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Portable power and distribution on a budget.

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29 replies to this topic

#1 Waxman

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Posted 07 January 2024 - 03:29 PM

Everyone with an imaging setup wants to be able to get to a dark sky location and capture a night or two of stunning images, whether galaxies, nebula, clusters, or our own Milky Way. But no one wants to haul heavy power equipment or pay the outrageous prices for power banks and overpriced power distribution modules. Since I must save money everywhere I can and still get my fix of taking pictures of the night wonders of our universe, to date I have been limited to as far as my extension cord can reach from the nearest power source.

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#2 bglilly

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Posted 07 January 2024 - 06:00 PM

I recently did something similar, with this box. https://www.amazon.c...le?ie=UTF8&th=1 and a 100 whr lifepo4 battery. The waveform from the inverter is a pure sine wave at 60hz as I checked it with my oscilloscope. Good article by the way. 


Edited by bglilly, 07 January 2024 - 06:01 PM.

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#3 Waxman

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 10:10 AM

I recently did something similar, with this box. https://www.amazon.c...le?ie=UTF8&th=1 and a 100 whr lifepo4 battery. The waveform from the inverter is a pure sine wave at 60hz as I checked it with my oscilloscope. Good article by the way. 

Thanks.  Glad you liked it.  

 

That's one heck of a box you found there.  


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#4 HansD

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 12:06 PM

Are there any fuses in this?
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#5 Drew57

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 02:21 PM

Nice work.

 

No true astrophotography for me so far but I've built power distribution box and wire looms that can accommodate it. Went your path, what do I really need? Abandoned plans for super nice expensive multi-use 12V system. Never cared for lugging the heavy FLA out of the boat so got a 35 Ah AGM battery.

 

My little home built power box(fused) is being upgraded with stouter silicone jacketed wire in places and all modular with Anderson Powerpoles. Did get a Powerwerx meter/analyzer and lead that connects to 9V battery, measures down to zero and is modular to add when desired. Leading the effort was wanting more ampacity for dew heaters, etc. Put in buck converter to supply 5V to USB 3 hub, alas; my CEM 60 internal routing is USB 2...The 5mm x2.1mm connectors are rated for 5amp I believe.


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#6 Chris Westland

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 05:04 PM

This is what I do as well, but I started with a Minn Kota Trolling Motor box ($75 on Amazon) and a Costco marine battery.   The Minn Kota has a battery checker, circuit breakers, and a USB charger for my phone, as well as two cigarette lighter plugs.   Marine batteries have thick plates and take a deep discharge, or long periods without use.  I added a 24vdc buck boost converter (from Amazon) to power my 10micron mount, and power my Dell laptop with another 19vdc buck-boost converter. 

 

The only issue with marine batteries is they are heavy ... I suppose I could have purchased a Lithium Iron Phosphate Battery, but these are 5x the cost.


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#7 Clippy

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 06:28 PM

I have a Nexstar mount that would eat AA batteries. Instead, I bought a USB-C PD 12V cable and a USB-C powerbank for about $40 combined, and it works great!


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#8 pedxing

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 07:11 PM

+1 for the Minn Kota box Chris, but you left out the biggest feature - it has a handle on top!

 

I put an adjustable buck/boost converter set to 13v into my main circuit for voltage stability - when you use lead acid batteries, the voltage can vary pretty dramatically over the course of a session.

 

Also, I highly recommend putting at least one fuse into the circuit to prevent the wiring from catching on fire when you short it out.


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#9 Mister T.

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 07:45 PM

Congratulations!  Well Done!

 

I suspect that it was MY monstrosity that inspired you... 

 

 

gallery_87883_5389_113966.jpg

 

gallery_87883_5389_88302.jpg


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#10 Chris Westland

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 09:33 PM

+1 for the Minn Kota box Chris, but you left out the biggest feature - it has a handle on top!

 

I put an adjustable buck/boost converter set to 13v into my main circuit for voltage stability - when you use lead acid batteries, the voltage can vary pretty dramatically over the course of a session.

 

Also, I highly recommend putting at least one fuse into the circuit to prevent the wiring from catching on fire when you short it out.

Agree!   I have the 12v output plugged into a Pagasus Powerbox, which I think should regulate the power.  The 10 micron is power hungry, so I'm sure it needs the regulation from the buck-boost converter.

 

On the fuse, if the box has circuit breakers for the cigarette light plugs, do you still need a fuse?



#11 Mister T.

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 11:37 PM

In theory at least, if the box has breakers you don't need a fuse.

 

However, a fuse will react to severe overloads faster than a breaker will, thus

protecting the load from transient spikes (the main killer of digital circuitry). A

transient spike in this application however isn't a big concern.

