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27 Underrated Tourist Attractions To Add To Your NYC Itinerary. Fivestar solar charge controller

27 Underrated Tourist Attractions To Add To Your NYC Itinerary. Fivestar solar charge controller

    Underrated Tourist Attractions To Add To Your NYC Itinerary

    A city unlike any other in the United States, New York is a top destination for domestic and international tourists for so many reasons. The numbers back this up, and before the pandemic, the city welcomed more than 66 million visitors in one year. Why do they come? For starters, there are the globally recognized buildings old and new, icons unto themselves that just yearn to be seen — the Empire State Building, the Statue of Liberty, the Flatiron Building, the Freedom Tower, and St. Patrick’s Cathedral, to name just a handful.

    This is where to find tons of world-class museums that will keep visitors entertained for days on end, from the Museum of Modern Art to the Met, and much more. And then there are the ambitious public areas that are a quintessential part of any New York experience, from Central Park to Washington Square Park, from Grand Central Terminal to the Oculus at the World Trade Center. And yet, sticking to these marquee attractions does the rest of the city’s riches a grand disservice, because there really is so much to see beyond the tried and tested. For every Bryant Park or High Line, there is a lesser-known slice of urban wonder elsewhere in the city that is just as rewarding, even if it’s not high on the public radar. Here are some of the best ones worth looking out for.

    Bush Terminal Piers Park

    Part of a former port area, this public park opened in 2014 after an extensive overhaul. It sits on the edge of an industrial part of Brooklyn, Sunset Park, and that history is evident from the old factory/warehouse that runs alongside one section of the park, near the soccer and baseball fields.

    The best part of a visit here is that it lets travelers appreciate how connected the city is to the water, with rocky stretches that push out toward Bay Ridge Channel and create small tidal pools. There’s always a mix of people here, and you might see locals walking their dogs, flying kites, sitting down and taking in the breeze, or admiring the sweeping views of Downtown Manhattan that really are spectacular.

    City Island

    Wander past seafood restaurants and small local businesses at this Bronx island, and you won’t believe you are in NYC. A small slip of an isle that sits just off the main chunk of the Bronx, one of the city’s five boroughs, and linked to it by a bridge, this destination feels like a true escape from the Big Apple. Stroll down City Island Avenue, the main drag, and you’ll notice the lack of apparent urbanism, causing it to feel like you have arrived at a small New England village.

    Independent boutiques mingle with yacht clubs and restaurants that extol their amazing seafood, and the general ambiance here is laid-back, a stark contrast to the hustle and bustle of the rest of NYC. Early June and September are great times to visit, especially when a weekend arts fair fills the sidewalks with stalls and entertainment.

    Concrete Plant Park

    What almost appears as a repository for oversized sculptures of industrial equipment was actually a former concrete manufacturing facility. This stretch of urban renewal sits close to Bruckner Boulevard, one of the busiest commercial strips of the Bronx, populated by warehouses and auto repair shops, but it is a realm of peace that hugs that Bronx River.

    The giant pieces here, painted the color of chocolate or rust, depending on what a visitor wishes to see, were once functioning hoppers and silos for the company Transit-Mix Corporation, a cement manufacturer that operated a facility here from 1945-1987. After the operations ceased, the plant fell into disrepair, a common urban tale of decay exacerbated by dangerous materials left behind and a general sense of despair about the future of the site. But, after concerted community efforts and cooperation by the NYC Parks Department, the plot was reinvented, opening in 2009 with chess tables, pedestrian and bicycle paths, and shaded seating, all of which are great spots to take in this unheralded gem on a sunny day.

    Dyckman Farmhouse Museum

    This historic farmhouse is the last remaining Dutch farmstead in Manhattan and is home to a museum that traces its storied past. Restored in the early 1900s by the children of one of its earlier owners, it has fascinating period interiors, with fireplaces, old wooden chairs, tables, desks with drop leaves, and paintings that really make visitors feel as though when they enter, they have stepped back in time.

    Travelers that come here to the northern part of Manhattan should definitely make time to wander around the gardens, with their pretty wildflowers, planter beds, and sense of urban escape in the middle of what is now a concrete jungle.

    El Museo del Barrio

    A stretch of the Upper East Side, the posh neighborhood in Manhattan that sits east of Central Park, is where to find the Museum Mile. Along here, some of the city’s finest institutions can be found, such as the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, and the Cooper Hewitt. At the northern cusp of this ribbon, visitors will find the often-overlooked El Museo del Barrio, which celebrates the heritage of Puerto Ricans in the United States, as well as other Latino achievements.

    Exhibitions take a distinctive, in-depth, and unexpected look at the experience of Puerto Ricans, and other Latins, including recent waves of Mexicans and Dominicans that have immigrated to New York, presenting art in creative, groundbreaking ways.

    Fort Wadsworth

    This former military outpost on Staten Island is one of the oldest in the country. It sits right under the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge, a grand span that connects Brooklyn and Staten Island, and offers views of the bridge that many don’t get to see. Spread out over more than 200 acres along a coastal patch of the island, the fort isn’t just an interesting part of the city’s history, but it also enables visitors to get striking views of the harbor, bridge, and Manhattan skyline in the distance from its overlook.

    The complex was started in the 1800s as part of a string of coastal strongholds aimed at repelling any foreign invasions. Originally constructed from sandstone, it later used granite and brick as its main materials, rebuilt in the middle 1800s, and it continued to serve a military purpose before it was folded into the National Park Service in 1994.

    Fulton Fish Market

    Named for the street in Downtown Manhattan where it once stood, this fish market, in a large commercial food terminus in the Bronx, is a hive of activity, a noisy, smelly, slice of New York that most tourists will never witness. But catching the action requires a little effort, and visitors will need to get here early in the morning to see all the drama unfold. The original fish market was a short distance from Wall Street in Manhattan, first debuting in 1807, and it sold not only fish but other items as well.

    Fifteen years later, the market moved to new premises on South Street, not far away, and more than a century later it was the commercial nexus for one-quarter of all the seafood sold in the country. The whole operation moved to the Bronx in 2005, into a 400,000-square-foot home that cost more than 80 million to build, and while much of the business done daily is wholesale, representatives of some of the city’s finest restaurants can be found here in the wee hours snapping up snappers and other fresh finds.

    The Ganesh Temple of Queens

    This popular temple in Queens has an ornate gopuram (tower by its entry), and is a bedrock in its neighborhood of Flushing, Queens, one of the most ethnically diverse parts of New York City. This site was home to a small house of worship from 1970, but the current temple was finished in 1977 and has been drawing religious followers ever since.

    Dedicated to the Hindu god Ganesh, a remover of obstacles, this temple is a place of great tranquility and spiritual power, welcome even to nonfollowers of Hinduism. What is even more alluring is its proximity to the Queens’ Botanical Garden, and its fantastic temple canteen, which serves up delicious, reasonably priced, super-fresh, South Indian delights, open from 8.30 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

    Jacques Marchais Museum Tibetan Art

    This building in Staten Island was made to look resemble the rustic form of a Tibetan monastery, the perfect stage for the trove of items here. It is located on a hill, close to a golf course and cemetery, and has views of New York waterways like Lower Bay and Raritan Bay. The collection here, not all of which is displayed, is vast, with thousands of works from northern China, Mongolia, and Tibet, some more than 500 years old.

    Open from Thursday through Sunday, and only in the afternoons, it showcases a range of artistic mediums, from sculpture to religious reliquaries, from musical instruments to paintings artfully captured on scrolls, and a visit here feels like making a trip to another continent.

    Jamaica Bay Wildlife Refuge

    Not far from JFK Airport, this wilderness area, incorporating land and water, teems with avian life. With an area of 9,000 acres, the tranquil, natural arena comprises broad bays, marshes, woods, fields, and flats of tidal mud where shorebirds like to scavenge. For birdwatchers, this is paradise in the city, and more than 3,000 bird species (about half of those that live in the Northeast of the United States) have stopped by in the last three decades.

