Living Sustainably

Aquaponics | Rain Harvesting | Composting | Other Green Products

Wind & Solar Power, Weather Datalogger

P1040314We are rolling out our newest Wind & Solar Power & Weather Datalogger.

A shunt between the battery and the power sources (wind turbines, solar panels, microhydro, your cousin on the exercycle), tell us the current being generated, and a voltage divider reads the voltage of the battery pack. If another shunt is placed between the battery and loads, power consumption also be tracked. From that we can calculate the watts being produced.

With our SD Card and RTC Module, we can calculate amp hours and watt hours, and save them to a sd card.

We also can record weather data, like temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed & direction, UV index, and much more.

We give you the ability to upload your sd card files for charting and graphing your data. Real time reporting options with ethernet and wifi are available to the internet or optional local Raspberry Pi web & database server.

Read more at:

More pictures and a list of available sensors at




Smart Charging your phone, tablet, and other 5v USB devices.

P1030804I have several devices that are charged with a USB 5v charger. Most have a warning on them “Disconnect charger when charged to save energy”. Why? Because most 5v chargers do not know when the batteries are charged, so they keep charging, wasting energy, producing excess heat, and reducing battery life (and the life of the charger).

This weekend we got a USB Smart Charger. This device stops charging when your device is fully charged, and displays a green light to let you know it’s done. Handy for my Kindle Fire which gives you no notification that it’s finished. This devices saves energy, and will extend the life of my devices, and itself.

At 2 Amp output, it’s fully capable of charging the most demanding 5v device, whether it’s a tablet or a phone, or a usb powered device with no onboard battery, like an Arduino.

Velvetwire Introduces First-Ever Apple HomeKit Device Smart Charger

Powerslayer Blu Eliminates Energy Waste and Allows for Customized Charging of Devices

SANTA CRUZ, CA – September 30, 2014 – Velvetwire, a leader in smart energy technology, today announced the winter availability of Powerslayer Blu, its Apple HomeKit-enabled USB charger. The Powerslayer is a cleverly designed intelligent smartphone charger that integrates a first-of-its-kind device-aware software for a more energy efficient charging process as well as a surge protector for keeping both consumers and gadgets safe. Now with added Bluetooth low energy (BLE) connectivity, Powerslayer Blu is compatible with the HomeKit-controlled ecosystem, allowing for customization and enhanced control of the charging process in addition to reducing energy waste.

“Our vision for Velvetwire arose during a two-year sailing trip around the world, where we realized the vital importance of conserving energy. Powerslayer is our first endeavor at tackling energy waste and creating a smarter energy future for the modern consumer,” said Jennifer Lee, co-founder and COO of Velvetwire.

Powerslayer Blu is a unique, eco-conscious way to charge devices. By turning off automatically when charging is complete, the device prevents overcharging and protects the battery life of USB devices. It also eliminates vampire power – the energy constantly consumed by electronics even in standby mode – while looking stylish.

“We are proud to be among the first group of companies to produce HomeKit-compatible devices,” said Eric Bodnar, co-founder and CEO at Velvetwire. “By integrating Bluetooth technology into the Powerslayer, we’re offering customers a new way to interact with their devices and be part of Apple’s HomeKit. Velvetwire is committed to developing intelligent, energy-efficient devices that allow users to live more consciously without sacrificing convenience. We look forward to sharing Powerslayer Blu and future generations of our power-saving devices with the world.”

Powerslayer Blu’s customization features include the ability to select between high power boost-mode charging and eco-mode to maximize battery life as well as the ability to receive a variety of device notifications. The charger interacts wirelessly with Apple devices through a Bluetooth-powered iOS application developed by Velvetwire and can interact with other HomeKit applications. The app allows users to visually see and monitor relevant information about the level of charge their device is receiving. By tailoring charging power levels to suit their situation, users are provided a whole new level of interaction with the charging process.

Pricing and Availability:
Powerslayer Blu is available Winter 2014 for $89. To sign up to learn more about Powerslayer Blu and become alerted when available, visit

About Velvetwire:
Based in Santa Cruz, California, Velvetwire produces intelligent technology products that help eliminate energy waste. After two successful startup exits, co-founders Eric Bodnar and Jennifer Lee journeyed on an extensive sailing trip around the world where they realized the preciousness of conserving energy – upon return they launched Velvetwire. The company is now at the forefront of wireless and mobile innovation with deep-rooted commitment to rethinking the way modern society consumes energy. For more information about Velvetwire, visit

For regular Velvetwire updates follow us at or

Introducing Powerslayer from Velvetwire on Vimeo.