 

One thing to be aware of tho...

 

Most cigarette lighter receptacles have fuses installed in their leads. HOWEVER...

the fuses used are usually for absurdly high currents for this. In the case of the

ones I used, they were fused at 20 amps, with automotive "blade" fuses. WAY

too high to protect your equipment.

 

I simply pulled them and replaced 'em with 3 amp fuses.

 

I kept my power tank simple; it's nothing more than a 12 volt, 24 AH wheelchair

battery. No inverters or other niceties; all I wanted to do was power an Orion

Atlas mount for a 6 to 8 hour session.

 

Since building it, I've come into a Questar. That means I need stable a 110 VAC @

60 Hz inverter to power the right ascension motor. I find that an old school Celestron

inverter does the job nicely.

 

In the unlikely case where I would power the Atlas and the Questar at the same time,

there was a chance of a failure of the inverter that would generate a spike transient.

To take care of that, to each outlet I installed an MOV (metal oxide varistor) which

clamps the maximum voltage from the outlet at 18 VDC.

 

Re. recharging the battery...  I lucked out and came into a heavy 12 VDC power supply

(it's original function is unknown) that has a lighter plug on the lead. I simply plug it

into one of the outlets, turn on the power switch, and let the good times roll. It can

bring up the battery in 4 to 6 hours.


Edited by Mister T., 09 January 2024 - 12:20 AM.

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#12 telesonic

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Posted 08 January 2024 - 11:57 PM

Nice job!

I need to get around to making one of these, so that I won't have to use my old car start jump box when I am remote, or away from line voltage.

My plan was about the same as what you built, but with a few differences.

The case / box was going to be an ammo can, and the inside guts- a 12v battery, wiring distribution box * fused (Power and negative ground.)

USB & 12V / solar panel / 110 wall charge usability.

Got most of the stuff (90%) to start building one, but I guess I just forgot about it, which happens.


Thanks for sharing your build, I will take some ideas from this... and get working' on my own very soon.

#13 Waxman

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Posted 09 January 2024 - 08:22 AM

Are there any fuses in this?

There are 4 fuses in this system.  Each hot feed to the toggle switches has a fuse, and each male plug has a fuse.


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#14 Chris Westland

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Posted 10 January 2024 - 12:13 PM

In theory at least, if the box has breakers you don't need a fuse.

 

However, a fuse will react to severe overloads faster than a breaker will, thus

protecting the load from transient spikes (the main killer of digital circuitry). A

transient spike in this application however isn't a big concern.

 

Good point.   Perhaps I'll add Fast-Blo fuses to the output plugs.


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#15 JollyRogerRum

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Posted 11 January 2024 - 10:57 AM

What would you charge to build one for me, vs buying an off the shelf unit?



#16 TerryD1

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Posted 12 January 2024 - 02:44 AM

I'm not an electrical engineer, so would something like this provide longer lasting power than this?

 

https://www.amazon.c...28e6d374b3&th=1

 

Just pricing out the individual parts on Amazon I couldn't build one of these power box setups for this price.


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#17 Chris Westland

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Posted 12 January 2024 - 09:22 AM

I'm not an electrical engineer, so would something like this provide longer lasting power than this?

 

https://www.amazon.c...28e6d374b3&th=1

 

Just pricing out the individual parts on Amazon I couldn't build one of these power box setups for this price.

 

 

It's a nice box and light, but only 268Whr vs. ~1200Whr for a typical PbSO4 battery, so your box has only ~20% of the capacity.  I go maybe 2-3 nights on a charge, and I like having the reserve power.



#18 TerryD1

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Posted 12 January 2024 - 01:13 PM

It's a nice box and light, but only 268Whr vs. ~1200Whr for a typical PbSO4 battery, so your box has only ~20% of the capacity.  I go maybe 2-3 nights on a charge, and I like having the reserve power.

Thanks Chris.  I just finished putting a second rig together and need to expand my power supply capabilities for travel to dark sights.  I have a larger Bluettii with 800 Wh which is fine for one setup but I don’t think it will keep up with two.


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#19 Chris Westland

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Posted 13 January 2024 - 08:52 PM

Thanks Chris.  I just finished putting a second rig together and need to expand my power supply capabilities for travel to dark sights.  I have a larger Bluettii with 800 Wh which is fine for one setup but I don’t think it will keep up with two.

You know, it's the typical tradeoff with equipment -- weight vs. performance  (keyboards too ... take it from a piano player).   Again, I like having the reserve, but it is a pain to lug a marine battery around (and I use the smallest I could find at Costco).



