Instructables

Adapt a clock today! Cheap trackers boost solar panel and solar cooker performance.

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Picture of Adapt a clock today! Cheap trackers boost solar panel and solar cooker performance.
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The Sun's path across the sky has been known and has been predictable for a very long time. People with solar panels and solar cookers take either a high tech approach to solar tracking (light detecting electronics, etc or they manually adjust the cooker or panel. High tech is very expensive and manual adjustment is majorly error prone.
Low tech cheap tracking could improve solar performance substantially.
Low tech tracking would be valuable in really poor countrys for solar cooking and perhaps save many trees from the cooking fires.
This instructable describes my tracker that I made from an old and ugly clock.
This is a collaboration so if you have an old clock lieing around, please set it up with a gearwheel as I did and see how sturdy it is. If we can find a strong robust one, It could be bulk ordered for appropriate tech solar timing projects.
Brian
 
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Step 1: Stripping the clock

Picture of Stripping the clock
First thing I had to do was to take the hands off the clock.
The hands are attached to 3 concentric shafts that are connected to the gear wheels in the clock
I had to find the wheels inside that turned the minute and second hand and cut off the pieces that went up through the middle. therefore I was left with the shaft that turns the hour hand. The hour hand is friction fit onto the shaft.
I wanted something stuck on much more firmly!






Unfortunately I dropped the clock during my taking it apart and I cracked the connection to its face.
hhylndr4 months ago

Brian, ,

Excellent...thank you for posting your great tracking unit.... And to those who have been critical of Brian's work, the ' you need to do it this way' or why didn't you do this, add that....and so on.... Get to your drawing/design boards, spend the time, build a unit, take pictures, make a video, make drawings, diagrams and charts and write up step by step directions, with material lists.....then post it here for man kind to have at its perusal ....and be sure to ready to be bombarded with cynical criticism.....

Brian, that you for sharing your design, saving me hours & hours of R&D, it is refreshing, indeed, to have people like you, share their findings w/out expecting anything in return but those following having success .... And benefiting from their hard work....

I wish you health, happiness & prosperity....again, thank you for this post & look forward to more in the future

Richard, sie

Rancho El Starvo

Te Jas, on the Red River, half a mile south of Native America aka Oklahoma

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gaiatechnician (author)  hhylndr4 months ago

Hi, thanks, it is not that great, I never did find a clock that was stronger. After that I went on to making drippers for gardening that would probably work better than the clock for rotating the lazy Susan.

https://www.flickr.com/photos/52815627@N06/8036249196/ The drip from that is very reliable, probably nearly as good as the clock and I have done it in 5 gallon bucket size too with dog dishes or aluminum dishes as the float. It is tough to get round to everything because my job takes a lot out of me. Anyway, if you do any new solar cooking stuff, I recommend the float and dripper as a better way of controlling a rotation. Brian

