Sunday, October 15, 2017

Double the power!

Most of today was spent hunting for a fuse holder. A while back I bought a fuse holder online. It took forever to arrive! Without Radio Shack around the corner, it’s quite a challenge to get hold of electrical and electronic components. Everything has to be done online and you know just how much I adore dealing with eBay and so on.

Speaking of eBay, I made a purchase of a security camera back in July/August. It never arrived though the seller pocketed the money. I went for a refund and immediately reordered from a seller in a different country. That was on September 8th. Apparently I have to wait until November 4th for the last quoted delivery date in order to file for a refund. I seem destined not to get my camera. Needless to say this is not the only seller giving trouble. I’ve been very lucky with eBay until now. I ordered something from a seller in India and that seems destined not to arrive. Look at this!
That’s such a bad score! I’ve never ever seen anybody with so many failures to deliver. 200+ failures to provide the goods and yet when I ordered, his score was almost perfect. I note eBay has not calculated his feedback percentage correctly. 200+ failures and 65 good sales does not equal 50%+ feedback. It is something like 20% feedback.

So currently I have two bad eBay sellers and both delivery periods end in about 2 weeks. Needless to say I’ve had six bad experiences over the last couple of months and can’t say that bodes well for my continuing to make purchases via eBay. Let’s see - I had one item just not arrive and two more about to be filed as not arriving. I don’t think there’s much chance of two items arriving after 5 weeks. A further two items were clothing. They weren’t of the size nor condition described. Then there was the infamous solar panel. I think the world is trying to tell me to stay off eBay.

Today I had, as I said, to hunt for my fuse box. That’s going to be used with my 12v electrics. It took a long time to find it but find it I did. Now I have a problem in that I need to connect all the spades on one side to a common rail. I recall having some female spade connectors that had no plastic on them whatsoever. Can I find them? The answer is no. Now what I could do is to hunt for a different kind of fuse box that has a common live wire. I’m not averse to that given that the current fuse box appears to have been put together by a monkey armed with nothing more than a mallet. Needless to say, it’s Chinese! My friend in the dark barbaric land they call France, did tell me there was a car in Britain that had the perfect fuse box. I’m not sure if it was a Vauxhall Corsa or not. Anyway, Chevy makes the same car under license here. If I can recall the model then I’ll look in Autozone next time I’m there.
It would be somewhat of a challenge to make the one end of that fuse holder into a common positive rail. In fact, it would invite a lot of soldering or a ton of crimping. That just seems like so much hard work to be honest when I can just find a better fuse holder. In fact the fuses don’t slip into this one particularly easily anyway.
It was harder to disassemble the old ventilation system than to construct the rest of the new one. I’ll have to put some kind of mesh filter over the intake. What that’ll involve is making a ball or cone that has mosquito mesh over it. That way the mesh should not provide too much air resistance.

Out of interest I tried running the vents in reverse and that worked quite well. I’ll have to see whether I want to run them in reverse on dry days and forward on wet days. I have a feeling they might suck more efficiently than they blow.

The plan is to install the fuse box and a timer so that the vents can be operated on a schedule rather than operated until the charge controller cuts the battery off as now. The timer will be a problem because the screw holes are smaller than my preferred self-drilling screws. That might necessitate a smaller size if such exists. I can say I’m not happy with my fuse holder. It’s not right. I can use it if I must but I’d prefer to use something suitable.

While I’m ordering or buying my new fuse holder (which I hope will take the same fuses that my bus takes), I’ll see about a couple of relays. One to operate my door lock together with my fancy keypad and one to work with my charge controller should the controller go bananas if I combine the negative of the battery with the negative of the powered circuit. These Chinese things can do wacky things and since the output voltage is uncontrolled, it really doesn’t make much odds whether I run stuff straight off the battery connection anyway. Thinking further, a simple switch that will allow me to reverse the direction of my two blowers also sounds a very good idea. That’d have to be double pole with three positions - on, off, on.

In case you’re wondering, the temperature in my bus today is 84F and 69% humidity. Outside it’s cooler. As soon as I get the ventilation working properly I shall be cool. This coming weekend looks like being cool enough to go underneath to complete my wiring too.
I think you’ll agree the back looks a lot better without flexible air ducting drooping about the place. It was fine in its place but wasn’t a great idea. I think reversible ventilation using two bilge blowers sounds a far better idea.

While I worked on my vents, I noticed my injected foam has expanded brilliantly and now holds the ducts perfectly in place. I’m not sure about how good it is for insulation but it’s bound to be better than an air gap even with a heat bridge.

Where now? Well, I suppose I need to buy my fuse holder and a pair of relays as well as a double pole two way switch. A small tube of silicone sealant would probably be helpful too. I’ll probably run the cables through the rear bulkhead so they’re out of the way.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Is the anal probe coming soon? Read on to find out!

This morning broke like just about every other morning. The blackbird didn’t speak though because the hillbilly living next door had already shot, plucked, cooked and eaten him together with the four and twenty others. So, rising, I headed to the bus. 

It was a slow day that started with my black spray can putting more paint on my hands than on the object to be painted. Anyway, that having been completed as far as possible before the spray can coughed it’s last drop, my attention turned to the digital door lock. Thus far I’m really not liking any of the potential locations. So, after a morning studying possible sites, that idea was shelved.

As I really didn’t feel like going under the bus, I idly read one of those forums I had returned to in what I can only assume was a fit of insanity. Sure as eggs were eggs I was being lambasted and my code compliant electrical installations were being declared dangerous, illegal and so on. Given that I’d held my tongue on the sheer bad driving that caused one fellow to write his bus off and kill another motorist while claiming it was the other motorist’s fault and proving it by posting a video of it on YouTube, I thought it a but rich to be lambasted so. It’s not as though the other posters were professional drivers either. To be quite frank, the descriptions of how they fix their busses and get them home makes me shudder. It’s not just amateurish but rank amateur. I’m hardly surprised when I read about engines blowing, brakes failing etc when they do no daily checks, no running checks, skip on necessary expenses etc.

Let’s just say that by the end of today’s reading I’d had my fill. In fact my advice to them was that they needed to pull their heads out of their rectums and that I wasn’t going to hang around while they did so. I don’t know how they achieved such a seemingly anatomical impossibility but they did and more stunning still, they’re proud of it and proud of their ignorance!

Owning busses is expensive. Tires are $250-$500 each and most busses take 6. Because of the cost, many school districts run exclusively from remolds or part worn tires. The engines take 17 gallons of coolant, 15 gallons of oil, 12 gallons of transmission fluid, a gallon of brake fluid (on hydraulic busses). Air hoses and all other rubberwear needs frequent replacement. That all costs money. Only fools think they can get away with no maintainence because of lower mileage.

So, not feeling too much like going under the bus and being acutely aware of the mess that constitutes my ventilation system, I set about redesigning it. That did entail a trip to the hardware store where I got what I needed. It wasn’t much - just a plastic elbow and some steel brackets. That allowed me fairly swiftly to rebuild one side of my ventilation system.
As can be seen, my new plan is to have my exhaust fans blowing straight out. I’ll build some kind of filter to fit onto the other end that’ll stop trash flying into the duct and remaining there forevermore. Doing it this way affords me more space to install my fan control unit and my fuse box. Heaven knows, I might even install a few switches if everything pans out right. For some reason, I have a feeling that a switch that allows me to switch the battery out as well as the solar panels could be very important. Being electrically silent could be very important in the future. The only immediate benefit would be being able to operate the bus after an EMP.

Tomorrow’s work might well involve doing the other vent like this. After that, it might be time to get underneath to complete my wiring. I have a feeling though that completing the ventilation could take all day, particularly if having done that, I dive in and install my fuse bar and my control unit.

Friday, October 13, 2017

A mission from ISIS!

As many of my regular readers know, I’m a real school bus driver, driving real children to real schools in real life. Can’t get more real than that - actually you can. I drive special needs children to school. These are the children with various issues that mean that an ordinary bus is not suitable. Don’t take that the wrong way - many of them are particularly gifted children whose problem may be emotional and behavioral rather than anything else. That, however, is beside the point.

