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Old 05-11-2019, 08:30 AM
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Default Intelligent chargers/power-supply units?



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I need to and want to conserve electricity because I live off the grid. One of the annoyances I deal with is power-supply devices that continue pulling power after the thing being charged is fully charged.

For example, when my laptop tells me its battery is fully charged, its power brick is still pulling between 14 and 24 watts.

One obvious solution to this problem is to simply unplug the power-supply cord when the thing is charged. I do that, usually, but sometimes I forget. Also - again using my laptop as an example - let's say I unplug and then I don't plug in for a few hours. This can allow my laptop battery's state of charge to get really low, which probably isn't good.

I do have some power-supply devices that pull no power when charging is complete. For example, the chargers for my DeWalt battery-powered tools stop pulling power when the battery is fully charged. And I think the chargers for my Stihl battery-powered chainsaws operate the same way.

Are there any commercially available solutions for this problem? For example, can I buy a power brick for my laptop that stops pulling power when the battery is charged, then starts pulling power when the battery's state of charge drops to (for example) 75%, then stops pulling power until the state of charge again drops to 75%, and so on?

(It occurs to me that some electronic devices made for the military might be set up to handle things the way I want??? IDK.)

(NOTE: The chargers for my laptops are the biggest offenders I've noticed, but as I continue to analyze my power-consumption patterns I'm sure I'll find that other devices in my life are doing the same thing.)
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Old 05-11-2019, 08:54 AM
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The problem is batteries are not true electrical storage but are instead chemical devices that self discharge and need periodic top up. Any maintaining charger is going to be a continuous drain. The charger for your drill (and chainsaws) are charge up and done. At that point the battery starts to self discharge and if you don't practice a routine of periodic recharge you will end up with a dead battery.

Power supplies for things like computers TV's that don't have batteries may still have features that need a constant amount of power for wake on Lan or remote controls to work.

You could design a charger that only charges when the battery drops to a certain voltage as indication of charge. I don't know of any commercial available ones designed to do that. Plus I am sure the circuitry would consume some power to carry out that function.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:06 AM
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I really don't know, but I will say that if the charger is that smart it is probably smart enough to send information on what you are looking at or shopping for back to home if it is plugged in while you use it. Could even send what you were looking at while it was unplugged once it has been plugged back in.

Nothing is free anymore and sometimes the tax you pay isn't in dollars. I don't do or look at or say anything online or in text that I'm not willing to stand in front of a jury and explain.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:36 AM
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Originally Posted by MattB4 View Post
The problem is batteries are not true electrical storage but are instead chemical devices that self discharge and need periodic top up. Any maintaining charger is going to be a continuous drain. The charger for your drill (and chainsaws) are charge up and done. At that point the battery starts to self discharge and if you don't practice a routine of periodic recharge you will end up with a dead battery.
Thanks for that explanation, Matt. I get it. So, drawing upon this information you've provided, I guess what I'm looking for is something analogous to a battery tender that you'd use for a lead-acid car battery - only I'd want one that works for the battery in my laptop, which is presumably some kind of lithium battery. Of course, something like that would draw power all the time, but sometimes the power draw would be minimal (I think?), which would come close to accomplishing what I want.
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Old 05-11-2019, 09:47 AM
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You could put the laptop power supply on a timer.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:00 AM
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Instead of a laptop you might just get yourself a mini computer. My little Zotac Z-box draws almost nothing during operation and I turn off the power when not in use. No batteries to worry about or charge.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:02 AM
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Okay, now the fog is beginning to clear.

In Post #4 I said I thought I wanted a battery tender for my laptop. I now realize the laptop's power brick probably IS exactly that: a battery tender/maintainer. My problem is that I wish the power brick would pull much less than 14-24 watts when it is "maintaining." (It pulls 50-60 watts when the battery's SOC is relatively low - that is, when it is doing a lot of charging. Sorry - not sure about the terminology - bulk vs. absorption vs. float - not even sure those terms are applicable to lithium batteries. But you guys know what I mean.)

