Saturday, January 13, 2018

The electrics work!

For about the last ten days or so it had been bitterly cold. So cold that working on the bus wasn’t really going to be much fun. Sure, I could have turned on my little electric fan heater but I try to use as little electricity as possible.

While things were frozen, some of my purchases arrived - and some did not. Generally it seems that stuff ordered from India, Thailand and Bangladesh seems never to arrive with my having to file for a refund with eBay. So, as normal some of my money is being held hostage until I get my refund and my final purchases. At this stage, the lack of a Radio Shack, ludicrously expensive as they were, is a hindrance.

The first thing done was to bury the contents of my onboard latrine since it had been used. The toilet was not smelling at all despite my having left it for a week and more. That proves my dry toilet system works. Heck, even if it has to be bagged and put in a sealed container after every use, it’s still decent value and very usable.
I can see that a very useful addition to the onboard toolkit will be a shovel for just this purpose. It’ll be way cheaper to bury the poo bag than to do anything else with it. I have to say poo disposal is more of a headache than anything else.

The plan today was to wire up the lighting (that I wasn’t ever going to install). My LED bulbs from China finally arrived and to be blunt they’re disappointing. In Walmart I got two other kinds of LED bulb. Some at 1.5W and some at 2.5W. The bulbs from China are 4.5W. In terms of brightness, there’s not as much difference between the bulbs. The big difference is in power consumption. Comparing the 130 lumen 1.5W bulb to my very expensive 350 lumen GE LED lantern (which should have been 3 times brighter), the bulb was far brighter than the LED lantern, lending more support to my theory that measuring LED brightness is not a good way of comparing LEDs. Lumens is how bright an LED is while lux is how much light is shone on a square meter of surface. It’s better to grade LEDs in candela. That measures against a known value - a single candle.

I have some spare L brackets so I decided to recycle them as lamp holders. The plan was to paint them then screw them to the wall. The bulb holders purchased some while ago that arrived recently would be simply glued to the bracket and the cabling installed. As it wasn’t that warm, the paint took forever to dry. While the paint was drying I got on with another project.

For a while I’ve thought that putting black foamboard in the window in cold weather would make the bus warmer. Thus browsing in Walmart a few days ago, it transpired that black foamboard was $2.75 a sheet as opposed to the white already in the bus that was just 88c. Clearly coloring one side of the foamboard looked better value and indeed it was. One 50c container of black acrylic paint covered just over two foamboards, painting just one side. That allows the same foamboard to be flipped for hot or cold weather.
Expecting the paint to attack the foamboard I was careful to paint just one board. As it dried fairly swiftly without obvious damage, I followed up by painting another one and a half before the paint ran out. Clearly I need to spend another massive 50c on more black acrylic paint.
The front windows look pretty good with black board set up inside. The white looks pretty bland but on the other hand effect is what’s needed not looks. The black dried swiftly and seemed to be impervious to water.

Moving on from painting, the paint having run out, it was time to seal the two cable inlets I’d installed. That really didn’t take very long. It was fortuitous that I’d bought more silicone sealant when in Dollar General a few days ago. The silicone seal tube in the caulking gun was dried solid. The new silicone seal did the job brilliantly so now everything is well sealed - from above and below.

Having sealed everything it was time to connect the cables to the charge controller inside the bus then to head under the bus to connect the cables to the battery. That was the job of minutes and was followed by puzzlement. The display on the charge controller was blank. Pulling out a digital multimeter from Walmart proved even more puzzling as the display showed random values, changing seemingly at random while not being connected to anything. In the end my Harbor Freight multimeter came up trumps. It seems that somehow the battery had been installed back to front. Thus, switching the cables going into the charge controller solved the problem. Red is negative and black is positive. It was just way easier than pulling the battery and turning it around. The display came on showing the battery voltage at 13.1v.
These are the mounting brackets. One is purple - it’s not an exact match to the opulent purple galley but it’s close. One is pink - again, not at exact match to the cosmic pink bedroom and the third would be lime passion but for the fact I just plain forgot to get green paint. When those are dry (and the grey one painted green) I’ll glue my bulb mounts to them and install them on the bus walls. The internal wiring is going to be pretty straightforward and my three colors of wire will make installation a snap.

