Sunday, July 31, 2016

Yesterday's photo

Yesterday I neglected to take a photo. Today I show that photo. I masked off the solar panels and sprayed the aluminum parts grey to make them less attention seeking. Meanwhile, I also masked and sprayed my reversing camera. It's a little less obvious now.
It's not that I care at this point about anonymity but more that I want it to look less than sparkly new. Notice the white foam board inside the window. I put that there yesterday to see if it makes a difference with the temperature. Today, I squirted a container of great stuff into the aperture where the 8 way flashers used to be. If that works, I might squirt some more and try to fill the apertures on each side.

Today is yet another day of 100F (38C) temperatures, thunderstorms and high humidity. I went to the bus with the intention of doing something but ended up not doing much. I picked away at the old no guns sign but it is slow, tedious progress. I'd imagine that it'll take a week or two more before it is totally gone.

There are things that need doing. It's just so hot that it's very hard to think. At one point, the bedroom was 97F and the galley was 106F. The high point last year was 140F but I think I have the edge taken off the temperatures. Feeling the ceiling proved its hottest near the uninsulated ends. I'm not sure how much insulation I can squeeze into the 8 way lighting bays. I know I cannot insulate the center bay but the 8 way bays insulated should make a big difference.

I sat in the cockpit and thought. I certainly have a lot of leftover screws and so on. More than I'd really like but to be honest, not a huge quantity. I think I've managed my supplies quite reasonably. Sweat dripped off me as I sat considering things.

What I'd like to do is:

  • Put my main fuse box in place.
  • Install a fresh water tank
  • Insulate the 8 way bays
  • Install 4 solar panels similar to those I have on the back, on the front.
  • Install a charge controller that feeds off the solar panels or perhaps off my 5W panel and maintains the charge in the bus batteries.
  • Install a 10 - 20AH lithium battery with a charge controller that feeds off the front solar panels.
  • Fix the reversing horn
  • Fix the shoddy under bus wiring.
  • Fix the main horn
  • Install a cool air intake fan or perhaps two, each one filtered.
  • Install USB and 12V charging points accessed from the lithium battery. Probably 3 USB and one 12V in the galley and the same in the bedroom.
  • Install tie downs for the closet at the back.
  • Install coat hooks in the closet at the front.
  • Tidy up my wiring in a few places.
  • Fix the hole in the bedroom floor.
I'm thinking of moving the waste tanks to a point behind the rear wheels. I really do have reservations about whether they will break loose and I can do without things breaking loose to fall under my wheels. The mathematics works out. Each of the 12 nuts used per barrel has a maximum of 12.5 static pounds to support. Each of the 6 turnbuckles used per barrel will support 130lbs while a full barrel will weigh 125lbs. Thus each turnbuckle holds a maximum of 21 static pounds. Each chain will hold 540lbs. Each chain joined will hold 600lbs. The nuts used are all non slip nuts. It all works out in my favor but I'm still not happy. I still have reservations. Kinda safe is not in my vocabulary.

The bus is pretty much usable as it is. I just need to clean it up and take the supplies and tools off. Cooling is the one thing that's foxing me at the moment. The only quick fix would be to make a window unit. Seriously, that doesn't have to be complex. I could do that with PVC planking or with Perspex/Plexiglass. All it needs is for a 24x11.125 inch sheet of reasonable thickness then for me to install fans, mesh and some form of catch. Clearly there'll have to be some form of rain guard. Heavens, it could even be made from plywood as an interim measure.

As I wrote yesterday, I'm pretty close to V1 completion. I'll have to try it after its cleaned up and see what else needs doing. Today though I didn't do much because of the heat and the sudden thunderstorm.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Noggin scratchin' time?

Arriving in the bus this morning, the CPU fan was purring away nicely. The Walmart fan had stalled and was not spinning. After flicking the blades, it began to spin nicely. Needless to say that could probably be cured by adding a capacitor to the brew. Having said that, once a capacitor is added then I also need to add a diode so I'll skip that for now  not that I don't have copious supplies of both.

Out of interest, I tested both the Walmart and the CPU fan by holding a plastic Walmart bag over the vent. The CPU fan filled the bag rapidly. The Walmart fan, less quickly. That was my cue to replace the second fan with a CPU fan. Now I have a pair of 12V 120mm CPU fans powered by sunlight, extracting air from the bus.

Looking into what's actually happening, while air is being extracted imperceptibly, nothing much is happening in terms of internal temperature. Indeed the galley was 100F and the bedroom was 92F at 11:30AM. I turned on the floor fan to see if under bus air made a difference. That is, of course, battery powered.

Thinking about ventilation for the galley, I'm opposed to putting a roof vent due to strikes from low hanging branches and potential leaks. I did measure the open window at exactly 24 inches by 11 and 1/8. I'd had a thought about possibly putting a piece of Formica cut to that size with Peltier elements inserted and heat sinks on each side as a DIY air conditioner. Now though, my mind is wandering around potentially putting extraction fans in a similar form factor. Having said that, it's a temporary solution to a permanent problem.

I am most definitely not keen on the existing hole in the bedroom floor. That, I want to fill as it represents a loss of valuable floor real estate. Similarly, if I have stinky drips on the ground from my waste tanks then I'll be breathing all those lovely bacteria. Not good!

I looked at the charge controller that arrived the other day. The mount is totally broken. I didn't even see pieces in the envelope so I assume the yellow peril in China sent it ready broken. Needless to say, I did notify them but have received no response. I'm betting, looking at all the other complaints about non response when something arrives broken that I never will. I'm not sure with a broken mount whether it's usable.

The old plan had been to put the solar panels to charge a battery and run the fan. Given the minuscule power from those panels, the new plan is just to leave them hooked up to the fans and forget about trying to harvest more power simply because there won't be any spare power. They barely run the fans and that's one CPU fan per 10W panel.

The new plan is to connect the charge controller to the bus battery via the control panel. Then to hang my 5W solar panel in the window. That might help to keep the batteries fresh or the controller might use more power than the panel produces.

Looking around the bus, I need to do a lot of cleaning. I need also to find some place to store my unused supplies and tools. It's getting to the point where I'm going to have to retitle it as the registration expires in a couple of months.

For fun, I tried my 5W panel, aimed squarely at the sun on my Peltier cooler. Indeed, it worked. The cooling effect was minimal but there was a definite cooling effect. With a few more unshielded 5W .panels I'm sure a small cooler could be kept cool. I wouldn't want to keep more than a cooler the size of a coke can cool with that though.

I set to and painted the aluminum of the solar panels and their mounts, getting most of it done and dried before a sudden rainstorm. After everything had dried, I went back and painted the rest. It was welcome to note that the CPU fans kept going during the rainstorm.

The back compartment of the bus always gets very hot. Putting my hand on the metalwork, I discovered the compartment where the lights used to be becomes very hot. I'm thinking therefore of squirting insulation foam inside. In an attempt to ward off heat, I put a piece of foam board inside the one rear window that's not painted black. It will be interesting to see if that makes a difference.

