Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

AntronXAntronX Solar Expert Posts: 462 ✭✭
Hi everyone. I have Outback FM-60 with 001.009.008 firmware. After using it for 8 months I began noticing issues.

First one was it would not go to sleep and report power output in darkness. Found temporary work around by setting it to restart every 2 hours.

Now recently after adding a third 26Vmp panel in series, FM-60 started to get stuck at wrong Vmp. I've seen it stay at 32V in full sun where it should be at 62V. It may have been confused by clouds. I had to restart it to make it re-track.

Another minor issue is refusal to immediately restart after pressing restart option. It would drop power a little at get stuck there for 20 seconds.

And issue that bothers me the most is output voltage overshoot during tracking. My bulk voltage is set to 28.9V. When FM-60 is in absorption mode and decides to re-track, it will disregard preset voltage limit and go beyond it. That's quite annoying because some of my equipment connected to battery bank is rated 32V max. What saves it for now are two 12V voltage clamp regulators set to 14.4V each and connected across each 12V battery in my 24V system. They have very steep kick-in curve, dissipating 6A of current at 14.45V and 0A at 14.39V.

My question is, what controller out there is better and why.
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Comments

  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Talk to outback ? they will replace it no problem, there were some issues with firmware but I believe it is sorted now,
    Have a good one
    Tim
  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    This is more of a personal rating than actual lab type tests, but overall I would rate the current crop of MPPT controllers in this order:

    1. Morningstar (right now only a 15 amp version available however)
    2. Xantrex XW-SCC
    3. Outback Power FM series
    10. Apollo

    Notice that I skipped numbers 4-9. We carried Apollof for a while, and out of around 30 sold, 7 or 8 came back with problems under warranty. They supposedly have gotten those issues fixed, but once burned etc...
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,226 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Definately agree Wind & Sun ! but add that there is also something new from X that should open a few eyes when it is announced!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • icarusicarus Solar Expert Posts: 5,400 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Windsun,

    You forgot BZ!

    I would have thought that they rated a mention,,,,at the very bottom!

    T
  • PhilSPhilS Solar Expert Posts: 370 ✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    AntronX,

    I have the FM60 with the same rev as you and have noticed issues: I replaced an MX60 with the FM, putting the MX on a new bank that was smaller. Some days the FM would score the most KWH, sometimes the MX would. The panels receive the same sun (i.e. no shade) and since the FM panels have 20% more capacity IT should outperform the MX everyday.

    I posted at the Outback forum a question about "how long" to send mine in and have the firmware set to 002.000.000 and received a PM from Outback asking me to call. In our phone discussion I was asked about my inverters. One of them is an SW2512 Xantrex and she said Xantrex inverters were a problem with the firmware up to 002. Outback shipped me an updated one at no charge.

    Another post at the Outback forum mentioned receiving an FM with a heavy "clunk" when the unit was moved around. The one I received did that too. I contacted OB and was shipped another FM. Both the OP of that "shipping damage" thread and I were OK with using the units despite something big being not entirely secure inside. That OP said the replacement unit he got had the same "clunk" and he installed it anyway. My newest replacement has the same internal part's movement but only 10% of what the 1st replacement had. I'll install it this weekend.

    All things considered, Outback has given service "above and beyond". I expect the charging problems to be addressed by the firmware change and will post back when I can verify that. I just use the KWH/day as a simple gauge to tell how it's working. I have 3 OB controllers (2-MX; 1-FX) on three banks. If the newest FM shows 20% more KWH/day than #2 MX, I'll know the problem is fixed.

    Phil
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,226 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Phil definately agree about the good service! The only thing better is not needing it!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • WindsunWindsun Solar Expert Posts: 1,164 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    icarus wrote: »
    Windsun,

    You forgot BZ!

    I would have thought that they rated a mention,,,,at the very bottom!

    T

    My list does not go that long ;)

    Actually, I only listed the true digital MPPT's, which is why the Blue Sky were also not listed.
  • boBboB Solar Expert Posts: 975 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    but add that there is also something new from X that should open a few eyes when it is announced!

    Yes, I certainly agree on that one, Dave ! Should be very interesting, and useful.

    So will ours of course, but the new X is still a neat thing. (what very little I know about it)...

    boB
  • WillWinstonWillWinston Solar Expert Posts: 45
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    how far off is the new thing from X

    getting ready to order......
  • AntronXAntronX Solar Expert Posts: 462 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    Definately agree Wind & Sun ! but add that there is also something new from X that should open a few eyes when it is announced!

