After running into problems with the Renogy BT-2 (review here) I decided it was not going to give me the kinds of information I wanted for off grid camping and overall evaluation of the house electrical system in my van. I came across what appears to be a new release from Victron called the Smart Shunt.
This is likely to become a gushing review as the installation went super easy and I am totally impressed with the functionality of this little thing to the point that now I can't imagine having a mobile off-grid setup without it. Update: Here is a video showing how the Smart Shunt is integrated with my system.
What is this thing?
Victron Smart Shunt 500A
Basically, the Victron Smart Shunt is device you install on the negative battery lead between the battery and the rest of your house electrical system that allows you to monitor your battery voltage along with current in and current out. It also has the ability through an aux port to monitor either the temperature of your house battery or the voltage of your vehicle battery. But unlike most other battery monitor products, the Smart Shunt is designed to be used with Vitron's Bluetooth app on your smartphone. This allow you to check your system while on the road, while in bed, or while standing a few feet outside your vehicle.
The app is robust and makes it easy to connect to various Victron devices including the Smart Shunt. This is really cool but you can also connect the Smart Shunt via the built in port to any Victron GX device like their display panel or even their droolworthy Cerbo GX communication center.
Unlike the Renogy app, The Victron Connect app has dedicated modules for each of their devices so you end up with clearly presented information that is relevant and useful. It allows you to access the device via a PIN code you can set yourself in order to keep some nefarious folks from changing your settings or shutting your system down. You can also rename your device in case you are managing several in close proximity. This was likely developed for use with boats in a marina setting. The app and device perform some calculations in order to derive a state of charge percentage and "Time Remaining" values which are handy but always remember they are just estimates. One of the coolest things about this shunt over some of the cheap ones out there is that it is a two-way shut that measures current going out but also current going in from your charging sources. I have three sources for charge in The Rocinante, first is current from the vehicle alternator that is managed by the Renogy DCC50S, Solar MPPT also managed by the Renogy unit, and charging from a shore power charger via the NOCO Genius 10 charger. It's nice to see the "net in" and "net out" so I can alway see both where I am and where I am trending so can can make sure I have enough power to get through the night keeping food cold, and fans running.
All of the data is stored in the Smart Shunt itself and accessed by the app for display to the user. It keeps track of some history items to help you understand how your power system is performing. It's important to note something about the battery voltages you see in the app. Numbers can look high due to pressure (voltage) applied by the charging system. My charger will apply 14.5 volts or so during certain stages of charging. I see more normal 12.9 numbers when the battery is charged but at rest. And I see lower numbers when the battery is under a load. But still the cool thing is you can always see whether you are earning or burning energy and get an estimate of how much run time you have left.
Installing the smart shunt is pretty easy. The shunt needs to be placed on the negative main battery cable between your battery and your chargers and loads. This is typically before your negative battery lead reaches your negative bus bar where other negative connections are made for chargers, inverters, and 12 volt distribution fuse panels. Two more connections are needed. One goes directly to the positive terminal on your battery to accurately measure voltage and power the Smart Shunt. The other aux port can either connect to a positive lead of your vehicle battery to monitor that voltage or go back to sense your house battery temperature. Victron provides both cables with fuses on them.
From once all that is hooked up you will see a blue light start blinking which is the device inviting you to connect to it with your smartphone and the Victron Connect app where you use the default '000000' (six zeros) to access the device and start viewing data and adjusting settings for your battery type and preferences.
Stay tuned for a video and update later this week.