I bought some LED garden lights from the dollar store some days ago. Those have very nice, very small tops that look as if they would make ideal lampshades. Nobody seems to make lampshades small enough for G4 bulbs but then nobody really expects anybody to use a G4 bulb for anything other than a night light.
The rectangular $2 top looks more usable but both look potentially useful as lampshades. In combination with the frosting spray they should be really quite excellent. It’s doubtful whether they’d stand up to a halogen lamp but at this point I think I’m committed to LEDs, sadly.

All the LEDs I bought have been graded as “warm”. I compared them to my LED lanterns anfd the LED lanterns now look like a very unpleasant blue. Indeed they now remind me of one of the CS Lewis stories in which the characters were in an underworld illuminated by a cold blue light. Blue is, as I’ve said on many occasions, not conducive to a good night’s sleep. Thus for a home, it has to be a warm looking light.

One thing I’d like to do is to install more 12v lines but the fuse box isn’t big enough. I could do with probably another 5 lines. Needless to say when I planned what I have, I consistently underplanned despite trying to overplan. I’ll try to complete things as they are. I can always expand and improve later. For the moment the plan is to complete the lighting then to wire in the fans. The box for my bedroom USB charging panel hasn’t arrived yet.

Two switches arrived a few days ago. Those will work for two of my lights. They were intended for connection to my battery power and the solar power so that it could be shut off with two switches. Unfortunately they were not really suitable for the heavy gauge cable from my battery. That will have to be a different kind of switch. Thus, I’ve ordered two more boxes but aluminum this time. They will be used as housings for switches controlling the output of the solar and battery.

Having hunted for all-in-one surface-mounting switches, it seems that they’re just too hard to find. Those that I found are good but were more expensive than just buying a box and mounting an ordinary switch on it. I have a ton of ordinary switches having purchased a load of stuff from Radio Shack’s going-out-of-business sale. So, still stuff on the way before I can complete the electrics. Fortunately most should arrive by the end of January.

I’ll get as much done as I can this weekend with the electrics though I might end up putting them off to do during my 4 hour lunch-breaks from driving school busses for a living. It might be an idea instead since I can easily attach cables one at a time and circuits one at a time, to install the water inlet if the weather is reasonably warm. That needs me to get under the bus and that’s a weekend job as it’s a messy job. This weekend is a 3 day weekend since there’s some kind of USA holiday going on, on Monday. I’m always a bit baffled by USA holidays, not being originally from the USA.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The toilet works

Well, I think we already knew my toilet did work when Eric stayed in my bus for a couple of days. Anyway, today I got the chance to use the bus toilet. It was not through choice through. As those of you familiar with my situation will know, I share a double-wide trailer with four other adults and their four dogs. Last night the temperature dropped inside the bus to 16F. It was probably a degree or two lower outside. Hence, of course since the water supply to the trailer comes via ununsulated plastic pipes, the pipes froze and there was no water for washing, for cooking, for drinking or for flushing the toilet.
I’m pretty well supplied in my bus for water with about 20 gallons of the stuff in jerry cans. Some of it made its way into the house for washing and drinking but clearly there wasn’t enough for flushing toilets. Thus when the need came, I resolved to use the bus toilet. That was a performance and a half though. I had to:

  1. Put a toilet liner in the toilet (A Walmart Price First Tall kitchen bag). 
  2. Put cat-lit in the bag to absorb moisture.
  3. Put a roll of toilet paper in the bus.
  4. Heat water to wash my hands after the deed was done.

Well I got as far as point 4 which is where it all began to go belly up. I couldn’t find the bowl that I was going to put in the sink to wash my hands in nor could I find my kettle. In the end I did find the bowl and I borrowed a kettle. Then I pulled out my gas cooker expectantly and lit the gas. I had a tiny little flame which rapidly went out. Shaking the gas bottle ascertained that the butane had frozen. I had to stand the butane can in front of a fan heater (I couldn’t find my electric kettle either) to thaw the butane.

Eventually the butane was thawed and I heated the water, poured the hot into the bowl with some cold. I’d poured some cold from one of my jerry cans into the jug earlier. Now the water in my jerry can was pretty much frozen but not entirely so I was good.

