Simarine Pico Battery Monitor: Installation, Setup and Review for Van/RV/Boat

Simarine-Pico-Battery-Monitor-Review-Installation-Van-Conversion-(Heading-1920px-)

Simarine Pico Battery Monitor: Installation, Setup and Review for Van/RV/Boat

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

1.1- Features

The Simarine Pico is completely customizable and expandable. To start off, you can use it as a battery monitor only:
House Battery Monitoring
Barometer (built-in)
Continue by adding any, or all, the following modules:
Consumers (battery screen)
Simarine Pico Battery and Consumers Monitoring
Blue means that the consumer is adding energy to the battery (charging). Yellow means that the consumer is drawing energy from the battery (discharging). The balance is displayed below the percentage (7.1A in the screen above)
Consumers (separate screen)
Temperatures
Tanks
Inclinometer

1.2- Components

In a nutshell, the Simarine Pico requires:
1- Simarine Pico Monitor
2- Simarine Input Module(s):

This is so the Simarine Pico can read the electrical input signal of the sensors (resistance or voltage), interpret it and display it for us humans.

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).

Simarine-Pico-Sensors-Inclinometer-Tank-Level-Temperature
A few sensor examples

1.3- Models and Where to Buy

There are a few options here:

Simarine "Pico One" Package

It’s the “entry-level” package. You’ll be able to monitor:

  • 1 battery bank (up to 300A current and voltage)
  • 1 battery bank (voltage only)
  • 2 Tanks (or 2 temperatures, or 1 tank and 1 temperature)
  • Includes the "Pico-one" monitor, which cannot be expanded further to what's listed above.
Simarine Pico Standard Package

You’ll be able to monitor:

  • 1 battery bank (up to 300A current and voltage)
  • 1 battery bank (voltage only)
  • 4 resistance inputs (tanks or thermometers)
  • 3 voltage inputs (1 inclinometer or any voltage-type sensor)
  • Includes the "Pico" monitor, which can be expanded later (see "customize your own")
Simarine Pico Blue Package

You’ll be able to monitor:

  • Same as standard package
  • Plus 4 consumers monitoring (current)
  • Includes the "Pico" monitor, which can be expanded later (see "customize your own")
Customize your own Package

Take advantage of the Pico flexibility and create a package to suit your needs!

  • Up to 6 battery banks
  • 6 additional battery voltage
  • Up to 14 tanks/temps
  • Up to 20 consumers
  • 1 Inclinometer
Tank Sensor
Inclinometer
Witmotion 2-axis Inclinometer Analog Voltage
(That's the inclinometer we currently have, but we don't really recommend it... read our review below)
Don't forget
  • Electrical wires, terminal rings, connectors, etc.
  • Check out our Electrical System Guide to build your knowledge and to download our wiring diagram & tutorial!

We’re super excited to get you 10% OFF ANY SIMARINE PRODUCT!! Just head to Simarine.net and enter the code “FarOutRide” at checkout to get the discount 🙂

In-Depth Look

2- Battery Monitor

2.1- Features

  • Up to 6 battery banks
  • State Of Charge (%)
  • Current (A)
  • Voltage (V)
  • Time until charged/discharged
This is the battery screen without consumers monitoring:
With Solar, 12V and 120V consumers monitoring:
Simarine Pico Battery and Consumers Monitoring
Blue means that the consumer is adding energy to the battery (charging). Yellow means that the consumer is drawing energy from the battery (discharging). The balance is displayed below the percentage (7.1A in the screen above)

2.2- Components

1- Sensors

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:

  • SC301 or SC302T: 300A max
  • SC501 or SC502T: 500A max

2.3- Setup

  • Name: You decide.
  • Type: Lead Acid, AGM, Gel, LiFePO4.
  • Voltmeter: Assign a voltage input from a Simarine module.
  • Shunt: Assign a current input from a Simarine module.
  • Capacity C/20: Battery capacity (Ah) if discharged in 20 hours.
  • Capacity C/10: Battery capacity (Ah) if discharged in 10 hours.
  • Capacity C/5: Battery capacity (Ah) if discharged in 5 hours.
  • Temperature: Assign a temperature input from a Simarine module (optional).
Battery-Settings-Simarine-Pico
Battery settings.