Thinking more on Peltier coolers, the big killer is not the cost of the element nor the glue but big aluminum heat sinks seem to be terribly expensive not to mention heavy. It's looking very much as though a cooling fan introducing cooler outside air is probably the best bet. A quick and dirty solution would be a piece of plywood or PVC planking popped into an open window with one of my battery powered fans installed and set to blow or suck dependent upon requirements. Realistically though, I'd prefer a permanent vent that didn't take away my light.

In other news, I removed the big mirror in the cab today. It was just a dirt magnet that served no useful function. It was designed to observe bus passengers and of course I have no passengers unless somebody chooses to ride the toilet! The no guns sign is now about 2/3 gone.

As with the rear bulkhead at the top, the front bulkhead is very hot. I'm thinking that the sides where the 8 way flashers used to be could easily be filled with insulation. The middle can't be filled as its a wiring conduit. I might be able to work around that somehow.

Friday, July 29, 2016

Double the disappointment

Today I installed my second solar panel. Now there are two 10W solar panels on the back of the bus, generating a mythical 20W between them. Of course both you and I know that the claims put out by solar panel peddlers are complete poppycock!
So, I have put one panel to power one of my Wakmart 3V fans and one to power one of my 12V CPU fans. Aside from a mishap when I installed a fan backwards, that went reasonably well.
Thus far the results have been predictably disappointing. Neither of my fans use more than about 150ma or in terms of watts, no more than 1.8. When the sun shines brightly, the 3V fan hums quite nicely and seems to shift air. The CPU fan is quieter but doesn't actually seem to have much throughput.

I'm going to leave them wired directly to the panels to see what happens. Quite honestly I expect the results to be utter rubbish. Such is my experience of this solar stuff. All I'm asking is that the panels produce less than a fifth of their claimed output. That, surely, isn't too much? It looks like it is though!

In total, I've spent $60 on those two solar panels. That would have bought me 60 pairs of D cells from the dollar store which would have kept my fans going at a faster lick for around 8 months! I'm going to see how they get along tomorrow but I have a feeling I won't be buying more panels.

My door unlocker has been a godsend. I've been loving being able to leave and enter via the front door. It makes life so much more pleasant. It is so unbelievably pleasant to be able to enter and exit via the built in stairs. The solution was so simple yet the dimwits on the school bus forums were into ludicrous alternatives such as replacing a perfectly adequate door with a house door, replacing the mechanism with massively expensive linear actuators that cost hundreds. In short, my total cost was around $65 and installation was minimal. Just drilling one 1/2 hole, cutting two slots and that's it, really.

In other news, today I passed a test applied by the state board of education, preparatory to getting free school bus driving lessons and a free CDL with passenger and air brake endorsements. My bus does not, of course, have air brakes. The test was full of trick questions, one being: You're driving along a 55mph posted road, your bus is governed to 55mph. What speed do you drive at? The answer is simple - 45mph. It is possible to drive at 55mph but only on roads with limits posted as 60mph or greater. Different rules apply to activity busses.

I'm considering restricting the power output of my panels using a USB converter for a car to 5V and supplying my Walmart fans with that. Then I could feed the panel output into the solar charge controller that arrived the other day and feed the output of the controller into a small deep cycle battery. By small, I'm thinking of a gel cell of maybe 15AH. That should get me 7AH of usable power which should keep two fans going for 21 hours. This solution might work better than direct drive.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

No more rear entry for me!

For two years I have been entering the back way then coming up the passage from the rear. Today I completed my front door unlocker. It makes a God awful noise as the linear actuator whines into life but it works. It really works. I can lock the front door and unlock it both from inside and outside.
I did subsequently tidy this jungle of wiring a little but this is the black magic behind my door opener control. One battery pack, one linear actuator, one DPDT 12V automotive relay and one BMW (or is it Harley Davidson) ignition switch.

In the post, my charge controller arrived from China but missing a chunk of plastic. Together with that, my 9V battery holder arrived. That's probably not needed now since I'm using a 12v battery pack.
The instructions are somewhat amazing as this charge controller protects me against thunder. That, I'm sure, will be very useful!
Having a couple of hours left before dark, I set to work and installed the first of my two solar panels. I didn't have enough rivets to complete the job but it's beginning to look good though my bus is now looking less anonymous.
Quite a fruitful day! Tomorrow I might get the second panel installed. I might even get the other one better aligned too!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Unlocker V3

As mentioned yesterday, I found a relay that I'd had in my box of bits for about 8 years. Today I combined that with my trimmed and tinned wires from yesterday. Then I threw some spade connectors that I bought today into the mix.
It needs to have the connectors pushed more firmly together and definitely won't win prizes for artistic merit. I need to tape the bare connectors that don't have insulation. Tomorrow though I should have time to tape the connectors and soldered joints after pressing them more firmly together. Then I should be able to test the whole affair.

Basically what should happen is when the key is set to position one, power should flow through the normally closed gates of the relay to my linear actuator. When the key is set to position two, power continues to flow but power is also applied to the relay coil, causing the normally closed gates to open and the normally open gates to close. The wiring is set so power to the actuator is reversed when the normally open gates are closed.

When the key switch is set to off, no power goes through. Now, my wiring may be ugly but it allows me the opportunity to change it at will. I can simply switch connectors around if needed. If at a later stage I want to add buttons, I can pop the connectors apart and add a button.

O'Reileys was my source of parts today and was way cheaper than Radio Shack. I popped in after I got ripped off by Panera during my lunch break. Seriously, does this really look like $12 of food to you? It certainly does not look to me like a sandwich! It looks like somebody was playing a joke! Needless to say, I was starving hungry 20 minutes later.
Clearly I shall be avoiding jokers like Panera from now on. I recommend my readers consider their options carefully too.

Today I did something else. Aside from my class this morning on bus driving (I figured since I found a free class on bus driving, I'd take it), I got to the fuse box on the bus. I switched out the blown 30A and blown 5A fuses. The 5A fuse was labelled brakes. The 30A fuse should have been 20A and read fog lights and horn. After replacing that, I touched the horn button in the center of the wheel and heard electrical noises. That's promising! I now have to add a little extension cable to the horn connection where it keeps coming apart. That should get the regular horn working again.

Onward and upward. Once the door opener is done, I shall turn my mind to solar powered ventilation.

Monday, July 25, 2016

Small stuff

Today, after a 5:45AM start, I was a little tired. Thus, when I got home I didn't do much. I paused on the way home to pick up some AA batteries from Walmart together with a small pack of blade fuses.

As I wrote yesterday, the horn fuse had blown. For some unknown reason it had a 30A fuse. I'm sure that's not right though. I checked all the other fuses and found a 5A fuse labeled Glow Plugs that was also blown. Alas, my mini pack of fuses did not contain a 5A fuse. Something to look for tomorrow.

The other day I found a base for a 12v automotive relay. Today I found the relay, together with its own base. I soldered some leads and will fit spade connectors to them and solder them to the relay base. Then I'll encapsulate the base in epoxy glue. That should make it reasonably robust.

The new plan is to try various configurations with the relay, key switch, battery and a push button switch (or 2). I believe I can still use the key switch to unlock and lock the bus despite the odd nature of the switch. I was going to have the control buttons for the lock operable from the driver's seat but it makes more sense now to have the buttons closer to the power supply.

It was 106F inside the bus this afternoon so I didn't hang around inside it for very long. I must get the solar powered ventilation working!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Could have saved my money there!

