The new panel meant a new electrical design but an airplane needs zombie-esque1 indications of what is working and what it not.
The question I needed to answer was how I would monitor the alternator, the main battery, and a backup battery. What I settled on was the need for indicator lights, or as some might want to refer to them "idiot lights".
Gammatronix makes a series of battery monitors and sells them through eBay. There are a number of choices for indicators. If size is an issue, then they have a very small 5mm with only two display options. I went with the larger more configurable "J" model which has a 10mm LED (14mm with the bezel) and 6 programmable modes – two of which is ultra-low current draw (500 microamp) designed to be left active even when parked.
After a bunch of tests, I settled on a simple profile for the main battery and a very detailed profile for the backup battery. My thinking was that if I was down to using just the backup battery, I wanted to to know how many electrons were left. I also wanted both to be green when both were at full charge and the alternator was active but almost immediately after an alternator failure, I wanted an indication.
I updated the aircraft pilot operations handbook (POH) with a table that explains the different indications but the simple rules apply – green is good, red is bad; flashing demands attention.
Note: The effective operation voltage of the LiFePO4 battery is higher than a lead acid battery, I added a 120 ohm resister inline with the indicator. I wanted the indicators to be solid green under normal conditions but change almost immediately after the alternator failed (or went over voltage). Given the very low current used by the indicators, the inline resistor solution works well. If you did not know, the slight change it makes to the flashing would seem normal.
1 – "zombie-esque" : to be like or have the characteristics of a zombie … translation ? brain dead and simple !
The farmhouse has been a sort of living/working laboratory when it comes to energy efficiency and usage. The first rule of this lab is "no crazy life altering bias". I want to know what a real world experience could be had and what it would cost.
The farmhouse is "all electric all the time". The only non-electric system in the house is the kitchen stove which is propane. Everything else uses electricity. The geothermal heat and air conditioning uses electricity for the circulators, condenser pumps, and and the air handler.
There are two times each year when I have no need for heat or AC. With a little luck, the two periods last long enough that I get a full billing cycle from my utility company in the middle of each. The last was last October (Sep 19th thru Oct 18th). The latest just finished (Apr 19th thru May 18th).
I call these my "baselines" because, assuming I do not do a lot of unusual things during these periods like shut everything down and go on holiday, I get to see just the day-to-day usage. This includes things like the water heater, the refrigerator, the chest freezer, my office computer equipment, the TV, lights, etc. It even includes weekend warrior sessions in the shop.
Last fall the baseline was 430 kilowatts. This spring it was 520 kilowatts.
I first thought it was stuff in the shop or some other big thing. It turns out nearly all of that 90 kilowatts can be counted in just three things. I have a small media PC that runs both the TV and some odd computer jobs. It is on all the time because it is working all the time. It uses about 20w but over the course of a full month which adds up to 15 kilowatts. I also installed a dawn simulator to keep me on an early schedule. Over a month, it adds up to a little over 5 kilowatts. The big consumer was a pair of computer monitors. When I switched my work computers around, I setup a multi-monitor system. It turns out, those two monitors total 50 kilowatts of usage each month. As for the 10 kilowatts left over, believe it or not, it can be attributed to a clock radio and my iPod charger.
With a head fake to Neil Sedaka, here is an update on the “Light Table Sunrise”. It is working fabulously !
As the days get shorter, even with the switch back to Standard Time here in the USA, a sunrise simulator (or dawn simulator) makes the shock of waking up almost shockless.
I looked at a number of them but with most being built into an ugly balloon looking lamp, I really wanted something that would control a light of my own choosing. There are a few options but most cost more money than a “I don’t know if it will help” experiment. Fortunately, there are tinkerers and entrepreneurs and once in a while they are the same person – case in point, Wind Hover Mfg @ sunraintime.com.
The too simple model 205 is $25 and the much better model 308 is only $35. I originally ordered two of the model 205 – one for me and one as a gift. It worked as advertised and it actually did what I needed it to do – help wake me up gently. My only complaint was the 205 is just too simple. There are not external controls so you actually need to remember the “trick” to programming it. Having ordered and used the newer model, I would not recommend the intro level device only because most people will want the features of the advanced model.
