Thursday, March 12, 2009

MONITORing the problem

My favorite scene from the movie Die Hard is where Bruce Willis tosses a computer monitor down the elevator shaft. Why? Because I really hate computer monitors. From a recycling perspective, they are a toxic liability mainly because of the heavy lead content and the rest of the parts aren't worth much. As more and more people switch over to LCD flat screens the amount of monitors going to the landfills will grow at an ever increasing rate.

So I scratch my head wondering what else can we do with them? Is there some other use for a working computer monitor besides its original intended purpose? The biggest problem is that a standard monitor uses a VGA type of input, where your TV, VCR, DVR, etc. commonly use a composite type. To use a computer monitor as a standard video display you will need to use a composite to VGA adaptor. The cheapest one of these I have found is around $60, which is way too much.

So, lets open the discussion about other uses for old, working computer monitors. Maybe a really nice boat anchor? Better yet, keep one around to scare off terrorists!

Recycled heat to make cold?

My grandmother had a classic 1950's Kelvinator 'fridge with the rounded look and a large chrome door handle. After she passed away, my uncle put it in his garage where it continued to work faithfully until about its 30th birthday. I bring this up because I remember grandma telling be about her first refrigerator-a unit that worked by burning white gasoline.

Gas refrigerators really aren't a lot different than compressor types. The burning fuel heated brine or ammonia in a tube until it got hot enough to be pushed through an expansion valve under its own pressure. This process would not generate enough cold to make ice, but did a pretty good job otherwise.

So I'm thinking, with this method all you need is a heat source. I have always thought that the 'leftover' heat generated by a car engine just gets wasted, so why not use it to make refrigeration like we did in the old days? No doubt it would not get icy cold like you might be used to, but definitely could work well on those not so hot days. Considering the average automobile air conditioning compressor robs a substantial amount of horsepower, this method might surely pay for itself in MPG savings in short order.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Solar water heater video

This reinforces my thoughts about the possibility of using old satellite dishes to make hot water...

Lead acid battery reconditioning video

I promised more info on battery reconditioning - this is by Walt Barrett and is very informational. Enjoy!

Friday, March 6, 2009

You can't eat a muffin fan but....

We process thousands of these muffin fans in our recycling facility every year. Just about every computer, power supply and piece of network gear has at least one inside. Some are sold but most get scrapped, or at least they did, before my 7 year old gave me an idea.

For show and tell at school, he was determined to show the other kids how to harness wind energy with a muffin fan like this one. Connect a flashlight bulb to the fan's power wires, catch a breeze and shazam! the light glows as long as the fan is turning.

My son's idea got me going. I measured just under a half an amp out of the 4 inch fan I tested. I left it running in a good breeze for over a week and it worked just dandy, providing power to a load (which was actually another fan).  If you built a windmill array of 4 inch fans in four rows of five, the array size would be about 20" wide and 16" tall. Total output from the array would conceivably be around 8 amps at 12 vdc. Not a bad afterlife for the otherwise ill fated muffin fan!

Solar reflector made from old satellite dish?

I was sitting in line at our local metal recycling center when I noticed a large pile of aluminum satellite dishes waiting for certain doom when I had a moment of clarity...........could these be used as solar water heaters?

The surface of the dish would need to be sprayed with some type of super reflective coating for maximum heat transmission. A coil for the recirculated water could be placed in an insulated housing at the end of the arm, at the focal point of the suns rays.

One problem is that the dish is not made to swivel and follow the sun. Some older dishes, like the eight or ten footers had a motor actuated mechanism to allow the user to select a different satellite-but they are getting hard to find. To overcome this problem, I theorize that an array of these recycled water heaters could be set up with each pointing to a slightly different position along the sun's arc.

In rough numbers, the gain of these antennas is typically around 2 or 3. Not regarding losses, this means that water could be heated to between 80 and 120 degrees on a 40 degree day.

If you would like to learn more about Do-it-Yourself solar projects, we high recommend clicking HERE!

Electric bicycle concept using recycled materials

I have been a bicycle rider for about 40 years and always liked the idea of adding some type of power assist, like a motor. I did in fact put a 3 HP Briggs gasoline engine on my mountain bike a few years ago but it was not an enjoyable ride........there was a lot of vibration, it was heavy and wanted to go way too fast due to improper ratios. In fact, the way it was geared, I calculated it would go over 70 MPH with the engine running maxed at 3600 rpm. Whew!

With traces of my skin on the road and this idea behind me, I am now thinking about building an electric motor powered bike-one with the motor built into the existing wheels using magnets removed from computer hard drives. Why hard drive magnets? Because they are VERY strong. Plus, they are shaped in a way that they could easily be mounted on the spokes near the rim, for max torque. Then mount a wire wound 'stator' on the bike frame so that the magnets pass closely by it. Passing current through the coil at the correct interval (pulse) would push each magnet past it, making the wheel an electric motor.......

It may take several of the coils correctly positioned and pulsed strategically, but it looks to me like this would make a very inexpensive, efficient electric bicycle. Maybe the coils used could come from recycled items such as solenoids or transformers.

Does battery reconditioning work?

The short answer is yes, providing the battery is still in pretty good shape internally. Note that there are a lot of different battery types available-Lithium Ion, lead acid, NiMh and so on. Well have a discussion later about other types, but today we'll focus on the typical AA battery like this one. The label clearly says its not rechargeable, and that is correct. Put this battery in a typical battery charger and you might need to call the fire department. With this in mind, I will show you how to get a little more life out of this type of battery:

First, measure the battery voltage with a voltmeter. Let's say it reads 1.1 volts (a new battery should read 1.5 vdc). Using your 12V car battery charger, hold the black lead (negative) on the bottom of the AA battery. Quickly tap the red lead (positive) on the top of the battery a few times. DO NOT hold the red lead on the battery. It will get hot quickly and could rupture. Check the voltage again and you should see that it has come up a little. Repeat the tapping process, check voltage, etc. until you see the battery voltage come up as close as possible to 1.5. Chances are, it may be difficult to get voltage to 1.5 but even 1.4 or 1.3 is enough to run your digital camera or TV remote for awhile! I did this with two Duracell batteries and got about two months out of them through this type of 'recharging'. Normally, I would get about two weeks out of them in my digital camera.

Bad economy good for used parts?

Sure, you can scrap it and make a buck. But realize that most things still have some value in it's original form. Take for example this 20 GB hard drive. Why would you want it when you can buy a 160 GB drive for $130 or less? Here's why:  This drive can typically be purchased for less than $10, including shipping. You can't easily install a 160 GB drive on older computers anyway, so adding one like this (in addition to the drive already there) makes perfect sense. Install it and presto! You've got plenty more space in just a few minutes. You've probably realized its about time to upgrade that old computer anyway-but now you can prolong it's useful life just a little bit. Click here to find some deals on used hard drives like this one.

Computer UPS recycling idea

Since we are an electronics recycler, I am always trying to think of things that can be done with old electronic junk, like this UPS power supply. So what's inside? A couple of Gel Cell lead acid batteries; a big power transformer; a large circuit board and some miscellaneous wiring. If you wanted to scrap it, there are a few dollars worth of stuff inside.

Or you can fix them...... most of the time it is dead batteries. Sometimes the main circuit board is toast or a fuse is blown.

So here is my idea. Start with a unit that can be fixed easily (replace fuse, etc.). Connect several of these units together so they can supply enough power to run some appliances in your house. Use a wind generator and/or solar panels to keep their internal batteries charged.

The end result it a new life for something that would otherwise be tossed in a landfill plus it could greatly reduce your electric bill. Most importantly, this could come at a very low cost.