Monday, July 31, 2017

A Chinese fail? Say it can't be so!

I have been mightily puzzled over the last few weeks by the performance of my solar system. Not so much puzzled by rather concerned. Ages ago, my solar ventilation system was very simple. Two CPU fans connected directly to two solar panels. In strong sun they shifted a lot of air. In weak sun they barely buzzed. Thinking of storing power to use to run the fan, I employed a cheap Chinese charge controller and a 5AH Radio Shack battery. It worked well. The fans would run happily for hours on end in bright sun. In cloudier conditions the fans would still go.

Then I decided to upgrade to a more powerful fan to shift even more air. I upgraded the battery to a 10AH battery that I got on eBay for $20. Initially I was getting 10 minute bursts on the fan between recharging periods. Eventually after a week or so I was getting 10 second bursts with very brief charging times. That was pretty weird!

At the same time as I was getting odd performance I found the maximum voltage of the battery had dropped. That was very weird too. I was using sealed lead acid batteries and not knowingly over-rating them. I was also getting a warning triangle on the display of my charge controller. Looking it up online, it seems most charge controllers from China use it to indicate a battery or a device fault. I disconnected the fan and it remained displayed. Clearly it was a battery fault.
Concurrent with the warning triangle, I put the battery on charge with another charge controller on a separate circuit with a different solar panel and it would not get above 12.5V instead of the 13V expected. My trusty voltmeter reckoned the battery was sticking at 12.5v too. The acid test there will be to put the battery on a car charger and let it charge for an hour or so then let it sit for a few days and measure the voltage again.

I'm getting the feeling this charge controller could be turning into a battery killer. I tried it again today with a pair of 7AH batteries purchased in Radio Shack's going out of business sale. That's a total of 14AH which at 50% use should run a 2.5A fan for between 2 and 3 hours. The first time I tried it today, the battery voltage reached 13v and the fan ran for two minutes. After that, it ran for 10 seconds or so each time. That was about what the 10AH battery was doing too.
The only thing I know definitely to be made in China is the charge controller. Everything else is made in the West. Two of my solar panels come from Italy and the third comes from Texas. My wiring comes from Radio Shack as did my battery.

I don't want to point the finger of accusation at the charge controller but it's looking very much like the charge controller is the problem. I have several other Chinese charge controllers but it seems to me that they're unusable. The highest voltage at which they will stop taking charge out of a battery is 11.3V which is way too low. I understand a battery should not be depleted more than 11.9v without damaging the battery.

In a fit of exasperation I ordered a charge controller yesterday. It's another like the one I ordered that arrived broken. I believe it's coming from California but was made in China. I regret buying that now even though it has not yet arrived.

In communication with Eric, he pointed out that if I bought a USA made charge controller, even though it would be more expensive, I'd save money and hassle over buying large quantities of Chinese junk. He's absolutely right. The price of an equivalent Harbor Freight controller is quite pricy at $80 but on the other hand I have 2 unusable controllers, one broken controller and one that seems faulty plus one I just ordered and at about $10 apiece I've already spent $50 or most of the price of a Harbor Freight controller. I can't return any of the Chinese stuff whereas I can walk into Harbor Freight and shove the offending object under the manager's nose.

Having spent $55 on a $68 battery from Harbor Freight, I'm now rather wary of letting it anywhere near my Chinese controllers given their apparent penchant for destroying batteries. I have a feeling that I might just put the Chinese stuff in a box and just go and get the expensive Harbor Freight controller. I'd rather not risk an expensive battery to the vaguaries of dubious Chinese stuff that comes with either no instructions or at best semi-literate instructions. To be honest, the best Chinese instructions look like they have been whacked through Google's rather dubious online translator. It reminds me of the automatic translation of "The spirit is strong but the flesh is weak" which was translated as "The meat is bad but the vodka is strong".

If I install the new charge controller, I have a feeling I will most likely install it in the front of the bus and run the fan off my 15W panel rather than my two 10W panels - for the moment. Moving it to the front has many advantages. I'll have to install an additional power cable for the back solar panels to bring their output to the front at some future point. Running off the front panel for the moment will also likely be the galley circulation fan - since the wiring is easily accessible.

As can be seen, there's plenty that needs doing under the bus in terms of wiring. All will have to wait til the weather gets cold enough to force the antisocial critters such as spiders, ants and mosquitoes into hibernation. If it's another warm winter, after I've retitled the bus I'll drive North if I have t in order to work in safety.

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Worthless lighting

I'm pretty sure by now you've read about my comments on LED lighting many times over. I'm just not very impressed by any of it. It's low powered, dim and short lived. I gather some have better experiences but mine is that incandescent is brighter and lasts longer. Anyway, I do have some LED lanterns and they're pretty bright to look at but the light they shed is worthless. Even combined it's pretty poor. So, the other day I noticed something called a Broadbeam LED lantern. It looked like an interesting technological development but I was not impressed at all by the light level. In my opinion anything less than the equivalent of a 100W bulb is fumbling around in the dark. Here's a nice table of lumens versus watts that I pinched off another website.

Lumens to watts table

LumensIncandescent
light bulb
(watts)
Fluorescent
 / LED
(watts)
375 lm25 W6.23 W
600 lm40 W10 W
900 lm60 W15 W
1125 lm75 W18.75 W
1500 lm100 W25 W
2250 lm150 W37.5 W
3000 lm200 W50 W
Notice how it's only at 1500 lumens that the light produced is acceptable. Now think back on those terrible LED contraptions sold in the stores that proudly claim to be 150 lumens. People only buy the trash because it looks cute and they don't have a clue what lumens are. Worse still, the manufacturer might grade their contraptions in Lux or Candela.

I couldn't find any useful Lux or Candela conversion tables. I found plenty rather daunting looking mathematical formulae designed to do the conversions though. It looks on the surface that 1 Lux is 10 Lumens. 1 Candela is the power emitted by a single candle flame and one Candela is 4 lumens so a minimum acceptable LED lighting contraption would have to be no less than.
  • 1500 lumens
  • 100W incandescent
  • 25W fluorescent 
  • 150 Lux
  • 375 Candela
That's quite a lot to remember! The acid test though is could you comfortably sit and read a book or magazine by the light of your LED contraption? While dim lighting might be acceptable for grabbing clothes and putting them on or for using the bathroom, showering, cooking etc there are plenty occasions when it's not acceptable. Two examples might be reading a novel and putting on make-up. 

In practical terms, I find the current lot of LED lanterns in what I call the affordable range of $10 to $15 to be pretty poor. I have several. I made the mistake of buying a $30 lantern thinking it would be better. It's certainly easier on the eyes as the LED is shielded but the handle snapped off fairly quickly. While it's possible to buy more expensive lanterns, my experience indicates price is not an indication of quality. It makes me laugh to hear people saying they go to some expensive place to buy

their stuff because everything in Walmart is made in China. I bet they don't realise the stuff they pay 100% more for in Nordstrom is most likely also made in China. It doesn't take much to change a made in label. To do it honestly, all that needs be done is to remove one screw and replace it. Hey presto! The item is now assembled in America and can carry a Made in America label.

Yesterday I didn't blog. What I did was to switch out the bad 10AH battery for one of my 7AH batteries. After initially throwing a fault on my charge controller, it settled down and was running for 7 minutes or so between charges.  That just doesn't seem like very long to be honest. Still, it was good to have the ventilation running again. I also spent an hour or so building a mount for one of my smaller CPU fans in order to mount it on the wall as a circulation fan. I'd intended to mount it in the bedroom but the mount was too wide for the beam I'd intended to secure it to. Thus I need to seek out more of my aluminum scrap to make an extender and to build a mount for the second CPU circulation fan. I took no photos yesterday, hence no blog entry.