As many of you know, I've been working on a control box for my front door unlocker. It has been really hot and unpleasant trying to work and think in the bus. So much so that I haven't worked on the control box today. Instead I am trying a different approach that will get the lock up and running faster.

My new idea is to use two batteries rather than one. One for opening the latch and one for closing it. My ignition switch has 3 positions - off, 1 and 2. The plan is to feed the common wire into one wire of my actuator then feed the other actuator wire to the positive of one battery and the negative of the second battery. The other battery contacts are connected to switch positions 1 and 2 respectively. That should work nicely.

Before all that, I need to build a small battery compartment into my closet. That need not be anything spectacular - just a rack will do.

Meanwhile, I fitted an outdoor electrical socket cover over my switch to protect it from rain and hopefully prying eyes.
Fighting fatigue from the heat, I plugged on with work on the bus and by the time I'd had enough had completed my wiring.
I make no apologies for version one of my wiring. That is intended to be tidied up eventually. The top was the master stroke or so I thought with my battery packs in place.
It was then that I came across a nasty little snag. It seems that my key switch is not a true SPDT. It seems that the first contact remains live when the selector moves to the second contact. Thus, my dual opposing battery idea was a non starter as was my expensive Radio Shack solution. That is the problem, of course, with vaguely described eBay components.

Thinking ahead, I have a solution. I simply cut the third wire from the key switch as it is now not needed. I fit a double pole push button switch or even a single pole switch going to a separate battery. I have to remember to retract the linear actuator on entry by pressing that button. If I'd known my switch wasn't going to act in the expected manner then I'd have saved the $40 I spent in Radio Shack.

Today I took a look at the fuse box on the bus. There's a fuse labeled as "horn" that has blown. That could be one reason why the main horn does not work. The other, I know, if the cable keeps getting disconnected.

So, I'm one step forward and two steps backward. At least now I know there's a problem so I know how to solve it. I could have done without buying all that stuff from Radio Shack though. The switch itself combined with the linear actuator is genius.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

It was cooler early

At 11am it was a very comfortable 77F inside the bus as I worked on soldering my unlocking circuit together. By midday the temperature has risen to a sweltering 106F. That's when work slacked off considerably.
This is the basic unit. The three wires to the left are from the key switch. The middle wire is also positive though polarity is unimportant for this circuit. The wire on the right is negative and two more wires are yet to be installed that will feed to the linear actuator. The polarity of those wires is important.

Just to escape the heat, I slipped outside the bus to install my key switch. That was relatively easy. I started by cutting the hole for the part that protrudes through the body skin. Tightening the circular nut was somewhat of a challenge as the back of the unit rotated. Thus, I squirted Great Stuff in around the back of the switch and waited for it to harden.

Once the Great Stuff had hardened, I tightened the nut and covered the switch with tape against the rain that threatened. I'll have to get one of the sprung electrical socket covers to protect and conceal my brightly chromed switch!

The new plan with the power supply is to have it separate from the lock control unit. That way I can change whether it's powered by a PP3 battery, the bus batteries or 8AA batteries.

My next shopping trip will have to include a socket cover, some impact adhesive to attach the control unit to the bus and some more spray paint as the grey of the socket cover does not match the bus, or at least the last one didn't anyway.

I had hoped to have finished with the locking control unit today but what with the heat and milady having problems with her house AC unit, I didn't make as much progress as I would have liked. It didn't help that the cordless drill battery decided to quit and the charger refused to charge it!

Just then, thunder began to roll and that, ladies, gentlemen and those that fall into another category, was that. Although it's now cool, I didn't fancy working with a soldering iron inside a bus with the power cable lying across the bare ground.

Friday, July 22, 2016

It's getting really horny now!

Today, after work, I paused at Radio Shack for a few components for my bus door unlocker. Then I paused at the big biker store at the flea market. I'd expected to find bike parts but sadly all that I'd heard turned out to be baloney. The store sold solely bikers leathers.

I sat in 100F, dripping in sweat and installed my momentary lever switch purchased from Radio Shack s few days ago. Oddly, when I looked, there were no switches so I asked the manager. None were listed as in stock then he found one just lying close to the cash register. How fortuitous! It took several trips out to the bus before I did start but the switch was installed safely.
After finishing the wiring, I tested my creation by pressing the lever. There was a loud horn noise. Clearly my horn switch works. Better than that even, it's in a far better, far more reachable place.

Looking at the switches on the console, the three I installed are unlabeled. Some of the labels are coming off the original switches. I'll have to think more about getting one of those Dymo label machines and making some labels. I had one back in the 1970s. The labels always fell off which was not encouraging. Maybe the labels are better now.

I sat in the bus considering several different ways of attacking the door unlocker control system, considering all the options. In the end I decided I was going to try to use a pair of PP3 batteries. I cut a circuit board to fit my Radio Shack circuit box and popped a pair of DPDT relays onto the board. My plan is to keep the batteries, relays and control buttons in the circuit box. The control wires and wires to the linear actuator will be attached with 1/4 inch jacks for want of anything better from my local Radio Shack.
One thing concerns me and that is what happens if the power dies when the actuator is fully extended.  The answer I came up with was to continue using the zip ties and simply cut them if needed. That's probably the best solution.

In the biker store, I'd hoped to find a cover for my bike ignition switch. Having said that, I could use an electric socket cover as I used on my electrical inlet. It would disguise the switch a lot more as well as keeping the rain out.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Checking out the linear actuator

On my way home from work, I paused to pick up another reamer to open a drilled hole to 0.75 inches or the same diameter as my key switch shaft. I had intended to get started on installing it today but that didn't happen.

The relays I'd bought that were supposed to be DPDT were SPDT which was useless. The connectors and spade terminals I have are about 18 gauge and I need 12-14 gauge. Thus, I couldn't do anything today. By the time I'd ascertained all that, I was too tired with the heat to do much.

Looking at the linear actuator, the voltage passing through drops to 0.02V when it reaches the end of its travel. That means there's leakage so it must be isolated when it's turned off. It seemed to work reasonably on a 9V PP3 battery which surprised me. That makes me wonder about running it off a PP3 battery, to be honest.

Meanwhile, I tried one of my new CPU fans and ran it straight off solar without issue. I'll have to out diodes on my latest panels so I bought the biggest I could find, just to be sure. I can see an advantage in adding batteries to the setup. I'm toying with the idea of linking it with 8 AA NiMh batteries. That would surely keep both fans running some of the night. Indeed a quick calculation based one one 10W panel is that two 160ma fans would burn 320ma or 3.84 watt hours per hour. Assuming 6 hours of reasonable sun and 30% generation then the panels would generate less than both motors use.

Assuming two panels then the excess would be 2.16WH. Over 6 hours that'd be 12.96WH. That would power the fans for about 4 more hours. It's not very long nor very much more impressive than direct drive which is cheaper and simpler.

Not having much sleep then dealing with 60+ juveniles all day does not aid concentration on work nor on blog. Still, I do my best.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

The door can now be unlocked electrically

Today was the first day in a long time that I haven't been suffering from some dread virus. I had two viruses back to back that hit me on Thursday and kept going until yesterday.

