So my obsession with Victron power gear has gone to a new level with the recent install of the Victron Cerbo GX which is sort of a command and control hub as well as a communications gateway for your Victron based power system. I think it's really intended for yachts with complex systems that monitor everything from wind and weather to power, fuel and other fluid levels, solar generation, inverter performance, fridge temperature, and pretty much you name it. You can access all this power and information on board via a display or you can access it on a network or even remotely via the free Victron VRM portal that will keep track of all of your vessels and all of the on board systems.
But you may be asking at this point "what does this have to do with a camper van?"
Well, from the outset I have had this vision of the on board system being "alive". That is that the electrical and the things it supports, fridge, Internet, fan, etc. be able to run perpetually as if it were connected to terrestrial power and Internet connections. And I want to be able to check on things like battery state of charge, interior temperature and fridge temperature if we leave the van parked somewhere to hike or explore. This should be easy enough in 2020 it just a matter of finding the components and getting them to work together to make it happen. I think of it is as sort of a DIY Mars lander kind of project.
When I started this project I had looked at the Victron gear but this new Cerbo GX was not even announced and did not ship until July. I started seeing some announcements and and thinking about installing it but my solar controller and alternator changing controller is from Renogy and working great. However, if I went with Victron for the battery monitor it would give me most of what I need to see how the electrical system was performing in terms of earn and burn, how much electricity am I using and how much am I generating at any gen time. So I did that with the Victron Smart Shut (write up here) and I was very pleased at how I could keep an eye on things from within Bluetooth range with my phone. The nice thing about the Smart Shunt is that it is "GX compatible" which means it can integrate with Victron gateways and other devices and the newest of which is the Cerbo GX. Below is a graphic representation of what all can be connected to the Cerbo GX from Victron.
As you can see the thing is just covered with ports for connecting to just about anything you can think of either from Victron or third parties. But one of the coolest connections is that it has WiFi and/or Ethernet so it can be integrated with the your on board LAN and Internet connection. And that is the key to opening up the monitoring and control of your on board systems from anywhere you have an Internet connection. And that is my main purpose for this is to be able to check on the van's systems and make sure power is fine, the fridge is fine, and the temperature in the van is ok for whatever we have going on there.
Considering what all is going on inside and outside the Cerbo GX installation is straightforward and simple. You hook it up to your positive and negative buss bars for power and it comes with a fused power lead with loop terminations to make it quick and easy. The unit is physically held in place with four screws. Connection to GX compatible devices like the Smart Shunt, etc. are made with optional cables you can order from your Victron supplier. There is really no way to hook these up wrong and the Cerbo GX will automatically recognize these GX devices.
Once the device is physically installed, powered up and connected you will see the WiFi and Bluetooth lights flashing which means those wireless connections are ready to connect. You first connect to the Cerbo with via Bluetooth and the Victron Connect app.
Victron Remote Monitoring Portal
OK, this is where the cool really starts. The Victron VRM is where your Cerbo GX or other gateway sends data so you can view it with a browser or using a phone app from anywhere in the world. Not only that but you can bring up a remote console and control the unit as if you were on board your boat or van.
You can make adjustments to settings or interact with any of the connected devices through the same interface and system of menus as the on board display.
*** more updates to come ***