DaveB132 years ago
The Intermatic Timers used for sprinklers water heaters etc, have a pretty strong clock motor to trip the switch inside. But they come with their own problems, not exactly cheap or commonly thown away & they need 110 V (or depending on model 220 V ) to run.
rippa7002 years ago
Fantastic. Who needs it to be totally accurate? This is an ideal solution - thanks for a great post...
sharkking3 years ago
could you not just have the clock turning a small solar oven ontop of it?
gaiatechnician (author)  sharkking3 years ago
Clocks are weak, there would never be enough power. You have to multiply the power somehow.
And clock gears are really weak. A tiny gust of wind will strip the gears.
Hope that helps.
Mr. Rig It6 years ago
Can you say Rube Goldberg machine? This is really a cool idea. I have never seen or heard of it before and I definately like it. I think it has great promise. Good job.
gaiatechnician (author)  Mr. Rig It6 years ago
I think it is unfair to call it a Rube Goldberg machine. The float and bucket of water act both as ballast and as protection against wind damage for the clock driver. If you want Rube Goldberg, try letting the water dripping out of it onto a vegetable patch! I made a 2 bucket version where the water drips out and raises a float in another bucket (instead of having a counterweight) but it was a pain to take the water out of the bottom bucket at the end of the day! (definitely a more poetic version though!) Simple trackers are needed in poor countries for solar cooking so I invite people to make their own and make better versions. Think of it as volunteer work in your back yard! Brian
It just reminded me of a RG machine, didn't mean to offend . I think it is a great idea.
gaiatechnician (author)  Mr. Rig It6 years ago
No problem. Maybe it is one. Time will tell!
I don't get where people are calling this an RG!
RG used 'complex' ways to do simple things
This is simplicity doing something complex
Geesh
Thank you Brian for your instrut, I like your idea of using 2 buckets
I was also thinking about trying one with an orifice to control the drip rate
No RG used simplistic ideas in a overly complex ways. There was no insult meant in say it was an RG. Perhaps we can get away from calling it an RG and call it a GT (gaiatechnician), meaning it's a new and different way of thinking.
Blofish3 years ago
This is Art ! The simplicity. I salute you!
gaiatechnician (author) 4 years ago
I have a new diagram that is probably something that people would much prefer doing
It is http://solardesign.ning.com/photo/liquid-piston-tracker
If you have your solar panels on equatorial mount, I think the liquid piston device would be an ideal way of turning them.
I also have a video about equatorial mount for solar panels which is probably the best out there right now!
(because there are no others!). 
It is definitely worth a look before you start into a project.
Brian
picbuck6 years ago
WOW! I'm calling it Rube Goldberg too, and saying that with the greatest respect. Even conceiving of such a machine is impressive. To then build it and make it work...well, my hat's off to ya, and I bet Mr. Goldberg's is too.
gaiatechnician (author)  picbuck6 years ago
Well , I disagree. Rube Goldberg was about needless complexity. It is needless complexity to have a photo cell searching for the sun. Any astronomer who has a telescope with equatorial mount and a little electrical driver to follow the stars automatically can tell you that. All I was trying to do was use a clock as a very cheap mechanical timer. Clocks are so delicate that I could not use them to power anything. Really it is not very complicated at all.
I was speaking tongue in cheek. My real meaning was/is that you're thinking outside the box. In fact, throwing the box away. But I obviously didn't get that across. So more directly, whoa, very cool concept, very cool execution!
gaiatechnician (author)  picbuck6 years ago
Sorry. On another site the Rube Goldberg aspect was clearly all that people saw. It sometimes feels like people are ganging up to quash the thought. Anyway, thanks for the encouragement. I do think it is simple but It took many months with the notion in the back of my mind to come up with it.
Again demonstrates the old, old principle. No matter what you do, somebody's going to come along and say you're wrong. But those "somebodies" are never the ones who think.
akimbo m6 years ago
Funny thing is... i don't get how it work... Its seems pretty hard to visualize how its suppose to work by word for this particular project... A diagram might be helpful.
gaiatechnician (author)  akimbo m6 years ago
I added a diagram to the intro page. It is the pic on the right. click on it to see it better. brian
thanks, Brian. Is that your name right?
gaiatechnician (author)  akimbo m6 years ago
Yes, I am brian. I know the diagram is not much good. I made it before I thought of a "gearwheel" instead of an hour hand . Perhaps osomeone can try different kinds of electric clocks to find the best one for this type of project. They seem mostly the same to me but perhaps certain brands are better, more robust or cheaper? As soon as the green science fair is over,(8th June, just 4 days to make this a winner!) I will make this a collaboration. Hopefully people will give their input and the how-to will get really good. The potential is there to make millions of solar panels and solar cookers 20% better! Adapt a clock today!
cool... its does seem that your setup is essentially a rope style pump... If thats the case, isn't the rope suppose to go in a loop? Also... why does the clock has to be electronic, why can't you go for a standard physical pendulum with gravity powered weight. This would mean you will totally remove the need for the water ballast, as the the regulator would be stronger. This also reduces the number of strings to one.
gaiatechnician (author)  akimbo m6 years ago
The set up is not a rope style pump. The clock just controlls the height of the water in the bucket. This is valuable because it removes the direct link between the controller and the reflector. The wind is the problem. If you have a direct link, it must be very robust. A small gust of wind would tear apart the gears of a clock (perhaps this is why solar trackers are expensive?). The link is indirect, so the effects of gusts of wind are absorbed by the water in the bucket. I also made a 2 bucket version and that is a great buffer against the wind! A mechanical clock might be fine too. I cannot seem to find them anymore.
A re purposed grandfather clock? You can find them in some old antique shops, might be more expensive then your setup though. Or perhaps even a windup clock is better, since they are generally still robust. Modification would still be difficult. This is since they are usually metal.
Perhaps you may also take this opportunity to upload another instructable using this idea! If so, then don't forget to credit me :3 Heres another cookie
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gaiatechnician (author)  akimbo m6 years ago
I will not be doing that, but you can go ahead yourself! I already made a tracker based on a water clock and other projects are on the horison.
rimar20006 years ago
Very good idea!
Awesome! Complex looking, but simple. Thanks for posting this.