Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Just Plugging Away...

As we get closer to our departure time (whenever that might turn out to be) it becomes more difficult to find time to keep the blog current, but in the absence from the blog, we have been making progress in the real world. This time, I have several new things to report, but they were not necessarily done in the order in which I mention them.

One of the things was to get the 120V electric operational. In the sense of keeping things simple, I will only show one photo for now, but keep in mind this is in the very rough stages. The wiring has to be wire-tied and secured, which will make it look a lot neater.

The 120V distribution center.
In any RV wiring, there should always be a GFCI (ground fault circuit interrupter), as well as surge protection, and over-current protection for the individual circuits. What you see above provides all three.

The incoming power cord is a heavy-duty #12 extension cord, capable of handling well over 20 amps, which is about all that our trailer will ever use. If anything goes bad on the cord, or it is not long enough, it can easily be swapped out for another by simply unplugging it and plugging in a new one. It feeds a standard 20-amp GFCI duplex receptacle, which provides the ground fault protection for the entire trailer. No other GFCI is needed, and in fact, you cannot use a secondary GFCI fed from a first one, as it will cause it to trip under any load. However, you can come in and out of the line side of the receptacle without using the load side, and in that case you can put as many in a circuit as allowed (usually up to seven, according to code)...but why would you want to? If you use the load side out of the first one (which includes the front two sockets), it protects everything downstream from it! In our case, everything else is plugged into the first GFCI receptacle, so it is protected that way.

Notice there are two power strips plugged into the GFCI receptacle. Each power strip contains surge protection, as well as their own 15-amp circuit breaker. Whatever the combination of cords plugged into each one, the total amps that can be drawn on each power strip is limited to 15 amps. For both of them, they could "theoretically" handle 30 amps, but the incoming power cord and the circuit that feeds it from the source, is still limited to 20 amps, or maybe even 15 amps, depending on the over-current protection on the circuit. That would be from a power pedestal at an RV park or campground, or from a building such as a house, shed, or even an office...depending on where the power is coming from.

The individual branch circuits are all 15-amp rated #14 AWG extension cords, individually labeled and directly run to the appliances they will feed. One cord will feed our computer power control center, which itself has six outlets on the back of it, but are all handling light loads. It will feed our computers, printer, and cell phone chargers. The microwave, refrigerator, space heater, house battery charger, and entertainment section all have their own circuits, as well as an extra circuit for an outside receptacle (yet to be installed). All LED lighting and fans will be supplied by the house batteries.

For most RV's, being used by people who are not knowledgeable about electric, as little as 15 amps wouldn't be enough. However, our compressor refrigerator only draws about 2,2 amps, and that is our major concern. Most of the time, it will be supplied by our battery power through an inverter. The only other two major appliances that are installed would be a 5000 BTU air conditioner, which draws about 6 amps, and the 700-watt microwave, which draws about 5.8. In lieu of the A/C, our electric heater would only use about 4.1 unless we put it on maximum wattage for short periods, just to take an initial chill out of the air. Naturally, it and the A/C will not be used at the same time, so one cancels out the other. As you can see, any two loads draw less than 12 amps "IF" we were to use them at the same time, which we likely won't, and we do have control over that.

Rather than a power converter center, we will have a multi-stage battery charger capable of 15 amps maximum on the 12-volt side, and that would be ONLY if it were trying to charge completely dead batteries (I hope it will never come to that!). In maintenance mode, it will use only about 1 amp on the 120-volt side. All power in and out of the batteries from all sources will be monitored through a control panel, and we can make changes as needed.

The only other things that would use power, are whatever entertainment we use (a power digital antenna and rotator, DVD player, and a 15-inch LCD TV, the latter of which draws 3.3 amps), and we also have our computers, cell phones, etc., that will need charging. All of these are very light loads.

Anything else that we use will be portable things, such as a coffee maker or other small appliance, any of which we have the option of using or not, depending on our power situation. When boondocking, we have the option of resorting to other cooking options, and to be honest, we don't plan to stay in many places where we would need the air conditioner.

