How to Use the PedalPC

Once you have set up and adjusted the PedalPC, connected your equipment to it, and connected it to your network, it is ready for use.

As you are probably aware by now, your power output is directly proportional to your pedaling speed. The faster you pedal, the more electricity you will generate and the more devices you can power.

You must pedal fast enough to at least satisfy your equipment’s power requirements. If you pedal faster than this, the battery stores the excess electricity generated.

Pedaling too fast can generate more electricity than the battery can store. When this happens, the generator disconnects for a few seconds to alert you and prevent battery damage.

Pedaling too slow will cause your equipment to draw electricity from the battery. The battery will drain if this continues too long.

It’s therefore important to match your pedaling speed to your equipment’s power requirements. An indicator light in the front of the desktop helps you do this when you first get started. Once you get a feel of how fast to pedal, you will no longer need to monitor the light and can focus on your work instead.

LED indicator light

The LED indicator light’s behavior when pedaling was described in a previous step. If you stop pedaling, or pedal too slowly for more than 10 seconds, the LED stops blinking and begins to slowly throb. Its color during this phase will shift depending on the battery voltage, from green (high battery voltage) through yellow (medium) and orange (low) to red (very low).

throbbing green led
LED behavior when stopped with the battery fully charged

You can use this as a rough indicator of the battery’s charge level as long as the total load on the battery is low ( < ~6 W).

When the battery’s auto-off period (described below) is exceeded, the LED stops throbbing and turns off entirely until the next time you pedal.

Dashboard Screen

The browser-based dashboard is useful for monitoring your power output and power consumption and the state of the battery. You can also use it to turn power to your devices on and off, and adjust how long the battery supplies power after you stop pedaling.

To reach the dashboard, first make sure your computer is connected to your network. If so, enter the url http://pedalpc.local:8081 in your web browser and login using the settings you used during setup.

The dashboard screen is divided into five sections.

screen of dashboard with voltage and power graph

dashboard screen with graph (click to enlarge)

The Power section shows how much power you are generating and how much the fan, battery, and each power socket are drawing. The default names of the sockets are socket #1, socket #2, etc.; you can change them by clicking on the text and entering a new label.

Next to the fan and power socket labels are dropdown selectors with three values, “on”, “off”, and “auto”. Selecting “on” turns the socket (or fan) on; “off” shuts its off. Devices set to “auto” are only “on” when you generate power. If you stop pedaling–or don’t pedal fast enough to charge the battery–they shut off after 10 seconds. This allows you to take a break and automatically shut off any unneeded equipment, reducing battery drain.

The battery’s “auto off” setting contols how long the battery can discharge before power is cut to all sockets. This allows you to store excess energy in the battery while pedaling, then use it to charge battery-powered devices (like phones or tablets) after you stop. To use this feature, set the rechargeable device’s socket setting to “on” and the battery’s auto-off period to slightly longer than the device’s charging period. For example, if your phone normally takes three hours to charge, set the battery’s auto off period to four hours. After the device is charged, the battery will time out and shut off power to its charger, saving energy.

The Current Session section shows how long you have pedaled, how much energy you have generated, and roughly how many calories you have burned since you began pedaling. Reloading the browser page will reset all these values to zero.

The Battery Status section shows the current battery voltage and charging current along with a rough estimate of its current state-of-charge.

The History section shows the total length of time, total energy produced, and average amount of power generated over the last seven days of use.

The Graph at the bottom of the screen displays your average power production and consumption along with the system voltage at one-minute intervals. Hovering over a data point will show all the numeric values for that period:

screen of dashboard with pointer hovering over a data point

dashboard graph showing data point values (click to enlarge)

Hovering over a label highlights its plot line:

screen of dashboard with pointer a text label highlighting it's plot line

dashboard graph showing plot line

If you have any questions, feel free to contact me.