Monday, August 31, 2015

Bah... Pesky drill!

Today was a very brief session working in the bus. Earlier I'd been to Lowe's and bought the screw eyes and s hooks I needed in order to complete my closet rail. I also bought an RV style 30A plug.

Reading around, it seems 50A is not really practical and most camp sites have a 30A supply. In Lowe's I saw a 50A cable and a 30A cable. Quite honestly I cannot imagine using anything heavier than 30A. It was really thick and heavy.

It turns out also that my breaker box is a sub panel with no main breaker position. Had I known that, I would not have bought it. It looks like I'm going to have to make a few blunders before I get this crazy US electrical system down pat. It's completely alien to me, having been brought up around European electrical systems.

Actually, dropping from 50A to 30A doesn't make much difference. My heavy demand appliances are my microwave and kettle. I don't have a TV or anything like that. I never have been a real power hog even though I use far more electricity than Eric

It looks as though I need to put a main breaker elsewhere. I'm thinking alongside the fuse panel for my 12 supply. Somewhere I can access it easily in order to switch breakers around for times when I'll be on a 15A supply.

Inside the bus, I laid out my screw eyes and s hooks ready to install them but paused to install my new knob on the grit bucket side of the toilet. The power drill got a third of the way through the wood before slowing. Fortunately it got all the way through before it died completely. Clearly I should have put iut on charge last night. The knob went on fine though. It doesn't match my plastic handle though. It seems Lowe's no longer carries the handles I bought several months ago. It doesn't look too bad.

While I was sitting at the toilet, I worked and oiled the door lock. It's really not very happy about looking and unlocking. Today I had to abandon my attempt to unlock it from outside and had to go in through the back door. I'll keep playing with the lock but I think I'll have to replace it. The lock company whose name shall not be mentioned charged me $20 and claimed it was a special order. I saw the same lock in Ace hardware for $15 last week!

Remaining to be done inside the bus are just the shower base mount and the rest of the closet chain. Everything else has been done. Certainly there's cleaning to be done, some floor painting and a touch of touch up but that's all aside from plumbing and electrical. Things are progressing well.

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Another rainy day!

Today being a total washout as far as cutting plastic planks went, I worked on other things inside the bus. The little lantern I bought is a real godsend. Without it I'd have been unable to see to do anything. It really was that dark, what with all the rain.

After putzing around a bit, I started on the closet chain. It was a lot easier than I'd imagined though I had to tip my tool box contents and my supplies box contents into the shower pan in order to find the things I needed. That took some time too.

The closet chain is unfinished because I ran out of screw hooks. I had six and I have 20 rivnuts. Thus, I installed six rivnuts and six screw eyes with s hooks. Then the chain was hung from the s hooks. It's an elegant, lightweight solution. Each hook is 7 inches from the next. I figure that should hold the weight of clothing.

After installing the closet chain, my next project was to fit a handle on the toilet lid so that it can be opened and closed as needed. That was the work of a very few minutes.

The door lock had started being a bit odd in operation and certainly didn't look right as the tongues were hanging at a sloppy angle. I dismantled it and was amazed at how cheap and nasty it looked. Clearly the lock company whose name shall not be mentioned has just sold me any old junk rather than a decent quality lock. Needless to say, I reassembled it as it should have been and remounted it. This time, it worked properly. That's something that it has never done before. My guess is that it was bad from the start!

The hanbdbasin mount was fastened down. That took all of four screws and a few minutes. The hand basin itself is just held into place by gravity. There never were any mounts as such in the original installation. This hanbdbasin came from the hillbilly bus build.

In the background is my thermometer/hygrometer gizmo. Today it was 75F (24C) and 76% humidity. That was very pleasant for working inside the bus. I can see a dehumidifier will be needed.

I tried my breaker box in place. I couldn't fasten it as I'm lacking a main cable and its conduit just as I'm lacking sockets and other cables. Today was a day for visualising the electrical system.

Next, I fished my microwave out of storage and placed it on the countertop. It's a cheap Walmart microwave that I used from November of 2011 until April of 2015 when I moved house. Looking at the setup, it just seems that four surface mount electrical sockets would go very nicely on the front of the beam under the microwave.

As I'm limiting the power input to 50A, I figure two sockets can be 15A and two can be 10A. There will be a main breaker at 30A with a spare breaker at 50A for times when I'll be able to access 50A. For safety, when I'm on a 15A supply as when parked at home, I'll use a 15A main breaker.

Looking inside my microwave showed how horribly rusty it is. M'lady wants me to throw it away but I want to do what my dad did with his rusty microwave. He cleaned it out with steel wool and painted it with anti rust paint. It worked for years after that.

It does show why enameled paint inside a microwave is a sign of a cheapass microwave. The better microwaves are stainless inside. When it dies, I have plans for the components inside.

Mounted on the skirt of the bus, behind the hillbilly compartment (which will house a pair of batteries once I've rebuilt the compartment) will be this socket. The door goes outside the bus skirt. The box goes inside. The cable will be a dryer cable in a conduit from the 50A socket to the breaker box. I'd like to use flexible conduit but I think standard conduit might be cheaper and more practical to install.

On top of the breaker box I'd like to install sockets so that I can just plug my other cables in. It's more expensive but I feel a better solution.

If I can get my closet chain completed this week and the shower base mount then the electrics really won't take long. I'm annoyingly close to being able to apply for the bus to be registered as a motorhome.

