(Casita) Inexpensive Battery Monitor Less than $60.00 +Labor - Fiberglass RV


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Old 04-05-2020, 04:53 PM   #1
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Name: Nala
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Smile (Casita) Inexpensive Battery Monitor Less than $60.00 +Labor

Hello all,

For those Casita owners who would like to know their battery condition while boon docking or at any time I have researched and implemented a simple system with minimal work that will provide 1) % Battery, 2) Amp Draw Minus/Plus, 3) Battery Voltage.

This system that will take care of most everyone's needs who would like to monitor their battery's condition. It is not for everyone but will well for those who want to know the basics....

I am not an expert but handy I have installed the entire system easily in a day.. Keep posted as I will Add pictures, Amazon part numbers and more details in the next days. Just want to share a relatively easy install if you are handy.....

This photo depicts the 2020 liberty model location so your display installation location may vary between models and preference but wiring will be the same.

I want to say in advance that If you choose to proceed to make this modification it is under your own direction and I am not responsible for any issues you may come across or have. All the installation directions for the monitor are straight forward with some help from some a you tuber whom as done in the past..... Stay tuned..
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Old 04-05-2020, 05:10 PM   #2
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That looks nice. And the price is right.

Only one problem though, I want to be able to blame you for any mistake I might make. It's pretty funny that you added that disclaimer.
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Old 04-06-2020, 10:47 AM   #3
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Interesting Batter Monitor

I'm handy too -- so were are the details ??


Have an old Casita too.


Thank you !!
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:12 AM   #4
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Folks.....

The monitor looks like a good unit.....but way more expensive than the plug-in unit I ordered from Little House Customs and have used in my Casita for over 3 years.

Frank

"12 VOLT DIGITAL VOLTMETER
(plug-in style)
This is a popular accessory with our solar powered boondocking friends but works equally well for confirming all sorts of 12vdc issues. Simply plug it in to an accessory outlet and it reads vdc in tenths of a volt as well as providing an illuminated status indicator. It's intentionally built to be a snug fit for those who wish to travel with it in place.

12 Volt Digital Voltmeter $19.95 "
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Old 04-06-2020, 11:59 AM   #5
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Frank,

I've had the simple cigarette lighter style volt meters for years and I like them. I think this is the style you are referring to, but no link was provided. But they don't keep track of amp hours used or measure the loads. They just give a voltage. That is a fairly good way to see the state of charge with a rested battery, and verify the solar is working, if you use them correctly. And they don't require installation.

The shunt style with a computer inside, like Alan shows, do more.
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Old 04-06-2020, 12:05 PM   #6
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Raspy.....

Thanks for explaining the difference. For anyone who decides that the plug-in type is enough for their use, I'm including the LHC link.


Frank
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:39 PM   #7
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Frank,

Is this the one you are referring to? These can be surprisingly useful if watched carefully, and likely can save batteries from being ruined from undercharging.
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Old 04-06-2020, 01:46 PM   #8
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Raspy.....

That's it.

Frank
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Old 04-06-2020, 02:07 PM   #9
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All,

Sorry for the delay... Hopefully I can put everything together tomorrow weather permitting. I will include Part numbers, What I learned, and pictures. Hope this helps anyone whom chooses this project.
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Old 04-07-2020, 11:37 AM   #10
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Hi All,
Please bear with me. I have attached some details and Pics! Hope this may help should one take on this mod, Should anyone have any questions I would be happy to answer online or off the best I Can.

Stay Safe, Happy Tuesday!!!!

Installation of Monitor

1) When choosing the location to install the monitor I was careful to inspect the area behind the fiberglass where I was to cut for the install. This was important as I did not want to damage any wiring and also required room enough to mount the bracket which holds the unit in place.

2) The hole required for the monitor is 2 1/8” diameter. A hole saw can be used for this type installation however I choose another method. The flange on the body of the monitor is only 5/32” larger than the body. This being the outer lip which will hide the witness hole cut through the fiberglass when the monitor is inserted. Hole saws can tend to wobble some and the finished hole may not be the exact diameter, generally elongated. Not wanting to chance an ugly install I choose to draw a 2 1/8” circle with a sharpie at the location I chose. Then very carefully used a dremel tool with a carbide bit to cut the hole. I stayed to inside of the sharpie circle I drew by ~ 1/8”. After removing the fiberglass disc from the area I carefully removed more material where required a bit at a time for a tight fit of the monitor.

