Thursday 22 August 2019

Autumn creaks and preparations

August 22nd, and I'm getting some creaks. Mentally, I still think it's mid-summer which might be true-ish for temperature, but not for light. We're now 2 months after the solstice (1 month until equinox!) and the shadows are shifting rapidly.

The daily pattern of shadows affects me depending on my daily pattern of life. It's easier to work around the shadows if I'm around the house during the day - but if I'm out, like at work, then it's trickier. I still suspect that the electronics inside some of my batteries throttle the charge if it's too low, and don't unthrottle it when it picks back up again. If I start my panels out in shade, then I don't seem to get much charge even if the sun hits them for a full day starting half an hour later.

I think I'm going to need to look into solar controllers more... (Or work from home 😏)

I'm also being confused by my batteries not charging properly with certain combinations of panels. Having run some tests yesterday using my USB power measurers, I'm now fairly sure my big old red battery is playing up, so maybe it's time to replace it. But it seems to have a knock-on effect when I plug in a different battery to the same panel, and I get the same charging problem - but then a while later it seems to work. Hmm.

I was out collecting the first crop of early blackberries yesterday, and the strawberries in the garden are dying away and rotting now. Autumn is on its way, and it feels like time to start preparing.

Wednesday 7 August 2019

Recharging the batteries - a holiday roundup

Status: 4 months complete.

This year's family holiday was to the same French campsite we went to last year. This made it a little easier to plan - see last year's notes for what happened - but the biggest differences this year have been a couple of changes:

1. I am so full of batteries now. The sun has been good in the run up to holiday, so I was pretty much full up to go away - the usual ~79KwH worth of batteries I have now is way enough to keep my phone and watch going for 10 days, whatever happens.

2. Learning from last time, I knew that the biggest battery sink for my phone is taking pictures and videos. This year I decided to keep my photography simple - I didn't even take a film camera! 😁 Instead, I picked up a little Apeman 4K device which I can charge up via USB - the efficiency of a separate device, rather than piggybacking photography on top of a whole phone OS, is huge. I've been taking a bunch of footage, and needed to charge up the camera battery once every few days.

3. Relaxing on holiday is great - I've got free data roaming (thanks Europe!) so it's not been expensive at all to use Internet on my phone. But I've been reading books and magazines and drinking wine, mostly. The phone has either been idle or off, apart from the odd bit of GPS when visiting strange new towns. I've also been posting a few postcards via email and am really loving email for status updates, without all the overhead of a web browser.

4. I've had so much battery, and used my phone and watch so little, that I've been able to charge up the camera, plus my wife's iPhone, from my batteries without too much worry as well. I've brought my 20W solar panels with me as a bit of a top up, but either the clouds have been too cloudy, the panels are struggling, or I'm spoilt by my new 60W set - I haven't had much luck charging up my battery anyway. I've had something, so I think it's just not being able to get a full whack of sunlight.

I'm starting to get a bit low on battery now - here's hoping the sun comes out for a few days when I'm back home...