Victron-Solar-Charge-Controller-and-Battery-Monitor-Review-(heading-1200px)

Upgrading our camper van electrical system with Victron Energy Smart Solar MPPT Charge Controller and Smart Battery Monitor was a very smart move (no puns intended) and we wish we’ve done that earlier! With built-in Bluetooth and VictronConnect app, it’s possible to setup both devices on a Smartphone (Android or iPhone) via an intuitive graphic interface, sweeeeet! Once the system is up and running, VictronConnect app enables to monitor real-time status and historical data about the system performance. While it’s not essential, we really enjoy these features and we feel Victron Energy’s technology is cutting edge. Welcome to the 21st century. Now, does it perform better than our previous Bogart Engineering SC-2030 PWM charger? Yes. It does. Keep reading this review.

 

What we Like about Victron

Simplier, Sexier

We already mentioned we love the built-in Bluetooth & app, here’s why:

1- Easy to Setup

Different battery type (AGM, Lead Acid, etc) requires different charging profile. This is easily adjusted via a Smartphone on the VictronConnect app:

Victron-SmartSolar-Battery-Settings-(with-phone)

Easy Breezy Setup!

 

2- Real-Time Status
Victron-Smart-Solar-Charge-Controller-VictronConnect-Status

Charge Controller Status

Victron-BMV-712-Battery-Monitor-VictronConnect

Battery Monitor Status

 

3- History
Victron-SmartSolar-History-(with-phone )
Victron-Smart-Monitor-History-(with-phone-)

 

More Power

Bogart-SC-2030-Victron-SmartSolar-100_30

Time for an upgrade!

 

We upgraded from a Bogart SC-2030 PWM to the Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100|30 charge controller. While we cannot quantify the exact improvements (we would have to setup 2 systems simultaneously with the exact same panel size and orientation, same battery type and size, same SOC, etc.), we immediately noticed some improvements:

  • The maximum charging current we have ever seen with the Bogart is 16 amps; within one week after installing the Victron we observed up to 24A charging current! And this is using the exact same setup (battery, solar panels, etc.) except for the charge controller… impressive, but that make sense:
    • Theoretical Max Charge Current with PWM: (Power Panels) / (Voltage Panels) = 320W / 18.5V = 17.3A
    • Theoretical Max Charge Current with MPPT: (Power Panels / (Voltage Battery) = 320W / 12.4V = 25.8A
    • If the battery was very low, even more charge current would occurs with the MPPT (but not the PWM): 320W/11.5V = 27.8A
  • We also noticed more power earlier in the morning and during overcast weather.
  • More info about “PWM” vs “MPPT” here: Which solar charger to choose

 

What we Don’t Like …

Nothing we don’t like, but here are some features we would love to see implemented on the Victron Smart Monitor to take it to the next level:

  • Optional module with multiple inputs to monitor consumption of appliances individually such as the fridge, Webasto heater, Propex heater, etc.
  • Optional module with sensors to monitor holding tanks level such as fresh water tank, grey water tank, propane tank, etc.
  • Optional module with sensors to monitor the temperature and humidity of outside, inside, fridge, etc.
  • The propositions above are not sci-fi, in fact a competitor in the marine world (Simarine) already offers that… see “Runner Up” section further down this page.

 

Models & Where to Buy

Charge Controller

Victron SmartSolar MPPT 100_30

Victron SmartSolar MPPT Charge Controller.

 

First, we recommend the SmartSolar series over the BlueSolar series, as the SmartSolar is the latest technology with build-in Bluetooth and all. Second, you will have to size your charge controller according to your solar panels maximum voltage and current as follows:

SmartSolar MPPT Model* Maximum Charge Current Maximum Panels Voltage (open circuit) Nominal Panels Power

(for 12V systems)

Amazon Link
75|15 15A 75V 220W amzn.to/2tGB06P
100|20 20A 100V 290W amzn.to/2yPcDZp
100|30 30A 100V 440W amzn.to/2yLrvYY
100|50 50A 100V 700W amzn.to/2KsfAAw

*More models available. The table above shows the more common ones for a camper / RV.

 

For example we have two 160W panels wired in parallel (we had to wire them in parallel because we had a PWM charger, we will soon wire them in series for better performance):

  • Each panel is rated 22.2 Volts maximum (open circuit); that’s 22.2 Volts maximum total (open circuit) (it would be 44.4 Volts if they were wired in series!)
  • That’s 320W total.

We therefore went with the 100|30 SmartSolar MPPT model, since it’s rated up to 440W and up to 100V.

 

System Monitor

We recommend the BMV-712 as it’s the latest from Victron and has built-in Bluetooth:

Victron BMV-712

Victron BMV-712 System Monitor. Buy from Amazon.

