Sunday, December 31, 2017

Working on the electrics etc

Friday was so perishing cold all I did was to go to the store to buy plumbing parts. I didn’t get much but it cost plenty. I ended up with plastic tubing and a stop cock then a length of flexible hose with a spray gun from a kitchen sink on the end of it. The current plan is to install a water inlet that comes from the outside via a pressure reducing gizmo that I found in Walmart for about $8. That reduces inlet pressure to 40-50PSI. Then the piping carries the water into the bus where it meets a stop cock. From the stop cock it goes into Pex tubing straight to a kitchen spray gun. That allows me to refill water containers while sitting in the bus and even to squirt water into the sink even though the hose will never be part of the sink. As the hose was coiled when I got it, it’s having to sit with heavy things anchoring it now as I attempt to straighten it.

While I was out on Friday I also picked up a pair of LED lights in 12V with a G4 fitting - also from Walmart. They’re 2.5 Watts offering 250 lumens. Now I compare those with my 350 lumen GE lantern and they’re way brighter. Go figure - this lumens measuring is total nonsense! Better to measure in candela. That’s something everybody can understand. Speaking of candela, I’ve still not yet done a candle comparison. I must do that soon!
There, you can see my Walmart LED lightbulb with one of my nasty cheap-ass lanterns in the background. Two things are immediately apparent. The first is just how horribly dim these lanterns are. The second is that they’re very blue. Blue is, of course, not a color that should be used at night. It’s very bad for sleep rhythms. This is why Apple has their iPad change from blue to yellow at about 8pm. The body associates blue with daylight and keeps the body awake during that time.
 Needing to fasten my cables to the wall at the back of the bus, I found these cable securing things. They’re stick-on and plastic. Ideal. No holes to drill. That’s the theory. In practice, the glue isn’t worth a damn and the things just fall off the wall without any help from dangling cables. That’s despite a claim that they can hold up to 40LBs. Being mildly skeptical I did take∫∫ the cautionary measure of buying some steel cable loops. It’s going to be challenging running the cables all the way up the wall because of construction already in place but I’m doing my best.
There you can see the beginnings of the cables being fed up the wall, skirting my OSB insulation and the reclining back wall of the bus.

Meanwhile, thinking about my lighting - which I’ve decided to install anyway - I was looking at lampshades for my lights. I picked up a couple of solar pathway lights at the dollar store since I couldn’t find any cheap plastic drinking glasses to spray and cut down. If it works out I can modify them then I will. Meanwhile somebody gave me a couple of other things that looked potentially usable.
Trying the light bulb thingy. It’s OK but not that interesting. In its favor is that it has a built-in pull switch. On the other hand though, while it has a pull switch, it’s rated for 6v not 12v. It’s also a bit wider than I want. I looked at where I’d mount it and the obvious place seems to be on the post at the end of the bed where it can shine on my desk area nicely. Mounting it in my place of first thought - on the partition wall is also possible though unreachable from the bed. Similarly the drinks container is interesting but probably not quite what I want. At this rate I might end up with bare bulbs!

I forgot to mention my entertaining trip to the store yesterday. I drove to the store (about 5 miles away) and spent ages selecting what I wanted. I got to the checkout after filling a cart with wood (for a different project) and my electrical and plumbing items. When it came time to pay, my wallet wasn’t with me! I’d left it in the house so I had to ask them to hold my stuff and dash back to the house to get my wallet (which contained driver’s license, medical card, insurance and registration as well as my cards and cash). Now that’s something a professional bus driver should never forget! Anyway I dashed back with them and they’d been very good - they’d kept my cart to one side. They seemed surprised when I returned but what the heck... I don’t run around shopping and filling a cart for fun!

The bus was chilly inside today so I took the sun shades off the windscreen in the hope of getting heat inside. I also put the heater fan on. Thank heavens for plugin electricity! Speaking of electricity, I looked at electric instant hot water heaters and they just use way too much power. I’m trying to run off the commonplace TT30, 30A power supply. Thus, if I put a 15A instant water heater in then that leaves 15A available for whatever else. But it turned out the 15A water heater only raised the water temperature by 24F which if it’s freezing outside means the water could be 33F so a 57F shower doesn’t sound so good. The next model up which is 20A raised the temperature by 33F which means a 66F shower. Again, not too great. Add to that that I’m already likely using the 10A fan heater I’m using right now in addition to the 5A my fridge will consume and I’m running out of options.

Some people would say to use a gas heater. Indeed, gas has a lot to recommend it but for the fact it is full of water vapor. Humidity and rust would explode if I used gas regularly. I’ve already got some rust to deal with where I welded a plate onto the side of the bus. I need to revisit that with an angle. Grinder to smooth the weld out and repaint. Clearly I must have missed a pinprick with my painting. I actually quite like the heat from gas. I’m just not keen on gas because of its propensity to cause explosions and burns. I’ve seen too many gas explosions. While I do have a camping gas stove, it’s something to use outside. I looked idly at generators and decided they were way too expensive and way too much trouble - the same as large numbers of solar panels. Wind turbines just aren’t feasible for motorhomes either. Thus I decided to stick with plugin.

Bear in mind the cost of an electric water heater. Those things cost nearly $200 for the lower wattage heaters. I could get a 31A water heater for about $90 but then I’d have to raise my 30A to 50A and that’d add a whole raft of other problems. My solution - practical as always - heat water in a kettle, mix with cold in a cooler and pump straight from the cooler for my shower. Right now I’m pumping from the cooler with a D cell powered pump. I can see my raising that to a 12V pump very soon. Or at least - once I complete my 12V system and feel like installing another leg.
Completion of the cable attaching to the wall was fraught. The whole way I had to lengthen the wrap on each bundle of cables and extend the wires on each bundle of cables. One pair of connectors kept wanting to come undone and in the end my solution was to wrap the two connectors in heat-shrink sleeving and hope that the cables don’t come out of the spade connectors. If you notice in this image I’ve staggered the connections so that if something comes adrift, it won’t connect with something else.

It took rather longer than I’d anticipated but then I didn’t work consistently at the wiring. I got two of the bundles up as high as the roof and the other bundle ready to connect to the charge controller. That bundle contains the two battery cables.
Those cables, I had to shorten. It looks like my choice of 20 feet was about perfect as I only had to crop about 3 feet off them. My other cables have all been woefully miscalculated in length and have had to have several joins - some soldered and some with proper connectors.
And that’s what my cable bundle looks like. Pretty massive! I have three lots of cable wrap with a total of 11 wires with some going to the front of the bus and some going from the bedroom. A future set of wires might go to the bathroom. In that case, those would most likely be one for the shower pump, one for a desk light and one for a desktop USB charger. I’m not nuts enough to put a USB charger in the bathroom however. Or at least - not yet!

In fact when I said 11 wires, there’s already an existing wire going front to back so that makes a grand total of 12 wires. Quite a haul! I have to test them after wiring them to my fuse box in order to see if any need attention. I hope and pray they won’t because it’s going to be a real annoyance going through those bundles looking for errant connections.

After I’d finished for the day, I connected my 2.5watt, 250 lumens light bulb to a 12v battery and compared it to my GE LED lantern that claims 350 lumens. That’s 100 lumens more than my little LED bulb and it’s a lantern I’ve left alone. I have not frosted the glass.
I think you can see clearly that my lower lumen LED bulb is brighter than my higher lumen LED lantern! How can this be I hear you ask. The answer is as I wrote before - nobody knows how they should measure lumens. This is why candela make a much better measure. And as far as GE goes - shame on you, GE for faking the brightness of your lantern! In fact shame on GE for your shoddy workmanship on that same lantern whose handle just snapped off without any abuse.

