For the average consumer, repairing relatively low-cost home devices such as microwaves and TVs just isn’t economically viable. You can hardly blame them when the repair bill could easily be higher than the cost of just buying a new model. Luckily for folks like us, that means you can often find cheap or even free appliances on the second hand market that can be brought back online with a bit of troubleshooting and some spare parts.
Take for example the non-functional dehumidifier [HowToLou] recently came across. You probably couldn’t find a professional repair shop that would be willing to bother with one of these things if you tried, but as he shows in the video below, that doesn’t mean the DIY’er can’t run through some probable failure modes and get the unit back up and running. As a bonus, he also walks viewers through how your typical compressor-based dehumidifier operates.
Beyond the lack of water in the collection compartment, the first sign that something was wrong with this dehumidifier was that the compressor wasn’t running. Upon closer inspection, [HowToLou] determined that the thermal cut-off switch had failed and was stuck open. Luckily it had a visible part number so he could order a replacement, and in the meantime, all he had to do was cut the switch out of the circuit and wire up the compressor’s power directly.
Unfortunately, even with the compressor running, no water was being collected. Noticing that the evaporator coils weren’t getting very cold, [HowToLou] thought the unit might be low on refrigerant. Usually these systems aren’t meant to be recharged, but with a clever piercing tap valve, you can add a quick-connect port to the low pressure side. This particular dehumidifier happened to be filled with the same R134a used in automotive A/C systems, so a quick trip to the auto parts store got him a can of refrigerant complete with a handy pressure gauge.
After getting juiced up, [HowToLou] shows ice forming on the coils and plenty of water getting dumped into the tank. Automotive A/C refill cans usually include some substance to stop or reduce leaks in the system, so hopefully this will end up being a long-term fix. It might not be the most elaborate dehumidifier repair we’ve ever seen, but it’s certainly the most approachable. If you ever see one of these things laying on the side of the road, maybe you should pick it up and see what ails it.
[Vadim Panov]’s 3D printed solar harvester is in effect a rechargeable outdoor battery, and the real challenge he faced when designing it was having it handle the outdoors reliably. The good news is that part is solved, and his newest design is now also flexible enough to handle a variety of common and economical components such as different battery connectors, charge controllers, and solar panel sizes. All that’s left is to set it up using the GoPro-style mounting clamp and let it soak up those solar rays.
We saw his first version earlier this year, which uses inventive and low-cost solutions for weatherproofing like coating the 3D print with epoxy (the new version makes this easier and less messy, by the way.) It was a fine design, but only worked with one specific solar panel size and one specific configuration of parts. His newest version makes a few mechanical improvements and accommodates a wide variety of different components and solar panel sizes. The CAD files are all available on the GitHub repository but he’s conveniently provided STL files for about a dozen common sizes.
When it comes to harvesting light, staying indoors offers less power but requires a far less rugged setup. If that interests you, be sure to check out the Tiny Solar Energy Module (TSEM) which can scrape up even indoor light.
[Mile]’s PTPM Energy Scavenger takes the scavenging idea seriously and is designed to gather not only solar power but also energy from temperature differentials, vibrations, and magnetic induction. The idea is to make wireless sensor nodes that can be self-powered and require minimal maintenance. There’s more to the idea than simply doing away with batteries; if the devices are rugged and don’t need maintenance, they can be installed in locations that would otherwise be impractical or awkward. [Mile] says that goal is to reduce the most costly part of any supply chain: human labor.
The prototype is working well with solar energy and supercapacitors for energy storage, but [Mile] sees potential in harvesting other sources, such as piezoelectric energy by mounting the units to active machinery. With a selectable output voltage, optional battery for longer-term storage, and a reference design complete with enclosure, the PPTM Energy Scavenger aims to provide a robust power solution for wireless sensor platforms.
It says it right on the side of every alkaline battery – do not attempt to recharge. By which of course the manufacturer means don’t try to force electrons back into the cell. But [Cody] figured he could work around that safety warning chemically, by replacing the guts of an alkaline dry cell.
The batteries in question were certainly old, gnarly looking, and pretty dead – [Cody] barely got a reading on his multimeter. As you can see after the break, he cleaned off the exterior corrosion and did a quick teardown of the dry cells, removing the remains of the zinc anode, now in the form of zinc oxide paste looking very much like what you’d slather on your nose before a day at the beach. He filled the resulting cavity with a putty of zinc dust, freshened up the electrolyte charge with a squirt of 20% potassium hydroxide, sealed up the cell with a little silicone caulking, and put the recycled cell to the test. Result: 1.27 volts. Not too shabby.
We’re going to go off on a tangent for just a second. We often think of the Rat Things from Snowcrash when considering robot power. They were nuclear powered (or something) and instead of recharging required constant cooling. Those day’s aren’t exactly around the corner but we think they’ve been realized in the lawn mowing robots that have a little nests to recharge in. Base stations work but they require the machine to return to the same place, or to have multiple charging stations.
The point is, this specialized cable makes base stations for robots obsolete. Now a robot can plug into any outlet it can get near, a great thing for robots roving large facilities. After the break you can see a video of this process. The robot arm zeros in by scanning horizontally and vertically and measuring the magnetic field put out by the AC in the wires of the outlet. Take a look, it’s a pretty neat piece of engineering.
[Rob] grew tired of his Makita power tool battery packs dying so he figured out how to repair them himself. The video after the break walks us through the process which starts by cracking open the case. Inside there is a controller board and a battery of ten cells. [Rob] has pinpointed these battery failures to just the first cell, which is confirmed by measuring the cell voltages with a multimeter. The first cell in the demonstration battery reads zero volts and needs to be replaced. For some reason he’s got heck of a lot of these cells on hand, at the end of the video he shows off a massive block of them that provides one half of a kilowatt-hour of power.
To complete the resurrection he removed the control circuitry from the integrated PCB. It seems that the microcontroller on the battery’s PCB monitors it and bricks them when it thinks the life of the unit has ended. By hacking a charger he can now balance-charge the altered battery packs and get more use out of them before they hit the landfill.