 

Temperature Sensor (Optional)

The shunt included with the BMV-712 monitor has two inputs:

  • Input #1: House Battery Voltage
  • Input #2: Van (Starter) Battery Voltage OR Temperature Sensor (it means the monitor can’t display both; it’s one or the other)

For proper temperature compensation during charging, the charger and the battery must be within 5C (improper temperature compensation results in reduced battery lifetime). In other words, the charge controller should be installed near the battery. If that’s not possible, then the temperature sensor should be installed and connected to input #2 of the shunt up to the house battery positive pole:

Victron Temperature Sensor

Victron Temperature Sensor. Buy from Amazon.

 

VictronConnect App

The app is free and can be found in the Google Play Store (Android) or in the App Store (iPhone).

 

Installation

Wiring and Electrical

Not sure where to start? This guide will get you going and makes things easier for you! We first start with some theory, then YOU do the work using our Interactive Diagram and our Tutorial:

Electrical System: Build Guide for DIY Camper Van Conversion

Here is a sneak peak of what you will find inside the article:

Faroutride Wiring Diagram (V2018, rev A) (800px)

Wiring Diagram

 

From-Blank-to-Wiring-Diagram-Animated-GIF

Tutorial

 

Initial Setup

Charge Controller
  1. Using the rotary switch on the controller, select your battery type (this setting can be overriden in the smartphone app after).
  2. Wire the Victron SmartSolar Charge Controller (and the remaining of your electrical system) as proposed in our wiring diagram.
  3. Turn on the battery breaker first, then turn on the solar panels breaker respectively (the manual says to always power the battery first, so we’re doing just that).
  4. Turn on the Bluetooth on your Android or iPhone and open the VictronConnect app. You should see the controller (“SmartSolar”) in the device list; if you don’t, reboot your phone and try again.
  5. Click on the “SmartSolar” to access it then click on the gear icon (top-right corner) to access the settings menu. Click on “Battery”.
  6. To override the Battery preset, select “User Defined” instead of “Rotary switch”. (consult your battery manual to find the proper settings).
  7. You’re good to go!! Consult the manual for the more advanced features.

 

System Monitor

All the initial setup can be performed on the monitor itself, but here we’ll focus on doing it on a smartphone:

  1. Wire the Victron Smart Monitor (and the remaining of your electrical system) as proposed in our wiring diagram.
  2. Turn on the Bluetooth on your Android or iPhone and open the VictronConnect app. You should see the monitor (“SmartBMV”) in the device list; if you don’t, reboot your phone and try again.
  3. Click on the SmartBMV to access it and click on the gear icon (top-right corner) to access the settings menu. Click on “Battery”.
  4. Enter your Battery Capacity.
    • This is required so the monitor can calculate the State of Charge (%) accurately. (for example if 100Ah is consumed out of a 200Ah battery, the SOC will display 50%; if 100Ah is consumed out of a 400Ah battery, the SOC will display 75%).

 

Accurate SOC (%) Display:

The SOC displayed (%) will be more accurate if the monitor is regularly synchronized to 100% when the battery is considered fully charged. The battery is considered fully charged when these conditions are met simultaneously:

  • Battery voltage above “Charged voltage” parameter, charge current below “Tail current” parameter for more than “Charged detection time” parameter.

Follow these steps to ensure the monitor is regularly synchronize:

  1. Enter the Charged Voltage. It should be 0.2V or 0.3V below the ‘float’ voltage of the charger. (you can find your float voltage value in the “SmartSolar” device under Battery settings).
  2. Enter the Tail Current. We set it to 1%.
    •  The tail current is expressed in function of the battery capacity. For example 1% of 200Ah = 2A
  3. Enter the Charged Detection Time. We left it to factory setting of 3 minutes.
  4. You’re good to go!! Consult the manual for the more advanced features.

 

Peukert’s Exponent (optional geeky setting):

Did you know that the fastest a battery is discharged, the less capacity it has. Let’s look at our Rolls battery specification sheet:

Rolls 1230 Capacity

If we completely discharge this battery in 5 hours (at a rate of 34.4A), it will give 172Ah. If we completely discharge it in 100 hours (at a rate of 2.3A), it will give 230Ah. It’s called Peukert’s law and, yes, you will find more about that on Wikipedia.

It’s possible to take account of this law with the Peukert Exponent parameter; the SOC (%) displayed will then be more accurate. Here is the typical Peukert Exponent for different battery types:

  • Lead Acid: 1.2 to 1.6
  • Gel: 1.1 to 1.25
  • AGM: 1.05 to 1.15
  • Lithium-Ion: Close to 1.05

1 means there is no change of capacity at different rate of discharge; a higher Exponent (i.e. 1.6) means the effect is more severe.

