Instructables

A Good Use for an Old Phone Charger

Picture of A Good Use for an Old Phone Charger
Indoor/outdoor thermometers are handy, but they consume batteries. This is especially true of the outdoor sender unit, which is usually powered by AAA batteries. I decided to power the outdoor transmitter with an old phone charger, but I will need to drop the voltage about two volts to match the requirements of the transmitter. This Instructable is really about altering the voltage output of an old 5 volt switch mode phone charger to fit special power needs you might have.

When I got a smart phone about eleven months ago, I thought the weather app. would be all I ever need to tell me the temperature. But, during this project I happened to compare the reading from the outdoor transmitter at our house and the reading on my phone. The phone told me it was about seven degrees colder than the reading at our house. The transmitter was mounted where sunshine and heat from the house are not factors. If I were going for a long bicycle ride in certain types of weather, I would want to know about a seven degree difference.

I powered up the transmitter for this thermometer with some partially used AAA batteries. Notice the battery with a diagonal line through it on the upper half of the display. This is a weak battery symbol. 

Materials
  • Switch mode phone charger with a 5 volt, 0.5 to 1.0 amp. output
  • #24 speaker wire
  • 1N4001 diodes
  • Brass sheet
  • Electrical tape
  • Solder
  • Dowel rod
  • Staples for doorbell wire
  • Mounting screw
Tools
  • Multi-meter
  • Soldering iron
  • Heat sink
  • Side cutter pliers
  • Knife or wire stripper
  • Wood saw
  • Precision Phillips screwdrivers
  • Toothpick
  • Jumper wires with alligator clips
  • Hammer, etc. for mounting wire and transmitter
 
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carlos66ba9 months ago
Gotta love these Harbor Freight multimeters!
Phil B (author)  carlos66ba9 months ago
Yes. I never expected I would.

You must have hit something a couple of extra times because the site was not responding. I see three copies of your comment. You could remove two of them, if you wish, unless you posted extra times for emphasis. Thanks.
carlos66ba Phil B8 months ago
Sorry! Sometimes the instructables android app misbehaves. I have removed the extra ones. I do like these, but not to the point of writing 3 times the same, LOL!
Phil B (author)  carlos66ba8 months ago
I figured it had to be a software abnormality. Thanks for getting back and fixing it.
rimar20009 months ago
Good instructable, Phil. I think in all homes in the world there are MANY disused phone chargers, of many different types. I usually write on them with liquid paper their voltage and amperage to avoid having to walk with a magnifier glass everytime i need to try a little motor, a lamp or something so.
Phil B (author)  rimar20009 months ago
I hope this is helpful for people who have many old chargers, do not want to put them into the garbage because they seem too valuable to discard, but do not know what to do with them, either. All of the phone chargers I have seen are 5 volts. Some other chargers or power adapters are 6 or 9 or 12 volts, maybe even other voltages. I always need a power adapter with an output voltage different from what I have available. I was looking for a way to change the output voltage of the switch mode power supplies. I expect others can use this too, especially since I could not make a variable voltage regulator chip work with a switch mode power supply. Thank you for looking and for commenting.
rimar2000 Phil B9 months ago
Here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FC82nYJms0I there is a video (Sorry, spoken in Spanish but you can get the idea seeing the images) of a makeshift –and dangerous– rheostat water-based.

Maybe it could solve a hurry situation.
Phil B (author)  rimar20009 months ago
Thank you for the link, Osvaldo. I understood what the man in the video did. I would have wanted to wear rubber coated gloves to do what he was doing. Here is a similar video. I would not want to do this, either.
rimar2000 Phil B9 months ago
It is not as dangerous as seems, Phil. During many years (30+) I used at work a cup water heater made with two battery carbons or two stainless steel strips connected directly to 220 V. Sometimes a coworker worried about my security, and to evidence the device I immersed my finger into the water, without get/feel any electricity. Even if the container is metallic, the current goes between electrodes only. The only caution that always I took was don't touch the wall or the floor, so avoiding to make ground. You could do a try, you will not suffer any hurt. You could do a try, you will not suffer any hurt. I think that even cardiopatas are safe using such simple device. However, I would not give it to a child, it is only for adults and moderately careful persons. I covered/protected the electrodes with a "rulero", it allows the water circulate but avoids short-circuit.
Phil B (author)  rimar20009 months ago
Thank you for the education, Osvaldo. I very well understand the concept of not becoming part of the ground circuit. When I was young and still at home, my father did electrical work, mostly for the farmers who lived near us. Often they were getting a new, higher amperage service for the farm buildings. My job was to climb up the wooden pole in the yard, disconnect the old service, hang the new service, and make the connections. Sometimes I had to handle wires that were "hot" (not disconnected from the electrical transformer). I acted like a bird sitting on a wire. I touched only one wire at a time and did not touch anything that was grounded. Your heater for your cup of water would be a lot like welding under water. That appears to be frightening and dangerous, but must be quite safe, if done correctly.
Phil B (author)  rimar20009 months ago
Thank you for the education, Osvaldo. I very well understand the concept of not becoming part of the ground circuit. When I was young and still at home, my father did electrical work, mostly for the farmers who lived near us. Often they were getting a new, higher amperage service for the farm buildings. My job was to climb up the wooden pole in the yard, disconnect the old service, hang the new service, and make the connections. Sometimes I had to handle wires that were "hot" (not disconnected from the electrical transformer). I acted like a bird sitting on a wire. I touched only one wire at a time and did not touch anything that was grounded. Your heater for your cup of water would be a lot like welding under water. That appears to be frightening and dangerous, but must be quite safe, if done correctly.
xcompass9 months ago
Great post. Depending on what's inside the charge, you may be able to drop the voltage just by adding a resistor. (though you need to open the charger) I used a resistor to dropped the voltage from 5v to 1.8v on the LM317 based charger for my shaver. It works great and that's where I learnt how to use LM317.
Phil B (author)  xcompass9 months ago
Thanks. In my experience an LM317 works with a wire wound transformer, but not with a switch mode power supply like most phone chargers. As I mentioned, most resistors cannot handle the power that must be dissapated (Watts). That is why I used diodes to drop the voltage.
xcompass Phil B9 months ago
That's true. I did use a transformer type of power adapter before LM317 circuits :)
Phil B (author)  xcompass9 months ago
An LM317 is a great way to get the voltage you need from an old wire wound power supply. As you probably know, if you mount the LM317 on a piece of aluminum to dissipate heat, you can use an LM317 for up to 1.5 amps of current. More than that and you can use an LM350. It works the same, but can handle up to 3 amps. with a heat sink.
andrea biffi9 months ago
I was planning to do that, since I also have a large amount of chargers... your instructions will be very helpful!
Phil B (author)  andrea biffi9 months ago
Thank you for looking. Using diodes to drop the voltage opens more possibilities for using old switch mode chargers. As I mentioned, you can use a resistor to get the final voltage very close to exactly what you need for a project. Give some attention to the amps. The CD/MP3 disc player I mentioned needs 700 milliamps. If I used a charger with an output of 500 milliamps, the player would not work.
Yes, chargers have usually a lower current, 200, 350 or 500 mA. Power supplies for router, decoder, and other little devices in my experience are about 1000 or 2000 mA.