Morningstar MPPT 60 vs Outback Flexmax or MX-60 Comparison

We are moving from our monohull with a great solar installation to a newly acquired catamaran without solar. So we're starting from scratch. I've been doing research on MPPT controllers--to see whether there's been any significant technology change from when we researched the issue 10 years ago.

Our experience is with the Outback MX-60 solar controller. This is a rugged controller and has worked pretty well for us. It is still blasting away with no mechanical or electrical problems in our harsh cruising environment. We had one issue that Outback helped us with (about 5 years ago) decently responsive tech support. We ended up shipping our 5 year old Outback back from Hawaii for a firmware upgrade (and were not charged for anything else they might or might not have done). So we are pretty satisfied with the Outback and their technical support. There is a little RFI on certain frequencies, but it's easy enough to cut off the panels and/or shut down the controller to eliminate that.

In researching, I've looked at the Midnight Solar Classic and the Morningstar MPPT 60. I think I've discounted the Midnite Solar because of reports on handybobsolar.wordpress.com. His rant about Midnite and his ultimate switch to Morningstar made me look more closely at Morningstar. 

While doing so, I found a PDF file floating around put out by Morningstar that has some compelling reasons that Morningstar is better than Outback.

Morningstar Brag Sheet

Any comments about the validity of this comparison?  We understand that not everything you read on the internet is true! 
One of the claims is less RFI. Can anyone with a Morningstar MPPT 60 comment on RFI on the most-often used HF radio Ham and Marine Bands (7, 14, 6, 8, 12)?

Another claim is that the Morningstar has self-upgrading the firmware.  Since we are overseas much of the time this would keep us from having to ship our Outback back for a firmware upgrade.  Can anyone comment on how well this works?

Anyone want to comment on their real-life experience with the Morningstar MPPT 60? (or 45)?

Any major differences I should be aware of with the Outback Flexmax vs MX-60??

Anyone have any real positive or negative recent experience with Morningstar or Outback Customer Service?

Many Thanks,
Dave & Sherry McCampbell
s/v Soggy Paws the St. Francis 44
In the Philippines

Comments

  • Dave AngeliniDave Angelini Solar Expert Posts: 5,027 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 #2
    I believe that the Morningstar electronics on their MPPT's are the most efficient that one can buy. Outback has very good customer service and hard to beat. You probably will not need service with Morningstar if the unit works. In my opinion the MX-60 being the first MPPT had sweep issues and fans that failed too often in harsh environments.