Trojan Battery Configuration Calculator

TRJN_BatterySizingCalculatorSS (2)A few years ago I designed a online battery load calculator, but Trojan (one of our favorite off grid battery manufacturers) came out with a good configuration tool. This calculator is a tool to help you determine the model and quantity of Trojan batteries needed for your renewable energy or backup power system. The calculator recommends batteries based on your inputs and the results are ranked according to cycle life performance.




Check it out at


Automatic Battery Backup System

This paper examines a battery backup circuit and Control Board designed by the author to eliminate hazardous conditions and inconveniences experienced whenever the local power grid fails. Fortunately, power outages in this country are usually cleared on the average within an hour to ninety minutes, although many can last for days.

Everyone who has a system with pumps relies on the grid to keep the pumps running. In certain cases, systems need to be shut down immediately upon loss of power, either to avoid damage to the system or for safety reasons. In the case of oil or gas fed furnaces, fuel is shut off when power fails. In the case of wood or coal burning furnaces there is a need to avoid any buildup of steam. In such cases the fire cannot usually be extinguished and re-ignited quickly upon return of power. A reliable battery backup system can help to avoid such situations and the inconveniences associated with power failures.

Hopefully, this paper offers readers, from the casual reader to the technically competent reader, an opportunity to learn enough to understand generally how a battery backup system works and specifically how a controller functions. The casual reader can get a grasp of the system by reading and understanding only sections 1 and 2, while a more detailed description follows in sections 3 and 4. The material presented in this paper concentrates mainly on the Control Board. Another paper will describe the interface connections, internal and external to the electrical enclosure.

Battery Backup Article_10


Trojan Battery Introduces Single-Point Watering System For Its Flooded Batteries

SANTA FE SPRINGS, Calif., March 20, 2013 — Trojan Battery Co., the world’s leading manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, has launched a single-point battery watering system for its line of flooded batteries for renewable energy and backup power applications. The new watering system makes maintenance of Trojan’s deep-cycle flooded batteries faster, easier and safer.

Trojan’s single-point watering kit is designed to take the guess work and mess out of properly watering flooded batteries. The flexible tube routing allows the watering system to work with various battery bank sizes and configurations. It also features an automatic valve shut-off to control the electrolyte level within each cell which prevents overwatering. In addition, the kit enables users to fill their deep-cycle batteries without having to remove the vent covers, an important safety feature which reduces the chance for contact with the battery’s electrolyte.

“Proper maintenance and periodic watering are important factors in maximizing the performance and life of Trojan deep-cycle, flooded batteries,” said Bryan Godber, senior vice president for renewable energy at Trojan Battery. “With Trojan’s new single-point watering kit, precise battery watering is made easy and can fill a set of batteries in 30 seconds, saving valuable time and money.”

The single-point watering kit comes in three configurations to fit 12V, 24V and 48V battery models. The kits are designed for single string installations with Trojan Premium, Industrial and Signature lines of flooded batteries. For systems with multiple strings in parallel, additional kits can be added at the required system voltage.

About Trojan Battery Company
Trojan Battery Company is the world’s leading manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, offering a complete portfolio of technologically-advanced deep-cycle flooded, AGM and gel batteries that provide maximum long-lasting performance to meet the requirements of today’s advancing renewable energy systems. Trojan Battery Company, founded in 1925, is ISO 9001:2008 certified with U.S.-based operations in California and Georgia. For more information, visit


Capacity, the Key to Battery Runtime

A look at emerging rapid-test technologies for deep-cycle lead-acid batteries
By Isidor Buchmann, Cadex Electronics Inc.

The secret of battery runtime lies in the capacity. Capacity defines the energy a battery can hold. The definition for capacity is usually given in ampere-hours (Ah); it specifies the elapsed time when discharging a battery at a calibrated current to the end-of-discharge voltage. Portable batteries commonly use a one-hour discharge; larger batteries are rated at either a 5 or 20-hour discharge.

Lead acid batteries come in two basic architectures: deep cycle and starter types. The deep cycle battery is designed for maximum capacity and high cycle count. This is achieved by installing thick lead plates. Typical applications are golf carts, wheelchairs, people movers, scissor lifts and RVs. Starter batteries, in comparison, are made for maximum CCA (cold cranking amp). The battery maker obtains this by adding extra plates to get a large surface area for maximum conductivity. Capacity and deep cycling are less important for automotive because the battery is being recharged while driving. If continuously cycled, the thin lead plates of the starter battery would wear-down rather quickly. As a rule of thumb, the heavier the battery, the more lead it contains and the longer it will last.