As for my Chinese 4.5W LED bulbs, all I can do is wait to see what they are like when they arrive. I thought I had a bargain but Walmart  was the same price as eBay! I shall be interested to see how my bus looks with proper illumination.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

There once was a book....

Many years ago in Britain because Prime Minister Blair was reforming many of the Labour Party’s ideas, a book was published entitled “Chairman Blair’s Little Red Book” which was colored blue with the tag line “in blue in keeping with New Labour’s New Thinking”. It was, of course, a spoof of Chairman Mao’s “Little Red Book”.

So, today I went shopping. The shelves of Walmart were pretty much cleared after Christmas with things on the shelves in the “reduced” price section that could have done with 90% price reduction before they’d have been worthy of my money. Having said that I did find a couple of things. One was a pack of two G4 LED bulbs of lower wattage than those ordered from Chairman Mao’s little red kingdom. I wanted to try them in my new bulb holders.

While in the vicinity I went to Lowes (hiss, spit) where I hunted for stuff to make a water inlet. While I hunted I resolved to do a water inlet purely as a water inlet, not to plumb into the shower or the sink. The reason for that is not blatantly obvious. It wasn’t cheapness but more I’d been doing some overnight thinking.

I looked at electric water heaters and found the 15A heaters just raised the water temperature by 24F. Assuming it’s 30F outside then 54F really isn’t going to be that warm. That’s not on. The higher wattage water heaters would raise the temperature by quite a bit but I’d be moving out of a 30A power supply into 50A or even more. That’s just not on! I considered gas water heaters and the low end were pretty cheap but then there’s this whole explosive gasses inside my home thing that I just don’t like. Sure I have a little camping gas stove but that’s different. It’s all in one and not a massive system that has to be maintained. Not really that my bus has been designed for use with gas anyway.

In the end I came to the conclusion that boiling a kettle and mixing it with cold water was probably the best way to get a warm shower. Added to that, frozen water lines might make morning showering impossible. I’m already used to evening showers with my existing job since I have to leave the house at 5AM. Thus, there wasn’t much point in having any more than a simple water inlet. Truth be told there’s not much need to have an inlet because water containers can be filled and brought inside. Having said that, it would be awfully inconvenient to need water and find there just wasn’t any and that I had to put my clothes back on to draw water for a shower.

Resolving to have an inlet, I went around the store and looked for suitable parts. Finding nothing in the PVC range I saw plenty - exactly what I needed in the CPVC range. Then I noticed the CPVC stuff was rated to 100PSI while the PVC was rated to 600PSI. Quickly I put all the CPVC stuff back and hunted for a staff member who could help me find what I needed. Within a few minutes I had all the stuff needed. That was easy.
The water pipe will come in through the floor to be tended by a simple stopcock. From there, it goes to a PEX tube on the end of which is a pistol grip sprayer just like this. I liked this but it was way cheaper to get a $7 plastic spray head and some $5 hosing. Going down from the stopcock, the pipe will come down the side of the skirt on the inside to be fastened securely to more steel loops. At the very bottom will be the $8 pressure controller from Walmart that brings the input line pressure down to a maximum of 50PSI. After all that, I could have used the CPVC stuff!

Meanwhile I realized that though I have a 4 D cell powered shower pump, a 12V powered pump is now possible. Looking at the systems available online, it looks like a simple 12V put, some pex tubing, a simple shower head and a low pressure pressure switch would be the best solution. The hard part seems to be finding a shower head that can turn the water flow off when not required. The problem with my existing shower head is that the battery holder has pretty well disintegrated. Having said that, it might well be worthwhile just rebuilding it and maintaining a stock of D cells. It’s not as though showering is all that important when a simple cloth can do pretty much the same thing in the absence of a shower.

Thinking about the shower, it seems to me a kitchen spray nozzle would be ideal. That combined with a $12 pressure pump and a $3 pressure switch plus connections to my 12v battery. It might have me installing a second fuse panel but that’s perfectly fine. I must say that I like having everything with standard ATC automotive fuses. Well, at least a cheaper shower works for me!

In the future I might want to add underbus fresh water tanks and a black water tank. I’m not convinced by the need for a generator though. I think bigger lithium batteries (or if Fisher gets his way some kind of solid-state battery) is the way to go. Charge while driving and charge from solar too. Maybe also charge from some kind of solid-state catalytic charger that runs off butane though right now all those options are horribly expensive.

Once the 12v electricity, the water inlet and the possible 12v shower are worked out and completed, life does not stop. There’re locks to install on the battery door and the fuel door. I probably need to go onto the roof to seal more seams. I didn’t smell damp but something didn’t smell right the other day. I’m going with damp. Perhaps I should invest in some flex-seal spray? Another thing that’s on the agenda is possibly welding steel sheet over the back door lower window. I’d not done that before because my welding wasn’t very good. My welding is now a ton better. I can weld without burning through things these days though having said that I can burn through thick steel with 7014 rods quite well if I want to.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

I threw myself under the bus and survived!

It was pretty bloody cold today. Thus I didn’t spend long under there. I waited until 4pm which was about the warmest part of the day. After 4 there was only an hour or so before sunset so not really much time to do anything major.

Going outside I checked the ground to see if it was dry after the massive rainstorm we’d had the previous night. I was met by a sight that I hoped not to see. I’d forgotten to bring in my 7AH battery and 5W solar panel. Checking the battery it was on 11V which it shouldn’t have been as last time I checked, it was on 12V. Having said that I’ve had plenty problems with that battery anyway. It might well be a junk battery. The solar panel seemed to have survived though. It’s not encapsulated with the cells just covered in cellophane. So, while I worked on the underbus stuff, I left the battery charging off the solar cell and drying out.
I spent most of my time securing cabling underneath the bus. I now have several cable runs. I’ve tried to keep the runs on the outside of the chassis rails before the back wheels and in the center after the back wheels. This is so that before the back wheels, there’s as little as possible that can become tangled or caught by anything and possibly snag on the brake lines. This bus has hydraulic brakes not air brakes and that means that a broken brake line is a major problem. With air brakes, it just means the bus isn’t going anywhere.
 It took an age to get the last cable run into place. Then it was time to drill through the floor. The floor covering above the steel floor is covered with wood. That’s easy to work with. The steel is somewhat harder. In fact you could say it has an iron constitution. Drills are expensive but the cheap way of getting through steel is to drill a smaller hole and enlarge it. These are my hole enlargers. They work pretty well and I think I’ve only had one of them break on me during the entire bus construction project.
I got the cables to the hole and passed the wires through then found the sheath wouldn’t cooperate. That meant pushing the wires back out, enlarging the hole and then going underneath to push it all through. This time it all fitted perfectly. I didn’t have time today to seal the conduits with silicone caulk but I have to go underneath again to connect the battery cables to the battery. I’m leaving that til last.
One the cables were inside the bus they were secured to the wall using Harbor Freight cable clamps and self-drilling screws. Oh boy, I’ve used a ton of sef-drilling screws! After dismantling the mess the hillbillies made of their conversion which used non-stainless crosspoint self drillers, I used stainless hexagon head self-drillers and it has made life much easier.

So, by the end of the day all the 12v cables are in place inside the bus. I still have one trip to make underneath to seal and to attach the battery clips. Other than than the work is all inside and can be done in sleet, snow or pouring rain. The three cable runs have to be run up the side of the bus, across the back to the charge controller and the fuse box. One pair of cables has to go to the solar input. Other than that, it’s all power lines for my lighting and so on.

