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!