Tuesday, January 31, 2017

PBC and RV Batteries

This morning was a very pleasant +20°F (-7°C). Warm enough to get out on the Ural and not be concerned about leaving it outside for a while. I just went down to College Coffeehouse and the gas station plus a loop through the university to get the engine warmed up before heading home.

Today's afternoon activity is making more battery cables and connecting the battery bank. For now, I have the plywood board with the inverter and charge controller hanging on some wooden shelves in the back of the garage. On Sunday, I checked Sam's Club to see if they had gotten any more golf cart batteries in stock.  Last month, they only had three of each brand on the shelf. I wanted to get all four at the same time so they get used at the same rate. These are Duracell GC2 6 volt golf cart batteries rated at 215 amp-hours at the 20 hour discharge rate. They fit nicely in the plastic battery box though I may need to modify the lid to get it to fit. It depends on the height of the front compartment.

Equally important is making sure that the cables being used to interconnect the batteries within your bank are the same length. It kind of looks like these two cables making the series connection are different lengths but they are exactly (within 1 mm) the same length when laid out on the workbench. These connect the positive on one battery with the negative on the adjacent battery making the pair of 6 volt batteries into a single, 215 amp-hour 12 volt battery. So the bank will be 430 amp-hours with 50% of it actually useable without damaging the batteries.

I need to pick up eight more 2/0 awg cable lugs and shrink wrap to finish the battery bank and connect it to the inverter/charge controller setup. Also some large rubber grommets to protect the 2/0 wire where it exits the plastic battery box. I will be borrowing a Kyocera 135 watt, 12V solar panel (7.6 amps) to test out the charge controller.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

At Least Someone is Out Riding

On Thursday, we put the new fuel pump on Jed's EFI Ural after we damaged it when removing the tank last Fall. We also replaced the seal and bearings in the alternator drive to get rid of an oil leak. Today. he came by and we finally finished the deep sump oil pan and oil pickup extension. They changed the design of the oil pickup sometime and got rid of the safety wire so we had to install the old setup to get the extended pickup to work. We also installed two gas cans on the sidecar body. No reason to run out of gas now. On the EFI rigs, extra gas is important to have as there is no "reserve" setting like on the carbureted rigs and I hear (on the Internet) that the low fuel light isn't 100% reliable.

BTW, a new addition to the web page is the Amazon Affiliate link in the upper right of this page. It is an experiment on my part and most of the RV accessory links in the last month or so have the affiliate ID embedded in them. According to the site, if anyone in the U.S. (besides me) uses this link to access Amazon, anything purchased during that session, which is valid for the next 24 hours, will generate some amount of Amazon credit. It has no effect on the item price, shipping or selection. It doesn't have to be the item I used/recommended. According to the report on their site, someone had used the link and I now have 74¢ of credit! Since the RV is causing me to order a lot of stuff from Amazon, I thought that I would give this a shot since I'll be doing more reviews of RV stuff in the future.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

A Short Update

The last several days in Utqiaġvik have been very busy time. I haven't been there since September (I think) and there were a lot of tasks piled up. It's looking like IT support is finally going to be transferred to the science logistics provider this coming year. This isn't a surprise as we have been working towards this goal for quite a while. Also, due to an overall decrease in project funding, everything is being scaled back including IT support. I needed to move from the office space that I have been using here in the BARC as there is little need for dedicated office space. I claimed some space in one of the smaller labs and put in a couple of locking cabinets. But it's still a hassle to move. I've accumulated a lot of junk over the past nine+ years.

I think I'm getting too old to put in these 10-12 hour days as I arrived home pretty exhausted. Or possibly it's the long days combined with the cold. On Monday, someone mentioned that with wind chill it was around -60°F. A good day not to be outside. One of the logistics managers took the picture of the sunrise/sunset yesterday. I was so busy that I missed out.

I came back to Fairbanks on the noon flight. No problems with the flight and I even got upgraded.

