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Got a technical problem? Can't understand a piece of jargon or some technical principle? Drop us a line and we'll answer your question. Write to: Ask Silicon Chip, PO Box 139, Collaroy Beach, NSW 2097 or send an email to

Is it legal to do off-grid electrical wiring?

I just found your article on DIY home wiring from several years ago. Is it still OK in Queensland to do your own wiring if you are on generator power and not connected to the grid? Also, are there any good DIY books on the subject for Australian homes as I can only find English or US ones? B. C., Emu Creek, Qld).

• You cannot legally do your own wiring in Queensland or in any Australian state. This is despite the fact that it is perfectly legal in New Zealand where they use exactly the same wiring standards (ie, AS/NZS3000:2007) and the same electrical fittings. You can check the full details of what is possible in New Zealand in our article entitled “Are Aussies Dumber Than Kiwis?” in the June 2008 issue.

As far as off-grid systems are concerned, if you are installing any solar system with the intention of claiming government rebates, again you need it installed by a licensed electrician.

There are additional wiring standards for electrical systems that are off the grid and safety is a major concern. The relevant standards are:

(1) AS 4509: Standalone Power Systems (presently under revision).

(2) AS 4086: Secondary Batteries.

(3) AS 4777: Grid-Connected Inverters (not applicable in your case).

(4) AS1768: Lightning Protection.

We recommend the book “Solar Success – Getting It Right Every Time” by Collyn Rivers. It is available from the SILICON CHIP Bookshop for $47.50 plus $10 postage & packing.

Programmable Ignition For BMW 2002

My brother and I have built the Programmable Ignition (SILICON CHIP, March, April & May 2007) from a Jaycar kit for his BMW 2002. We have a reluctor distributor from a later model car and adapted it to fit. The winding reads just under 1000Ω and on a test unit, it generates -1V to +1V at 1000 RPM.

We have tried to follow the procedure to set VR1. It reads 4.98V regardless of the VR1 setting. I have unsoldered VR1 and confirmed that it does cover the 0-100kΩ range. I assume the the reluctor should be connected when doing the settings?

In this set-up, it seems the Q5’s output never gets to 0V. Do we need to change some of the resistor values to match the output range of this reluctor?

We have managed to get it running (badly) on points with a zero map (using the original clockwork weights) but are getting some sort of interference. I’ve mounted the ignition driver module in the same box, so now are going to move that to its own box to attempt to eliminate the issue. (R. W., via email).

• The reluctor may be faulty as a -1V to +1V signal is very low. Try adjusting the reluctor gap so there is more signal.

You may be able to improve the reluctor triggering by removing VR1 and decreasing the 47kΩ resistor at the base of Q5 to 10kΩ.

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