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Creighton Samuels

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since Apr 14, 2013
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Recent posts by Creighton Samuels

Graham Chiu wrote:

John Pollard wrote:I used to live in FL and used collectors are abundant there so I might have to take a trip down there sometime.

Why is that? Don't they work anymore or have they been replaced by electrical heating?

Florida is a major retirement state, and many retirees think the solar hot water heaters look like an eyesore.
1 month ago

Vulturul Ilie wrote:Heat pumps are 400 % more efficient than any induction or resistance heating .This efficiency drops if outdoor its minus 5 C but there are somme high efficient air conditioner units like Daikin wich defrost the the outdoor unit pipes periodically and these work until minus 20-25C.
One Kw of gas power( natural piped gas) its 10 times cheaper than electric where i live and even if the heat pumps( air conditioners working on heating) are soo much more efficient than electric heating,it cant still not beat the gas.

Well, that's true enough depending upon your area.  But natural gas is still a paleo-fuel, and Joshua has gone to the extra trouble and expense to contract with a wind power supplier.  So his stated environmental life-goals are achieved by using electric power while also subsidizing industrial grade renewable energy.  Natural gas heat wouldn't satisfy that requirement, and nor is it typically available "off the grid".

So while a heat pump would be better than baseboard electric resistive heating, he doesn't own  the building that he lives in, so that's not an option either.
1 month ago
Joshua, I've just reviewed our conversation in this thread, and I have a couple recommendations...

1)  First of all, get that heated mattress pad.  Your warm cultured significant other will thank you for it, no matter how cold or warm your apartment may be.  Get one with two controllers, one for each side of the bed.  This one is not the model that I have, but it might work for you...

2)  Next, you need a counter-top somavar, to make hot drinks on the fly.  Hot tea or hot coffee warms the body from the inside out.  This one is similar to the one that I own...

3)  Consider a kotasu table as your TV table, etc.  These are small, squarish tables that Japanese use as low desks, that have a heater underneath.  They work best with a blanket, and usually have a double top that allows the blanket to be installed under the hardtop surface.  There are low "chairs" that exist that allow you to have back support while sitting reclined with your legs under this table.  The heater only heats the airspace under the table, captured by the blanket, so your legs are very cozy; but a throw for your upper body while you watch TV, read a book or do desk work is how this system works best.

But if you don't want to spend that kind of money for a table, a freestanding reading lamp would help a great deal.  This is the one that I bought for my wife, that lives behind our couch.  A 40 or 60 watt incandecent bulb works great as a radiant heater and reading light...

1 month ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Thanks, this is awesome Creighton!  

I guess the charger is not an inverter, but an anti-inverter (Ac-to DC), is its main function.  My experience is it clearly heats up only when the computer battery is drawing power (charging), and it's cold when the battery is full or not connected.

Are you sure that it's not a 60 watt charger? 6 watts seems low to me, closer to a phone charger.

I do have a solution which is kind of risky, a metal lamp...with (sorry Paul) a CFL bulb.  It's protected from crunching by the lamp "shade" thing (metal), and it's worked for me.  Problem was it was actually a bit too hot--I forget how many watts but it was the lowest wattage we had lying around, I used this mainly just as a night light.  But even that was too hot.  I want to say 12 watts.  I looked for a smaller, lower-watt incandescent but for some reason I couldn't find what I was looking for.

What you want is an appliance bulb.  They can be found as low as 7 watts incandescent with a normal socket (Type A15 screw socket) at Walmart. But if you're putting it next to your body like a conductive heater, you're using the incandescent lamp wrong.  This is supposed to be used like a radiant heater that produces light, which is why a 40 watt bulb works so well.  Put it into a lamp that is about a foot above your head while you are sitting down, pointed mostly where you'd want it to be able to read well.  The radiant heat will wash down over your head and shoulders, and warm you directly without contact.

So, the DC-DC voltage adjuster thing won't be a heat source, I take it.  How does something change voltage in DC? i thought that was the whole point of AC, you can change voltages with a transformer...and I thought my computer and phone both ran on 12 volts.  I guess not.  Glad that there are heat blankets available to run on 12 volts already.

