Wanting to purchase a caravan battery management system but not sure where to start? Read our guide below!
What Is A Caravan Battery Management System?
A Caravan Battery Management System is the central hub where all your charging, monitoring and protection takes place. This central hub can be made up of one device with a display screen or multiple devices mounted on a pre-wired board or box. The best battery management systems will be able to perform the following tasks:
- Charge your batteries from multiple inputs: solar, vehicle battery and 240V mains power.
- Monitor multiple parameters of your battery bank (voltage, depth of discharge, temperature, etc).
- Monitor water tank levels.
- Provide current draw data when appliances are powered from your battery bank.
Why Do I Need A Caravan Battery Management System?
When travelling out on the road and off the grid, you are reliant on portable power. Prior to building your power system it is important to estimate the size of the system based on your daily power draw and how much solar energy you expect to harvest. As we are all too aware, weather conditions in this country are varied and unexpected. Your plans out on the road are ever changing and you might find yourself stuck one area without mains power for longer than expected. You need your battery management system to provide real-time performance data so you can manage personal power usage.
The luxury of opening a mobile phone app to monitor tank levels really provides peace of mind when camping out in remote areas. Or knowing how many amps your washing machine will draw from your batteries might help you estimate the right time to get a load done.
Different parts of the country will also produce different solar energy yields. The closer to the equator , the more sun hours per day. A good battery monitor will give you that real time data as your location changes.
Introducing The Big Players In Battery Management Systems:
The powerhouse in Battery Management and Charging equipment for Caravan , RV and 4X4 is Enerdrive Australia. The reason why so many people are turning to Enerdrive is the rise of lithium batteries. Many people are doing away with their old AGM batteries and upgrading to Lithium. Enerdrive is the perfect partner to execute this upgrade.
Enerdrive also has the best warranty and back up technical support of any of the manufacturers in this field. If you purchase a pre-wired charging board or canopy system and combine it with their lithium batteries and charge cables, you have a turn-key solution and one phone number to call for technical support. All the boards and systems come with detailed wiring diagrams so installation is breeze for professionals and DIY installers alike.
The Enerdrive Battery Management system range can be split up into three main categories:
1. The Canopy Systems:
Enerdrive have created six compact power solutions to run electrical equipment in the back of your 4WD, including a fridge, lights, and even a coffee machine. The Enerdrive Canopy systems mainly target the 4×4 market, but have been known to get installed into toy hauler trailers and camper trailers as well.
There are six models in this range:
All of these systems can be paired with any brand or model of battery including Wet Sealed, AGM, Gel and Lithium! These canopy systems are a first in the market and have taken the DIY installer market by storm.
2. The DIY eSYSTEM Charging Boards:
Enerdrive also manufacture DIY Installation Kits which are designed for the DIY’er with basic electrical knowledge up to professionals looking to save time on installations. These can be installed in 4WD canopies, caravans, camper trailers, commerical vehicles and more.
There are currently ten board variations, with different layouts, dimensions and electrical components. There are smaller boards with AC & DC charging and battery monitoring, right up to kits with an inverter and individual charge and load monitoring.
Customers come to us and want a dual battery solution and list the appliances they need to run and how long they plan to camp off grid. After consulting our solar power calculator it soon becomes evident that the serious traveler wants a DC to DC charger, AC to DC charger, battery monitor, 240V inverter and all the appropriate cables, breaker and fuses to connect and protect the system.
The beauty of all of the Enerdrive Power Systems is they are as pre-wired as possible. This saves time and money in the long run. Our customers have peace of mind knowing they have the right size fuses and breakers, quality cable sized appropriately and secure connections that won’t let you down on those corrugated dusty roads.
The biggest advantage of this system and any other Enerdrive system is the massive 5 year warranty and fantastic backup tech support on their hotline. It’s what Enerdrive has built their brand on and it’s why we partner with, and promote this Australian manufacturer.
3. The Pro Series Lithium Battery and Charging Board Kits:
This is where the rubber meets the road. Firstly, let’s just get some information out there about the installation of these pre-wired board. Yes, they are pre-wired and ready to go like the DIY kits, but no, the Pro Series are not for your DIY installer. When the installation is complete you are required to complete the commission procedure in order to ensure the system is fitted correctly and the Enerdrive fail safes built in to the system are functional.
Enerdrive request that when your installation is complete you reach out to their team for a quick consultation and send images of the final installation to them for filing. Their intention is to be as best prepared as possible to offer system support for the life of the system.