The first thing I got on with today was looking at my charge controller. It seems the eBay battery (could be a battery from Radio Shacks going out of business sale) is again flagging a fault. As the charge level had reached the trigger voltage but had not triggered, I lowered the trigger to 12.8v. I have a feeling I have a few rather regrettable batteries. I decided I was going to burn through the regrettable batteries before I use my Harbor Freight battery. That shouldn't take many days!  I could have a faulty controller though I doubt it since it does seem to work or I could have a faulty wire under the bus though since it is carefully covered in cable shroud I'd doubt that. Given that all my other wiring installed in the same sprout at the same time works, I'd doubt the wiring as a problem. That leads inevitably to the conclusion it must be the battery. Anyway I switched over to my other 7AH battery to see what that does.

The next order of business was to look at my LED lantern. This was made by GE and claims 350 lumens. Which planet GE was on when they recorded the lumens is unknown though I'm pretty sure it wasn't Planet Earth and that in whatever parallel universe it was, the laws of physics must have been very different. It's the most pleasant of my lanterns to use as the light source is properly shielded. For some unknown reason the switch has three settings: Dim, is that faintly glowing thing my lantern and off. They could and should have missed out on the intermediate brightness setting as it's utterly worthless. I think it's there to conserve battery power but honestly I can conserve battery power far better by putting the batteries in my pocket. I can only assume the ultra dim setting is some GE engineer having a laugh at the customers expense.

Anyway, the handle broke off my GE lantern within a couple of months of buying it. That really irked me because I threw $30 at that thing. Today I used a spare brass loop from when I installed bolts on my drawers and bolted it to the top of the lantern. Next I put a leftover mini carabiner through the loop to hang my lantern from a ceiling loop. That worked brilliantly. I am definitely a genius!
Following that, I looked at my circulation fan idea. The basic idea is fine. Where I decided to make a change was that instead of mounting it to the beams, mounting it to the ceiling makes more sense. The wires can run down the beams and be connected at the top with spade connectors. Eventually I'll wire those to my charge controller though this might not be until winter. There's a lot going to be done in winter.

As I've already said, I'm getting ready to retitle the bus as a motorhome. I took the photos a few days ago and sent them to Walmart for printing. I saw absolutely no point whatsoever in paying more than the minimum so I ordered in store pickup a week from now. That brought 20 prints down to $2 and change after tax. It's already going to cost $15 in retitling fees!

Today marks a change in my blogging habits. A few days ago while shopping, I spied a Bluetooth keyboard that was both Android and iOS compatible. Now that's what I call useful. It means I am now no longer subject to the vagaries of Apple or Google spelling correction. Let's face it, spelling corrector are horrible. It takes far longer to proof read after a spelling corrector has messed everything up than to write the article in the first place. I can honestly say that I am loving using a real keyboard once more.
Online, I'd found a 10 inch window screen that looked useful. The only place that was listed as having it was Bed Bath and Beyond. I have a soft spot for Bed Bath and Beyond even though it is expensive and the stench from the chemical "scents" brings on a migraine. Anyway, they turned out not to have it unless I ordered - which I could have done from home. Thus I called in at Home Depot and they didn't have one either. Finally I called in at Lowes (hiss, spit) where I found it and not only did I find it there but it was half the price Bed Bath and Beyond wanted. Now that's not really much of a surprise. A lot of those stores can be expensive. Five dollars seeming about right, I bought one and it works well. It'll stop most mosquitoes from flying in but there's enough of a gap around the top and bottom for ants to crawl in. Needless to say I have to wedge the window to ensure as tight. Seal as possible. It is, after all, a school bus!

While I was out I also found some door alarms that I thought would go splendidly on the back and side doors. My bus is old enough that it does not have door alarms nor a student alarm. Back then if a student opened the door and fell out, it was his own darned fault. These days, if a student gets up, opens the door and falls out, it's apparently, somehow, the driver's fault. That rule comes from the same planet GE on which measures lumens.

Not feeling particularly like leaping around to find my remaining aluminum strip which is quite likely in an abandoned trailer being used as storage, I worked on my sole circulation fan. Attaching it to a cross beam on my wall was easy. There, it'll circulate air. How far it'll circulate air, I don't know. I'll only be able to tell that if I employ a smoke machine and the last time I looked at smoke machines, they were very expensive and there didn't seem to be any economical canned alternative.
While installing my fan, I found that the plumbers glue I'd bought will secure the wires very nicely in lace against the wall. All I have to do is to wipe the glue down the side that needs to be glued, hold it in place and it'll just stay there. That's very welcome. Indeed I had a test wire running to that fan for a few minutes and I could definitely feel air moving in the galley. It was more gentle the further I got from the fan but it was moving and that is going to make an absolutely massive difference.

Again, while I was out, I found in one of the dollar stores, a pair of door alarms for a dollar. I'd already mentioned those and I tried them. They're quite unmistakable! Right now I have a problem because in order to work properly the sensor and the magnet need to be close to each other. The way my doors are constructed, I need to put some kind of step to build one up to the level of the other. That's doable. I just have to think about what I'm going to use - maybe some of the cut off rubber from when I installed my front mud flap since the rubber is still lying on the ground where I left it some months ago.

I noticed a problem with my latest charge controller. It seems to want to keep using the battery until it gets down to 11.3v. I cannot raise that figure any higher. I can go as low as 9v but 11.3 seems to be the maximum. It looks like that will kill a battery dead. My old charge controller keeps on indicating faults with batteries. I am beginning to get a bit concerned about that. This is one reason I'm not connecting my brand new battery yet. I purposely bought universal battery chargers that will charge LIon as well as lead-acid but I'm beginning to wonder whether I should instead have gone for several lead-acid chargers instead. I have one that arrived with the mount broken off but I'm thinking that perhaps I should invest in more and just replace my fancy universal charge controllers.

I tweaked the settings on my charge controller for the fan to cut in at 13v and cut out at 11.9v. It charges remarkably quickly up to 13v and the fan runs for less than a minute before cutting out. Im thus wondering whether it is indeed a faulty charge controller. It wasn't expensive but it is annoying! I don't think I paid more than $10 each for my controllers.

We're back to the yes, it was made in China - but then so is everything else issue again. I'm wishing heartily that I could put extra cabling in underneath the bus right now but what with the insects that's impossible unless I pony up, buy a rechargeable drill and drive to the top of a mountain where it'll be cold enough to send all the critters into early hibernation and do the work there. Sadly, South Carolina is flat. At 8mpg I really don't feel like driving too far - even at $2.30 a gallon.

I suppose the solution is going to be something like heading to Harbor Freight and ponying up $25 for one of their smaller charge controllers. Having looked at their website, their $80 charge controller looks identical to my $10 controller. It's probably the same thing just rebadged! If I'd known this solar stuff was going to be such a nightmare, I'd have just left it with two CPU fans powered directly by solar panels and not had such an interesting time running wires under the bus nor such a headache with flaky charge controllers and flaky batteries. Maybe after a year, my one charge controller is just worn out?

Friday, July 28, 2017

Cue the Heavenly Chorus

Today I took my long awaited trip to Harbor Freight. What bliss - surrounded by all the boy toys ones heart could desire! I went on a mission however. I needed a big battery. While I was there I bought a step bit to replace the one I broke a few weeks ago.

I'd been trying my eBay battery and found that it just didn't seem to work too well. It went to 12.9v then powered my 2.5A fan for 10 seconds before dropping to 11.9v. That means that the 10ah battery drops to 40% capacity in 10 seconds. Using 6ah should have taken a 2.5A fan something around  2 hours not 10 seconds.

I didn't install my battery today. I did, however, put it on one of my charge controllers to find it was at 12.9v and was full. I tried it in my 50 cal ammunition box. It fits and I can close the lid. The terminals are close to the lid but don't touch. I can easily glue plastic to the lid to ward off accidental contact. There's enough space in the box to install a voltage meter and a pair of contacts. There's no need for a USB connector on the house battery though.

