Solar Energy servicing issues

We have a ‘wet’ solar panel for our domestic hot water (DHW) and a 3kW PV array to supplement our electricity consumption. We benefit from a feed in tariff for the excess power fed to the electric supply grid.

The DHW system is a 1 metre square grid of evacuated tubes feeding conducted heat through a closed loop pipework to a secondary heating coil in the hot storage water tank.  The system was installed in 2008 and has given good service and lots of hot water.   Recently the temperatures at the panel on the roof were showing very very high (>100C) and a closer investigation suggested that there was no circulation of the heat transfer fluid.   

I registered a service call and the technician duly arrived.  The conclusion was that the transfer fluid had degraded, leaving mainly gas and debris in the system pipework.   

The technician pressure washed the pipework loop and refilled it with new transfer fluid.   The system is now back up and running.   He made a not so subtle suggestion that maybe leaving it for 14 years between service intervals might not be a good idea …. hint taken. 

The other topic of conversation revolved around holiday absences and hot sunny periods.   When we go away on holiday we ask the kids to regularly run off hot water otherwise the hot water storage tank just gets hotter and hotter.  This results in the roof panel venting under the pressure.   

The technician commented that the latest controllers have a reverse action facility which you can enable during holiday absences.   This reverses the transfer fluid flow so the heat in the storage tank water is conducted out to the roof panel at night where it is radiated off.   Unfortunately our controller does not have this facility.   Maybe in four years time when we have a maintenance service call we can arrange an upgrade ….

While investigating the problem prior to service visit I went up on the roof to check the DHW panel.   (We live in a single storey house so reduced Health and Safety risk …).  While all seemed OK, it was noticeable that both the DHW panel and the PV panels were dirty.   I always clean them early in the year but we have recently had rainy periods where Saharan sand gets deposited via the rain. This was clearly visible on the PV panels and less so on the water panel.   

As a result of this, this morning has been a panel cleaning session.   Every kW counts.  Keep your panels clean. 

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3Dconnexion Spacemouse has better Fusion 360 integration

I had a mailer this morning from 3Dconnexion to say that their Spacemouse has now got better integration with Fusion 360.

One of my long standing frustrations when using Fusion 360 is that there did not seem to be a short cut or macro to provide the equivalent of using your right hand mouse to click on ‘Home view’.   This is desirable when you have flipped and spun your model and just want a single action to reset the view to your starting position.

It appears that the 3Dconnexion Spacemouse now provides this and it can be associated with one of the two buttons on the device.   You have to go to Settings/Buttons/Views and then select ‘ISO1 View’

Note that you have to set up the use of the two Spacemouse buttons for each Fusion module i.e. once in the Modelling module and once in Manufacturing module.

Attached below is a write up of the process.


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Workshop storage update using Spacemaster 5L boxes

Some time ago I posted a note about using the Spacemaster 5L storage boxes for all things workshop.   These are an incredibly versatile size and I admit to having a plethora of them sprinkled around the workshop including use for storage of my Tormach TTS tooling collets. 

Zoro UK now offers these boxes which is a bit more convenient than the previous UK source.  The Zoro stock number is ZT1053092X and the Spacemaster part number is CTL4048201B.

On the subject of TTS collets, I grew weary of having to repaint the tool number on the side of the collets and have migrated instead to printed labels. 

These are printed on a Brother P-Touch Cube printer using their 6mm White on Black tape stock.   These look very professional and time will tell how robust they are when subjected to cutting fluid.   The P-Touch is nice in that it is battery powered and connects on Bluetooth so I can print ‘on the go’ from the Android App.   The only frustration with the P-Touch is that it wastes around 2cms of tape at the beginning of each label print.   I minimise this wastage by concatenating all my labels into one long print and then cut them up individually with scissors after printing.

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Femi NG120ABS bandsaw failure and support from Stakesy’s

Last week we had the hottest day in the year so far and I had a couple of jobs to complete in the workshop.   Not ideal but with the doors open I had a little through breeze.   I had lots of aluminium to chop to length and my Femi NG120 bandsaw was doing sterling service.

A few days later when I needed to use the Femi again it was dead.  Not a spark of life.   I buzzed out the electrics and the trigger switch, emergency stop and end of cut switches were all working fine.   

My conclusion was the motor controller had failed.   This is a potted electronic assembly that sits on the end of the motor assembly inside the top of the motor housing. I measured various voltages with and without the trigger switch in action and sent the details off to Stakesy’s who is the UK distributor of Femi (the saws are made in Italy).   As bad luck would have it my bandsaw was a few months outside of a 12 month warranty.

Stakesy’s sent off the details to Femi and after some email interchanges Femi agreed to supply a new motor controller module free of charge.   This arrived in the post a few days later.   It was an easy fit, just four wires into a chocolate block and the bandsaw sprung back into life.   My hacksawing arm muscles breathed a sigh of relief. 

As mentioned earlier,  the motor controller module is a plastic moulding that has the electronics potted into the moulding.   There are some parts proud of the potting compound but in the main all is submerged.   With hindsight I wonder if something failed with the high ambient heat it was subjected to on my hottest day activity.

Femi motor controller module
Femi motor controller module

Great service from both Stakesy’s and Femi.   A big thank you to Matt and Alex for getting my NG120 up and running again.

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Fathers Day gift makes me smile

It was Fathers Day last Sunday and apart from spending time watching the very exciting final round of the US Open I had a visit from one of my sons and my granddaughter.

They came bearing gifts … a pair of socks.   Not just a pair of socks but a very appropriate pair of socks.

Bamboo brand socks with 'I'm an engineer - What's your Superpower' motif

It is a Superpower that we as engineers hold through our hands and our brains.

If we could just get the younger generations to understand the importance of engineering and how it creates wealth for our country and in turn contributes towards our future survival as a race.

A great Fathers Day gift.  Thank you.

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