My final act was to install a fire extinguisher. This was installed directly opposite the electrical system. This extinguisher is specifically for electrical fires and burning liquids. Ideal for kitchens! Let's just say that First Alert's wall mount for the extinguisher was very troublesome to install. It would be so much better if instead of a nasty plastic strap, a Velcro strap or a solid loop was used. I have no idea whether I'll be able to remove the extinguisher from the nasty strap or whether I'll just have to rip it off the wall if it's ever needed. This is why I'll be installing more extinguishers.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

A plank? Really?

What with working from 8 til 4:30 with no lunch break and having not slept well the night before, I was exhausted after work. Thus, today's significant achievement was solely to visit Lowe's to spend $38 on yet another plastic plank.

Arriving home, I measured the soon to be shower base at 36 inches or rather, slightly under. I cut two 36 inch planks and one 24 from my 8 foot plank.

Tomorrow I shall trim the 9 inch wide planks to 7.5 then make the ends match and trim the ends so that the tub fits well into the mount.

Looking around Lowe's, I didn't get any inspiration for alternatives. The sole thought would have been treated 7 ply the same as I used for my toilet lid. That would have required copious quantities of brackets to secure it. The plastic planks solution can simply be glued to the PVC floor. I might screw the end pieces together but they'll be glued too.

I didn't buy more than just the plastic plank because that'll take me a lot of tomorrow and when that's done, there's the closet chain to erect and the breaker box to install. There's more than enough to keep me in mischief until the end of next weekend!

Thinking about power, I thought I'd come up with the final solution to the electricity problem. I remembered a gizmo that could be fed butane, hydrogen, propane or methanol to produce electricity. It had no moving parts. Hunting for it I kept finding references to products about to be released, products that had generated large sums of crowdfunding in the past and some very expensive cellphone chargers. I found nothing that could produce even 200watts.

Reading further, there was a Forbes article about the total failure of fuel cells to take off. It seems the gizmo is called a fuel cell. Reading yet further it transpired that they're relatively simple devices that could be built with very few tools and components. The problem is that platinum wire is needed in large quantities. That's why they have never taken off - nobody will pay the price when cheaper albeit Heath Robinson affairs are available in the form of generators.

Power generation keeps returning to wind, solar or generator. Solar is just horribly expensive. Wind is cheaper but pretty awkward as the generator needs to be mounted then unmounted for travel. Generators seem to work out as the most economical option.

Friday, August 28, 2015

Plastic planks and other thoughts.

Now the shower base is not sitting in the drivers seat, its possible to see the seat! There's stuff left to move before I can drive it though.

Speaking of driving, a letter arrived from my insurance company reminding me my bus insurance is due in September. The problem is that it was sent to my old address. I have no idea how many times I will have to tell Progressive that I've changed address. I have told their head office, adjusted it on their online system, told their local agent and yet they persistently get it wrong. Perhaps I'll change insurance companies?

Meanwhile, I cut up my remaining plastic plank to use for two of the four sides of my shower base. I need to make the base solid enough to hold the shower pan in place. The idea is to use plastic planks and simply glue them together and glue them to the floor.

As the plank is not wide enough at 7 inches, I had to cut it into 7.5 inch sections to glue together to make a 7.5 inch wide section. I thought after that since I need more plastic plank to complete the mount, it might be better to buy a treated wood plank. If it rots then I can replace it but that might be a long way in the future. PVC planking is most definitely not cheap! Wood, on the other hand, is far less expensive!

I glued almost 3 feet of plastic plank together. At 7 inches wide, that's about 28 inches. I have reservations about the strength of the glue. Indeed, I'm giving serious consideration to simply using wood planking, painting it and hoping for the best. The plastic wasn't wasted as it was all offcut anyway.

I might pick up wood plank tomorrow, together with some 30A cable, 15A cable and some conduit. It's time to get the electrics completed so I can get my bus registered as a motorhome. The original idea had been to have 50A cable but it seems hard to obtain. I can always change cables later!

Interestingly, Eric in Canada has found that there are a lot of homes now being registered with no electricity. That's interesting and makes me wonder how much of an issue my incomplete plumbing and electrical system will be in terms of reregistration.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Behold - the shower base!

Certainly it is a 24x46 concrete mixing tub from the farm supply store but it's new purpose is as my $18 shower base.

It's small enough that I could wedge it against the wall and have a ton of space. That might lead to mold however so that's not what's going to happen. It is going to go roughly where shown, held in place by a mount made from PVC planking.

After installing the bathroom floor, I had enough PVC plank left over to make two of the four edges from the plank. Sadly, I'll have to pony up for more but it'll be worth it! The corners will need special care but this is what the corner looks like without special attention. Eventually the corners will be squared to perfection.

Meanwhile, in the hunt for a 12v fridge, it transpired that the 12v heater/cooler fridges are built out of standard coolers with a single Peltier element. The Peltier element is very interesting as it transfers heat from one side to the other when power is out across it. The maximum cooling is 20C or 35F below ambient. That, however is a great playground for experimentation with water cooling systems etc.

Coolers are pretty cheap - I picked one up for $15 new a week or two back. Peltier elements are about $5 on eBay. CPU heatsinks and CPU fans are also pretty cheap. With a little care, a 12v fridge can be built for under $30.

Peltier coolers don't keep things very cold but they should be fine for prolonging the lives of fruit and bread. There was an article I read about one fellow who built an air conditioner using a Peltier element. Apparently it worked well enough. Again, given a water jacket cooler, lower temperatures might be achievable.

