Hi Steve! Wow! My Victron LiFePO4 system can’t hold a candle to yours I did have a problem with ours this summer, however, and I’d be interested in your thoughts on working around the issue we encountered.
We have a 12.8v/330ah Lithium battery as our house, which I installed in April of this year. It has worked well since - I REALLY like the advantages of the Li pack vs the AGMs it replaced – with one notable exception: On a sunny day at anchor in Rockland, ME, the BMS board inside our house battery just stopped - it went dark on Bluetooth, and shut off both the charge and load buss switches (BatteryProtect 220a devices). Immediate action drill was to open up VictronConnect and look for the battery (fail), then open the setee containing the battery and feel the temperature (cool). The SmallBMS was showing a red light instead of the usual blue, and both control leads were low, which is why the switches were off. Battery voltage was fine (13.35v).
There is a section in the manual for the battery that identifies a procedure for “restarting” the control board (in the event of an over-discharge), so I opened up the battery and performed it (lifting one lead off the battery and then replacing it). This did nothing.
I then called my Victron dealer, and he asked me to send him an email detailing the problem and what we had done, which I did.
I then “hot-wired” the control lines to turn both the load and charge devices on - which worked fine, and the battery continued to perform well.
There was a firmware issue identified in the 24V batteries that resulted in the same symptom - except that these cases were resolved by new firmware (1.28) and the application of another lead lift.
I think my board just quit - some sort of infant failure so beloved of all of us in the electronics business. Getting a warranty replacement board took 5 weeks, but when I received the new board, it worked perfectly, and has ever since. Victron seems uninterested in diagnosing my board (at least they never asked for it back).
My real concern now is: how do I prepare myself for a future failure of this nature? My biggest concern, of course, is a failure while in some nasty situation (short final to a narrow entrance in the dark!) but I also want to be able to perform the “hot wire” bit without the kludge I used this time (blue tape and all!).
The “Override Switch” will be a guarded toggle switch in a location not subject to flying hands and feet - that will be easy, albeit with a bit of carpentry to make it look professional.
But I concluded the big concern could be met by providing “non-interruptible” power to three things: The primary chartplotter, the N2K Instrument buss and the autopilot. I also plan to provide unswitched power to the battery monitor (BM702), as dropping power to it causes it to forget the SOC, which is annoying.
I’ve acquired some 120amp and 20a Schottky diodes, which I will install in aluminum boxes for installation when I get back aboard.
If there’s a better way, I’m all ears!
That’s an interesting failure case. I’ve heard of at least one other person who had a control board in their Victron battery die, but I forget who it was. I do know they had multiple batteries, so it didn’t hurt them that much in terms of running ability - they just lost some capacity until it could be fixed.
Do you only have one battery? I suppose adding another one isn’t an option
Sounds like an override switch is a good idea as long as its safe and you have some way of proving the battery didn’t shut things off intentionally.
I definitely dislike the whole BMV power situation with some of the stand alone BMS’es from Victron. In a state where things get shut off, so does your BMV so you can’t see state of charge, voltage, or anything else. The Lynx Smart BMS actually has dedicated points on it to run a GX or BMV so that it is always powered, except in really rare conditions where everything is completely dead. The BMS can shut off the load side, but keep the GX or BMV still running so you can figure out what happened, which I think is a nice design.
I fixed my late night 0/4 vs 4/0 dumb mistake, thanks. I have stared at the sheathing and labels on those cables for 15+ years and should know better…
Great article, as usual. I’m looking at replacing my dead 500ah 12v battery bank (4x6v Trojan TE35 FLA) with a pair of Vitcron 330a/h 12v batteries and lynx bms, cerbo gx & multiplus charger this winter. I was going to use two batteries for both resilience and capacity - I was worried about the risk of the sort of outage mentioned above.
I’d been planning to use a WS500, in part on the basis of your past enthusiasm, and it’s apparently tight integration with the victron kit. My sailing boat only has an aged (but reliable) 43hp engine, with a second 105a prestolite alternatior (currently with an adverc external regulator) as a charging source. I might change the alternator, but there’s not a lot of room so I might see how the current one copes. Smart load management is a must though, with the engine size. One installer I’d talked to has had some poor recent experiences with the ws500 too and was reverting to master volt external regulators. That adds complexity from a management perspective, but if they just work, combined with a smart shunt, it might be a good way to go. Can you share a little more of your issues with the ws500? On paper they look perfect.
