Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Done with lies, done with Lowe's (@lowes)

A few days ago, I was stuck with buying a second plumbing fixture from Lowe's when the first had an insufficient supply of parts. Buying Lowe's cheap plumbing stuff really worked out for me there! I'd have been better buying a standard plumbing fixture and paying a little more!

Needless to say, I complained to Lowe's via their Twitter account of @lowes and was asked to complete their "rant and rave" form online. What a waste of time that was! No action was ever taken, no help was ever offered.

Foolishly I've been in contact with Lowe's again. My bus roof has a couple of leaks. I heard about a product called Kool Seal that, according to the manufacturers website can be tinted. Even Lowe's agreed.

Thus, today I turned up at the store and asked for Kool Seal and for it to be tinted. A rather frumpish woman whose name was concealed stated that Lowe's did not tint Kool Seal. Thus I produced my phone and showed her the Twitter conversation that said Lowe's did upon which she again denied it and claimed other Lowe's might but they didn't put Kool Seal through their machines.

Aside from the fact all they do is to tip the dye into the tin then shake the tin for a few minutes, that sounds like nonsense. I asked her if she'd like me to tell Lowe's that they don't tint Kool Seal and made sure she saw me do just that!

The conversation with Lowe's continued via Twitter without resolution. I just get the feeling Lowe's really doesn't give a damn that they lose customers. Needless to say, I shall now stringently avoid Lowe's. There's Harbor Freight, Northern Tool, Tractor Supply, Home Depot, Fastenal, Ace Hardware and a few others nearby. Looks like they're getting my trade from now.

And thus was my entire conversation with Lowe's. I shall, of course, never hear back from them, cannot in any way recommend them and will recommend based on my experience; there are better places to go.
posted from Bloggeroid

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Majorly under the weather

This weekend looks like no progress. I have come down with some kind of flu like bug. Having said that, I use my downtime for thinking and planning!

I have plenty old steel bedframe that I can use to make underbody framework. Enough in fact to build at least two underbody compartments. Doing that would give enough room for expansion of the battery system for a time when I want to put solar panels and batteries.

What I don't currently have is steel or aluminum stout enough to go underneath batteries. I do, however, have plenty steel that can be used for sides and backs of compartments.

My hunt for water casks continues. Suggestions have been made that I look at breweries, bottling, canning, pool cleaning companies and car washes as sources of used 15 gallon containers. Needless to say, these would solely be good for used water and not potable water.

I'm not sure how much water I'd need either. I have read of people showering with just one gallon of water. If that's possible then a 15 gallon container might keep me going for 5-7 days with both showering and cooking.

For clean water, I'd need a brand new water cask. Heaven alone knows what was carried in a secondhand cask or even how many previous uses or even owners it has had.

Putting underbody compartments together, having investigated more powerful rivet guns and found them to be expensive, I'm tempted just to bolt them together. Bolting is pretty straightforward and as long as the bolts are painted with Thredlock or something similar as well as being fully tightened using locking washers, there should be no problem. Welding would be interesting but as I've never welded it wouldn't be the best to start now.

I've been reading up on thermite welding. That looks interesting but as its used mainly to weld railway lines, scaling it down could be problematic. Arc welders look interesting but I'm not sure how to use them and don't have room for mistakes. I did hear about a rivet gun that uses .22 cartridges but try as I might, I couldn't find one listed anywhere. Air riveters were the next thing but again, they seemed ludicrously expensive. There are better hand riveter available so they might be worth a look. The rivets will have to be much bigger than I have now though. So, on the whole, bolts seem the best answer.

In an attempt to find barrels, I put an advert on craigslist looking for them. I'm 90% sure I'll get no responses and that all my efforts to find used barrels will come to naught and I'll have to pay out the ying yang for brand new. That's what usually happens! I always hear about other people's great deals but I always end up having to pay full price or I usually end up paying for somebody else's garbage and still have to buy new.

The fresh water tank I probably will buy new just to avoid contaminants. The used water tank, I don't much care what contaminants there are because it isn't going to be used, merely flushed down the sewers.

Having seen people securing water tanks with nylon straps, that's probably how I'll secure mine. It's something I thought of but that was poo-poohed pretty thoroughly by people on that good forsaken schoolbus forum. I'd all but changed my mind to go with chain. Nylon seems kinder to plastic tanks. The argument was put forward about road abrasion but honestly that's nonsense. Anything that would abrade nylon would abrade plastic or paint and I see no paint damage under the bus.

I'm not sure what kind of drugs these forum users are on but I rather suspect that the streets are safer with people like that sitting in their ramshackle trailers behind their computers rather than out on the streets. If I had a penny for every lunatic thing I've seen on a forum, I'd never need to work again!

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Hunting for Scotch Mist

There are lots of euphemisms for what I'm trying to do now. Attempting to plait fog and attempting to knit a rice pudding are but two. I'm trying to do the impossible - find something real and worthwhile using the internet!

For weeks I've been looking for plastic 15 gallon barrels in order to use them for waste water from my bus. Let's just say that it's harder to find those than it is to find The Holy Grail.

Craigslist has plastic barrels of 55 gallon etc but precious few of 15 gallon. When I do find them they're either an outrageous $20 and 100+ miles away or they're brand new, 200+ miles away and $40.

It doesn't matter what was originally in the barrels since they're just for waste water. The closest I've seen was on somebody else's property. It's a derelict house with barrels outside. Sadly though, as somebody owns them, I can't just liberate them. If they were just out at the curbside awaiting collection by the garbage truck then I'd have no qualms. These are behind a ramshackle fence though.

I'm pretty desperate for barrels but they just don't seem to be available despite being advertised all over the internet. It's just so frustrating. Just two 15 gallon barrels would be ample for waste water. The best I found was $20 per barrel but shipping from Florida was $15 per barrel for a total of $70 which is utterly ridiculous!

For comparison, a brand new 37 gallon water tank is $200. Lowe's 3 inch pipe is $12 for 10 feet and 10 feet will carry 3.6 gallons. Thus $120 of tube would carry 36 gallons. A used stainless steel beer barrel would cost $22 and would hold 15.5 gallons. I did see a stainless barrel but it was riddled with bullet holes.

As I said, its frustrating because I see all the bargains advertised but they're just not available. Its like the drowning man clutching for the straw. Salvation is there - just out of reach!

Sadly, today was a do nothing day. By the time I got home, the daylight had gone and the rain was pouring down. Not a good time to work underneath my bus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

General annoyances

Hah. I keep finding this holds true. Every forum I encounter, no matter what the topic is full of people willing to offer the most asinine opinions as fact. Today I posted on one looking for ideas other than those stated as rejected solutions. Not one person had the gumption to come up with real suggestions. They merely repeated my already rejected solutions or picked fault where there was none. How asinine!

I'm thinking today about my front door lock. My bus has one of the old fashioned manual opening controls. Had it had an electric door then a key switch to open it from the outside would have been incredibly easy and wouldn't have taken more than an hour or so to install. As it is, I have to go in for quite some engineering. The locking part is easy - just slam the door. Unlocking is harder.

There's a sprung flap that must be lifted. Looking on eBay for solenoids produced a long list of entirely inappropriate solenoid valves etc. It probably means I'll have to develop my own solenoid. It's not hard - its only wire wrapped around an iron core. Usually in such a manner that the iron can slide into and out of the wire coil.

