Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Damned Chinese charge controllers!

While I waited for the temperature to rise to 67F outside and for the ground to dry from yesterday’s rainstorm, I wired my charge controller up to the system I currently have. If you look closely, it’s displaying an irksome warning triangle. I’ve been trying to eliminate that warning triangle for quite a while, in the belief that it probably doesn’t like something about my system. Quite what, I don’t know. The instructions are rather opaque as regards that. It seems to come on when I use the generated power. In the hope of working around it, I installed an optical relay designed to isolate the circuit. That hasn’t apparently worked.
The charge controller has 3 pairs of wires. Two from the solar panels, two from the battery and two to the load. Thus, isolating the load from the unit by putting a relay in place should have resolved the problem. It hasn’t. It could either be indicating a problem with the battery or the unit itself is junk. I suspect the latter.

In my research I’ve not yet discovered a charge controller that is actually built or designed anywhere other than China. Look inside the “American Made” units and the cores’ are either directly from China (and the same as in the Chinese units) or the components are from China. There is no such thing as a 100% American made unit. I’m pretty much stuck with Chinese whether I like it or not. Imagine this - if all our electronics come from China and we fall out of favor with China, what happens when they operate the built-in kill switch inside their circuits? Think about that while warplanes fall from the sky, missiles spontaneously launch from bases in Alabama and blow the Pentagon to shreds and your personal computer explodes and sets your house on fire.

There is no reason on earth why this charge controller should be acting so strangely. I like that it shows me a battery voltage and that I can change the maximum and minimum voltage levels. Speaking of voltage levels, the charge off levels are ludicrously high. I’m using a gel battery which should fill to about 12.9v. 14.2v is quoted in the instructions yet the recommended charge rate is 14.4v so I’m mystified as to to what the 14.2v refers. I have a pretty good mind to replace the fantastic, advanced charger with a more basic model. I already have a voltmeter built into my USB charging console in the galley that displays charge level as I’m using power. In fact, I have two voltmeters. One shows battery voltage and the other shows solar panel voltage. 

I’m going to suspect one thing that could be making this controller go nuts is that I’m using a common ground (though not to the solar panels). If that’s the case then I definitely need a new charge controller. Running double wiring everywhere would be prohibitively expensive not to mention utterly stupid. Vehicles have common grounds. I cannot imagine the stupidity that went into the design of my Chinese charge controller but I feel its effects!

The more basic model I’d thought about was two things. The first is an over-voltage cutout to stop the battery being charged too much and the second is an undervoltage cutout to stop the battery from being too discharged. As long as a diode or diodes are in use to protect the solar panels, there’s no reason on earth why a battery should not be charged directly from solar power. In fact, looking around, Powerex has an interesting battery low voltage disconnect that switches the load off when the battery is too low and switches back on when the battery climbs to 12.8V. It even shuts off when the incoming voltage goes above 17v though how that’d work with my solar panels that can produce weak high voltages, I don’t know.

Inside the bus I made up a 3 wire connector that involved putting crimp ring connectors on 3 wires then bolting them together. After that I tried the insulation spray I found in Lowes (hiss, spit) the other day. That stuff stinks badly! It doesn’t seem to cure very quickly and the insulation qualities seem rather suspect, judging from the way things I sprayed it on still conduct electricity when touched together. I’m going to say this could be better!
Speaking of Chinese junk, I picked up my anemometer today with the intent of using it but found it not to be working. Thus, I pulled out my Harbor Freight volt meter to check the anemometer battery and found that too, not to be working. It gave me a random display of changing numbers when not connecting to anything. Then I pulled out another volt meter and the same thing happened. I do wonder whether the Chinese stuff has a built-in kill timer that stops it working after 6 weeks. In the end, rather than hunt out my Walmart analog meter I gave up and put everything in the junk box. The Chinese must be laughing all the way to the bank. Every piece of Chinese electronics I’ve had has failed fairly quickly or proved itself to be in some way worthless.

