Turquoise Energy Ltd. News #131
covering April 2019 (Posted May 6th 2019)
Lawnhill BC Canada
by Craig Carmichael

www.TurquoiseEnergy.com = www.ElectricCaik.com = www.ElectricHubcap.com

Month In Brief (Project Summaries etc.)
 - Greenhouse and Garden - HAT36V-50A Plugs and Sockets - The Last of the Month - Shingles! - Chemical-Free Iron Filter for Domestic Water - Solar PV Hot Water Heating - To make the Main Hot Water Tank Grid Plus Solar - Turned the hot water tank to 1/4 power - Tugboat Solar Panels - Ground Effect Craft (R/C Model) - Tesla 3 versus 2019 Nissan Leaf (video) - Cigarette Lighter: 120/240 Volts AC Power From Any Electric Car?

In Passing (Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)
 - Hearing Improvement - Shingles - The Weather - ESD

- Project Reports -
Electric Transport - Electric Hubcap Motor Systems
* Ground Effect Vehicle (R/C Model): Snail's pace but moving
* Car Charging Mystery Solved: There is no such thing as a 3 KW charging station (they're 4 KW!)

Other "Green" Electric Equipment Projects
* "Off Grid" (etc) 36 volt DC Infrastructure
* High Current HAT - 50 Amp Plugs & Sockets
* Today's AC Wire Color Conventions NEED TO BE CHANGED! and unified with DC conventions
* Solar Water Heating: 36 volt water heater elements
* Hybrid system?
* Regular Hot Water Tank as Combo Solar 'preheat' and Grid Water Heater
* Chemical Free Iron Filters for (eg) Well Water
* Need for voltage controlled operation... & Components for that
* "Custom" Heatsinks for LED Lighting
* DC to DC Down Converters to run 12-24 Volt Equipment From 36 Volts

Electricity Generation
* Another month (April) of solar collector performance logging
* Another palette of solar panels ordered - watts, efficiency are still creeping up: 315 W.

Electricity Storage - Turquoise Battery Project (Mn-Zn, Ni-Zn or Pb-Zn in Methyl Hydroxide electrolyte)
* Nafion & Osmium Doped Acetaldehyde film Notes
* The Continuing Saga of the NiMH Dry Cells Car Starting Battery (a little repair and it still works great! - 7-1/2 years old now)

April in Brief

   Sometime in April I got a little boat ride from Queen Charlotte out to check a crab trap. There weren't any crabs, but I got a couple of pictures of the town looking north from the water - a little westward, and a little eastward. It's quite a "vertical" town without extensive level ground anywhere and even steeper hills behind, and so it's very much spread out east to west along the waterfront.

Greenhouse and Garden

   I finally got my greenhouse into "operable" shape at the start of the month. In view of the food scarcity crisis now so obviously looming for the next few months and a year or two (and even then, only if there are no more catastrophes in the meantime - hah!), I spent a lot of time in April prepping beds in the greenhouse and the garden and then planting things. (My garden dirt is largely beach sand except for whatever I manage to fortify it with, so prepping it is extra important.)
   I was afraid cold weather and dryness in the greenhouse had killed my asparagus, but with warmer weather and some watering some thin stalks started springing up. Nothing like a good eating size, but at least some were alive. My apricot tree in the garden looked dead, but it finally started budding by May. The other one, in a large pot, started flowering early and may actually get fruit, along with the fruit trees I had planted north of the house when I first moved. I had already been eating swiss chard still growing from last year, and some spinach from the indoor LED garden. But other than potatoes, what did I really have to make a meal of except some greens? My garlic planted last fall was up, but all the "winter wheat" was a no-show. I put in a small patch of barley in March where the quinoa had been last year. At least that sprouted! I planted corn, but it hadn't done well last year. I originally was going to plant it in the greenhouse, but that was probably going overboard. It didn't fare well - I put it outside too early.
   Then I rototilled up a fair patch of grass (10x10 feet?) and moss clods well outside my regular garden area. It was tough going and I had to stop and strip the grass out of the tines a few times. This was the sort of thing I wanted the CNC gardening machine for. But it might not have handled it anyway.
   I was going to plant barley there too, notwithstanding that the deer might eat it. I couldn't find the barley seeds (I can misplace anything, anywhere, anytime, better than most anybody else.) so I dug up some from the small sprouting barley bed to thin them at the same time. After transplanting to make two rows, it occurred to me that corn might be the best thing to plant there. I figured the deer were unlikely to eat corn, and if I had a good amount, the raccoons probably wouldn't manage to mutilate too many. (There seem to be far fewer raccoons here than than in the city in Victoria. In fact I've never seen any near my house.) So the rest of the bed got corn. A day later three deer were wandering around the area munching. They'll probably leave the barley until the grain is ripening, then gobble it down. Hopefully the corn won't attract them.

   Near the end of the month, I put a table inside the greenhouse and painted the boards and plywood for the tugboat deck solar panels. It was warm and the paint dried well instead of taking days. I managed to avoid stepping in my asparagus, if only barely.

HAT36V-50A Plugs and Sockets

   All this gardening was good exercise and may well pay off later in the summer and fall, but naturally, it ate heavily into energy project time, which seems to be in shorter and shorter supply. I managed to design and make 50 amp HAT36V plugs and sockets, but only by working on them late at night. And after designing the sockets in 3D printed plastic, for such high currents that will get very hot if there's a poor connection, I wanted ceramic socket shells. That means making molds... and fixing the mini-kiln's burned out element. The first mold didn't go well. I have a couple of possible new plans. Later I started thinking that lacking the high temperature plastics used by electrical manufacturers, even the 15 amp sockets and wall plates should probably be ceramic. This will be a challenge!

The Last of the Month

   I woke up on the 21st realizing that virtually 3/4 of the month was gone with so little to show for it. All I had managed for energy projects was the HAT36V-50A plugs and sockets. Where does all my time go? I shifted focus and didn't get much more gardening done.


   I felt something on the top of my head, but I couldn't see anything under my hair. A minor bruise? A couple of days later I couldn't understand why it wasn't going away. In fact, had it spread? On the 24th there were red blotches all over my forehead on the left side. It was shingles. I saw the doctor and got some "anti-viral" pills. I rubbed some butter on the splotches. I'd heard it was helpful or at least soothing. After that I mostly stuck around home as I was apparently contagious for chicken pox - same virus. I went out occasionally for groceries and mail. (Long version see "In Passing")

Chemical-Free Iron Filter for Domestic Water

   But I saw my neighbor (he'd already had chicken pox), and he mentioned finding out about air injection filters that would get rid of iron from water without added chemicals. What commonly happens in many areas (eg, all around this area and in Tlell) is that iron-rich well water looks clear, but it has dissolved iron II (ferrous) ions in it. These soon change to insoluble ferric (III) form after they come out of the tap into air - yellow to red rust - and stain everything. That's why I've wanted to catch and use rain water for dish washing.
   These new(?) filters inject air as the water comes up from the well pump. So it (mostly) converts to ferric form there, before the main filter. This is filtered out in the regular sand filter instead of entering the house water. It seemed "Rainfresh" was a good brand. I ordered one to pick up in-store at Home Hardware in Masset. (Best price, too: ~1000 $. Still, there go my savings from not being on pricey city water any more!)

Solar PV Hot Water Heating
1200 Watt, 36 Volt Hot Water Tank Heater Elements with 
1", 1.25" threads. The multiple elements can be separated. 
One is thus 600 or 1200W and the other is 400/800/1200.

   That was a thrilling discovery. It changed the way I want to do the solar water heater for under the kitchen sink. I'll just connect the 4 gallon tank to the regular house plumbing and not to rain water barrels - a great simplification!

Making the Main Hot Water Tank Grid Plus Solar

   And now I'm starting to have the ambition to disconnect the lower element in the house hot water tank and replace it with a 36 volt, lower wattage heater. Thus the bottom half of the regular tank replaces the usual "solar water preheat tank", and is heated by solar. If that doesn't heat it enough, when hot water is run and the cooler water moves upward, the top element will ensure there's 1/2 a tank of hot water. That way that project involves no plumbing except installing the new heater element.
   The problems with the present arrangement are: (1) With 3000(?) watt elements and only 1900 watts max solar power for all purposes (on a sunny day), most of the water heating is done very quickly without much time for the solar to help. If I could even find a low wattage 240 volt element, the grid tie inverters could supply much more of the slower heat without changing anything else or adding wiring. (2) If the power goes off for quite a while there'll be no hot water for the shower. (I don't fancy carrying buckets from the kitchen sink.)

Setting the hot water tank to 1/4 power

   As I was editing the above paragraph (on May 4th) an interesting thought occurred to me: In the breaker panel, disconnect one wire from the double breaker and connect it to neutral. Then the tank would get only 120 volts instead of 240. Since the only things in the tanks are the thermostats and the heaters (no electronics, etc), these would be running well below their maximum ratings. I couldn't think of much that could go wrong. The elements would run at 1/4 power: 750 watts each instead of 3000. If there's solar power available, it should easily supply 750 watts instead of 1500 to 2000 of the 3000 coming from the utility. The water will (eventually) get hot regardless. That seemed so simple I did it that day.
   Before I closed the breaker box (what neat wiring), a clamp-on ampmeter read about 6.15 amps. 6.15 A * 120 V = 738 W. Well, that certainly was the simplest of projects! With only one of me living here, I can't see running out of hot water in spite of the slow recovery it will have. (I'll find out soon enough if I'm wrong.)
   The difference now between this and rewiring the bottom element with a 36 volts specifically solar circuit is that the solar circuit would heat the bottom half of the tank only with available solar power, even if it means leaving it cold all night. But it would also heat the tank even if the grid was off.

Tugboat Solar Panels

   On the 25th and 26th I nibbled away at the triangular holders for the solar panels for the tugboats, to keep their batteries up and the bilge pumps working. I should have finished that - at least - 2 or 3 weeks previously. It was mostly a wood construction and painting project. That didn't enthuse me much. Installation - wiring to the charge controller and battery below - shouldn't take very long.

Ground Effect Craft (R/C Model)

   On the 26th I (finally) cut some 2-1/2" wide pieces of styrene foam for the bottoms of the hulls of the RC model ground effect vehicle, and on the 27th glued them together. Then I managed to cut and glue some more pieces at the front and back. The beginnings of a shape are finally starting to emerge. Next: the spars for the wing, which is also the "deck" between the two hulls.

The two hulls for the ground effect vehicle model take shape,
from polystyrene foam glued with epoxy resin. - Bottoms

Right way up with fronts filled in.

Tesla 3 versus 2019 Nissan Leaf - video

   A father and son team with a garage, decided to compare two new electric vehicles, Tesla 3 and 2019 Leaf, by taking them on the same trip 75 miles each way on the highway including up and down a mountain in Colorado. The longer range Tesla was charged to show the same number of miles of "range remaining" as the Leaf. Off they went. "Dragging" from a stop light up to the speed limit of 55 MPH, the Tesla pulled way ahead of the Leaf. (They have scary power!) Both cars left all the gas cars far behind.
   The Tesla seemed to have everything calculated out for mileage. As they went up the mountain, its "remaining range" indicator dropped a mile per mile driven. The route was plugged in and it knew the car would come down again. The Leaf just calculated by power being used, and the "remaining range" reading ("at the rate you're using power...") dropped 2 or 3 miles per mile driven. By the top of the mountain pass, it said only 80 miles left - hardly enough to get back. Going back down, the Tesla continued to drop mile for mile, but the Leaf's range estimate was rising (to well over 100) as the power regeneration refilled the batteries. (As a Leaf owner myself, I was sure it would.)
   The comparisons when they got back to the shop were interesting: Both vehicles said 82 miles range left. Both said "20 hours to charge". And both had used 272 watt-hours per mile. (The trip being high-speed highway driving up to 70 MPH, a lot of the power would have gone to wind resistance. Slower speeds would have used less power per mile. An EV-1 with its extra low wind profile would also have used substantially less.)

