Jeffrey Rush

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since Aug 28, 2017
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greening the desert solar urban
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Recent posts by Jeffrey Rush

Wait, i don't understand.  The title is "Ask Paul Wheaton your crowdfunding questions,"  I had several questions.  Did I post in the wrong place?  

I did indeed express some gratitude, perhaps that was too much and you would like the questions shorter?  

Or did I totally screw up and miss the point entirely?  As in, "Ask Paul Wheaton your crowdfunding questions- about his latest Kickstarter?"

Lol, would not be the first time.  Perceiving differently has its downside.
JR
5 months ago
Well this came around at an interesting time!

I am the fellow with the new vertical growing system.  We have spoken via email, briefly, a few times.  I am interested in sending you a unit for review and getting honest feedback from someone with a "50,000 Foot" flyover of the country that is permaculture in all of its vastness and fringes.  Permaculture is not any one thing, that's for sure.  There are parts bigger than others, but to define those parts would not be easy.  And it's not just stuff like homesteading, hugelkultur, etc.  Your interest in lightbulbs is a perfect example.  (I will decide to take that challenge and build a lightbulb anyone can repair a 100 times.  But there are so many other pressing things...)  I hope to appeal to permaculture people with this device, but I don't know the audience too well.  I have had much better success with gardeners, actually.  But I digress.

Ok, to the point.  

You have seen the device I think.  Go to Webpage and look at the gallery for a refresh.  

I have been inventing a very long time.  Some moderate success, but the problem has always been, as you are well aware coming from a tech industry, that most venture capital people practically want the company a raving success before they will invest.  That's not a slam on capitalism.  The people that earned the money and gained the experience to wisely invest capital do a much better job than any other system invented so far.

But there has always been a huge gap betwixt startup and capital funding.

I think you see that gap filled with Kickstarter situations like yours.  It is the first step for making little things, bigger and better things.  It is truly a market dynamic, the people speaking in favor without government or managers in the way.  

I have listened to the talks you did with a few people about their Kickstarter campaigns- very informative.  I don't think you realize how many people you effect with the hard won wisdom of this site.  Your series informed me that I was not ready to start a crowdfund yet.  There are too many other ducks out floating on the pond to round up- but it remains a viable thought.  Having experience as the struggling inventor and refugee from corporate America, I have learned a few things from the education of your series and the information practically applied.

The first lesson from the series, which I recommend everyone listen to prior to asking questions here, (Please link if you can find them) is, "Can you build it?"  

In other words, do you want to be just the inventor and buy the services of a manufactuer or do you wish to be the owner of "Honcho INC."  BIG difference there!  So the basis I learned from your series was, "What's it going to take?"  If you don't know that, it seems your Kickstarter will do one of two things.  Fail, or get you into a situation where you can't fill the orders.  Pride is all that failure costs.  The second one would be far more costly...    

So it seems to me that the very first... lie that's so easy to believe about crowdfunding is, "Build it and they will come."  

They certainly won't.  Trust me.  For every one even moderately successful Kickstarter, there are likely 1,000 that fail.  

Therein, as Shakespeare said, lies the rub.  Would you agree with that Sir?

It then seems to me that any successful Kickstarter lies in two things.

1.  Having an audience &
2.  Knowing that audience.

So how does one reach an audience?  

And once you reach, how do you know they have interest enough to vote with their dollars?  What's "critical mass" in terms of numbers to actually create a viable crowdfund?  I understand that will vary from idea to idea, but certainly there are guidelines you may be able to illustrate.

Thank you again for your answers and time.  Many that you will never know appreciate the effort.

JR
5 months ago
Hello Tommy,

That's an interesting point.  I am far more on the practical user\maintainer side, sort of the Chief Cook and Bottle Washer of electrical systems in general.  That allows me to often test what is accepted electrical theory with real world experience.  Essentially, I am ignorant of theory and want to prove it myself.  Sometimes that leads to making discoveries that my brother, who is an Electrical Engineer ten times over, swears can't be right.  (I really don't know how many degrees he has, lol.)

