Wednesday, November 19, 2014

EV so far....

Its been cold at night and now we have snow. I let myself get into a bit of range anxiety with my electric car. If you don't already know, I recently ( well a few months ago), purchased a Smart Fortwo ED (Electric Drive). Completely electric, no engine. The range anxiety started when I noticed the battery performance took a bit of a hit during the colder temps. To be expected, batteries do not perform as well during cooler climates and then you have the added draw of your accessories such as your heater and defroster, maybe your seat heaters too.

So, as I mentioned, to be expected.
But where the real range anxiety lies is when we get into the real winter, -15c or lower, over a period of time. Or what if we have cold snaps, -20 to -30c? That will be the real test but I'm comforted by the fact that work has chargers.

So far so good. Great traction control system ( found that out today, in addition to the ABS system). A good ride on snow and slippery icy surfaces.

The only issue which will just take time to learn, is going back to rear wheel drive with a vehicle that has a load of power / torque on acceleration. Stability control kicks in but you still have to work with the car, in some situations, back off the accelerator a bit.
Other than that we are doing OK.

More to come!!

Tuesday, November 4, 2014


Grid-tied solar systems are not a common dinner-table topic but it has caught my attention after reading some fascinating material about the concept, installation, costs and end results. At home, our typical consumption is anywhere between .3 to .8 kw according to our energy meter. Of course, things like our dryer drive that up when we cannot use the clothesline.

Doing some searching, I found that I can pickup  a 250 watt solar panel for under $300 

Quite a deal, but 250 watts wasn't going to make it worthwhile, but perhaps 4 of these would, if not more, generating a peak of 1000 watts, or an average of 34 amps, it would easily drive a grid tied inverter of at least 300 watts or more. Take a look at this or similar on Amazon. 

AGPtek 300W Grid Tie Grid-tie Inverter With LED display For Solar Home System MPPT function

Will this sort of technology run a whole home? While its possible, its not feasible because you would need the storage component, being batteries. Expensive, heavy and takes up real estate. The grid-tie merely supplements the hydro utility, reducing the draw from them. That means our typical standby can be reduced (or possibly) eliminated. At least while the cells are exposed to sun. High draw items will still need the utility system.

Is it worth it? I'm still working on the math and logistics, but it seems promising. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Power in the field

Some of you may find the use of a generator while out in the bush a great convenience. Some might choose to go battery or solar, but whatever you choose, the point is, you have the ability to keep your equipment running when necessary.

I personally prefer solar and storage batteries, but sometimes they just don't cut it. Inverters draw power even when not in use and batteries are heavy, so hauling them into the bush can be quite challenging.

I came across a Walmart brand of generator, intrigued, because is was a pure sine-wave inverter generator, meaning clean, 110v power at the outlet. What fascinated me the most was the size. Can be easily carried with one hand and it's tiny, given the output - 800 watts constant, 1000 watt surge.It can actually handle 900 watts constant without any issues. Did I mention it's tiny? Indeed it is - Take a peek. I used a 3.78 litre jug of vinegar for comparison.

Now the problem that many might come across is the constant noise that one of these make. Yes, they can be loud. This one is rated at 62db which is not bad at all, in fact, after planting it in the bush, behind a tree and running an extension cord, it becomes a barely noticeable hum. But the real point is that you only run it when needed and as I mentioned, I would rather go solar with a storage battery than use a generator, but sometimes solar is not quick or powerful enough. Large arrays of panels are extremely expensive and cumbersome. So I end up bringing a small panel, a small storage battery and run my chargers off that. Battery gets a little too low, panel can't keep up, I fire up the generator and charge the battery then shut it down. If it's a real aggressive energy consumption day, such as burning the midnight oil and needing to light up the camp, yeah, the battery will run the inverter for a period of time, but even with CFL's or LED lighting, they will eventually push the battery to it's limit and shut down. Time to fire the generator up. 

I've used lanterns, candles, efficient LED lighting, laptop, recorders, etc but frankly, the convenience of just being able to plug in has it's benefits and caveats. I think the first thing is noise, followed by smell, the fact that you are not "roughing" it and you might miss something - that weak sound off in the distance, you would never hear it. I totally agree, but it's merely a camp maintenance tool for me and I would never consider going the entire duration running one of these. Just when needed. There is ample opportunity between run times to get stuff done and to absorb the reason why you came to your location to begin with. 

Friday, July 11, 2014

Mercedes Benz

Mercedes-Benz recently released an electric version of their Smart Fortwo car. Their website in Canada was not behaving very well so I could not find out many details about it. I am seriously thinking of a change, lighten up the pocket book in regards to commuting. That extra $$$ could go a long way.
Any thoughts or comments about EV's?

**UPDATE** Sept 9, 2014

Took in enough information to take the plunge and buy one of these. Incentives and overall cost really worked out well for me. For the few weeks I have had it, I am enjoying it more and more. No more gas, a savings of several hundred dollars a month. Has enough range to get to work and back, and I can charge at work (we have charging stations).

Wonderful little piece of engineering. Will keep you all posted, winter (sigh) is approaching and while I was assured the car will be fine, I am curious, more than anything else, about how it will do. Yeah, I bought a winter tire package from the dealership so that area is covered.......


