Feeling “Isolated”?

We have some new buzzwords in our vocabulary and a new normal. Self-isolating and social distancing.

Miami is kind of a hotspot in Florida, so John has the store closed so everyone can stay safe. Roberto is manning the phone, though, so if you need something you can still get it. The phone transfer mechanism leaves a bit to be desired as far as sound quality goes, but I had a chat with Roberto and if you need to deal, you can get it done.

I also had a chat with John. He is hunkered in place in his concrete bunker, I mean condo, there in Ivory Towers, overlooking the idyllic land of flamingos. I think he is going stir crazy, wanting to go to the jetty and commune with the manatees, but with John it is hard to tell. You’d think he’d write some new blogs! Get with it John! He anticipated me, so check out his latest rantings.

A natural question is “what are you doing”? A lot of people are comparing notes. Well, I am doing pretty much what I always do. On a farm there is about twice as much that needs doing as there is time or, in my case, inclination to do it. Self-isolation is pretty much my normal state. My wife goes out and collects the germs and brings them back so I don’t have to.

I do go to town every week to donate platelets. Blood banks are in low supply due to cancelled blood drives. I figure I am safe enough there, with everybody wearing gowns and gloves and swabbing everything with alcohol. Safe, that is, unless Eman is there. Treat her right or she can and will hurt you. You might consider a trip to your blood bank. Don’t worry, Eman only works in Pensacola.

Now, since this is a solar blog, why don’t I point out some solar-y things you can do while you are at home?

You can use your solar-charged weed whacker to keep the weeds from blocking the sun.

Spring has definitely sprung. The pollen has coated the panels and the berries are making fruit. We usually have a late freeze in March, but not this time. And no rain. What that means is the thick yellow pine pollen, mixed with a little dew has caked on the modules and is reducing the output a bit. Well, we can’t have that. I took a broom after the lower panels in the experimental banks, but it did little good. I am hoping for an afternoon shower to wet them so I can get after them with a long-handled scrubber tool. Otherwise I will have to drag enough hoses out to use tap water.

It finally rained, today, and I got to scrape off some pollen.

I had a feed pipe to my water-powered pump come loose, so my water pressure is slowly coming back after repairs. It was an easy fix, but there was a large water moccasin guarding the pipe. That kept me looking over my shoulder. You can shoot a snake and he will slither off before he dies, or you can miss him and he will slither off and make plans to get even. Sometimes you aren’t sure of how it went, so you just stay wary. Water mocs can be mean and aggressive.

I suppose I could also work on my solar water pump, Version 3. The first two were nice, except the submersible pumps quickly died when submerged. Hardly seems right. Just need some fittings and a round tuit to do that. A simple rack of treated lumber has served to hold the panels, recycled 34 watt solar shingles. A lot of times, you don’t even need a charge controller and a battery for a solar pump. Version 3 will have a pump that does not live underwater. I have learned that lesson.

Power to the pump!

If you have solar, there are the mundane chores you can tend to. Water the batteries, tighten battery terminals. Equalize the batteries. Change the oil in the backup generator and give it a test run. Tighten connections on your charge controllers. Check your instruments to see that everything is really working. Take a look at those MC3/MC4/Tyco connectors to make sure they are tight.

Oh, and if you can see the back side of your panels give them a look. It seems that in the big solar rush of 2010-2012 some substitute materials were used for backsheets and they can break down, leading to eventual failure. How old are your panels?

Some time I will do a piece on repairing modules. Even if you don’t have a backsheet issue, you should check for hotspots. I had a panel with a hot cell that discolored and cracked a 6 inch square area on the backsheet. If you find one of those, take it out of service until you can repair the problem or replace the module. I think I had a bad diode cause my hotspot, but shading and leaves can cause a problem. That’s another reason I need to keep the pollen off, because a lot of the modules in the experimental rack are not even mine. When I get to it, maybe some time I will do a piece on repairing modules. You may have seen the article I did on how to destroy them.

Repairing…or destroying? Repairing, actually.
Destroy? Boy I tried, but never could.

How about a new solar project or upgrade? I finally found some specialty batteries I can use in the next phase of my Grid Tie Limiter project. So I will dash out this week to fetch them, wishing I had a bigger truck to carry more. More on that, soon.

It turns out I used one-year-old Sun230 batteries on the GTIL and saved the sealed batteries for the new system. Funny, but with the batteries the power company meter has not budged.

Finally, I did a little fun project with old solar panels, dead ones. Out at the Solar Shed, rain has been getting on the door to the Man Cave. It is cypress and it shouldn’t matter, but it swells up a bit and makes it hard to work. I took a couple of “inert” solar shingles and fashioned an awning. It was easy and it looks great. Eventually I will use them to build a carport for the farm EVs, but this was just a quick job. While I was at it, I added a couple of pecky cypress planks to serve as trim.

Gotta get a/c in there for this summer! Next project?

So, what kinds of solar chores and innovations are you doing while holed up? Peruse the Sun Electronics website for inspiration. If you want a good chuckle, compare John’s prices to other websites. I guess they can fool some of the people some of the time!

–Neal