    Who is X and what is it being announced?
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,637 admin
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    "X" is probably Xantrex... Several first tier solar charge controller manufacturers have been making major updates to their MPPT line over the last year or so... And others with history of designing leading edge MPPT charge controllers are working hard on theirs.

    In the end, you probably have two choices, pick from what is available and shipping today--or wait for the inevitable announcement and 3-6 months before product is actually available from the market (if recent history holds).

    If what is available in the market today would meet your needs with standard configurations--then there probably little reason to wait if you are prepared to do the installation now. The current top tier controllers do work well and any new efficiency improvements can't be more than a few percent (how much better can a 95-97% controller design be improved in terms of efficiency).

    If you are looking at Wind or networking or something else (just guessing) -- one or more of the close to market products may offer some real value (The Midnite Sun Wind MPPT controller sounds very interesting).

    I guess you could post your proposed configuration and let people (in the know) drop hints if one of the new products would be of potential value to you (i.e,, wait or buy now).

    But--this always ends up being the question with computers/electronics/home entertainment--there is always something better just down the road...

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • halfcrazyhalfcrazy Solar Expert Posts: 720 ✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    If Xantrex truly has something new we have not heard anything. None of the big suppliers have heard anything and matter fact AEE cant even get Xantrex Charge controllers till mid January. So if X has something new around the corner I can say without hesitation it is at least 2 years before you can buy it and then I would wait a bit as china hasn't been kind to the XW line in the beginning. There where some pretty big glitches.
  • carotenecarotene Registered Users Posts: 8
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    BB. wrote: »
    "...The current top tier controllers do work well and any new efficiency improvements can't be more than a few percent (how much better can a 95-97% controller design be improved in terms of efficiency)....

    -Bill

    If controller A has an efficiency of 96% and controller B is 98% efficient, then controller B has 1/2 of the conversion losses of A. For a 3 kW system, every efficiency point is 30Watts. Not only does the kWh gain add up over time, poor controller A has to dissipate an extra 60W of heat. So not only is controller A delivering less power to the batteries, it needs a more expensive heatsink/fans to get the job done. Every efficiency point counts.
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 30,637 admin
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Not disagreeing that a few percent improvement helps the system design (waste heat is a problem--lots of waste heat frequently requires fans and/or causes reduced service life). You can already purchase product today that is ambiently cooled and does not use forced air cooling.

    My argument was more slanted towards the Buy Now vs Buy Later argument... The good GT Inverters are already at 95.6+% efficiency. Waiting for months (to possibly a year or more) for the next version (details unknown to us "outsiders") does not make much sense to me if the current product meets "my needs" at an appropriate price point.

    -Bill
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    "Not disagreeing that a few percent improvement helps the system design (waste heat is a problem
    "

    ditto on that for me too, but one does not assume that the extra % point is being all dissipated as heat as it could be a case of it just not being delivered. pwm controllers are such a case as they just don't deliver it all and mppt controllers attempt to recover and deliver this to a degree. the differential from an mppt to a pwm is not dissipated as heat.
  • DeltaFoxDeltaFox Solar Expert Posts: 27
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    I'm getting one of the newest Charge Controler form Morningstar. 60Amp.
    I'll let you know how it works after I get it and hook it up. Suppose to be here in December. I have a 30Amp sunforce but thats to small right now.
  • carotenecarotene Registered Users Posts: 8
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    niel wrote: »
    "Not disagreeing that a few percent improvement helps the system design (waste heat is a problem
    "

    ditto on that for me too, but one does not assume that the extra % point is being all dissipated as heat as it could be a case of it just not being delivered. pwm controllers are such a case as they just don't deliver it all and mppt controllers attempt to recover and deliver this to a degree. the differential from an mppt to a pwm is not dissipated as heat.

    point taken but that's not an apples to apples comparison since they are different topologies. it's all moot since we're in agreement anyway :D

    BB, I understand your point and think its solid advice.
  • blackswan555blackswan555 Solar Expert Posts: 246 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    One little detail you may want to keep your eye on, Is at what temperature they are rated, Some are at 25c , the later FM is at 40c, It makes quite a significant difference in my climate,

    Have a good one
    Tim
  • tallgirltallgirl Solar Expert Posts: 413 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    There's a good argument to be made for sticking with the historically #1 supplier. In my former career I worked in high tech where companies jump over each other even couple of months. Buying the #1 today, especially if they've been #1 the most, for the most time, keeps you from thrashing you and your design staff with different products.

    But also, it forces #2 to make REVOLUTIONARY changes to their products, rather than EVOLUTIONARY changes.

