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I’m thinking of buying a Victron Solar Controller & looking for advice.

Pros/Cons to these units?

jracca, harryn, others?
What is your solar panel arrangement, battery type, and region(s)s that you plan to use them in?

Are the panels on your roof already installed and wired down to the battery area or just getting started?
Mostly summer / weekend use or plan to go for 2+ week trips?

Heavily depending on the refrigerator working 24 hrs / day, 365 days / year?

Will solar be your primary power input or will you be using battery to battery charging as well?

Sorry if those sound like unrelated questions but they matter a lot in the answer.

Harry
 

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I’m thinking of buying a Victron Solar Controller & looking for advice.

Pros/Cons to these units?

jracca, harryn, others?
I use the victron and it seems quite sturdy with a large heat sink. If you get the smart version with bluetooth it is very easy to set up, the app works well.

If you also have the victron BMV 712 smart then they can talk to each other and you can set parameters like voltage and temperature cutoffs that don't necessarily work on the BMV 712 alone. Victron also makes a version of the 712 battery monitor that does not have a display screen and is bluetooth only. This enables you to use that functionality without having to run wires and install the monitor unit, everything is built right on the shunt. I like having the display if I just want to glance at the status without using my phone or without interupting anything if I am using my phone for something else.

Overall I have been very happy with all my victron gear, although I probably overspent when I added the Color Control GX, as I don't do much except impress people with the pretty picture... ok its mostly me I impress with the pretty picture.

I'll put in a plug for PKYS in Annapolis (and on the internet) as they have been very helpful with my victron gear. I even stopped by their shop and they showed me some cool pre-release stuff and took a short tour of the van. They have good prices on Victron gear and so far great service when I needed it (a few questions, nothing repaired yet).
 

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I’m thinking of buying a Victron Solar Controller & looking for advice.

Pros/Cons to these units?

jracca, harryn, others?
I took a quick look and it looks like you spend a lot of time in BC.

If you are using 12 volt style panels (nominal 18 Vmp), running them in parallel, and into a 12 volt AGM based system - hands down get a bogart engineering pwm controller and the associated battery monitoring system. IMHO, there is nothing on the market that will charge batteries better under mediocre lighting conditions than that setup.

If your panels are wired in series, then an mppt controller makes sense.

Victron made their name in the market with the 5000 / 48 inverter. It is a great beast of an inverter with great features.

The rest of their stuff is good but nothing special - mostly rides on the coat tails of the 5000 / 48.

Other people have not had this experience, but I have had too many dead on arrival or dead within 30 days experiences to design their stuff in as a standard offering. If a customer really wants me to use their stuff in a product, they have to buy it and pay me to install / replace if not working. I do it, but not as a standard product offering.
 

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What is your solar panel arrangement, battery type, and region(s)s that you plan to use them in?

Are the panels on your roof already installed and wired down to the battery area or just getting started?
Mostly summer / weekend use or plan to go for 2+ week trips?

Heavily depending on the refrigerator working 24 hrs / day, 365 days / year?

Will solar be your primary power input or will you be using battery to battery charging as well?

Sorry if those sound like unrelated questions but they matter a lot in the answer.

Harry
Hi Harry, Thanks for your post;

Yes the region is BC “49.6 Parallel my cabin” mostly April to October, main loads will be an efficient 12v fridge, diesel barking heater (or maybe a Propex heater), LED lights, water pump. Solar is the primary power input with a gas generator for backup & 120V if needed. Battery FLA or AGM.

I have 1-100W test panel & a 30Amp Controller. It seems to be able to keep up with the ARB fridge I have tested it out on. It seems to max out @ 13.? Volts & not sure of the amps. So I was thinking of setting up panels in series if two or in series & parallel if I have 4 / 6 / or 8 panels (Im new to solar, so I don’t even know if it works like that). My gut tells me to get the voltage up and in series to get it up past the typical battery bulk voltage & then limit it with a programable solar controller, but it is all new to me (I do not think the existing controller I have tested is programable).


So I have experience with the Victron BM 712 with bluetooth & love it. This is why I am asking about the Victron solar chargers as I want iPhone application capability of programming the charge profile. I like controlling things from an iPhone / iPad & the Victron app software I have used “rocks”. This is the only Victron equipment I have used, so I have no loyalty but have had a great experience with the BM 712 smart.

So I will buy a programable solar controller that can interface with an easy to use app for the iPhone. I cant foresee more that 1000ahr battery bank & I may split that into 2 banks with a 4 way bluesea manual switch if there is an advantage

So what are your suggestions on best bang for the buck “bluetooth programable solar chargers“ that can easily be setup & monitored by iPhones/iPads?

Thanks - Much Appreciated !!
 

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I use the victron and it seems quite sturdy with a large heat sink. If you get the smart version with bluetooth it is very easy to set up, the app works well.