The toilet having been used satisfactorily, I tipped some cat-lit on top of things and closed the lid, turning my attention to my bar of soap and the hot water. So, washing my hands went well until it came time to empty the bowl. That’s when I found that the water in the P-Trap ot U-Bend had frozen so I had a sinkful of used water. I simply ignored that and rinsed my hands.

Having now used the toilet myself I will say this...

  • The gas cooker does make the place smell and does add a lot of humidity to the air.
  • The frozen bend had not occurred to me but next time I can simply tip the waste water outside.
  • There is no smell from my toilet (No - my $hit does not stink).
  • Frozen butane is annoying.
Needles to say I was sitting working on something else, quietly in the bus when suddenly (half an hour or so later) I heard a noise from the bathroom. The water trap had thawed itself and the sink had emptied. Looking outside I could see the sink had correctly emptied itself onto the ground. I do have waste water collection tanks but with the drain cocks open, the waste goes straight to the ground. I try to leave the cocks open as much as possible. So I sit back down inside the bus and the back door alarm sounded. I have no idea what’s going on there! I fixed that and carried on.

Having done that, I set to with the electrics at the back of the bus and finished wiring everything to the fuse box. I have no idea at this point whether anything works or does not work as I have not had the opportunity to test anything. Wiring from the entry point of the wires to the appliances will be something for another day - possibly tomorrow. I know I need to buy yet more wire.
The fuse box side of the wiring is pretty tidy. The other side needs work (which it will soon receive). Only time will tell whether I can keep using my solid-state relay or not. I suspect not but I’m not counting my chickens yet. I’ve not yet tested the vehicle electrics to see if I’ve inadvertently put a screw through the cables. I’ll do that at another point.
My fan heater works pretty well and has raised the temperature to a cosy 55F. Outside it’s barely 34F.  I did get a problem with my thermometer. It has worked well ever since I bought it in 2011/2012ish. Today as I moved it, it switched itself off and lost the historical data. Opening the back I found the battery terminal was a bright green color and the battery had corroded itself. I had no idea! The battery turned out to be Duracell and was dated March 2014. Given that Duracell is the only battery brand I know to ooze, I’m not surprised. I’m surprised the battery lasted as long as it did. Anyway, it’s now been replaced with an Energiser battery. Those tend to be better quality.

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Working on the electrics etc

Friday was so perishing cold all I did was to go to the store to buy plumbing parts. I didn’t get much but it cost plenty. I ended up with plastic tubing and a stop cock then a length of flexible hose with a spray gun from a kitchen sink on the end of it. The current plan is to install a water inlet that comes from the outside via a pressure reducing gizmo that I found in Walmart for about $8. That reduces inlet pressure to 40-50PSI. Then the piping carries the water into the bus where it meets a stop cock. From the stop cock it goes into Pex tubing straight to a kitchen spray gun. That allows me to refill water containers while sitting in the bus and even to squirt water into the sink even though the hose will never be part of the sink. As the hose was coiled when I got it, it’s having to sit with heavy things anchoring it now as I attempt to straighten it.

While I was out on Friday I also picked up a pair of LED lights in 12V with a G4 fitting - also from Walmart. They’re 2.5 Watts offering 250 lumens. Now I compare those with my 350 lumen GE lantern and they’re way brighter. Go figure - this lumens measuring is total nonsense! Better to measure in candela. That’s something everybody can understand. Speaking of candela, I’ve still not yet done a candle comparison. I must do that soon!
There, you can see my Walmart LED lightbulb with one of my nasty cheap-ass lanterns in the background. Two things are immediately apparent. The first is just how horribly dim these lanterns are. The second is that they’re very blue. Blue is, of course, not a color that should be used at night. It’s very bad for sleep rhythms. This is why Apple has their iPad change from blue to yellow at about 8pm. The body associates blue with daylight and keeps the body awake during that time.
 Needing to fasten my cables to the wall at the back of the bus, I found these cable securing things. They’re stick-on and plastic. Ideal. No holes to drill. That’s the theory. In practice, the glue isn’t worth a damn and the things just fall off the wall without any help from dangling cables. That’s despite a claim that they can hold up to 40LBs. Being mildly skeptical I did take∫∫ the cautionary measure of buying some steel cable loops. It’s going to be challenging running the cables all the way up the wall because of construction already in place but I’m doing my best.
There you can see the beginnings of the cables being fed up the wall, skirting my OSB insulation and the reclining back wall of the bus.