My initial thought is to raise the flap via a solenoid which allows the door to spring naturally. I can just push the door open from there. Activating the solenoid can be done with a simple ignition key switch. I'd thought a motorbike ignition key switch would be ideal as they're usually waterproofed.

Given that I occasionally lock my keys in the bus and have to borrow the key I gave to my lady friend, perhaps I also need to set up some kind of keypad entry system. That would have to be located somewhere that Joe public couldn't see and wouldn't be tempted to play with.

The ideal would be some form of lock attached to a cellphone where a code is sent by SMS to a number and that unlocks the door. Sadly that kind of module is hard to find - probably because its the favored way for terrorists to set off remote bombs.

Of course, an easy way of effecting entry is low on my priority list. First of the list is putting my newly arrived drawer bolts into place followed swiftly by all the underbody work. After that, there's the tow bar and system electrics.

After that, its reregistration and testing! With luck, my bus will be ready to go to photograph fall foliage at least at Table Rock if not further North. I've been in the US for a decade and have never managed to photograph much in the way of fall foliage.

The first thing done today was to go shopping. There was a specialist plumbing supplier buy they couldn't help with my 1.5 inch drain screw. In fact I think it's a weird size dreamed up by Lowe's just so they can screw extra money from customers that need an extra nut. This has to be the most expensive damn piece of zinc in the world!

Having returned home, the nut was installed finger tight. I'll have to get a wrench on it over the weekend. On the end of the tube I'll clamp a rubber hose that'll empty the waste water into a waste tank.

I can see areas under the bus where the black paint has flaked off. I'll have to see about fixing that. Meanwhile, an actual photo of the drawer bolts that arrived yesterday.

In other news, I moved one of the pieces of the former bedframes closer to the bus, ready to cut to form the skeleton of the new battery & cable compartment. Although I'd like to use steel for the body of the compartment, I don't have steel sufficiently strong to hold a battery. That might mean a trip to the scrapyard or that I'll use plywood. I have plenty thinner sheet steel.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bolts galore!

A week or so back I ordered some bolts for my drawers. Today they arrived and mightily stout they are too. Way better than I'd expected and far cheaper than the flimsier versions I was considering earlier. I'm very happy! They'll need a piece of hardboard behind them in order to center the bolt in the drawer but that's not a problem. These things are stout and will hold my drawers closed even if an elephant is trying to break out!

For those with short memories, these are the bolts. I took a photo today but for some unknown reason my phone couldn't achieve correct focus. It wasn't worth digging out a camera and a laptop just for a single photo!

I had a good hunt through the junk I removed from the bus to see if I could find an appropriate nut for the shower waste pipe but they were either too big or two small. With my luck, this will be some bizarre size nobody has ever heard of. Danco, the manufacturer, refused to supply a further nut even though I was willing to pay money and postage. Lowe's who weren't helpful in the store suddenly decided to make a show of helping online (for publicity) but that so far has achieved nothing worthwhile.

The economy must be booming with nobody unemployed any more if companies can afford to turn business away! Clearly my eyes must be deceiving me when I see people begging beside the road, banks repossessing homes and people being thrown out of their homes.

The nut needed is probably an oddball size. I measured the pipe at 1.48 inches on the outside of the threads and 1.45 inches on the inside of the threads. Clearly this is either going to be an undersized 1.5 inch thing or something wacky like 37 or 38 millimeters.

My big gripe about US plumbing is that just about everything is a non standard size. Even two allegedly identically sized things can be way off identical. This is probably why the hillbillies that converted the bus the first time around, gave up!

I did discover a specialist plumbing supply company not far away. It's probably worth paying them a visit. They might even be able to supply something better of a more standard size.

Looking at the heavy angle iron that I have, I'll need something stout to secure that to the bus. Being as heavy as it is, I might be well advised to use rivets rather than bolts. Clearly my little hand riveter isn't up to the task of using rivets the size needed. Thus, after being astounded at the cost of electric and air riveters, I saw a riveter powered by .22 cartridges. It's more expensive in operation but given the small amount of riveting needed, could well work out cheaper. Welding would be the best solution but as I've never welded, now's not a good time to try.

The plan with the cable compartment is to rebuild it properly. I'll probably house one or if possible, two batteries in it. One would be ample to power things like fans and USB power supplies etc. I might visit the scrapyard for some stouter materials.

Monday, September 21, 2015


Today before work, I completed caulking around the shower base. That's not going to be moving anywhere on its own now. The next thing will be to install the underfloor waste tanks or at the very least, a way of emptying the waste. The waste pipe definitely needs another nut to hold it down but that has to be applied from under the bus. I don't actually have that nut either. Since Lowe's does respond to their twitter account, I sent them a tweet to try to get if not another nut, at least the specifications so I can order one online.

Lowes did eventually respond with the ultimate answer that they weren't going to help. Meanwhile I diud track down the real manufacturer, Danco and explained that due to a constructional oddity I needed a second nut. As of now I'm awaiting their response. Worst case scenario, I have to buy a complete second outlet just to get the nut!

The handbasin since it looks like its going to be used, needs to be fastened down, somehow. The proper mountings never came with it so I will probably have to get creative. It's one of the reasons I don't like that handbasin.

Since I'm waiting on plumbing parts, I'll probably work on rebuilding the battery/cable compartment. Unlike the hillbillies, I'll build it with real angle iron of which I have a large supply. Alternatively I could use aluminium which would be lighter though I'd have to buy the aluminum. Either way, I need to buy nuts and bolts. Ideally I'd rivet it but don't have a supply of strong enough rivets nor an appropriate rivet gun.

My Nema 5-30 inlet arrived today. My next task is to fit it where it can be used. To do that, I need to rebuild the cable compartment. I really wish the hillbillies hadn't made such a massive compartment. It really wasn't necessary. Really and truly, I don't need that compartment. I'd rivet the blessed thing shut given half a chance! Sadly though, I need some kind of access hatch to access my main breaker. I do wonder about cutting the door in half and putting a half-sized compartment instead. One that contains just the breaker box. The cable I can store elsewhere. As far as a house battery is concerned, I can put that in anytime and it really doesn't need a special compartment. If the compartment housed solely the breaker and Nema 5-30 socket then it need not be built strongly. In fact it could just be there to protect the contents from water!

Installing batteries is another issue entirely. Speaking of which, I noted the fridge I removed from the bus was made by Avanti. Looking at Walmart's website a search for Avanti threw up a so-called superconductor fridge for $120ish that runs off 120v AC or 12v DC. Current consumption was high at 83 watts but that's because it probably runs off a heater element. That looks interesting and something that could be fun off a pair of batteries.

I'm still waiting for my drawer bolts to arrive. They should be here anytime now. That'll complete the galley area. The bathroom plumbing and every underbody facility are my main battlegrounds now.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

It's been a long time

That was how my bus looked in November from the inside.

That was how my bus looked in November from the outside.

Wow! What massive changes have been effected since then. The inside has been gutted and rebuilt to be more home like. The outside looks far less like a school bus.