Thinking about retitling, I moved the bus today. Aside from the brakes sticking initially, it moved and started easily. I'll have to drive with the brakes lightly applied in order to clean the rust off them. While the bus was moved, I took some exterior photos as required for the retitling process.
The rear facing camera needs attention. The LEDs are a little dazzling. That can be cured with black tape or black paint. Having said that, drivers should keep way back anyway. I need one of those bumper stickers that says "If you can't see my mirrors, I can't see you".

The outside, I'm sure you'll agree, looks pretty anonymous and pretty good. The inside is good too. I definitely need to complete installing my new battery. As far as the two 7ah batteries purchased via eBay go, I'm not convinced I should even attempt to use them. I'd bought them because they could be used to recharge a phone or tablet. I'm thinking more now toward a different solution though I've not yet got an idea solid enough to mention; I'm still mulling over different options.

The other day I looked idly at small manual pumps online. I'd thought of having a manual pump drawing fresh water out of a 5 gallon can under the sink. Then I realized I'd be paying $25 for a pump when I could easily pour water from the 5 gallon can into a jug fir use be worry less about contamination.

While I was out, the thought of a water inlet cane to mind. Again, I decided it's not really worth my while at the moment. That might change at some point in the future. It's tempting though right now beyond the scope of what I'm prepared to do.

My lighting inside the bus is pretty sad. I have LED lanterns giving off some quite pathetic amounts of light. Sure, it's enough light to see large objects but anything more is a case of fumbling in the gloom. Looking at the lanterns available, those that claim to be ultra bright are usually the most pathetically dim things I've encountered. In my research I came to the conclusion that lanterns that don't offer a minimum of 1000 lumens are a total waste of time. Those that cost more than $15 represent wasted money. I've got 5 lanterns each of which claims to be bright but which fail miserably to produce enough light to do anything worthwhile.

On my journies today I saw a new kind of LED lantern that had a broad glowing stripe. It looked interesting but as soon as I saw the description of "brightest ever" my eyes glazed over. I've heard that old wives tale so many times it's not even funny. I probably won't change any of my led lights until they fail - which at the rate they fail, won't be long. It's worth finding out more about them but I feel very much that though I had my first LED light in 2009 that LED is still in its infancy. I'm not prepared to be the diaper that tries them out though!


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Finally I get to the bus.

Today I finally got into my bus. A few purchases had arrived, namely some terminal connectors (of which I was desperately short), my thermal switches (set at 25C or around 77F), my USB charging connectors and some glass fuses.

I already had all the photos I need of the bus bar three. One is of the drivers side, one of the shower and one of the toilet handbasin area. I suppose I really need to do a new one of the front and back since I now have a second camera on the back and a solar panel on the front.
That's what the bathroom looks like. There's a handbasin and I subscribe to the Old West method of bathrooms. There's a jug and bowl, a lantern and a mirror. The toilet is also visible as is my thermometer on the wall. I decided not to bother with a flush toilet nor an underbody water tank.

While I was inside, I set up a connection allowing me to charge my ventilation battery from both front and back. I sat and watched while my oldest solar controller (at the back) told me the battery was at 12.9V and that there was a problem with something. I disconnected the fan but the warning remained displayed. The charge controller at the front reckoned the battery was 12.8v. Though I was there for half an hour, the battery voltage never reached 13v but kept flickering ominously between 12.6 and 12.8 through 12.7. I have a feeling I might have bought somebody's dead battery on eBay as a new battery. That's $20 lost that I won't see again! I'm just hoping somebody can suggest a miracle fix on my sealed lead acid battery but I fear that the only fix will be to turn it in when I buy a bigger battery to offset the core charge.

There wasn't much point in trying the glass fuses in my fuse holders. It seems the fuse holders are somewhat larger in diameter than the existing holes in my switch panel. The only way around that would be to install them in the end of the panel though that could be challenging. I'll stick with the inline fusing I've got right now. The advantage there is I can use standard automotive fuses.
For the curious, that's my shower. There's no permanently attached shower head. I can do a bucket bath with a washcloth in there or use a battery operated comping shower from the same bucket of hot water. I told you I'd taken pages from the Old West or more specifically an hotel room shown in High Noon. 

So, looks like mail ordering SLA batteries is not a good thing to do. I'm not sure of the origin of my twin 7AH SLA batteries but given they don't seem despite having been charged to be reading close to 13.8V (try 12.7v and 12.8v) I'm going to suspect those are also junk that I've bought. If it was in Radio Shack then my consolation is I probably didn't pay much. If it was elsewhere then shame on the. For selling returned or faulty batteries.

So the new plan isn't Plan 9 From Outer Space. The new plan is to fork out for a real deep cycle battery and pray that works. That sounds like a trip to (cue the Heavenly Chorus) Harbor Freight. There is a cheaper alternative though. I could use a $20 lawnmower battery from Walmart. Set to 20% discharge only, that should last a good long time. Lithium or supercaps would be the ideal thing but for cost and the fact lithium batteries are incendiary bombs on a par with military munitions.

This leaves me wondering about my portable USB charging ideas. It might be best to try solar charging lithium power banks, housed securely in an ammunition box. Or maybe just forget about charging USB devices and concentrate on living rather than playing with electronic toys.

While we are on the subject of electronic toys, let me tell you about my cell phone. I dumped my smart phone when it gave out on me after just 3 years, for the last 6 months I have used solely a flip phone. In that time, I have received ten calls totaling just under 20 minutes. This month out of my allotted 300 minutes/texts I have used just one single minute and the month is almost over, How much importance do you think I place on electronics? More than that, would you agree that electronics represent a huge expense for something that just doesn't seem to last very long?

Sometimes I wonder with the ventilation whether I might have been better off having a clip on coiled black painted smoke stack that with just the heat of the sun drew air out of the bus. I know I chose correctly in having jerry cans for water and a bucket for a toilet. Sometimes all this newfangled electronic and electrical stuff is too much trouble.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Look what Santa just brought me!

I've spent the entire of my weekend off and taken today off too. I'm still sick with a bronchial cough, sinus etc. It has been pretty awful with ears popping and all sorts not to mention disorientation too. On Sunday I decided was going to take myself to the quack the following morning. This morning though I was feeling a lot better though still with a temperature. I decided to rest today and just go to work tomorrow.

Lamenting not being well enough to work on the bus, I'd been thinking on my decision to buy a $60 battery and of my thought to install built in ventilation fans. I'll probably hold off on those for the moment as I have two as yet untested 7AH SLA batteries. Put in parallel they should be quite good at 14AH. As my 5AH will reportedly render up to 60A output, there's little reason to believe that my two 7AH batteries either individually or combined will not produce enough to run my 2.5A fan when that's all that'll be running.

My plan originally was to use an ammunition box to house a battery that could be ported around and used to charge USB devices wherever. Then I decided to have a second ammunition box containing the ventilation batteries - which was supposed to be the 10AH battery but the twin 7AH will be fine. My plans are a bit messed up at the moment. The 10AH was supposed to be the fan, the 5AH the door lock and the twin 7AH my portable power supply.

I have a feeling I was far better off before I started messing about with the complicated fancy junk. When my fans were directly solar powered they worked pretty well most of the time. I seem to have added several unnecessary levels of complication to achieve minimal increases. Still, it is what it is and I'll make it work without spending money on extra junk.

I'm going to leave the 10AH battery where it is, powering that fan. I can't understand why it's messing about so much though. It seems to be very random about the length of time over which it will run between charges. I very much suspect that lead acid batteries are just not that reliable for this kind of application. I'd been thinking of using NiMh or LIon when I designed the system. SLA was just a quick fix.
Now Santa brought me two 12v USB chargers. I can build these into the big ammunition box combined with the twin voltmeter that arrived a few days ago to make my portable electronics charger. Much better to do that than to have to put extra wiring under the bus even though I'm all prepared to put extra wiring down there.

