Living the RV life means that you have to rely on batteries. In a perfect world, you’d be able to park next to an outlet to receive shore power whenever necessary. Unfortunately, in the real world, you need to use your RV’s batteries to run a variety of internal systems.
The problem with running on battery power, however, is that you don’t know how much energy is left. That is unless you have one of the best RV battery monitors.
Whether you’re a weekend warrior or a full-time RVer, a battery monitor can save you a lot of stress and headaches while out on the road. Today, we’re going to look at the top models, as well as discuss the ins and outs of these products.
1. Victron BMV-700 And BMV-712 Battery Monitors
The primary purpose of a battery monitor is to show you how much power you’re using at any given time, as well as how much energy is left. While some high-tech variations can break this information down further, that’s all you really need.
Fortunately, the BMV-700 and BMV-712 from Victron are both reliable and easy to use. Never worry about your battery life once you have this monitor installed.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
For the most part, if you want to check on your battery, you can simply look at the backlit display on the device. However, if you’re in another part of your RV, or you’re away for a while, you still want the ability to check it.
Thankfully, the 712 model comes with Bluetooth. Connect your smartphone (Android and iPhone) immediately to get real-time updates. Monitoring your RV battery has never been easier.
Fast and Easy Installation
When RV battery monitors first came onto the scene, you sometimes had to buy the shunt and cables to install it. Fortunately, in the modern age, products like this one come with all of the materials necessary. This means you can get it up and running in less time than you might think.
What I Liked
Simplicity and reliability are the name of the game with this battery monitor. I like that you don’t have to be an experienced electrician to get it set up and that the menu is so easy to configure.
While it doesn’t have many added features, you have everything you need to keep your batteries in check.
What I Didn’t Like
Since this is an electrical device, it requires a charge to keep it running. Unfortunately, Victron doesn’t register how much energy the monitor is using, which can disrupt its readings.
Realistically, you need to be more conservative with your estimates, since you won’t necessarily know the precise amount of battery life left.
Sleek, compact design
Easy to program
Intuitive menu controls
Fast installation and mounting
Easy to read LCD screen
The monitor will drain battery power on its own
Only the 712 has Bluetooth connection
2. SIMARINE PICO Battery Monitor
Although a battery monitor is a pretty straightforward device, you may want to go with a more high-tech option. Thankfully, this model from Simarine Pico is the top of the line, thanks to its massive touchscreen display.
Let’s see how it stacks against the rest of the monitors on this list.
Rating: 4.5 Stars
Detailed Energy Breakdown
At first, having a larger touchscreen may seem a bit excessive. However, thanks to the addition of more space, you get much more detailed insight into how your battery is operating.
On top of the usual information like battery life and amperage, this device will also break down usage by device. It can even provide a breakdown of how much power is coming from various sources, such as the generator or solar panel.
With a high-tech device like this, you would assume that it comes with smartphone connectivity. Thankfully, you’re not wrong. Rather than Bluetooth, though, it syncs to your Android or iPhone via wifi. Stay updated no matter where you are in relation to this battery monitor.
What I Liked
To some extent, going with a fully capable touchscreen monitor may seem like overkill. After all, it only has one job. However, I like that you can get a breakdown of what is using the most power, which helps you understand how much energy you need at any given time.
The other benefit of having this high-tech device is that you can adjust your usage more easily. Rather than reducing energy output overall, you can pick and choose the systems to shut down or unplug.
What I Didn’t Like
The downside of such an advanced system is that it can be a little buggy at times. Machines like this can be a little ahead of their time, so there is a bit of an adoption curve. Also, it’s not as rugged as other models I’ve seen.
Extra-large touchscreen controls
Breaks down energy usage by device
Easy to install and program
Wifi connection and syncing to your smartphone
The software may be buggy at times
Drains more power than other battery monitors
Why Have A Battery Monitoring System?
When you’re out on the road, you can’t always rely on shore power or a generator. Your RV batteries can mean all the difference, which is why you need to make sure to keep an eye on them at all times.
Battery monitoring systems are helpful because they can illustrate how much energy is being used at any given time, as well as show the remaining battery life. This way, you can adjust your usage accordingly, or start the generator before running out of power.
Another reason to get a monitoring system is to prolong the life of your batteries. Since you won’t be draining them all the way or using too much power at once, they will last a lot longer overall.
What Comes With A Battery Monitoring System?
Typically, these systems break down into three parts.
First, there is the display, which shows all of the energy details of your battery. Screens can be an LCD or an LED touchscreen. Backlit displays are ideal since you can read them no matter what.
Second, there is the shunt. This device connects to the battery directly and provides all of the data. Be sure to connect all of your electronic systems to the shunt, not the battery directly. Failing to do this can disrupt the information, rendering it moot.
Finally, there is the wire connector to connect the shunt to the display.
In some cases, you may have a remote control, as well as mounting hardware for the display. Typically, RV battery monitors come with everything you need to get it up and running immediately.
Will the generator charge the RV battery?
Typically speaking, the generator will be connected to the battery already. If you installed a new generator, make sure to do this. Once connected, the generator will charge the battery as well as power your devices.
What is the best RV battery to buy?
As a rule, you’ll have multiple batteries inside your RV. While the exact number varies, you’ll need two distinct types - starter and deep-cycle. Starter batteries are designed solely to get your motorhome’s engine going. Drawing power while the RV is turned off can damage the internal components.
Deep-cycle batteries, however, are designed to drain all the way without damage. While I don’t recommend using all of the power in a deep-cycle battery, you do have that option. In some cases, you can chain multiple batteries together to get even more energy.
Although it’s not the most high-tech offering, I think that the BMV712 is the best RV battery monitor on this list. I like its simplicity and ease of us, as well as the fact that it can connect to your smartphone. Monitoring your batteries has never been more comfortable.