Cigarette Lighter: 120/240 Volts AC Power From Any Electric Car?

   I have the 36 volt converted Sprint ready to plug into the house solar system, either to charge it, or as extra stored power if needed. With a commercial electric car it's trickier. No doubt the car makers don't want the batteries risked in unknown "off-grid" power applications, and they don't provide a means to use them that way. But here's a way that should work with most any electric car: You can get small power inverters that plug into the car's lighter socket, to provide 120 volts. (or I presume 240.) At least for the Nissan Leaf, the car must be turned ON so that the main batteries will keep the 12 volt battery charged.
   I don't suppose cigarette lighter inverters are very high watts, so heavy loads are out. And I don't know how much the car uses for itself sitting there turned on. But it's something that could presumably run small 120 V items away from mains power if needed, and no doubt for a very considerable period of time before killing the batteries.

In Passing
(Miscellaneous topics, editorial comments & opinionated rants)

Hearing Improvement?

   It is generally accepted that hearing deteriorates with age, and that there's nothing that can be done about it except to avoid loud noise. Was that really true? On the face of it it seemed to be. I've never heard anyone say, "Oh, my hearing was pretty poor, but it got better in my fifties." From past hearing tests I know my own hearing has deteriorated over the decades. I know from my last hearing test (I think it was 2012) that I had lost more from making and tuning recorders (the flute instrument) between 2004 and 2007. My hearing somewhere around the 2000-8000 Hz range - the range for hearing what people are saying - had gone from one step above to the top of "impaired".
   However there are many things that we are told and that we accept without question, which turn out not to be absolutes. Arthritis and osteoporosis, "incurable" bugaboos of "old age" until recently and even now among the many who haven't heard, were discovered to be mostly caused by boron deficiency, and taking borax cures it like vitamin C cures scurvy. (There are various rather similar water-with-borax formulas on line.)
   If you don't look for answers, you're not likely to find them, especially if few others have searched either, so any knowledge there is is not being shared. I searched on something like "hearing improvement" on youtube. That brought up an odd video with synthesized voice that said to put drops of garlic juice mixed with oil in your ears. It was pretty vague on details, but somehow I got a sense that they might be onto something. How might one more directly affect the ears than by putting something in them? Was it like a vitamin? Did the oil give the little vibrating hairs a rest? Did it clean the wax out? I decided to try it out in my left ear, which if anything seemed to be poorest.

   The video said nothing about time or applications. One application certainly did nothing. Disappointing perhaps, but to be expected. If it worked like that, everyone would be raving about it. Like arthritis, one doesn't (normally) get bad hearing ovenight, so why would one expect to cure it overnight? After crushing garlic and mixing the juice with oil a couple of times, I dispensed with the garlic. For a while I used peanut oil, then I switched to olive oil. I don't know if one oil is better than another. The peanut oil seemed to drain out a bit more readily.
   You have to find just the right place at the back at the top where the dropper can be put in farther (just a little farther, no more!), and the oil goes right into the ear. I just squeeze the dropper slowly until it sounds like I've gone underwater. It's just a couple of drops. Then sometimes I roll up a bit of tissue and put it in my ear, and often I get some oil on it. Then I just let it drain out. If I put my little finger into my ear, even hours later, it often comes out oily. I've now been trying it for probably 3 or 4 months, usually once or twice a day but missing sometimes. (Rats, I've kept no record of when I started.)
   In recent weeks I started noticing frogs croaking. They have a high pitched sort of "chirping" to their sound and they go on and on (until they all suddenly stop at once for a while, for no apparent reason), so it makes a good test. First I noticed it lying in bed with my left ear up. Was I hearing this faint sound from outside more than usual? I turned over and I had the impression that the higher parts of the sound - where the tests had said my hearing was poor - were more subdued with my right ear. I continued with the oil and by the end of April I think I can pretty safely say that if I plug my right ear and listen with the left, the sound has more treble "presence" than through my right ear alone. I have the impression I hear more frogs, some from farther away. Listening to a couple of other things, power pole transformer hum seemed no better in my left ear, but some heavy machinery in the distance was definitely clearer.

   I probably lost my several hearing test result cards from the late 1980s and early 1990s and the one from 2012 when I moved to Haida Gwaii. At least, I've looked in the drawer where I once kept them (so long ago) and have no idea where they went. (I wonder if they're still on record at Island Acoustics?) But I have a fair memory of what the charts looked like. They weren't very good, and the one from 2012 was worse as mentioned. If a test would show the left ear improved over the previous test, and over the right ear, that would be definitive proof. As it is, it's what and how I think I hear - subjective evaluation that's says "I seem to hear better" and I think I know roughly what a chart would look like, but it can't be quantified in decibels and I'm not absolutely sure it's any better at all.

   One disappointment of note: So far I have not noticed any change to my tinnitus.

   I called the clinic. If they do hearing testing it would be silly to not check it out. An audiologist periodically comes to the Skidegate Medical Clinic. He had just been there. I can book an appointment for next time, in August. Well, that gives over three months to apply more drops in just my left ear, to have an even more certain idea that it's improving.


   The virus that causes Chicken Pox usually hits when one is young. (It is in fact more serious if it strikes when one is older - notably it can cause sterility.) Once you've had it, you're immune. You don't get it again. But they never completely die off. Apparently they eek out a living in the skin or away from the body's main immune defenses. And they can cause "Shingles" later in life - nasty red splotches that hurt like heck. Variously, they tingle, feel like you've been stung by a wasp or have been hit with something. And in fact the skin all around seems to all be sensitive to an extent even where there's no splotch. They somehow follow a nerve, and affect the skin only where that nerve surfaces. This is good, because I'm sure it would acutely serious to fatal if they spread everywhere. One area is plenty bad enough. I've heard it can stick around for months. And if it gets in your eye, it can blind you.

   None of this was on my radar screen. One day my head hurt in a couple of places, but I couldn't see anything under my hair and I payed it little attention. I had bumped my head a couple of days before - lightly I thought. Must be a bruise? taking so long to start hurting? This went on a couple more days and I started to wonder. And had it spread? The next morning there were red splotches all over the left side of my forehead.
   I still had no idea what it was. I went to the pharmacy and the pharmacist thought it looked like shingles and that I should try to see a doctor. Luckily the nurse decided I'd better see the doctor on duty before she went home after she finished with two or three emergency patients. So I waited. The doctor was very concerned because it was so close to my eye, and did a retinal exam. She prescribed me "anti-viral" pills, which I had never heard of before. These apparently are specific to various viruses (and yes, there seem to be some for flu, but dubiously effective). They stop the virus from multiplying rather than killing it outright. Herpes and shingles have a certain enzyme targeted by the pills. If I had taken them sooner the whole thing might have been much milder. I got back to the pharmacy just in time to get the prescription before they closed.

   Somewhere I had heard of putting butter on the splotches. I started doing so. I thought it might merely alleviate the pain. But I'm starting to think there's more to it. The virus can't give you Chicken Pox twice because your body has built up an immunity. So to cause shingles the virus is recurring at some weak point in the body's defenses, which somehow involves the skin and a nerve. On the outside, the virus has access to the air, away from the body's defenses. By greasing the skin, that access is blocked. Some sorts of skin nasties - mites?, scabies?, bacteria?, fungus?... and shingles/chicken pox virus, might just be suffocated or "drowned" by or in butter. What besides butter might work? Oils and margarine would probably soak into the skin and have no lasting effect. (Who would want to use automotive grease?) Maybe lard, or vaseline? Butter is probably pretty neutral and mild, and it washes off easily with soap or shampoo. Perhaps it's unique? Later someone told me there was a special cream for shingles, Capiscum. (Why wasn't I told about it at the clinic or pharmacy?) From the description it sounded a bit harsh.
   The rubbing to apply it hurts, but is probably helpful in itself. (Brushing or combing my hair, or even anything touching the left side of my head, is excruciatingly painful. Improving by May 6th.)

   The doctor had me come in the next morning for another retinal exam, which seemed okay - somehow better than the previous evening. She said something about some eye drops, Polysporin with antibiotic. But the lowest splotch was above my eyebrow. I didn't think that was close enough to worry. Over the weekend a new red splotch and some swelling appeared right over my eyelid. On Monday morning I drove into town and got the Polysporin and immediately went into the washroom and dropped in the drops. I should have bought it in the first place, just in case! No doubt I should have been taking them regardless of where the shingles was. Anyway, nothing seems to have happened. I went into the post office to get my mail, and a lady waiting there for something told me a horror story of someone who had got it in their eye.

   Two days later on May 1st (after a week) I ran out of the antiviral pills, and the shingles, while somewhat improved, definitely wasn't gone. (and it looked like so many pills... but the dose was two at a time, three times a day, so they disappeared fast.) Being pretty sure they were helping, maybe a lot, I went back and got the prescription renewed. I know at least with antibiotics you shouldn't quit taking them in the middle, and I could see the virus coming back with a vengeance with no more antivirals, to last for the reputed months of shingles - with the ever present threat of getting some in your eye(s), perhaps by rubbing or scratching your affected skin and then rubbing your eye.

   As of May 2nd, the red splotches were shrinking. A couple of people asked why I hadn't had shingles vaccine. I had never given it a thought. One person was currently one needle into a two needle immunization. She didn't know if she had had Chicken Pox! Can they really give you shingles vaccine safely without you first having had that? But apparently the shingles vaccine is only good for a limited time anyway, albeit for some years. And there's no point having it for a year or so after having shingles.

The Weather

   The weather is everywhere - globally - heading into extremes. Although poorly reported on the mainstream media except locally, weather stories saying "record breaking" and "unprecedented" are all around us. The more than severe flooding in the central USA, Queensland (Australia) and Mozambique was repeated in Iran, Argentina, South Africa, and Ontario (Canada). Elsewhere there are droughts, snow, record lows, record highs, hurricanes, tornados and hail storms with pellets so huge they kill both small and large animals.

   IMHO the major cause of all this is geoengineering and especially the "chem spraying" - the huge project making of cloud cover at extra high altitudes all over the world. In most any outdoor photo anywhere nowadays one can see spreading jet trails in the sky in the background. The climate will probably just continue to get worse until this absurdly unsound attempt to reflect sunlight away "to reduce global warming" is ended.

   Then we note mass die-offs of life daily or even more than one daily around the globe. And it's not just fish, sea birds and dolphins now. Insects are under threat with the monarch butterfly in danger. "Colony collapse disorder" is happening to honeybees and biologists have become worried that the entire genus "bumblebees" may become extinct. Nicotinoid insecticides appear to be largely to blame. Then, the numbers and variety of amphibians has shrunk to half globally and is still shrinking rapidly. They are being called "The canary in the coal mine." I don't even remember the horrific estimate of the number of species of life going extinct.

   Who would have suspected that life on Earth as a whole might become so endangered without a nuclear holocaust?

   Here on Haida Gwaii pretty normal rains come down ("drier than usual" is actually more pleasant here as long as it doesn't extend to drought and forest fire). The bumblebees buzz in the dandelions and in almost a swarm in my big flowering currant bush, and the frogs croak up a storm all evening in a nearby swamp. Chemtrails only dull some otherwise sunny days. The location out in the Pacific ocean is probably favorable. Then there's the fact that there is no "big agriculture" with pesticide and herbicide spraying here, and the small population is not making every possible speck of land ideal for humans or crops at the expense of everything else. And the Haida having taken much local control of the fisheries, the sea is probably better managed here than most places. They've closed even some of their own favorite fishing spots to make safe places for marine life to reproduce and thrive. Some of the global die-offs of starving marine creatures and sea birds probably indicate that the whole ocean is being seriously fished out, but fishing is good here.

(Eccentric Silliness Department)

Philosophy: There's no point getting up on a ladder and cleaning your gutters if it isn't pouring rain.

