Arduino-Based Power Failure Alert System

arduinoPowerFailBox

When the power went out at his parents’ shop and ruined the contents of their fridge, [Lauters Mehdi] got to work building a custom power failure alert system to prevent future disasters. Although some commercial products address this problem, [Lauters] decided that he could build his own for the same cost while integrating a specific alert feature: one that fires off an SMS to predefined contacts upon mains power failure.

The first step was to enable communication between an Arduino Micro and a Nokia cell phone. His Nokia 3310 uses FBus protocol, but [Lauters] couldn’t find an Arduino library to make the job easier. Instead, he prototyped basic communication by running an Arduino Uno as a simple serial repeater to issue commands from the computer directly to the phone, and eventually worked out how to send an SMS from the ‘duino. [Lauters] then took the phone apart and tapped into the power button to control on/off states. He also disconnected the phone’s battery and plugged it into an attached PCB. The system operates off mains power but swaps to a 1000mAH 9V backup battery during a power outage, logging the time and sending out the SMS alerts. A second message informs the contacts when power has been restored.

Head over to [Lauters’s] project blog for schematics and photos, then see his GitHub for the source code. If you want to see other SMS hacking projects, check out the similar build that keeps a remote-location cabin warm, or the portable power strip activated by SMS.

Bicycle Generator for Emergency Electricity

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[Hackett’s] back at it, this time with some practical advice for the next power outage to hit your city: why not prepare for the worst by building your own bike generator? You’ll no doubt recall that hurricane Sandy devastated New York City’s grid, even flooding substations and causing massive explosions. [Hackett] experienced the Sandy outages first-hand, and knows the value of having this simple build ready to roll.

The project uses a permanent magnet DC motor (around 250 watts), which you can find in electric wheelchairs or other mobility scooters. His setup’s gear reduction spins the motor 50 times for each revolution of the bike wheel. The apparatus [Hackett] built to press-fit the wheel to the motor’s spindle is particularly clever: a threaded rod adjusts the position of the motor, which is bolted onto a hinged platform, with the other part of the hinge welded to a larger frame that supports the bike wheel.

The motor is connected to a home-built charge controller based on Mike Davis’s design, which monitors the deep-cycle batteries and both kills the charge when it’s full as well as turns charging back on after it’s reached a set level of discharge. The rest is gravy: with the deep cycle battery connected to a power inverter, [Hackett] can plug in and keep phones charged, music playing, and even (some of) the lights on. If you’re a fan of [Hackett’s] straightforward, practical presentation style, check out his tripod build and his demonstration of stripping pipes of their galvanization.

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The BatBox: Portable power, polished and professional. Plus smoke!

batBox

About the size of a shoebox and stuffed with a compact battery/inverter combo, the BatBox packs a mean wallop at 480Wh. What else was [Bill Porter] supposed to do with his free time? He’s already mailed out electronic wedding invitations and built custom LED centerpieces for the reception. He and his wife [Mara] then made an appearance in a Sunday roundup tying the knot by soldering a circuit together. Surely the LED Tetris Tie would have been in the ceremony had it existed. This time, though, [Bill’s] scrounged up some leftover electronics to put a realistic spin on a Minecraft favorite: the BatBox.

A pair of 18V high energy density batteries connect up to a 12V regulator, stepping them down to drive a 110VAC inverter. The BatBox also supplies 5V USB and 12VDC output for portable devices. Unfortunately, [Bill]’s first inverter turned out to be a low-quality, voltage-spiking traitor; it managed to let the smoke out of his fish tank’s LED bar by roasting the power supply. Undeterred, [Bill] pressed on with a new, higher-quality inverter that sits on an acrylic shelf above the batteries. OpenBeam aluminum extrusion seals up the remainder of the enclosure, completing the BatBox with a frame that looks both appealing and durable.

Roll your own battery backup system

[Chris] and [Dom] wanted to build their own battery backup system on the cheap. They were very creative in sourcing the parts, and ended up putting together a battery-backed CCTV system for about eighty bucks.

Since short power outages are fairly common in the area this battery backup makes sense. We’ve seen some pretty gnarly whole-house systems but this is more of a novelty. That’s a good thing, because the hacking duo decided to reuse batteries which were headed for the scrap yard. They’re connected to a trickle charger which makes sure that they’re continually topped off when mains power is energized. But when there’s a blackout a relay switches an outlet box over to the inverter (also a used part).

The system is outlined in the entertaining video after the break. You’ll see they guys show off the completed build, followed by a walk through of the circuit they designed and how it functions.

Continue reading “Roll your own battery backup system”

Simple trick for replacing Game Boy cart batteries while retaining game saves

[Adr990] wants to make sure his Game Boy game saves aren’t lost to aging batteries. They’re stored in SRAM with a small coin cell inside the cartridge to keep the memory energized when the game is not being played. But if you pull out the battery in order to replace it the data will be lost in the process. It turns out that you can hot-swap the battery without too much effort. As shown in the video after the break, he disassembled the case of the cartridge, then replaced the battery while the Game Boy is switched on. The edge connector feeds power which will keep the SRAM active while the backup battery is removed. We’re sure this could be done with a bench supply as well, but you’ll need to do your own testing before risking those prized game saves.

The other option is to backup your SRAM before replacing the batteries. We’ve seen an AVR-based cartridge dumper, and also one that uses an Arduino. Both should be able to read and write SRAM data. Continue reading “Simple trick for replacing Game Boy cart batteries while retaining game saves”

Whole house battery backup used for lower power bills

[Photonicinduction] has an impressive battery backup installation that powers his whole house. Unlike a standalone emergency generator which would require you to hook up all of the device you want to run, this setup sits in between the power meter and the breaker box, ready to step in when needed.

But get this, he’s not just using it as a backup system. It kicks in during the day to run everything including two freezers, a refrigerator, his lights, television, and computers. That’s because the price per kilowatt-hour is quite a bit higher during the day than at night. So after 10:30pm the system patches his house back into the grid and charges the batteries for use the next day.

What you see here is just a portion of his system. The control board is not pictured but is very impressive, including a network of relays which are used as a fail-safe system so that there are no conflicts between mains and the battery system. Check out his 15-minute walk through of the system after the break. Continue reading “Whole house battery backup used for lower power bills”

Beef up your UPS

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[Surferdude] was unhappy with the decreasing life of his aging uninterruptible power supply. He decided to beef it up using marine batteries. He extended the battery connections outside of the UPS case using #10 wire and swapped the two 12 volt gel cells with the heavy duty lead-acid batteries. Doing so upgraded the device from 20 amp-hours to 84 amp-hours at a cost of about $160. If you’re thinking about taking this on yourself, pay attention to the countinuous output rating of your UPS to prevent a fire risk.