Like rescuing an AGM before water levels get too low.  My brother said that was impossible.  But when I returned to life 3\4ths a stack of AGMs my brother certified as dead, he was willing to walk back from that conclusion.  (I have done something like that twice now, because I simply don't know what I don't know.  Therefore I try things that are universally accepted as "patently ridiculous" among those who should "know.")  

Often, I think the educated people in any field buy what they are told, because hey, they paid to be taught by the experts!.  And it may well be that the battery people themselves believe it too and not some sort of rip-off conspiracy.  Being as the battery people don't have a big incentive to investigate making their battery last too long, maybe nobody ever did the research?  So that's where absurd people like myself come in.  I call them "technical bumblebees."  We don't know it's impossible so we do it anyway.    

On the other hand, I have learned a LOT from the professional, highly educated guys and battery companies too.  There is most certainly something to be said for both ends of the spectrum.  Just be sure to keep an open mind and realize that what one is taught may have been learned a long time ago and accepted as truth- without a physical basis in reality.    

And it sounds like that's right where you are at.  The corner of theory and experience.  Your point might be dead on- and I am ALWAYS looking for ways to protect and further my system.  

Should any one of several disaster scenarios happen, I want to know I can make these systems last.  (like getting laid off!  Seven times in 10 years!)  Half of surviving any crisis is getting enough clean water to bathe, flush and drink and enough food to eat.  A battery system helps with all of that.

I have a lot of real world experience, but not a lot of "battery theory."  I refilled these AGMs initially because I had zero to lose- and could not afford a new battery!

But to your point, the charger I use for all my new batters initially and all my recovery work is an awesome "RC Hobby" charger.  It does every type of battery out there with special algorithms unique to that battery.  The "PB" (lead) setting runs real time showing the drop in amperage, but the rise in voltage.  At the end, it really trickles, like one tenth of an amp.  (1 mA.)  The voltage is surprisingly low to start, like around 10 volts sometimes, and surprisingly high, like 15 or better towards the end.  So I think what you are saying has some real world, practical applications.  I have often wondered about the "end game charge" hearing from many that this is the most delicate part of the charge.  Further, that because of this lack of finesse at the end of a charging cycle, most batteries don't die- they are murdered.  That's especially true of car batteries.  For 25 cents in components, car makers could fix this issue.  

My charger seems to be doing exactly what you suggest.  That being, converting the last bit of matter into energy storage.  

So perhaps I stumbled upon what you just said by accident- without ever realizing it until your post.  

I really can't say enough good about that little charger and it sounds like what you said is exactly what it is doing.  Refer to my other posts on the Sky RC charger for more data.  It's an ideal unit to have, as it can use any 12 to 24 volt power source, even another battery, to recharge phones, RC batteries, lithium, NICAD, and every other I know of, from 3 to 18 volts or better.  it works straight from a solar cell too!  (I am working to see if I can mod it for recharging disposable alkaline and standard disposables.  Yes, I know that's dangerous and the battery companies put cigarette level warnings on the battery that we should never, ever, do this.  But in a real crisis, how valuable would it be to have your neighbors pool their used up batteries for recharge?  Who cares if some of them fail at that point?  An alkaline battery at 80% recharge is better than an alkaline that you can't replace.  You would certainly be of immense value in your neighborhood at that point!)  

Another angle on this point, I stumbled across a great little solar setup.  You can read about that over in my vertical gardening posts.  I use the setup to water my vertical gardens.  A $25 epoxy coated, wickedly rugged solar cell for 12 volt systems and a $9 solar controller seem to do exactly what you say.  That is, they seem to know that a lead battery has a delicate end game charge.  I really need to wire that up to a volt meter and watch.  That would be sweet to see that solar setup treating batteries as they should be.  Normally, this small scale stuff tends to be slapped together, but the setup I stumbled upon is really well made.  It's been in the yard here in North Dakota for over two years now.  Thunderstorms, torrential Midwest rains, nearby lightning strikes, you name it, this little setup has seen it.  And it's going like new still.

Thanks Tommy for your input here.  I am going to start monitoring the end charge more closely.

