Major corrections and additions made 9/9/2014

See the new and improved 2015 version at http://www.green-trust.org/jmc

For my off-grid Ham Radio and Solar projects, I needed a way to measure volts, amps, watts, amp hours and watt hours. There's a couple of commercial products that can do this, but not with the flexibility I wanted. I designed a Arduino micro-controller based solution that is very extensible. Right now it monitors the above values of attached gear, and I'm thinking about adding web monitoring and a sd card for data collection. Well, let's get started.

Step 1: Voltage Divider

UPDATE 9/9/2014 !

The Arduino can accept up to 5v on a analog input. Our voltage can range as high as 20vdc in certain situations (open circuit pv voltage), so we designed a voltage divider that would provide 5v at 20v battery voltage, and less at various lower voltages. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voltage_divider for more information on Voltage Dividers.

First we visit our friendly Voltage Divider Calculator. I input 20v as the input, 5v as the output, and 3k for R2 (experiment with <10k resistors till you get a likely pair). This calculates a R1 of 9K. Try to keep the values as close to, but under 10k Ohms as possible.

R1 = 9k Ohms

R2 = 3k Ohms

Vout = (R1 / (R1 + R2)) * Vin

Vout = (9000 / (9000 + 3000)) * 20v

Vout = (9000 / 12000) * 20v

Vout = .75 * 20v

Vout = 5v

Ratio = Vin / Vout

Ratio = 4

Because the Arduino has a 10-bit ADC, it outputs 0-1023 (1024 steps) for a 0-5v input. That's 0.00488v / step.

With a Voltage Divider with R1 = 9k Ohm and R2 = 3k Ohm, A 12v battery would calculate as follows:

12v / Ratio = 3v on the A4 pin.

3v / .00488 = 615 (ADC Reading - round up)

so A4 pin Voltage = .00488 * ADC reading (615 in this case), or 3.00 volts.

Then battery voltage = A4 pin voltage * Ratio (3 * 4 = 12)

The code to read that value is as follows:

ADCVal = analogRead(batMonPin); // read the voltage on the divider on pin A4
pinVoltage = ADCVal * 0.00488; // Calculate the voltage on the A/D pin
// A reading of 1 for the A/D = 0.00488mV
// if we multiply the A/D reading by 0.00488 then
// we get the voltage on the pin.

batteryVoltage = pinVoltage * Ratio; // Use the Ratio calculated for the voltage divider
// to calculate the battery voltage, Ratio = Vin / Vout

More details at http://arduinotronics.blogspot.com/2012/04/voltage-monitor.html


Improved voltage reading circuit and sketch at AC Volt Meter (works with DC as well). Rock solid voltage measurement, and very accurate.