3- Consumers

3.1- Features

  • Up to 20 consumers
  • Current (A)
Consumers can be displayed on the battery screen (Below we chose to display SOLAR, 12V DC LOADS, 120V AC LOADS:
More consumers can be displayed on a separate screen as well (not visible on our Android app, for some reasons):

3.2- Components

1- Sensors

No proper sensors are required to read the current. Just electrical wires and terminal rings (to connect to shunt) will do!

Ancor Terminal Rings
2- Simarine Input Modules:

A shunt is required to read the current. The following modules can read current inputs.

  • SCQ25 or SCQ25T: 4 inputs of 25A max each (35A peak for 1 minute). Inputs can be merged for higher current capacity (2 inputs = 50A, 3 inputs = 75A, 4 inputs = 100A).
  • SC301 or SC302T: 1 input of 300A max (for inverter)
  • SC501 or SC502T: 1 input of 500A max (for inverter)

3.3- Setup

  • Name: You decide.
  • Range: Max value for graphical representation on the Pico Monitor.
  • Reverse: Use this to swap the current value +/- (instead of swapping the cables on the shunt...).
  • Add current: If multiple shunts are used to monitor the current of a single battery bank (example: one shunt on each branch of batteries in parallel).
  • Battery: Assign a battery if you want to display this consumer on the battery screen.
  • Display separately: To display the consumer on a separate screen on the Pico. Up to 12 consumers. (setting not available in app)
  • Display priority: To ordering consumers display on the screen.
Consumer settings.

4- Temperature Monitor

4.1- Features

  • Up to 10 sensors

4.2- Components

1- Sensors

Temperature sensors are sold by Simarine on their website (1 or 5 meters length):

2- Simarine Input Modules:

Temperature sensors are connected to resistance-type input on the following modules:

  • 1 input: SC301, SC302T, SC501, SC502T
  • 4 inputs: ST107, SCQ25, SCQ25T

4.3- Setup

  • Name: You decide.
  • Type: NTC 10K (use this for Simarine sensors) or NTC 5K
  • Sensor: Assign a temperature input from a Simarine module.
  • Display priority: To ordering consumers display on the screen.
  • Range Min: Min value for graphical representation on the Pico Monitor.
  • Range Max: Max value for graphical representation on the Pico Monitor.
  • Calibration: To offset (+ or -) the displayed temperature.
Temperature-Settings-Simarine-Pico
Temperature settings.

5- Tank Monitor

5.1- Features

  • Up to 14 sensors

5.2- Components

1- Sensors
  • Float Sensor: Must penetrate the tank. It uses a float to measure the input signal.
  • Ultrasonic Sensor: Installed outside the tank. More expensive, has blind spot close to the sensor, must be installed away from the tank vertical walls, must be install either on top or bottom (depending on brand/model).
  • Pressure Sensor: Installed with a "T" fitting at the bottom of the tank.

We went with float sensor type for simplicity of installation and $. We used KUS USA resistance-type sensors:

Make sure to select the right sensor length according to your tank depth! (leave one each clearance at the bottom of the tank for proper functioning of the sensor)

2- Simarine Input Modules:

Tank sensors are connected to resistance-type input on the following modules:

  • 1 input: SC301, SC302T, SC501, SC502T
  • 4 inputs: ST107, SCQ25, SCQ25T

5.3- Setup

  • Name: You decide.
  • Type: Water / Fuel / Waste water.
  • Sensor Type: Resistive / Voltage.
  • Sensor: Assign a tank input from a Simarine module.
  • Capacity: Max capacity of the tank.
  • Calibration points: Before the Pico can display the tank level, at least two calibration point must be entered. More calibration points will enable PICO to show tank level more accurately. Added can be up to 11 calibration points. Set for each calibration point, the tank fill volume (liters or gallons) and a corresponding sensor value (resistance or voltage).
  • Display priority: To ordering consumers display on the screen.
Tank-Settings-Simarine-Pico
Tank settings.
Calibration points.