If you remember I wrote about LED light bulbs. Every LED light bulb sold in America is either made from components that come from China or made by the Chinese. Take a walk through Walmart to find something the Chinese have NOT had their grubby paws on! Blankets made in Massachusetts or blankets made from Chinese cotton and assembled in Massachusetts? Perhaps only the label is made in Massachusetts? How about the dyes and treatment? I heard a crazy tale a while back that it was cheaper to export live chickens to China to be slaughtered and prepared for consumption here. That’s sending them to China and sending them back to the USA and expecting them to be fit to eat! Fit for a dog perhaps but not for human consumption!

People wonder why I don’t load myself down with electronic toys like everybody else does. It’s because they’re mostly such utter garbage. I have a tablet rather than a laptop because they’re far cheaper, do exactly the same things and they take less space. It’s still supporting the Chinese economy though. Every Chinese product buys the Chinese army more missiles to point at the USA. likewise, my phone is the cheapest, simplest I can find. People ask why I haven’t put LED lighting into my bus aside from throwaway lanterns. The answer is the Chinese crud is just that unreliable I don’t want to commit to it.

The other day I went to Walmart and could not find a single incandescent bulb. That’s absolutely incredible! I would rather have a dozen or so good 12v flashlight bulbs illuminating my bus inside than any of these diabolical LED disasters. Can I find standard flashlight bulbs? No! When I looked for lanterns all I could find was the nasty LED lanterns that I currently have. Certainly they use far less power but give out the most appalling light quality. They’re not just dazzling to look at but they’re also extremely unpleasant to use. The light is extremely harsh and does not illuminate at all well. Forget Lumens, Candela, Kelvin etc - they’re just horrible to use. Not only is the light pretty well worthless but the lunatics that made them have put brightness control into them so you can have dim, barely visible and I’m sure there’s a lantern there somewhere settings. Then they expect the customer to fork over $10 and more for their utterly miserable creation. Whenever I see the darned things in the stores I feel like offering the store manager my services, charging him a very nominal $20 an hour to collect the whole lot from their store to save everybody time and take them down to the dump. That’s where they’ll all end up. People buy them because they think they’ll use them and then find they’re so useless and such overhyped trash they end up using something else and taking that piece of junk to the dump rather than demanding a refund.
Eventually, when the temperature rose to a comfortable 67F as promised by the weatherman, I ceased procrastinating and went under the bus to attach my cables to the ribs. Checking the poorly soldered joints I decided that having shrink wrapped them securely in insulation when I soldered them, the likelihood of them failing was low and if they do, I can simply cut sections out, crimp spade connectors in place and fix it all that way.

Lying on the sand, on my back, underneath the bus is not my favorite place to be. The number of critters is vastly reduced since we’ve had some freezing weather lately. There are some cobwebs that look occupied that I’ll strive to avoid lest something come lurching out of the darkness toward me. Who knows what kind of evil intent such a malevolent creature would have toward me! There are a few ants down there too but fortunately I’ve not yet been bitten by one.

Having completed the cable ties, I set to and drilled a hole in the floor. That gave me all kinds of problems. The thin drills would drill ever larger holes until I got to my one inch drill which decided to lodge and spin in the chuck. Now that’s exactly why I prefer round drills as opposed to those with hexagonal shifts. If the drill bit gets stuck, the drill just spins in the chuck as opposed to shattering. That has saved me buying several drills. Hexagonal shafts are good for drilling into wood and that’s about it. Steel - forget it.
Eventually, my perseverance paid off. I got through the floor using my mains drill. My battery drill had long since given up the ghost and lay charging, waiting for its next outing. Having done that though, the daylight was beginning to fade. The second cable will have to wait until another day. Completing the interior wiring will be the task to fulfil on a cold or rainy day or whenever I don’t want to go underneath. Eventually I’ll have to install my battery holder. Every design of that so far has been heavier than I’d really like.
Underneath the bus, the cabling looks still pretty tidy. I still have to install a cable from the bedroom to the back and a cable from the battery to the back. I’m not 100% sure yet where the battery will be situated. I’ll work that one out at leisure.
I would have gone closer to my other cable but this was hanging from the underside of the floor and quite frankly, I didn’t like the looks of it! I don’t know what it is and don’t really want to know. I’m sure it’s hazardous to my health so the further away from creepy crawlies I am, the happier I am. It’s under the bus and the holes are sealed with latex caulk, the door is closed and that thing better not come inside. I have a gun and I’m not afraid to use it!

