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My DIY Portable PowerBox

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#1 SuperJustin

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 03:19 PM

Hey guys I wanted to share my latest mini project here. I began looking for a portable power source for my widefield imaging rig a few weeks ago and was a bit disappointed not to find very many options out there for us. So I decided to try my hand at putting something together and this is what I got prototype number 1!

 

My considerations were that my rig pulls anywhere from 2Ah to 4Ah at 12V.. talking mount dew heaters camera cooler/hub and a mini pc... I wanted enough power for at least 10 hours operating time. I didn't want to spend more than $300 including any tools I required.

 

So here is my solution weighing in at 15lbs, 12V 48Ah LiFePO4 battery box!

 

IMG_7474.jpg

IMG_7475.jpg

 

It's been suggested to fuse between each battery which seems like a good idea. I also used a switch that works with 12V in this box but the LED only lights with AC so that one was kind of a big oversight on my part. To me it looks great but this is my first project like this.

 

Very interested to hear others thoughts about this.. Is it missing anything? What would you add or do differently to yours? Is there a market for something like this? Unfortunately I can't make any more yet. I'm waiting to hear from the vendor about battery stock because the deal on them is what made this possible with my cost considerations.

 

IMG_7476.jpg

IMG_7478.jpg

 

Let me know your thoughts. Thanks!

 


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#2 endlessky

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 03:40 PM

That's a very nice project and it came out really well!

 

I have been wanting to make something like this for my rig as well, but I have zero knowledge about wiring, electric components, batteries and these sort of things.

 

Right now my current rig consists in:

 

-mount, NEQ6 Pro

-Raspberry Pi 4, 4GB

-DSLR camera, Nikon D5300, with dummy battery

 

I plan on adding soon a guide-camera (ZWO ASI 224MC).

 

Would your power-supply be good enough for all of the above?

 

Could you share the part lists/components/batteries so I can have an idea on what to look for? I am based in Italy, so I'll have to look for equivalents here.

 

Thanks!



#3 Simcal

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 03:48 PM

Looks great! Very neat professional wiring, nice orderly layout, good terminations.. looks very professional and high quality.

 

Hard to think of any additions that are really needed, but perhaps a temperature/alarm in case the LiPo's overheat. Maybe a 120v->12v charging circuit and female IEC C14 plug built in? I'm grasping at straws here.. lol.

 

I'm thinking of making a wheeled battery box/ equipment box eventually.  48v for my Bisque.

 

edit/ps: checkout Powerlet for doodads.


Edited by Simcal, 03 August 2020 - 03:51 PM.

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#4 SuperJustin

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 04:04 PM

That's a very nice project and it came out really well!

 

I have been wanting to make something like this for my rig as well, but I have zero knowledge about wiring, electric components, batteries and these sort of things.

 

Right now my current rig consists in:

 

-mount, NEQ6 Pro

-Raspberry Pi 4, 4GB

-DSLR camera, Nikon D5300, with dummy battery

 

I plan on adding soon a guide-camera (ZWO ASI 224MC).

 

Would your power-supply be good enough for all of the above?

 

Could you share the part lists/components/batteries so I can have an idea on what to look for? I am based in Italy, so I'll have to look for equivalents here.

 

Thanks!

Thank you! Yes definitely, in my setup I have a pocket powerbox mounted on the rig so I just use a single anderson powerpole port on the box to power everything. I do have a list hopefully you can make some sense of it lol.. I was trying to calculate the cost per box at some point. I have about two weeks experience searching google so it's a very doable project I think for most people!

Capture.JPG

IMG_7408.jpg

IMG_7231.jpg


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#5 SuperJustin

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 04:16 PM

Looks great! Very neat professional wiring, nice orderly layout, good terminations.. looks very professional and high quality.

 

Hard to think of any additions that are really needed, but perhaps a temperature/alarm in case the LiPo's overheat. Maybe a 120v->12v charging circuit and female IEC C14 plug built in? I'm grasping at straws here.. lol.

 

I'm thinking of making a wheeled battery box/ equipment box eventually.  48v for my Bisque.

 

edit/ps: checkout Powerlet for doodads.