#20 Zednik

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Posted 14 January 2024 - 10:42 AM

 You did a great job on your project especially the power distribution box. You have given me a couple ideas for my portable power too!

I need an inverter for my older mounts and plan on modifying a two wheeled dolly so I can remove half of the upright height, giving me a lower height profile if needed.

I'm getting old quickly it seems, and I've been eyeing my heated motorcycle apparel sitting on the shelf. Gloves, socks, pants and vest. I could be out until the sun rises!

 


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#21 Mariner13

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 01:27 AM

Inspiring!!! Well done. Thanks for the ideas. Will go down that route soon enough. 

One thing though, the next time you do something like this, it's better to hide all the frying pans before you begin!! 


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#22 Drew57

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Posted 15 January 2024 - 04:00 PM

Made power distribution setup Version3 also done parts & wire on-hand where possible. Added socket for CEM60, new buck converter for 5v USB 3 hub. The new wires all silicone jacketed for cold flexibility, mains at 12awg very robust good ampacity but also durability on the ground. Dew heater controller supply 14awg replacing the stiff original lamp-cord ones, wanted more capacity than 5amp available internally routed on the CEM60 (which was cool). The mount wire looms have velcro wraps which allow the various wires to slip and conform a bit in the cold.

 

The connections are all modular with Anderson Powerpoles, a power analyzer can be added (with 9V battery power source it measures down to zero). If not using the analyzer the buck converter can be set to display battery voltage. In hindsight the polycase could have been deeper to better accommodate left-over marine fuse/ground block and switches. Main power connects to the back which has 12v 15amp outlet as well. I fused the circuit for Kendrick Digifire 8 dew heater controller at 10amp (15amp capacity). Here's a pic of my box full of spaghetti with some inserts showing connections.

 

PBver3.jpg

 

That upgrade provides connectivity for astrophotography; as I'm mostly visual that's what they call a paradox...'kinda afraid of adding a new expensive hobby but who knows. With a decent CCD and filter wheels could certainly get more use out of scopes whirring away remotely in my light-polluted back yard, but doubt I've much to add at my skill level to all the fantastic work done by CN photographers.


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#23 DallasEddie

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Posted 17 January 2024 - 01:40 PM

Ryobi 18-Volt 120-Watt Push Start Power Source with 12-Volt Outlet $50 some times on sale for $30
• Compatible with all RYOBI 18V batteries
• 120-Watt of continuous output
• Ideal for charging laptops, smart phones, smart watches, tablets, handheld gaming consoles and more
• Features: (1) 30-Watt type-C outlet, (2) 12-Watt USB-A outlets (Shared), (2) 18-Watt USB-A fast charging outlets (shared) and (1) 120-Watt 12-Volt DC power outlet
• Power 12-Volt coolers/refrigerators, inflators, food warmers and more
• Lightweight and compact design for use on the go
• LED task light
• Usb ports for plug in Red LEDs
Now
I have tons of 18v Batteries due to saws drills router I own.
and
You could buy up to 18V 12.0 Ah Lithium- Battery


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#24 flightlogic

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Posted 21 January 2024 - 01:46 PM

Very nice build ideas and designs...  well done.

BTW... you can't get kicked across the room by a deep cycle.  I bet your dad understood this.

Having said that, the low voltage is very safe... but the current has potential to create heat very quickly.

Notice how mechanics aren't wearing wedding rings while mechanicking...

Gold will heat instantly and leave a very nasty burn and tissue damage.

Astronomers messing with high current batteries (in the dark, no less) should be cognizant of jewelry that is conductive.  Gold beats just about anything....

Many meters for both current and voltage are available online.  Good to know what reserves are in a power box, to avoid spoiling an imaging session.

Cheers



#25 900SL

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Posted 26 January 2024 - 05:14 AM

Very nice build ideas and designs...  well done.

BTW... you can't get kicked across the room by a deep cycle.  I bet your dad understood this.

Having said that, the low voltage is very safe... but the current has potential to create heat very quickly.

Notice how mechanics aren't wearing wedding rings while mechanicking...

Gold will heat instantly and leave a very nasty burn and tissue damage.

Astronomers messing with high current batteries (in the dark, no less) should be cognizant of jewelry that is conductive.  Gold beats just about anything....

Many meters for both current and voltage are available online.  Good to know what reserves are in a power box, to avoid spoiling an imaging session.

Cheers

I found that out the hard way. Shorted a MC battery through my watch strap whilst working on a carb, arm over the top of the bike, saddle off. 

 

Couldn't figure out what the heck was going on at first, thought it was battery acid, then unclasped the watch bracelet. Left a perfect brand of blisters to match the strap! 


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