Reading around, several sites suggest that a Navy shower is the way to go with a motorhome. That's a case of wetting down in the shower, applying soap then rinsing off, turning the water off between wetting down and rinsing off. The same sites suggest that it can all be done with a single gallon of water. I know it can be done with a bucket of water and a flannel washcloth.

At Lowe's today I hunted for plumbing parts and found that just about everything is non standard. I suppose that's the main reason why plumber's putty exists! So, I have parts I can put together. I had a look at dish racks but found only one. It looks very much as though building my own dish rack into my drawers is going to be the sole solution. That'll take some more plywood and some wooden dowel plus time. It's not hard.

After returning from Lowe's, I measured the bathroom between the body ribs in order to drill a hole for my piping. Lo and behold, I got my measurements almost spot on and the pilot hole went into an area well away from body ribs. That makes me very happy.

Before I did that, I finished putting the shower base support together. One end must have been a shade longer because it's definitely some form of trapezoid. With the shower pan in place though, it won't notice and to be honest, won't make any difference!

The next thing was to drill the hole for the shower waste pipe. That was pretty easy. The time consuming bit was hollowing out a pan around the hole for the nut and flange. By the time I'd finished, the mosquitoes had bitten me pretty thoroughly but the shower base now looks pretty good.

After that I investigated water pumps. It seems the marine galley pump I was advised to consider which is foot operated is actually available locally at West Marine. The hand pump that I'd like so much seems to have a rubber diaphragm which turns me off. Old fashioned hand pumps never used diaphragms so that was an expensive look alike. That killed my interest right away!
Using a water pump means I don't need a faucet on the bathroom sink. I removed the faucet. I was going to empty the water down the shower but the outflow from the shower is a shade higher than the shower base. Water will collect so its probably best not to do that but to cut a new hole for the handbasin outflow. That shouldn't take long at all!

I haven't decided where to put the water pump yet. I don't have it and thus don't know where it would work best. I have a feeling the water outlet will be flexible - some kind of hose maybe with a nozzle.

For water inlet and outlet I'll definitely have to have a drain cock on the grey tank and some kind of input for the white tank. I'm not keen on having the white tank filler accessible to the outside world. There are too many freaks that would slip something in the water for fun. I don't mind them pouring my grey water all over the place though.

I might just have a filler for white water inside and bring water in, in 5 gallon containers or perhaps have a filler cap outside that leads to a faucet above the real filler cap inside. That would allow me to filter the water!

I've started to fill the drawers in the galley. Thus far I found my plates will only just fit in the plate drawer. That was to be expected. This is just the kind of irritating thing that would happen! The drawer will take 9 inch dinner plates. To be honest, I was never keen on the blue & white mainstays plates. I bought them because they were cheap. That was the sole reason. I might just as well sift through my stuff to find the things I actually want in the motorhome and the stuff that can be abandoned. None of it is of high enough value to sell.

The plan for the plates was to put them in a rack, standing edgewise but that plan will have to be abandoned. I really didn't want to have plates lying flat but I suppose bubblewrap would help. Perhaps just having them angled would work through it'd reduce drawer capacity. Its something to think on.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

It's 14 inches!

Thinking more about water tanks, it makes sense to use purpose built fresh water tanks as opposed to repurposed tanks. The bigger they are, the more costly they are - whoever said building an RV is cheap?

I measured before but had forgotten why I wanted smaller tanks. Others use the big 55 gallon tanks but after having measured the depth of the skirt as being 14 inches between the bottom of the body ribs and the bottom of the skirt, it became obvious that if I want things not to be vulgarly on display them they cannot be deeper than 14 inches. There's just no reason why anybody should look at my bus and see it not as a bus.

There are 15 gallon drums available at $40 each new. If they're more than $10 secondhand, they're not worth having. Looking on eBay at RV water tanks, they're not that expensive. A 40 gallon grey tank is $130 + $43 shipping. I'd need 3 blue drums of 15 gallons each to match that. That sounds very possible and the lower the price, the better they are.

Out of curiosity I paused at an RV store and priced white water tanks. Some of the prices were a little eye watering.

Online, via eBay, the prices are a lot lower but shipping is the killer, adding a lot to the cost. Thus, I had a look at a scrapyard at secondhand beer barrels. They're stainless steel but the good ones go like greased lightning. Those that they had, had bullet holes in them (it IS America and Americans put bullet holes in everything given half a chance). While the holes could easily be plugged, the problem is the lead fragments inside the barrel plus contaminants that had crept in through the holes.

The next thing I looked at was coolers, bearing in mind the idea that coolers could hold warm water too. I took measurements and thought while I was doing so of using plastic storage boxes for water. The lids could be sealed with inlet and outlet put through the lid. Clearly they'd need support from the bottom, sides and ends to stop them collapsing but that's a possibility.

RV water tanks are neat but as they're rectangular and have no visible method of attachment could be interesting to mount. In an emergency, a plastic tote sitting inside the vehicle with rope and wooden slats tied to it could be used.

Following that, I had a look for plastic 15 gallon barrels for waste water. I found a sign with some samples but could not locate the place selling them. Whichever way I went looked the wrong way so I gave up on it.

Fortunately the weekend is not a dead loss. I did get another fire extinguisher and some velcro to hold up some shower curtains over the bathroom windows. Predictably I forgot to get the shower curtain. I'll have to have another go at getting the barrels. They're only for waste water so it's not important what was in them as long as it wasn't something like pure sodium!

The first thing done inside the bus today was to install a new fire extinguisher. This means I have three, two installed by myself. This one being a little larger went into the bedroom.

The next thing was to install the cutlery tray in the cutlery drawer. The tray was wider than the drawer so the edges had to be cut off the tray. In the end, it fitted nicely.

In order to install the shower base, it appears I need a 1.5" hole saw for the outflow. As I don't have one, that means a trip to Lowe's. It also means having to go underneath the bus to locate a good spot to put a 1.5" hole.

A suggestion was made that if the water tank was generated from 3" PVC piping, that could be an economic solution. On the whole, it does look interesting. Indeed tubing would be easy to bundle and hold together with steel straps and easy to sling under the bus. To carry 50 gallons at 0.36 gallons per foot, it'd take 138 feet of piping but in 5 foot lengths, that'd be 27 lengths. Laid with reducing numbers of pipes 7 - 6 - 5 - 4 - 3 - 2 - 1 would get the job done. The cost though works out at $12 per 10 foot section or 14 x $12 which works out at $170 which is pretty expensive!

Meanwhile, I realised that if I'm at an RV park, I can just plumb straight in for white and grey water with no need for tanks. Despite all that, I plugged on with the shower base mount. One end is now completed. The other I'll complete tomorrow.

As I did that, my eye alighted on the cooler I bought a few weeks ago. It's only 3 gallon but could hold enough hot water for a good all over wash.

I looked at the old fridge that was in the original motorhome conversion and would have plugged it in in order to test it. I didn't though as it was in a tricky place to access.

Having got this far, I've been thinking about some way of keeping my plates, dishes etc from rattling against each other in the drawers. I'm low on wooden dowels so I'll probably have to get some. The idea is to build a dish rack into the drawers. Perhaps one might be available to buy which would simplify things a lot!

Thursday, September 17, 2015


Today I found some little brass bolts on eBay for half the cheapest previous bolts. These should hold my drawers closed. It's a bit of a victory as 8 of them came in for under $20!