DC to DC converters are solid state electronic devices, so the trick wasn't even possible in the early decades of public power; but even if it was it would have been too expensive for a DC grid to work.  That said, a DC2DC works by creating an internal AC signal by using an oscillator circuit to produce a square wave AC, then a "cascade multiplier" to increase voltage, then a rectifier circuit and a regulator circuit to output the exact voltage required.  That internal AC signal isn't correct for a 60 Hertz sine wave, so it wouldn't work as an invertor, but it's enough to allow the circuit to change the working voltage.

The soap stone trick I know, I heard of it with a brick, they teach that to kids in Vietnam that Ho Chi Minh used to take home a brick from his baking job for the night.  I look forward to getting to feel it with my own hands and put a physical experience with theory.  Thanks for the reminder.

Yes, well; soapstone is better than a brick, but you work with what you have available.
1 month ago

Joshua Myrvaagnes wrote:Another question--I've rather come to depend on my computer chargers for heat.  

1 they're warmer than an electric blanket.  Even after a half hour I can barely feel the electric blanket, on top setting.  Maybe it's partly broken?  with all those 100 watts going in, I'm getting very little out, compared to (it says) six watts on the mac charger and nice hand-warming potential out.

2 they're placeable and localized

Your electric blanket is broken, and doesn't consume that 100 watts.  The First Law of Thermodynamics (The conservation of energy) prohibts the idea that an electro-resistive heat device can consume power without producing heat.

Also, that's a label rating, which is required by law to be the maximum continuous power draw that's possible, not it's actual power draw.  There's no way that a 6 wattt laptop charger could produce more useful heat than a working 100 watt max electric blanket.  That's actually a lot for a blanket.

But--once i move into my shiny old homesteady type situation, then the electricity will be limited and these will be not an option--unless i wnat to run our battery at night to charge the computer.

When you move to an off-grid homestead, you will find that the "heat bubble" concept even more effective for your purposes.  For example, the heated mattress pad will allow you to let the woodstove die down overnight without either smoldering (and stinking up your valley) nor requiring you to get up every 4 hours to add new fuelwood.  You will need some degree of overnight power for your refrigerator anyway, unless you're going to be using a propane absorption fridge.

My question--isn't the charger really an inverter?

No, an inverter goes from DC to AC.

so its only function is to go from AC to DC and lose a lot of energy as heat as its doing so?

It doesn't lose a "lot" in the big scheme of things.  It wastes almost as much power while idling as while actively charging your laptop, which is why it's considered a 'parasitic load' most of the time, and should be unplugged.

In that case, if I'm on DC for all my appliances anyway (which is cell phone and computer and a few fans and lights only, maybe a few battery-powered power tools for occasional use, electric chainsaw etc.) then I don't need to invert.  So I'd just plug the 12 volt cell phone into the 12v battery, same with the computer.

The problem is that electronics are fussy.  What you will need is a regulated DC to DC power supply that delivers both 12 volts and 5 volts.  These are available, but they are usually sold as computer power supplies for cars/RVs.

What if I want to arrange a targeted heat source like the computer charger?

A 12 volt heated blanket can be found at any "Travel Center" in America that serves professional drivers.

I'm going to assume there's no good electrical solution to this, but I'd love to hear if there is something I don't know about--for example, a place where there's already a lot of heat lost in the system of photovoltaic-battery-appliance.  The mac itself can heat up occasionally, but only in the summer.  (the dinosaur PC heats up pretty good, but that's a huge energy hog).

Oh, there are certainly good electrical solutions to this kind of problem, but they are all very specific solutions.  Search for the term "kotatsu table" on google.

Best I can come up with, plug in the energy hog into the PV panel during the day, charge its battery full while the sun shines.  Then at night let that warm me up for a few minutes by sticking it under the blankets for the five minutes or so while I'm brushing my teeth and stuff.  It'll probably not last much longer than that, but it'll take the edge off.

