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.

How to Keep An Idiot Busy – Give Them Low Flow Irrigation

When we got this house, it came with a well.  Ground water.  It watered the yard, front and then back, and all was well.

It kept the lawn green, lush and has been so far pretty easy to care for.

Oh sure, you have to go out from time to time and use the weedeater on the fittings, but you have to use the weedeater on the yard anyway.

This is South Florida.  You drop a seed on the ground and it will grow.

The backyard has hedges, and we were getting some dry spots, so we tweaked the system.  At one point we got a computer to control it all, and put in a third zone.

Zone 3.  It’s the super-duper low flow zone.  Everything is drip-feed and designed to comply with all watering restrictions.

Now mind you, that is a big lot of problems in itself.

You see, Zone 3, also waters my pots.  Pots full of Orchid, Banana, Podocarpus, Bamboo, Mexican Milkweed, and other cuttings that I am giving a start to.

Four pots of Orchid on the fence, four more on the shed.

Figure it all out yet?

If you drive around South Florida, you will see a lot of homes with a red stain on the walls.  Mine has it too.  It’s rust from the ground water.  The easiest fix is to pave it all under and put in gravel then turn off the pump, but I like green around me.  I could never live in the Desert as a result, and my childhood bedroom had tables of flowers, succulents, and vines that I had because I liked it indoors too.

No, really way too much of that stuff.  I moved all that outside.

So the thing with Low Flow Drip Irrigation?  It uses teeny tiny little sprinklers.  About the size of a dime.  The water lines that feed them?  They are plastic lines the size of a fish tank air supply or a straw from a drink in a bar.

You know those small things that you tried to drink from when you got old enough to go to a bar?   Yeah they didn’t work then and they don’t work now.

They all clog.

Oh sure, they’ll work great for a while, but just wait.  You will have to clean them.

Why?  That rust stain.  It’s ugly on a wall.  I solved it by planting screw palms in front of the walls where the sprinkler stained it.  I figure if there is enough water to keep staining my walls, I can grow stuff there.

If it is coating my walls with a film of rust and other sediments, then what is it doing to those tiny lines.

Arteriosclerosis.  Yep, it basically gives my sprinklers a heart attack.

A coating of rust inside the lines that grabs hold and locks down the mud that is in the water.  Stick a pipe into the ground here and you get water, but that water has sand and other muck that gets up into the lines with it.

Slowly it constricts the flow until you are out there and realize that your sprinklers aren’t sprinkling and your orchids are dying.

How do you fix that?

Join me in the yard.  7AM.  I’ll show you.

Remove the sprinkler head, get a thin wire and ream out the water holes.  Oh wait, you can’t pull that off?  No worries, just cut the line and replace the head.  Did that make the line shorter?  Yes.  You’ll have to replace that line to the sprinkler.

How about the junction.  That “T” that you made to connect the two pieces of licorice whip together?  It’s clogged.  When you removed the line and cleaned the sprinkler head it still didn’t sprinkle.  Clean out the “T”.

Hmmm, still not working?  Go back a step.  You connected the lines like a row of “T”s?  Like “TTTT”?  Not too good.  You will have to remove each “T” and clean them out with a thick wire or some fishing line.

Floss those “T”s!

Still no flow?  Ok, blow out the feeder line that the sprinkler’s connected to.  Just don’t point it at yourself.

I lost a pair of jeans and my sneakers that way once.  You see at the end of each line all the mud and rust collects.  I turned on Zone 3, opened the purge valve and sprayed about a gallon of rust on my Jeans and Sneakers.  After dancing around and screaming a pile of obscenities, I closed it back up as the water was already running “clear”.

So how do you spend your time?  Mine is dancing, cursing, and stabbing myself with cutting tools when I try to get these lines clear.

Yeah, I need a better hobby.

Dumpster Diving For Caulk Brands

I am sure this isn’t the weirdest thing I have done.

It’s certainly a bit unusual.

There is of course a point.

You see I went dumpster diving.  I came up with these two tubes of caulk and brought them in to the house.

They’re empty, you couldn’t caulk a thing with them.

Why I got them was because of a recommendation I needed.

I’m excellent with patching things up.  Spackle/Caulk/Paint.  The simple sort of repairs that you get around to eventually when they annoy you enough to do so.

The hardest part of that particular job is getting all the products that you need for the job.  Use the wrong kind of caulk on a wall and you will come back to it later because it fell apart.

