Home Generator & Backup Switching

This blog is from 2014 updated in Feb 2018.

A few years ago just before Christmas we had an extended power outage, not only didn’t the telly work :-(,  but all the food in the fridge/freezer was nearly spoiled which would have been a disaster, it was at that point I decided to install an external power inlet point for a petrol generator and some form of switching.

I decided early on that I only needed the essentials to be on the generator backup, this included the heating, lighting, kitchen power circuit and cooking, it was important that I confirmed which circuit breaker control which circuit, this is important as I need to isolate high current consuming circuits so as not to overload the generator when online.

The generator I bought was a Honda 3kVA manual pull start unit off eBay (it later transpired that it wasn’t a genuine Honda, you’ve got to love shysters), which should be plenty big enough, if we need to heat water for hot drinks we’ll use the gas hob kettle rather than the electric one so as not to overload the genny, I can keep an eye on actual consumption due to a digital power monitor which is incorporated into the transfer switch enclosure.

As the generator is a manual pull start their was no point having an automatic power transfer switch, so I built a manual one.

So, outside in the meter cupboard is a 16A switched male socket inlet, this has been modified with a power indicator which illuminates when the generator is running, the generator plugs into this external outlet via small lead, two things to note, first that the petrol generator is outside so that fumes can’t get into the house and secondly that the power lead from the generator to the house uses a female socket to ensure that no exposed pins can be touched with the generator running, removing any shock risk.

From the external socket a 4mm cable feeds into one side of a power transfer switch, this switch has a capacity of 125 amps and is a break before make type, this will ensure that it is not possible to back feed power to the generator from the utility supply during the manual switching operation.

The supply from the utility company also go to this transfer switch, the output of the switch goes to the consumer unit and from here to each of the circuits in the house.

Operation – under normal conditions, the transfer switch is set to utility supply, this is confirmed by an LED, on a sustained power outage, the generator is hooked up and started, the switch on the external socket inlet is turned to on and the generator power available LED is lit.

Non essential circuit breakers in the consumer unit are turned to the off position, once done, the transfer switch generator power available LED is checked, and if lit, the transfer switch is operated to import power to the consumer unit from the generator.

Restoration of utility supply is indicated by an audible tone which obviously is switched off in normal utility power operation.

original
Original electricity cupboard
moded
Supply company lowered the isolator to make room for the generator intake switch.
generator intake
Generator intake.
switch
125A break before make transfer switch.
panel display
Digital Volts, Amps, Kw and frequency meter.
switch
Transfer switch mounted next to garage dado power consumer unit.
boxed up
Transfer switch fully installed.
consumer
Consumer modified to RCBO and remote power off to garage supply
smart
Smart meter installed August 2017
Generator plugged in
Generator plugged in on test.

System on test, instruction by the consumer unit, give the startup and shutdown process including which breakers to turn off before changing over, the transfer switch panel meter is used for monitoring load to make sure the generator is not overloaded.

GoDaddy Data Migration Fail

godaddy

If you have a weather site using Saratoga and Leuven scripts and are considering moving server from North America to European servers….DON’T DO IT!!!!

The story started on 15 Oct 17, looking through cPanel on my GoDaddy site, it suggested that speed might be increased by moving to a server nearer to my location, this meant moving data from North America to Europe, as the transfer was free, what did I have to lose.

The data migration took 3 hours on 16 Oct 17, filled with high expectations that my site would load super fast, I clicked on chatteris.biz and waited, and waited and waited, the site took nearly a minute to load.

I rang GoDaddy service desk and spoke to an assistant who suggested it was due to the SSL certificate needing to be rekeyed on the new server and he sent me the details on how to do it, being nervous of breaking the site even more, I called back and they said they can rekey the certificate for £100 in 10 days time, I declined.

A great friend came round and together we rekeyed the SSL certificate, guess what,…..nothing changed!

I posted on WXForum and started this WXForum Topic , it turns out that their is a known issue with European servers and the only way to resolve it is to go back to North American server.