Driving around my routes I see driving behavior that causes me to wonder whether there are drivers out there on a mission for ISIS to cause chaos, to cause injury and to cause death. Alternatively there could be some McDonalds out there that I don’t know about, issuing free driving licenses with every Happy Meal. If a day goes by when I don’t see some road user doing something suicidal, I’m relieved. Today there was somebody in a pickup truck weaving through the traffic, causing cars to brake and swerve as he cut in front of them. No use of turn signals, of course. Then there was the guy following me, 6 inches behind my rear bumper who didn’t understand that’s why I kept slowing down and so kept blowing his horn. Sorry, mate, I’m not speeding up til you speed your happy arse away from my back bumper. I can do without being rear-ended.

Being a bus driver means I also know more about vehicles than most. Two weeks ago the local dealership gave me a horrendous price on replacing what boiled down to a $1.50 part wrapped in plastic. By the time I had done a deal with the Devil it had cost me $330. Now my car is showing me a check engine light. Reading the error using the tried and true method of turning the car on, waiting 3 seconds then pumping the acellerator 5 times in 5 seconds then waiting 7 seconds before pressing the acellerator for 10 seconds then releasing, I read the code. The code flashes out in 4 blocks and came up as 443 which is something to do with the vacuum pump switch.
Having had to do business with the Devil and being determined not to do it again, I bought my car manual for a massive $25 and will henceforth attempt my own repairs. The part needed is $65 online but I’ll get the car spares shop to check my diagnosis with their reader while getting the needed part from them. Fortunately my bus has no built-in electronics. It’s pretty much pre-electronics which means diagnosis is simpler and there’s a load less to go wrong. Honestly the things that go wrong in my car are all to do with the onboard diagnostics rather than actual problems.

The manual for my bus or rather for the DT466 engine is somewhat daunting at about $150. Carpenter went out of business years ago but left a handy circuit diagram on the cockpit wall. Unhelpfully they ran their wires underneath the roof panels. As for the transmission, it’s a standard Alison 542 or similar. I don’t expect to have to work on that or the engine.

Today is a day off from work but I’m not doing anything today. I’m still exhausted from work over the last 4 days. One of the major problems with school bus driving is South Carolina’s reluctance to put air conditioning on their busses. On the special needs bus I drive, the children have air conditioning. It doesn’t reach the front though. That means that I have a choice. I can either chug water while I drive and hence chug kiddie germs or I can avoid the kiddie germs and dry out which has the unfortunate side effect of inducing a constipation that can last the whole work week. As my own bus does not have air conditioning but does not have children aboard, I’m luckier in that I don’t have to make a choice between missing days from being sick from preventable airborne germ ingestion or spending the weekend trying to get things working normally again.

Tomorrow the plan is to continue work under the bus on securing the wiring to the underside of the bus and continue on to pass the wires through the floor at the back of the bus. Once that’s done, I can work on the electrics at the back. Alternatively I can start to install my electronic door unlocker keypad. It depends what I feel like doing, to be brutally honest. I need to extend the wires under the bus as some are a shade too short. That’s probably going to be spade connectors. Soldering would be nice but spade is more practical if I’m doing this on my favorite piece of roadway.

And now the obligatory photo down the aisle of my bus.
It’s not too bad. Still a bit cluttered with construction debris in places but it’s getting there. If I feel so inclined, I might even forgo getting under to install my wiring and just concentrate on building a battery holder for my Harbor Freight 35AH battery. Although I don’t really want to weld to the bus body, I think I might have to weld a couple of brackets in order to hold my battery more securely.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

Joining the legions of the undead

Though I’m pretty sure a good number of my dear readers would probably love nothing better than for me to join the legions of the dead, I’m not quite that far gone yet. I shall be sticking around in order to be a constant irritant to those that dislike me. In fact, should my current miserable virus be bad enough to cause me to get near deaths door, I’ve arranged to remain undead. That should bring fear to the hearts of my enemies, whose livers I shall savour with fava beans and a nice Chianti.

Yes, I’ve fallen victim to one of the viruses my passengers has brought aboard on my work bus. As those of you in the know, know, I drive a special needs schoolbus. So, I drive from 5:40am til 8:45am then again from 1:30pm to 4:50pm and while the children have the benefit of air conditioning, I sweat it out at the driving seat in 90F. By the time I’ve done for the day I’m usually a little unsteady on my feet.

This weekend is an almost lost weekend as far as I’m concerned. I can’t go far or do much. Thank heavens it’s the weekend though and I’m not missing work. I did make it to the bus for ten minutes and though it’s 73F, those ten minutes almost did me in!
This is a spare bilge blower and I wanted to see how much difference my mosquito mesh filters would make to airflow. I have a feeling my existing exhaust vents and mesh filters could be causing a problem with throughput. Thus, using my anemometer and a spare 12v battery, I experimented and recorded the results below.
First I tried measuring outflow then I measured inflow both with and without meshes. Now I don’t regard my eBay anemometer as being the best tool out there. It was cheap and can be used as a rough estimation of airflow. My fan is rated at 130 cubic feet per minute. The anemometer is rated at feet per second. There’s a disparity of measurement that I can’t be bothered to calculate.

Needless to say, with no filters I got about 2200 feet per second. With two meshes I got just over half at 1400 feet per second. Then things get interesting. It seems the fan is more efficient when blowing than when sucking. The blow rate was 1600/1400 feet per second versus the suck rate of 1400/1200 feet per second. That goes against all the online mumbo jumbo that I’ve ever read. I can’t argue with my figures - they’re there in black and white.

Now, assuming I use a more appropriately sized large mesh for the inlet and no mesh for the outlet, I should get a throughput of 2200fps. Using two 130CFM fans I should be able to evacuate all the air from the bus in just over 4 minutes. That sounds promising.

I currently have mushroom vents over my vent pipes. If I were to replace them with flapper vents, that would increase airflow though I’d still need some kind of hood to prevent the wind from opening the flappers enough to allow critters inside. I’ve already noticed that with my mushroom vents, I get air blowing in when the fan is turned off.  I shall have to investigate flapper vents further.

Sunday, October 1, 2017

Bugger! No negative ground?

Today I tested my charge controller to see if I could put a negative ground for the battery. I've got the bus body as the negative ground for all my solar powered devices so far. Intreaguingly, as soon as I connected the negative of the battery to the negative of the lines to powered devices, the devices sprang into life, despite the charge controller having left the devices turned off. Clearly the charge controller flies in the face of conventional logic and switches only on the negative side. Now that's truly and utterly bizarre. That means that unusually I will have to employ other methods.

Given that the charge controller does not regulate voltage output at all, I imagine a relay will be very useful there. It'll be a constant drain on power though. That would allow me to use the bus body as the negative for the battery and for the circuits. Indeed, lighter wiring could be used to power that relay. The downside is that I'm going to have to rethink some of my circuitry. The alternative would be to use a negative and a positive cable from the battery and just isolate the battery from the bodywork. That flies in the face of conventional vehicle wiring but if it's what must be done then it must be done.

I can hear it now. All those morons saying "shouldn't have bought Chinese crap". I ask the question - how do you know what's Chinese or not? How do you know whether something Chinese is good or bad? It's just not possible. If a company buys the electronics from China and assembles in the USA, is it American or is it Chinese? The Chinese can produce some darned good stuff. They can also produce some bloody awful stuff. In fact the vast majority of what they throw out on eBay tends to be the rejects and low quality stuff but a lot of it is still good enough to use. The exception being clothing - a Chinese XXXL will be Medium to the rest of us.
One of the easier things to do was to fix my batwing doors. Well, they're not actually saloon style batwing doors though this is what I'd have loved to have but they're in essence batwing doors. One of the doors was out of synch and needed a stabilizing screw and another screw tightened. Now though they no longer swing to the center and close automatically because the plastic bits have worn down in the past two years, they still look pretty darned good.

