DC/AC Power Distribution Panel Part 3

This is an entry in our current non-fiction writing contest  By DanW


Thanks in advance for your patience ………. I told you that this was a long article! In this part I’ve summarized the project, provided a parts list, and a component functional description to assist you in understanding what each part does. Part 4 is my Construction Notes.

Once again: A note of caution: When working with anything electrical you should always pay heed and follow all safety procedures to prevent harm to yourself or others. I suggest you do not attempt to build and/or use one of these units unless you have a good working knowledge of basic electricity.


dan1If you’ve built your Power Panel then congrats! You’ve now got a valuable tool that will help you weather the coming storm. I must admit that there were a few moments during construction that I questioned my sanity ……… it has been a long process but I believe well worth the time, effort and cost.

At this point we’ve got a deep cycle battery (charged by the portable solar power unit or other charger) providing primary power to the Power Distribution Panel, giving us 12, 9, and 6 vdc outputs.  A 10 socket power strip offers easy access to 120 vac supplied by the grid, a generator, or the on-board Inverter.  Everything is protected with either a circuit breaker or fuse and is ready to power up whichever device we might want to connect.  A meter monitors the Main Battery voltage and total current draw.  The Tenma Power Panels are displaying their respective load current while dedicated volt meters monitor the voltage being supplied to each unit (12, 9, and 6 vdc). The auto style accessory outlets are ready if needed.  Each circuit is controlled by a dedicated On/Off switch. All of this powered by a single deep cycle battery ……….. and fits in a space 24” x 22”.  Although I intend to try to limit the total load on my unit to 5 amps, this Power Distribution Panel is designed to be able to safely handle much greater amperage demands if needed …………. Just change the fuse values!

While this project may appear to be very complex it’s really just a bunch of individual circuits assembled on the same mounting panels.  Broken down into separate circuits, it’s fairly easy to put it all together.  I hope you have found this article to be interesting and decide to build one of these for yourself.  It’s a big challenge for anyone, but you can do it!


You’ll notice that I bought the majority of the parts for this project through Amazon.  I subscribe to Amazon Prime so most of these items shipped for free ……. which always helps the budget.  I didn’t include any of the expense for wood or the metal panel.


Multiple Outlet DC Power Strip, MCM Part #: 72-6627 | Tenma Part #: 72-6627, 3 @ $49.99 ea.

www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BVC0WO/ref=oh_details_o03_s00_i03?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Belkin 10-Socket Metal Surge Master 120 vac power strip 1 @ $23.49 ea.


PST-DCZ0605, 6 Volt/ 5 Amp: 12V to 6V DC/DC Regulating Converter, 1 @ $57.60 ea.

http://www.powerstream.com/index.html  9 Volt/5 Amp: 12 Volt to 9 V DC/DC Regulating Converter, 1 @ $30.95 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000NIG2FG/ref=oh_details_o09_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1   Power Bright PW1100-12 Power Inverter 1100 Watt 12 Volt DC to 110 Volt AC, 1 @ $80 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002R9RBO0/ref=oh_details_o01_s02_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1 Cooler Master Rifle Bearing 80mm Silent Cooling Fan for Computer Cases and CPU Coolers, 1 @ $4.95 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/4-5-30V-Digital-Panel-Display-Current/dp/B00GLKQOKI/ref=sr_1_cc_3?s=aps&ie=UTF8&qid=1390337428&sr=1-3-catcorr&keywords=DROK+DC+current+panel+meter DROK DC 4.5-30V 100A Digital Volt Amp Panel Meter Red/Blue Dual LED Display + Current Shunt, 1 @ $21.78

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C2NTJHS/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1DROK 2-wire Car 0.56″ DC 3-30V 12/24V Green LED Small Digital Panel Volt Meter, 3 @ $6.90 ea.

