Sunday, December 10, 2017

The continuing adventures of the 5W panel.

As I happened to be out today performing the heinous act of shopping in Walmart, I availed myself of the opportunity to purchase a tea-light lantern. This will be used as a benchmark for all my future lighting. It takes one tealight and will thus produce one Candela of lighting. In terms of Lux, this is 1.19 lux. In Lumens this is 12.56.

I could heartily wish manufacturers would grade all their lighting in candela - it makes far more sense than lumens or lux, both of which measure things other than illumination. Lumens measures brightness (which is worthless without illumination) and lux just measures the light falling on a particular area. I could put a laser in a box and call it a light and say “oh yeah, this produces 20,000 lumens” but the fact that those 20,000 lumens illuminate only an area the size of a pinhead pretty much defeats the purpose.

I know my candle will produce 1 candela or 12.56 lumens. Doing a quick and worthless calculation, my whooptie-do-dah GE lantern that allegedly produces 350 lumens thus produces as much light as 27 candles. That really does not sound that great! Interestingly, hurricane lamps powered by kerosine can produce more light. A standard domestic unit with a 3/8 inch wick produces 4 candela. A bigger one with a 2.5 inch wick, as used in stores would produce 300 Candela. Now, interestingly I was in Walmart and measured the lux at about 300. In the kitchen in the trailer here, I measured it at 130 lux.
As I don’t currently possess a tea-light, I’ll have to hold off on my investigation as to the brightness of my tea-light lantern. Suffice to say, when I used to travel a lot, I used always to carry tea-lights and a tea-light lantern because it worked out at lighter and better value than a flashlight and batteries. One tea-light provides up to 3 hours of usable, consistent light. I don’t want to use anything flammable in my bus as a matter of routine though. I have fire extinguishers - I just don’t want to have to use them.

Another project today was to try out my 5w solar panel on my 7AH battery. Placing the battery on the hood of the bus and slipping a volt meter into it, I measured the resting voltage of the battery at a shade over 12.1v. In fact the meter kept flipping between 12.1v and 12.2v.
It was a matter of seconds to undo the battery clips and clip on my solar panel, placing the whole lot in the sun. It was placed in situ at about 1:45pm so it’ll be interesting to see how much if any the voltage has risen after an hour or two. I’d imagine since it’s a bright day and that I aligned the panel pretty well straight at the sun that my 5w or 0.4A of power will raise the voltage to 12.3v. A few days and I’m sure the battery would read 12.8v (full). My installed solar panels will be of lower efficiency than stated because they’re fixed in place and not angled correctly at the sun. They do, however, provide plenty power.
The ultimate plan is to link in a 50W portable panel on an extension cord that I can link to my existing solar system. That is one that I can angle straight at the sun. That should provide approximately 3A of power or enough to keep one of my fans running constantly or, buffering, my two fans running 50% of the time. One hour on, one hour off. I wouldn’t want to put a bigger panel on the ground where somebody could steal it. A 50W panel would cost probably about $50-$80. I did see a couple listed at $18 on ebay but given that one was from Sri Lanka and one from Spain, both with vegetation that looked distinctly similar and more Russian then I’d say they’re scams. A look on Amazon proved their cheapest 50W panel was by Renology and was $56 which confirmed my suspicions about the ebay listings being fraudulent. We know the procedure - long quoted shipping periods which gives the crooks 30 days to grab the money and run before anybody suspects anything, leaving ebay out of pocket and everybody pretty much fuming at the waste of time. I had that happen twice when I was buying my IP security camera!

The goal of my small battery plus my 5W panel is to produce something that can be an independent power source for my camera or for cell phone charging. Pretty much it’s a fun little side project that I’m having fun with. I’m certain there will be plenty naysayers out there like always with disparaging comments. In fact that’s pretty much the kind of thing that was one of the topics of one of the work meetings the other day - people that create a toxic work environment. I’d been going to contribute to the fare for the Christmas festivities at work and to participate but having encountered some of the toxic people the other day, I’m having second thoughts about contributing and attending. I certainly didn’t join the Secret Santa thing because I’d rather buy my own stuff.

