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Old 09-05-2012
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"Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Hi All.
I've read Maine Sails solar howto and it's a great resource. I've read lots else as well. I keep my 32 on a mooring and I have two batteries for my bank. I only plugged in once all summer and run my A4 only to motor into the anchorage and out again. Solar makes sense to me and I don't have a high load, just nav lights, auto pilot and cabin lights really. Not planning refrigeration or AC or anything like that.

Now, has anyone got any experience with these "Tracer" brand MPPT controllers? I can get an 85 watt mono-crystalline panel with one of these controllers for just over $200 bucks. I might go smaller if i determine that my bimini won't hold the 85. Anyway, just wanted opinions on these, you can find them here:
10A 1210RN MPPT Solar Controller - China Tracer MPPT Solar Controller - Wholesale MPPT Solar Charge Controllers

for the money, I can go through three or four of them before I get to the cost of a blue-sky or other highly recommended controller. For my money I typically buy "the good stuff", but the solar isn't mission critical for me and I think this technology is only going to get cheaper so I'm loathe to fork out for the high end stuff. If I was going cruising long term I wouldn't consider the budget stuff at all. But I'm not, I mostly day sail and have just started weekending. Next year I'm hoping for a week or more on the hook somewhere so the solar will be important then but mostly I just want to maintain the health of my batteries and not worry about them.

This is the site I might buy this stuff from:
http://www.solarenergydc.com


Alternately, a 20 watt kyocera panel and blue sky mppt controller from emarine would be 400 plus. Quarter of the wattage, double the price.

Last edited by smp; 09-05-2012 at 12:06 PM.
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Old 09-05-2012
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

I will only say that you get what you pay for....I have installed several dozen boat, rv and cabin systems, and have yet to have a blue sky failure...as for the cheap stuff, it lasts only a few months in a rugged environment, and has ZERO customer support..if it works out of the box at all...I have quit suing the "cheap" stuff as it is not worth the troubleshooting and self doubt that an out of box failure causes....and I have to pay for a second or third or fourth trip back out of my pocket. And several days/weeks delays for a replacement.

IMHO, you are putting the cart before the horse, and need to do a power budget, I am afraid that the a 20 watt panel will not be up to your needs.

Once the power budget is done, then you need to look at a proper marine installation, and I would suggest that you either postpone the project or get something between the top and bottom price points you have in mind already.

Best of luck, and I am sure that you will get other thoughts here as well.
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Indeed! A 20 watt panel will not be up to snuff, the 85 that I'm considering will... and it's half the price of the 20 watt name brand setup.

Last edited by smp; 09-05-2012 at 01:44 PM.
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Old 09-05-2012
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Quote:
Originally Posted by smp View Post
Indeed! A 20 watt panel will not be up to snuff, the 85 that I'm considering will... and it's half the price of the 20 watt name brand setup.
As has been said you get what you pay for. Rather than buy a Chinese "MPPT", which is likely not even MPPT at all, why not buy an inexpensive Morningstar PWM controller like the SS-10.

Your MPPT benefit on an 85W panel will be so minimal as to barely be worth it and you'd be better to just throw that money at array wattage anyway.

Just grab a Morningstar SS-10 12V for under $50.00 and call it a day. You'll get a quality product, humans you can talk to, and it will hold up in the marine environment and do as is says it does. These are excellent little controllers for the money. Search around and you can get them pretty cheap...
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Thanks Maine Sail, I value your opinion. I will look into that. I've read your solar write up (thank you very much for giving us all that great info for free BTW) and I'm not totally clear on why MPPT is only worthwhile with the larger wattage panels/arrays. Maybe I just need to read it again, more cafefully

In the meantime, for those searchers stumbling across this thread, here is an interesting video about another chinese MPPT controller:

I'm totally one of those "buy it once" people but I've had some good experiences with knock off stuff. If you think about it, Apple products, hell, MOST of the electronic devices we use day to day are manufactured in China so they have the capacity and the ability. Just a matter of sorting through all the lousy products to find those high value low cost needles in the proverbial haystack (which ebay surely is).
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Looks like a knock off of the Aurinco BLIXT controller...

Aurinco BLIXT
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Old 09-05-2012
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

"I'm not totally clear on why MPPT is only worthwhile with the larger wattage panels/arrays. "
Cost effectiveness, plain and simple. If an MPPT controller is going to buy you a 10-20% gain (pick your own number) compare the price of that controller to simply buying a 10-20% larger panel in the first place. If you can do that with buying ONE panel and simply making it a little larger, that's often more cost effective than spending the extra money on an MPPT controller.
OTOH if you're buying four panels and there's no more room on the boat but your energy budget demands more power, the MPPT becomes very cost effective, it may be the only way to get blood out of the stones. So to speak.
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

I'de be willing to bet it's the same thing from the same factory. If you haven't watched the video have a look.
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Quote:
Originally Posted by hellosailor View Post
"I'm not totally clear on why MPPT is only worthwhile with the larger wattage panels/arrays. "
Cost effectiveness, plain and simple. If an MPPT controller is going to buy you a 10-20% gain (pick your own number) compare the price of that controller to simply buying a 10-20% larger panel in the first place. If you can do that with buying ONE panel and simply making it a little larger, that's often more cost effective than spending the extra money on an MPPT controller.
OTOH if you're buying four panels and there's no more room on the boat but your energy budget demands more power, the MPPT becomes very cost effective, it may be the only way to get blood out of the stones. So to speak.
That makes sense, thank you. My problem is that I think an 85 watt panel is all that I'll be able to fit. My energy demands are very low right now so I may end up just going with Maine Sail's suggestion.
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Re: "Tracer" MPPT controllers from China

Maine-
The pix of the Blixt on that URL shows the polarity of the battery terminals as being opposite of the adjacent terminals for input/output, a good opportunity for something to slip and get sparky.
Unlike Genasun, who gang "same with same" to make sure that doesn't happen.

Judging the book by it's cover, perhaps. Or, noticing one engineering team paid more attention to their product than the other.
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