The heated mattress pad would work far better for this purpose.  But if you're electrically poor when that day comes, then you should learn about a "happy rock".  The happy rock is just a piece of soapstone that lives on my woodstove, and when I need a bit of concentrated warming power (that won't burn the beneficiary, nor risk a fire) I will take a wool sock, stick my hand in it, grab the (hot) soapstone, pull my hand out so that the rock in now inside the sock, twist and then push back through.  Gotta do this quick; but you are left with a hot soapstone inside two layers of wool sock.  I used to do this for my kids as toddlers during cold nights, because I didn't trust a hot water bottle not to bust or leak with how much they move around while asleep.  It lasts about an hour and isn't too hot to the touch, so you put one or two of these into your bed under your blankets while you're getting ready for bed, then just push them away or put them on the floor once your in bed.  They won't leak onto the floor nor into your bed, nor will they catch anything on fire.
1 month ago
The standard color sets are...

Black, red & blue for voltages up to 250.

Brown, orange and yellow for voltages above 250.

Green is ALWAYS an earth bonded ground wire, at least according to the code.

Any version of white or grey is a 'neutral' conductor, which doesn't mean that it doesn't have voltage or current, only that it's not a consistent sine wave because it's the 'common' among a set of phases conducting to each other.

Purple,  and Pink are usually reserved for 'traveler' wires in 3-way or 4-way light switching, or for other unusual purposes.  Two color conductors are also available, but tend to cost more.

But for your multi-phase and/or multi-conductor transmission setup, I'd recommend Black, Red, blue for 3 phases; adding brown, orange and yellow for 6 phases; and adding white, grey, purple, pink, green with a yellow tracer, and finally blue with a red tracer for 12 phases.

The 6 conductor setup, for either 3 or 6 phases seems reasonable to me; but I'd have to advise against the 12 conductor setup, at least using wire colors.  Once you're above 6 current carrying conductors, a sticker book of numbers seems prudent, in which case every wire could just be standard black.  BTW, 12 current carrying #12 conductors (adding 2 more, one for a white neutral just in case it proves useful, and a green wire for a ground bond) will fit inside a 3/4" PVC pipe with no problems.  #10 wire would fit too, but will increase your problems pulling them into the PVC pipe at such a long distance; so 1" would be better here.  Alternatively, 6 conductors (plus two) using #10 THHN will fit inside a 3/4" PVC pipe just fine.

And this is what the in-ground junction boxes look like...[publisher]&utm_term=&utm_campaign=&utm_medium=cpc&utm_content=%7cpcrid%7c342027086125%7cpkw%7c%7cpmt%7c&gclid=CjwKCAiA8K7uBRBBEiwACOm4d2tnHcdB-Oy2thjptW7gmaAXZKYJK7kN6B9aenitkTIfl4wLGBGK9xoC63IQAvD_BwE#{Nominal%20Opening%20Dimensions%20(Inches):11%20x%2018%20in.}&{Additional%20Features:Box%20Only}&{Depth:12%20in.}&{Brand%20or%20Series:Quazite®}&{Material:Polymer%20Concrete}

The bottoms are open, so that the PVC pipes just 90 up into them and the water drains away.  Basically, it's a hole in the ground with a top.  Special waterproof wire connectors are available, but likely not necessary if your chosen voltage is under 250 and the box isn't located in a spot that rain constantly pools towards.
2 months ago

Travis Johnson wrote:I am not sure that it is a myth though, because per foot, the voltage is exactly the same allowing for almost twice the efficiency per foot of transmission line. High Phase Order Transmissions Lines have been experimentally built, and worked. At the house I would just use a transformer to get the high order phases back down to three phases as you propose.

The bolded part is a true statement, but the reason that this is true is because the higher phase number setups use more conductors, not because of an inherent efficiency gain from using more phases.  The part that is not widely known about this is that adding additional conductors to a transmission line is more effective than simply doubling the cross sectional area of a single current carrying conductor; and the main reason for this is known as "skin effect current".  When amperage is flowing through a round conductor (as almost all wires are roughly round) the vast majority of the current actually flows at or very near the outer surface of the conductor. (Because every electron is a negatively charged particle, and like charges repeal each other, forcing themselves out of the center of the conductor) This effect is well known among my field, so parallel sets of conductors are common in industrial or large commercial applications.  The same trick is used in high-tension power distribution lines, as if you look, you will likely see a lot more than 3 actual conductors.  What you are most likely to see is three sets of conductors, each set comprised of one or more actual wires, which may or may not be bonded together using small structures on the hanging wires.