So, just as I was wrapping up underneath for the day, I managed to get a tremendous cramp in my leg. That’s pretty much put paid to anything else I might have considered doing this evening! No ballroom dancing for me. Maybe a nice hot cup of hot chocolate with some brandy in it. Tomorrow or whenever, the next stage will be started - installing cable bundle two. There are three places I could put extra cable attachments on existing cables - hard to reach places close to the differential. I might have a go at that next time too. I never did get to measure the ribs for the battery holder. There’s always next time though. 

Sunday, November 19, 2017

A lil bit icky

Today I woke to an icky tummy. I suspect it’s due to having been rolling around on the ground under my bus where God alone knows how many cats, rats, squirrels etc have peed and pooed. Heaven alone knows what mold spores are under there. I know there’s one gigantic spider so Heaven knows what that’s been doing. You can bet your boots that’s been peeing and pooing. Oh for some hard standing!

After I’d recovered, I looked at heading under the bus to complete my work from yesterday but my aching muscles told me quite firmly that they weren’t going to countenance such an activity. Thus I scouted around for things to do inside the bus. Clearly completing the inside wiring was out as the underbody wiring hasn’t been fully completed.

Thinking again about the battery holder, there is a spot behind the differential in which I could install my battery housing. I’m not certain however, whether there’s enough space between the housing (where it would be installed) and the differential. It’s looking a lot like I need to install my battery housing elsewhere. I have a spot in mind but know that my welder just isn’t up to the job of welding it to the ribs. For that, I might just have to break down and get somebody with a better welder to attach it.

I decided to install my solid state relay. As that should, according to all I’ve read, have a heatsink, I scouted round and found the feet from the beds in the original conversion. One of them used as a heatsink was just about perfect since they were all curiously made of aluminum.
I can’t say I think an awful lot of the welding but on the other hand, it’ll be strong enough for what I need. A few minutes drilling produced two mounting holes for the optical relay and four holes to mount the thing to the wall of the bus.
A few minutes later, it was ready to install. The plastic backing was peeled off the aluminum contact on the back of the solid state relay. The relay was then bolted to the aluminum “foot” that was now a heatsink. I would have used thermal cement left over from when I experimented with Peltier coolers but couldn’t find it so after cleaning the heatsink I just bolted them together firmly.

Putting the solid state relay into the circuit was pretty straightforward and came with a promising surprise. I used some light wires to connect the control side of the relay to the charge controller and noted that as soon as I had removed the power line from my fuse box to the charge controller, the little warning triangle that had been puzzling me for the last year vanished. Clearly I’m not supposed to have a common ground. That’s utterly bizarre and one of the reasons I bought my solid state relay. Let the charge controller handle the charging and the switching but let my relay handle the power usage.
As can be seen, the relay power light is on. Just by pressing a button on my charge controller though, power can be instantly switched off to my relay. The charge controller switch can handle only 20A while my relay can handle 50A though I shall put a 30A breaker into the system just off the battery to stop over 30A being drawn.

Attaching the relay power supply to the charge controller was problematic. The cable is thick enough that I could not have a power cable from the battery connecting to the power cable for the relay and insert them both into the charge controller port. Splicing heavy gauge wiring is not very user friendly! In fact where I’ve spliced wires under the bus yesterday, I might revisit those splices and resolder them because my final soldered splice was far superior to the previous splices and far more durable.

As I’ve had to rearrange some of my wiring, I’m quite glad I’ve been using silicone goop to stick it to the wall. It unsticks fairly readily when needed. It’s thus just a case of peeling the wire off and scraping the leftover silicone goop off the wall. Dead easy.

I’m hoping over the forthcoming break when I get a whole 5 days of to be able to complete fixing my underbus cable joins, complete attaching the cable bundle I’m working on and at least make inroads into the second cable bundle if not fully install that.