Looking at my pushbutton door controller, I found that it was possible to change the on period for the relay. I changed it from 5 seconds to 10 seconds so now when I open the door using the pushbutton, it will take just one operation. Similarly the wrong key entry alarm sounds for one minute after a wrong key entry. I was going to put a piezo buzzer under the hood but decided in the end that I might just as well connect to the vehicle horn.

I decided to run the door controller off the driving battery because if I run it off the door battery, it burns up door battery power at the rate of 30ma. In a day that would be 720ma. In 3.4 days that would drain my door batteries flat and that really wouldn't be helpful. At least I can disconnect the driving battery when I park. Now in an emergency such as my leaving my keys somewhere, I can just connect the bus battery and boom - I have power to the door lock. Of course, if I then go on to put a lock on my battery compartment then that gives rise to a new problem!

Thinking of locks, I'm thinking of putting locking latches on the fuel cap and the battery compartment on the basis that some people just are too dishonest. That being the case, it begins to look as though I will have to provide a totally different power source for my door lock controller. Perhaps just run it off the door battery as before but with a pushbutton switch to power it up while in use? That being the case, putting a wrong key alarm seems a bit pointless. Far better then to keep the wiring simple.
As can be seen here, it's just a few pairs of wires in use. That plus a power pushbutton should all work really well off my simple 8AA battery power supply. Having no permanent power drain, my emergency entry lock should work as required. Clearly a pushbutton door close switch will be needed inside. Then another thought is that if a 12V lithium battery were used to power just the unit itself and a relay then the 12v lithium battery could be just installed and forgotten about for a few years as with a momentary on button there would be no current drain and lithium batteries have a shelf life of about a decade. That could happily be installed inside the vehicle.

Thinking along the lines of specialty batteries, I realized eventually that my current setup using 8AA batteries is best. If I put - as I said - the momentary on switch to power the keypad when required, I can run the emergency unlocker from the ordinary lock batteries. Indeed, if I'm not likely to be accessing the lock for a long period, I could even replace the standard alkaline batteries with lithium AA or even go up to C or D cells. The current rechargeable AAs have been in use now for several months without having been recharge between whenever it was I last charged them and now. Sometimes just sitting, thinking about all the funky and complicated ways of doing things, it turns out the way I am doing them is still the simplest.

Having spent most of the day looking at and considering options, I'm not really convinced that putting the button control in the engine compartment is the right place. Similarly I'm convinced that underneath and inside any of the existing hatches is probably also the wrong place. I've been looking at other latches thinking that it might be possible to install a whole new door. I could simply label it DEF so that anybody looking would think that's for Diesel Emission Fluid instead of having a keypad concealed. Thinking further along the lines of the existing door lock, I'd probably be best keeping the existing arrangement but purely to prevent an accident that will never happen, I'll put a relay in that cuts power from the key lock side while the codepad lock is operating. I might as well run that straight off the solar battery.

I'm hoping that next weekend I will be less exhausted. The problem is I take my work very seriously and put 110% into what I'm doing. I do this with every job I do. That means that I tend to use the weekends recuperating.

For the moment I shall put the keypad controller on the back burner while I complete the final wiring. That involves getting under the bus on tarmac again to fit more cable attachments and also to extend any wires that are too short.

Finally, today I saw a video online of a driver who drove straight into a bus and had a head on collision. It is not known whether the driver fell asleep or whether he was on his cellphone. That driver is now dead. The driver of the bus had a hard job keeping the bus upright and ended up way off in the fields and the front of the bus is a mess but the occupants survived. I feel happier to have an old schoolbus because I feel they're better built. So, let that be your lesson for today - that text message, phonecall, facebook message - it could just put you into the next world.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

Absa-bloody-lutely exhausted

This has been a standard week for work - driving school busses from the bus yard to the school via children's homes and the reverse. Well, it all sounds standard until you deal with no aide on a bus that absolutely needs an aide and where an aide is a legal requirement. What do you do when there's no aide? The children still have to get to school! It makes the driver's life harder to the point almost of distracted driving. It has been this way for a couple of weeks since my aide has been driving other people's busses while they have been off sick. Needless to say, that leaves me just absolutely exhausted. Exhausted to the point I just want a dark corner with my tablet and a bottle of cheap vodka, from where I would probably post regrettable comments online.

After Eric left, I noted that the toilet despite having two days of poo in it did not smell. That cat lit sure does the trick! Anyway, as said before I was absolutely shattered after long days of driving, many with no midday nap. You try driving from 5:30AM to 4:50PM without having a nap between shifts if you think that's wimpy! Then try it with a 35 foot, 16 ton bus in heavy and unpredictable traffic where people can and do ignore stop signs, flashing lights and can't see a great big yellow bus on the road. More than that, try it with a bus load of hyperactive, sometimes violent children with behavioral disorders. Then try it on roads that are collapsing due to underground subsidence. So, I was exhausted most days.

The bag of poo that I jettisoned out through the side door was still where it was when I threw it out during the week. Hence, today I got a shovel and buried it. I chose an anthill as the best place to dig because the ants had already loosened the soil underneath. Then having buried the aforementioned bag of poo, I covered the lot over with the leaves that had been there before I started.
I have to say that it looks almost as though there never has been any digging there. That's pretty good in my opinion as I can clearly disguise burial sites without much difficulty. I wonder whether it would be as easy to disguise the burial sites of the bodies of unpopular figures such as Saddam Hussein etc? Oh well, since no government never took me on as a hit man on one of their assassination squads, I guess I'll never know.

Inside the bus was a pleasant 75 a few minutes ago though this has now climbed to 77. I expect my extraction fan will kick in sooner rather than later. I sit here looking at all the stuff I want to do and not feeling like doing anything. I am literally exhausted.

I need to get down to welding a holder for my 35AH Harbor Freight battery. Researching online, I found a nice PDF of bolt strengths. My preferred bolt for fastening things under the bus is a 5/16 though I have reservations as to how strong the C section steel girders are. It seems they should hold 270LBS each at the thread root. I'm not worried about sheer strength which is pretty impressive for that size of bolt - something like 4000 - 8000 pounds.

My battery weighs about 20LBs so supported in a welded cage suspended from two lengths of angle iron, both bolted using four bolts each end, each bolt will be supporting just about one pound of battery weight plus a portion of the battery holder weight. I'm going to say that it all should work out nicely. I see what the bus mechanic from work said when he saw my waste barrel attachements as he asked how many tons of lead I wished to put in them.

Eric is somebody that has done a lot of his own welding in the past. He used to run a taxicab company and left me with the advice that the only thing that separates amateur welding from professional welding is that professionals clean their welds using an angle grinder. That would probably have two advantages. The first is that it reduces the surface area, eliminating nooks and crannies where water can accumulate and cause rust and the second is just that it looks more professional. From a personal point of view, I don't give a rat's arse what my welds look like as long as they work.

Another bit of advice Eric gave was again based on his taxi company. In an effort to maximize profits, he experimented with tyres buying new off brand tyres, new premium brand tyres, remold tyres and used premium brand tyres. The best value for money was in used premium brand tyres. Now that's something I had considered. I have four remolds at the back and two undated premium brand on the front. I'm concerned about the lack of a date on my front Dunlop tyres. I'm not a fan of remolds having seen remolds fall apart.
As can be seen, this remold has fallen apart. Worse - it happened while the user was driving, last year. I've seen all kinds of horrible things happen with remolds which is why - no matter how little I earn - I refuse to touch remolds. They're for the truly desperate. For my daily vehicle, I use premium brand tyres and it shows - I've had the same tyres now for 50,000 miles and there's still plenty tread.

So, what needs doing on the bus?