Eventually, I whipped out the angle-iron that I’d bought a week or so back and cut it with my angle grinder. Then I whipped out my welder and my new Vulcan weding rods. There’s a difference! I’d only been using the older Harbor Freight rods and been struggling. These Vulcan rods sizzled their way to success very quickly and easily. I’m wondering if half my welding issues were related to poorer quality rods.
Now the theory is that should be pretty darned close to 90 degrees and flat. Only time and addition of the other members will tell. (Blogging as I work). The aim is to produce a new, lighter battery base than I made out of the older bed frame steel. Many times I tried to recycle what the hillbillies had used but their choice of materials was so poor that the vast majority of their stuff could not be recycled. Steel angle that was ludicrously heavy, electrics that were woefully underpowered and woodwork that while well made was not of substantial quality. It was as though they’d had the idea, had no idea what materials were appropriate and no idea how to put it all together.

Shortly after that I ran into the usual problem with a weld not sticking and rods not performing. That was compounded by the steel I’d been clamping things to deciding to wobble and fall off its perch. Major cussing ensued for several minutes as everything conspired to confound and frustrate. If the neighbors 200 yards away aren’t now blushing, I’d be very surprised!

The solution to my dilemma was pretty straightforward. Rather than relying upon wobbly supports, I decided to weld my supports together so they won’t wobble. that’ll give me another issue when it comes time to take the supports apart but as they’re not made of steel destined for use in the bus, right now I just don’t care!
At one point, I was even looking to find my thinner rods and had a good hunt but still couldn’t find them. I know I have a ton of welding rods in the bus but they’re being elusive today. Perhaps another day will prove more fruitful.

Anyway, having welded my workbench together more securely I recommenced work on the battery base. Within a few minutes I had achieved my aim and had three portions securely welded together. I’ll need to work more on one of the welds and I’ll have some angle grinding to do but it’s definitely getting there.
I’ll have to trim and weld on the 4th side another day and then try the battery for fit. Currently it’s about an eighth bigger in width than need be. That will facilitate snug installation of the battery.

Meanwhile I had completely forgotten about my battery that was busily charging from my 5W solar panel. Checking the voltage it had crept up to 12.4V. That’s not too bad. I figure a full day of sunshine should see that maxed out at 12.8v. I have no idea when it went dark but it was plenty dark when I put it inside the bus at 6pm.

I’m still quite favorably impressed by the Vulcan welding rods, despite my issues earlier with starting and maintaining an arc. Part of the problem is the rods are so long and harder to handle than my previous rods. I suspect I’ll have to use pliers or something to hold the rod closer to the end. Mind, tightening the sloppy jaws on my rod holder would go a long way too!








lolc.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

39F and raining!

It probably doesn’t look like it in the photo but that ground is sodden. It has been raining for almost 24 hours and the temperature did not rise much above the 39F I measured inside my bus earlier. This is a day for thinking and not for working. Certainly I could plug the bus in and get my little fan heater going to make it cosy enough to do some work. It’s not light enough to do so though.

Speaking of light, I loaded a lux meter onto my phone yesterday. Today I recorded the light in the kitchen by which it is comfortable to read at 136lux and daylight outside on a cloudy cold day at 8,600 lux. Inside my bus I put two of my LED lanterns onto full power and held the meter up. When the naked LED shines directly on the meter from 3 inches I got 60 lux. From 3 feet away, zero. That should tell you how tremendously pathetic these LED lanterns are! I have a GE lantern that professes 350 lumens but I had my doubts.

Using the same lux meter, with the meter pressed up against the diffused glass I measured 500 lux. Moving the meter away two feet yielded 10 lux. I didn’t bother recording zero at 3 feet. So basically, these LED lanterns are children’s toys. They’re good enough to see large objects faintly or to see your way to the bathroom but that’s it. My measure of light is whether I can read a book, comfortably. None of these lanterns afford that luxury. Whether putting some white, reflective card inside the glass to reflect the light in a single direction would help, I don’t know.

This whole LED illumination thing seems to be smoke and mirrors. If you remember, when the idiots decided to do away with the good old incandescent bulb about 20 years ago, a 7W forescent was alleged to be as bright as a 100W incandescent. It most certainly was not and everybody had to go to 13W and even then the light was lacking a certain substance. Now they’re playing the same game saying that woefully underpowered LEDs are as bright as the 100W bulbs we cannot now obtain. Of course, they are not!

