed they work best with high efficiency sine wave inverters, 92% plus, which apparently means I'm getting about 66% of my panels ratings available at my power sockets.
10. The displays are simple, even I can understand them.
Lowest flashing red = wire break between controller and battery
No lights = Broken wire between the array and the controller or it's dark outside
Bottom green only - my batteries are very discharged. A very rare occasion, where the generator is required.
Middle green - my batteries are moderately charged
Top green on the lower section - my batteries are almost fully charged.
Bottom green on upper section - my batteries are fully charged and essentially 'conditioning'
The blue light says the sun is shining is shining and they're charging
The LCD display either gives battery voltage (it increases as charge level increases) or charging amps. I have them set to amps, if a connection fails then I know immediately.
These were bought for a solar panel addition, they arrived timely and in great condition.
I was surprised at the color, mine were blue not gray/black, but it's not an issue.
We've got them wall mounted - they are unobtrusive and look similar to a thermostat.
The external displays and big digits are easy to use. It's pretty idiot proof as long as the very rudimentary instructions are followed.
The units just do what they say they will. 2*190 watt panels going to each unit.
Make sure the wires from the panels to the charger are AT LEAST the size the manual calls for - I was told to use one bigger and it's fine.
Appearance installed *****
Ease to install ***** (from electrician)
Ease of Use *****
They don't voltage track, so I'm told, but they don't advertise it and I looked at voltage tracking units they were quite a bit more.