Good Morning, Steve! Yes, only one battery - I could probably add another 330ah, but at this point I think I could spend the money better elsewhere
I might point out that if you daisy-chain your Victron batteries BMS cables, one battery doing this trick will disconnect 'em all. They are a series loop, any one device along the loop breaking one of the leads causes your external switching (BatteryProtect, contactor, Lynx, etc.) to open. Victron suggested to me that using a BMS extension cable would fool the SmallBMS into turning everything back on - which confirmed my suspicion.
I debated adding the Cerbo to the uninterruptible buss, but I figure if I can re-energize the system easily, I will do that before doing extensive troubleshooting. When we’re out at sea, the Cerbo is just talking to itself anyway
TomH, I can recommend the “belt saver” feature of the BalMar alternator controllers - the OO of our boat installed a 120amp alternator, but cheaped out and didn’t augment the single V-belt. If I let the alternator go full-bore, I have to replace the belt every month or so >:8O I have it set at 50% now - belts are a biannual replacement JIC.
EDIT to add: One thing I sure wish I could get to the Cerbo is the battery temp and individual cell voltages - I can see them locally using VictronConnect & Bluetooth, but not from afar.
Great article. I am getting ready to do a major upgrade to outer 51Beneteau Sense 51. I will be trading out the Cristec chargers and adding a Victron Multiplus 3000/12/120 for the house bank and Victron 12v Dc to Dc chargers running off the house bank to charge the eng, Gen and thruster banks. As an ABYC certified electrician, I am trying to remain compliant to all requirements including E-13.
It appears as if the Victron batteries are not compliant. Not UL, SAE or IEC certified and no external warning that I can find. Do you have better information on this?
Also, in your article you indicated issues with the wakespeed 500. I have a single Yanmar common rail diesel with a Valeo 12 v 125 amp alternator. I need to configure for external regulation and then, I was going to use a Wakespeed. Can you share your issues?
Lastly, I have seen a lot of issues with insurance companies getting squirrely bout lithium. I gather this is not your experience. Can you share who you are covered with.
The issue I had with Kaos was a situation where an alternator was destroyed, and nearly caught the boat on fire. It has not been proven whether it was the alternator, regulator, or something else in the mix, but the complexity of the regulator connected to the Lynx Smart BMS along with the extra wiring bothered me at the time. The way it was wired, and indeed, the tight integration with Victron’s Lynx Smart BMS, should have prevented anything like this from happening, but here we are.
The bigger issue is related - Wakespeed is not an easy product to configure, use, and monitor. It requires a decent knowledge of command line, and even then, the syntax is particularly difficult. Even with all of my experience with it on my boat and others, I still have to go back to the manual almost every time. Beyond configuring, it is sort of a black box. There are some features that aren’t clearly documented in a way that a user could understand, and I have found I have had to experiment a bit, or contact their support. That’s the part that ends up being a bigger issue - did you configure it right? Is it working the way it’s supposed to? And many upgrades have changed functionality that worked a different way - not unusual for a software product in its early stages of life.
I think it is a great product for what it provides, especially for smaller engines that might require a more intelligent approach to load management at low RPMs to prevent overloading the engine. It is also amazing with two alternators, two engines, and one battery bank being charged - the synchronization is very well built.
The other piece to consider is that Wakespeed was purchased by Dragonfly Energy, so that is likely to cause some turmoil for a short period of time. Perhaps this will mean it will get better to use over time, though!
That’s an interesting trick. I have mine connected with extension cables because of the length, and they’re in a loop, so there’s some redundancy there.
This has been a common complaint for years, and I don’t know why they don’t expose this at the Cerbo level, especially with the newer BMS’s which have to have this data internally.
Wakespeed has a similar feature, although more dynamic. Both are great ways to reduce the overall output of an alternator - I’ve used the belt saver / belt load features in Balmar stuff for years in customer installs, and on the sailboats. Definitely worth looking into.
That’s definitely something I considered as well, although it is more of an issue with new build boats than for existing ones.
I don’t have any better information on the certifications - I suspect they are working on getting at least one of those given that the standard is now defined and clear. Not sure what you mean by external warning - are you talking about the requirement to have an audible notification when a BMS event is occurring? They do have that now with the combination of their management products…
I have seen a lot of people drumming up concern around this, but the two big insurance companies that I’m aware of out here on the west coast have shown no indications around this as far as I am aware, and I’m covered by one of those. I think the target for some of this has been home-built or DIY systems that are hard for any 3rd party to understand and document, and concerns around how they are installed and what safety measures are built in. I’m not saying those installs are worse than a Victron install - both can be just as bad depending on how they’re installed, etc.
