In Florida Even Your House Gets Sunburn

We’ve been here long enough, it’s time to do some home repairs.

Yeah, don’t start on the kitchen.  Replacing a kitchen towel may mean a $30,000 upgrade and color change there.

It’s hard to find a good carpenter, and once you do, you don’t tell the neighbors until the job is almost done and you’re satisfied with the results.

We’ll let you know…

So the squat box of rocks that has weathered a couple hurricanes, more tropical storms, countless thunderstorms and sunny days needs a bit of care.  That soffit that is in the back of the house has made me nervous for years, and my carpentry skills are not up to that job.

It makes you look around.  Take stock of things.

With the sun beating down on the house most days of the year, things get exposed.  Just like I did.

The other day I was out skating.  I do that.  I have been doing that for 21,000 miles, 30,000 Km, 25 years… It was one of those low humidity days where there was just blue in the sky.  The Orb has chased the clouds away.  Sunglasses required.

My short 9 mile workout was fun, the winds were just enough to cool, not to challenge.   I got back in the Jeep and realized that I Got Sun.

Up North in Philadelphia, I would do 30 to 55 mile workouts without sunblock and never think twice.  Down here, I won’t do that again.  The sunblock sits in my skate bag and exposed areas will get that.

Driving home I notice that the front hoods of cars and roofs are often bleached and faded, although mine is not, luckily.

All that sun you folks come down here to experience takes a toll.

Under the lanai, the paint has faded the least.  We took a picture of that to the paint store, they made a guess at the color, and found a very close match of the current state.  Then ran that picture through a reverse-aging process and found something that looks very dark.  In the light, they look quite a bit different to what has been bleached now.

Then again, I see my own hair going a bit blond due to that same sun when I am skating.  I’ll wear a helmet, I promise, especially since there’s a lot of chaff on the trail lately.

Personally, I would prefer pure white on the house and blue trim, but that would make it look like a refugee from Santorini in Greece.

On the other hand… maybe painting the entire house in the same rust color from the ground water we water the house with might be a good idea.

Hmmmm…..

Just remember if you can’t use sunblock, you’re going to have to paint it.

 

…Even your own sorry hide!

Fixing Lights with LM7800 Voltage Regulators

These LM7800 series chips are simple.

You choose the kind you want.  3, 5, 6, 9, 12 Volt Output and more.

The name corresponds to the voltage.  If you want 5 Volts DC like a USB port you need LM7805.

12 Volts like your car radio?  LM7812.

There are three pins.

Ground is the middle.  Negative wire.

The outside pins on both side?  Those are interchangeable – you choose.

  • One pin is your Positive Wire to the appliance/radio/light.
  • The other pin comes from the power supplying it.

Either AC or DC.  It doesn’t care.

Limitation is that if you want 5 Volts out, you need to feed it about 7 Volts in.  A little more in than out.  That loss is vented off as heat, so bolt it to the side of the container, preferably to metal.

Another way to describe it is that you can flip it over either way and start soldering.

Pin 1 Output Positive.

Pin 2 Ground – Negative for both Input and Output.

Pin 3 Input Positive or AC Signal.

The backstory is that there are a lot of Solar Powered LED Lights out there, as well as a lot of LED outdoor lighting.  They wear out.  Batteries last a year or two.  They get dropped and stop working like what happened with me this time.  They get hit by an errant pole or baseball.

You get the picture.

Most Low Voltage Outdoor Lighting works on 12 Volts AC.

Most LED lights work with 3 to 6 Volts DC.

I tested my light that broke, the LED still worked.  It was as bright as the “working” lights when I plugged it into USB power at 5 Volts.

That meant I could fix it with a 25 cent chip and a little time.  Those lights are about 20 to 50 dollars.  They can be more expensive.

I chose chip and time.

It all fit inside the original housing once I cut the original power regulator and removed it from the housing.  It wasn’t even glued in place.

Soldered everything in place, and I now have a light for my porch.

Easy Peasy!