Someone said "preppers" are keeping the economy going. The economy is so bad they're the only ones in the lower 75(?)% of the population still buying things they don't immediately need.

Failed company slogan (it came back to bite them): "At Eclar fresh produce, we put the asp in asparagus"

Instractions: instructions that distract the mind from actually getting the job done. (eg: wading through the first five pages of safety warnings.)

Neighbot: the robot horse next door.  (Ooh those typos!)

Prepeat: Hmm, this one-word oxymoron just seems to defy definition. The time just before hearing the same story over again?

   "in depth reports" for each project are below. I hope they may be useful to anyone who wants to get into a similar project, to glean ideas for how something might be done, as well as things that might have been tried or thought of... and even of how not to do something - why it didn't work or proved impractical. Sometimes they set out inventive thoughts almost as they occur - and are the actual organization and elaboration in writing of those thoughts. They are thus partly a diary and are not extensively proof-read for literary perfection and consistency before publication. I hope they add to the body of wisdom for other researchers and developers to help them find more productive paths and avoid potential pitfalls and dead ends.

Electric Transport

Ground Effect Vehicle (R/C Model)

   A catamaran doesn't look much like an aircraft. Yet one can find videos of radio controlled (R/C) models of this sort flying - mostly just above the ground, but also up into the sky. For real life transportation, I don't think we even want something capable of flying up into the sky. I'm hoping this won't even need an elevator, although I'm putting one on the R/C prototype. Ideally it will just be that if the throttle is pushed far enough forward, the vehicle will rise and float over top of the water instead of in it, at very high speed because of the reduced friction. (I would be unhappy with less than highway speeds, with very low energy consumption.) "Landing" is just lowering the throttle until it settles back down. No aircraft pilot skills should be required. (And we certainly don't want to attract the attention of federal aircraft regulatory agencies!)

   I finally got back to this near the end of the month. On the 27th I mixed epoxy and glued on the bottoms of the hulls.
   The "step" hull is ubiquitous in water take-off craft. As speed increases the whole rear end lifts out of the water and more and more the craft is planing just on the area in front of the step, with less and less water friction until take-off. Then, flat bottom hulls pick up speed and plane on the water considerably more easily than "V" hulls. It's just my own supposition that this will make for easier take-offs with less power.
   In an aircraft the bottom profile behind the step gets higher (farther from the water) toward the rear so it can "nose up" without them hitting the water. In this design, the rear of the wing almost touches the water too, which will lift the rear. In fact, the back of the wing will surely be immersed before starting the takeoff run. Here we don't want it to fly up into the sky, only to get it "floating" above the water's surface.

Piecing the Pieces

Epoxy curing in the warm greenhouse                               
   The following night I cut a bunch of little pieces to do the curves around the fronts and along the tops to where the front of the wing starts. And a couple of pieces to fill in the backs of the hulls to the point where the wing becomes the elevator. This was all made with styrene foam. On the 29th I glued the pieces to the hulls.

   The hulls are to be covered with a thin sheet of epoxied PP cloth. (This needs to be done if only to cover up that smug "pink panther" picture printed on the foam.)

Epoxy Techniques: I mixed the epoxy and painted it on in the rather cold shop. (13°C?) One can be sure the epoxy did very little setting in there. Then I put the pieces out in the warm greenhouse with the sun on it (yay, there's sun!) to set in a reasonable length of time. (25°C?) For the bottoms I left them overnight with weights on them. I wanted it all securely hardened into place since the sides wanted to warp into curves and would probably peel off with the slightest opportunity.
   The unused epoxy and the brush go in the freezer between sessions. At -18°C they only last a day or two. In my present freezer at -22° to -25, they last several days.

   The spars for the wing, which also hold the two hulls together, would be spruce. I didn't get started on that part. I needed to figure out how tall (wide) each spar should be to make the right wing profile as well as how many spars to put on. And it must be remembered that unlike a deck, the wing will be lifting the whole vehicle, not just sitting pressing down on the hulls. That will require different reinforcement - especially in the full size vehicle.

   On May 3rd I measured the wing thickness off the diagram, which was based on printing out the profile sent to me by John Ryland [ RylandResearch.co.uk ], and came up with a table:

Inches from
    Front - wing thickness/spar width

00" - 0
0.5"- 0.84"
01" - 1.29"
06" - 1.56"
12" - 1.65"
19" - 1.80"
25" - 1.70"
32" - 1.35"

   Behind 32" (to 38") is the back of the wing and the start of the elevator. I was surprised by how wide the spars were to be. I guess the key to lightness is to keep them thin front to back.

An Electric Amphibious Aircraft - New Design (Let's see... if I put wheels on mine... you'd still need to use a boat launch ramp    
because you couldn't get over the fence to an airport. But maybe it could be its own trailer?)                        
Is it even conceivable I could make anything that looks that slick? I should probably at least try for that skin smoothness.      

   There are some electric airplanes being made now including amphibious ones. One of them is to be tried on the Victoria-Vancouver run. I salute that effort! The whine and smell of the float planes all day was just a small one of several things that were making life in Victoria less pleasant and helped spur my moving to Haida Gwaii.

(Warning: Digression! Much worse was Telus putting an equipment box with 24/7 ever-whining fans on my boulevard right outside my formerly quiet back yard in 2009. Did I have to live with that for the rest of my life? And BTW they tried to rip me off - kept billing me monthly and pretended not to know - when I switched to Shaw. Even tho they cut the phone line off from their office. I found out they were doing that to everyone, and of course most people wouldn't know how to test the line and so couldn't dispute it with them. People should have gone to jail for that scam and betrayal of public trust (especially the CEO, I'm sure - these things aren't authorized from the bottom!), but I'd be most surprised to hear anyone did. But I digress.)

   I'm becoming more keen on making the full size manned vehicle electric. If it couldn't fly to Prince Rupert, there are still a number of very interesting local trips it could take. Seen flying around and videoed it should be at least a demo of the potential and hence an inspiration. Then again, if someone can do a commercial electric float plane on the Victoria-Vancouver route, or make an amphibious aircraft that can fly for an hour, and if the ground effect vehicle really uses 1/4 or 1/3 of the energy of an aircraft, perhaps the potential for a couple of hours flight to reach the continent is there even with present day batteries? Might it really float on the air so effortlessly just above the waves?

Car Charging Mystery Solved: There is no such thing as a 3 KW charging station - They're 4 KW

   After a trip the car dash would indicate numbers along the lines of: "Time to Charge / 6 KW - 3:00 hrs / 3 KW - 3:30 / 120 Volts - 9:30". Why should 1500 watts take more than twice as long to charge as 3000? And why was there so little difference between 3000 and 6000 until the car battery was very low?

   I had assumed from the times shown that at 120 volts the charge was only at around 1000 watts (eg, the Miles truck is 1100 W). But when I put a power meter on it, I found it was drawing the full 1500 watts allowed on a regular 120 volt circuit. That's fully half as much as 3000 watts. Counting tapering off near the end of the charge, it should be less than double.
   Finally I looked online and found a table of charging times for various vehicles with various chargers. There is no 3 KW charger! The lowest one shown other than 120 volts, was "3800 watts"! That explained the discrepancy. The used charger I bought had been sold to me as "3 KW", and "3 KW" was what it said on the dash of the car. Looking at some fine print on the side of the "3 KW" charger, it didn't say anything about power, but it said it drew 16 amps continuous. 16 A * 240 V = 3840 W. That's virtually 4 KW, not 3!
   Based on the erroneous "3 KW" figure being bandied about everywhere and nowhere contradicted, I had installed it with #14 wire and a double 15 amp circuit breaker. It should have had #12 wire and a double 20 amp breaker. I suppose the #14 wire gets pretty hot, and it's a small wonder the breaker doesn't keep tripping.
   I am appalled that this false figure is being perpetuated. Here it has needlessly caused a reliability and safety issue, and really I should rewire the whole thing. (Lucky I didn't refinish the wall I had to rip apart to put it in.) How many other DIYers have just accepted "3 KW" and done undersize wiring?

   A new mystery now appears: The car takes more kilowatt-hours to charge than it says it used. It might say after a trip, for example, that the average was "7.2 Km/KWH". So if I  drove 55 Km, the car should have used 55/7.2=7.6 KWH. According to that, the car should take a little over 5 hours to charge. Instead it says "9 hours to charge" at 1500 watts. That's 13.5 KWH. Charging seems to taper off in the last hour, so call it 13 KWH. Another reading says "52% charge remaining" - from 24 KWH batteries, that indicates 11.5 KWH used. Either way that's almost double what it says it used in the "energy economy" section. I don't know if it takes 9 hours to charge, but it certainly takes more than 5.

Other "Green" Electric Equipment Projects

36 V DC "Off Grid" Infrastructure

   Looking on the "Dernord" pages for low voltage water heating elements I noticed that there was a "Number of Orders" below each model. I tallied up the orders for all models of DC heater elements on page 1 and found:

* 12V (445 orders) is incomparably the most common
* 24V (89) is next most common
* 36V (34) is the least common but by no means rare
* 48V (59) is third most common

There were no elements for any other specified voltages below 120 volts.

   I'll take a guess that those running 36 volt systems are those who are like me more prudent (or less sporting?) who wanted higher efficiency but didn't want to go to the somewhat dangerous 48 volt level. Or perhaps they've noticed that you can readily buy cheap DC to DC down converters for up to 40 volts input for running 12-24 volt equipment, but not for 48 volts.

Manual Method of Switching from "Regular" to "Grid Down" Operation: Automatic versus Manual?

   The day after posting TE News #130 with the idea for powering the house or some extension cords using a pure sine wave inverter to activate the grid tie inverters, I found a video by "altE" ("alternative energy store") called Adding Batteries to Grid Tied Solar in which that very topic is discussed.

   Two different methods are outlined. Both require that you make an "essential loads panel": a separate breaker box for freezer, well pump, furnace fan and essential lights and plugs. When the grid is down, only this panel will be powered and the main breaker box will be dead.
   For new construction this isn't a really big deal. Installing wiring in open wall studs before the wall surfaces are put on is pretty simple. But retrofitting a new, separate AC breaker panel with diverse new outlets and circuits in a typical existing house would be a prohibitive amount of work.

   The "AC Coupling" is about the equivalent of my idea last month of a power bar plugged into the pure sine wave inverter and having extension cords to the grid tie inverters and to the appliances except that it's all prewired permanently in advance. The driving inverter apparently has to be of somewhat bigger capacity than the grid tie inverter(s) it activates.
   The "DC coupling" type evidently requires there to be one big grid tie inverter instead of several "micro inverters" like I have, and they talked about having several solar panels in series making for lethal voltages, so I didn't pay it much attention.
   Having panels in parallel is valuable in many installations of which mine is typical: When some panels are in the shade, the other panels still produce full output. If the panels are in series, having one in shade kills the whole series string.

   Later I found "smart" "Hybrid Inverters", which I confess hadn't crossed my radar screen before. Here is how the "automatic" works in installations where everything works "optimally" without any manual intervention in any situation: sun or no sun, grid on or grid off, all switched automatically. The most versatile units can draw power either directly from the solar panels or from the batteries, and also from the utility grid as necessary. If the grid is down, solar is off or insufficient, and the batteries are low, they will even start up an automatic fossil fuel generator. They operate both as grid tie inverters and off-grid inverters, switching their output from the main line to the "essential loads" panel (disconnecting it from the rest) if the power goes off.
   The chief drawback as I see it is that this complexity costs a lot. Solar done with all the official permits for grid tie and such equipment, installed by those in the business, costs a lot more than "basic solar" done DIY. To have a contractor come in one might start at 15000 $. Still, one can DIY and still follow approved guidelines with lower cost hybrid inverters such as Conext MPPT 60 150 (still over 500$). That is probably worth it in a "serious" new installation with 20 or 30 panels.
   You can start solar for a very low price. A small panel for 12 volts, a PWM charge controller and a 12 volt lead-acid "RV/Marine" battery can be under 200 $ and will at least run an LED light and charge a cell phone.
   Moving up a step, four solar panels or so, a cheap charge controller and a set of golf cart batteries might be under 2500 $ and would do the essentials if the grid went down.