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00C0RVLPO/ref=oh_details_o02_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  DROK Green 0.56″ LED Digital Voltage Panel Meter, AC 75-300V, 1 @ $8.71 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00858C0IY/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  10 Pcs BLACK Cover 4mm Speaker Wire Cable Banana Plugs Connectors, Set of 10 pcs. @


 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00858C0C0/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1  10 Pcs RED Cover 4mm Speaker Wire Cable Banana Plugs Connectors, Set of 10 pcs. @ $3.90/set

http://www.amazon.com/Round-Rocker-Toggle-Switch-Green/dp/B007B8JMZI/ref=sr_1_1?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1388442886&sr=1-1&keywords=green+round+switch  10PC New 16A 12V Round Rocker Toggle Switch Green LED SPST, 1 set of 10 @ $7.69/set

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B002R9RBO0/ref=oh_details_o02_s02_i01?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Cooler Master Rifle Bearing 80mm Silent Cooling Fan for Computer Cases and CPU Coolers, 1 @ $4.95 ea.

 http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0091A1U2W/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Accessory/Lighter Socket Panel Outlet, 12v Marine/Motorcycle, set of 4 @ $28.48

http://www.amazon.com/SMAKN-Plastic-Thread-Banana-Binding/dp/B00D9F2N4Y/ref=sr_1_6?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1392751628&sr=1-6&keywords=Dual+binding+post+banana SMAKN 2pcs Black & Red Plastic Shell Dual Banana Plug Jack Binding Post, Amazon.com, $6.66

Metal Main Panel: Aluminum panel 21” x 18” x 1/8” thick, Local metal shop @ $16.15

30 Amp Circuit Breaker: Buss CBC-30HB, 30A @ 12 vdc, Type 1 Cycling, NAPA #782-3105, 1 @ $3.69

Panel Toggle Switch: Double pole, Single Throw (On/Off): 120 VAC @ 20 amp rating min. Ace Hardware, 7 @ $3.00 ea.

Panel Toggle Switch: Double pole, Triple Throw (ON/OFF/ON): 120 VAC @ 15 amp rating, Ace Hardware, 1 @ $10.00 ea.

Electrical Panel Buss Bar: GQ Homeline (Square D), metal 7 slot, screw attach, Lowes or Home Depot, 2 @ $4.71 ea.

Panel Mount Fuse Holder: 3 AG Type, Screw-Cap, Radio Shack, 7 @ $2.49 each

AGC Fuses: 1 pack of 5 ea./pk, 10 amp @ 32 v, Napa, Each pack @ $2.49

AGC Fuses: 3 packs of 5 ea./pk, 5 amp @ 32 v, NAPA, Each pack @ $2.49

 Optional Items:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000087K67/ref=oh_details_o03_s01_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Cord Away Master Wire Clips, 6-Pack, Black (00204), 1 package of 6 clips @ $6.42

http://www.amazon.com/Battery-Tender-021-0123-Junior- Charger/dp/B000CITK8S/ref=pd_sim_auto_2   Battery Tender 021-0123 Battery Tender Junior 12V Battery Charger, 1 @ $23 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GODG3X0/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1NITECORE i4  Intellicharge Universal Smart Battery Charger (Ver. 2) For 18650 RCR123 AA 18500 14500 18350 16340 18700 with Ac and 12V DC (Car) power cords, 2 x Edison Bright AA to D type battery spacer/converters, 1 @ $21.99 ea.

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001OEPYWK/ref=oh_details_o01_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Tools for enlarging holes to mount switches, etc. Neiko 3-Piece Titanium Step Drill Bits Set of three M2 Steel – 28 Sizes, SAE, @ $12.71

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00H93CU86/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  QuestCraft 10 steps Titanium Step Drill Bit 1/4″ to 1-3/8″ 1/8″, 1 @ $11.99

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B004EHYA3S/ref=oh_details_o00_s00_i00?ie=UTF8&psc=1  Stack-On PG-19 19-Inch Professional Multi-Purpose Plastic Tool Box, Green, 1 @ $19.91

 Latches: Spring Loaded Latch/Catch, Lowes, 1 pack of 2 at $4.50


Power Distribution Panel Schematic

Component Description

30 Amp Circuit Breaker – Automatic Reset type. Protects Battery from damage due to excessive current draw.

 S 1 – DP/ST  Disconnects 12 vdc Deep Cycle Battery from the Power Panel. Both positive and

Negative wires are controlled by the switch.

S 2 – DP/ST  Disconnects Battery Input (12 vdc) from the 12 vdc Tenma Power Panel.  Both

positive and negative wires are controlled by the switch.

 S 3 – DP/ST  Disconnects 12 vdc Battery power From the Fan.

 S 4 – DP/ST  Disconnects Battery power to the 12 vdc to 9 vdc Voltage Reducer and (9 vdc)

Tenma Power Panel.  Both positive and negative wires are controlled by the switch.