  • I need to complete the wiring that runs from the front to the back, underneath the bus - including adding in a section where one wire is too short. 
  • There's a wire that needs to go from the bedroom to the back of the bus.
  • The battery controls all need to lead to the back of the bus as I decided that's where I was going to put everything.
  • The battery cage needs to be built and mounted under the bus. Then I need to run wires from that to the control box at the back of the bus.
  • I'd like to add a water inlet so that I can have fresh water going into the handbasin. That would involve finding the faucet I removed from the handbasin when I said I was just going to use a jug of water only. I'm not sure where that faucet has vanished to.
  • I have a timer unit and a fuse box I want to put on the solar system together with installing a second fan and possibly changing the exhaust vent covers from the current mushroom vents to a louvered flap vent.
  • I'd like to install an instant water heater. That involves a little plumbing and some wiring from my 120v distribution panel.
  • I have a code lock for my front door lock - I just need to install it and to add a button on the inside that allows me to close the door lock from the inside, without a key.
  • Although my toilet works just fine, I want eventually to put in a flush toilet. Thinking about it, if I can use an old stainless steel beer keg (that involves welding stainless steel and buying a respirator) then that shouldn't be too costly.

In terms of doing stuff today, I'm rather disappointed that I really don't feel like doing anything much. I'd love to dive straight in but I'm just exhausted from the week just past. Normally when I felt like this in the past, I'd just go to Harbor Freight or someplace else for supplies but I have enough supplies to finish the electrical work on the 12V side and don't want to go overboard. I've tended to skip from one project to another throughout the process and it has worked. I want to complete one project at a time now since so few projects remain.

Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Tested and found passable

A few days ago a message appeared on my phone. It was my old buddy Eric. He'd been wandering the icy wastelands of the far North in the strange land they call Canada. Yes, that's right - the land of the Labbatts swilling Mountie. Those same Mounties that so famously sang the chorus to Monty Python's Lumberjack Song.
I never wanted to do this job in the first place!
I... I wanted to be...
A lumberjack!
(piano vamp)
Leaping from tree to tree! As they float down the mighty rivers of
British Columbia! With my best girl by my side!
The Larch!
The Pine!
The Giant Redwood tree!
The Sequoia!
The Little Whopping Rule Tree!
We'd sing! Sing! Sing!
Oh, I'm a lumberjack, and I'm okay,
I sleep all night and I work all day.
Chorus: He's a lumberjack, and he's okay,
He sleeps all night and he works all day.
I cut down trees, I eat my lunch,
I go to the lava-try.
On Wednesdays I go shoppin'
And have buttered scones for tea.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he eats his lunch,
He goes to the lava-try.
On Wednesdays 'e goes shoppin'
And has buttered scones for tea.
I cut down trees, I skip and jump,
I like to press wild flowers.
I put on women's clothing,
And hang around in bars.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he skips and jumps,
He likes to press wild flowers.
He puts on women's clothing
And hangs around.... In bars???????
I chop down trees, I wear high heels,
Suspenders and a bra.
I wish I'd been a girlie
Just like my dear papa.
Mounties: He cuts down trees, he wears high heels
Suspenders?? And a.... A Bra????
(spoken, raggedly) What's this? Wants to be a "girlie"? Oh, My!
And I thought you were so rugged! Poofter!
All: He's a lumberjack, and he's okaaaaaaayyy..... (Bong)
Sound Cue: The Liberty Bell March, by John Phillip Sousa.
So,with a couple of days notice I was able to hide incriminating evidence and bury the bodies that had been so carefully stored on my bus.  The water came from a 6 gallon jerry can and Eric would be happy with that, I figured, as that's largely how his house in the South of France worked. The toilet was based on one of Eric's toilets that he'd shown on his house-building blog.

With that, Eric rolled up at 4pm on Saturday and was introduced to the bus. I have to say I didn't think my first guest would have been a man. I thought it would be a woman. With that being said, he was there and had light, a bed, water, a shower and a toilet.

The verdict on the bed was that it was very comfortable and just the right height.  No mention was made of the toilet nor handbasin save for that he was used to that kind of thing. He did ask to spend a second night which indicated things weren't that bad nor did he request to be pointed to the nearest Motel 6.
The toilet was clearly acceptable and worked, judging from the fact it was used. I'd opted for a bucket with a plastic liner and cat lit in a bucket beside the toilet. After he'd been using the toilet for number one and two for two days and nights and the temperatures being quite warm, I have to report that the place still smelled fresh. Clearly the cat lit works.

Emptying the toilet was interesting. I'd not expected the bag to be quite so heavy. I'll have to give consideration to emptying more frequently. I'd sited the toilet by the emergency exit with the thought I could unload the toilet via the emergency exit door rather than carrying containers full of nastiness through the kitchen. That worked well though simply tossing the bag out onto the ground probably isn't the best solution. Likewise, burying the bag isn't probably the best solution either.

I'm giving more thought to a 15 gallon barrel solution with some kind of big faucet that I can open in order to pour the content into a 5 gallon barrel that I can carry to a dump site or perhaps attach to a waste pipe and just plumb in temporarily. That could work with a flush toilet and providing I don't pee in the handbasin nor the shower, both of those could be water sources for the toilet.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

The mystery be solved

It's hard to see amidst the spaghetti jumble of wiring but the mystery is solved. I'd made a small error in my interpretation of the wiring diagram. Now, when the correct code is entered, the buzzer sounds for 5 or 6 seconds. My next task will be to time my door unlocker. I believe it takes about 5 seconds to open. If not then I might just have to enter the code twice to open the door. Not a major problem!

It turned out that I had to connect the purple wire to the negative, the blue wire to the black wire of my buzzer and the red wire to the positive. Now that's all sorted out, I can get the rest of my door lock working. There is an alarm setting whereby an alarm can be set to sound if the wrong code is entered. I have no specific use for that piezo buzzer so I might assign that as my alarm. It's certainly loud enough!

Why I'd made the elementary mistake before was simply from tiredness. I get so many interesting issues on the special needs schoolbus I drive for work that no day is standard and no journey is routine. I get exhausted by the end of the day. Today, for example, I'm home and so tired I'm literally walking into things. But at least my door unlocker keypad is closer to being installed.

Siting the keypad is an interesting issue. If I put a keypad hatch then somebody nefarious might open it to see what's under the hatch. I could mount it inside the fuel hatch but as I'm going to put a lock on that, it wouldn't be smart. I thought of mounting it underneath but I might be parked on soft mud and might need access when I'm in my Sunday best. I'll find somewhere.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Mysteries of locks

A few days ago, the electronic door keypad I ordered, arrived. Thus I set to today to make the thing work. Programming it was straightforward enough and I could get the light to turn green from red.
 First the light was red..
Then the light was green...

As you can see, I connected the keypad to a 12v battery. I connected a 12v buzzer (bottom right) and tried to make the buzzer buzz. It didn't so maybe I'll have to rethink my reading of the instructions, the salient point of which is here.
It looks as though I should connect the blue wire to the buzzer and the buzzers other wire to the negative. I did that and nothing happened. That has me just a little flummoxed.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

86F and lying on hot tarmac

Today I started the bus and took it out to add wiring underneath. I'm happy to say that it drove well though as I'm not used to it, I was a trifle close to the center line. I suspect the driver's seat is more central than on my usual bus.

The bad - my alternator belt squeaked a little and my GPS speedometer does not seem to work too well any more. There was a hot smell under the hood - not sure what that was but the engine temperature was good. The whole bus needs the attention of a decent mechanic for a clean and grease anyway. My CB didn't seem to want to turn on. That isn't a huge problem though. The rev counter kicked in only on the return journey. A couple of piles of boxes tipped over and one contained a wine glass that now has a broken stem.

The good - on the occasion my GPS speedometer worked, it agreed with my speedometer. The bus drove well. The fact my speedo worked proves the addon speed sensor under the bus is utterly redundant and can be removed.

It was hotter than I thought and the heat gave me a headache. I'd parked near a filling station on a dead end road in order to roll my creeper under the bus. In use I found the creeper to be fairly mixed. It helped a little but not as much as I'd hoped. I spent quite a few sessions lying on the hot tarmac. I could put one cable connector on then I had to sit in the shade to cool down.