What is the difference between Capacity and CCA?
The characteristics of the lead acid battery can best be explained by making capacity responsible for energy and CCA for delivery. Capacity and CCA do not age at the same pace. The CCA tends to stay high through most of the battery’s life, and then drops quickly towards the end. This often leaves us stranded when all of a sudden the car won’t start in the morning. In comparison, capacity decreases gradually. A new battery is designed to deliver 100% of its rated capacity. As the battery ages, the capacity steadily drops and it should be replaced when the reading falls below 70%. The reader will soon realize that capacity measurement is a more reliable state-of-health indicator than CCA.

Let’s look at the aging mechanism of capacity and CCA with graphic illustrations. Figure 1 shows two lead acid batteries, one with high capacity and one that has aged. The build-up of so-called “rock content” as part of aging robs the battery of usable energy although it may still provide good cranking power. Figure 2 illustrates a battery with high and low CCA by simulating free-flowing and restricted taps.

The third criterion of battery runtime is state-of-charge (SoC). The battery capacity is always measured on a fully charged battery and the most simplistic method of estimating SoC is reading the open terminal voltage (OTV). This approach is accurate if the battery has rested for at least four hours after charge or after applying a load. The rather long rest period is the required recovery time to pacify a battery when disturbed. The reader should also be aware that different plates composition alter the OTV reading. Calcium raises the voltage by 5-8%, affecting SoC estimation. Calcium is an additive that helps in making the battery maintenance-free.

Battery rapid-test methods
Battery capacity is commonly measured by applying a full discharge. While this method provides accurate readings, it is cumbersome, time consuming and wears the battery down unnecessarily. During the last 15 years, several rapid-test methods have emerged that eliminate the need for discharge, so the manufacturers claim. Introduced in 1992, AC conductance became popular in measuring conductance, from which CCA is estimated. This non-invasive method was hailed as a major breakthrough because the test only takes a few seconds and the instrument stays cool. Unfortunately, AC conductance is unable to read capacity and is of limited use for deep cycle batteries.

During the last five years, critical progress has been made towards capacity estimations. Cadex has developed a battery rapid-tester based on multi-model electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (Spectro™). The Spectro CA-12 injects 24 frequencies ranging from 20-2,000 Hertz. The signals are regulated at 10mV to stay within the thermal battery voltage of lead acid. The 24 slices from the frequency excitations are compared and the minute nuances analyzed. The instrument completes 40 million transactions during the short 15-second test.

Electrochemical impedance spectroscopy (EIS) is not new. Equipment using this technology has been in use for decades. A full-fledged EIS requires dedicated instruments and a computer to analyze the data. The set-up is expensive, requires trained staff for analysis and is so large that the machinery is moved on wheels. Furthermore, long calculation times make the system unsuitable for commercial use. The Spectro CA-12 has solved these problems by using powerful digital signal processors, but the heart of the engine lies in the patented algorithm.

What are typical battery problems?
Let’s look at the most common battery problems and evaluate how modern battery rapid-testers can detect these deficiencies. One can immediately see the benefit of knowing the capacity.

Low charge. A low charge reduces the drive power and the battery appears weak. Checking a low-charge battery with a discharge unit will show low capacity. Rapid testers such as the Spectro CA-12 are able to measure the capacity with a SoC as low as 40%. If lower, the instrument will prompt to charge and retest.

Low capacity. This low capacity battery will likely have good conductivity and strong torque. The voltage checks out fine and everything appears normal except the short runtime. Knowing the capacity on an aging deep cycle battery is very important because it’s the best indication when a battery should be replaced.

Mismatched set. Batteries do not age at an equal pace. Like the links of a chain, the battery with the lowest capacity will govern the runtime. Battery testers reading capacity can identify low performers and allow a timely replacement. The high performers can be regrouped for continued service.

As encouraging as battery rapid testing may be, the reader needs to be reminded that rapid-testers, such as the Spectro CA-12, are not universal instruments capable of measuring the capacity of any battery that will come along; they need a battery-specific matrix as a reference. On purchase of such a unit, the instrument includes one or several matrices that are automatically matched with the selected battery. Cadex is in the process of expanding the matrix library to eventually include all major battery types.

In time, measuring battery performance through non-invasive means will become the acceptable standard, making discharge methods redundant. Typical applications are: checking batteries to reduce false warranty returns, preventing unexpected downtime by assessing battery state-of-health before a breakdown occurs, and improving the reliability of battery operated rental equipment.

Designers of battery rapid-test methods tend to be overly optimists and create targets that may not be achievable outside the laboratory. However, multi-model electrochemical impedance spectroscopy represents a great leap forward and opens the door to an entirely new way of battery testing.

About the Author

Isidor Buchmann, founder and CEO of Cadex Electronics Inc., has studied the behavior of rechargeable batteries in practical, everyday applications for two decades. As an award-winning author of many articles and books on the subject, Mr. Buchmann has delivered battery-related technical papers around the world.