   For myself I guess I've never taken doing a "proper" installation too seriously. It grew very much piecemeal. I started by putting up four solar panels for emergencies, then I thought I might as well have a cheap grid tie so their output wasn't going to waste. Then I put in a convenient little "boost" charge controller for 36 volts and hooked up my collections of NiMH batteries. And somehow it grew to 10 panels on two roofs. Then I started adding 36 volt infrastructure, which I prefer to 120 volts AC but which of course all needs wiring, and wiring in existing buildings is generally a pain in the butt. (I think even if I get HE ray electricity going, I would prefer to run house wiring, if it will still exist, as 36 volts.)
   With more or less two separate small solar installations and no "essential loads" panel wired in, I'm planning only a "manual intervention method" switching of power with inverters and extension cords to keep some lights, the fridge, freezer and well pump going if the utility grid is down. But further DC capacity is planned. The more things that can be run off the 36 volts, the better. Water heating is usually a good use because it's second only to heating for electricity use, and the solar-heated hot water will lower the electricity bill. Let's outline my setup - some features existing, some projected for completion in the coming months:

- 10 solar panels on two roofs.
- Six solar panels, 1800 watts go to two simple grid tie 1000 watt "micro"-inverters.
- Four solar panels, 1000 watts go to a 36 volt, 10 amp "boost" charge controller (and-or a grid tie inverter)
- A 36 volt, 60 amp "buck" charge controller is ready to switch in for "grid down". (I can't find any higher power "boost" converters.)
- around 6 KWH of NiMH batteries.
- The Sprint car is also 36 volts and can add over 11 KWH of additional storage by connecting it instead of the other batteries.
- A 36 volt breaker box with "Blue Sea Systems" type DC breakers, and with a voltage, current, power and power consumption meter.
- a few HAT36V wall receptacles in the house for lights (etc)
- a HAT36V-50A 50 amp one for the small kitchen hot water tank. (drawing 11, 22 or 33 amps depending how many heat elements I hook up.)

   I'll be running a very few (three or four?) "HAT36V" DC outlets around the house from the DC/solar breaker panel in the garage, and these could substitute - with some manual intervention. I would unplug the small hot water tank [with the 36 volt DC element - see detailed report] and plug in an inverter into the "HAT36V" 50 amp DC outlet in the kitchen, and plug the fridge and freezer into this inverter as required to keep them cold when the mains power was off. Extension cords as required. (It just better not happen while I'm away!)
   If it looks like a long outage, I have to disconnect the MPT7210A 10 amp charge controller and connect the PowMr 60 amp one, putting the two pairs of 250 watt panels in series. (I'll probably put in a big DPDT switch for making this changeover. It would leave the grid tie and MPT7210A connected to the two grounded, lower voltage panels. These could be turned off or left on. If the MPT7210A was set to charge at a slightly lower voltage than the PowMr)
   I'll already be running LED lights from the DC outlets (mostly 12 volt ones with the little DC to DC down converters), so that takes care of 'emergency' lighting.

   It's certainly not a perfect system. One minor aggravation is high-power appliances. If I'm making 1500 watts and turn on the 6000 watt clothes dryer, I can't spread the load out. It's "make the 1500 and buy the rest 4500 from the grid", and then go back to giving power to the grid free after the dryer shuts off. Charging the car is normally at 3800 watts too, but I can plug in the 120 volt, 1500 watt adapter and spread the time out... except that I'm usually getting home toward the end of the day. Switching the water heater to 120 V / 750 W [see "April in Brief"] should help spread the load and use the solar -- if I run hot water during the day instead of at night. Anyway even with 10 solar panels I'm not making enough power for my own daily needs.

   If the grid really goes down for a long time, hopefully the trailer's extension cord can be plugged into the off-grid inverter and that will bring its "grid tie" inverter to life so I can make use of the trailer's output. Otherwise, it may use another PowMr charge controller and 36 volts of 40 amp-hour lithium batteries that I have for a separate trailer system. That's at least enough to keep the lights on at night (if the trailer is being used).

High Current HAT - 50 Amp Plugs & Sockets

   I thought it would be good to have the high-amperage HAT connectors I had conceived of. If I ran a line across the house it could go to the 36 volt water heater in the kitchen, or that could be unplugged and the 36 volt to 120 volt inverter could be plugged in indoors (warm and dry) to run the freezer and or fridge in a power outage. The freezer is about 100 watts, and the fridge is about 140. Theoreticly that's only 3 or 4 amps at 36 volts, but those compressor motors draw a nasty surge current as they start. They may choke a 1500 watt inverter (= 42 amps at 36 volts) and not start up. My 1800 watt/2500 volt-amp pure sine wave inverter worked in the previous power failure. It's probably just big enough.

   What should I base the size and shape of a high current HAT connector on? The vital part is the pins/blades. Everything else depends on them. Of course I would use the same essential shape. A target current would be a handy spec, too. 50 amps at 36 volts is 1800 watts - the same as 15 amps at 120 volts. That seemed like a good starting target.

   For comparison and contrast with what others have done:

Blades in a NEMA 30 amp 120/240 V [clothes dryer] plug measured about:
   2.4 x 12.7 x ~30 mm, which is also (and probably specified as) .10" x .50" x ~1.25". Cross section would be 30 sq.mm.

Pins for 30 amp Anderson APP connectors changed shape along their length, but were pretty tiny compared to the NEMA plug.
Pins for 70 amp APP connectors had a cross section of about: 2.1 x 7.1 mm, cross section 14.91 sq.mm. (Call it 15.)

The NEMA plug had big blades and was intended for just 30 amps. But the common 120 volt, 15 amp blades are 1/2 the width and (again just via measuring one) not much more than 1/2 the thickness, so 1/4 the cross section for 1/2 as much current. As with the exactly .50" width spec, everything suggested that the NEMA blade size was arbitrary and substantially larger than actual current flow requirements. This belief was further supported by the 70 amp APP plug pin having just 1/2 the cross section of the 30 amp NEMA blades. 15 sq.mm would have a little bigger cross section than #6 AWG wire. #6 AWG wire is rated for 55, 65 or 75 amps depending on the wire temperature permitted: to 60, 75 or 90 °C. (quite hot to really hot!) These ratings consider the heating of a long length of insulated wire under heavy load. Plug and socket pins are short and the wire itself (if thick enough) carries heat away from the plug pins. (Of course, there's no help for the heat made by a badly connecting plug and socket in any event.)

A 120 VAC, 15 amp wall receptacle opened up.
The grips for the plug pins are about the same size and grip as the HAT36V "hatpin" grips,
and in fact they hold the HAT blades quite well.
(Oops, the 120 V plug with its big blades for comparison is just off to the right.)

   I cut a piece of 1.65 mm copper sheet/plate, 10 mm wide. That seemed kind of wide. If I made my HAT blades 8 mm wide by 2 mm thick (nominal), they would be 16 sq.mm. That should be sufficient for over a 50 amp circuit. (Or should I call it "60 amps" just so it'll be known as "2000 watts capacity".) I decided they should be about 20 mm long. Again, just long enough compared to the width for a good grip when plugged in. Just by eyeball after making a few socket shells, 12 mm seemed like a good spacing between pin centers. So those dimensions become the specs.

36 volt, 50 amp HAT plug blade size specification:

Thickness: 2.0 mm +/-.25 mm (1.75 to 2.25 mm)
Width: 8.0 mm +/- .5 mm (7.5 to 8.5 mm)
Length: 20 mm +/- 2 mm (18 to 22 mm)

Blade center spacing: 12 mm (tolerance unspecified)

   These pins are a little bigger in all dimensions than NEMA 120 volt, 15 amp plug pins. I don't think they should be any smaller. I came up with 12.0 mm blade spacing after making some shells and finding that 15 mm seemed to leave wasted space. 15 was what I had originally thought just by setting the pins beside each other and setting them what seemed a reasonable distance apart.

   Obviously 2 mm x 8 mm copper blades aren't going to be made on the spot just by flattening a wire with a hammer. But the pins need to be large for high current. 2 mm sheet copper or 2x8 mm strip is going to have to be obtained for the purpose.

   Having that spec, how long would the actual pin be cut? I decided to make it 40 mm. So 20 mm would stick out to connect, and 20 mm would be inside the shell to hold it in place and connect to. It seems to me that 8 x 2 mm is wide and fat enough to put a machine screw through to make a solderless connection. (But I didn't try it.) I cut a couple of pins to that length. That was it for the 13th.

   On the 15th I I cut some flattened wire "hairpins" for sockets, 65 mm long. Instead of one, there would be two for each 8 mm wide plug blade, 4 mm wide or less. Two springs would make a better connection than a single point. I made two from #9 AWG wire. This turned out to be quite hard to bend around. The other two were #11. They seemed to grip just as well. Since #11 isn't very common, I decided to try #10 and #12. (The thinner "under spec" 1.65 mm blades gripped quite well too, not quite as strongly.)

   Next would be the plug shell design. Since the pins were thicker than the small HAT plugs as well as wider, a 50 amp connector that could also accommodate a 15 amp plug seemed to be out of the question. HAT would have to be like NEMA: in fact, different incompatible plugs and sockets for each major current rating. Perhaps that's for the best! Also there would probably only be two types, 15 amp and 50 amp, and the "50 amp" size might well be used with smaller circuit breakers - 40 or 30 - according to the situation and the wire size used. Of course I would keep the same shape, so the only other question that counted for specifications was the distance between centers of the blades. The thing to do was probably to start designing on the 3D printer/OpenSCAD and see what worked well and looked reasonable.

   There were other questions of construction however. One was safety. When something is drawing 50 amps, a poor connection can make a lot of heat. Even my thermoelectric fridge drawing 8 or 10 amps (with the crappy Pico .205" socket connectors) had somewhat burned one of my CAT sockets. 120 volt AC plugs and sockets occasionally get burned. I couldn't use some of the higher temperature plastics commonly used in electrical connectors in the 3D printer. A very safe alternative occurred to me on the 15th: ceramic. Less common today, it has been used in light bulb holders and sockets. (I have an idea to make a single piece socket shell: The pins would slip in from the rear end, and they would have a threaded hole for a machine screw. Two holes in the sides of the shell would allow this bolt to be inserted into each pin, which would both connect the wire and prevent the pin from sliding in and out. Like the CAT socket shells, this could either be used in-line or it would fit into a plastic wall plate.)
   But I decided to do a two-piece shell in plastic on the 3D printer and switch to ceramic after I had a working design.

HAT36V, CAT12V: What's in a Name?

   I also thought of a very important refinement on the 15th: if the CAT and HAT connectors manage to start getting out there, they will attract more attention, but that will help them spread only if people know what they're called. It's not like NEMA plugs and sockets where everyone knows what they are and can find them in any hardware store. I should print in the plastic on each and every one something like: "HAT36V" or "CAT12V", or here, "HAT36V-50A". (At risk of marring the appearance -- even on the face of the wall plates.) Then when a guest comes into an off-grid house and asks "what is this wiring system, I didn't know there was anything like this?" (s)he can see the name and look it up instead of simply being told "Um, I forget what that's called." Once they're in the hardware stores, the inscribed labels can be dropped. (They aren't working out. Maybe I should use a rubber stamp, stencil, or adhesive label.)