Given the horrible efficiency of solar panels I'm giving thought to building a vertical wind turbine. I'm nowhere near ready for it yet but I know exactly how to build it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

The poisoned chalice

Today, browsing Craigslist for buts that I might want for my motorhome, I chanced upon this advert.

Well, damn. Just about everything that could go wrong with that motorhome has gone wrong and been fixed! The transmission going just smacks of poor maintainance. Especially at 100,000 miles!

If only this had been available six months ago. What a wonderful source of parts for my current motorhome this would have been! Clearly fixing the transmission would have been not cost-effective or the seller would have done so. I rather suspect the owner traded it in to the garage when he found he'd thrown thousands into an old motorhome only for extra things to break each time. In that respect it was like a secondhand laptop I once owned.

Last century I bought a secondhand laptop. By the time I'd done adding memory, changing the hard drive, loading windows NT4 etc, the graphics card died. At that point I'd spent close to the price of a new laptop and it was only ever going to be old and decrepit. As it was clearly a waste of time doing any more work nor spending more money on such a money pit I stripped it and tried to sell the parts. I had a few interested parties who wanted to pay less than it would have cost to ship the parts to them. I wrote it off as a dead loss and tossed the entire thing on a bonfire.

The guy that owned that motorhome had a miserable experience. The batteries would be of interest but at $600 plus the cost of hiring a vehicle to move it, its way higher than buying the batteries new! Talk about a poisoned chalice!

I'm in the market for batteries. I would have been interested in the generator and fridge but there's no space now.

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Final coat!

Doesn't it look lovely? That's the final coat of paint on my dinette countertop. After this, its touch up only.

Of the major construction, things remaining to be done:
1. Erect the closet chain.
2. Add the shower base mount.

After this, its plumbing and electrics.

Speaking of electrics, last night when I couldn't sleep, I looked up Peltier coolers. It's a very neat technology that can cool up to 20c below ambient temperature. It's horribly inefficient but holds promise. For a small, 1.5 cubic foot fridge, its twice as inefficient as a dorm model. The Peltier units are neat though because they can be installed into just about anything.

Again, last night, I looked up energy usage of common appliances. Now I know why with Eric's massive 1600 watts of solar and wind power, running a 1200 watt coffee maker is such an achievement.

A lifestyle change toward low power usage is in order unless I want to haul out a generator every time I run the microwave! Clearly I need to be thinking more in terms of non intensively cooked foods. For example, fresh fruit, hot drinks, bread and canned meats. Things that don't have to be kept really cold nor cooked much.

This morning, before work, I looked at my breaker box. Again, it looks as though it will be a better option to put it closer to the point of use. Under the kitchenette countertop there appears to be sufficient space to house it. There's a handy body rib it can be screwed to and its close to the hole the hillbillies made for their power input.

The downside is that situated under the countertop, the breaker box will be behind my fridge or cooler. The upside is that my 50A cable can be really short as can my 15A cables. In fact I'm wondering whether I could get away with 30A. I suspect I probably can but for the purposes of the box, I'll aim for 50, put a 30A main fuse and see what happens.

I'll probably rebuild the hillbilly door to their underbody compartment and rebuild the compartment to take a couple of 105Ah batteries. The socket for the 50a input will be accessible underneath the bus, out of sight. The water input and waste water will be concealed also. I want my bus to look like a bus from the outside.

Thinking about plumbing, I'm not sure whether to have piped water to go into my holding tanks to be pumped manually to the point of use or whether to have a separate tap. Both options have merit though the former requires less components.

It's all getting quite exciting! Once the electrics are done, I can get on with changing the registration.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Screwing around

Today after work, I did a little inside the bus. The first thing was to tidy the floor a little. This was achieved by picking up the sink unit and popping it into its mount on the vanity. It's not screwed down because I had the fresh ideas yesterday.

After that, it was time to clear the dinette countertop. This was achieved largely by transferring the supplies from one counter to the other. I still have a massive problem. It's just moved from one side to the other.

Of course, in so doing, I inadvertantly tipped a load of screws into my tool box on top of the very tools I needed. I just didn't think ahead! I'll blame it on being tired after work! Fortunately the two tools I needed were my countersink head and a drill bit. The aim was to screw the countertop down prior to painting. Painting was not done today.

Fortunately, with sufficient pressure and an electric drill, its possible to make drywall screws countersink themselves. This worked well. Oddly I found I had not put a cross member under the join in the OSB. I'll have to see how that works out. Still, it is just a desktop - no weight of pressure expected.

Tomorrow I might even get to slap some paint on it! Then I will be short of three things that I was to have done this weekend:
1 the closet chain
2 the shower base mount
3 painting the galley floor

In other news, a few weeks ago I took down the personal bio. There's no particular need for it. I'd rather stay anonymous. Today I put up an FAQ page. How long I'll leave that up remains to be seen. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 23, 2015

A day of small things and big plans

Today as yesterday, the major problem was rain showers. Even with my wonderful LED lantern, it was hard to see to work. The plan for the weekend was perhaps a little ambitious. The intent was to:
1. Finish painting the countertops
2. Install the shower base.
3. Complete the window tinting.
4. Install the closet chain.
The countertops never were completed. One was as was the bathroom vanity. Only one countertop was screwed down. All the windows were tinted and now look fantastic!

The batwing doors had a second coat of white on the edges. I'll still have to touch up areas where I screwed up with the white but that's small stuff.

One of the small plans had been to paint the wood floor inside the cockpit black to match the existing floor. It just smartens things up a little. I'd bought a small pot of black paint to do this but as I tidied the countertop a little, I found a bigger pot so I used it to paint the cockpit floor. It might need a second coat. That seems to be the way of things but it's beginning to look quite tidy.

