Friday, 31 October 2014

Temporary Power

Having got the truck bodies in situ, we now need to begin fitting out. This will involve a lot of cutting, drilling, grinding and other processes so we're going to need power tools. Power tools means power and although we can do some work with cordless drills and the 300W inverter system, we're going to need a couple of kW capacity for the heavier toolage.

Our temporary feed to the Toyshed was upgraded so we could wire in another extension lead and run the cement mixer while we were laying the foundation blocks, but now we are going to need something a little more organised for working in and on the bodies.

Two 45m extension leads from B&Q and a handful of CEE.II 240v 16A connectors (a.k.a. Commando) and we have run a more useful supply to No 2. body (The Office).

The cable runs from the stone barn, overhead to the Goat Shed, and then along the inner fence line. We fed the cable through some polythene water pipe to give some protection for the last few metres to the back of the bodies. A CEE.II line socket on the end of the cable allows us to plug in a CEE.II to 4-Gang 13A trailing block, connect directly to the power inlet on the cement mixer, or to connect to the sheds.

The body is fitted with a 45 degree bulkhead plug. The cable from the barn can be plugged directly onto each box as required and ultimately we will have a junction box behind the four bodies where the main incoming feed can be split three ways. Once all the landscaping and groundwork has been completed, our 'temporary' feed will be replaced with an underground armoured cable. In theory - they say there isn't anything as permanent as a temporary lash-up!

The two brown gungy strips are beads of mastic where the lashing rails were fitted to the insides of the bodies. This all needs stripping off and then cleaning, and a little remedial work to the old screw holes. The rails were only held on with 10mm long self-tapping screws, but 120 of them at 2" intervals spreads the loading quite nicely. Having drilled the hole to feed the power cable (grey) through the wall, we determined that the walls are fibreglass laminated inside and out onto 18mm marine ply. Should last a couple of decades at least.

Each body will be fitted with it's own mini consumer unit with separate MCB's for lighting and power circuits, but for now (and until we get the doors on and render the boxes fully weatherproof) we have terminated the external CEE.II plug on No 2 body with a single weatherproof IP56 13A socket. The remainder of the cable on one of the extension leads allows us to reach into the two adjacent bodies - The Store and The Wood Shop. Eco can fettle firewood in The Store over the next few days, and I will be able to crack on with fitting out the Office.

Polythene pipe coming in under the rear of the bodies. The cones will hopefully stop us tripping over the pipe! Now, you might just be able to make out from the photo that the rears of the bodies are in as good a line as the fronts. With one exception. No 4 (Metal Shop) sticks a little further back. We hadn't actually measured the bodies...we just assumed they were all 20 footers. When we placed the last one and measured it up, it was a foot longer than the others. There were two possibilities at this juncture. Either the fourth body was a 20' unit and we'd been 'robbed' on the others and they were actually only 19' long, or we'd dipped in on number four and it just happened that that one was a 21' unit. The latter was the case, so our Metal Shop is just a tad bigger than we planned. Eight square feet of additional floor, or 64 cubic feet extra volume. Bonus!

Interestingly, you can clearly read the telephone number and web address of Nightfreight on the side of the first body, as well as just being able to see part of their logo. The signwriting (vinyl-cut) has been removed but the colour under the writing hasn't faded over time! The second box still has the original yellow stickering.

A little difficult to make out - taken on my crappy phone - but there is an extension lead plugged into No 2 box, running into No 1 box where Eco has the saw-bench set up. The rest of my afternoon was spent on repairs to the corners of the bodies where there was a little 'battle damage' and a few leaks. Hopefully they are watertight now and won't leak...fingers crossed. In 3 and 4 you can see the lashing rails which have not yet been removed/reprofiled/repurposed.

