Friday, November 14, 2014

Installing Fantastic Fans

The last warm day before our first winter storm gave me a chance to get the two Fantastic fans and Maxx-Aire covers installed on our cargo trailer to camper conversion, so this post is mostly about that, but some other things have transpired, also, that I will talk about toward the end.

For those who have been following my progress, you will remember that I already had the openings framed in and the ceiling panels in place on the inside. I still have to cut out the holes for the ceiling lights, which will be just in front of each of the holes shown in the photo below. The fan wiring will come off those lights.

Fantastic fan openings framed in.


The only things I had to cut through yet was a thin layer of plywood and the sheet metal roofing. I got a surprise when I went up on the roof, though, and discovered that the galvanized sheet metal has developed a thin layer of rust on most of it. This will have to be dealt with during our next warm spell...meaning this winter yet...as I don't think it should wait until spring.

As you can see in the photo after the fans were installed, I am getting some rust stains on the sides, so this will have to be stopped soon. A little kit wax will take the rust marks off the painted areas, but I don't want it coming back again. The whole exterior of the trailer will get a good cleaning and waxing next summer before we leave here, and all the painted black areas around the bottom will be repainted. The wheels will also need some temporary paint, but eventually, we will get new wheels on it.

The two Maxx-Aire covers on the roof.

I already have two gallons of roof coating purchased from last spring that I never got around to applying, but now, an extra step will be required. My idea is to get some of that new primer that bonds with rust and stops it in its tracks. Most paints require temperatures in excess of 50 degrees, so I hope we have at least one more day of that in our near future. Then I will need another day to go over that with the roof coating...maybe more than one coat.

But for now, time was of the essence, so I had to work with what I had. (If we decide to keep this trailer for an extended time, I want to check on what it would cost to have a rubberized roof installed on it at some point in the future.)


The Fantastic fan installation...


My only ladders, without using the large 12-foot extension ladder, are two 6-foot fiberglass stepladders, of which one was all I needed. I would have preferred a scaffold that would go across the whole trailer so I wouldn't have to put my weight on the roof, but again, I made do with what was available.

To keep the ladder from tipping away from the trailer as I climbed onto the roof. I used one of my long 2-inch ratchet straps, without the buckle part. I simply hooked into one of the tool-holder holes in the top step of the ladder and threw the other end over the top of the trailer. Then I went to the doorway side and pulled it taught enough to secure the ladder and tied the loose end off to the upper cam bar hinge near the trailer side door. There was no way the ladder was going to kick out or tip over.

To keep from adding too much weight to the roof in a small area, I took a piece of 3/4-inch plywood about 3-feet square up there to kneel on while I worked. I also threw an extension cord up there for the saber saw to cut the holes out.

From the inside, I started with a 3/8-inch metal cutting drill bit and drilled a hole up through the roof at all four corners of both ceiling openings, already sized to a little over 14-inches square (standard opening for ceiling vents in RV's). These would be the guide marks to know where the holes were when I got on top of the roof. Then I used a framing square to mark straight lines on the roof at the outer edge of the holes.

Using Wiss sheet metal shears (both right and left versions) I cut the sheet metal out first. I probably could have cut everything with a fine tooth metal cutting blade in the saber saw, but couldn't find my extra blades. It already had a course wood-cutting blade in it, so I used that on the plywood, but the sheet metal had to be cut out of the way first.

After a trial fit of the vents in the holes, just to make sure they fit, I applied a 1/4-inch bead of gutter seal with the caulking gun. I know there are other caulks available, but NEVER use silicone on the exterior of RV's...ANYWHERE. I have seen that done on other RV's that I have bought used, where the previous owner tried to use it around windows and seams, and it was an ugly mess that took forever to remove so I could do it right! Silicone may be good for a lot of things, but there is always a RIGHT caulk for the RIGHT use, and this isn't it!

I know there are white exterior caulks (mainly Dicor) that work well for things like roof repairs and installing vents, but this is rural Arkansas where none is readily available, and I knew that gutter seal would do the job. The fact that it is silver in color is of no consequence, because everything will get covered over anyway with the roof coating. The main concern was how well it seals, and I can tell you that this stuff will last a lot longer than I plan to keep this trailer!

Note 1: There is a white foam gasket included with the fans, and the instructions aren't real clear on where this gasket is to be used, but it DOES NOT go on the roof. The gasket is a "light seal" to be used around the inside cover of the fan, in case it doesn't fit tight to the ceiling around the edges. Whether you need it or not is up to the installer, but DO NOT use it on the roof!