It has been questioned as to why I want my SLA batteries in a steel ammunition box. The answer is simple... if they leak, the box will contain the leak. If they catch fire, the box will contain the fire and smother it as its air tight. I can also grab the handle in a gloved hand and chuck it out the door if need be.

As far as LIon or NiMh batteries go, I'd be able to use either since my chargers are all programmable.  My door lock is currently operated by 8 NiMh rechargeable batteries that I charge in a domestic charger every few months. When they're too depleted to run the door lock, I'll measure the voltage and take that as my base for an NiMh system. At about a dollar each and about 2AH per cell, a 2AH 12v stick would be $8-$10. A 20AH setup would be $80-$100. The big bonus is it'd all fit well in an ammunition box.

There are things I could do underneath the bus but I'm trying to minimize that. Though I've been under there plenty times, I just don't like going there. At the moment with wasps and critters, it's inavdisible for the next few months anyway.

Aside from getting the ventilation and USB power set up, the bus has reached the point where any work done is a fix, a touch up or an upgrade. My goal now has to be retitling the bus as soon as possible.

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Weird eBay

I've not posted anything bus related recently due to coming down with some bug or other. What with that and working ten hours a day, four days a week, I've just not had the time nor the health. 

Today I realized a remote security camera powered by excess solar power would be a good thing to mount in the bus. A brief hunt on eBay located a suitable candidate for just $10.27. Sadly I missed the part where it said it was coming from bloody China. Had I known that, I'd have gone for a different seller. It takes the Chinese delivery mule far too long to swim across the Pacific with my stuff.

Nothing got done today. As I said, I'm trying to recuperate from whatever ailment I have, without going to the doctor. Just because I have health insurance does not mean I can afford the copay nor the drugs.

Anyway, a while later I had an email from eBay. It was to inform me that the item I had purchased had been deleted. It was really quite confusing to be honest....
The listing you're interested in is no longer available


Hello schoolbushome,
We're writing to let you know that we've removed an item you recently won:
327860627327 - Wireless 720P Pan Tilt Network Security CCTV IP Camera Night Vision WiFi ONVIF


Since you've already paid for the item, you don't need to do anything else. If your item hasn't arrived yet, it should arrive soon. If it doesn't, then you'll want to open a case in our Resolution Center. You can learn how to do this, plus find timelines for opening cases, at:
http://pages.ebay.com/help/buy/item-not-received.html

We wish you all the best on eBay and hope your future experiences are pleasant and successful. If you have questions, please click "Help & Contact" at the top of most eBay pages.

eBay still has lots of other great deals. Go to http://www.ebay.com to shop. We hope to see you soon.
Thanks,

eBay 
 That just looked pretty darned weird. I went to my eBay purchases and things got weirder still.
It appears the eBay user no longer has an account now. So, it looks like I've bought an item that eBay has deleted at the same time as they deleted the seller. Then eBay wants me to wait until September before they'll refund me for the money I just lost. I honestly cannot see somebody whose account has been deleted going to their account to find who to send stuff to. There's no comeback on them for just taking the money and running. It just seems eBay is being less than honest.

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

The mystery deepens

Returning from a rough day at work when I spent most of the day feeling ill, I found that the postman had delivered my new wiper switch and the wires I had ordered. Feeling like the living dead, I went to the bus and tested my wiper wiring with a spare battery. Interestingly, the wiper motor functioned. I pulled the old switch out and replaced it with the new switch - or so I thought!

Dashing outside, I turned the bus batteries on and dashed back to the drivers seat to find the switch didn't make anything happen. I moved the common wire further along the row of live contacts behind the switchboard. The wiper sprung into life. It seems one pair of contacts behind the panel is dead. Heaven knows why. 

Eagerly I fastened the new switch into place whereupon to my astonishment it disintegrated in my hands. It was then I realized I'd been trying to put the old switch back in place. I told you I'd had a rough day! Anyway, switching them back, I copied the wiring connections from the other switch and everything worked as it should with high, low and park.

Having done that, I went to my charge controller to look at the readings for my $20 eBay 10AH SLA battery. It read 12.7v. The little warning triangle was showing, indicating something is amiss. Having seen the results from the 5AH battery which have been excellent (I bought that in Radio Shack) and the questionable results from my generic (but costly) eBay battery, I'm inclined toward not buying more batteries on eBay. Like as not, it was a used battery sold as new. 

I cannot recall the source of my two 7ah batteries that don't seem from furst glance to be very good. I couldn't find them in my eBay history. I doubt they were Radio Shack because they're not branded as such. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that I think I bought batteries that had already gone bad or didn't survive the journey home.

That all levaves me with a nasty taste in my mouth; rather akin to the current British situation where people voted for Brexit believing the stories they'd been told who then found out that Brexit would give its instigators unlimited wealth and power while returning the rest of the country to a level of poverty not seen since the Black Death.

So, where to now? I'm rather inclined toward getting a timer controller to give the fan brief bursts of 10 minutes running every hour during daytime with a thermostat so it doesn't come on in cold weather unless specially initiated. I'm also inclined toward picking up Harbor Freights 35AH battery even if it doesn't really fit my steel ammunition box. 

The wire arrived for the bits of wiring I want to do. Now I can start wiring up my CPU fan air circulation system. As for the door lock, there's no immediate plan to wire that into my battery. That's a more long term plan. 

Latest developments also mean a change of plan. I'd been going to put individual USB sockets and voltmeters for each battery in my battery array. Now those I've ordered are no longer suitable. That's about $25 down the drain so thank heavens I ordered cheap stuff from China. 

If I hadn't had so many wrong turns to investigate, I'd have completed my bus project a year ago. Still, I'm not one to follow the crowd. As they say... somebody that follows the crowd goes no further than the crowd. Somebody that follows their own path will find themselves in places nobody else has seen. 

My weekend task, having fixed the wiper will be solely to sort out the 12v house battery system. It will have input from both solar panels plus input from a potential external power supply. After that it's a case of continuing the tidying with a potential excursion to working on a wind turbine using the cheap and rather suspect Chinese generator I bought.
I'll say right now I think that generator is worthless junk. Still, it's worth a try. If I can put a six inch bar across the spindle then I can attach rotor arms and blades which are easy to fabricate. I have a feeling fir the low normal winds nothing I add will make it generate much power. That feeling is why I've not bothered so far and still might not.

Monday, July 17, 2017

Dawn of the Dead

Feeling like death, I looked at the clock at 4am and texted the boss to say I wasn't coming in. I'm hoping to be well enough tomorrow. I hate missing work because I hate missing out on the opportunity of getting money. That left me with time to work gently on the bus.

After a lot of hunting around online to find relevant and useful information regarding my gel cell batteries, I drew a complete blank. Then in sheer exasperation I tried those god awful forums. Again, lots of people telling me to buy a new or bigger battery but no realistic or useful information. This is one of the things that makes me question whether people on forums walk their talk or just parrot others. If somebody walked their talk then I'm sure they would have suggested what I took as my eventual solution.
Looking at the charge controller, it has several settings of which three are noteworthy

  1. Load on voltage which is the voltage at which the controller commences powering a device.
  2. Load off voltage which is the voltage at which the controller cuts off the power.
  3. Panel off voltage which is the voltage at which the controller ceases charging the battery.
There are some less noteworthy settings such as some kind of timer that does something that the instructions do not adequately explain and a battery type setting that again the instructions do not explain. Of minor interest there's a built in thermometer but it doesn't seem linked to anything.