Installing the Cable

1) First off the monitor does come with 6ft length of cable. I found this too short to reach the battery compartment where I chose to install the monitor shunt. I chose an optional cable 16ft long that provided plenty of working length.

2) I required a hole for the cable to pass through into the battery compartment for this install. I used a 3/8” diameter drill bit and drilled a hole about 3” back from the location where Casita brought the Ground, Negative, and Power wires through into the battery compartment. As the battery compartment is not very wide, drilling at an angle was required. I fed the cable from the battery compartment into the area under the bed. From the access door under the bed I was able to reach the cable and pull it through. After routing it to the destination I wire tied where necessary to keep it neatly in place and out of the way. With RTV silicone I sealed the area where the cable was routed.

Installing the Shunt

1) I choose to mount the shunt just behind the battery access door. Using a piece of scrap 1 ˝” flat aluminum bar. I drilled clearance holes in this flat so that it would mount under the battery tray rails. The shunt was centered on this flat bar and screwed in place. You will notice that I had to notch out the (2) “L” brackets that hold the battery in place to the left and right for clearance for the shunt.

2) One drawback of the shunt is that it is unforgiving in that the mounting screws holes are too small in my opinion. These mounting holes are this small as any bigger and the screws can interfere with the shunt studs. There are optional holes if mounted another way but these are small as well. I was able use a couple super small machine screws I had laying around for this application but it was a bit difficult. See pics. I am sure one could use VHB tape but tightening the stud posts would be near impossible.

Parts List

• AiLi Battery Monitor Voltmeter Ammeter Voltage Current Meter 8-80V 0-100A
Amazon Item: B07CTKYFTG $30.00

• Exell Battery 2/0 AWG Interconnecting Copper Cable
Amazon Item: BIC-20AWGBLK12 $16.96

• (Optional)Custom Cable for Battery Monitor 26 AWG (16ft)
Amazon Item: 80V350A (ASIN: B07FGFFHC6 $3.00

• 1-1/2 in. x 36 in. Aluminum Flat Bar with 1/8 in.
Home Depot Item: SKU #482776 $9.98

• Insulated Ring Terminal 3/8" Stud size & 3ft (.03 dia) 20 gauge wire. This is for the power to the shunt. Had these on hand….
Attached Thumbnails
IMG_0949.jpg   Wiring.JPG  

Monitor Mount.JPG   IMG_0970.jpg  

Cable.JPG   Cable1.jpg  

Shunt.JPG   Monitor Functions.JPG  

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Old 04-07-2020, 01:30 PM   #11
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Alan......

That's an extremely well explained and displayed set of instructions!

Great job!

Frank
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Old 04-07-2020, 03:55 PM   #12
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Alan,

That's a great write-up!

You mentioned that the shunt mounts with very small screws. The shunt would have to be removed to remove the battery, correct?

Could it have been mounted to a new, larger piece of aluminum that would replace one of the existing retainers?

It seems like that way removing the retainer would free up the battery for service or removal.
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Old 04-07-2020, 04:44 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Civilguy View Post
Alan,

That's a great write-up!

You mentioned that the shunt mounts with very small screws. The shunt would have to be removed to remove the battery, correct?

Could it have been mounted to a new, larger piece of aluminum that would replace one of the existing retainers?

It seems like that way removing the retainer would free up the battery for service or removal.
Mike,
Yes the shunt as installed on the flat Aluminum Stock as designed would be a disassembly from the brackets only. Battery replacement would be the same as normal aside as being more careful with the flat bar and shunt. There would be sufficient length of cable to place the battery on the ground without worry as long as the cable ties were broken.

As far as a different mounting? Absolutely.... This would be your choice. In the install shown I think it offers the best location and battery regalement simplicity but then we are all different in out thought processes.

If I can help further I would be happy to assist...

