Thursday, December 31, 2015

Ouch! My sore arse...

Now I know what a gay man feels like! My arse is still very tender after sliding down those stairs the other day. Indeed, it's now a nice shade of purple. I did wonder how close to the purple of the galley area of the bus it is but it would be hard to color match and I'd have to get somebody else to hold up the color matching cards. I don't think the world is quite ready to see my bare arse!

Today I fully intended to get to work on the coil for the front door unlocking system but as soon as I got to the thing, the glue had failed where I'd glued the enamel wire to the brass tube. That was addressed by cleaning the glue off the tube and the wire then wrapping aroud and spraying with varnish. That should hold it. If not then I'll have to go back to taping it.

Meanwhile, those with longer memories will recall my bathroom vanity. I'd cut a hole in some wood to make the original kitchen fixture back around January and then subsequently recycled the wood when I built the current vanity to include the original handbasin that came with the bus. As that handbasin totally lacked any means of securing it to the vanity and as it also had two large holes for water piping that I coudn't easily fill, I removed it and replaced it with a piece of OSB cut to size.

Today - even though it was pouring with rain, I took that OSB to one of the abandoned sheds on m'lady's land and sprayed it white. The paint dried to touch dry astonishingly quickly given that it was - as I said - pouring with rain. 

Having sprayed both sides, I took the OSB to the bus and set it in place. I'll screw it down tomorrow. It had been dark, rainy and overcast all day so by the time it was dry enough to put in place, it was already dark.

The plan is to stand a jug and a bowl on the vanity top. Think back to the Gary Cooper westerns where in the hotels there was a chamber pot in the room and a bowl with a jug for washing. This setup gives me so much more flexibility because after washing I can just open the emergency exit door (conveniently situated to the left of the toilet) and simply chuck the water out. In more regulated climes, I can empty it into the bucket underneath the vanity ready to empty at leisure. Now the downside of this arrangement is that unlike an ordinary handbasin, I now have nothing that doubles as a urinal unless I use the shower. Fortunately I do have my bucket and I suppose that could double though it'd have to be scrubbed every time it was emptied or it'd begin to smell. On the other hand since Walmart buckets are $2.50 and the lids $2, it's no hardship to treat myself to a new one every now and then.

Thinking about the front door unlocking mechanism, if the current electro magnet idea doesn't work then I might work on some kind of cam mechanism and an electric motor. That stands a reasonable chance of success though it would have to be designed such that it doesn't remain in the unlocked position.

When the rain finally stops, I'll be able continue with construction on my battery compartment. That will first require the battery compartment floor components to be derusted, painted and welded into the compartment. Then I'll paint the whole compartment. The sides will be thinner and riveted in place after the whole thing has been welded underneath the bus.

I realised I should try to get the bus retitled as soon as possible. I need to get the plumbing under the bus completed which will basically be a downpipe going to a U bend then down to a tap that I can close when I don't want to let water out. Being closable also means it's a way of keeping critters out.

Cooking is an interesting thing. For cooking, the answer could be electric, gas or tea-lights. I've been reading about cooking using tea lights and how many preppers use tea lights for their cooking needs. I already know how to blanch almonds using a candle and a spoon but this is more interesting. I like the idea of using tea lights as the worst that can happen handling a tea light is that it melts in the heat or bounces on the floor when dropped. Unlike liquids or gasses, they're much more controllable. They also keep almost forever and the biggest thing of all - they're pretty darned cheap. Now the downside is soot but as I was already going to have to install some kind of exhaust vent, it shouldn't be a great problem.

Thinking about exhaust vents, I could put one at the top of the window I filled in or I could make a hole through both layers of the roof. On the whole, I suspect they both have the same number of problems. The biggest will be leakage and then insulation. I don't think welding will be a good solution for the vent. 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Purple Heart? #nissan #baddesign

I was injured in action both today and yesterday hence its unlikely there'll be much done on the bus tomorrow.

Yesterday I was unloading my Xterra when I encountered the second of two disastrous design errors Nissan made. The two hydraulic arms that cost $80 each and hold the tailgate open had broken. This is the most assinine design ever as hydraulics always break. Then to imagine they'll last more than the warranty period! Those things broke straight after the warranty expired on them. That leaves the tailgate as a disaster waiting to happen.

Needless to say, that disaster happened yesterday when I encountered the second of Nissan's disastrous design decisions. The corner on the door is deadly. That, I can assure you, is really painful when you run into it with your head. Imagine standing underneath it when the hydraulics break - that could be deadly.

There really should be a class action against Nissan for this stupid piece of design. You can see clearly how dangerous that corner is. In my opinion, there is no finer tailgate than one that splits in the middle and opens to each side.

Today's accident involved slipping on wet stairs in the rain and sliding down the stairs to the ground. Quite a bumpy journey that left me covered in bruises. Fortunately I won't miss any paid work this week but I will miss my voluntary job. I'll also suffer yet more delays in working on the bus.

Sunday, December 27, 2015

One of "those" days *sigh*

Today was a day when nothing went quite right. I woke with a headache which is never a good portent of things to come. After a leisurely breakfast of yet more Xmas dinner leftovers, I went outside and noticed the sky was overcast. Clearly no welding today because the instructions on the welder say do not use in rain and rain was forecast.

