Product Review No.4 - Redarc BMS1215 / Redarc BCDC 1220 DCDC charger/SBI212 Smart solenoid

Thursday, Dec 23, 2010 at 16:54


Mick O s Rule Number 3

– You live or die by the quality and reliability of your DC power system (well death might be overstating it but warm beer is not living my friend! A months worth of frozen food thawing out in the middle of the never-never is not fun either! Nor is trying to start your vehicle out back of beyond after suffering a flat battery.)

I've lost count of the times I've heard spruikers at 4x4/camping shows telling people what they think they need with the key driver being the profit from the sale, not the real needs of the customer. The underlying foundations of any power management system are knowing exactly what it is you wish to achieve (what you want the power system to do), how you build it, the components you use and the quality of it all.

Redarc BMS Smartstart 1215ˆˆ($1742)

Redarc BCDC 1220 ˆˆ($540)

Redarc SBI212 ($378)

(smart solenoid- 200 amp constant rated, smart dual battery isolator.)

The overall charging ability of the BMS system was great. What I liked was the comprehensive functionality of the remote monitor head. This is connected by a 4 metre lead and can be mounted remotely from the BMS unit. With displays of both 'Amps out' (draw on battery) and 'volts in' (and amps leaving the charger), time to fully charged, battery time remaining (as a percentage of total battery capacity and represented in hours/days remaining at current draw), charging source, and State Of Charge (SOC) Vs Hour charging logs, battery status (temp & charge), load status it makes the need for other battery monitoring systems and gauges obsolete.

Of particular strength to my mind was the MPPT solar function which provided peak charging rate. I found with the raw voltage produced being handled by the unit, I was able to get the batteries back up to from 90% to 99% on near so on most sunny days with 100 Watts of solar panel whilst running an 80 litre combo and other minor accessories and lighting.

In between the two vehicle batteries, I also used a SBI 212 which is a smart solenoid - 200 amp constant rated, dual battery isolator.We actually ended up “dumbing” it down a bit and removed the control module to return it to a switchable solenoid state. The reason for using the Redarc solenoid is that they are good quality and readily available throughout Australia. The manual switching from inside the vehicle cab also allows the vehicle to be started from the aux battery should the main battery be flat and removes the need to get out and jump-start with leads. We also incorporated a control feed to the solenoid from the winch so that winching activity will draw power from both batteries. (I note the latest redarc magazine has a description on how to fit a switched jump and winch assist feature.)

The BCDC 1220 provides full multi-stage charging. Stage 1 – bulk or boost where it delivers most of the charge. Stage 2 – provides an absorption charge where it starts tapering and finally to a float charge at 100% state of charge. It also helps battery condition because the battery is actually charged as the manufacturer intended. The unit will act as a dual battery isolator and protect the start battery, should the voltage get too low. The BCDC 1220 has performed faultlessly. The latest generation of this unit the BCDC 1225 incorporates an MPPT solar controller function as well which is of additional value for the outback traveller.

I cannot speak highly enough of these systems. The BMS in particular has blown me away. The MPPT solar controller has made a real difference. With only the peak sunlight hours of winter in the north west, I was able to fully maintain my batteries with a 100W solar panel. This included running the 80 litre Engel combo (half of which was on full time freezer), lighting and a few other minor sundries. This did involve active monitoring & manipulation of fridge controls but considering we were in low to mid 30 Celsius each day, it was great. The DC-DC charging facility running from the vehicle alternator provided very solid rates of charge that bought the batteries back up from mid to high 70% mark to 100% within a few hours of travel. I am running twin Powersonic 140 A/H AGM’s. To save a lot of confusion and the need for 240 volt certification, I didn’t bother hardwiring 240 into the power system or fridge. The only lead in is for the BMS and this has done a great job when sourcing AC power and comfortably maintains float while running all accessories from the house batteries. The Display unit is exceptional in functionality and provides in one interface, every input/output reading and all the battery condition information that I require and had previously used many separate displays for.

Both units copped a fair flogging over the 3 months of our trip completing over 11,000 kilometres in outback track and off track situations. They were exposed to constant vibration, water (condensation), humidity, heat and dust with temperature extremes ranged from -3C through to 39C ambient and up to 50C internal pod and engine bay temperatures without fault. A lot of money to lay out initially but when you’re protecting over $1600 worth of AGM batteries and the comprehensive suite of power management tools rolled up into the one package, it’s actually a great deal cheaper than what I had intended using separate components and gauges and has a lot more functionality. It’s bloody simple and reliable which means a lot less concern for me.

I would add that to work effectively any power management system depends on the quality of installation and the attendant wiring. Making sure you have quality wiring of adequate capacity is a must. Making sure it is fitted correctly is plain common sense.

Update November 2012

These products have now been installed in the truck for some 2 and a half years and the vehicle has now completed 60,000 kilometres, mostly on tough outback roads and tracks. The Redarc products, batteries and wiring have performed faultlessly. I am about to have the BMS unit sent back tom Redarc to update it with the latest algorithms and user interfaces. I have added three 110W solar panels into the equation earlier this year, all plugged on a full time basis open current into the BMS unit utilising its MPPT solar controller function. This has provided an amazing degree of additional flexibility and peace of mind for those longer remote trips. I now have enough solar input to comfortably run several fridges and even on the cloudy days, the panels and controller pull in enough generation to meet most of my needs.

Update August 2014

The Redarc equipment has now been through 4.5 years and 80,000 kilometres of rough and remote travel. It has provided faultless performance. I have expanded my system with a 1500W inverter to power 240V tools and the bread maker (yes I’m not kneading by hand anymore ;-)

The shunt provided with the BMS is more than capable of handling the current draw of the inverter so I am able to monitor power consumption and battery level through the BMS when operating any of those ‘big ticket’ items. The solar performance has been stellar and the 3x100W panels are producing more than enough power to cover my overnight and daily usage while topping up the batteries when during the day. Very important when stopped for a few days and also in maintaining the Powersonic AGM batteries in tip-top condition.

A disclaimer of sorts;

I make the clear distinction here and now that while I have some experience as an outback traveller, I am not a technical expert by any stretch of the imagination. It's my personal experience upon which I base my reviews. I will on occasion, compare these products against a similar product that I am familiar with through personal experience. This is factual based and not anecdotal (someone telling me about it) information & experience.

The prices I have quoted are purely a range of current retail prices and were updated in September 2014 from the Redarc website (

These reviews are not designed to influence you towards any particular product. I’m not receiving any financial advantage in doing this, rather I am providing my personal opinion on the quality and suitability of the products I have purchased and used. Any decision about purchasing a product should be made on a thorough analysis of your own needs and budget and supported by your own research (as were mine).

Other Reviews

Building a 12 Volt power system for your 4x4

Engel 75 Litre Combo Fridge & the Platinum Drop Slide

12 Volt LED Rigid Strip lighting.

Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems (TPMS)

Toyo Open Country MT tyres (285/75-R16 & 315/75 R16)

Readywelder II - Portable MIG welder

''We knew from the experience of well-known travelers that the
trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
Richard Maurice - 1903
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