I’m switching electricity supplier and I’m quite excited about it

When I moved here almost 3 years ago, I chose Bulb as my gas and electric supplier. They are quite cheap, use 100% renewable electricity and were rolling out smart meters and some interesting new ideas.

They’ve been good and I’ve had no reason to switch away from them.

There were teething problems with my smart meter, including not getting billed for about 5 months, but Bulb weren’t the only ones having problems with smart meter reliability. But it’s settled down and been working fine for about a year now. I like that I can see what electricity and gas I’m using right now, and look back at my usage yesterday, last week etc.

One of the promised featured hasn’t happened yet, and this irked me. I’d like to be able to download a file containing my usage stats, then I can put them in a spreadsheet and use that to help me save. When is my peak usage? How much gets used overnight ? Bulb said they’d offer this but it hasn’t appeared.

And there was also supposed to be a new pricing plan that dynamically changes the cost based on fluctuating price points. The commercial cost of electricity varies hourly, and given that the smart meter reports usage dynamically, there could be a system that charges that dynamic price instead of a fixed price per kWh. Bulb promised this, but it hasn’t happened.

In January I was looking at Octopus energy, who do offer a dynamic price plan called Octopus Agile, and you do get live access to your usage data via their Web API. Ace! But at the time their standing charge was a bit higher than Bulb, so I might not make a saving by moving.

Then a few weeks ago bulb announced a price increase that puts their standing charge at pretty much the same as Octopus.

With J’s help, we made a spreadsheet with Octopus Agile pricing data in it, and typed in my hourly usage withBulb.

The spreadsheet showed that I’d make a saving by moving to Octopus, so I have done that, and the switch over happens in a few days.

So why am I excited about this, apart from saving a bit of money? Well, the agile pricing varies a lot from day to day, from hour to hour. Each day at 4pm the prices are released for the next 24 hours.

Using this data you can plan when to switch in heavy loads, like washing machines and water heaters, or to charge an electric car.

The dynamic pricing is an interesting thing. Peak cost is 4-7pm, when the price per kWh goes way above the standard fixed tarrif, up to a maximum of 35p per kWh. But the rest of the day it’s usually a bit lower, sometimes a lot lower.

I’ve made a device that plots graphs showing the cost per kWh, and it’s usually cheaper than my bulb contract.

1/2p !

Written underneath are the current and upcoming Bulb kWh prices, on the display is the current Octopus agile price. 0.5p! That’s cheaper than the gas per kWh, so it would make sense at that time to switch the electric water heater on, to bake cakes and charge my electric bike. In the winter, if the price drops low overnight, perhaps an electric heater could be switched on to warm the house, and so use less gas in the day.

I’m hoping to automate these things, so that when the electric price is cheaper than gas, the water heater switches on, for example.

The game will then be to see how much less I can use at peak time 4-7pm. Avoid running the electric oven at that time for example.

There are also occasional times when the demand is lower than the supply, and you actually get paid to use electricity! So that would be a great time to charge things, heat water, etc. Again this could be automated.

peak time

Here’s another day, where the current price is higher than the Bulb price, but look at the graph. Most if the day it’s a lot lower. The colours haven’t come out well, but the graph is black when Octopus Agile is cheaper than Bulb, and red when it’s more expensive. There’s much more black than red.

Once I’ve switched and have access to the dynamic data, I shall modify the device to show me two bills – how much I used yesterday and it’s cost Vs it’s cost if I was still with Bulb. That way I can see if my predictions are correct, and if so how much I’m saving.

And if it all goes wrong I can slink back to Bulb energy again!

Razor Scooter e100 (pink)

I sprayed disinfectant on the electric scooter that I found the other day and let it sit overnight. The disinfectant smells of wild rhubarb, according to the label on the can.

I dismantled the scooter, and found it is powered by 2x 12volt 4.5 amp hour sealed lead-acid batteries, wired in series to give 24 volt. Old technology, but rugged and quite cheap.

Wires

I took the batteries out and separated them, then measured their voltages. Battery 1 was at 12.2 volts, battery 2 was at 10 volts. So battery 2 is probably dead.

I charged them both up, battery 1 taking about an hour to come up to voltage, battery 2 going high quite quickly. I then ran a capacity test on them. I set the load to 1 amp and the tester timed how long it took to drop the voltage to 11.5volts.

Remembering that they are 4.5 amp hour batteries, battery 1 gave me 1.9 amp hour. Battery 2 gave 0.1 amp hour. It does seem very dead.

snake oil?

I’ve got a gadget called a battery desulphator. It pulses high frequency, high voltage zaps, which is supposed to rejuvenate failing batteries. I don’t know if this really works or if it’s snake oil, but maybe this will be a good test for it.

