Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Mike Neal’

Solar Power: So Much Fun (Part II)

November 21st, 2015 Sears Homes No comments

Three years ago (November 20, 2012) I did a blog on my first foray into the world of solar energy. Since then, I’ve added and upgraded my system a bit. I’ve taken a break from traveling and writing about kit homes, so I thought I’d do a blog today on my new “solar system.”

If you have any questions or insights, please leave a comment below!

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

Want to read my prior blog on solar energy? Here’s the link.

*

Solar

Three years ago, I installed my first "solar system" on my little back yard shed.

*

fff

I purchased this "Thunderbolt" solar panel kit from Harbor Freight. Thunderbolt strikes me as a silly name, but it's a good solid product. Each panel produces 15 watts.

*

This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldnt bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

This Spring, we had a new roof put on the house and shed, and after we had that work done, I couldn't bear to put those solar panels back on the pretty new roof.

*

Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit.

Instead, I decided maybe it was time to upgrade a little bit. Pre-new roof, I had two sets of three panels atop the little shed roof. Each set of three produced 45 watts. The Thunderbolt solar panels were amorphous thin-film panels (older technology) while the newer panel (shown here on the side) is a crystalline panel which produces 100-watts with a single panel.

*

fffee

And it looks snappy, too. The panel is manufactured by Renogy.

*

I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted where you want it, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

I mounted the solar panel to the wall using a 360-degree flat-screen TV mount. It was on sale at Amazon for $19 and was exactly what I needed. This model has a feature (probably undesirable to many) that after the arm is pivoted into position, it can be tightened into place so it never moves again.

*

And mounting it on the side means I didnt need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

And mounting it on the side means I didn't need to drill fresh holes in that expensive new roof.

*

Ive now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries.

Inside, there were some upgrades too. I've now got three 12-volt deep cycle marine batteries. The battery on the floor is the one I use for my trolling motor, when I go out on the lake.

*

Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller

Prior to last week, I was using this MPPT solar charge controller. This little jewel cost $130 on Amazon and lasted only five months before it died. And it didn't die easy. It took out one of my digital meters when it went. Plus, it didn't just stop charging the battery; it was actually draining the batteries down to 4 volts. MPPT stands for Maximum Power Point Tracking.

*

You can read more about MPPT by clicking here. It’s a webpage unto itself.

*

This was

Shown above is the PWM (pulse width modulation) solar charge controller than came with the 100-watt Renogy panel. We'll see how it does. It's the dirt-poor cousin of the MPPT solar charge controller. If it lasts more than five months, it'll be my new hero.

*

Upgrade

With those three batteries, I was able to upgrade the inverter a bit, too. Shown above is a 1600-watt inverter. The green display shows the current charge on the battery. The now-dead meter above showed the incoming voltage on the solar panels.

*

And I added a few lights, too.

And I added a few lights, too. Inside, I have four LED 12-volt lights. I mounted this one outside. It's also available at Amazon for the low, low price of $11.97 (or was). This small fixture puts out a surprising amount of light.

*

The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Miltons house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, its still performing like a champ.

The old solar set-up was a lot of fun, and it lives on at Milton's house (my buddy and next-door neighbor). Three years later, it's still performing like a champ.

*

Want to become a licensed ham radio operator? Check this out!

If you’re here to read about Sears kit homes, click here.

*

Categories: Uncategorized Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Solar Power: So Much Fun!

September 28th, 2013 Sears Homes 7 comments

For as many years as I can remember, I have been completely enchanted by alternative energy sources. Capturing a tiny drop of the sun’s massive nuclear-reactive power (386 billion billion megaWatts) is a fascinating concept.

My own “solar project” started last year when my ham-radio buddy Mike Neal sent me an email to let me know that Harbor Freight was having a sale on solar panels.  With a $30 coupon (gifted to me from a fellow Ham), I got the $229 solar panels for $159. (The original price for the panels was $229, with a sale price of $189. The $30 coupon got me to $159.)

Because I’m highly allergic to big crowds and sprawling malls and loud noises and spinning children and fluorescent lights, I paid the extra six bucks to have the unit shipped directly to my house.

It took about 12 hours to install the kit, and it was a fun project. And watching those photovoltaic cells turn the sunlight into electricity is every bit as fun as I’d thought it would be.

If I were queen of the world (and it shouldn’t be long now), I’d recommend that every homeowner in America have a set of these on their roof. It was a great learning experience. Forty-five watts isn’t much, but it’s enough to run a ham radio and charge up a few cell phones.

I’ve shared all the nitty-gritty details below.