In my optimism I have included an extra wire in all the cable bundles. I do that on purpose just in case I need to expand. Had I realized how much I would be expanding I think I’d have put a much bigger cable bundle from front to back in the first place. The extra wires in my current bundles are intended for lighting. Each bundle has 5 wires. The front bundle is to power my USB charger, my fan and to provide two wires for solar power then the extra is for lighting. The back bundle is for my fan, two possible light units (bathroom and bedroom) and a USB charger. I would happily have run the whole lot off a 6V battery and 6V charge controller but 6V solar panels and 6V charge controllers are highly uncommon.

The temperature was falling by 4pm so doing much else wasn’t really an option. Having said that, there really wasn’t much else I could do. I could have jerry rigged something for the electrics but when I’m not living in my bus that’s not quite so important. It will work when I get to it over the 5 day break. I did, however, work on my ventilation a bit more. As I might be removing the external bug screen in order to increase air throughput and increase fan efficiency, I’d made one onion dome to go over the air intake. I made a second onion dome today. I just recycled some of my plastic tubing from a previous incarnation of my ventilation system. Needless to say, though the cutting and bending went better today than before, the problem of dried-up pipe glue was worse. Today I just couldn’t get the glue to stick at all.
All I did was to take a piece of angle pipe since the open end of the angle that was not glued to anything would fit easily over the end of my bilge blower and cut the end off it then cut two rings of PVC pipe, slit them then heat bend the ends with my mini blow torch. Then pop them over the ring that I’d cut using the end of the angle pipe. Over those - when I get more pipe glue I’ll glue mosquito mesh. That will stop bugs entering. The fans should blow any bugs that do get into the duct work, straight out. In fact I’m toying with the idea of draft proofing a little by replacing my mushroom vents with articulated louvered vents but that’s just a thought right now.

As you can see, my technique has improved - I’ve not charred the latest plastic but it probably won’t notice that it is charred after the mosquito mesh is glued over it. I might also glue some fill-in sections of tube to even out the perimeter. That’s a job for another day though.




Saturday, November 18, 2017

Getting down and dirty under the big lady

This was the first day in a while that the weather was actually decent. 71F was forecast and so I waited and waited, anxiously looking at my phone to see the weather app for what the temperature outside was. Eventually about midday I had to go outside anyway. The 37F that my app was telling me was completely wrong. It was lovely outside. In fact today it went up to as high as 72F inside my bus. That tells you that it was pleasant outside. I’d looked up the weather forecast and the whole weekend looked pretty good.

The tasks of the day were to complete installing the one cable bundle and then to install a second cable bundle followed by looking at installing the battery hanger. Well, that’s what should have happened anyway. What actually happened was I spent forever looking for the wire with which I would extend the wires I cut so abysmally short. Then I spent a while looking for crimp connectors to fit the wires. Having not found any crimp connectors of a suitable size, the next task was to find my soldering iron and some solder.

Hunting for the soldering iron unearthed a soldering iron suitable only for microelectronics so I continued the hunt, looking idly at my mini blowtorch thinking that might do. Eventually though I did find the soldering iron and went under the bus to solder the wires. It was then I found that the soldering iron was rather puny for the task at hand. Out came the mini blowtorch and the challenge of soldering two swinging wires while holding a blowtorch and solder. I managed it though with some connections being better than others.

By the end of the day I’d secured the first cable bundle better than it was before but had not actually completed the task before it went dark. That was when I quit for the day. I’d spent pretty much the entire day rolling around on the sand underneath the bus.
As you can see, there was an awful lot of sand. Working there I found I needed more than just a battery powered drill. I needed my mains drill. Pulling that out revealed another issue. No extension cord so I had to hunt for an extension cord. The cord that plugs into the bus has a totally different fitting from the standard household plug. That’s because the bus takes a 30A supply whereas the household supply is 15A. Eventually one was located and work commenced.
That was my sky for most of the day. I spent most of my time joining short cables though I spent a considerable time adding cable clamps under the bus. As can be seen, the task is not completed. I need to secure more of the cable at the back of the bus and then I have the problem of reaching around the differential to secure the rest of the cable. It’s a very tight area in which to work! I’m not that keen on working in the area where I need to insert the cable through the bus floor. Not only is there a big cobweb but there’s also a gigantic spider. I’m not sure if it’s man-eating but the tattoos on its legs and the way it’s chewing tobacco and looking at me in a plain mean way is pretty scary.