Speaking of lighting, I’d been looking into ways of attaching my G4 bulb holders then I realized I could probably glue them to the steel brackets I intend to use. Similarly I found a sheet of plexiglass that I’d left in the yard. That could produce a pretty good diffuser without my having to spend any more money.

Online I found there is something called cold solder and it’s used to repair connections on rear-window demisters. I’ve a mind to get some to make the connections on my two remaining flat panels. They might be worthwhile after all! Fortunately I can take things out of my trash can as well as put them in.

Yesterday I tidied the front yard a bit by removing a load of the detritus from bus construction. That was actually easier than it sounds. I’d had a pile of trash in two plastic bins and it had been there for quite a while. I’m talking a year and more. I emptied them on the garbage pile and took what remained of them back to reuse as I have yet more trash to collect and dump. I say what remains as they were plastic and the plastic had done what plastic does best - turned brittle and cracked.

Tomorrow might be a shopping day. Given that I normally drive 150 miles a day for myself and work combined, it’s been nice not actually driving since the work holiday started on the 21st. In the last 7 days I’ve not driven 1,000+ miles and that’s nice.

After the 12V is completed - this can be done in small sections, I’ll have to put a water inlet. Then a water heater, facets and plumb the water heater to the shower. I have to modify the ventilation system slightly and install a lock on the battery compartment and on the fuel door. At some point I want to retitle the bus as a motorhome too.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

A chilly December day

Today I had planned to go under the bus. As the morning was somewhat chilly, I ended up sweeping the bus, eliminating quite a pile of sand. That just seems to come onboard on my shoes. I have no idea why. The best method of removing it seems to be a broom. At work, various drivers use blowers to remove the sand but I look at the cost. $100 for a decent blower versus $1 for a decent broom. No contest!

Overnight I had considered putting a handrail up the stairwell and pulled out a couple of promising candidates. After adding a close-to 90 degrees extra piece onto my workbench that would facilitate my building a handrail, I decided I’m not ready for a handrail yet. It’s one of those things that would be a nice idea but isn’t essential and comes with logistical issues I just don’t feel the urge to overcome today.
Meanwhile I put the 7AH battery out with the 5W solar panel today to try to top it up some more. Interestingly, in my experimentation yesterday, I discovered that the cigarette lighter socket plug that fits my solar panel has the polarity wrong. Good job I checked that! That makes my plans to put a plugin solar panel follow more the path I’d previously considered. As I wasn’t sure of the polarity I’d decided to put the solar output through a rectifier. Now I know that’s exactly what I need to do so there’s no way around a rectifier.

Eventually I tired of procrastinating and realized that as the weather wasn’t going to reach a balmy 70F so I pulled out a sweater and put it on. Then I went to work under the bus. The first order of the day was to complete my power cable setup. That took hardly any time at all and even boring the hole in the floor for it was pretty quick.
Passing the power cable through the floor, it joined my other cables. I’ll sort them all out later. The next hole has to go three inches to the right of the rightmost cable. Then I’ll have all my cable runs installed. And yes, that is a Christmas tree. It hasn’t been used for several years due to a very non-Christmassy feeling in the area.
Under the bus the cabling is bringing to look quite respectable. There you see four cable runs. I cannot imagine there will be any more. I think that’s about it. Once the current cable run which was just four cable clips away from going through the floor is done, that’ll be almost it for the underbus 12V stuff.

I would have finished the cable runs but aside from my drill complaining bitterly about the cold and that it’s puny little Harbor Freight battery was going flat, the daylight was rapidly receding. Indeed after being summoned into the main dwelling house for a few minutes, I returned to find the daylight had gone and I was left to pick up all my tools in the dark. I wasn’t alone though - a feral black cat eyed my every move with great suspicion.

Looking under the bus earlier I’d found when I’d put the one run from the bedroom on, I’d just looped it loosely without fastening it but had looped it incorrectly. I had to pull it out and re-loop it around the frame and chassis. That didn’t take many moments though. While I was in front of the rear wheels I noted that there was plenty space to install fresh water tanks and sewage tanks if I so wished. That was rather heartening.

Inside I looked at the handbasin and pondered a water inlet that instead of feeding the handbasin just ended in a faucet under the handbasin that allowed me to fill my 5 gallon jugs. That would be quite easy to do. It’s not what I want which is an instant water heater but it could be a step along the road.

I shall be so glad when I don’t need to go under the bus to work on it. I’m getting more than a little tired of breathing mold, bacteria and eating sand. I’m tired of sand in my hair, sand down the back of my neck and grubby fingernails. Even as I sit writing this, sand falls from my hair and I’ve been in the big dwelling for the past hour!

Monday, December 25, 2017

V380 security camera review

Those with memories longer than most politicians and more accurate than most Presidents will doubtless recall that for several months I tried to obtain a cheap WiFi webcam. In the end after two sellers on eBay cost me 4 months by selling the camera then failing to deliver I got it on Amazon for about the price the eBay sellers were advertising.

The good.
  • It works.
  • The picture quality on standard quality while not stellar is pretty good.
  • It pans and tilts.
  • There’s a microphone and a speaker for two way conversations.
  • It does not use very much power.
  • The software is usable.
  • It does not need connection to the internet nor to a router as it has its own network.
  • It can also be connected to a router.

The bus photo is one taken using the stills function. It can also record video clips. I haven’t tried it in darkness but the daylight imaging seems pretty good. It’s also possible to set up all kids of alerts
I set the camera up, connected to a 5W solar panel and a 7AH battery. The battery also had a voltmeter attached. Over about an hour of usage the battery voltage rose from 12/12.2V to 12.1/12.3V. Clearly the camera did use less power than my 5W panel produces.

The bad.

  • Network connectivity on local mode (Tablet connecting directly to the camer) was appalling.
  • The software is hard to use.
  • There are no real instructions how to use the camera nor the software and the software is non intuitive.
  • The camera is not weatherproof.
  • The camera is not auto-tracking.
  • Wireless range is very limited. 30 feet is about the range limit.
  • The video catches up after panning and tilting has been completed - at longer ranges.
At closer range the camera does work better. I have not tried connecting it to a router nor to a phone as the app wants too many permissions and since the software is Chinese, untrustworthy. There’s just too much extra work involved in blocking all the ports it could use.

It’s fun to hear my own voice coming from the camera speaker a second or two after I speak. The speech is unrecognizable as mine but still it’s fun. It’s amusing also when after announcing in a tinny female Chinese voice “System Starting” then “Network Starting” it announces in a very proud tone “Connection Established”. That’s even funnier when it has just set up a network to which nothing is connected yet.

The problems in getting the camera were a pretty good indication of its worth. It was a problem to get. eBay had to refund me twice after two sellers failed to supply while my money was held hostage for two months on each occasion. 

In use the camera was slow and clunky lacking many performance tweaks that could easily have been made. The software was appalling to use and to set up. The radio range is too short to be useful. Whether it would work better as a corded camera is unknown as this was not tested.

It’s a fun toy to play with but I cannot imagine anybody being satisfied with it. Far better to use a corded webcam or a straightforward motion activated standalone camera. This is probably more aimed at the children’s market for children to put outside their tree house in order to see if their parents are coming.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Why you shouldn’t use a charge controller!

