Author Archives: zekibeejr

About zekibeejr

I am an audio engineer / sound man by trade ... something I truly love to do. Writing, it turns out,is something I enjoy, the subject matter, will follow my muse. These days I have been very interested in a project involving solar panels, batteries and my job of making things louder ... I am hoping that you will find the blog both interesting and informative ... And that it might occasionally put a smile on your face. Please post comments and ask questions ... I will reply as time and circumstance allow ... For I too am hoping to learn something here! Thank you for visiting and good luck with your day!

Failure … At last!

Well … It took some doing … But it finally happened.

The power went out!

I had been pushing things, trying to find the limits … So in a way it was what I was looking for … 

But somehow not what I had been hoping for.

Three different events … Three different scenarios … Three different sets of gear … But the end result the same. 

The power went out.
 

Notice how much a solar power outage looks like a utility power outage!

 

One of the failures was pretty simple to figure out, easy to duplicate and explain mathematically.
It turns out if you ask for too much power from an inverter it will shut down … Not unlike what happens when you ask for more than 20 amps of power out of a standard 20 amp wall outlet.

Apparently running my mixing board, an audio processing rack, a couple of wireless systems , a keyboard set up, a bass amplifier, two guitar amplifiers and three QSC MX1500a power amplifiers on stage with the Houston Bernard band for an outdoor festival was asking too much of my 2000 watt sine wave inverter …

Looking back I probably should not have been so surprised!

The only real question for me now was why it had not happened sooner.

A decent inverter will actually produce more power than the wattage it is rated for … For a while. My inverters are capable of handling up to twice their rated output for very short periods of time (a couple of seconds) … Plenty of time to handle the surge current required to turn on some electrical equipment … Easily handling my 1 & 1/2 horsepower compressor for hours on end.

The compressor needs a 20 amp circuit to run … At home it would pop the glass fuse when I forgot and tried plugging it into the 15 amp outlet in the garage … The required fix used to be running a heavy duty 100′ extension cable to the basement to find a 20 amp circuit. These days I just plug the compressor into one of the 2000 watt inverters in the truck with no muss, no fuss … No extension cords required!

The other two failures I have not been able to duplicate … Or been able to explain mathematically … I am beginning to suspect that a loose connection on the 12 volt DC line may have been the “culprit” … I will keep you posted.

Now to figure out the best way to keep the power from going out!
  

This should help … 4,400 watts now … expandable to 8,800 watts! (time to start adding to my 2,000 pounds of batteries).

  

 

To Believe … Or Not To Believe …

 Curiosity is a strange thing … Mildly enjoyable at its best … Devastating at its worst.

Not knowing … But wanting to … At times needing to …

But the answers … At what cost?

At times I think satisfying one’s curiosity is a good thing … But not always. Mystery, Magic and Ghosts are all things I am curious about … Fun to ponder, but if you were to explain them away I think more would be lost than gained.

For example?

I hope the following will suffice …

“What I am about to do is impossible”.

Maybe it was … Maybe it wasn’t … But he had our attention.

A magic trick In an evening of magic tricks … All very well done … Some clever … Some famous … But nothing that might have needed any … Um … actual Magic … 

Until …

I’ve seen him perform the trick twice now … This last time a brass Tibetan prayer bowl was used … The first time a glass brandy snifter … The effect is the same.

He asks for three volunteers from the audience … Three rings.

He provides the rest … A Magic wand, “Abracadabra” and the beauty of the impossible.

Magic? … I’m happy to say I still think so. 

You see, I work in the entertainment industry where all sorts of “magic” occurs on a fairly regular basis, mostly involving time and budgets, but every once in a great while an old trunk of props, a spell or two and a wand is brought in … And twice now, the rarest of the rare … I have seen the impossible.

Perhaps you have heard the phrase “the show must go on”? … In my world a more powerful spell than Abracadabra … It is the phrase that will allow me to believe in Magic for a little while longer.

The most amazing things do come along that could and perhaps should keep the show from going on … Accidents … The weather … An artist not being ready, willing or able … Technical glitches galore … And then one day a broken prop … A little of my behind the scenes magic done and the prop behaves … And as a thank you, the artist offers to share his secret of the impossible!