Eventually more insurance companies may start requiring more details around these systems, but just like any other system or item found in a survey, they will want mitigation plans or a surveyor to sign off on how something is installed. Now that we actually have a start of a standard in E-13 (it needs more work longer term), folks can start evaluating systems that don’t meet that and help figure out how to get there. Worst case, they may not want to insure the boat, but there are still other companies out there right now to choose from.
I chose a mainstream brand like Victron partially because I knew E-13 was going to be a thing. I wanted a single vendor for all of the equipment so that there weren’t parts of things certified, and no way to get other pieces dealt with. Even without the batteries having everything that E-13 requires, many surveyors or insurance companies are going to be happier that it is all provided by a large supplier. And with the many thousands of Victron installs on boats, I don’t think the insurance industry is going to immediately not insure them .
I’m just glad we finally have some guidance for these types of batteries in the form of ABYC E-13. Now we’ll have to figure out what that means longer term.
Thanks for another great write up. I was interested to read your, and others’, comments regarding the WS500. I have one. Largely bc I felt that it was important to regulate alternator output with current, voltage and temp inputs for charging my LiFePO4 battery. I’m mostly happy with it. I like all the config settings that are available. It has been very good at getting the most power out of my alternator and controlling the charge profile (much better than my Balmar MC614).
The cons for me include, as you said, the inconvenience of configuring, or changing the config.
And lack of easy monitoring (I’ve considered getting a copy of OffGridSoftwareSolutions.com Windows based Pro config tool, though this would not provide a permanent monitoring solution).
And I have not been able to update the firmware using my PC. I’m fairly computer savy. Putty works but I haven’t been able to get the firmware update to work in spite off trying 2 different PCs, logged in as admin with full privileges, different cables, etc. Fortunately my boat is in Anacortes and Rick has been good about helping me get updated.
My WS500 did shut down once while motoring. The error code indicated an over voltage condition, which seemed very odd. Everything checked out ok, maybe a voltage transient? Anyway, reboot and everything seemed ok going forward.
And… this summer my 10+ year old Balmar series 60 alternator stator fried itself. Although I thought the WS500 should have prevented this, I CAN NOT point the finger at the WS500 without doing a much deeper investigation.
The WS500 seems like a good solution that could be great with some more development and testing. Fingers crossed that Dragonfly Energy will invest in further development of the product.
Next for me will be to connect the WS500 to my Cerbo. Hopefully that will provide a modicum of monitoring.
Hi Steve, I’m not sure you understood my comment about the Victron BMS wiring from battery to BMS device - it really is a series connection - if any one battery (or cable) fails, the BMS “big switches” in your Lynx will open and darken your 24V load buss. Try it when nothing critical is going on - unscrew any one connection and see what happens. If you have a battery control board fail, you’ll have to ID which battery it is, then reconfigure the BMS cables so its no longer in the loop. It might be easier to just put an extension across the two connections on your Lynx SmartBMS (at least the lights will come back on!).
I just have the SmallBMS, which, as near as I can tell, is just a couple of switches driving the remote control outputs going to my two BatteryProtect devices.
I sure wish we had access to service info on these things, it would make things a LOT easier to puzzle out!
That was the main reason I had them on Rendezvous - the addition of monitoring current.
That is definitely something that Wakespeed does well. I do think they also can run right up to the edge of that, and probably was the reason I have had a few issues.
I have it, and have had it since the very beginning. It is one of the only ways I have been able to configure things as often as I used to have to without going crazy, but it was still problematic. Because of the way things are configured, and the fact that the software is made by a 3rd party company, there were plenty of times I ended up having to factory reset things and start anew, which is super annoying. The software is a great attempt at getting a more usable UI.
I’ve had 2 other customers with this issue as well. I think this is one of the fundamental issues with the technology - it’s hard to configure, hard to modify, and can get into a situation where it is unusable and requires someone who knows it very well. Few other regulators have that issue.
I had this happen a number of times on Rendezvous, and after many, many hours of troubleshooting, was never able to track it down. This was v1 Wakespeed hardware. It happened less with v2.
I really hope Dragonfly help with the supportability and testing too. I think one of the reasons they were interested in Wakespeed is to complement their batteries and other LiFePO4 systems, so they’ll need to make it easier to use if it is paired with drop-in batteries. I have already seen new videos and guides on the website which makes me hope it will eventually change!