*

house

The little red shed in our back yard is now electrified, thanks to the sun and some photovoltaic cells on the roof. Each panel produces 15 watts, for a total of 45 watts.

*

house

"THUNDERBOLT" seems like a curious name for a solar product.

*

house

Were it not for plastic zip ties, installation would have taken much longer. One downside of solar power is, you have to keep the panels free of obstructions. The pine trees and the birds are conspiring against me here.

*

house

Getting the leads into the shed took a little planning. Ultimately, I decided to drill a hole (3/4") through the 2x4 (and roof). It is easier to patch a tidy hole in a 2x4, rather than trying to patch a hole in tired old roofing shingle.

*

house

Using weather-proofing tape (not sure that's its official name), I bound the three incoming wires together (from the panels) and poked them through the 3/4" hole into the shed. For the tiny gaps that remained, I used a compound putty substance (again, don't know the name but it looks a lot like Silly Putty). Back in the day, an old buddy told me it was called "Dum Dum" because you use it to patch a dumb mistake. However, I'd like to point out that it should be called "Smart Smart" in this particular application.

*

house

The controller that came with the solar panels is both entertaining and fancy. Its job is to prevent an accidental overcharge or discharge ot the storage battery. The digital display is large and easy to read.

*

Inside,

Inside, the wires drop down from above and into the controller (right side on the shelf above the battery). From there, the wires go into the 12-volt deep cycle Marine battery. Another set of wires carries the power from the battery back to the inverter (left side on the shelf). The inverter turns the 12-volt current into 120 volts (for household use). Like I said, it's all highly entertaining!

*

Another nice bonus that came with this set are these 12-volt LED lights. They do a good job of illuminating the dark corners of our little shed.

Another nice bonus that came with this set are two of these 12-volt LED lights. They give off a surprising amount of light, and brighten up the dark corners of our red shed.

*

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for  $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

The inverter (shown above) was not included in the kit. This 750-watt inverter also came from Harbor Freight. I also got it on sale. As I recall, it was $69 on sale for $49, and I found a $10 coupon. Final price $39.

*

house

The obstacle that kept me from starting this project was, lack of knowledge. Despite my reading and studying, I did not understand how all these components worked together. I asked Mike Neal, "What's the difference between a 200-watt inverter and a 750-watt inverter?" (After all, the 200-watt inverter was far less expensive). Mike explained, "Think of the battery as a bucket full of water. You can draw that water out with a swizzle stick or a milk-shake straw. The 200-watt inverter is a swizzle stick. The 750-watt inverter is a milk-shake straw."

*

bat

My wonderful neighbor (another Mike) was also a helper in the project. I told him that I needed a deep-cycle marine battery and he got me a good deal on one at a local marine supply warehouse. This battery weighs about 50 pounds. I set it up on cinder blocks to make it easier to access, and I put the OSB down because I'd heard that batteries might discharge if placed directly atop masonry.

*

The

The last part of the project required anchoring the panels to the roof. In that the panels sit so high above the roof, they'd become a sail next time a hurricane roars through. Our solution was to tether the pvc frame to the opposite side of the shed. For the tether, I used 10-gauge stranded copper grounding wire.

*

Solar

Close-up of the tether on the PVC frame. It's not super taut, but it doesn't need to be. It's anchored into the steep side of the shed roof with an eye-bolt.

*

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such aas the many tall trees in our yard,

Hubby and I spent countless hours figuring out the correct angle for these panels. There were many factors such as the big old tall trees in our yard. And yet, I'm happy to report, the system works VERY well!

*

Total cost of the entire project:

Solar Panels - $159 plus $6 shipping (and tax)

Interstate battery - $114

750-watt inverter - $39

Battery terminals - $8

Wiring - $5 (thanks Dollar General!)

Incidentals - about $20 (zip ties, pipe clamps, tape)

Total investment: $351

Entertainment value: Endless! :)

*

To learn more about why Ham Radio is so relevant and important TODAY, click here.

To read about Sears Homes, click here.

If you wish to contact Rosemary, please leave a comment below.

*

It’s Official: I’m Now a Ham (Part II)

August 28th, 2012 Sears Homes No comments

About 18 months ago, I wrote a blog about passing the Technician’s test and obtaining my Ham Radio License. That was certainly a big milestone and today there was another one: I now have a beautiful eight-foot Diamond X-200A, a dual-band vertical antenna, proudly standing beside my house and reaching toward the heavens.

Were it not for RASON (Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk), my ham radio license would be just another document, sitting at the bottom of a desk drawer and gathering dust.

