… come to an end. And today, the home-made 12-volt immersion heater that I use as a dump-load for the excess solar energy finally ground to a halt.
Mind you, I’m not surprised. What has surprised me is that it lasted as long as it has – about 4 years if I remember correctly. It’s a 500-watt industrial 12-volt water heater element that I can pick up by the dozen in the USA, fitted into the side of a 25-litre plastic storage box and sealed in with rubber gaskets, and a simple tap. The whole lot is stood on a thick sheet of polystyrene insulation, with some of this thick space-blanket insulation wrapped around it, and a plastic lid covered with an off-cut of a sheet of polystyrene-backed plaster-board. Down on the inside of the space-blanket insulation up against the plastic side is the sensor of a maximum-minimum thermometer.
It’s wired in (with a 70-amp fuse) to a 60-amp Solar charge controller that I have reverse-wired so that instead of being “on” and switching off when the batteries are fully-charged, it’s “off” and switches on when the batteries are fully charged – and so when the batteries are fully charged and the charge controllers on the batteries switch off, the current that would otherwise be lost is diverted down into the water heater element and so heats up the water in the immersion heater for washing up, washing, and all that kind of thing.
And so why did it all go wrong?
The answer is that it hasn’t really gone wrong. A year or so ago I noticed that the positive wire to the immersion heater was heating up dramatically, and so I rewired it. But the thread stripped in the connection on the element so I had to find a small nut and bolt. But I couldn’t really fit a spanner into it so that it wasn’t particularly tight.
Today, I went downstairs to the fridge to fetch something to drink, and I could smell the burning plastic. There was something or a record of 37 amps going down the cables and this was simply too much for the bad joint and the wire was so hot that it was melting the insulation.
I hadn’t designed it particularly well – I can do much better than this, and in any case I don’t have any rubber joints for the element which I’ll need to take out and remake the joint, and so that’s a task for next week if I remember to buy the things that I need tomorrow at the shops. However, I have plugged the fridge back in so that something is being done about the excess current.
And so what else have I done today?
Apart from work on the laptop, which you can take as read, I’ve been tracking down some wood. I went to rescue the wooden box that I used to use to keep my fruit and vegetables in, but I pinched it last year to store my potatoes. But that didn’t work as the potatoes all went off and the wooden box is ruined (but I did in passing cast an eye on last year’s compost and it’s brewing beautifully!) and so I need to make another one.
I found a 50cm pine plank and some 40mm aluminium angle and I’ll be using that on Monday to make my new fruit and veg box.
As well as that, I went to check over the Kubota mini-digger. The reason for that is that the battery in the Kubota tractor is finished and I need a new one, so if I’m ordering one it makes sense to order a second for the digger – after all, that hasn’t run since the end of November last year.
But much to my astonishment, the mini-digger fired up straight away with no difficulty. And so I checked it over and left it running for a good hour or so to warm everything up and top up the battery.
I spent some time downstairs tidying up the ground floor too. It’s now looking as if you might be able to see the floor if I keep up like this. But I need to make a great deal of room as pretty soon I’ll be starting work down there and I’ll need the space.
Last but not least, I had a shower. 33°C in the verandah and 59°C in the 12-volt immersion heater, and so I cleared a corner of the verandah, fetched a bucket of hot water with some cold mixed in, found the pouring jug, and hey presto! Now I smell like coconut. I finished it off with a shave too, so now I’m all ready for the weekend.
But I could have done with a shave and a shower last night, as I was on my travels again. It was Marianne who had the pleasure of my company, going to the airport for a flight to Portugal. At the last minute she asked why I didn’t come with her, so with three hours to go before take-off I nipped off to my apartment for some clothes and the like, and to run one or two errands.
Once I’d done all of that, I had to return to the airport so there I was, driving through North London (flitting in and out of another nocturnal ramble from ages ago) on my way to Brussels Airport. The road was certainly very familiar to me, but I wasn’t convinced that it was the road that I should have been taking. But I arrived at the airport and reached the security gate with just 15 minutes to take-off and I still had a long way to go, not to mention passing through the “security”. And here I was, panicking in case I missed the flight, which was looking more and more likely as time passed by.