It’s totally fine to use the default Victron parameter or you can calculate your own here: planetcalc.com/2268/

Playing with different hour rate of our Rolls battery (see table above), we get Peukert’s Exponent anywhere between 1.06 and 1.20 (?!)… So we entered 1.15, but please don’t ask us why exactly! As the manual says: “Please note that Peukert’s formula is no more than a rough approximation of reality” so we decided not to go crazy with this…

 

Operation

Once the installation and initial setup completed, go do your things and let the Victron do the work 🙂 You can, however, monitor the system performance if you feel like it. It’s fun to watch the performance of the system being influenced by the weather, hours of the day, period of the year, shadow, etc.

*Note that our solar panels are currently wired in parallel (soon to be wired in series); if your panels are wired in series (recommended) you might get different data than the screenshots shown in this article.

 

1- Monitor the SmartSolar Charge Controller

Open the VictronConnect app and select the “SmartSolar” MPPT Charger.

Status tab:

Victron-Smart-Solar-Charge-Controller-VictronConnect-Status-annotated

 

History tab:

 

2- Monitor the BMV-712 Smart Monitor

Open the VictronConnect app and select the “SmartBMV” Monitor.

Status tab:

Victron-BMV-712-Status-annotated

 

Note: this data is also displayed on the monitor unit.

 

History tab:

Victron-BMV-712-History-annotate

 

 

Reliability

We installed the Victron Controller and Monitor in June 2018; so far so good! We will keep you updated if anything happens! Subscribe to our Mailing List to be notified.

 

Runner-Up

We really like what Simarine did with their monitor… It’s possible to monitor individual appliance consumption, holding tanks level, temperature, etc.

Holding Tanks Level

Simarine Pico 1

Appliances Consumption

 

Resources

 

 

 

You Might Be Interested In:

 

 


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10 comments

  1. Comment by Ben

    Ben Reply September 8, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Hey Antoine !
    I was checking your article about the Victron battery monitor (BMV-712) since I installed one recently, and noticed in order to adjust the automatic “synchronize” you changed the “charged voltage” to match “float -0.2V”.
    However the manual of the monitor says the “charged voltage” should be “absorption voltage -0.2V”…
    “absoption” = “boost” mode on some solar controllers if I understood correctly, and usually is somewhere around 14.4V.
    “float” is the next charging stage after “absorption” and is usually set around 13.5V and this stage effectively usually means the battery is fully charged…
    I’m wondering what’s the correct setting between the monitor manual and your suggestion (which makes perfect sense)…

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 9, 2018 at 11:49 pm

      Not sure which one is the correct setting, but my reasoning was similar to you: when the charger get into float mode, it means the battery is fully charged (not when in get into the absorption mode!).

      🙂

      • Comment by Ben

        Ben Reply September 10, 2018 at 1:08 pm

        here’s the answer from Victron :
        “It is indeed the Absorption charge voltage -0.2V. If you set this to Float charge voltage -0.2V the meter will synchronize too soon indicating the battery is full when it is not.”

        Will stick to what the manual says, no hard feeling :p
        Cheers !

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply September 10, 2018 at 1:40 pm

          “synchronize too soon” I’m guessing because the monitor sees the float voltage at some point during the bulk stage too, but I’ve entered a low value for the tail current parameter (1.5% if I recall correctly) and the current is normally more than that during the bulk. It’s working for me, but no offense taken you can use the absorption voltage 😛 It’s not like it’s a critical value for the charger anyway.

          Cheers!

  2. Comment by Randy

    Randy Reply August 29, 2018 at 2:47 pm

    wanna sell your Bogart SC-2030 PWM charge controller? how much? Randy

    • Comment by Antoine

      Antoine Reply September 1, 2018 at 9:59 am

      Sure! We will contact you shortly by email.

  3. Comment by Owen

    Owen Reply August 15, 2018 at 12:29 am

    Hey Guys!

    I was wondering if you could expand a little as to how you installed the Victron Battery Monitor? It seems a bit confusing. I’m about to set mine up. Do you have photos or a page describing the process?

      • Comment by Owen

        Owen Reply August 15, 2018 at 10:47 pm

        Thanks Antoine! I have been learning so much from you diagram. I really appreciate the knowledge you guys have shared. My electical system is super inspired by yours. I guess I’m staring at my Victron Battery Monitor wondering if I need to buy a really long + cable to reach my starter battery. Did you go with 4 AWG for that? The diagram doesn’t say.

        • Comment by Antoine

          Antoine Reply August 17, 2018 at 11:23 am

          The BMV-712 comes with two positive wires with in-line fuse (it’s like 1 amp if I recall properly). If you need more length, use the Blue Sea calculator to find the correct wire diameter (using the fuse rating as current). Since it’s very low current, you don’t need a big wire diameter.

          Cheers!

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