The Simarine Pico Battery Monitor is actually much more than "just" a battery monitor. It has the ability to monitor multiple battery banks, current of multiple consumer devices, tanks, temperatures, inclinometer and barometer. Let's call it a SYSTEM MONITOR 🙂 It's an cutting edge product with an impressive smartphone-like-high-quality feel. While it's not essential to a working van electrical system, it's definitely a sweeeeeet upgrade for your van conversion if you don't mind the higher price tag. Here is everything to know about the Simarine Pico System Monitor!
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1- In a Nutshell
The Simarine Pico is completely customizable and expandable. To start off, you can use it as a battery monitor only:
Continue by adding any, or all, the following modules:
In a nutshell, the Simarine Pico requires:
3- Sensors (a.k.a. Senders)
This is to convert a physical measure (temperature, liquid level, angle, etc.) to an electrical input signal (resistance or voltage).
1.3- Models and Where to Buy
There are a few options here:
2- Battery Monitor
No proper sensors are required to read the voltage and current. Just electrical wires and terminal rings (to connect to shunt / voltage input) will do!
2- Simarine Input Modules:
Just like for any battery monitor out there, a shunt is required to read the current:
No proper sensors are required to read the current. Just electrical wires and terminal rings (to connect to shunt) will do!
2- Simarine Input Modules:
A shunt is required to read the current. The following modules can read current inputs.
5- Tank Monitor
2- Simarine Input Modules:
Tank sensors are connected to resistance-type input on the following modules:
7- Our System
First things first, let us introduce you to our self-built van:
OK, back to our topic. Here is what we monitor with the Simarine Pico:
7.1- Installation Photos
There’s not much to say here… just install the temperature probe where you want to know the temperature!
We installed our inclinometer under our kitchen countertop. It’s a flat surface and it’s easy to align the pitch/roll axis properly.
1- Nature's Head Composting Toilet Liquid Tank
Here’s the deal: this is an experiment. We’re not 100% sure the sensor will take accurate measurements with the piss scums (sorry it is what it is) that might cover the sensor. Time will tell…
For the Nature’s Head liquid tank, we used a 9.5″ length sensor:
3- Find the correct alignement of the gasket on the screw holes, then apply a bead of Silicone II around. Do not let silicone stick to the sensor's probe! So Just a small bead of Silicone...
Note: Silicone is normally not required with these sensors, but it’s an extra step we’re taking because the screws don’t have excellent grip into plastic)
2- Grey Water (4 gallons Aqua-Tainer)
Once again, this is an experiment… Installing the sensor is quite challenging as the plastic is not thick and there is no straight surface. Precautions must be taken not to have poor grip with the screws (and have poor seal). Also, there are a bunch of crap in our grey water, so time will tell if it gives accurate measurements or not…
For the Aqua-Tainer, we used a 8.0″ length sensor:
3- Fresh Water (25 gallons)
Here we have a straight surface and quite thick wall, excellent!
We used a 15.0″ length sensor (but check with your own tank):
We won't win the cable-porn award, but our main electrical cabinet is super compact (space saver!) and that makes it very challenging to work in it...
7.2- Wiring Diagram
Here is how we wired things. The inputs in the diagram below are not exactly as the photos above (for clarity), but the result is the same.
8- Our First Impressions
After some time using extensively the Simarine Pico system, we can say it delivers! Sweeeeeet!
8.1- The Pico Device
Simarine is doing very well in the hardware department… With an anodized aluminium casing and a Gorilla glass, the Pico has an “Apple-like” feel, a classy look and is a real pleasure to use. Because of that, we often find ourselves touching the screen to control it… Nope, it’s not touch-screen.
We build our van in 2016 and it’s the third monitor we’re testing. Battery monitors have come a long way!
We think the user interface is stunning. In fact, it’s the first thing that caught our attention when we saw it first on a Norva van. The menus look clean, information is well displayed and the settings are easy to find. This thing is definitely an eye catcher and it will probably find its place in more and more in high-end vans and RV.
Only one complain here: the only available mode for the inclinometer is “line”, while on the app the Campervan mode makes it much easier to read:
Also, the inclinometer can only be calibrated within the iOS or Android app, not within the Pico device itself… not sure why, but hopefully it changes in the next firmware updates.
The temperature readings are super close to our Sensorpush wireless sensor, nice! The battery SOC, the consumers, the tank levels seem accurate as well; so far so good!
For some reasons, the voltage and temperature readings was TOTALLY off when plugged into the SC501 or the SC301. If plugged into the SQ25T, no problem…
A disappointment is the inclinometer which seems all over the place; we just can’t trust it. But the problem is not with the Simarine Pico, it seems to be the cheap “third-party” inclinometer we chose… We totally avoided “cheap chinese” product so far in our van build, except for our radio and the inclinometer; in both cases the products have under-performed. We’ll be on the search for a proper inclinometer sensor soon enough!
8.2- The Smartphone App
The App is an excellent complement to the Pico device. It makes the initial setup of the Pico MUCH easier and faster than doing it from the Pico’s screen. The displayed menus are very similar than the Pico and the settings are presented in the same order, so it’s super easy to find everything.
The iOS app seems to works flawlessy, but we had a hard time figuring how to use the Android app (our phone just couldn’t establish communication with the Pico). The only way to make it work is to set the Pico in STA mode: instead of creating it’s own WiFi network (you read it right: the Pico communicates via WiFi not via Bluetooth), in STA mode the Pico join an existing router (in our case, our Verizon JetPack). Once setup this way, we could use the app on our Android phone.
8.3- Product Improvement Wishlist
Here is a nice comprehensive list for you, Simarine! 🙂
Here is our workaround for the fact that there isn't a "screen off" button:
8.4- Victron Battery Monitor vs Simarine Pico Monitor
Which one should you choose?
We spent over a year testing the Victron battery monitor:
Here is our recommendation: