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Everyone does something

That's the slogan of the dutch government about the energy transition from reliable fossil fuels towards unpredictable 'sustainable sources' like solar and wind. Many people decide to help the environment by selling their petrol cars and buying a Tesla instead. To save the polar bears that are now supposed to be drownng due to melting northpole ice. Which turned out to be a hoax since there now seem to be more polar bears than ever before in recorded history. And you still cannot sail to Asia along the North Passage (via Nova Zembla) despite the "permafrost thawing completely". We're in an information war. Big Tech (Google, FacistBook, Twitter) rule the world. And they know how to play the consumers on planet earth.

I will do my part, as I have been doing since 1984

When I moved into this house in 1984, I decided to start saving the world by reducing my energy footprint to the least possible. I used as little as possible incandescent lamps. Instead, I switched to the (then revolutionary) PL type of lamp, that allowed big luminous flux at 90% reduction in energy. Only in places where you needed instant light (toilet, cupboards, emergency lighting) I switched to halogen lights. The PL lamps needed 3 minutes to achieve optimum operating temperature. So they were mostly suitable for lights that are switched on for several hours. I could run a fully lit house with less than 60 Watts. Exterior lights included.

Of course the ordinary people loathed my enthusiasm. I was an energy freak. Some one to keep away from. A hermit. A you name it. But not some one to use as an example. Where I lit my house with 60 Watts they installed incandescent lights needing close to 2 kilowatts. Hey, energy is (almost) for free and you really live just once so lets enjoy. Don't be such a nerd/turd. I'm not going to wait one minute before the lights are stabilized. I want it and I want it NOW.

Who were those people? Well the people that now say they will be wiped out by corona, covid or whatever name you give to the wuhan virus, are the same kind as the people that saw me as some kind of energy hermit. The kind of people that now buy a Tesla because a petrol car is 'wasting too much energy'. The kind of people you'd better ignore. They are consumers and consuming is the only thing they master.


I never owned a car. I have a motorcycle driver's licence. But I rode a motorbike for, say, 10 years in all. The remaining 54 years I did things with my bicycles, public transportation and occassionally I took a taxi or rented a small moving company for bulkier goods. Or asked a neighbour. Or paid a few bucks extra for home delivery.

Also with transportation only few people could ever understand "my sacrifices". I didn't see it as a sacrifice. The moment you decide not to rely on motorvehicles you are liberated from a huge load of social obligations. All these meetings and 'parties' at the remotest locations are suddenly void. Sorry, cannot get there. Riding by bicycle brings so much joy since you get the time to taste the landscape, taste the hills, oceans and taste the people. So it's not much of a sacrifice to abandon the motorcar or -cycle.

Of course the masses around me saw me and my family as some kind of loonies. What are you doing to your child by refusing her the joys of traveling in traffic jams! Who were these people? They were described above: the stupid mass, the silent 80% of the population that can only do one thing: consume all of what the earth has to offer (or wants to hide from us).

My next little step

Inside my house, the majority of disposable batteries will be replaced by rechargeable batteries. This is not new. I've been using NiCd batteries for decades. Well over 50 years. If you treat a NiCd cell appropriately it will last forever. More about that later.

Around 1990 it became clear that NiCd was too complicated to be used by ordinary consumers. So the NiMH range was introduced. Same voltage. Same shape and size. Direct replacements. NiMH is currently the replacer of NiCd. But even NiMH is too complicated for 'normal' users. So the next step was lithium cells. Higher voltage. Higher currents. But explosive, unless each individual Lithium cell is protected by a tiny circuit board.

Over the years all tools and gadgets in Western Europe have been motorized or computerised. Only very few tools do not require a battery to operate. So you spend lots of batteries in all kinds of gadgets year round. I am going to replace almost all of these disposable batteries by rechargeable batteries. Again.

My tools

The required tools are simple and affordable. I have a battery checker (the predecessor of the one on the right). Put in a battery, press the levers and the meter shows in which state the battery is. You decide if you need to replace or recharge.

Some people would use a voltmeter to check this but that is misleading. Most cells must be loaded, must supply some current, to reveal their true potential (volts). The Ansmann loads the battery to be tested with just enough currect to make the result reliable.

