Category Archives: Construction

Decepticons?

We’ve had our full solar capacity up and running for about a month now. Besides my son accidentally shorting out the fuse one day, everything was going well. Until the controller box melted. 

We hadn’t done anything out of the ordinary when suddenly there was a strong smell of plastic. My son called me downstairs and we sniffed and sniffed, following our noses to the battery setup we have in the garage. 

My son hopped up and turned off the power, but the smell was just as strong. Fortunately, my husband arrived home from work just minutes later and disconnected the panels from the setup.

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To our horror, the controller box warped and melted right before our eyes. Our imagination got the best of us, and we thought for sure some sort of Decepticon would spring from the wall fully formed. 

That didn’t happen. But we were in a pickle. We still had power from the fully charged batteries, but the energy from the panels wasn’t making it to the batteries to recharge them. So we needed a new controller box.

We tried to locate Shaggy, the guy who sold us our first panel, but as usual his business was closed and he didn’t answer his phone. So then we went to another guy that installs solar panels. He wasn’t really helpful. He said he didn’t carry the pieces but he could come out and look at the setup (for a fee). We didn’t need anyone to come and look at it. The melted box was obviously the issue.

We went to another lighting place. Lo and behold, the owner said they did have solar charge controller boxes in stock. However, he couldn’t find them on the shelves. He asked us whether our controller box was the correct voltage for our setup. 

Concerned that we may have added too much with the fourth panel, we decided to check the information on the panels again. Each panel is 8.17 amps and the controller that melted was 40 amps, so theoretically, it should have been fine with four panels. I think maybe we need to add one more battery to the setup, but my husband is poo-pooing that idea. 

By the time this guy “found” the controller he had in stock, my husband had already swung by Shaggy’s business again and was fortunate enough to find him there. Shaggy had a 30 amp controller box in stock. 

My husband bought the new controller box which Shaggy charged $1,200 pesos for. He said the box cost about $30 online which would have made the dollar to pesos conversion about 600 pesos. Talk about price gouging.controller

In the meantime, I ordered a 60 amp charge controller from Amazon for about $30 with shipping. It will be here in a few days. 

For me to work these few days while we wait for the new controller since it’s been delayed in customs, my husband installed the 30 amp controller box after disconnecting the fourth panel, since 30 amps would not be able to handle it. It’s working fine. No household appliances are morphing into Decepticons. And we learned a little more about solar energy setups.

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Filed under Construction, Uncategorized

Putting Up Doors

My sister-in-law T is building her house in La Yacata right across the street from us. My husband is doing all the construction work in his spare time. The roof is on, the floors are roughed in, the plumbing is done and the countertop is formed. He’s been working on it as his sister has had money for materials for about a year now. It will probably be another year until it is ready to be lived in.

One early morning, a motorcycle zoomed up our room waking the dogs, which woke us. We headed to the windows to investigate since it was WAY too soon for anybody to be up and about. 

Two youngish guys on a moto had stopped in front of my sister-in-law’s house and gotten off. My husband yelled down at them. They said they were going to pee. 

My husband wasn’t having any of that. Not on the newly cemented floors! He raced down the stairs to the front door in his chonis (underwear), hair standing up all over the place. He grabbed the machete he keeps on his motorcycle handlebars and charged out into the street.

The guys startled, jumped back on the moto, and sped down the road, my husband in hot pursuit brandishing the machete. I don’t believe they’ll be back.

So with this little incident to chuckle about, he convinced his sister that she needed to buy the front door and window next. We were really happy with our railing for the front porch but that guy was too busy. So she asked the wife of a guy who does ironwork who comes to her place for tortillas.

She took a picture of a door and window design that she really liked and asked the woman if they could replicate it. They could. The husband came out to La Yacata to get measurements and provide an estimate. It was within the budget, so the windows and front zaguán (garage door) was ordered.

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Doors and windows in progress.

My sister-in-law paid half of the total balance so materials could be bought and the date for delivery and installation was set. Only they didn’t come that day. In fact, the guy showed up asking for more money because he needed more materials.

