Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Smarten Up

After having fitted lots of other peoples boats, I finally succumbed and fitted my own Smartgauge.

Chris Gibson a.k.a Gibbo who created the unit has now sold his business to the Merlin Equipment business in Dorset and is retained as their senior R&D man.

This is why the Smartgauge unit now bears the Merlin name.

The main problem with batteries on boats is that most boaters hugely depend on them but don't really understand them.

What Chris has done is to break the mystique down to the essentials that most want to know.

How much power do I have in my battery bank ??

It gives a simple % reading - in the above photo, I have my bank 99% charged or 1% discharged.

I've heard it described as a fuel gauge for batteries.

We have a Mastervolt Amp-Counter for the domestic bank and a Victron one for the starter battery. I don't have a lot of faith in either and tend to monitor the voltage instead.

I have more faith in the Smartgauge which calculates the charge left in an adaptive way using a very accurate voltage reading directly from the battery terminals.

For £150 it does what I need.

It also acts as a display for the Merlin Smartbank system and is able to monitor the voltage of the start battery (already doing that), but an accurate % reading that tracks the batteries as they get older is enough for me.

The unit has changed very little over the years it's been available, but it now seems now that the membrane buttons aren't very positive in their operation - you have to push them quite firmly and don't always seem to get a connection first time. Might be an attempt to get the build costs down or hold them down ??

One of my gripes has always been that it has to be flush/panel mounted and there is no backbox option so it can be bulkhead mounted.

The word on the cut is that there is a Smartgauge 2 in the wings which will do lots more including monitor the charge/discharge current - rumoured to be a bit more expensive though !!

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