In other words...our needs are minimal, but yet, if we find that we need a 30-amp power cord, we can easily change to that, and use another GFCI to handle the extra load. The system can be easily reconfigured to suit our needs without a lot of hassle or expense. We could even run two power cords and divide up our loads in the trailer between the two of them (as long as they were on separate circuits). That would also allow us to draw 30 amps maximum. We have choices. Choices are always good!

Plumbing the portable gray water tank...

With the cooler weather, I was also able to get another thing done in the back of the trailer...the gray water tank. In the photo below, what we have done is to lay the tank on it's side, which is the only way we could make use of one this large. This is a 15-gallon tank. For our gray water drain, we had to make use of the garden hose connection, normally used for rinsing out the tank after dumping. Had we stood the tank upright, that fitting would have been too high for gravity draining from the kitchen sink.

The portable gray water storage tank.
At the garden hose connection on the tank, I used two 90-degree fittings to come up and over. Then I have two 3/4-inch valves with a union in between. The union is the separation point to disconnect the tank for removing it to empty it. In case we forget to check the tank, and it overflows, the two valves will allow us to close off both the incoming water, and isolate the tank with a closed valve. The only water we might lose is between the two valves...about a cup full.

The upright tee to the left of the valves serves as both a vent, as well as an overflow device. The other end of the looped hose goes down through the floor to a point even with the bottom of the trailer frame. To the left of that is the incoming line for the gray water from the kitchen sink. It is connected with another piece of 3/4-inch Polyvinyl tubing to allow flexibility from vibration as well as when disconnecting the gray water tank. The tee, the first valve and half of the union stays attached to the trailer. the other half of the union, and the second valve, stays with the tank when it is disconnected and prevents any leaks while getting it to the dump station.

Although there is no gate valve on the large outgoing side of the tank, one could easily be added. Most of the time, once the tank is out of the trailer, the opening will be on top, and the included hose can be attached. Then, when the tank is stood up, it can empty into the dump facility, while the PVC valve on the garden hose fitting can be opened to allow it to vent. Also, the entire setup of fittings can be removed, and still attach a garden hose for rinsing the tank out.

To secure the tank, we used a couple of heavy-duty screw eyes directly into the wall studs on both walls and then connected them with a ratchet strap. It is very secure. And although I didn't get a photo of the bikes being put back in, there is just enough clearance if I put the first bike in with the front wheel to the left, and the last one with the front wheel to the right, and get the pedals in just the right position. In other words, it works...just barely!

Drawers and pantries completed...

It took me a couple of days due to only working outside during the cooler mornings, but I finally got the drawers and pantries built, and installed on their guides. Below, you can see the left pantry pulled out. The 8-gallon Reliance Hydroller fresh water tank rolls into the opening between the two pantries.

Drawers and pantries installed.
The top right-hand drawer needed some custom fitting because of the sink bowl, but not as much as I anticipated. Just an angle cut on the corner was all that was needed. That drawer will also have a lift-up top added to it to create a counter top extension. As far as use, we expect that drawer to hold mostly office supplies, since it will be right next to another counter extension/table on the end of the cabinet. (I found time to make that, too, but haven't installed it yet!)

Note the angle cut on the top left corner, to clear the sink bowl.
There was only one disappointment in the installation...the stove drawer. I had originally figured on using our 2-burner Coleman stove in the top left drawer, under the refrigerator...until I realized that the propane hose connection was on the end of it, and there was no way to be able to use it while setting in the drawer.

So I had another bright buy one of the single burner butane we could pull out the drawer to use it. But alas...that was not to be, either. The stove grid was too high to allow the drawer to close! Darn!

The drawer won't close due to the stove grid! Darn!
I didn't want to make the drawers any deeper, and even if I had attached the drawer bottom to the bottom edges of the drawer sides (rather than into a routed groove), it wouldn't have been enough depth for the stove. At this point we're out of options, and will just use the drawer for something else. The stove comes with a decent hard-shell carrying case, so we'll just store it somewhere else and only use it when necessary...preferably outside. In the meantime, we have the microwave.