    We cruised on SV Astraea a cheoy lee offshore 41 for about 10 years. Loved it! Have fun and be safe!
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • zonebluezoneblue Solar Expert Posts: 1,218 ✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 #3
    In researching, I've looked at the Midnight Solar Classic and the Morningstar MPPT 60. I think I've discounted the Midnite Solar because of reports on handybobsolar.wordpress.com. His rant about Midnite and his ultimate switch to Morningstar made me look more closely at Morningstar.
    You took one guys opinion? Im no midnite fanboy,  but handybob sounds a bit het up, over what im not too sure... Quotes:
    I was also put off a bit by the goofy looks
    No argument there.
    The first thing I saw as a problem was the lack of a manual. ... Wouldn’t you think that a manual should be written before introducing a new product?... I did need to phone them to ask a few questions that were not explained.  Every time I called them...
    There is and always has been a extensive pdf manual on midnites website. IT some times lags the new firmware realeases, but thats the cost of new features. You need to call them multiple times to program your controller?
    The second thing that bothered me was the difficulty I had in getting #4 cable into the lugs
    It is true that  those terminals were originally tight for 4 guage, but they did fit, and sometime in 2013 they were upgraded to bigger terminals.  I personally would prefer studs over terminals.
    This was when I noticed that MidNIte also does not include remote voltage sensing. I had a discussion with them about this. They just don’t think it is important to compensate for the voltage drop that is going to be present
    You get this in RV guys that have snakey layouts. (His looks ok). None of the rest of us have an issue with this, because of short wiring. If you have wiring that drops more than 200mV at peak load then youve wired it up wrong.
    Next, the arc fault tripped and shut the charging off.
    Thats caused by actual arc faults, or some kinds of load patterns, eg motors. Simple answer: use  lots of wire protection, then turn it off. You dont need it.
    About 9 months into this I noticed that my batteries didn’t seem to be holding their voltage overnight so I started looking at the history functions in my Trimetric battery monitor. I was shocked to find that the highest voltage recorded showed that automatic monthly equalization I had programmed was not happening.
    EQ is the answer to everything? What about programming the controller with the right set points? Sounds like his absorb time was too short. My guess is his auto EQ problem was related to the watchdog reset issue, it was losing count of the days. Personally dont use auto EQ here, mainly because midnite's EQ doesnt wait for float, which i prefer.  Certainly not worth returning the controller... what was it? 4 times? Lost count.
    I discovered that the Classic does exactly the same period of absorption every day
    He bought this in 2013, and didnt know about the WBJr? WBJr is one the big things that sets this controller aside.
    Tristar has an automatic charging algorithm that works seamlessly. I know this because I have installed dozens of them in RV’s, set the dip switches
    Maybe some people are just more suited to a few dipswitches as the extent of their programming. However this doesnt make the more programmable controllers rant worthy.
    Oh, I forgot about the noise. This thing has a “Turbo” fan that runs when it gets hot. The main cooling fans (there are two) aren’t very noisy, but nearly continuous.
    Heres a clue as to how this is installed. His primary fans are always on and the turbo fan is also on. That thing is HOT. No ventilation probably? While midnites fans are much quieter than Outback ones, i agree that the morningstar and schneider fanless controllers are more attractive from a cooling perspective. I also suspect that these units have more efficient dc converters, and any gain claimed by midnite is derived from its mppt algorithym.
    I can now say with absolute certainty that MidNite does not tell the truth regarding efficiency. Of course I cannot actually prove it, not having a certified test lab, but read this: The day before I took it down, ... I recorded 1688W output from the Classic. The day after, with pretty much identical conditions, the two Tristar’s were producing 1692W, so close as to be indistinguishable.
    So whats he saying? Ones more effcient... they are both the same? And he relied for his information... on the controller itself? Around here absolute certainty will need a bit more data. Of course two units will have a lot more heat dissipation ability. Had he got the 150V controller i should have got over the classic 200, it would have run even cooler. One tristar would get pretty hot in that minimal ventilation environment too... On an RV you have none of the preconditions for a high voltage controller. The exact opposite, short strings are always better fro shading tolerance.
    MPPT boost?  What boost? ...Wouldn’t you expect two controllers to be less efficient than one?
    So now im lost, hes comparing a PWM to a mppt? A PWM will always run cooler, because there is no dc converter. What PWM loses in mpp tracking it gains in DC efficiency for the better part. But you cant tell any of this from a bulk snapshot. The total days harvest is what counts, and thats what midnite and others measure in their comparisons.
    Last, I can tell you that my resting voltage in the morning has improved a bit.
    All this likely tells us is that random programming produces random results.I guess thats my rant about a rant. Maybe the guy's around here and he can fill in the gaps.
    1.8kWp CSUN, 10kWh AGM, Midnite Classic 150, Outback VFX3024E,
    http://zoneblue.org/cms/page.php?view=off-grid-solar