Everywhere, the solar enthusiasts all say “Thou shalt use a charge controller” then all the parrots come out and repeat this. At the first hint of a problem with one where it’s clearly from China more parrots come out “should not have bought one from China” while neglecting the fact that all the circuits for every charge controller available in the USA is actually made in China.
The problem with these funky charge controllers is they’re all designed to be used in static installations, not in vehicles. Thus, they need the battery to be connected via two wires, the appliances to be connected by two wires and the solar panels to be connected via two wires. What a Royal pain in the rump that is! In a vehicle the body can be used as a common wire (usually the negative wire) in order to save a ton on expensive electrical wires and a ton of time on installation.

The charge controllers all claim to have “algorithms” or some such total fiction. The fact is with a solar panel, you connect it to the battery and it puts power into the battery as long as the sun is shining brightly enough that there’s more power from the panel than in the battery. A simple diode stops the battery blowing power into the solar panel to blow it up when the charge from the panel gets too low.

At the moment because I don’t currently have the right stuff to do this without one of those ludicrous charge controllers I’m having to play by the perverted rules of the Chinese. I’ve tried using the body as the ground and connecting the battery ground and the appliance ground to the body but the charge controller is not happy about it. I keep seeing a warning symbol. I can’t wait to get rid of that junk charge controller. None of the others I have are any different. They’re all equally awful.

What is needed to get round all this nonsense is two separate units. Firstly an overcharge controller such as the one used on a car battery. Secondly a simple battery protector that switches the power off when the voltage gets too low. The overcharge controller seems also to be called a voltage regulator. The battery protector seems to be called a low voltage disconnect.

For the moment I’m putting in two battery cables and they will go straight to the charge controller. I’ll have to make the body negative from the charge controller appliance negative and put the positive through the wiring. It’s a massive and heinous problem due totally to the idiotic way in which these cheap-ass all-in-one units are made. Eventually I’ll go with two separate units and strip out or retask my excess cable.

I spent a few minutes or more like 30 squeezing my twin battery cables into some of Harbor Freight’s cable wrap. I’ve probably got way more than I can ever hope to use but at the very least it’s something toward progress on the bus. Can I say now just how much I detest rolling around in the dirt, underneath my bus? I do it but only because it has got to be done. In fact this whole bus building thing is driven by the goal, not by the process.

By the time the daylight ran away, I had two bundles of cables almost completely installed. One goes from the battery to the charge controller (or will when I drill a hole in the floor and pass it through. That needs connections made to the battery that I shan’t make til I’m ready to power everything. The other is a set of cables I’d started to install weeks ago and hadn’t had time to complete. I’d needed to extend the one pair of cables and so today I extended them and popped most of it in cable wrap. I ran out of wrap, sadly. I’ll have to see about getting more later.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Admiring the well hung!

Today I decided to install my battery cage. While I was at it, I installed the battery too. It wasn’t plain sailing though. When I put the cage in place, the nicely pre-drilled holes didn’t line up with the corresponding holes - they did (mostly) but enough didn’t that I had to get the power drill out to rework some of the holes fractionally. I can only guess that welding the battery cage to the suspension bars must have warped the bars slightly. Next time I’ll save myself a ton of effort and just weld straight to the bus. All this welding I’ve been doing lately has shown me I can get nice-looking welds as long as I stick to 1/16th welding rods and use a lot of them, making several passes and puddling as required.
As can be seen in this photo, the battery fits nicely into my cage and is secured by two turnbuckles and two link extenders together with the cross bar I made yesterday. Those with really sharp eyes (the picture looks dark on my tablet so I can only imagine what it looks like on some of the lower-quality screens) will see I’ve installed a self-resetting circuit breaker above the near end of the battery. At that point the battery quit in my power drill so I pretty much knocked off work under the bus. Having said that - I’ve achieved great things today.

Speaking of problems, one bolt wouldn’t go fully into place. I’m not too worried about that because each bolt will support more weight than the 30lbs of the combined cage and battery. It’s held by 7 bolts. I might return to the strange bolt at some future point. For the moment, it’s secure and I want to see how well the battery fares attached behind the rear wheels.
Not feeling like rolling about under the bus further, I pulled out one of my 3 LED light panels and tried to prime the contacts with solder for easier soldering later. One contact took solder but the other just burned away in a fraction of a second. I’d already expressed doubts about those panels, if you recall. Also, if you recall, I don’t get much luck with electronics anyway. Well, at least they weren’t expensive. I’ll just throw the other two in the trash together with this one. They’re not solderable and not worth any more time nor effort - especially when I have some G4 sockets already and G4 bulbs on the way.
Yesterday I mentioned a socket I found buried in the sand, It was almost unrecognizable because of the rust. I’ve had it sitting in a small container of plain household distilled white malt vinegar for the last week or so. Look at how the rust has just dropped off. Probably another week and I’ll take it out of the vinegar, rinse and dry it then give it a quick coat of varnish. Then it’ll be usable.

Monday and Tuesday it’s supposed to be dry but low 50s so it’ll be chilly. Those sound likely days for heading under the bus to complete some if not all of my 12v underbus wiring. The in-the-bus wiring can be done pretty much any time. I don’t even need daylight to do that.

Looking online, there is some stuff called cold solder that can be used to solder things l/ike my light panels. I just don’t feel it’s worthwhile though. I could go on forever trying to “rescue” hopeless items. My drawer is full of useless electronics that I’ve acquired over the years. Things that were supposed to do one thing well and which failed even to do that. Mail order and ebay clothes are on a par with electronics. If it’s not tried on in the store then the size given probably isn’t right and usually it’s not worth the time nor money to send the thing back for a refund.

At this point let me remind you of my RCA 16GB tablet. I paid $50 for a brand new tablet covered for a year by the manufacturer’s warranty. While it worked, it was a pretty good little tablet. The trouble was the charging port was flimsy and became loose within 3 months, causing the tablet not to charge no matter how careful one was. Contacting the manufacturer it seemed I had to pay $10 - $15 to send the thing back. Then they wouldn’t send me my nice purple one back, fixed. Instead they’d send me a used black tablet. Hearing that I wrote it off as “never ever buy anything from RCA again”.  That’s taking the Mickey out of the customer! I’m usually pretty careful about not buying electronic garbage because every dollar thrown away on trash is two dollars I have to spend on something decent. Years ago somebody put it very succinctly - over the years people will pay the price of a Porsche without ever owning one. So - electronics - BAH!

As an aside, I’m sitting writing this in my bus, illuminated by my cheapo LED lanterns that I sprayed with frosting spray. While the lanterns still are not very bright, the light is much more pleasant to work by. I am not dazzled nor blinded and I can see roughly where things are. I can’t wait to get the full 12V system up and running though - with the G4 lighting. The advantage with the G4 is I can change the power usage by simply changing the bulb. Thus if I need a lower level of light in the bathroom then I can do it!

For the next two days (Christmas Eve and Christmas Day) it’s going to be raining. I’m unlikely to do anything on those days. Having said that, Christmas has officially been postponed to New Year’s here due to everybody still being sick.