The steel I cut yesterday has bright orange rust spots on the freshly cut edges. That's not welcome but not unexpected. I didn't treat the edges as they'll have to be welded anyway. The rest of the steel is fairly rusty so I'll have to sugar blast the whole lot to clear the rust. Then I'll have to paint it with rust killing paint then scrape the areas to be welded and weld it all together then put yet more anti-rust paint and then a topcoat. I did, however, remeasure what I'd cut and aside from probably having to trim corners to fit around bolt heads, it's pretty much the right size.

Next I looked at the schoolbus flashers. I need  to switch the amber and red around so the ambers are on the outside. That was something I could do relatively easily so I hopped up on the hood and started undoing screws for it was a simple matter of switching the lenses around. Wouldn't you just know it! One of the screws refused to budge and the cross head became a cone. I'll probably have to drill it out now. At that point I said that given the way I was feeling, it wasn't sensible to proceed and packed up for the day.

I looked at my old red LED sign that had been broken in my car. The actual sign still worked but the mounting was broken. As I need a car cigarette lighter plug, I cut the cable off and tossed the sign in the trash. It was sad to see the sign go but it had paid for itself and I'd had a couple of years use out of it. I used to put that sign in the back window of my car and rent it out on as advertising space. People would pay $5 to fiverr to advertise their product for a week and I'd get $4 of that in my Fiverr account. After a very, very long time I amassed enough to deposit in my bank account and by the time they had charged me a fee to deposit into Paypal and Paypal had charged a fee to deposit in my bank account the money was even less and I figured given the time and the chargers on charges on charges, it wasn't worthwhile. So, yes - to the people who ask - I did make money from Fiverr but in the end it works out at about $2.50 per hour so it's really not worth the effort.

I checked out my solar panel and connected it to an electro magnet which then failed to pick up anything despite the panel voltage being around 16.7 volts. I'm really not that impressed with this solar stuff, to be honest. It all sounds phenomenal - I mean - who doesn't like the sound of free electricity? The reality is somwhat less than satisfactory. As an experiment a few years ago, I connected a powered off mobile phone to a panel and left it on a windowsill, facing the sun, for a week. At the end of that week, I powered up the phone and while there certainly was power there was only enough for about 15 minutes usage. I'm going to plug on with solar but I'm not going to be fool enough to believe that it's going to be majorly worthwhile. It might - if I covered the roof with panels - charge my phone every day but I doubt that it'll do anything more than that. Indeed,  as I said before - the amount of money spent on solar panels to charge batteries would pay for a generator and a whole load of gasoline which would charge the batteries in a fraction of the time, day or night.

My solar panel - for those who're interested is allegedly 12v at 5A. I have yet to see it do anything bar make a tiny light bulb glow very dimly when exposed to direct sunlight. My idea had been to connect the panel via my ciagrette-lighter socket in the cab to the battery to allow it to keep my battery topped up. I fear that the LED on the cigarette lighter socket might use more power than the panel can supply in a day!

The electro magnet I started the other day still needs to be completed. I'll have another go at that another day. I'm not feeling that glowing positive feeling at the moment what with the cloudy weather and the absence of success. This wonderful two weeks off for Christmas has turned largely into two weeks confined to the house due to the weather. Still, I have another week left - there's a huge oppotunity there for the weather to change its mind and give me glorious sunshine and dry days.

Out of curiosity I put the meter on the lighter socket and got 12.3 volts. Clearly something amiss there. The voltage should be higher - something in the region of 13.8v given that the batteries were charged a week ago. There could be some form of resistor or zener diode in the lighter socket, limiting the voltage to 12.3v. It's good to know! I suspected putting a solar panel on as a battery mainatiner wasn't going to be simple. Nothing ever is which is why though I was all in favor of an all electric bus I'm beginning to veer towards as little onboard electrics as possible. Indeed, I might even rethink this battery compartment and possibly just have a compartment for the main breaker box. That'll be a load lighter and smaller. It also means I can rivet most of that silly hillbilly cable compartment door shut and just use part of it as an access panel to my breaker box.

Thinking more about batteries, I discovered a source for C size NiMh cells. There seem to be people putting them together in blocks of 10 to produce 12v batteries with 10,000mah (or 10Ah). There seems to be something called a DC-DC converter which takes whatever voltage and outputs at a constant voltage. Thus, as the power in a battery declines its voltage will drop. The DC-DC converter maintains the voltage at a constant level, presumably at the cost of amperage. That answers my questions about how supercaps can be used. As their power level drops, so too does their voltage.

Given the low amount of power I need, given that I'm really only charging my phone, my $50 tablet and a $20 mifi pad, I'm really wondering what kind of power storage to use. Realistically, I probably don't even need a battery compartment for that amount of battery power! Still, I'll plug on because I might want to expand later.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Another epiphany

Toda started with the usual tummyache after eating too much on Christmas day. Then I headed outside to do battle with the metal that I dragged out of the bushes a few days ago that looked like an ideal floor for my battery compartment.

