The following post describes a simple low battery indicator circuit by using just two inexpensive NPN transistors. The main feature of this circuit is its very low stand by current consumption.
The Circuit Concept
We have so far seen how to make a low battery indicator circuits using a 741 IC and a 555 IC, which are no doubt outstanding with their abilities of detecting and indicating low battery voltage thresholds.
However the following post relates yet another similar circuit which is much cheaper and employs just a couple of NPN transistors for producing the required low battery indications.
Advantage of Transistor over IC
The main advantage of the proposed two transistor low battery indicator circuit is its very low current consumption compared to the IC counterparts which consume relatively higher currents.
A IC 555 would consume around 5mA, a IC741 around 3 mA, while the present circuit would just consume around 1.5mA current.
Thus the present circuit becomes more efficient especially in cases where stand by current consumption tend to become an issue, example suppose in units which depend on low current battery supplies such as a 9V PP3 battery.
Circuit can Operate at 1.5V
Another advantage of this circuit is it's ability to work even at voltages around 1.5V which gives it a clear edge over the IC based circuits.
As shown in the following circuit diagram, the two transistors are configured as voltage sensor and inverter.
The first transistor on the left senses the threshold voltage level as per the setting of the 47K preset. As long as this transistor conducts, the second transistor on the right is held switched OFF, which also keeps the LED switched OFF.
As soon as the battery voltage falls below the set threshold level, the left transistor is no longer able to conduct.
This situation instantly triggers the right hand side transistor, switching ON the LED.
The LED switches ON and provides the required indications of a low battery warning.
The above circuit was successfully built and installed by Mr. Allan in his paranormal depletion detector unit. The following video presents the implementation results:
Upgrading the above Transistorized Low Battery circuit into a Low Battery Cut-off Circuit
Referring to the above diagram, the low battery indicator is formed by the two NPN transistors, while the additional BC557 and the relay are used for cutting OFF the battery from the load when it reaches the lower threshold, in this state the relay connects the battery to the available charging input.
However when the battery is in its normal state the relay connects the battery with the load and allows the load to operate through battery power.
One drawback of the above design could be the chattering of the relay at the threshold voltage levels, due to the battery voltage dropping immediately during the relay changeover process.
This can be prevented by adding a 100uF at the base of the middle BC547. However, this still wouldn't stop the relay from constantly switching ON/OFF at the low battery changeover threshold.
In order to rectify this, a hysteresis effect will need to be introduced which can be accomplished through a feedback resistor between the collector of the BC557 and the middle BC547 transistor.
The modified design for implementing the above condition can be seen in the following diagram:
The two resistors, one at the base of BC547 and the other at the collector of BC557 decide the other threshold of the relay changeover, meaning the full charge cut off threshold of the battery. Here, the values are arbitrarily selected, for accurate results these values will need to be optimized with some trial and error.
Low Battery Indicator using a PUT
This low battery indicator circuit is used with a programmable unijunction transistor (PUT), since the threshold characteristics of the UJT could be effectively defined, and can be designed to flash a connected LED indicator.
The PUT (Q1) is configured like a relaxation oscillator circuit. As the supply voltage which is being monitored (Vmon) starts dropping, the gate voltage of the PUT (Vg) also begins dropping, while its anode voltage (Va) basically stays constant.
The PUT begins oscillating only as soon as the gate voltage drops below Va by 0.6 volts. As Vmon comes down further, Vg also drops accordingly and this situation triggers ON the PUT. Therefore, the period of the cycle becomes lesser and this causes an increase in the frequency of flashing indicating that the battery has become too low and needs to be changed.