6- Inclinometer

6.1- Features

  • Up to 2 sensors (Pitch & Roll)

6.2- Components

1- Sensors

Choose a 2-axis inclinometer to measure pitch (forward/rear) and roll (left/right). It must be an analog voltage-type sensor such as:

(But read our review down this page before buying this sensor!)
2- Simarine Input Modules:

Inclinometer sensors are connected to voltage-type input on the following modules:

  • 3 inputs: ST107, SCQ25, SCQ25T

6.3- Setup

  • Name: Pitch / Roll.
  • Style: Line / Caravan / Camper.
  • Sensor: Assign a pitch/roll input from a Simarine module.
  • Nonlinear: Exaggeration of the visually displayed angle. This is useful for small angles since it can be difficult to distinguish on which side we are pitching/rolling. The true angle (X.X degrees) is still displayed.
  • Calibration: To set the zero point (use actual sensor value OR enter manually) and to set the Step (mV/degree).
  • Display: Show/hide the inclinometer on the Pico screen.
  • Reverse: If the inclinometer shows the inverse value for pitch or roll angle (e.g., left instead of right), you can enable this option to reverse the display.
Inclinometer settings.

7- Our System

First things first, let us introduce you to our self-built van:
Van-Tour-Heading
OK, back to our topic. Here is what we monitor with the Simarine Pico:
House Battery
  • Current
  • Voltage
Van Battery
  • Voltage
Consumers
  • Solar
  • 12V DC Loads
  • 120V AC Loads
  • Webasto
  • Propex
  • Maxxfan
  • Lights
  • Fridge
Temperatures
  • House Battery
  • Interior
  • Exterior
  • Fridge
  • Water Pump
Tanks
  • Fresh Water
  • Grey Water
  • Nature's Head Composting Toilet (liquid tank)
Inclinometer
  • Pitch
  • Roll

7.1- Installation Photos

Sensors

Temperature Sensors

There’s not much to say here… just install the temperature probe where you want to know the temperature!

(the blue sensors are Sensorpush wireless sensors. Read about them here)

Inclinometer Sensor

We installed our inclinometer under our kitchen countertop. It’s a flat surface and it’s easy to align the pitch/roll axis properly.

Tanks Sensor

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:

1- With the help of the gasket, locate where to install the sensor. mark the center for drilling and mark the outside diameter (to help position the sensor later):
2- Drill using a 1-3/8" hole-saw:
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)

4- Insert the sensor and apply a small drop of silicone into the screw hole:
5- Use stainless steel metal screws (not the bolts provided with the sensor). Do the final torque by hand, or else you will damage the plastic and have poor grip (= possible piss leak).
6- We used these electrical quick connects for easy dumping of the tank. They're super easy to connect/disconnect (nice!), but they're not true crimp connectors; if you pull too hard on them, you might break the wire loose from the connector...
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:

The procedure is exactly the same as for the Nature's Head. But we used extra Silicone because the surface is not flat and the plastic is quite thin (screws don't have very good grip). We were worried it wouldn't work, but it does!
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 kept the most expensive (and difficult to replace) part for the end. At this point we're getting good at this 🙂

Simarine Modules

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...
SC501 Shunt:
  • House battery current
SC501-Shunt-Simarine-Pico
SC301 Shunt:
  • Inverter current (can be installed on positive or negative)
SC301-Shunt-Inverter-Simarine-Pico
SCQ25T Module #1
  • Temperatures (x1 resistance-input)
  • Tanks (x3 resistance input)
  • Consumers (x4 shunt)
  • House and van battery voltage (x2)
SCQ25T Module #2
  • Temperatures (x4 resistance-input)
  • Consumers (x4 shunt)
  • Inclinometer (x2 voltage-input)

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

Build Quality

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!