   On the evenings of the 15th and 16th I printed shells. Each time I would think, "gee, there's some wasted space there", or "those hairpins don't need to be so long". At one point I realized that inside the space of the shell, if the open ends of the "hairpins" were bent out a bit, they would hit the sides of their space, so toward the center the hairpin was providing "double" pressure against the plug blade, making a better connection. And that would prevent the folded end from being spread apart and losing pressure, too. So I shortened the hairpins, and hence the whole socket, some more.
   And somehow the shells on the 15th were 13 mm between blade centers instead of 15. On the 16th I made one 15, and decided narrower was better. With another adjustment, I ended up at 12.5 mm, and decided that was a good size.
   But that was all without having tried to wire the socket. I always set aside the wire in my mind "It's just a skinny little wire." Now I started to think that it would be hard to get fat wires in. For 50 amps one would want to use #8 AWG wire, if not #6.  Hmm... no, those were definitely not going to go in. Either I was making 30 amp connectors for maximum #10 wire - at most - or I was going to have to scale up a bit.

   Perhaps what I really needed was another way to connect the wires to the hairpins? They really have to stick out from the end of the hairpin instead of projecting sideways from inside the fold. Maybe a tab, silver soldered to the ends of the hairpins? More ideally, a small pipe that could crimp down on the wire. Or more simply, perhaps just different shaped hairpins with a tab bent right into the closed end? Before bed, I pounded some #10 wire flat and snipped it at 70 mm. Then I bent them into that special shape, using a 2.5 mm thick washer to form them around. The wire could be soldered to the flat part and hopefully would have enough room to come straight out the back.

   The 18th was again occupied with other things and I found little time to get any farther. I did make another pair of the new hairpins and soldered a #8 house wire onto them (40-55 amps), and a #6 (55-75 amps) onto the other pair. The soldering took a lot of heat and a big tip on the iron, but it seemed like good joins could be made.
   It was obvious that my shell arrangements were totally inadequate for the wires. The hairpins were longer. The #6 wire with its insulation was bigger than the connector pieces and would need a very substantial space. Even the #8 insulation was a larger diameter than the wire holes. It might even be better to have two designs, for each wire size. But having the wires come straight out the back would be a big improvement. On to shell design #5!

   Before bed seems to be about the only time I'm getting to work on this! On the night of the 19th I changed the shell to accommodate #8 wires. I even made the wire holes small for a short section with no insulation, and then larger for the insulated wire to come out the back. I un-soldered the #6 wire and soldered on a #8 to the other pair of clips, which is probably a bad sign that it's too much work making the clips. It seemed to go together pretty well. It took substantial force to insert the pins, and without a plug to pull on, I couldn't pull them back out except with pliers. They hold well and should make good connections. I didn't see anything I wanted to change offhand. The printer was warmed up and ready to go, so I just printed another one the same.

   Next, the plug. I wasn't getting very far very fast on this little project! But I managed to design and print a plug the next day, Saturday the 20th. It seemed good. Noticed that the bed (still) wasn't exactly level. I adjusted the right side up a bit, and put the routine that printed "HAT36V" back in. I made one other small change and printed another plug. This time, the lettering sort of came out. If you got the light just right, you might guess that's what it said. I spaced "H A T" a little farther apart so the printer wouldn't do weird things between the letters, but I had had enough of 25 minute prints. I'll assume the next one will be better rather than worse.

   For the plug, I came up with a new technique: since the wires (#8 AWG) were so fat, I picked a special fastening method and used them as the means to lock the blades in, to prevent them from sliding out. I drilled a hole in each blade. But the wire - #8 is always stranded - was divided so half the strands went on each side of the pin. The stripped length, about 5/8", was intended that the strands ended just at the far end of the hole. I pushed many of the strands into or through the hole from each side. Then when the wire was soldered onto the blade, it had more than just surface contact, improving mechanical strength.

   The final result seemed quite satisfactory in operation. Considerable force was needed to push the plug in or to pull it out. But I don't consider it to be excessive. That force is going into making a good, solid connection for the high currents these are intended for.
   For the smaller plugs, I'd be finished here. Two parts remain. First is that for such fat wires, distinct designs are required for #8 and for #6 wire, so the #6 still needs to be done. Then the part remaining is to make the socket shells out of ceramic instead of plastic. I wouldn't want to burn someone's house down owing to heat from a poor connection melting a plastic socket. This will be a substantial project in itself.

   I hadn't given much further thought to making molds for the ceramic version, but it started to dawn on me that I could do them too on the 3D printer, using the same design. On the night (again late at night!) of the 24th I added a new block of plastic to completely cover everything made before, and a "difference" command. This made it into a big block with the socket design inside of it, "inside out" with spaces where the solids would go and vise versa. Then I added "scale" by 1.15 times in each direction, to compensate for shrinking of clay during drying and firing. I had to drop the lettering, which would have printed in the air at the top. (But I could make it into a plastic stamp to stamp into the outside face of the clay.)
   The resulting mold looked rather rough and I could see it needed a couple of changes, but I decided to try it out. I have a feeling I'll have to scrape or sand some of those surfaces smoother, and probably put a few holes in the bottom of the mold to push the clay out from.  If I got the slicer software for the new printer installed, it would already be a lot smoother. (I would of course have to remove the clay still damp, since it would crack if it shrank still in the mold.)

   On the 25th I tried it. I was sure I would need holes to push the piece out of the mold, so I drilled some in one side. I found some clay that was rather too damp (no doubt had been a 'slip') along with other bags that were too dry to work. It filled the mold nicely, but when pushed, the spot right above the hole just bulged or opened.

   Then I found "Log End Sealer" (Bow River Craft Woods), an emulsified wax solution, and painted some in to make the mold more slippery. Then I tried some red clay that seemed like a good consistency, not too wet or too dry. This time if I pushed on each hole, the piece started coming out. But the edges in the thin slots broke away and stayed in the mold. Looked like it wasn't going to work readily. Back to square one.

   The next idea was to make an oversize socket, file or scrape everything as smooth as I could, then pour some flex mold compound in it and fill all the spaces, then turn the whole thing over and put it in a shallow box to make a mold, around 'actual' (oversize) socket pieces. Hopefully the clay wouldn't stick to the flexible rubbery mold if I made it as smooth as possible and coated it with wax.
   I bought the flex mold compound years ago and had trouble using it because bubbles would form in it. There were instructions for putting it in a vacuum until all the bubbles came out, but I hadn't had a vacuum to put it in. Now I had a vacuum pump and a container. Maybe I could use it this time!

    But before that I looked at the 3D plastic mold again, and figured that if I could just cut off the bottom and set it on (or clamped it to) something flat, everything should still hang together (except the bolt holes), but I could push the clay out the top through the big gaps in the bottom. I could even look at the bottom and make sure the clay had gone into every nook and cranny... even fill any gaps from the bottom. The bolt holes could be punched in after with a piece of brass tube.
   How to cut or file or plane the bottom off? Hmm, wait! Easier just to add a couple of instructions in the OpenSCAD file and 3D print a new one already missing the bottom!

New Type of Circuit Breakers:  "In-Line", Faceboard Mount

   When I ordered three more "PowMr" charge controllers I noticed the same outfit had "in-line circuit breakers". In this case the pictures were inadequate and I couldn't really tell what I was looking at, especially the size. I thought they looked pretty tiny. Something told me I should order some anyway.
   They turned out to each be 4" long, with holes to screw them onto a flat panel. Instead of a "breaker box", they could be the terminations for various wires on the face of a low voltage panel. Lines from each panel or sets of panels would go to a breaker, then to the charge controller, inverter or other destination. The battery bank could go to a fairly high amperage breaker before going to any equipment. If there are any shorts or if the equipment blows and shorts out, the breaker would blow and protect the batteries - and the house.

   The wires need no lugs on the end and are securely screwed down (hex wrench) inside the breaker's "pipe". And while the breakers are exposed themselves if mounted in the open, they completely enclose the connections - no bare copper showing anywhere, which is better than any other breaker.

The flat surface mount breakers. I forgot why I ordered a whole bunch of 20 A and no 15s,
but returning to the page, 20 A were the smallest.

   I was rather proud of my circuit breaker box with the "Blue Sea Systems" circuit breakers. Still these new breakers seemed to offer a simpler way to connect up the DC components and circuits, and one can visually trace the circuits and see what breaker connects what to what.

New PowMr 60 amp MPPT Charge Controller

   Except for the noisy 'always-on' fan, the little MPT-7210A boost charge controller was very much to my liking. It was completely programmable and it did everything I wanted. It raised the 25-35 volts from the solar panels to 41.0 volts [my setting] to charge the 36 volt batteries. It could be turned on or off and came on automatically in the morning. It drew its power from the panels so it used nothing from the batteries. The only problem was that it was only 10 amps. If the power went off, that would take (eg) at least 10 hours to recover 100 amp-hours into the batteries - more than a day. So it would be the restricting factor in how much power could be used per day.
   Looking on line, I discovered that it was a pretty rare type. There were very few other boost charge controllers on the market, and they weren't higher powered either. I didn't fancy designing and building my own. It seemed the only way to get a higher power boost controller would be to connect several of them all feeding the same batteries. Two might be all right for 20 amps. Adding multiples seemed like a troublesome arrangement.

   So to get a higher powered charge controller it would have to be a buck converter unit - one that reduces voltage from the panels. That means to get 40 volts, one has to have panels producing 50 or more volts. That means wiring at least two panels in series and having a dangerous higher voltage. Apparently there were no other options. Oh well, at least it's only in the panel wiring and not the 36 volt house distribution wiring. Putting panels in series here is undesirable not only from an electrical safety perspective, but because they do get shade, and a shaded panel, even partly shaded, kills the whole series string (here, just two panels) instead of just one panel.

   I ordered a 60 amp "PowMr" charge controller. (There were four models 30,40,50 and 60 amps, but the 30 amp one was only a few dollars less than the 60, so going lower make virtually no sense.) It'll be needed to run electric hot water, and if the grid goes down the "off grid" battery system will come into very heavy use to also run the well pump, freezer and fridge. I ordered again from "Y Smart" store, which seems to be the outlet for "Y Solar" products. It arrived on the 16th. So now I have, all from "Y Smart", "Y Solar": four 1000 watt grid tie inverters (3 were in use), a 36 volt to 230 volt, 2500 watt inverter, and a 60 amp MPPT charge controller.
   I was a bit leery: it's supposed to select between 12, 24, 36 and 48 volt batteries automatically, depending what you hook it up to. Two of the divisions, 12-24 and 24-36 seem clear enough. But the division between 36 and 48 volts is 39 or 40 volts. That seems dangerously low. The NiMH cells sit at 39 to 40.5 volts after charging. (If I pushed the charging they'd hit 42.6 volts.) By default the unit itself wants to charge a 36 volt battery to 42.6 (adjustable - I set it to 40.5). And I've heard of a unit before that was supposed to be 12-24 volts, but once it had charged the 12 volt battery sufficiently, it then decided it must be 24 volts and tried to bring it up to that level! However, it didn't seem to have a problem.

   I mounted it, removed the 10 amp unit, and connected the new one toward evening. Sure enough, with 27 volts from the panels it claimed it was "night", showing a little crescent moon with two stars in the cusp. Late afternoon on the 17th I put the two pairs of ~250 watt panels in series. It liked that better and started charging the battery. 1000 W / 40 V = 25 A max to the batteries. 1000 W / 54 V (Vmpp) = 18.5 A. Those currents certainly shouldn't tax the 60 amp MPPT controller.
   Next question is, does it realize the battery is 36 volts and not 48? It started out under 39 volts (having not been charged that day), but of course the charging itself soon brought it up over 39 and near 40 - the voltage it says decides whether it will consider it to be 36 or 48 volts. It seemed to be saying the battery was almost charged, so that was a good indication that it had set itself to 36 volts. But I changed the shutoff point down to 13.0 volts (13.0 * 3 = 39.0 volts). The battery was already at 39.7. It kept trying to charge it further. So I took out a bolt to disconnect the solar panels. I didn't want it trying to fry my batteries and maybe start a fire before I get up in the morning to see what it's doing!
   I noted the manual had a "reminder" to disconnect the power and reconnect it to be sure it had taken the setting. The next morning (18th) I disconnected the panels, then the battery, then reconnected them. That worked. Apparently every time you make any adjustment, nothing changes until the unit is powered off and then on again. Since there's no power switch, and since (like most of them) it says to connect the battery before the panels, this is a pain in the butt! And it seems completely needless. It could easily ignore all new settings and then apply them when the button goes back from "program" to "monitor".