Cutting thin metal is always a challege for my angle grinder - which is now working perfectly thanks to the new carbon brushes and I went through several grinding disks. Good job I bought a second 10 pack of disks a while ago! Just look at the state of the disk I've just been using.

I cut the steel construction I found a few days ago, cutting the edge off one side and cutting it in two such that when two edges are welded together, the construction will be approx 18" by 29" which is about the size of my battery compartment.

As the steel had some handy folded edges, these will act as a strengthening bar down the center of the compartment. Very useful. I had, however to trim the excess fold off as it is somewhere water is likely to collect.

While cutting the floor of the battery compartment, a thought came to mind that has occurred before - namely why I'm even putting a battery compartment. I definitely need access to my main breaker panel and that's always best under the bus. Other than that, I can store the cables more securely inside the bus.

Given that I'm not putting a big house battery, the point of a battery compartment is somewhat questionable. Having said that, it does set me up for future expansion.

Thinking about batteries I was wondering about using NiMh batteries rather than lead-acid or lithium. Lithium batteries are just horribly expensive. NiMh batteries just don't seem to be available in 12v. This is a bit annoying! Out of interest, I looked up NiMh AA batteries and found I could get 48 for $24 and 3,000mah each. If they were put in sets of 10, giving 12v per set then I'd get 4 sets at 12,000mah or 12Aah. 

Thinking further about the NiMh idea, 6v would be way easier to work with just 4 batteries put in series. The downside is that all the charge controllers are set up to charge lead-acid or lithium batteries. To my mind, NiMh is way better than lead-acid because it doesn't gas and can be completely discharged without harming the battery.

Given that the only power I'd need would be to charge my phone, tablet and batteries for my LED lantern and my shower pump, I could probably get away with just D cells and a solar D cell charger. The D cells could in turn power a USB charger. Heaven knows how long that would take to recharge my phone though.

There are a whole load of different options out there for power. My favorite for cooling and for refrigeration at the moment are fans powered solely by solar power and a fridge powered solely by solar. The cold could be maintained in a fridge by simply using freezer blocks. The fans need only to remove heat when the sun is shining. As for the rest, lighting, the shower pump and phone charging - these can all be done from NiMh D cells. For the moment though, I shall continue the plan to install the battery compartment and the shower outflow.

Meanwhile, in a stunning development, the bathtub that m'lady often complained about has vanished. It didn't so much vanish in a puff of smoke but more behind a garden tractor and was hauled to one of the junk piles in the back yard.

It certainly looks better without the bathtub. For those with long memories and the ability to hunt through this blog, the bathtub came out of the original construction. It was used for most of the last year as a handy trash recepticle and had it not been full of trash, would have been easy just to carry.

Things are definitely progressing. The last thing done today was to paint the underside of the new bathroom vanity. This vanity will not have a sink. Instead it will have a removable plastic bowl that can be emptied either into a bucket or down the shower and hence into the bucket under the shower or onto the ground.
Apparently emptying water that's been used for hand washing is frowned upon. That seems to be just plain bizarre to me but I suppose if dumping grey water was approved, people would stretch it further and dump sewage too. Honestly though, as long as its buried properly even sewage can be disposed of outdoors without harm to the environment.

Thursday, December 24, 2015

problems, problems, problems

It's one of those days. It started with a return of my stomach virus which wasn't entirely welcome but not unexpected. I don't expect to be fully well again until probably March. I work with children and they're extremely generous with their virusses.

Today's only activity was to complete the 20A cable I started to construct last night. At 30 feet it turns out to be a bit on the short side. I'd thought 20 feet would have been plenty but I need more. I"ll probably get another 30 feet of cable after Christmas. For the moment, what I have will suffice to complete my welding. Welding will, of course, have to be done on a dry day. That's not today.

Meanwhile, the blogging application I used on my Nexus won't install on my RCA tablet and the application I used for the last few posts decided when the tablet went to sleep to delete the entry I had just typed. Clearly local auto save was not a feature built in! Thus, I'm using the blogger web interface and lots of data.

In other news, mentioning my stomach virus to a friend elicited the response that as I've been ill so frequently over the last couple of months, why didn't I see the doctor. The aswer is simple - I have only a part time job that doesn't pay enough to pay rent or buy health insurance. Ineed, if it were not for the generosity of my lady, I'd have nowhere to live other than on the street in my as yet unfinished bus conversion. Every penny I have that does not go on fuel to get to work, goes on the conversion. This is why progress is so slow. I just can't do it that fast when I can spend only $100 a month.

The more right wing amongst my readers will ask why I don't simply get a second part time job or get a full time job. That's harder than you might imagine. Over the past 12 months my applicaions have yielded one single interview. That was with a local college and the interviewer asked for a bribe. Now aside from the fact I can barely afford to live, let alone pay bribes, a company that has employees that routinely ask for bribes doesn't sound like employment that's going to last more than a day or two after they figure out that I'm not going to pay them a percentage out of every paycheck. A second part time job isn't going to work because where I work is so far from any centers - that's in the rare instance that "open availability" isn't demanded. Open availability means one has to be available 24x7 at the drop of a hat for part time work. Basically being unable to work for anybody else! Yes - employers really do that and its very common.

