Sunday, January 30, 2011

Fried brain

After my two weeks or so up at Coronation I have decided to get serious about updating my camper trailer to include some electrical components. Currently I run my fridge from a dual battery system in the car, topped up with a solar panel, but there are a few problems with this.

Firstly, the fridge sits in the car, in the sun, meaning it has to work harder to keep things cool. It's in an insulation bag, and I've also given it an extra foil reflecting blanket (an old windsceen shade), but the fact is it's a pain to have to keep walking to the car for fridge supplies when you are camped up in the same place for weeks.

Secondly, my solar panel, an excellent quality Solarex 60W, is far to inadequate for the task of keeping my auxilliary battery topped up, especially if I run a fluoro light as well. Which means I flatten my battery in 2 days, not good for even a good deep cycle battery.

Thirdly, and the most important factor, my cabling is far too thin for the job required, meaning I lose most of the voltage before it even gets to the battery from the solar panel. Not only that, the cable connecting to the fridge also loses voltage, meaning the fridge cycles more often, for longer, draining more power. And I paid to have that cabling put in!!

Apparently this cabling mismatch is not uncommon. Whilst researching solar panels on the internet, I've come to the conclusion that pretty well every one of those portable setups being advertised at ridiculously cheap prices on ebay and elsewhere comes with cabling too small for the job. Which means built-in inefficiency from the outset. But now I'm onto it I shan't be fooled!

So after more research - including talking it over with friends and acquaintances, buying a book specific to the topic, looking for info at the hopelessly inadequate local library, and of course hours trawling through internet sites - I rang the 12 Volt Shop in Perth to have a chat with some real experts. And they suggested going even thicker again on the cabling!!!

The cabling problem arises because the descriptions of cable size are not uniform. I need 4 B&S cabling, which is 25sqmm copper wiring, not size 4 autocabling, which is 2.5sqmm of copper. BIG DIFFERENCE!! Guess what I've got??

The reason the cable has to be so thick is because of the distances it must travel to power or charge things. From the battery under the bonnet to the car fridge is approx 4m, which is 8m conductor length. And there's similar distances again for the trailer. Less resistance in the cable over such lengths means less voltage drop. The bigger I go the better. And who knew you were getting a tutorial on basic 12 volt electrics?

So I've decided to both upgrade the wiring in the car - probably by a professional - and completely wire the trailer with it's own standalone system that can be charged by either solar when camped for long periods, or the car alternator when travelling or if solar is inadequate. And I'm going to do the trailer myself.

Most fortuitously, I've found a charger that is both a top quality solar regulator and a voltage step up charger, meaning that I can get very efficient battery charging all in one unit. It's about the price of the solar regulator I was looking at buying, but without quite as many monitoring functions, but does 2 jobs in one. Am very pleased with this find, and it's not even Chinese!!

I've worked out my power requirements - the fridge, some simple fluoro lights, a water pump and occasional battery/laptop charging - and worked out what size battery I need and how much solar wattage is required. And the 12 Volt Shop chap told me I was spot on!! I have built in a fair amount of redundancy, and have allowed room to expand so I'm pretty well ready to start spending.

But not quite yet. I've just been forced to buy some new sails, after my 4.5m kind of disintegrated on me last week, so I am holding off on any big purchases - like solar panels and batteries - for a month or so till my bank balance looks a little healthier. And I've a trip to Perth in March for a conference, so I think I might hold off till then and have a real proper chat with the guys in the shop before I purchase my cable.

So after putting this down in my blog for posterity, having drawn a bunch of circuit diagrams, saved squillions of articles on my harddrive, and effectively fried my brain (I'm even staying awake at night thinking through circuitry options!), I'm putting the paper bits into a little manila folder and packing them away. It's time to let all those ideas coalesce and for me to do something more immediate.

Like the laundry!!