So, on the 23 Oct 17 after paying £19.20, my data was once again whistling over the big pond, and this time it worked 🙂

The moral of the story is that if it isn’t broken, don’t try and fix it, the second moral is don’t move GoDaddy servers to other GoDaddy servers unless you want a world of pain.

Vehicle Inspection Pit

This was one of those jobs that you thought it was a good idea at the time, once construction started and things didn’t go as planned, I wished I’d never started it and the only way out was to spend your way out!

April 2011 was day one, the plan was to sink a vehicle inspection pit into the drive so that when it’s not in use, it would be completely covered and therefore unnoticeable, the pit had to be narrow enough to take the small car we had (Fiat Punto) but robust enough so that when our 3.5t motorhome was over it the walls didn’t collapse with me in it, also it had to be the correct height that I could work under the car or van comfortably and the right length that I can get to at least half of the underside of the van without it sticking out across the pavement (sidewalk for US visitors).

First stage was to confirm that planning permission didn’t apply, which it didn’t and secondly that there were no buried services that could stop the project, I did lift manlids to check the direction of pipes and wrote to the gas, electricity, telephone and water utility companies and all came back ok, the only thing I had to move out of the way was the armored conduit which goes to the outside lights which was easy as I’d fitted it.

One the dimensions were decided on, I started researching the reinforcing steel bars and type of concrete required, from this I drew a  rebar plan which gave me the quantities of steel and concrete needed.

rebar

I did explore using a ‘tanked’ construction and simply digging a hole and sinking it in, what bothered me was the high water table we have here and if you google ‘hydrostatic pressure’ their are examples where swimming pools have simply been pushed out of the ground, not a good look!

I opted to use 18mm plywood to make a ‘shuttered’ form even though the wood would be wasted, on balance it was still cheaper than hiring in bespoke steel panels from a local supplier.

The following series of pictures show the construction from the marking out of the hole to the finished pit, I mentioned at the start about things not turning out as expected, I made a flawed assumption that after the hole was dug, I could get away without propping the sides (I know it was stupid!), anyway fortunately I wasn’t in the hole at the time, but the sides caved in, now the problem this presented was that the cost to fix this.

The cost escalated as I would need a JCB rather than a mini digger to scoop out the spill due to the now extended boom reach required, also I would need two more 12m2 skips at £110.00 each, not to mention the additional backfill to make good the sides where the clay had slid from, all in all a blinking nightmare, so, do I fill the lot in and cut may losses, ore spend out of it, well the rest is history and a year later the credit card was finally paid off :-).

Drive

marked
Outline marked out

pre dig

dig1

start of trenching

services ducting

dig midway

dig in progress

dig completed

completed
Completed Holes
All done – spot on digging job, brown pipe is for the air vent and the Black tube is for the submersible pump to pump the pit out as their was no intention to make it waterproof.
collapse
Everything was going so well until the sides collapsed

Pit sides caved in the day after it was dug as I didn’t support them, the ground is heavy clay which slipped leaving a overhang, this overhang was soil and hay as the land on which the house was built used to be a farmers field.

So, change of plan, I decided to build the steel work outside of the hole and surround it in shuttering ply, and have the digger lift it into the hole……

Cage
Start of cage construction
cage 2
Lin looking happy to help
jcb
JCB with longer reach than a minidigger to clear the collapsed hole
base
Side shuttering ongoing

side

walls
Wall shuttering in place
welding
Rebar welded to angle iron edge protectors

backfill

internal shuttering

Smart Meter Installation

I have been after getting a Smart Meter installed for the past few years so I could monitor my energy usage in near real time, my original supplier (EON) said that as my gas was supplied via IGT infrastructure, they could not install Smart Metering, speaking to British Gas (BG) and my IGT they said this wasn’t a problem, so I switched supplier.

Surprise, surprise, when I came to register for a Smart Meter to be installed British Gas, they said it was not possible for the same reason that EON gave.