So, right now, I'm just plain stuck. It seems to me that applying for jobs doesn't work in the vast majority of cases. Those interviewed usually seem to know somebody in the upper etchelons of the organisation and I've always kept myself to myself.

Last year, I got a few interviews but several were cancelled as soon as they discovered my gender or race was not to their liking. I had no idea  that gender or race had any impact on administrative work! Surely ability to do work is far more important than gender or skin color? This year, I can add bribary to the list. Things really aren't looking too good for South Carolina employers - racist, sexist, demanding bribes and God alone knows what next!
Recovering slightly from my stomach bug, I headed to the bus to discover the brass tube that I bought yesterday was an ideal fit for my latest magnet. I glued some magnet wire to the end of the tube in order that it doesn't slip while I'm winding the coil. I'll probably do 12 layers of coils and see what happens. No particular reason why I'm doing 12. It just sounds like a good number.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Rainy day at the Chicken Ranch!

No - not that kind of chicken ranch - the kind that actually has chickens that lay eggs! It's pouring down rain like there's no tomorrow. Indeed, after my hot shower this morning, I've had several cold showers since that made my hot shower seem somewhat arid in comparison.

Being a rainy day, I went shopping after my voluntary work this morning. Stopping off in a few places, I found that the Geek Squad won't work on tablets. I was, fortunately, referred to The SmartPhone Medic. Arriving there I found that they couldn't tell me anything because the boss was away. That begged the question as to why the place was even open and staffed since the staff seem so purposeless.

The next stop was *spit* Lowes where I got some copper tubing to make the base for the coil for my magnet. While there, I looked at the price of cables. $1.15 per foot for 20A and $1.89 per foot for 30A. Needless to say, since I want to set up for both 20A and 30A I bought 20A cable. Now, I don't really see a true requirement for 30A though internally the bus is wired for 50A. I figure a microwave will draw 10-12 amps and a fridge - if I install one - will draw 2-7A.  That's 19A and I can always unplug something if I need to use more amperage. Now I bought 30 feet of 20A cable. That worked out at $34.50 whereas a 30A cable the same length would have been $56.70 - that's appreciably more. I also got a 20A double pole breaker just so I won't accidentally overload the cable if I end up plugging into a 100A, 50A or 30A supply. 30 feet should do for most things. If I need longer cable then 20A is going to save me a bundle. Ready made 20A cable of 25 feet was $80 which I thought excessive! Admittedly I had to buy a 15A plug and 15A socket so theoretically I'll be overloading them. The truth is though that they're made the same as a 20A but with the live pin angled differently. I needed 20A cable in order to supply the welder. If I need more cable - say another 30 feet then the savings with 20A over 30A are much larger.

The general plan is to be able to use 20A and 30A. That's way off in the future though. Right now the plan is to get the bus operational as a motorhome. There's welding to do but that'll have to wait until a dry day. Putting the cable together is a breeze that can be done in approximately 20 minutes. Initially I'll put a 15A socket on one end but after I've got everything done, I'll switch that to one of my Nema 5-30/6-30 connectors.

The big battle is to get things done enough that the bus is operational. Then I can get it retitled as a motor home. Speaking of retitling, today I took advantage of the deluge to visit the DMV to get the retitling papers. As I suspected, nobody wanted to get wet so I popped in to ask which forms I needed. The reeptionist pointed to a seat and told me somebody would be out to help and within a minute or so, a very helpful lady arrived, asked what I needed, zoomed off and returned with some papers. It was all very civilised and very quick.

Once I have the cable/battery compartment completed and a battery installed powering USB and 12V devices, I"ll be ready to retitle. There'll be a lot of tidying and rearranging to be done inside plus installation of roller blinds or drapes as well as the shower curtains but it's all getting tantalisingly close!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Small achievements building toward success

That's the way to do it! Today of note were several achievements in an otherwise dismal, dreary, wet day. I'd like to be able to claim major success but I didn't do anything major. The major stuff all accomplishes itself as it's all reliant upon the small but insignificant steps.

The first thing I did was to make a coil out of some wire, put my new permanent magnet inside and run 6v from 4 D cells through it. The magnet did twitch. Clearly I need to find some copper tubing slightly larger than the magnet in order to wind enamel wire around it. That should allow the magnet to slide easily and should give years of use. I just have to wind the appropriate number of coils around it.

The next success was more basic and less exciting though vital. I tried my old angle grinder without success. Banging it I could get a few spins from the motor before it stopped. I had a brainwave and changed the other carbon brush. I"d already changed one because it was broken. Voila! The thing worked when I plugged it in. Clearly that problem has been solved for the moment. The other one has a problem based around a loose connection. When I need it, I'll tighten that connector.

Lastly, I hunted around in the bushes on m'lady's 4 acres and found a nice piece of steel. It needs some de-rusting but cut with the angle grinder and welded, It;ll make an excellent bottom for my battery compartment. Unlike the hillbillies, I'll drill holes for water drainage. I'll also see about putting a lip over the door to stop water penetration.