I just married the love of my life last week, now spending time in Italy. Sometimes you have to push things aside to make the more important things in life come to fruition. When things begin to come together the way that you planned, you really set your sights on the end result. It was a perfect wedding and we're having a perfect honeymoon. Sitting on a balcony in Villa on an island in the Northern Italian Alps, I couldn't ask for anything more, nor could my wife. Such a beautiful place, we've been here before, and knew that this was one of the most picturesque and perfect destination for our honeymoon.
As I am blogging this, I am reminded of some of my past posts about my book and my radio show. I did promise to bring the show back on the air sometime ago, and I realize that has not happened. I have no excuse for it except to say that sometimes life gets in the way. Sometimes there are things that are more important than hobbies and passions. When you travel to another country with different cultures, you begin to see the uniqueness in your own, something that you probably take for granted , only because of routine. It made me reflect on what I do on a daily basis, and some of the things that I have missed out on, opportunities and chances, but I do not feel like I've been cheated, rather, I'm trying to make a life and a living for myself and of course my wife. Hobbies and passions will always be there, it's making the time for them, to fit your life, so that you'll be comfortable.

The radio show will come back and the book will be written. In fact, the book is pretty much ready to be released. I've gone through it over and over again, & I keep making changes to make it perfect , well, at least in my mind. Perfection might not necessarily be something that I follow, but in this case, this will be permanent, so I want it to be as good as possible. The radio show, I'm still thinking about content, I know other people do radio shows with consistency and have been able to do so for some time, but uniqueness is something that I've always strived for in order to convey my own thoughts and opinions rather than a cookie-cutter format.

I've never felt more enthusiastic and enthralled about starting a new life with my new wife and getting back on track.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Pushing the limits - Wind Mobile

Wind Mobile offers a pretty appetizing deal on "unlimited" data for devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Trouble is, they are only nested in areas that have a considerable population density. If you look at their coverage maps, coverage is available throughout most of Canada, but their "unlimited" zones (what they refer to as home zone) is limited. Their "away" zone, they charge a flat fee for each service you use, such as texting, data , voice. Think of it just like roaming on a foreign network, which is weird nowadays as roaming is considered as your communication option outside of Canada, but certainly not within. Perhaps this is how they keep their margin low and can offer such attractive prices.

I love the idea of having unlimited data no matter where I am in Canada. In particular, two things come to mind. No overage charges and being able to remain connected no matter where I am. I would love to post in real time when I am in the bush, which I have in the past, but sometimes it's hard to do. Coverage is sometimes spotty. Data might drop, the iPhone that I currently use, on occasion in poor signal areas, comes back and says "cannot send message". Not often, but it happens.

Now imagine if your paying for the roaming data access, at $1/mb. These sort of inconsistencies might cause a bit of stress. I know, it's not a lot but it does add up if you were planning on being out for a while, wanted to download or upload large emails or stream something like video. It all adds up.

Very recently I became aware of the fact that the material on some websites that the vendors produce, might not necessarily reflect the actual usability of devices in certain areas.

I have a friend who messages me every so often, I told him that I was getting a new tablet with 4G / LTE service capabilities. He asked which carrier I was going to go with. I told him that I was still trying to work it out but mentioned Wind, with hesitation, knowing that they have limited coverage for their "unlimited" services.

He was quick to point out that they underestimate and understate their coverage to ensure that potential fringe customers are reduced at their checkouts. He gave a great example, having been with Wind for a short period of time, he noticed that once he left Barrie, northbound on Hwy 400, his Wind network switched to the "away" provider (roaming) about 2km north of Horseshoe Valley Road. Ok, so now he was paying per use for all services. He was heading to Coldwater and the phone only clicked back once to Wind, albeit for a few moments, then flicked back to roaming on the other network.

Coldwater had no Wind coverage. None. Zilch. Or at least he thought. He remembered me telling him about the repeater option for fringe areas, something that was a modest investment, but frankly he needs to be connected, like me, for work related purposes. He got himself a AWS (LTE) booster from Ebay at a reasonable price, considerably lower than retail. He played around with the external directional antenna, finding a sweet spot and within a few seconds the system made contact with the Wind service and there you have it! Wind service was online.

The blue dot at the top of the map below represents my friends relative location. The blue outline towards the bottom represents the typical extent of the signal.

So, if network coverage is a concern and you need it, don't give up right away and hand your money over to the major carriers. Do a bit of research. You might be able to stretch that dollar and stretch that signal!!


For obvious reasons we don't setup trail cameras that face directly toward the sun. Falsing and a memory card filled with useless images in addition to quickly depleted batteries are not considered a good outcome. But for those who have played around with trail cameras, such as yours truly, no doubt have come across a time when the setup was not perfect and you had tons of pictures of "nothing".

Well, in some situations, your camera may be exposed to the sun, but not necessarily looking right at it. That's half the battle. Unfortunately, there is now another component to consider. Weathering.
The camera shown below has been quite faithful. Albeit, it does get some sun exposure, the results of weather are obvious. The latch above the lock loop has broken right off. The plastic is pretty brittle.
The latch just below the lock loop is ready to go. Once it does, I will have to use the lock loop with a nylon tie wrap or twist tie.

Mind you, this camera has been out since January 2011. If you notice the cord at the bottom, this thing is being fed by a solar panel and gel cell battery, which have not required maintenance since it was first turned on. (Yes, it's still running).
I figure the camo tape job I did on it is acting like a sunscreen for the rest of the camera. Had I left this camera where it was initially deployed, just outside of Parry Sound, the condition of it might be a lot better, for the location was shaded by a healthy canopy of trees. I only removed it because I was planning on a trip to a potential area of interest and I wanted all the equipment I could get my hands on. The trip never happened, but during the waiting period I decided to put camo tape on the camera to help it blend in. This is when I started to experiment with the solar panel. I am impressed.

When it comes to longevity, think about your setup. If you have the intention to leave a camera out for an extended period of time, consider its exposure to the elements. I recall a fellow who left a camera out for a very long period of time, to find that tree sap had made it's way down the front of the camera, obscuring it's view. A shame, really, but you might not think about things like that. The "birdhouse" roof is a neat idea, covering the top of the camera, with a slight overhang of the roof to shield the front. Small leaves, branches glued to the roof. Anything to make it blend in as best as possible, while offering protection.