Anyway, the first thing I did today was to build my 15A connecting cord that will allow me to connect my bus to a standard household 15A cable. There are loads of those lying around here. My 20A cable is just big and bulky.
After that, I put my second jubilee clip on my door unlocker system. That took a lot of wiggling and fiddling. It was really hot in the bus so I was dripping with sweat. Fairly quickly, the linear actuator was installed permanently.
The next stage was to install a connection between the linear actuator and the locking flap. That was harder to do than might be imagined! My chain was rather bigger than really needed but since it was off cuts from my closet chain, I figured I'd use it rather than buy something new.

I had a problem, as you can see, to attach the end of the chain to the hole in the linear actuator. A chain link didn't do what was needed so I resorted to one of my zip ties. I bought a pack some ten years ago and only used a few. I believe I bought them as a quick fix for an old mailbox where the hinges had broken. As I said, I could afford to replace the zip ties multiple times over the cost of a new mailbox.

Attaching the chain to the flap was challenging. I used a leftover bolt receiver from when I installed bolts on the drawers. The hard bit was drilling into the flap. The steel was very thick and very hard. It took a long time to drill pilot holes. Widening the holes was taking forever using a drill so I switched to my reamer and had the job done in seconds.
As can be seen, this is the setup. I might replace the zip tie eventually but it's not a priority. It works and if it keeps working there's no point in changing that. It doesn't look pretty but it works which is more important.
This is what it looks like when the linear actuator is fully extended. Notice how it has lifted the latch? I'm currently running it off 8AA batteries. We can regard this as a complete success.

The next part of the project is to install the key switch on the outside of the bus together with some connections. As the switch is SPDT and the polarity on the actuator needs to be reversed in order to close the actuator, 2 DPDT relays will be involved. I got those in Radio Shack on Thursday. At the same time, when in Radio Shack, I bought a momentary action lever switch. That will work brilliantly as a horn button. I had intended to install it today but forgot before I closed the bus up for the day.

In other news, my 12V CPU fans arrived. At 120mm they're big! They're also big enough to put where I currently have my battery powered fans. I'll do a test with a battery fan blowing straight at a 12V fan then I'll see which is more powerful by putting a foam block between the two and seeing which way it moves.

By the end of the weekend I should have the key switch installed and the fans sorted out. Perhaps I might even have the solar panels installed too. Heaven knows when I'll fill the hole in the bedroom floor or install the fresh air inlets and the kitchen extraction fan.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Sick as a dog but soldiering on!

Yesterday my linear actuator arrived. Today I looked hard at the door opening mechanism to see how I could implement my actuator. Here's the mechanism.
Looking at both the mechanism and the actuator, it seems that the actuator will fit nicely into the square box with the silver button on top. I'll have to make a bigger hole in the lid or perhaps make a new lid but it looks ideal. The button is something I want to move to the console anyway. That's the hillbilly horn button. Ideally, of course I want the real horn button to work but an auxiliary button is as good as anything else right now.

After that I had to take a break because I was exhausted. On Thursday I had to head home early from work as I wasn't feeling well. By Thursday evening I was disoriented with a fever. That continued mostly through Friday. Today I'm almost OK but need to take frequent breaks.

Inside the box there appear to be wires connected to the school bus flashers that I removed. I'll try to deal with those. The horn button is wired crudely into the fuse box, bypassing the fuses. As I said, hillbilly!

This is the part I bought. Described on the customs form it's a telescoping rod, which is a little bizarre. The data sheet printed on it is Chinese but the specifications are simple. It has a 50mm stroke, runs on 12v and lists 500 newtons. I tested it on a battery pack with 8 AA batteries. It seems to work brilliantly.
After returning to the bus following a suitable break, I headed to the bus and installed the new access panel at the back. That didn't take very long at all but I was exhausted again. I believe the temperature was something like 77F according to one thermometer and 81 according to another. The humidity is pretty high, making it fairly stifling to work out there.
I looked hard at the black box, dismantled it and found the hillbilly switch was unusable as it was a much bigger diameter than the switch holes in the console. What's new there? Nothing much that the hillbillies put in the bus could be used. Anyway, the wires to the lighting switch on the door mechanism didn't have to be cut or insulated. I just tucked them away with other wires. I spent a good while sitting looking at it all and thinking how to work around it all. I came to the conclusion that I need to secure my linear actuator with straps and a bottom bracket. The bracket I already have and the straps can be easily cut from the old table top.

Then I sat back and played with a steel bracket and a jubilee clip. Discovering with the aid of a magnet that the motor casing was steel, I attached the motor to the bracket with my jubilee clip. Then I realized that if I cut slits in the side of the box structure that I'd unscrewed, I could feed the jubilee clip through and around the motor. Thus I whipped out my trusty angle grinder and cut two slits. I should use a second jubilee clip but I will have to get that later. Then it was a case of painting the freshly cut steel and waiting.
While I waited, I looked at the cable the hillbillies installed and was horrified as it curled around the accelerator pedal. I refed the cable and now it comes out of a gap beside the Instrament cluster and goes up ready to feed beside my video cable into the control console where I will put a Radio Shack push button switch. While I was working in the area I noticed yet more old mud insect nests. I reckon the guy that I bought it off had spent all his time clearing out obvious infestations and that the first owner after the school district had probably left it over winter and in the summer found it was infested and gave up and sold it.

Thinking about how to attach the plunger to the locking flap, I realized I could use chain or even a piece of string. As long as when the plunger is fully extended, the flap is lifted out of the way of the handle and not over stressed, it should be fine. While I was at it, I adjusted the blocking screw on the door so that now the door opener cannot go beyond the fully closed point. It was previously able to exceed that by quarter of an inch.

As it's currently thundering and threatening to rain, it's unlikely that I'll do anything much outside the bus today. Maybe tomorrow. Meanwhile, I can do some of the preparatory work by cutting my aluminum brackets and attaching them to the solar panels. Mounting the panels and installing the control switch for the door lock might get done tomorrow.

I sat in the driver's seat and continued working. Eventually I had the linear actuator installed and temporarily connected to the flap with a handy piece of chain. Testing it proved that my device functioned as intended. An unforeseen problem cropped up in that the door arm needed to swing close to the bottom of the box when the door is opening. Oops! Just then the sky darkened and I had to pause work. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

105F in the bedroom

This morning got off to a fairly inauspicious start with my stepping in the dark, barefoot into fresh dog vomit. Then it got more interesting as I picked up some deodorant in my bleary eyed 6am zombie state and found I'd put something called Spring Blossom on that actually smelt more like carbolic soap.

Having returned from work, I did some work toward the solar power system on the bus. The panel to go over the access hatch I cut yesterday got trimmed to a better size. Then it had two coats of paint. At the time of writing, the paint was still hardening.
Inside the bus it was pretty hot. The bedroom was 105 so I turned the fans on and soon got the temperature down. Odd things happened with the temperature though. It rose and fell in different places. Clearly the sun heats different areas differently. The tree shading part if the cus complicates this pattern.

I have very much a feeling that I'm going to have to do something different as regards ventilation. The cool air inlet in the bedroom is a good idea but I think it might be better to have a through flow with an air inlet at the front and a couple of fans sucking the air inward. Those fans will need filters.