    What can one see? Sightings of snow geese, ducks, swans, hawks, and falcons are commonplace, and beyond the abundant bird population here, the refuge is just a gorgeous place to reconnect with the environment and a way to escape into the wilds while still being in the city.

    Kosciuszko Bridge

    Linking Queens and Brooklyn, and tastefully lit at night, this bridge is actually not much to see per se, and it is frequently choked with traffic (it forms part of one of the city’s most busy expressways, and is close to the entry point to another, the Long Island Expressway). And yet, by dint of its location, it has views over Newton Creek and onto the Manhattan skyline that are stunning.

    A cycle and walking path on the west side of the bridge, which is cable-stayed and has two sections that are separated in the middle, allows visitors to look across over Calvary Cemetery, along the winding creek that adds another visual element to the panorama, and to soaring towers across the East River. While the views are breathtaking during the day, at night the whole scene becomes even more spectacular. After dark, the skyline is lit, appearing like a series of glinting gems, while the bridge’s cables, bathed in deep, pastel hues, look like they belong to a spaceship about to land.

    Louis Valentino Jr., Park and Pier

    The views of waterways and the Statue of Liberty are worth the trip out to this part of Brooklyn, which played an important role in the city’s shipping past, while still being linked to it. In fact, this compact patch of greenery with a long pier that reaches out into Buttermilk Channel sits a short distance from the Brooklyn Cruise Terminal.

    Travelers can take to the water during the summer months with kayaking trips operated by local outfitters Red Hook Boaters from the park, while there are free film screenings here during the warmer months, courtesy of Red Hook Flicks, making it a hang-out that’s popular with locals.

    Newton Creek Nature Walk

    Near a shiny wastewater treatment plant, and along the waterway that separates parts of Brooklyn and Queens, this walk feels both urban and not. Extending about one-half mile along the water, near the water facility and along Newton Creek, it first debuted in 2007, though was added to in 2021 following the opening of a new section.

    It aims to draw a link between water and life, done not only through the location of the walk — by a waterway and the wastewater plant — but also through features like the entry gates that are shaped like waves, and sculpted sections that resemble a boat. Along the route, visitors will encounter native plants like swamp white oak and eastern red cedar.

    Noguchi Museum

    For fans of art, the name Isamu Noguchi will immediately strike a chord. The sculptor, half-American and half-Japanese, and raised in the United States and Japan, is known for this vast oeuvre of sculpted works, pieces that inhabited different genres, from large outdoor pieces to ceramics, from lighting to stage sets. He also worked across materials, and works were made using steel, marble, iron, wood, granite, and even water.

    You can peruse a huge selection of pieces by this seminal artist, including models, sculptures, and drawings, both indoors and outside, at this museum in the Long Island City part of Queens. The large, industrial building sits across from the location of Noguchi’s studio, a fitting homage to this artistic great who spent many of his years in the city (he died here in 1988).

    Paley Center for Media

    Formerly known as the Museum of Television and Radio, the Paley Center For Media is a great place for anyone fascinated by the history of TV and radio, with more than 150,000 programs that look back over a century of these mediums. It’s also close to the cultural behemoth, the Museum of Modern Art, which sits one block to the north, and can be easily combined with a visit there — assuming you have the energy.

    Visitors to Paley can pore over an archive that contains news, sports, documentaries, comedy, and even old advertisements for anyone that is nostalgic for jingles and ditties from their youth. It’s like an encyclopedia for the broadcast arts, with the archive available at each viewing station; large consoles can be watched by up to four people, ideal for a family. The center also holds debates on the Rapid changes in media, and film and television screenings.

    Pelham Bay Park

    This sprawling park in the Bronx — the largest park in New York City — has plenty of things to do, and large swathes of green space that will let visitors leave the city behind. It’s split into two parts, separated by the Hutchinson River, and visitors will pass through it en route to City Island (mentioned above).

    There are a number of parts of it not to miss. The Kazimiroff Nature Trail, named for a historian born in the Bronx, showcases the towering spruce and pine trees here (and the owls that live in them), as well as some large rocks that were used in rituals by local Native Americans prior to European conquest. Elsewhere in the park, visitors will find monuments, grand sculptures, sections of forest, and even a broad, curling, sandy beach that gets busy during the summer.

    Queens Museum

    Unless they are lucky enough to be on the correct side of a plane, and flying the appropriate route, travelers are unlikely to see that sweeping overview of the city, the kind that appears on postcards or movies and TV shows set in NYC. But visit the Queens Museum, located in Flushing Meadows Corona Park (where the U.S. Open tennis tournament is played), and you’ll be able to see the entire expanse of the city — or at least a model of it.

    The Panorama of New York City is one of the museum’s permanent exhibitions and is not to be missed. First constructed for the 1964-1965 World Fair, it took three years to complete, and covers almost 10,000 square feet of exhibition space (it has undergone renovations to keep it current). Standing next to it, visitors will be able to get a real grasp of the layout of the city, with models scaled 1:1200 (so one inch is the equivalent of 100 feet), and will be able to make out lesser known landmarks like the Newton Creek Wastewater Plant, as well as the more familiar bridges, buildings, and stadiums.

    Renwick Smallpox Hospital

    This former hospital, on Roosevelt Island, might be surrounded by iron-rail fences which prohibit access, but it’s still an eerie sight. Its genesis dates to 1856 when it was opened as a hospital specifically aimed at tackling the problem of smallpox. Over the decades, it changed to become a nursing school and later fell into disrepair. Despite the unrelenting action of the elements and the environment which both contribute to the building’s slow decay, it was designated as a National Landmark by the National Register of Historic Places in 1972.

    Today, a nonprofit group called Friends of the Ruin aims to restore the building in parts to make it a memorial that all can safely visit. That said, even from beyond the fences around it, it is a haunting piece of architecture that will long stay with any visitor.

    The Rockaways

    A great beach getaway at the end of Queens, and south of Jamaica Bay, this part of the city was greatly affected by Hurricane Sandy in 2012. The strong winds and surging seas wreaked havoc on homes and the boardwalk, a winding piece of seaside history that had been open since 1931. After Sandy, the city stepped in with a rehabilitation plan, and in the summer of 2017, the restored boardwalk was opened, with wide concrete paths and places to sit.

    The beach itself is broad and topped in soft sand, fronting the Atlantic Ocean and accessible by both subway and water ferry that departs from Wall Street in Manhattan, and Sunset Park in Brooklyn.

    Seaside Wildlife Nature Park

    This swathe of greenery in the southeast of Staten Island is a treasure chest of flora and fauna. With grassy expanses ceding to the salt marsh on Great Kills Harbor, this is where the intrepid traveler will find more than 60 species of birds — among them cormorants and ospreys — as well as those nomads of the seafront, the horseshoe crab. Among the greenery are pine trees, white oaks, mulberry bushes, and pretty milkweed plants.

    But, what makes this part of the city most popular with visitors is the playground, themed with a nautical overview as a nod to the location and the tradition of seafaring in the area, and a place of wild entertainment for neighborhood kids, and those from further afield that make the trek out here.

    Shakespeare Steps

    Watchers of the movie Joker will understand why Joaquin Phoenix won an Oscar in 2020 for his role of the title character — his portrayal was heart-wrenching, moving, unnerving, and terrifying, a remarkable tour de force by the talented actor. One of the most famous scenes in the film takes place when his character wiggles and dances down a long, vertiginous set of stairs, a watershed moment when he finally feels comfortable in his skin.

    That iconic scene was filmed in the Bronx, on a set of steps that descends from Anderson Avenue, a little north of Yankee Stadium. Come for a visit, it’s close to the 4 Train stop at 167 Street, and you can re-enact the scene, though you are not likely to be alone — these, after all, are a functioning set of city steps that serve a very practical purpose.

    Snug Harbor Cultural Center Botanical Garden

    It’s hard to pin a label on this destination on Staten Island, there is so much variety and so much to see. This is where to find the Newhouse Center of Contemporary Art, the leading repository of modern art on the island, with 15,000 square feet of space open for exhibitions. Another space in the center is home to a maritime collection, while there is also a Children’s Museum and an institution that looks at the history of Staten Island.

