As an Electrical Engineer, I get a lot of questions about RV batteries. Keeping your RV battery charged is critical if you want to enjoy your camping experience. However, monitoring your battery can be difficult because batteries rarely show how much power is left. Thankfully, the industry now has RV battery monitors.
Join us as we learn more about battery monitors and why we recommend adding a high quality monitor as the first electrical upgrade in an RV.
What Is an RV Battery Monitor?
An RV battery monitor is like a “fuel gauge for your battery bank.” Just like how your fuel gauge gives you information on how much fuel you have and when you’ll run out, a battery monitor does the same for your RV battery. Monitoring such items as amperage, wattage, and current can help keep your battery running smoothly and help you run your RV more efficiently.
Why Is Monitoring Your RV Battery Level Important?
Without a battery monitor, you have no idea what your batteries are doing. A major benefit to a battery monitor is knowing when you are going to run out of battery. Without knowing your state of charge you may end up running out in the middle of a cold night or running your generator way too much.
Monitoring items such as charge level and current can be essential to maintaining and preserving battery life as well. A high-quality battery monitor takes into account the pukert curves for your particular battery type. This helps determine an accurate state of charge and can keep you from discharging lead-acid batteries too low and damaging them.
Additionally, an RV battery monitor can tell you which components use the most power and when energy conservation is a concern.
PRO TIP: Learn more about pukert curves and Lead Acid use in our cold weather battery article.
Why We Recommend Adding a Battery Monitor First
As an electrical engineer, I have installed many power systems in RV’s and always recommend that you first install a battery monitor. The reason for this is that you need to get a good understanding of how much power is used when running on batteries. This can give you a good idea of any other upgrades you need to make.
A battery monitor will help match consumption and generation. Read more in our how much solar article about why a batter monitor is so important.
What Is the Best RV Battery Monitor?
The best RV battery monitors are user-friendly, easily programmable, and come equipped with Bluetooth connectivity. Although there are many brands, Victron stands out. We recommend the BMV-712 or SmartShunt. One of these may be just what you need.
- Victron Energy BMV-712 Smart Battery Monitor (Grey) is a high...
- Victron Energy BMV-712 features an additional input which can be...
- Built-in Bluetooth Communication – wirelessly monitor your...
- Victron Energy SmartShunt displays battery State of Charge % and...
- Victron Energy Smartshunt is an easy to set-up, all in one...
- Connect Victron Energy Smartshunt to your phone or tablet via...
Monitor Your RV Battery Levels from Your Phone with Victron BMV-712 with Bluetooth
The Victron BMV-712 comes Bluetooth-equipped, which means that you can connect the device to your phone. Therefore, you can access all monitoring, configuration, and operational tasks using the Victron app. In addition, the Victron also keeps historical data that you can access to evaluate usage patterns and battery health.
➡ Looking for a battery that can go the distance? Through a series of extensive tests, we found The Best RV Battery For The Money.
How to Use Victron BMV-712 or SmartShunt
The Victron BMV-712 or SmartShunt are great RV battery monitoring systems because they’re easy to install, user-friendly, and connect to your phone through Bluetooth. Let’s take an in-depth look at each of these aspects.
Installation for both these models is simple. Experienced DIYers should have no trouble. However, incorrect installation can be hazardous. So if you don’t feel comfortable installing it yourself, you can take your unit to a certified electrician or your local RV dealership. They’ll know how to install the device correctly and give you peace of mind.
How Do I Connect My Victron RV Battery Monitor?
The Victron RV Battery Monitor connects to the battery through a shunt and a series of cables. The shunt connects the display to the battery and is also the device that houses Bluetooth technology. After installing it and downloading the Victron Connect app, you can connect your RV battery monitor to your phone via Bluetooth.
How to Use the Victron Program to Monitor Battery Levels
Victron uses an app and Bluetooth to connect its battery monitors to wireless devices, such as cell phones or tablets. The app, Victron Connect, provides any information accessed on the physical display and maintains a power usage history. You can review the record at any time.
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Alternative Non-Bluetooth RV Battery Monitors
Budget is usually a significant factor in choosing your RV battery monitor. Although Bluetooth RV battery monitors are ideal, they can be expensive. Therefore, you can get alternative non-Bluetooth monitors. Here are two of our recommended non-Bluetooth RV battery monitors.
Budget: Spartan Power DC Meter Battery Monitor
Even though the Spartan Power DC Meter Battery Monitor is on the lower end of the budget, it’s still a good product for monitoring your battery. The Spartan is small but completes nine functions. It monitors voltage, current, power, impedance, capacity, running time, and more. And it’s easy to install. Everything you need comes with the monitor.