I'd read online on some allegedly expert website that the minimum charge level should be 11.9V. I'd already discovered my battery retains a maximum of 13V. Under those conditions I was getting 7 minutes out of my fan. Today, abandoning the online "expertise" for the nonsense it seems to be, I dropped the cut off voltage to 11.1V. By the time the fan had run for 20 minutes I concluded the air had been changed twice over in my motorhome. By that time, the voltage read 11.7V so I adjusted the cutoff point to 11.7V.  That works and wasn't that cheaper than doing what the people on forums said? It reminds me very much of what I saw written on the University of Wales college toilet door: "there's more information on a freshly squeezed turd than in this library". I'd replace library with internet, of course. 

Going back to my original calculations, my 10AH battery should provide 5AH of usable power. That means my fan should run for two hours.  That's more than adequate! Now I'll have to see how long it takes to recharge the battery. 

When my fan was running, I noticed the temperature inside the bus rose from 84F to 86F. Curious, I took the thermometer outside and found that indeed, it was 86F outside. I'll have to see if this also works on hot days. Maintaining the same temperature inside as outside is the Holy Grail for non air conditioned motorhomes. 

One of the things I've been trying is my small battery powered desk fan. It works surprisingly well.

I've already decided to mount permanently two CPU fans. One will be in the bedroom, above the desk and the other in the galley above the cooking area. They will involve some underbus wiring but not too much. They're non essential anyway. The essential is to get the extraction fan doing its job.

Thinking ahead, I ordered some thermal switches that will switch ventilation and fans on and off automatically. The cut on point is 25 degrees centigrade which works out at 77F. Below that there's little need for much ventilation other than the occasional purge of stale air.

Since Radio Shack went out of business, I've had to buy most of my bits from eBay. I don't like the fact I can't just walk into a store and buy the stuff I need. I don't like also that half the time I have to wait for delivery from that backwards walking pack mule driven by an illiterate Albanian peasant. 

The next stage now that I've conquered the fan issue is to continue dealing with the construction mess and to sort out my personal stuff. I'll also want to build my twin battery pack that'll keep my electronics charged. I'm pretty much there with my 12v electrics in the bus.

I still need to fix my right wiper. I know the motor and pivot work. My suspicion is the switch so I've ordered a new switch. If it's it the switch then I'll likely just have to rewire the motor. That's not a huge task, to be honest.

Having played with the battery and charge controller off and on all day while sitting between times at my desk in the bus, I'm now mystified. The battery readings on my charge controller seem to go up and down faster than a whore's drawers. This means that I could get 30 minutes out of my fan or just 5. It all seems so random!

In terms of temperature, it was still 90F inside the bus when it was 86F outside at the end of today's investigations. I'm not much closer to keeping the bus cool. I know my fan does suck out a lot of air. The air is getting out of the vents too. I'm wondering what the solution is.

I know there's a 4 inch blower rated at 270cfm and that if I put one on each side then I could vacate all the air from the bus in just two minutes. As they're 10amps each, that's a huge current draw that's way beyond my current cabling. For that I'd have to mount the battery closer to the fans. That's not to say it's not doable. In fact it is very tempting. I'd probably need to change my exhaust vents from mushroom vents to flap vents and do away with the screening on the outside, relying upon internal screening and bugs that enter just getting stopped by the internal screen and blown out the back.

A system with a 20A draw would definitely need the planned next component of my solar system which is a plugin extra source. My plan is to use my four solar controllers on a shared solar input. All of the solar power is shared. An external wind or solar supply could supplement onboard solar.

The four controllers would be used for.

  • Controlling the blower fan at the back and charging its battery.
  • Keeping the door lock battery topped up.
  • Keeping two internal fans going.
  • Keeping a portable power pack charged that's intended for charging phone, tablet, MiFi etc.
Some people would do all that from a single, large, battery. I prefer small batteries that are independent of each other. That means that the failure of any part of the system will not affect the whole system. Even the solar panels and external input will be individually fused and individually diode protected. Such a system allows more flexibility with changes, additions and improvements. Smaller batteries reduce the need for large solar arrays. When one battery is empty, the service stops until the battery is full. That means I won't necessarily lose door control when the ventilation stops or be unable to charge electronics when the internal fans stop. Sharing solar power rather than having independent panels means when things that aren't used much such as USB charging or the door lock have full batteries, the output can go towards ventilation. When the sun is stronger at one end of the bus than the other, all units can take advantage.

All I can do for internal ventilation right now is to install the fans and some of the wiring. The rest will have to wait. As far as the battery mystery goes, I'm baffled. I bought my 10ah battery new from a seller with a perfect reputation on eBay. My controller worked perfectly well with my CPU fans and 5ah battery. It could just be a duff battery. I have two 7ah batteries. I charged them both as much as I could. One stayed at 13v and the other at 12.9v. My 5ah has no problem maintaining 14.5v. Bizarre!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Two things can happen....

I'm still very much unwell due to the latest whateveritis that I've caught. The first thing that can happen is that amidst a gnashing of teeth and a wailing from those that dislike me, I'll recover. The other is that amidst much merriment and rejoicing, I shuffle off this mortal coil. That being the case, I've left it a bit late to elicit promises from those that dislike me to dance on my grave and to arrange a burial at sea.

Needless to say, yesterday was a dead loss. Today however, I struggled out and did a few things. The first was that I started the bus engine for the first time in months. I'm happy to say it started immediately. Then I tried my right wiper to no avail. I know the wiper works so I'm going to suspect the switch. Thus I spent a massive $9.95 and ordered a brand new Thomas wiper switch.

Then I spent a good long time on my hands and knees wiring one of my new charge controllers. I set that to top up my 7AH batteries, one at a time. At the same time I thought about combining the output of the two sets of panels into a single battery but didn't proceed. I'm rethinking that and am pretty sure that I'd rather wait and put a long cable in, under the bus, linking the two sets of panels with charge controllers drawing off that combined power for their various purposes.
Right now I'm thinking of.
  • My 5AH battery going to a charge controller that just maintains the battery as fully charged but a second connection from the battery bypassing the controller that goes straight to my door lock.
  • My 10AH battery is insufficient for my upgraded extraction fan and building the new twin 7AH battery pack has an issue. I have the narrow spade connectors needed but am low on 18 gauge cable. I've ordered more off eBay.
  • I'll put in two fans churning air around in the cabin. That'll make it feel a lot cooler. Currently that churning is going to be carried out by two 90mm CPU fans. One will be on the galley partition and one on the bedroom partition. As they use 24 gauge cable, I ordered some off eBay. I would buy elsewhere but the one horse town I live in has no decent shops. Those will be powered by my 10AH battery running off another charge controller.
  • I'm going to have to put fuses on my solar panels in order to protect them from short circuits. At 20W for the back, a 2A fuse will do and at 15W for the front, a 1.5A fuse will do. 
  • When it arrives I'll wire into the circuit a 12V cigarette lighter socket, correctly fused and with diode protection. That will be mounted on the outside of the vehicle in order that I can put up a mini wind turbine or external solar capacity.
I'm waiting for several things to arrive by donkey post from China plus a few from the USA. That in no way restricts the chance of retitling my motorhome sooner rather than later. 

When I connected the bus battery ready to start the bus, I saw a problem with my cabling. It is theoretically possible for the live connector to swivel to touch the negative. I will have to come up with a solution to that one, fast. If, of course, the short circuit were cut out of the system, I could just leave the battery connected. I suspect the short is to do with the non operational secondary speed sensor. That plus a steam and grease is a job for a mechanic as is getting the real horn button operational.

Friday, July 14, 2017

What a headache!

This week I've worked 4 ten hour days. It's not my usual line of work but what's new for my life in South Carolina. This week has been largely indoors but in a non air conditioned building. By the middle of the week I developed a headache - probably due to the heat. Today, it got worse.

