This voltage monitor has been designed to remotely display battery voltage so that people monitor and maintain their batteries easily. It was designed for use on off-grid reneable energy systems (such as my solar PV system), but it would also be useful to anyone who has a lead-acid battery, such as caravans, boats and cars.
It is designed to plug in to a car 'cigar lighter' socket and display the voltage on a remote LED display. Here are the plans to make your own.

Step 1: Parts and Tools Required

Parts required
  • 3mm plywood sheet (around 1/3 sheet of A4)
  • Wood glue
  • 2 x M3 machine screws (around 12mm long)
  • 2 x M3 nuts
  • 4-digit LED display
    • I used this one from SunTekStore (but available at other places including eBay):
    • http://www.suntekstore.co.uk/product-14002344-036inch_4_digit_digital_panel_voltmeter_0-33v_red_led_voltmeter.html
  • On/off switch
    • I used this one from SunTekStore (but any switch would work):
    • http://www.suntekstore.co.uk/product-14001517-black_mini_size_spdt_slide_switch.html
  • 2m of twin (red/black) cable
  • 'Cigar ligher' type plug
Tools required
  • Access to a laser cutter - such as at your local hackspace
  • Soldering iron and solder
  • Side cutters or wire strippers
  • Posidrive screwdriver

Step 2: Cut the Enclosure

For this step you will need access to a laser cutter. I use the one at my local hackspace in Nottingham (http://nottinghack.org.uk/).
The .dxf file is attached here. It is also attached as a .pdf for viewing. You are cutting 5 pieces (rather than the 4 shown in the photo) which will all stack on top of each other to create the enclosure.
Please feel free to adapt this as you would like.
(Edit 15/11/12: New version of the .dxf files has been uploaded)

Step 3: Glue the Enclosure

The enclosure is made from a stack of laser cut pieces. The bottom three pieces are glued together and this holds the two M3 nuts in place. The top two pieces are held in place with the two M3 machine screws. This means you can open the enclosure again, for any reason.

Step 4: Solder the Display and Switch

The next step is to feed the cable through the small hole in the enclosure.
Also push the small slider switch into the smaller hole in the front of the enclosure.
Strip the cable back around 5mm. Remove the black cable on the LED display and solder the black wire (of the red/black cable) to the same point on the LED display.
The red wire of the LED display is the power supply and the green wire is the voltage monitoring wire - in this case they are the same thing, so we connect them together and wire them to the switch.
Wire the red cable of the red/black cable to the switch and solder.

Step 5: Fit in the LED Display

The wires and switch are soldered. We now need to use the last two laser cut pieces to close up the LED display unit.
Apply some hot melt glue to hold the display into place. Ensure not too much glue is used as it could stop the unit from closing correctly.
Use the M3 machine screws to clamp the unit closed.

Step 6: Solder the 12V Plug

Open the plug by removing the black screw and the front metal connector (this unscrews and then the metal disk pulls off)
Push the red/black cable through the cable grip. This is hard work as the hole is only just the right size. Use some long nose pliers to pull the cable through.
Put the red wire through the spring and solder on the connector.
Solder the black wire to one of the side connectors.
Screw together the plug and put back the metal disk and fuse and end connector.

Step 7: Plug in and Monitor Your Voltages

You are now finished - easy eh?