Making A Pallet into Planter Boxes Freestyle

I guess you could say that this all started with Hurricane Irma.

We made it through fine.  The folks elsewhere had much more to deal with than we did here, because, we had been planning for it since we moved here in 2006.

However, we did learn in the two weeks power was out that we needed to upgrade our generator.

That generator has arrived and came on a pallet.

If you ever got something that came on a pallet, you also know that the pallets tend to stick around for a while.  If you don’t use the wood up, you have to chop it up and find a way to toss it out.

Being the creative type, I also know that the pallets are a great source of wood for projects.  Some are quite elaborate, some simple.

This Project Can Be Completed In An Hour.

Ok, so Caveat – you need tools.  I used a battery powered Sawsall and a battery powered screwdriver.

I did say we were prepared. Those tools were rescued from people who don’t realize that you can both replace the battery pack and you can retro fit the packs with fresh batteries.  So thanks to whoever it was that left them outside with a sign saying “Free to a good home” because yeah, I can fix that.

That pallet pictured is marked off where I cut the thing apart.  With 12 cuts into the wood itself, plus some extra cuts between the slats to remove them from the base, the whole thing was in pieces in about 15 minutes.

Then I took a few pictures to show my handywork.  The thing is that with the right tools, this is trivial.  The Sawsall is like an electrically powered hack saw that is a must have for a homeowner.  I used mine the other day to take down 7 palm trees in the yard, and while there are at least a dozen more that need to go, the tool is great for the job.

I’m still on the “first charge” of the battery pack after downing the trees and cutting up this pallet.

You will notice that I am not giving dimensions to this project, either.  Pallet wood is never very good.  Mine was brittle, and the pieces were there to hold a generator steady, not to be pretty for use in furniture or planter boxes.  The cuts have to be made as a Judgement Call.  You have to figure out for yourself where the cuts go.  You also have to determine for yourself whether you want to use a somewhat dangerous tool to cut through the nails that hold it all together – Standard Internet Warning Applies – Do This At Your Own Risk and Take Precautions to Keep Yourself Safe.

Or get Mommy or Daddy to do it.  I’m not taking responsibility for any damage or injury, you’re an adult, figure out the tool use.

Ok, so I sound like your big brother.  I am someone’s big brother, and my kid sister will tell you that I have my own way of teaching.

Boy did I open myself up there….

So once the rough cuts are done, you need pieces to reassemble these boxes into the end

result.  The pallets are made with a semi-solid deck on one side, and three support beams in the bottom.  Those three support beams are where the cuts happen.  They are also going to be the easiest place to make your cuts since you already have four out of six sides of a box assembled for you.

Take some of the extra wood from the scattered pieces, and nail them in place.  The scattered pieces were in differing levels of usability – some were split before I got to them, others were quite solid and could be screwed into the thing to serve as a base.

I used the electric screwdriver and some “Drywall Screws” and it was done in short order.  Be sure to use enough screws to hold the boxes together.  I used two on each end of the plank, and two in the middle.

From what I can see, the only thing that will take these apart will be time, water, and termites.  They’re sturdy enough to hold my weight, although you may not have that luck depending on wood, weight, and other variables.  In fact, forget I said it.  They don’t have to be tested that thoroughly, don’t go standing on it.

(Standard internet warning applies – blahblahblah don’t hurt yourself blahblahblah)

At any rate, the only other oddball thing I have been considering was to line these with some landscaper’s cloth to hold soil in place while the boxes are hung on my fence in the yard.  That is not strictly necessary since I’m also considering using one or more of these to hold orchids.

You can also paint them if you desire, but I’m leaving them “wood” colored because my fence is rather “wood” colored as well.

But yes, I got these boxes done in under an hour.  Electric tools help.  Using a rip saw and #2 Phillips Screwdriver by hand would make this a rather painful process.   As is my right thumb got a blister from the Sawsall vibrations and I felt it the next day.

Just be careful.  I’d like you to visit again some day without thinking this fool gave me an idea that I did and I broke a nail or something else doing.