That, of course, has to dry thoroughly before I dare walk on it. It's Rustoleum black anti rust paint but it should work and be more durable than my white latex paint. Inside the galley I had put a coat of latex primer. I'm not sure whether to put a latex top coat and just lay a black vinyl mat over it as I have in the bedroom or what. I suspect the mat will be the cheapest and most durable option.

After that, I had a look at my hand basin for the bathroom. The mixer tap is quite low so it looks very much as though it's not really suitable to fill jugs, bowls or kettles. That'll have to be done elsewhere. I did check on a spare mixer assembly lying in the yard but the holes were further apart. I'm still of the opinion that hot and cold water tanks might be barking up the wrong tree and that I might be far better off with a single hand pump, a bucket and a kettle full of hot water. If my ancestors could do it then so can I!

My thought is that simple is usually best. One drain for waste water, one source for fresh water. Here's my latest idea. Under the bus I have several 15 gallon water tanks, plumbed together for fresh water and another set for waste water. I choose 15 gallon because they can't be seen underneath the bus skirt.

Rather than having an electric pump to pump water, I have a hand pump. This eliminates problems with power supplies etc. Having just one water source eliminates many sources of potential leakage too. Having a suction pump eliminates wastage through leaking pressure seals and the big bonus - its cheaper!

The water can go into a bucket from which it can be used directly or even pumped straight into a kettle. Once in a kettle, it can be heated either electrically in an electric kettle or over a fire as a camp kettle. I could even connect a 120v bucket heater to heat it when the bus is connected to the mains or via a 12v heater such as this.

Once the water is heated to an appropriate temperature, it can be used straight from the bucket or via a shower attachment such as this.

Of course, its important to realise that as with a house, every option can be changed, improved upon or developed before or after implementation. With a drop-in heated element (the one depicted is for a static hot water tank), either a 12v or a 120v element could be used.

The element depicted is of interest on the basis that I could put a small vertical tank in the bus, fill it with cold water in the morning, let the power from a solar panel heat the water during the day and have hot water for an evening shower.

This all seems much preferable to pressure pumps etc. For the moment I have painted the existing bathroom vanity top. There's nothing to say I can't just put an ordinary plastic bowl and a straight, ordinary top instead. In fact, I would consider that to be far more hygienic!

As far as 120v power goes, I can't squeeze my breaker box into the space available. The new plan is to install the breaker panel in the rear storage closet with the input socket at the back, on the passenger side. The 120v 20A wires (all four) go in a conduit from the back of the bus to the front with the conduit riveted to the body skeleton (not the chassis).

The existing hatch the hillbillies built into the bus will be retained. A new battery compartment will be built that will house two 12v 105ah marine deep cycle batteries. These will power solely 12v equipment such as 120w 12v heating coil, fans and charging phones etc. Maybe a 12v cooler unit too.

Eric suggested a 12v fuse panel from a GM Astra but the guy in car parts store didn't have a clue. Maybe I'll have to visit a scrapyard when I next visit my parents in Britain and get a couple off scrapped Vauxhall Astras (same car, different country).

My diesel mechanic is still around so I might have him change my alternator belt and fix my rev counter. With luck, I might even get him to put in some trailer wiring and a tow hook. As I said to him, we'd have to wait until the hornets are asleep as there seems to be a nest under the bus.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Tractor Supply

Today dawned with a visit to Tractor Supply. I'd seen a hand pump available for $40 on their website. It wasn't in the store but I did see a 12v diaphragm pump for $49 that claimed a gallon a minute delivery. That's now on my "interesting" list. It's not yet on my want to buy list. I'm not really that sure I want a diaphragm pump or even an electric pump. There is that manual pump but it's large and its heavy. We're I to use that pump then I'd probably need to replace the bathroom countertop with a section of my plywood and I'd probably want to replace the handbasin. To be brutally honest, I'm not keen on the handbasin I have. I'd much rather get an enameled bowl and put a hand pump to pump water into it and put a drain in the bottom. The only problem would be how to secure the basin to the countertop.

Another thought I had - which would simplify plumbing tremendously would be to have no handbasin in the bathroom but have a manual pump poised over the shower base that I could use to fill a plastic bowl with water. Hot water could be provided by boiling cold water in a kettle and mixing it with cold or by having a warm water tank under the bus heated by solar power.

After returning from Tractor Supply etc, the rain was coming down hard. Thus, it was time to paint inside the bus. The bedroom table, toilet and kitchenette countertop all had their final coats of paint. The dinette countertop needs to be cleared then painted. The saloon doors need some touch up and the galley floor needs white paint. Other than that its window tint and the closet chain that need doing plus of course the shower base mount.

I'm very much in favour of having as much of the bus as non electrically dependent as possible. I want to remain 100% gas free too.

Although my last batch of privacy film arrived today, I started painting instead of installing privacy film. There just wasn't enough light to do anything else - even with my 550 lumen led lantern. I have no idea whether I'll have the inside ready by Sunday night. With the idea of doing away with the handbasin, a redesign of the bathroom vanity countertop might be in order.

I have to consider my options. Whether this will be a boondocking bus or not. Eric's suggestion of using the alternator to charge batteries makes sense in the short term.

After a while, the paint had mostly dried so I set to and cut one of my new rolls of window tint into 26x12 inch pieces. This time, the supplier had not supplied a blade nor a spatula. I used a razor blade to cut the film and achieved the same effect. Six pieces was all one roll would provide so I'll have to start another roll for the seventh. By the time I've finished, 20 panes will be tinted and 4 will have been tinted twice due to my cockups!

