Scratch That!

As soon as I say everything is working, something blows up.
Today I hooked up a soil moisture probe to test. When I went to adjust it, I found the pump would not run. I know it ran last night because the water level went down in the barrel. (unless I have another leak.)
One of the MOSFETs’s that drives the pump died. I am hoping that when the pump died it damaged it and it finally failed. Replaced it and tested and everything works. Apparently in the process it killed the battery, again. So it is getting another quick charge from the wall charger. Back to the big SLA for now, will switch back tomorrow.
The ground is nice and wet right now from the rain yesterday so it gave me a nice level to adjust to. “This wet, don’t run” There is chance for rain the next two days, so it should not run until the ground drys out. Better weather later in the week so it should dry out in one or two nice days, and I can check the operation again.

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Got Rain!

Finally got some rain, well rain AND snow!
The good thing is the collection system seem to be working. The leak has stopped. The pump is running OK. The battery seems to be keeping a charge. Most of the major components are working.
The last thing to test is the soil moisture probe. I will need some days of alternating wet and dry to give it a test. Oh, yeah, I have to make the probe first! The circuitry is all there and should work, so I just need to finish it up and let it run for a while.
This all means that I am just about ready to start posting some plans on how it is made. Got to go back and clean up drawings and get them into a postable form and do some work on the associated web pages.
I still want to work on the look of it some and make it prettier and easier to build, but all the function is there now.
Looks like it will all be working in time for the growing season. If it ever gets here! Man, look the the size of those snow flakes!!

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Pump Died

The pump did not last very long. Squealed bad then locked up. Drew lots of current and heated up the controller. Did not seem to do any damage.
The good news is this pump can be dismantled so I oiled the bearings and back in business!
The trash can was still leaking so I put a heavy duty liner in it.
Also hooked up a soaker hose to my roses so I would not have to drain the buckets each day.
Still no more rain, so still waiting on that!

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Rain Barrel Progress

I have finally made some progress on the rain barrel. I thought I was going backwards for a while. I have made a new down spout diverter system and it did not seem to be working. Had rain and it was not filling. I have also been testing the new control system, and like wise, it kept failing.
The battery kept going dead and the pump not running long enough. I solved the run time problem, but was starting to think the additional circuitry was draining the battery. I went back to using a SLA that is many times bigger than what is needed and even it slowly went dead. It turns out the solar cell has lost some of its efficiency and was providing enough power for control, but not for charging. It is not designed to be “used outdoors” and I think that it has been damaged by moisture. I replaced it with a slightly better one from Menards that while still not intended for outdoor use, is much better sealed. I will see how long it lasts, I got 3 years out of the original and this one is actually cheaper.
In addition to getting the pump to run longer, I started using a slightly larger pump, also from Harbor Freight. This may be a good thing since they no longer seem to be selling the smaller one. the pump has went form 500 gph to 1000 gph and only draws slightly more current. The only problem is this one is a few years old and the bearings are squealing. Again, I will see how long it lasts. By going to the larger pump, it can fill the buckets much faster, about 2 minutes or less compared to 10+ for the smaller one since it was struggling to push the water high enough. This, in turn is a pretty good trade off on battery life – slightly higher draw, but substantially reduced run time, lowering the amp hour capacity needed. The question will be if the solar panel can make up the draw used and recharge each day.
The filling problem turned out to just be stupid bad luck! I was adding water using the garden hose to time the buckets filling all the way and heard water trickling along side the house! Turns out the barrel got a crack in it! I am not sure when, but with a little duck tape, all is now well. We had a shower last night and added about 4 inches of water in the barrel!
Now to let it run again for a few days to see if my luck holds.

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Fun with LIRC

I have successfully updated my bedroom MythTV frontend part way.
I did an upgrade using YUM and now running Fedora 14. I did not update MythTV yet since the server is running v.23 and have to update it first. All went well except having to fiddle with updating the NVIDIA driver by hand.
While I was tinkering, I set up LIRC to control the TV and Cable box as well as MythTV. The TV did not have a remote with it and it turns out Olivia’s codes are a bit weird. The remote that came with the Comcast STB worked, but not well. The universal remote I was using with Myth had the same issues but did not work with the STB. I wanted to have only one remote control everything, so what I did was set the universal remote to a code that nothing was using (RCA I think) and had LIRC send commands to the TV and STB using irexec and some irsend scripts. I use a home brew transmitter and old Packard Bell receiver.. I was having a lot of issues with errors that seemed to be coming from problems with the serial port. I ended up switching to the earlier mentioned test machine and that seemed to clear most of it up.
Now what I have is:
MythTv – STB – TV
Ex. when I send Volume Up, LIRC receives it then sends the proper codes out to the TV.
A bit of a hassle, and a slight delay in each action, but the function is so much better with only one remote!

By the way, I was able to pull the hard drive and simply switch machines, even though one was Intel and one AMD. Ever try and do this with WinXP??????? (big pain!!)

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