I took the case to OFGEM, but my case was undermined as the telephone conversation recording with the BG operative and myself could not be found, however, due to an extensive e-mail trail, OFGEM ruled that BG were to give me a written apology.

Winding forward to the 24 August 2017, I upgraded my British Gas mobile app and ‘Book a Smart Meter’ button appeared,  with a wry smile I pressed the button and hey presto it accepted my booking, whereas previously this has been declined, and an appointment was set for 3 August 2017 between 13:00 and 17:00.

The BG guy rang before he arrived, he introduced himself as Ashley and was really friendly, taking him to the external meter cupboards I had my fingers crossed that nothing would get in the way to causing a cancellation, as it was, no problems were presented so the installation of gas and electricity smart meters could go ahead.

The picture above shows my old meter with an OWL energy monitor transmitter with a clamp on Current Transformer attached to the incoming phase wire, Ashley started on the electricity meter swap out first after checking the nearest socket with a plug in tester   for confirmation of correct polarity and earth continuity, he turned off the consumer units main isolator and central heating boiler before pulling the main service fuse.

Due to the larger size of the smart meter, he had to shorten the tails from the cut-out, apart from that, the exchange took about 40 minutes in total and the OWL monitor is now redundant!

Smart Meter all connected.

The replacement of the gas smart meter was a bit more challenging as the new meter would not fit without meter exit pipework modifications.

Ashley isolated the gas supply and stripped out the old meter, regulator and anaconda pipe, replacing the regulator and pipe with new, he offered the meter up and noted where the meter outlet pipe needed modifying.

He cut out the existing pipe and soldered in a prefabricated swept connector and it was a perfect fit.

Link to Landis & Gyr Gas Meter Information

He tightened all connectors after replacing all ‘O’ rings with new ones and gave his works a pressure and leak test, once finished he sealed the outlet hole from the meter cupboard with flue cement.

He then ran through the display and went on his way, overall it took about 2 hours to fit the two meters and one major positive was that he found a loose connection on the neutral from electricity isolator switch to my consumer unit, so well pleased that he did a quality job.

Link to Smart Monitor User Guide

I opted for 1/2 hour reading to be captured throughout the day, the combined log is automatically uploaded daily to a remote server via the mobile network, logging into My Energy Portal will allow you to see you consumption breakdown over time:

So, all done, its taken a few years to get and at one point I thought I would have to wait until 2020, fortunately I was wrong.

Updates

11 August 17, my mobile and online British Gas app no longer show half-hourly usage, instead they show seasonal overall consumption, I have raised a service ticket to see if this can be returned to as it was, the old IGT card was mentioned during my converstaion with the service desk and I said I have a screen grab posted to the internet, so I know it was working!!

16 August 17, Yeah!! My Energy portal is back working showing 1/2 hourly usage figures.

4 September 17, noticed that the gas reading was not being updated on the remote display after 30 minutes of use, it to update with all the reading the next day and then at random times the gas icon would light, BG coming out on 2 Nov 17 to replace the  display.

3 November 17, indoor display changed by BG but he could not wait the 30 minutes to see if gas registered on the display, unfortunately it still doesn’t update.

14 November 17, spoke to BG Smartmeter department on 0333 2029821 and there is nothing that can be done to get my display to show gas readings every 30 mins, they are working on the issue, but as yet there is no fix.  Meter consumption readings are updating via the Vodaphone network  ok.

I’m disappointed as the display does not give the functionality as advertised, but it is free so I’ve nowhere to go with this.

16 December 17, not sure if its a fluke or not, plugged the display in upstairs and after a week or so of not showing gas being used, it suddenly started working.

Davis FARS Upgrade to a Monitored PC Fan

Link to original Davis Fan Motor change

When the original Davis FARS motor failed I installed a new motor and kept back some spare motors, waiting for the inevitable motor failure to occur, reading online, changing from the Davis Fan to a PC varient made a lot of sense and not only is the life of motor excellent, but it is possible to monitor the motors output for operation.