The final solution to the power and cooking problem is, unfortunately, going to have to be a gas cooker where the microwave is currently situated. The microwave is rusted and beyond salvation. I"ll have to install an extraction fan - probably a 12v fan running off my small battery. I could run that through the window I blocked up or put a roof vent. On the whole, the window seems more accessible. I thought long and hard about other solutions but this seems to be the only one that makes financial sense. To spend $3,500 on lithium batteries, $300 on a generator or $500 on lead acid batteries to run the microwave or $40 on a gas cooker. That's $10 cheaper than buying a replacement microwave. The big bonus is because I've already done the electrical work, I can still use electrical appliances when plugged in. There's also nothing to say I cannot later just remove the gas cooker and install solar arrays, generators and solar panels.

Monday, December 21, 2015


I looked today more closely at my tyres. It seems that somebody has put 11R 22.5 on the back but 10R 22.5 on the front. Checking the inormation panel inside, both front and back rims are identical. Thus, both sets of tyres should be identical. This is very odd. I'll bet the guy that sold me the bus just got a mate to throw on the cheapest tyres that would vaguely fit.

Indeed, looking at the tyre sizing chart, it seems that I probably have 20x7.50 rims though I thought the panel had 20x70 written on it. The rims might not be original anyway. Looking again at the chart, there's a surprising degree of tolerance between tyre sizes. It sounds bizarre that I can fit a 9r22.5, 10r22.5 or 11r22.5 on the same set of rims. 

I didn't get anything actually done on the bus today. What with grey, depressing weather that was also pretty cold and Christmas shopping to boot, as well as a headache caused by the noxious perfumes inflicted upon the public by stores I really didn't feel like doing anything much. Indeed, I intended to buy a big bag of sugar to use for sugar blasting. Being Christmas and therefore sugar buzz time, there were no big bags of sugar left.

The new bathroom vanity top still needs to be painted but its a bit cold to be doing paintwork at the moment. Not just to be outside doing the painting but because the paint just won't dry very well in these temperatures. A look inside the hillbilly cable compartment showed it to have cobwebs. That's not welcome to the international President of the arachnophobes club!

Thinking more toward power options it looks costly whichever way I go. Solar panels are desirable though I'm wondering whether a wind option might be more economical. It would be tiresome to keep erecting and dismantling but would potentially offer more power while maintaining the non motorhome external appearance of my bus due to its removability. 

Sunday, December 20, 2015

I got me some sugar!

Yup - after spending a rather unproductive time using soda as a blasting medium with my Harbor Freight air blasting tool, I located a small container of sugar that I poured into the blasting head. The difference was immense. I could bring the paint down to bare metal when I needed and managed to roughen the surface of existing paint. 

It is indeed regular cane sugar. The traditional thing to use is sand or preferably silica free sand. Given that sugar is a substance broken down easily by the human body, I'm not too bothered about inhaling minuscule quantities though I hold my breath while I'm blasting. Sand contains silica which causes silicosis - a really nasty and frequently terminal lung ailment. The best thing is sugar is available just about everywhere. A 20lb bag is cheap in Walmart while for sand I'd have to go further and pay more.

Lacking time to paint properly as it was getting close to dusk, I pulled out the first spray can I could locate. Meanwhile, I have been wondering whether I should change the paint scheme. On one hand, I can get grey fairly readily. On the other, I could paint the bus a more interesting color. I'll probably stick with grey on the basis that most of the paint is probably not going to peel. If necessary I can use a steel brush or sandpaper for occasions when the compressor is unavailable. 

One of worries is whether my welds are good enough. I'm going to have to find a real welder and ask his opinion. I think my battery compartment is going to be strong enough. Mind, I've just measured it against a nearby car battery. It seems that the door the hillbillies put on is not large enough to allow a full sized battery. Thus, my plan of using gas seems to be much more of a thing. I can build a smaller cage to hold a small gas container. No need for a huge one as far as I can see. I can get away with a smaller battery because it's not going to be used for powering mains equipment. I'm thinking small electronics such as my tablet and my phone etc.

Speaking of welds, I welded some scrap steel together. This is so that m'lady's niece's boyfriend can his destructive streak and try to destroy it. If he can then I'll have to look harder at my existing welds.

Looking at my bus batteries, they were down to 50% so I put them on charge to bring them back up to 100%. The bus has been sitting idle for months. That's not good for the batteries but one day I'll get around to installing my solar panel. That should keep the battery topped up.

The solar panel I have should keep the bus batteries topped up. I suspect a similar sized panel might be sufficient to provide for my daily electrical needs unless, of course, I decide to install a fridge that runs off 12v. As I've mentioned, I'm experimenting with Peltier elements and these form the basis of 12v fridges. Now a single Peltier would use around 60w or 120ah. To make a freezer, 4 Peltier elements would be needed, using 480ah. That's way in excess of what I'll set up to do. I figure 10-15ah is all I'll likely need if I use gas. Indeed, since my microwave is close to being deceased, it's not too much of a stretch to put a gas hob where the microwave used to be. indeed, I suspect that I might have been better off not installing the 120v setup at all but rather, installing 12v and gas. Having said that, I have what I have. It'll all probably work out for the best. The goal was to have all electric and while that is possible, it's not of immediate financial practicality.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Progressing again

Now that work has put up the shutters for the next two weeks, I can apply myself fully to working on the bus. Yesterday though I made a slight detour on my way to work to Walmart as my new tablet has arrived. Honestly, only one word sums this budget tablet up - fantastic! Sure, it won't let me run a couple of the apps I used to but it's thus far way faster than my Nexus 7, cost just about half the price and came with a keyboard case. The color even matches the galley in my bus.
Unlike my Nexus, it takes a SD card which means I won't lose locally saved files unlike my Nexus. It charges from the same micro USB charging port which I consider to be a great step backwards. Pin power connecters are far more robust. 