 

Hey, tools can be fun, but they can be dangerous.

Training Rack at Lowes or Lost in Hardware

To train a Herding dog you have to keep their minds busy.  Physical exercise and mental exercise.  You know, like a Greek Athlete.

I don’t think that my little McNab SuperDog (TM), Rack will ever throw a discus or take a philosophy course but he’s an amazing creature.

He just wants to help.  He wants to be involved.

He wants to come along.

But we have a long term project.  Low voltage lighting.

You know that weird stuff that can run off of a car battery.  Since it runs at low voltage it doesn’t need quite as much protection and anyone can do it.

We figure that we have about 40 watts of the stuff and you can read on my front porch at midnight due to them.

I have a couple of those three AAA battery lights that are basically a flashlight, and they can be converted over to this system.  I have done that already to a coach lamp that is on my fence.

The rest come piece after piece.

This weekend was a Big Project though.  Run 20 feet of conduit, sink a lamppost in the front of the house, and rehang the mailbox.

Don’t think it’s much?  Stand outside in the front yard holding a post for a solid hour when reinforcements are sent off to the store to get some quick drying concrete.

Since it is winter, do it in full sun, on a cloudless day at 80F/26C.  Give or take a C.

All this activity had Rack confused.  He wanted to come along.  Anywhere.  When he thinks he’s taking a ride in the CAR!!! he starts to burble and basically speak in tongues.  Its comical.  He starts running wind sprints back and forth from the front to the back door whining and making weird coffee-percolator sounds.

Sometimes he is right.

We stopped work so we could take him to the Vet.  That’s fine because it’s one of his favorite places to go.  We went, he got fussed over and we came home.

But there was a stop first.  We needed another piece of conduit to glue to the first pieces laid in the trench I had dug that morning with Rack sitting at the front door looking hopeful.

We took Rack.

You see, Lowes Hardware has a policy of allowing dogs into the store.  This seems to be as official as can be, and it isn’t like some idiot taking a dog into a supermarket, this is a hardware store.

Securing a cart, I picked Rack up off the ground and placed him in the blue plastic apparatus.

He didn’t like that.  Immediately tried to get out.  I did because I didn’t want to be asked to leave because my dog decided to water the plants.

We walked into the store with a 47 pound black and white dog being disrupted by the rattling of the cart across the asphalt.   Getting into the store, he wanted no more of that.

When I say SuperDog (TM) I mean it.  He is a McNab Dog.  One of the most intelligent dogs on the face of the Earth.  But he is fearful.  Fearful means to run.

Or in this case, to leap.

From a sitting position.

Inside of a cart.

Right in front of the orchids.

When he landed on the concrete floor, he was flat, legs pointing to the cardinal points on the compass.  Confused.  Looking very surprised that It Worked.

I put him back in the cart and looped a thumb under his harness and we went about our business.

He was thinking “Hmmm.  To attempt this again or not?  Not completely sure.”

But, by the time we left, he was enjoying himself.  Not acting quite so crazed.  He actually smiled at a kid walking past.

Yes, certain dogs smile.  Others grimace.  I can tell the difference.

But this was a training expedition.  Rack got about a C+ grade.  A little better than average.   Form on the High Dive was a solid 9.

Not olympic form, but a good solid performance.

That’s what training dogs is about.  Taking steps and keeping their minds engaged.

Sometimes all it takes is two sections of PVC Conduit, and a couple bell end 90 degree sections.

(You, British people!  Stop giggling, that’s what they’re called here!)

Using Aftermarket 18650 Lithium Batteries in a Rechargeable Garden Tool

Let me start out with saying the lawyer words:

This is at your own risk.

The batteries I am using are Lithium Ion batteries scavenged from (one or more) laptops.  If you puncture, overheat, or otherwise damage one of these batteries it is possible that they may catch fire.

Do not short circuit these batteries.  Use a charger designed for these batteries specifically.

This is at your own risk.

The Science Words:

The batteries were scavenged from laptops, and you can get 18650 batteries online that will be of full capacity.  I am using scavenged batteries because I had a couple old laptops that were going to be recycled.