Thursday, January 19, 2017

Heading North to Escape the Cold

I'm in the airport again waiting for my flight north looking at the ice fog. It's about 10:20am so just a little bit after the scheduled 10:15am sunrise. Last night, we dropped my mom off at the airport in time for her 9:30pm flight and at check-in, they moved her to the 8:07pm flight since the 9:30 flight was already delayed. Later, both the 8:07 and 9:30 flights were cancelled and she did not get on her way until 6:10am. I'm sure that wasn't how she wanted to spend her evening. We hadn't heard anything from her directly but a friend of ours was on the morning flight and emailed us to let us know what happened.

I still have several hours until my flight to to Utqiaġvik, the village formerly known as Barrow, through Deadhorse where there is a three hour layover. I believe that tomorrow will be the first sunrise in Barrow since November though the iPhone weather app seems to be confused. It shows sunrise at 3:00pm and sunset at 2:24pm for a negative 36 minutes of sun. Maybe there is something about that that makes sense. At -21°F (-29°C), it's quite a bit warmer than here. They are using the small Bombardier planes now instead of the 737s and they seem to be having more mechanical delays. I think that maybe the 737s were sturdier but that's just my opinion. Hopefully my flight isn't cancelled as planes get repurposed. There are a lot of people sitting in the airport due to cancelled flights to Anchorage.

Update - Not cancelled or even late. But only four us got onto the plane for a grand total of eleven passengers to Deadhorse. And one more picture from the Deadhorse airport looking at their almost sunrise/sunset. It's the same temperature here as it is in Fairbanks, -41°.

HDR as we passed over the Brooks Range

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

PBC #6 and Cold Weather Fun

How about this, a non-RV post! It actually has a little bit of moto content.

This was somewhere between a "just because" and "why not" video. Only a couple of km around the subdivision. It was just a pretty afternoon, I felt like I had to get out for a short ride. 2WD got a lot of use as there were still some really slick areas with loose snow. Anyway, it made for some nice scenery. Once on the main road, you can see the ice fog. It was pretty heavy in town. Ice fog is crystals of ice forming on smoke particles so it is really unhealthy to breath in. But there are some in town who believe that they have the "right" to burn wood.

The first video is Bridget throwing a cup of hot water into the air when it's this cold.

Polar Bear Challenge Video

Monday, January 16, 2017

Cold Weather! (Updated)

The -32°F (-35°C) is considered cold by just about anyone. But take a look at the forecast for Tuesday and Wednesday. I guess that winter has finally arrived. After we get that over with then we can get on to Spring. Today we got a little more snow. Maybe 4-5". Enough to make it worthwhile to run the plow again.

I'm starting to run out of places to push snow. This is the down hill area next to our house and the pile is starting to get pretty high. While it was snowing, it got relatively warm -13°F (-25°C) so it seemed like an opportune time. Mechanical things tend to break when it's really cold. After being plugged in for only an hour, the truck fired right up now that it's nice and warm...

The plowing is done. I must admit that the plow is kinda overkill for just our driveway but I also use it on the road in front of our house and I do the church parking lot when needed. I was originally thinking about plowing as a small business but haven't been able to find definitive answers about plowing as a business. Just about everyone I've asked just sort of shrugged their shoulders and said "well I've never gotten a ticket". I guess I'm looking for better info than that.

Right after I finished plowing, the mail carrier showed up and dropped off my Amazon order. These stainless steel, cushioned wire clamps were ridiculously expensive locally. I was originally just going to use wire ties but I thought that these would work better in the long run. Plus, I could easily remove and reuse them when needed.

Tuesday Evening Update - Look at the low for Wednesday...


Sunday, January 15, 2017

RV - Solar and DC Upgrade (Part 3) updated

More playing around with the RV low voltage stuff. I set the DIP switches on the charge controller for the AGM battery that I'm currently testing things with. Right now, the charge voltage is set to 14.4 volts but I should probably set it to 14.35 per the Morningstar documentation for sealed AGM batteries. The flooded 6V golf cart batteries will be set to 14.8 volts as recommended by Handy Bob and mentioned in one of Ray's LoveYourRV.com videos. Equalization is set to manual and is triggered with the black push button switch right below the serial port. I applied power by setting the output circuit breaker and the charge controller went through its self test routine but lacking a solar panel, I can't test. I did find out at the Coffeehouse this morning that DavidR has an unused Kyocera 12 volt, 130 watt panel that I may try and borrow to test the charge controller.