By the time I quit for the day, I'd attached the cables from the cockpit to the back of the bus. One pair of wires was too short as I suspected but it won't be a problem to extend them. The cable clamps were a little loose so I put an extra cable sleeve on my wires. That made it all work. I need more cable sleeve and more wires. I need to add more cable clamps but that's a job for another day.
There's a photo of my bus on its first journey in quite a while. It was so bright I couldn't see the screen hence a finger crept into the image. I'm glad to be able to show the bus in different surroundings. Maybe next weekend I can finish the wiring. It was nice to be able to work without insect issues. The temperature was a little too much though. Having said that, if I go to the same place next week, I'll be less dumb and will park the other way around so that I can work in the shade and not in the hot sun.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

180 CFM, maybe?

Today I noticed my electronic keypad looked like it was out for delivery. The eBay tracking said "On it's way to destination" so I though it would arrive today. It did not - I actually met the postman at the bottom of the driveway and did receive a package and a nice letter The letter was just my bus insurance, keeping me road legal. The package was my anemometer.
I measured the wind speed at the mouth of my newest bilge blower at 1200 feet a minute. I measured the air blowing out of one of my vents at the back of the bus at 360 feet a minute. That means I'm getting a little over half the air volume out of the back of the bus that the fans advertise. That might be due to the mushroom duct covers or it could be the mesh screen at the duct cover end is glued over a plastic drain cover which loses probably 1/3rd of the clear surface area due to a thick, plastic grate.

There are two possible resolutions to the air-speed problem with the back vents. One is to clear away the plastic blockage and replace it with a strongly fastened mosquito mesh. The other is to simply do away with a filter at the back and rely solely upon the front filter combined with frequent blasts of air from the blower. It might also be a good idea to replace the mushroom vents with flapper vents though I'm afraid a strong wind might just snap the louvres.

Realizing my planned external solar input (could even be wind input) needed a bracket made so that the power plug could hang downward, I started to drill some of my steel bracket. The first pilot hole went through readily enough with my new rechargeable drill. Enlarging the hole went well until I got close to the required size. Then cutting got incredibly slow with my being able to do a couple of seconds work between half an hour of letting the work and the tool cool down. That was pretty slow.
In the meantime I started on making a hole in the floor for my thick bundle of cables. That started well but then I hit a snag in that the first cable passes very close under where I have started my hole. That means I'll have to complete enlarging the hole from underneath the bus. I have a lot of things to move inside the bus to put securely before I move the bus though.
Part of my problem with not getting much done is that I'm off for just two days a week, most weeks and I run a schedule that is just plain exhausting. I am normally up at 04:00 in the morning, at work by 05:30 and out on the road in a bus by 05:45. At 08:45 I'm usually back at work having completed my morning run. That is, unless I have an extra hour to do. By 13:30 I'm back in my bus at work and on the road, returning to the office at 16:50 approximately. Then on two days a week I have a further run from 17:40 until 20:30. Add to that unscheduled meetings and driving my car to and from between work and where I live which is half an hour each way. No wonder I'm exhausted - that's between 6.25 and 9.75 hours work driving a day plus 2 hours of my own driving. That's up to 12 hours driving per day and it's exhausting - not physically but mentally. Add to that, the temperature on the work bus can be over 100F and I have no water at all with me for that entire time. I get dehydrated. It's nothing for me to drink a liter of water in the car on the way home and to suffer frequent issues because of dehydration.

The reason I want to have the solar input cable out of sight is so that nobody messes with it. That's pretty much the same for everything on the bus. I've hidden just about everything out of sight. Sure - if you look you'll see a waste barrel if you look at the rear wheel arch. I'm hoping that rapidly gets covered with road debris and mud, thus becoming unrecognizable. Otherwise, I'd just drill a hole in the bus skirt and put the connector through that.

In the end after seeming to get nowhere for a very long time, I finally managed to get the hole large enough for the cigarette lighter socket to fit. The next stage will be attaching the gizmo to the skirt. For some obscure reason, the skirt where I want to attach the socket is screwed on rather than riveted. I'll do the same with my mount, just in case. When its installed, I'll slop some silicone goop over the connections after everything is correctly connected. To be safe, I'll probably add some kind of safety feature so that if something is plugged in with reversed polarity, a fuse blows.

I must admit to being disappointed with the amount of work completed today but on the other hand, much of what I need to do involves going underneath. That, of course, is not my favorite thing to do.

Looking at the busses at work, I noticed they all have locking covers over the fuel tank. That seeming like a good idea, I mentioned that on one of those God-foresaken bus conversion groups online. Of course, the answer came back to buy a new fuel hatch door with a built-in lock. Idly, I looked those up and they were all very small. They were also very expensive. Thus I measured the lock on my fuel door and found it to be close enough to 3/4 of an inch. It also had a non-locking cam closure. Looking on eBay, I saw several in various different sizes. None in the size I want though so I'm thinking my next best stop will probably be the local hardware store. Cam locks are not exactly uncommon and in fact, most fuel doors have cam locks. According to eBay prices they range from about $5 upwards. That's way better than $20 for a new door!

Honestly, those bus conversion forums are all totally nuts. They are chattering on one at the moment about how much it costs to repaint a bus. Figures were quoted in the thousands. Most people with any sense use a roller and a pot or two of paint from the hardware store. Mine cost probably $200 to paint  - not $10,000 as some quoted. As a defense against such a ludicrous suggestion somebody said they managed to get into a campground where only new motorhomes were allowed. My question is - if somebody is prepared to reject my good money by refusing to let me camp on their land - why should I even care? It's their business and money that they loose. I just mosey on and find somewhere cheaper or free. Besides, how are they going to know the age of your vehicle unless you're dumb enough to tell them? It's possible to disguise the age anyway - all it needs is (if you're that desperate) to put a sticker in some prominent place claiming some fictitious manufacture date. No business has a right to inspect your vehicle or enter your vehicle and even a policeman cannot unless invited or in possession of a search warrant. That includes lifting the hood. I'll go further - the bus groups are full of nonsense. One has to be very suspect of anything said there. I wouldn't mind betting most posters don't even know anybody with a bus.

Just as I thought I'd got the bracket to fit just right, it refused to allow the socket I wanted to mount through the hole. It worked just find for my test socket but for the one I wanted to use, no way. That's frustrating and means more work tomorrow.

Monday, September 11, 2017

Hurricane Irma

Today was supposed to have been a work day but due to Hurricane Irma, that got cancelled. I can't quite figure that one out because all we have is some wind and rain. Tomorrow is supposed to be a work day and I can't figure that one out either because tomorrow is supposed to be the really bad day or the start of a few really bad days.

Needless to say, I had high hopes of working on the bus today. I'd hoped to have a day dry enough to get underneath to install one or both of the cables I made up over the weekend. I also hoped that I'd be able to get underneath to measure the ribs in order to work out whether I can simply bolt a battery cage for my Harbor Freight lead-acid battery into place. If I can do that then I have the option of welding or bolting the cage together.

Sitting in the bus today, I look at the stuff needing to be done. The vast majority needs a good sunny day. Though I have LED lantern lighting in here, it's really not bright enough to do any meaningful work. I can blog but that's about the limit of what's achievable.

At the risk of being a bit repetative and boring, I've got the solar electrics to complete. I need to work a bit on the ventilation and also work on the plumbing with possibly an instant water heater going into the mix.

Today I have been reading all kinds of entertaining nonsense on the online bus groups. On one group they were saying Pex tubing absolutely cannot be connected using "dime store" jubilee clips. That's sheer nonsense as I've always connected my hoses with jubilee clips. Another prize piece of nonsense was somebody saying that air filters expire after 2-3 years and they cited a manufacturer's website claiming so. Well, of course they'd day that - they'll say anything in order to sell more filters. It seems that these online groups are filled with people that cannot think independently and are not willing to question anything they're told. As somebody that thinks outside the box, I find this failure of other people to be somewhat annoying. This is probably why I like to do things on my own so much.

I managed to lock myself out of the bus today. That had me thinking of ways to get in. I had to resort to a key I'd left elsewhere in the end. Had that not been available, I'd have been a bit stuck. Looking around at keypad switches I was baffled about how to make a simple pulse provide constant power to then somebody suggested a latching relay. That would do it! I'll work on that after I've completed my underbus solar wiring. Given the rain today, my preferred site for such a unit which would be underneath the bus doesn't seem that practical. I suspect a better location would be under the hood.