The next thing was I looked at where I'm going to put my solar panels. They're going on the back of the bus even though this is not ideal. The rationale is that they won't increase the height of an already tall vehicle. Power produced won't be ideal but it should be adequate. It should - running the fans directly - power them during the brightest and hottest hours. If, miraculously, there's excess power then it might charge some NiMh batteries thus allowing the fans to continue running through the night.
The solar panels look pretty good from the front. They're supposed to be 10W and I have two. My quick calculation for a 12v CPU fan at 160ma is that it would use 1.92W. That does not include the higher starting amperage however.
The back is not so promising. It's all glued together with a rather soft white paste type glue. I fear this will quickly disintegrate in the South Carolina heat. There are no easy mounting places. The screw holes look good but finding a way of mounting the panels could be somewhat challenging. My immediate thought is two pieces of aluminum angle running along long sides of the panel, riveted to the sides of the aluminum of the panel and to the bus.

The panel has some nice looking screw contacts but no apparent diodes. I'll have to put diodes in the circuit somewhere. I'm not really sure that it's going to be worth putting any battery protecting circuitry in with two 10W panels. Assuming I charged AA NiMh batteries at 2000mah, fully charged batteries would power a 160ma fan for 12 hours. Assuming the panel charged the battery and powered the fan during the 8 hours of full sun, it would have to put out an awful lot of power. I can probably do without a battery regulator.

Well, tomorrow is the day the panels will be installed. I drew a level line which probably can't be seen in this picture above which I'll mount the lower bracket. Attaching the bracket to the panel is a delicate operation. Next I'll paint the shiny edges to be the same grey as the bus then seal with silicone sealant. I'm planning to minimize the visual impact of the panels.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

Oh well...

I bought a steel bodied electric plug from Tractor Supply thinking I'd use the off cut of 30A cable and my Nema 6-30 connector to make an adaptor allowing my motor home to plug in via s household cable. Sadly, the 30A cable was just too thick. Oh well. I'll have to get 3 feet of 15A cable.

Meanwhile, I decided to mount my two solar panels between my extraction vents. In order to do that, I have to pass the cable through the outer skin of the bus then through the inner skin. In order to make this easier I cut an access hatch in the access panel. I can't open the access panel without moving ceiling panels. That was fine when the vehicle was a bus. Now it's a motor home, the ceiling panels aren't movable. 
It's not bad and fortunately the only damage was that I nicked the insulation on two wires. That's what they make insulated tape for! Now all I have to do is to install the new panel with a route for the video cable (diagonal to bottom right). The video cable is for the reversing camera I installed.

The fans are reducing the interior temperature but I know the one in the bedroom floor is in the wrong place. I'm toying with the idea of having inlet vents in the side of the bus instead. It's easier to install them and if there's exhaust or vapors from the waste tanks under the bus then they won't get inside as easily. 

I cut a hatch for my new access hole but haven't had time to derust and paint it yet. It was cut from the old scrap table top that was lying in the bushes. I love being able to recycle stuff!

Meanwhile, I did get some aluminum angle bracket to mount my solar panels. The panels are 16.5 inches on the long side and the angle is 72 inches. That's good for all the horizontals. I'll need more for the verticals though. The panels will need to be riveted to the angles and riveted in place. Looking at the construction, the panels and their surround just seem to be glued together. How that's going to work with South Carolina beat, I just don't know.

The plan is either to run all the 12v fans off the panels and to use the excess to charge a battery or set of batteries or something like that. I'm not yet sure how good solar is going to be. On paper it works out but my experiences so far have been pretty miserable.

Monday, July 11, 2016

The graffiti on the wall...

I sat on the bus, musing while sweat literally soaked me to the skin. There were several lots of rather good graffiti in the toilets in university. There was probably more skill possessed by the writers of that than by the lecturers of today. One piece of note remarked that one had to flush twice since the refectory was a long way away. The one that came immediately to mind was the age old, "here I sit, broken hearted. Paid a penny and only farted". Though in this case. Here I sit drenched in sweat...
I've temporarily installed a fan over the hillbilly hole in the bedroom floor. I say temporarily because like all the stuff the hillbillies did, the hole is in the wrong place. I'll have to patch it and fill it.  I believe forced air ventilation combined with extraction fans is definitely the way to go. I'm just doing it in the wrong places.

As can be seen, the hillbilly hole is a weird shape. It's also very much closer to my extraction fans. These little battery powered fans do work but not as well as I'd like. I have more powerful 12v fans on order. What I really need is some centrifugal turbine fans though.

Looking at the thermometers, I was rather disappointed by the lack of a major temperature difference. I paused and noticed that the bedroom felt a lot cooler. That's when I picked up the thermometer and waved it near my power inlet vent. That was it! There was an instant drop. The bedroom is usually 2-3 degrees cooler than the galley but the vented area is a further couple of degrees cooler. The thermometer hadn't figured it out yet.

The combination of inlet and exhaust fans seems to be making a big difference. What I need though is to have a ventilation inlet in the galley as well as a ventilation outlet. I'm giving thought to an inlet on the side of the bus. The advantage is that it's simple. The disadvantage is possible sun heat on the vent.

The hole in the floor is clearly in the wrong place. That'll have to be filled and sealed. This is, however, proof of concept. A better place for the inlet would be under the bedroom desk with another under the kitchen side of the galley.

I seem to have made the correct choice of fan. It is rather good that I bought several the other day because the shelf was empty today. I don't anticipate needing more than possibly another one. It's 50/50 over whether I keep using D cells or try a 12v system. The fans don't really need a battery. They could probably run adequately off a reasonable solar panel. They're only really needed during the day anyway. The engine filter is a master stroke though.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

You lucky blighters!

Yes, two posts today for the price of one! How lucky can you get?

Today there was a terrific storm. It totally knocked out milady's Direct TV and milady's HughesNet internet service. There was wind, lightning, thunder and torrential rain. A real bonus day in fact.

Well, after the storm, I went into the bus to check for leaks. I'm pleased to say I found no evidence of leaks on my new vents nor did I find evidence of leaks anywhere else. Well, there's a tiny leak in the drivers footwell but that leak keeps foxing me. I never can find where it's coming from. Everything has been sealed. The only possible entry point is one of the air vents.
Meanwhile, a non bus photo. This little fellow was perched on a nearby fence post, having emerged unscathed from the storm.

I don't recall giving permission

for the skies to darken, for thunder to rumble, for the ground to shake or for the four horsemen of the apocalypse to ride forth across the land. Having said that, it must be the end times. Look across the ocean at a small and increasingly irrelevant country that just voted to abandon the European Union. The people there have already surrendered to the end times. It's like watching the Branch Davidians from Waco, Texas all over again!
Today was pretty much truncated by the weather. All I achieved was to take apart another fan and build a ventilation fan to suck cooler, filtered air from under the bus and inject it into the bedroom. That was pretty much a case of mentally redesigning the huge boxy thing I'd got in mind and making something quicker and simpler. It was then that I had a brainwave. I can reuse the battery holder on the fan. That set me looking for the battery holders from the others with the thought of reusing them. Sadly the first had been carved up when I'd been unable to find a suitable screwdriver.