   To put the panels in series, I had to disconnect them from the grid tie inverter, which wouldn't stand double voltage. Unless I start running something significant from the DC system, the main effect is to have lost 1000 watts of panels going to the grid. I now had the unit required for full "off grid" operation, but I decided to put things back the way they were, with the 10 amp "boost" charge controller. If I needed it, it was just a few wires at the equipment panel to move around to reconfigure it.
   First I made a three bolt terminal block from a piece of wood (genuine lilac!) to eliminate the wiring connections hanging in the air.
   Then at the end of the month I ordered a heavy DPDT switch to put the four solar panels either in parallel or in series (4. or 2+2 for double voltage).

   When I went to put the MPT-7210A back, I was wishing I had the in-line circuit breakers I had recently ordered (they hadn't arrived yet) so I wasn't screwing live wires into the 10 amp controller, and with its metal case so close to the terminals. As if on cue, while I was screwing the first one in, both battery wires touched something and shorted. There were big sparks. The end melted off both wires, there was a chunk burned out of the case with the end of one wire stuck to it on the inside, and the tip of the Phillips screwdriver was ruined. Somehow, after cleaning it up, the wire clamp screw still turned, and the MPT-7210A still worked.


   Somehow that got me thinking that the whole DC system was floating, ungrounded. Wiring was spread from the panels on the roof to the wiring through the house. (Well, just one house wire so far.) And now it could have over 70 volts on it. And what about atmospheric static? I took a piece of house wire and grounded the breaker box to a convenient nearby AC outlet box, which was of course itself grounded.
   (It was the box the grid tie inverters were plugged into. When I unplugged them along with the power meter, the KWH reading reset to zero. I guess that's what it wanted batteries for!)

"Standard" AC Wire Colors NEED TO BE CHANGED! and Unified with DC Conventions

   I used a black [insulation color] wire for the ground, the same color as all the other DC ground wires. I wasn't into trying to run wires through the finished wall to hide them when all the equipment is there wired on the front of the wall panel, so I just ran it along the wall in front. (The building supply here doesn't seem to have Panduit wiring raceway covers.) Of course a black wire sticking out from behind the cover of an AC outlet box would give an electrician the willies. I wrapped a piece of green tape around it near the outlet box end.
   Earlier I had listened to a video on wiring solar systems. The presenter went into wire colors at great length. It got me thinking - not to mention disgusted with the conflicting colors. I suppose it has lately been, perhaps almost subconsciously, realized by many people that wire colors are a growing problem as DC and AC systems with incompatible wire colorings are combined in increasingly complex building wiring systems. I'd like to shine a spotlight on that. In spite of a century of tradition, I'm going to say it: IT NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. The problem is that for DC circuits, red was chosen for plus and black for minus - which is usually ground. And the actual ground is normally negatively charged compared to the sky. Black is the color of dirt, earth, ground. And it is the absence of color, of light and of energy. It is the night sky. What else would black be but ground, zero volts, no energy?
   But for AC, for some reason which seems to me to defy all sense and intuition, and also incompatibly with DC, someone chose black to be the live power wire. It's plainly wrong. This is the root of the problem. Logically then "no power", "neutral" became white - the color that is the inclusion of all colors, the maximum of emitted energy. Anyone from another planet, or just not familiar with our AC color convention, would immediately guess wrong which wire was which.
   (And what strange, convoluted thinking made green with a yellow stripe a "ground" in AC systems? That's the colors of a snake. It looks like a dire warning: Don't Touch!; that it will have a deadly strike.)

   If we switch now, in a couple of hundred years practically all of today's wiring will have been replaced and the problem will be over. It can be over immediately for new installations. Simply swapping black and white would obviously lead to great confusion and numerous accidents, so the next question is: in practice how can it be changed? The answer is to pick entirely different colors, and not use black or white at all. Brown - any shade of brown or darker tan distinguishable from black - is pretty nearly as good an "earth" or "ground" or "neutral" color as black. A yellow wire for an AC hot phase is clearly distinguishable from white, and yellow is a good warning that it's "live". Manufacture of cables with black and white wires would cease, and brown and yellow cables would be made instead. Everything else could remain as it is. If one must use wire with the most common colors as available from the local hardware for DC wiring, brown and yellow are okay for minus (brown ground) and plus (yellow hot). The ambiguity of whether Black or White is "hot" would be gone.
   Once most old buildings and their wiring have been replaced in 100 or 200 years, the choice of colors can be revisited. Ground could well be black for all circuits. AC neutral can remain brown.  Hot could go to being white, but I kind of like yellow for hot myself. It's a warning warning color.

   The alternative, to leave it as is today, is to perpetuate the problem, year after year, decade after decade, century after century. The number of installations and the problems caused will multiply and multiply.

   Herein is an good example of how our society lurches from one problem to the next, just "putting out fires" - ever more and bigger ones - without addressing the underlying causes to solve problems at their root for the long term. It's the same way we are dealing - failing to deal - with all our social and political problems - how can our society not collapse? After all.... the Egyptians, the Greeks, the Romans... the Incas, the Anasazi... the Easter Islanders -- It's not what the ancients did that caused their civilizations to crumble. It's what they left undone.

   Hello NEMA? IEEE? CSA? Where are you? Nobody thinks it's their business to fix underlying problems. Maybe it will take Social Sustainability Design Teams to address all long term issues?

   Let's "go metric" on AC wire colors - Change white and black to brown and yellow so they can be unified with DC colors and with common sense into one system, and discard the old illogical and conflicted tradition!


Here's my suggestion:

Black, Green: ground, zero volts. (Green will still be needed in AC wiring until
          black as 'hot' wiring has passed out of existence over a very long time period.)
Brown/Darker Tan: AC neutral, alternate DC ground, zero volts
Red:  DC "Plus" voltage
Yellow, Orange, Blue: AC "hot" wires

Violet, Gray, later White, Green: Unassigned.


   Of course the local hardware store (for the near future) is likely to have only brown and yellow house wire, so yellow will have to be used for DC "+". But at least there will be common agreement that the brown is the ground wire, hence the other one must be "hot" or "plus".

36 Volt Solar Hot Water Heating

   The video I watched in March showed that a solar water heating panel starts heating quickly, but as temperature rises it has considerable losses in the collector and in the hot water piping loop, and the heating slows down a lot. To finish heating the water a simple electric tank heated by solar PV panels, while heating slower at first, ended up doing a better job. This would depend a lot on the hot water heating setup and length of pipes in the heating loop, but it suggests a double system with a solar water preheating loop and an electric tank where it gets up to the desired temperature. This is of course the "traditional" solar assisted hot water system. If the electric tank is heated by solar power, then the system can be 100% solar when the weather is sunny.

   After the experiment with the small hot water tank showing how slowly a 120 volt heating element worked at under 40 volts, I first thought to make the coiled pex pipe hot water collector. I made the base and sides for the box per the directions in the video, but found that it didn't look like it would accommodate more than 80 or 85 feet of my 100 foot pex pipe. I didn't want to cut it and make it smaller than it could be, but that meant making a new somewhat larger box, and (having cut the one piece) I didn't have a suitable piece of plywood. There the project sat.

36 Volt Electric Water Heating Elements

   The other idea had been to find a heater element for the tank that would work heat reasonably quickly at 36 volts. Getting under 150 watts by running the tank's 120 volt element at 36 volts heated water much too slowly to be practical. Upon searching for it, I found there actually was such a thing as a 36 volt water heater element, 1200 watts. There were three choices from a maker on AliExpress.com:

* 1" pipe thread fitting with two separate elements. This could presumably be used at 600 or 1200 watts. (25$C)

* 1.25" thread fitting with three separate elements. This should allow 400, 800 and 1200 watts. (32$C)

* Just as I clicked the page closed I noticed: A flange fitting one with four screws. That would fit some other tank than mine, so I didn't look further.

L: 1"    -    R: 1.25"

   I ordered the 1.25" one, thinking it might fit the threads in the tank. (The fitting on the tank looked pretty big. More likely either heater will need a reducer fitting.) 1200 watts at 36 volts is 33 amps. Even in direct sunlight four 305 watt panels would hardly maintain full voltage. I was glad the maker put multiple elements in each heater to give lower power options.

Regular Hot Water Tank as Combo Solar and Grid Water Heater

   The common plumbing of solar hot water is to install an extra water tank for the solar, the "preheat tank". Whatever temperature this comes out at feeds the regular hot water tank, reducing the electricity it needs to finish heating the water. This is of course a big plumbing project, and the more so in an existing building.
   At the end of the month I started thinking that a regular water tank could be treated like two tanks if one didn't commonly need more than half its capacity. That's because water, if not disturbed, and if heated from the top, has a great tendency to stratify into different temperature layers.
   I as a single guy could probably do this just with a 40 gallon tank. The upper element would heat the top part of the tank from the grid as usual if the whole tank was cold. But when it shut off, it wouldn't switch the power to a lower element to heat the bottom half. Instead, the lower element would be a 36 volt one connected to the solar supply. In essence, the lower half would become the solar preheat tank and the upper half the regular tank. If the solar heating was sufficient the whole tank would be hot. When hot water was used, the bottom of the tank would refill with cold water and it would reheat more gradually with a 36 V, (eg) 1200 W element instead of from the grid with the common 240 v, 3000 W one. Only if the solar hadn't heated the water sufficiently - if it was being used too fast, or if there wasn't enough sun - would the 3000 watt grid element come on.

Note: On May 4th I reconnected the tank as 120 volts instead of 240 in the breaker panel. That changes the elements from 3000 watts to 750 watts. Now if there's solar power, and if hot water is used in the daytime, the demand doesn't overpower the solar system. That's one step! (see April in Brief for more.)

Polyethylene Pipe Preheating

   While ordering 36 volt water tank heaters and other 36 volt solar equipment, I started rethinking the direct solar water heating. My kitchen sink rain water system was going to come from a barrel or tank on the roof (which would have to refilled occasionally by a pump). That would neither get too hot (even if it was insulated) nor have much pressure. Why not have a simple polyethylene pipe heating coil? That would preheat the water. Obviously it will be easier and faster for the electric tank to heat 30°C than 10°C water to 50-55°C. The electricity is then available for other things.
   I had a coil of 1-1/4" fat PE pipe already. And as I write (12th) I remember I have a swimming pool pump on a shelf in the workshop, to circulate the water if thermosyphoning doesn't do it. It would seem there's not much else to buy except a few pipe fittings. As usual, it becomes "just" (ahem) a matter of finding the time to get it done. Then something changed and I decided not to do it. Next!...

Chemical Free Iron Filters for Well Water

   On the 25th the whole position was revolutionized. My neighbor told me about his new "aeration" water filter system. The dissolved ferrous iron (and other things) in the water are first aerated in a tank with an air injector. This oxidizes it and turns it into insoluble ferric "rust" or yellow hydroxide. From there it goes through the regular sand filter tank and is filtered out.
   One web site said they weren't worth getting because they clog and you'd have to clean it out every six months. He was probably greatly exaggerating the problems since he was trying to sell a different system, but even if such frequent cleaning is necessary... it'd be worth it!
   I'm sure my well here will never run dry. Once I have one of these installed, I won't need to collect rain water to get (relatively) pure water any more. And my sinks, toilets, bathtub and dishes will (more or less) stop being stained brown. I can just hook the under-sink hot water tank up "normal" to the rest of the plumbing. Yay!
   I found one of these "chemical free iron filters" for a whole house, "Rainfresh", at Home Hardware. It apparently did all the regular sand filtering with daily backflush too, in a single unit. The one customer product review said something along the lines of that it wasn't 100% but that the iron staining was dramatically reduced. I ordered one.