Lots left to do.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Using Lowes (hiss, spit) undersized cable loom

I was going to start today working on cutting trees in order to facilitate easier passage of my bus down the driveway but I got side tracked. I realized I'd just made up one single cable - the big one that goes from front to back of the bus. Being under the bus to put one cable in, I might as well put two so I got down to work, making up another cable. This, being the bedroom cable, was originally going to have just one wire - the circulation fan.

Originally, the plan was to keep all the electrics in the kitchen and not have power elsewhere. Plans and ideas changing, I put up two circulation fans to help keep me cool during the heat of summer, given that I decided not to install air conditioning. I'd played with the idea and found suitable units but I just don't like the idea of having something I can only use when plugged into a street supply.

Realizing I might yet change my mind further and being quite disappointed by the LED lanterns available, I looked the other day in the hardware store and saw LED "puck" lights and light strips. They looked interesting but I'm not willing to part with cash yet to purchase anything like that. Having said that, it makes sense to put in extra cabling now rather than having to put in extra cabling later. All my cabling is 14 or 16 gauge so it should handle up to 8A at 12V given the short lengths in use. Thus, my main long cable has two twins and a single wire. My short cable - made up today contains two twins.

After thinking, I realized that I needed two twins in order to power the fan, a bedroom light, a bathroom light and possibly a USB charger in the bedroom. For the moment, only the fan will receive any power. All the cables will be positive with the bus body being the negative. That saves me a bundle on cables and conduit, not to mention fixtures.

Making up a cable is dead easy - I wrap the bundles of wires in tape (in this case it's masking tape but any tape will do) and then insert them into my cable loom (that some hardware stores call by various funky names).
There are the results of my cable spinning. It takes a long time and there is a 10 foot length I did this morning together with the 30 foot length I did yesterday. I suspect I might have to extend the cables. That would not surprise me one little bit nor does it perturb me. It's going to be a simple case of soldering and sharing wrapping then slipping a piece of cable loom over the extension.
There's a nice shot of the cable going into the conduit. I have to bend the conduit past 90 degrees to get it to open in order to accept the wires but when it does, they slip inside very easily. It takes forever because that conduit is quite hard to work with.

Today I saw an interesting video online about Harbor Freight's new 100W solar panel setup. It's a little expensive at $150 when Home Depot sells a 100W panel for $100 but it looks good. I shall be setting up my solar setup so that I can plug an extra panel in via a socket on the side of the bus. That will give me running solar panels that just keep things going and extra power while I'm stationary.

My existing 35W of solar power is currently split into a 20W array at the back of the bus that powers solely my ventilation and a 15W panel at the front that currently does nothing aside from charge my tablet or my phone. It does both of those, admirably.
Here's a photo of my solar array charging my RCA tablet. It's old and only kinda-sorta works but it looks good!  Things charge remarkably quickly. That panel came from Harbor Freight and charges a 5AH Radio Shack battery which in turn charges my tablet or phone.

Years ago, I used to use a laptop for everything. These days, I do everything on a tablet. Things seem to keep getting better and smaller. Tower systems became desktops and desktops became laptops then laptops became tablets. The same is going for cameras - those big, bulky digital SLRs became mirrorless cameras and phones gained cameras. What I'd like to see is a mirrorless camera that can be charged via USB that desn't cost the earth. Something as small as Nikon's 1 system would be very nice. It might even get me back into photography after a hiatus of about a decade!

Just now the temperature in the back of the bus rose above 25C (77F) so my extraction fan came on. Out of interest I covered the ventilation outlet from one side of my extraction fan setup and noticed the tone of the motor changed as it had to work harder to push the air out of a single outlet. I really need to get my anemometer (when it arrives) onto that to see how much air is actually being displaced. Until then I shall probably hold off on installing the brand new extraction fan. It could end up with it being better for me to open up a second extraction vent on each side, using the second of the student light apertures. The anemometer is going to tell me a lot.

After procrastinating a little - even though I didn't have the time - I went down the driveway and marked all the trees that need felling. It was then that I realized that according to Monty Python I was not correctly attired for tree felling. The Lumberjack song speaks of lumberjacks wearing high heels, suspenders (garter belt) and a bra while skipping and jumping. I can probably do the skipping and jumping but I'd better not because I might chop the wrong tree. I'm pretty sure high-heels would sink into the sand though! In the end, I did the job in my usual work-on-the-bus clothes of torn-up 511 trousers and a torn-up tee-shirt.

So, this lumberjack went to the shed and found a bow saw but a bow saw with the floppiest ever blade that no amount of ingenuity could tighten. Undaunted, this lumberjack spotted a chain saw. Having located oil for it and filled the oil reservoir (only two oil levels on a chainsaw - brim full and not enough), the chainsaw resolutely refused to start. After facing about for an eternity trying to get the beast to start, this lumberjack went for the handsaw that was used for everything else on the bus - a straightforward ordinary saw. Within a few minutes two of the six saplings were down. They're not massive - the biggest was something like 5 inches in diameter. It was delicate work - the one thumb got damaged last week opening a vicious ziploc bag and the other got damaged trying to get the pull start on the chainsaw to get the chainsaw started. After lopping two saplings and carting them away, it was time for a break! It's not really possible to imagine a lumberjack doing this in suspenders, high heels and a bra!

In the end, with the able assistance of my girlfriend's sister's boyfriend, the chainsaw was started. Only one problem - it would run for a few seconds and then stop. Fuel and oil were not the problem nor was the spark plug nor the air filter so the cause remains a mystery. On its brief spurts of operation, four or five thick saplings were felled, giving a clear exit that should not damage the bus though for safety, removing the CB aerial will be a good idea.
Looking at the trees, it might not be possible to see but the 6 or 7 worst offenders have been removed. There are still trees that overhang but the limbs are light and thin so with luck they won't cause any damage. It can also be seen that the sky is grey and overcast. That's a sure sign that hurricane Irma is not too far away. As of right now the hurricane is in the middle of the Florida keys with an 80 mile wide eye and 180mph winds. It's currently forecast that the edge of the surrounding storm will pass through the area where my bus is parked. Tomorrow I'll have to secure things in the bus - put things on the floor that are on countertops or on the bed and drive to the local school, ready to install my new wiring. Another task will be to measure the ribs under the bus where I want to secure my Harbor Freight battery. That will give me a good idea about how big to make the cage in which it will fit.  Of course, if it's threatening to rain and storm then I probably won't.

Saturday, September 9, 2017

Was it really that kind of day?

As there's a hurricane brewing, South Carolina's overzealous governor cancelled school for Monday yet the hurricane is not due to touch anywhere near South Carolina until Tuesday when the schools are supposed to reopen. How bizarre is that? Needless to say, I predict a few days off work unless I get called upon to drive a busload of refugees from the hurricane zone. Even then, the document I signed said that I might or might not get paid. That, I suppose, gives me freedom to take or refuse the job if and when it comes up.

Needless to say, today I designated as the day upon which I would put my underbus cabling into conduit. Pulling out my Harbor Freight conduit I used my sole 10 foot section of 3/8 inch cable loom. The next size up which was 1/2 inch was too big thus I made the mistake of going to Lowes (hiss, spit). Certainly, they had 3/8 inch conduit and I bought some. When I got home I found I'd wasted my time, gas and money. Their 3/8 inch conduit is woefully undersized.
Looking closely at the looms in the photo, the one on the right is from Lowes (hiss, spit) and the one on the right is from Harbor Freight (hurrah). The Lowes (hiss, spit) loom is small enough to slip inside the Harbor Freight loom. I rather suspect that Lowes (hiss, spit) have measured their loom on the outside as 3/8 inch whereas Harbor Freight measured it from the inside, allowing me to put 3/8 of cable inside. Shame on Lowes (hiss, spit) for selling undersized products!

After returning home to find my newly purchased loom was woefully undersized, I went to Harbor Freight to buy the right stuff. I got some other stuff while I was there - to the tune of $45 (gulp). That was largely just cable loom and fittings though I did get some larger step drills. Those wil come in handy for my next couple of adventures.