The trick was to replicate some of my plastic plank cut offs. I used some (since those planks were horrendously expensive I'd saved my off cuts). I used my adjustable hole saw to cut a 5 inch hole then screwed down the fan and battery pack. After that, I soldered the wires in reverse so the fan will suck air from under the body and blow it into the cabin. Finally, I sealed things nicely with latex sealant and glued mosquito mesh on the underside.
The latex sealant was somewhat of a performance. It had dried up at both ends and I had to cut into the container to get some usable sealant. That's the end of that tube. I have no idea how many more tubes I'll need. It surely cannot be very many more.

I had a look at the engine filter that will be used under the bus to filter the dust and junk that will be blowing about, out. The filter mount will be straightforward. That construction was curtailed however by the weather.
Finally, a photo of what remains of the no guns sign. It is taking seemingly forever to clear it away one little bit at a time. Eventually it will be done and cleaned away.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

It's bloody hot in here!

They talk about the mercury hitting the nights. It's so hot my thermometer fainted! Inside the bus it's over 100F. In an astonishingly early start, I set the fans going at 10AM. They seem to be working because the back of the bus is as hot as the front. It seems my fans are drawing the hot air forward and the sun is heating the front faster than it can be cooled.

After sweltering a while, I put some of my latest electrical cable together. This cable is designed to allow me to connect a standard household cable to the bus. It's quite short but as I'm missing a household plug, that mini project is on pause.

Just then there was a horn repeatedly honking outside. It was the post lady in her little red jeep. She had brought me my solar panels. They're not as dark as I'd like but they'll do. They lack suitable mounting brackets but I think I can fix it up with some. The next thing will be to work out the wiring. As a test, I tried one with one of the CPU fans I'd removed from the back. The fan started with no problem whatsoever.
There seem to be two ways to go. I can either use the solar panels to charge a 12v lead acid battery and wire everything through. The other option is to keep running everything off D cells or even AA cells and to set the new panels to charge a bank of AA or D batteries. Quite frankly both options have pluses and minuses. The small battery solution is more flexible though more labor intensive. The big battery version is labor intensive for installation and the lead acid battery has its own unique problems.

As far as the solar panels go, I will not immediately install them. I need to consider locations first since they're light colored rather than dark as I'd hoped. I also need to consider using the 12v fans I have ordered. One of the major issues with a full 12v system is routing the cables, particularly over the fuel tank and battery compartment. A smaller system based on AA or D cells works around that problem. It also gives me the option of a backup from disposable batteries.

If the panels are used to charge small batteries then it should be possible to locate the battery charging tray fairly nearby in order to eliminate excessive wiring. There seems though to be a complete lack of charge controllers that can be used to charge single cell NiMh batteries.

At 7:30pm I turned the fans off, having turned them on at 10am. That's 9.5 hours on one set of batteries and 26.5 on the other set. It really is quite amazing that my ventilation unit has been running for over a day on a single set of batteries!

Looking online it seems alkaline D cells are about 19ah. Assuming the 160ma draw from a CPU fan, I should expect my D cells to render 118 hours of service. That's pretty much a week of service or even more if it's turned off at night. Given the low price of alkaline D cells, they're a very viable proposition, even without recharging.

There is no possible reason why I would ever need a generator. I still have to experiment with a water powered air cooler though. Yesterday I realized I probably don't need to go to the expense of aluminum tubing. I could probably work it just as well using Pex hosing. Indeed, given care, the water cooling system could just be put down beside the bus, filled and connected.

Friday, July 8, 2016

What a day!

Today, after work, I stopped off in Walmart where I bought 4 more of the 3V fans. The next stop was Radio Shack for some battery holders and connectors. Then the final stop was Lowes (hiss, spit) where I spent a miserly $10 on a Honda lawnmower engine filter. The reason for this seemingly bizarre purchase is that I can use it to filter air that is then injected into the body of the bus. There is already a hole in the floor where the hillbillies had a bath drain pipe.

The basic plan is to stand the filter off the underside of the floor an inch or so and to have a mosquito mesh screen over it just to protect it a little. Above the floor will be a layer of mosquito mesh then a ring on which will be mounted a fan. The fan will be mounted in a protective box with mosquito mesh on the vents.

In Radio Shack I saw a very interesting thing. For $25 there was a battery the size of a D cell that was 3.7v and claimed 19ah. Now that is truly incredible! For my needs though - particularly for ventilation, NiMh cells will be adequate. I have been thinking in terms of NiMh D cells but the reality is that NiMh AA cells will probably suffice.
Lowes (hiss, spit) was a real parody today. I drove in and bought my engine filter. Bizarrely and completely unlike my usual experience, I had a very helpful assistant who took me right to the engine filters. After paying and leaving the building, I found white paint all over my running board. It seemed there was a puddle of white paint I'd driven through. Looking around, they had put cones around the wet paint (establishing liability).
Locating a manager, I found they had been expecting me to contact them. They were amazed at my good humor. I was more interested in what the stuff was and how to remove it but they had me park by the garden center where they jet washed it off for me. I could have been grouchy but you get much more help and cooperation from people with a smile than a scowl. I have to admit I was very impressed at how they took ownership of the problem and came forth with a solution. They removed the paint from the running board and some off the wheel arch but I really wasn't too bothered about the wheel arch nor the tyres.

This weekend I want to work towards building a ventilation inlet. I'm probably not going to install the under bus portion until fall though due to a hornets nest underneath the bus. There have been hornets busily flying in and out of the fuel hatch. I'm not bothered at the moment as I have sufficient fuel for all I'm likely to do this summer. In all conscience, I can't really take it for maintenance with a hornets nest underneath.

I've got on order two 10w solar panels plus a Nema 6-30 connector. I can make a short connection cable to take a standard household cable. That way I can make use of lighter cables as needed. Thinking about it, I'd have been better getting a 30A cable rather than the 20A cable I did get. Having said that, at the moment I can't see much need for even 10A.

I set both my extraction fans going at 5pm. It'll be interesting to see how much longer the one set of batteries lasts. So far it shows no signs of slowing down. I have 4 CPU fans on order. I'll try one to see how it compares for airflow. I'm pretty sure they'll work out being about the same.
This is the second fan. As I wrote, they were both set going at 5pm. At 8:30pm I turned both off. There is noticeable evidence of heat being drawn backwards by the fans as the galley was 97F, the bedroom was a little over 99F.  The cockpit was around 100F. Earlier it had been over 110F. What's really impressive is that the one fan has so far run for 20 hours on one set of batteries. I think I'm more impressed by that than Eric is with his galvanized trash can!

Thursday, July 7, 2016

17 hours!

The fan was turned on at 4pm and off at 8pm. That's an extra 4 hours, totaling 17 hours off just two D cells. That's really quite impressive! At the same time, I set the new fan going, I set the undersized CPU fan going. Next I went outside and checked airflow. Both seemed fairly similar though inside the noise from the cheap fan was horrible.

I have very much the feeling that there's nothing really to choose between a silent CPU fan running off 12v and about 160ma and a 3v Walmart fan using higher ma. I suspect watwise they'll be about the same.