Somewhere I read that 1200 lumens is about equivalent to a 100W bulb. I’m unconvinced but out of curiosity I paid $5 and ordered 3 LED panels from China that claim 1000 lumen output. I’ll bet my bottom dollar that 1000 lumens will be a total disappointment. Having said that, if they do in fact work then I’ll get some of that plastic fluorescent tube diffusing plastic from Lowes (hiss, spit) and put them up as mini fluorescents. As I said though, I have my doubts about them.

One alternative to the miserable 12V lighting would be to put in 120V lighting. That’s not quite as daft as it sounds. If I put in 120V bulbs (incidentally a 40W incandescent lights the inside of the galley nicely) then a 60W equivalent LED bulb would consume 8.5W at 120V. If I were to put an inverter to convert 12V to 120V then that 8.5W would probably be about 2A of 12V power. Quite a power hog but then I never was fool enough to believe LED lighting was going to save any power.

One of the thoughts I’d had yesterday was to spray the nasty unshielded LED lanterns with the white fogging spray I had on my windows before I put tint and blinds up. That stuff was pretty good though patchy. Several coats correctly applied would likely reduce the horrible glare from the unshielded LEDs. Having seen though, how poor those lanterns are, the point of doing so has evaporated.

I keep meaning to do a comparison between these laughable LED lanterns and a simple candle lantern. Indeed, back in my dad’s place I have an old oil hurricane lantern. That produced a decent quantity of light. Not quite enough to read comfortably by but I have a feeling it was way better than what the rather pitiful LED lanterns produce.

Years ago I used to cycle about 8,000 miles annually. Where I used to live, there was a cyclepath from just outside my home to the center of the city. It made sense to cycle because it would take 45 minutes to cycle at zero cost versus 35 minutes by bus or 25 minutes by car (then spend 20 minutes trying to find a free parking space). That meant cycling through a valley that had trees forming an archway over the cyclepath. It was so dark that on a cloudy night it was not possible even to see the path. Thus after trying many different cycle lamps and finding all to be insufficient, I got myself a dynamo light from a dynamo set and put a 6V gel battery on it. That worked wonderfully and illuminated my path for 50 yards. Whether I’d be able to get the 12v version of the 6v krypton bulb I don’t know. I’m sure that would provide me with far more light than any of these LED contrivances.

Eventually I tested my GE lantern and found that was better than the no-name Chinese lanterns from Big Lots but even so, not by much. At 3 feet it was zero lux but at 2 feet it was 6 lux. That light level truly drops off rapidly! I get very much the feeling that unless I can get some form of incandescent lighting in here then I might as well stick with these horrible LED lantern abominations. It’s just too easy to follow the technology path. You do remember the technology path? First you buy something truly despicable then you buy something truly worthless then you buy something half-assed then you buy something that’s just not good enough then eventually after a few more iterations of not good enough you end up with something barely passable.

In a past life I worked for Barnes & Noble where I sold their ridiculous Nook device. The first edition was pure and utter junk. I remember the manager threatening to fire me for calling it half-assed junk. Thy worked out how to palm them off on the unsuspecting public though. Then there was a second edition then came the half -assed Nook Color where the thing just went bananas in even low levels of humidity. Eventually they cycled through a few more iterations before doing what they should have done in the first place and jacking it in and rebadging somebody else’s tablet. Technology always follows that path and it’s never ever a good idea to be in during the first decade of a device’s existence. LED lighting has been around for maybe 7 years. It’s still not a mature field. Maybe by 2020 it will be mature.

If you recall, I ordered LED lights. I also ordered some G4 bulb bases. The thought is that if the LED lights turn out to be as abysmal as I expect then I can simply install my G4 bulb bases and put krypton, xenon or halogen bulbs in the system. Three bulb bases will see my bus fully illuminated.

Meanwhile those of you with memories will recall that I glued a USB/fag-lighter socket to the top of a battery. Well, the glue did finally set. Though it was wet and cold today so I didn’t do anything with it, I can work on the setup over the next few days. There is a half-baked plan to combine my 5W solar panel with my security camera and that battery setup. Who knows - it might even work. If I end up junkingthe battery - who cares - I have another identical battery and no particular use for either.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Another dreary day!

The old refrain still applies - I’d like to have done this today but...

As work ended at about 1pm for me today, the schools having a half day and my day thus being truncated into two driving sessions with a two hour gap in the middle, that meant the rest of my day was free. Had the weather been cooperative and had I not got the remains of something akin to flu then I’d have been working more intensively on the bus. Last weekend as you might have guessed was a dead loss wiped out by the flu.