I was interested to know the existing Davis fans air flow, mine was running at 2.4vDC and showed 9.7m/s:

The PC fan I bought was a Noctura NF-R8 redux -1800 PWM for £9.99 of eBay.

With the David FARS removed, the existing fan assembly slides out of the housing as a complete fan & surround, the hole left will take the 80 x 80mm fan with only a very minor filing of the fan case body to make it slide into the body of the FARS.

No modifications are made to the existing FARS body allowing reversion back to the existing fan if I wish (can’t think why, but you never know!).

To form a seal around the gaps, I used self adhesive door/window strip seal.

The finished fan after the seal is applied and checking that the fan is sucking, rather than blowing:

The oringinal fan ran on 2.4v, I replaced the voltage regulators fixed value resistor for the correct one to give 11.54vDC output and this feeds the motor and the motor monitoring Tacho.

The air flow of the PC fan when installed and connected was 5.5m/s, this is less than the original davis fan, but this is still better than static air within the sensing chamber.

The Davis weather station I have is the wired version, and I used Cat5e cable rather than the supplied 4 core cable from the ISS to the console, using the Cat5e unused cores, I fed the supply voltage to the fan and the Tacho pulse into the house where they are connected to a 52mm (2″) counter tachometer guage RPM, this was bought off eBay for £6.70 + £1.69 postage.

Tacho installed in the equipment cabinet:

The PC fan connections are:

  • Black – Negative 12v
  • Yellow – Positive 12v
  • Green – Tacho Pulse
  • Blue – PWM (Not Used)

The Tacho is set for a 4 cyclinder engine using a switch on the back of the unit, with the fan running the backlit RPM display is showing just under 1000RPM (reading slightly low due to voltage drop introducd by the distance from the ISS to the end point), to the left of the Tacho is my Meteobridge Pro  weather station server to the internet.

The motor is guaranteed for 6 years, replacement will be very easy and I’m able to remotley monitor that the fan is functioning, all for less than £20.

 

Shack/Office Refurbishment

Well what a job!!

My home office is also my shack and like most things, the infrastructure grew rather than was managed, so I knew the electrical power was not ideal and the network patch panel was full. The thing that brought it to a head was the need for a new floor covering, and so it began.

First job was to put in a new final circuit ring main to the office dado trunking and add a couple of additional power points for the UPS and mobile air conditioning unit.

As the cables are ran in the loft, I decided to install a decent fold down loft hatch and sliding ladder for ease of access, the loft lighting was also improved by installing 4 x 4′ fluorescent operated by a pull switch fed from its own dedicated circuit, this lighting made a huge difference.

To move everything out of the office to get access to the floor meant it needed to go somewhere, and the obvious choice was the loft, so off to Homebase for loft flooring and loft legs and of course it was boarded during the hottest days of July.

Once everything was out, I could start tearing down to rebuild:

The existing home network hub needed to come out:

MB Pro fitted

No going back now!

New cable drops for additional tap points near the TV and existing TalkTalk router are shown, I did move/rationalise other tap points around the house and in the garage. In the lounge I drilled through to the external wall and installed conduit in preparation for when Virgin Media install fibre to the home.

The network cables were in and tested using a cheap and cheerful wire mapper and did find a faulty tap point, so well worth £2.59.

Once the power was sorted out, it was time to start on the cabinet, this is a 12U wall mounted jobbie and cost £48.49 from eBay, the power distribution unit is fed via an 800VA MGE Pulsar Evolution UPS as is the red sockets.

Cables identified and marked up, rather than numbering the tap points, I opted to use a convention which accommodated change easily:

  • OFnn =Office, tap point nn
  • BD2/nn  = Bedroom 2, tap point nn
  • BD3/nn = Bedroom 3, tap point nn
  • LOnn = Loft,  tap point nn
  • Lnn = Lounge,  tap point nn
  • Gnn = Garage,  tap point nn
  • Hnn = Hall,  tap point nn

I, well me and my XYL took the opportunity to start to spruce the place up with a coat of paint as well. This shows the wall ready for the roller.