And remember, batteries don't kill batteries, people do!  Take some time to care for them and they will last much longer.  

Anyone out there with more to add, please do!
 
6 months ago
Take a peak over at this thread: https://permies.com/t/84240/Maintaining-Maintenance-Free-Sealed-Lead

Near the bottom, I talk about the SKYRC iMAX B6 Mini charger.  I can't say enough good about this little guy.  It charges ANYTHING- for $16 US.  

And you can charge one battery from another battery.  I use it with a 18Ah 12 Volt battery to charge my drone lithium batteries in the field.  

JR
8 months ago
Are they worth it...

Well from what I can make out, they live a LOT longer than regular plate technology.  But I have seen standard lead acid batteries last close to a decade....   But that's only if treated right and properly maintained.  

It really depends on who you are.  If you are the type that likes to putter around with systems and things, mother hen them and learn all the tiny nuances of how they work, go with a standard lead acid battery.  Size the system for what you think you will need, then double it- you will still be on the cheap side.  And you will be building in extra life and protection for the system.  It's rather like the old proverb, "Many hands make light work."  Many batteries make for a robust system because they all share the load.  

Think of it like this.  An ant is no match for an elephant.  But even a dozen elephants can't stand on an ant mound for long.  So an over-sized, cheapo, lead acid battery system can defeat a high end battery setup, if it's built correctly.  

If you want set and forget, than Optima or one of the other high end battery types are for you.  If you don't want to get up in the morning with a smile on your face thinking, "Gee, I wonder what voltage my batteries are sitting at today!?!" get Optima or one of the other high end, expensive cells.  Lithium has started to enter the picture too and is fast becoming an alternative.  I think it's way too expensive, but that's me.  If you are trying to build a house with a backup or primary alternative energy system, then the extra cost is worth it.  That won't make a big dent in your monthly house payment.  If you are trying to put one in on a budget, I would recommend using cheapo batteries and over sizing the system- especially if you are just learning how to do this.

Alternative energy is a roller coaster ride of new technology versus cost, versus old reliable, invented in 1859 lead acid batteries.  

My best advice to you is to read my post over here: https://permies.com/t/84292/Small-Scale-Growing-Solar-Setup

That's about how I stumbled across a setup that will charge your phones, provide light in a crisis and pretty much teach you the basics of alternative energy for under $50.  (Not counting batteries.  I get those for free.)

The reason I recommend you buy that setup is that you will learn a lot about the basic concepts here.  If you are considering getting into alternative energy, you should start small.  Build a system on the cheap that rugged and reliable.  You are going to kill batteries. (Actually MURDER batteries.  They never die of old age, lol.) And you will learn big from that experience, just as I have.  That can be a $30,000 mistake or in can be a $15 mistake.  Start small, fail small, learn BIG.  And with that setup, you will be better prepared for any disaster, be it man-made or natural, than 99.999999999999999999999999% of humanity around you.  You could even trade electricity for food, shelter, water and protection- if things got great depression style bad.  Anything that works on a 12 Volt cigarette lighter socket can charge with this system.  It can handle a pretty big battery setup with multiple cells too.  This would literally be a life saver in a crisis.      

If you don't know much about the systems, how they work, the various battery types and makers, then you really need to buy the starter system I recommend.  I knew nothing except the basics of electricity when I started.  Now I am building a 45 Watt system with an AGM battery bank that will power an off grid water pump for emergency use.  Being able to flush toilets and wash dishes is an important step towards staying clean -and healthy- in a crisis.  That's a big, albeit reasonable, step up.  I went from less than $50 US to less than $150 US.  Next leap will be $1,500 US- and I expect to be able to live off grid if needed.    

JR    
8 months ago
Optima has positioned itself with some unique marketing schemes and claims to become one of the foremost "Tough Guy" battery companies.  In terms of police\fire\military, they are well situated in the market.

They have three main types.