Meanwhile, thinking about my lighting - which I’ve decided to install anyway - I was looking at lampshades for my lights. I picked up a couple of solar pathway lights at the dollar store since I couldn’t find any cheap plastic drinking glasses to spray and cut down. If it works out I can modify them then I will. Meanwhile somebody gave me a couple of other things that looked potentially usable.
Trying the light bulb thingy. It’s OK but not that interesting. In its favor is that it has a built-in pull switch. On the other hand though, while it has a pull switch, it’s rated for 6v not 12v. It’s also a bit wider than I want. I looked at where I’d mount it and the obvious place seems to be on the post at the end of the bed where it can shine on my desk area nicely. Mounting it in my place of first thought - on the partition wall is also possible though unreachable from the bed. Similarly the drinks container is interesting but probably not quite what I want. At this rate I might end up with bare bulbs!

I forgot to mention my entertaining trip to the store yesterday. I drove to the store (about 5 miles away) and spent ages selecting what I wanted. I got to the checkout after filling a cart with wood (for a different project) and my electrical and plumbing items. When it came time to pay, my wallet wasn’t with me! I’d left it in the house so I had to ask them to hold my stuff and dash back to the house to get my wallet (which contained driver’s license, medical card, insurance and registration as well as my cards and cash). Now that’s something a professional bus driver should never forget! Anyway I dashed back with them and they’d been very good - they’d kept my cart to one side. They seemed surprised when I returned but what the heck... I don’t run around shopping and filling a cart for fun!

The bus was chilly inside today so I took the sun shades off the windscreen in the hope of getting heat inside. I also put the heater fan on. Thank heavens for plugin electricity! Speaking of electricity, I looked at electric instant hot water heaters and they just use way too much power. I’m trying to run off the commonplace TT30, 30A power supply. Thus, if I put a 15A instant water heater in then that leaves 15A available for whatever else. But it turned out the 15A water heater only raised the water temperature by 24F which if it’s freezing outside means the water could be 33F so a 57F shower doesn’t sound so good. The next model up which is 20A raised the temperature by 33F which means a 66F shower. Again, not too great. Add to that that I’m already likely using the 10A fan heater I’m using right now in addition to the 5A my fridge will consume and I’m running out of options.

Some people would say to use a gas heater. Indeed, gas has a lot to recommend it but for the fact it is full of water vapor. Humidity and rust would explode if I used gas regularly. I’ve already got some rust to deal with where I welded a plate onto the side of the bus. I need to revisit that with an angle. Grinder to smooth the weld out and repaint. Clearly I must have missed a pinprick with my painting. I actually quite like the heat from gas. I’m just not keen on gas because of its propensity to cause explosions and burns. I’ve seen too many gas explosions. While I do have a camping gas stove, it’s something to use outside. I looked idly at generators and decided they were way too expensive and way too much trouble - the same as large numbers of solar panels. Wind turbines just aren’t feasible for motorhomes either. Thus I decided to stick with plugin.

Bear in mind the cost of an electric water heater. Those things cost nearly $200 for the lower wattage heaters. I could get a 31A water heater for about $90 but then I’d have to raise my 30A to 50A and that’d add a whole raft of other problems. My solution - practical as always - heat water in a kettle, mix with cold in a cooler and pump straight from the cooler for my shower. Right now I’m pumping from the cooler with a D cell powered pump. I can see my raising that to a 12V pump very soon. Or at least - once I complete my 12V system and feel like installing another leg.
Completion of the cable attaching to the wall was fraught. The whole way I had to lengthen the wrap on each bundle of cables and extend the wires on each bundle of cables. One pair of connectors kept wanting to come undone and in the end my solution was to wrap the two connectors in heat-shrink sleeving and hope that the cables don’t come out of the spade connectors. If you notice in this image I’ve staggered the connections so that if something comes adrift, it won’t connect with something else.