I struggled up in the morning, battling my headache and fatigue then went after breakfast to the bus. When I went in, it was 77F but the temperature quickly rose to 88. I'd put white reflectors inside the windscreen and my extraction fan is definitely switched on. As the solar panel powering it is at the back and the sun was at the front, it wasn't running which makes a good case for pooling the output of my panels. As that would involve installing a new cable underneath, that will have to wait til the winter.
This weeks weather is going to be fairly brutal. I'm anticipating at least 100F temperatures in August. That's the kind of temperature when people start to drop dead walking across the road. I'm already feeling dehydrated with negative effects from the heat.

When my extraction fan cut in, it shifted air. The bus door was open and had been for a while. I felt that probably the barrier between warm and cooler air had shifted down the bus by about 15 feet. That was very welcome.

I grabbed a couple of diodes and some wire joiners to build a protection unit for my newest solar panel. The diodes will protect my investment from the ravages of reverse connections. That was about all I managed to do on the first trip into the bus. I did check my 120v sockets with a socket tester and they all came up as they should. I solved my earlier problem, it seems.

I headed into the house walking very unsteadily with a raging headache. There, I napped for a couple of hours. Feeling brighter after my nap I headed to the bus by which time the internal temperature had reached a ludicrous 104F. Clearly I'm going to have to make that extraction fan work longer and more often.

The new plan for the fan is to increase the battery size from 10AH to 14AH (Twin 7ah batteries) and put the output if the front panel into the fan battery using a second charge controller. Meanwhile, I'll wire the 5AH battery so that it operates my door lock. The 10AH battery will be reused as a fan battery. I'll bring two of my smaller CPU fans back into play to blow air about the cabin of the bus, from front to back. The first will be on the first partition and the second on the bedroom partition, each with individual controls.
The sum total of today's work was nothing much. After I put my two latest charge controllers in place and my diode protector, I'd got overwhelmed by the heat again. I had to retire indoors to cool down. I'd wanted to at least connect my charge controllers to the power.

My next task will be to ready the ammunition box containing my two 7AH batteries for use as a battery housing. I can buy a 22ah battery that would fit my 50 cal ammunition box but I have these batteries and will try to use them rather than forking out yet more money with no guarantees attached. Then it'll be a case of wiring the charge controllers.

I still have components on the way from China such as fuses and cable connectors. Sadly on eBay they sell trifling little quantities and send it on a pack mule that walks backwards. It can take weeks for stuff to arrive! Some things though are cheaper locally.

My priority is getting the ventilation sorted out. After that everything else can be done in its own sweet time. I might end up having to get a battery powered drill and taking the bus into the mountains to finish all the little projects.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

A new strategy

I looked today at the stuff piled up in the bus - construction tools, supplies and leftovers. The bathroom wasn't too bad.
The cooler contains my mini shower. The rest is where it gets interesting. I bought way too many supplies from Radio Shack when they went bankrupt. Some of the stuff I can use. Some I have no current or foreseeable use for.

At one time I was interested in building little electronic things. Let's just call them toys because there's nothing in this world that's electronic that isn't some kind of toy. Satellites and soacecraft - just toys for boys with lots of money.  So, I have a pile of electronic components that get used very occasionally. At one time I was convinced LED lighting was the future of photography. I built an LED light panel that performed really well. When I showed it off, all the naysayers came out saying how it wouldn't last blah blah. In the end though I used it a few times, it wasn't worth the effort of putting it together. I find electronics to be generally unsatisfactory in general - no matter who makes them. So, I have a pile of electronic components. I'm not really sure what to do with them. I'm loath to throw them away because they cost money yet I'm unlikely to do anything meaningful with them so they sit taking up space as they have in several previous residences all the time growing in quantity.

The dining area is little better.
Here I have cables, wires, ideas for projects intended but never commenced. Sitting, looking at it all, I've been thinking of all the little jobs that need doing. I even played with one involving CPU fans blowing air from the front to the back of the bus.

The other side is equally bad.

You might well say that the situation was a little overwhelming. Clearly something had to give!

The decision was made... paint, electrical and small tools stay. Everything else was to go to storage. Progress was very slow and went vaguely along the lines of... trash goes in a cardboard box in the yard, PVC and aluminum get dumped in the yard as they won't decay and might be useful later. Tools went in the tool shed. Stuff that looked useful and the welder went into another storage location, including rods and spare steel.

I found myself some distraction tasks, feeling a little overwhelmed. The first was to test my two sizes of CPU fan. It transpired the bigger fan shifted apparently less air. Without unwrapping a reel of heavy cable, I could not install it in the bedroom as a permanent cool air flow. I see no reason why that should not be a future development, however.

Looking at the front of the bus, the grey paint had flaked badly on the drivers edge of the bonnet. I opened the bonnet (that's a hood to those not born fully comprehending the Queen's English). A few seconds scraping with a wire brush removed the loose flakes. Self etching enamel spray was applied and when that's dry, I'll use grey rustoleum.

Speaking of flaking paint, I sprayed some of the very expensive rubber mudguard spray on the inside of the front wheel arches. It has dried up and brushes off with a broom. Utterly useless stuff! I'll have to clean that off and spray with self priming black paint.

Yesterday I raised my two new convex mirrors as high as they will go. The left mirror would have been visible were it not for a Louisiana sticker that blocked my view of the mirror.
Well done, Louisiana, on making driving more hazardous! Fortunately, it was an out of date sticker that's totally redundant everywhere else including Rhode Island.

A few moments with a scraper removed the offending sticker. That's right, Louisiana officials, this bus has not held a valid Louisiana sticker for six whole years.

Meanwhile, in my tidying process I found several tools I forgot I had. Good job I didn't need them or I'd have ended up with multiples!

By the time I stopped work, one side was brought down to three boxes. One of papers that need to be gone through, one of various things that didn't need to go to storage, the shed or the trash and one of electrics. The other side will have to wait for another day.

I end the day with a mystery. One of my Radio Shack gel batteries seems to be playing the fool. The voltage climbs to 13.4v when the sun shines then drops back to 13.1v. Needless to say my fan comes on only at 13.5v. I'm thinking I probably bought a fried battery that somebody had returned to Radio Shack. There's no chance of a replacement or refund since Radio Shack is defunct.

My ammunition box will hold a 10x5x6 battery so perhaps I can look for a larger capacity replacement. I had only intended the solar stuff for ventilation but things seem to be growing. Who knows where it's going to go next!

Saturday, July 8, 2017

86 to 97

Despite the best efforts of my extraction fan, the temperature inside the bus crept from 86 when I went in at midday to 97 by 2pm. The night had apparently been a cooler 72.

Thinking more about extra power for the battery pack, it seems I could put two charge controllers onto the battery with each being powered by different solar panels. As long as the controllers are set up with the same cut off voltage, all should be fine. That would eliminate for the moment, my need to put more cables under the bus. This little project is on hold for one important reason.
Today I'm trying to clear the cockpit. It has been pretty much of a pigsty for the last two years. When I finish a job at the end of the day, I dump everything in the cockpit and close the door. I don't put things neatly away. Thus I'm having quite a time. I'm putting stuff to be sorted later behind the drivers seat, putting trash in the black bag on the drivers seat, tools in the tool box and screws etc in a jar.

As a little break, I swept the aisle of the bus and had a huge pile of sand. There were also cardboard boxes and other litter to move. One would think that I'd not cleaned the bus ever before but it's not so!

Remaining on the bus after I've done with the construction will be just maintainence supplies. Nothing too spectacular. Just screwdrivers, wrenches etc. I have no need for the welder, angle grinder etc. As I've said before, the welder was not one of my brightest purchases. Sure - it gave me a lot of fun and taught me to weld but it's not something that has been as beneficial as it could have been.

One of the ideas that struck me today was to install a pair of fans. One in the galley and one in the bedroom, tied into the extraction fan circuit, blowing air toward the back of the bus. That might help circulation quite a bit. I'm not quite sure what's happening to the airflow as air is definitely being blown out. The heat seems to be remaining though. I do, after all, have several unemployed 12v CPU fans.