The seller had only six listed so I emailed him to ask if he was expecting more, mentioning I need eight. He replied back that he had 20 in stock and upped the availability to ten so, I bought my eight. I'm quite pleased with that!

Meanwhile somebody suggested a marine foot pump for water rather than a hand pump. I'm thinking on that one. Another interesting suggestion was to use an Igloo cooler to hold my hot water. I'd been wondering what kind of waterproof container could hold warm water and how to insulate it. Pow! Problem solved! Keeping a rectangular container onboard should be no problem and I'm unlikely to use more than 5 gallons having a shower.

Looking at water usage figures, they're all over the place. One source says 50 gallons for a shower. Another says 25 and somebody using a portable electric shower head says less than 5.

One of the comments about my proposed manual water system was it was too much hard work to use. Honestly, the manual aspect seems much easier to me and in use will gradually become everyday.

This weekend might see the grey water tank purchased and installed. That might involve trips to Lowe's though. Mind, Lowe's has become like a second home to me! I'm not going to pretend the white tank will be installed this weekend. There's no pump yet!

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Still under the weather

For ages I've been looking for drawer locks. They're horribly expensive but these look like good candidates.

I did have a go at asking Lowe's since buying from Lowe's would cut out the postage element. Of that postage free $4, $2 will be packaging and postage. Thus the real cost is $2 and he's probably only paying 50c per bolt to the wholesaler! Indeed, if it comes from China, it coulkd be even less.

Thus far I've been unable to find a mate for my non-nema inlet socket. I have, however been looking at alternatives. I found some nema 5-15 inlets on eBay. A pair of those would equal 30A. It would also allow me to use a straightforward household electrical cord.

There are twist lock plugs and sockets for 30A available but I'm not sure they are such a great idea. I heard an argument that if somebody trips over an unlocked cord, the cord pops out and that is undesirable. I look at it the other way - if it pops out then it reduces their chance of getting contributory injuries and it reduces the chance of socket damage. On the whole I prefer the unlocked socket.

A pair of these look ideal. They take standard 15A female plugs as would be found on a standard 15A extension cord. This means a standard cord could be used - the kind of cord than can be bought anywhere! Use two plus a 30A Y adaptor and there's perfection!

Indeed, something like this but vastly cheaper. I'm all in favor of using commonly available parts. Commonly available and lower value cables are less likely to be stolen. The ideal would be no cable but since the money for a $3,000 solar panel and battery system does not exist, it'll have to be a cable. The alternative is a $300-$500 generator.

The problem with finding a generator is that eBay and Amazon don't want to sell generators. If they did, they'd fix their search engines. If I type "electric start generator" then everything except electric start generators turns up. Recoil start, pull start - everything except electric start. The idea is simple - push a button, the generator starts and I get 1500w of power - enough to run the microwave or electric kettle. Push a button after cooking is done and the generator stops. How simple is that? Such generators do exist but Amazon and eBay can't sell them to me because I can't find them via their broken search engines and I'm not going to waste time and bandwidth ploughing through 32,000,000 irrelevant listings under "generator" when it'll be found under something unexpected like "porcupines".

The whole idea of how generators work is faintly ludicrous. They're about as Heath Robinson as its possible to become without collapsing into a fit of giggles. It's translating the pumping motion of a piston via a cam shaft into a circular motion to spin an electric motor to generate power. If the generator was also a piston, none of this spinny nonsense would occur and the whole thing would be lighter, smaller, cheaper and vastly more efficient. Indeed a few weeks ago I recall reading that one of the car manufacturers had created such a generator for a concept car. If the generator ever gets produced then sign me up!

Before work, I visited Lowe's and came out with more 10-24 screw eyes - 6 to be precise and a single 2 inch S hook. I wanted to try just one s hook rather than buy a bunch and find they were the wrong size.

After work and after dinner, I got to work and put up 4 rivnuts. I cut down 4 screw hooks from 2" of thread to 1". Then I dipped the threads in silicone sealant and screwed them into the rivnuts. I will put up a further two, when I know where I want them. That is as yet undecided though.

By now you're probably wondering what it's all in aid of. The answer is simple. As I'm not bothering too much with lighting and extra circuitry, I need somewhere to hang my hurricane lamp and here we are!

I put one above the dinette, one above the kitchenette, one above the hand basin and one between the bed and bedroom table. I suspect I'll put one opposite the bed to illuminate the wardrobe and one in close proximity to the shower though as I have yet to decide precisely where the shower is going to stand, that'll have to wait some.

Tomorrow I need to get more S hooks. No point in getting more than 5 as I only have or had six 10-24 rivnuts left after doing the closet chain.

There's becoming ever less that needs doing. Next I have to work on the plumbing. I'll probably try to do it with two 15 gallon tanks, one for white and one for grey. 15 gallons doesn't sound like a whole lot but reading around I don't think I'll need more. I can always add more later though.

A nice side project for a rainy day would be blinds for the windows. That's not important right now though. The outside could do with more grey paint on the roof and inside the front two wheel arches. I think I'll also paint over the NSA 2011 logo. I think I want my grey bus to be as anonymous as possible. Aside from that, the stencilling is a bit raggedy.

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Red letter day!

That's an old Chinese thing. In China, a red letter means good luck. Usually on a red letter day, children receive envelopes stuffed with money.

No money for me though. The nearest to a genuine red letter is that my electrics as installed, work. I tested each of the three sockets by plugging in a humble fan. The main breaker box is not yet secured due to my needing to rebuild the hillbilly battery compartment but this is how it looks.

The whole system is earthed and the white and black wires are in the correct places. This is a very simple system with 3 sockets only. There is room for future expansion on the breaker box and, replacing the inlet cable, the system can go to a maximum of 55A. If the cable between the breakers were to be replaced, 100A would be almost possible.

The ratings on my system as installed are:
1. Electrical sockets - 20A
2. Wire betwixt sockets and distribution panel - 30A
3. Distribution panel - 125A
4. Wire betwixt distribution panel and main breaker box - 55A
5. Main breaker box - 70A
6. Wire betwixt main breaker box and plug - 30A
7. Plug - 30A
8. Breakers in distribution panel - 15A (all six)
9. Breaker in main box - 30A - dual breaker.

So, my system can take much higher amperage assuming portions closer to the supply are changed. I regard this as being a safe system. Indeed, if anybody can see a problem, I'd like to know about it!

By the way, for anybody wanting to use 30A solid, 30A flexible and 55A solid wire, yes it is hard to work with! It took a good couple of hours to complete what I just have. Partly this is because I am still not 100% recovered from my virus but also because the wire was hard to work with and I was being very careful to get it right.

My bus electrics are now 100% complete on the 110v side. Next comes the plumbing. For that, I need a few things. As it is, it should pass inspection as a motorhome. And I'm only 8 months, 12 days behind schedule! Mind, my schedule was over ambitious.

What followed the electrics was little short of a miracle. I removed the large pieces of construction debris and stored the surplus materials in a nearby shed. Given that I'm not over my bug, that was a lot of work. I can almost reach the driving seat now.

The hillbilly underbody compartment wasn't quite as bad as it looked. Certainly its badly installed and for that reason alone, needs to be replaced. It is, however made of inch thick marine plywood. I found that out when I drilled a hole through it to allow me to plug my electrical cable in from underneath.