Was I a fool?

I don’t think so … The secret and wonder for that bit of Magic remains.

The Truck!

Ah yes … The truck.

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First outing with the new array.

A 1995 Mitsubishi Fuso FH100, and I, the original owner,

What a machine!

The FH100 was a left over model the local dealer “found” sitting on a dock in Florida waiting for something to do … And did I have something for it to do!

I had had the pleasure of working with John Minnehan and his company “the Ultimate Video show” bringing a high tech video night club to lots of college campuses that were … Let’s just say … Off the beaten path!

Lots of miles … Lots of heavy gear … And lots of hours listening to some of the hottest dance music the 90’s had to offer … I am still in recovery!

But the truck was amazing at it. With a GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight) of over 17,000 pounds and weighing in at under 9,000 pounds empty the amount of gear it could handle was beyond belief … It surprised a lot of weigh station officials over the years … The sad look that would cross the faces of the DOT guys as they opened the door and read the GVW tag was always priceless!

But I digress …

The truck seems to have been built for my solar project. With it’s small size and super heavy duty frame, brakes, suspension and cargo restraining system moving a bunch of batteries around with the truck was going to be the easy part.

I wanted to find a better way to solar recharge the batteries between shows, and with business picking up I started looking up. With 120 square feet of flat roof on the truck, adding solar panels to the “attic” seemed like a good idea. If I could find a way to permanently mount an array on the truck I was going to save a lot of time and trouble moving batteries around.

I wanted to have the panels “rail mounted” flat above the box of the truck … With the rail system designed to protect the panels and any low hanging tree branches from each other!

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The rail mounting system

I was curious as to how well the panels would work laying flat … (Instead of being angled at the sun) … But was pretty certain after 2013’s experiment that I would be able to recharge the batteries … I was just not sure how much the process would speed up, or how much power I would get … Never mind what, if anything was going to happen on those short winter days with the sun low on the horizon.

Time would tell.

While the truck was being worked on I went through and rebuilt the charging station I had made for the project back in 2013, tidying things up a bit, adding a web monitor and a wireless router to connect the rig to my I-phone and maybe someday even the world!image

I think I’ll need to rent a teenager to get that far … Any leads on finding one would be greatly appreciated!

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The new array! Four Sun Tech 235 watt panels.

I got the truck back from the shop with the four solar panels installed on July 3, 2015 and spent the next two days adding the electronics and cabling … Personally drilling two holes in the truck roof for the “glands” that the cables were going to run through seemed really wrong … But the glands, and the silicone sealant that were used have kept everything nice and dry.

The next day I got up before sunrise and made it down to the truck as the sun was clearing the trees on the horizon and found I had already harvested .194 kWh of power … Before the sun had even hit the panels!

 

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Rise and shine … Time to get to work!

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“Old Guy” taking a “screen shot”, 7/6/2015

The readings I took from the web monitor at the end of the day showed that the charger went into “float” stage around noon … With a total harvest for the day of 1.41 kWh of power … I was not really sure what that meant … But I was impressed!

As I sit here on a Sunday morning in late January, with six months of learning “under my belt” I am still impressed!

As for the short days of winter … Yesterday, a sunny January 30, 2016 the Sirus Solar DS-201 web monitor showed I had put 143.7 amp hours of power back into my 12 volt battery bank … 1.72 kWh of power … Not bad for four 235 watt solar panels laying flat on a winter day in New England … Not bad at all!

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Screen shot from 1/30/2016

One of those days.

It looked like it was going to be one of those days.

The morning walk around the block seemed to hint of it. A little mist rising from the stones … And more noise than one would expect from the neighborhood.

To chance it?

Why not! A quick step over the curb and the deed was done.

Where to? I never can tell anymore. Things change so quickly it makes my head spin! But a walk to the east is always nice as the sun does its morning yawn … Greeting yet another day … As if today was just another day!

Crossing Amsterdam … Seeing the church again brought back memories … It has been so long since I had been inside … Perhaps a detour should be made … Though when you’re not sure where you are heading … Is it really a detour?

In the October sun the stone seemed both warm and cold … The place had that quality about it … Always at odds with itself it would seem … Perhaps that’s why I liked it!

