Sunday 23 April 2017

Pallets to Paradise

Two years since the last post? Clearly I'm too lazy for blogging. Not that I've moved house, changed jobs, brought two children into the world and commute to London every day. Nope, just lazy.

Here's a thing I've just done! I acquired a load of wooden pallets for free and some strawberry plants.
So I had a word with the pallets using my chainsaw and built some nice (?) planters.

I lined the inside of the box with some old plastic compost bags to prevent to pallet wood going rotten. Aside from that, very little thought was applied in the construction of this. Plenty of satisfaction and enjoyment though.

My only tip when trying to up-cycle wooden pallets is not to bother trying to de-nail them nicely, it's far to hard. Just saw out the good bits.

That's it for now. I'll probably do another post on wood turning or something, but who knows!?

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Driving Electric - 2 years on.....

I've been driving my Nissan Leaf for just under two years now so I thought it would be a good time to report on the progress and what it's really like to use an electric car every day.

Luckily, Nissan are able to collect data from the Leaf and present it on-line, you can see how much energy you are using, miles driven and how many eco trees(?) you have grown.

That's all well and good but what I'm really interested in is how much money I have saved in running the thing. Lets have a look:

The above is a screenshot from the Nissan Carwings site. This particular chart shows how many miles I've driven next to how much energy I've used in all of 2014.

I drove a total of 6,983.5 miles in 2014. That's me driving to work and back.
If I still drove my previous car, being a Volvo C30 1.8TDi the cost per mile in fuel is about 10p.
6,983.5 x 0.10p = £698.35

As the Leaf doesn't run on diesel we need to work out the equivalent cost on kWh using the rate for my electricity provider, Ecotricity. (Currently 12p /kWh) Nissan report that I've used 1,572.6 kWh so:
1,572.6 x 0.12p = £188.71

Also bear in mind that not all the energy the Leaf uses is from being plugged into my house. I use Ecotricity charging stations for free and the regenerative capabilities account for about 1kWh per trip.
In 2014 I made 557 trips, therefore I generated about 557 kWh. That's another £66.84 off the bill.

A difference in running cost of £442.08! That's pretty good isn't it.

Throw in the fact it's zero car tax and really low insurance. I had to pay a service cost of £120 which is still minimal compared to any other car. However, the main thing is that I have not burnt any CO2 as a result of driving to work, cutting 4260lbs of poisonous crud.

Using the car
I've talked about the pros and cons of driving an EV before. Yes it has a limited range, but the range is 100 miles. I rarely drive over 100 miles in a single trip. My trip to work and back is 40 miles. I never have to find a charger to get home and I often use the climate control. I have never once come close to running out of power. There are now even more charging points around the place and the majority are still free, the Ecotricity chargers are at nearly every service station. They are really fast and totally free.
Plugged in at Fleet services
 I do have a second car for the longer journeys to the family but it's not uncommon for a household to operate two cars of course.

The end?
Sadly I will be giving up my Leaf very soon, I am about to change jobs and start commuting to London by train but should I return to a drivable commute or need a second car in the future then I wont hesitate in going electric again.
If you are in a position where you are regularly driving less than 100 miles and you have a driveway at home then you really should go electric. Any excuse you give me for not doing so will probably be a bit pathetic.

Unless you cycle to work, in which case, well done.

Tuesday 15 April 2014

Power from a volcano

This is a great promo video for my car.

Using regenerative braking you really do add power to the battery. My route to work doesn’t involve many volcanoes but even the slightly hilly bits produce a surprising amount of energy.  Yeah, you need to expel energy to get up the hill but only an EV generates power when you come back down. 

I don't work for Nissan by the way, I just love this car.

Monday 14 April 2014

Solar Powered Bird Box

I received an excellent birthday present from the mother-in-law this year. A small video camera kit for use in a nesting box.

It comes with a 9v mains power supply for the camera but I decided to hack this a little and power it from the sun. Meaning free power and no need to run a cable into the house. 

However, I needed a nesting box to put it in. I had some leftover 15cm pine shelving in the shed, so I spent the first sunny afternoon of the year in the garden with my mitre saw and came up with this little sanctuary.

The RSPB website has loads of info for DIY bird boxes, such as hole size, dimensions etc. I'm using untreated pine so it's essential to paint it with a pet safe wood preserver. 

The camera kit is pretty simple. The camera itself is quite small and broadcasts to a receiver unit that plugs into the TV. 
I found the camera worked well off a normal 9v square battery. The plan was to get a 9v solar panel and use that to keep the battery charged when the camera is not being used.

I purchased a 9v solar panel via ebay and a the cable and toggle switch from Maplin. The wiring is pretty straight forward. The solar panel has a diode pre-fitted. A diode needs to be used with a solar panel to pull the power down from the panel into the battery. You also need to isolate the battery from the camera when not in use, otherwise the camera will drain the battery quicker than the panel can charge it. 

The solar panel, battery and switch are inside a small bike shed directly beneath where I've put the nest box.

