If you love to geek out over data and want to take your camper van solar system to the next level, the Victron Smart Solar Charge Controller is for you.
Simple, intuitive, and well designed, the Victron solar charge controller is a popular choice in the RV and Vanlife community, and we love ours, too.
In this post, we will review our experience with the Victron ‘Smart Solar’ MPPT Solar Charge Controller. This includes what we like, how to choose the right model for you, and how to install one.
So if you’re ready, let’s go!
DIY Solar Build Series
Table Of Contents
What We Love About The Victron Solar Charge Controller
There are so many things to like about the Victron charge controllers. Below we list our top four.
1. Wonderful User Interface With ‘VictronConnect’ Smartphone App
By far the best aspect of the Victron controller is that you get to use the VictronConnect smartphone app.
Using the app on your phone, which connects to the Victron controller via Bluetooth, you can access all the solar energy data and settings you need.
This is such a great feature because many other solar charge controllers on the market today have a clumsy digital interface built into the controller’s hardware (or none at all). These types of interfaces aren’t useful to us because we installed our controller under our bed. And we don’t want to always look under the bed to check our solar harvesting stats.
But because of the VictronConnect app, we are always able to access our solar data as long as we have our smartphone with us.
2. Real-Time Stats On Your Phone
Through the VictronConnect app, you are able to view a wealth of real-time statistics related to your camper van’s solar array system.
- Total instantaneous watts harvested from your solar panels;
- The detailed volts and amps generated from the solar array; and
- The instantaneous volts and amps that are outputted from the Victron controller to your batteries.
(Remember from our What Is A Solar Charge Controller post, a charge controller adjusts the voltage from the solar array into a more suitable voltage for your batteries and electrical system)
3. Historical Stats On Your Phone
Through the VictronConnect app, you can also view solar harvesting data on a per-day basis. And you can view this data for as far back as 30 days.
This is such an informational feature that allows you to see just how many watt-hours (Wh) your solar array produced each day. Not only that, the app also visualizes how many of those watt-hours were generated during bulk, absorption, and float stages of battery charging.
The amount of solar data you can view on your smartphone from the VictronConnect app is literally mesmerizing.
4. Easy Setup
Using the VictronConnect app, you’re also able to easily set up the Victron Smart Solar charge controller to fully integrate with your RVs electrical system.
While using the app from your phone, simply press the gear wheel in the top right corner and you’ll be directed to the settings interface for the Victron charge controller. From there, you can adjust:
- Battery voltage type (12v or 24v)
- Max charging current allowed
- The battery chemistry type (lead acid, lithium, etc)
- Input custom voltages for absorption and float stages
The last bullet point is a VERY nice feature to have if you have lithium batteries because by inputting your own custom voltages, you can lengthen the lifespan of your LiFePO4 lithium batteries.
To learn more about how to do that, check out the video below.
Improvements We Want To See From The Victron Charge Controller
To be honest, there isn’t much to dislike about the Victron Smart Solar charge controllers. But two issues come to mind.
If we’re being honest, the Victron solar charge controllers sit on the more expensive end of the solar charge controller pricing spectrum. You can get a very respectable MPPT solar charge controller for roughly half the price. But this is likely without similar UI design and Bluetooth capability.
Further down this post, we will go over our recommendations for Victron solar charge controllers and a more affordable alternative that provides a similar experience.
Multiple Inputs For Different Sized Panels
To get the maximum efficiency from your solar array, your panels should be exactly the same (and ideally the same brand). Same wattage and volt/amp makeup.
Due to how solar systems work, solar arrays made up of different sized panels often suffer from a decrease in efficiency.
So for those who have solar panels of different makes and sizes, people often install multiple charge controllers to deal with the different panels.
But we would love to see a future Victron charge controller that is able to accept solar wattage outputs from different solar panel sizes without sacrificing any harvesting efficiency. This could be done with multiple solar array inputs into the single charge controller hardware.
Victron Solar Charge Controller Models
If you’re interested in picking up a Victron Smart Solar charge controller, you’ll notice that there are a variety of models. The model that is right for you depends on the size of your solar array.
For more information about what these numbers mean, check out our post: What Is A Solar Charge Controller and Why You 100% Need One
If you’re on a tight budget, you may want to look into the Renogy Rover MPPT charge controller (with included Bluetooth module).
Like the Victron controller, you can connect your smartphone to the Rover to view insightful solar data.
Best of all, the Rover is a cheaper alternative to the Victron-branded charge controllers.
How To Install A Victron Solar Charge Controller
A Victron solar charge controller is installed in between your solar panel array and your batteries.
To get a full understanding about where a charge controller is installed in your electrical system and which size wires to use, we recommend the following resources:
The Victron Solar Charge Controller: The Luxury Piece To Your Solar Array System
Make no mistake, there are other solar charge controllers on the market today that will do the job just fine at half the price (or more) compared to a Victron-branded controller.
But by paying a little more, you get a great controller that is easy to set up and keeps you up-to-date on the performance of your solar array with the awesome VictronConnect app.
If we were building a second van, we would purchase the Victron Smart Solar charge controller again in an instant.
For more reading related to setting up solar panels in a camper van, check out these posts:
DIY Solar Build Series