From what I have learned, you can not charge these Lithium batteries in series.  Connected as a block, the batteries will overheat when charged and they may catch fire.  The circuitry in a laptop will charge the individual cells separately.

They are 3.7 VDC cells, which makes them attractive for this project.  The saw took 14.4 VDC which is four cells.  I had 4 2 cell blocks which gave me more amperage to push into the saw.

I get around all the warnings doing it this way because the cells can be removed, and charged individually in a charger made for 18650 Lithium Ion batteries.

Or so it says when I bought it from a Chinese Supplier – and we all know how trustworthy Chinese Suppliers can be.

Or not.

Sarcasm aside, here’s how I did it.

I had a Saw that was given to me as an oddball item.  No battery pack, No Charger.

I had all these batteries.

I ordered the battery holder (that black thing with the blue cells in them) for emergency purposes.

Connecting four batteries gives me 14.4 VDC so I was able to test the saw by connecting the terminals directly.  The motor worked.

Waiting for a reason to heat up the hot glue gun, I decided to do this one sunday morning.  It took me about an hour.

Step 1 disassembly.

Remove all screws and set the mechanicals aside.  I was lucky that the parts did not fall out onto the table when I went to open the saw, and nothing was plastic welded together.

Luckily, the electronics were simple, and the plug into which the original battery pack was to fit was obvious.  I could slide that connector out and solder my battery pack to that connector permanently, glue the battery pack in place, and screw things back together.

The placement of the new battery pack was by eyeball, and made sense to me.  Your placement will probably vary.  See my last picture for what I’m getting at.

Step 2 solder the connection.

I realized I could thread the two wires from the battery pack through the air vents in the side of the saw without drilling holes.  Of course, if you are modifying a different tool, your placement will vary.

Using Hot Glue, I was able to attach the battery holder to the side of the saw and only covered up one of the multiple screw holes on the side.

When that was placed, then I could connect the block’s wires to the Red, Positive connector to the Saw’s Electronics with Solder.  Red-to-red – to keep the polarity of my connections correct.

I then did the same for the Black, Negative connection.  Again, Black-to-Black to keep the polarity of my connections correct.

I did a test to make sure that the wires were soldered to the connector block like in the picture above.  The motor groaned to life, the wires held, and I noted that the batteries needed a charge.

I then disconnected all of the batteries and wrangled the connector block back into place, seated the wires, and screwed the Saw back together.

Step 3 the finished product.

Once I seated the wires inside the saw back in their original channels, I could close the unit up back as normal.

After it was placed back together, I tested the saw once again and everything worked.

Great!

Step 4 Why I did it this way instead of getting a battery pack.

So yeah I could have thrown money at this saw.  The thing was that I knew that I would not need it much.  Having a lot of these batteries around, as well as the battery packs from last Hurricane Season, I knew that I could rig a lot of this sort of thing together.

I had a couple of other tools in the shed that I could have done this with, but the Saw was the only oddball that ran at 14.4VDC.  The other tools were powered by 18VDC and we had gotten a charger and a battery for them.

So my red saw being the only odd man out was going to get “hacked”.

Safety would dictate not doing it this way, but I do have the batteries, and I did have a little better than basic knowledge of electronics being able to replace individual components on an electronic appliance.

“I do board level repairs” on electronics, when they are readily apparent as to what needs to be replaced.  This kind of a mod is trivial.

It rendered it “more safe” because the batteries are taken out of the unit and charged separately.

But ultimately this kind of thing is at your own risk since it is what a pharmaceutical would call an Off Label Use of the product.

But really ….

Converting a Solar Light to Low Voltage Using a LM7805 Voltage Regulator

Standard Internet Warranty Applies here:  Ramblingmoose.com takes no responsibility for damage.  If you wire this up incorrectly, shock hazards may occur.  You could burn yourself with the soldering iron.  You could also cut your finger and give yourself a “boo boo”.  We are not responsible.  We’re simply saying “Hey, it worked for me, it’s easy, give it a try!”.  The parts needed are commonly available online and can be read about in depth at this wikipedia page.