Interestingly, in my conversation yesterday with Eric, I mentioned my carpentry and how I was sure Jesus would weep if he saw it. Eric made pretty much the same comment about his own carpentry. From what I've seen, his carpentry is good. Perhaps we are our own worst critics?

So, I tinted three window panes today. That leaves four remaining to tint. Just for fun, I've a photo of light behind my tint. It doesn't add privacy at night but certainly does during the day!

And of course a truly gratuitous photo from the inside, of my almost completed tinting. I definitely need to get something better than a razor blade to finish trimming the excess tint off!
Tomorrow will be more of the same - tinting, painting and possibly installing the shower base mount. Who knows - I might even get to the closet rail!

Thinking further on the plumbing, if a hot tank is installed then I'm not sure whether a diaphragm pump could handle the heat. I know a manual pump could but would absorb much of that heat. I think I'm just going to have to try things. If they work, fine. If not, try something different.

I can see exactly why people use gas. It has many advantages related to its small size and high calorific value. It has too many potentially deadly disadvantages though. The same goes for gasoline generators.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Starting with electrics

Today I had enough energy after work to visit Lowe's to pick up some electrical supplies. I now have a breaker box although I suspect it might be a little oversized for what I need. They were put into the bus to await commencement of the electrics. I like to be a little ahead.

Meanwhile, here's a photo of my almost cleared countertop. By the end of the weekend, that countertop will be cleared and repainted.

Today also, a surprise phonecall. This morning, Eric who's currently touring Canada rang. I didn't answer as I was otherwise employed so this evening, I rang him. We had a nice chat about the bus, my plans and electrics.

His recommendations were to go for a secondhand fridge. His opinion of the Haer dorm fridges was that they were power hogs. His recommendation was to go for a small household fridge or a 12v fridge. I think initially, I might just use an ice box.

From Eric's travels, the 30A socket was the most common at campgrounds. This means that I've way overdone it with my breaker box. Really, I want each socket on a separate breaker but the box is a bit big. I'll have to see if I can fit it or whether I should exchange it for a pair of smaller boxes.

On the 12v side, Eric recommended hunting for an Opel Astra fuse box from a scrapyard. Apparently GM built a copy of the Opel Astra that was identical on all levels. Another recommendation was some kind of smart relay that could be used to make cabin batteries charge from the alternator.

It was such a high speed conversation that I missed a lot of what was said. Really I need my bus and Eric to meet. I think he'd have a blast redoing bus wiring, wiring in trailer lights and so on. That's unlikely to happen until next year though.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

An electrifying decision!

Again, it was another exhausting day down the salt mines. So much so that after work I didn't even glance at my bus. I'm so glad I did so much over the summer!

Remaining are some minor things inside the bus that I can take care of this weekend plus the electrics and plumbing. As far as plumbing goes, dealing with waste water is easy - gravity takes it down to a tank I'll place under the bus (or a series of tanks, even).

As far as electrics go, I've been mulling over all the options. Those considered so far.
1. Plug the bus into a campsite power supply and have 4x120v sockets. No water heater, no electric pumps. This is by far the cheapest option.
2. Put a generator with the plugin option. Downside, diesel generators start at $2,000. Gasoline generators start at $100 but to get one big enough to power my microwave or kettle, its $300.
3. Put a wind generator. This is an interesting, off the wall option. It seems wind generators generally have a poor reputation at small sizes and low altitudes. That's without mentioning they start at around $300 for something that's just an electric motor with a fan blade attached.
4. Use batteries. There's quite some disagreement about how many are needed. One person will swear that my microwave will set the batteries on fire while somebody else claims to have done it with no problems. And batteries start at $80 apiece.

The general route map I've worked out is this...
1. Go for option 1 initially.
2. Slowly build up toward option 4 with plenty full load testing. During this phase, batteries will be charged while plugged in .
3. Investigate solar and wind options.
4. Investigate generator options.

The problem with solar is flexible solar panels are around $189 for 100w. Wind is a different problem altogether that I have not fully researched. It's looking as though the available wind turbines just aren't that great. But a 100w panel would charge a 100ah battery in 12 hours of full sunlight. This means that with partial sun I'd need 2 or 3 panels per battery. Assuming 4 batteries would be fine, that's 10 panels at $189 each for a grand total of $1890. That would pay for a $300 gasoline generator and 700 gallons of gasoline to power it!

Given that I'm unlikely to be boondocking that much, solar power seems just a little wasteful. Wind power looks more promising especially since the wind also blows at night. Backed by the $100 generator, that might be an acceptable solution. As far as I can tell, solar just seems to be somewhat of a scam. It works but it's uneconomical and the greens have scammed everybody into thinking its viable when honest cost analysis says its not.

Wind has three options. The first is a vertical axis turbine that I raise on a pole after parking. The second is a horizontal axis turbine that I raise on a pole after parking. The third is an array of plastic tubing on the roof as a wind collector, channelling the wind down plastic tubing to a smaller, more powerful turbine underneath the bus.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tidying up

Yes, it has got to that point. Today Big Lots had a plastic box for $6 that will hold all my packaged and boxed surplus stock. Well, they don't now!

Right now I'm working toward tidying the galley prior to completing the paintwork at the weekend. At some point my privacy film will arrive so I'll be able to do the privacy tinting. I'm aiming to have the galley and bathroom totally completed by the end of the weekend. Plumbing and electrics will take a while longer.