S 5 – DP/ST  Disconnects Battery 12 vdc input to the automotive style outlets. Both positive

and negative wires are controlled by the switch.

 S 6 – DP/ST  Disconnects Battery power to the 12 vdc to 6 vdc Voltage Reducer and (6 vdc)

Tenma Power Panel.  Both positive and negative wires are controlled by the switch.

S 7 – DP/ST  Disconnects Battery 12vdc from the Inverter input.  Both positive

and negative wires are controlled by the switch.

S 8 – TP/TT   Selects input source of 120 vac for the 10 Socket Switched Power Strip.  120vac is

supplied to the power strip by grid power or by the 12 vdc to 120 vac Inverter.  When in

the mid position switch removes all power to the Power Strip.

SP/ST  These small round single pole single throw rocker switches are wired into the 12 vdc positive feed wire to each meter (the AC Voltage Meter is not switched). These switches are not necessary but will help to reduce the current load on the battery by shutting off the meters if they are not needed.  It’s a rather small improvement in load reduction, but every milliamp helps.

M1 – DC Voltage & Current Meter  Monitors the Battery input voltage level and the total

current load on the battery. A shunt is required and is included with the meter. As a side

note: This meter will not measure currents of less than 1 amp.

M2 –  DC Volt Meter  Monitors Battery voltage to the 12vdc Tenma unit.

M3 – DC Volt Meter  Monitors Reducer voltage to the 9vdc Tenma unit.

M4 – DC Volt Meter  Monitors Reducer voltage to the 6vdc Tenma unit.

M5 – AC Volt Meter  Monitors AC voltage to the 10 Socket Power Strip.

Inverter – Has an integral on/off switch and a meter to display either current load or watts being used. Since the Inverter will not be readily accessible (in my application) the Inverter integral switch is left on. This allows switch S8 to control the On/Off status of the Inverter.

10 Socket AC Power Strip – Has an integral On/Off switch with LED power on light.  An AC ground stud is provided on the strip.  This strip was chosen due to wider than normal spacing of the individual sockets.  If you are going to be using multiple small plug-in transformers this is a feature that is worth a few extra pennies.

 Tenma DC Power Panels – Each of the three power panels are identical and has the following features:

  • Section One:
  • Two sets of heavy duty, individually fused binding posts, non-switched
  • Current capacity is 35A on either set
  • Total max combined capacity 35A
  • 0~35A analog ammeter
  • LED status indicator

Section Two:

  • Six sets of 10A binding posts, 15A max total capacity
  • 15A fuse for entire set (I installed an External access 5 amp AGC Fuse holder.)
  • 0~15A analog ammeter
  • Rocker switch with LED status indicator controls the six sets of binding posts


Power Bright PW1100-12 Power Inverter 1100 Watt 12 Volt DC To 110 Volt AC

The Inverter has the following features.

–          1100 watts continuous power

–          1200 watts peak power

–          Anodized aluminum case provides durability

–          Built-in Cooling Fan

–          3 FT Battery Cables

Electrical Brief:

dan2I’m not trying to teach a definitive course on basic electrical theory but figured some comments about AC & DC Voltages & Grounding might be informative.  Since the Power panel will have both AC and DC components it is important to understand the relationship between these two types of power.  A DC voltage/current source is basically a two wire “closed” system.  It is not measured relative to earth ground but the positive and the negative terminals of the DC voltage are only referenced to each other.  The supply may be a battery or an electrical power supply that converts an AC voltage to a DC voltage; in either situation, once the DC voltage is produced, it will be relative only to itself and in most cases should not be connected to an AC source or earth ground.  AC power (produced by electric companies or your generator) is referenced to earth ground.

The three wires of a 120 vac AC Circuit are: Hot, Neutral, and Earth Ground.   For practical purposes, the voltage measured between the Hot wire and Neutral wire (or the Hot wire and Ground wire) should be the same if all wires and the Earth Ground connection are in good condition and correctly connected.  A measurement of voltage between Neutral and Earth Ground should also be zero volts if everything is connected properly.  Note that the normal AC Ground connection in a duplex outlet (standard home outlet) will still be good even if the grid is down. There are surely people reading this article that have way more electrical knowledge than I do, so this superficial explanation is only intended to be a quick primer on this topic. There is plenty of information on the net if you want to research or verify my comments.