Speaking of my Nexus, when out shopping at 2am yesterday I noticed a company called "Digital Doc" in my local Walmart. Sadly it was closed but today I visited it. Given that such computer, tablet and phone repair places spring up quickly, flourish for a while then vanish suddenly - usually with a sack load of other people's equipment - I figured I'd best use it as quickly as possible before it vanishes. 

Arriving at the desk this morning, I asked about reflashing my Nexus and was told by the minimum wage yokel working there that they didn't do this. Now that's really strange since their website indicates that they do. Given then I had to stand in front of her and attract her attention from her mobile phone in order to talk to her and how after telling me the business didn't actually do what they claim to do and since she then failed to answer me with a suggestion as to an alternative business (or to acknowledge the question at all) I followed my golden rule. If somebody in the company with a geekish business is useless then they all are, and allowed my feet to give them a vote of confidence by allowing my feet to carry me out of their store. I don't see a long future for that outfit!

Returning to the bus, I had another go at welding. I'm not highly satisfied with what I did but then the weather was so cold I really didn't want to stay out welding. In fact, I didn't really want to start! I definitely need to get the compressor out and try to clean up the bits I need to weld with soda blasts. Now that I've worked on the blasting head, it might work better. For a bit of fun I welded two pieces of scrap steel together. M`lady's sister's daughter's boyfriend has threatened to test some of my welds to destruction so I figured I could safely let him loose on that!

Looking at the hillbilly cable compartment, it seems I have indeed correctly measured the size of the box I'm building. The next step after completing the welding will be to install the new compartment. Unlike the hillbilly compartment, my compartment will have a floor that will allow drainage. Indeed, I might even use a steel mesh rather than a solid floor.

I have various ideas about the battery power setup. Initially, since my power budget is minimal, I'll probably just have a small battery. All it has to operate is fans, lights and chargers. In fact, my 5A solar panel could end up mounted on the roof to charge the battery. That might provide 2.5A for 5 hours a day or about 15AH so the battery could be really small.

The goal at the moment is to get the bus ready to be examined in the reregistration process. 

Thursday, December 17, 2015

A successful suicide mission

Yesterday my tablet (a 2012 Nexus 7) that I bought as refurbished from Walmart in October of 2014 decided to commit suicide. For quite a while it had been resolutely refusing to shut down. Three days ago, it started freezing. Thus, yesterday I pressed the reset button. This should have set it into factory reset. Needless to say, it didn't work. It transpired that the recovery partition was missing. Now the only way that could have happened is that Walmart's A+ technician had really shown what stunning worth A+ computer certification has. No sane person ever deletes a recovery partition but I see grubby computer tech after grubby computer tech doing it. It's like a religion of lemmings!

Needless to say, blog entries will be missing until the tablet is replaced. Bearing in mind the refurb Nexus was $100 and lasted a mere 14 months, I shall not be buying secondhand again. This time it's a 16gb RCA tablet for $55 with a keyboard case.

I did try my Mac but without getting it fixed, its not possible since the screen lamp keeps going out. It could be the battery or something worse. Best case scenario its the battery but a new battery at $80 is an expensive gamble!

My new tablet should be available on Monday so until then, no blog entries. I'll work on the bus - probably welding but blog updates will have to wait. My phone with its 4 inch screen is a bit small to do major updates.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Research is interesting!

It seems that super capacitor technology hasn't been fully embraced yet. Having said that, there are portable car starting units that are built from super capacitors.

Browsing around, it seems several people are claiming to have successfully replaced their car batteries with super capacitors. There are reports that alternators die fairly swiftly yet these reports have a pretty even chance of being true or false.

The actual circuitry for the super capacitor is very simple. The capacitors are wired in parallel. The interesting thing is that the individual capacitors act very differently from the way a battery would, adding to the complexity of the task. Each capacitor holds a charge of around 2.7 volts. As the charge reduces so does the voltage but at a greater extent than a battery.

There have been attempts to blend lithium batteries with super capacitors but the results are as yet unknown. Thus far it looks as though my power solution has to be along the following lines:
1. A lithium battery - if the manufacturers website is right about the high amperage output. The limiting factor is the high cost.
2. A super capacitor solution though this is a bit of a mystery at the moment and looks ominously like it'll be expensive.
3. A standard battery solution using an $80 marine battery. This would not power the microwave or the fridge but cooking could be achieved using gas when mains power is unavailable.
4. A standard battery solution using the same $80 marine battery but backed up by a generator that's run every time more than a couple of amps is needed.
5. A further solution could be a hybrid super capacitor and battery solution though this is an unknown.
6. For a final solution, sufficient batteries to provide sufficient amperage to power a microwave though this could be heavy and expensive.