    I wish boB all the best with the MidNite Classic. Hopefully it will shake up brand O and X and get the engineers at those two company to produce REVOLUTIONARY products, rather than fighting over the last 3 or 4 percent of conversion losses.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,226 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    I believe the Xantrex XW (Xantrex wins) was revolutionary 2 years ago. Plenty of room there for improvement ! They dropped the ball on integrating an energy monitor into the network as I remember boB was the first to notice.

    It would be nice to go to 600vdc in battery based inverter systems like the batteryless folks. hmmm......
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • jeffkrusejeffkruse Solar Expert Posts: 205 ✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    It would be nice to go to 600vdc in battery based inverter systems like the batteryless folks. hmmm......

    That would offer a lot more flexibility!

    How much would that improve efficiency?
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,815 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    jeffkruse wrote: »
    How much would that improve efficiency?


    It would turn dropped tools into plasma, much faster than 48V could.
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    i can imagine the battery bank costs for a 600v system. (50 12v batteries!!!!!) you most likely won't see it that high in voltage anyway as that is about the limit to the withstand voltage capability on wires and pvs. remember a 12v battery will have an at rest voltage around 12.7-12.8v and the voltages reached while charging often getting to 14.4v and up. then there's the voltages delivered to the cc from the pvs operating with vmps and vocs in the upper teens and into the 20s of volts respectively. scaling this to match up with a 600v battery bank to feed a 600v inverter would be extremely problematic.
  • AntronXAntronX Solar Expert Posts: 462 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    I would like to see charge controller that would operate at same input voltage range as grid tie inverters, but output 48V DC. This would save copper needed for 200' PV wiring run.

    Also, It would be nice to have an option to use 120 - 144V battery bank for off-grid to run standard switching PSU devices, like computers, LCD TVs and compact fluorescent lights driectly from DC battery bank. With proper safety design I don't see a reason why it cannot be as safe as AC current.
  • nielniel Solar Expert Posts: 10,300 ✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    many of the better mppt controllers can already operate in the 100v+ range and output 48v. there will be some efficiency losses in doing so. just don't exceed the max operating input voltage to the cc and this would be looking at the voc of the pvs in question.
  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,226 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    The moderator is off a little, how do you say it gently? Some may have figured it out...... A mppt charge controller that operates at the array voltages of a batteryless system without multiple strings and their components into the common voltages of existing battery based inverter chargers.

    A few more unmentioned niceties are in the pipedream?
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • AntronXAntronX Solar Expert Posts: 462 ✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    Also connecting 18 panels in series for 372 Vmp versus 6 parallel strings of 3 in series will eliminate those combiner boxes and will use 6 times less copper.

    Now the big question to DC converter engineers: is there a way to design 250 - 600Vdc to 48Vdc MPPT converter with 96 - 99% conversion efficiency?
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,815 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    I've got 5, stackable, DC-DC converters parked in my house just for this. 400V down to 24V, 500W each. It won't do my entire array capacity, but it could keep me going if the grid died. about 90% each, if i recall right
    http://www.powerconversion.com/products/websheet/45/AIF25
    Powerfab top of pole PV mount | Listeroid 6/1 w/st5 gen head | XW6048 inverter/chgr | Iota 48V/15A charger | Morningstar 60A MPPT | 48V, 800A NiFe Battery (in series)| 15, Evergreen 205w "12V" PV array on pole | Midnight ePanel | Grundfos 10 SO5-9 with 3 wire Franklin Electric motor (1/2hp 240V 1ph ) on a timer for 3 hr noontime run - Runs off PV ||
    || Midnight Classic 200 | 10, Evergreen 200w in a 160VOC array ||
    || VEC1093 12V Charger | Maha C401 aa/aaa Charger | SureSine | Sunsaver MPPT 15A

    solar: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Solar
    gen: http://tinyurl.com/LMR-Lister ,

  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,226 ✭✭✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)

    This is done all the time in space solar. The trick is for the price point!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • halfcrazyhalfcrazy Solar Expert Posts: 720 ✭✭✭
    Re: Outback MPPT vs. others (Xantrex, MorningStar, Apollo Solar)
    AntronX wrote: »
    Also connecting 18 panels in series for 372 Vmp versus 6 parallel strings of 3 in series will eliminate those combiner boxes and will use 6 times less copper.

    Now the big question to DC converter engineers: is there a way to design 250 - 600Vdc to 48Vdc MPPT converter with 96 - 99% conversion efficiency?

    That is going to be the tough one although the Classic looks promising at high voltages. I would assume there will be a fair amount of trade off at real high dc voltages.
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