With the strain reliefs on the bottom of the charge controller, I was able to terminate the output cables and the positive input cable on the charge controller. Ox-Guard was applied to the copper before they were put into the screw terminals. The wires look overkill because they are. 2 awg is much larger than is needed but I had it lying around the garage. I still need to connect the chassis ground, temperature sensor and the battery sense wires.

I also set up some of the many of the parameters of the Trimetric 2025-RV such as the fully charged voltage (14.4 VDC) and the amp-hour capacity of the battery bank (I'm guessing around 70 amp-hours). I then turned on the inverter and charged up some Makita tool batteries which cranked up the inverter to draw about 8 amps for a short time. This minimal use drew down the voltage of the AGM starting battery (not deep cycle) pretty quickly. It actually wasn't as dead as the battery charger claimed (65%) as it charged back up pretty quickly. Here, now that the battery has gone through a discharge-charge cycle, the most useful display (%Full) is showing that the battery is fully charged.

The test AGM battery is about 70 amp-hours (guess based on some specs for a deep-cycle battery) and by multiply that by the nominal battery voltage (12 VDC) and you get 840 watt-hours as a theoretical maximum capacity. About half of that as a realistically useable or 420 watt-hours. Some initial playing around with the Kill-A-Watt meter yielded 60 watt-hour for two of cups of coffee from a Keurig machine and 320 watt-hours to cook three cups of brown rice. Plus the inverter itself consumes about 10 watt-hours per hour. So three cups of rice, and two cups of coffee over a three hour period would use up the useable capacity of the group 24 AGM battery. The four flooded golf cart batteries would have 430 amp-hours times 12 VDC or 5160 watt hours max or 2580 watt-hours useable. Or approximately 86 cups of coffee. That sounds like it might be enough...

Just as another test, I left the inverter on all day (Friday) with no load. The Trimetric monitor reported that the inverter was drawing 0.4 amps or about half of what it said in the specs. After 24 hours, it would've drawn about 9.6 amp-hours or 115.2 watt-hours which is about 14% of the battery capacity (115.2 watt-hours/840 watt-hours x 100%) . The Trimetric monitor reported that 85% of the battery was available. I like this device. The accuracy of this percentage is based on the amp-hour capacity that was entered in the configuration. The voltage at after a day was only 12.3 VDC which would indicate a state of charge of around 50 65% based on tables on the Internet. Does this mean that this battery only has 30 amp-hours instead of 70? This battery has been run almost dead a couple of times so maybe this is an example of how the battery capacity gets decreased when running them down too far. Also note that this is a starting not a deep cycle battery.

And the last photo was just from walking through the backyard. The snow is about mid-thigh so it's a challenge to walk around. At least it's a warm outside today, +11°F (-12°C) instead of the forecasted -40°F/C! Can't complain about that…

Updated info - The 20 hour amp-hour capacity of starting batteries isn't normally given in the specs since the focus is on CCA or cold cranking amps. But I did find at least one manufacturer of starting batteries that did list it. And for a group 24 AGM battery, it is listed at 55 amp-hours so I reset the Trimetric to 50 amp-hours. Pretty low capacity for the size and weight but I guess that's the difference between deep cycle and starting.

Sunday Afternoon - I switched to another charger a Solar Pro-Logix PL2208 smart charger that does have temperature compensation. The other smart charger would charge the battery up to 14.3 volts then back off immediately to just float. After many hours, the charger would claim 100% but the voltage would only be 13 volts. The Solar Pro-Logix charged all the way up to 15.8 volts before backing off to 14.8 volts. After a while, the charger dropped to float mode at 14.1 volts which is about what the Morningstar temperature compensation table suggested. 13.4 volts (float) + 0.75 volts at 32°F. Maybe I'll restart the discharge test tonight.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

RV - Solar and DC Upgrade (Part 2)

I started to lay out the DC electrical board for the front storage compartment of the RV. According to the dimensions I was given, there is 31" of open space so I have that marked off on the ¾" plywood. I'm going to lay it out and make cables using that dimension but I'll hold off on cutting the plywood until I'm actually there. The height is also unknown but I'm guessing that there is more than 16" of height in the compartment above the battery box. Time to start making cables.