Where the hillbillies went wrong was in not painting their plywood on the inside of the compartment. Having seen that, I'm minded to use plywood for my compartments. Mine, however will be painted white on the inside but with oil based paints rather than latex. Unlike the hillbillies, my compartments will have angle iron on the corners, strengthening and supporting them.

Thinking ahead to a 12v battery system which will power future extraction fans, charging ports etc, I'll have to find how much weight plywood will support to see how much bracing to use to support a battery. I have a feeling that just a single 105ah 12v marine deep cycle battery will provide for most of my needs. Of course, if later I use batteries to power my fridge, I might have to raise that capacity.

Thinking further, until I have sufficient solar and battery capacity to power a microwave, I could perhaps use a cheap generator to provide 800w to run the microwave while taking 240w from batteries to gain the 1040w needed. That would take me squarely into boondocking territory!

Later, after dinner, I returned to the bus and cut the PVC planking to the right size to fit my shower base. In a few days I'll have the base put together and the bus fully cleaned.

My favorite place at the moment is my bathroom as I can sit on the toilet lid and think. There, I had the idea that since my LED lantern has a loop as a handle, I could put screw hooks in the ceiling to hold my lantern. I'll have to see if Lowe's sells 10-24 screw hooks or bigger s-hooks to use with their existing screw eyes.

Some people might see my minimal electricity lifestyle as somewhat quaint. I regard it as practical. I'm just not a great fan of electrical appliances in general. This is why my forthcoming water pump will be manual.

Thinking about night privacy, I looked at my windows and measured them. The bathroom windows I don't give a rip about. I'll put pieces of shower curtain over the windows but that's all. No need for more than that.

The galley windows are doubles measuring 54 wide by 28 high. I figure a wooden dowel with a plastic fabric fastened to it together with a string could act as a roller blind. The problem would be what to use as bearings.

The bedroom windows are 54 wide by 14 high and 26 wide by 28 high. That's just 4 blinds needed. I've had various thoughts but I really like the idea of a DIY roller blind.

Aside from that, there's just the pool noodle needed over the doorway from the cockpit to the cabin and some form of lock on the front door. Well, not really a lock but a way of unlocking the existing door lock from the outside.

As well as that, I have to put my white and grey tanks under the bus and rebuild the hillbilly battery compartment. There's plenty to do and since I'm doing it all on my own, its taking rather longer than I'd like. The big thing is that I'm learning a load of new skills.

It's pretty astonishing how much I've done since I started the project in November.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Wiring and bullshit

Today aside from not feeling very well anyway, I was rather depressed by the baloney I'd been fed by imbeciles on the school bus group. Needless to say, I'd already removed the forum from the forum reader. In fact there seems little point in even having Tapatalk since that was the only forum I used.

Work was slow with many breaks broken by a persistent cough. Having said that, the under counter breaker box wiring was completed and the lid closed on that part of the electrics.

After completing the internal electrics by the simple act of closing the fuse box I started the rest of the electrics. The intent was to finish the electrics today but whatever bug I have is sapping my energy badly. The first task was to make a patch with a hole big enough for the cable gripper for the inlet cable. If you remember, the knockouts were way too big. It took a while to cut the aluminum with a hole saw intended for wood but it was done. Then the patch was riveted in place.

Normally I would use the right tool for the job but since the bus conversion is a one off job with no likelihood of a repeat and since the tool had been retired having done its task as well as the proper tool not being available, I made do.

The next task was another inlet hole but this was for the 55A cable from the other breaker box. This was through steel but the technique was similar. After allowing the tool to scribe a circle, I went around the circle drilling a series of small holes in order to make the work of the poor little saw easier.

The hole being cut, it was time to work on the gripper for the cable that leads to the electrical supply. This is known as a pigtail connection. I will put a proper socket eventually but for now and for system testing, a pigtail will do.

The electrical manager at Lowe's couldn't supply a cable gripper of an appropriate size but suggested a neoprene bung and drilling an appropriately sized hole in it. Very carefully holding the bung in between the fingers of one hand and a power drill in the other, I bored a hole through the bung then cut it to an appropriate length. Lubricating the cable with WD40 the bung slid on before the metal halves of the gripper were fastened together.

The plan tomorrow is to attach the main breaker box to the cable coming from the distribution breaker and to attach the power cord. This will all take place inside the hillbilly cable compartment which, as you can see, needs to be rebuilt.

Ideally I'd shorten the cable from the distribution panel and fasten the main breaker box to the metal wall in the background which is the wall of the starting battery compartment. That won't happen though as rebuilding the compartment might change the location of the breaker box.

One of the silly things that was told to me on the accursed school bus forum was that breakers were unidirectional. Now that doesn't make a whole load of sense since with alternating current, the current goes in both directions. I had to check because the seed of doubt had been planted. I know fuses work by burning out a wire when the current goes too high. It seems breakers are simple electro mechanical devices that perform the same function.

I think there's more room for problems with malfunctioning mechanical devices but there's nothing there that would indicate polarity being at all important. The plan is to set the main breaker to cut both legs of the circuit simultaneously, leaving only the earth wire connected.

It all goes to show what a load of complete bullshit I was told on that schoolbus forum. I'm so glad I saw through their little game and left them. I just pity the next sucker that believes them.

Once the wiring is completed, the testing will commence. That's where the fun begins. Everything should be wired correctly since I've been fastidiously following the rules for polarity. It'll be a case of trying those socket testers and an electric screwdriver.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Did I err?

Should I have gone the gas route? It's not something that can't be put in at a later stage. It's always possible to build an underbody compartment for a gas tank and to run a length of hose to a small gas cook top mounted on the kitchen countertop. As far as gas leak detection, that's just a case of spraying soapy water on the joins and looking for bubbles. That would have meant I coulkd have had instant hit water for the shower etc.

Another thought... Had I known of small pot belly stoves when I started construction, perhaps one of those and different construction techniques could have been used. That would have given great winter heating. An underbody compartment would carry spare fuel. Cooking might be impossibly hot though. Two other issues - critters in the wood and smoke as well as ash.

Thinking about heat, the gas cooker would produce quite a bit of heat. That might not be welcome in summer. I'm probably better off heatwise by sticking with electric. Sticking with electric does give the option of going battery powered later or even just having a generator for times more power is needed.

The composting toilet is an inexpensive thing. I can always change to using a flush toilet later. This is not a problem. Indeed it is in the plans. Just about everything can be upgraded later.

Today, before work I had a quick look at the electrical system. For the moment I'll run the bus off a pigtail connector, 5 feet long. The previous owner also used a pigtail into the cable compartment but must have left it open as there was a rat nest inside!

The electrical system is a very few connections away from being completed. After this, it is registration and plumbing!

On my way to work, I stopped off at Lowe's for the cable clamp I didn't pick up when the guy helped me so much I forgot what I wanted. Then, after work I went to the bus to continue from where I left off.

The main breaker box had a knockout panel with three sections.needless to say, knocking one section out didn't work as it took the next out also. I would much prefer to have to cut my own holes rather than have them ready provided. I'll have to rivet a patch over the huge hole now and put the right sized hole in the patch!

See how big the hole ended up - several times the size required! With the big breaker box, I just drilled my own holes because there was enough space!