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Calling All Women (by Ruby Dee)

Calling all sisters. Calling all Righteous sisters. Calling all women. To steal away To our secret place. Have a meeting Face to face. Look at the facts And determine our pace.
Calling all Women. We want to reach – first and second And Third world women Come together!
Women in and outside the power structure –

Working women, Welfare women, Women who feel alienated and isolated Women who are all frustrated Women who have given up – women – women Questioning women – women

Unpolarized and unorganized. Ostracized. Tired of being penalized Come help us start to bridge the gaps Racial, cultural, or generation We want some action and veneration.

These men, these men they Just ain’t doing it. They’ve had hundreds of years Now they ’bout to ruin it.

Kitchen, office, ex-prison women Old and young and middle-aged women Make this scene

Oh yes, and bring your lunch!

Problems, problems common problems That we make and cause each other Sister, daughter, old grandmother Female child you can bring your little brother

Take the subway, grad a cab Saddle your mule Bike it, limo Take a choo-choo, fly Or pick ‘em up and lay ‘em down.

Socialism, capitalism, communism Feminism, womanism, lesbianism Here-and-now or futurism We just can’t afford a schism

We got to get together or die.

Now is the time for an evolution Let’s all search and find a solution For how we’ll make it to the next revolution

Or die.
Oh yes. And don’t forget your lunch!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Silly season post mortem

Welcome to 2011! Or perhaps it should be farewell 2010 and OMG another year done and dusted.

I managed a quick trip over to Canberra for Xmas, spent with mum, Matt and his family. Matt's two girls were awfully excited to have Auntie Na come to visit, who did her best to undermine any discipline their parents may have wished to impose. They are such chalk and cheese : Princess Bella and Wicked Liddy. I think Wicked Liddy is more my cup of tea, though I didn't get to see the infamous tantrums I've heard so much about, but Princess Bella's narcissistic tendencies and attraction to reflective surfaces is I hope just a stage she's going through - Auntie Na just doesn't do glam!!!

The extension to the National Gallery was on my hit list, so mum and I went there on Boxing Day to see the newly housed Aboriginal Art collection, which is extensive and a must see for anyone visiting the National Capitol. A lack of explanations, apparently artistic curators believe the art should speak for itself, means that visitors who know little about the Aboriginal Art movement or history would miss out understanding some of the cultural importance and context of many of these very exceptional artworks. A visit to the National Museum, housing an exhibition about the Canning Stock Route and the painters from that region, provided a different approach to the artwork where it is put into it's spiritual and cultural context. Different approaches......

My return home via Sydney included a lovely hour catching up with my sister Vanessa at the airport - she'd braved the filthy rainy weather to schlepp out on the train for a quick chat over coffee in the departure lounge, for which I am extremely grateful as I don't get to see my siblings much these days. Then the long flight back to Perth, on to Geraldton, pick up Hazel and drive out to the camper at Coros. Thank goodness my camper had been up since before Xmas or no way would I have found a spot!

The yearly retreat to Coronation was somewhat watered down this year, due to some very unseasonable rain. Unlike poor old Carnarvon and the Gascoyne region, we didn't get flooded out, but it did mean the campsite was deserted till just before Christmas, when the hoards descended in droves and you couldn't move for campers or kids. When the wind at last put in an appearance 3 days before New Years, there wasn't a spare car space to be found. Now that's quite a feat given half of the Geraldton windsurfers were camped there and not actually using the day use carpark at all. We can only blame the floods again, for stranding those who couldn't go further north to Gnarloo, making Coros more crowded than I've seen for at least 6-7 years. At times we counted over 60 sailors on the water, not to mention at least another 30-40 on the beach. But me and my mates just headed down to Windmills and had some awesome waves all to ourselves.

So I enter 2011 having not yet conquered the loop. I blame the lack of windy days, and some awesome clean waves that made riding down the line a much more attractive option than putting my body on the line. However I didn't make it through without incident, returning to work with a slightly black eye and an enormous arm bruise after a wee altercation with my boom. Unfortunately I wasn't doing anything spectacular at the time, the biggest bruises always have the least interesting origins.... even my broken arm wasn't done with any style!!

So now I'm back at work, we're understaffed, and there appears to be a sudden spike in summer upper respiratory tract infections. Jeezus guys it's a sore throat, why do you have to visit a doctor for that?? Ah well, pays the wages...