I’ve been thinking a lot about those G4 bulb holders. I want to put a lampshade on them and a mounting. In the end I concluded that a simple L bracket from the hardware store would work as a mount. I could fasten that to the wall and mount the bulb holder on the end of the bracket. A lampshade would be trickier so I started by hunting on eBay and Amazon. Nothing leapt out save for the high prices. Then I had a sudden brainwave. Those cheap plastic shot glasses from the dollar store, sprayed with frosting spray should work just fine as lampshades. I can just bolt them onto the bracket and if they get broken then so what? They’re also dirt cheap and as some have noted - I like cheap.
As you can see - it’s a very simple little thing. I bought a pack of 5 for next to nothing. That’ll give me a single light over the desk in the bedroom, a single light over the toilet and a single light over the cooking area in the kitchen with two left over. I’ll definitely have a lampshade over the lights in the kitchen and the bedroom. The bathroom I’m not so sure about. That just might not be worth bothering about. Unless you’re Uncle Jessie who reads the Bible while sitting on the toilet every Sunday (and sometimes the whole bible judging by the time he spends there) then a lampshade is not really necessary.

Now you’ve heard me complain about the pitiful light from my LED lanterns then you hear about my only lighting some areas. You must be scratching your head! Well, the fact is I like adequate lighting where I’m working. I don’t need it in unimportant areas. Those lanterns don’t produce enough light for anything. I’m just waiting on the post for my G4 bulbs.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Finishing the batterybox.

Today being another fine day and another work free day (the children are on holiday so I don’t have a school bus run to make), I worked more on my battery holder. First order of the day was to put a final coat of white paint on my holder then while that was drying to weld the other end onto my securing bracket.

I was down to my last 6011 1/16th welding rods but they lasted and I not only completed the welding but tideied up the mess made by my 3/32 rods. My arc welder is very good but it only gets on well with 1/16th welding rods. Anything ticker just becomes a blobby mess.
I’ve just ground the blobbiness of my top welds into flatness as they will be sitting on top of the battery and my aim is as with the underside to be as gentle on the battery as possible. I know batteries are tough but it still pays to be gentle. Now some have asked me why I’m not supporting the middle of the battery. The answer there is I don’t feel on a battery that small that it’s necessary and if the battery does leak then I’d rather it leaked onto the road than inside a container and corroded my container.

The plan today is to install the self-resetting breaker on my battery box and to complete the construction. There is a plan to secure the battery using the bracket I’ve just welded and primed. After that I’ll try to install the battery housing under the bus and try to secure the battery in place. That’ll leave me open to install the wiring.
Out of curiosity I put the cage I’ve built onto my scales and it seems to weigh a shade under 10lbs. The battery (which according to the spec sheet weighs 20lbs) also weighed 20lbs so I know the scales are right. For fun I put my original battery base onto the scales and that also came in at 10lbs. That base would have needed extra steel and would therefore have probably come in at around 30lbs or maybe more.

The bolts I’m using to secure the cage to the ribs are 5/16th grade 8. Now I’m not 100% sure what the grade 8 means but according to a data sheet I pulled up, each bolt has a tension capability of 8050lbs and a shear capability of 6980lbs. Combined, the 8 bolts should be able to hold 64,400lbs or over twice the fully laden (27,500lbs) weight of my bus. I don’t think my battery is going to drop off anytime soon. The weakest points are the ribs (which hold the body to the chassis) and the welds on my cage (which aren’t going to break anytime soon). The maths says this is going to work.

My concern about the heavier cage was more related to my ability to lift the blessed thing and support it while bolting it in place. I may be superhuman but I’m not a weightlifter and these days my flying capabilities are limited to downwards flying (with gravity assist).

As usual, I then got side-tracked. I have been aware through this whole project how I need a better work bench and so on. I found some steel angle that would be ideal for the task and set about welding it together to be a workbench. 
I had nothing but problems. I used 6011 rods that will weld galvanized steel and will cut through paint but I only had 3/32 rods remaining so the end result was a very difficult welding session in which I managed to make one weld hold and the work moved when I was welding. Thus, the end result was nothing as I have to cut the weld off and start again. It’s looking like I need to head to the store to buy more welding rods!

The plan with the bench is that since all the steel is pre-cut (from an old abandoned project) to build a two legged bench (the welds will be sufficient for that) about 4 feet long and about waist high. I don’t need to cut any steel at all. It’s all been done before. It’s not going to be massively strong but it’ll be sufficient for most needs. I won’t put an actual top on it though I could quite easily weld some steel from one of the abandoned appliances to make a flat top. The advantage of the open structure is things can be clamped to it using ordinary G clamps.

After a while I remembered I had some 1/16 7014 rods. Letting those linger would burn off any paint or zinc so I retrieved them and had a go. By the time darkness fell with its usual thud, I’d completed a functioning work bench. That left me with another problem. Because the bench is much neater and takes up less space than the two saw horses I had been using, the detritus of 3 years working on my bus is now visible. I’ll have to clean the yard up some.
I never got as far as installing the breaker on my battery holder nor the holes in the now painted battery bracket. I didn’t even get anything done as far as my side project of putting wires onto one of the LED panels. There’s always tomorrow though. I fully expect I’ll be working on the bus even on Christmas Day!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

I need a cleaning woman!

Sadly I don’t have a cleaning woman. I have to do it all myself! Fortunately I went shopping yesterday. I needed some small grinding stones to clean up the excess welds on my battery holder. Thus I went to the usual places. Mann Tools didn’t have a small grinding stone that fits a pistol drill and couldn’t imagine one that small nor a drill that could go at 5,000RPM. I think they’re used to those battery powered toy drills. They’re good for woodwork but that’s about it!

Next I went to Dillans but again, they didn’t have any small grinding stone nor could they imagine any. I did buy some at Harbor Freight last time but I’ll be blessed if I can find them! Then Habitat For Humanity but their tool selection was dismal this time. After that, Lowes (hiss, spit) was across the road. They had some but today I just couldn’t get them to perform all that well. Just in case, I also visited Ace Hardware where they had a multi pack of different sizes and shapes of pistol drill grindstone. I bought a pack.

Putting the Ace Hardware grinding bits to work achieved the aim of trimming down my oversized welds. Those would allow the battery to sit flat on the base I made. Sadly my side welds were too bulbous but as my angle-grinder fitted nicely, I ground them down much faster. Trying the battery found that it was a perfect fit.

I took a quick break. The bathroom called! It seems that I still have some kiddie germs and it’ll probably take a kiddie free week to be rid of them. This is the problem when you drive schoolbusses or work with children. Half of it is my fault because I’ve been lax on spraying the work bus down with disinfectant before each journey. I just plain forget.

So the next stage would have been installing my new breaker but for some reason I decided that painting was the order of the day. Out came a can of white spray paint purchased in Ace Hardware. It’s their own brand but paint is paint when it comes to enamel topcoat.
Meanwhile, as I walked by my bus the other day, I saw a stone that looked a bit too regular in shape. Picking it up proved it to be rusty metal. Tapping it on my outdoor workbench got the sand and grit out of it. It turned out to be a socket from a socket set. Not having any actual derusting solution, I popped it into the bottom of a coke can that I cut in half for the task and covered it with vinegar (ordinary white distilled malt vinegar). Three days later, the rust is literally falling off that socket, forming a sediment in the bottom of my container. It’s possible even to see the engraving on the socket. A few more days and I’ll whip it out of the vinegar, rinse and dry it then sray it with some protective paint. Sockets are always worth having - especially when they’re free! The vinegar trick saved me from dragging out a compressor and sugar (I sugar blast) just to clean one small item.

Some while ago, I ordered (without thinking of the replacement issue) three LED light panels. They arrived today. In a word, they’re bright. Unpleasant to view, in fact. I can see many uses for them but won’t be employing them in the bus anytime soon. I might, however, put them into a DIY LED lantern. It’d have to run off 12v however, which means it’s unlikely to be constructed this millennium but never say never!
At night, trying the light panels again, one single panel lit the bedroom very brightly. Though I said “never” - purely because replacement will be so uncertain - I really do feel I want to employ them somehow. A minor advantage of the G4 lights is that different power lights can be used. The biggest advantage is that as LED bulbs seem to do nothing but fail, they can be replaced with halogen or something else worthwhile.