While in Lowe's, I looked at their 30A cable. I have five feet of 30A cable but I'm not sure what kind. They sell soow whiuch apparently is weather and oil resistent on the outside and sjoow which is apparently resistant on the inside too. Anyway, at $1.89 a foot, its way too expensive! Online I saw one website that allegedly sold cable for 82c a foot. Wouldn't you know it - that site required me to register before it'd let me buy! I used an email address I never use and each time I tried registering, the site came up with a page load failure. Quite frustrating!

So, tomorrow the plan is to fix the big hole with a metal plate. I did discover two small knockouts at the bottom. Those look like they'll be much less of a headache to use! I'll probably use those instead and just rivet and seal a patch over the big hole.

After that I'll have a go at completing the electrical system. As I said, I'll probably do a pigtail connection for now. I can always change that later! The big bonus - I don't have to fuss about with cable sockets right now. I can do that later!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Entertaining asininities

Over the past few weeks I've been hugely entertained by one or two people on school bus conversion forums. It all goes back to the reliability of forum posters. Most seem to know some of the basics but once they're out of their depth, everybody with a different opinion is wrong.

The latest entertaining nonsense is a discussion of my developing electrical system. Apparently I'm all wrong because I have put so many safety features in. Sockets intended for use with 15 anps are rated for 20. That's 5 amps to the good. Wiring intended for 15 amps is actually capable of and rated at 30 amps. A main cable intended for 30 amps is rated at 55 amps.

Apparently I'm so wrong because I put a 10-2 cable rather than a 10-3 which could carry 50A on each leg for a total of 100A. Somebody missed on my saying I was designing for 30A but building in excess for safety.

Having told me that a 55A 10-3 (4 wires including the earth) cable can carry twice as much current as a 10-2 (3 wires including the earth) they then claim my solution of using two 15A cables in parallel is dangerous! It's actually better than 10-3 as it has two neutrals as well as two hot wires as opposed to 10-3 which has two hots but only one neutral! In any case, with each cable going to a 15A dual breaker, there can be no problem not caught by a breaker! I'm going to call baloney on the dire warnings from the uneducated.

So, it looks like these forum dwellers just don't know what they're talking about when it gets beyond basics! Apparently my 30A 4 prong socket is incapable of carrying 30A, according to them. I think school bus construction forums though interesting in the basic stages of construction have just become a pit of asininity.

Honestly, if I quoted the claptrap and dire warnings that aren't based on any semblance of reality then you'd laugh for a week! Sadly, actually quoting what was written might be seen to lend it a misguided air of respect that it absolutely does not deserve.

I have no way of knowing whether I am dealing with misguided people that need education, liars that don't even have a bus, deranged individuals or people on a mission to confuse and infuriate others. Heavens, they could even be ISIS members or Chinese agents on a mission to confuse and disrupt! I rather suspect though that they're rather unimaginative people that can't think beyond "buy this premium object to solve this problem".

Interestingly, the members of that forum started discussing the cost if their school bus conversions. Mostly the price paid for their basic bus seems to be $4,000 which oddly is exactly what I paid yet I have seen them going for $2,500. Then add in the cost of conversion. I haven't totalled my costs yet but members quoted up to $20,000. Honestly, if somebody buys an old school bus then converts it they don't have the money needed to pay $20,000! More so when a really good camper trailer or 5th Wheeler can be had for that money! I'm going to call baloney on $20,000! Honestly, if my conversion tops $3,000 over purchase price then I will be utterly amazed.

The justification many use for building a schoolbus into a motorhome is they can't afford $250,000 for a real moitorhome yet when I look at the motorhome sales places, they seem to be below $70,000. All very strange. I can guarantee the facilities on their bus conversions aren't as good as those on a ready made motorhome. I know my facilities are fairly basic but that suits my lifestyle.

And now back to the bus conversion.

The electrical system is almost complete to the point of entry. Remaining to be done is to rebuild the hillbilly cable compartment under the bus, install underbody water tanks and install extraction fans. The sole reason for an electrical system is to run the microwave. I can live without a fridge. I just prefer to cook with a microwave rather than with gas.

There are little things remaining to be completed - window blinds and drawer locks plus a rail to stop the microwave from sliding. Then there's a handrail and a way of unlocking the front door from outside. There's a little paint touch up to be done plus some personalisation things.

Aside from that, there are other things I want to do such as adding a trailer hitch, fixing the reversing horn and the rev counter, rewiring the schoolbus flashers as brake lights and turn signals, replacing some of the worn out switches, adjusting the angle of the backup camera screen etc. Nothing major.

No work on the bus today. I did have a quick look in Lowe's out of curiosity at cables. 10-3 was about $2 a foot. Online it was 92c a foot. Given that I'd possibly need 30 feet that works out at $60 from Lowe's or $30 approx plus $20 shipping. Hardly any benefit either way. I'm going to have to look harder. Truth be told, this 110v ac system is such a pain in the rear that I'm wondering whether I would have been better putting a small gas cook top with a couple of 12v batteries to power fans and chargers and maybe a couple of flexible solar panels on the apex of the roof.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Well well well

Looking at that bargain socket I had on eBay, it turns out that perhaps it wasn't quite the bargain I'd thought or maybe it was... Allow me to explain.

It transpired that the 4 pole plus an earth connector is not a Nema standard socket. That's bad because each time I need a plug its going to be a special order. It's good because nobody is likely to want to steal something with a non standard connector.

The standard socket is $80. I paid $20. The standard plug I have no idea of the cost of. The plug for my non standard connector is about $25. Even if I have to carry a spare, I'm still under the cost of just a socket for the standard plug!

Thinking around corners, I realised that if I installed a 15A male socket then I'd be able to use light cables as well. Following that thought yet further, I don't really need to use the socket I bought. Here's why...

15 amp cable, 50 feet long is about $40 at Lowe's. A 30 amp cable, 50 feet long is $150. Two 15 amp cables in parallel is much cheaper to use and less desirable to thieves. 50 amp cord, 50 feet long is $300. That's all getting a bit ridiculous!

Clearly I've been barking up the wrong tree with the idea of a 30A cable. Indeed, looking at the costs it makes solar look more affordable! It needs a slight redesign. Even buying the wire as wire then adding the plugs has no significant price advantage.

I know I'm definitely on the right track not using 50A cable. That stuff is about $3 a foot. Even 30A cable is about $2 a foot and that's off eBay! Strangely, ready made cables seem cheaper than putting my own together.

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

On my back again!

But definitely no legs in the air! Today after work I had a few moments to work. Another socket was installed and the cable attached and stapled to the woodwork.

The view from under the counter of the backs of the sockets isn't very exciting. Basically, the cable goes through a 3/4 inch hole in the woodwork.

You can well imagine the fun positions I had to get into in order to drive the nails in when stapling the cables to the woodwork. It's a job I can honestly say isn't done as well as I'd like but given the difficulties, I'm unlikely to want to try again. My nightmare would be if there was something wrong with my wiring that meant I had to redo any of it.

Speaking of wiring, somebody pointed out that if I'd used 6-3 instead of 6-2 cable I could have had the equivalent of 100A available from a 50A four prong socket. Neat idea but my whole aim with this bus is to run it off the least shore power possible. The ultimate aim is to upgrade to 100% solar. That's several years away though and the budget is tight right now.