It took rather longer than I’d anticipated but then I didn’t work consistently at the wiring. I got two of the bundles up as high as the roof and the other bundle ready to connect to the charge controller. That bundle contains the two battery cables.
Those cables, I had to shorten. It looks like my choice of 20 feet was about perfect as I only had to crop about 3 feet off them. My other cables have all been woefully miscalculated in length and have had to have several joins - some soldered and some with proper connectors.
And that’s what my cable bundle looks like. Pretty massive! I have three lots of cable wrap with a total of 11 wires with some going to the front of the bus and some going from the bedroom. A future set of wires might go to the bathroom. In that case, those would most likely be one for the shower pump, one for a desk light and one for a desktop USB charger. I’m not nuts enough to put a USB charger in the bathroom however. Or at least - not yet!

In fact when I said 11 wires, there’s already an existing wire going front to back so that makes a grand total of 12 wires. Quite a haul! I have to test them after wiring them to my fuse box in order to see if any need attention. I hope and pray they won’t because it’s going to be a real annoyance going through those bundles looking for errant connections.

After I’d finished for the day, I connected my 2.5watt, 250 lumens light bulb to a 12v battery and compared it to my GE LED lantern that claims 350 lumens. That’s 100 lumens more than my little LED bulb and it’s a lantern I’ve left alone. I have not frosted the glass.
I think you can see clearly that my lower lumen LED bulb is brighter than my higher lumen LED lantern! How can this be I hear you ask. The answer is as I wrote before - nobody knows how they should measure lumens. This is why candela make a much better measure. And as far as GE goes - shame on you, GE for faking the brightness of your lantern! In fact shame on GE for your shoddy workmanship on that same lantern whose handle just snapped off without any abuse.

As for my Chinese 4.5W LED bulbs, all I can do is wait to see what they are like when they arrive. I thought I had a bargain but Walmart  was the same price as eBay! I shall be interested to see how my bus looks with proper illumination.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

There once was a book....

Many years ago in Britain because Prime Minister Blair was reforming many of the Labour Party’s ideas, a book was published entitled “Chairman Blair’s Little Red Book” which was colored blue with the tag line “in blue in keeping with New Labour’s New Thinking”. It was, of course, a spoof of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book”.

So, today I went shopping. The shelves of Walmart were pretty much cleared after Christmas with things on the shelves in the “reduced” price section that could have done with 90% price reduction before they’d have been worthy of my money. Having said that I did find a couple of things. One was a pack of two G4 LED bulbs of lower wattage than those ordered from Chairman Mao’s little red kingdom. I wanted to try them in my new bulb holders.

While in the vicinity I went to Lowes (hiss, spit) where I hunted for stuff to make a water inlet. While I hunted I resolved to do a water inlet purely as a water inlet, not to plumb into the shower or the sink. The reason for that is not blatantly obvious. It wasn’t cheapness but more I’d been doing some overnight thinking.

I looked at electric water heaters and found the 15A heaters just raised the water temperature by 24F. Assuming it’s 30F outside then 54F really isn’t going to be that warm. That’s not on. The higher wattage water heaters would raise the temperature by quite a bit but I’d be moving out of a 30A power supply into 50A or even more. That’s just not on! I considered gas water heaters and the low end were pretty cheap but then there’s this whole explosive gasses inside my home thing that I just don’t like. Sure I have a little camping gas stove but that’s different. It’s all in one and not a massive system that has to be maintained. Not really that my bus has been designed for use with gas anyway.

In the end I came to the conclusion that boiling a kettle and mixing it with cold water was probably the best way to get a warm shower. Added to that, frozen water lines might make morning showering impossible. I’m already used to evening showers with my existing job since I have to leave the house at 5AM. Thus, there wasn’t much point in having any more than a simple water inlet. Truth be told there’s not much need to have an inlet because water containers can be filled and brought inside. Having said that, it would be awfully inconvenient to need water and find there just wasn’t any and that I had to put my clothes back on to draw water for a shower.

