Thursday, May 27, 2010

It is ALIVE!!!

A year and a half ago, we had a huge ice storm here and we lost power for six days.  We had to stay with friends who had a generator, and all my tropical fish died.

We considered buying a generator as many were doing that the time.  Lowe's, Home Depot, Walmart and others were making a killing on generators and chainsaws.  But I did some research as I often do and read about the benefits of DC generators.  They don't have to run at full throttle all the time like AC generators do and they are compatible with all inverters because there is no concern for clean power.  Best of all, with a few parts and some know how, you can build one yourself.

So that's what I decided to do.  One of the reasons it took so long was because I wanted to make it as utilitarian as possible, a true emergency generator, constructed in an emergency.  I also didn't want to spend a bunch of cash, so I told people and waited for parts to come in.  I bought an alternator on Ebay, but it didn't work.  I bought another one for 10 bucks or so and it was a lot more powerful and it tested good at Autozone.

The alternator I bought was a CS-144 120 amp unit.  Running at proper speed, it should be able to produce over 1500 watts.  A few calculations and you find that to produce such that many watts, you need about four horsepower.  There's another thing to remember also.  Standard small engine horsepower ratings are way off.  Briggs and Stratton engines have a standard that allows up to a 15% fudge factor straight off the top.  In addition, they are tested at high speeds never seen in actual service.  So to achieve four horsepower, you will probably need an engine rated at least six or seven horsepower.  So I asked around for an engine.

Mark at church told me he had an old rototiller that I could have.  It turned out to be just perfect, a FREE five horsepower engine.  A little tinkering and I got it running again.

I needed something to build the whole thing together, I got a piece of 3/16 inch steel plate from a neighbor and welded some legs onto it.  Onto that, I bolted the engine, and a plate on which to mount the alternator.  I welded some pieces of half inch flat bar onto the second plate which hold the alternator.

Here are some pictures of the project.

Here is the plate mounted and the alternator on top of it.  This was not the original pulley that came with this unit, I got this one from my dad's alternator pile.  You can get them online for $15.

Here is the tensioning bar mounted with the adjustment bracket.

Closeup of the bracket.  Both slots all the way to the shortest length belt.

The longest length belt.

And here it is with a belt installed.  This belt was way too tight and would have caused the bearings to wear abnormally.  I returned it and got one that was a little larger which you will see in the following video of the first time start-up and operation.

And that's the generator.  You can see the difference in the system voltage between when the alternator is active and not.

The next plan is to replace the inefficient L head gas engine with an overhead valve diesel engine, an engine that should be two or three times more fuel efficient.  There's a bit more work to get that going, so I am happy with at least having something that works for now.  Next I need to get a little bigger pulley so the alternator runs at something closer to a proper speed.

If you have any questions, I am always happy to answer them.


Bad Words

What do you think of when you hear the word woodlouse?

It seems that for most people I tell, woodlice are bad things. It might bring up images of some blood sucking insect that you might accidentally pick up while you're out hiking around Lake Fayetteville.

But here's what a woodlouse looks like.

"But wait" you say, "that's a roly poly!"  Yes, it is a roly poly.  But its real name is "woodlouse."

This is the kind of problem we have when we start telling people that words are bad.  They are not.  A word cannot be bad, it is simply a way of recording a sound on paper by using a set of established rules on how sounds are to be recorded in text.  Even the sound has no inherent good or evil to it.  It is simply a sound or set of sounds traditionally used to denote a certain meaning.

There are no bad words.  Swear words are not bad, they're just a class of words people have defined (arbitrarily) as having some value they don't and can't have.

Here in Arkansas, I get the same thing with the word "liberal."  I have a friend who for years has disdainfully called me a liberal over and over again.  We were having dinner with his parents a few weeks ago and he told them that he used to think I was a liberal, but now he knows I'm really not.  Excuse me?  I am most definitely liberal, progressive even, politically, economically, socially, etc.  But it really revealed something to me.  He doesn't use the word liberal to describe something liberal, he uses the word liberal to describe something he disagrees with.  He's caricaturing me, describing me using hot button words well known among his people to attach negative aspects to me whether or not they actually exist.  For them, "liberal" is used like when I use "ignorant."  Except ignorant in the context I use it is used to ascribe ignorance, whereas they use liberal not to describe a set of ideologies or philosophies, but to ascribe all around disdain.

I am reminded of South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut where Cartman calls Kyle a stupid f***ing Jew.  Later, he apologizes and says Kyle isn't really a Jew after all.  But Kyle is a Jew!  Not in the sense of the negative racial stereotype that Cartman is using, but in the sense that his family is Jewish.  Naturally, Cartman simply can't fathom how this works.

Be careful with your words.  Be an honorable linguist, don't use words to label people.  Use the proper definitions of words to communicate ideas and identify the truth.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010

BP Fails Booming School, Fails the Planet, Why Should We Put Up With This Any More?

The first problem is demonstrated in the following video. There is a significant amount of swearing, but I can understand, because the person who wrote it is very very angry, and it's the way oil people talk anyway. In case you don't want to watch it, it makes the case the BP is doing a massively horrible job of booming the beach. Instead of blocking and collecting the oil, they are purposely allowing the oil to overflow the booms and wreak havoc.

Secondly, and emphatically, the only way to keep the oil industry, market, companies, and consumption under control is a fuel tax that truly takes into account the externalities of the commodity. We have an industry that can simply do whatever it wants because it has so much money it can't be controlled. The only feeble attempts being made are to try to tell the car manufacturers that they have to abide by arbitrary fuel economy restrictions. All this does is cripple the car companies because they make all their money off big cars because that's what people want. A European style fuel tax changes the purchasing dynamic on the demand side. The fuel prices in the last few years have borne that out unarguably. The first to go was Hummer.

Who knows when the hole will be fixed, nobody's solutions will come in time. The only way to do it right is to do it right from the beginning. There is virtually no governmental control or regulation over the oil industry, and the courts have consistently required less of oil companies than damage caused. So you either have to tell the oil companies "you will pay for every dollar to every person inconvenienced by your choices and every dollar needed to clean up your mess in perpetuity, or you will simply never drill without forceful backup plans in triplicate." I vote for both.

Business will never do what it is supposed to.  Money always comes first.  Remember that.