Sunday, June 17, 2012

"Electric Brain Fart" would be a good name for a rock band.

So Friday afternoon I took delivery on a couple of six-volt deep-cycle batteries for the Lair, represented as lightly used.

And yesterday morning while it was still cool I brought my wrenches and multimeter out to hook these bad boys up. Simple chore, wanted to get it done before it got hot and so they'd have plenty of time to charge. No problem, right? This is seventh-grade theory. Series to increase capacity, parallel to increase voltage.

Or is the other way 'round?

Either way, what I want is positive-to-negative. Simple enough to remember. If twelve-point-something comes out the end, screw the theory. It works.

It occurred to me that I hadn't wired together this particular sort of battery connection in so long that the actual proper arrangement of the actual physical cables had completely slipped my mind. And I got it wrong, and what came out every time I tried completing what seemed in my tired brain to be the correct arrangement just resulted in sparks. Never a good thing, when there's no load on the circuit at all. When you see sparks, always back off and think about what you're doing. It actually took me a couple of hours to sit back, drink more coffee and simply trace the circuit: What are you trying to accomplish here, Joel? Let's just do that.

Bottom line, though: I began typing this before six in the blessed AM, which is hours before I would previously have dared fire up my evil, power-sucking laptop. Granted it's a power hog of a laptop, it gets really hot and has an all-high-speed-all-the-time fan, but still. Laptop. Doesn't draw that much power but I never dared fire it up first thing in the morning.

So I guess we've made progress.

Yeah, the solution is very simple.

On the construction side of the project, giving the batteries and all the other new-ish components somewhere to go, I made no progress yesterday. I've got everything I need to frame and sheath the walls. I've got no idea at all how I'm going to roof it, but that will come. And the good news - the REALLY good news - is that I've got access to actual expert assistance when it comes time to wire it all together. Right now I'm just laying groundwork. When I'm done, which will almost certainly be before the days start getting shorter, there'll be a new 240-watt panel that was actually built in this century mounted on good racking on the Lair's roof, a real inverter that wasn't just meant for running a CD player in the back seat, a new charge controller, all humming purposefully away in a covered, insulated building of their own. I already have all the major components except the charge controller and they're not very expensive. I need roofing, insulation, wire, and some more conduit and I'm golden.

ETA: The electric power is the one part of the Secret Lair that has disappointed - even though it has worked about as well as I predicted. I scrounged everything in the generating system, and so went for the point of irreducible complexity - it can't get simpler than this and still work, which means I knew all along its function would be absolutely minimal. I thought that would enough to suit my very simple wants and needs, and it just wasn't. Live and learn: No matter how much you simplify your life, in some areas there's a difference between "absolute minimum" and "practical minimum." When you fail to take note of the difference beforehand, you end up doing complex and expensive things twice.


Anonymous said...

Yo Joel,

There are optimum/better angles for pointing solar panels that vary with the seasons.

That may suggest a direction and minimum angle for the roof of the power shed.

Claire said...

That's a nice, big shed, Joel. Got other purposes in mind besides just a power shed?

Anon, if I recall correctly, Joel already angled the Lair's roof to serve as a pretty good place to mount solar panels & I think they're going to go there rather than on the roof of the shed.