    Many come here to wander around the numerous gardens, which include a rose garden, a butterfly garden, and even a Chinese Scholar’s Garden, where buildings have sweeping rooflines that transport visitors to Asia.

    Socrates Sculpture Park

    A short walk away from another great realm of sculpture, the Noguchi Museum, this waterfront outdoor arts park in Long Island City, Queens, is a wonderful excursion. There are always new exhibitions on show here, and a recent one featured a complex structure of scaffolding that reflects the city’s skyline, while pieces of vegetation dotted up high in the scaffolds represent the fragility of the coast and its ecology.

    Yet the park isn’t just about art, and there are many other events that draw visitors, from musical performances (including opera), workshops on nature, meditation sessions at sunset, and morning yoga.

    Sylvan Terrace

    Here is an instance of a blink-and-you-will-miss-it site. A short, single block in Upper Manhattan, and set right by Morris-Jumel Mansion, the oldest house in Manhattan, this stretch of houses seems to belong to another era. Sylvan Terrace was once just a driveway without homes, a road that carriages plied from the mansion as they headed out to the city, and you can almost picture this since the center of Sylvan Terrace is still paved with cobblestones.

    The houses were added in the late 1800s, made of wood, and notable for their vibrant yellow and brown paintwork, and bright green shutters. Tucked among apartment buildings, this block really is an arresting sight, and one that will have you gaping in wonder.

    Ukrainian Museum

    How many places in the United States can lay claim to a museum celebrating the traditions of this country currently under siege? Located in the East Village, which for many years had a strong cadre of residents from Ukraine, and that is home to an area called Little Ukraine, this small museum is a fabulous way to learn more about this Eastern European country.

    Drop by, and you might see pretty pieces of folk art, tokens that are perceived as good luck charms, made from leather, wood, and eggs, as well as artfully embroidered items of clothing, and also paintings by leading Ukrainian artists.

    Van Cortlandt Park

    A huge park in the north of the Bronx that bleeds into Westchester, the county above New York City, this is an amazing expanse of nature. It’s larger than Central Park and is a fascinating window into the geological past of this part of the world. Thousands of years ago, the city sat under giant glaciers, and when these hunks of ice retreated, they left behind a wildly varied landscape, and Van Cortlandt Park is evidence of this.

    Visitors will stumble upon broad flat fields, gentle inclines, steep ridges, and plenty of rocks, with dolomite and schist prevalent. Adventurers can explore miles of hiking trails that shuffle through trees, and wander around wetlands, woods, and deep areas of forest. You’ll truly forget you are in New York City.

    Wave Hill

    Another example of green goodness in the Bronx, this 28-acre site is beautifully landscaped, and perfect for photos. Wave Hill describes itself as an open-air museum, but most visitors will see it as a botanical wonder, where thousands of trees, plants, vines, shrubs, and flora, appear both in finely manicured form and also gorgeously wild.

    Guests will be able to marvel at the plants in greenhouses, the beautiful forms and shapes in the gardens, and even get lost in a wood. The park is open most days of the week, but visitors on a budget should plan to come on a Thursday when entry is free, something that is never underrated.

    Foods You Should Be Making From Scratch

    While everyone’s priorities vary, it’s safe to suggest that preparing staples from scratch rather than succumbing to the allure of processed alternatives is a superior choice. For one, homemade goods offer a certain comfort and greater flavor that comes from clean, familiar ingredients. Thrifty cooks can save money by buying beans in bulk and repurposing overripe fruit or vegetable scraps. The adventurous flavor seekers can customize their seasoning mixes and snacks and fill their pantry with homemade preserves. If health is your priority, you can nurture gut health with unpasteurized fermented goodies. Finally, environmentally-minded folks can reduce packaging waste by crafting their own drinks and vegan yogurts.

    The only costly resource required for all these artisanal delights is time, but once you’ve savored freshly hand-crafted goodies, we guarantee you’ll want to create more space in your schedule for making them — for your health, your wallet, and the planet.


    Remember the great breadmaking renaissance of 2020? What began as a quirky pursuit to quell quarantine-induced ennui remains a skill worth mastering. Sinking your teeth into a warm, crusty loaf of homemade bread is a surefire way to never return to factory-produced fare. As you experiment with various bread recipes, you’ll find your prowess improving, your understanding of the process growing, and your ability to produce high-quality, affordable, and customizable loaves from simple ingredients increasing. And if you’re into sourdough, skip the pricey kits — growing your starter from scratch couldn’t be easier.

    Pasta sauce

    While making your own marinara will take longer than dumping a store-bought jar into the pan, we suggest you embrace the satisfaction of a homemade sauce devoid of excessive sodium, oil, or preservatives, tailored to your specific taste and dietary preferences. It might even be cheaper when tomatoes are in season! This saucy endeavor grants you the reins of control, allowing you to capitalize on flavor and concoct a meal that’s not only brag-worthy but also a true reflection of your individuality. Just sidestep those common spaghetti sauce mistakes, and you’ll be on the path to pasta perfection.


    In a world where climate change and military conflicts drive up the price of chickpeas and, consequently, make hummus more expensive, it’s worth considering going homemade. Cost-effective dried chickpeas and a powerful blender can help you achieve that silky texture of store-bought hummus.

    And while you’ll have to buy tahini to make simple creamy hummus, that’s actually a good thing, as this ingredient is incredibly versatile and worth having on hand (especially for vegans). The true beauty of homemade hummus lies in the freedom to customize flavors, incorporating anything from smoked paprika to (apologies to hummus purists) cacao.


    The convenience of store-bought smoothies may be alluring, but it’s a poor trade-off for the nutritional benefits of crafting your own. A powerful blender is a worthwhile investment that unlocks a world of fresh, creamy drinks free of added sugar and artificial coloring. Homemade smoothies give you the freedom to experiment with seasonal fruits, vegetables, and superfoods, ensuring nutrient retention and flavor tailored to your preferences that off-the-shelf alternatives can’t match. over, by making them yourself, you’ll be saving the environment from unnecessary packaging waste. Follow our perfect smoothie-making tips, and you’ll bid farewell to buying them for good.


    There are plenty of reasons why you should be making your own granola — from skipping on multiple (and often questionable) sources of sugar involved in the production of the commercial varieties to saving money (you can go as simple or as fancy with the add-ons, but raw oats are always going to make a cheap base). Furthermore, making your own crunchy granola is often as easy as dumping all the ingredients into one bowl, mixing well, then baking for 35-40 minutes. Yes, it takes longer, but the flavor of freshly baked granola is always going to be superior.

    Salad dressing

    Mastering the art of an all-purpose vinaigrette is essential for any self-respecting home cook. The golden ratio you should aim for is three parts oil to one part vinegar. If you end up with an overly acidic salad dressing, there’s an easy fix: Balance it out with a touch more oil, tahini, avocado, or another fatty ingredient.

    While store-bought dressings boast a longer shelf life, they’re also more expensive. Homemade versions offer the advantage of being crafted in just the right quantity from pantry-friendly ingredients, ensuring you’ll savor every last drop before it even reaches its expiration date.

    Pie crust

    Nothing beats the comfort of a homemade pie, especially one made from scratch — and yes, that means both the filling and the flaky crust. When you go homemade, you gain full control over what goes into your creation, sidestepping unwanted additives like palm oil or excess sodium. Despite the delicate touch required, even a gluten-free pie crust comes together in minutes; although it requires some fridge time, so do its commercial counterparts. Best of all, it is absolutely okay to freeze homemade crusts, granting you the luxury of indulging in a scrumptious pie whenever the craving strikes.


    Stale bread is undoubtedly one of the foods you need to stop throwing out. If it’s a couple of days past its prime, it’s a great French toast or bread pudding base. But if it went full rock on you, it’s time to turn your stale bread into breadcrumbs. You don’t even need fancy equipment: if you own a box grater, use the freeze-and-grate method and never pay for breadcrumbs again. Once you have them ready, the possibilities are endless. For example, toast them with Calabrian chiles and sprinkle them on top of spaghetti aglio e olio.