Whichever way the solution ends up going, its going to be interesting!

posted from Bloggeroid

Sunday, December 13, 2015

Invaders from Mars arrived today.

Or perhaps that's what m'lady and her dogs thought when they ran, screaming, for the hills when they saw me in my welding outfit.

Today my welding was much better. Indeed it looked a lot closer to what a professional would do.

On the whole, I was happier with today's welding. Unlike last week I sprayed my welds with rust killing paint because welds are more prone to rust. I'm not sure how much more welding I should do but as I'd become tired, it was time for a break. After that the sun went and hid itself below the horizon. Talk about inconvenient!

I don't know what that website I was reading yesterday was on about but I find welding easiest at about a 45° angle. I suspect like everything else, most of these websites are set up by self taught welders each of whom uses a different technique that they swear is the one and only correct way of welding.

During today's welding I was getting on so well that I exceeded the welder's duty cycle and it shut down to cool off. I was getting some lovely thick welds. It seems a welding rod is good for about 4 - 5 inches. I even managed to build up to fill a 1/8 inch thick gap where I oopsied in my construction. On the whole, this is pretty confidence building.

I'm reasonably confident that today's welding will hold up to the test of use. My next task will be to remove the old hillbilly cable compartment and door then to install my own. Before I do that, I'll probably cut sides and a base for it that can be attached when its in situ. Those will probably be riveted into place.

Meanwhile, I put more silicone caulk on one of the roof seams while standing on a stepladder. I suspect I might need to add more. There's definitely a minuscule leak there.

While I welded, I connected my Peltier setup to my solar panel. Every now and then I'd go back to it and feel to see whether one side was warm and the other, cold. By the end of the day I'd not noticed any difference. This does not surprise me in the slightest. My luck with electronics is never high. Things that should work or are reported to work rarely do. In fact, it used to be 50/50 whether purchased ready made electronics would actually function. These days the percentage of DOA electronics is lower but they still exist. Electronics always seems such an absurdly hit and miss area.

I was reminded of a website I saw before I tried my Peltier setup. The Useless World of tge Peltier Effect Dehumidifier in which was documented one fellow's miserable experience of Peltier equipment. Drawing only 60 W and claiming only 600 ml collection per day (conventional claimed 300 W and 5 litres per day) the numbers seemed reasonable.

Sad to say, the reality has not been anywhere close.

In fact, having run the new dehum under various ambient temperatures and humidity levels, it barely manages to fill its little 600 ml tank in a week, let alone a day.

I really wasn't expecting anything spectacular from the Peltier unit but was hoping for more than *nothing*. Still, I can experiment. It could be that my 5W solar panel wasn't producing enough to tickle a 60W element - which is the most likely reason.

So, over the next week or two I intend to finish installing my cable compartment. Having done that, I'll be in a position to file to have my bus reregistered as a motorhome.

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Electronics guru needed!

In the quest toward the perfect power system, yesterday I had somewhat of a brainwave. Looking at batteries, I've heard lots of strange tales from those ridiculous forums about it being instant battery death to use one down to zero. Well, I found a table that looks believable about how long a battery will last if it's discharged totally.

It work out that a standard car battery will die within 3 months to a year if it's regularly discharged to zero. A marine battery will die in 12-36 months. Now that sounds very doable. Indeed, if all I have to do is to spend $80 on batteries every six months or so, I'm not unhappy. I calculated my daily power usage should be somewhere around 80ah

The brainwave I had was based around super capacitors. Rather than having a huge bank of 12v batteries providing sufficient amperage to power a microwave, a capacitor bank containing sufficient power to run a microwave for 8 minutes (long enough to cook just about anything). The capacitors could be charged at a rate that wouldn't exceed the capability of the battery. Because capacitors can hold power at 120v, after charging, the output need only be converted to AC. As my microwave uses 1040 watts, I need only to hold about 9000 watt hours. That's 75ah. Like as not, the microwave would be used for only 3 - 4 minutes at a time but extra capacity is always good.

The super capacitors would act as a surge buffer, allowing the use of fewer batteries. Thius could catch on in the RV world. I guess I'll have to find an electronics guru to make it happen.

Today was pretty much a nothing day. I went out to buy more welding rods because I know that what I have is insufficient to complete what I'm doing. Due to the Christmas traffic, it was dusk before I returned. Thus, nothing was achieved. Having said that, it was too hot earlier to wear my heavy jacket in order to weld. Thus, I got an apron and arm protectors. Now I shall be able to weld in a short sleeve shirt and still be protected. Cool and welding!

The plan tomorrow is to get some welding done then having completed that, to put everything under cover as Monday its going to rain and I have yet to paint my welds. Given sufficient free time I might also connect my Peltier gizmo to my solar panel to see what happens.

Monday, December 7, 2015

Bloody Hell!

They actually arrived! The two heatsinks I ordered for my Peltier cooler arrived today! I had serious doubts as to whether they would actually arrive, having ordered everything on November 8th and everything else having arrived very quickly.

