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Low Power LED Voltmeter

Low Power LED Voltmeter

The voltmeter is an expanded scale type that indicates small voltage steps over the 10 to 16 volt range for 12 volt batteries and over the 22 to 32 volt range for 24 volt batteries.
This is a low power voltmeter circuit that can be used with alternative energy systems that run on 12 and 24 volt batteries. Power consumption can be as low as 14mw when operated from 12V and 160mw when operated from 24V.

It is possible to set the meter to read equal steps across a variety of upper and lower voltages. The meter saves power by operating in a low duty-cycle blinking mode where the LED indicators are only on and consuming power briefly during a repeating 2 second cycle. The circuit may be switched to a high power mode where the active LED stays on at all times.

Different colored LEDs may be used for the voltage level indicators, this allows the battery state to be read in the dark. With the new blue LEDs, it is possible to have a nice looking rainbow of colors using two each of red, amber, yellow, green, and blue LEDs. The circuit will also work with inexpensive and common red LEDs. If the circuit is to be used in sunlight, ultra-bright LEDs should be used, although even those may be hard to read without some kind of sun shield.

Typical uses include the monitoring of portable battery operated systems and indoor wall mounted home power system charge indicators. The cost of the parts for the circuit is around $25.00 (US) and the parts are commonly available, except for the optional blue LEDs. If blue LEDS are used, expect to pay a premium for them, they cost several dollars each, compared to around 15 cents for the other colors. The blue LEDs do look nice in any case.

The circuit may be built with either the CMOS ICM7555 timer or the more common bipolar 555 timer. The 7555 timer will provide much more efficient operation and should be used for systems with small batteries.

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