Once this cable is brought into the bus and connected at each end then I should be able to combine the output of the solar panels at both ends of the bus to charge the battery. Not only that but I’ll be able to power my USB charger at the front of the bus using all bus power instead of a setup using just the front solar panel. There’s provision in the wiring to add a light in the galley too. That will be very welcome as these LED lanterns are pretty miserable.

Speaking of LED, I went to Walmart the other day. Instead of seeing packs of 4 incandescent bulbs for $3 and instead of seeing bulk packs of CFL bulbs for $6 I was seeing bulk packs of LED bulbs for $20. You’re probably familiar with my miserable experience of LED bulbs. I’ve tried a great many varieties and they just don’t last anywhere near the claimed 22 years. In fact more like 22 days and I’ve had some die faster than that. What a scam - eliminate choice and charge a premium for what’s left.

I looked online at LED bulbs and found that they were ridiculous prices. I’m talking several dollars each. I can see that candles will be making a comeback in many homes with prices like that! I looked for LED bulbs that produced 1200 lumens or at least a decent amount one can actually see by. Precious few! There were plenty of the 450 lumen varieties and those are just too dim. Putting two dim bulbs together does not make a bright light either. It just spreads the dimness more evenly. Really and truly the green imbeciles responsible for bringing us out of the 20th century back to caveman lighting should be dressed up as seals, tied to an iceberg and clubbed to death.

Meanwhile I readjusted my new curved mirrors more into line with their correct orientation. I have plenty work remaining to do on mirror alignment but they’re looking better. Really and truly I’d like the duo mirror system but I’m not prepared to fork out hundreds on mirrors.
Well, tomorrow might be good to work on the bus but I’ll have to see how the aches and pains are progressing. I’ve probably used muscles that would rather remain forgotten today. They’ll be complaining about it tomorrow! All is not lost though. Next week I have 5 days off in a row. Friday is Black Friday when people go nuts looking for mythical bargains which are actually end of line items and items that in 3 or 4 weeks will be reduced anyway. The roads are complete chaos then so it does not surprise me that work is off for that day. Thursday is Thanksgiving which is a holiday. Wednesday I can’t quite figure out why we’re not working that day. It’s just an ordinary day as far as I can see but it’s welcome anyway.

Looking at siting the battery at the back of the bus, I encountered an interesting issue in that it will be no easier than siting it where I’d originally thought - beside the existing battery compartment. I’ll have to give that extra thought. It’ll mean an extra section of cable wrap going around the differential - let joy be unsurpassed! I’m not that keen on the steel I’ve been using from the old bedframes. I think it’s way too heavy. I might be better off just breaking down and going to buy some more appropriate angle bracket, welding it together and welding it to the underside of the ribs.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The strange world of Google Adsense

For those that don’t know, Google’s Adsense is or was a way of making money. Google gave us free blogspace so we could create blogs that could carry Adsense. Those blogs are vehicles that attract people to the vicinity of the adverts. In order to get people to put adverts on their blogs and other websites, Google created Adsense. This is a method by which Google shares some of the advertising revenue with the blog publisher. It’s win win for Google. They get money without doing any of the work.

For a number of years I’ve carried Adsense on all my blogs. That income has plummeted though.
I’m not really sure what the problem is since nothing has changed on this end. I will say this though.... I went into a store and used one of the demo computers to click an advert just to see what was going on. Well, Adsense on my phone came up with a click and 65 cents. I went home and looked and there was no income though there was a click. It’s as though Adsense is not paying any more.

Indeed, I look at the monthly earnings and this is across YouTube and 3 blogs and income is maybe 1 cent a month if I’m lucky. That’s no way to be! I’d noticed before that Adsense income had tailed off badly. It’s not as though visitor numbers are poor either. This month so far across my 3 blogs around 33,000 page views. There’s definitely something amiss with Adsense!