Wall cabinet finished, I added a small temperature controller which switches on the cabinet fan and the ceiling mounted fan within the cupboard where the cabinet is fitted.

Working top down:

  • 2U blank plate
  • Telephone line IN, OUT via ADSL filtered ports
  • Temperature controller
  • 24 port patch panel wired in Cat5e, two ports spare
  • Brush strip to hide surplus cable or manage surplus cable if your a purist
  • Netgear JGS524E Managed Gigabit switch
  • 1U blank plate (91/2″) (behind this is a 6 way PDU fed via UPS)
  • 1U 91/2″ Shelf with PoE to TP EAP245 Access Point
  • 1U 91/2″ Shelf with Metobridge Pro and EdgeRouter X
  • 19″ 350mm deep shelf

Bottom shelf from left to right:

  • Tach display for weather station aspirated sensor fan speed
  • Low noise linear 5v PSU for Blitzortung lighting detector
  • 12v PSU to Network Attached Storage (NAS) and CCTV interface
  • Netgear Duo 500Gb dual hard drive NAS
  • CCTV controller interface

 

Cabinet closed and locked after making sure it didn’t hit the ceiling light.

 

Room with everything put back in and tidied up.

To make life easier for working on the radio equipment cables and connections, I didn’t push the desk right back to the wall and also no radio related equipment is on the floor (PSU), apart from the foot operated PTT.

Radio wise I didn’t do much, I added a separate 12v PSU for auxiliary equipment, such as the led signage, VSWR panel lights and SG autotuner to name a few, I also added a common RF earth board for the shack equipment to connect to.

Radio all put back together and cables tidied up, not sure how long the office will stay this neat 🙂

Update

The cheap and cheerful cable tester unfortunately didn’t last the test of time and started giving some strange mapping indications, returning to eBay, I found a SC8108 Network Cable Tester for £17.98, this is superb value, and hopefully it will last longer than the last cable tester.

 

The SC8108 is very easy to use and has a number of useful, menu driven features, but for my small home network, wire mapping is the primary focus.

£17.98 SC8108 Network Cable Tester showing the mapping test results for a remote tap point from the patch panel.

 

Davis 7346.174 – Pro2 Upgraded Digital Temperature Humidity Sensor

I decided to give the weather station a revamp, the two mini projects are the replacement of the Fan used to asperate the temperture/humidity sensor and the replacement of the original Davis temp/hum sensor with the more accurate chipset SHT15.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I bought the Davis 7346-174 upgrade from Scaled Instruments in Florida for $67.50 delivered (£51.94), the unit arrived very quickly as expected as I have used Scaled Instruments before and the service is exceptional.

Disassembly was quite straightforward after putting the station in install mode, what I was suprised by was the amount of dirt that had been drawn into to the fan guard and other parts of the Stevensons Sheild which all need a good wash with soapy water:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The original sensor is secured with two machine screws and the cable by a ‘P’ clip:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The replacement sensor was a direct fit as you wpould expects apart from the fact that instead of a ‘P’ clip, the environmental coating was used to form a cable clip, thit need a stand-off and additional machine screw to enable the sensor wire to be secured.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Once the housing was reassembled, sensor plugged up, fan reconnected and the station taken out of install mode everything worked just fine.

I’m awaiting the new fan to be deivered, so the second part of this will be blogged soon.

Cat5e Network Port Quick Finder

I was perusing the internet and came across a niffty idea to quickly identify which Cat5 outlet was connected to which port on a patch panel, so, as I had the parts, I thought I’d have a go.

The principle is very easy, in the patch panel,  RG45 plugs are inserted into each port, within the RG45 plug is an LED connected to pins 3 &6.