well - i've now managed to bodge together some logging code using the adafruit SD card shield <br> <br>but - i'm troubled by non zero outputs when there's no voltage or current on the inputs - display is showing approx 15 volts and just under 15 amps when they should both be zero <br> <br>confused
I'm now unsure if i am seeing the fully updated code here as it as shown here will give inaccurate results if used with the ACS714 <br> <br>The bi-directional ACS714 output is centered on 2.5v - so zero current flow gives 2.5v - and not the 500mv as mentioned here and within the supplied code <br> <br>Also, the output of the ACS714 is 66mv/A rather than 133mV/A as mentioned here and within the supplied code <br> <br>hope this helps someone from having a confusing couple of hours as I have just experienced <br> <br>
This instructable is for the unidirectional acs715. I have not published a instructable for the acs714 as of yet.
<p>how about ACS712?</p><p>I missunderstand between readings of voltage divider and ACS712 sensor,</p><p>would you explain to me about ACS712 function on your project? (detail please)</p><p>thank you before,</p><p>best regards</p>
<p>the acs is a current sensor. the voltage divider is the voltage sensor.</p>
unplugging the SD card resolves the non zero volts - but i'm seeing 2.5v from the current sensor (to gnd) even when it's output pin isnt connected
Floating inputs won't be zero unless connected to ground through a resistor.
<p>good , pls. how resistor i must use to input voltage max 50v ? </p>
http://www.raltron.com/cust/tools/voltage_divider.asp says that R1 = 252k and R2 = 28k would be good values.
<p>thanks :)</p>
I have a strange problem...i duplicated your protoboard circuit (ammeter and voltage divider), and it served to work as expected. I then thought it should be easy to add an lm7805 voltage regulator to power the arduino from the measured voltage, and connected 7805's Vin to the voltage divider's input voltage, 7805's GND and Vout to the 4pin header's GND and VCC. Powered up, everything looks great so far... then i reconnected a small load to the hall sensor, and the arduino blacked out. Remove the load, it comes on and works again. Why is this happening and how might i correct it?
<p>Isn't the lm7805 have a maximum of 18 Volts? Maybe you burnt the lm7805...</p>
What is the source of your measured voltage? Does it have enough current capability to run the arduino and it's load?
Where should i put the test probes?
for measuring current, typically in series with the negative cable. some industries like the boating industry prefer the positive lead.Does not really matter.
<p>Can i use this with my battery from a truck... ??? i thinking there would be a high current on the resistors................</p>
There's no high current going through any resistors. Yes, it will work with your truck battery.
<p>Thanks for sharing your code. I immediately build one for a battery test I am buzy with.</p>
<p>I'm curious about using the Pololu current sensors. If I understand, they carry the full current of whatever they're measuring. I have a couple of them but I've avoided using them because I don't understand the max current limits and it is going in my RV. In theory I should not ever see more than maybe 10-15 amps max but when I looked at those little circuit boards that seemed like a lot for such a wee little thing. Thanks.</p>
<p>Hi,</p><p>If I want to use this Amp Hour meter for high current (10-15 A) and 10V, what must I change?</p><p>Thanks for the answer!</p>
It will work fine as is. It's designed to read up to 20v and 20-30 amps.
<p>I am thinking of using <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/301238145798" rel="nofollow">these 10k potentiometers</a> instead of the thin film resistors as referenced in your blog post link. Does this seem correct? </p><p>I am using a <a href="http://www.ebay.com/itm/100W-Watts-Solar-Panel-Poly-12V-Volt-PV-Polycrystalline-Off-Grid-for-RV-Boat-/271222475269" rel="nofollow">100w solar panel</a> that has an open circuit voltage of 22.4V.</p>
Yes, you can use potentiometers, but you will have to measure their resistance and put that into the code. Don't ever adjust them once you have the finalized values. It's easier to use fixed value 1% resistors.
<p>20V to 5V using voltage dividers? OUCH.</p><p>You are going to have to deal with serious heat issues! And not to mention high watt resistors. Why not go for a 7805 voltage regulator?</p>
<p>How would a schematic look if I were to use the voltage regulator instead.</p>
It wouldn't work. You are trying to measure change. There's no change with a voltage regulator.
Very little heat, as there's not much current flow. Arduino inputs are high impedance. A voltage regulator would not allow a voltage change, so how would you know when the source changes?
<p>I'm trying to understand before I go buy this for my wind turbine project. Also, is the Uno good for this project?</p><p>In the calculation of current, I am a little confused. I need to put this in my paper so I need to fully understand it. </p><p>Does the sensor rest at 100 sensor value at 0V=0A? And where does the 1A = 133mV come from? Is it from the datasheet?</p><p>Can you please see what I'm wrong in the below?</p><p>5000mv = 30000mA, ratio is 1:6</p><p>ACS715OutputVoltage = (SensorValue - 100)* 5000/1024</p><p>Current = ACS715Voltage * 6</p>
<p>Hi i made a similar meter to monitor a battery but its not giving a liner output. The resisters on my devider are much larger then yours could that be the problem! </p>
<p>Hi sspence.</p><p>Great project and it helps me a lot. Thank you. I just wanna ask about LCD display. are u using LCD serial or Parallel.</p>
This one was parallel, I use I2C LCD's now to save pin counts.
<p>Thank you!</p>
<p>Do you think this may work accurately (+-1%) in the range of 0-20mA and from 1-35V? I want to count the total mA used in an electrolysis process.</p>
with a different sensor, and a smaller aref, sure.
<p>The whole thing is quite genius i must say , but in the calculation 0.75*20 =5 ?! , you arrived at that because its not &quot;Vout = (R1 / (R1 + R2)) * Vin &quot; that's completely wrong! Its quit the opposite. &quot;Vout = (R2 / (R1 + R2)) * Vin&quot;. so its 0.25*20=5. The links you provided are awesome ! Your blog is too good! Kudos !</p>
<p>Very nicely done tutorial! I'm happy I have found it.</p><p>I do have one question, though. You recommend not to use resistors with values over 10K in the voltage divider. What is the reason for this? Theoretically it would be good to use higher values for the resistors, so that the internal power consumption of the voltage divider is as low as possible. With photovoltaic panels it's a shame to waste even a milliwatt. Thank you!</p>
It has to do with the impedance of the ADC on the Arduino. The lower the resistor value, the more accurate the tracking. Have to find a happy medium.
<p>Thank you! Any idea what kind of accuracy loss we are talking about with 10K, what about with 100K? Thanks!</p>
<p>I don't know, I'm just going with atmel recommendations.</p>
<p>Allright, thank you again very much for the excelent tutotrial and for your quick answers!</p>
<p>Hi Spence</p><p>What use is the sample counter for (in the loop), and what happens after 9,10 hurs ? .. As the sample is only made as an Integer. Will it calculate negative ?</p>
<p>ohh i can see theres only 10ms between every measurement, so the time is even lower. Correct me if im wrong, but after aprox 5,43 minutes the sample counter should be 0.</p>
The sample counter resets to 0 after every 10 samples, or every 100 ms.
<p>Is that a suggestion ? because i can't see this in your code.</p><p>Only that &quot; sample = sample +1; &quot;</p>
<p>hmmm... older code.<br><br>do the voltage sampling the same as the current sampling, with a </p><p>for (int x = 0; x &lt; 10; x++){ // run through loop 10x</p><p><br>}</p><p>Time to redo this code with the newer IDE version and other updates since this was first produced.</p>
<p>I think you misunderstand. It's in the loop you have a variable called &quot;int sample=0;&quot; you use it as a counter. NOT as sample for input :)</p><p>This counter will overflow after 5,43 minutes. As it's made as a integer.</p>
<p>right, and if you only take voltage 10 samples and reset the counter (not shown in the posted code) it can never overflow. I'm suggesting rewriting that section of code to work like the current section.</p>
<p>Ahh oki, I thought we could use your code as it was. </p><p>Its oki, i'll make my own code. Thanks for ur time :)</p>
<p>You hook the current sensor into the positive side of the system, I'm accustomed to using a shunt in the common negative bus in marine systems. Can you please comment why the difference? Thank you</p>
It makes no difference. What you are measuring is the voltage dropped across the shunt resistor.

About This Instructable


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Bio: Professionally, I'm an IT Engineer (Executive Level) and Electronics Tech. I'm a Amateur Radio Operator (KK4HFJ). I lived off grid, with Solar (PV ... More »
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