If it wasn’t for that unpaid $37 then I’d just dump Adsense. Look at it... the last payment was $107.63, two YEARS ago! In fact since it’s now November that’s almost two and a half years ago. Nothing has changed. I still post. I post photos and high quality content. Adsense has simply quit making sense.

Online I read about people making Monopoly money from Adsense yet it now looks like yet another of those internet get rich quick schemes that doesn’t work. Remember Five? That was a website where people would undertake small projects for $5 only it wasn’t. The site took $1 so you got $4 only you didn’t because they charged you a percentage to deposit your money into your PayPal account. I believe PayPal then took their cut leaving Your $5 a job looking a lot more like $2.50.

In my regular job I get way more than from either of these two charlatans. In fact, compared to my regular income, those two just don’t even class as anything at all - not even pocket change. I blog because I enjoy writing and because occasionally people read what I say. I don’t much mind whether somebody reads it and declares me to be the biggest jackass in history or whether they start raising glasses of fine malt in my honor. My pleasure is in creating and sharing the content and of course in the case of the Bus blog, building my motorhome.

So, Adsense or no Adsense? If really and truly nickel and diming your way through life is what you want to do then Five and Adsense are the way to go - while others laugh all the way to the bank. As far as the apocryphal tales of internet millions are concerned, I wouldn’t bet my dinner on them being true.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

A real good blow job today!

People ask me why I don’t have a generator in my bus conversion. The simple answer is I just don’t need one. I’m unlikely to be dry camping when the temperature is low. I have a 30A plugin which is common enough that I could plug into just about any campground or mobile home site in North America should I need electricity.

What about now, now that winter has come? Well, I’m sitting in the bus right now, feeling quite cosy and warm. I turned my electric fan heater on after plugging the bus into a 20A supply. The temperature inside has risen from 54F to 57F in just a couple of minutes. I could turn the heat up even further but don’t really see much need.
I’ve had this fan for a number of years. Indeed, I bought this as soon as I moved into a rented hovel in the heart of Lexington. It was pretty well a slum property and it was $525 a month which was rather galling. I remember it well...

The front door had a split going all the way down the center where somebody had broken it in two breaking in some time or other. It had planks nailed across it to keep it together. The carpets all had nasty looking stains and nothing was particularly clean when I moved in. There were stains on the walls and ceilings. Indeed - that could well have been a hastily cleaned up crime scene and probably was for all I know. There were 2 inch gaps under the front and back doors through which roaches, lizards and spiders came and left at will.

The next door neighbors were pleasant enough as were all my neighbors though I felt the odd one out being the only white face in the area. Needless to say the place was very close to the jail and the first building on the road was a bail bonds office. At no time did I ever feel exceptionally unsafe but on the other hand I never felt exceptionally safe and slept every night with my 9mm pistol under my pillow.

Of course being a slum property I was a little surprised to be asked to pony up a month’s rent in advance as a deposit. I never figured I’d get it back. I just figured it was a greedy grab and typical of slum lords. Consequently it did not surprise me in the least when I cleaned the place and returned the keys that I didn’t get my deposit back. I calculated since I spent 30 months there that my actual rent instead of being $525 was actually $542.50. Not too bad actually. Having said that I’d spent $15K on renting a slum property.

My bus cost me $4200 and the jury is still out on how much the conversion will have cost. I have everything I need to complete the solar and battery setup. I do need to get stuff for the plumbing bit and I might still redo the toilet so that I can simply plumb it into a sewage disposal system at a campsite. I’m still undecided on that one. I gather that if I rented a space at a site then I’d be paying $250 a month. That doesn’t actually seem that bad to be honest. It’s a far cry from $525 a month for a place I didn’t even own!

When I lived in the slum, it was a two storey building. Alas I cannot find a photo of it though one surely exists somewhere. Just a two storey townhouse on a dirt track near a jail in the poor section of town. I believe it was around 500 square feet per floor. Needless to say what with the cockroach problem I didn’t actually use the downstairs for anything. There were three bedrooms upstairs, a huge one and two smaller ones. The two smaller ones I used - one to sleep and one to use as an office/den/day-room. In the cold of winter I ran my little fan heater and kept just that one room warm.  My monthly electricity bill was rarely above $25. In the heat of summer I just used a fan.