Now you can remotely monitor your battery voltage. Please have a look at these articles for more detail on how battery voltage relates to state of charge of your battery:
  • http://www.scubaengineer.com/documents/lead_acid_battery_charging_graphs.pdf
  • http://www.re-innovation.co.uk/web12/index.php/en/info-sheets/battery-worksheet
I also can supply the parts for this project (within the UK) in a kit available here, if anyone is interested:
  • http://www.re-innovation.co.uk/web12/index.php/en/products-2/battery-voltmeter-shop
<p>I was thinking of connecting one that looks like a battery with the light bars for my bluetooth audio. Would you know how I would connect this?</p><p><a href="http://www.dxsoul.com/product/battery-style-digital-tube-led-battery-level-display-module-for-arduino-avr-arm-pic-blue-901340914#.VUwWBpOg6xa" rel="nofollow">http://www.dxsoul.com/product/battery-style-digita...</a></p><p>four leads: CLK, DIO, VCC, GND. what goes where?</p>
U inspired me to build an voltige indicator on my rc car, thanks for shearing! :D
I really like this that you made!! <br> <br>I am very new to the solar power type things and wanted a voltage display to show what my little 12v battery was at in the process of charging or what was left on the actual battery... I like that you added the on/off switch. In this case when you turn the switch on it would display whatever source or power you have it connected to right? Then flick the switch OFF and it's not draining or using any power right? <br> <br>Just want to make sure I understand it first before doing it. <br> <br>Thanks again, <br>-Nigel
Hi Nigel,, <br>Thats exactly right - I added the switch so that it does not drain the battery (the system I had it added to was very small). There are three wires from the voltmeter that I bought: There are red and black wires which are for the power supply to the unit and there is also a green wire, which is the voltage sense wire. This can go to wahtever you are trying to measure. In the case of this insrtuctable I wire both the red and the green together so that the power supply and the voltage sense are the same thing, so you can just plug it in and read the voltage. <br>You could also use a push switch, rather than a slide switch. This would mean you never leave the display switched on. <br>Let me know how it goes, <br>Cheers, <br> <br>Matt
Nice &amp; easy to build :) <br>there may be other application's to it than the car battery(computer up's,electric vehicles , in inverter's etc. etc.)
sadly i can not get the 4 digit led display voltmeter near me :( ,will have to search around a bit
XxHDxX, unfortunately you have not mentioned your geographical location. But I am assuming that you are in United States. If that is the case, then you'd find the exact unit with AMAZON costing about $7 with free shipping. <br>Copy the below link into AMAZON search bar and you'd get it. Cheers. <br>0.36inch 4 Digit Digital Panel Voltmeter 0-33V Red LED Voltmeter
Sreeci i appriciate your help,if you would have scrolled down a bit you would have seen the reply where i mentioned that i live in India,sadly buying online would multiply the cost of this unit,so am trying to find it locally <br>Thanks <br>Have fun
Hi, <br>Thanks for the comments - you are right, this could be used on any supply within the voltmeter range (which is 5-30V), so on 24V supplies. <br> <br>Not sure where you are based, but a seach on eBay brings up quite a few in different places (mainly China): <br>http://www.ebay.co.uk/sch/i.html?_trksid=p5197.m570.l1313&amp;_nkw=4+digit+led+voltmeter&amp;_sacat=0&amp;_from=R40 <br> <br>You might have to change the .dxf files to fit a different sized LED display. Hope that helps. <br>Cheers, Matt
just saw that you you have this instructable in the design competition,so took no time to vote for it :)
Thank's for taking the time to reply back :) .I live in India . <br>these voltmeter's are from china so should be available here(in india most of the electronic component's are imported from china ).Gonna have to contact other shops because the local shop does not have these available. <br>Thanks again &amp; have fun :)
What a person need is to fit a read only switch as these things will drain even a large battery if it is not in constant &quot;float&quot; charge I had something similar and after I forgot it over a weekend the battery was discharged on a lift truck
Since you were already using a laser cutter, what could have been trick was to cut one more layer to cover the switch lugs and the edges of the display. You could have used it to hide the screws or cut recesses for them. I would have probably used screws with smaller heads, countersunk flat head screws or made the back plate removable and had them screw from the back...
A very sensible idea and Interesting you say that - the version 2 of this (I have updated the .dxf files here, but not the photos) has the slider switch snadwitched between layers 4 and the front. This hides the lugs and, using an etch, holes the switch in the corrct position.<br>This was done after showing it to someone at my local hackspace and them making a similar comment.<br><br>Screwing from the back would look nicer, but I needed to mount them and still have access to the display from the front, hence screws in the front.<br>Cheers, Matt
I gotta say that I was mislead by the title. It should clearly state this is only an enclosure. Okay... so the justification is that there needs to be a &quot;Super-Simple&quot; level of Instructables. I'll grudgingly accept that. This is borderline &quot;have somebody else do it&quot; in the difficulty level.
great ible .
Congratulations chunkyhampton, this is an easy project, very, very useful. And for the more complicated people, here is a multimeter kit with source code! - https://www.sparkfun.com/products/9573
That is a retired link, no longer available product.
I posted here the Sparkfun multimeter kit for the schematics and the source code (for reference, as Sparkfun says), not for buying it. That page says the new product has minor changes and has a link to it. xtux said this instructable was too easy. Then I posted the 8 bit computer instructable, at the other end of the spectrum. As with Gmail during a long time, all things are beta, in constant evolution...
It&acute;s only the box? not the circuit? :/ <br>
Instructables is the place for the very easy, the most complicated and all in between. Just look at this project: https://www.instructables.com/id/How-to-Build-an-8-Bit-Computer/step1/What-Is-a-Computer/
Handy! But I would ask, why not use a higher quality switch? Over the last 50 years I have replaced more failed slide switches than any other item.
I don't know if you're interested but I made a little stripboard layout for a LED display voltmeter (it's off the shelf and not something you have to program) <a href="http://www.paulinthelab.com/2012/04/7107-led-voltmeter-veroboard.html" rel="nofollow"><strong>HERE</strong></a>
If the display is a little hard to read, you can do what I did and put a bit of tape over the display <br>I used white electrical tape, cos it was opaque, but reasonably translucent.
Neat and simple solution. I'm currently looking at setting up a Nissan Terrano2 or Mitsubishi Pajero as an expedition vehicle with a bank of SLA batteries as a leisure battery for equipment. Rigging this up with a 3 position switch so I can use the meter for 2 batteries, Start, Leisure &amp; Off mounted into the dash would be a good little project.
When I saw this 'ible I thought: &quot;Yeah, a nice one without arduino!&quot;. Then I see a guy soldering two wires in a bought circuit. OMG, why an 'ible to this? I'm sorry for calling a spade a spade, but that's what it is.
I know what you mean - it is a very simple instructable. <br>Then again this instructable is not really about the circuitry, its more about getting a device working to do a specific job. Also I'm pretty pleased with the enclosure design, which people could use to house any device or circuitry. <br> <br>There needs to be a whole range of different levels of instructable to fit with everyones different skill levels. If you want, I could design a circuit using logic and analogue ICs. It would cost at least three times the price and no-one would ever build it. <br>I could also go down the microcontroller route and that would be interesting as it would re-programmable. I will defintiely do that sometime, but it would also cost a lot more. <br>For this device I wanted something that anyone could build at a price of components which means people might actually make one. <br>Many off-grid battery based systems have ruined batteries due to lack of monitoring. This was developed to try and help with that situation. <br> <br>Regards, <br>Matt
Sir, its great but mai i know which calculates the voltage is it the display you've used or any other thing ?? <br>
Hi, <br>The LED display is a voltmeter, so it has all the circuitry to measure the voltages built in. It can measure between 5-30V DC. Hope that helps, Matt
Before seeing this I had no desire for an independant voltage reader but was drawn in by the laser cut box.<br> After seeing how cheap it is I might buy one of those modules just to keep in my parts bin.<br> <br> I like the way it's packaged and there's no need to do a lot of soldering when a neat module like that exists.
Sir, its great but mai i know which calculates the voltage is it the display you've used or any other thing ?? <br>

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