So, returning home, I set to work and within an hour or two had two figure 8 cables and a single cable all nicely taped together and slipped into cable loom. There's not much point in returning Lowes (hiss, spit) junk because I'm sure I'll find a use for 1/4 inch loom later in the project.

Those with long memories will recall I bought a nifty little gizmo that allows me to connect the contacts on one side of a cable connector strip together. Unfortunately it seems to work solely on some kind of cable connector I've never ever seen before.
It's not the fact it's too long that's the issue. The problem is that the connectors are well out of synch with the contacts on my connector strip. That blasted thing, including shipping cost me $5 too! This is the problem when there is no Radio Shack. I can't believe that management were capable of running a useful business into bankruptcy. Now that's what I call inept - I'm positive that the average drug dealer could have run Radio Shack better!

Feeling rather irked by the problems, I bought a box of doughnuts then noticed after I'd got home that they'd soiled themselves in the car. Surely I can't be that bad of a driver!
While I was out, I thought about putting running water into my bus. Somebody recommended using Pex piping for the water inlet. Looking it up, it seems it's often fastened with a special Pex clamp and that needs a special Pex clamp tool. Then I found a straightforward Jubilee clip would work well. That I gather is also called a screw clamp. Putting a straight piece of copper pipe through the floor and gluing it with rubber-based glue then putting the Pex on with Jubilee clips seems the best solution. Reading rather, it seems Pex can also tolerate hot water. That means that I might have the problem solved as far as plumbing goes. My next need is to find the original faucet that came with the handbasin!

Thinking ahead, it might be an idea to find some way of securing the microwave to the countertop. Not so much as so that I can claim it's built in but more so that it won't slop about during driving. There's sufficient countertop for me to put my little gas hob elsewhere when I cook - if I ever do get to go away for a few days in my motorhome. For that, I rather suspect that spray painted and pre-bent steel or aluminum strip might work best. I can just bolt through the countertop and be done.

Going further with plumbing - and this is where the undersized loom comes in - I could recycle my 20A cable (or some of it) and put a line from the breaker panel to my bathroom to power an undersink instant hot water heater. That in turn could supply both the hot faucet and a line that goes under the bus and up through into the shower. The instant water heater I'm thinking about is 10A and on full water pressure delivers Luke warm water but on less, produces hot water. That needs an pressure adjustable shower head. I'm sure they're available!

Today one of my ebay purchases arrived. No - it wasn't fish net stockings nor was it a Curt Cobain LP. It was in fact my latest bilge fan. My latest idea is to install two bilge fans and blow double the air quantity out. At 260CFM, I should be able to change all the air in the bus in just 4 minutes. That should provide quite a little breeze. If I can keep doing that and power my two circulation fans then even in the heat of summer, it should be quite comfortable in here.
This is one reason why I've moved the battery location closer to the back of the bus. The biggest power hog needing the heaviest wiring will be at the back. My 30 feet of wiring put in loom today should be long enough for what I want to do. If, however, it isn't, I can always extend it with no great problem. All I need to do is to solder and shrink insulate extra wire onto the ends.

The plan with the wiring is to have a dual cable running between my two solar panels with an extra plugin so that I can put a 50W panel directly facing the sun, on the ground. 50W on its own will provide a maximum of 4A and combined with the 35W already on the bus, should be able to power my fans almost constantly on a good, sunny day. The remaining dual cable will be split. One leg will power the USB charging setup I installed and the other will be spare. That will power any potential permanently-installed lighting. The single cable which is very lightweight will power the ventilation fan.

I have two further wires to install - one that will power the bedroom fan and one to power lighting for the bedroom and bathroom - if I ever install permanent lighting. I might also run an extra cable just in case I want to put in a USB charger in the bedroom.

Thinking about permanent lighting, I'd probably put a couple of "puck" lights up. Thos should throw enough light upwards to light the whole comparrtment. Otherwise, it's lanterns the whole way. My spare cable from the cable run I put in ages ago could be repurposed to power the door lock so that the door lock runs off solar power. Though they have lasted literally months on a single charge, I feel the rechargeable batteries in the door lock are beginning to run low. When they stop operating the door, I'll measure the voltage which will tell me how low I can let NiMh batteries go. Then I measure them on full charge and that gives me a good charging window. The idea is that I can then calculate how many NiMh cells I'd need in order to replace my lead-acid batteries. I'm sure some of my readers will be pretending to split their sides laughing at that one but... I much prefer NiMh to lead-acid and to lithium. There's also no law on this planet that says I cannot experiment with NiMh - even if it proves to be no better than lead-acid. The thing that gets on my tits about people that say "you can't do this" is that they have never ever questioned rubbish they have read online. I offer as absolute proof, the fact that some guy in Nigeria is living well off the proceeds of the Nigerian Prince scam where Prince IWannaRobYourGrave has left loads of money and a corrupt civil servant in exchange for never-ending fees is prepared to share that mythical wealth with you, somebody they have never met.

Tomorrow, my mission will be to clear the driveway so that I can get the bus in and out. That's a long job but fortunately due to the hurricane, the weather has become a lot cooler. As I showed the other day, the branches and small trees are making ingress and egress liable to rip bits off the outside of my bus. Monday, all being equal, I should be able to get out with the bus and get underneath it to work on installing my cables.

While I was at Harbor Freight, I saw a spare battery on sale for my $20 Harbor Freight drill. It was $12 and I didn't buy one. I'm sure I'll probably regret that! I remember somebody in my mysterious past had one of those together with the flashlight that went with it but oddly, only a single battery. That seemed nutty to me! I'll have to charge that battery ready for Monday or I could end up looking a bit silly, taking my bus out and not being able to do anything with it!
And there she is, in all her beauty! My NiCad powered power drill. NiCads went out donkey's years ago but a lot of the cheap Chinese stuff Harbor Freight sells, still uses them. It's a shame because NiCad is quite toxic and should not ever make its way into landfill - which is exactly where the dead batteries end up!

Monday, September 4, 2017

Today I tried my vents

I put my hand up to the vents from which the hot inside air blows and there was quite a breeze. I doubt the vent filters will take much more. It might be a better option to go back to my original plan which was to pump cooler outside air in through a vent in the floor. I'm probably going to go with unfiltered air initially but that's always subject to change. Pumping air out at 130 CFM is a good idea but it's not making it that much cooler inside which is a bit strange. Either I need to pump air out faster or I need to pump cool air inside as well.

In its current orientation, the front of the bus heats up first, meaning that the bedroom starts off cool. The bedroom is, of course, where I sit when I'm blogging. The front is very hot in the morning from the morning sun while the bedroom isn't so hot. When I had the bus oriented the other way, the front would be cooler before the bedroom but then the opposite would be true at the end of the day. My current thoughts are to try an induction fan in the galley in order to pull cooler air in from outside or to double-up the extraction fans. Having said that, properly functioning extraction is a must. At the moment the system is just messing about with the fan running for 45 seconds at a go. That, I suspect, is due to a faulty charge controller and possibly the charge controller has damaged my 10ah battery.

Today being a trip to the hardware store, I'll pick up some wiring. I've thought about an underbus crawler and decided that I do want one but I'm going to see how much it costs just to buy a piece of plywood (that can be used later for other things) and some castors. I might even have some plywood in the shed so I might just go for the castors.

Regarding the wiring, I thought I was being clever when I installed a single extra wire when I installed my last cable run. It turns out I'd inadequately predicted the future. I need more cabling running along the underside. It doesn't help that two charge controllers will fight each other. So, I have to redesign my wiring layout.

So many people have cast aspersions on my welding that I begin to doubt it myself. I've jumped up and down on my welds and hit them with a sledgehammer but still I get the nasty comments. Maybe I just need to shut up about my welding and just get on with it and not mention it. Anyway, I need to weld together a battery cradle for my 35AH battery. I'll put a little roof over it just in case the battery catches fire. That'll serve as a heat barrier from the underside of the floor. I have a 30A self-resetting breaker. That'll stop me accidentally overloading my battery cabling and might also protect the battery in the eventuality of a short circuit. Perhaps I might go for belt and braces and put a fuse as well - close to the battery.

