How to accurate assess battery usage?

CorttttCortttt Registered Users Posts: 26 ✭✭
I can determine how much solar power comes in over the day but how do I accurately assess the drain on the battery from my appliances? This system is in a van if that matters. 


  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,019 admin
    Welcome to the forum Cortttt,

    The classic method is to use a Battery Monitor with an external shunt (high power precision resistor to measure current). Most BMS use the shunt to measure the Amps*Time in and out of the battery bank. If you take 10 amps for 2 hours out, that is 10*2=20 Amp*Hours out of the battery... If you recharge at 5 amps * 4 hours = 20 Amp*Hours back in.

    For shunts--You want to make sure your shunt is rated (over) for the maximum current you plan on using.... I.e., if you have a 1,200 Watt AC inverter you run at 12 VDC:
    • 1,200 Watts * 1/0.85 inverter eff * 1/10.5 volts battery cut off = 134.5 amps max continuous current
    There are a lot out there--Many stand-alone, others that are integrated into Solar Charge Controllers or AC inverters.

    I have not used any battery monitors--The links below are for beginning your search. Our host, NAWS does have engineers to answer any questions you may have. For stand alone versions: (full list from our host NAWS)

    And a few highlighted units:

    And Amazon has a nice list of lower cost units:

    When you look for "energy monitors"--Make sure that they do what you want... I.e., show the battery bank being discharged (state of charge going down) and being recharged (state of charge going up). Many energy monitors are just measuring the flow through the meter and do not represent the battery bank state of charge.

    Also note--Like any meter, these do have limits. And one of those is that they can "drift" and display inacurate battery state of charge. Many (some/most/all?) of these meter reset to 100% when the battery is fully charged (i.e, battery is held at 14.x volts for an hour or more).

    Make sure you battery type is supported by the meter. Flooded Cell Lead Acid, AGM, Li Ion...

    And for Li Ion, many/most installations have their own battery monitoring system (BMS)--Sometimes you can get state of charge and other information from those BMS units.

    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • RCinFLARCinFLA Solar Expert Posts: 1,399 ✭✭✭✭
    Most common method cummulates charging and discharging current to net on battery.  If you want only appliance load the shunt or an additonal shunt and monitor would have to be installed in inverter DC path. 

    If using a combo inverter-charger you would have to put an AC power meter on inverter output.  There are some inexpensive AC power meter modules out there.  Some also include power factor reading which can be useful for running anything with AC motor like pump or air conditioner.
  • CorttttCortttt Registered Users Posts: 26 ✭✭
    Thanks so much - I always come straight to the forum for answers and this is why. :)
  • BB.BB. Super Moderators, Administrators Posts: 32,019 admin
    I guess I should say "welcome back Cortttt"... I missed 1 vs 2x posts...

    Oh well my choices--Getting old, or not getting old.

    -Bill  :/
    Near San Francisco California: 3.5kWatt Grid Tied Solar power system+small backup genset
  • CorttttCortttt Registered Users Posts: 26 ✭✭
    :) No worries. Love the help here. 
Sign In or Register to comment.