A battery charger has been around for decades. My current charger is a Goobay intelligent charger with four loading bays that accept anything between AAA and D cells plus 9V blocks. This is an intelligent charger, It employs '-dV technology'. When NiCd and NiMH cells charge, their charging voltages go up along a parabolic curve and when the cell is fully charged, the voltage drops. As in an upside down parabola (y = 9 - x^2). The charger detects the maximum of the parabola by constantly doing k = dV/dt and when k turns negative, the cell is full. Hence the name -dV. Yes, the charger applies numerical differentiation.

The charger will check each cell. And if it finds irregularities it flashes the small LCD display. You can then take action, like let the charger first do a full discharge and next a normal recharge. It may help to do this several times. When the charger keeps on reporting a cell is bad, after several charge/discharge/charge cycles you might as well discard the cell. This mainly happens with unbranded cells from Ali, Dx, Lidl, Aldi and other mass retailers.

A lithium cell charger. Since I am jumping the lithium cell bandwagon I needed a not too expensive Li charger. So I found this timy Efest charger (at that cost me less than €4. It is powered via a micro USB connector and a cellphone charger (at least 1 Ampere output). It charges a 2300 mAh cell within 3 hours. Not high tech. But it gets the job done and I don't want to spend too much on a new technology.

Replacing an AAA battery holder by one 18500 cell

Quite a lot of flashlights use the battery holder on the right. A round cage, containing three AAA (triple A) batteries in series to reach 4.5 (alkaline) or 3.6 (NiCd) Volts. To charge the cells you have to pop them out of the cage and charge each cell individually. The cages are flimsy. Very thin plastic with cheap springs that sometimes tumble away... The cage measures 21 mm in diameter and 52 mm tall. The battery that comes closest to this is an '18500' size Lithium cell. The 18500 is 18 mm diameter and 50 mm tall.

When I received my 18500 cell I took out the "three triple A" cage and popped in the 18500, It was way too loose. So I had to find a way to 'thicken' the cell. There are no commercial solutions (e.g. sleevs) for this so I had to engineer my own. I settled with wrapping several layers of thin cardboard around the cell and taping the cardboard layers into a round sleeve. Like in the picture below:

The wrapping of this material (below) turned out to be the best cardboard for layering into a sleeve. If you cannot find an application for the brown stuff let me know. I will give it a good destination.

The 'Efest slim K1' charger

After I selected the '18500' cell for my triple A cage project, I also needed a way to charge the cell. You cn charge a NiCd or NiMH cell with the simplest of circuitries. Nixx is simple technology, very forgiving. Lithium tech is violent technology. One error and the cell explodes and causes a big fire. Countless smartphones have experienced this already. So I did not want to mess around with a too cheap charger.

While browsing the pages of for the '18500' cell I stumbled across the Li-ion chargers and the cheapest one was the Efest k1 charger. It is sized such, that Bill Clinton and Monica L could have done some nice tricks with it. The charger is powered by a smartphone charger (micro USB connector, supplied with the charger) which is not included. No big deal. Every house has several of these nowadays. Below is my charging setup:

These are full 12 MP Nikon D90 pictures, reduced in HTML, so 'right click, view image' will show more detail

The 'Slim K1 charger' is simple to operate. Just pop in the battery, plus-side up, apply power and that's it. When the K1 is charging, the indicator lights up white which turns into blue when the battery is charged (or when no battery is detected).

How to use NiCd batteries

NiCd batteries are among the best rechargable batteries ever. They last long, keep good power, tolerate deep discharging, can supply huge currents and are easy to charge. NiCd has only one drawback: do not overcharge. When you keep on charging a NiCd without frequent discharges, it will forget that it is a battery and after a few years it will think that it is a resistor. At that moment, when you need the NiCd to supply current it will fail. NiCd also has a problem with too frequent charging. Again, when charging every day from 90% to 100%, as many consumers did, the cell will think it is just 10% of what itw as rated for. It is referred to as the NiCd memory effect.

My cordless Makita drill uses NiCd battery packs. The motor of the drill has already been replaced once. The battery is still the original one. The trick is: before charging, make sure the battery is stone dead. Make sure the battery is fully deep discharged. And then NiCd will live a lifetime. Your lifetime to be precise.

Links to suppliers, tools and equipment

All pictures taken with a Nikon D90 with a Sigma 18-50mm F2.8 lens; all jpg files processed with Gwenview in Slackware Linux

Pagina gemaakt op 8 Oct 2020,