So, over the last week or two some small new things have arrived. None are in any way spectacular. I still have to get under the bus to complete attaching and soldering some connections on the wire from the bedroom to the back of the bus. I now have the cables for my battery and still have to weld the battery mount together. I have a clearer idea of how it’s all going to fit together now though.

Today I was going to butcher my .50 cal ammunition box to make it into a battery holder for my two 7AH batteries. I started gathering bits to put into it - a fuse holder, a switch, a USB charger and a 12V socket plus a voltmeter when my brain suddenly screamed how much would this unit cost when completed. I have no idea but I’m sure it would be fairly expensive in parts.
It was then that I realized that as this is something I’d probably want to leave outside to charge from a separate solar panel, it would make sense to be as simple and cheap as possible. I located my 12V and USB unit that I bought from Walmart and decided after that I didn’t much like as it had a 12v power socket and that I wanted everything in my bus running off batteries to be USB (aside from my fans and possibly potential lights).

Thus I simply glued the socket to the top of the battery and added spade clips to the ends of the cables. Switching is a simple matter of removing the clip from the terminal. Recharging is simple too. Remember my old 5W solar panel? That has crocodile clips that will clip nicely onto the battery terminals.
That’s an earlier incarnation of my panel - used to run some PCB fans as an experiment. The whole benefit is that if I leave the battery with the USB/12V connector glued on top outside, nobody is likely to steal it because it looks to rednecky DIY. Similarly that little solar panel is pretty inexpensive.

A fuse would have been nice but I’m unlikely to overtax the battery by using it for USB devices. The 12V socket is handy for my 12V socket mounting voltmeter. This is all light, cheap and easy to use and replace. The plan is to use it to power my new 12V remote camera (that arrived a week or two back).

I thought about working on the internal wiring for the bus but decided against as the portable battery thing sounded a more fun immediate reject. The idea is to put the small panel to charge the battery over a few days then to check the battery voltage. I’ll then put the camera onto the battery and see how the voltage drops over say 24 hours. Maybe it’ll all work together nicely as a security system. I don’t know. It’s a thought and I want to play with it.

The weather over the next month does not look good for working under the bus. It’s cold and sometimes wet. I’ll have to wrap up warm and roll underneath one dry day - possibly during the Christmas holidays. I want this project done so I can start using my bus for fun trips etc. I’ve already learned how to drive a bus and can fling longer, heavier busses around the roads like they were mere toys. I can drive them all - busses with sloppy steering, sloppy brakes and hardly any acceleration or power as well as busses that work perfectly. That’s the miracle I achieve most days at work!

One by one my goals are coming to fruition. I got my bus. I built my bus into a home. I’m finishing up the solar electrics right now then the code lock to the door before adding instant hot water and a water inlet. I’ll have to find a new faucet for my sink since the old one has vanished somewhere. It would even be at the bottom of the bathtub that lies forgotten in the yard. The bathtub I stripped out of the old conversion.
The beauty of being where I am is that nothing is ever truly thrown away. It’s dumped in a pile in the yard and then when bits of it are needed or it is needed, it’s usually possible to rescue and revive it. There’s plenty sheet steel from old fridges, old washing machines etc. Sometimes things just don’t seem to have an immediate use such as the old solar panel that I bought off ebay that didn’t work but as the guy said keep it and refunded me, that just got used for target practice. Old microwaves don’t have anything in them worth keeping either. Sure, the transformers and the capacitors might be worth salving but the steel is so thin that it’s not really worth contemplating doing anything with it.
Where I worked in the summer, one person found an old microwave that was going to be thrown out, took it home and found it didn’t work so they took it to a scrap merchant and got something like a dollar for it. It was a far bigger microwave than any of those. Was it worthwhile? Not really. The price of steel is so low that it makes more economic sense to put things out the back and let them rest into the ground than to take them to sell. Dumping them in an official tip isn’t even an option as that’d cost money that could be spent on better things while these things dumped on the land here are harming nobody.

As the glue is still setting on the top of my little battery pack, there’s not really a load of point in trying to get it working. Each time I tried, the glue moved and the charger connectors moved. I’ve got them just where I want them right now. The instructions even say 24 hours till cured and 72 hours til maximum strength. At least I found a use for one of my four small batterie!