Now, woowoo2 has pointed out that

Quote:
You could put the laptop power supply on a timer.
That's a great idea! I'll try it and report back.
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Old 05-11-2019, 10:49 AM
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Originally Posted by MattB4 View Post
Instead of a laptop you might just get yourself a mini computer. My little Zotac Z-box draws almost nothing during operation and I turn off the power when not in use. No batteries to worry about or charge.
That seems like a promising idea, Matt. I am looking into it now.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:14 AM
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Might seem counter intuitive but battery powered devices are going to use more of your self generated power than a direct powered unit does. Every battery is a energy waster.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:25 AM
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Originally Posted by MattB4 View Post
Might seem counter intuitive but battery powered devices are going to use more of your self generated power than a direct powered unit does. Every battery is a energy waster.
It doesn't seem counterintuitive to me. However, having lots of battery storage in various forms does come in handy when you live off the grid because you can live off the batteries when the sun's not out.

(BTW, when are we going to have our first date?

Ok - just kidding. I'm probably older than you, and I think we live about a thousand miles apart, and I'm way too geeky to date anybody anyway.

But I do enjoy your intelligence and your technical acumen and your very cool sense of humor, so I'm just sayin'.... )
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:40 AM
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Originally Posted by MyPrepperLife View Post
It doesn't seem counterintuitive to me. However, having lots of battery storage in various forms does come in handy when you live off the grid because you can live off the batteries when the sun's not out.

(BTW, when are we going to have our first date?

Ok - just kidding. I'm probably older than you, and I think we live about a thousand miles apart, and I'm way too geeky to date anybody anyway.

But I do enjoy your intelligence and your technical acumen and your very cool sense of humor, so I'm just sayin'.... )
I am hideously ugly.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:53 AM
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I am hideously ugly.
But Matt, let's not discount your inner beauty (intel, tech. abilities, wit).

Not to mention the fact that few women could resist feeling attracted to a Solar bulb inventor.
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Old 05-11-2019, 01:22 PM
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On the subject of batteries I happened to catch a PBS show on Cars where they mentioned graphene as a new battery technology. Sounded really interesting and doing some Internet searching I encountered this article about various possibilities. https://www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/...r-over-the-air

It could be a game changer in the coming years.
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Old 05-11-2019, 06:42 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MattB4 View Post
On the subject of batteries I happened to catch a PBS show on Cars where they mentioned graphene as a new battery technology. Sounded really interesting and doing some Internet searching I encountered this article about various possibilities. https://www.pocket-lint.com/gadgets/...r-over-the-air

It could be a game changer in the coming years.
MattB4, I clicked your link and read some of the information about the graphene battery technology. It does sound impressive. Obviously not ready for prime time, though.

If things go according to plan, I'll have a 6 KWH LiFePO4 battery bank before winter. If the graphene technology goes mainstream in the near future and turns out to be good, I guess I'll feel a bit of regret about my investment in the lithium batteries. We'll see what happens.
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Old 05-11-2019, 08:07 PM
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You may want to find a 12v charger for your laptop. Converting solar energy to you storage looses power. Now add in an inverter to convert that to AC power for your brick to convert it back to 18 volts or so wastes lots of juice. I picked up a 12 volt adapter for my surface pro 3 and it works great. A 12v adapter will cut out some of the conversion loss.
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Old 05-11-2019, 11:57 PM
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The battery in a laptop is there so it can be portable. If you're using your laptop at home and off the grid you probably have panels or wind or whatever connected to a battery bank, that is connected to an inverter, that is connected your laptop's charger, that is connected to your laptop to power it and charge its battery.
Every step in the process costs you efficiency.
When I'm on the road I power one of my laptops directly from a 12vdc deep cycle battery, and the other one from two 12vdc batteries connected in series, which means I don't have to use an inverter.
If you check the output of your laptop's charger it will probably be between 19 and 24vdc. If you connect two of your battery bank's 12vdc batteries in series you can run the laptop directly from them. Every time you charge and discharge your laptop's battery pack, you've subtracted one charging cycle from the pack's useful life.
The drain that a laptop puts on a large battery bank is about the same as the current supplied by a trickle charger.
A 12vdc adapter for your laptop still has to boost the voltage to match what is necessary to charge the battery in your laptop. The boost costs you efficiency.
Most likely, the chargers for your tools also convert AC to DC to charge the batteries for the tools. Depending on the voltage ratings of your tools' batteries, you can probably charge them directly from your battery bank or your battery charging system and increase the efficiency of your charging system significantly.
Converting from a higher DC voltage to a lower DC voltage is always more efficient than the other way round.
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Old 05-12-2019, 11:32 AM
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I wish there was a better answer for phantom loads.
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Old 05-12-2019, 02:24 PM
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gorn5150 and randolphrowzeebragg, thanks for the comments about 12V DC vs. 120V AC. I appreciate your input. Actually, I've always known there is a cost for converting from 12V DC to 120V AC, but I have some reasons for wanting to use 120V AC instead of 12V DC to charge my laptops.
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Old 05-12-2019, 02:55 PM
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I wish there was a better answer for phantom loads.
I was aware of the phantom-loads issue before I started building this off-grid house. To the extent possible, I've chosen appliances that don't draw power when they aren't in use, or, better yet, don't draw any power at all. For example, my propane-fueled wall heaters and propane-fueled cooktop don't contain electronics or LED displays, and they require no electricity whatsoever.