  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 #4
    I've had and still have all three of those controllers. The MX60 is retired, not because it quit, but because when doing it's sweep, it's design removes all control over battery voltage, which during cold winter days and with a full battery bank, would push the battery voltage so high during sweeps, that my inverters were shutting down on overvoltage. The other thing, compared to both the TS-MPPT-60 and the MidNight Classic, the Outback was very slow completing it's sweeps. That long time taken to complete a sweep contributed to the occasional over voltage shutdown of my inverters. The MX-60 was also very noisy re emitting RFI, something that's all but totally missing from the other two. The Morningstar completes it's sweep in in a fraction of a second, compared to as much as 30 seconds for the MX60. The MidNight does constant checks of MPP, so doesn't do traditional sweeps, you don't notice it sweeping at all. It's fans will run in hot weather when handling high wattage, other than that, it's silent. The Morningstar has no fan, needs no fan. Large heat sink usually hardly has the chill off it, very little heat produced and what heat is produced is easily taken care of by the big, open air heat sink.
    If 60 amp output is all you need, then I'd go with the Morningsrar. On the other hand, the MidNight offers a number of extra programmable features such as relay drivers you can set to activate external items depending on the state the controller happens to be in. The MX60 is an older, tired design.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,610 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have the TS-MPPT-60 and a Classic 200  I have bought a 2nd TS-MPPT-60 for another PV array because I am quite disappointed with the classic.
    BUT the TS-MPPT does NOT have "automatic" updating.  I hook mine up to a computer, and use the MS-View software to program and update the controller.
    In my experience with the Classic 200, it is NOT as efficient as the TS-MPPT-60 that sits next to it, the fans run often (and are noisy) and the entire unit dissipates a lot of heat.  The TS next to is, is much cooler and has a silent heatsink
    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: 5,027 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited September 2015 #6
    Another unit similar to Mike's experience for heat is the Schneider XW mppt-60-150. I have had dozens of them operating in hot humid environments for close to 10 years. No fans /very little heat and the firmware has been completed since 2008.
    Wanted to add that on a boat in a humid hot humid climate, the last thing one wants is a fan running pulling moist air inside unless they really have to.
    "we go where power lines don't" Sierra Mountains near Mariposa/Yosemite CA
     http://members.sti.net/offgridsolar/
    E-mail [email protected]

  • zonebluezoneblue Solar Expert Posts: 1,218 ✭✭✭✭
    classic 200's are known to run hotter than normal classics, but if your 150 fan runs for for more than a few minutes a day that would be unusual, here.

    1.8kWp CSUN, 10kWh AGM, Midnite Classic 150, Outback VFX3024E,
    http://zoneblue.org/cms/page.php?view=off-grid-solar


  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,986 ✭✭✭✭
    mike95490 said:
    I have the TS-MPPT-60 and a Classic 200  I have bought a 2nd TS-MPPT-60 for another PV array because I am quite disappointed with the classic   ...

    In my experience with the Classic 200, it is NOT as efficient as the TS-MPPT-60 that sits next to it, the fans run often (and are noisy) and the entire unit dissipates a lot of heat   ...

    Does the comparison between a Classic 200 and the Morningstar MPPT 60 seem fair to you Mike??

    If it does seem fair,  just swap the PV array from your first MPPT 60 onto the Classic 200,  and the array from the Classic 200 onto the TS-MPPT-60 to see what might happen ...   that seems fair to me!

    What is the string Vmp and Voc of the PVs on the Classic 200?   And on that  TS that you are comparing the Classic 200 to??

    Thanks!  Vic



    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH [email protected], 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • mike95490mike95490 Solar Expert Posts: 8,610 ✭✭✭✭✭
    I have a 180Voc array on the Classic 200.   Can't swap.   Arrays are both Evergreen, about 60' from each other, and in full sun, their outputs match up well for the array size ratio.  Add the least bit of clouds, scattered or whatever and the classic falls off, I've tried all the PV modes, and Legacy P&O works best.   On the Midnight forums, I'm not the only one seeing this issue,

    I do understand that the further from the Battery voltage, the MPPT tracker runs, the less efficient the controller, which accounts for a few % of loss, but even sleeping at night, the classic consumes more than the Morningstar.


    3Kw MS-TS-MPPT-60  Voc 112V
    2Kw Classic 200  Voc 180V
     NiFe battery bank absorbs at 67V
    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 ,

  • VicVic Solar Expert Posts: 2,986 ✭✭✭✭
    mike95490 said:
    I have a 180Voc array on the Classic 200.   Can't swap.   Arrays are both Evergreen, about 60' from each other, and in full sun, their outputs match up well for the array size ratio.  Add the least bit of clouds, scattered or whatever and the classic falls off, I've tried all the PV modes, and Legacy P&O works best.   On the Midnight forums, I'm not the only one seeing this issue,

    I do understand that the further from the Battery voltage, the MPPT tracker runs, the less efficient the controller, which accounts for a few % of loss, but even sleeping at night, the classic consumes more than the Morningstar.