To Be Continued: Part 4 will be published soon and is the Construction Notes that detail some of the design and assembly process.  It’s kind of like a short cut to figuring out how to deal with (or least how I did) some of the layout and assembly issues.

Prizes for this round (ends May 24 2014) in our non fiction writing contest include…

  1. First place winner will receive –  A $150 gift certificate for Hornady Ammo  courtesy of LuckyGunner, a Wonder Junior Deluxe grain millcourtesy of Kitchen Neads, a one year subscription to the Personal VPN service courtesy of unspyable and Three Survival Seed Vaults courtesy of LPC Survival.
  2. Second place winner will receive – Brand New, Sealed Case of Military MREs (Meal, Ready-To-Eat)  a $119 value courtesy ofCampingsurvival.com and a Survival Puck  courtesy of Innovation Industries.
  3. Third place winner will receive – a copy of my book ”31 Days to Survival: A Complete Plan for Emergency Preparedness“ and “Dirt Cheap Survival Retreat” courtesy of TheSurvivalistBlog.net a copy of “The Survival Medicine Handbook” courtesy of www.doomandbloom.net and a copy Herbal Antivirals and Herbal Antibiotics .


  1. M.D. Sorry to have to tell you but this has been the longest and most boring posting that you have ever published. I for one will be glad with it’s over, so we can move on to other things…

    • JP in MT says:

      Sorry Jim,

      I must have missed your submission.

    • Big Bear says:

      You can please some of the people all of the time, all of the people some of the time, but you can’t please all of the people all of the time!

    • GoneWithTheWind says:

      This is an awesome post. Good info and very detailed. That author went to a lot of effort to make sure there was enough detail that others could build this as well. Thanks for your time and effort. Good job.

    • Jersey Drifter says:

      Gee….I found it very very good. Would really come in handy in a SHTF situation.

    • SoCalPrepper says:

      I find, when bored with this type of information, you just have your husband the electrical contractor handle it. But that’s not always an option for everyone, so there’s this article!

    • Jim,
      Long & boring is OK, you can simply skip it and come back later.

  2. While this is somewhat tedious it is very well done. Thanks

  3. JP in MT says:

    I think things like this are important. I had a little trouble with the photo in Pt 2 until I realized that it was turned.

    These things may not be “exciting” but many of the necessary things in life and prepping are. Most people don’t know this, and if they want to have any electricity in “the next life” they might want to get on board with this.

    If this isn’t exciting, try reading the US Army Technical Manual on Field Sanitation! Again a necessary but boring topic.

  4. Tactical G-Ma says:

    I have recently been discussing this very issue with friends. Some are not going to be interested but some of us are. Good job.

    • Big Bear says:

      Thanks for the kind words. Not everyone will be interested in the article but enough folks will be which makes the effort to produce it worthwhile. I’m going to be working on an off-grid way to heat a chicken coop or rabbit hutch and keep the water from freezing next.

      • Tactical G-Ma says:

        Big Bear
        If that could be applied to the rabbit coops as well I know tons of my peeps would be interested.

        • Big Bear says:

          I’m in the research stage now and learning about raising chickens and rabbits first. I’ve designed the chicken coop and the rabbit hutches so I know how many cubic feet will need to be kept warm. I plan to have a solar powered system using thermostats and timers to control the heat, light, and water temp. The goal will be to make it functional, inexpensive and useable with solar or grid/gen power. The fun is in the design phase!

          • Tactical G-Ma says:

            Big Bear
            Most books I’ve read and from my experience chickens do well without heat so long as they have shelter and their feet don’t freeze. At least in my part of the country. Last year we tried putting a light bulb in a cookie tin and put the water on top of the tin. That worked great except for those with the nipple waterers. But even that means running an extension cord for some distance. I worry too about flammable materials and bedding in the coops.

            • Big Bear says:

              I am leaning towards not providing heat for the reasons you and others have pointed out. I am concerned a bit though as our cold weather can be very cold. This year it was colder than normal …… must be all that global warming! The coop will be inside of our log garage along a west wall with only a small access opening to a fully enclosed and roofed run. It’ll be fully insulated and protected from the weather and wind. I still want to be able to heat it, the rabbit hutches, and the water without firing up the generator. All suggestions are appreciated!