Alan
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Old 04-08-2020, 07:29 AM   #14
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We own a Victron BMV-712 battery monitor. At $210 it is vastly overpriced. I wanted it for 24 hour history and despite my conversation with Victron it does not show 24 hour history. It does bluetooth, so we can watch the charge from my phone as were driving down the highway.

We do get some history with our Victron Smartsolar 100/20 that was purchased for $160 and can also read the 100/20 as were driving down the road.

If I had it to do over again (don't we all wish we had 20/20 vision) I would have purchased the Victron Smartsolar 100/20 and our simple/cheap 12v, plug-in battery monitor.

FYI, we have a 170 watt solar panel permanently mounted on the roof and a 100 watt portable, for those rare times the 170 watt isn't enough.

If you're not purchasing a new solar controller this is the monitor I would purchase.

Enjoy,

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Old 04-08-2020, 07:36 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Civilguy View Post

You mentioned that the shunt mounts with very small screws. The shunt would have to be removed to remove the battery, correct?
I mounted our shunt with velcro on the bottom of the shunt and then the other on the area the shunt is located. No problem moving the shunt when needed. Have at least 15,000 miles going down the road and it's always where it belongs. Easy Peazy!

Enjoy,

Perry
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Old 04-09-2020, 10:46 AM   #16
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The Victron can be used to record 24-hour history or more, but it's difficult to do unless you shell out even more for one of their GX-series management devices. I got the Color Control GX and it was worth it for me, but that's also as part of a pretty large lithium+solar system with a Multiplus charger/inverter.
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Old 04-09-2020, 12:31 PM   #17
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It would be nice if these monitors could predict or graph the decline in battery health, but I don't know if any of them can. Can they?

How that might work would be for the monitor to take a "rested voltage" reading occasionally and compare that to its "in" and "out" history. This would tell it if the battery was getting to a lower voltage, for a given load, than it used to, and thus, tell if the battery was getting weaker.

One of the tricky parts of doing that is that batteries produce less overall, as the load increases. The faster we draw the power out, the less total energy is available. So the monitor would have to notice the state of charge, with respect to the size of the load, as well as the total amps drawn out, and it would have to know when the battery was "rested", later on, to get an accurate reading. Variable loads, and rested readings at times way offset from each other.

Also, how do the monitors account for charging losses? It's not just a simple matter of power in vs power out, like filling and emptying a bucket of water, for instance.

I think with the Victron monitors, you charge the batteries completely, then enter the size of your battery bank and type of batteries you have. Then it takes over with calculations. But they also seem to take a while to settle in with reasonable data. And it's important to get the latest software and firmware downloaded into them.

It seems by just being casually aware of any changes in our usage from day to day, and being aware of the weather, or if we are parked in partial shade, etc, we can get readings from a simple volt meter that are nearly as valuable as a more sophisticated monitor. And bluetooth only seems handy when you can't look at the monitor, such as while towing the trailer. Its range is only about 50 feet or so, so you can't park the trailer in storage and look at it from home.
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Old 04-09-2020, 10:21 PM   #18
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Great job RVeeboy! Excellent instructions and photos. Thank you for sharing your mod, well done.
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Old 04-11-2020, 06:01 PM   #19
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Raspy,

Regarding the Victron, to set up the monitor, you enter the amp hour rating of the battery. You also set a minimum charge current threshold and a full charge voltage value. When the voltage is above the threshold AND the current is below the minimum current threshold, the battery monitor assumes the battery is at 100% charge. It really doesn't matter what the charge efficiency is if the battery reaches full charge. If the battery undergoes partial discharged and recharged cycles without reaching the full charge state then I would anticipate errors, especially with a lead acid battery. With a LFP battery the error would be very small.

Regarding discharge, you can input a Peurkert value, which is dependent on the battery type, and somewhat compensates for differing discharge rates. With a LFP battery it is set to 1 because the efficiency is very high.

Aging is another matter. I suppose you could fully discharge the battery every few years and see what it delivers and adjust the amp hour capacity value.

Link to more information https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peukert%27s_law
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Old 04-11-2020, 08:31 PM   #20
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Thanks Carl. That does clarify it.
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