At 8:30pm I checked temperatures and found 93F in the galley, 94.8F in the bedroom and 97F in the cockpit. I'm pretty sure the fans are sucking hot air to the back but cold air is not replacing the hot. I suspect I'm going to have to install a fan to pump cool air from under the bus. Without a black tank, that should be possible. If I install a black tank, it might become too smelly to draw air from under the bus.

I did consider side vents but in rain, water might be drawn into the bus, even if they were correctly louvered. A few days ago, in Big Lots I saw some filters that looked the right size. Sadly they were heavily laced with chlorine which would not be ideal.

Meanwhile, I ordered a pair of 10w weather sealed solar panels. My thought is they could be used to power 2 CPU fans. My quick calculation is that two 160ma CPU fans would use 2w of power. I already know they'll run happily off my 5w panel though the starting current is higher. One panel might do it but I doubt it. Putting two plus some lithium batteries should provide for 24 hour ventilation. That's the theory. I'll have to see how it works in reality.

Monday, July 4, 2016

American alcoholics abound

I'm going to regard the new fan as a success. I want to try removing the internal mosquito mesh and rely solely on the external mesh just to see if it results in greater efficiency. I just feel I'm not getting as much of a blast of air out as I'd hoped for.

In terms of power, I turned the fan on at 2:30pm is I recall correctly and off at 8:10pm. That's just shy of 6 hours use. That's not bad. The question is how well it performs compared to my CPU fans. I have rather a feeling that the CPU fans shifted more air. Mind, my CPU fans are under sized anyway. What I really need is to buy a 4 inch CPU fan and run the two side by side with fresh batteries.

My paper test showed that the CPU fan really sucked a piece of paper hard against the fan. This little 3v fan, less so. I think 3v is a really good idea but I notice two downsides. First, the fan is very noisy and second, perhaps not as powerful as my CPU fans.

It is a dream of mine to be able to thumb my nose at 12v deep cycle batteries. I have an uneasy feeling that I'm going to have to suck it up and use a 12v deep cycle battery though. I'll probably just put a switch on the console that I can flip while driving to share alternator power with the deep cycle battery. That way, though I have to remember to flip the switch, I don't have to fuss about with generators or those laughable solar panels.

Being the 4th of July weekend, it's not safe to venture out on the roads. There are just too many drunk drivers around this weekend. Mind, there are plenty drunks or druggies on the roads anyway judging from the 5% of drivers that seem to be weaving along the roads. Thus, I'm staying home doing little bits on the bus.

I turned the fan back on about 1pm and as of 5:30pm it's still going strongly. I really like this. That's 10 hours use so far. Meanwhile, I rediscovered my Harbor Freight solar battery charger. I'd put a pair of AA NiMh batteries in place a few months ago. I put it in the sun to charge them today. I had a mysterious green LED alternately flashing with an equally mysterious red LED also flashing. Typically, there was no logical explanation so I'm just hoping the batteries will charge. Interestingly, that solar charger is designed for use with D cells. I'll have to see how well it charges AA cells before I come to any conclusions. The reviews and my experience count against it but I'll have to wait and see.
I had a little look at the steering wheel on the bus today. If I can figure out how to fix the horn button then I'll be happy. Incidentally, the biggest problem with the horn is that the cable keeps coming unattached at the front. Perhaps next weekend I'll take a look at that.

I'm having a go at removing the no guns sign. I just hate labels on things - especially unnecessary labels. I cut the labels off my jeans. It's all part of being an individual. Anyway, the sign is coming off but painfully slowly. I get a little more off each time. What would get it off easier would be a hot air gun or a hairdryer but I don't have one and for that little label, it's not worth spending the money!

What is helping me is the heat. The metal inside the cockpit gets very hot through transferred heat. This softens the glue a little but not enough to make the job easier. The temperatures today 110F in the cockpit, 108F in the galley and 100 in the bedroom.

While my latest fan does work and work well, I'll have to try it with two. Currently it seems that the fans are pulling the heat from the front to the back, raising temperatures at the back of the bus. I'm going to try it with a second battery fan.

I've ordered 4 fans from China that should work well together. Again, I have no idea of current consumption. I'm thinking that with enough suction from the back, air will be sucked in from outside at the front. Outside air is cooler! I might have to double up on the fans to ensure good airflow. A typical fan like this uses up to 6W or 500ma but more likely 160ma.

At 8:10 I turned off the battery powered fan. It really is going strongly! That's 7 hours straight today and 6 hours yesterday. A grand total of 13 hours so far. It'll be interesting to see how long the battery lasts and how long the fan lasts. I know CPU fans are built for long term use as opposed to this fan.

Assuming 160 ma power usage or 2W then my proposed array of 4 fans would consume 640mah. Assuming a 12v deep cycle battery of 105ah at 60% usage, 60Ah would keep those fans running for 93.75 hours. Bearing in mind they'd only really be needed during the hot part of the day, purely running fans alone, that battery would be good for well over a week with no recharging!

Looking at my cellphone charger, it uses 1500ma at 5v. That recharges my cellphone in around 3 hours. That's not going to be 1500ma at 12v - how much less it'll be, I don't know. Assuming no difference, that'll consume around 9ah daily given two recharges a day. My tablet charger uses 2100mah about once a day for about 2 hours. That's around 4.2ah a day. Adding it all up, over 5 days that would be 21ah for the tablet, 45ah for the phone and 38ah for the ventilation. That's a grand total of 114ah. That in turn would mean a single battery would be unlikely to supply all of the casual power needs. If just the ventilation could be solar powered, that would make a huge difference.

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Switching out the fan.

Today I braved the heat. It was 109F in the galley and 105 in the bedroom. This heat is ridiculous! Before I did that though, I prepared the scene for the fan change.

If you recall yesterday's post, I'd cut two rings from plastic. Today I added 4 blocks onto the edges as spacers for the screws I am using to hold the fans in place. The finished result looks pretty good.
This is now running off a pair of D cells. The fan is an inch wider than the tube so there's noticeable blowback. Anyway, at about 2:30pm I set it going. Bear in mind I will do this also to the fan on the other side of the bus. The D cells are not very fresh having been used for magnet testing.

Speaking of my magnet, I got really fed up with winding coils and with solder that wouldn't stick and went ahead and ordered a small linear actuator from eBay. It's small with a 4 inch throw and a 500 Newton lifting force. It runs off 12v so should be absolutely ideal. All I need do is figure out a way of making it return automatically when it has done its job. It sounds ideal for a solenoid but the cheaper solenoid a can't lift much. I'm not ready to spend $150 on a powerful solenoid either. $30ish for this small linear actuator is quite enough!
I'm pretty hot in the bus at the moment. It's pretty hot outside too. Thoughts of air conditioning do cross my mind but then I think of the power such things would consume! I'm pretty sure I won't be putting solar panels on the roof nor a generator under the bus. I do notice that it's very much cooler at night which makes me think more toward just staying out of the bus during the hot part of the day and letting nature be the cooling force.

I did look at the Harbor Freight solar offering and wonder whether it could be used to charge either a batch of D cells or a batch of AA cells. Those seem to be my two onboard power sources. I have given a great deal of thought to the big deep cycle batteries but seeing as how all my fans are going to be 3v, there's no need for one. The Harbor Freight panel might be sufficient to charge D cells. I know my existing 5W panel did get my new fan running albeit weakly.
My experience of this solar stuff is that it's basically garbage. My reservation about this unit is the cost. It's almost the same as Harbor Freight's 900W generator. The generator should power far more than the puny little 3 watts actual output of this panel. If I could simply run my ventilation from solar, I'd be very impressed. As it is, I don't think solar has anything genuine to offer.