   That would take me back to a pex pipe coil for a hot water collector if the preheat is tied in through the regular water under pressure. And a tank that takes pressure. I do have all the major parts, even a brass water tank. But is it worth all the plumbing? Easier just to add more electric solar panels if needed, to help heat the electric tank!

Need for voltage controlled operation... & Components for that

   If one was to dedicate a couple of solar PV panels to heat a hot water element just when the sun was shining, it should be fine. However, if such a heavy load was hooked into the battery supply it would run any time and it might kill the batteries at night or if there was no sun. What was needed I've talked about making before: a low voltage cutout. I had a fairly sophisticated control in mind: one cutout would have the appliance run preferentially when there was power charging the batteries (sunshine or wind). One doesn't want a heavy load to run the batteries down too far and have nothing left for lights at night. The other would definitely shut it off to protect the batteries if they got low. (One might have one "low battery" relay shut everything off. But it would be better to power down the heavier and less time sensitive loads before (eg) low power lights and notebook computer. Perhaps this is an argument for more solar panels and more battery capacity.)
   But... Duh! Might there already be at least a simple low voltage cutout control? I looked again at Aliexpress. There were a bunch of them, but they were all for 12 volt batteries only. Not for solar panels, not for any other voltage. And I suspect they didn't have any (or enough) time delay built in in case turning off a load immediately raised the voltage back above the turn-on point. It would be bad to have an appliance "flickering" on and off.

   Of course, one might just have semi-dedicated panels along with a grid tie microinverter. If the water was heating, the inverter wouldn't find much power from the panels, but when it shut off, the panels could supply the grid. At night there would simply be no power, no batteries to drain. ...Would it not be better to have the voltage control?

   A few days later, I started to think that a 12 volt shutoff might be made to work after all - assuming it shut off with a mechanical relay. It could sense the voltage of just one of the three 12 volt batteries making up the 36 volts, eg, from the 24 to 36 volt levels, and shut off when that one was below the setpoint. All three batteries charge and discharge together. I'll have to get on line again and see what looks like it might work.

   I had also noted that I could program the "PowMr 60A" charge controller to do this sort of operation by setting the output ON and OFF voltages appropriately. But the drive was limited to 5 amps - not much for a water heater. On the last evening of the month I watched a video ("Offgrid Steve") who showed how he programmed his Schneider "Xantrex XW 60 150" charge controller to turn on an "aux" output - for his water heater - when the battery charge was high (sun shining). The ON and OFF voltages could be programmed, along with delay times for trying again (he had 30 seconds) and before shutting OFF once ON (15 seconds) - pretty much what I have been after. He ran his water heater from AC through an inverter, so he couldn't use a DC output directly - and doubtless as with mine the current rating wouldn't have been high enough anyway. In fact, his "Aux" output voltage could be set only to from 5 to 13 volts, not to the whole battery voltage. So he had his "aux" output drive solid state relays to enable or disable the water heater. These take very little current to run but can switch very high AC current loads.
   Perhaps that was the answer: Use the PowMr "output" terminals just to turn a relay (or power MOSFET) on and off, which would enable the high current (DC) water heater(s) when the sun was shining. I don't think delays can be programmed on my unit, and the output is the whole battery voltage. Hopefully reasonable delays are built in. I should check it out.

More Better LED Lighting

   It looks like I'll be doing some solar installations for others needing - in fact as the main objective - LED lights.

Heatsinks for LED Light "Cob" Panels (etc)

   Why I never thought of it before I don't know. As with low voltage water heating elements, cheap DC to DC down converters and so many other things, there was a vexing problem but I just never thought to look for a ready made solution. I think a big part of the problem is that such things were never available in times past for purchase at economic prices. (And I was almost always on a tight budget.) They would be a "specialty part" for which one would pay through the nose for the simplest things, which were or could be mass produced, but the market was too diffuse by area to bother to turn them into a readily available product.
   Cheap postal shipping for little things, or reliable tracked shipping for things perhaps worth stealing, the internet, and Chinese businesses have changed that. The Chinese will put any little thing into a bubble envelope and send it across the world for a few dollars where a North American firm would have a considerable minimum order before they could be bothered, then they send it by costly courier, and it's enough money to attract the attention of customs, to which the courier's "brokerage" service would add a big fee to bring it over the border into Canada. So you order 5 overpriced heatsinks instead of 1 to make up the minimum order, then pay half as much again to get them to your door. Your 3$ heatsink has cost you 55$. At least you have 4 more in case you need another one!

   On Aliexpress are all manner of aluminum heatsinks for electronic devices for low prices, including some sized for cooling the LED "cob" light panels. I ordered some.

DC to DC Down Converters to run 12-24 Volt Equipment From 36 Volts

   I got a set of ten "5 amp" DC to DC down converters to get 12 volts output (in fact fully adjustable 5-30 V) for 20 $C total. This will greatly simplify putting 12 volt LED globe or flat panel lights together for off-grid sales. Then again... whole 12 volt panel lights from China are pretty cheap too. No doubt just a matter of looking and picking some out.

   I also got some higher current DC to DC units with decent heatsinks for heavier 12 to 24 volt loads. I find it exciting that with these, running 36 volts means you also have both 12 volts and 24 volts at hand.

36 volt (or less) fully regulated DC to DC down converters.

Top row: some 2$ ones with solder connections, for low power: "5A 75W XL4015"
(XL4015 is the single chip DC to DC converter chip number). BTW they get hot running just 10 or 15 watts, 12 volts!

Front row: the 5$ ones with good heat sinks, screw-down connections - "DC CC 9A 150W, 300W"
300 watts, or even 150, is a lot of power - hmm! But (eg) a 12 volt camping cooler is only ~50 W

Single trim pot (blue square with screw): adjust output voltage
Second trimmer: set current limit

CNC Router/Plasma Cutter/Drill

   On the 13th my "GeckoDrive G540 Multi-Axis Step Drive" arrived. Then the parallel to USB cable. Then the "gender changer" to connect the female parallel plug of the cable to the female plug of the Gecko. (Why is this so absurd? 3D printers just have USB. Most CNC controllers have parallel ports - for historic reasons? - even tho computers don't come with them any more.) Now I should be able to set up the CNC table, except for software. There were things to download, but I hadn't been able to get anything to work.

   Everything, of course, when I find the time.

Electricity Generation

My Solar Power System

(All times are in PST: clock 48 minutes ahead of sun.)

Date  House KWH, Trailer Roof KWH - day total KWH made [power co. meter] weather, usage...

March 31st 141.41, 134.61 - 12.00 [65331@9:00, 334@19:00] sun. Turned car back on with 1.5 KW/120 V charger to finish from solar.
April 1st 148.59, 140.16 - 12.73 KWH [65349@9:30, 351@20:00] sunny.
2nd 154.98, 145.04 - 11.27 [65361@21:00] thin chemtrails, clouds later PM. Charged car @1500 W from solar after 55 Km drive previous day.
3rd 161.62, 150.27 - 11.87 [65371@9:30, 378@19:30] more of same slight overcast.
4th 163.66, 151.92 -   3.69 [65405@19:00] rain AM, cloudy all day.
5th 166.61, 154.21 -   5.26 [65442@20:30] clouds & rain. (bath, 85 Km drive & charge.)
6th 168.28, 155.52 -   2.88 [65474@23:59] clouds, rain (55 Km)
7th 172.28, 158.69 -   7.17 [65490@19:00] rain, clouds, sunny hour, deluge, clear evening. (bath, laundry)
8th 174.49, 160.43 -   3.95 clouds & rain (then stars)
9th 177.61, 163.02 -   5.71 [65523@19:30] clouds and showers (stars during the night)
10th 181.84, 166.34 -  7.55 [65531@10:30; 65541@19:30] clouds
11th 188.13, 171.36 - Oops, didn't read until 10 AM on 12th; already making ~1KW. light clouds
12th 191.30, 173.64 -  8.38 avg.11th, 12th [65581@10:30, 587@19:00] light/medium clouds - drove 55 Km both evenings (10th, 11th)
13th 193.71, 175.67 -  4.44 [65612@18:30] rain, cloudy until late afternoon. Moon & stars - what's wrong with this picture? 55 Km & chjd. this day.
14th 200.19, 180.92 - 11.83 [65625@10:30,627@18:30, 636@02:00] sunny!...AM. PM: clouds & rain... then stars. Bath PM.
15th 202.42, 182.66 -   3.97 [65649@19:30] clouds and drizzle/rain all day
16th 207.08, 186.30 -   8.30 [65666@19:30] RAIN! A couple of sunny breaks.
17th 208.67, 187.45 -   2.74 [65691@17:30] overcast
18th 2.30 [e.5.63 KWH], 191.85 - 10.03 [65720@21:00] sun & some clouds. House solar meter was accidentally reset to zero midday. (It got unplugged. Estimate "e." is based on an "average ratio" of about 1.28 to 1 compared to the trailer roof. [Theoretically it should be 1.32 to 1 but not according to readings.] Well, the ~250 watt panels are 5 to 8 (?) years old now. If they are only at ~96% it's understandable.The 250 W panels were actually off line part of the day for tests of the new "PowMr" DC buck charge controller. The 'e.' is about what the house would have given if it had been on line all day. Yikes what a lot of explanation for a simple little glitch!)
19th 7.61, 195.93 - 9.39 [65732@20:00] sun & some clouds. Drove to Masset, 190 KM total, but can't recharge gas tank in Toyota Echo.
20th 11.68, 199.15 - 7.29 [65750@19:00] clouds, some rain. 55 Km
21st 13.07, 200.50 - 2.74 [65773@19:00] overcast, rain.
22nd 18.86, 205.36 - 10.63 [65787@20:30] AM clouds, PM sun.
23rd 24.82, 210.37 - 10.97 [65805@20:00] clouds, rain and sun (~8 KWH to charge car)
24th 29.69, 214.04 -   8.54 [65819@10:00, 65826@20:00] mostly cloudy, some sun. Drove 55 Km.
25th 33.65, 217.40 -   7.32 [65862@20:00] sun & clouds, bit of rain, 55 Km
26th 39.19, 221.74 -   9.88 [65873@10:00, 65877@20:00] sun & clouds, bit of rain
27th 44.09, 225.71 -   8.87 [65894@20:30] Sun & clouds
28th 52.32, 232.35 - 14.87 [65915@20:00] Finally, a sunny day!... and then a sky full of chemtrails all day until evening. Laundry.
29th 61.16, 239.09 - 15.58 [65924@10:30, 926@17:00] Sunny - NO chemtrails. 55 Km but only charged car 3 hrs. at 1500 W while sun was out.
30th 69.91, 245.80 - 15.46 [65940@9:30, 942@19:30] Sun. Few chemtrails. Finished charging car (5 Hrs at 1500 W from 9:30)
May 1 77.40, 252.05- 13.74 [65954@11:30, 959@21:00 ] very light overcast/chemtrails. Sunny later PM. Drove 55, started charging car
May 2 82.13, 255.88 - 8.56 [65965@9:30, 975@20:00] clouds with sunny breaks. Finished charging car but not much solar.
May 3 86.79, 259.41 - 8.19 [65987@13:00, 991@19:30] Clouds.
May 4 90.24, 262.32 - 6.36 [66000@10:00, 009@19:30] clouds. again. 55 Km & 2/3 charge car.
May 5 93.80, 265.58 - 6.82 [66022@9:00, 030@21:00] clouds. A couple of short sunny breaks. rest of charge car.
May 6 [66040@10:00] WHEN will I get this April newsletter out?