In terms of electrics, right now I'm thinking of minimum cost. Batteries start at $90 apiece. I'm thinking of getting the electric socket on the outside of the bus, possibly to the rear of the redneck compartment. The redneck compartment will be rebuilt. All the nasty plywood will be removed and a new compartment of steel and angle iron will be riveted together. The redneck door will be improved.

Inside the compartment will be a 120v fuse box that takes a 50A input and outs out 4, 15A sockets. Yes, I realise that 15x4 is 60 but most appliances won't use over 10A. There will be a 12v fuse panel with 12v fuses feeding to all the 12v stuff. That's hot and cold water pumps, charging points etc. If there's room, there might be a 12v battery to power the low demand stuff.

Initially, it'll just be the 120v stuff that's put in. Batteries are costly as are generators and solar panels. The aim right now is to get the bus reclassified as soon as possible.

No photo today. I didn't see the point of before and after messy countertop photos. Anybody can do that so it wouldn't be unique!

Tuesday, August 18, 2015


Yes... Light has come to my darkness.

An inexpensive Walmart lantern taking D cells has given light to my darkness. It's 500 lumens only so its not that bright but it's brighter than the darkness so its somewhat of an improvement.

As I'm trying to work out the cheapest way of doing things, it seems to make sense rather than installing expensive cabling and light fixtures just to have a couple of led lanterns.

The minimum I could get away with is a single 120v socket. That could be used to power the fridge then be switched out to power a microwave or a kettle. I'm definitely going to need some 12v power for water pumps and for powering USB chargers etc. For water heating, the best solution seems to be solar power and a 12v heating element though the unit needs a temperature regulator rather than being solely a dump load.

I've been advised that 12v marine batteries aren't really deep cycle but on the other hand they're readily available. I have a feeling I'm going to be better off putting in a 120v system that runs off a Harbor Freight cheapo generator initially then build up to a full solar system.

One things for sure - that lantern isn't bad. It takes 4 D cells so it should last a while between batteries. Maybe I could find some rechargeable D cells too.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Electrical considerations

After returning home exhausted from my first day back at work, nothing was achieved inside the bus other than depositing my new can of paint and plastic table protector inside. The table protector will be cut up and used to protect my nicely painted countertops.

I lied! I did do something else. The toilet top was stuck down. It seems latex paint can take a week to fully harden and so the latex paint had stuck to itself. A little force got the top up and with only a little wood splintering in the process.

Meanwhile, I researched my electrics. Most if not all of my appliances are cheap Rival appliances from Walmart. Looking them up, I found only some of the wattages quoted in the manuals. I had the following...
1. Rival cordless kettle. 1200w
2. Rival 700w microwave 1040w.
3. Rival 6 cup rice steamer - wattage not stated in the manual!
4. Rival quart slow cooker - wattage not stated in the manual!
5. Rival coffee maker - wattage not stated in the manual!
6. Haier mini fridge. Wattage is cunningly concealed in a statement that the fridge uses 315 kwh per year! That's 0.86kwh per day or 860watt hours per day. Guessing because I don't really have anything else to go on, that's going to be about 35 watts power consumption.

None of those are likely to be over 1500 watts. Now that gives me the option to use a $37 1500-2000W inverter from eBay.

The thought is to have 3 or 4 sockets connected to either individual 1500 watt inverters or to a single 45/60 watt inverter.

Initially there will be batteries that will be charged from 110v. Later the number of batteries will increase and solar panels will be added. The system will be designed with expansion in mind.

There will be two power systems. A 12v system that provides power to water pumps and charging sockets etc. There normally wouldn't be a 110v system but for the fact 110v appliances are so much cheaper than 12v appliances.

The water heater is probably going to be a 5 to 10 gallon tank with a 12v element, mounted under the bus. I'll probably have electric hot and cold water pumps running off 12v

Lighting is going to be a battery powered hurricane style lamp. I just don't see the need to run excess cables.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Disaster - the white paint ran out!

At 7pm with just about an hour before dark I'm not going to rush off to Walmart to bug more - not when I'll be right by Walmart tomorrow on my way to and from work!

I started the day, putzing around. The first thing I did was to scrape the frosting spray off the bathroom windows. It took a while and several razor blades but it's done. As the toilet, which I intended to paint, is currently sitting in front of the window it made sense to sit on it to scrape the frosting off. That was better done before painting. I have enough paint on my breeches.

After that I installed the catch plate for my cockpit door. I'd been unable to find it and had used a screw initially. Now it was found, it could be used. Needless to say, I had to space it off the frame with washers. None of my doors are a great fit but then as I keep telling you, I'm not a carpenter. If Jesus were here today, he'd surely roll his eyes at my woodwork! My woodwork is good enough for what I need.

The next thing was to retard one if my drawers. That was a task! I had to keep adjusting and now its 1/32 too low but it slides all the way back. Doing that, I found the bottom drawer also needs adjusting. I didn't do that though. That's a job for another day.

The saloon doors were next on the list. They were carefully given a coat of primer on both sides. Mostly I avoided putting primer on my paintwork. I'll have to touch up where I splashed primer accidentally though. Latex paint splashes are allegedly easy to clean up with a wet rag. That must be on some other planet though where it doesn't start to dry so quickly.

Having painted primer, I broke for lunch but not before taking a huge pile of wood offcuts and tint backing paper to the burn barrel ready for whenever. M'lady is getting restive about debris in her yard!