Note 2: At first glance, all the screws look alike, but if you look closely there are two different sizes of sheet metal screws. Four of them are slightly smaller, both in diameter as well as length, and those are for the inside trim escutcheon (the cover) that goes against the ceiling on the inside. DO NOT get these mixed up. Sort them out ahead of time, and leave them with the inside cover. If you try to use a larger screw in the cover, you could break the plastic around the screws, and make them useless to hold the cover on!

So with a good, heavy bead of sealant around the opening, I installed the vents into their holes and continued to install the screws that were included with the vents. Then I ran another bead of gutter seal around the edges of the vents, and also over every screw head.

The next step was to install the Maxx-Aire covers. These come with aluminum angle pieces that must first be attached to the sides of the Fantastic fan curbs. There are instructions with the covers. You must first test fit the cover over the fan, and line the clips up with the holes in the edge of the covers. I made a pencil mark on the roof adjacent to each of the mounting points, so once I removed the cover, I could see where the clips needed to go. Then I made a pencil mark through the holes onto the sides of the fan curbing, then drilled the holes.

A few things must happen here. (1) You must raise the cover of the Fantastic fan in order to reach your hand inside. (2) You still won't be able to reach anything without removing the entire shroud assembly from inside the trailer (the part with all the switches on it). First, you must remove the knob that opens the roof cover. It has one Phillips screw in the middle of it. There are only two push-on wire terminals on the switch that need to be unplugged from the switch (remember which one goes where or it won't work right), and then you can lay the shroud aside until you are ready to re-install it. (3) You should also remove the fan blade. There is one Phillips screw in the center of it, and then it will pull straight off the shaft. Be sure to pull on the center hub and not near the edges of the fan, or you could break it. When you re-install it, there is a flat on the shaft that must align with a flat inside the hole in the fan blade. Don't forget to put the screw back in the center of it!

There are instructions with the Maxx-Aire covers, but basically, you have to drill a 3/16-inch hole through the side of the Fantastic vent curb at four locations. Then there are screws and washers that must be installed in the correct order. The nuts go on the inside, and this is where you have to be able to reach through the Fan opening to hold the nuts on the inside while to you tighten the Phillips head screws on the outside. You could also have a second person hold them with a small wrench on the inside, but if you are by yourself like I was, you can also use Vice-Grips on the nuts. The Vice-Grips can hang free, as they won't be able to turn very far anyway. But it's enough to keep the nuts from turning while you tighten the screws.

I also added a little bit of gutter seal around each screw on the side that goes against the fan curbing, to make sure there would be no rain leaks through the screw holes.

Once all four of the clips are installed on each fan curb, you insert the carriage bolts supplied with the cover from the under-side of the four clips, in the long slots, so the threads are up. Then you position the Maxx-Aire cover over the clips, making sure to center it properly so it doesn't rub on the fan cover when it is raised on the under-side. Then install the lock washers and hex nuts over the carriage bolts, and snug them down just tight enough to hold. I used a 7/16ths nut driver, but a small wrench would also work. That's all there is to it on the top side.

Now you can clear everything off the roof, and go on the inside to check your work. Use the knob that raises and lowers the fan cover to make sure that you can do so without anything rubbing or binding. If it does, then figure out which way you need to move the Maxx-Aire cover, and go back up on the roof and re-position it. When everything works as it should, you can re-install the fan blade, the shroud and attach the knob, and you are done with that part.

The only other part to install is the inside trim cover against the ceiling, but I am not ready to do that yet until I paint the inside of the trailer, so those will remain in their boxes (with the correct screws) for now until I need them. They have an extra long collar on them for deeper roofs, so it may be necessary to use the saber saw to trim part of that collar off. If the trim doesn't fit tight to the ceiling, then the amount of space between the trim and the ceiling is what must be cut off before it will fit right. We'll talk more about that when the time comes to install them.

The wiring...


I was going to try to get the wiring installed before I installed the fans but that didn't happen. I can do that from the inside after I get some heat in there. Even in this thin roof, the fan assembly does not come all the way down flush with the ceiling, so I still have about an inch around the bottom where I can get a hole drilled through the framing to bring the wires in from the ceiling light...which in this case is less than a foot away.

The fans come with rather long leads on the motors, but they also include a few feet of the same wires, and a couple of insulated butt splicers, to crimp onto the wires. If your trailer was pre-wired for fans, you won't need the extra wires, but in my case I will make use of them. More on that later.