    Beans are one of the healthiest and most affordable protein sources, especially if you buy them dry in bulk. Cooking beans from scratch, while time-consuming, requires no skill or effort: Soak them for a few hours, then boil them for a couple more (pro tip: a sprinkle of baking soda can save you hours of cooking time).

    Homemade beans will have a better texture and flavor, which you can adjust to your preference. Another benefit is that you can reserve the leftover cooking liquid, known as aquafaba, and turn it into a number of vegan delights.


    Delving into the art of syrup-making allows you to craft unique flavor blends, such as orgeat almond or honey elderberry, that won’t easily be found on store shelves. For those who fear the dreaded burnt sugar, our no heat, no fuss simple syrup recipe lets time do its magic, sans burning risks.

    While they have a shorter shelf-life, homemade syrups boast higher-quality ingredients and can be made in any batch size to suit your needs, meaning you can make precisely what you can consume. Additionally, reusing glass bottles from other beverages eliminates paying for excess packaging and creating waste.

    Fruit preserves

    Once you start making your own jams, jellies, and other kinds of fruit preserves, you’ll realize that the convenience of store-bought jars is their sole advantage, as the flavor and price point of home preserves are unparalleled.

    Homemade jams don’t need to be overly complicated — you want the fruit’s natural flavor to shine through, although you can let your creativity run free. Take advantage of local, seasonal, ripe produce, and you’ll have something delicious in your pantry to satisfy your sweet tooth year-round without having to pay extra for ingredients you don’t trust.

    Hot cocoa mix

    While hot cocoa and hot chocolate are often confused with each other, the former usually comes in the form of a powdered mix which is easy to recreate at home. From an ethical standpoint, a homemade mix is better because you can use organic, Fair Trade-Certified cocoa powder and sugar and avoid dried milk powder or animal-derived vitamins. You can skip any unwanted components and go for the classic trio of cocoa, sugar, and salt, which are enough for a comforting, chocolatey drink.

    Self-raising flour

    If you’re an enthusiastic baking novice, you might’ve noticed that some recipes call for self-raising flour. This ingredient seems to miraculously help the dough rise without extra leavening agents. However, there’s no magic involved: it’s a simple mix of flour, baking powder, and salt. And since any amount of food processing amounts to added costs, when buying self-raising flour, you’re essentially paying extra for something you can easily make yourself. Follow Jamie Oliver’s advice and sift two teaspoons of baking powder into each cup of flour, and you’re good to go.

    Nut butter

    Any nut butter lover knows that it can be an expensive habit. And while some store-bought brands might appear cheaper per ounce than homemade, that’s typically due to lower quality source material and filler ingredients such as oils and sugar, which will be absent from your own concoctions. Homemade cashew butter, for instance, requires only two ingredients: raw cashews and salt. You’ll also need a powerful blender or food processor — a costly but versatile appliance that will help you make peanut butter at home in no time (as well as countless other goodies, from smoothies to sorbets).


    While store-bought pickles can be the same price or cheaper than homemade preserves, they certainly lose the freshness and flavor competition. Fortunately for pickle fiends, making your own couldn’t be easier — especially when you have access to high-quality seasonal produce.

    There’s a whole genre of novice-friendly refrigerator pickles that don’t require heat or sterilization: they are ready to enjoy in 24 hours and will last a couple of weeks. But if you’re serious about getting into the long-term pickling game, follow our tips for making homemade canned pickles to carefully preserve summer flavors for year-long consumption.


    While fermentation is an ancient art, it’s been having a moment in recent years. Suddenly, everyone started making their own kimchi, sourdough bread, and, of course, kombucha. And for a good reason — a home-brewed kombucha is easy and inexpensive to make from a handful of ingredients.

    However, for fruitful drink-making, you should follow a few rules. For instance, avoid using herbal teas when making kombucha because they lack the necessary compounds essential for the fermentation process, such as caffeine, nitrogen, and theanine. Another thing to look out for is SCOBY mold growth, preventable with proper sanitation routines.

    Vegan mayo

    Commercial vegan mayo has only recently become widely available, so long-term vegans have been experimenting with aquafaba to make their own condiments for years. Today, lots of vegan mayo brands already use aquafaba as an egg substitute, so why not follow their lead? While some recipes, like this vegan chipotle mayo, opt for costly cashews or silken tofu as the base, utilizing the liquid you get for free with your canned (or homecooked) chickpeas should be a no-brainer. Whip it with some soy milk, mustard, olive oil, and lemon juice for an allergen-free and cost-effective mayo alternative.

    Veggie stock

    Making your own vegetable stock is a game-changer. Not only does it help you save money and cut down on food waste by repurposing vegetable scraps, but it also allows you to lower your sodium intake. The beauty of making it from scratch lies in its customizability. Adding dried mushrooms creates an umami-rich stock, perfect for hearty winter soups. In contrast, naturally sweet squash peels, corn cobs, and carrot bits are the best choice for lighter, sweeter spring stock. Steer clear of bitter greens, potato skins, and anything beet-related, and your homemade stock is primed for success.


    A pitifully stale loaf of bread can be treated as waste or an opportunity. But unless it’s moldy, we strongly advocate for the latter, especially considering that croutons, the beloved crunchy salad topping, are essentially glorified stale bread.

    Making croutons at home is a straightforward process. The best part is that you don’t even need to get out your trusty serrated knife — if you’re aiming for a rustic look, it’s time to stop cutting bread and start tearing it instead. Add some fat and seasonings, and toast them in the oven or skillet for a fuss-free snack.


    All pasta, if done right, tastes better when it’s freshly made. However, we singled out gnocchi because they’re particularly easy to make at home for a fraction of the price of their store-bought counterparts. You can even skip the eggs and still get delectable pillowy pasta, further lowering its price point while keeping it vegan.

    While there are plenty of ways you can mess up homemade gnocchi, don’t fret, as they’re all easily preventable. If time is of the essence, try an unconventional gnocchi shortcut: use instant mashed potatoes to bring dinner to the table in no time.

    Dairy-free yogurt

    Store-bought dairy-free yogurt can be expensive and hard to find in some areas, so that’s one reason to try making your own — thankfully, there are plenty of plant milk types to build upon. Alas, commercially produced non-dairy yogurts aren’t always vegan, as they’re cultured with animal-derived bacteria. Fortunately, fermenting your own yogurt with a vegan starter culture guarantees its plant-based purity. For health-conscious dairy avoiders, homemade vegan yogurt boasts a lack of added sugars, artificial colors, and preservatives. And let’s not forget the Earth-friendly bonus of forgoing those pesky, albeit recyclable, plastic cups.


    With commercial tortillas being inexpensive and easy to find, you might ask yourself: is making your own worth the trouble? Well, if you like a good tortilla, the answer is a fervent yes. There is just something about a freshly charred, warm tortilla that store-bought ones just can’t match.

    An easy flour tortillas recipe calls for just five ingredients and comes together in half an hour, start to finish. Classic corn tortillas are even less demanding: with only three ingredients and the help of a tortilla press, you can have taco night seven days a week.


    When it comes to salsa, if you prefer buying to making your own, chances are, you’re just not very good at it — yet. Perhaps you’re inadvertently ruining homemade salsa by hopelessly combining the wrong ingredients or forgetting to deseed and roast tomatoes. Speaking of which, when you whip up a batch of freshly charred tomato salsa bursting with rich, umami-packed, spicy, yet sweet flavor, it will make you regret ever reaching for that generic jar off the supermarket shelf. So keep exploring the best salsa-making practices and experimenting until you master the art of amazing homemade salsa.


    Homemade ice pops are the perfect refreshing summer treat. For one, they are highly customizable. You can keep it simple or decadent, healthy or indulgent, child-friendly or boozy — the choice is yours. Plus, they are a great way to utilize seasonal fruits, especially those that are too ripe and at risk of being wasted. In addition to being a fun, family-friendly activity, these homemade treats can even be one of the ways to trick your kids into eating veggies, if you add neutrally flavored spinach or naturally sweet veggies into the mix.