This is actually my Second Conversion.  The first one is in the first picture.

We’ve probably all chewed through a collection of solar powered lights for the yard by now.

I say chewed through because they generally do not last very long.  The first wave of lights were particularly awful.  Under powered, lit with a single LED that is about as bright as an indicator light on a stereo, and connections that are not suitable to be used outdoors,  you may get a year out of these if you were lucky.

Then there came another wave with brighter LEDs, but they wouldn’t last long due to the batteries failing in about a year.

There is a theme to this.  Batteries have a set number of times that they can be recharged.  No matter how cheap or expensive the light, if that battery that is being charged by the solar panel dies, the light is normally dead.

Besides, everything being cheap Chinese garbage manufacturing, you can’t generally get better life out of this stuff.

We went to a “rather nice” light the last time this happened, and got a year out of it.  Since I liked the fixture, I tried soldering in a collection of batteries to power the thing.  After the second try the light failed.  I set it aside hoping for a “Bright Idea”, pun intended.

Our own house ended up going with Low Voltage LED Security Lights.  My front porch is now bright enough to read from the light, and the power consumption is all of 4 watts at 12 volts AC.  Doing the math, that works out to 4/10th of a watt at 120 VAC out of the plug.  Adding the traditional 10 percent for error, we’re consuming 1/2 watt of mains power to light a room worth of porch.

Next to nothing to get our security lighting sorted out.

But those solar lights were waiting to be used.

Here is what I did…

The Solar Lights had a battery pack inside of them that consisted of three AA rechargeable cells.  Maximum voltage would be 4.5 VDC.  I had 10 L7805 Voltage Regulators here, and I decided to try one out on the solar light.  It would be over powering the light at the high end, but since the light was either being reused or disposed of, if I got a couple months out of it I was happy.

TS7805 Voltage Regulator.  Picture from Wikipedia.

A L7805 is a voltage regulator that puts out 5 Volts DC.  I had a low voltage supply for the yard at 12 Volts AC.  The wiring was simple, I put one together to see if it worked.

It did work.  It worked since the Light had three cells in its battery pack – 4.5 volts of AA batteries.  If your light is a different voltage being supplied, use a different voltage regulator!

I allowed it to run in the intervening two and a half months and it was still working.

So the L7805 converted the 12 VAC to 5VDC plus some heat.

The circuitry is dead simple.  Three conductors on the L7805.  The center conductor is the ground.  If you connect the positive line from the input to the first conductor, and the positive line to your appliance (my light) to the third conductor, you are done.

The entire soldering job took me less time than it took for me to take the pictures for this article.

These chips also come in differing voltage output from 3V to well more than I need at 40V. They all work the same way.  The voltage comes into the center conductor as ground and one of the two outside conductors as positive.  Voltage goes out from center conductor as negative and the other outside conductor as positive.

The proof is in my yard.  That easy.

Just remember, match the voltage regulator output voltage to the supply voltage of your lamp or other appliance.

Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

Intermediate Spanish on Aisle Five

I took up Spanish on my own.

Mind you, living in South Florida, there are some obvious benefits that would not happen if you lived in some less diverse area.

I had five years of French in Junior High School and Senior High School. It has been long enough that most of that is long gone, save the pronunciation of certain Spanish words. I use that Back of The Throat R that the French do, and my Spanish “Ere” are no where near a trill like you would hear on the streets of Ciudad de Mexíco or Buenos Aires.

After the year or so of using Duolingo, watching Spanish Language TV, and listening to Spanish Language radio, I’m firmly ensconced in the Intermediate Spanish realm.

That is to say I speak good Plaza Sésamo. Get too complex and I am happy to look itup.

I’m lucky though. The friends I have that are not Bilingual are willing to help by giving me things to listen to and to read.

I’m also highly “Project Driven” as would be expected from a Project Manager.