Red tops: These are meant for the car and truck market.  They are pretty rugged.  I would not buy one for my car though.  If I was in search and rescue, sure!  Lives depend on it.  But being late to work 15 minutes once every three to five years when my regular car battery has seen too many Winters, is just not worth the extra money.  They do seem to be "the bomb" of car batteries though- in a good way.  Further, they are built is such a way as to provide optimal service for both cold crank amps AND devices like radios, LED players in your car, that sort of thing.  They are pretty much loved by first responders and military because of it.  This "dual purpose" design let's them occupy middle ground between the yellow tops and the blue tops.  Sort of a blend of high current, like starting a car engine, and a low current like running radios, electrical equipment, etc.    

Yellow tops:  These are of most interest to folks like you and me.  These are the solar\wind\alternative energy types that generally need to maintain a charge for long periods of time and then provide that charge back at medium to light discharge cycles.  Perfect for alternative energy systems.  

Blue tops:  These are strictly for starting.  Things like generators where all they do is kick the engine over for cranking purposes.  Often used in boats for JUST engine starting, Optima claims they are the most reliable starting battery out there.  That's kind of important if you are out of Hawaii for a three hour tour...  "The weather starting getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed..." is NOT where you want to be because you could not get your engines started.  They are sometimes referred to as "marine batteries."    

That's a name that causes a LOT of confusion.  They are not intended to be used with alternative energy systems.  They are intended to provide a tremendous amount of current for a short period of time.  Like three to five seconds.  My generator here starts with less than a second of cranking- and that's what they are meant to do.  It's a BIG generator running EVERYTHING in a large, two story building, including the heat, in North Dakota.  It can't not start in a crisis.  It's an emergency aid station too, in times of a crisis like tornado or long term Winter power outages.  So we depend on these types to always crank over the hard to start diesel.  Being custom designed, they are really good at starting, but awful at supplying current for long term use.  They are referred to as marine batteries because they are meant to turn over boat engines..

The yellow tops are really good at long discharge cycles.  Stuff like your 12 Volt lights on a boat will use yellow top Optimas.  Any system where long term power is needed at moderate to low drain.  Motor homes will use them too.    

The red tops are really good at having a mix of properties for cars and such.  The police love them because they don't have to constantly be maintained.  A trooper on a frozen section of North Dakota can't have a dead battery because he had his flashers on covering an accident  

And when I say that Optima uses marketing claims and schemes, I don't think that's bad.  Claiming something you can't backup is a bad thing.  But after what my friends from around the nation have said, these batteries stand up to their claims.  They can take abuse that other batteries in the same class can't.  Things like bitter cold, ridiculously deep discharge, long spaces between charges, etc and come out undamaged.  Optima claims that they have unique technology that lets their batteries take some serious abuse- and not suffer from it.  From what I have seen and heard, that's true.  

If I had a system that needed to work no matter what, I would certainly consider buying these.  But the only way I can afford them is by inheritance or resurrection, lol.  If I had the cash for a large scale alternative energy setup, I would go with Optima.   Just remember that red is for starting and vehicle use, yellow is for many cycles of moderate use over long periods and blue is starting only, and all will be well.  

JR
8 months ago
Brand New AGM Battery Low On Water


So I cracked open a brand new AGM battery last night, because the solar charge controller I was hooked up to showed it less than full.  That worried me, because I just bought this battery and charged it with this awesome little smart charge controller, the SKYRC iMAX B6 Mini, available from Amazon for $38.  I wondered why it was not showing as fully charged...  I continue to marvel at the small scale solar setup I put together.  I assure you it was something I stumbled upon- just dumb luck and a small budget, lol.  I was looking for a cheap system to pair with my vertical gardening system, which I will shamelessly link to here:  https://verticalfarmmechanics.com


Here's a picture of the SKYRC charger which I can't say enough good about.  It will be the base, "off system" charger to see how well that batteries are doing comparatively.  I will eventually be doing a set of AGMs without any maintenance as a control group too.  I have seen these for as low as $16 on EBay.  I paid $38 for mine on Amazon.  Whatever you pay for yours- it's worth it.  

SKYRC iMAX B6 Mini:  



Here's the link to the one I bought on Amazon:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018VP8P4S/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o09_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1


The "on system" charging device is a 12 Volt charge controller called by the generic name of "Solar Charge Controller."  Model Number: CMP12-10A.  Or "Anself Charge Controller."  They can be found as cheap as $6.50 on EBay- if you don't mind waiting a while for them to ship in from China.