If you also have the victron BMV 712 smart then they can talk to each other and you can set parameters like voltage and temperature cutoffs that don't necessarily work on the BMV 712 alone. Victron also makes a version of the 712 battery monitor that does not have a display screen and is bluetooth only. This enables you to use that functionality without having to run wires and install the monitor unit, everything is built right on the shunt. I like having the display if I just want to glance at the status without using my phone or without interupting anything if I am using my phone for something else.

Overall I have been very happy with all my victron gear, although I probably overspent when I added the Color Control GX, as I don't do much except impress people with the pretty picture... ok its mostly me I impress with the pretty picture.

I'll put in a plug for PKYS in Annapolis (and on the internet) as they have been very helpful with my victron gear. I even stopped by their shop and they showed me some cool pre-release stuff and took a short tour of the van. They have good prices on Victron gear and so far great service when I needed it (a few questions, nothing repaired yet).
Thanks jracca - Much Appreciated

I did buy a Victron 12/3000/120 & decided to not install it in my van. I am thinking of buying the bluetooth dongle for it so ai can program it without the $600 colour monitor. I have a BMV 712 smart & love being able to use my iPhone to monitor & program the BM.
 

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The usual reason for maxing out at ~ 13 volts is that MPPT controllers need a higher voltage than a pwm controller to turn on.

A typical mppt controller (including victron) need:

(panel Voltage) > (battery voltage) + (5 volts) to work with stability.

The actual Vmp of a panel is not the fixed number on the label, it is a 3 dimensional curve that depends on temperature, light levels and sometime I think pixie dust.

Most 100 watt panels have a "rated" Vmp of 18 volts. The only place that this really exists is on a cold day on top of a mountain in New Mexico. Everywhere else this is more or less bogus, so most panels in overcast areas rarely hit a Vmp of 18 volts and then only during the peak of the day. If the panel Vmp is running 17 volts and the battery is at 13, many mppt controllers will barely be turning on.

(17) - (5) is only 12 volts, so life can be painful.

A Bogart pwm controller needs

(Panel voltage) > (battery voltage) + ( ~ 1 volt) so it will turn on when light levels are low. Early morning, late afternoon, even sometimes when its raining.
 

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Off grid homes are usually done with 24 volt (old days) or 48 volts (more common now). The reason is that the challenges of running higher power 12 volt systems become just all that much harder.

If you can, I would send that inverter back and get the 24 volt version now and never open the box, even if it costs you a few hundred to do it. You will be much happier.

If that is impossible, then I would put the lower power items on their own battery bank and the inverter on its own bank. That way when you turn it on and the battery voltage sags down, it won't turn off the heat and fridge.

Customers like SOC meters so I put them on. They like to play with phone apps because it is fun.

Especially the Victron apl is very internet connected, so the law enforcement officers that I have done systems for all say "no" to having this type of setup when I explain that I have no way to prevent the location of their electrical system (and there fore the location of them and their families) to hackers / criminals.

I spent my life in Silicon Valley dealing with some pretty bright people who helped bring the internet to life - and have nearly killed it as well. Anything that is connected to the internet can be hacked, which kind of defeats the purpose of having an emergency back up power system in case of grid problems.

Yes I put SOC meters on customer systems because they think it is important. I have multiple of them in stock in my shop and they don't cost that much.

What do I have on my own van electrical system ?
  • 4 x 100 amp-hr Lifeline AGMs
  • Wired in series for 48 volts
  • 2 kW inverter (a good one)
  • A panel volt meter
  • 2 each 150 watt panels (don't have room on it for 3 or I would do that)
Depending on what I want to test, it has various other secondary charge methods that mostly get used in the winter.
 

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Off grid homes are usually done with 24 volt (old days) or 48 volts (more common now). The reason is that the challenges of running higher power 12 volt systems become just all that much harder.

If you can, I would send that inverter back and get the 24 volt version now and never open the box, even if it costs you a few hundred to do it. You will be much happier.

If that is impossible, then I would put the lower power items on their own battery bank and the inverter on its own bank. That way when you turn it on and the battery voltage sags down, it won't turn off the heat and fridge.

Customers like SOC meters so I put them on. They like to play with phone apps because it is fun.

Especially the Victron apl is very internet connected, so the law enforcement officers that I have done systems for all say "no" to having this type of setup when I explain that I have no way to prevent the location of their electrical system (and there fore the location of them and their families) to hackers / criminals.

I spent my life in Silicon Valley dealing with some pretty bright people who helped bring the internet to life - and have nearly killed it as well. Anything that is connected to the internet can be hacked, which kind of defeats the purpose of having an emergency back up power system in case of grid problems.

Yes I put SOC meters on customer systems because they think it is important. I have multiple of them in stock in my shop and they don't cost that much.

What do I have on my own van electrical system ?
  • 4 x 100 amp-hr Lifeline AGMs
  • Wired in series for 48 volts
  • 2 kW inverter (a good one)
  • A panel volt meter
  • 2 each 150 watt panels (don't have room on it for 3 or I would do that)
Depending on what I want to test, it has various other secondary charge methods that mostly get used in the winter.
Thank Tons Harry for all the info. I understand anything connected to the internet can be hacked (I run an internet and closed computer system in my office & I have been accused of over use of tinfoil). I don’t plug anything in that I fear loosing to hackers. Also am aware the non-plugged in items can be hacked “Stuxnet”. Im just not all that significant.