I installed the switch on the outside of the shed in a waterproof casing, so when I want to view the feed from the camera I just switch it on here and turn on the TV. At present this means I need to go outside when I want to switch the camera on. I would like to come up with some sort of wireless remote switch.

To date, nobody has taken up residence in the box. When they do, I'll post some pictures up here.

Saturday 28 December 2013

Sauce Jars - Life After Dinner

Due to my limited culinary skills, I acquire many home cooking sauce jars. Just for fun I decided to re-purpose a few.

This 'lamp shade' was made by removing the bottom of the jar with a diamond cutter wheel on my Dremal then cutting a hole in the lid for the light fitting.

Cutting the glass was quite straight forward but you do need to take care. If you want to do this you MUST wear safety glasses. Tiny slithers of glass flying into your face remind you how delicate your eyes are.

 I bought a diamond cutting set for about £5 for an independant DIY shop (the best places for this sort of thing). I wrapped some gaffer tape around the jar first to prevent shattering and provide a nice guide line.

A couple of passes with the diamond cutter and the bottom just falls of. Easy!

I then smoothed the edge down with an abrasive drum.

Then a final sanding by hand with some fine grit paper. All done.

I have made two lamp shades for the hallway at home and a pen jar for my desk at work. I'm now thinking of what else can give these jars a life after Dolmio.

Thursday 28 November 2013

Missile Switch KVM

Just a quick post to show off my latest project.
I have to switch between four computers on my desk at work and have been recently frustrated by the flimsy plastic push buttons on my two KVM switches. 

Through a combination of spares in the shed and a visit to Maplin I came up with this extremely rugged and awesome looking alternative.

It's just two SPST toggle switches and missile switch covers. I don't use my KVMs for switching monitors, just the keyboard and mouse.
Momentary switches would have been better but I couldn't find any suitable. 

This config does the job and does look pretty damn cool. I've now challenged the rest of the office to come up more over engineered solutions....

Friday 1 November 2013

A Longer Leaf Journey

A few weeks back we decided to brave a journey that exceeded the normal range of the Nissan Leaf. I was looking for an opportunity to try out the public charging points available and this seemed as good a time as any.

The plan was to meet some friends at Polesden Lacey in Surrey. This would mean a return journey of 87 miles, which is just nipping at the heels of the maximum range of the car, so a re-charge at some point would certainly make things more comfortable.
A bit of pre-planning was required. I found two potential charging points on the route:

View Larger Map
So we set off with a full charge in the battery. Today this gave me 90 miles, showing that the capacity of the battery can be determined by some outside factors such as temperature, charge time etc. I thought it would be a good idea to drop into Fleet services on the way to top up.

The rapid charge points allow access via an RFID card which needs to obtained via the Ecotricity website. The card is currently free of charge. You simply drive up to the charging point, swipe your card and plug in. Another Leaf owner pulled up beside me and we enjoyed a couple of minutes chatting about our awesome cars, something you wouldn't do at a petrol pump, it's like being in a cool friendly club.

Here I learned a downside to the rapid charge points - They only allow the battery to be charged to 80%. This, I understand, is for safety reasons. the charger is throwing down DC current in excess of 100Amps whch can easily lead to a battery getting hot if allowed to charge for longer than 20 minutes.
I was at about 78% when I arrived so I only gained an extra few miles. Nevermind, on we go....

We arrived at Polesden Lacey with 35 Miles left on the range. I did ask the staff if there was anywhere I could plug in but no. Maybe something the National Trust should be considering???

It was about 30 miles back to Fleet services but only about 5 to RHS Wisley. We made the decision to go home via Wisley and grab an hour on the charger while visiting the fine garden centre and café.

Unfortunately the charging points in the car park were down. I spoke to the very helpful staff but despite best efforts the Chargemaster points were not playing. However, as a result we were allowed to plug in through a barn door in the service yard. Lucky for us otherwise we may not have made it home.
The only downside was that this was a standard 3-pin 13 amp domestic socket, this being the slowest method of charging the car, so we only gained an extra 10 miles after an hours loitering around the garden centre.

Plugged in at RHS Wisley

On the way to Fleet services I saw, for the first time, a low battery warning in the car, meaning there was only 12 miles left, luckily we were only 5 miles from the next charger and rolled in with a few miles to spare.
Now this is where the rapid chargers come into their own, we plugged in and went inside for a cup of tea.
I was monitoring the battery in the car via the Nissan App on my phone and after about 15 minutes it told me that the car was now 80% charged with 74 miles on the range. We hadn't even finished our tea.

The Ecotricity Charger at Fleet Services on M3

Obviously we then made it home easily. Now, this may all seem like a bit of a faff with the three stops and mild anxiety but to be honest it made the day more fun if anything, a little more adventure. We also would never have visted RHS Wisley which was well worth it (Mrs Colin was particularly pleased with the baby changing facilities). Most of all, not a penny was spent on fuel.

Still loving the Leaf....!!