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Old 05-30-2010, 06:48 PM   #217
Ran D. St. Clair
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Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 212
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Propane Appliances Installed and Tested

This Memorial Day weekend I fully installed all of my propane gas appliances, tested them, and then removed them again. It seemed a shame to pull them back out, but I didnít want them getting damaged when I installed the cabinet walls around them.

The Platinum Cat Heater was the easiest. It had already been installed and partly tested before the walls were closed. This time it was fully mounted to the wall and the thermostat was wired through the pre-installed conduit. I also added the foam weather strip around the bottom where I hope it will mostly draw filtered combustion air. I say mostly because it is not a closed system where I can force the issue. All I can do is give it a proximal inlet and hope that it mostly draws in cold outside air rather than using the warm inside air to make heat.

The range was next. I found my gas inlet hole in the floor was off by about 1/2 inch so it had to be enlarged in the right direction. I also found that I could have better placed my AC plug about an inch to the left, but I was able to trim the cover plate to accommodate. It doesnít really need a cover plate at all since it is entirely behind the range when installed.

My original plan to bracket the range feet and hold them to the floor fell through when I realized that the rear range leveling feet are made of plastic. I donít think they would be strong enough for my needs. I ended up making a rear fascia plate out of 1/16Ē aluminum that bolts to the back of the range using the existing screws. It then screws to the wall with 7 each #8 self tapping screws. I then removed the screw down front leveling legs and replaced them with 2 each 1/4Ē lag bolts using nuts and fender washers to space them up off the floor. With the front-bottom, and rear-top both secured the range isnít going anywhere. I yanked on it good and hard and couldnít budge it.

The range actually sits on 8 legs for distributed support. It has 4 ďshipping legsĒ which are domed structures formed into the bottom sheet metal. They are nice and strong by virtue of their shape, and they also slide easily over flooring or carpet. I then screwed down the plastic rear leveling legs to provide some extra support, but only to take some of the load off the shipping legs. The front legs (lag bolts) also have spacers and fender washers to take some of the load off the front shipping legs.

Itís entirely a hard mount system and not intended to give or otherwise absorb bumps. I thought about using rubber pads or other shock mount techniques but to properly design such a system and have it really work is a sophisticated task. I was also worried about the gas lines having to move as the range moved which could potentially cause cracks and gas leaks. Ultimately I decided that the truck suspension will have to do its job to absorb the bumps and that everything inside will be locked down hard.

My remaining concern about the range is that it was not designed for RV use. The grates, and burner caps in particular are not locked down. I would not be surprised to see the top of my range all over the place after a rough ride. I may have to look into using some silicon glue to lock things down, hopefully in a way that allows me to take things apart for cleaning. That problem remains to be seen, and if necessary solved.

The toilet was my biggest concern, but it went in without much difficulty. The alignment of the flue pipe was not perfect. Itís off about 1/2Ē from top to bottom, but you would have to look carefully to notice.

I added a bracket to support the internal propane regulator. I canít believe it didnít have one in the first place, but I guess it was never designed for RV use. I also added a couple of brackets from the outer fire box to the floor. I am really amazed that it was designed with this big heavy steel box, that must weigh at least 50 pounds, and it wasnít bolted down anywhere. It was just sitting there on top of some Cellotex insulation. The auger casting, auger, and drive motor were at least bolted to the plastic housing. Now everything is bolted straight through to the floor with 4 each 1/4Ē lag bolts. Even that strikes me as a little marginal, but it is infinitely better than what I started with.

The flue pipe mount through the roof worked better than I had hoped for. Once I got everything cut to length it fit up in the ceiling clamp perfectly. I was very worried about the sequence of assembly and disassembly. Itís one thing to build something once and have it fit. Itís another thing to design it so it can be taken apart for service without having to take a whole bunch of other stuff apart as well. (Like removing half you carís front end to replace a broken headlight.) I lucked out in that I can easily remove the flue pipe and then pull the top off the toilet for maintenance. I can also get full access to the back of the toilet including the gas line, electrical control box, and ash removal port from outside the truck. OK, so I made my own luck with good planning, but donít get the idea that I see every eventuality, because I donít, and sometimes I really screw up.

This was my first chance to fully test the toilet in an ďindoorĒ setting and the results were mixed. I gave it a real test (no towel required). It ran through the cycle and the machinery worked as expected. There was some odor unrelated to the toilet. When stuff drops into a bowl of water it is immediately covered and that reduces the smell somewhat. An incinerating toilet doesnít do that, so even before the machinery does anything there is more potential for odor.

I had already removed the built in water squirting system for bowl cleaning. It didnít do much and was just for show anyway. Instead I had a squirt bottle with water and about 5% alcohol, which did a much better job.

I have never been a fan of toilet paper as it relates to any toilet. Itís better than nothing, but it is no where near as good as a stream of fresh clean water, or in other words a bidet. I donít have that option with an incinerating toilet, but the spray bottle is a limited substitute, which leaves toilet paper to help clean and dry things. I may refine the system, but it seems to be an acceptable and simple solution.

Once the toilet began the incineration cycle I noticed some smell inside the truck. Not the smell of raw sewage, but more like the smell of an oven after some food as spilled over and burned inside. It wasnít much, and there was no visible smoke but I have to be honest and say that it wasnít perfect either. It may be that I donít have quite enough chimney to draw through the fire box even with the fan I added to pressurize the air inlet. For the moment it is acceptable to clear the air by running my overhead fan, but itís not what I had hoped for.

A few hours later I went through the process of cleaning the ash. This would not normally be necessary for a month or two of use, but I wanted to test all maintenance activities as well. I was somewhat surprised to find that everything was not fully desiccated, let alone burnt. There was no smell, so I imagine it was all sterile, but I suspect that a single use is not a fair test. It may be that there is a cumulative incineration effect as the toilet is used and cycled. The toilet ends the incineration cycle when the exhaust gasses reach a certain temperature, meaning everything is desiccated. It seems a reasonable strategy, but some moisture may remain if it is not in the direct path of the flame, or if it is shielded inside a charred shell. I will have to withhold judgment pending further testing.

After all the testing, everything was removed, so I have an empty room again. The next time I install them it will be for good. Meanwhile I have only cabinets and furniture to build. There are lots of details to be worked out though. I still have a year of evenings and weekends to meet my original schedule.

The only remaining major appliance to install is the refrigerator. That is mostly a matter of building the structure around it as it does not sit directly on the floor. The connection to 12V power is almost trivial.

The next step is building the bunk beds. Everything will be built in place, so there is no more install and remove. What goes in stays in, so it will finally start to look like the finished product. The only remaining big ticket items are the counter tops and I still havenít decided what materials to use. Beyond that there will be a fair amount of plywood for cabinet walls and shelves. There will also be the kitchen sink, and a long list of hinges, fittings, paint, and other small items. From here on out itís much less about materials and mostly about labor, lots and lots of labor.

Several new photos have been added, so enjoy.

To be continuedÖ.
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