I’m going through that in my bathroom.  My own repairs from a year ago are holding up beautifully but the plaster AROUND my patches is falling apart.  When it was patched Back In The Day before we got the house, they used crappy patch.  It’s melting away due to the humidity in the bathroom.  Since this is Florida and the humidity on a dry day starts around that of a wet sponge and falls to about 75% outside, we have to aggressively keep the house dry.  That means Air Conditioning.  We cool the place to 78F, 24 or 25C during the day depending on whether I was outside playing landscaper or if I am sitting under the ceiling fan.

In comparison, I have been told that a British House is heated to 60F/10C during the winters.

I.

Would.

Freeze.

It’s all what you are used to.

But that caulk.  Use the wrong caulk outside and it will either never “cure” (thicken and harden to do its job) or it will simply shrink and shrivel away in a year.  Since the house is made with Concrete Block Walls and covered in Stucco and some Broward County Paint, it needs to be maintained.

Broward County, Florida has some specific colors of paint that you can get from the county to paint the house at free or discounted rates.  Or Had.  I’m not sure.  Personally I rather think that if we didn’t have ground water irrigation, I’d have this place in Zinc Oxide White with blue trim.  A bit of the Greek Isles shining in the sun.

With Rust Colored accents.  Never mind.

But that maintenance needs the patches and the right brands.

When the Window Guys rolled to a stop here, I went out and looked at what they were using to finish the job.  So I stuck my head inside my big blue trash can in the yard, dragged out the empty caulk tubes, and asked the window guys to explain the caulk they used.  A window is bolted into place with thick blue screws, then caulked, then the trim is put in place and stained.  Hopefully it’s all “square” but since this house isn’t, neither are the windows.

But that caulk.  I wanted to make sure that I got The Right Stuff.  Three years ago I caulked the tub using a backing bar and it’s holding but since there is such a large gap, it needs touch up.  There are some random cracks in the wall that I can fix, and a few weird spots here and there.

Then there’s that disintegrating plaster.

Since some of that is outdoors, I need to know what to use.

Indoor caulk is typically water soluble until cured.  Makes it nice and easy to clean up when finished.   Outdoor is oil based and a major hassle to clean, but you won’t be bothering that caulk for a while and you want the extra strength that a slow cure will give you.

So that picture.   The top is Outdoor, the bottom is Indoor.  We will be using that henceforth.

Specifically:

Outdoor Caulk is: OSI Quad Advanced Formula Sealant.

Indoor Caulk is: Loctite Acrylic Caulk with Silicone. 

Both are by Henkel Corporation.

In the past I have used some of these caulks for some oddball things.  I can vouch for that indoor caulk in the past as glue to hold electronic parts together.  There’s a battery pack that I made from old laptop batteries that I held in place with a “good” amount of white caulk.

I also used it to hold a footprint from my old dog Lettie as she was nearing the end of her days.  It’s now in a frame with her collar on my room divider.  That sort of thing won’t mean a thing to anyone but us who cared for her, but the caulk is still holding things together.

But your mileage may vary, and that sort of use is clearly at your own risk.

33 Year Old Air Conditioning Compressors Do Happen

I’m amazed it made it this long. 

Some idiot installed it wrong.  One of the sides was “too close” to the house.  There was a concrete block wall within a foot of the one side and you could never get to it. 

Fins on the compressors are what do the actual work of moving the heat from the hot side of the air compressor to the air that gets pulled through by the fan.  If you can’t keep them clear of dirt, the whole thing gets much less efficient.

33 years is a long way to go without being maintained.

That was one of two sides that got blocked.   There was a small section of wooden security fence next to the second side.  A whole two feet away this time.

Roughly, of course.

It basically means that we ended up paying more to keep the Box of Rocks that is this house cooler.

The new one wasn’t put so close to the house or the fence, and the small section of fence needs to get removed anyway.

We knew it was getting tired anyway.  The fan would kick on and the bearings would grumble.  You could hear it inside the house one or two rooms away.

More amazing was that it kept going, rust and all.

The new one has four sides full of compressor fins and promises a much higher efficiency, 16 SEER if that means anything to you.  I had to look that mess up.  You want more SEERs than fewer.  14 is the minimum in the South of the US, More is better.

Mind you, my inner tinkerer was running wild.  Copper tubing to make radio antennas.  The fan that was dying would make a great fan for the back porch.  It would be fun to push the mosquitoes over into the next yard for a change.

I mean, we can’t use the pool without a fan pointed at it some nights.  Oh No!  You moved out of the fan and now the mosquitoes carried you off! 

But I was warned.  “You don’t want that stuff!  You don’t have the room!”.

Spoil sport.  A tinkerer can dream, can’t he?

