Maintaining control when the internet or wifi is down

I was away the past weekend for 3 days when I realized this could be a huge issue.

Arrived at my destination and as usual, logged into VRM on my phone to check what the MultiPlus II and my CBI Astute Smart Controller for my geyser is doing, wanting to make some changes.

Nothing, nada zilch for the entire weekend and it drove me nuts. So if your internet is down (turns out in my case that the fibre line snapped where it enters the outside distribution box due to branches flaying in the wind) you’re stuck between a rock and a hard place.

Nothing one can do about that when not at home, but I’m struggling with something else too which is the purpose for this post asking advice.

It seems the Venus GX device cannot make use of a Colour Control for direct communication line input. Only the newer Cerbo I’m told. So I have an ethernet cable running from the Multi which is in the garage to a router in the house. But when the internet is down, this is obviously useless.

Is there anyway that I could put this ethernet cable to better use for direct comms with the inverter? Can it be plugged directly into an old laptop for example to accomplish this?

Another big reason why I’m exploring this hard wire option, is because it seems sometimes the Multi just isn’t being picked up by a laptop when searching for it via wifi.

Jaco de Jong assisted me a year or so a go by setting up my laptop so that I have the option to talk directly with the Multi via what I presume is the Multi’s own wifi transmission, and this worked great for a while) But as said, yesterday I stood right next to the Multi with my laptop, and couldn’t locate it and this is happening more frequently.

Looking for some advice here please.

Also, does anyone know if the CBI Astute Smart Controller have an override function? The manual mentions nothing and there is only the power button, and a reset/reboot button on it. It is extremely frustrating to know that there is grid power available, but I cant warm my geyser because it can only be done through the app, which does not work if your wifi is down.

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My solution to this (many years ago) was a Raspberry Pi with a 3G/LTE/whatever connection. This also has OpenVPN installed and it patches into a small virtual server I already use for that purpose (to reach my parents’ computers). In the occasion that the main connection fails, I can then jump through my VPN into this Rpi, and once I’m there I can ssh to anywhere on my network.

SSH has a “socks proxy” feature that I can then use to access anything on my network with a browser.

So this is all kinda technical and relies on the fact that I was a Linux sysadmin in a previous career… so please don’t ask me the exact details :slight_smile:

I was just about to ask where do I start to set this up lol.

Ok, so even if I was able to get a Raspberry Pie thingy, this wont work for me as from what I recall, this needs assembling and programming on its own etc.

But your solution sounds ideal. It worries me that my inverter just disappear at times from networks.

It is not too bad. You start with a stock Raspbian install that you write to an SD-card. After that you can essentially follow any OpenVPN howto for any Debian distribution (Ubuntu, etc) and it will work just fine.

Would an easier solution not be a modem with 3G failover?

Apologies if you know this…

To see information about the victron system and make some changes to settings you can do it via the internet (VRM portal) but you can also do some of those same things without access to the internet by connecting to the Victron Remote Console (but possibly confusingly you may still use an “internet browser” to do this).

If the Multiplus is connected to the Venus GX and there is an ethernet cable running from the Venus GX into the house where the ethernet cable then plugs into a WiFi router you should still be able to access the Remote Console even when the internet is down. If the WiFi router still has power, and you have a computer (or even a smartphone) that is connected via wifi to that same router you should still be able to get to the Remote Console by opening up a web browser and in the address bar typing “venus.local” (if this does not work you may need to type in the IP address of the venus device).

You should get something that looks like this

While you are away from home the Venus GX will need access to the internet if you want to be able to see what is happening. As a backup for the fibre connection you can look at routers with 3G/LTE failover options (as mentioned by @calypso) or if you have a spare newish model smartphone (upgraded recently?) you can use the phone’s inbuilt WiFi Access Point feature as a second/backup access to the internet which will only be active if the ethernet cable connection part of the venus internet access does not work (you will obviously need a sim card with data provision and the phone will need to be close to the venus).

Yeah I’d go for this option. Or your router might have another WAN port for failover.

This reminds me that I have exactly such a solution in place, I must actually check if that SIM card still works, I haven’t used it in months.