With the bus though I don’t have heat unless I plug in, I do have cooling provided by my solar powered fans. Not only do they circulate air but they extract the hot air and blow it out the back. I believe I have done a good job with the bus so far. I just need to have a warm day to complete the underbus operations. At the very least that is completing fastening the long cable that goes from front to back and putting the battery compartment into place together with its wiring. Preferably I’d like to add the bedroom wiring which I’m hoping to be able to pass under the bus though other solutions may have to be used due to the proximity of the wheel arch.

In an ideal world I’d then add an instant hot water heater plugged into the main breaker board, mounted under the sink. Then I’d put a dual hot water line with one piece going to the sink and one to the shower. Obviously the underbus piping would need to be lagged. I’d also need to put a faucet on the sink. That doesn’t sound much but is probably a few weekends worth of work and about $200 expenditure.

In my dream world I’d put a flush toilet. How I’m going to work that, I’m really not sure. I’m still in favor of a simple funnel with a trapdoor that adds some kind of splash guard. The flushing can be done with a hose with a pistol jet head like so many kitchen sinks have. For dry camping that could be a simple hand pump gallon water sprayer. The tank sounds like it needs to be specially constructed to fit the space available. I can weld steel with no problem!

Looking at the weather it looks like next weekend might be doable for going under the bus. It should be 66 which means if I’m lucky I can get at least the wiring done and possibly also the battery compartment. I don’t know about doing the bedroom wiring though.

There are pictures I’d have liked to have added but though I could find them on Google Photos using my phone, I could not locate them using my tablet and the web browser. Go figure! Seems to me that Google needs to do some work on linking things. But by the time I finished in the bus for the day, my little fan heater had raised the temperature to a somewhat balmy 63F. That’s bikini weather!

Saturday, November 11, 2017

How not to do a blow job!

Last night I pondered my battery situation for the bus and realised I’m making life harder than it really needs to be. I’ve run though various permutations of battery hangers before deciding I need to read up some on the battery I actually have which is a 35AH AGM Deep Cycle battery. Looking online it seems that AGM batteries are acid impregnated fiberglass mat. They’re also pretty tough things that can be subjected to vibration with no ill effects. That puts a totally new perspective on mounting it! I’ve tried various mounting ideas in my mind from things welded to the subframe to things bolted to things welded to the subframe. Now I realise that as it’s a fiberglass mat, it is probably going to be OK to mount it behind the rear wheels. Of course having spent $70 on the AGM battery and probably about $50 on gel batteries I’ve come to the conclusion the best battery would probably have been a lithium battery at $200 but I’ll use what I have before I go lithium.

Thinking about going under the bus, I looked and as I suspected, it was knee deep in leaves and other detritus carried in by the winds. Thus rather than using the blower to blow the leaves and risk blowing yet more sand into the mechanisms, I decided to move the bus. Thus I pulled it forward 30 feet and went to the shed to find the blower. It wasn’t there. Enquiries revealed it had been lent to somebody so that’s probably the last we’ll ever hear of that blower. Further enquiries revealed there was a rake available.
As can be seen, there were a lot of leaves. Moving the bus revealed how many. Let’s just say that it took quite a while to change the scene from this.
To this.
The primary thing is it would have been done in seconds using a blower as opposed to minutes using a rake. It would have been even faster had the rake handle not snapped in two having been left lying flat on the ground in the wet for months. I ended up spending twice as long, using twice the energy stooping to use a rake with half a handle.

While I worked on it I noticed an ugly-looking spider crawling out of the leaves. It seemed to be brown with a red stripe up its back. Heaven knows what that was. I’m certainly glad I swept those leaves!

Having reconceived my idea for hanging the battery I’m not going to have to do any wending underneath (thank goodness). I can instead complete my hanger and simply bolt it to the subframe just behind the differential. That has several advantages. First there’s plenty space. Second it’s an easier way to fasten it and third if by some chance the people that denigrate my welding are right and it disintegrates (which I severely doubt) then it will just drop harmlessly into the road and not under my wheels.