Unpackaged, this is everything. Two heatsinks, the Peltier element and the heatsink glue.

It was pretty inexpensive - under $10 for the lot. Anyway, I glued it together and when the glue dries (which might take a few days), I'll be able to test it all.

The theory is that putting power through the Peltier element will transfer heat from one side to the other. The problem is, this is electronics and I generally find electronic gizmos have a very high rate of being junk. It's not worth spending more unless it actually works.

So, I'll wait for it all to cure then perhaps hook it up to a solar panel, mount it into a box - perhaps a plastic sandwich box and put a thermometer inside. Then after a while, check external and internal temperatures. If it works, fantastic. If not - its expected.

Meanwhile I looked more into lithium batteries for my bus. I found that only the most expensive were rated for 100A continual output. That's a major problem that makes a generator more attractive. There are other options though.

I looked at supercaps because if a supercap can hold 10ah then be recharged slowly from a traditional lead acid batterry I have a potential solution. The capacitors could release 8ah at 100a quickly then recharge slowly from a deep cycle lead acid battery.

I also looked into building my own lithium ion or nickel metal hydride batteries. Lithium ion cells seem to be 3.7v only. Looking at the costs, both lithium and NiMH seem excessively expensive.

The supercap solution looks the most economically promising but again, it's electronics and they so rarely seem to perform as advertised. I would use a supercap engine starting battery if I could find out their full specifications.

One of the problems if not the biggest problem is that nobody ever seems to publish full usage specifications on anything. It's like trying to sell shoes without mentioning important things like sizes!

Sunday, December 6, 2015

My welding has improved!

It's just like soldering. It takes some wiggling to get the arc started but once it has, life is very easy. I went through several welding rods (all E6011). Perhaps the trickiest piece of welding was to weld a top bar on one side of the box. I managed and it all went together well.

I had no problems other than from rogue sparks, one of which got into my glove. That stung a little but it was a spark, not molten metal, thank the Lord.

As you can see, the welding is way better. Each weld seems to use most of a rod. That leaves me with several ends of rods that I haven't yet used up. I like to "smoke them down to the butt!"

Once I complete the welding on this, I will probably get somebody more used to welding to attach it to the bus. There are a few bits that need more work but its coming along nicely. The whole construction seems much more rigid and less flexible now that I've done some welding. Welding it under the bus could be interesting! In fact, I might get a mechanic to check my welds and weld the unit under the bus.

Basically, welding is a lot like soldering. I suspect I'd have been better with an oxy propane welding set. It'd have certainly been cheaper!

Meanwhile, tomorrow is the 7th. I don't really believe my heatsinks will arrive because I don't believe they were ever sent! It looks like tomorrow I will be filing non delivery and claiming a refund from eBay and ordering a fresh supply.

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Gloopy blobs

Today being Saturday I rushed off into Red Bank to get some welding gauntlets and a welding helmet. Lowe's (hiss, spit) wanted $80 for welding helmets. Walmart wanted $30. No prizes for guessing who got my money!

Arriving home, I set up with the welder, put in a 6013 welding rod, attached the power cable to my newly installed power socket, attached the earth clamp to a piece of steel conduit and tried welding. There was a loud pop and a spark and that was that. Nothing I could do would make it work. I changed rods. There was a pop and that was that.

Feeling disheartened and wondering whether I would have to return to Harbor Freight with the words "it doesn't work", I slipped a 6011 welding rod in and tried again. This time it worked. I managed to tack the two pieces of conduit together although I did burn a hole in the conduit in the process.

Next I started welding the battery cage. My welding improved slowly though there's quite a way left to go! My welds all stood up to bashing with a hammer so I'm assuming that they're vaguely OK as welds. Of course I still have to weld the other side of the steel too.

Some of my first welds were quite gloopy blobs. Some were better though.

Perhaps my biggest problems were the rod sticking to the steel and my helmet visor dropping down when I was trying to do things that didn't need eye protection. The visor was pretty dark so the only place I could actually see the work was in bright sunlight. I also found the burning zinc fumes rather hard on my lungs but at least zinc is non toxic. I did look for a respirator but Walmarts shelves were empty. Although I did my best, covering up against sparks and UV from the welder, I did briefly see the arc a few times before dropping the visor but not long enough to cause damage.

Trying to free a stuck rod often led to charred tracks on surfaces I didn't want to weld. I'm thinking I should perhaps have the rod at a much more severe angle.

Thinking about the 6013 rods and a couple of the 6011 rods that also didn't work, I tapped the very ends with a hammer. The coating flaked off and voila, they worked well.

Meanwhile, I had a letter from the no hopers at Dish Network sent me a letter. Apparently they seem to think I can put a satellite dish on my bus. Then there's all the power that a dish and a TV would guzzle!

Now who in their right mind would want TV in a motorhome? Most with motorhomes are using them to get away from it all, not to remain hooked up and servile!

Now one of the interesting things is that I read a lot online about people failing to get an arc with this welder. I've also read stories of people failing to get rods to work. Clearly I've experienced all these but I persevered and achieved success. It goes back to what I've been saying for a while - too many people give up at the first sign of a problem and don't persevere at anything.