Victron Battery Monitor Installation

Published On September 15, 2015 | By Mark Baese | Boat Projects

The only thing better than spending a night out on the boat – is spending a night out on the boat knowing you have enough power to keep your fridge running and water pump pumping.

When we bought our boat, it came with the following configuration:

  • 2 House Batteries that were connected to an inverter for AC power.
  • 1 Dedicated DC battery for all things DC.
  • 1 Dedicated starting battery, specifically for starting the boat, and that’s it.

This is actually a really great arrangement for what we currently use our boat for – which is weekends and the occasional slightly longer trip. It could be a little tough for long term cruising where you could spend days at anchor without moving.

We know now, that we can last almost a day and a half on battery power alone without dipping below 50% capacity using our current configuration. This is could be extended significantly by adding a couple more batteries to our AC inverter bank. I think we could fit 2 more in there. Or simply swapping out the current batteries for ones with even higher amp-hour rating.

Our inverter simply powers our 120v panel that would normally be powered by shore power.

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With this setup, we currently power our fridge (which easily is the most power hungry appliance we own) and outlets (for phones, laptops, batteries, etc) with the AC power.

We obviously can’t power a few things this way – for one, the battery charger. This would be a great loophole in physics if we could just turn that on and have infinite power! We also don’t run the water heater or stove. Our stove is alcohol-electric and we just use alcohol with it. I’m not sure if any of these things would work off battery power, but assuming they did, they would suck things dry pretty quick I imagine.

Our DC panel just runs the water pump and the cabin lights. We can also run the fridge off of DC is the AC bank is getting low on power. Which we’ve done a few times.

As for charging, the only way this is accomplished is at the dock on shore power, or while underway using the alternator.

The problem with having all these batteries is that you need to know what’s in them to make them useful – and make the batteries lifetime as longs as possible. As you know, constantly draining deep cycle batteries more than 50% dramatically shortens the lifespan. When we bought the boat, the batteries were just there – but there was no way to monitor them.

Seemed like a pretty easy fix, so I went to work finding and installing battery monitors.

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I installed 2 battery monitors that I thought would suit my needs. The Victron 600s and 602s. They don’t make these models anymore – they’ve been replaced by the Victron 700 and the Victron 702. These are extremely similar for the features I’ll be talking about today.

Why 2 battery monitors? Well, I have 3 separate battery banks. The 2 battery inverter AC bank is monitored by the 600s. The 1 battery DC bank monitored by the 602s. The 602s also supports 2 battery banks – kind of. It will also tell me the voltage of my starting battery – but not all the other useful info. Other than that difference, the 600s and 602s are virtually the same.

The useful info you get with these battery monitors is as follows:

  • Voltage: Get your exact battery bank voltage (assuming you’re not currently drawing from your bank, or charging it.)
  • Current: This will show the current draw in amps. It is extremely useful for determining how much power you are currently using at any given time, or identifying power hungry items.
  • Consumed Energy: This tells you how many amp hours you’ve eaten up.
  • State of Charge: This gives you the exact percentage of battery power remaining.
  • Time To Go: An estimate of how much time remaining you have on the bank at current use.

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In the above image, the batteries are charging and everything is mostly running of shore power, so nothing is being consumed. I mostly leave it on state of charge just to make sure it doesn’t dip below 50%. I will use voltage to check on the health of the batteries when fully charged – and use the Current meter to make power decisions, like swapping out my anchor light for an LED which saved a draw of about 0.9 amps!

Installing these monitors was extremely easy. The victron came with this simple assembly I was able to secure just above my battery bank:

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It was pretty much as simple as just hooking up the negative terminal of the bank to one end, and then hooking all the wires that were hooked up to the negative terminal to the other end.  The little red wire hooked into the positive end – and you left all the wires currently connected to the positive side right where they were.

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The grey cable that comes out of the top runs to the actual battery monitor, and this was the hardest part. I wanted the monitors in an easy-to-read location, and the power panel seemed like the obvious place.

However, it’s quite a distance from my engine area.

In the middle of the photo, you can see two small grey wires that head upwards. They lead up and over the fire wall:

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There’s two wires – as the other wires run from the other bank on the starboard side of the boat.

From there, it was a game of twister to get the wires through.

After you feed the wires over the firewall, they ended up at the foot of the aft cabin:

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Luckily, I had an access panel there. I think it’s for storage, but I only use it for access.

I then had to string the cable through the head – where I luckily had another storage area that I could pull out to access the wires. This gives you an idea of how far the wire had to go from the access panel to the head. In between the aft cabin and the head are some weird half walls or something that I couldn’t really see – so it took a bit of arm twisting to get it through – but I didn’t have to drill any new holes yet!

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And here you can see the storage area / panel in the head and how far up it had to go to the battery monitor:

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I was really lucky I had a speaker placed above the power panel, as that allowed easy access to hook up the new battery monitors without pulling the panels out and messing with them.

Once the wires were all pulled through, it was just simply plugging them in the back of the battery monitor and testing everything out. They worked right away.

Victron makes it really easy to plug in your data – how many batteries, voltage, amp hours, etc – and then it does it’s magic.

There are more advanced features that I don’t use that include hooking up a laptop to the monitor to get more data – so that’s there if you want it.

Great battery monitors that haven’t failed me yet. Now I sleep easy knowing exactly how much power I have.

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2 Responses to Victron Battery Monitor Installation

  1. Tillman says:

    Love your blog. I’m particularly interested in your 4 battery set up but I’m not sure how it’s set up on your battery switch … is it a 3-bank system? I’m not sure how you’d get your 2-battery inverter bank charged using the engine with a 2-bank battery switch. I’d like to do something similar on our boat and I’m starting to research what I’d need to put it all together.

    • Mark Baese says:

      In all honesty, I haven’t really looked into the exact wiring of how the alternator hooks up to them. I have a feeling the alternator just splits at some point and goes to all the banks, switch or no switch. I know the alternator charges both banks at the same time for sure. I also don’t think that my inverter bank is on a battery switch at all. But I can double check that. It sounds odd, but I’ve never actually checked to see if my battery switches are hooked up correctly. I just leave them all on or off. I’ll see if I can trace a few things and get you a better answer in the coming weeks.

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