The view from the front shows my 3 installed sockets. The astute will notice 6 breakers in the box. Three are for potential future expansion. The other three are assigned one per socket.

While I did get the wires in place and through the cable lock at the bottom of the breaker box, I did not have the time nor the inclination to do anything else with them today. That's a job for Thursday night!

Today my $20 inlet socket arrived. It's way deeper than my existing socket housing. I might have an interesting time fixing up a housing for that! Still, its a good thing to have. Now I need to find some plugs to fit it. One will go to a 30A supply and one to a 15A supply.

As I've said before, my plan is to use ever decreasing amounts of mains power with the eventual aim of being able to boondock continually.

Monday, September 7, 2015

50lbs lighter, 20 years younger!

That's what I need to be! Contorting myself to fit into the space under my countertop is hardly fun nor easy then to hold and work with tools while doing so adds further to the challenge!

As somebody recommended a strain relief clasp to secure the 55A cable against movement, that meant a trip to Lowe's, during which I filled up with gasoline at an almost unheard of $1.79! Not 4 years ago I was seeing $4.15 a gallon.

In Lowe's, the plan was to get a strain relief clasp for the big cable, one for the small cable and something for the main breaker under the bus. Added to the list was 5 feet of flexible 30A cable in order to put a pigtail connector.

Of course, I met a helpful fellow in Lowe's who was so eager to please that in the course of discussion of his proposed solution to which I listened intently, I got confused about what I was getting. Thus I came away without one of the waterproof cable connectors that I wanted.

Oddly enough, not having the connector didn't affect matters much. I didn't get half the things done that I wanted to. Working under the countertop is an awkward process that's hot and laborious as well as extremely uncomfortable.

By the time I knocked off for the day, I'd put two strain relief clasps into the breaker box, put the main cable through the strain relief clasp, found a bolt and kinda-sorta tightened the earth cables to the case. They could be tighter but getting in there to do it is all but impossible. Earth wiring isn't that important what with most appliances being unearthed anyway but I'd like to get it right!

Two socket boxes were secured in place and one socket was wired. Stapling the wires to the woodwork was a challenge as I lay under the countertop. I didn't complete the run of the wire because I couldn't find my hacksaw to cut the wire. My LED lantern throws out a good light but it's no good for hunting for things in the dark.

On Wednesday my 30A socket should arrive. Rather than cutting a hole in the side of the bus to accommodate it, the new plan is to locate it underneath the bus where it'll be protected from rain. This also allows me to mount it to the floor of the forthcoming new battery/cable compartment.

I had hoped to have the electrics completed this weekend but with the challenges, its taking longer. I'll probably have that done by next weekend. Aside from a strain relief grommet, there shouldn't be anything else needed.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The fruits of my labors!

Today was a continuation of yesterday. Although huge amounts weren't done, I'm reasonably satisfied with what was done. Most of today's delays were caused by two things.
1. Because my wiring is well over what's required in order to allow for expansion, the cables were very hard to handle. Indeed it was quite a fight, dealing with the main 55A cable.
2. Because I'm unfamiliar with the US electrical system I was having to stop and look things up on my phone. Needless to say that wasn't without its hilarious moments. No matter what I said orally to the phone, it transcribed it as "Google play Google play Google play Google play" so I had to clean my hands and type!

The plate I glued on the underside of the floor and put the first part of my cable guide through was riveted into place. That took forever as I was working in a very confined space. The hillbilly cable compartment needs to be rebuilt properly. That's on my agenda but not right now. The wood is rotting and quite nasty! After the plate was riveted, the cable was passed through the supplied rubber grommet and everything was tightened firmly.

Next I worked on the breaker box. First I wired the socket that I'd rivetted on yesterday. That was quite a battle! The cable I chose is definitely heavier than necessary and somewhat hard to manage.

The breaker box lacked an earth connection so I riveted a bracket to it. I didn't bolt the earth wires to it yet. By the time I finished it was just too dark to hunt for a bolt. The breaker box was riveted to the inside of the bus. The bus will be fully earthed every time it's plugged in. That can't be a bad thing!

The main cables were connected. I'm hoping the information I found online was accurate. I guess I'll have to get one of those pin tester things from Walmart that lets me know if live & neutral are crossed etc.

Remaining to do - install and connect the two sockets and install and connect the main breaker plus (for now) put a pigtail connector on. I have a 30A RV plug that I could use or I could just wire a 15A plug to plug into the household 15A line for testing.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Lowe's again?

Today started with more of an idea of what I'm going to do. For practical reasons, the number of sockets will be three and as Monty Python would have carried on "and the number of sockets shall be three, not four nor two and five will be right out". The thinking behind this is simple. If one is used for the fridge and another for a microwave then a further socket could be used for a phone charger.

After attaching one socket box to the side of the breaker box in order that the fridge can be plugged in and forgotten, I realised my plan for more sockets on the side wouldn't work due to space. Interestingly, the sockets seem to be made of zinc. That was obvious when drilling rivet holes and a cable hole.

The 30A cabling bought yesterday will be perfectly adequate for the task intended. Today though I bought some 55a cable together with more breakers and a solution to a problem only noticed today.

Where the 55A cable will pass through the bus floor, the hillbillies had drilled a 42mm diameter hole. That means something will be needed to close the hole in order that critters don't enter around the cable. Fortunately in Lowe's I met a very helpful and knowledgeable assistant who selected a cable grip/grommet thingy. My 55A cable goes through it then a nut squeezes the grommet to ensure a watertight seal. In doing so, it also acts as a strain relief block.

The problem is that the bit that's supposed to grip the metalwork of the bus is considerably smaller than the hole in the floor. Thus I'll have to install a sheet of aluminum with a hole drilled in the center to fix the problem.

This leads on to a conversation I had with my dad. In order to get the bus reclassified as a motorhome, rather than fiddling around I'll just put a 30A plug on the other end of the 55a cord and leave it initially as a pigtail connection. That'll get the essential electrics out of the way.

The shower base mount is not high priority right now nor are drawer catches. I have a feeling that drawer catches will end up being pairs of screw eyes with nails passed through.

After working out pretty much how I'm going to do the electrical system, I found a small square of steel plate that I'd used to cover the old electrical hole. I drilled a nice hole in it and then after a lot of finagling managed to get it in place under the steel floor with a metal sleeve passed through for the cable. At the bottom will be the rubber grommet. That should keep critters out. I don't seem to be bothering with steel ducting. Time will tell though.

Meanwhile, I noticed just how badly rotted the wood of the underbody compartment is. That should last long enough to use as a pigtail store while I get the bus reclassified. After that, it'll be removed.

I have half a mind just to tidy up the mess the hillbillies made of their cable compartment by removing the wood and treating the rust. Then, rather than fiddle fart around with batteries, just rivet the door over the hole and have done.

