Home Projects

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This week is just a short post on some home projects I have in the pipeline. The last few weeks (months, actually) I have been a little preoccupied with getting through a bunch of Uni assignments. That has left me a little short on time for taking photographs or coming up with interesting content to write about. Unfortunately next semester is going to be even harder as I will be completing two subjects. But then I’ll be done!

Project one – My own supercharger!

Okay, that’s overstating it a bit. However, I am having installed, in the next couple of weeks, my very own EV fast charger.

I bought a new (ex-demo, actually) Hyundai Kona Electric in mid-April. The old car decided that it wasn’t going to go out the door quietly, and promptly broke down. On the day before it was going to be appraised (and bought) by a used car lot, of course. This left me short on cash for a few weeks, which delayed installation plans. I had to get the old car fixed, and then re-book an appraisal. It took nearly three weeks before the car was fixed, and another appraisal organised. Another week and the money was in my bank account. I actually got a bit more for it than I expected, so that was a bonus, at least.

Charging challenges

I have been managing using the trickle charger that comes with the car, but that is s.l.o.w… My daughter goes to a school quite some distance away from my house. It turns out that charging overnight (using only off-peak rates) on the trickle charger charges the battery by about 22% in the current temperatures. I understand it will be a bit quicker in warmer temperatures. Driving her to school and then going to my work uses about 18% of the battery. So what, I’m still 4% up, right? Right! … Except that I then have to turn around and do the whole thing in reverse at the other end of the day.

Usually I only do that for half a week. If the car is fully charged by the end of the weekend, and the weather is warm enough I don’t need the heater on for much of the trip, I have more than enough charge and can manage it easily. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been that warm (it IS winter). As an added complication, the ex caught COVID a couple of weeks ago. As a result I had care of the kids for a whole week and a half, and that pushed limits a little. I got through the week by the fact that I work from home two days a week. I was able to charge the car (using mostly solar) during the day on those days as well. Roll on the fast charger!

So, about that fast charger…

I always intended to buy a fast charger – I did the maths and figured this was the way to go from the outset. I do too many kilometers to manage with just the trickle charger. That won’t be an issue for many people – even with the heater on I can do 80km on the amount of charge I can put in during my 8 hours of overnight off-peak electricity. Most people don’t do that much in 3 days, and for them the trickle charger will be sufficient.

Anyway, I ordered the fast charger a few weeks ago, and it has been sitting (in it’s box) in my study for a couple of weeks. Unfortunately, it turns out that the local installer has a three week lead time to book work with him. But, in another weeks time I will be able to completely charge the car overnight on off-peak rates if necessary. Concerns about not having enough charge will be a thing of the past! At that point, I will return the trickle charger to its place in the boot of the car for emergency use while travelling.

Which one have I chosen?
Image from myenergi.com.au. I claim no rights to this image.

There are cheaper options out there, but I have gone with the MyEnergi Zappi, 3 phase version. This is solar aware – it includes sensors on the incoming cables to detect how much current is coming in from (or going out to) the grid. If you select the right mode, it adjusts it’s charging rate to make sure that you aren’t using grid electricity. There is always the option to tell it to charge anyway, so if I really need to have the car charged by the morning I can tell it to do that. It seems pretty nifty. You can do similar with other chargers, but you need to implement your own control mechanism. This is the only charger I found that has in-built detection of solar excess going to the grid.

I got the 3-phase version as my house already had 3-phase power connected, and the car apparently supports 3-phase charging. The latest version of the Kona Electric has an upgraded charger on board that can use 3 phase charging at up to 10.5 kW. Only a small improvement over the previous 7.2 kW single phase version, but since my solar system will trivially push out more than 7 kW even in winter, being able to shove the extra power into the car makes sense for not much extra cost. Also, it future proofs me in preparation for a future EV which will probably support the full 22 kW AC charging standard.

The Meadow

landscape photography of flower garden
Photo by Mina-Marie Michell on Pexels.com

It has been on my to-do list for ages to convert a portion of my front yard into a meadow. Due to the vagaries of town planning, my naturestrip (the bit of the road reserve between my property boundary and the actual road edge) is about 400 m2. Yes, it’s large enough to fit an entire houseblock at modern houseblock sizes. Please don’t tell the ACT Government. I really don’t want them selling off that land and making me into a battleaxe block. To aid in the future management of this space, I am planning to convert it from plain ordinary grass that requires regular mowing into a meadow.

Why a meadow?

So what is the point of the exercise?

A meadow should be mostly maintenance free (or at least, minimal maintenance). If I convert this patch to a meadow, not only will it look more interesting, with a variety of flowers and interesting foliage plants, but it should become unnecessary to mow. Some people do still recommend that it gets mowed once a year; but that is still going to be a big improvement over mowing it every 3 weeks for 6 months of the year. Depending on the seed mix I choose, it will also be good insect food. I’m particularly keen on feeding bees, but butterflies and other insects also benefit. Finally, it will provide a more visual break between my house and the street. In Canberra you don’t have front fences, and having something to provide that visual separation between my space and the public space will be nice.

And where is it up to?

This year has been a good year for several plants in the garden. There are a few plants elsewhere in the garden that would also be suitable for this space, and this year I managed to harvest a good quantity of seed from those, which I have been liberally spreading through the intended meadow space. I also managed to randomly purchase a collection of bulbs and rather than put them into the bulb garden, I have decided I would supplement the meadow with some bulbs as well.

The next stage of this project will be to kill off the majority of the existing grass towards the end of winter, and to sow a whole bunch of meadow seeds. They should sprout during spring. Most of them won’t flower this year, unfortunately, because I’ll be planting them in spring. I should have done this in early Autumn to give them a chance to sprout and get established before winter, but I didn’t get around to it.

The big choice it which seed mix to use. There are a number of meadow seed mixes that can be bought commercially, and I will have to decide what I’m going to buy. Bunnings sell a mix, but I’m not terribly convinced that it is a good mix for this part of the country. There are other more expensive mixes that include a variety of native and imported meadow-suitable plants which will probably be a better option.

Your questions and feedback on these projects are welcome

Would you like to know more about my plans, or have questions on why I’ve chosen what I have chosen? Do you have a (constructive) comment to make? Feel free to drop me a line through the “Contact Us” link in the menu at the bottom of this page. I don’t promise to answer everyone, but I will do so if I can.

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