I had planned to do more today but after part-welding a top bracket to put on top of my battery to secure it to the bottom, I was called away on a mission.
You are looking at the top bracket upside down. The two pieces that sit toward opposite ends rest on top of the battery with the vertical portions on the outsides of the battery. Thus, the bracket cannot slip. A second factor is that as the horizontal portion of the two pieces sit on top of the battery there is - if you will - a bridge or an air gap between them. This allows the battery to vent through the pressure strip that runs the length of the battery.

The plan tomorrow is to complete what I started today. To put a final topcoat on my white battery hanger and to complete and paint my top bracket - including drilling the holes. I also have to mount my self-resetting breaker on the side of the battery cage. That will ensure that in the event of a short circuit the battery is protected. A solid-state self-resetting circuit breaker would be more advantageous but thus far I’ve not seen one.

The G4 bulb mounts are easily mountable on a standard L bracket. That means I can attach them easily to my partitions. I’ve had my eye out looking idly for lamp shades for them. Having said that with something that produces next to no heat, a simple clear plastic tube could be used - the kind posters often come in. Spray it with frosting spray and trim it to length and there’s a lampshade.

If tomorrow goes as planned, I might even be able to complete fastening my underbus cables and even bolt the battery holder in place. I’m not going to rush that though - I want the paint fully cured. That can take a couple of weeks. I’d like to make a good start on the 12v battery cable though. By the end of December I want my solar 12v system done and I’d like to start thinking about a water inlet.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Battery hanger completed.

After a hearty breakfast of American delicacies about which my waistline is already complaining, I looked at the weather. The forecast for the week is fine - if you’re a duck! It seems to be cold and wet. There’s a 30% chance of rain for today which I hoped would not materialize.
Anyway, I got out there as soon as the temperature picked up. It was so cold even the pit bull didn’t want to go outside! Fortunately as I’d done all the hard work before, it was just a case of completing the welding and adding a couple of places where a battery clamp could be attached. From looking at the way car batteries are secured, there seems to be some kind of metal bracket holding down the battery and secured to two loops on the battery compartment base via what looks like two J hooks with a threaded portion at the top with a wing nut. I should be able to pick up the J hooks easily enough. I think I’ve seen them advertised. If not then I’m pretty sure I can rig up something similar. The top bracket isn’t hard to fabricate either.

After struggling with my 3/32 welding rods I eventually gave up on them and went for my 1/16th rods. What a difference! They were so easy to use. I had to use twice or three times the quantity and my welds look a bit blobby as a result but they’re good welds. After finishing the last weld I picked up my completed construction and dropped it on the ground. It went thud. If it had gone thud-ding then I’d have known there was something not properly welded.

I’d have liked to have cleaned up the welds a little but couldn’t find my small grindstones - I have some that fit in my pistol drill. No matter - I don’t think the roughnesses will have any effect on seating the battery.

The problem with my Harbor Freight 70A welder is that it’s underpowered for 3/32 rods. I should have paid a little extra and had the 90A welder instead. That would have made all the difference. Having said that, for my purposes, I really don’t need anything massive. My welds don’t have to look pretty - they just have to function. Similarly, the least I spend the better given the fact I have to earn every penny I spend. It’s not like I have a sugar daddy out there.

My Harbor Freight protective gear is pretty darned good. I went cheap the first time around with a non-adjustable welding helmet. While it worked well enough in full sunlight (as long as there was no light behind me), it really didn’t help all that much. I was welding blind. I’d advise anybody to use the Harbor Freight stuff.
One of the things I’m very glad I bought is my digital infrared thermometer. Mine tops out at about 250F and just says “Hi” rather than giving me the actual temperature of the work. That’s perfectly fine though. I could have bought a thermometer that went to 1,000F but really there wasn’t much point. There’s precious little difference between welded steel that’s at 997F and 200F. Touching either is going to burn pretty badly. There just wasn’t much point in knowing any temperature over 100F because if it’s over 100F I’m certainly not going to be touching it with my bare hands!
A few minutes after I’d welded all but the battery clamp terminations onto my battery holder, I used my digital thermometer. You can see it at the bottom left of the photo of the welded work.
As you can see, it says 157F. That’s just a little too hot for me to want to touch to be honest. I waited a good while before I touched it. That was when I did the drop test. It made a lovely thud sound. Now my original battery holder made from the old bed frame from way heavier steel was far heavier than my complete construction!

I’ve made my hanger to be suspended from eight 5/16 bolts. I figure since the battery is 20LBs and my holder is probably 10LBs then that’s 30LBs. Even if my holder weighed as much as the battery and the whole lot weighed 40LBs - which I assure you it does not - then each bolt would have to support 5LBs or in a good shock scenario, 15LBs. I’m good!
With the weather holding off, I hunted amidst my paints to find something to put on the bare steel to prevent it rusting. Clearly I’d used my rust-killing primer so I found the next best thing - a couple of cans of self-etching primer. I sprayed the whole thing with primer. Then when the top side of the primer had mostly dried (it is warmer today) I picked it up (using a plastic bag since some patches were still wet), turned it over and sprayed the rest of it with self-etching primer. I sat it on a spare piece of steel sheet while I did so.

Meanwhile I looked at my one-way valves for my air vents. They’re a really tight fit in my 4 inch tubing. I’m pretty sure I’ll have to cut the reducers out of my tubing. Fortunately I have a 4 inch hole saw so wiggling that around inside my vent tube should enlarge it enough to make my valves slide in easily.

After the paint dried or rather the primer dried, I pulled out a can of Rustoleum white spray paint. It sprayed a little then refused to spray any more - despite the can still being full. That’s pretty much my experience with spray cans, to be honest, they just don’t work half the time. The only reason I use them is because even so, it’s cheaper than using disposable paintbrushes. In the end I found another can of paint. Not a color I wanted but it’ll do as a middle-coat. I’d like to put white on it because white shows up rust well. Right now though, purple is the color. Knowing the way things go - it’s probably going to stay purple too!

Saturday, December 16, 2017

The home-made battery cage

Today I continued on work from where I left off last time I did some welding. I’d been ill a few times in the intervening period which hasn’t helped with construction speed but seeing as my original completion goal had been January of 2015, I’m not that worried.
The day started with a bit of welding. I put the fourth side on the battery base and then got myself a doughnut and a cup of coffee. I’d had to wait til midday to start on account of how cold it is these days. The working day in winter is pretty short!
As can be seen. The battery fits perfectly. The base is built to be slightly bigger than the actual battery in order to facilitate easy removal and installation. There is no bottom to the center of the base in order to facilitate drainage and because the battery should be strong enough without support in the middle, given that the battery weighs but 20LBs. If the battery fails then I’ll just get a UL1 sized LiOn battery instead. All I need do is to adjust the parameters on my charge controller for lithium batteries to work well.

The next stage was to build the top - this is the piece that will bolt to the underside of the ribs. There happen to be two sets of open channel close together behind the back wheels. This is an area where the battery is liable to be bounced a bit so I’ll build it and hope it all works. If not then I can move it forward though I’m not keen on doing welding in front of the wheels. I have nightmares about things dropping off even though it’s unlikely. Too many people have put doubts into my own head about my own skills. Heck, I bet if I mentioned I drive school busses that they’d find some reason why I shouldn’t drive them or why I’m bad at it or can’t cope with the problems of driving challenging busses.