So my husband went to see what the hold up was. The doors weren’t finished. The workers had been drunk all weekend. The head guy assured my husband that they would be installed on Wednesday. 

Nope. Another visit to the ferretería (metal worker’s shop) and another date. No one showed up that day either. A fourth date was set. Not quite finished. So on the fifth installation date, over two weeks after the initial date, the guys showed up in a truck and finally got ‘er done. 

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Installed finally!

My husband wasn’t happy with their work. There were holes at the joins, the lock wasn’t the type lock requested, the peak out window was much larger than the design warranted, and there was no handle to pull open the door on the outside. 

So a little extra work will have to go into these items, but at least they are in place and no strays will come along to pee on the floor anymore.

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View out the front window.

 

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Energy Adaptation

Now that we have upped our overall power potential, we’ve been trying to figure out how to use it most appropriately. Each of us has different thoughts on appropriate use so we’ve had a few arguments along the way.

My priority is having enough energy to teach classes, sometimes up to 6 hours a day. Since I start in the afternoon and work until several hours after dark, I want to make sure that there is enough charge in the batteries that I can complete my shifts. We now have 5 batteries, with the plan of purchasing yet another one with my next paycheck, so mostly this hasn’t been an issue.

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Music to my ears!

Of secondary importance to me is power for the washer.  We’ve established a routine whereby wash is done only on days when I don’t have classes because classes are of course of higher importance than clean chonies. Besides, if worse comes to worst, we can still handwash using the lavadero (washboard).

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“Doing classwork Mom!”

My son has different priorities. He is working on completing prepa (high school) online, so theoretically classwork comes first. However, he’s having trouble motivating himself to complete the current algebra course, so playing video games absorbs most of his time. Of course, since we are sharing his computer so that I can teach classes, he’s somewhat frustrated with his gaming time allotment. Furthermore, his desktop computer uses more energy than any other item we use. And since I’m already using it 6 hours a day, he is even further limited.

My husband has gone through a strange transformation since the purchase of the most recent battery. He’s become Defender of the Power. Any unauthorized energy use by either my son or me is up for debate. This includes a light left off by accident when a room is empty and charging my kindle. He monitors the voltage as obsessively as my son checks the internet ping, which fluctuates wildly throughout the day.

He’s even gone back to using a flashlight after dark, although for months we’ve been able to turn on a light in the bathroom or kitchen to illuminate our lives. He’s also begun setting up booby traps using our motion activated solar lights. So any nighttime potty trips are apt to become blinded, fumbling experiences, all in the name of saving power.

We have learned that 2 solid days of rain, unseasonable for this time of year, sends us all into panic mode. Not only does the internet give us fits, but the batteries are not able to fully charge for obvious reasons. Therefore, we’ll have to learn to budget our energy use better before the rainy season.

Otherwise, we are enjoying our solar setup immensely.

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Filed under Construction, Electricity issues

Little by little…

The rainy season has kept our travels to a minimum lately. However, we have been doing this and that to the house.

Gate after

The improved gate to prevent the invasion of zombies (or peering neighbors) got painted. We used paint we already had, so it didn’t cost too much. Enough paint remained that we painted the front window and the garage door. They needed another coat of paint since it’s now been over 10 years since they were installed.

Then, my husband made a patio in the area between the animals and our house. During the rainy season, this area got quite muddy, so it’s a nice improvement. The bricks are not cemented down, so if we decided to change the purpose of the area, it won’t be a major hassle. Puppy loves it!

The rain did a number on one or two of my framed puzzles I had hanging on the wall. The water seeped through the bricks and molded them up. Fortunately, only one was unsalvagable. This issue necessitated a thin layer of cement being spread over the outside wall expanse. It was no more than a half of day’s work for my husband and son and has greatly improved the impermeability of the wall.

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And finally, we installed two more solar panels, bringing the total to 3, to increase the overall power production. We still need to get some more batteries, but that will have to wait until the next paycheck.

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