I connected it up to the 1.9 amp hour battery and left it zapping overnight (the instructions are very vague as to how long it should be connected. Hours, days, months?). I will leave it for 24 hours, recharge the battery then run the load test and see if it has achieved anything. I will then try it on the seemingly dead battery and see if anything can be improved there.

Safe wiring for a brighter future

A new set of batteries would cost about £25, and it needs a proper charger, though I might be able to make one. But I’d like to see if the rest of the scooter works properly before spending any money, hence trying to revive the old batteries first.

And why am I doing this? Well, it looked fun. But also I could use the mechanism to drive a powered cart for moving things around, maybe even a powered bicycle trailer to hitch to my electric bike. But also, if I get it working reliably, I could see if any of the parents in the area want a cheap scooter (pink) for one of their kids, at a price that just covers the cost of any batteries etc that I might buy.

We’ll see if I can get it going first.

Wombling again

A few weeks ago I reported to the council some furniture and fridge freezers dumped beside an empty house. I walked past again yesterday and they were still there.

The council may not have moved them because they’re on private property, or they may have mistaken my description – some new rubbish appeared at the other end of the road after I sent the report and this subsequently disappeared.

Whatever, the original rubbish is still there. And today extra things were there as well, which I took home.

nice colour

I now have a pink electric scooter and the bent handlebars of another scooter.

Why did I bring these things home? The bent handlebars could become a handle for a trolley, or else put out for the scrap metal man. And who could resist a pink electric scooter?

The electric scooter doesn’t work. But I’ve not taken it apart yet.

Wombling

I try to get out for a walk most days that it’s not raining, even if it’s just around the block. I especially fond that a walk will bring my blood glucose level down if it’s too high.

This latter point surprised me. Whilst exercise will lower blood glucose, if I’ve given the correct dose of insulin for the carbohydrate that I’ve just eaten, my blood sugar should stay good. But sometimes it spikes high, and stays there for some time before slowly coming back down again.

I’ve found that a brisk 20 minute walk quickly brings my blood glucose down to sensible levels after eating if I see it’s spiked.

That’s all an aside really, the main point is that the other day I was walking around the block, and noticed a basket like item on the pavement outside a disused cafe. I went and had a look, and it was two wicker baskets in a metal frame. Nothing wrong with it, and it hasn’t been there long as there’s been rain not long before but this was dry.

I brought it home, sprayed it with disenfectant and left it for a day, then gave it a wipe down with soapy water.

Matching decor

It matches very well with the other furniture in the living room, and I’ve put it next to the sofa. I enjoy making good use of the things that I find.

My Hobby is Rubbish part 2

I went out with bin bags and recycle bags and my litter picker tool.

Although there wasn’t large heaps of rubbish, there was plenty about, some of it quite old. I scrambled in brambles and up banks to retrieve older rubbish.

I tried to sort it into recycle and rubbish, but some of it smelt very bad – like bin juice. So I’m not sure if I will want to store the aluminium cans until I can take them to a scrap metal recycle place for money. I’m not even sure the council will want it for recycling. I shall find out.

Problems : putting stuff in 2 different bags is awkward, the bags ripped as I carried them around, and the flapping bags slowed me down. A cart with two bins in it might be better, or two boxes that can be easily moved about.

The grabber broke. I was using it quite hard, trying to retrieve part buried rubbish. The opening jaw flapped loose. I may be able to fix it though.

I went out a 2nd time and J came with me, we made our way up the path near me and git rid of most if the visible rubbish and recycle. There was some we couldn’t reach due to distance or a fence getting in the way.

At the end of the two trips, that took maybe an hour in total, I had 5 bags of rubbish and a bicycle wheel. Maybe I’m half way to making a recycle cart to take with me?

My New Hobby is Rubbish

Walking around the local area, along the Riverside, the old railway line or just up the cycle path, I notice litter here and there. It’s a shame.

Soon after I’d moved here, a friend commented that she’d pick the rubbish up and I’ve thought about this but not done anything about it. I’ve also noticed an older lady walking dogs and sometimes carrying a few bits of rubbish she’d picked up.

So I thought I’d do something too. I don’t want to be groping about in dog mess undergrowth to retrieve a rusty can, so I ordered two grabber tools from eBay at a bargain price of £8 for the two. They arrived today!

Twice the grab

They’re very good for the price. The grabbing end can be rotated so it’s horizontal or vertical, and you can pick up surprisingly heavy things in the jaws. You squeeze the lever in the handle and the black jaw closes onto the jaw with the yellow rubbery strip.

Tiny magnet
Two tiny magnets

There are two tiny magnets at either side of the fixed yellow jaw, to assist picking up metal objects. But I found these rather weak.

So let’s improve that!

Neodymium is Strength. Strength is Neodymium. 1p piece for scale.