   As can be seen daily consumption dropped with (somewhat) warmer spring weather, from over 30 KWH per day to under 20. The average for the first ten days in March in freezing weather was 30. Overall March average was 26 and the last ten averaged 22. The first ten days in April averaged 20. But nights stayed cold the whole month, so I continued to use considerable bedroom heat and also turn the trailer heater on at night, not to mention still burning firewood. (I may have planted some things outdoors too early. Better to keep them inside to grow faster when it's too cold.) I had baths more days than not to combat little red dots that keep appearing on my upper legs. Can nothing eliminate them? (Then I got shingles on my head. Much worse!) The middle 10 days was still 21 KWH per day and the last ten it was 19. The start of May seems to be down to about 17. The reduction in usage as warmer weather [finally] comes is as significant as the increase in solar production, which went from 12.73 KWH on April 1st to about 15.5 on [the rare] sunny days by the end of the month. Sunny days definitely cut down on the amount used from the grid. Forgetting to turn on the heater in the trailer for the night also saves 3-4 KWH.

   Sometimes consumption seemed surprisingly high, but of course the figures include charging the electric car. I drive maybe about every second day, but being out in the country now they are always long trips, most typically 55 or 85 Km round trip, which should take about 8 and 13 KWH to charge after but actually seem to take somewhat more. If that was gasoline it would cost far more than it does, and the solar panels would give zero assist in refueling. (Distances around Victoria being short and taking few highway trips when I lived there, since I moved I've been driving at least three times as many miles per year!) I usually used the 3.8 KW charger, which didn't give the 1.9 KW from the solar its best chance to help. Occasionally I took more advantage by using the 1.5 KW charger in a regular outlet so much of the power came from the sun, but usually that occupied a later afternoon and (with unplugging for the night) the whole next morning and into the following afternoon - 8 or 9 hours total. Often that was impractical, and then only if it was sunny both days.

   The sun still disappeared behind the trees after 4 PM, later toward 4:30. (And I must point out again that 4 PM PST by the clock here is only 3:12 by the sun - just mid afternoon.) But it was still visible between the tree trunks and by mid April the panels continued to put out a couple of hundred watts even to 6:30 PM, and tens of watts for yet another hour. Thus one sees that without the trees, there would be substantially more daily collection. Because the trees are in a north-south row near the house, the higher sun made less difference than might be expected. At the trailer however, a little farther away from the row of trees, the full sunlight collection period period did gradually extend another hour. It's definitely a better location for solar panels.

   Until almost the end of the month, only the first had had full sun all day, hence it also had the greatest solar output. Half the days gave under 2/3 of "full" power. Nine days were quite poor making less than 1/2 or even 1/4 of "full" power. In fact, with all the clouds I pretty much lost track of what full power should be, until the 29th was sunny with no chemtrails. The output of nearly 15.58 KWH then was much the highest yet, contrasting well with around 12 KWH on a good day in March.
   The cloudy days were usually disappointing in that the solar production only covered the basic things that were always on, and using hot water, heat or charging the car, the energy came mostly from the grid.

   Being so far north, I'm sure tilting the panels steeper (than 15°) would give substantially more collection all year - especially in all seasons except summer. Even for summer solstice the ideal angle is 30°, but 15° is only a few percent loss in summer. However, laying them flush on the roof is the best way to ensure they don't get ripped off in a high wind.

   On the 25th just when I happened to look I found by far the highest power figures yet: the trailer hit 900 watts instead of 830, and then I saw 1440 at the house instead of 1150 - over 300 total watts (15%) higher than ever before. (Finally, over 2000 watts!) Once again, it had been cloudy and for a brief time the sun poked out full brightness while the panels were still cold. What a difference panel temperature makes! Would it be worth it after all to set up a sprinkling system to occasionally wet down the panels to cool them off? Well, it's probably more economical just to buy an extra panel or two. A few minutes later it clouded over and started to rain. Output plummeted.

Total KWH produced for the month April 1 - 30:  251.7 KWH
Total KWH consumed from grid for same period: 608   KWH

Contrasted with March (which was mostly sunny):

Total KWH produced for the month March 1 to April 1: 234.85 KWH.
Total KWH consumed from grid for same period: 801 KWH.

   (Hmm, I can get monthly totals without doing daily logs. How much longer do I want to keep this up?)

   If in winter the amount produced was as low as 20% of what was consumed, by April it was over 40%. One can see how more panels would improve the figure and that having 20 or 30 wouldn't be at all excessive for a residence.

   Meanwhile my friend Tom said that another fellow we both know had installed 32 - 385 watt panels in Victoria BC. A whole crate! (Doubtless they're bigger 72 cell panels instead of 60s to get that watts rating.) That's 12,320 watts - over 4 times the 2830 watt capacity of my system. He sent me a picture of a monitor screen. He seems to be generating up to 65 KWH on sunny days! (He probably has his panels set up at a better angle, too.) Should I be envious? He spent 27000$ having it put in. What have I spent, under 3500$ (and over some years) for what I now have installed, DIY? (Oops, that doesn't count the NiMH batteries. 4500$ if they had been new and bought for this purpose. Lithiums are probably cheaper these days.)

   His system is tied to the web as well as to the grid, and can be viewed with a web browser. Well, you have to get something special for all that money! (I went there but there was a hitch - it said I needed to log in.)
   Doubtless he will get money or credits from BC Hydro for excess power produced.

   Even so, being "energy independent" at higher latitudes with solar is almost problematic unless you want to do some "going without" at times. As with the day/night dichotomy, there's that seasonal dichotomy: You make more power in the summer months and use more in the winter. And that's generally accentuated in the "Pacific Northwest" coast of North America with its dull, cloudy winters. (March here on Haida Gwaii this year was mostly sunny (and cold), but much of April was cloudy.)

   What happened to pursuing the HE ray energy - again? Where does all my time go?

More Panels

   By the 8th or so it seemed likely that someone who had been hemming and hawing about buying 10 of my 11 remaining solar panels was going to do so. He could find cheaper panels in China, but they had to get here, and shipping to here isn't cheap. I decided to order another crate. I figured my trick of having a full crate located in Vancouver put on the monthly North Arm barge was likely cheapest. Most things solar except heavy, bulky PV panels can come easily by post or courier, and people can either buy from me or order their own. It's when "mail" becomes "freight" that things get costly up here.
   It turned out not to be quite that simple. I called North Arm Transportation to arrange to have a space on the April barge, but the barge was fully booked. So I booked for May. Then I called HES and there weren't any more of the panels. They were ordering more, but they were going to be 310 or 315 watts for an undetermined price, and they wouldn't be there until sometime in May. They couldn't guarantee they would be on time for the barge. I decided to keep the barge booking until I knew more.
   On the 20th this potential customer himself pointed out another Canadian solar "wholesaler" he had found, which seemed just as happy to sell to the public, cdnsolar.ca . They had Hanwha 300 watt panels, 249$. There was a form to ask for a quote for delivered panels, so I fired off a note to ask how much for a crate of them delivered to Queen Charlotte. Might as well see if they could come up with a better deal! It was within a couple of hundred dollars, shipped by truck, for the 315 W Hanwha panels.
   I decided that was better because they actually had the panels and shipping by truck there was no worries about the monthly barge schedule. But the trucking firm didn't seem very accommodating. I could sense there would surely be extra charges by the time I had them. So I went back to the original shipping plan, despite it being 300 $ more from CdnSolar to get them to the barge. At least they seemed to already have the panels so they wouldn't miss the boat. Nope! In all the fiddling around, they had run out of those panels. I ended up ordering a crate of 30 "Canadian Solar" 295 watt panels. (Are they really made in Canada?)

Electricity Storage (Batteries)

Electrode "Box" with Nafion Ion-Selective Membrane - or Osmium doped film?

   One reason I hadn't done any work on new chemie batteries was that I had been puzzling how to seal the nafion membrane so metallic ions wouldn't just flow around the edges. On the morning of the 16th a practical solution finally came to me. I could make a box with one plastic face and plastic edges on the bottom and sides, all sealed. The other face would be nafion, glued around the edges. The top would be open so entire electrodes could be put in and removed without any stress.
   The cell wouldn't be filled right to the open top, so nothing could flow except through the membrane. Only protons (according to the nafion ideal specs) could get between electrodes. This, if it works well, should open up all sorts of potential battery chemistries that would otherwise rapidly degrade. Virtually every one I've ever tried should work great - even in chloride salt electrolyte! Of course, having hit on a theoretical optimum in non-metal-dissolving electrolyte, methyl hydroxide with enough potassium hydroxide to get to a desired alkaline pH, I'll be using that unless it proves to have undiscovered problems. If it works well, then I can start trying to optimize the whole cell design for potential production.

   It also occurs to me that the osmium doped acetaldehyde would probably make a good ion selective membrane if painted onto... what? Maybe cellophane? That sounds fragile. I haven't opened the nafion yet to see, but I suspect it's pretty flimsy too. And what was that glue for nafion, again? Oh yes, (from TE News #128, which I found from somewhere...) barium metasilicate.

   Well, I know the things I want to try now. The ion selective membrane approach would seem to solve all the problems with a stroke. I just have to find the time to do them!

The Continuing Saga of the NiMH Dry Cells Car Starting Battery
(a little repair and it still works great after almost 8 years!)

   I wasn't quite sure why I hadn't thrown out the old Ni-MH battery I had made in August 2011 [TE News #43] and used testing the Chevy Sprint and with the electric outboard for a while, then for 5 years as the car starter battery in the Toyota Tercel. But now, after having replaced a few cells here and there to refurbish other old Ni-MH batteries, it occurred to me that this one might not be all weak, that it too might just have some bad cells that dragged the entire battery down.
   I put it on the solar system and charged it, then separated the six tubes of 5 cells each and let them sit a while. Checking the voltages, one was excellent, one was almost as good, one was middling, and three quickly lost too much voltage.
   On the 13th, in each of the low three I replaced just one bad cell, the other four being fine. In the "mediocre" one all the cells seemed to be lower than fresh charged, but none were bad. There was a bit of corrosion on a couple of the "+" buttons and on the stainless bolt head inside the tube. It was hardly connecting! Once these were scraped or filed, I reassembled and charged it. It was fine!

   The three bad cells and one tube not making good connection explained why it had become hard to start the car at the end. It would seem that five years of use had actually only killed 3 of the 30 cells. And consider the "abuse" that would have killed a lead-acid car battery long before five years: I turned the engine idle down too low to charge the battery when idling at traffic lights, and even at that I usually shut off the engine completely at long red traffic lights and had to restart it when the light tuned green - even at night with the headlights on. In my mostly city driving these measures seemed to save around 10% or more on gasoline.

   Now, after electric boat motor tests, running the car for 5 years and another 2-1/2 years of sitting around (very occasionally being recharged), with three cells replaced and a little work, it can be put back into service, in the "off-grid" solar PV system. I put on a 12 volt CAT click-lock shielded-pins plug (instead of a socket), and connected it to the matching socket on one of the batteries in the solar/battery system.
   I wonder how it would start the Tercel now? Just like new, or not? The Tercel is gone and other cars have different starters (mostly drawing more current), so there's no easy way to test it.


   It seems a real pity that production of the big flooded Ni-MH batteries was restricted and then halted by the greedy and corrupt so soon after it started, to prevent electric vehicles from becoming truly practical by the start of this millennium. I suspect they were the equal of Ni-Fe in longevity or close to it, and certainly far superior in higher current performance. And the equal of today's lithiums in power and capacity with only somewhat more weight. It's a wonder that no one has started a new production line now that most of the patents have expired. Ovshinsky's main ones expired in 2014... unless the corrupt got their wish a few years ago that patents could be extended. I never heard whether or not that wish had been granted, but the USA has certainly had some corrupt governments this century. I can't imagine Donald Rumsfeld(SP?) allowing something like that to clobber big oil. ...Let's see, maybe we can stall energy advances for yet another half a century or even a century? Keep that oil pumping!
   I suspect they let lithiums get away on them only because they were originally too expensive to be practical, and they underestimated the determination with which electric vehicles would be pursued by so many people. Well, whole generations have come and gone, and maybe the present one, except for a few miscreants, has lost its impetus to try to prevent the universe from unfolding as it should.

Haida Gwaii, BC Canada