Sunday, February 23, 2014

Building a Greenhouse Post # 4 - Valentine's Day/Presidents Day - 3 Day Weekend 2014


Sorry for being a week late on this post - I actually worked myself so hard on this 3 day weekend by pruning fruit trees and setting up the pond that I was too tired when I got back to do much of anything. This weekend(2/22-23)  I stayed in Walnut Creek and that gave me time to rest up and be able to summon the energy to write. (Another thing to note - I left my regular camera at home. The pictures here are from my phone camera and while they aren't bad, they aren't what I am used to having for posts.)

The goal of the weekend was to set up the fish pond with the grow beds and hook up the solar power to the pump that will circulate the water. Solar systems aren't really "plug and play" and you have several parts to them.

1. The solar panel itself with the connecting cables.

2. The solar charge connector (below) - this takes the panel cables in and the cables to the battery out. ( I can also hook up a light to this one if I wanted to..)

3. The solar battery which is NOT a car battery.. (see below)

4. Power inverter - this hooks to the battery and changes the DC power into AC power and then you can plug stuff into it. That is it there on the middle shelf... 

This is what I was starting with.. all the parts were there but nothing was hooked together.
Ready to go!

There are cables that hook everything together and I was missing the cables that go from the solar connector to the battery. I went to Harbor Freight and got a connector set that was labelled for "solar"... big mistake. It was for a much smaller battery and when I finally got the wires to work in my connector the whole thing shut down. The gauge of the wires couldn't handle the amount of power being generated. I had to make my own connectors with a thicker gauge wire... never did that before but hey, that makes this fun!
I went to the hardware store and got some bulk wire and connector clips that looked like the right size and brought them back. 
This looks right - I hope!
Then I had to strip the wires, and put them on the clip.
Wires connected to the clip
Put the rubber handle back on and then tried to connect it again.. and... it worked! My solar panel generates 100 watts of power and stores it in the battery which is then used by the inverter.
Battery connected to inverter - I cleaned up the wires after this picture.
Which is then used by the pump to pump the water..

After I got the power sorted out I worked on the grow beds. I am using a siphon with expanded clay rocks on the last bed and it will sit over the fish tank to drain into it. The siphon had to be installed by drilling a hole in the bottom of the bed and then connecting the PVC parts together.
Parts to the siphon
Connecting the drain tube to the underside of the tub - after drilling a hole in it

Drain tube installed

The siphon is inside the media guard over the drain tube. When the water hits a certain level the siphon kicks in and pull the water down through the hole faster than if it was just draining via gravity.

I filled this bed with the expanded clay and I am building another bed that will use a raft system to drain into this one via gravity. My grow beds only hold 20 gallons of water each and the fish tank is 100 gallons (or 80 since you don't fill it to the top) so I need to add one more to keep the system healthy. You want to turn over the water as much as possible to add oxygen to the system. My pump is capable of 200 gallons per hour, so it will cycle the tank every 30 mins which might be a bit much...
This is the bed that drains into the fish tank.
I recorded a video for you to see it working.. this is just the preliminary step. Next weekend I will get everything with the grow beds and have it start cycling while I am gone. I need to measure the evaporation and see how stable the water level is before I add the fish and plants. I have started sprouting seeds for the plants though so I am excited to get this going!

Here is the video link with the gravel and the drain going... i realized after watching it that you can't understand a word I am saying over the water noise so don't try to adjust the volume. Sorry - the next one will be better.