This is a good comparison between the 2/0 awg on the left and 2 awg arc welding cables. The overall diameter is almost identical but the amount of actual wire and resultant current carrying capacity is dramatically different. Since the 2 awg cable wasn't labeled, I weighed the welding cable after trimming off the ends to find the weight per foot. Then looked it up in a table (on the Internet) to find the wire size. I will be using the 2 awg wire for the connections from the solar charge controller to the battery. It's kind of overkill since the maximum current is only 45 amps. But the maximum wire size supported by the charge controller is 2 awg and I just happen to have some lying around.

Using the hydraulic press to crimp the cables works really well. Here are my first attempts with the 2/0 awg. The shrink tubing and connectors are from ABS Alaskan. I need to work a little on my technique as I may be crimping a bit too much (it's a 12 ton press). After the insulation is removed, some anti-oxidation paste is put on the exposed copper before crimping the terminal. Special heat shrink tubing with some sort of glue is used to keep air and moisture out of the connections. 

Here it is mostly done. The connections to the battery are the 250 amp catastrophic fuse aka "cat", at the lower left and the 500 amp shunt on the right. For now, I just have some 4 awg cables going to the group 24 AGM battery from the BMW sidecar rig. The same anti-oxidation paste is used on all of the screw terminals before tightening. 

I have the Bogart Engineering Trimetric 2025-RV connected to the shunt and the fused side of the cat fuse. I still need to go through the setup routine to set the battery type and capacity. The Trimetric will then track usage and display percent used. 

This is the 500 amp shunt. Basically a precise, very low resistance device that all DC current passes through. The Trimetric will then measure the voltage and use Ohms law to calculate the current. The short cable just goes to a bus bar to prevent having to stack all of the negative terminals on one bolt. The bus bar is also rated for 250 amps. 

The solar charge controller is on the left and the 2000 watt inverter is on the right. The rotary power switch (also rated for 250 amps continuous) allows me to shut off power to the inverter and eventually the DC power to the rest of the RV. The switch is currently in the "off" position and the RV 12VDC feed will be from the opening on the lower part of the switch. N.B. The shutoff switch does not switch off the charge controller. When the solar charge controller is set to equalization, the voltage could go above 16 VDC depending on the battery temperature which could damage something. This allows you to take everything off line. 

The two 50 amp circuit breakers are for the input and output of the solar charge controller. Output on top and input just below that. Note that the breakers are "tripped" with the red button so they work as switches. I still need to pick up some cable clamps that fit the knock outs on the Morningstar charge controller from the hardware store before terminating the cables. I also need some ground wire for the chassis of the inverter and the charge controller. I also ordered some cable clamps to keep the cables from moving or vibrating while traveling down the road. 

I also plan to order one 100 watt, 12 volt solar panel to test the charge controller. 

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Arctic Bear

From someone who decided not to submit PBC (Polar Bear Challenge) videos, here is submission number five. Actually only done since it happened to be below 0°F (-25°F or -32°C) and if you have at least one PBC video with it below zero Fahrenheit, you qualify as an "Arctic Bear". So why not...

I started and ended the ride in the garage so no cold soaked engine. The only "problem" is that since the thermometer is attached to the rear rack, I needed to ride somewhere before I could record the temperature and starting odometer reading. I rode out to the golf course parking lot since there was a nice view that I could aim the GoPro at while I recorded the starting temperature and odometer.

So the submission is for only half of the mileage actually ridden.

Thursday, January 5, 2017

Out and About

Almost two weeks have passed since the last surgery in Seattle so I decided to see how it felt to ride the Ural. Plus, it was almost tropical at +16°F! Almost too nice to pass up taking SB on his first moto outing in Alaska. Didn't venture very far, maybe 20 miles or so. I also recorded another PBC video just because I was out and about anyway.

Here is PBC #4

Sunday, January 1, 2017

2016 in Pictures

The Photos application on my Mac automatically created a "Best of" slideshow for the year. I'm not at all sure of how which photos were selected but I thought that it was an interesting selection. I hope everyone has a 2017 at least as good as 2016 hopefully much better!