Thursday, December 2, 2010

Portable PV for your Gizmos

GOAL0 makes a light weight, very functional portable photovoltaic (PV) charger for your 12 volt and USB charging gizmo's needs.

Picked up a special deal by being a member of their mailing list. I'd signed up because I knew the people, and have a deep respect for their commitment to quality products. But there is more, these people know how to design and market consumer goods. Now they are marketing to the outdoors clientèle that can best use portable solar power equipment.

Above is a photo of the solar panels folded up (7" X 9"). I was able to pick up two items, the solar panel and the USB Rechargeable MP3 Speakers came free of charge. These speakers are a welcome addition to my audio gear. The small speaker pouch packs a powerful audio punch. Has USB charging (which obviously can be done with the solar panels), a deep rich base response and can zip up my phone or MP3 player inside the case for a nice small water bottle kind of package that is easy to hold.

Below is a picture of the solar panel, folded out. If you look closely, there are loops for tying the system to various surfaces, perfect for the back of a day pack in the sun when your are on the move. Folds up nice and small. There is Velcro on the flap. A tiny carabiner came with the solar panel. There is a small hole in the pocket of the fold out that allow for a wire to go to the charging mechanism. This keeps your gizmo close to the panels, but not in the direct sunlight.

Lets look closer at the individual solar panels on the Nomad 7M.

The modules are made up of 52 cells each. Most silicon cells put out around 0.5 volts each open circuit, so these panels are probably around 14 volts each at max power. That is typical of a PV module trying to charge a 12 volt device or batteries. The active area of these are 7" X ~5". I like how the corner cells are slightly thicker than the rest of the module cells. And they look like an elongated silicon solar cell that has been cut into 52 pieces. The cross sectional area of the smallest cell will be the limiting factor on the amperage delivered by these modules. Quality control could be slightly better on these corner cells to be consistent with getting the most out of the system, but it is quite good from what I have seen in the industry to date. These cells are encapsulated in a rigid package. You do not want to bend these because the cells will break, but you would have to do some rough situations to bend these because of the attention to detail. Light weight, folds up, but the main surface is not flexible and you shouldn't try to flex it.

Late in the day early in December I tested the device for charging both my droid and blackberry. The devices were happy to see an adequate voltage and were charging nicely in the afternoon sun. The panel is draped on the saw horse in the background of the dogs. Specification on the back say Output 7W, <22V. Which means that in full sunlight, and cool temperatures the modules will output 7 watts of power. The 22 volts would be the open circuit voltage. Actual max power voltage would be much lower, proably around the 14 volt range (e-mail me if you want me to test this). Folded up, with the 12 volt accessory socket and my charged gizmo's:

I would like to see GOAL0 offer these products without the extensive packaging. They have great boxes for retail promotion, but for me, having already seen the quality boxes and literature, I don't need that any more. Would rather see the cost of the packaging go to their non-profit Tilfe Humanitarian, or eliminate the packaging for return customers if requested, with the potential for a reduction in price.

You cannot find a better light weight portable PV charging device that has this kind of power and versatility.  I highly recommend the Nomad7M.

Be sure to sign up for their e-mail list. It will save you some cash in the future because you will be buying more items than just for yourself once you see the quality. Hope this helps.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Beetle Kill Pellet Use in Standard Fireplace

Reporting on a residential beetle kill pellet use in standard fireplace

I have ordered reusable stainless steel mesh fire logs which are refilled with wood pellets for use in standard fireplaces from a company named Repose ( ). I've purchased pellets from Rocky Mountain Pellet Company ( ) at Murdochs ( ). Have tested the scenario in my Heatilator type fireplace, described below.

Wire mesh logs came in a long cardboard box; there were many logs that fit nicely together for shipping:

Shown below, are the square mesh empty logs, instructions, two discs of fire starter and the cardboard box;  spread out, it all looked like this:

 I cut open a plastic juice container and used the top as a funnel, and the bottom to pour the pellets.
 Filled, the logs looked like miniature grain bins.
 The logs stack nicely. Inside the fireplace are the two smallest logs, called kindling.
 The fire burns nicely. There is no pop'ing or sparks of burning embers.

I use a fireplace that has a blower fan shooting the heat of the fireplace into the room.

The square logs have a unique ability to let air flow around the mesh, because they aren't quite full. The corners can burn nicely with air flow all around. The logs do not bend out of shape, the lids are nicely grooved to stay shut. You should use caution because some of the mesh has sharp wires sticking out. Not for children, obviously.

The following weights of each log when filled:

Biomass Stainless Steel Logs

          Lbs            Oz
Largest 3 9.25
2nd large 2 10.125
Middle 1 13.75
Small 1 3.125
Subtotal 7 40.25

Total 9.51 Lbs.

I have gone through a 40 pound bag of pellets with 4 nights of fires, lasting a few hours each. There was 5.5 ounces of ash from the 40 pounds of pellets, which I put into our compost. Have gone back to purchase five more bags. The filling process is a small chore, but it still has a nice feeling of sustainability. For $1.25 a night, it is a good value. These can also be used for camp fires; pack up the empty logs and throw a bag of pellets into the car for your next car camping trip.

The potential for residential usage of beetle kill pellets in Colorado is enormous ( ).