Thanks I appreciate that! Temp alarm would be a great idea.. I have the temp sensor in there would be cool to get some kind of useful function from it other than toggling the LCD when you remember to think about it. Right now I'm using this for charging right from the lid.

 

IMG_7481.jpg

 

The anderson powerpole ports bypass the switch that way they are always on! An IEC C14 plug could be more convenient for people that don't care to fashion their own charging cable. Also eliminates the possibility of someone potentially using the wrong kind of charger. Interesting ideas thanks for sharing!


Edited by SuperJustin, 03 August 2020 - 04:17 PM.

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#6 Phil Sherman

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 04:39 PM

I've always been leary of using fuses in a field use power box. The problem is that if a fuse blows you usually can never find the spares. There are alternatives. Panel mount circuit breakers with a pop out reset button work well. A self resetting automotive circuit breaker works but, if you need to know that it's open, you'll need to place an LED with series resistor across its terminals. When the breaker opens, the LED will illuminate. There are also electronic circuit breakers. These look like a ceramic disc capicator and present a high resistance when too much current is pulled through them. These also need an LED indicator.



#7 SuperJustin

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 04:52 PM

I've always been leary of using fuses in a field use power box. The problem is that if a fuse blows you usually can never find the spares. There are alternatives. Panel mount circuit breakers with a pop out reset button work well. A self resetting automotive circuit breaker works but, if you need to know that it's open, you'll need to place an LED with series resistor across its terminals. When the breaker opens, the LED will illuminate. There are also electronic circuit breakers. These look like a ceramic disc capicator and present a high resistance when too much current is pulled through them. These also need an LED indicator.

That’s a good point I haven’t considered. I just assumed a single 15amp fuse would be sufficient knowing I would never draw more than 4amps. I’m having a hard time picturing what your describing so bare with me.. basically an LED light for each fuse to indicate if it’s open? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just flip the switch on the lid and see if the lcd screen comes on or usb charger led? Where do you see the ceramic disk capacitors at that need LED indicators? Thanks for the suggestions!



#8 3snows

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 05:36 PM

I do have a list hopefully you can make some sense of it lol..

Could you provide a link to the batteries you've used?

 

Thanks



#9 SuperJustin

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Posted 03 August 2020 - 05:48 PM

Looks like they are out of stock now hopefully they will get back to me maybe I shouldn’t have shared the link on FB yesterday lol
 

3F0239A5-7B6A-4A99-BFE0-0AE7C73E8D7C.jpeg


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#10 SuperJustin

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Posted 07 August 2020 - 10:02 PM

So I just wanted to update this post with another add to this project which I think is an important consideration. I went to power my rig and the mini pc was acting abnormal power cycling a few times. I wanted to really check things out and make sure all was well. When the battery is full at roughly 13.8V this provides too much voltage! So I'm working on a buck converter solution to ensure I'm not going over about 0.6V for a 12V device or 5% tolerance.

 

Again, I think this is a pretty important consideration so wanted to share here for anyone who tries making their own. I'll update with pics some time next week when ever I finish!


Edited by SuperJustin, 07 August 2020 - 10:03 PM.

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#11 calypsob

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Posted 07 August 2020 - 11:10 PM

Nice project. I saw those Miadys the other day and was very tempted to do a small setup.  Your box with 48ah is awesome 


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#12 17.5Dob

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Posted 07 August 2020 - 11:26 PM

I've always been leary of using fuses in a field use power box. The problem is that if a fuse blows you usually can never find the spares.
 

I have a 30 pack stashed in the glove box of my truck so I can't forget them....


Edited by 17.5Dob, 07 August 2020 - 11:27 PM.

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#13 endlessky

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Posted 08 August 2020 - 03:16 AM

Thank you! Yes definitely, in my setup I have a pocket powerbox mounted on the rig so I just use a single anderson powerpole port on the box to power everything. I do have a list hopefully you can make some sense of it lol.. I was trying to calculate the cost per box at some point. I have about two weeks experience searching google so it's a very doable project I think for most people!

Forgot to thank you about the list!

I bookmarked this thread for later use. Thanks again!


