If you are interested in off-grid camping in your RV, you’ll want to invest in a complete RV battery management system with your solar setup. Most people think RV solar panels, batteries, solar charge controllers, and inverter-charger are all you need.
However, a battery management system is an important element of an RV solar power system that ties the RV solar power system together.
Today, we’ll deep dive into what a battery management system is, why you need one, and some of the best options for an RV battery management system.
What does an RV battery management system do?
An RV battery management system (BMS) monitors all aspects of an RV solar setup. From the number of amps the solar panels are sending to the solar charge controller and the state of charge of your RV batteries.
It then looks at how much power you are consuming and estimates the number of days, hours, and minutes of usable energy you have remaining based on your current rate of consumption.
In other words, it manages the various systems in your solar set up taking the guesswork out of RV boondocking.
Is a battery monitor system the same as a battery management system?
A battery monitor system and a battery management system are similar, as they both monitor your battery’s health alerting you if the voltage is low, the percentage of battery remaining, or if the batteries could be overheating (which is super important with lithium-ion batteries in particular).
However, a battery management system goes beyond monitoring the batteries alone.
It looks at the complete solar power system for RV tracking the power being generated and consumed and in some instances, lets you control various aspects of your RV.
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Why you would want a BMS for your RV
Batteries are the heart of an RV solar power system. It’s what stores the power for later use. Having batteries means you can use lights, watch TV, or charge your electronics after the sun goes down. So it’s important to keep your batteries healthy and ensure they are operating as they should.
Extreme temperatures, and super high, or super low voltage levels can damage battery cells – something RV owners want to avoid. A BMS controls the flow of current into or out of the batteries to protect them from damage and prevent them from shorting or worse, catching fire.
AGM (absorbent glass matt) and lead acid batteries shouldn’t be taken below 50% state of charge. That means for a 100 amp AGM or lead acid battery you have 50 amps of usable power stored in the battery when it’s fully charged. Going below 50% can damage the battery reducing its lifespan and function.
Lithium-ion batteries can be depleted to 100%, but if you don’t have a BMS the only way to know if you are close to empty is when your batteries die. Which is a less-than-ideal scenario if you are boondocking.
An RV BMS gives you real-time data on your current battery levels. This helps you know if you need to recharge your batteries with a generator, chassis charger, or other energy sources to keep them at healthy levels. It will also let you know when you will run out of battery power based on your current consumption.
This helpful data lets you make informed decisions about which appliances to use or not use and how to better conserve or generate power to elongate your boondocking stay.
Top battery management systems
There are loads of different kinds of battery management systems to choose from. Some offer more basic mountable displays that tie directly into your RV batteries through a shunt. While others offer high-tech smart screens and Bluetooth apps that let you control your RV solar system from your smartphone.
Some of the more basic RV battery management systems are the Victron Battery Monitor and Xantrex LinkLite. Both have mountable displays that give very basic information about the batteries, state of charge, and operating system with buttons.
The Victron Smart Shunt is a bit more high-tech. As it has a Bluetooth-controlled app that gives you real-time data on the RV system from your smartphone. This includes usable hours of energy remaining and current levels of charge coming in.
But the best RV battery management system is hands down Renogy’s new product, Renogy One.
Why it is a top pick
Renogy One is an all-in-one off-grid power monitoring system. It communicates with compatible Renogy products like Renogy’s smart inverter, solar charge control, and batteries. Plus it allows you to control various systems of your RV from the touch of a screen.
From the in-house dashboard or app on your smartphone, you can adjust lights, control appliances, and even monitor your home when you’re away with their motion sensors and window and door sensors.
Its interface is super intuitive and gives you easy-to-read usable data on your solar yields. I also love that you can check on your system when you’re away from the RV.
When our family came to visit us in Mexico we put our RV in storage. Unbeknownst to us, our solar panels failed during that time. After 5 days of sitting without power, our batteries died. We had no idea this happened until we checked in on the RV. Renogy One’s system would have allowed us to identify and rectify the problem right away.
Another cool feature you have with Renogy One is the ability to control certain appliances or lights from your phone. As long as you have the applicable products like the Renogy smart plug or Renogy smart relay. You can even automate things like your lights, shades, or appliances with pre-programming.
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Given its product line diversity and ease of use, it’s definitely the best battery management system out there for RVers. The caveat is that you need to have a complete solar setup with compatible Renogy products. So for RV owners who already have an RV power kit installed, it may not be a good solution.
Renogy is working on developing a shunt that would allow it to work with different batteries. But for now, you need compatible Renogy products.
If you already use Renogy products (the Renogy solar kit is fantastic). If you are looking to build out your off-grid solar setup, then this is a great BMS solution to look into.
Renogy One works on a monthly subscription. Meaning you can start and stop service whenever you need. Plus their package pricing makes starting with Renogy One rather affordable.
As you can see a battery management system is a must for any off-grid RV setup. The information it gives you and the safety it offers in managing your batteries is well worth its cost. Here’s to boondocking longer, safer, and more comfortably!