Sunday, November 26, 2017

My security camera kinda-sorta works!

For those with long memories, you may remember that for many months I tried to obtain an IP wireless webcam. The first seller took my money and vanished, totally vanishing off eBay after getting something like 200 in negative feedback. After that I got my money back off eBay and ordered again from a different seller. This seller again took my money and vanished, vanishing off eBay after getting more negative feedback. I got my money back eventually. Then I ordered again, making sure to go for a USA based seller. Well, the camera did arrive and then sat on the bedside table for a couple of weeks as I just could not get the thing to work.

Today, having failed totally and utterly to get the thing to work on my phone, I tried the software on my tablet. Well, it worked. The whole thing is slower than a tick swimming through treacle but it works. Interestingly that camera has audio and video. The audio is bidirectional too. I noticed when I spoke through it that I sounded just like a Dalek. Oddly enough, the camera looks like the eyeball on the end of a Dalek’s stalk.
Though they can’t be seen on this photo, there are some ominous looking glowing red lights. What it really needs is cat-eye shaped red lights to make it look really evil in the dark!

Having played with it for a bit, I find the software fairly clunky to use but it does work. It’s probably better run through a network as opposed to point to point as I have been running it. Panning and tilting seems fairly slow and there’s no zoom. Image quality on standard is mediocre whereas on high-quality it’s better. The difference is the whole thing works better in standard quality.
That’s what a screenshot of the tablet looks like with the camera sitting on my countertop, aimed out of the bus window. It’s good enough to recognize people and to see faces etc. I’m feeling it’s a little of a disappointment being so hard to get working - particularly on my phone. I can see that if I left it switched on in notify mode and connected to my phone, it would send messages every time anything passed the window - flirtatious squirrels, randy cats, delinquent rabbits etc.

I’ve always liked surveillance and counter-surveillance gadgets ever since I was a child. In fact that love came in handy a few years ago when a particularly malevolent individual was stalking me. Fortunately they ceased to bother with me after a couple of years. That’s not why I purchased this though. It was because where I’m living, people don’t normally knock on the door. There have been a few knocks on the door of late and it has usually been unwelcome. In fact, one of the neighbors up the road had just such a knock on the door and somebody gained entry to their home, fired a few shots and vanished.

When I lived in my rented rat hole in the slums of Lexington, I had one of those goofy viewers in my door. It didn’t allow me to see very much to be honest and there was no way of seeing who was at the door without opening it. Thus, I used only to open the door with my hand behind my back and my .357 in my hand. I’d have loved to have had some kind of remote camera.

Thinking further about security, it’s an idea to put hidden security cameras in a motorhome since they’re easy to break into. I’m not so bothered about people trying to steal a bus because there’re a lot fewer criminals out there that can actually handle the length and width, let alone manual fuel shut offs, air brakes etc. In fact in some instances the best anti-theft device is a manual gearbox since so few seem to be able to handle a clutch and gearstick. I’ve heard a gearstick referred to as the Millenial anti-theft device. I wouldn’t call this remote IP camera remotely hidden though. I’d call it a nice idea that won’t go further than just being a nice idea. This is, of course, why I bought it on ebay for $15 rather than paying full whack for a good one in a store. Mind paying full whack would have probably got me exactly the same camera in fancier packaging given the ubiquity of Chinese stuff.

I was thinking again about internal lighting. I’ve put the wires in in order to be able to use internal lighting. That’s just in case I decide to go through with it. From what I’ve seen online, it just seems to me that there’re an awful lot of people selling LED lighting, all of which suffers from exposed LEDs.  Exposed LEDs give a false impression of how bight the light is. Looking at them, the light is very dazzling. That gives the impression of brightness. Holding the light up to try to see something is fruitless. In fact on some of my lanterns, the LEDs are beginning to die.
Notice the LED on the second row on the second column? It seems to be very dim. That is apparently what LEDs do - they get gradually dimmer and dimmer. The life of an LED is graded as the time it takes to dim from full brightness to 50%.
This is one of those shower-head looking LED light bulbs. It was way too blue for my liking but as a stairwell light it was OK. I believe it lasted 3 months before LEDs began to fail in a pattern. Where the gap is that you see was all at one time brightly illuminated. I paid I believe $8 or $12 for that bulb. Clearly I wasn’t too impressed with the outcome.