I can’t imagine trying to navigate the complexities and nuances of radio equipment and antennas and power supplies and grounding rods and frequencies and on-air etiquette and more, without the ongoing support, patient tutelage and constant guidance from these experienced members.

Based on my real-life experience and a little research, most Ham Radio operators are hyper-intelligent, well-read, sagacious and perspicacious male baby boomers who built their first ham radio from a Heath Kit in the 1960s.

Generally speaking, I’m a smart cookie, but when it comes electrical systems, I’m a bit of a dullard.

After procuring my first ham radio, (a hand-held Wouxun transciever), I needed help with a couple things, such as turning it on and turning it off. And changing from one frequency to another. And plugging in the antenna. And removing the battery so it could be recharged. And putting the battery back after it was fully charged. And everything else.

And I mean everything.

When I told RASON president Mike Neal that I was ready to put up a “real” antenna at my house, he graciously offered to help me with the whole project. And wow, did he help. He provided specific guidance on everything from finding an ideal spot in the yard to measuring the length of wire needed for the new antenna, and he even provided me with a detailed shopping list, showing every piece and part I’d need.

When the antenna and associated components arrived, I excitedly emailed Mike and asked him for help installing the new antenna.

“Help” is an interesting word choice here.

The word “help” implies a partnership of sorts. In fact, I merely watched in amazement as Mike went to work assembling this thing. (Despite having read the assembly instructions several times, I was still not convinced that Universal Radio had sent me the correct order. I was feeling a little befuddled.)

I watched in silent, reverential awe as this Japanese-manufactured mass of stainless steel pieces and parts and pipes was transmogrified into something resembling an antenna.

Less than an hour after Mike arrived, the antenna was assembled, installed and ready for its first test. (And that 60-minute time frame included Mike’s muffin and coffee break.)

The antenna is - in my humble opinion - a thing of beauty and a joy to behold. The signal it produces is strong and clear.

Thanks so much to Mike and RASON for holding my hand and walking me through these very first baby steps as I enter the world of Ham Radio.

The learning curve for a late-comer like me is massive, but I have a feeling it’s going to be a fun ride.  :)

To read more about my experiences with Ham Radio, check out Part I, Part II, Part III, Part IV, and Part V of this series.

*

Mike Ham

I paid close attention as Mike assembled the antenna but most of it was a high-speed blur. Diamond Antennas should hire this man to create an online tutorial on how to put an antenna together because he makes it look so darn easy. And to us neophytes, it's not "easy."

*

Heres a picture of the stick antenna I used prior to this. Again, it was made (and supplied) by RASON and with this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, Im about 90 miles from Kilmarknock.

Here's a picture of the "stick antenna" I used prior to the installation of the exterior antenna. This magical little device was made (and lent to me) by RASON. With this little antenna (and my five-watt radio), I picked up Kilmarnock from my sunporch. According to Google maps, I'm about 75 miles from Kilmarknock.

*

The mast for the antenna

The mast that supports the antenna was purchased from eBay. This mast is made up of several army surplus tent poles (fiberglass) and measure 40" per length. They're ideal for mounting Ham Radio antennas. Again, Mike and RASON were the source of this information.

*

I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mikes memory on this topic was better than mine.

I have a vague memory that something about grounding rods was on my Technician License test. Fortunately, Mike's memory on this topic was better than mine.

*

The connection point into my sunporch was very neat and tidy.

The antenna's connection point into my sunporch/radio room was very neat and tidy.

*

close

A close-up shows how tidy this connection really is, thanks to Mike's supervision and guidance.

*

Tidy

Close-up of my "equipment," which is a Wouxun transceiver KG-UV6D. The wing chair is the official "Rosemary is playing with her new ham radio so please don't disturb her" chair. It's quite comfy.

*

The best part of the instructions was the Engrish translations.

"Do not use iron ladder." Are those popular in Asian countries? Because I think they'd be pretty darn heavy. And the Japanese must be far more social than us Americans. Throughout the text, the phrase, "Ask your friends for help" appeared eight times. Apparently installing a Ham Radio antenna is a big social event over there.

*

Out

And now the beauty part: The antenna itself. I'm not sure how tall it is, but I think it's about 28 feet to the top of the antenna. That Holly bush (center of photo) may have given its life for this project. It was hacked down to 30% of its original girth to make way for the antenna installation.

*

Another view of that dandy antenna.

Another view of that dandy antenna.

*

Darn

Reaching for the heavens, baby...

*

From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

From the front of my house, this antenna is nearly invisible. Can you see it?

*

Now

How about now?

*

To read part one of this blog, click here.

To learn more about Ham Radio, click here.

Click here to learn more about Radio Amateur Society of Norfolk.

*   *   *