At the remote faceplate, a RG45 is plugged in which has power to pins 3 & 6 via a battery battery, the LED in the patch panel will now light, quickly identifing what is connected to what.

led plate
Test faceplate with pins 3 & 6 bridged across each outlet

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The parts were from ebay:

  • LEDS – 100 for £2.32
  • RG45 connectors – 100 for £2.95
  • Battery Holder – £0.99

To make the LED plug, I first marked the Cathode of the LED so I got the polarity correct when inserted into the plug.

The next step was to flatten the LED capsule so that it fits within the cable entry of the connector.

The LED is now pushed into the connector and crimped, hot glue is then used to seal the LED in place.

The battery pack is powered by 2 x AA batteries, with a current limiting resistor terminated in the plug.

LEDS

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I made 24 of the LED plugs as that was the number of ports on my patch panel.

kit
Finished LED connectors and battery pack

PLC Simulator

After playing with a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC) to operate my radio mast, I decided to build a simulator in order to better understand the capabilities of the EASY PR-18DC-DA-R.

I wanted the simulator to have 16 inputs, either momentary or switched and the ability to import signals including an embedded 4 – 20mA current.

I had a sloped project enclosure already, so I made a dimensioned drilling template.

Drilling Template

Once the template was stuck down, the pilot holes were drilled, template removed and holes opened to the right sizes.

Drilled Case

The template was created in Visio and I used layers, one of the layers was for switch position drilling and alignment cross-hairs, turning that layer off (missed one in I8!), allowed me to print on  self-adhesive sticky Matte White Vinyl.

Blank template

Using a sharp knife, I cut though the Vinyl and started fitting the switches, buttons, Output indication LEDs and 4 – 20mA injector.

Terminals to go in

Terminal posts next.

Switches going in

Front panel populated.

Lidded

Wiring started.

Pre-wire

After a couple of changes, the internal wiring is completed and loomed in.

Wired

The simulator uses 24v DC, I used a small 1.5A output switched mode PSU for this, fed via a chassis fuse holder with the supply from an IEC male socket, the output from the PSU is fused separately.

PSU 24v

PLC simulator all powered up, the program in the PLC was legacy from my mast control project, this will be overwritten by downloading revised programs from xLogicsoft software.

Finished PLC

To complement the PLC simulator I bought a4-20mA Current Signal Generator 0-10V Voltage Generator Transducer Simulator for £19.00.

simulator

Injector resolution precision:

  • Current 0-20mA 0.001 0.1mA
  • Voltage 0-10V 0.001 0.1V
injector
Boxed injector

testrig

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Completed test setup.

 

Boltek LD-250 Relay Interface

boltek

 

 

 

 

The LD-250 Lighting Detector from Boltek has an internal output for a relay interface, the manufactures units are quite expensive, so I decided to make my own.

relay
RLO-10 Boltek Relay Interface

Inside the LD-250 is a 14 way header which connects via ribbon cable to the RLO-10, off eBay I bought the 14 way ribbon cable and IDC cable mount socket for £5.00.

Opening the LD-250 the header JP1 is immediately obvious:

inside

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Using my multimeter, the header output pins linked to the front panel LED’s and the operating voltage was quickly found.

diagram

Using a spare strip of veroboard I mounted a magnetically shielded reed relay 5v, with flywheel diode across the coil, and the switched Normally Open reed output to a 2.54mm x 2 pitch connector, I also put veropins in the board so I can select which function I want the relay to operate on, should it be needed in the future.

The reed switch is used to switch 24v DC to an indicating LED and a a PLC input, the total load was measured at 21.49mA, well within the 500mA rating of the reed switch.

The module was placed in a small enclosure:enclosure

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ribbon cable was then plugged into JP1 inside the LD-250:

ribbon

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Switching on the Boltek performs a self test of the front LED’s and internal buzzer, as I have used the output from the ‘Close’ LED, the reed relay operated and the mast which was raised, automatically retracted.

All in all the project performs as expected and cost me £7 (enclosure was £2) saving me £58.95 on a factory unit.

General information and status updates.

Social media & sharing icons powered by UltimatelySocial