I did some preliminary calculations, and for no longer than the microwave would normally run, it should have very little effect on the house batteries when run from the 1500-watt inverter. And many times, we will have shore power anyway. If we absolutely have to use a stove, we can always bring out either of the two gas stoves we now have. This little one can be used on the counter, next to the sink, or we can take it outside (weather permitting).

The Camco Camper Drain trap "just" clears the drawer!
I decided to buy a Camco Camper Drain Trap, and I'm glad I did! It sure simplifies things! I was concerned about a normal sink trap hanging down too far, so I was going to use a combination of fittings to create a trap farther back. But after discovering this on Amazon, I realized it was a life-saver! Believe it or not, they have incorporated a trap into that shallow device, and by screwing it directly onto the sink basket, it saves a lot of height! As you can see, it just barely clears the back of the drawer under it, by about an eighth of an inch!

Cabinet doors! Yay!   

Another project that I decided to go ahead and do, rather than wait, is to get the cabinet doors made and installed. I already had plenty of hinges in stock, but discovered that some of the handles I had didn't match. Some were white, and others were almond, so I immediately got on the  computer, found some at Home Depot, and ordered in 16 of them. With the 7  I already had, that makes a total of 23 new shiny brass and white porcelain cabinet pulls.

The other thing I had to do was to buy a full sheet of 3/4-inch birch plywood with which to make the doors and drawer fronts. It took me most of a morning to work out the logistics of the layout, to get the best use of the cuts with the least amount of waste. After lunch, I did all the cutting for all the 19 separate pieces.

Because of time, I didn't do any fancy routing of edges or any of the extra stuff I would normally do. These are just square-edged doors and drawer fronts, with minimal sanding. There are also some typical gaps in the laminations of the plywood, that will have to be filled before any finishing work is done, but even that can be done later. The main concern for now was to get them done as quickly as possible to keep stuff from falling out of the cabinets during our travels. I can always route some fancy edges on the doors before we paint them...when I have a lot more time to do it.

Here's a first view of the upper cabinets (the only ones for which I had handles) at the time. The new handles I ordered just arrived today, so now I can put the rest of them on. I ordered 3 extra, in case I would decide to add doors over the microwave, printer and power regulator.

Doors and hardware on the right rear cabinets.

The right front upper cabinet with door and hardware.
The six cabinets that are together had the hinges mounted to the top, so the doors swing up. I also ordered some spring supports to hold the doors up and those will arrive here tomorrow. The front right cabinet, I hinged on the left, as it swings out of the way of anyone's head.

The dummy drawer front on the file box, and the
side-hinged door for the accordion cabinet.

The two very narrow doors next to the closet.
The photos above show the front part of the rear bunk lifted to allow access to the file storage area above the accordion. That section can be lifted separately from the part over the narrow cabinet, which can be accessed either from the top or the front. The doors are all drilled for the pulls, as soon as they arrive.

The kitchen cabinet with doors and drawer fronts attached but no hardware yet.
Notice in the bottom photo, that I also decided to make a door for the water storage compartment. I created a dummy rail on the bottom, that is glued to the back of the door, just to keep the look consistent. Since the Hydroller has to wheel in and out, a permanent rail could not be used there, so this solves the problem and still provides a finished look. The kick space at the bottom will have to remain open.

The Hydroller still has to have a stop built at the back of it, as it isn't nearly as deep as the opening, and we want to keep it toward the front of the cabinet. To secure it, we will likely use another ratchet strap to hold it in place. We can't have 70 pounds of liquid weight rolling around when going down the road!

Other minor tasks completed...or arranged to be done... 

Some things that I didn't take photos of, include re-working the shafts that hold the handles onto the Hydrollers. Their specs said they were 11 inches wide, so that's what I made my cabinet opening. What they didn't say was that the metal shaft through the handle is actually 11-1/4 inches, plus the push-on cap that covers the end of the shaft!