I’ve got some crazy strong neodymium magnets that I bought a while ago. They are very small, and come with a warning leaflet – they can cause blood blisters if you let them snap together and trap your skin, they’re that powerful. Larger ones can cause broken bones in a similar situation. They’re strong! Handy for temporarily attaching wires to batteries, finding lost screws and locating nails and screws in walls to determine where the wooden studwork is.

I love epoxy

I mixed up some strong epoxy – JB Weld is amazing stuff. I once repaired a seat mount in my car with this stuff, and it never came apart. I stuck a magnet on either side of the grabber – the existing magnets held the new ones in place while the epoxy was setting.

So, once the epoxy sets, I’m off up the path to collect some litter!

There’s various Keep Wales Tidy groups who do volunteer litter picking, and I’ve been looking at joining those.

I was also wondering if this could be a small money spinner as well. If I separated the aluminium cans from the other rubbish, they can be taken to a scrap metal dealer who’ll pay you for them. Years ago when I briefly lived in Bradford for work, there was an Alcan van that went to the local supermarket and would pay you for aluminium cans. Out of necessity i would pick up cans from near my bedsit and take them along, raising several pounds for a bag of cans.

But with recycling being much more common now, I think the value of cans has dropped, so I’d have to store a lot of cans somewhere to make it worthwhile. I’ll have to see what I pick up, and how soon I get bored of this new hobby to determine if it’s worth separating aluminium from steel cans. (with magnets!) I will, of course, seperate rubbish from recyclables like glass and metal.

I’ll post some pictures of my first litter pick once I’ve done it…

Doorbell Curiosity Unsatisfied

In my last post I was trying to fix a cheap Chinese doorbell that seems to make different sounds of its own volition (see here ).

Assembly is the reverse of dismantling

I took it apart to see if there was anything interesting to look at or adjust inside, but there was not. There’s no selector to choose the three or four sounds I’ve heard it make.

Circuit

There’s 3 unused solder pass next to each other. Maybe that’s for a different model? 3 switches here could give a choice of 7 different tones and tunes. Maybe? I wasn’t convinced, and doesn’t explain why the bell chooses to make different sounds on its own.

Resistance

I wondered if resistance of a maybe corroded bell push switch was causing the bell to select different sounds, and so I experimented by holding different value resistors across the bell push wiring, but it either did nothing (too high resistance) or went ding dong as expected. No other sounds.

Mellow slightly less yellow

I gave up, but thought I’d clean the bell unit as it was yellow and dirty. I put it in a bucket of water with some bio washing powder and let it soak for a few hours, cleaned with a toothbrush then rinsed and dried above the central heating boiler. It looks nicer now.

But did it work? Well, I remade the connections to the bell push and made sure it was properly connected. Pressed the bell push on a cold evening and… it went beep beep. Not ding dong. I pressed again and it went ding dong.

So I don’t know what’s going on, but I’ll replace it soon.

Curious Cheap Doorbell

When I moved in, the house had several doorbells. There was a mains powered wireless doorbell plug with the remote button stuck to the doorframe. I couldn’t get this to work at all. I don’t like wireless doorbell a, they’re very convenient but seem to be incredibly unreliable. But maybe I’ve only tinkered with cheap ones that are unreliable by default. There could be some good ones.

There was also a traditional doorbell button with wires hidden inside the wall. They were connected to a cheap looking electronic doorbell unit behind the door.

So not judge the wiring. It is usually hidden by the curtain, so nobody knows.

I got this doorbell working with a bit of tinkering and some fresh batteries. It makes a loud electronic ding ding sound.

Occasionally a caller would tell me the bell didn’t work, and I’d fiddle with it and it would start working again. I took the bell push button apart and cleaned it.

It would still sometimes not work, so I fitted a new bell push

Not a Friedland 701

All was well for a while but recently the doorbell has been doing odd things. Instead of a ding ding it will sometimes make a shrill beep beep beep that’s reminiscent of a smoke alarm. Then the other evening a supermarket delivery arrived and the doorbell played a tune that went on for some time. I’ve never heard that before!

OK, a cheap battery doorbell with a speaker that plays different tunes – fairly standard. What’s curious is that there’s no switch on the unit to change the sound. Wheneve I test it myself it invariably goes ding ding. But when others press it, sometimes it goes beep beep beep and once I’ve had a musical tune.

I’ll take the doorbell apart later, but don’t expect to find much. I’ll probably buy a new Friedland bell in one unit – they’re been around since the 1970s and are very reliable.

My guess as to how the tune might get selected and why it’s happening now is that the original bell push that came with the bell had the selector switch inside it, and perhaps signalled which tune by a specific resistance put across the wires. My new bell push (and indeed the one I removed) are just standard switches. But in the wet and cold, and after a few days if not being pressed, maybe there’s extra resistance on the damp switch contacts that the bell interprets as a selected tune.