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#14 Phil Sherman

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Posted 08 August 2020 - 03:39 PM

I've always been leary of using fuses in a field use power box. The problem is that if a fuse blows you usually can never find the spares. There are alternatives. Panel mount circuit breakers with a pop out reset button work well. A self resetting automotive circuit breaker works but, if you need to know that it's open, you'll need to place an LED with series resistor across its terminals. When the breaker opens, the LED will illuminate. There are also electronic circuit breakers. These look like a ceramic disc capicator and present a high resistance when too much current is pulled through them. These also need an LED indicator.

 

 

That’s a good point I haven’t considered. I just assumed a single 15amp fuse would be sufficient knowing I would never draw more than 4amps. I’m having a hard time picturing what your describing so bare with me.. basically an LED light for each fuse to indicate if it’s open? Wouldn’t it be simpler to just flip the switch on the lid and see if the lcd screen comes on or usb charger led? Where do you see the ceramic disk capacitors at that need LED indicators? Thanks for the suggestions!

If your box has a single fuse and you have a mechanism that will show that the fuse is blown that that's all you need. If you have individual fused circuits, you might want indicators that a particular fuse is blown. A current limited (by a resistor) LED across the fuse makes a simple indicator.

 

Do an Amazon search for "resettable fuse radial lead" and you'll find the ones that look like ceramic disk capacitors. They are available in different current ratings and are inexpensive. When too much current flows through them, the solid interior becomes a liquid (contained in the case) that has high resistance. Remove the current draw and the liquid solidifies becoming a good conductor again.


Edited by Phil Sherman, 08 August 2020 - 03:41 PM.

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#15 SuperJustin

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 08:02 PM

Hey guys just wanted to provide a quick update. Waiting for a few more parts but I got all kinds of LEDs and switches coming my way. I'm going to add a buck/boost converter as well as a 150w inverter! Still working on the face plate design to mount everything cleanly. Hopefully in another week or so I'll have everything completed!

 

Capture123.JPG


Edited by SuperJustin, 14 August 2020 - 08:03 PM.

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#16 TXDigiSLR

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 10:16 PM

So I just wanted to update this post with another add to this project which I think is an important consideration. I went to power my rig and the mini pc was acting abnormal power cycling a few times. I wanted to really check things out and make sure all was well. When the battery is full at roughly 13.8V this provides too much voltage! So I'm working on a buck converter solution to ensure I'm not going over about 0.6V for a 12V device or 5% tolerance.

 

Again, I think this is a pretty important consideration so wanted to share here for anyone who tries making their own. I'll update with pics some time next week when ever I finish!

 

I had the same problem with my Mini PC when I went with a beefier DC Power Supply that provides 13.8 V (30 amps).   I got one of these Next Day from Amazon Prime and it works like a charm!

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1


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#17 SuperJustin

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Posted 14 August 2020 - 10:22 PM

I had the same problem with my Mini PC when I went with a beefier DC Power Supply that provides 13.8 V (30 amps).   I got one of these Next Day from Amazon Prime and it works like a charm!

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Thanks for sharing that! I went with this one but I’m not happy with it since it can’t handle over 5amps.. so I’ll probably just return. 5amps should be enough but I’d prefer something that can handle at least 10amps. My only concern when I looked at the one you linked was, would I need to adjust it as the battery died? Figured the screws would be a pain in the night time!

 

https://www.amazon.c...ob_b_asin_image



#18 TXDigiSLR

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Posted 15 August 2020 - 12:46 AM

Thanks for sharing that! I went with this one but I’m not happy with it since it can’t handle over 5amps.. so I’ll probably just return. 5amps should be enough but I’d prefer something that can handle at least 10amps. My only concern when I looked at the one you linked was, would I need to adjust it as the battery died? Figured the screws would be a pain in the night time!