Cadex Electronics Inc. is a Canadian company specializing in the design and manufacturing of advanced battery testing instruments. For product information please visit


Trojan Deep Cycle Battery – Cast On Strap

Ever wonder what goes into the construction of a deep cycle battery? See how Trojan Battery assembles it’s batteries in the following video!

Continuing its effort to expand the public’s understanding of deep-cycle battery technology, Trojan Battery has produced a video demonstrating its new cast-on-strap (COS) manufacturing equipment. Because there are two key elements that distinguish Trojan batteries from the competition – the quality of the materials we use and our assembly/fabrication process – Trojan developed this video to illustrate the advanced technology used to manufacture our batteries and earn them the label “Made in the USA.” While most other battery manufacturers use COS machinery originally designed to produce automotive batteries, Trojan Battery commissioned the development of its COS equipment to specifically manufacture only deep-cycle batteries.

More Trojan video’s



Santa Fe Springs, Calif., April 11, 2012 – Trojan Battery Company, the world’s leading manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries, today launched “Trojan Tips,” its video tutorial series created to provide in-depth information focusing on a variety of battery topics such as deep-cycle battery technologies, maintenance practices, charging procedures and safety when handling batteries. “Trojan Tips” is designed to expand awareness of deep-cycle battery technology.

The first “Trojan Tips” video tutorial can be viewed at

A new “Trojan Tips” video tutorial will premiere each month throughout 2012 on the Trojan Battery corporate Web site. The first “Trojan Tips” video, which debuts today, reviews the various battery technologies available on the market today, and what to consider when selecting a battery for a particular application. The public, as well as Trojan distributors, dealers and customers can log onto the Trojan Web site to view the video tutorials and learn more about a variety of deep-cycle battery topics.

“One of the most important features of electrically powered equipment, and probably one of the most ignored, is the battery,” said Vicki Hall, Trojan’s director of quality and technical services, and host of the “Trojan Tips” educational series. “The battery is the heart of any piece of electric equipment that relies on batteries for power. When a battery fails in a golf car, scissor lift or floor cleaning machine for example, it can make or break a day on the course or impact profitability on the job site. Proper understanding of this technology and maintenance practices are key to getting the most out of a battery investment.”

Trojan developed the “Trojan Tips” series to educate the public on a variety of important battery-related subjects that can positively impact the performance and longevity of deep-cycle batteries used to power electrical equipment. Topics such as selecting the right battery, maintenance techniques and appropriate charging and equalization guidelines are just a few of the issues that will be addressed during the video tutorial series.

About Trojan Battery Company
Trojan Battery Company is the world’s leading manufacturer of deep-cycle batteries and a battery technology pioneer, having built the first golf car battery in 1952. Trojan batteries provide power for a wide variety of golf, industrial, renewable energy, recreational and auxiliary power applications. Founded in 1925, the company is ISO 9001:2008 certified with operations in California and Georgia, and maintains two of the largest and most extensive research and development centers in North America dedicated to engineering new and advanced battery technology. For more information on Trojan Battery Company, visit


Battery Desulphator Technology

We have posted before about how we prevent our expensive battery banks from failing prematurely, and many times getting much better than advertised life and performance. Tricks include frequent water checks, proper charging and discharging, keeping the batteries cool, and preventing sulfation. This saves money, and helps protect the environment.

Desulphators have the following benefits:

Ensures peak battery performance by eliminating the main cause of lead-acid battery problems and failure — sulfation buildup on the battery plates.

Works on all lead-acid batteries including gel cell, antimony, hybrid, calcium plate designs and absorbed glass mat.

Increases battery life span up to three times longer.

Provides greater charge acceptance so batteries recharge faster and with better quality

Helps protect the environment.

Pulsetech Powerpulse 12 Volt


What is the Battery of the Future?

Or, what is the future of the Battery?

Battery technology seems to move at a snails pace. We want fast charging, non-toxic, long life, and light weight, but can we have it all? There are a lot of different technologies available, some at different levels of development and maturity, and some still on the drawing board. From light weight Lithium Polymer and long lasting Nickel Iron, to the old standby Lead Acid, and Flow batteries, the future is murky.

“As a storage device for energy, a battery is notoriously inefficient,” notes Johan de Nysschen, the president of Audi of America, though the automaker is investing in battery-powered vehicles. Today’s lithium ion batteries hold roughly 0.72 megajoules per kilogram. The equivalent amount of gasoline holds 35 times more energy.

Are we searching for the next El Dorado or the Northwest Passage in our efforts to find batteries that last longer, charge quickly, are inexpensive and don’t deteriorate?

The Txchnologist looks at that today in an article entitled: What Do We Need From the Battery of the Future? By David Biello and I thought it might be worth a read.