    Apple cider vinegar

    Suppose you’re interested in home fermentation but aren’t ready to splurge on a yogurt maker or live according to your sourdough starter’s feeding schedule. Then, something as fuss-free and cheap as homemade Apple cider vinegar might be for you. Especially if you have easy access to excess apples, ideally organically grown — as the name suggests, the miraculous acidic elixir is one of the best ways to use up Apple peelings and cores. The process is as simple as submerging them in water, adding sugar, and leaving the mix to ferment for a few weeks.

    Pizza dough

    If you’re a pizza fan (who of us isn’t?), you probably tasted all its most popular varieties and likely dabbled in creating your own at home, relying on store-bought crusts and sauces for convenience. But true connoisseurs know that the best pies come together from scratch. Though it may require extra effort, the quality and flavor payoff is immeasurable.

    But even armed with the best Neapolitan pizza dough recipe, you likely won’t become a seasoned pizzaiolo overnight. Luckily, with a handful of pizza-making tips, your crust will rise to new heights, transforming each homemade pizza into a masterpiece.


    There’s nothing quite like the satisfaction of making your own ferments from scratch, and sauerkraut is no exception. Not only does homemade sauerkraut give you control over the quality and price, but it’s also a brilliant way to supercharge your gut health. By skipping those unnecessary sugars and preservatives, you’ll create a delicious, naturally fermented treat packed with gut-friendly probiotics. You can even reuse the leftover juice as a starter culture or a cocktail ingredient! Conversely, some store-bought versions are vinegar-drenched imitations relying on artificial probiotic additions. So, give homemade sauerkraut a go, and taste the difference for yourself.


    A truly crave-worthy guacamole is one that’s freshly made and enjoyed immediately. Making it from scratch requires selecting the finest, ripest avocados and blending them with the freshest flavors. Store-bought guacamole, on the other hand, often relies on unnatural additives to maintain its alluring green hue far longer than it should. Sure, it’s convenient, but it falls short in both flavor and healthfulness. While homemade guac is easy to make, it’s just as easy to ruin. But with a little care and attention, you can easily dodge common guacamole mistakes and proudly serve up a delectable, vibrant bowlful.


    If you’re a detoxing aficionado, relying on ready-made juices can become a costly habit. And when it’s so easy to make crisp and gingery green juice at home, why bother paying extra for it (and its wasteful packaging) at a store or cafe?

    First, you’ll need to determine the best fruits and veggies for juicing by studying their water content. You guessed it, the juicier the plant, the better the juice. Nest, invest in a reliable juicer to cater to your needs. By choosing the homemade route, you’ll enjoy a fresher, healthier, and more environmentally friendly juice experience.

    Seasoning mix

    As seductive as the convenience of ready-made seasoning mixes might be, don’t fall for it. Instead, embrace the high-quality, freshly ground spices, and let their fragrance awaken your senses. Get to know them better by mixing your own all-purpose chili seasoning and playing with the ratios in your taco mix.

    You can also elevate your culinary game and lower your food waste one spice blend at a time. Show those limp, forgotten chili peppers at the back of your fridge what they’re capable of — transform them into vibrant red flakes, and repurpose other dried veggie scraps as bouillon.


    It’s no accident that commercial snacks are called junk — they’re loaded with sugar, salt, fat, and artificial nonsense that hooks us in but wreaks havoc on our bodies. But corn itself isn’t the enemy. So forget those store-bought bags of processed junk — pop your own corn and customize the flavors.

    In terms of cooking methods, the stovetop reigns supreme, popping more kernels evenly and quickly. But microwave popcorn from scratch isn’t impossible — just place it in a brown paper lunch bag and pop away. And if you buy those dried kernels in bulk, you’ve got a cost-effective movie night solution.

    Static Media owns and operates Tasting Table and Mashed.

    Does a Solar Charge Controller Drain the Battery?

    We all know that solar batteries work with the sun’s energy to charge batteries. But will they drain the battery when there is no power input? or they will keep charge the battery after it full? Let’s find out in this blog!

    What is a Solar Charge Controller?

    A solar charge controller is a device that regulates the power coming from a solar panel to a battery. It prevents overcharging and can protect against overvoltage, which can reduce performance or battery life and may pose a safety risk.

    The solar charge controller adjusts the voltage and current coming from the solar PV going to the battery. It regulates the high solar panel voltage to match the lower voltage of the battery.

    There are two types of solar controllers, MPPT controller and PWM. Both types work in similar ways, but each has its own advantages and disadvantages.

    in a off-grid power system, solar charge controller work with the solar inverter and battery to support a usable power source.

    Is a Charge Controller Draining My Battery?

    A solar charge controller can drain a battery flat under certain conditions, such as when a battery is connected to the controller for weeks or months without being replenished. The time it takes for a charge controller to drain a battery depends on the capacity, state of charge, and current draw of the charge controller.

    Some solar charge controllers like street lights are preprogrammed to power up terminals at sundown, which can lead to batteries draining quickly when they’re left connected overnight.

    Adjusting the controller parameter settings can help prevent an automatic load, or you can reduce the battery capacity to limit power use at night. Further reading can help you understand solar power and its various aspects more thoroughly.

    How to Prevent a Charge Controller from Draining the Battery

    A solar charge controller is a vital component of solar paneling systems. It’s a panel-mounted electronic device that helps in regulating and monitoring the charging cycles of batteries.

    A solar charge controller can prevent overcharging and undercharging of batteries and also helps to maintain a consistent charging voltage. But despite its many benefits, solar charge controllers can discharge batteries if they are not used properly.

    This is because solar charge controllers are designed to monitor battery charging regardless of the battery’s state of charge. If batteries discharge naturally, or from overcharging or undercharging, solar charge controllers will continue to discharge them even after the solar panel stops charging them.

    Blocking diodes, low voltage disconnect switches or relays can be used in place of solar charge controllers for this purpose. These devices help prevent reverse flow of current from solar panel to battery, which prevents batteries from being drained during low solar irradiance or night time. Disconnecting solar power from battery and turning it off for a few hours allows batteries to cool down completely, preventing over- or undercharging.

    For best results, it is essential to choose the solar charge controller according to the system voltage, maximum input current and charging voltage. The voltage generated by solar panel should be greater than the battery voltage under charge to produce positive current flow into battery.

    A solar charge controller and its role in battery charging

    A solar charge controller is a voltage regulator that limits the speed of power transfer from solar panels to battery to prevent overcharging and protect against overvoltage. The controller can also prevent the battery from being completely discharged or perform controlled discharges, depending on the battery technology, to protect its life.

    MPPT solar charge controllers are more expensive but do a better job of regulating voltage and current coming from solar panel going to battery. Energy losses are minimal with PWM solar charge controllers but it is a less-expensive option.

    The two types of solar controllers are MPPT and PWM. PWM is less expensive and does a decent job, but energy losses can be significant. A solar charge controller regulates voltage and current coming from solar panels going to battery, ensuring optimal power transfer and battery health.

    Solar Battery in Solar Power System

    The solar battery is source of power for solar power system. The solar battery stores the solar energy which is collected from the sun during daytime. This stored energy can be used to provide power at night or in low light conditions.

    The energy stored in the battery is in the form of direct current (DC) and is converted by an inverter into alternating current (AC), which can be used to power appliances.

    solar battery are name by amp hour (Ah) and usually are 12 Volt or 24 volt.

    They consist of a variety of rechargeable battery types including lead acid, AGM, Gel and lithium batteries

    Do Solar Panels Drain Batteries at Night?

    Yes, solar panels will drain batteries at night if the panel does not have a blocking diode or the diode is broken. Solar panels are designed to generate electricity only during the day, and as night sets in, they will stop generating power and draw current from batteries.

    This occurs because solar panels don’t generate voltage when it’s dark, so they won’t discharge batteries. When this happens repeatedly over a period of time, the battery may drain completely and die.

    You can prevent this by using a solar charge controller has anti current protection. This device regulates the flow of current going into your batteries and stop the battery electricity flow return to the solar panels, ensuring that you get the most out of your solar system without harming it.