 

https://www.amazon.c...ob_b_asin_image

I don't think you'll need to adjust anything.   I did a quick test with mine.   I connected it to the 13.8 Volt power supply, set the output to 12.0 Volts, then turned it off and reconnected it to the smaller 12 Volt Power supply.  The input showed 12.3 Volts, but the output was still exactly at 12.0



#19 jdupton

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Posted 15 August 2020 - 09:06 AM

TXDigiSLR,

 

I don't think you'll need to adjust anything.   I did a quick test with mine.   I connected it to the 13.8 Volt power supply, set the output to 12.0 Volts, then turned it off and reconnected it to the smaller 12 Volt Power supply.  The input showed 12.3 Volts, but the output was still exactly at 12.0

   That is surprising. The unit you had linked shows a spec of 0.8 volt drop-out voltage. I might have expected that a battery input voltage of 12.3 v would only allow the unit to regulate at 11.5 volts. Perhaps the load you tested enough wasn't enough to put a strain on the regulator. Under no-load conditions, it can behave differently compared to supplying a full load. Voltage drop-out specifications vary between buck converter designs. It often ranges from 0.25 volts to as much as 2.0 volts.

 

   There are some synchronous buck-boost regulators available for seamless regulation. I use two in my own DIY battery box. Synchronous buck-boost regulators have zero drop-out voltage specs and can seamlessly take a battery input going from 13 volts to 11.0 volts as it discharges and still always output 12.0 volts (or whatever you set it to) under full load.

 

 

John


Edited by jdupton, 15 August 2020 - 09:09 AM.

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#20 james7ca

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Posted 15 August 2020 - 09:29 AM

I think those inexpensive 16AH LiFePO4 batteries (Miady brand) disappeared from Amazon a few weeks ago (sold out or maybe no longer available).

 

There was an earlier thread about those same batteries (__HERE__) and one of the comments was that you should NOT try to charge LiFePO4 batteries in parallel without some additional circuitry. You may want to review that entire thread, but here is the post warning about using LiFePO4 batteries in parallel (and there are several follow up posts):

 

   https://www.cloudyni.../#entry10299024


Edited by james7ca, 15 August 2020 - 09:32 AM.


#21 SuperJustin

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Posted 15 August 2020 - 12:37 PM

TXDigiSLR,

 

   That is surprising. The unit you had linked shows a spec of 0.8 volt drop-out voltage. I might have expected that a battery input voltage of 12.3 v would only allow the unit to regulate at 11.5 volts. Perhaps the load you tested enough wasn't enough to put a strain on the regulator. Under no-load conditions, it can behave differently compared to supplying a full load. Voltage drop-out specifications vary between buck converter designs. It often ranges from 0.25 volts to as much as 2.0 volts. My DIY Portable PowerBox - Beginning and Intermediate Imaging - Cloudy Nights

 

   There are some synchronous buck-boost regulators available for seamless regulation. I use two in my own DIY battery box. Synchronous buck-boost regulators have zero drop-out voltage specs and can seamlessly take a battery input going from 13 volts to 11.0 volts as it discharges and still always output 12.0 volts (or whatever you set it to) under full load.

 

 

John

I was thinking the same! I noticed most buck converters on amazon need an input voltage of 1.1x the output! I don’t think I would ever run my battery below 12v so those are basically useless in my situation. Trying to lower a measly 1V is turning out more of a challenge than I expected! Seems like it would almost be easier to use one of the batteries in series. Lots of options for stepping 24V down to 12V. I’d do it if I had the space to add an extra battery but I like the box size and being around 48Ah. I’ll have to check out the synchronous buck boost regulators. I thought that’s what I picked up but it’s only rated for 5amps max. I’ve found lots of amazon sellers call everything a buck/boost converter despite actually just being a buck converter needing the 1.1V factor. Certainly makes it more tricky lol. Thanks for sharing!


Edited by SuperJustin, 15 August 2020 - 01:57 PM.


#22 SuperJustin

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Posted 15 August 2020 - 01:01 PM

I think those inexpensive 16AH LiFePO4 batteries (Miady brand) disappeared from Amazon a few weeks ago (sold out or maybe no longer available).