What I ended up doing is removing the shafts, cutting 3/8-inch off the ends, and then using a threading die to re-cut some 5/16 x 18 machine threads onto the end. Then I found a couple of "acorn nuts" in my stash of stuff to finish off the ends. I was actually looking for some nylon insert lock nuts, but couldn't find the size I needed. But the acorn nuts look better, and when tightened down, will work just fine.

I also ordered one of those "Velcro-on" screen doors with magnets down the middle where it divides. That came in this week, so when I get a chance, I will need to install that.

A set of Camco wheel chocks also arrived this week. After all, I may not be able to find a large rock to put behind the wheels all the time, to keep the trailer from rolling away!

And because of the spare tire hiding the lights on the top of the fender on the right side, I ordered a set of LED combination tail lights to mount on the rear bottoms of the fenders, so those will have to be mounted and wired. 

We have an appointment for Monday morning for the van, to get the old 1-1/4-inch receiver hitch removed, and the new 2-inch receiver hitch installed. They're both bolt-on types, so that shouldn't take very long. They are also going to install my electric brake controller that was on our Dakota, and add an isolator relay and circuit breaker under the hood, for the charging circuit for the trailer.

Tomorrow, I will finish the water lines, valves, and hose connections under the left side of the trailer frame, for the fresh, city water pressurized supply and the gray water drain...for times when we can dump on the ground, rather than send it to the gray water tank (which I hope is most of the time!).  If I have time after that, I will finish the drain line under the sink and hook up the water pump and fresh water lines to the sink. 

On the next cool morning we have, I hope to get both of the solar panels installed on the roof and the wiring brought through down to the battery compartment. From there, I can work on the rest of the wiring even if it gets hot again outside. I have been running the air conditioner in the trailer nearly every day since I made it operational, and will continue to do so until I get the 12-volt circuits finished so I can run the two ceiling fans. By then, it should be cool enough outside that they can handle the afternoon heat by themselves.

We have a new table top that will go on our tripod legs and table post. However, the top is designed for a 2-inch straight post, rather than a 2-1/4-inch tapered post, so I have to do a little modifying on it to make it work. That will involve mounting one of our extra table sockets to the bottom of it. But I'll show more about that after I get that done.

And as I said previously, I also have the extension made for the end of the counter, and have the piano hinges to mount it with. I just need to make the arm that will swing out from the wall, to hold it up. When not used (like at bed time) the table will swing down flush with the end of the counter.

Our work in the house...

We are still sorting and packing, selling what we can on eBay or on the Facebook yard sale groups. We have many things boxed up and ready to go to temporary storage, but still have yet to take our first load over there. I still have to get into the storage shed in the back yard yet, and move two big bundles of insulation that someone was supposed to get out of my way (and didn't, obviously) before we can get what we need out of there.

But we're getting closer every day to getting out of here. In reality, we are guessing it will be into September before we can leave. If it gets too late, we might just forget about going to Rapid City, and maintain our existing driver's licenses and vehicle plates until next spring. The plates are good until the end of July next year. If the house doesn't sell, we can still claim residency here, but we will still arrange a new address for our business in South Dakota. That way, we can reinstate our Amazon Associate status and start making some additional money again! And after the six month forwarding notice expires with the Post Office here, we'll still be covered for getting our mail. There's always a way to manage affairs if a person just thinks it through.

As far as Internet, we now have a Samsung Galaxy 6 Edge phone on Verizon, and it will work as a hot spot. How well that will meet our needs remains to be seen, but it's a start. I suspect we will need something to boost the cell signal. When we can use WI-FI, we will, but again, we suspect it will need a little boost to be usable in some places.

For emergency communication, I have on our want list, a Uniden 980SS single-side band CB radio. The SSB feature will allow communication WAY farther than normal CB channels...even as far as other countries...and most channels away from the trucker channels on regular CB do not have the foul language problems that normal CB's are plagued with.

So that's all I can think of at this time. I've probably forgotten some minor tasks that we did, but in between household chores and errands, we are making progress. As always, I'd like to see more comments or questions, but it's OK if you have none, too. At any rate, thanks for reading, and I'll try to post again in a few days.

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