Wednesday, 29 October 2014

Bodies Abound

So here we have the beasts - four 20' truck bodies all in a row. Now, it may seem that they look a bit askew, but that's just the camera angle and the perspective. I can guarantee that not only each of the bodies is level in all three axes (try a spirit level along the floor, across the floor and on a vertical if you don't believe me!), but the bodies are within an inch of error over the 38' long site. That's positioned laterally to an accuracy of 0.2% or roughly half the width of a gnat's cock.

What you will notice is that the goat field has a definite slope on it. Behind the chicken shed is the boundary with the neighbouring holding and the field slopes down to the track from the house and the yard in front of the toy shed. Hence the vertical terracing on the truck bodies. When the landscaping work is completed, the trackway along the front of the sheds will be sloped slightly between the bodies in order to mitigate the slope as best as we can,

Left to right: The tractor Eco used to shuffle these into place, a stack of IBC's awaiting repurposing, the slightly tatty mobile chicken shed we have been using as storage up to now and four bodies.

The pile of timber laying to the side of the fourth body is the 9"x 2" planks and the 6" x 6" baulks (fenceposts) we used as sledges to gently ease the units into position over the concrete blocks.

Once each body was in approximately the right position, we did the final adjustment by hand using timber and a hi-lift farm jack. Once set on the base blocks, adjustable wedges were used between each chassis rail and each block. These gave us the fine tuning (to within a few millimetres!) to the final seating.

Reading from left to right again:

1 - Still has the original roller shutter tailgate and will be the general storage shed.
2 - Designated as Retrotecchie Ltd office and tea-makings!
3 - The Woodwork Shop
4 - The Metalwork Shop

Monday, 27 October 2014

Off-Grid in Cornwall

The Hobbit and I have just returned from a pleasant weekend down in Lostwithiel. For the last few weeks I've been playing email ping-pong with another member of the Forum, gucu, who has built himself a recycled shed down at the bottom of his garden and wanted to put in an off-grid solar system to power garden lights and his aquaponics pump.

He procured the inverter, solar charge controller and batteries and I advised him on minor details like the battery interconnects and how to set up the system. I'd hoped to drop down to Cornwall one week while I was working in Portishead but due to work schedules and his training commitments a suitable window of opportunity had been evasive,

So, we jumped in Pudgy, dived over the bridge and down the M5 and A30 and went to visit gucu, his lovely wife annapuddles and the kids.

Saturday was a day of manly shed-time while the girls went for a mooch round Lostwithiel.

Photos shamelessly stolen from gucu's blog - I'm sure he won't mind!

Four 12v 15Wp thin-film panels installed on the sloping roof, South South West orientation.

Two Alphaline 88Ah deep-cycle leisure batteries wired as a parallel bank and powering a 300W Sterling Pure Sine Wave inverter. To test the inverter we used an anglepoise lamp with a 25W incandescent bulb. You can see the LED display on the inverter showing the load in watts.

Having got the mains output working, I used the inverter to power my soldering iron which I then used to wire up the panel connections and create the input side of the system. The panels feed a Steca Solsum 10.10 charge controller which is then connected to the batteries using 6mm heavy duty cable. Although the total capability of the controller is only 10A and the cable is capable of handling 37A, by using far thicker cable than the current rating suggests, this reduces resistive losses to a very low figure thus getting maximum charging voltage into the batteries.

See that smile on my face? I'm always happy when I'm fettling!

So, all done and dusted, and the inverter and controller mounted in their final positions. I'd pulled 35W for about half an hour with the soldering iron, and with the light for testing, I estimated we'd used some 20-25Wh of the available battery capacity. It was a fairly overcast day, with a few spots of rain, but by the time we'd had a cup of coffee and a pasty for lunch, the charge controller status display was showing charge coming from the panels and the battery monitor was flicking between orange (charging) and green (charged). Ten minutes later, the batteries were showing full again. That is the biggest advantage of using thin film panels...their performance and output in poor conditions is much better than poly or mono panels. Ok, in perfect conditions you can expect a higher output from the more expensive panels, but for the next six months, the UK winter insolation is going to be far from perfect.

Smiles all round, and a good job jobbed.