Thursday, April 19, 2012

Shade - Extremely Low Tech

So, spring is here and the temps are rising.  Ignore the temps that are reported by my XBee temperature device; it's obviously wrong these days.  What happened is that I built a new patio and had to move the device and the location is terrible.  I'll build an enclosure for it in the near future, but suffice it to say, that it is starting to get hot.  An old fashioned analog thermometer outside in the shade is showing 96F right now.  So, my new patio is absorbing the heat and re-radiating it into the house.  Obviously, I need some shade on it.

However, have you priced those roll up shades for patios?  The cheap ones ($22) are plastic and come in 8 ft lengths.  I need 40 feet so, five of them will do it, but they won't fit to look nice on the patio.  To look nice, I need some custom lengths and those are expensive, plus the plastic will last about the same amount of time a tie wrap does wrapped around a pipe in the sun; 6 months or so.  That will get me through the summer, but I'll have to replace them next year.  If I get a nice polypropylene shade cloth roll up they cost about $100 each in a ten foot length and if I custom order it to fit properly, the price skyrockets.

So, I ordered some shade cloth, got some pulleys, pvc pipe, screws, washers, and clothes line and built my own.  I only have one of them done, but it works pretty well and didn't cost me a freaking fortune.  Here's what it looks like so far:
And, from the other side:
The distance between the center of each viga on this section is 9 ft 6 in and would have cost me well over $150 to buy.  Heh, heh, I did it for around $60 hardware and all.  Now, I have to do two more, one 14 ft and the other 15 ft 9 in.  This way they'll fit the vigas nicely and will look custom made. Which they actually are, now that I think about it.  

There's very little on the web about how to make roll up curtains for outside use and I'll probably discover something I should have done differently.  But, hey, it works and looks pretty good.  Here's how I used the pulleys to handle the cord for rolling it up and down:

I have three small pulleys, one for each cord held to the frame with an eye screw.

And one large pulley that all three cords feed through to form the combined pull cord for raising and lowering the shade.

I don't have a tie off cleat installed yet, but that will come after another trip to the store for washers.  I just wish the local store sold 1" fender washers by the box instead of those stupid little bags of 10.

This shade cloth is 70% shade and should work fine for sheltering the patio while still allowing enough sun to support some plants behind it.  The material is polypropylene as is the cord, so they should survive pretty well in the sun.  At least three or four times longer than the cheap plastic stuff that I first considered.  The color works nicely with the terrain and color of the house and I think I'll be pleased with the result when I finish it.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Power Monitor - Failure

I was busy around the house a couple of days ago and not paying attention to the Power Display, so later that day, I happened to notice that Pachube wasn't getting updated.  Looking at the power display, it was reading zero.  Obviously, that's wrong so I went into the garage and the Power Monitor seemed to be working fine, just reporting a zero level of usage.  I reset the device and everything started working again.

This is the first problem of this nature that I've had since I removed the WiShield and went to an XBee network.  The network didn't fail, something else was screwing up.  I decided to modify the code to reboot every day and clear out any problems from software or memory usage.  While I was at it I updated the description of the device with the newest code and pictures.  Now, I'll just wait and see if this fixes it; may be months before I know.

Update, May 9, 2012:  Had it fail again, more info here.