I’m very suspicious of new electronics as usually the bugs haven’t been worked out on them. What I don’t understand is how LED lighting is so completely unreliable when LED televisions and LED monitors and tablets/phones with LED screens are so completely reliable. Look at the destination board fort he next bus or train you see - are all the LED segments that are supposed to be lit actually lit? I’m going to say they probably are not.

Does anybody remember those horrible e-readers that flooded the market a few years ago? I recall one customer in a store reminding their partner who was very enthralled with I believe the first generation of Nook, that it was never a good idea to get the first generation of anything. Now that truly was a horrible e-reader. I played with it for a few minutes until the fiickering e-ink screen gave me a headache. The only e-reader I saw that was any good was actually in K-Mart and it had an LCD screen and took AA batteries. It’s downside like so many was that it needed to be connected by a cable to a computer to download the books. I’m not quite sure what happened to e-books. I think they must have died out a few years after they killed off some of the big bookstores. I rather expect the current surge of exotic LED lighting devices will be historical curios in a year or so.

The reason I went for LED lanterns (about which I complain - a lot) was because the current electrical lighting situation around the world is so utterly miserable. Essentially we have incandescent which produced a lot of heat, fluorescent which contains mercury vapor and LED which doesn’t work. We are getting to the stage since incandescent lights are pretty well banned and fluorescent seem to be vanishing where it’s going to have to be LED or something traditional and reliable. One day I shall avail myself of an oil lamp and a candle and do a comparison test with some of my LED lanterns. I have little doubt that the oil lamp is going to win.

Maybe Saturday next week will be a good day. I should be able on a good day to go underneath to complete installing the bedroom cable including the one join. Now I know how to do it with my mini torch, that’s not going to take long. I’ll measure up for the battery hanger too though I’ll wait on installing the battery cables until I’ve completed, painted and installed the hanger. At the rate I’m going, that might be around Christmas! (Notice I did not say which Christmas).

Saturday, November 25, 2017

When the going gets tocgh, the tough go shopping!

So first I went to JC Penny and bought some nice new fishnet pantyhose then I went to Belk for a couple of new skirts. Then off to Aldi for some new shoes. Then off to AC Moore for some new warpaint. Or... back in the real world... My first stop was Harbor Freight where I got some more cable ties and a pile of little extras that made sense at the time but which will probably have me slapping my face asking myself if I really needed any more tools.

From Harbor Freight I went to Home Depot to look for the wire I needed but they had none. As it was on the way, the next stop was Tractor Supply for some steel angle and some bolts. I’ll have to remeasure under the bus since I’m now going to be bolting to the open section ribs as opposed to welding to the closed section ribs. I ended up with two approximately 5 foot lengths of steel angle that are way lighter than what the bed frames had been made from and much more suitable for my needs. If all goes well, I might weld them tomorrow.

After Home Depot, the next step was Lowes (hiss, spit). There I got two 20 foot lengths of 10 gauge red and black wire. Those will be perfect for my battery connections. If you recall, I’m having to put in two wires to the charge controller because of the insane way that the unit doesn’t seem to want to let me use a common ground. I’m hoping it’ll allow me to do it this way. Otherwise, I’ll be enacting the product of my research into alternatives to using a charge controller.

Having been to Lowes where I still couldn’t get any 14 gauge twin cable, I went to Autozone where I managed to get single cables in different colors. I might be back there for more wire when it is time to do the internal wiring.

Today started with an icky tummy. I’m thinking I’ll have an icky tummy tomorrow too. There’s just something moldy I smell underneath the bus. It’s definitely something in the soil. I’ve tried using those breathing masks but they make my face all wet and make it hard to breathe. I’ll just put up with the icky tummy and make sure I do the underbus stuff solely on Saturdays so I get Sunday to recover before I start work on Monday.

Speaking of breathing issues, my car suddenly came up with a “check engine light”. Having an inkling it might be the engine air filter, I whipped it out and looked at it. It wasn’t as dirty as I would have liked it to be before changing it but I changed it anyway. An hour or so later, the check engine light vanished. Switching it out took all of 30 seconds. Pop the hood, undo two clips, pop the cover off the filter box, flip the filter out, pop a new $16 filter in, close the cover, redo the clips and close the hood. Done. Now, a garage would have charged $50 for the filter and probably $100 in labor. I still think a check engine light for the air filter is stretching it a bit - especially when the filter wasn’t completely black.