    If your battery is draining at night despite a solar charge controller, it may be that the controller isn’t working correctly or is not programmed correctly. You should regularly charge and replenish batteries in order to prevent them from draining or dying.

    Frequently Asked Questions

    A solar charge controller does not require any battery power to work.

    A solar charge controller is a device that regulates the voltage coming from solar panel to battery. It prevents overcharging of battery, which can damage it and render it unusable. Charge controllers are sold to consumers as separate devices, often in combination with solar or wind turbines. Charge controllers manage the charging and discharging of batteries, but do not require any battery power to work.

    How can I determine if my solar charge controller is draining the battery?

    To determine if your solar charge controller is draining the battery, you should first check for damage or a programming reset of the solar controller. If you find that either of these things has happened, then you should ensure that the controller is correctly programmed to avoid battery drain. Finally, monitor the battery’s charge level to determine if it is being drained.

    What does solar controller do when battery is full?

    When the battery is full, solar controller cuts off power to solar panel in order to protect batteries from overcharging. solar controller will adjust voltage to be in similar range as battery is draining and when battery is full.

    Will a solar charge controller overcharge a battery?

    Yes, A solar charge controller will overcharge a battery if there is wrong system configuration or wrong wiring. Overcharging can damage the battery and render it unusable.


    A solar charge controller is a battery-friendly addition to your solar panel system. It helps in charging battery bank batteries at night and charging them during the day, ensuring optimum solar power and maximum battery life.

    A solar charge controller can even help you reduce the size of your battery system by allowing only as much power as is needed from solar power. With these helpful tips, you’re sure to get the most out of your solar system.

    Gardener shares simple technique for getting bigger, bushier basil plants: ‘I wish I knew this 1 year ago’

    A short, viral TikTok shows viewers how to make their basil plant bushier.

    The nine-second video from user @thatgirlsgarden, which has gotten more than 185,000 likes, briefly demonstrates how to enhance the popular culinary herb.

    “I wish I knew this one year ago,” the TikToker wrote in the video’s caption.

    @thatgirlsgarden Redirect your basil plant’s energy into producing more foliage by “pinching” the top 2 sets of leaves! Pinching basil is a simple yet effective technique that can help your plant grow bushier and more sets of leaves! All you need to do is removr the top few sets of leaves! This stimulates the plant to produce new growth from the lower sets of leaves. This encourages the basil to grow more branches, which means more leaves and more opportunities to harvest fresh, flavorful basil! #growingbasil #containergarden #herbs #apartmentgardener #zone9bgardening #gardentok #gardeninghacks #gardeningforbeginners #pinchingbasil ♬ BOYs a LIAR PT2 NEVER DULL REMIX – Never Dull

    The scoop

    The first tip is to “pinch” the top four leaves where the flower is starting to form. This keeps it from producing flowers and allows it to FOCUS its energy on growing more leaves. According to the video, it also “tells the plant to start growing bushier.”

    When basil leaves are bushier, this means more basil overall, which means more of the herb that goes very well with salads and other foods. It can also be a key ingredient in making herbal tea.

    How it’s helping

    Not only does basil help make food taste better, but it is also rich in health-boosting antioxidants as well as vitamin K. Planting and growing your own food has numerous health benefits, such as promoting exercise since it requires lots of walking, bending, lifting, and pulling.

    Numerous studies have shown that exercise helps boost our immune system.

    JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER Good news, green hacks, and the latest cool clean tech — straight to your inbox every week!

    Growing your own basil can save you money and is beneficial for the environment as opposed to buying it at the store in a glass or plastic container.

    Around 40 million tons of plastic are used and thrown away every year in the U.S., of which only about 5% gets recycled.

    Locally grown foods reduce or eliminate the need for plastic packaging. This also reduces the burning of fossil fuels necessary for the production of containers and packaging.

    What’s everyone saying?

    The TikTok has received more than 350 Комментарии и мнения владельцев.

    In reference to how this hack “tells” the plant to start growing bushier, one commenter jokingly wrote: “It also tells the plant who’s the boss.”

    Another commenter made an interesting suggestion: “If you have more than one basil plant let one of them flower, then get the seeds from the flowers save for next year.”

    For those interested in learning a bit more about the intricacies of gardening, another person made a useful observation: “That is a basic tip for any flowering herb in order [to] help more productive leaf growth. Keep pinching.”

    Join our free newsletter for easy tips to save more, waste less, and help yourself while helping the planet.

    Solar Charge Controllers FAQ

    MPPT controllers provide more power, especially in colder temperatures. They can also be used with less expensive 60-cell modules which are usually unsuitable for PWM controllers. Weighing these benefits versus the lower cost of a PWM controller will determine if an MPPT controller is right for your system.

    While MPPT controllers cost more than PWM controllers, the following benefits often outweigh the extra cost:

    • The additional power provided by the newer charging technology associated with MPPT controllers enables them to run larger electrical loads and help batteries maintain a higher state of charge which prolongs battery life. Since batteries typically cost several times more than charge controllers, the extra power that MPPTs provide is sometimes worth their higher price tag even before other benefits are considered. The amount of additional power an MPPT controller provides increases as temperature decreases. The extra boost provided by an MPPT is conservatively estimated to be 5-10%, but this boost can be much higher if temperatures are below room temperature for at least part of the day when the sun is shining.
    • MPPT controllers can be used with less expensive 60-cell modules that are usually not suitable for PWM controllers. Large systems deploying MPPT controllers with multiple 60 cell modules in series and parallel are often less expensive than similarly sized systems with PWM controllers and 72 cell nominal modules.
    • MPPT controllers allow systems to support oversized PV arrays. Both MPPT and PWM controllers will be damaged if their Voc limits are exceeded by oversized PV arrays, but Morningstar MPPT controllers can be connected to arrays that exceed their current ratings. The MPPT controllers are able to limit the current intake and avoid damage. This is not the case with PWM controllers. Oftentimes it is advantageous to oversize arrays by 20% so that batteries can maintain a higher state of charge during several consecutive days of limited sunshine.

    It is very common to see MPPT controllers deployed in larger systems, whereas PWM controllers are still very suitable and economically viable for some smaller systems.

    MPPT controllers provide more power, especially in colder temperatures. They can also be used with less expensive 60-cell modules which are usually unsuitable for PWM controllers. Weighing these benefits versus […]

    What is an Off-Grid Solar System?

    The solar electric systems associated with the term “solar” are usually simple grid-tied types, with PV modules and an inverter or inverters for converting DC from the modules to AC for running loads. They save their owners money by offsetting utility bills or selling back power to the utility, and that’s as far as they go.

    But much of the world is not connected to a grid, or even nowhere near one. In these situations, all electricity has to be generated on-site. These sites can range from remote communities, resorts, farms, and cabins to mines, oil gas fields and pipelines, national park facilities, traffic control systems, railroad systems, marine platforms, monitoring stations, security installations, maritime navigation systems, remote highway lighting, weather stations, and much, much more.

    Difference Between Grid Tied and Off Grid Solar Systems

    Unlike grid tied systems, off grid solar systems are not connected by wires and cables to an electric grid and powered by a utility company. An off-grid system has to supply all power by energy that is stored onsite in batteries that are charged by solar. A generator may also be deployed to assist with battery charging and powering loads when there are several consecutive days of limited or no sunshine. But solar power is more economically viable, cleaner, and easier to maintain than fuel generators

    In these applications, the main reason to “go solar” is not so much going green as it is saving green—in this case, saving the dollars it might take to connect a remote location to a grid. Under the best circumstances with minimal terrain considerations, it can cost a minimum of 50,000 just to run a mile of transmission line for a single home in the developed world—and in less developed places with multiple users or greater energy needs, and with mountains, rivers or forests to contend with, the cost increase maybe hundreds of times that often prohibitive. So are generators, which require expensive maintenance, constant fueling, and produce round-the-clock noise and emissions. Often in these situations, solar is not just the cleanest choice—it may be the only choice.