I don't really have a need for that 12/3000/120 other than maybe a charger. The inverter is overkill for what I would use as the majority of my electrical needs will be 12v.

Will now ponder things & research a bit & then start buying components.
 

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So yesterday I bought some gear, including a Victron 100/50 “Smart” Solar Charger which is iPhone bluetooth connectable & programable. I plan to series a couple of panels (100W) 1st and see how it goes.

For the Victron the 100 is the voltage it can take from the panels & the 50 is the Amps it can deliver to the batteries (or so I think).



63492
DB4A0BC6-8177-46BA-92A5-CF5B7D275A71.jpeg
 

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Thanks jracca - Much Appreciated

I did buy a Victron 12/3000/120 & decided to not install it in my van. I am thinking of buying the bluetooth dongle for it so ai can program it without the $600 colour monitor. I have a BMV 712 smart & love being able to use my iPhone to monitor & program the BM.
I got the USB adapter and programmed my inverter with my computer before I ever installed the color control GX.

But I would get the cerebo GX (about 350) rather than color control (about 600) if I was installing now (or maybe skip it all together)

So yesterday I bought some gear, including a Victron 100/50 “Smart” Solar Charger which is iPhone bluetooth connectable & programable. I plan to series a couple of panels (100W) 1st and see how it goes.

For the Victron the 100 is the voltage it can take from the panels & the 50 is the Amps it can deliver to the batteries (or so I think).
That is correct, the input voltage will always be higher than the battery voltage and the input current will always be lower (even though the input current limit is higher, in practice this can't really happen)

While I can't condone the iPhone, that is the solar controller I have and it works great.
 

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I got the USB adapter and programmed my inverter with my computer before I ever installed the color control GX.

But I would get the cerebo GX (about 350) rather than color control (about 600) if I was installing now (or maybe skip it all together)



That is correct, the input voltage will always be higher than the battery voltage and the input current will always be lower (even though the input current limit is higher, in practice this can't really happen)

While I can't condone the iPhone, that is the solar controller I have and it works great.
Thanks jracca

Re the Victron 12/3000/120; I purchased it over a year ago for my van, but decided against it, so it is a large paper weight right now. If. Ever get around to putting it into service, I will research the bluetooth dongle that I believe the unit can be accessed & configured by tablet or smart phone. (Skipping the colour or GX all together).

Re the Victron 100/50 smart solar charger; I am excited to get it hooked up and test it out. In my van the only Victron equipment I have (or ever experienced) is the BM712 smart & I really like that battery monitor.

Another strange thing that I noticed reading thru the charger manual is they seem to reference “Rolls” batteries. Until I started looking at batteries for my van in early 2019, I had never heard of Rolls (Which is an Eastern Canadian company IIRC). I just found it bizarre Victron references “Rolls”. Am I missing something here?

Thanks for your posts in this regard jracca

63508
 

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Another strange thing that I noticed reading thru the charger manual is they seem to reference “Rolls” batteries. Until I started looking at batteries for my van in early 2019, I had never heard of Rolls (Which is an Eastern Canadian company IIRC). I just found it bizarre Victron references “Rolls”. Am I missing something here?

Thanks for your posts in this regard jracca
Formerly Surrette battery, these are often still referred to as Surrette Rolls batteries
Like here Surrette Batteries | Lead Acid Batteries, Learn, Compare Buy!

But they are a Canadian company now, officially just Rolls

Rolls Battery | Premium Deep Cycle Batteries

They have been around forever and are extremely well regarded, but their best selling products and what they are known for are not small batteries of the type used in vans, more the type used in stationary applications. Think of 2400 amp hour 2 volt batteries, 24 wired in series, which is what was recommended for my house as a battery backup (115 kwh!... also about $20,000). So for now I just have a grid tied system (16.6 kw).

They are big and heavy and last a long time, but mostly are lead acid type. They do make AGM batteries as well, but if you tell someone you are geting a surrette rolls battery they picture this
63511
or
63512


Big, really heavy, and not suitable for vans or boats, but something used in a house with a 10 year warranty and an expected life of 20+ if treated well.
Since victron serves that market too, I suspect that is why they have those batteries listed.

Their AGM batteries are not what they are known for, but because they have a good name, I imagine they sell quite a bit of those too.
 

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A Bogart pwm controller needs:
(Panel voltage) > (battery voltage) + ( ~ 1 volt) so it will turn on when light levels are low. Early morning, late afternoon, even sometimes when its raining.
I have seen this myself with my 3 x 100W panels and the Bogart electronics. Completely clouded over, no sun in sight, but maybe 2 to 3 amps going into the batteries. That can be really helpful if you hit several cloudy days in a row.
 
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