Cleaning the bus cockpit took several hours. It had been knee deep in junk and that, sadly, is not an exaggeration. Some of the tools went to the shed as did some supplies. A 120v lamp stand complete with its 40W bulb went to an old trailer, where I had to duck to avoid a dangling light fixture weighted down by a birds nest.

Eventually, though the cockpit needs a really good wipe down, one huge bag of trash made it successfully to a huge pile of trash bags dumped in a corner of the yard. Those might one day make it to the dump. Sadly, some of the stuff from the cockpit made it to the galley. Clearing the galley or at least one side is a job for another day.

Now that's an almost clean cockpit. Everything needs a very good wipe down, to be honest. A lot of the brown dust I swept away was from when I sanded the OSB during the construction phase of 2015.   There's definitely some black paint touchup needed and I'll have to get some purple cleaner onto the floor. Otherwise, it's not looking too bad.

A few days ago, if you recall, my two charge controllers arrived. One has obviously had a sharp impact on the protective screen. I didn't catch it when I opened the box so I can't claim it as shipping damage. Not to matter though. It's ugly but it'll work.
During my tidying I found one of the things I'd been seeking - the cable converter I built that will allow me to use standard 20A cords with my non standard electrical inlet. The reason for the non standard inlet is cost - standard inlets were $75 whereas mine was $7. Even accounting for the non standard connector I used, it still works out at about $15 or a fifth of the price for something with equal electrical capacity. The TT30 crowd are really getting ripped off.

Just now the extraction fan cut in and out with a four minute cycle. That's probably why it's not really cooling the place. I adjusted the settings slightly so that the solar cell cuts off at 14.4v, the fan starts at 13.4v and cuts off at 12.2v. I'll have to see how that affects cooling. It could well be that I need to rethink my battery setup. I'd been running the CPU fans off a 5AH battery. I'm on a 10AH battery right now. If I moved to my twin 7AH batteries then I'd have 14AH. It could well be that instead of using small batteries - remember I didn't want electrical or solar stuff - I'd be better with a bigger battery though how big, I'm not sure. Running for an hour, just my extraction fan will use 2.5AH as its 2.5 amps. It therefore puzzles me as to why my 10AH battery voltage drops so quickly given that it was new. More to think about...

I almost put my welder in the shed. The only reason I did not was just in case I want to make something for my little generator. I've been thinking of turning it into a vertical axis wind turbine very idly. That might involve welding some steel for the arm.

Well, despite I didn't achieve a whole lot, at least the bus cockpit is clean enough to wipe down. I'll have to get on with that and get on with screwing the top of the console down properly too.

Friday, July 7, 2017

A journey of a thousand leagues

As the Chinese proverb says, a journey of a thousand leagues starts with the first step. I feel like I have a journey of a thousand leagues in front of me. It's time to start moving construction detritus out of the bus - tools I'm not likely to use again in the bus, leftover parts etc.

There are still things I'd like to do. One of those is a plumbing system for freshwater from a standpipe. I wasn't going to bother initially but I can see it is an idea with merit. The next step to that is putting an instant hot water heater that can supply hot water to both handbasin and to shower.

The toilet is probably going to remain as it is. I cannot imagine anything more foul than having to transport a used sewer hose! Bags of human waste can be stored in a sealed container then quietly disposed of where possible - either in landfill or some other way.

I have had thoughts about a built in gas hob. Those are demonically expensive however. Installing would be a straightforward case of passing tubing through the floor, sealing and plopping a 20lb gas cylinder on the ground outside.

Extra green power could be readily provided by turning my mini generator (the one I derided) into a small wind turbine that can be set up outside. Even solar panels could be placed outside then packed away for transport.

Today I went onto the bus and it was 104F. Putting the thermometer outside got me a reading of 97F. It felt cooler because of the moving air. I'd already started work, cutting slots into a piece of sewer pipe then gluing an end cap on it and mosquito mesh around it. I started mounting brackets to hang it from, on the ceiling when thunder began to boom. Fortunately by the time it began to pour with rain, I'd pretty much completed putting my ventilation filter in place. That meant I could throw the power cable out of the back door to close the door and keep the rain out.
That's what the ventilation looks like as of now. It is complete but with the same caveat as everything else of until I come across a better idea. At the moment, there's not too much power but if I pool my front and back panels, the power available should double. Throw external panels into the mix and we are talking tons of power.

Underbody cabling is in the plans but it's a future upgrade. In the winter I might go underneath and put some more cables but only when I'm sure spiders, ants and other nasty insects have gone away for the season. I even saw some of South Carolina's scorpions yesterday!

Yesterday I mentioned my mirrors. I'd replaced two eroded mirrors with new. It is possible to replace the mirror glass. The bizarre thing is it's cheaper just to replace the entire mirror than the mirror glass. The manufacturer wanted $45 per mirror for two mirror glasses. I bought a pair of mirrors for $35 or less than half the cost of fixing what's there.
I do not like those long West Coast mirrors. They take up a lot of space for very little gain. The bottom mirror is the one I just added (there's one the other side). Because I had to lower the drivers seat in order to make accessing the pedals more comfortable, the bottom mirror needs to come up as much as possible. I'd like to replace the 16 inch west coast mirrors with an 8x8 scquare flat mirror then up the top, put another rectangular convex mirror aimed downward. The busboy mirrors really need to be replaced with Hawkeye mirrors. The trick is finding it all at sensible prices.

As I sit writing my blog, the interior temperature following the rainstorm is 91F. My desk fan is keeping me cool and the extraction fan is currently roaring away. A tissue held up to the induction filter did not remain in place until the tissue was wrapped 2/3 round the filter. That tells me that my filter is big enough that it's not reducing airflow. That's important!

The next stage of motorhome construction will be to remove all the leftover construction components. Fortunately I don't think I have a lot too much. I barked up the wrong tree more often than I'd have liked though. I could have totally avoided buying a welder by just riveting a panel on the side of the bus where the hillbilly hole had been located. Still, I fancied welding and did learn a new skill even though with all the welding projects undertaken and not used, I could have been done 6 months ahead of now.

My biggest regret is the materials unused or used on projects that were later abandoned as they represent money not spent wisely. My other regret is wasting my time on some of the Internet groups. Whenever I sought an answer, nobody knew and whenever I showed off my handiwork, it either had no comment or something negative. That, I can honestly say, hurt.

Another thing needing to be done is to sort out the retitling. The previous owners never retitled the bus as a motorhome, which they should have because that's how it had been constructed. That's now my task!

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Definitely not feeling too good

I seem to have picked up a stomach thing. After a hard day at work, I returned home to find not one but two parcels waiting for me. The first turned out to be replacement convex mirrors. My existing convex mirrors had become abraded over the years, being plexiglass rather than glass. The second turned out to be a pair of charge controllers.

My existing mirrors had become somewhat hard to use due to their lack of clarity.
The lack of clarity isn't all that easy to photograph to be honest. If you look at the top of the mirror you'll see a fuzziness. That was much more pronounced while driving. The other mirror was just as bad.
Again, the bad portion is at the top. As the mirrors had offset ball mounts, it wasn't possible to simply rotate the mirror. eBay is, however, useful at times like this.
The new mirrors are heated. As I don't have mirror heating set up, I have simply wrapped the wires around the mirror mounts. If I go further and change my big west coast mirrors then I will probably go for a smaller flat mirror and possibly a second convex but oriented vertically. As can be seen, it's pretty good.

It took me longer to remove one mirror because the bolt was seized solid. In the end I had to use my angle grinder. The other mirror came free much more easily. I'd have liked to have got them off in a non destructive way but it is what it is.

