Inverter Update, Auto Gen Start & ComBox. And We Have a Winner!

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Generator, Great RV Products, Replacement, Updates & Upgrades 21 Comments

After installing our new Xantrex inverter/charger last summer, we promised to provide an update. Now with 6 months of flawless performance under our belts, we’re also sharing our AGS system and our ComBox, which is one of the coolest pieces of elec-tech ever!

Not only can we set our generator to operate autonomously, but we can now monitor and control our energy management system from anywhere in the world. Without telling Xantrex that we’d already installed our ComBox (the system that allows remote monitoring and control, among other things), we paid a visit to their headquarters in Western Canada. The staff got a big surprise when we started up our generator by remote control… from our iPad!

Check out the video above for an update, plus an overview of our Xantrex visit.

In other news… the first RVgeeks Giveaway of 2017 came to a close on Sunday, March 12th. A hearty congratulations goes out to Mary A., the winner of our $500 Mattress Insider Giveaway. Mary’s entry, #1,052, was the lucky random winner drawn from 1,431 entries. She’ll be putting her prize to good use in her new-to-her 2003 Travel Supreme.

We also want to extend a special thanks to Mattress Insider for providing such a generous prize. If you didn’t win this time, you can still get a 10% discount off your entire order by using the Coupon Code “RVGEEKS” when ordering from MattressInsider.com or over the phone: (888) 488-1468.

Thanks to everyone who entered, and best of luck in our next giveaway, which will be announced right here on Wednesday, March 29th. So if you’re reading this, and not already receiving e-mail notifications of our posts, be sure to subscribe today. The two valuable prizes we’ll be announcing are surely something every RVer would love to have. Stay tuned! wink


Save 10% Off Your Next RV Mattress
Use Coupon Code “RVGEEKS
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(Good on phone orders, too: 888-488-1468)


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Comments 21

  1. Great videos on the Xantrex products. One feature I’m very interested in is the ability to start my generator from anywhere in the world. Could you give a little more detail as to how you were able to accomplish this? My fear is the system would work when I’m on the same LAN, but not externally from across the internet. What is your internet source to accomplish this?
    Thanks,
    Douglas

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      Hi Douglas! Glad you liked the videos! There are a lot of different ways to accomplish what you want… more than we could go into here. But we can certainly give you some more insight into how we accomplished it. First… we don’t use it remotely that often. Typically, if we’re away from the RV for any length of time, it tends to be for a long time (a month or more), so we empty/defrost the fridge and shut everything down… and, thus, don’t NEED to remote in to monitor/control anything. Our solar panels keep our batteries topped up (since there’s no drain on them), so we don’t have anything to worry about.

      But if we WANT to remote in, it’s accomplished with a combination of the following:

      • Conext Combox: this connects via Ethernet cables to both the Xantrex System Control Panel (so it can read/control items on the Xanbus network) and to our…
      • Wireless Router (Airport Extreme Base Station): this provides the connection from our iPad/iPhone to the ComBox over our local network. We have this configured to provide a static (internal) IP address to the Combox so that we can also create port-forwarding rules for remote access. Last piece of the puzzle on here is the…
      • Dynamic DNS Service: we use DynDNS (although there are plenty of other free options) to provide a static URL we can access that will connect to our Airport Extreme, regardless of its public IP address. Depending upon your router and your Dynamic DNS service, you may need to have another device (like a laptop) on your network that regularly pings the service to provide the IP address you’re accessible from. Otherwise, you would need to know the public IP address of your network in order to be able to access things remotely… which, of course, can change.

      With all of the above in place, it just comes down to the RV having access to the internet. If you’re parked in one spot for an extended time, that could be cable/DSL internet. Or you could use a WiFiRanger (or similar device) to connect to an available WiFi network… OR to connect to a phone/tablet/MiFi device providing connection through your cellular data plan. We’ve tested using all three options… and it works great for us, regardless of the connection type.

      Not sure of what your situation is… but if you just need to ensure that your batteries don’t go dead on you while you’re away from the RV, it might be best to just get the Auto Gen Start module. That can be configured to monitor your battery voltage and fire up whenever needed in order to top the batteries up. You can even configure Quiet Hours to ensure that it won’t do that overnight, if the RV is someplace that running the generator at 2AM would be a problem! ;)

      Hope this info helps! If you have any more specific questions about this, please go ahead and ask and we’ll do our best to answer (or point you to where you may be able to find/get an answer if we can’t).

      1. Thanks for the very detailed reply. Your setup sounds like what I have imagined.

        My plan was to go from a Verizon 6620 via usb to my Mikrotek AC lite, then to the Combox via ethernet. However, I’m seeing two potential problems.

        First is I don’t think I can access my 6620 or anything behind it via the internet.
        Apparently Verizon uses CGN or carrier grade NAT which would prevent this.
        Second, even if I could get into my network the Android Tablet app seems to only support IP addresses not domain names, which would prevent the use of DDNS. Does the IOS app allow of the use of domain names?

        So, I’m a bit stuck. But since you got it to work, it must be possible.

        Have you been able to get this to work, using a 4G LTE internet source via your WiFi ranger.

        As far as what I’m hoping to accomplish, I would like to be able to turn the generator on before heading home so the A/C will come on and cool the coach down.

        Thanks again for any help,
        Douglas

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          Author

          Hey Douglas,

          Replies below inline:

          First is I don’t think I can access my 6620 or anything behind it via the internet. Apparently Verizon uses CGN or carrier grade NAT which would prevent this.