    3Kw MS-TS-MPPT-60  Voc 112V
    2Kw Classic 200  Voc 180V
     NiFe battery bank absorbs at 67V


    Ok,  Thanks Mike,

    But,  in my experience,  the effects of increased Vmp and Voc is not at all linear.

    The point that I was trying to make,  is that the TS MPPT 60 is simply UNABLE to do the job that the Classic 200 does.  There is a cost,  and am sure that you knew that there would not be a free lunch in using the Classic 200,  but,  with your engineering background,  knew that it must have been worth the tradeoff.

    Furthermore,  the Classic includes many,  many things that the stripped-down TS MPPT 60 lacks.  The TS uses DIP switches for setting a limited number of charge profiles (yes you can use MS View,  but whatta pain),  there are absolutely NO Aux outputs on the TS,  and the optional Meter for the TS is quite stunted,  and counter-intuitive (to me, at least).  The standard Classics include the remoteable 4-Line LCD display/control panel (MNGP),  two Aux outputs,  one of which is an Analog I/O.  These Aux I/Os can PWM SSRs for control of Dump loads,  like water heater element,  etc.   The inexpensive WBjr allows monitoring of battery current,  Net AH in and out,  etc (about $50.),  and termination of Absorb based upon actual battery charge current,  and so on.

    These two CCs are really very different,  and if the TS MPPT 60 was not more efficient,  then,  there would be absolutely no reason whatsoever to even consider it!

    These two CCs are in different classes,  and comparing the two really seems unfair,  especially since there is absolutely no way that the TS MPPT 60 could do the job that the Classic 200 is doing for you,  and there is a cost for this benefit to you.

    My opinions,   Vic

    Off Grid - Two systems -- 4 SW+ 5548 Inverters, Surrette 4KS25 1280 AH [email protected], 11.1 KW STC PV, 4X MidNite Classic 150 w/ WBjrs, Beta KID on S-530s, MX-60s, MN Bkrs/Boxes.  25 KVA Polyphase Kubota diesel,  Honda Eu6500isa,  Eu3000is-es, Eu2000,  Eu1000 gensets.  Thanks Wind-Sun for this great Forum.
  • PhotowhitPhotowhit Solar Expert Posts: 5,105 ✭✭✭✭

    With out getting into Midnite vs anybody argument, I'm personally a fan of Midnite and it's developers...

    I would think there are advantages in a marine environment to a fanless design. I also suspect that Morningstars;

    "Epoxy encapsulated Inductors. Conformally Coated Circuit Boards. No fans, no mechanical relays." would all be desirable in a marine environment.

    Home system 4000 watt (Evergreen) array standing, with 2 Midnite Classic Lites,  Midnite E-panel, Prosine 1800 and Exeltech 1100, 660 ah 24v ForkLift battery. Off grid for @16 of last 17 years. Assorted other systems, and to many panels in the closet to not do more...lol
  • waynefromnscanadawaynefromnscanada Solar Expert Posts: 3,009 ✭✭✭✭
    Photowhit said:

    With out getting into Midnite vs anybody argument, I'm personally a fan of Midnite and it's developers...

    I would think there are advantages in a marine environment to a fanless design. I also suspect that Morningstars;

    "Epoxy encapsulated Inductors. Conformally Coated Circuit Boards. No fans, no mechanical relays." would all be desirable in a marine environment.

    I'm also happy to have the TS in my unheated outbuilding with it's occasional temp changes causing condensation during drastic winter weather changes.
  • WaterWheelWaterWheel Registered Users Posts: 335 ✭✭✭
    Keep in mind that the OP is putting these panels on a boat, not a house roof so the area for the panels will be very small.     A 60 amp controller will be plenty large.

    Conext XW6848 with PDP, SCP, 80/600 controller, 60/150 controller and Conext battery monitor

    21 SW280 panels on Schletter ground mount

    48v Rolls 6CS 27P

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