    Anywhere there’s no grid, or a weak or intermittent grid, solar electricity generated on-site must be stored for use when the sun isn’t shining. That’s where Morningstar solar controllers come in. The charge controller is the “heart and brains” of a solar electric system relying on batteries to operate. The controller ensures that the batteries are neither over-charged or under-charged, or drained too deeply, or operated in extreme temperatures since all those conditions can dramatically shorten their life. The controller also controls loads, such as lighting systems connected to solar modules and batteries, for timely operation. If there’s an inverter in the system the controller “partners” with it to ensure optimum battery charging.

    Off-Grid Basics Diagram

    This simplified diagram below illustrates the major components of an off-grid system and how it works:

    The solar electric systems associated with the term “solar” are usually simple grid-tied types, with PV modules and an inverter or inverters for converting DC from the modules to AC […]

    What is a Solar Charge Controller?

    A solar charge controller is a solar-powered voltage and current regulator. They are used in off-grid and hybrid off-grid applications to regulate power input from PV arrays to deliver optimal power output to run electrical loads and charge batteries. Solar charge converters are also commonly called solar charge regulators.

    What Does a Solar Charge Controller Do?

    Solar charge controllers maintain batteries at their highest state of charge without overcharging them to avoid gassing and battery damage. Learn more by watching our on-demand webinar below, and by reading the additional information on this page.

    Reliable charging to maintain battery health and extend battery life is affected by how well, and how fast, the controller’s software controls the electronic component hardware. Battery and PV voltage and current can change in split seconds and the power electronics in the controller must be able to respond fast enough to accommodate these changes.

    Most people don’t see or recognize dramatic voltage and current changes going on within their controllers, but if they did have the scopes and sophisticated monitors that could show what is actually happening, they could tell which controllers are going to have the best effect on battery life.

    You can have the best batteries and best modules in the world, but they’re only as reliable as your controller. A poor controller can cause battery failure and complete failure with your entire solar system. The best solar charge controllers extend battery life for many years beyond their normal life expectancy, whereas inferior controllers cause premature battery failure and can render your PV system inoperable.

    The solar charge regulator generally represents about 10% of your total off-grid power system costs, whereas batteries can be about 40% of your first-time cost and 80% of your lifetime costs. So, the small amount of money you might save deploying a cheaper charge controller will pale in comparison to the money and time wasted on battery replacement. You can use the best PV modules, batteries, wiring, and loads, but their capabilities will be restricted by the quality of the charge controller.

    A solar charge controller is a solar-powered voltage and current regulator. They are used in off-grid and hybrid off-grid applications to regulate power input from PV arrays to deliver optimal […]

    How Does a Solar Charge Controller Work?

    The first solar charge controller schematic below (Figure 1) illustrates how a solar charge controller is connected to power a direct current (DC) load, and the second one (Figure 2) pertains to an alternating current (AC) load.

    Figure1: Off-grid Diagram with DC Load

    When installing a solar charge controller, it is recommended that you connect and disconnect in the following order:

    • Battery to the controller first
    • PV array to the controller
    • Electrical load to the controller

    When disconnecting, you reverse that order. The battery provides power to the controller so always make sure that solar and loads are disconnected before connecting or disconnecting the battery from the controller. Connections between the battery, load, PV array, and the controller should have disconnect switches to enhance safety and facilitate ease of installation and breakdown.

    In the wire diagram schematic above with DC load, sunlight contacts the solar modules, which convert solar into DC electrical power that it delivers to a charge controller. The charge controller regulates the amperage and voltage that is delivered to the loads and any excess power is delivered to the battery system so the batteries maintain their state of charge without getting overcharged. During the evening when there is no sunlight, battery power is used to run the load.

    You’ll notice that the battery is grounded at the negative battery terminal. This is because all our PWM and MPPT controllers have a common negative ground. Therefore, it is possible to establish a common negative ground for the entire system: the solar array, controller, battery, and load. This meets NEC code requirements for grounding. If you need an equipment ground for any metal parts on a controller enclosure, some of our controllers include an equipment ground terminal lug. Otherwise, for our controllers that don’t have this terminal lug, you can connect an equipment ground directly to the controller enclosure.

    The next diagram (Figure 2) depicts the components and connections to power an AC load. This diagram with an AC load looks similar to the previous example with a DC load, except that in this example, we have added an inverter to the system. The purpose of the inverter is to convert the DC power from the battery to AC power that can be used to run an AC load like the TV you see in the schematic.

    Figure 2: Off-grid Diagram with AC Load

    It’s important to note that the inverter is connected and powered from the battery, not the controller’s load terminals like we did in the DC load example. That’s because the inverter can have a high energy surge upon startup, and this high current surge might be higher than the rated capacity of the charge controller, whereas the batteries will be able to meet the high energy surge requirement.

    The first solar charge controller schematic below (Figure 1) illustrates how a solar charge controller is connected to power a direct current (DC) load, and the second one (Figure 2) […]

    What are the Solar Battery Charging Stages?

    Solar charge controllers put batteries through 4 charging stages:

    What are the 4 Solar Battery Charging Stages?

    Bulk Charging Voltage

    For lead-acid batteries, the initial bulk charging stage delivers the maximum allowable current into the solar battery to bring it up to a state of charge of approximately 80 to 90%. During bulk charging for solar, the battery’s voltage increases to about 14.5 volts for a nominal 12-volt battery.

    Absorption Charging

    When Bulk Charging is complete and the battery is about 80% to 90% charged, absorption charging is applied. During Absorption Charging, constant-voltage regulation is applied but the current is reduced as the solar batteries approach a full state of charge. This prevents heating and excessive battery gassing. At the end of Absorption Charging, the battery is typically at a 98% state of charge or greater.

    Float Charging

    Float charging, sometimes referred to as “trickle” charging occurs after Absorption Charging when the battery has about 98% state of charge. Then, the charging current is reduced further so the battery voltage drops down to the Float voltage.

    The Float charge of a battery keeps the battery at maximum capacity throughout the day.

    Equalization Charging

    For flooded open vent batteries, an Equalization charge is applied once every 2 to 4 weeks to maintain consistent specific gravities among individual battery cells. The more deeply a battery is discharged on a daily basis, the more often equalization charging is required. Solar Charge Controller Equalization is for flooded, not for sealed, GEL, or valve-regulated batteries which can be damaged by equalization.

    Figure 3: Multi-Stage Battery Charging Diagram

    Although lead-acid batteries are the most common type of battery regulated by solar charge controllers, lithium batteries are starting to gain traction. Morningstar launched an Energy Storage Partner program that involves working with many lithium iron phosphate battery manufacturers to maintain the highest state of charge for their batteries and to help maximize battery life.

    The integration guides you can download provide custom solar charge controller voltage and time settings for absorption and float charging, and other information that you will need to charge your batteries safely and to increase their longevity. In addition to lead-acid and lithium, Morningstar solar charge controllers can also charge nickel, aqueous hybrid ion, and flow or redox flow batteries.

    Solar charge controllers put batteries through 4 charging stages: Bulk Absorption Float Equalize What are the 4 Solar Battery Charging Stages? Bulk Charging Voltage For lead-acid batteries, the initial bulk […]

    MPPT vs PWM | The two major types of solar charge controllers are:

    As shown in the chart below, PWM controllers tend to be smaller and they operate at battery voltage, whereas MPPT controllers use newer technology to operate at the maximum power voltage. This maximizes the amount of power being produced which becomes more significant in colder conditions when the array voltage gets increasingly higher than the battery voltage. MPPT controllers can also operate with much higher voltages and lower array currents which can mean fewer strings in parallel and smaller wire sizes since there is less voltage drop.

    PWM controllers need to be used with arrays that are matched with the battery voltage which limits what modules can be used. There are many 60 cell modules with maximum power voltage (Vmp) equal to about 30V, which can be used with MPPT controllers but are simply not suitable with PWM controllers.

    To answer the question: Which is better, PWM or MPPT? All things being equal, MPPT is a newer technology that harvests more energy. However, the advantages of MPPT over PWM controllers come at a cost, so sometimes a less expensive PWM controller can be the right choice, especially with smaller systems and in warm climates where the MPPT boost is not as significant.

