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Horwig

Observatory computers and damp

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My observatory computer is dead, AGAIN!

My first computer in the dome died during a thunder storm, which took out virtually everything else, so was replaced with a nice Dell SFF optiplex 780 from fleabay. It had been powered down, siting in the observatory for a few weeks, now that is reporting a motherboard fault, and not powering up, it's been damp and cold of late, don't know it that was the cause of death, so yet another pc has been bought off the bay to replace it.

In the dome, I also have a very nice micro PC, an optiplex 160, which runs the all sky camera, and is on 24/7. My question comes down to power consumption and heat. My wife is not happy with all the kit which I leave running 24/7, our last electricity bill was a whopper.

The PSU of the ASC PC is 50 watts, the dead PC was 230W, the one replacing it is 185 watts, so instead of running both PCs 24/7, what would people think of building an insulated box to house both, and using just the heat from the 50W psu to keep both warm?

I must consider buying a power meter to measure just how much electricity I'm consuming.

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I  must offer my sympathy having had condensation problems myself and I don't suppose for a minute that we are alone. Recently the window in my handset steamed up and it began to behave in an erratic manner.Had to dry it out with a hair dryer. Fortunately my Dome (not a Pulsar) has been treated with anti-condensation chemicals before I bought it. The condensation seems more in the interior atmosphere. I have now cured the problem by running a 5 volt fan all night low cost and it is working.Bone dry this morning..Dave

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A few years back, a friend, who's a farmer, asked me to have a look at the PC he used to run his milking parlour as it had stopped working.  He kept it in a kitchen cupboard in the barn.  When not in use, the doors were kept closed and a 25W or 40W (can't remember exactly, it's been a while) incandescent light bulb provided heat.  The bulb had accidentally been turned off overnight and the PC stopped recognising the keyboard.  A few minutes work with a hair dryer on the keyboard and all was well again.

So, yes, I think your idea is a good one.

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1 hour ago, Horwig said:

The PSU of the ASC PC is 50 watts, the dead PC was 230W, the one replacing it is 185 watts, so instead of running both PCs 24/7, what would people think of building an insulated box to house both, and using just the heat from the 50W psu to keep both warm?

The power rating of the PSU is not continuous operation but maximum power output depending on use. While in sleep mode or idle/standby then power consumption may drop below a few watts, wake up the PC and start up a stacking operation and power consumption will rise to several hundred watts for a fast four core processor using all available memory. Once that operation is complete then power consumption will drop back down to thirty or so watts.

In my observatory I have the system computer in a simple ventilated cabinet with a low voltage, low energy pet warmer pad placed in the cabinet on a shelf below the computer, the warmer pads cost around £15 from Amazon.

The observatory computer is never switched off but allowed to sleep so it can be woken remotely, it is plugged into a power monitoring POIP socket and looking at it now it is consuming just 5W in sleep mode, the pet warmer pad is currently running and is consuming 20W.

The main problems with desktop PC's in observatories are that the ATX power supplies are not rated for use in a condensing atmosphere and a laptop with a sealed external power module is a safer and more reliable alternative plus conventional disk drives are not rated for use at very low temperatures.

 When I eventually replace the observatory PC it will be with a fanless industrial PC which generally use laptop based motherboards, solid state drives and 19V power supplies and are rated for use down to below freezing temperatures.

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I must admit, to counter damp problems, I run my mount PC 24x7, which keeps everything dry etc. but conversley in summmer it can get a little warm....

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I use a dehumidifier to maintain 50% humidity - it uses power yes, but a lot cheaper than replacing some expensive stuff! Right now the PC is taking Flats, Darks and Bias frames and has been at it several days, so the inside temperature is higher than it might otherwise be, but regardless of temperature (it's always a few degrees warmer inside than out) that 50% figure is maintained.

ChrisH

Obs System.jpg

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I also keep mine running 24/7 and use the cloud sensor to see what I missed during the night. The PC

keeps itself dry that way. Does get hot in the summer but when I bought it of off ebay I bought two of them (cheap old dells 35 pounds each)

and have the backup in the garage for when the first breaks.

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My dome dehumidifier seems to have developed a leak, only happened yesterday, so this is a very timely topic. I think I will order a pet bed warmer for the laptop until I can get the dehumidifier sorted. When the dehumidifier (ELA rotary dessicant type) is running, it keeps the inside temperature reasonably warm, around 12 C, and the laptop is happy.

ChrisH - that is very nice looking Weather software - from a weather station I assume. Do you mind giving a bit more information as it looks really useful.

Regards, Hugh

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8 minutes ago, hughgilhespie said:

My dome dehumidifier seems to have developed a leak, only happened yesterday, so this is a very timely topic. I think I will order a pet bed warmer for the laptop until I can get the dehumidifier sorted. When the dehumidifier (ELA rotary dessicant type) is running, it keeps the inside temperature reasonably warm, around 12 C, and the laptop is happy.

ChrisH - that is very nice looking Weather software - from a weather station I assume. Do you mind giving a bit more information as it looks really useful.

Regards, Hugh

This is the software by the looks of it.  Free but you need the hardware :)

http://sandaysoft.com/products/cumulus

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I've used that software in the past - it's very good but I did replace it with my own software written in Python and running on a Linux machine.  I have a complete weather station on the books but it's currently on hold with astro stuff taking priority.  I hope to get back to it before long.  It's something close to my heart and I would really like to get back to it.

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Another +1 for Cumulus.  I then export the data into an analytics tool called Qlik Sense for some pretty graphs:

 

QlikSense.jpg

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I buy cheap 7 inch windows tablets plug a monitor keyboard mouse into it. what its not powerful enough to run I run using remote desktop from the PC in the house. Its good enough for capture and control and can be handheld if I wish. I put it in a plastic bag when not hand held. 

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