          This is certainly a possibility. When we tested, we were using T-Mobile, which may not block the same ports. Chris & Cherie over at the RV Mobile Internet Research Center (you can save $5 on your first year of membership using code “MIAGEEKS” if you’re not already a member) would be the best resource for finding out about that kind of restriction on Verizon’s data plans… and they might know of a way around it. The only thing we could think of would be to see if Verizon would set you up with a static IP address (for a fee, of course), so that you could use that to access the network.

          Second, even if I could get into my network the Android Tablet app seems to only support IP addresses not domain names, which would prevent the use of DDNS. Does the IOS app allow of the use of domain names?

          When accessing our network remotely, we don’t use the app at all… we just use our DynDNS address (with port # appended) in the browser of whatever device we’re using remotely… phone, iPad, laptop, whatever. The iOS version of Schneider Electric’s app for the Combox (called Network Explorer) really just “sniffs” the network for the Combox and provides us a link to the web-based interface for accessing the ComBox which, when we’re on the local network, is just a local IP address with port number (like 192.168.1.10:8080). When we’re outside the local network, the app can’t detect the ComBox, so we just manually access it, since we already know the address.

          Have you been able to get this to work, using a 4G LTE internet source via your WiFi ranger.

          Yes, we have. Again, it was with T-Mobile, so that may be a factor. And if we recall correctly, we were using our iPhone as the cellular modem, connected via USB cable to the WiFiRanger. Then we had to move the ComBox’s ethernet cable over to the WiFiRanger (from the Airport Extreme) and configure the WiFiRanger to do the port forwarding, etc. We would assume your Microtik AC Lite would provide similar (if not more robust) capabilities to configure this than the WiFiRanger does, but we’re not sure. There were probably a couple of other “tweaks” we had to make to get it to work… but can’t remember all of the details… it’s been a while (we just wanted to see IF it was possible).

          Plus… you may also have to access the Admin panel for the JetPack and configure port forwarding THERE… otherwise, it could block things. Again, Chris & Cherie may be the best resources for answers on this, as they’re the mobile connectivity gurus! ;)

          You could test some of it out by setting up a laptop as a local web server… configure everything up to port-forward to the laptop, etc… and then see if you can access the web page using your phone over its cellular network. That would at least let you test all of the basic network configurations out before going ahead with getting the ComBox, only to find out it won’t work the way you want!

          Oh… and one other thing that may be important/helpful: you can configure the ComBox to be accessible on whatever port you want (accessed through the Combox Setup… under “Web”)… so if you can get a local web server running on your laptop to be accessible over your Verizon Jetpack, etc, you can set the ComBox to use Port 80 (typical web/http port) so it should work, too.

          Hope this helps!

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          Author

          One other thought: you could use a service like TeamViewer (we just tested it through our T-Mobile internet… over our iPhone 6S+… in Canada) or LogMeIn to remotely connect to an extra laptop setup in the RV. Since TeamViewer/LogMeIn operate over standard IP ports (and they handle all of the network/port traversal), it makes it very easy. Leave the extra laptop computer turned on, connected to the local WiFi in the RV. When you’re leaving work, use the TeamViewer/LogMeIn client to remote in to the laptop in the RV and access the ComBox using the browser on the laptop (at its LOCAL address on the RV’s network) and start the genny that way. Requires having an extra computer you can leave behind in the RV… but doesn’t require Dynamic DNS or worrying about port forwarding, etc with the MiFi, Microtik or anything. Both TeamViewer and LogMeIn offer free plans for personal use.

          Might actually be the easiest solution.

          1. Thanks for all the help. I just successfully used TeamViewer to log into my computer in the coach, which is connect to my MiFi, from my tablet which is on 4G. So it works.

            Thank you very much for the idea!
            Douglas

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            Author

            Excellent! Glad it worked! (it’s much easier than manually setting up static IP addresses, Dynamic DNS, port forwarding, etc… isn’t it?!?!)

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      LOL! We’re just playing catchup with Chris & Cherie’s wicked-cool Victron setup… and your “beastly” solar/lithium!! :) But we have to admit… the ComBox IS pretty geeky-cool! Just the other day Peter asked me whether or not the quiet hours were set on the Auto Gen Start. Without moving from the couch, I replied “Yup!” in about 10 seconds thanks to having the iPad in hand. LOL! Being totally lazy AND getting instant gratification? Win-Win!

      Glad to see you enjoying the Keys! Dry Tortugas looked really cool… haven’t made it out there ourselves (yet), but now it’s on the list again!

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  2. You guys are the best! I am sometimes called the gadget man but that system is great! I currently have an older version RS2000 with AGS and the SCP and it is still working! I know now what to upgrade to when it does finally fail.

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      Aw, thanks, Ralph! Glad we could help light the way for any future upgrade! We know how it goes when you’ve got a perfectly functional system, but have your eye on something new. We get antsy and want the “new” as early as possible. LOL! Thank goodness for Craigslist! Great way to sell functional equipment to help offset the cost of the new. Or at least that’s how WE justify it. ;)

  3. I have watched you make many upgrades to your motorhome, I would think you are planning to keep the motorhome until the axles fall off.

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  4. Yesterday there was an open house at an RV Resort in Coachella CA and several new Class A coaches were available for viewing. One of the coolest things was the electronic systems control panel in the new Prevost coaches. For example: the air conditioning page showed the coach information in sections (like on big airlines). The window shade page let you operate the shades individually or all at once. Fun.

    Your Xantrex ComBox looks like it has the same information as one of the electric pages on the electric system. Although I’m not sure about the remote monitoring and gen starting on the Prevost. If I had seen this video two days ago I would have asked.

    Thanks for this update. Once again you have given us something to think about.

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  5. You guys are amazing! I get the gist of what you’re doing but this one way over my head. I’m still trying to figure out how to get good Wi-Fi and cellular signal-LOL!

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