    PWM vs. MPPT Solar Charge Controller Comparison

    PWM Controllers MPPT Controllers
    Array voltage is “pulled down” to battery voltage Convert excess input voltage into amperage
    Generally operate below Vmp Operate at Vmp
    Suitable for small module configurations Suitable for large module configurations that have a lower cost per watt
    Often chosen for very hot climates which will not yield as much MPPT boost Provide more boost than PWM, especially during cold days and/or when the battery voltage is low

    Every Morningstar PWM and MPPT solar charge controller is listed on the Morningstar Product Series page. Each listed product is hypertext linked to its product page that includes datasheets, operation manuals, and other helpful information.

    PWM Charging

    Traditional solar regulators featuring PWM (Pulse Width Modulation) charging operate by making a connection directly from the solar array to the battery bank. During bulk charging when there is a continuous connection from the array to the battery bank, the array output voltage is ‘pulled down’ to the battery voltage. The battery voltage adjusts slightly up depending on the amount of current provided by the array and the size and characteristics of the battery.

    MPPT Charging

    Morningstar MPPT controllers feature TrakStar technology, designed to quickly and accurately determine the Vmp (maximum power voltage) of the solar array. TrakStar MPPT controllers ‘sweep’ the solar input to determine the voltage at which the array is producing the maximum amount of power. The controller harvests power from the array at this Vmp voltage and converts it down to battery voltage, boosting charging current in the process.

    Why Choose PWM Over MPPT

    The preceding discussion of PWM vs. MPPT may cause some to wonder why a PWM controller would ever be chosen in favor of an MPPT controller. There are indeed instances where a PWM controller can be a better choice than MPPT and there are factors which will reduce or negate the advantages the MPPT may provide. The most obvious consideration is cost. MPPT controllers tend to cost more than their PWM counterparts. When deciding on a controller, the extra cost of MPPT should be analyzed with respect to the following factors:

    Low power (specifically low current) charging applications may have equal or better energy harvest with a PWM controller. PWM controllers will operate at a relatively constant harvesting efficiency regardless of the size of the system (all things being equal, efficiency will be the same whether using a 30W array or a 300W array). MPPT regulators commonly have noticeably reduced harvesting efficiencies (relative to their peak efficiency) when used in low power applications. Efficiency curves for every Morningstar MPPT controller are printed in their corresponding manuals and should be reviewed when making a regulator decision. (Manuals are available for download on the Morningstar website).

    The greatest benefit of an MPPT regulator will be observed in colder climates (Vmp is higher). Conversely, in hotter climates Vmp is reduced. A decrease in Vmp will reduce MPPT harvest relative to PWM. Average ambient temperature at the installation site may be high enough to negate any charging advantages the MPPT has over the PWM. It would not be economical to use MPPT in such a situation. Average temperature at the site should be a factor considered when making a regulator choice

    Systems in which array power output is significantly larger than the power draw of the system loads would indicate that the batteries will spend most of their time at full or near full charge. Such a system may not benefit from the increased harvesting capability of an MPPT regulator. When the system batteries are full, excess solar energy goes unused. The harvesting advantage of MPPT may be unnecessary in this situation especially if autonomy is not a factor.

    Why Choose MPPT Over PWM

    Increased Energy Harvest:

    MPPT controllers operate array voltages above battery voltage and increase the energy harvest from solar arrays by 5 to 30% compared to PWM controllers, depending on climate conditions.

    Array operating voltage and amperage is adjusted throughout the day by the MPPT controller so that the array’s power output (amperage X voltage) is maximized.

    Less Module Restrictions:

    Since MPPT controllers operate arrays at voltages greater than battery voltage, they can be used with a wider variety of solar modules and array configurations. over, they can support systems with smaller wire sizes.

    Support for oversized Arrays

    Unlike PWM controllers, MPPT controllers can support oversized arrays that would otherwise exceed the maximum operating power limits of the charge controller. The controller does this by limiting the array current intake during periods of the day when high solar energy is being supplied (usually during the middle of the day).

    While energy from the array is capped or shaved off during the middle of the day, the oversized array is able to provide more power during teh early and late part of the day compared to smaller non-oversized array.

    Download Our PWM vs MPPT White Paper

    Please click here to download the Traditional PWM vs Morningstar’s TrakStar™ MPPT Technology white paper. Morningstar’s MPPT charge controllers use the TrakStar advanced control MPPT algorithm to harvest maximum power from a Solar Array’s peak power point. It is generally accepted that even the most basic MPPT controller will provide an additional 10‐15% of charging capability, when compared to a standard PWM regulator. Besides this extra charge capability, there are several other important differences and advantages between MPPT and PWM technologies that are outlined in this whitepaper.

    MPPT vs PWM | The two major types of solar charge controllers are: Pulse Width Modulation (PWM) controllers Maximum Power Point Tracking (MPPT) controllers As shown in the chart below, […]

    What is Different About Morningstar Solar Charge Controllers?

    Morningstar solar charge controllers are different from other brands, as you can see in this five-minute video. The high-frequency design allows Morningstar solar charge controllers to react more quickly to rapidly changing conditions. This provides higher efficiency over a wide variety of Power Ranges. over, Morningstar’s TRAKStar technology deployed in its MPPT controllers provides industry-leading sweeping speed of the entire IV curve and leads to a higher energy harvest compared to our competitors.

    Regarding our high-temperature architecture, Morningstar uses a higher grade of copper pour in our printed circuit boards, higher temperature rated terminals, and 105-degree C-rated capacitors for Reliable off-grid operation in extreme temperatures. This all adds up to the very long life and high reliability of the electronic components.

    Morningstar controller cases are metal or very durable Lexan polycarbonate which is much more durable and protective than thermoplastics that are used in other controller brands.

    If you are using lithium batteries, sometimes temperatures delve into the ranges that are outside the charging window for the battery. For Morningstar’s newer controllers, the battery charging algorithm can be set to account for low temperatures and reduce charging current during those periods in order to maintain long battery life.

    Many controller brands have a 2-year warranty, but Morningstar’s Professional Series controllers have a 5-year warranty.

    And all Morningstar controllers are passively cooled without fans which create noise and are known to draw in dust and debris across the circuit board. Furthermore, fans can fail, thus causing the controller to retain heat which diminishes the product’s quality, performance, and longevity.

    Below is a snapshot of some of the components within the case of a Morningstar ProStar MPPT solar charge controller to give you a better idea of what sets it apart.

    Figure 4: ProStar MPPT controller components

    This Morningstar controller’s meter provides a clear crisp backlight for high visibility even in direct sunlight.

    The specific choice of Coilcraft inductors is made for compact design, high-speed operation, and surface mount Manufacturing to maximize design longevity.

    A three-phase design in our MPPT buck converter allows us to cancel Much of the DC Ripple which is both hard on Power Electronics as well as the battery.

    Fast-acting transient voltage suppressors provide a 4500W surge protection to prevent the number one cause of failure: induced surge damage from nearby lightning. These devices do not degrade and are designed to last as long as the life of the product.

    The Wire terminals are a high torque and corrosion resistant, and large to help facilitate easy and reliable wire connections.

    The direct ​field-effect transistors (FET’s) package for much of Morningstar’s switching technology is used because of the benefits of cooling, compact design, and reliable surface mount technology. By applying the FET’s on the backside of our board in direct contact with the heatsink thermal pad, they stay extremely cool.

    The extruded heat sink design contains more pure aluminum than cast designs and ensures very high conductivity.

    The data port on this controller supports MODBUS protocol and data logging of battery voltages, absorption charging times, and power inputs and outputs from the controller.

    Morningstar utilizes ARM processors for their high-speed control ability and extensive IO and memory features.

    Self-diagnostics are provided via LED lights that display or flash different colors to alert you if you have made an installation error, or if your controller is experiencing a short circuit, or high temperatures, or high voltage inputs.

    Morningstar solar charge controllers are different from other brands, as you can see in this five-minute video. The high-frequency design allows Morningstar solar charge controllers to react more quickly to […]

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