Resolving to have an inlet, I went around the store and looked for suitable parts. Finding nothing in the PVC range I saw plenty - exactly what I needed in the CPVC range. Then I noticed the CPVC stuff was rated to 100PSI while the PVC was rated to 600PSI. Quickly I put all the CPVC stuff back and hunted for a staff member who could help me find what I needed. Within a few minutes I had all the stuff needed. That was easy.
The water pipe will come in through the floor to be tended by a simple stopcock. From there, it goes to a PEX tube on the end of which is a pistol grip sprayer just like this. I liked this but it was way cheaper to get a $7 plastic spray head and some $5 hosing. Going down from the stopcock, the pipe will come down the side of the skirt on the inside to be fastened securely to more steel loops. At the very bottom will be the $8 pressure controller from Walmart that brings the input line pressure down to a maximum of 50PSI. After all that, I could have used the CPVC stuff!

Meanwhile I realized that though I have a 4 D cell powered shower pump, a 12V powered pump is now possible. Looking at the systems available online, it looks like a simple 12V put, some pex tubing, a simple shower head and a low pressure pressure switch would be the best solution. The hard part seems to be finding a shower head that can turn the water flow off when not required. The problem with my existing shower head is that the battery holder has pretty well disintegrated. Having said that, it might well be worthwhile just rebuilding it and maintaining a stock of D cells. It’s not as though showering is all that important when a simple cloth can do pretty much the same thing in the absence of a shower.

Thinking about the shower, it seems to me a kitchen spray nozzle would be ideal. That combined with a $12 pressure pump and a $3 pressure switch plus connections to my 12v battery. It might have me installing a second fuse panel but that’s perfectly fine. I must say that I like having everything with standard ATC automotive fuses. Well, at least a cheaper shower works for me!

In the future I might want to add underbus fresh water tanks and a black water tank. I’m not convinced by the need for a generator though. I think bigger lithium batteries (or if Fisher gets his way some kind of solid-state battery) is the way to go. Charge while driving and charge from solar too. Maybe also charge from some kind of solid-state catalytic charger that runs off butane though right now all those options are horribly expensive.

Once the 12v electricity, the water inlet and the possible 12v shower are worked out and completed, life does not stop. There’re locks to install on the battery door and the fuel door. I probably need to go onto the roof to seal more seams. I didn’t smell damp but something didn’t smell right the other day. I’m going with damp. Perhaps I should invest in some flex-seal spray? Another thing that’s on the agenda is possibly welding steel sheet over the back door lower window. I’d not done that before because my welding wasn’t very good. My welding is now a ton better. I can weld without burning through things these days though having said that I can burn through thick steel with 7014 rods quite well if I want to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I threw myself under the bus and survived!

It was pretty bloody cold today. Thus I didn’t spend long under there. I waited until 4pm which was about the warmest part of the day. After 4 there was only an hour or so before sunset so not really much time to do anything major.

Going outside I checked the ground to see if it was dry after the massive rainstorm we’d had the previous night. I was met by a sight that I hoped not to see. I’d forgotten to bring in my 7AH battery and 5W solar panel. Checking the battery it was on 11V which it shouldn’t have been as last time I checked, it was on 12V. Having said that I’ve had plenty problems with that battery anyway. It might well be a junk battery. The solar panel seemed to have survived though. It’s not encapsulated with the cells just covered in cellophane. So, while I worked on the underbus stuff, I left the battery charging off the solar cell and drying out.
I spent most of my time securing cabling underneath the bus. I now have several cable runs. I’ve tried to keep the runs on the outside of the chassis rails before the back wheels and in the center after the back wheels. This is so that before the back wheels, there’s as little as possible that can become tangled or caught by anything and possibly snag on the brake lines. This bus has hydraulic brakes not air brakes and that means that a broken brake line is a major problem. With air brakes, it just means the bus isn’t going anywhere.
 It took an age to get the last cable run into place. Then it was time to drill through the floor. The floor covering above the steel floor is covered with wood. That’s easy to work with. The steel is somewhat harder. In fact you could say it has an iron constitution. Drills are expensive but the cheap way of getting through steel is to drill a smaller hole and enlarge it. These are my hole enlargers. They work pretty well and I think I’ve only had one of them break on me during the entire bus construction project.
I got the cables to the hole and passed the wires through then found the sheath wouldn’t cooperate. That meant pushing the wires back out, enlarging the hole and then going underneath to push it all through. This time it all fitted perfectly. I didn’t have time today to seal the conduits with silicone caulk but I have to go underneath again to connect the battery cables to the battery. I’m leaving that til last.
One the cables were inside the bus they were secured to the wall using Harbor Freight cable clamps and self-drilling screws. Oh boy, I’ve used a ton of sef-drilling screws! After dismantling the mess the hillbillies made of their conversion which used non-stainless crosspoint self drillers, I used stainless hexagon head self-drillers and it has made life much easier.

