Nixie Tubes Adorn Steampunk Solar Power Meter

The appeal of adding Nixie tube displays to a project seems to know no end. First it was Nixie clocks, now it’s Nixie power meters, with the latest addition being this Nixie-Steampunk hybrid solar power monitor.

We’re suckers for a project with a vintage look, and this one pushes all the buttons. Built on commission for a solar power company CEO’s office, [Paul Parry]’s build is based on a Depression-era Metropolitan-Vickers combined voltmeter and ammeter. The huge meters with mirrored scales and the rich wood of the case – our guess is that it’s mahogany – made a great starting point, and after some careful hole drilling, nine IN-18 Nixies were sprouting from the case. A strip of RGB LEDs below decks added the requisite backlighting of the envelopes, and a Raspberry Pi was enlisted to interpret data from the company’s solar farm and drive the tubes and the meters. The project was capped off with a new finish on the case and a couple of fancy brass plaques.

[Paul] sent us the tip for his build after seeing the last power meter we covered, and we have to say they’re both great looking and functional projects. Keep the Nixie projects coming!

44 thoughts on “Nixie Tubes Adorn Steampunk Solar Power Meter

  1. Yeah, Mona Lisa is just some old piece od useless cloth, let’s make some iPhone case from it, and we can also shred that bunch of old stones in Egypt, put some LEDs under it and make blinky McDonalds.

    1. There’s only one Mona Lisa, there’s plenty of old meters hanging around. The Mona Lisa still performs it’s original function, looking nice, most old meters are unlikely to ever measure anything again. They have dignity when they’re still measuring electricity and moving along the scale.

      In Egypt people used to burn mummies as fuel, there were that many of them about, even though they were thousands of years old. That’s shocking to me, but I suppose to Egyptians mummies are no big deal.

        1. Well, coming from someone like you, Dmitri, that means… well, fuck all. Just out of interest, what do you reckon my intellectual capacity is? What’s my IQ? What qualifications do I have? What’s my sign? Can you tell how long I’m going to live? Can you argue based on facts and principles rather than lightweight ad-homs that could actually apply to anything, at any time, and are therefore meaningless? Judging by your statement YOU lack any sort of intellectual capacity, HAH!

      1. Upon seeing your subsequent comment, On just how terrible, and uninspirational this build is, I feel less inclined to argue with you. However, there is no need to brag about how, infinitesimal your reserves of insults are, nor your legged “Qualifications”. Especially considering the foul language of which you choose to refrain to, AND how you persistently bombard individuals with needless insults. Sounds rather narcissistic if you ask me.

  2. It’s that or it would have ended up on a tip somewhere, probably. At least it’s being loved and appreciate, and I think there’s some joy that it’s actually measuring electricity, if not directly from the power farm, at least the volt / ammeters are working. Well, perhaps he removed the shunt from the ammeter to make it easier to drive from a voltage.

    The box is altered but the meters are beautiful in their own right, and that includes their functioning. Better even than ending up on a display shelf, the meters are still employed, and looking fantastic. LCD just has no soul.

    1. Okay I’ve been to the site….

      He’s taken the movements off the meters and using fucking SERVOS to drive the needle! KILL HIM! SMASH THIS PIECE OF SHIT! Seriously, I’m now completely on everyone else’s side. What a dick. What sort of idiot can’t drive a fucking voltmeter?

    1. Good grief. Every other item in that eBay list is tagged “steampunk” for clickbait. Back in the day I saw all that and more at the Boeing Surplus store; too bad they closed it. If I’d known “steampunk” was going to be a thing I’d have bought it all.

      And as Larry said, nothing there is anything like the one [Paul Parry] destroyed.

    1. We can’t preserve every old bit of crap forever. Now go clean out your garage. AND the attic. AND the cellar. AND half of the cupboards in the house.

      I’ve got so much crap that “might come in useful” there’s no room in any of my cupboards for storing things I do use. There’s bits of electronics where there should be dinner plates.

  3. A Pi, A PIC, nine nixies, and two servos. That’s a lot of power. I wonder what fraction of the solar farm is required to supply the energy burned by this thing?

    The company that provides the solar farm this listens to (Primrose Solar) claims their ten installations provide energy to supply 55,570 households *annually*. That’s 152 households per day… Damned innumerates. They deserve this thing.

    1. Pretty sure it means they supply 55,570 households “all year round”, not that they choose 152 different ones each day. A more sensible figure would be their typical output in MW.

      1. Sure, that’s what they MEAN, but that’s not what they SAY. They say nonsense.

        And a more sensible figure is not MW, but MWh, since the capacity factor for solar is so crappy, particularly in the UK. And they do state it: 191,690 MWh/yr. Very frugal customers there if that can actually supply 55,570 households — that’s just 287 kWh/month each.

        1. True, but if you say “supply X houses” you assume it means for the amount of hours per year that there are in a year.

          According to OFGEM though, a typical UK house uses 3,300kWh / year, so actually these chaps could support 58,087 houses, they’re actually underestimating a little bit. Admittedly I haven’t done a lot of research on this 3,300 figure, but a PDF on OFGEM’s website says so. This is for houses that also use gas, presumably including cooking and water in that, as well as heating.

          Trying to think of reasons why OFGEM, a government regulatory agency, would want to over or under-exaggerate usage figures, but I really can’t be bothered, it’s tiring enough having to translate government bullshit to something approximating the truth every time I see the news.

          Another site, about energy reduction, puts the UK at 4,648 kWh / year. Bleh, statistics. Still, Primrose aren’t miles off. They only get paid for the power they actually sell, presumably, so you can forgive their PR being a little optimistic, doesn’t really affect much.

  4. I would have used a more common meter and sticking the needles on servos?
    He couldn’t figure out how to drive a galvanometer via PWM which not only would save on the BOM it would be more reliable and have smoother movement.

  5. Yeah, I think the meters inside should have met a better fate, but I’ll give him a few points for how the under-lit nixies could be used. Not sure if the finished project actually did this, however:

    “A lot of my clocks have under lit Nixies, but in this application it can be used to indicate efficiency, or even weather conditions i.e. red lighting means a bit cloudy so the solar production could be lower.”

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