After the fans and Maxx-Aire covers were installed, I was curious to see just how much light would come in. The fans have smoke-colored covers. Plus the Maxx-Aire cover, even though it is white, restricts a little more light, so I really wanted to see how much would filter though. Since I don't have plans at this time to install windows in the trailer, these vents will be the only natural light source. So I closed the side door from the inside, and found that there is enough light to get into the trailer without falling over anything, and that is sufficient for our needs.

The front Fantastic fan in place, less wiring and inside trim.


I also wear transitions lenses in my glasses, and they were still gray from being outside in the sun, but even so, I could still see well enough to get around without falling over anything on the floor. Once my eyes adjusted, and my glasses started to clear up, it became better. It's just enough light to see to work at the computer, and enough that we will know when the sun comes up, but not enough to keep us from sleeping if we decide to sleep in. If we need more, we will have two overhead LED lights (as soon as I change the lamps in them), plus we will have LED lighting under the cabinets on both sides of the trailer, plus Sharon's piano light, so we'll be fine. We may add some extra lights later, like one in the closet, and one near the head of each bed for a reading light.

Other good news!


Also on Monday, the day I installed the fans, The Fed Ex driver delivered the two 6-volt deep cycle batteries I ordered on Amazon. Yay!

The two new 6-volt deep cycle batteries.

I unpacked them to see how big they were, and they will fit nicely in the bottom of the closet, in a compartment next to the porta-potty. The 1500-watt inverter will be mounted to the side wall of the closet directly above the batteries, and the refrigerator will be on the other side of that wall, so I can run the cord right through the wall behind the refrigerator and plug it directly into the inverter. There will be a shore power AC receptacle next to it, so if we have shore power, I'll simply unplug from the converter and plug into the other receptacle. The inverter will only be used when in transit, or when boondocking.

These batteries weigh about 77 pounds each, which is why I wanted that weight positioned just ahead of the axle. Everything that I designed into this trailer was located with its weight in mind, so that it remains balanced evenly side to side, and with not too much weight on the tongue, nor in the back end...which causes "fishtailing" going down the road!

I still have to purchase a converter/charger, and that will probably (undecided yet) be mounted in the rear storage compartment along with most of the other electrical distribution system. The only other thing that I plan to put in the compartment with the batteries is a fuse block for the 12-volt circuits.

Nearly all wiring will be surface mounted with WireMold or through the overhead cabinets, in case anyone was wondering about that. With only 1-1/4-inch sidewalls, there's just not enough thickness for recessed wiring and electrical boxes.

As far as a monitor panel, I have some other good news, thanks to one of my readers. Barring any unforeseen events, by mid-December I will have a new roof rack and two 100-watt solar panels and all the wiring. Not sure yet if any kind of charge controller is with the package (if any), but even if it is, I may want a better one, so it is somewhat of a moot point. Before I'm done with that part, I will have a top-of-the-line charge controller and monitor panel so I can see everything that is happening with the system. After I use it for awhile, I will know first-hand whether I will need to add another panel, or even more batteries.

Solar is one of those things that has so many variables...electrical losses due to heat, wiring, shade on the panels, etc., etc., plus varying loads and the amount of time those loads are used. No matter what calculations you use, they are still only going to get you "close". The proof will come in actual use, and that's what we're working toward.

Eventually, we will want the capability of longer boondocking ability, but this setup will get us started, and then we'll add to it if we need to.

Future power plans...


As I have mentioned before, our next towing vehicle will have to have a generator and air conditioning on it...because of our German Spitz. If we have to leave him in the vehicle while we shop or sightsee, and it's more than 70 degrees out, he will need A/C to stay comfortable. And the vehicle will also solve the problem of needing a generator if we are boondocking. We can plug the trailer into the RV and run the generator long enough to recharge the trailer batteries, use the microwave, or anything else we need to do with power.

We will be looking for a large Class B or "B+" for our tow vehicle...possibly a Road Trek, Pleasureway, Leisure Travel, or something similar. We have decided that a large motorhome again is not in our best interest for the type of traveling we want to do. With the cargo trailer as both extra storage as well as extra living quarters, we don't need anything bigger, and yet whatever it is will still be small enough for a daily runner. The trailer can go with or stay at a campground. That will be decided on a daily basis.

Keeping warm...


Also arriving on Friday (the day this post goes online) will be the new Broan wall mount electric heater, that will go in the center of the rear bulkhead wall that will divide the rear storage compartment from the living area. The heater will face forward, right down the middle aisle, and is fan-forced, so that warm air will circulate all through the trailer when we have shore power available. It has two heat settings, 500-watts and 1000-watts, which should provide plenty of heat for the places we will be camping. Also, being permanently mounted, it's one less thing to have to store when not using it.