So, by the end of the day all the 12v cables are in place inside the bus. I still have one trip to make underneath to seal and to attach the battery clips. Other than than the work is all inside and can be done in sleet, snow or pouring rain. The three cable runs have to be run up the side of the bus, across the back to the charge controller and the fuse box. One pair of cables has to go to the solar input. Other than that, it’s all power lines for my lighting and so on.

Speaking of lighting, I’d been looking into ways of attaching my G4 bulb holders then I realized I could probably glue them to the steel brackets I intend to use. Similarly I found a sheet of plexiglass that I’d left in the yard. That could produce a pretty good diffuser without my having to spend any more money.

Online I found there is something called cold solder and it’s used to repair connections on rear-window demisters. I’ve a mind to get some to make the connections on my two remaining flat panels. They might be worthwhile after all! Fortunately I can take things out of my trash can as well as put them in.

Yesterday I tidied the front yard a bit by removing a load of the detritus from bus construction. That was actually easier than it sounds. I’d had a pile of trash in two plastic bins and it had been there for quite a while. I’m talking a year and more. I emptied them on the garbage pile and took what remained of them back to reuse as I have yet more trash to collect and dump. I say what remains as they were plastic and the plastic had done what plastic does best - turned brittle and cracked.

Tomorrow might be a shopping day. Given that I normally drive 150 miles a day for myself and work combined, it’s been nice not actually driving since the work holiday started on the 21st. In the last 7 days I’ve not driven 1,000+ miles and that’s nice.

After the 12V is completed - this can be done in small sections, I’ll have to put a water inlet. Then a water heater, facets and plumb the water heater to the shower. I have to modify the ventilation system slightly and install a lock on the battery compartment and on the fuel door. At some point I want to retitle the bus as a motorhome too.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A chilly December day

Today I had planned to go under the bus. As the morning was somewhat chilly, I ended up sweeping the bus, eliminating quite a pile of sand. That just seems to come onboard on my shoes. I have no idea why. The best method of removing it seems to be a broom. At work, various drivers use blowers to remove the sand but I look at the cost. $100 for a decent blower versus $1 for a decent broom. No contest!

Overnight I had considered putting a handrail up the stairwell and pulled out a couple of promising candidates. After adding a close-to 90 degrees extra piece onto my workbench that would facilitate my building a handrail, I decided I’m not ready for a handrail yet. It’s one of those things that would be a nice idea but isn’t essential and comes with logistical issues I just don’t feel the urge to overcome today.
Meanwhile I put the 7AH battery out with the 5W solar panel today to try to top it up some more. Interestingly, in my experimentation yesterday, I discovered that the cigarette lighter socket plug that fits my solar panel has the polarity wrong. Good job I checked that! That makes my plans to put a plugin solar panel follow more the path I’d previously considered. As I wasn’t sure of the polarity I’d decided to put the solar output through a rectifier. Now I know that’s exactly what I need to do so there’s no way around a rectifier.

Eventually I tired of procrastinating and realized that as the weather wasn’t going to reach a balmy 70F so I pulled out a sweater and put it on. Then I went to work under the bus. The first order of the day was to complete my power cable setup. That took hardly any time at all and even boring the hole in the floor for it was pretty quick.
Passing the power cable through the floor, it joined my other cables. I’ll sort them all out later. The next hole has to go three inches to the right of the rightmost cable. Then I’ll have all my cable runs installed. And yes, that is a Christmas tree. It hasn’t been used for several years due to a very non-Christmassy feeling in the area.
Under the bus the cabling is bringing to look quite respectable. There you see four cable runs. I cannot imagine there will be any more. I think that’s about it. Once the current cable run which was just four cable clips away from going through the floor is done, that’ll be almost it for the underbus 12V stuff.

