Victron SmartShunt: easy install, networked, all-in-one battery monitor
I’ve found Victron’s BMV battery monitors to be simple, reliable, and easy to understand. Now, the new SmartShunt combines the BMV’s shunt and electronics into a single unit barely larger than the regular shunt with Bluetooth and Victron’s VE.Direct networking built-in. In my testing, the SmartShunt works just like a BMV without the gauge portion, while also being much simpler to install. And I don’t miss the little gauge display because there are so many other ways to see and use SmartShunt battery data, suitable to boats large and small (and RVs).
So far, I have not used a BMV or SmartShunt as part of a Victron monitoring network. Neither my boat nor RV has a Victron GX hub like the Cerbo that can collect data from various Victron power products and display it in various ways — including polished MFD pages, show-most-anywhere NMEA 2000 messages, and the free VRM remote monitoring that Ben E. has so praised.
So while I’ve done my SmartShunt testing by connecting directly to its Bluetooth radio in the SmartShunt, and that might be fine for some boats, the Bluetooth may only be used for initial configuration in more advanced installs. I think the SmartShunt can really shine by providing simpler installs on larger, more complex Victron systems. With the VE.Direct port built right in, monitoring multiple battery banks is as simple as inserting the shunt inline in the negative path to the battery, installing the thin battery plus wire, and making the VE.Direct cable connection.
And given the advanced displays possible with Victron networks, there’s really very little use for the small BMV gauge display. In fact, one reason for developing the SmartShunt mentioned by a Victron rep at METS was the number of installs they’d seen where the BMV gauge was dangling somewhere behind a panel.
I’ve used a BMV-702 (like what’s pictured above) aboard Have Another Day for about five years now and it’s served me very well. Since installing the BMV-702 I’ve thought its weakest link is the display on the gauge itself. It’s a one-line LCD with a series of 8 segment digits to display all information. My gauge is mounted low and in order to see it I have duck way down and try to get eye-level with it. Fortunately, I haven’t been bothered by this weakness because I also installed the Bluetooth module on my 702. Once I installed the excellent Victron app I quickly realized that would be my primary interface to the battery monitor.
All Victron battery monitors use Coloumb counting to monitor the state-of-charge (SoC) of the connected batteries. Coloumb counting monitors depend on accurate information about the battery bank and periodic full charges to allow the monitor to synchronize their reading with the actual state of charge of the bank.
The SmartShunt is available in 500, 1000, and 2000 amp versions and support battery banks from 6.5 to 70 volts with capacities from 1 to 9,999 amp hours. The 500amp SmartShunt carries a list price of $148, the 1,000 amp SmartShunt lists at $254 and the 2,000 amp unit lists for $347.
Without a built-in display, all interaction with the SmartShunt occurs via Victron’s VictronConnect app. VictronConnect, available for iOS and Android, is an intuitive and straightforward app for monitoring the status of and configuring any Victron Bluetooth enabled equipment. The app automatically detects compatible equipment in range and makes connecting simple. Once connected to the SmartShunt you can see the current status of the shunt as well as lifetime history and trends for the current connection.
The geek in me loves the history tab in the app. It’s full of information about how much power the batteries have provided, how much electricity has gone to charging them, and the average power consumption of my house bank. I find the trends tab a little disappointing. There’s great information provided in the trend view but if the mobile device screen turns off, you change apps, or even rotate the screen the history is dumped from the trend view. That really limits the usefulness of the data for me.
VE.Smart Networking allows the SmartShunt to communicate wirelessly via Bluetooth with other Victron VE.Smart Networking devices. The SmartShunt can share battery information with Victron Bluetooth equipped solar chargers to assist the charger in ensuring batteries are fully charged while not overcharging them.
I’ve installed a SmartShunt on my RV and been using it there for about a month. Once configured the SmartShunt works exactly like a BMV and that’s a good thing in my book. You don’t get battery state of health (SoH) like you do with Balmar’s SG-200 but I’ve found that what you do get is good information, reliably, and simply presented.
As I mentioned, my BMV is located low in an electrical panel on Have Another Day so nearly any time I check my battery status I use the Bluetooth app. So, I’ve barely noticed the lack of display with SmartShunt. But, what I have noticed is that because the Bluetooth radio is located in the shunt right by the batteries rather than in the display head I’m getting much shorter Bluetooth range. If I were using the SmartShunt’s Bluetooth only for configuration that would be a complete non-issue, but because I’m using Bluetooth for monitoring it’s a little more of an issue. In this respect, it’s possible a BMV would be a better fit, but I also plan to add a Cerbo GX at some point and that will likely render this issue moot.
I think the SmartShunt might realize it’s greatest utility when connected to a full VE network but it’s still very useful as a standalone device. It can’t be beat for simplicity and clean installation. I’m wondering if in the future we might see BMVs based on the SmartShunt with the gauge display just connecting to the VE.Direct port, and maybe even one display working with multiple shunts, but that’s just my speculation. Regardless, with a street price around $130 this little device delivers a lot of information and can easily save more than it costs by helping you get the most out of your batteries without abusing them.