My charge controllers were not installed today. That's a job for another day. They're slightly different from my main charge controller in that they don't seem to have a thermometer built in though I have not read the manual.
The plan is to use them for charging batteries designated for charging cellphones etc. This is a plan I have vaguely in mind. It's not something I'm going to leap on immediately so I might just use one to replace the not very good charge controller I have in the cockpit of the bus.

Today I ran my extraction fan briefly from the 10AH battery with the good charge controller at the back of the bus. I have a feeling the bad charge controller might have damaged the battery judging from the odd readings I was getting. I'll have to see how it all goes though. My next task will be to complete the intake for my ventilation system. That's a task for another day when I feel better.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

9 degrees!

the highest temperature ever measured in my motorhome was 140F. That was before I painted the roof white and installed my CPU fan powered vents. The highest temperature ever recorded since then has probably been around 106F.
Currently the interior temperature is 100F as opposed to an outside temperature of just 91F. It actually feels cooler outside as the air is moving. The goal today was to increase the ventilation. That plan involved a trip to Lowes (hiss, spit). Incidentally, somebody wrote a blog comment asking me why I shop at Lowes when I don't like them. The answer is simple - my desire not to shop at Lowes is weaker than my desire not to drive an extra 14 miles to go to Tractor Supply or Home Depot. My withholding my money from Lowes is not going to make them increase their honesty level one little bit, it would, however mean a longer drive which would hit my pocketbook harder. Though I detest and deplore Lowes, I'm not prepared to suffer in order to avoid them.

I must admit I laugh at people that won't go to Walmart because everything is made in China. They go somewhere else and buy exactly the same product - still made in China but they pay more (and often peel the label off to prove it wasn't made in China). Long ago I learned not to hold others up to my standard of honesty as I was always disappointed. Today as I was checking out in Lowes, the checkout operator - a sweet young thing - totally missed scanning one item, putting it straight into my bag. Now, if I'd been dishonest, I'd have capitalized on that by paying and leaving the store. I'd not have been been able to shop there without blushing ever again and I'd have been as disreputable as Lowes. I pointed it out, much to her surprise and after she'd scanned it, paid my bill and walked away with a clean conscience. The item was only a couple of dollars but my conscience is worth far more!

The goal with my ventilation is to get the interior temperature of the bus to be the same as the exterior. It can never be lower without air conditioning which is something I won't be installing.

As Lowes didn't have any 3 inch sewer pipe, I scrounged around in the detritus in the back yard and found an 8 foot length. Various people have dumped stuff on the land from old card to dead microwaves. A good hunt usually turns up with usable materials.

Having returned with the booty from Lowes (hiss, spit), I set to work. In short order I'd cut and washed several sections of sewer pipe. The plan was to do as much with solid sewer pipe as possible but to use sections of my bilge hose to connect them to the pump. One piece I glued to the pump in the hope that it'll hold. The pump will be screwed to the ceiling. The back closet is after all just a closet with a useful emergency exit entry capability. It's not somewhere I'll be using on a regular basis now that my front door lock is operational.

The one fly in my ointment is that my plumbing cement had dried in the can. That wasn't helpful! If it were not for the heat and my wanting to get on with things, I'd have done what I usually do with useless junk. I'd have taken it out the back and shot it. Remember the DOA solar panel and the dead microwave plus numerous paint spray cans that refused to disgorge their content. I gather people do the same thing with useless politicians though I have yet to hear of anybody successfully ventilating the current pro Brexit British Prime Minister. One can only hope!

After cutting the sewer pipe in 90F and gluing various bits together, I ended up with a fairly solid looking system. I didn't actually finish what I was doing, however. Time escaped on me. The problem with working in heat is it slows me right down. Indeed, the thermometer on my charge controller read 41C when I was installing things. By the time I knocked off for the day, the ventilation system looked like this.
Needless to say, it's not complete. The filter stage is missing. That will entail a piece of plastic pipe with slots cut in the sides and mosquito mesh being glued all around it. That should let in way more air than my fan can suck. I'd been a bit puzzled how to attach the pipe to the ceiling when I found some black cable ties lying on the ground outside. They'd come from the battery compartment and had been left by the hillbilly owners. Goodness knows how many times I'd peed on them in the past! Anyway to cut a long story short, the plan is to fasten two steel strips to the ceiling with cable ties attached and hang the tube from two cable ties. The tube will be attached to the unit by another section of flexible hose.

Given that I'm blowing air out of two mosquito mesh covered vents, it should be much more efficient than before. My sole concern is whether two self drilling screws is sufficient to hang my fan or whether aluminum rivets might be a better option.

Tomorrow I have to go back to work. The weekend is coming though! Two days and I can complete my ventilation system. This should be the last word in ventilation!

Monday, July 3, 2017

It's a mystery!

After a few hours experimenting with the new bilge fan, I'm presented with somewhat of a mystery. I am no further forward in having an answer as to whether the fan does anything or does nothing. Part of the answer is probably due to the weather which changed (somewhat unhelpfully) from sunny to cloudy.

The chronology went something like this...
  • 1:13 started the ventilation system with the end of the unit including the filter standing on the bottom step in the entrance, with the door open enough to accommodate it. It was 95 in the bedroom area. The tube was extended half way through the galley and I could feel a breeze.
  • 1:25 I took the filter off to see what difference that made. There was an appreciable increase in the amount of air flowing through. It was still 95 in the bedroom.
  • 1:32 still 95F in the bedroom. Taking the thermometer and leaving it in the air from the ventilation tube dropped the thermometer to 91. Then I took the thermometer outside and it rose to 93 and stayed at 93.
I concluded extra induction seemed to make little difference to overall temperatures. This was good and bad news. The good news was I didn't have to scrabble around under the bus installing ventilation. The bad news was I'd not achieved much. Having said that, the next thing was to see what the fan does when blowing air through my exhaust vents.
  • 2:05 With the interior temperature at 97, the fan was connected to an exhaust vent. By 2:12 by my calculation all the air should have been expelled from the bus. I gave it til 2:20 for good measure
  • 2:12 Well, I went outside and when I returned found the duct tape attaching my ventilation duct to the exhaust vent had fallen off so at 2:15 I started again. The internal temperature was still 97F.
  • 2:40 I stopped the experiment. The thermometers hadn't changed any but the bus felt cooler.
One thing I haven't mentioned is that the humidity dropped while my fans were going. Then afterwards the humidity climbed. I believe at one point it was 50% but at the point of writing, the thermometer read 93F and 58% humidity.
  • 3:27 I restarted my bilge extraction fan. The thermometer read 93F and 58% humidity.
  • 3:42 I stopped the fan. The thermometer read 93F and 59% humidity.
The biggest challenge thus far has been the useless nature of duct tape. I know I'm only holding things temporarily in place while I experiment but even so, it could be better!

A few years ago, I lived in a townhouse and never once used the air conditioning. Sure, it got warm in summer but I couldn't afford to blow money on air conditioning. My income was solely what I had from my job and it didn't pay much. Roll on a couple of years and I was stuck in a job that paid even less - so little that I could not afford to pay rent and had to move out of my disagreeable little hovel.

Back in my hovel, I found that a cheap little fan though not as icy cold as an air conditioner made a huge difference as did the fact that it naturally gets cooler at night. For a long time I've maintained that it's better to have moving air than icy cold air. Indeed, standing outside, it seemed cooler than inside the bus but wasn't really. It was due to lower outside humidity and the fact the air was moving.

As I wrote this blog entry, though initially I sweated profusely, when I remembered my $6 battery powered desk fan, I felt cooler having switched it on. My existing extraction fans are CPU fans. They remove a decent amount of air. I did have some 3V fans there before that probably didn't remove quite as much air but which worked. It seems to be a case of diminishing returns. It's something I shall have to think more on. Perhaps the answer lies not in more powerful fans but in more low powered fans just to keep the air moving toward the back of the bus.