Oh and that new compressor?  Cools the house off a degree each 30 minutes when the temperature is 90 outside, and it actually seems to be keeping up with the heat.  That old compressor would struggle and then fail to cool the house.  In the hottest days of the year when it would get to 96, but never hotter if we had a sea breeze, the compressor would run constantly until dusk.

That Box of Rocks that I live in gets warm and stays warm.

Bye Bye Compressor, there’s a new kid in town!

My Old Florida Heater

According to the almanac, which ever one it was that I saw it in, we do get a “winter”.

It is all of two weeks long.

Or as a good friend of mine is fond of saying:  We do get all of the seasons here, just not the ones that stink.

Change that last word to something maybe a little more harsh for accuracy.  Four letters, still starts with an S.

Yeah, that one.

But it is two weeks long.

My own Cherry Hill, NJ would descend into Fall somewhere around mid October, Freezing temperatures in December, but sometimes not until New Years.

Give or take a bit.

It would warm up to spring in late April, and by June we were in the mid to upper 80s.

If Memory Serves Me Right.

With Global Warming, that may be shorter, you’ll have to ask someone who stayed behind.

Yes, there is Global Warming, No, being a Republican does not excuse you from that.

The weather up there gave me a lot of time to be indoors.  After all, you didn’t really want to be out in all that cold slop did you?

We had a house with a gas heater.  It was about as tall as a full grown man, so to my childhood size, it was big.  There were six large burners in it that ran front to back, and were about three feet long.  Just shy of a meter.

When it kicked off, it would FWOOMPF! and light up solid from the back to front.  There was a port hole that fascinated me as a kid because Bright! and Hot!, Daddy! 

To me a heater should be that big.  Especially something meant to heat up a split level home.  Those houses weren’t all that efficient to heat or cool.

But down here I hear rumors of some hearty souls that brave our long two week long Winters and month long Spring and Autumn, yes, you guessed it, Without A Heater!

Hey, it gets all the way down to 34 here!

When they replaced our heating and cooling the other day, I took the chance to take some pictures.  The pictures came only when I looked in and was surprised just how little things were.

That picture is actually my entire heater. 

Entire.

It’s about six inches square.  Look at the palm of your hand and spread your fingers as wide as you can get them.  About that big.

That’s all.  Two layers of “resistance heating”. 

I think I have had floor heaters that were larger.  You know, those things that women would stash under their desks in office buildings because they have already put on three sweaters and it’s cold in there will youturnupTHAT DAMN HEAT!

Those women.  Five minutes later and they’re complaining it’s too hot.

But here, that dinky little six inch square of wires?  That’s it.  That heats my house.  1200 square feet, a whole 110 square meters.  Two bedrooms, 1 bath. 

I was fascinated by it like a Great Dane would be with a Kitten.

A KITTEN!????  Awwwww!

Yes, a heater, er a kitten.

Goodbye Old A/C

Have you ever had one of those lifetimes?

The roof, the windows, and now the Air Conditioning?

Seriously, lets take a breather.

After the windows got removed from the house, and yes I mean all of them, we thought we could rest.  There is still one window from the old set to be done, there is still caulking and patching to be done, and the sills are not yet in place, but for the most part we’re there.

Just not inspected.

Then, wandering out to the laundry one day, I spotted something.

A Puddle.

Under the air handling unit there is a box.  The water was dribbling out from the air handling unit and ponding under the box.  I have since learned that ugly plywood boxes are the way of doing things here, and that kind of makes sense since the stuff is common and easy to work with.

They just don’t like getting wet.

The Air Conditioning in this house was installed some time around 1982, give or take a bit.  The air handling unit “gave out” about two years ago and the insides were replaced.  We were warned it wouldn’t “Hold Water” much longer, so I guess Two Years is Much Longer.

The thing basically rusted out. 

I guess you simply can’t get every last bit of the water out of the air when you live in a climate where clothes can get wetter by removing them from the clothes dryer.

The Air Handling unit basically has a collection bin that feeds into a plastic water pipe that drops down and out of the wall of the house to the carport.  It’s routed out into the garden and creates a little puddle where it waters the orange tree with the water that we “made” in cooking, cleaning, and showering.

Now it will be a new air handling unit, compressor, and thermostat.  Maybe some duct work. 

All because you really can’t live in a climate like this without it.   Air Conditioning is what made South Florida inhabitable.  Sure, they drained the swamps – which was not completely the best idea in the world, but the population didn’t boom until Air Conditioning became reasonably priced.

Proof of that is walk around any given neighborhood from Key West to Jupiter, Florida at the dinner hour and listen.   You will hear compressors.  It is never silent.

Except my house, today.  No compressors.  Just construction.