Of course, the one thing I forgot to get when I was out was longer self-drilling screws. Now I’ll have to scrounge around the miscellany of screws and parts to find some! One of the things I did get was some 2032 coin cells. Out of curisiosity I put a new one in my anemometer. It seems to work now. I’m wondering if the anemometer is one of those gizmos that one has to leave the battery out of until it’s used. I have a camera like that. It’s an old Canon S1 IS that cost about $500 back in 2004 but which now is utterly valueless. At best, I’d probably get a dollar for it, selling it. The rapid depreciation of electronics and their equally speedy obsolescence is exactly why I don’t do electronics.

In a similar vein, my dad always ranted about people that would buy a washing machine then simply throw it out while it was still good and buy another three years later. The fact is that when a washing machine or any such thing goes wrong, it’s usually better just to chuck it away than to hire somebody to fix it. By the time the standard $50 - $100 call out fee plus parts and labor are included, it’s usually around half the price of a new washing machine. So it makes sense to sell it for a low sum after half its estimated life and put that toward a new one then let somebody else deal with the relic when it finally dies. With anything electronic, when it goes wrong is usually the time to buy another. I had a cheap tablet and the USB charging port broke. Repairs would cost more than buying another. I had a Nexus 7 tablet and the operating system went and corrupted itself. I just woke one day and it wouldn’t turn on and just kept going through a reset cycle. Nobody wanted to repair that even though I’d have gladly paid money since it cost $200. Thus, these days, I don’t throw money at costly electronics and just have the cheapest and trash them when they break.

Well, the icky tummy won today. Just as I was getting ready to go under the bus to get a little work done, it took me to the bathroom for the Nth time today. By the time I returned, darkness had fallen with a thud! All is not lost though, even if I don’t go under the bus tomorrow, there’s always Saturday next weekend. There’s not a whole lot to do with the current cable in terms of attaching and my connectors should have arrived which will allow me to connect the ends of the new bits of cable to the old bits.
One of the things from Harbor Freight was an impulse buy. They had a lightswitch shaped light. It’s held on by Velcro so we’ll see how long that lasts. There are two magnets but they’re such wimpy affairs that they won’t hold the weight of the unit. I might end up having to glue better magnets to it. The crying shame is the battery housing is on the back of the unit so I can’t just glue it to the wall.

Fastened to the door frame on the entrance way of the bus, it really illuminates the stairway well. The light produced is nowhere near perfect but then few of these battery powered things seem to be up to much. Mind that’s my experience of LED lighting anyway. I bought 4 LED bulbs in Lowes (hiss, spit) Black Friday sale two years ago. One of those bulbs that were alleged to last 12 years is still working. The other 3 quit rapidly, turning into disco strobes on their way out. It was at the disco strobe stage that they made their way into landfill.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a fan of LED lighting. Though all the stores and governments are pushing LED lighting, it’s still a developing and emerging technology. It’s not yet out of Beta stage. For at least the next ten years they’ll be testing different versions on people until finally they get something stable enough to actually be worth buying. By then, of course, a realistic life span will be available. It won’t be that pie-in-the-sky 10 and 20 years. It’ll be something like 2 years or no different from the incandescent bulbs that cost a fraction of the price and which can be recycled easily.

This whole concept of recycling is laughable anyway. Aside from a very few somewhat enthusiastic people that have bought into Green propaganda, nobody recycles anything. It’s just not worthwhile. Why should Joe X spend time sifting through their garbage sorting things into the vast array of types and grades of materials when they can just dump the whole lot in a black bag and let the garbage guys take it? Indeed, if there was no garbage guy then you can bet your boots it would be packed into the trunk of the car then emptied into the nearest dumpster or dumped where nobody can see it being dumped.

One of the things I got was 10 gauge wiring. Though I’m not going to be able to install that this weekend, I’d planned on doing it next. Next weekend though, it looks like I’ll be working on finishing what I should have today. Tomorrow though, I should be able to at least start welding my battery holder together. Even if I only do the bottom and the verticals, It’ll be something.

Friday, November 24, 2017

Down and dirty again!