The Enerdrive Pro Series kits are a pre-wired board, coupled with a Enerdrive (Pro Series) lithium power pack (white box), and unlike the green Enerdrive Btec range, these batteries do not include a built in battery management system. The battery management system is an external component mounted to the board and is a far more robust unit than the built in Btec PCB. The battery manager on this board will give you Active Balancing for maximum battery protection and lifespan. You just won’t get the same performance from another BMS.
The major features of these kits are:
- Dedicated Morningstar Tristar 45A Solar Controller which combined with the built in mppt solar controller of the 40A DC to DC charger can boost the amount of solar you can mount on your roof.
- Big 60A AC to DC charger for fast battery recharge.
- Some models include the massive ePro 3000W Inverter Charger, which is a 3000W inverter and a 120A AC charger. If you want to use a 3000W inverter on an Enerdrive battery you really need to look at the Pro Series. The Btec 200Ah lithium batteries will not support a 3000W inverter.
Check out the guys at Trip In A Van with their Pro Series Kit installed and monitored with a Simarine Battery Monitor:
Enerdrive Battery Monitoring:
Most of the canopy systems and pre-wired boards come with the option to choose either the Enerdrive ePro plus or Simarine battery monitor. Even though the Enerdrive Btec batteries come with an in-built Battery Management system it is still recommended to have an external battery monitor. A quality battery monitor will count the Amps going in and out of your battery system, thus providing an accurate “State of Charge” and “Depth of Discharge” data
The Simarine battery monitor is far more sophistaced than the ePro plus and looks great as part of your install. The Simarine monitors do have the ability to monitor up top 4 water tanks whereas the ePro plus does not have tank monitoring capabilities. Simarine also has inbuilt Bluetooth connectivity so you can remotely access the monitor’s data from the convenience of your smartphone. All round the Simarine is a much sleeker-looking and user-friendly piece of technology than the ePro plus.
A traditional style of battery management system that you will see in a caravan or RV are the all in one style power distribution boxes like the Projecta Power Management series.
Ranging from $450 up to $2,279 the Projecta power management systems do cater mostly to caravans and RV’s. This range does include DC to DC charging and in-built solar regulators for off grid charging but is mainly targeted to travellers staying in powered sites with 240V input. The units work really well as power supplies, essentially distributing the 240V power input around to many DC 12V outputs. The larger the unit the more outputs you can distribute. The unit is enclosed in a case and most people will view it simply as a fuse box.
The advantages of the Projecta range are they are compact with a lot of features. The larger models have in-built bluetooth for easy smartphone battery and water tank monitoring. The hero product is the Projecta PM400 model. This model comes with a LCD switch panel display which can be remotely mounted where desired. It provides remote operation of appliances, lighting and water pumps.
The disadvantage of Projecta models is the DC to DC charging works from a voltage sensitive relay and doesn’t use it’s own dedicated charge profile like other battery management systems on the market. The projects also only come with a 1 year warranty.
BMPRO is another caravan RV centric battery management system manufacturer. In a similar vein to the Projecta range, the inbuilt power supply in the BMPRO range provides DC power distribution throughout the van. BMPRO have released quite a lot of models over the years, but have now rationalised down to 4 core products:
- Genius 30-35 RV Power Supply
- J35B-L Battery Management System
- J35D Lithium Compatible Battery Management System
- BatteryPlus35-11-HA 35A High Amp Battery Management System
The Genius model is the entry level at only $550 and acts as a power supply and AC input battery charger for lead acid batteries only.
The J35 and BP35 models are much more advanced, including in-built solar charge controllers, DC distribution and AC input charging for lithium batteries.
The BMPRO range is designed to be modular, you can add various products to increase the performance and usability of the system. There are various battery monitor and smartphone apps used to monitor battery performance and tank levels. Check out our compatibility table and FAQ guide to help determine which products are right for you
The newest and exciting release from BMPRO has to be the SMART CONNECT range of sensors. The smart connect range includes a gas level, temperature (fridge) and tyre pressure monitors. The cool thing about these monitors is they are wireless, so anyone can install them in minutes. Once in place you can monitor your fridge temperature, Tyre pressure and Gas bottle level with your smartphone app via bluetooth.
Your battery is the heart and soul of your off-grid camping adventure and therefore needs to be looked after. A quality battery management system is vital in ensuring your battery is protected from overcharge or over-discharge, has a charge profile matched to the battery’s chemistry and ambient temperature, and maximizes the number of cycles the battery can be discharged.
For more answers on Battery Management Systems and off-grid touring call 1300 400 122 and speak to one of our product experts today.
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.