So if you functionally double the real ampacity of a transmission line (by doubling the number of current carrying conductors, or by any other method) you will cut your transmission loses by roughly in half, regardless of whether you choose to use 3, 6 or 12 phases.  In the case of a small power production systems such as micro-hydro, you'd get exactly the same result by doubling your voltage; because with the same power output, doubling your voltage would cut your amperage in half, so your existing transmission line would effectively double in ampacity as compared to your average need.  I wouldn't want to discourage you from using 6 or 12 conductors in your transmission line, so long as that doesn't cost you more; as that would grant you flexibility without impacting your real ampacity at any phase level.  Rather than a purpose made underground cable, which are expensive, I'd recommend a 3/4" or 1" pvc pipe, perhaps with an in-ground pull box every couple hundred feet.  #12 gauge THHN wire on 500' reels is about as cheap for this purpose as you're likely to find, and while parralleling anything smaller than #8 is against code, it should still work very well for your purpose.  Just make sure that you have enough colors, or a wire marking sticker book so that you can keep the individual conductors identified on both ends.
2 months ago

Travis Johnson wrote:

What makes it crazy to me anyway is; it is only 3000 watts, yet single or 3 phase, and has a 4 cylinder liquid cooled gasoline or liquid propane engine. I can see a 10 kw or up unit having all that, but 3000 watts?

They can be way smaller.  
2 months ago

Travis Johnson wrote:My understanding was, 6 phase is close to being double the efficiency of 3 phase, but not quite.

There's no generation or transmission efficiency gain from going from 3 phases to 6 or 12.  There might be a slight advantage for industrial synchronous motors, but those are huge and not remotely useful for an off-grid household.  There is a real transmission advantage for 3 phase over single phase across great distances, but any 3 phase service can derive a single phase service with the use of a transformer; which is one reason why there are so many transformers to be found in a suburban neighborhood.  If you think about what the difference is between 3 phase and 6 phase, you'd quickly realize that it doesn't matter that much.  Three phase has each phase sine wave 120 degrees apart, while 6 phase has each sine wave 60 degrees apart; but that means that every third phase is 180 degrees away from it's counterpart.  One line 180 degrees out of phase with another one is the electrical definition of single phase power; so 6 phase isn't electrically different from 3 phase from a generation or distribution perspective, it just requires twice the wires and equipment.

That said, a multi-pole (not multi-phase) generator will allow you to produce single or 3 phase power at a greatly reduced engine RPM.  A single pole alternator needs to be driven at 3600 rpm to produce 60 Hertz AC, but a two-pole alternator only needs 1800 rpm.  A three-pole needs 1200 rpm, and a four-pole 900 rpm.  This effect can be duplicated by multiplying the number of phases, instead of the number of magnetic poles; if the internals are wired for this purpose.  Could this be what you're thinking of?
2 months ago

Jeremy Baker wrote:Travis. Best wishes for your adventure into a new livelihood.
 If the gravity feed pellet hopper experiment flops I’ll probably look at electric feed again. I saw one that is 120 VAC or 12VDC but it’s for a pellet smoker. I thought the feed mechanism might be adapted to a burn tube however.
David. Have you done 3 phase power supply with coupled inverters before? I’ve seen the diagrams in the manuals. I have two Victron Multiplus inverters. If I got a third Multiplus I could try it but what are the advantages? In reality I think Travis has a lot more need for 3 phase than I do. Due to my semi Nomadic life I’m forced to keep things simple. So I only have 3 solar energy systems currently lol. But working on a 4th system again after trading a van with one for a motorcycle.

What you want is a Wiseway.  It's basicly a tilted L-rocket with a gravity fed hopper, that leads into a heat exchanger that zig-zags to the flue.

Google found one for me pretty quick...
2 months ago