Up the steps and thru the side door … Not wanting to be seen … Almost!

I never felt comfortable with the front entrance … Leaving through the great doors … No problem … But entering?

Never!

Some things are just not done.

The stone of the place has a way of isolating things … Yet somehow keeping them connected … Through the stone. The sun and the warmth in summer never seemed to be able to get in … Though it tried as the colors from the stained glass chased each other across the walls and floor. The city too seemed kept out … It was always easy to forget it was waiting on the other side of those walls. But sounds snuck in and meandered about the place … A siren coming or going … Or it’s echo …it was hard to tell … Barely noticed, then gone … Like so many other things!

Perhaps it was … just one of those days.

You only get 365 you see … One of each. To be spent as you wish … But only once … And then … Well … No one knows.

I still have most of mine … So today did not feel like squandering … But I did not want to waste it.

Around the cathedral a few more times … chasing echoes I suppose … and then back to the sun and what was left of life.

Copyright Greg Hanawalt 10/21/2014

Watch me build a new battery / inverter box!

I thought it would be fun to have you tag along as I put together my fourth battery / inverter system.

My current battery rigs work incredibly well … But are too heavy to get in and out of my truck with two people.

I’m hoping that a smaller, modular approach will work. The idea of having a box of batteries that could be used by itself for smaller events … But could also be plugged into a larger system for larger events is very intriguing.

I had an old amp rack sitting around that I decided to try out as a battery system. It was a well made case that I had the good luck of not being able to sell on e-bay … And with this year’s Dance for World Community adding another stage to power I decided to give it a try.

The case turned out to be an almost perfect fit for four group 31 AGM batteries … A total of about 5 kWh of power if I’m doing the math correctly … I only plan on using about half of that in an attempt to keep the batteries working in top shape for as long as possible.

The case was made of 1/2″ luan plywood with some sort of plastic laminate covering, all held together with very heavy duty aluminum extrusion … It was built like a tank!

My biggest question … Would the case be able to handle all that weight?

The case did make it a lot easier to wire up the batteries and inverter. The removeable front and rear covers were now going to be the top and bottom, with the main body of the rack becoming the walls of the battery pack.

Four Group 31 AGM batteries installed on back cover of amp rack

Four Group 31 AGM batteries installed on back cover of amp rack

The former rear cover had a nice set of casters mounted on a Baltic birch caster plate … And with the addition of a 3/4″ birch “sub floor”, a layer of KYDEX and another 3/4″ “collar” around the batteries it looked like a good place to start.

The next step was to figure out how best to wire the batteries to the inverter.

A circuit breaker and fuse are added to keep things safe and a metering system is added to keep an eye on how the batteries are doing.

Wiring layout for the new battery / inverter box

Wiring layout for the new battery / inverter box

Here I have the two panels I will be using with the buss bars, fuse holder, shunt and circuit breaker mounted on them. Adhesive backed shrink tubing will be added over the crimped on lugs for safety … and to help protect the wire from corrosion.

I am using 00 marine grade wire for the interconnecting all the parts and I will be using #2 marine grade wire to connect the 12 volt batteries to the bus bars.

It is very important to use the right size wire when working with low voltage DC. The general rule of thumb is to use the largest, shortest wire you can … Otherwise the resistance in the wire will rob you of too much power.

I am already thinking of swapping out the #2 cable for #1 … We’ll see!

Eventually I will be adding a 350 amp ANDERSON SB connector to the pack (to connect multiple packs together) and have included an “extra” set of buss bars to make it easier to do when the time comes.

The AGM batteries I am using are supposed to be safe to mount in any position … And I suspect someday someone will tip this case on end to get it off of it’s wheels. I’m curious to see how the spacers hold up under that!

I've added spacers between the batteries to hopefully keep everything in place should someone ever tries to test the

I’ve added spacers between the batteries to hopefully keep everything in place should someone ever tries to test the “mount in any position” feature of the AGM batteries!

A top “deck” will be mounted on the two power panels for the inverter, battery meter and the ANDERSON SB connectors.

A little paint and it’s time for the “final” assembly.

Wiring of the

Wiring of the “positive” side off the battery bank

I like the modular approach of this system a lot … Making changes as I learn will be a lot easier … In theory!

