Simarine PICO delivers so much more than battery level checks
Chris Hogan, 1st April 2018, Boat
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The Simarine Pico digital battery monitor has received a lot of attention recently. The Slovenian company has been developing systems in Europe and is planning to take them to the American market in 2018.
The PICO's core unit is a touchscreen control panel which connects wirelessly to sensors you place on your batteries and other devices. The unit will also connect to an iPhone or Android app so that you can see the state of your batteries and other electrical systems at a glance.
The touchscreen panel contains all the intelligence and is milled from a single piece of high-quality anodised aluminium with a touch Gorilla glass screen - all designed to make it suitable for a nautical environment. The system is far more than a simple battery condition warning device as Simarine provides a wide selection of 'shunts' that can be fitted to all sorts of devices. These vary in the currents they can cope with and the number of sensors that can be plugged into them.
With the standard PICO as many as six battery banks, six additional battery voltages, fourteen holding tanks and twenty other points can be monitored. This means individual loads and charging sources can be monitored, allowing the PICO to act as a fault-finding tool and health monitor for all the electrical units you might have on a boat - solar panels, inverters, fridges, cookers, windmills etc.
An entry-level PICOone is also available which will link to just one shunt, an SC302T combo unit. This allows monitoring of one battery bank of up to 300A on a range of voltages, a backup battery banks and up to two other tanks. All units can be bought individually but a PICOone package includes the SC302T costs €299.
There are other packages - the PICO Standard comes with a display unit, SC301 shunt and ST107 tank and voltage module for monitoring one main battery, up to three auxiliary batteries and up to four tanks for €399.
The top of the range PICO Blue package at €499 is a complete monitoring solution for larger vessels. It includes an SC501 shunt, an ST107 tank and voltage module and an SQ205quadro shunt module along with the standard display unit. This allows precise monitoring of solar, wind and hydro generators, shore power charging levels and the power drawn by individual units like refrigerators.
More than just a monitor
The PICO can store up to three months of logging so you can spot trends like a slow decrease in solar panel efficiency. The temperature of batteries is monitored as well as current and voltage - a useful addition as it's an excellent indicator of long term battery deterioration.
At the moment, PICO communicates using its own system so you can only link it to Simarine's own shunts and detectors. But the company intends to add support for CI-BUS to the PICO and PICOone in the second quarter of this year, so connection to devices from other manufacturers should then be possible. CI-BUS is a common interface designed for leisure vehicles monitoring devices (it's short for Caravan Industry bus) so that modules from different makes can talk to each other's control panels.
Excellent remote support!
People might feel a bit wary of buying a system over the internet with no support in the UK. You're on your own with fitting this but as it's mostly wireless it shouldn't be too difficult - fitting the sensors seems to be the trickiest bit.
One yachting blogger, based in the Netherlands but with a yacht in Spain, bought a PICO+ Blue package in October last year. He was astonished to find that his Sunday afternoon emails to the support team were answered that evening!
What do you think? Let us know!
For what Simarine are offering over more basic level checkers the PICO units look like good value for money. If you are refitting your boat, or you have ended up with a mix of different monitoring gadgets as you've added more equipment, the PICO may well be worth investigating.
If you already have one then we'd love to hear from you - is it working well? Email us at email@example.com and let us know.
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