Returning to yesterday in my time machine, I forgot to blog about my experience of using my AA powered phone charger. It was pretty darned slow but it did work. My Nexus 4 is a horrible power hog and quite probably due for replacement as soon as I get started in my forthcoming new job. Here's a photo of the charging unit. I bought this on eBay several months ago but have only now got around to trying it out.
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It's a nifty thing and cheap too. Heaven knows how long it'll last though. Even if it doesn't last all that long, it's still useful.

By now you should realize that my motor home is designed to be plugged into electricity when available. I'm not bothered about plugging into water as my 5 gallon jerry cans will hold a couple of days worth each. Waste water is designed to be dumped when possible. Indeed, rather than using my waste tanks, I'd rather leave the valves open and empty directly into buckets that can be emptied faster.

Thinking more about cooling, I had a chat with my dad yesterday. He suggested a safari roof. Sadly, that would mean a lot of steel and a lot of work since none of the US school bus manufacturers are bright enough to think of them. I did notice when I bought my bus that there were upside down hooks attached in a few places. I removed them because they were both poorly installed and rusty. I wouldn't mind betting they were put there to secure a tarpaulin. Now the tarpaulin would definitely act as a second skin very much like a safari roof. Indeed, it might be worth buying one just to try since they're on,y about $8 at Lowes (hiss, spit). Somebody else suggested trailer roof paint which is allegedly insulating. An article in Scientific American throws doubt on that though as there have been nose riots studies into the effectiveness of such paint nor the accuracy of claims made about it. Indeed, as Scientific American says, NASA might well use such paint and find it effective -in the vacuum of space- but here on earth is a different matter.

One of the cooling systems I am considering is forced air from underneath the bus via an air filter. There is a suitable hole in the bedroom floor through which a vent could be passed. This has the advantage of being very cheap and easy on power. The big downer with ventilation so far is noise and with the blower systems, inefficiency due to blowback.

Thinking more on the tarpaulin, though Lowes (hiss, spit) has one, Harbor Freight seems to have a better option in that they have a heat reflective tarpaulin. It's not cheap at $25 but it might be worth a try. It is definitely cheaper than the funky paints and might be more effective. The irksome thing will be climbing on the roof and tying it down. Still, for long term parking, it sounds excellent.
As of now (6pm) my extraction fan has been running non stop from two D cells. I'll leave it running and keep checking to see how long two D cells last. It's not shifting as much air as I'd like but really, I'm not sure what to do to improve that. I could, I suppose, buy a new drain cap and rely upon a single mosquito mesh. That might allow pressure to build up in the vent tube thus increasing air speed.

In other news I am topping up the bus batteries again. Since probably April I have not driven the bus. The batteries therefore are a little low. What drew my attention to that was the horn. I pressed the horn button yesterday and the sound was very feeble. The hillbillies left a horn in a box in the bus. I've pulled it out and am going to try installing it via a button that's easier to reach than the current button. Another thing I might do is to look at the proper horn button in the steering wheel. That does not appear to function and I don't know why.

When I installed the access hatch below the front top markers in order to retrieve a vanished cable, I had to remove a large sticker that gave a list of the rules for riding a school bus. That peeled off easily. Beside it was a sign forbidding pistols. That rips every time I try to peel it up. It's printed on metal film with really solid glue underneath it. That has given me a great challenge so far.

Thinking back to a conversation I had when I was putting dark film on the bus windows, I recall a professional film installer telling me to spray with ammonia based window cleaner, to tape plastic over it and to come back 20 minutes later. Well, I tried it with the sign and it didn't work. What seems to work is taking a small amount off at a time with the edge of an old bank card. It's painfully slow but it works.

I'm working toward completion. At least now I'm better prepared to complete the bus this summer.

Saturday, July 2, 2016


Today was meant to be a day spent on the electromagnet. That got put to one side though. Again, I tried to solder to the copper wires and again the solder resolutely refused to stick. I'm guessing it's a lead-free solder which would account for its uselessness on this occasion.

Needless to say, I experimented with my existing 5 coils and the results though not spectacular showed improvement. I must admit that I'm viewing other solutions at the moment. This is just taking far too long!

Meanwhile, yesterday, in Walmart I found a $6 fan that runs off two D cells. I bought one and tried it off my solar panel. Nothing happened which really didn't surprise me in the slightest. Regular readers will recall my disdain for all this green garbage on account of how poorly it works. A few minutes with a screwdriver and my angle grinder reduced the really quite formidable plastic to something manageable.
Keen eyed viewers will see the fan is outdoors running on 12v from AA batteries. This is because the motor is not vented and I want to see if prolonged usage at excessive voltage will melt the plastic mount. If it doesn't, it's safe to use on 3v in the bus.

Actually, it shifts so much air that if this survives testing then I'll replace my two undersized CPU fans with a pair of these. This fan has three advantages. First it can be used in reverse. Second, it's more powerful and thirdly since it runs off a pair of D cells, there's no reason it should not run equally well off a 10,000mah 3.7v lithium battery as sold in Walmart for $12. I could have each fan individually powered by these and have a stack ready charged.

In other news, I looked at the front door and discovered the problem with looseness is due to either a worn out nylon bushing or the bushing and the track it slides it. Today I emailed All Points Bus Parts who advertise these bushes but don't actually seem to have prices on them.
My thinking is that if the new bush doesn't fix the problem then I might need to adjust or replace the track the bush slides in. If the door closes properly then I might adjust my locking idea though I'm as yet unsure how. I have been giving thought to using a very small linear actuator to raise the latch. With the door closing properly it might even be a good idea to replace the manual door mechanism with an actuator. That would definitely come with power headaches though.

I've been giving thought to power and I'm pretty much in favor of having no 12v battery. My lighting should work well off D cells or even AA or AAA cells since those throwaway LED lighting units abound and are cheap enough. Lithium cells are an interesting idea but I can get the same capacity in a far safer NiMh D cell.

At the end of the day, all I want to power are 2 - 4 fans, my phone and possibly a tablet. I'm not in the slightest interested in televisions or fridges or the vast majority of the modern electronic junk. I like my little piece of silence.

As an afterthought, I looked at the fan and realized I needed a spacer. Immediately plywood came to mind but when I was looking at my off cuts in the shed (I always keep my off cuts) when I saw I still had off cuts from the vinyl planks that I used for the bathroom floor. Thinking about how to cut them I remembered my circle cutting tool. Setting one side of my cutter differently from the other enabled me to cut two very nice looking rings. I'd have liked to make them wider but my tool wouldn't cut wider.
At one point, part of my cutting tool flew off and I had to hunt in the yard to find it. That took quite a while - primarily because it was in the opposite direction from the area in which I was looking.

I think this fan is probably better than the CPU fans I bought. My electrical test was a failure because the already weakened batteries died after a couple of hours. Having said that, I'll install one fan and will test it tomorrow. It should shift a lot more air than my CPU fans. And for the curious, here's the fan box.