My combo washer/dryer is very smart about it: It does have an LED display that informs me of the progress of each cycle and so forth, but when the machine is finished with what I've told it to do, it shuts itself down completely. The LED display goes dark, and it draws no power whatsoever. IMO, the designers did it right.

My propane-fueled tankless water heater does draw a tiny bit of power (6 watts) when it's not heating water. It draws 75 watts when it is heating water (to power the ventilation fan). There is another model I could have gotten that doesn't require any electricity at all. I would have liked to buy that one, but I didn't because of the venting requirements (long story).

I don't know if I'll get a TV (probably not), but if I do, I'll probably plug it into a power strip that will allow me to cut the power to it when it's not being used, because it will probably want to draw some power even when it's turned off.

Of course, my comments probably aren't very helpful to somebody who has already invested in what I will call "phantom-load appliances" (appliances made by mainstream manufacturers such as LG, GE, Samsung). But somebody who's building or renovating an off-grid cabin or home might find the info useful.
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Old 05-12-2019, 07:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by MyPrepperLife View Post
I need to and want to conserve electricity because I live off the grid. One of the annoyances I deal with is power-supply devices that continue pulling power after the thing being charged is fully charged.

For example, when my laptop tells me its battery is fully charged, its power brick is still pulling between 14 and 24 watts.

One obvious solution to this problem is to simply unplug the power-supply cord when the thing is charged. I do that, usually, but sometimes I forget. Also - again using my laptop as an example - let's say I unplug and then I don't plug in for a few hours. This can allow my laptop battery's state of charge to get really low, which probably isn't good.

I do have some power-supply devices that pull no power when charging is complete. For example, the chargers for my DeWalt battery-powered tools stop pulling power when the battery is fully charged. And I think the chargers for my Stihl battery-powered chainsaws operate the same way.

Are there any commercially available solutions for this problem? For example, can I buy a power brick for my laptop that stops pulling power when the battery is charged, then starts pulling power when the battery's state of charge drops to (for example) 75%, then stops pulling power until the state of charge again drops to 75%, and so on?

(It occurs to me that some electronic devices made for the military might be set up to handle things the way I want??? IDK.)

(NOTE: The chargers for my laptops are the biggest offenders I've noticed, but as I continue to analyze my power-consumption patterns I'm sure I'll find that other devices in my life are doing the same thing.)

A solution I have considered to prevent over charging NICAD batteries are those mechanical clock timers where you turn a knob. So lets say you have a device that charges in four hours. Put a 4 to 6 hour timer for the AC on the charger. When you want to charge, wind it up.

The other idea might be X10 type devices controlled by a master timer. There may be residual power wasted in this solution however, depending on the application.
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