Until I get the wall built, I'll rig it up with a temporary cord and use to heat the trailer this winter while I finish the inside work. If we should need heat for boondocking, we plan to also have a Mr. Heater Big Buddy propane catalytic heater. Hopefully, we won't need either heater very often as we don't plan to stay where the temperature doesn't agree with us!

Keeping cool...


The new 5,050 BTU GE air conditioner is unpacked and setting to the right of the batteries in the photo above, in roughly the position it will be mounted permanently in the front of the couch. Holes with screens and filters will have to be cut down through the floor behind it for the incoming and outgoing air for the "outside" portion of it. Baffles will have to be inserted under the couch to keep the incoming and outgoing air separated. I will also fabricate some "hoods" for the underside of the floor to protect these holes through the floor from road water and debris getting splashed into them from underneath. The front side will have the air diverter pointed upward and toward the middle of the trailer, toward the center aisle, so it will work great. I have seen this setup used on many of the new smaller RV's.

The other item is our new Hamilton Beach 2-door refrigerator/freezer that will set on top of the counter top to the left of the sink. Sharon discovered this at Walmart this last week, and knowing that they only keep enough on hand to fill the shelf space, we decided to to go back and get it that same night before it was bought by someone else. Yesterday, I cut the shipping bands on it and pulled the cover off so we could actually see what the inside looks like, and we were both VERY pleased! The freezer compartment on this thing is cavernous! (Excuse the photo below, as it was night-time in our poorly lit garage, and the camera didn't want to focus properly.)

Our new double-door refrigerator!


Most of these refrigerators that are designed for "under-counter" use (less than 34 inches tall) have small freezers on them, especially if they are single door models. We wanted a freezer compartment large enough to hold a tub of ice cream, a couple of ice cube trays, some gel packs for our "day-trip" coolers, and enough left for whatever food we need to keep frozen...maybe even a small pizza! This one will definitely do the job!

I will leave it in the garage until we need it in the trailer. While in the garage, I have to get it up on a bench to change the door swing on it. They always seem to come hinged on the right, but for our use, we need it to be hinged on the left, so the opening faces the kitchen work area. This one allows the conversion.

The refrigerator section is only 3.1 cubic feet, but that's about the size we had in our truck camper, and if we need more, we still have a 40-quart and a console sized (Peltier Effect) powered cooler for any extra needs. Based on past refrigeration needs, I doubt we will need them, except for day trips, which is why we will need the gel packs to help them cool down quicker and run more efficiently.

This refrigerator is just under 33-inches tall, and will fit nicely between the countertop and the ceiling in the trailer, putting it up high where we can see what's in it. We would never buy an RV where the refrigerator is at floor level, because it's too hard to see what's in it! Those RV's aren't made for older folks with bad backs!

We have the countertop, also, a dark blend of white, brown and black laminate, "granite look". It's one of the stock colors that Home Depot carries. It's a post-formed style, but with more of a square edge, rather than the typical rounded edge.

And we have the double set of bi-fold closet doors. Those will open up twice, to form an enclosure in front of the closet for more room and privacy for the porta-potty. More on all this stuff later, as it gets installed.

Getting wet...


We also have a brand new stainless steel bar sink, but I still have to order the high-rise faucet for it yet (with a sprayer, which will also double as an emergency shower wand with our Bivouac Buddy shower enclosure) (That was discussed in a previous post).

I also have to order the two 8-gallon Reliance Hydrollers yet (shown in an earlier post), for our fresh water supply, as well as the 12-volt demand water pump and a 4-gallon electric water heater. Later on, I will order a small gray water tank (also shown in an earlier post) that will go in the rear storage compartment. I'll pickup whatever plumbing fittings, electrical fittings and other hardware I need as I will use them.

Going forward...

I should be in the process of hooking up the new heater as you read this post this weekend, and then I will be ready to start the cabinet building...probably starting with the framework for the rear bulkhead wall, so I can mount the heater in it. The bulkhead wall is removable so that next year, as the time to leave gets closer, we can get Sharon's piano into the trailer.

The next thing will probably be the kitchen cabinet, so I can install the countertop on it and (1) get it out of my way, and (2) have some additional work area. The rest will be fit in as it needs to be.

As always, comments and discussion are always encouraged. And I want to thank the reader for his offer this week, and look forward to getting together next month. And for those who use my links, I thank you for helping me to keep the lights on!

Until next time, stay well and travel safe!


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