Top Factors to Consider When Choosing a Solar Battery Monitor

While being able to pack up your RV, caravan, or boat and go off the grid in an instant rightfully has its appeal, the fact that you’re not tethered to a public utility ultimately means that you have to be responsible for your own power management.

Renewable energy systems like solar have their benefits, but they’re not as easy as “set it and forget it.” To ensure that you have a reliable store of battery power available at all times, your charging system needs to be monitored regularly. And when the system’s performance begins to diminish, you need visibility to the root cause as quickly as possible.

Fortunately, however, you don’t need a degree in engineering or a stockroom full of expensive gear to do your monitoring: you just need to be prepared. With the right monitoring equipment, you can now keep a closer eye than ever on the state of your batteries using only your cell phone, and be ready to take the necessary remedial action at a moment’s notice.

Taking Charge With a Smart Monitor


Shunt-based monitoring systems aren’t new developments for solar. They use a known electrical resistance to measure the amount of current coming from your batteries, and then convey that information to an inline display device. With the introduction of smart, all-in-one solar battery monitor devices like Victron’s SmartShunt though, you can now have wireless access to a host of battery, and power system measurements that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

Instead of a mounted display, smart battery monitors allow you read your battery’s parameters anywhere, anytime via Bluetooth on your smart phone or a tablet. And with easy integration with your other power management and control devices, they’re the ideal real time approach to battery monitoring and system diagnosis when space is at a premium.

You’ll have more battery information than every right at your fingertips, and you’ll never again have to worry about not discovering a possible charging problem until it’s too late.

The Monitors Made for all Battery Types


Smart, IP65-rated solar battery monitors are available in 500A, 1000A, and 2000A versions, and have default settings for the standard selection of battery types used with mobile solar storage banks, including:

  • Flooded lead acid;
  • OPzS (tubular-plate, flooded lead acid);
  • OPzV (tubular-plate, gel cell);
  • Ordinary gel cell; and,
  • AGM (absorbed glass mat).

High quality monitors are able to work with nominal battery voltages of 12V, 24V, 36V, and 48V for each of these respective battery types, and complete custom settings for unique battery types, including lithium batteries, can also be inputted into the monitor.

It’s this wide range of possible battery types that helps make a device like the SmartShunt the ideal choice for a conventional, or deep cycle battery monitor. And with the full spectrum of customizable parameters that smart monitors can measure, you’ll never be in the dark about the state of your storage system.

Custom Monitoring Parameters

Smart battery monitoring devices are capable of compiling and delivering significant amounts of information on battery bank and auxiliary states, and even communicating with other remote power management devices. It’s to be expected, however, that not every user will have the levels of concern across all aspects of battery monitoring.

That’s why smart RV and marine battery monitoring devices typically rely on as many as 13 adjustable parameter settings to fine tune the monitor’s calculations. These custom parameters are used to set the monitor’s tolerances for details such as:

  • Battery capacity. The battery’s capacity in Amp-hours.
  • Charged voltage. The voltage level of the fully charged battery.
  • Charge efficiency factor. In Amp-hours, the amount of capacity that’s lost during charging.
  • Current threshold. The current range can negatively affect charge readings.
  • Time-to-go averaging. In minutes, the time that moving averages are filtered.

Once the parameters are set, you’ll have a more accurate overview of the state of your storage batteries than you’ve ever had. And as your battery’s lifespan is determined by how much undercharging, overcharging, and discharging is occurring, smart battery monitoring can quickly pay for itself.

Full-Featured Battery Monitoring


Once you’ve set the parameters, a smart battery monitor will give you access to synchronized battery state overviews and trending data on a wealth of your system’s most important parameters, including:

  • State of charge. Expressed in percentage, the actual state of the battery’s charge.
  • Voltage. The terminal voltage of the battery.
  • Current. A measure of the current flowing out of the battery.
  • Power. The power is drawn from the battery.
  • Consumed Ah (Amp-hours). The Amp-hours removed from the battery.
  • Time remaining. The remaining time that the battery can support its present load.

And when connected separately to any of the following auxiliary input devices, smart monitors can provide even more detailed overview information such as:

  • Starter battery voltages. The voltage on a secondary battery.
  • Battery temperature. The temperature of the main battery.
  • Midpoint voltage. Expressed in percentage, the deviation between the top and the bottom of the battery bank.

Smart monitors can raise alarms when any parameter exceeds a preset threshold, and they can even be set up as DC monitors to measure the DC energy production or consumption of a specific device or circuit. In short, when it comes to having a full-featured RV or marine battery monitor, smart monitors have everything that you need.

Retaining Your Battery’s Charging History

Smart RV and marine battery monitors also track and maintain a complete record of historical battery charging data, such as:

  • Deepest discharge. In Amp-hours, the deepest point the battery has been discharged.
  • Average discharge. In Amp-hours, the cumulative battery draw is divided by the number of cycles.
  • Number of charge/discharge cycles. The number of full cycles over the lifetime of the battery monitor.

Even a historical record of information on total kWh (kilowatt hours) of energy charged and discharged, minimums and maximums on battery voltage, and voltage alarm history is retained.

With data rich battery monitoring devices like the SmartShunt, you have a complete picture of both your system’s past and present performance. And through the RS232 interface port on your smart solar battery monitor, you can quickly retrieve your data or take control of the monitor using a laptop.

The Final Word

At the end of the day, although solar panels may be the central points of your off the grid system, it’s the reliability of your battery storage that makes the system truly renewable. And when your battery system begins quietly leaning towards a pattern of frequent undercharging or rapid discharging, you need visibility to it as quickly as possible.

With a smart, all-in-one solar battery monitor, you’ll have all your relevant battery information available in the palm of your hand. It’s the real time battery storage information that you need to ensure that your batteries are charging and discharging correctly, and that it’s ready to go off the grid anytime you are.