Saturday, November 28, 2015

How to take the worry out of Charging Batteries

Hey all,

Thought I would elaborate on the Charging system that was recommended by Larry Jacobs WA7ZBO.

We all use batteries of some type in our radio go-kits, I personally use a smattering of different AGM (Absorbent Glass Mat) Batteries. Mine come from old security, fire systems, and UPS systems that were changed out as regular maintenance. Now while used, they still have a lot of life in them if properly maintained. Here in lies my trouble, how do I charge these batteries so that I can squeeze the maximum amount of life from them. Larry gave me the answer and it is Genius.

So here it is:

You can use a Solar Charge Controller to charge your batteries. A Charge Controller does not care where it is getting current from as long as it falls within the window of voltage and current ( mine being 0-100VDC at 20A) you can use PV Panels, A power supply (Larry suggested a laptop power supply), Car power (usually around 14.2V), or even a hand crank or foot crank Generator.

Here is my Charge Controller. It handles the proper care and feeding of my AGM batteries.

This is one of the batteries that I have in the parallel array. Thanks to Roy W7ROY for the batteries.

This is the label on the power supply that I use to charge the array. I think I need a bigger one as this one gets really hot during a charge cycle. I think I need to upgrade to 90 Watt supply. I will have to watch the local salvage places. Note the voltage it 19V @ 3.42A, Still a little small for my system. 

The charger works like this, it first bulk charges the battery, then a phase that is called Boost, but is better explained as equalize, as it equalizes the different batteries in the array. Then it float charges the battery, also known as absorption. Finally the controller trickle charges the battery as needed. 

One of the features of this system is also that it will disconnect the batteries from the load if the battery voltage drops below 11.1V. This will prevent me from damaging the batteries from over-discharge. 

I have tested this system on a small scale in my hamshack and have found that the system works well.
I am excited to add this to my go-kit power module as now I don't have to worry if the batteries will be charged correctly. I can charge my battery module on the way to the deployment from the car voltage so it is topped off when I get there and I don't have to worry, I don't have to worry, I don't have to worry, I don't have to worry. Do you sense a reoccurring theme?

Here is a link to the controller that I have, it is a Tracer-2210RN Charge Controller Regulator.
Now I did not pay what they want for this. I got mine at a salvage place for about $25 in the box. They really had no clue what they had nor did they really care so more gain to me.

Well there you have it, a mind blowing little concept that will help you make your battery module a more worry free part of your go-kit. Remember worry is a poor use for your imagination.

de KG7RZX 73


Friday, November 27, 2015

Learned a lot from this Conferance

While I don't agree with aspects of ARES and RACES. I found the content from the presenters to be pretty pertinent. I took many ideas and insights from the conference.
I will say that it is really slow until about 45 minutes in. all you will miss is the roll call.
the two presenters were Jerry Wellman W7SAR and Larry Jacobs WA7ZBO 
both of these gentlemen had great ideas and I value them as great Elmer in their own respect.

Things that I found interesting were the concept of  a modular go kit, and a charging solution that takes the guessing out of maintaining batteries.

Some of the things I took away from their presentations were as follows:

  • Go Kits should be modular so that you can customize the gear to the deployment assignment.
  • Fancy radios are not going to be better then reliable radios.
  • You should have checklists for each module and each planned event that you plan on going to.
  • You should repack you modules after each event to keep them ready. Do it after the event so you don't forget.
  • Filter what is neat from what is needed.
  • Learn from inconvenience. Take notes
  • Eat a MRE or two. See if you like them, Find a couple that you do and use them for food on a deployment.
  • Pack water or a means to filter or treat water. 
  • Have tools as part of your go kit. Include spare parts like fuses.
  • Make sure your Anderson Power Pole connectors are oriented correctly (ie. facing the pole, tabs down the red is on the left.)
  • Mark your gear - enough said.
  • Be a volunteer professional.
  • Using a Solar Charge Controller to take the uncertainty out of charging batteries and making the charging sources various.
I plan on taking these things into consideration when I redesign my go kit. My version 1.0 kit is not nearly as comprehensive as these that I saw. 

I am currently in the midst of designing version 2.0 and I have found the value of Checklists,
and modularity to make my "go-kit" work for me. 

"The nice thing about not planing is that failure will come as a complete surprise."

Stay tuned for more on this.

de kg7rzx 73.

Friday, November 20, 2015

Technician's class coming up in Feburary

In February my friend and Elmer Mat Murdock (K2MJM) is teaching a two day course for new people interested in the hobby of Amateur radio.

If you or your friends have interest in becoming licensed, this is an opportunity to do so.

I will link to his sign up form in google docs here

Technician Amateur radio class.

The class is on the 19th and 20th of February, with a testing session scheduled for one week later. all are welcome.

Come be part of one of the worlds funnest hobbys.

de KG7RZX qrt.

Power Distribution Box

Ok, So last night I attended a meeting at the crossroads amateur radio club and Jerry Wellman gave his acclaimed presentation on go kits. During the presentation Jerry showed a power distribution block, that I have actually built from a kit I got from Mat Murdock (K2MJM).

I promised that I would post more information about the distribution block. So true to my word I'm posting a link to the PDF that describes the construction and also a link to the place to get the circuit boards made.

This would be a great club project and is easy to make if you have even half decent soldering skills.

Power pole distrobution block by Bill Conkling

Fair Circuits

If you want something a little more polished the Waverly Amateur Radio Society has a kit that looks pretty good. They have a Kit that they will sell you. The site was not forth coming with the price and be prepared to spend international freight .

Good Luck, and lets have fun in our hobby

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Modular equipment cases

New Project: Modular equipment cases

objective: create cases that hold the individual equipment that I would need for a given deployment.

Description: In the moment of deployment you will not have time to go running around looking for all of you equipment and supplies. The Goal here is to have the equipment built into cases that are Modular and can be mixed and matched based on the given deployment.

Examples: a case that holds the VHF Radio, one that holds the batteries, one that holds the Packet, Citizen Band, and scanner Etc. Including provisions for a grub box and Tent case, Antenna case, Etc.

First things first, the power.

I'm still designing the case but I know I want a drawer and a place with outputs for lights, and equipment. also inputs for charging from many sources.
This will likely be the largest of the cases so I think wheels would be good. Taking my queue from the entertainment industry I think cases with corners and angle beads, wheels and handles are a must.
I also intend on carpeting the exterior so it looks nice and is pretty rugged.

I'll post the pictures of the design when I get that finalized, then I can move on to the next step.

Till then de KG7RZX 73