- TWO YEAR WARRANTY vs ONE! In the Box: SP-8VM300A Meter, 300A...
- Multifunctional battery meter displays: Battery Voltage,...
- Great for use with a solar charge controllers, inverters,...
Middle-of-the-Road: AiLi 500A Battery Monitor
The AiLi 500A Battery Monitor is user-friendly and easy to install. It displays and tracks voltage, current, power consumption, remaining capacity, and more. It also comes with programmable alarms for high and low voltage and low capacity.
- Read your battery bank like a fuel gauge. High precision smart...
- Display voltage, current, ampere-hours, state of charge (SOC),...
- Built-in buzzer, high and low voltage, low ampere-hours...
Tips for Monitoring Your RV Batteries
Checking your battery with an RV battery monitor can be relatively simple. But we can always learn more and improve. So here are a few tips to make monitoring more manageable and make your battery use more efficient and effective.
Know How Much Battery You Use Overnight
Your RV battery monitor not only alerts you of problems with your battery but also keeps a record of battery use and other information. You can access this information via an app. Evaluate this information and pay special attention to how much battery you use overnight.
➡ Not sure how much power you use? Learn how to conduct an RV power system audit in this article: How Much Solar Power Do You Need for Your RV?
Install Screen in Easy-to-Check Location
Install the display screen for your RV battery monitor in an easy-to-access location. If you have to crawl down or move items to view the screen, you’ll be less likely to use the monitor. Remember, you can install the monitor up to seven feet away from the battery, so you should be able to find a good, easily accessed location in the battery bay.
Create an App Shortcut on Your Phone Screen
Download the app for your monitor. Also, make sure you can quickly locate it on your phone. Consider placing it on the main screen or creating a shortcut to make it easy to find.
Ultimately, an RV battery monitor keeps track of your energy levels, similar to how a fuel gauge keeps track of your car’s gasoline levels. Knowing how much, when, and where you use your power can help you make smarter power choices and help maintain and extend the life of your battery. Although the initial price can be high for some, especially when purchasing a Victron model, the benefits outweigh the negatives.
New to RVing? It’s important to understand how your entire electrical system works together to keep you powered up for adventure. Get started here: How Are RVs Wired? Helpful RV Electrical Basics for Beginners
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Read More From The Mortons:
Friday 4th of March 2022
My previous battery monitor decided to give up so I took a chance and bought the BMV-712 battery monitor even though it was a bit more expensive. I'm so glad I did! This unit works great, just as described. One of the features I like is the built-in Bluetooth that allows me to monitor my battery health at any time and directly from my iPhone. Besides that, the free Vitron Connect app is handy as it allows me to see what specifically is going on with my battery system.
Sunday 24th of October 2021
Don't new RVs come with battery monitors? Our first is on order, so I'm not sure.
Mortons on the Move
Tuesday 2nd of November 2021
A lot of new RVs do come with them, but not all.
Saturday 23rd of October 2021
Do any of these support downloading a csv or similar dump of the data for import into a spreadsheet for tracking and analysis purposes?
Saturday 23rd of October 2021
It's odd that so many battery monitors display State of Charge (measured in % of Ah available) rather than State of Energy (measured in % of total Wh available).
When a battery monitor displays 50% SOC, you have less than half of your energy remaining, and the bottom half of your battery will be consumed faster than the top half (assuming the same loads). This is because your battery voltage decreases over time, and each Ah consumed is multiplied by a lower voltage as the battery is depleted, and energy (Wh) is the product of Ah x V.
Electric cars though, have to provide reliable information that estimates how many miles you can still drive. They do not display SOC measured in Ah, they measure if SOE in Watt hours and use that to estimate miles remaining. .
So why are battery monitors not doing this?
Saturday 23rd of October 2021
I have a question...I installed the Victron monitor and love it, but Bluetooth has a limited range. How do you access it from anywhere? Thank you.
Saturday 23rd of October 2021
Remote access for any Victron product requires a gateway connected to the internet, such as their Cerbo GX, or their older Venus GX. These devices network to Victron Smart products using VE direct cables or communicate wirelessly by bluetooth. Just be sure you order the Smart version, and not the BlueSolar version, if you intend to use the bluetooth interface.
Data uploaded by the gateway is sent to Victron's cloud data base, and can be accessed by any computer or smartphone. The online data is well organizeded and covers the last two months of operation.