With the battery mounted behind the differential, I'll be protected should those that I suspect are just plain idiots actually be right. If the welds break and the battery falls out, it becomes a road hazard rather than going under my rear wheel which could be fatal for me. Fear of things falling off and going under my rear wheel is why I have 5 chains supporting each 15 gallon barrel. Each chain is attached by four 5/16 bolts to the ribs. Thus, at 135lbs for a full waste tank, each chain is supporting no more than 25lbs and no bolt is supporting more than 6lbs. The chains are specified at 550lbs with the weak point being the turnbuckles, specified at 130lbs each. 5 of them should hold 650lbs which is way in excess of any road forces on a 135lb barrel. The sides of the barrel would give way first.

I've got two charge controllers in place right now - one at the front from the front solar panel and that charges the battery that powers my magic box. That's the one thing that really works well. My extraction fans used to work well when they were just plain CPU fans but when I switched to a single bilge blower that's when it all went to pot.

My charge controllers are rated for 30A but reviews say that's more than they can provide. I noticed the PWM charge controllers don't control output voltage. They just supply it. That makes me suspect that if I need more amperage than they can provide, I can simply put a relay in place where the controller controls the operation of a relay and the relay provides the power from the battery.

It seems the charge controllers go bananas if the battery negative is connected to any other negative on the controller. That's just plain nuts and the sign of poor design. There should be just one negative and all the other connections should be positive. That actually gives me the thought that I should maybe dump these charge controller things and go with a simple battery protector that stops the battery going too low and one that prevents it from being overcharged. The charge controllers don't seem to do anything else.

Designing the wiring system, I need a 1 gauge wire to go from the charge controller to the battery. I need to run a dual wire from the solar panels at the back to the solar panels at the front in order to combine the output of both. That output goes into a charge controller. The thick wire from the charge controller goes to the battery and should be fused at both ends. Because I might still change what I'm going with my ventilation fans, I need to future-proof the wiring. Thus, keeping the bus body as negative, I need two wires that will carry 10A. I'll likely only use one but just in case I decide to replace my exhaust fans with 7 inch car radiator fans, the possibility is there. I need a 7A wire from my magic box and a 1A wire from the front fan. I need a 1A wire from my bedroom fan and since I'm putting in wiring then I'll put in a 7A wire just in case I put a second magic box.

Since I'm not getting too much luck with LED lanterns I'd best also possibly put an extra wire that allows me to run at least some lighting to the galley and the bedroom. I'm not sure how I'd do that to the bathroom though. I really, really want to use lanterns as opposed to wired in lights.

Then there's siting the charge controller and fuse box. I had been keen on having it all at the front of the bus. That was when I was going to run everything from smaller batteries housed in ammunition boxes. Initially I was thinking that I might be using far less power. Now it seems my power system is growing almost out of control.

My first conduit from the front to the back of the bus contains wiring for the reversing horn and the reversing camera. It also contains a spare cable that I've been using to power my extraction fan. Thus, there is no dedicated house wiring system set up yet. With that in mind, siting my battery and arranging my cabling is much more flexible.

Running the charge controller from the rear, I need..

  • 20-30 feet of conduit. 
  • 7A cable from the magic box to the charge controller - say 30 feet
  • 1A cable from the galley fan to the charge controller - say 30 feet
  • An extra 5A cable for lighting (just in case) at the front - say 30 feet
  • An extra 5A cable for lighting from the bedroom for lighting or in fact that could be 10A to provide light for both bathroom and bedroom since they're on opposite sides of the same partition. - say 15 feet (it could even be two 5A cables)
  • 2A dual cable from the front solar panels to the back. - say 30 feet
  • 1A fan cable from the bedroom to the back - say 15 feet
  • Mount the charge controller at the back
  • Mount my timer at the back
  • Mount my fuse box at the back.
  • Short run of 30A cable to the battery.
  • 20 feet of 5A cable to where I'll install my induction fan
Running the charge controller from the front, I need...
  • 20-30 feet of conduit
  • No extra cable from the magic box
  • No extra cable from the galley fan
  • 6 feet of 5A cable for lighting
  • An extra  5A/10A cable from the bedroom to the charge controller - say 20 feet.
  • 3A dual cable from the back solar panels to the front (say 30 feet).
  • 1A cable from the bedroom to the front - say 20 feet
  • Mount the charge controller at the front
  • Mount the fuse box at the front
  • Mount the timer at the front
  • Long run of 30A cable to the battery
  • 20 feet of 5A cable to where I'll install my induction fan.
Looking at it, theres precious little to choose between front and rear mounting systems. The advantage with mounting at the front is that I can simply control everything pretty much from the drivers seat. Mounting at the back means that I can make use of the existing rear compartment for mounting switches etc. It also means I don't have to hide the wiring - as long as it's not a birds nest, it should be fine. I might want to put a simple solenoid switch in, powered from that simple extra cable in order to power everything off from the driver's seat.

So, I sat down and worked out what was needed in terms of wire. Given that most of the wires run 30 feet and that none of the sources I encountered online ever seemed to agree with wire sizes, I took the plunge and did my own calculations - which took forever.
Of course, when I got to the hardware store, I found the amperages given for the different wires was different from what I saw online. Feeling that the online figures were largely bollocks, using the vernacular, I went with the store figures. Needless to say on my way down to the store, I'd had some new ideas (as I often do). Currently the battery is earthed to the bus body. It won't take much to earth the appliances to the body and have the battery earth going straight to the charge controller. In an ideal world, the solar panels, battery and appliances would all be earthed to the body together. This being some kind of funky Chinese screwed up world where logic and electronics don't go together, I can't combine the earths on my charge controller. Thus it works out more economical in wire just to earth the appliances. That means that I need from the front a dual cable from my solar panel and three wires from my fan, magic box and possible future lighting unit. That ends up being two dual cables and a single cable. That's absolutely perfect as far as I'm concerned. As my dual cables are somewhat heavy duty, I can exceed my estimated amperages. Both my duals are 14 gauge which should carry at least 8 amps. This means that should I wish to tie in an extra solar panel, I could easily add a stand-alone 50W panel.

I decided against adding an induction fan on the basis that it was too complicated to figure out all the wiring while standing in the middle of the hardware store. Instead I will have two extraction fans running. That should have the same effect but gets around extra engineering to install the induction fan and believe me, I like things to be simple. I almost decided to say stuff adding the ability to add lighting running off the main battery. I'm now fairly confident I have almost all the wire I need. I did forget to buy wires from the battery to the charge controller but that is no biggie. That's a very short run.

Looking underneath the bus I found a double set of opposing C section pairs just behind the differential. I'm not sure how much the differential swings when in use but it looked a possibility for attaching my battery. Alternatively I could put two 35AH batteries, each behind a rear wheel. That's a thought for the future and tying them together would not be a huge challenge.

The wiring came in at quite a price. I won't say I was shocked because after yo've seen some of the things I have, it takes very little to shock me! While in the store I priced castors for use with some plywood that I could use as a creeper. Some were horrible prices and as I needed 4, the price of a Harbor Freight creeper began to look much more attractive. Then I spotted some casters that were end of line for $3 each. I bought two plus two of those that can be steered for $5 apiece. That came to $16 or about half the price of a Harbor Freight creeper. On my return I found I'd got some 7 ply leftover from when I built the top of my toilet and my bedroom desk. that came in very useful as did some of my leftover 1/4 and 5/16 bolts. One set of castors needed a 1/4 inch bolt and the other needed a 5/16 so I was well prepared.
A few minutes of drilling and bolting and my creeper was ready. I only did some of the bolts because it's not intended to be used more than a couple of times. Hence, of course, I jibbed at spending $30 on a creeper. I'd been thinking I'd have to work harder on construction but the plywood though short and wide looked a pretty decent size so my creeper was born. My next task - to tape my two dual cables and extra cable together so that I can put it all in a sheath. For this, I don't mind using extra sheathing for the bedroom/bathroom cables. I can easily have extra runs of conduit.