DIY Battery Box With Powerpole Ports

Joulery Box DIY Battery Box with Powerpole Ports

This battery box is a portable power source to use for camping, amateur radio field operations, ARES deployments, emergency backup power, and hundreds of other situations where DC power is needed and grid or shore power is not available. This inexpensive and useful DIY battery box can be built in a couple of hours or less once the parts are gathered. The batteries are charged and used through the Anderson Powerpole ports on the side of the battery box. It can even be charged in one Powerpole port while it is powering a load connected to the other port.

I coined the term, “Joulery Box” as a play on the phrase jewelry box. In this case, this battery box stores something else precious: Joules of portable energy we can take with use in the field! Before building the battery box, I used a deep cycle Group 27 battery for this purpose. The big Group 27 battery has plenty of capacity to run several devices for long periods of time, but with a couple major drawbacks. Big batteries are heavy to lift and transport, and all the energy is located in one physical place. What I find works better is to pack as much energy into a portable, carryable box and have a few of them I can swap out or chain together. Below is a step by step explanation of how I created my Joulery Boxes.

Gather the Parts

12V 7.5Ah BatteriesMy battery boxes started with a group of common variety 12V 7.5Ah batteries that were decommissioned from a local data center. They were not new, but still had a good amount of capacity left in them. By themselves they do not represent a lot of working hours, but when I put them in parallel the capacity really adds up.
Workforce Toolbox LabelThe first thing needed was a container to house and transport the batteries. I went to some home improvement stores and I chose one that fits the bill very well. It is a WorkForce brand 16 inch toolbox part number 17182281. As of this writing these cost $6.97 at Home Depot.
Certainly the price was attractive for the budget minded radio amateur like myself, but a really nice bonus was the extra storage in the top. It has a nice square inside with plenty of room all the way to the corners.
Toolbox with the lid closed. Compartments in the lid of the tool box Inside the toolbox with the tray removed
Since modern AGM batteries do not normally leak acid, they may seem safe, perhaps even mundane. Circuit breakerBut there is a generous amount of electrical energy stored within the battery and that can be dangerous. That energy, when discharged rapidly, represents a great deal of heat and can start a fire in mere seconds. To help protect against fires from external short circuits, I placed a circuit breaker electrically between the battery and the load (or source). Were I to build these again, I would put a breaker on each leg of the bus internally, but I did not do so this time. The breakers I used are 46515 Waytek 15A breakers which cost $2.70 as of this writing.
Anderson Powerpole Panel MountHere is an Anderson Powerpole connector panel mount shell. I see them at every major hamfest, wherever Anderson Powerpoles are sold. The part number is 1470g1. This piece was a key player in making the battery box really useful.
The shell and retaining pinThe mount snaps into a rectangular hole in a panel. It also has a pin to retain the Anderson Powerpole connectors securely inside the mount.

Convert the Toolbox into a Battery Box

The box was marked before cuttingI used a silver marker to mark the two screw holes and the hole for the Anderson panel mount in the side of the battery box.
Inside view of breaker and shellThe Anderson Powerpole holder was snapped into the hole and the circuit breaker was mounted using two screws and nuts.
Padding around batteriesThe next step was to protect the batteries and to keep them from moving around inside the battery box. I reused some discarded dense foam from a shipping box which I had hoarded just for this type of purpose. As I recall, it had originally protected a computer from shipping damage. To re-task the foam, I cut it to fit snugly around the batteries. Now the batteries are unable to move around when the battery box is transported.
Preliminary harnessesA harness with two pair of Anderson Powerpoles was fabricated and they were inserted into the panel mount. The retaining pin was pressed in with a screwdriver to keep the Powerpoles secure in the housing. Powerpoles can be assembled in many ways. I made sure to put the Powerpoles together following the ARES standard.

The ARES Anderson Powerpole Standard

When my mother was a little girl, my grandfather told her a mnemonic to helpAnderson Powerpole ARES standardher remember which side the red and green lights go on as well as the sides of the ship. “A guy named Red, left the port.” In other words, the Red light is on the Left side of the ship, which is the Port side. I came up with my own, similar mnemonic a few years ago to help me remember how the ARES standard for Ansderson Powerpoles is configured. “A guy named Red, Left, his tongue Down.” Put the red Powerpole on the left side with the metal contact “tongues” down, which is on the bottom when you look into them.

Wire the Batteries

Piggyback terminalTo terminate the battery harness, I used these neat devices called piggy back terminals. I got a big pack of these from Hillsdale Terminal, part number 30663. I like them because they allow me to reconfigure the harness if the need arises. There are many other ways I could have terminated the wires to create the harness though. I just liked this method the best.
Negative harnessHere you can see how I coupled the negative wires to the Anderson Powerpole connector harness using the mounting screw as a bonding stud.
Positive harness around the outsideAgain, fire is always a concern when dealing with batteries. This picture illustrates how I ran the black, negative harness in the middle of my Joulrey Box and the positive, red wires around the outside. The dense foam which prevents battery movement is leveraged to also keep the red harness in place. By routing the red and black harnesses in this way, my wires do no touch or rub on each other, which should help reduce the risk of fire in my battery box.

Finished Battery Box

Caddy tray still fitsWhen I finished the project, the tool caddy still fit in the toolbox, giving my Joulery Box extra added usefulness.
My Joulery BoxWith the lid closed, the battery box remains a compact, professional unit, that not only contains a good amount of energy, but is also capable of carrying tools or other small supplies.
Three Joulery BoxesI liked my first battery box so much I made three! They can be paralleled for extended capacity and run time or I can disperse them to various stations during an event. At 24 lbs apiece, they are fairly easy for me to carry. Not including the batteries (since they were free) the battery boxes cost me about $12 each. I put my amateur radio callsign label on all the battery boxes as a finishing touch.

Be Careful!

Working with batteries is very dangerous. Batteries which are connected in parallel increases the danger. The risk of fire and explosion are significant and cannot be overstated. Do NOT build your own Joulery Box unless you understand the risks, dangers, how to overcome them, and are fully qualified to design and build such devices.