 

There was an earlier thread about those same batteries (__HERE__) and one of the comments was that you should NOT try to charge LiFePO4 batteries in parallel without some additional circuitry. You may want to review that entire thread, but here is the post warning about using LiFePO4 batteries in parallel (and there are several follow up posts):

 

   https://www.cloudyni.../#entry10299024

Yea the price is insanely low comparing others. They are rated for a little over 200wh per battery! I exchanged a few emails with the amazon vender and they said they would have more in stock within a month or so. Based on the reviews I was under the impression they must of been old stock. I ordered four in total. Two were dead on arrival (almost 0V). One refused to charge and was refunded/replaced. The other was able to charge. The other two batteries were charged but still pretty under where they should be safely. In the end I decided the batteries probably have been damaged by being stored with such low voltage. I just told myself for $45 rated at 2000+ cycles.. maybe I end up with only 1200 cycles??? Which is still about four times as long as a lead acid battery would last around the same price point. It will be interesting to see if when the batteries are back in stock they are still priced around $45.

 

As far as the parallel deal.. I’m no expert so some of the reading was beyond me! My main takes from the thread was it seems like it’s relatively safe as long as you ensure the batteries are within 0.1V of each other which isn’t very hard to do. I thought I remembered seeing reviews on amazon for people building large battery banks for boats and RVs one was using 8 in parallel. So for me just using three seemed pretty straight forward. I’ll definitely check out your post/build and keep looking into the LiFePO4 issue of recharging not an option in parallel with out some kind of external balancer. I thought the batteries having their own internal BMS would be sufficient but it makes sense they would be useless in helping balance the whole system just their own cells. I wonder also if people that have had issues are coming off a single battery’s terminals instead of splitting the load through the batteries in parallel by using pos/neg of first and last batteries in parallel. Thanks for sharing lots more reading to do


Edited by SuperJustin, 15 August 2020 - 01:06 PM.


#23 SuperJustin

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Posted 17 August 2020 - 05:36 PM

TXDigiSLR,

 

   That is surprising. The unit you had linked shows a spec of 0.8 volt drop-out voltage. I might have expected that a battery input voltage of 12.3 v would only allow the unit to regulate at 11.5 volts. Perhaps the load you tested enough wasn't enough to put a strain on the regulator. Under no-load conditions, it can behave differently compared to supplying a full load. Voltage drop-out specifications vary between buck converter designs. It often ranges from 0.25 volts to as much as 2.0 volts.

 

   There are some synchronous buck-boost regulators available for seamless regulation. I use two in my own DIY battery box. Synchronous buck-boost regulators have zero drop-out voltage specs and can seamlessly take a battery input going from 13 volts to 11.0 volts as it discharges and still always output 12.0 volts (or whatever you set it to) under full load.

 

 

John

Does this seem better suited you think?

 

https://www.amazon.c...0?ie=UTF8&psc=1



#24 jdupton

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Posted 17 August 2020 - 05:46 PM

Justin,

 

   The unit you linked does not mention a drop-out voltage specification. If you are willing to accept a higher priced unit, the following one is very similar to what I used. Anything you can find that is based on the LTC3780 controller will give the zero drop-out seamless operation.

 

https://www.amazon.com/JacobsParts-Synchronous-Converter-Step-Down-Efficiency/dp/B078KQ63HZ

 

   You can search for the controller number on Amazon and get other similar products. There are other similar seamless controllers available also. I only have experience with the LTC3780 based products.

 

 

John


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#25 SuperJustin

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Posted 17 August 2020 - 06:10 PM

Justin,

 

   The unit you linked does not mention a drop-out voltage specification. If you are willing to accept a higher priced unit, the following one is very similar to what I used. Anything you can find that is based on the LTC3780 controller will give the zero drop-out seamless operation.

 

https://www.amazon.com/JacobsParts-Synchronous-Converter-Step-Down-Efficiency/dp/B078KQ63HZ

 

   You can search for the controller number on Amazon and get other similar products. There are other similar seamless controllers available also. I only have experience with the LTC3780 based products.

 

 

John

Awesome thank you for the link and explanation. Your box definitely gave me some ideas. I’m going to put one of the mini fuse box in as well! What about the fan on your units how did you go about that? Wondering how hot these actually get and if I need a cooling solution for something like the board you linked. I have an inverter lined up as plan B but I’d like to figure out a way to get a consistent 12.5v for my pocket powerbox! The one I linked previously hasn’t even got here yet and I’m already ready to return lol..




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