My honest opinion of batteries and solar power is that it's a load of garbage. For the money people blow on batteries, solar panels and inverters they could just buy a cheap generator and have enough left over for several years worth of generator fuel. A 12 amp generator will produce enough power for running a microwave or boiling a kettle and use next to no fuel doing so. The cost of the generator - about $300. The cost of batteries $100 each, solar panels $200 each, a decent inverter $400. 5 or 6 batteries and 5 or 6 solar panels would be needed. That's easily $2000 which would pay for a $300 generator and $1300 of fuel. Even assuming the generator was run enough to use a gallon of fuel a day, at $2 a gallon that's 650 days or two years worth of power. Of course given that you'll be plugged in at home or at a campsite or RV park a lot, that 2 years worth could end up being several more years. I just think people are suckered by the thought of free solar energy without realising just how abominably expensive the infrastructure to use it is.

On my shopping trip, I made another blunder! I bought two 15A fuses for my main breaker without realising that a main breaker needs to be double pole! I'll have to sort that out.

Also while I was out, at Walmart I found some very interesting adaptors. They convert a 30A RV plug to a 15A plug and to a 50A plug. Very useful. I'll be putting the RV plug on the end of the pigtail. Then using the adaptor, I can have power in the bus for the first time ever. Who knows - I might even celebrate by making a cup of tea and drinking it in my galley!

Friday, September 4, 2015

Ah well

Today the bus conversion forum I'd been following descended into the predictable online mud slinging that so many seem to. It's a very regular pattern, particularly when the discussion begins to get technical and moves away from buying premium components. Go to a photo group where the members are worshipping the latest technology and show photos taken with a pinhole camera made from a shoebox and the condemnation will be amazing!

Today I did more bus parts shopping. This time some 10-2 cable which should allow me to complete some of my electrical system. I won't dignify what was said on the forum by repeating it! Anyway, 10-3 cable should be sufficient to carry power to my individual 15A sockets.

I got two 15A breakers and four socket boxes and an external breaker box with a switch that can be used under the bus to control power from my forthcoming socket to my internal breaker box. The plan is now for a reduced internal 120v setup. Instead of four sockets, I'll install two. That should be more than adequate for a fridge and another appliance.

As far as air conditioning goes, there's no reason why a simple extraction fan cannot be used. That can easily be solar powered. I'm not yet ready to put my 12v systems in. That's a task for after registration as a motorhome.

I looked at tubing and high amperage cabling. The plan is to wire for 55a between the inlet and my internal breaker box. There was cabling in the old installation. It was ridiculously light so I condemned it. The tubing they used might be usable though it's not certain. The only need for the tubing is to protect underbody wiring from squirrels.

One of the plans had been to drill 62mm holes in the side of the breaker box to accommodate electrical sockets. That plan was defeated by the fact Lowe's had only hole saws that were too small or too large that were capable of cutting metal. The new plan is to install electrical socket boxes on the outside of the box. The logic is that all the internal cables can be extensions.

Because my internal breaker box has no master breaker I'll put a master breaker under the bus. As the maximum input will be 50A and the breaker box has two sides, the cables to the breaker box from the master can be 30A to each side. I'll wire from the inlet to the master breaker with 55A cable. The actual socket will be 30A and the breaker in the master breaker will be 30A most of the time. When I'm on a 15A connection though, it'll be 15A. I'll just carry a supplementary breaker.

The plan for tomorrow is to complete my shower base mount then to install the electrical sockets for the breaker box, wire them in and commence dismantling the hillbilly cable compartment under the bus. That's badly built of rotted plywood. My new compartment will be a battery compartment that will be made of metal. That'll probably be some of the hillbilly bed frame, if there's any left and sheet metal from an old fridge. As already stated though, the battery compartment is not high priority right now.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Closet chain - check!

Today before work the temperature was a bearable 88 Fahrenheit according to the app I have on my tablet. Thus, it was possible to erect more of the closet chain. The procedure is simple... Drill a small hole where the next screw eye is needed, insert a rivnut then put silicone sealant on the screw eye thread, screw it in, hang an s hook from the screw eye then hang the chain from the s hook. Of course it wasn't that simple. The threaded portion of the screw eyes were too long at 2 inches so a few minutes were spent cutting them down with the angle grinder. The right size drill bit isn't in the toolbox so a smaller hole was drilled and the holes individually enlarged with a reamer.

Having installed more eyes and hooks than before, it appears there's enough space at one end for more screw eyes. As there are three more remaining on the table, it makes sense to use them, which I will after work. That being the case, the closet rail could well be completed today. That leaves the shower base mount, plumbing and electrical. This weekend might see the whole lot completed (but probably won't). I'm a bit of a perfectionist even though many things aren't perfect.

Regarding electrical, the plan was to put a socket on the side of the bus. Then somebody pointed out that the pins on the plug would be exposed and live. That's not particularly desirable so I started hunting for a male socket. Wow! Ripoff! Male plugs can be had for $8 approximately. Female sockets for the same price. Male sockets are $80 - yes, ten times the cost. I'm currently hunting for solutions. Those could include a small hatch with cables that can be pulled out that have inline male plugs.

In order to drive costs down and versatility up, I'll have two inputs for electricity, both rated at 30A. 50A cable just seems impossibly expensive! Mind, for the amount of power I'm likely to use, a 20A supply should be adequate. Plans for the electrical system will be unveiled when its completed.

Meanwhile, the weather app is rather amusing. There I am, working on my bus is 88F that the app says feels like 92F and it suggests I wear this! Somehow, I don't think that'll be happening!

The weather part of the app is actually pretty good, however.

At the moment, the plan is still for a manual pump to pump water from underbody holding tanks. Had I realised what an annoyance it was going to be to put sufficient electrical power to run a microwave into the buys would be, I'd probably have used gas instead.

After work a trip to Lowe's happened. Let's just say it took several of Lowe's staff to pick me up off the floor and administer several doses if smelling salts after I saw some of their prices! Looking for cheaper ways around the $80 ripoff, I found all my potential alternatives were coming in at even higher prices!

Thinking around the situation, I'm going to trim my electrical system to just 3 sockets. One side of the breaker box is going to be individual 15A breakers going to sockets with the other side containing just one breaker going to the other side as a master breaker. That breaker is going to be 30A. Although I'd have liked higher amperage, I really can't see paying out the nose for all these electrics. Especially when the maximum I can envision using is going to be around 20 amps.

On eBay I saw a 30A male socket going for $15. That's doable. It probably means I'm going to have to fiddle around with my socket box but again, that's doable. I am getting very much a feeling that I screwed up when I bought my breaker box and RV outlet box. If I cut back further and used just two sockets then one could be the fridge while the other could be something else.

However I look at it, the main problem seems to be the breaker box with no master breaker position. I bought a waterproof box when I thought I would mount it under the bus. The next major problem is the electrical connector. There are so many to choose from and a vast number of prices!

This whole thing gives me such headaches! Wiring safety is not an issue - its all straightforward and a case of not putting more amps through a cable than it was designed to take. That's what breakers are for! In the end, for $19.02 I ordered from eBay a 30A twist lock socket. It has features I'm not keen on - namely the twist lock. I'd rather it popped out if somebody got their foot caught in it! I'm also not keen on the close proximity of screws that go through the plug to the pins on the plug. I'll figure it out though even if I end up using a load of epoxy putty!

Lastly, I completed my closet chain. The angle grinder gave an absolutely spectacular shower of sparks as I trimmed the last two screw eyes to length. The usual performance of drilling then reaming continued. All this was done after the sun had set. I absolutely love my LED lantern.

The end result was this and I can now consider the bedroom complete save for blinds.