Saturday, December 22, 2018

A battery box customized to my needs

by Alisha - AC1EW

I have a 100w Yaesu Ft-991a radio that I use at home and portable for Parks on the Air ( and for travel. To use this radio, I bought a Bioenno 30ah battery. This is a wonderful Lithium Ion battery, and I found that I can operate for hours at 100w without recharching. But it becomes somewhat of a mess to deal with the battery, cables, solar connectors, etc.

I've seen a variety of power boxes at hamfests, online and at the nearby Ham Radio Outlet store. But, except for an expensive custom box from Bioenno, none of them would hold the battery I have, and they lacked the features I wanted. Here was my wish list

  • Sized right to hold my battery
  • Anderson Powerpole connectors for the radio (I love these connectors).
  • USB ports for charging Iphone and other devices.
  • Cigarette lighter adapter for my laptop or other devices.
  • Anderson Powerpole connector for the AC adapter to charge the battery.
  • Internal Solar Charge controller to connect a solar panel to charge the battery.
Those were the must-haves. I wasn't concerned about having a power inverter to generate AC power. It seemed like an unnecessary drain on the battery and I couldn't think of anything that requires it. Besides, our pickup has an inverter, as will the trailer we plan to buy in the spring.
The solution gave me all that, plus a nice extra as a place to hold my 30w folding flexible solar panel .

Looks larger than it is, but it's the size of a small toolbox
When shopping at the local Harbor Freight store for hard cases to hold my radio and gear, I saw their ammo boxes. One was obviously too small for my battery. The other one initially seemed to be a bit large, but turned out to be perfect. Here's the box I purchased for $10. As you can see if you click on the link, It has a compartment in the lid for small items, as well as a tray that fits inside. The expensive part of this project (beside the battery and charge controller) were the panel mount connectors from (the maker of the anderson powerpole connectors). But the quality is excellent. I didn't want to be cheap on this project since it serves as the power center for my portable radio activities. The following pictures show the exterior of the box
The switch on the side selects whether the ac charge adapter or a solar panel would be used to charge the battery. I didn't want both accidentally connected at the same time.

The power connections and a switch to cut of all power to devices. I marked the bottom pair of powerpole connectors (somewhat crudely) to indicate that the ac adapter is plugged in there.

The connector for a solar panel.
The view when opening the lid. Note that the solar panel fits perfectly just inside the lid. This wasn't planned, but a nice feature

I trimmed the tray that came with the box to have openings allowing for the size of the battery, and removing the handle that was in the way, while maintaining some utility for solar power connecting cables. The power meter allows you to see the amount of battery power that has been used (Amp and Watt Hours). With a Lithium Ion battery, the level can't be judged by the voltage output, since it remains constant until the battery is dead. As a result, an amp/watt meter is the best judge of remaining capacity.

Removing the lid, you see the battery on the right, solar charge controller on the left, and the wiring for the connectors. I used Anderson Powerpole connectors throughout the project. This gives a lot of flexibility to alter the configuration if needed, in the future.

This box may not be what you need, but the beauty of building your own is that it lets you configure it to meet your needs. This turned out to be a better solution for me than I expected. All my power needs (both discharging and charging) are included in the box, reducing the clutter of wires I need to have when operating portable. If I decide to change the configuration in the future, I can just buy a new $10 box, and set it up to meet my needs.

Now I can't wait until next summer to take this on our cross-country roadtrip.

Any questions can be directed to me at .

33, AC1EW - Alisha

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