Having this kind of access to all of the connectors was wonderful … You should have seen (heard?) me trying to wire my previous rigs!

Almost done ... Just need to add the cover and a fan!

Almost done … Just need to add the cover and a fan!

Shrink tubing added … Circuit breaker and fuses installed … Notice the “trap door” for getting at them … as well as the 175 amp ANDERSON SB connector for plugging into my chargers.

With the cover closed up and the fan on the system has been working wonderfully.  The next step will be to add the 350 amp  connector and assemble a larger inverter / power distribution system.

A great project for this winter … Will keep you posted!

Ready to go to work! Trimetric 2035 battery meter on the top left ...

Ready to go to work! Trimetric 2035 battery meter on the top left, “Kill-A-Watt meter to it’s right and 1,100 watt sine wave inverter and the connector for plugging into my  60 amp solar charge controller below.

No time to lose.

Solar powered 9 volt batteryThe project had been working out nicely … But what to do with it?

The technical side of the project was going to be a pretty simple evolution … Make the systems more efficient, easier to move around / recharge and capable of handling larger / longer events.

Getting a small array of solar panels permanently mounted on my truck was added to my “to do list” … But the truck was going to need some work before attempting that project … Two weeks after the end of the 2013 Elma Lewis concert series the injector pump on my 1995 Mitsubishi FH decided it had had enough … An expensive “operation” for an eighteen year old patient approaching the 300,000 mile mark! … More stuff to figure out!

Letting people know about the project was going to be a little more interesting.

Facebook, Twitter and Blogs are all new enough that my laptop’s spell check questions their existence! … And I’m a lot older than my laptop!

Help was going to be needed!

Clara Rhee … One of the tech’s I hire to help out with some of my events has a degree in comparative media studies from MIT …and she was willing to try to explain a bit about web sites, Blogs, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, You Tube … by then my head was spinning. This was something I was not going to be able to adapt to in a day or two!

So a plan was put together for getting a web site and perhaps a You Tube video (or three) to start to letting the rest of the world know about the project.

Lots to learn and no time to lose. I was not going to get any younger … And things showed no signs of slowing down so that I could catch up!

Help came, as it sometimes does, rather unexpectedly.

I broke my collar bone trying to … Well, it’s a long story … Let’s just say that I have never been accused of being graceful!

I’ve had more than my share of broken bones … The collar bone bringing my total up to 14 … my least favorite to date, by a large margin … Without even having a cast to sign!

There is not much you can do when you break your collar bone. In the early stages of recovery even sneezing is to be avoided if at all possible!

So … With my right arm tied up for the next four to six weeks I started this blog and began catching up with all sorts of things “technical” …. Something that I had been putting off … For way too long … There really was no time to lose!

2013

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2013 was looking to be pretty exciting with the St. Patricks Day parade and the Easter sunrise service working so well … Though I was a little behind schedule with my plans to get meters installed and upgrading the wiring on all of the battery systems.

The rest of the parts had arrived … Finding time to install them was another story.

More shows, putting another battery system together and getting the meters installed in three of the systems kept me very busy through June … And I was starting to get some data that seemed to make a lot more sense … But I still had lots to learn.

One of the battery banks with the TRIMETRIC 2025 battery meter installed.

One of the battery banks with the TRIMETRIC 2025 battery meter installed.

I was planning on using the 2013 Elma Lewis Playhouse in the Park series to test how feasible the project really was. I had hoped to solar recharge all of the batteries between the weekly shows this year … And had ordered an MPPT (Maximum Power Point Tracking) solar charge controller to do it with … After doing a little math it seemed like my three 120 watt solar panels would be able to capture enough sunlight to recharge all the batteries during the week … Even allowing for a 50% operating efficiency … Something I hoped would be a conservative estimate … Especially with rain and clouds being a fairly common occurrence here in the Boston area.

My initial plan of setting up the solar panels and batteries on site for the series turned out to be a little naive … I had to scramble a little to get a “Plan C” up and running … My truck would be parked from Wednesday night until Monday afternoon and with a little help and a couple of tall ladders the solar “array” would be strapped to the top of my truck, the charge controller hooked up… And … Time would tell.

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PS … It worked great!