Best guess I’ve got! I was going to post this as “Mystery of the Haunted Doorbell”, but thankfully it’s not ringing jn the middle of the night with nobody there. It just sometimes plays a tune when you press the button.

Repairing the CRT television I found

Bratz TV from 2006 ish

First, if you’re reading this in email, you probably aren’t seeing the pictures and video in this post. So visit https://sheddyian.wordpress.com to see this properly.

After letting the TV I found dry out for a few days, I took it apart to have a look. At the very least it needed a new mains cable as that had been cut off.

Nice set in its day

It came apart quite easily, though there was one security screw to thwart poorly prepared tinkerers. But I’m not poorly prepared, and had the right security but to fit it.

I desoldered the stub of mains cable and soldered in a spare one. I usually cut mains cables off things I throw away, with their moulded mains plugs they’re often handy. I have an old ottoman that my grandfather made, full of scraps of useful wire & cables.

I plugged the TV into an extension lead, shut the door and switched it on from another room. Just in case it went bang.

That’s… nice. But the colours look weird.

The TV powered up, and I could select the menu and the built-in DVD player, which gives a garish built-in picture. But the colours look strange, and the screen slowly wobbles gently from side to side.

Blue screen?

When set to a plain blue screen, the problem is clear. A large purple splodge, and strange colour on the bottom edge too.

On a CRT television, this is usually caused by the shadow mask in the tube getting magnetised. To defeat this, CRT TVs degauss themselves when you switch them on – the distinctive humm or thunk noise you used to hear. I switched this TV on and off a few times. I didn’t hear the noise, and testing with a compass showed no needle deflection. The degauss wasn’t working.

I looked at the circuitry in the TV connected to the degauss coil that runs around the tube. There’s not much to it. I noticed a 400 volt capacitor that was leaning over. Maybe it was damaged? The top was bulging. Aha! I unsoldered one of its two legs, and the capacitor fell out. The other leg had blown out of the capacitor at some time in the past.

I found some new ones on eBay at £3 for two including postage, so ordered those.

action shot

While I waited for the parts to arrive, I cleaned the TV a bit. The back of the case got a soak and a rinse in the shower, but the main unit had to be carefully cleaned by hand. As well as being grotty, it smelt if tobacco smoke.

I used sugar soap solution to clean off the dirt, and sprayed the inside liberally with febreeze air freshener which claims to have a deoderizing effect.

The Febreeze freshener was a bit sickly smelling, but after a few days that faded and the cigarette smell had also gone.

I imagine the original owner of this girl’s television set outgrew it and came to hate the characters, so they stuck parcel tape over them. But the Bratz are still there. Watching.
Exploded capacitor on the left, new one on the right. Yes they are the same ratings!

New capacitor arrived, so I fitted that and tried the TV out. The screen remained splotchy.

Reading online, the tool I needed was a degauss coil. I don’t have one of those. They’re not cheap to buy, and how often am I going to use it in the future? So what else could I use?

I tried waving a strong magnet near the screen, which made pleasing blobs appear and disappear on the screen, but didn’t remove the original splotchy colours.

I don’t have a degaussing coil, but I do have a tape head demagnetiser tool. Tape heads get magnetised over time when playing cassettes, which causes a muffled playback sound. Demagnetising will fix that.

Maybe I could use that tool, and wave it around near the screen?

Lava lamp effect – watch the video for degaussing action

Waving the demagnetiser around caused instant splotches to appear and disappear, bit also after repeated tries, the original splotchy was getting smaller.

I continued this until the screen colour was very nearly perfect.

I adjusted the settings, reassembled the case and played a dvd.

It works! The built in DVD player is a little noisy, but I’m unlikely to use it. I’m not intending to watch TV on it, and can’t anyway without a digibox, as the TV only has an analogue TV tuner.

But what I do want it for is this

ZX81, with 1K of memory

My first computer, from 1982. A Sinclair ZX81. It plugs into a TV, has no sound, is black and white output, and has a strange “keyboard”. I learnt to program on this!

But the repairs if that are for another blog post…

Wombling

I’ve got a new telly

I found it by the roadside, and it’s currently in the porch drying out.

It seems likely it’s dead, as the mains lead has been cut off, but you never know. I’ll give it a few more days to dry out then I’ll wire a new mains lead to it and see what happens.

The “Why?” is that I have my original computer and I’m keen to set it up again.

A Sinclair Zx81, but not my one

I got my ZX81 in 1982, it has 1K of memory, plugs into a TV and stores it’s programs on cassette tape.

Although they can be plugged into an LCD TV, they look and behave best on an old CRT television, hence my excitement at finding this dumped one.

Updates soon, maybe even live video of it going bang when I switch it on.