Inverter/Charger

This is part of the Inverter Power project.

Inverters, AC Chargers and Inverter/Chargers……. I went with the combo. And the good one…. Victron. Yes they are expensive but they work VERY well. And with the money tied up in the batteries I wanted “very well”….. I’ve bought too many cheap(er) inverters that just didn’t perform. Here’s what I got: 120V, 3000W and 120A charging.

So, time to do some dry fitting. First some wood to screw in to and hold it all in place. The genuine plastic wood veneer piece in the middle will be accessible from above. I need the rear registers to have some place to put their air/heat. Inverter is heavy. I wanted it flat on the floor.

Connecting is pretty straight forward, as far as programming…… hah. As I become more familiar with the Victron eco system I am learning that it is amazingly capable, especially in high power systems. The boxes do amazing things, and the operation and monitoring once installed is awesome, to the point where you can monitor and control the system from anywhere (almost) in the world. But the programming/communications….. I am now aware of FOUR com systems. There’s CAN, USB, WIFI, some form of LAN/Ethernet called VE.Bus, VRM, VE and I still don’t have it all straight. Newer boxes come with Bluetooth. You can get a dongle for the older ones. Which I did. And it didn’t work. Wouldn’t even light up, and there was power to it. Finally figured it out. Some cheese head had put the sticker upside down on the plug……. B+ and B- were not lining up. I at first took the plug off, attached the wires per the sticker and plugged it into the dongle without even looking. Eventually I figured it out.

After that it did connect. But, surprise…… You can see some parameters and change Cº to Fº or adjust the max available AC amperage IN (or less if you’re not in a hurry as it extends battery life) but that’s it. You can not get to the programming part. (As in tell the darn thing the battery chemistry.) Old way was another dongle, hard wired to the Com port inside the I/C to a PC. And you need a password. New way is via another com protocol, on line via the VRM com system. Requires Cerbo GX box and an account….. All I want to do is tell the thing what kind of batteries I have!

And then the kicker…..

Victron (the manufacturer) does NOT provide support to end users, period. Videos, FAQ’s, manuals yes, but if you call they tell you to call your dealer/installer. My what? Dealer/Installer. Product comes into the US to distributors, who sell to trained installers, or in the case of my Amazon dealer: Brand Centric E-commerce. (They claimed to be Victron trained, I have questions here. But, like all dealers/distributors they get paid to support the product. Took me a while to figure out who my seller was. A piece of paper explaining the process and giving contact info inside the box would have made this a lot easier. The sales director North America who emailed me after I called and sent a rather terse email to Holland said that should have happened. It didn’t. Big fail on Victron’s part. It should be EASY to get help. And to top it all off, the end user is not supposed to get into the settings. Dealer/Installer only. Password protected. Hey, their show, but it would be nice if they were a little more clear about that.

In fact if I had known this all up front I would have gone Magnum (again). It is not nearly as capable as Victron in larger more complex installations, but it is decent, there is excellent customer support, and it would have worked nicely in my situation. 95% of all motorhomes use it, I am well versed in it.

Fortunately there is also the internet…… Youtube and FB. Especially the latter has some reasonably knowledgeable people on it, and if you’re careful not to ask questions that can be answered with the book (RTFM) you can get some help. So with a LOT of time, effort and setbacks I slowly got my head around enough of it to do what I needed to do……. Which was first order the MK-3 USB interface, a little box with a USB on on end and the network cable on the other.

And that darn little thing showed up, plugged in and my MAC saw it…… click click click….. enter the password (the internet…. 😉 ) and I was IN. Didn’t touch anything yet. This is quite hysterical since a rather terse Victron distributor (they are undermining his game too) told me that could NOT be done.

Then I had a flashing absorb/float LED on the unit itself. This is a “temperature sense” error, as confirmed by the app.

But as you can see it’s seeing temp, (68ºF) apparently, and the probe is hooked up. Also does it with the probe not hooked up….. I don’t want to relive the week I spent getting some support. Let’s just say that the Sales Manager North America was getting emails and 9am phone calls from me until I finally got “Chad”s attention at my Amazon Seller (Brand Centric) We did a firmware update (Hah! I’m not supposed to be able to do that according to Victron) And the error persisted. So, the thing needed to go to them. Possibly for weeks, on my shipping dollar (50 pounds this thing). Or, I could buy a new one from him and then send this one back and they would fix it and refund me. Right. Broken off the shelf should not cost me a PENNY. So I sent it back, period. Click-Beep, thank you Amazon for enforcing your return policy.

Then I happened to notice the dealer map on the Victron website…. There’s a company in Jersey called Tekris. Solar/Victron/Magnum/Xantrex, you get the idea. I bought a Magnum I/C from them a few years ago and remembered I liked them. So I called….. and asked if he had any Magnums. So, apparently Magnum is currently out of stock, as are the parts. Maybe they’re made in a part of China that was locked down for a long while. BUT, long story short he had a nice reconditioned 120/3000/120-50 for a few hundred less than what I paid for the bad one. “SEND IT”. Alas, upon arrival there was some rattling inside. Never a good thing in engines or electronics. Turned out that after the rebuild they had forgotten a few nuts on the 12V terminals. Called Tekris, and to their credit they had UPS pick it up, checked it out and sent it back to me. All in a span of 3 days.

Phew………

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