2016:
2018:
2019:
Simarine Pico 1

User Interface

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:

Simarine Pico Inclinometer

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.

Monitoring Performances

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! 🙂
  • Fix Android app so it works in "AP" mode (we tested it with Pixel XL/Pixel on Android 9)
  • Add inclinometer calibration settings in the Pico device itself.
  • We would LOVE if each consumers had history (i.e. daily total Ah consumption).
  • A "screen off" button (i.e. short press of the enter button) would be nice (at night and when we leave the van in sketchy neighborhoods)
  • Please sell good quality inclinometer and tank sensors directly from your store! (streamlined shopping experience and products we can trust with your system)
  • The specification sheet of the thermometer probe says "minimum -20°C"... that's not cold enough for Canada!
Here is our workaround for the fact that there isn't a "screen off" button:
pico-cover-crna

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:

Get the Victron
  • If looking for an excellent but affordable battery monitor that gets the job done.
  • The smartphone app is awesome.
  • It integrates seamlessly with other Victron products.
Get the Pico
  • If looking for a SEXY, cutting edge battery monitor (Pico One package)
  • If looking to monitor any of the following as well: tanks, temperatures, inclinometer (Pico Standard package, Blue package, or custom).
  • As of now (2019), we think the Pico is above the rest in terms of look and functionality.

9- Long Term Review

It's still too soon, wait for it!

That's all for now, thanks for reading!

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about us

Nice To Meet You.

Hello! We’re Isabelle and Antoine 🙂 In 2017 we sold our house (and everything in it), quit our engineering careers and moved into our self built campervan. We’ve been on the road since then and every day is an opportunity for a new adventure; we’re chasing our dreams and hopefully it inspires others to do the same!

8 thoughts on “Simarine Pico Battery Monitor: Installation, Setup and Review for Van/RV/Boat”

  1. Hey! Love this system and planning to install on my next build. Wondering though, in looking at your comparison to the Victron system did you consider the color control GX modules? It’s obviously great that the Pico unit combines the display unit with the battery monitor so that it’s all in one spot, but the CCGX unit from Victron offers pretty similar plug and play functionality when it comes to additional monitoring inputs (tanks, temps, other batteries, etc.).

    Really, in my mind, apples-to-apples comparison would be between a system built around the victron CCGX and a fully kitted-out Pico system. Would be interested to hear your thoughts there.

    Great article though and super helpful in navigating the connectivity of each shunt module!

    • Hi Dennis,
      I’ll be honest, I don’t really like the look of the GX… I think the Pico look more “classy” and high-end; that’s what I want to see in 2019 in my van! Sorry if you expected an in-depth analysis, but I haven’t look into it.

      Cheers!
      Antoine

  2. Are you planning to add propane level monitoring?

    Love the system. Been watching it for about a year now hoping the price would come down and/or an API would be released to bring in data from my Xantrex & Kisae units onto a unified display.

  3. Awesome! If I read it right, could you measure the input current from each charging source (solar, acg, etc)? My experience with the victron was that in winter with low sun the monitor thought the battery was charged (based on the acg current profile) but it was actually just cloudy, and not much current from the solar. Could you input “100%” charged criteria for multiple charging sources?

    • The Simarine is different than the Victron: there is no synchronisation to 100% based on voltage/current conditions. It’s all dealt with by the “smart” algorithm… So far, it’s seems pretty accurate (especially with LiFePO4 I’m guessing, since there is no Peukert effect). (note: there is still the possibility to do a manual synchronisation; we’ve done it only once right after we finished with the installation and we knew the battery was full).

  4. Does this allow, like the Victron, the ability to close a switch when some condition (like temperature) goes above/below a set value? I’d like to use a monitoring system to stop charging a battery if: 1) temperature too low, 2) temperature too high, 3) battery voltage too high

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