Have you ever wondered if it is possible to mine Bitcoins using second hand junk and scrap materials? I did, and decided to give it a shot. In this article I will tell you how and why I got into this project, what it cost, and how much bitcoin it earns on a daily basis.
But first is the question of why.
By now you are probably aware that Bitcoin and crypto currencies are the way of the future. Widespread mainstream adoption of the blockchain technology, that is the foundation upon which Bitcoin is based, is happening at an ever increasing rate. People are investing, trading, and mining Bitcoins. So, why have I decided to go down the scrapyard-solar-power route?
There are two main reasons, or really, one main reason and a few extra points that I use to justify my stubborn-ness.
Money. Bitcoin mining is expensive. The mining equipment (specialized computers) are pricey, with a decent machine costing anywhere from about $2500US to $10000US and beyond. Whatsmore, they suck a lot of power. Hundreds of kwh units per month in some cases, which again costs serious bucks. I just don’t have those kind of resources available. I’m fairly broke most of the time, and my available mains power supply is an extension lead running out from my bedroom window to my tiny shed. So I have to be creative.
I have worked in an electronics store for the past two years, and took advantage of staff discounts to grab myself a few little solar panels at bargain bin prices. The largest of the panels is only 90 watts, and the total of them altogether is just on 300 watts. Not exactly huge but it is what it is, and it allows me to charge up a bunch of 12 volt batteries from pure sunlight, so I’m happy.
As for batteries, I have been collecting old car batteries for about a year. My dad gave me a big deep cycle battery (about 100 amp hour, I believe) from his camper van, as it was getting a bit tired and he had bought himself a new replacement. He also threw me a couple of hefty 6 volters which bolt together for another 105AH of 12 volts, nice. I picked up a few old car batteries along the way and then placed a wanted ad on a local community website (here’s a shoutout to ‘Neighbourly‘) for any free old batteries people might have had laying around. Thanks to the generosity of the local folks I managed to score another half dozen or so second hand batteries of various ages and sizes, bringing the total capacity to around 640 amp hours of 12 volt batteries.
A $15 charge controller keeps things more or less under control. The wiring looks like a messy scramble but in reality it is only mostly a messy scramble. I have many years of experience as an electrician so there is a method to my madness. I don’t recommend anyone setting up their own system the way I have. There is risk involved so please, think safety.
I then use a range of automotive power regulators, plugs and sockets to give me a relatively stable 5 volt DC supply on which to run the mining farm. The plugs and sockets are the same as your car’s cigarette socket, and of course, the 5 volts is the exact same power that runs all your USB devices. It is a convenient and simple standard to use, and I love it.
So I use the 5 volt power to run a Raspberry Pi, which is a tiny little computer with all the functionality of a regular desktop pc but achieves it using only a few watts of power. When it comes to anything to do with solar power – low drain, high efficiency devices are critical if you want to be successful.
So the Raspberry Pi is running a program called CGMiner, which controls two USB mining sticks (Gekko Science 2PACs with a default hashing speed of 15Gh/s – I have mine overclocked to run at about 27Gh/s with a 12 volt fan keeping them cool). The Pi is connected to the internet via WiFi and runs 24/7, “forever”.
The cost to set this up was fairly minimal, although not completely “free”. The Raspberry Pi cost about $35US, the GekkoScience sticks, about $85US each, and the solar panels cost around $250US altogether. Various hardware and other bits and pieces might have added another $30US. As for the batteries, well I haven’t had to buy any of those. They cost me in petrol to go and pick them up from a few different places but the batteries themselves were free (hey, anyone can place a wanted ad for free stuff, right??). Anyway, a little high end math tells me this setup cost a grand total of about $400US plus my own time (most of which was spent learning how to set up the software and getting the Raspberry Pi and mining sticks configured).
Ok, so that’s the physical setup – I know you want to see the numbers. So here we go…
The Gekko Science 2PACs run the same ASIC chips that were used on the Antminer S5 miners. I have the onboard voltage across the capacitors set at around 0.62 volts, and run them at a frequency setting of 200 in the CGMiner program. At these numbers it is imperative to have a fan running across them or they will cook up pretty fast. I accidentally bumped the fan switch once and it turned off, causing the miners to heat up and switch themselves off automatically. I fairly sh*t myself but upon rebooting the system I found they were ok, with apparently no ongoing issues.
So at these settings, the miners hash at about 27Gh/s each, or 55 to 60 Gh/s combined. I currently have them connected to Slushpool (see screenshot), earning anywhere from about 600 to 1000 satoshis per day (or 0.00000600BTC to 0.00001000BTC), which equates to about 8 cents US per day at the current price of Bitcoin (around $8000US).
So basically, these things don’t make any money. However, the fact that they are earning a tiny fraction of bitcoin, and that I never have to spend anything on power to run them… well it’s still probably not worth doing if you want to make money from two little mining sticks. On the the hand, now that I have the solar power side of things set up there is nothing stopping me from buying more of the USB miners and multiplying the daily satoshi count.
In addition to the usb miners I also have a second hand Antminer S5 that I picked up cheap online and run via a 600 watt 12v to 230v inverter (inverter cost about $45US). One of the hashing boards inside it is dead, so it only hashes at half the normal rate and uses a lot less power than a good one. This model of ASIC miner is a few years old now, and is obselete, so only a crazy person would run them from a regular power socket these days. However, they draw a lot less power than a new miner such as an S9, and you can pick them up for about $200US, whereas a new S9 will run you anywhere from about $2500US to $3500US depending on the deal you can find. I don’t have $2500, but I had $200, and have enough solar power to run the S5 for a few hours each day, in addition to running the USB miners 24/7. It all adds to the satoshi soup.
So that’s basically my setup as it stands just now. I will continue to nurture and develop this crazy project, learning more about mining and solar power as I go along. I dream someday of setting up a large scale mining facility that I hope can be partially powered with solar power. Anyway, this is what I have done. I challenge you to do something bigger and better, or at least have a go! Peace!!