  5. That’s not a power center, it’s a functioning work of art. My stuff always looks kludgey. 10 mins rooting through in the junk box: http://imgur.com/x7cOYpR 3, 6, and 9v at 1amp max, 300w 115VAC, and 12v up to 450 cold-cranking amps 🙂 Think I’d rather have yours though Dan.

    • Big Bear says:

      I checked out your “project”.at the link you provided. Words fail me!! And it works too ….. huh? Looks don’t matter as long as it works and doesn’t fry anything when it’s turned on …….. right?

      • Ugly as sin, much like the designer, but it works (after some sandpapering on the cigarette lighter plugs). Solar panels from old game trail cameras, old battery from the generator, a dual cigarette lighter female “T” connector, cheap 3/6/9/12v auto adapter with different end connectors and polarity switching, and the inverter (which admittedly is non-functional, hence it’s place in the junk box. Didn’t want to dig a working one out). Keep saying I want to get all the pieces to make a dozen of these (with somewhat better components) for sale or trade when the SHTF, just haven’t done it. If I tried to make something like yours I’m sure I could get it to work, but everyone would laugh at the childish looking result 🙂

  6. Ivy Iverson says:

    As an old Electrician/Electronics person, this looks like a great article! Is there any chance to put them all together instead of presenting them over such a long time? I’m sure it would be easier to build if everything were available together, and perhaps more pictures both inside and out. (Do you have the whole article posted on your web site?)

    Many thanks and keep up the great work! I’m sure many will survive when TSHTF because of your labors.

  7. Big Bear says:

    Hi Ivy,
    Thanks for your interest. As to making one article out of the 4 parts I suggest you just copy it and paste using Word. MD thought the article (6,000+ words) would be best presented in multiple parts. I don’t have a website and am a bit reluctant to post my email address. I’m sure you understand. I’ll see if there’s a way to get it to you in it’s original complete form.

    The last part (#4) will have the schematic and my construction notes.

  8. Curley Bull says:

    Great article! So it’s a little long in the tooth . . . most correctly detailed writtings will be. I was an Aircraft Electrician for 5 years and an Industrial Electrician for 40 years and I like what I’ve read.


  9. Chuck Findlay says:

    I understand how some could find articles like this boring as it’s seemingly involved as far as construction and not an area people like that much. I find most people I work for are afraid of electricity, personally I don’t mind working with it at all, it’s better then plumbing a house any day. I do both as they pay, but electricity / electronics are much easier.

    I build stuff like this all the time, it’s nice to look at fellow electronic enthusiast projects. It’s like a car show, even if you have a pristine 63 split window vet you still like looking at the other guys car.

    And there is always something new to learn or a new way to do something. The day you stop learning is the day they plant you in the ground.


  10. Hi,
    I just wanted to pop in here and say that I like this Blog. I have read only a few articles tonight but I like what I see.

    I grew up in the 50’s and 60’s. I remember how things used to be. I grew up on a small farm. My dad liked doing things the way he did when he was young back in the 20’s. Myself I want to help younger people prep for the bad things that I hope do not come.

  11. Jersey Drifter says:

    Great article. Well explained and detailed enough to follow. If it was less detailed a lot of us might be scratching our heads trying to follow it and wondering why you did this or that. It makes sense, at least to me. Thanks for the time you put into it, for it might be the difference in having a working radio or a paper weight.

  12. Just a little correction on your discussion of AC & DC characteristics. Both AC and DC are referenced relative to the “other” wire, making both of them a two wire closed system. On DC, measuring the voltage will show a negative (-) and a positive (+) that are constant with respect to each other. On AC, one will see the lines going positive until some voltage, generally around 165 volts, and then swings lower to zero volts, and finally start swinging in the negative direction to that same negative voltage and back to zero. It does this in a continuous fashion, 60 times per second. The ground is not part of the system, nor is it required, since all of the current flows between the source and the load through those two wires. Touching either wire will not shock you, because there is no path back to the other wire in the circuit.
    The commercial electric companies; however, use the earth ground as a backup system for their entire network, which means that touching one wire while grounded can shock you, so the third wire connected to ground and the neutral line are employed. In a closed system, unless you ground your neutral lead out of the generator or inverter, the third wire is not actually required.
    The primary use for AC vs. DC is that AC may be easily transformed to higher and lower voltages with no active components, allowing it to be sent over distances, or used to power lower voltage devices.

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