As an aside in the past two weeks I’ve driven 7 different busses each with its own issues. Two had very sensitive brakes that had two modes - full on or none. One had a steering wheel with 8 inches of slop in it. One had a maximum speed of 44mph or 1mph slower than is permitted on the interstate yet that bus had to use the interstate so I was the slowest vehicle around. One had very vague brakes that needed the pedal to the floor before they’d really work. Another had so little power that acelleration was very gradual. Think in terms of 60 seconds to get from zero to 45mph. Then there’re the different types of bus - type B, type C and type D. My normal bus is a type B but I drive anything I’m given. Oh yes and one had a terrible turning circle that had me pausing until oncoming traffic had passed before I could complete my turn! So yes... I can drive even the most challenging busses.
Spot the silly mistake! I welded the edges the wrong way around which means I have a little bit of a challenge coming up when it comes to attaching the bottom to the top! Fortunately I accept challenges and will spank this one soundly. The central bar is just there to hold the two parallel bars apart in order to make construction of the rest easier. It also allows me to take just the top under the bus in order to fit it properly. That means for marking where the holes for the bolt holes will go and drilling the holes in the underside of the ribs.

Ideally I’d have liked to have done the remains of my underbody wiring today but I think building my battery cage is probably going to take the whole day. (As the astute will realise, I’m blogging as I work). 

Eventually after taking until dusk, I managed to get most of the battery cage together. Remaining to do are several welds - the battery holder is just tacked on by a single weld at the moment. I’d been underneath and drilled mounting holes so the cage and battery will be suspended from (currently) eight 5/16 bolts. At a rough guess I’d say my holder weighs 10lbs though it could be about 5lbs. That means the whole caboodle weighs 30lbs. Even if it weighed 40lbs (which it doesn’t) then each bolt has to support 5lbs or 15lbs with a lot of downward force applied. I’d say that it’ll hold nicely.
That’s what it looked like at the time the daylight hopped on the train and escaped. The next stage is to complete the welds and to add a couple of tie-downs so the battery can be secured into its cage. I’ll also bolt my 30A resetting breaker to the cage so that the battery will be protected in the event of overload. I might add a non-resetting breaker or even just say stuff it and put a non-resetting breaker anyway.

I didn’t get the time to do any more wiring under the bus but if today had been twice as long then I might have had time. Too many coffee breaks and doughnuts slowed me down a bit. In fact I was asked today if I was a policeman - such is my love of pizza and doughnuts and coffee!

Thursday, December 14, 2017

The light is cold

A few days ago I test sprayed one of my three cheap LED lanterns with frosting spray. The picture below is a comparison between frosted and unfrosted. I think you’ll agree the frosted lantern is far easier on the eyes.
 In spraying several things became apparent. First that not very much spray is actually needed. The cap of the spray can is almost impossible to remove unless you whack it with a wrench like I did. Now it won’t stay on but that’s what duct tape is for! Finally and most importantly the spray needs at least 59F ambient temperature or the frosting effect doesn’t happen.
 I can’t remember how much money changed hands for this spray. It wasn’t free (unfortunately) but though it hasn’t got tremendous application, it’s a useful thing to have.
 Here’s a lineup of my three cheap lanterns, all sprayed. No light hotspots visible! Notice how evenly the light is applied and how easy it is to look at the lanterns. It was pure discomfort to Use and view them before.
This is a very deceiving image. While I did take that using solely the light from my three lanterns - No flash and no other lighting - it really was quite dim in there. You can see that by the way the light doesn’t throw much further than the bedroom. The bathroom looks dingy and the kitchen beyond the white double doors looks quite sepulchral.

I have, on order, some G4 bulb holders, just in care I want to put 12v G4 LED light bulbs and three flat LED 1000 lumen, 10W light strips. I don’t expect the light strips to be much good but thought I’d try them. The G4 mounts will also take standard G4 bulbs so I can use trustworthy illumination if needed.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Workday improvements.

Today is a workday but as I had to go to Walmart to get a prepaid card for my smartphone, I did a little extra shopping. First off was the Post Office where I had to wait for them to open. I’d arrived at 08:50, neglecting to remember that as my day starts at 05:40 that everybody else lags behind a little. Needless to say I sent my dad his Christmas card. A little late but as I had the flu last week, I didn’t want to risk sending flu virus to him.

Next stop was Lowes (hiss, spit) where I got some frosting spray. That was intended for use with one of my lanterns and possibly all of my lanterns if it works well enough. I sprayed one as a test subject. If that works then I have three others that also need frosting spray. Then those nasty bare LED lantern things might be usable.
As you can see, the frosting spray has had a definite effect. It’s meant for glass but it should work on plastic. I’ll just have to see how effective it is later today or perhaps tomorrow.

Meanwhile, while I was in Lowes (hiss, spit) I found a flapper draft stopper for a 4 inch pipe. My exhaust vents are 4 inch pipe. Well, they had one and I found it in the plumbing section. I needed two but there was only one. Spotting a stray shop worker, I pounced on him before anybody else did and he led me straight to the only other one in the store. Now I have two. I’ll likely have to do quite a bit of work both on them and to my ducting in order to get it all to work but that’ll be well worthwhile if it works as intended. Not only should it work as a draft blocker but it should also stop critters quite successfully.
It was pricy for something that I’ll need to modify but at $7 it is probably worth its weight in gold. I’ll have to trim the flat plate from around the edges in order to insert it into my ducting but that’s not a major problem. I’ll probably have to cut the inserts out of my tubing if I glued them in last time. I might not have glued them but that’s not a problem. I’ve cut stuff out before and sanded the inside of tubing. Worst case scenario, I have to redo my vent ducting totally. Not a major problem!

I forgot and left my 12v battery charging on my solar panel all day yesterday and left it out all night too. I remembered when I was in the shower last night (I shower at night because out here in the countryside, freezing temperatures can mean no water in the morning). Taking it off charge after I returned home from my morning schoolbus run, the battery voltage was 12.9v so I set it to use charging my tablet.
The voltage keeps flickering 11.8, 11.7, 12.1, 12.2 but it’s charging my tablet. I get better out of charging my tablet in the bus because the solar array is connected to the battery. So, having removed this battery from the 5W solar panel, I put my other identical battery to charge from the solar panel. This time I’ll probably leave it a couple of day since the initial voltage was 11v.

I really need to get cracking on doing more welding, wiring and plumbing but don’t want to get involved in dirty stuff before work. That’s a job for the weekend! Incidentally the high this weekend is 51F (11C). That’s pretty chilly for any underbus work.

While I was out, I had a look at some plumbing stuff. I decided I’ll probably use Pex piping for all my fresh water but secured with jubilee clips as opposed to Pex clamps. Various people full of horseshit have told me jubilee clips won’t work but there’s no reason given that stands up to scrutiny. I suspect most that say that are embarrassed because they bought the expensive Pex tool and don’t like others to be getting one over on them by doing things just as well but more cheaply. I am in no way ready to do any plumbing yet.

And Walmart - I totally forgot to go there! My Straight Talk phone was at the end of its month and needed more credit. I’d tried logging on last night to do it online and been through “your password is wrong, reset your password” which I duly did, followed by “password reset. Enter password. Password is wrong. Reset password”. It was a vicious cycle! Anyway since I totally forgot to buy a phone card I had a last ditch attempt this morning after work. After having reset my password at least three times, an old password found in my inbox from January actually worked! So, my phone got paid. I don’t think 2GB of data plus unlimited talk/text is bad value at $39 after tax.