After lunch I painted the toilet. I'll have to return to that though since I had to paint around the seat. The lid seems stuck down. I might have to apply force to open it!

Following the toilet, most of the saloon doors were painted. The very edges didn't get paint but will later. The fronts were painted first.

Then the backs were painted. I must be some kind of sadist because it would be so much easier to paint them when they're horizontal!

Rather than painting the edges, my attention turned to the kitchen countertop. I'd screwed it down after attending to the top drawer. The bottom drawer needs a little adjustment but it's not bad enough to make it necessary. Seeing as how there was barely half a cup of paint in the pot, I simply poured if on the countertop and spread it around with the brush. By then it was getting pretty dark.

Finishing just before the light vanished, the paintbrush was plopped into a jar of water for later washing. I like that I can do that with latex paint. Tomorrow I shall buy more paint.

As of now, things remaining to do...
1. Finish painting the kitchenette countertop.
2. Finish painting the toilet.
3. Finish painting the saloon doors.
4. Put a protective sheet over the kitchen countertop.
5. Screw down and put a final coat of paint on the dinette countertop.
6. Put a protective sheet over the dinette countertop.
7. Finish putting up privacy film.
8. Put up the closet chain.
9. Touch up lots of areas.
10. Install the shower base mount.

Then it's all electrics and plumbing. I'll probably try to get the registration as a motorhome started before I do much with electrics or plumbing.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Saloon Doors - the finalé

After holding up my hardboard to the door, it was obvious that smaller panes would have to be used. Thus, I added two extra bars. Then all the fun started...

The first piece of quarter round wouldn't fit nicely against the wood of the door skeleton and the first piece of hardboard wouldn't fit nicely inside the frame. After drilling a hole in the quarter round to screw it down, the quarter round promptly split. I measured another piece of quarter round and checked my measurements then remeasured and rechecked. Then I cut the quarter round and the blasted thing was too short!

At that point I realised that doing it the cheap ass way was as usual going to be far more expensive. Had I bought a piece of hardboard on Wednesday then I'd not have needed a special trip to go and get it. So my $11 piece of hardboard cost a gallon of fuel on top! Yes - I had to go to Lowe's.

The end result was pretty good and clapping the board on one side of each door ended up taking the warpiness out of the doors. They now both seem to line up. I'd been wondering why two doors the same length didn't line up.

That took me through until dusk. Although I do have a lantern in the bus, its not really good enough to work by. I never got as far as putting the shower base mount together.

Earlier in the day, the privacy film that still wasn't adhering in one corner was peeled off before its glue set hard enough to make it difficult. While I was there, the frosting was scraped off one of the four frosted windows. Once all the frosting is gone, privacy film can be applied. I have no idea why the film didn't stick. It could possibly have been that there was a bit of Windex on that corner rather than just soap and water.

While I was out, I looked into my vinyl tablecloth idea. Vinyl tablecloths are not expensive at $8 apiece. The Velcro was expensive though at just over a dollar a foot. Idly, I costed a vinyl floor covering and that worked out at 74 cents a foot. That looks much more achievable though trickier to cut. I'm more thinking of just slapping paint on the countertops and putting vinyl place mats where needed. Anything to cut the stupid costs!

Thinking about power, I'm still not really decided how I'm going to go about it all. A battery bank still might end up making the most sense.

And now, a view of my saloon door from the other direction...

Another thing I saw at Lowe's was cheap privacy blinds which seemed to be concertina paper. The box advocated cutting to size with a craft knife. If they can be raised and lowered, they have potential!

Friday, August 14, 2015

Saloon doors!

This morning I put off doing saloon doors because I didn't know how to build them. Thus I started by putting on some window tint. Needless to say, the roll of tint ran out after the first pane. There was enough left over to do one of the two small bathroom windows.

After procrastinating and looking up ready made saloon doors online, I noted that most seemed to be 42 inches long. As it so happened, I had a section of hardboard left over that measures approximately 10 inches by 44. The plan was to use that as a panel set into one door.

Perversity being what it is, looking at my supplies, I didn't have enough 2x2 to make a complete box frame. I did have some 1x2 though. Thus the saloon door became a physical thing. Now, I don't have the time nor willingness to make fancy tops and bottoms for my saloon doors so my initial design is pretty basic.

There were three problems with this. First, the 1x2 was bowed. Second, the cross members were a little long and third, one door is mounted 1/4 of an inch too high.

The long cross members were shortened with the circular saw being used to shave off 1/8 inch off each cross member for both doors. It'll make the insert a strange size but that cannot be helped. The mismatch in height totally escaped me until later.

The bowed 1x2 was resolved by putting an extra cross member in. Having done that, the doors swing freely. Looking at them and my supply of hardboard, it looks as though another pair of cross members lower down might be a good idea. My leftover hardboard is a series of odd shapes and sizes. To hold the hardboard into the frame, quarter round will be employed. I had sufficient, given that my entire doors would be made of 2x2 however since the design has had to adapt to my available offcuts now I might need more but I'll try to work within what I have.

My goal is, working within the wood I have, to build saloon doors. I don't see any value in buying a big sheet of hardboard to use a small piece.

After getting that far, I needed to consider the matter before proceeding further. Thus I grabbed my two big film offcuts and applied it to the bathroom windows. The first piece (pictured) wasn't very satisfactory. One side tore and one corner just won't stick down. I'll redo it when my next shipment of tint film arrives.

Tomorrow I'll probably complete my saloon doors and maybe put up the closet chain. After that, its a case of screwing down countertops and painting the saloon doors, the rest of the toilet unit and that should be most things done inside the bus.