Meanwhile, my last two relays ordered via Amazon arrived a couple of days ago. I’m not 100% sure how I will employ them but employ them I shall. They took a heck of a long time to arrive because Amazon didn’t notifying me they would come from China. I wish Amazon was more transparent about things like that!
I know I bought one in case the solid state relay didn’t work and the other in order to use my digital door unlocker keypad. That way I can run it from the solar battery rather than the AA batteries in the door lock. Now, of course I found my solid state relay works well but needs a heatsink. For that, enter the feet the hillbillies put on the beds they installed. For some weird reason known only unto them the feet are welded aluminum while the rest of the bed frame was steel.
Now that I can use as a heat sink. The base can be riveted to the bulkhead and the relay bolted to a horizontal on the aluminum angle. The vertical will dissipate heat quite nicely. This should work as well as any other heat sink with the bonus that this relay uses a fraction of the low power that an ordinary relay uses.

I would have liked to have achieved something today - more than just clearing some ground. The sad fact is that it never got above 57F today (13C) which was just a bit too chilly for me. Maybe another day though. It’s just not worth getting sick and missing work and hence missing money. That’s the sad thing about the USA - if you’re sick, you get no income but you get plenty outgoing trying to get healthy again which is why so many people end up on the street after being responsible workers and homeowners all their lives.

Some good news though - when I drove the bus (admittedly only 30 feet forward and 30 feet back), I found what that mysterious cable attached to the accelerator had been doing. It was simply pulling the accelerator down so that the bus would move forward at about 8mph all on its own. I have a suspicion that was done in order that drivers would have to keep their foot on the brake to control the speed in the bus yard.

I had ideas about maybe installing my solid state relay and new heatsink after I’d cleaned it up but by the time the heatsink had dried, the temperature inside the bus was 55F and outside was even lower. Add to that it was 5PM and beginning to get dark. Today just does not seem to have been a day for doing much of anything.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Ouch, dammit! That hurts!

Yesterday I’d got a bit fed up with things and decided to go out for a change. It gets a bit old going from work to home, home to work and working on the bus when I’m not ill or working or shopping. Thus I went out to a national park some 80 miles away. I had a great time tramping along trails, seeing sights etc. The problem was I haven’t done too much walking in years. Thus by the time I was at the end of my second trail, my little legs were tired. Today, of course, they’re sore as anything. Getting under the bus was a definite no.

Thus as my solid-state relay seems to need a heat-sink and I didn’t have one, I cut a piece of aluminum to fulfill the role. That took a while as it’s an inch thick. I drilled the holes for my mounting screws to mount the thing to the bulkhead. Then I drilled the first hole for the first screw to attach the relay to my heatsink. At least - I tried to. The drill bit kept skipping so I put my glasses on and looked at the tip - broken. I wonder when that happened. I pulled out another drill bit and drilled the hole. That worked just fine. Then I tried to insert a small self-tapping screw which broke off in the hole. Very useful!
You can probably see the broken screw in the small hole just below the big hole. No chance of getting that out so back to the drawing board!

I am limited by the supplies at hand. I could rush out and buy everything I need but at this stage in construction I’m using up odds and ends and what I have on hand as I’m definitely going to have a ton of surplus materials and of course all that cost money and money as they say doesn’t grow on trees.

Looking at the size of the mounting holes on the relay, they seemed to fit a #8 screw. I bought a whole box of #8 self-drilling screws. Heaven knows where they are. I’ve looked and can’t find them. I’m not going to rush out and buy more though.

Meanwhile I realized I have some thinner aluminum. Now if I can bend that into a U shape (no guarantees or even use some of the aluminum from the bed feet and cut that into size then I can put two #8 self tappers through that thinner aluminum, use the same self-drillers to secure the lot to the bulkhead and then use some of my leftover thermal cement - if it’s not gone bad - to make a thermal bond with the aluminum heat-sink. Of course, having already worked some and having so many aches I felt somewhat disinclined toward doing any extra work so that’s a task for next weekend.