I would have finished the cable runs but aside from my drill complaining bitterly about the cold and that it’s puny little Harbor Freight battery was going flat, the daylight was rapidly receding. Indeed after being summoned into the main dwelling house for a few minutes, I returned to find the daylight had gone and I was left to pick up all my tools in the dark. I wasn’t alone though - a feral black cat eyed my every move with great suspicion.

Looking under the bus earlier I’d found when I’d put the one run from the bedroom on, I’d just looped it loosely without fastening it but had looped it incorrectly. I had to pull it out and re-loop it around the frame and chassis. That didn’t take many moments though. While I was in front of the rear wheels I noted that there was plenty space to install fresh water tanks and sewage tanks if I so wished. That was rather heartening.

Inside I looked at the handbasin and pondered a water inlet that instead of feeding the handbasin just ended in a faucet under the handbasin that allowed me to fill my 5 gallon jugs. That would be quite easy to do. It’s not what I want which is an instant water heater but it could be a step along the road.

I shall be so glad when I don’t need to go under the bus to work on it. I’m getting more than a little tired of breathing mold, bacteria and eating sand. I’m tired of sand in my hair, sand down the back of my neck and grubby fingernails. Even as I sit writing this, sand falls from my hair and I’ve been in the big dwelling for the past hour!

Monday, December 25, 2017

V380 security camera review

Those with memories longer than most politicians and more accurate than most Presidents will doubtless recall that for several months I tried to obtain a cheap WiFi webcam. In the end after two sellers on eBay cost me 4 months by selling the camera then failing to deliver I got it on Amazon for about the price the eBay sellers were advertising.

The good.
  • It works.
  • The picture quality on standard quality while not stellar is pretty good.
  • It pans and tilts.
  • There’s a microphone and a speaker for two way conversations.
  • It does not use very much power.
  • The software is usable.
  • It does not need connection to the internet nor to a router as it has its own network.
  • It can also be connected to a router.

The bus photo is one taken using the stills function. It can also record video clips. I haven’t tried it in darkness but the daylight imaging seems pretty good. It’s also possible to set up all kids of alerts
I set the camera up, connected to a 5W solar panel and a 7AH battery. The battery also had a voltmeter attached. Over about an hour of usage the battery voltage rose from 12/12.2V to 12.1/12.3V. Clearly the camera did use less power than my 5W panel produces.

The bad.

  • Network connectivity on local mode (Tablet connecting directly to the camer) was appalling.
  • The software is hard to use.
  • There are no real instructions how to use the camera nor the software and the software is non intuitive.
  • The camera is not weatherproof.
  • The camera is not auto-tracking.
  • Wireless range is very limited. 30 feet is about the range limit.
  • The video catches up after panning and tilting has been completed - at longer ranges.
At closer range the camera does work better. I have not tried connecting it to a router nor to a phone as the app wants too many permissions and since the software is Chinese, untrustworthy. There’s just too much extra work involved in blocking all the ports it could use.

It’s fun to hear my own voice coming from the camera speaker a second or two after I speak. The speech is unrecognizable as mine but still it’s fun. It’s amusing also when after announcing in a tinny female Chinese voice “System Starting” then “Network Starting” it announces in a very proud tone “Connection Established”. That’s even funnier when it has just set up a network to which nothing is connected yet.

The problems in getting the camera were a pretty good indication of its worth. It was a problem to get. eBay had to refund me twice after two sellers failed to supply while my money was held hostage for two months on each occasion. 

In use the camera was slow and clunky lacking many performance tweaks that could easily have been made. The software was appalling to use and to set up. The radio range is too short to be useful. Whether it would work better as a corded camera is unknown as this was not tested.

It’s a fun toy to play with but I cannot imagine anybody being satisfied with it. Far better to use a corded webcam or a straightforward motion activated standalone camera. This is probably more aimed at the children’s market for children to put outside their tree house in order to see if their parents are coming.