Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:47 am

So I hooked up a pedometer to the shaft of the feed auger on my Alaska 140. It worked great to track the number of revolutions. I kept good records to determine that 1 revolution feeds about 0.1017 lbs of my oiled Reading coal. Sure would be nice, I thought, to not have to write down the number of revolutions. Since I have a computer that is always on, I wanted to record a date/time on the computer each time a revolution was recorded. That would give me the best possible resolution on my consumption data.

The normal solution there is to hook a switch up to a serial port and write your own program to do it. Since a lot of computers now don't even come with a serial port I wanted to do it via USB. After a lot of searching I found this little board. To the computer it looks like a keyboard (or a mouse, or a gamepad).

Using the technique I had learned when hooking up the pedometer, I put a magnet on the shaft of the auger and a reed switch mounted off to the side of the auger. I hooked up the reed switch to the board that I bought and plugged that in to a USB port. I configured the board so that every time the switch was triggered it looked like I had pressed Ctrl-Shift-Alt-E on the keyboard. I then set up a very small batch file with one command:
echo 1,%date:~4% %time:~0,8% >> "%userprofile%\My Documents\Revolutions %date:~4,2%-%date:~-4%.csv"
which just adds a new line containing the number of revolutions (just 1) and the date/time to a file in the My Documents folder. It will create a new file each month. Finally, created a desktop shortcut to my batch file and then assigned a shortcut key to the desktop shortcut. My shortcut key is Ctrl-Shift-Alt-E.

So, whenever the feed auger makes a full revolution, the reed switch is triggered, my computer sees a Ctrl-Shift-Alt-E, runs my batch file, and records a date/time in a file on my computer. I've had it running for a few days now and it is working great.

I no longer need to weigh my coal or write anything down to keep track of my consumption - and I can track it much more closely than I ever did before!
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: lsayre On: Mon Dec 24, 2012 11:58 am

Well done! I should put a switch on my ash grate motors Pitman arm. That way each full ashing stroke (forward/back) would be counted and I could eventually equate that to coal consumed (since for my boiler ashing and stoking are synonymous).
lsayre
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Pea
Other Heating: Resistance Boiler (if I ever get it fixed)

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: Freddy On: Mon Dec 24, 2012 12:25 pm

I love it! Thanks for sharing.
Freddy
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Axeman Anderson 130 (pea)
Hot Air Coal Stoker Stove: Reading piece o' junk in the barn (rice)
Coal Size/Type: Pea size, Superior, deep mined

Visit Lehigh Anthracite

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: Lightning On: Mon Dec 24, 2012 2:30 pm

Yeah man :) Thats using yer noodle!!
Lightning
 
Hand Fed Coal Furnace: Clayton 1537G
Coal Size/Type: Nut/Stove Size Mix

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Mon Dec 24, 2012 10:00 pm

Thanks for the encouragement guys! It's nice to see that there are others out there who appreciate these kinds of things too.

Mike
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: fuccillo111 On: Mon Dec 31, 2012 9:24 pm

Will post some results of this system?
fuccillo111
 
Stove/Furnace Make: keystoker
Stove/Furnace Model: koker

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:01 pm

fuccillo111 wrote:Will post some results of this system?


I've had a bit of a setback, but I'll share what I have. I left town the day after Christmas and came back to find that the double faced tape I had used to hold the reed switch assembly in place had failed and the sensor was laying on the floor. Also, in looking at my data file I discovered that even before it had fallen off I had been getting more than one entry in my file per revolution.

The multiple entries problem was caused by the strength of the magnet I had been using and the orientation of its field. I had been using a very strong rare earth button magnet the size and shape of a dime and switched to a smaller, regular one in the shape of a rectangle. It is working fine so far, but I'm checking the data file frequently.
I also reattached the sensor to the bracket I made with a couple of tiny little bolts. It won't fall off anymore!