Today being Black Friday, I’m not joining the headlong rush of morons to the stores. From what I’ve seen, nothing that’s “on sale” on Black Friday is without issue. I bought 4 LED light bulbs in Lowes (hiss, spit) Black Friday sale one year and only one of them lasted more than 6 months. Similarly the stuff I see “on sale” on Black Friday is usually end of line and about 3 - 6 weeks after Black Friday will be reduced to below the Black Friday price as they get rid of the final remnants of the stock. So, no - I’m not falling for the Black Friday scam. In any case, stuff I normally buy like fruit, veggies and bread is never ever on sale.

So, the first thing I did today was to crawl under the bus. I measured the channel section ribs at 7 3/4 inches between the inside faces and 10 3/4 inches on the outside faces. Measuring my battery holder bottom (the only part I’ve built), I found that it would fit quite nicely with verticals welded on the outsides of the channels and would fit lengthwise with each end supported from the channel.

Eventually after quite a bit more procrastinating, I went back under the bus and measured where my cable was likely to go. Looking at the cable I found one pair of wires was plenty long enough but the other was woefully short. That basically means I need to buy more wire. While I could join the short length to another length, I’m feeling more that I’d be better to pull it out and put two long lengths in place instead. Having said that, that would be putting off til another day what I can do today.
Looking at what I want to install which is a USB charging socket and possibly a voltmeter then connecting to my existing bedroom fan and to a pair of potential lights (one for the bedroom, above my desk and one for the bathroom, above the toilet), I realized the lights could go to the joined wire since they’re not likely to exceed 1 amp. Assuming I went down the brimstone path and put LED lighting then I gather 8 watts is likely all I’d need which works out at 750mA.

Right now I am definitely not feeling in the getting under the bus and working mood! Still, I looked at the battery holder and decided the best place to situate that is probably not behind the differential on account of the large number of cables I have going between the main chassis beams behind the differential. Thus the best place is likely to be behind the driver-side rear wheel.

Checking under the bus, I found my battery hanger fits pretty nicely under the C section ribs through which I can pass bolts. The hanger I’ve made is way too heavy though and will have to be remade using lighter steel. I really don’t need it as heavy as it is. That’s a job for another day and I’m really glad I don’t have to weld it under there.

Meanwhile I passed the cable through the hole in the floor and sealed it with silicone goop, from both sides. The short cable ends a few feet past the differential so that’s a nice, easy place to work to extend it. It’s a blue twin cable that I probably got in Radio Shack’s going out of business sale. No chance of getting another identical cable, sadly.

By the time I knocked off for the day having done a pitiful amount of work (I did say how much I hate going under the bus, didn’t I), I’d run out of steel cable clamps and had run out of longer self-drilling screws. I was pretty short on the plastic cable clamps too. That means that tomorrow I’ll probably have to do a quick run to Harbor Freight and Home Depot before streaking back to complete or to attempt to complete the underbody wiring. While I’m out I might also visit Tractor Supply since their steel seems much more reasonably priced than Lowes (hiss, spit) or Home Depot. One thing is for sure - I have my underbody wiring well under control. Once the battery is in place and wired, there is no reason whatsoever why I can’t do the interior wiring in rain, sleet, snow, thunder, lightning or a zombie invasion.

As far as I know, I will have to go under the bus to complete my current cable installation, to install my 12v battery and wires and to install the wiring and plumbing for the shower, hot water heater and 120v supply to the hot water heater. Once that is all completed, I cannot imagine needing to go underneath other than for routine maintainance and inspections. I cannot tell you how glad I will be to be free of needing to go under the bus. The other thing I need to do is to retask  the wire to the current battery and use it to power my keypad door unlocker. That way, if I forget or lose my keys, I can still get into the bus. I’m more likely to leave the keys in the bus and lock myself out!

As far as the USB charger power is concerned, I’ve got a couple of nice looking USB hubs that would do the job. One needs to be installed into a box however. If I do that, I can include a pushbutton to power an LED display of the battery voltage and a switch to switch the hub on or off. It has an irksome blue light which I really don’t need to have in the bedroom when I’m trying to sleep!

I’ve been working on this project since probably January of 2015 though I bought the bus in November of 2014 then it was used as a moving van and storage shed for a couple of months. I’d say February of 2015 I started conversion in earnest. That’s gone in spurts - sometimes I’ve done a lot. Sometimes I’ve not touched it for weeks through work, not feeling like it, the weather or illness. I can tell you this though - I shall be so glad when I have Completed the bus to a point where I feel I can retitle it as a motorhome.


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.