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Circuit Notebook

Interesting circuit ideas which we have checked but not built and tested. Contributions from readers are welcome and will be paid for at standard rates.

Pump controller for solar hot water system

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This circuit optimises the operation of a solar hot water system. When the water in the solar collector is hotter than the storage tank, the pump runs.

The circuit comprises two LM335Z temperature sensors, a comparator and Mosfet. Sensor 1 connects to the solar collector panel while Sensor 2 connects to the hot water panel. Each sensor includes a trimpot to allow adjustment of the output level. In practice, VR1 and VR2 are adjusted so that both Sensor 1 and Sensor 2 have the same output voltage when they are at the same temperature.

The Sensor outputs are monitored using comparator IC1. When Sensor 1 produces a higher voltage than Sensor 2, which means that sensor 1 is at a higher temperature, pin 1 of IC1 goes high and drives the gate of Mosfet Q1. This in turn drives the pump motor.

IC1 includes hysteresis so that the output does not oscillate when both sensors are producing a similar voltage. Hysteresis comprises the 1MΩ feedback resistor between output pin 1 and non-inverting input pin 3 and the input 1kΩ resistor. This provides a nominal 12mV hysteresis so that voltage at Sensor 1 or Sensor 2 must differ by 12mV for changes in the comparator output to occur. Since the outputs of Sensor 1 and Sensor 2 change by about 10mV/°C, we could say that there is a degree of hysteresis in the comparator.

Note that IC1 is a dual comparator with the second unit unused. Its inputs are tied to ground and pin 2 of IC1 respectively. This sets the pin 7 output high. Since the output is an open collector, it will be at a high impedance.

Mosfet Q1 is rated at 60A and 60V and is suitable for driving inductive loads due to its avalanche suppression capability. This clamps any inductively induced voltages exceeding the voltage rating of the Mosfet.

The sensors are adjusted initially with both measuring the same temperature. This can be done at room temperature; adjust the trimpots so that the voltage between ground and the positive terminal reads the same for both sensors. If you wish, the sensors can be set to 10mV/°C change with the output referred to the Kelvin scale which is 273K at 0°C. So at 25°C, the sensor output should be set to (273 + 25 = 298) x 10mV or 2.98V.

Note that the sensors will produce incorrect outputs if their leads are exposed to moisture and they should be protected with some neutral cure
silicone sealant. The sensors can be mounted by clamping them directly to the outside surface of the solar collector and on an uninsulated section of the storage tank. The thermostat housing is usually a good position on the storage tank.

John Clarke,

SILICON CHIP.

Battery equality monitor

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Almost all 24V power systems in trucks, 4WDs, RVs, boats, etc, employ two series-connected 12V lead-acid batteries. The charging system can only maintain the sum of the individual battery voltages. If one battery is failing, this circuit will light a LED. Hence impending battery problems can be forecast. The circuit works by detecting a voltage difference between the two series connected 12V batteries. Idle current is low enough to allow the unit to be permanently left across the batteries.

G. La Rooy, Christchurch,

New Zealand. ($30)

Component & voltage tester

This simple circuit tests speakers, microphones, transformers and voltage. It's basically a very low frequency oscillator that produces extremely short 'fruity' pulses. The type of sound produced is very easy to hear and to determine the precise direction it is coming from, thus making it ideal for checking the phasing in multiple speaker installations. It is also very useful for car stereo installations as well as public address systems where it can drive dozens of speakers directly on a 100V or 70V line system.

The signal is also easy to hear on a public address system so that you can drive around a large installation with the window down and easily hear each speaker as you drive past. It is easy to check that a speaker is in phase with its neighbours, by listening for the artificial centre created between two identical sound sources.

Q1 and Q2 oscillate when connected to loads between zero and about 1000Ω. The frequency increases as the resistance of the load increases - 8Ω loads produce about 8Hz output while 100Ω loads will produce about 100Hz output, although it is only approximate.

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The unit is also useful for checking dynamic microphones (not condenser types), headphones, transformers (both audio and mains) and resistance loads (only visual checks via the LED). The pulses produced can sound too loud for some delicate circuits such as dynamic microphones and headphones, but the pulse is so short that it is virtually impossible to do any damage; the average current flow is only a few milliamps.

The circuit needs no power switch as the oscillator only operates when the negative side of the battery is connected through the load being tested. The LED flashes at each pulse as a visual indication that the load is lower than about 1000Ω. The circuit works from a 3V battery pack. To use a 9V battery change the 15Ω resistor to 47Ω, the 1.8Ω resistor to 5.6Ω and the .033μF capacitor to .01μF.

LED2, diode D1, zener diode ZD1 and the series 220Ω resistor form a voltage indicator which is used to detect and indicate any voltage greater than about 10V. LED2 only illuminates if the voltage rises above the threshold set by ZD1 and D1, which is more than the battery voltage (3V or 9V). These components can be omitted if the device is not going to be used for working on cars. However, it's quite handy having a device that can check power wires, shorts to chassis and speakers in a car.

Philip Chugg,

Launceston, Tas. ($30)

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