I was going to put vinyl floor tiles down on the countertops. My new idea is to Velcro vinyl tablecloths onto the countertops. Same idea but cheaper to switch out or replace.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


As my last paint splattered shirt is awaiting the attentions of the washing machine, other things had to be done inside the bus. I took a while to do it but I put 5 sheets of window tint on the windows. I'll probably have to buy yet more tint.

After the 3 tinted windows in the photo, I tinted 2 more before being called away to attend to a shopping trip.

On that trip I called into Lowe's for 3 more sections of quarter round. I have a plan for the saloon doors that uses quarter round to hold hardboard into place on some 2x2. I also bought longer bolts for my knob. It seems its an 8-24 thread.

I'm probably going to run out of tint. I'm hoping I can complete the galley windows but I have doubts. After the galley windows, I have 4 more 11x24 windows and two smaller windows. I know one of my offcuts will do one of those two windows. I'll have to see about ordering more for the others.

The tint is going on well enough though there are bumps where duyst particles have attached themselves. Oh well, its not noticeable unless I really look hard so I'm not bothered. Nothing in that bus is perfect anyway!

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Purple rain

I never meant to cause you any sorrow
I never meant to cause you any pain
I only wanted to one time to see you laughing
I only wanted to see you
Laughing in the purple rain

And so sang the artist formally known as Prince which gets us rather neatly to today's first achievement. Purple paint! Today I put purple paint on the ceiling of the galley or rather, a second coat of purple paint. The white undercoat was showing through in places. A second coat should see that gone from view. The walls also needed some recoating and the new drawers had a coat on the fronts. This latex paint isn't very durable and I've already had to touch up some areas.

Needless to say, there have been a few drops of purple rain from the ceiling and I did run my head into a freshly painted patch. I'll have purple hair for the next few hours! It always washes out pretty easily.

Earlier today, I had a trip to Lowe's. Yesterday on my way back from my voluntary work, I also stopped off at Lowe's. It's nice to wander around the electrical aisle to see what's there. I'm trying to decide how to approach the electrical system. Thus far, these are the ideas....
1. 3 x 110v sockets in the kitchen for a 110v fridge, microwave and one other appliance.
2. 12v or even 5v for two USB sockets in the bedroom and on the othger side of the galley.
3. 12v led lighting throughout or no lighting bar movable led lanterns.
4. Electric water heater. This could be a small (1 gallon) gravity tank above the handbasin or shower.
5. Underbody hot tank. This needn't be more than 5 or 10 gallons and could be heated directly by solar panels.

It's all very much of a mishmash because I've not really decided on my direction. I could go solely solar with no plugin whatsoever. Basically, a totally boondocking solution. I could go with a totally plug in solution that would eliminate batteries and inverters and just use a small generator for boondocking. Wind hasn't featured in my deliberations though perhaps it should.

Reading about people's wind power solutions with RVs, they seem to be universally disappointing. I'm not sure why though - whether they're expecting more from wind than it can deliver it whether there are problems of scale and location. I'm not even sure what kind of power consumption they have.

Solar seems popular though it is expensive. A single 100w panel will cost around $100 and will produce 6 - 10 hours of power at around 50w average. Thus, a 100w panel will produce about 50watt hours of power per day. Putting that into a 100ah 12v battery would put about 4.15ah into the 12v battery. That's not really practical!

I'm thinking that I should have a solution initially that has no battery and which uses solely external electricity. I'm beginning to see why people use gas for cooking and water heating. I must admit that a gas solution does look attractive!

So, after painting the ceiling and the drawer fronts, my next task was to work more on painting the toilet. This will take several painting sessions. There are some areas I can't really reach with a brush but I'll do my best as always.

It's getting rapidly to the point where I will have to tidy the galley, to free it of construction debris. Indeed, its approaching usable! Question is, where to put everything? I guess I need to plug on, put up the closet chain and put the batwing doors together. That should reduce the quantity of stuff yet more.

After the toilet, while waiting for the paint to dry, I had a good knobbing session in the galley. Put that dirty mind away! This is what I meant..

I put the knobs on almost all of my drawers. The last knob on the other side of the bus proved problematic. It's bolt was too short so I need another bolt. Measuring it, it seems to be 3.9 to 4mm diameter which probably means its a 5/32 or it could be an M4 since the knob was made in China!

There are 3 varieties of knob. Two are close enough to be the same but packaged under different labels. There are 2 different sizes. Basically, its what I got from Ace Hardware's bargain bin the other day. Only a real plonker would buy stuff at full price!

Returning to my labors, I touched up a lot of the white paint and turned the kitchenette counted the right way up. The smooth side is now down. Now the idea had been to put self adhesive vinyl tiles on top. The new idea is to get thick, vinyl tablecloths as long as they can reliably be as long as my countertops then to attach Velcro strips and simply Velcro them into place. That seems to me to be much easier and cheaper as well as more instantly replaceable than vinyl tiles.

Putting yet more paint on the toilet, I noted that two more very brief painting sessions will see the whole toilet painted. The bathroom vanity top needs but one painting session before it gets screwed into place or rather, after it ius screwed down.

In essence, there are but three tasks remaining. To put up the closet chain, to build the saloon doors and to screw all the countertops down. Then it's all electrics, water and attending to the front door locking/unlocking mechanism.

Trying my cutlery tray into place in what will be the cutlery drawer showed it to be a little wide. Darn! Still, it was only ever a cheap thing. I can do better!