This evening I might test my newly frosted lantern. Even if it doesn’t turn out to be as good for illumination (which it wasn’t anyway) I might just spray the others purely in order to get rid of the glare of those nasty bare LEDs (which was the whole point of the spray anyway). In general I’m not greatly impressed by the vast majority of this artificial lighting stuff. Out of curiosity I measured outside (nice bright cloudless day with a hazy sun) at 50,000 lux. Indoors I measured 58 lux. I have no ideal how accurate my phone’s lux meter is but I’ll hazard a guess that it’s not very. Mind, light measurement is a tricky thing anyway - where do you measure from? That’s a perennial issue for photographers.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

The continuing adventures of the 5W panel.

As I happened to be out today performing the heinous act of shopping in Walmart, I availed myself of the opportunity to purchase a tea-light lantern. This will be used as a benchmark for all my future lighting. It takes one tealight and will thus produce one Candela of lighting. In terms of Lux, this is 1.19 lux. In Lumens this is 12.56.

I could heartily wish manufacturers would grade all their lighting in candela - it makes far more sense than lumens or lux, both of which measure things other than illumination. Lumens measures brightness (which is worthless without illumination) and lux just measures the light falling on a particular area. I could put a laser in a box and call it a light and say “oh yeah, this produces 20,000 lumens” but the fact that those 20,000 lumens illuminate only an area the size of a pinhead pretty much defeats the purpose.

I know my candle will produce 1 candela or 12.56 lumens. Doing a quick and worthless calculation, my whooptie-do-dah GE lantern that allegedly produces 350 lumens thus produces as much light as 27 candles. That really does not sound that great! Interestingly, hurricane lamps powered by kerosine can produce more light. A standard domestic unit with a 3/8 inch wick produces 4 candela. A bigger one with a 2.5 inch wick, as used in stores would produce 300 Candela. Now, interestingly I was in Walmart and measured the lux at about 300. In the kitchen in the trailer here, I measured it at 130 lux.
As I don’t currently possess a tea-light, I’ll have to hold off on my investigation as to the brightness of my tea-light lantern. Suffice to say, when I used to travel a lot, I used always to carry tea-lights and a tea-light lantern because it worked out at lighter and better value than a flashlight and batteries. One tea-light provides up to 3 hours of usable, consistent light. I don’t want to use anything flammable in my bus as a matter of routine though. I have fire extinguishers - I just don’t want to have to use them.

Another project today was to try out my 5w solar panel on my 7AH battery. Placing the battery on the hood of the bus and slipping a volt meter into it, I measured the resting voltage of the battery at a shade over 12.1v. In fact the meter kept flipping between 12.1v and 12.2v.
It was a matter of seconds to undo the battery clips and clip on my solar panel, placing the whole lot in the sun. It was placed in situ at about 1:45pm so it’ll be interesting to see how much if any the voltage has risen after an hour or two. I’d imagine since it’s a bright day and that I aligned the panel pretty well straight at the sun that my 5w or 0.4A of power will raise the voltage to 12.3v. A few days and I’m sure the battery would read 12.8v (full). My installed solar panels will be of lower efficiency than stated because they’re fixed in place and not angled correctly at the sun. They do, however, provide plenty power.
The ultimate plan is to link in a 50W portable panel on an extension cord that I can link to my existing solar system. That is one that I can angle straight at the sun. That should provide approximately 3A of power or enough to keep one of my fans running constantly or, buffering, my two fans running 50% of the time. One hour on, one hour off. I wouldn’t want to put a bigger panel on the ground where somebody could steal it. A 50W panel would cost probably about $50-$80. I did see a couple listed at $18 on ebay but given that one was from Sri Lanka and one from Spain, both with vegetation that looked distinctly similar and more Russian then I’d say they’re scams. A look on Amazon proved their cheapest 50W panel was by Renology and was $56 which confirmed my suspicions about the ebay listings being fraudulent. We know the procedure - long quoted shipping periods which gives the crooks 30 days to grab the money and run before anybody suspects anything, leaving ebay out of pocket and everybody pretty much fuming at the waste of time. I had that happen twice when I was buying my IP security camera!

The goal of my small battery plus my 5W panel is to produce something that can be an independent power source for my camera or for cell phone charging. Pretty much it’s a fun little side project that I’m having fun with. I’m certain there will be plenty naysayers out there like always with disparaging comments. In fact that’s pretty much the kind of thing that was one of the topics of one of the work meetings the other day - people that create a toxic work environment. I’d been going to contribute to the fare for the Christmas festivities at work and to participate but having encountered some of the toxic people the other day, I’m having second thoughts about contributing and attending. I certainly didn’t join the Secret Santa thing because I’d rather buy my own stuff.

Eventually, I whipped out the angle-iron that I’d bought a week or so back and cut it with my angle grinder. Then I whipped out my welder and my new Vulcan weding rods. There’s a difference! I’d only been using the older Harbor Freight rods and been struggling. These Vulcan rods sizzled their way to success very quickly and easily. I’m wondering if half my welding issues were related to poorer quality rods.
Now the theory is that should be pretty darned close to 90 degrees and flat. Only time and addition of the other members will tell. (Blogging as I work). The aim is to produce a new, lighter battery base than I made out of the older bed frame steel. Many times I tried to recycle what the hillbillies had used but their choice of materials was so poor that the vast majority of their stuff could not be recycled. Steel angle that was ludicrously heavy, electrics that were woefully underpowered and woodwork that while well made was not of substantial quality. It was as though they’d had the idea, had no idea what materials were appropriate and no idea how to put it all together.

Shortly after that I ran into the usual problem with a weld not sticking and rods not performing. That was compounded by the steel I’d been clamping things to deciding to wobble and fall off its perch. Major cussing ensued for several minutes as everything conspired to confound and frustrate. If the neighbors 200 yards away aren’t now blushing, I’d be very surprised!

The solution to my dilemma was pretty straightforward. Rather than relying upon wobbly supports, I decided to weld my supports together so they won’t wobble. that’ll give me another issue when it comes time to take the supports apart but as they’re not made of steel destined for use in the bus, right now I just don’t care!
At one point, I was even looking to find my thinner rods and had a good hunt but still couldn’t find them. I know I have a ton of welding rods in the bus but they’re being elusive today. Perhaps another day will prove more fruitful.

Anyway, having welded my workbench together more securely I recommenced work on the battery base. Within a few minutes I had achieved my aim and had three portions securely welded together. I’ll need to work more on one of the welds and I’ll have some angle grinding to do but it’s definitely getting there.
I’ll have to trim and weld on the 4th side another day and then try the battery for fit. Currently it’s about an eighth bigger in width than need be. That will facilitate snug installation of the battery.

Meanwhile I had completely forgotten about my battery that was busily charging from my 5W solar panel. Checking the voltage it had crept up to 12.4V. That’s not too bad. I figure a full day of sunshine should see that maxed out at 12.8v. I have no idea when it went dark but it was plenty dark when I put it inside the bus at 6pm.

I’m still quite favorably impressed by the Vulcan welding rods, despite my issues earlier with starting and maintaining an arc. Part of the problem is the rods are so long and harder to handle than my previous rods. I suspect I’ll have to use pliers or something to hold the rod closer to the end. Mind, tightening the sloppy jaws on my rod holder would go a long way too!