Parts bin Emergency Lights Deal with Tornado’s Aftermath

Sometimes having a deep inventory of parts in your shop is a pain – the clutter, the dust, the things you can’t rationally justify keeping but still can’t bear to part with. But sometimes the parts bin delivers and lets you cobble together some emergency lighting when a tornado knocks out your power.

It has been hard to avoid discussions of the weird weather in the US this winter. The eastern half of the country has had record warm temperatures, the west has been lashed by storms, and now December tornadoes have ripped through Texas and other parts of the south, with terrible loss of life and wide-ranging property damage. [TheTimmy] was close enough to one massive EF4 tornado to lose power on Saturday night, and after the charm of a candlelight Christmas evening wore off, he headed to the shop. He had a bunch of sealed lead acid batteries from old UPSs and a tangle of 12V LED modules, and with the help of some elastic bands and jumper clips he wired up a bunch of lights for around the house. Safer than candles by a long shot, and more omnidirectional than flashlights to boot.

The power came back before the batteries ran out of juice, so we don’t get to see any hacks for recharging batteries in a grid-down scenario. Still, it’s good to see how a deep parts bin and good mindset can make a positive impact on an uncomfortable situation. We’ve seen similar hacks before, like this hacked cordless tool battery pack or powering a TV with 18650 batteries. Be sure to share your story of epic power-outage hacks in the comments below.

Quick Network Bridge Gets Off-grid Home Back Online

Off-grid living isn’t for everyone, but it has gotten easier in recent years. Cheap solar panels and wind turbines let you generate your own power, and there are plenty of strategies to deal with fuel, water and sanitation. But the one thing many folks find hard to do without – high-speed internet access – has few options for the really remote homestead. [tlankford01] wants to fix that and is working on an open-source mesh network to provide high-speed internet access to off-grid communities.

But first he had to deal with a major problem. With high-speed access provided by a Clearwire wireless network, streaming content to his two flat-screen TVs wasn’t a problem. At least until Sprint bought Clearwire and shut down the service in early November. Another ISP covered his area, but his house lies in a depression out of line of sight of their tower. So he rigged up a bridge between the WiMAX network and his lab. The bridge sits on a hill in sight of the ISP’s tower 3.5 miles away. Solar panels, a charge controller and deep-cycle batteries power everything, and a wireless link down the hill rounds out the build.

This is obviously a temporary solution, and probably wouldn’t last long in winter weather. But it’s working for now, and more importantly it’s acting as proof of concept for a larger mesh system [tlankford01] has in mind. There are plenty of details on what that would look like on his project page (linked above), and it’s worth a look too if you’re interested in off-grid connectivity.

Southwest Tour: [Mikey Sklar’s] homestead

While on our southwest tour, we were sure to make some time to go visit [Mikey Sklar]. He’s been a friend of hackaday for a long time, both as a writer and as someone who sends us cool projects. As you may have noticed from some of the posts we’ve done on his projects, [Mikey] lives in the middle of the desert and is attempting to lead a fairly self sustaining life style. He and [Wendy] showed us their gardens, the hot spring on their property,and some cool building materials they’ve utilized. We got to tour [Mikey’s] workshop and check out how his solar system was set up. It was pretty cool seeing “da Pimp” being used to revive old batteries. [Mikey] even mentioned that he’s building in a lot of safeguards in the next revision based on the feedback he got online.

What I really enjoyed about talking with [Mikey] and [Wendy] was that they didn’t act like they had it all figured out. They’re approaching this whole lifestyle as a learning adventure as you can hear when [Mikey] talks about their bees.

Vertical axis wind turbine update

[Faroun] sent in his updated vertical wind turbine. After running his previous one for a while, he felt that the motor he was using was inadequate, it required too high of RPM to produce what he wanted. He didn’t want to gear it up, fearing that the light construction couldn’t sustain rotation.

He built a new version that has the same surface area of fins, but much higher RPM. The new one, dubbed V8 is made mainly from PVC and an Amatek DC motor. His goal was to produce 100 watts at 35km/h. He doesn’t really state whether or not he achieved it though.