Here's  the link on Amazon for the one I bought for $9.98US: https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007VLMRP2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

So as I mentioned, the on system Anself solar charge controller showed the battery at less than full charge.  That bugged me and I wondered, "Hmmmmmmm, maybe this battery is older than I thought?"

So I cracked the top off- and was shocked to see the glass mat was dry....  I could see right down into the cells.  My experience has led me to determine that when water is less than just covering the cells, than performance is impacted.  Impacted as in the system is not using the entire surface of the system to retain charge and discharge current.  

So I filled it to the point that the cells were just barely covered with water and put it down for a gentle, 1/2 Amp charge.  How much water did it take to fill the battery?  Look at the picture below.


That entire glass was near the brim when I started and it took nearly all of it to fill.  Worked out to be 12 or more CCs PER CELL!  That's a LOT of water!  

Now there are those that say they know clawing at their eyes and screaming, "It's a maintenance free battery you idiot!  It's not supposed to have loose water in it!!!  

Well, that's not entirely true.  

These AGM batteries MUST be properly flooded in order to reach their full capacity.  And when the water is fully absorbed, there should be very little left free in the system.  Trouble is, how do you know where that point is.  You don't.  So filling it to just barely above the glass mat in the cell and letting it sit a while is the only way to know.    

So that's what I do.

It does leave just a smidge of free water in the system, which some people think is a sin.  But we will see.

I went back to the local auto parts store and asked them about the giant sticker on the battery that says: "2\18"  

I assumed that was the manufacturing date.  


Nope.  That was the last charge date.  Apparently, the shop keeps them topped off by occasionally charging the batteries on the shelf.  They scrape the old sticker off and slap the new one on- so it's really hard to know how long the battery has been sitting.

The moral of this continuing saga is, don't assume a new battery is actually "new."  It may have spent a good amount of time sitting on a shelf, losing water in the cells and therefore life in the battery.  I figure it can't hurt to top it off.  We will see, as I compare off the shelf, unopened, AGM batteries in identical, real world scenarios to ones I am maintaining.

But I find it a spurious argument to say that a really small, 7Ah battery needing 12 CCs of water per cell, was "full."  Even if it was a maintenance free battery, it's obvious it lost a lot in transit and sitting.  

As I mentioned, we will be comparing a set of maintained "maintenance free" batteries with identical types, that were used in an identical setup and never opened.  Stay tuned for our exciting conclusions!  

JR    
8 months ago

Tyler Flaumitsch wrote:Sorry, really stupid question here......what is a UPS restoration service"?

Maybe its because I'm Canadian....but I have no idea what that is and "the Googles" have let me down again.

Cheers,

Tyler



No, not stupid at all.  I tell everyone that gives me "broken" UPSs and "worn out UPS batteries," that I will restore them.  I do indeed do just that.  I then give these free of charge to local fire, police, etc and can thereby legitimately claim to be a "UPS restoration service."  It avoids a lot of, "What are you going to do with these batteries?" questions.  I further promise that any I can't restore will be recycled at a battery scrapper that recycles them responsibly.  (I don't tell them how much I make recycling them though.  They get grand ideas about retiring rich.  It's worth the while to do it, but you likely won't retire a millionaire.  Like all things scrap, the money is in the macro.  Takes a LOT of batteries to make a reasonable wage.)  

UPS stand for, Uninterruptible Power Supply.  It's a shoe box sized contraception that contains a combination transformer\inverter and battery. Essentially, it takes in AC, transforms it to DC, charges a 12 volt battery and then inverts DC to AC power back out.  The battery is then "in the loop" and takes over providing enough power for your system to shutdown gracefully when the power goes out.  Also protects against lightning, etc.  They are great for anything that needs protection from poor power system, as well as anything that if the lights go out, you will lose data.  Also things like phone service, internet, pretty much anything that needs to survive a power outage.  I use them as emergency lights in the basement.