We have a lot of little projects to finish here at the little house on the quirky little island known as Wilton Manors, Florida.

Quite a few projects actually. Way too many.

Recently we took on wiring the yard with low voltage lights.

Being who we are, those low voltage lights have to be LED lights. Have to be as in It Is Under Pain Of Death That We Are Green And Use LED Lights.

Truly. Over the top.

But the nice thing is that they use practically no power to do what the security lights that are there do with old fashioned Incandescent bulbs.

The existing bulbs are 110 Volt, 40 Watt. Two of them. On full, that is 80 watts. The equivalent is running at 1/10th the voltage and 1/4th of the wattage – a total of 1/40th of the current to make the same light.

If my math is correct.

But first, we have to get the things. That means a trip to The Big Box Home Improvement Store of your choice.

We did hit both. Bought the gear we thought we needed.
The transformer was already here. That was found online. Light bulbs and fixtures were at the big box stores along with the wire we needed.

One of the things I’m doing to learn Spanish is watch some kid’s shows. Ones for a pre-teen audience. Why? Because the sentence structure is just about where my own Spanish is at. Never mind that the songs that they put in these shows with all those flashing lights and images are guaranteed to be an ear-worm to be stuck in your head to come out at inappropriate moments.

So here I am, all 6 Foot 4 of me, walking down the aisles of the big box store quoting lines from a song that an elementary school kid would recite.

Vamos Herramientas! Lets Go Tools!

I spot the hand tool aisle. We could use some parts to the electric drill…

I’m told I have lost my mind…

Brinco Salto, Si Vamonos!

No Hay Que Tardar!
De Prisa!
A Trabajar!

Y a Reparar!

Leap Hop, Yes we go!

There is no delay!

Hurry!
To work!
And to repair!

And I am trotting through the big store with this song on a loop inside my head as I go past the paint, ceiling fans, sprinkler parts and find the low voltage lighting.

And I realize that I’m stuck in a silly song that doesn’t quite sound right in my native English.

Then again I have never seen that TV show, Handy Manny, in English. There are some shows that I have never seen in English, only in Spanish.

Who can resist a story where a sarcastic blue hammer is telling a baby blue whale to go back into the sea?

We grab more treasures to be buried in the yard.

Some black wire for low voltage use only.

Another two lamps that promise to light my palm tree.

A “straight hoe” that brings some childish giggles at the name.

Everything gets into the cart as I stand there like a toddler reading the words off the box out loud. After all everyone would want to hear a child say their new words, why not a full grown adult with a new toy of a new language?

“Contenido del paquete! That means Package Contents!”
I hear a quiet groan, then, “Great, can you grab this?”

“Sí! Voy a ayudar! Yes, I am going to help!”

“Here, have the instructions. They’re in Spanish too!”

So I’m now being distracted with a parts explosion and installation instructions on how to install a post lamp in the yard. Pretty simple actually.

But it gives me a new world of words to learn.

Cable de la lampara – Fixture Wire

Advertencia – Warning

Precaución – Caution

As strange as it sounds, reading the words off of the wall helps a lot, and those boring installation instructions that we gloss over turn out to be a trove of new Palabras – Words.

I find myself reading the Spanish on the shelves first for the challenge promising myself I won’t read the English.

We go through checkout and get home. As we’re relaxing and cooling down for the afternoon, I pick up another piece of reading and dig down deep. It’s the instructions for how to assemble, mount, and install a ceiling fan!

How exciting, huh?

Take the learning where you can. If you don’t have anyone nearby who can help you with your new language, don’t be afraid to look in unorthodox places. After all, Radio Martí broadcasts news from the US Government all in Spanish, and while propaganda is never balanced, it can help you learn, especially when you have a live link here.

Ahora, donde está mis instrucciónes?

Now, Where are my instructions?

 

Oh!  And that blue whale?  Of course the 10 hand tools and the people of the little beach town made a thing out of available fabric and sticks and were able to save the baby whale by walking it down the beach to the sea.  Because that is how things end in a happy little kid’s show in Spanish.