I have a 3G USB modem plugged in to my wifi home router, if the fibre goes down it automatically goes over on the 3G, it’s a feature of the TP-Link router.

I have a Afrihost SIM card in it which runs on the MTN network, they give me 500 MB of data per month for R1 or it might even be R0, I can’t even remember.

My ASUS router has the same functionality through a USB port. So I think there might be many such routers available.

I got a Mikrotik Router and the 3g Model has the same fail over option. This does mean that you will need to service two internet contracts as data plans tend to be on a month to month.

In my case I use Rain and Telkom Mobile (No fiber where I live). Rain is quite cheap ( R250 pm) but you don’t have internet between 18h00 and 11h00. That is when I switch over to Telkom. All is done via Node red with the added advantage that should Rain fail during daytime Node red will switch the connection and so far it has been working well for the last two years .

Another Idea that I have toyed with is to have a GSM card on a Uno where by you can send SMS’s for basic control. That way you don’t need to have as “spare” contract just for internet contract.

This sounds like the ideal solution for when I’m home and the internet is down. I’m going to try this today. So I would be able to test this even with the internet up and running? I just do the following:

  1. Make sure the computer I’m using is connected via wifi to the same router that the Venus is connected to via ethernet;

  2. Open up a web browser and type venus.local or the Venus’s IP address

Oh yes and the screenshot you showed is what I get when my laptop connects directly to the Venus via its own wifi but as mentioned, this is sporadic as the Venus just disappears from time to time. The hotkey buttons looks different from what it looks like through the VRM portal.

Edit to add: Ok I cant get this to work. I tried both the venus.local and the IP address, but no luck. But I’m sure it something I’m doing wrong (like adding or omitting a forward slash or something where I should or shouldn’t)

Is there a specific way I should type this in the browser?

Would you mind posting a picture of what this looks like? I suppose this USB modem plugs into the router with a USB plug as the name suggests. Fairly sure my 2 Telkom D-Link routers does not have USB ports. Does one get modems that connects with the same plug as an ethernet cable?

Please explain to me the difference between a LAN port and a WAN port. I’m really dof wit these things.

And if I do have a WAN port available, would this be where one plugs in a modem for a failover as suggested?

WAN - Connects to the outside internet (IE your Fibre CPE device or modem)
LAN - Connects to local devices on your internal network (IE Your computer/TV)

So where my fibre comes into the house, this goes into a router’s WAN port. And everything that I wish to connect to this router goes to its LAN ports. Thanks a lot.

Ok I just stumbled onto something that solved my one issue.

I used the Victron Connect App that uses Bluetooth. There it picks up the Venus, my BMV and MPPT’s.

So when I click on the Venus, it gives me the option to select the VRM portal, as well as the Remote Console. When I select RC, it immediately shows me the screenshot above posted by Village Idiot.

Interesting to note, that it then also showed me a completely different IP address than the one used for wifi. When I typed this IP address into a browser, voila! Again I get to the remote console.

Now to explore the mobile modem failover options for when one is not at home.

I’m not home currently, but ja normal USB ports on the wifi router and the 3G modem looks like a typical flash drive, so plugs in directly via USB.

When I’m at home, I always use the local Venus interface. It is much more responsive. Your problem of having access to the system when you are away from home and your internet goes down will persist. That requires a different solution, but one that is unlikely to be worth the extra money.

If the Venus is connected via LAN it will have a different IP than when connected via Wifi. It is a different device connecting to the network.

I have never used vrn to change settings (it is a fantastic feature though), I always use the local ip and use a vpn to connect when outside the house. Locally you can use the wireless access point or Bluetooth.

Referring to my previous post above, I have come across a different issue.

As mentioned, I use an old laptop via wifi to the router which is connected to the Venus with ethernet for some direct communication with the inverter.

Every now and then that connection is just lost.

I have found now that when I connect to the Venus via Bluetooth Smartphone (where I first noticed the new IP address) that the Venus just changes these IP addresses as it sees fit.

Why is it doing this? It is now on it 3rd address in less than a week. Is this is setting somewhere I can switch off?