They come in all sorts of sizes and voltages, from 12 volt "personal" UPSs, to room sized monstrosities running whole buildings.  (Like the one I maintain for the company I work for.)  

Computer shops can have stacks of UPSs laying around, as well as their batteries.  To them, it can be a nuisance that you can profit from.

JR
8 months ago
Hello Again,

Thanks for reading!

So with the vertical growing system I am developing, I have one version that uses a very small pump to circulate water through the system.  To charge the battery and keep the system running, I have a small solar system I put together on the cheap.  And it further will run the automation side of my vertical garden, telling me all kinds of neat stuff like water levels, temperatures, soil moisture, you name it.

Here's what I have:


This setup is composed of two, 7 Amp Hour, 12 Volt AGM batteries, an off the shelf small scale solar regulator (charge controller) and a 12 Volt, 20 Watt solar panel.

All total, (I got the batteries for free) it cost me less than $39 US, with free shipping from Amazon.  

The solar cell is fully encased in resin and it spent all Spring, Summer and Fall up here in North Dakota outside.  Lightning storms, high winds, sideways rain, heavy sun.  Nothing phased it.  It's a super tough little guy, let me tell you.  Bird poop, it got knocked off a seven foot stand, just really rough treatment.  You could not ask for a better solar panel to my mind and you would have to work seriously hard to hurt it.  

Here's the solar panel, still available for $28.99 with a long cord and clamps.


And when paired with this simple charge controller, this was one fine machine.  It too was exposed all Spring, Summer and Fall, same winds and rains, etc and it ran like a champ.  

This charge controller pretty much keeps you from doing anything stupid.  For instance, it's a smart charger.  It won't just push current to the batteries and overcharge them.  It has short circuit protection, albeit that's hard wired in.  It can be replaced if you know how to solder, but even if you don't know how to solder, you would be out $10 US.  It also will save your batteries from total discharge.  No, that's not another Schwarzenegger sequel.  It's when you drain your batteries so low that they become damaged.  Not a fun situation.  Essentially, it will simply say "No soup for you!" if it senses danger to the battery or batteries.  It does that by detecting the discharge voltage from the battery or batteries.  When that reaches the bottom safe level, it cuts off the load.  And it's a battery saver, let me tell you!  I am conducting a series of tests with this setup to see if AGM battery life can be extended by doing maintenance on "maintenance free" batteries.  That's a separate post over here: https://permies.com/t/84240/Maintaining-Maintenance-Free-Sealed-Lead  

And it could not be easier to use.  Everything is labeled with solar panel, battery and output connections clearly visible.  And it's smart enough to know when you did something silly too- and stop you from doing it.

Here's a picture of the charge controller.


Also, I don't make any money off this.  I am not affiliated with a web store or Amazon or any other source I quote, save for my own device.

Which since you asked, is a vertical gardening system I use to produce a bunch of food in just a bit more than a square foot of floor space!  If you want to see how I am doing that, go to HTTPS://VerticalFarmMechanics.com

Also,

I am giving away free production models of the system to folks that want to try them out.  No Jedi mind tricks, just a full system shipped to your door!  All I ask in return is that you tell me what you think, how it can be made better, etc.

Here's the folks I bought both the awesome solar panel from and the awesome solar charge controller.

Solar Panel:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B018VR34RY/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s01?ie=UTF8&psc=1

Solar Charge Controller:  https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B007VLMRP2/ref=oh_aui_detailpage_o02_s00?ie=UTF8&psc=1

What could you use this for, besides charging and running one of my vertical gardens?  Charge a small bank of batteries, your smart phone, your laptop and just about anything else you can think of.  If you have a way to charge from your car cigarette lighter, than you can use this system.  Certainly worth having around for less than $40 US!  

This is an effort to educate people that you don't have to spend big money to tinker with solar and DC systems.  These ideas of mine are easy ways to start getting involved with alternative energy.  If your... physical body systems cinch up when you look at the cost of large scale alternative energy, you are not alone.  This lets you play with small scale alternative energy, make small scale mistakes and learn from them big time.

Questions?  Just ask.

JR  


8 months ago