I finished all of that yesterday, so I have only about 24 hours worth of data so far. I've attached what I've got so far. I'll have more later in the season.
Attachments
Revolutions 01-2013.zip
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mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: KLook On: Tue Jan 01, 2013 10:13 pm

Knowing the speed of the shaft in RPM's, wouldn't it be easier to just use a run time recorder and then you only need to calculate how many revolutions in the recorded time? I know it ain't as fun as a rare earth magnet :roll: and a reed switch :roll: and a little computer board! :roll: HA! Just getting ya softened up before one of the old dinosaurs gets in and really rips ya one! :shock: I can hear it now. Are you warm! Is it staying lit? Can you count the bags? KISS ya knuckhead!
Sounds like fun and I like to tinker but not savvy enough for little computer boards...yet. ;)

Kevin
KLook
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF 3000
Coal Size/Type: rice, bagged, Blaschak
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman (Back In Maine)
Stove/Furnace Model: VF 3000

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:11 pm

KLook wrote:Knowing the speed of the shaft in RPM's, wouldn't it be easier to just use a run time recorder and then you only need to calculate how many revolutions in the recorded time?


Great idea! Hadn't thought of doing it that way. Not sure how I'd get the recorded time on the computer though.

KLook wrote:Just getting ya softened up before one of the old dinosaurs gets in and really rips ya one! :shock: I can hear it now. Are you warm! Is it staying lit? Can you count the bags? KISS ya knuckhead!
Sounds like fun and I like to tinker but not savvy enough for little computer boards...yet. ;)


Bring it! I've got thick enough skin. Yes, I'm warm. Yes I could count bags if I used them. Yes, I'm saving money over my alternatives. Are those things fun? Not much. Is this fun to me? Absolutely. This makes my brain happy! Those other things make my wallet and my wife happy. Some guys like sports, some guys like cars. I like automated data collection! :P
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: KLook On: Tue Jan 01, 2013 11:18 pm

Not sure how I'd get the recorded time on the computer though.


There's your next project, glad I could help! :lol:

Kevin

I must be nuts, I like all of them and more!
KLook
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: Harman VF 3000
Coal Size/Type: rice, bagged, Blaschak
Stove/Furnace Make: Harman (Back In Maine)
Stove/Furnace Model: VF 3000

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: CoaledWinter On: Thu Jan 03, 2013 6:42 pm

That's great, I love it!

You've inspired me to do something similar. I have an AA 130m I still need to install, I'll have to figure out a way to track it like that.
CoaledWinter
 
Stove/Furnace Make: Axeman-Anderson
Stove/Furnace Model: 130M

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Thu Jan 03, 2013 11:07 pm

CoaledWinter wrote:That's great, I love it!

You've inspired me to do something similar. I have an AA 130m I still need to install, I'll have to figure out a way to track it like that.


One of the things I really like about that board is that any type of switch can be used. Doesn't have to be a reed switch. Could be a cam that activates a push button, or a reflective sensor on a shaft. Let your imagination run wild and the good times roll! :lol:

Seriously though - if I can be of any help, feel free to ask!
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Fri Jan 04, 2013 10:31 am

I forgot to mention... It's also possible to hook up more than one switch. Want to track when your combustion blower comes on and when the pumps run in addition to when coal is fed into the beast? That can be done. With the board I linked to above you can use up to 8 switches - depending on whether or not you need to supply power to any of them. If you need more than that there is a bigger board available from the same company - and you can daisy chain those bigger boards together if you need more than what one of them will provide.
mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: mdrelyea On: Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:07 pm

After a few days of running now I've got some data to work with. I determined the number of rotations for each of the past four full 24 hour periods and multiplied that by the number of pounds I use per rotation. That gave me the number of pounds used per day. I then plotted that against the average temperature for the day and added it to last years data. Last year I was burning Blakshak. This year I'm burning Reading. Based on the data I have so far, it looks like the Reading has more BTUs/lb.
Consumption.png
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mdrelyea
 
Hot Air Coal Stoker Furnace: Alaska 140 Auger
Hand Fed Coal Stove: Russo #2
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Rice/Nut

Re: Automatic Coal Consumption Tracking

PostBy: lsayre On: Sat Jan 05, 2013 3:33 pm

I've noticed a similar thing in going from Blaschak to Harmony coal. It appears that I'm getting roughly 9% more BTU's per pound form Harmony than I did with Blaschak.
lsayre
 
Stoker Coal Boiler: AHS S130 Coal Gun
Coal Size/Type: Anthracite Pea
Other Heating: Resistance Boiler (if I ever get it fixed)

Visit Lehigh Anthracite