With the competition to the 308 being 2 to 4 times more, it’s a no-brainer if you have trouble getting up and think a sunrise simulator is your best line of defense.
It turns out I have a "Smarter Farmhouse" than I had expected. While I’m not thrilled with the number, I do appreciated knowing about power outages even when I’m not at home. It was not exactly by design but here is what happens:
- an email goes out when the power fails
- if the power comes back quickly, I get another email
- if it stays out for more than 15 minutes, I get an email
- when the power comes back, I get an email
All of this is courtesy of the ReadyNAS and an inexpensive uninterrupted power supply (UPS). The ReadyNAS, and my DSL model are both running off the UPS. The ReadyNAS sends out a up to four different emails:
- UPS is on batter power.
- UPS is on line power.
- UPS battery is low; system will shut down soon.
- UPS is shutting down system.
It turns out that message #3 goes out while the system still has power but message #4 does not actually get mailed until the system comes back up. The emails are short enough they can be sent as SMS. They are also sent to multiple email accounts so one of the message routes is bound to find me. I’ll be resting a little easier on my next travel knowing the house is powered and if, in the unfortunate even I do lose power, I know to report it and if I should ask a neighbor to check up on the place.
It’s not perfect. It would fail to notify me if the DSL/phone were down but thus far, that has not been the case.
The farmhouse phone service was installed … connected … ah, buried yesterday. The box was attached to the back side of the building a week ago but then the phone company had to contract to a trenching company to bring the line the 1800 feet from the road to the building. Assuming they actually buried the line the 18 inches deep they said they would, the only risk of destruction is the splice box 1/3 the way down the side of the driveway. Splice boxes are perhaps 3 inches square by 3 feet tall and "phone company green" so the blend in really well with agricultural crops – smart ?! Ill likely paint it safety yellow. It may be too conspicuous but that’s really the goal.
I ran CAT-6 network cable throughout the farmhouse – even for the phone lines. In the case of the primary service, this means there are four redundant pairs, all carrying the same signal. This feeds into the utility room where I have installed a small wall mounted rack unit. eventually, this will take a 1U panel for the phone, a 2U panel for the networking, a 1U panel for the gigabit switch, and a tray for the DSL modem, the router, and possible a NAS. By dawn’s early light, I installed the 12 port panel that services the DSL and phone connections.
For those who have never had DSL service, the way it works is that the phone line entering the building supports both DSL for internet and POTS* for voice. Little in-line filter blocks must be installed for every phone while an unfiltered connection goes to the DSL modem. Since everything is running through the utility room, I chose to use the patch panel to simplify the filter placement. I established a single port as "unfiltered" and then chained the remaining 11 ports together after installing a filter. So, any phone line from the residence which is plugged into port #1 will be unfiltered and can take the DSL modem. Any phone line plugged into #2 thru #12 will get a filtered phone signal. This will allow the DSL modem to go anywhere. In reality, I hope to install the DSL modem in the utility room so no lines from the residence will plug into port #1.
* POTS = plain old telephone service
The carpentry foreman strongly suggested I make a note of where all of my electrical boxes were. I say; ?yeah, sure.? I guessed I?d remember where all of my network, speaker, and video boxes were located. But, I took pictures just the same. Good thing too. I was checking progress this morning after the interior sheetrocking was finished in yesterday?s marathon session. Most things looked right. I found some more thrashed, trashed, and “beyond-repair wires that we will need to discuss but otherwise things looked right.
I also checked out ?the BIG room?. It looks huge as befitting its volume. One thing seemed odd. Why would I install a network box without an electrical outlet near by. I had consciously done that in two places so perhaps this was just one more. I was almost ready to accept it until this evening when I was uploaded the latest images. I went back 2 weeks and found the photos of my work. And THERE IT WAS ! ? an electrical outlet box 16 inches over from my network box. It?s in the framing photos but not the sheetrock photos. I guess I had better check the whole building now ?
In case you can?t find anything in these little panoramas or even the marginally larger ones when you click, just know that the originals are around 60 megapixels.