Ah yes, I misunderstood what you were talking about. Mine won’t shut off right away, as there is a delay built into the Lynx Smart BMS and other logic you can tweak to give you a “pre alarm” before everything goes dark. Still, at the point where that timer runs out, you’re done… This was one of the reasons I considered a 12 volt AGM battery sitting on the same bus as the DC-DC power supplies and 12v distribution bus. At least if I lost the 24v side, AC power would die, charging would go down, but 12v would still be up and running, which means basic instruments and navigation, lighting, etc. The design allows for this to be added in with about 5 minutes work, and I have a battery sitting there that could be used. Might add it in for v1.1 of the design…
I have access to some of the service info and training materials. Some of it is in there, other parts are alluded to or you figure out during the training, and even more are just undocumented. Lots of folks have complained over the years about this. Other vendors don’t have as much of a problem, but they also have far less features too, so…
Thinking about the parallel vs split phase inverters, is there any reason you couldn’t have run them in split phase and just connected both to the 120v generator output? Would the inverters have complained about both inputs being in-phase on generator power?
Darn. Would it make sense to add another panel for loads (like the block heaters and chargers for the starting and thruster batteries) that you’d never want to run on inverter power and just put a manual (or even automatic) shore/gen transfer switch on that panel? It would allow you to at least get some use out of the second shore power leg.
I could, but it would really only be a few things like the block heaters. I can’t even think of anything else that I wouldn’t at least want the ability to run off of the inverters.
The chargers for the start / thruster banks don’t rely on the inverters - they come directly off of the 24v bank, and I always want those on just in case something happens with one of those banks so that they’re always charged.
Adding another panel would be relatively easy, other than the fact that I would not have visibility to it with the current system, and would have to monitor it another way or add it in somehow to the existing one. But that’s easily solvable.
I guess the challenge in general is what would I want on that panel? Just the block heaters so far…everything else I would like to run off of the inverters.
I haven’t run out of power at any point. The one 50 amp leg has been more than enough for everything. Having Power Assist helps whenever I go over that, but that doesn’t happen often. I’m also working to replace some things that are less efficient - earlier in the year I removed a really old air conditioning unit in the pilot house which used a ton of amps on startup, and replaced it with a bigger unit with slow start and lower amperage usage. Same with all of the lighting, microwave, stove, and more.
Re: Wakespeed, I’m installing one now and I do think the support has suffered under Dragonfly. So far they have never responded to emails sent to email@example.com and I am able to get phone support, but the sales / tech agent I’ve spoken with didn’t seem very well informed about Wakespeed (not surprising given their main business is selling BattleBorn).
He gave me incorrect information and when I pushed back on that, asking if he could check with the tech team, he said he knows all there is to know about the product and they’re not likely to test a new configuration. (I asked if you could extend the CerboGX crossover Cat5e cable with a RJ45 coupler and he said you cannot and shouldn’t do that, he thought - but the package Wakespeed shipped this cable in has a print-out saying you can do that).
Also a good deal of conflicting information and/or typos in the manual. Oh well, it likely is still the best option for a lithium system. If I could get support from someone actually at Wakespeed that would be great though.
That’s not great to hear, but I sort of suspected this would happen.
I think I posted about it before, but I exchanged many hundreds of emails with the original founders of Wakespeed, mostly to deal with continual issues with firmware upgrades and to tune my dual alternator setup. It was extremely painful because of the poor documentation, and the very esoteric choices made with the configuration syntax and approach.
I had hoped that Dragonfly would unify or at least push some of that to be more user-friendly, but I think we’re still in the transition period since they were purchased. I do think that the only way Wakespeed’s product could be successful under that brand would be for it to be more plug-and-play with pre-built configurations that could be more easily pushed to the device.
I removed my Wakespeed earlier this year due to issues with the connectivity to the Victron Lynx BMS. I used a coupler for my setup and it worked fine, at least that part did. I am considering re-installing the Wakespeed now that their initial versions have been out for a while and hopefully the initial bugs have been worked out.
I’m a little scared about getting to the configuration part but I think they’re trying to make that more layperson friendly. It appears maybe they rewrote the manual because the printed quickstart sheet they shipped me says to see the “User Guide” for details about voltage sensing. But there is no “User Guide” - the downloadable pdf is “Product Manual”, and doesn’t contain a section on voltage sensing. I’m guessing that was in the old user guide.
The manual actually only passingly mentions the CAN programming mode (and separate communications manual), focusing on using pre-selected profiles through the DIP switches (those only have one profile for LiFePo4 though, with oddly low voltage - 13.8 absorb - probably erring on the very conservative side).
But there’s also an Android/iOS app now which allows you to generate a .txt config file from some preloaded LiFePo4 profiles (BattleBorn, Victron, but no Kilovault). And I just discovered if you enable “expert mode” you can edit the charge parameters (helpful if they don’t have your battery profile). It’s basically a GUI for the txt file.