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Old 08-28-2009, 04:19 PM   #61
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Water is lifeÖ

If I am going to make rational decisions about plumbing in general then it is important to understand how I intend to use it. This is the part where a stealth camper strongly diverges from a conventional vacation use RV. It also differs from a full timer RV that assumes regular access to hookups and a sewage dump. Some of those vehicles become essentially immobile homes with more or less permanent hookups. Camp grounds are great, and I expect to treat myself from time to time, but I donít want to spend the money all the time.

By comparison to many of you with 300 gallon fresh water, grey water, and black water tanks, my needs are microscopic. My fresh water and grey water tanks will be essentially 5 gallon buckets with removable lids for ease of cleaning. They will be securely mounted but removable for easy filling and dumping. Depending on the situation a grey water tank will not even be necessary. The whole system will be gravity fed with no need for pumps.

I donít plan to have a black water tank. I donít know where I would dump a black water tank if I had one. I intend to use an incinerating toilet system as often advocated by Geofkaye, though I am considering the SR5-P12 propane fired toilet from ECOJOHN rather than the all electric INCINOLET. There is still plumbing involved though as there is intake and exhaust air as well as propane in my case.

I do not intend to have an on board shower or even a hot water tank. Warm or hot water can be made on the stove whenever necessary. I figure not having a shower avoids a whole slew of problems associated with internal humidity and venting, dry rot, the floor space required for a water tight enclosure, pumps, hot water tanks, the energy to drive it all, and most of all the large volume of water that I donít have anyway. Donít get me wrong, I like a long hot shower as much as the next guy, but campground showers or other facilities will have to do.

This thread is about designing and building a stealth camper, not the techniques for staying clean and healthy with just a very small amount of water. I expect any intelligent person could figure it out, just like our great grandparents did. If you are at all curious about the lifestyle I suggest the following web site:

http://cheaprvliving.com/index.html

I should also give credit to Bob Wells, who gave me the inspiration for this possible life path. Some of you may not think much of these ideas. I hope you always have choices you like better.

To be continuedÖ
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Old 08-29-2009, 02:56 PM   #62
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Geofkaye,
Hey I dig your Keep It Simple Approach pertaining to the fridge, but what about food items than you want to eat or drink that you don't want to thaw out?
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Old 08-29-2009, 10:09 PM   #63
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.....The longer you leave it on the more likely things turn to bricks....that is why the mechanical timer....cold is good-only to a certain extent and I too want to have drinks ready....but with a timer and a little practice you will learn to keep things on the bottom frozen and things on the top only very cold!....my freezer will do quite well with a half hour of electric power at nite....with the top loading unite there is a very good chance that only a small amount of cold is lost during the day by opening and closing a lot.....geofkaye
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Old 08-30-2009, 11:45 AM   #64
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Geofkaye,

I already wrote the check for the Sunfrost RF12, so I am committed. It has separate freezer and refrigerator sections with separate doors which is a design efficiency improvement over a single door. The biggest problem with a top loader chest design is access. Everything ends up piled on top of each other which is a problem when the thing you need is at the bottom of the pile.

I also think you use your fridge differently than I will use mine. By your own admission, you are loading yours with drinks or mostly keeping frozen things frozen. I would guess that you don't have a lot of fresh meats and vedgies in there. In my case it's more like normal home use with milk, and eggs, and fruits and vedgies, etc. You say you don't cook much on the road. I am no chef, but I do cook most of my own meals and it saves a ton of money over eating out.

I think there is a common misperception about the efficiency of a door front refrigerator/freezer. Everyone assumes that when you open the door all the cold rushes out with that wash of cold air. Certainly some cold air does come out, and a chest design avoids that, but most of the thermal mass inside a refrigerator is made up of the contents and the inner materials of the refrigerator itself. That's why these refrigerators are at their most efficient when run full. (Geofkaye, I know you know this, I am speaking for the benefit of others.)

I do like the cost benefits of your proposed chest freezer. It is WAY cheaper than what I am doing. If I were doing this project from the starting point of being near broke I would do something like what you are suggesting. That, or I would buy a big ice chest, wrap it with super insulation and duct tape, and then load it with block ice.

The pattern here is that I am willing to spend money in the short term to save money in the long term. This whole entire project will probably cost me under $50K, and for the rest of my life I will be living rent free. My energy costs will be minimal, food costs low, entertainment cost low. The actual living expences will be pretty cheap. It's the fixed costs like health care insurance, vehicle insurance and registration, etc. that will eat me up. It annoys me that these things are mostly mandated while offering no direct benefit. No wonder so many people thumb their nose at the law. Those that comply pay for those that don't and they all feel entitled... It's from each as much as he can't hide, to each as much as he can lobby for...
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Old 08-30-2009, 11:56 AM   #65
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Toilets stinkÖ

I had already decided that I would not have a black water tank, and when Geofkaye wrote of the INCINOLET I was immediately impressed by the idea. I started an internet search for it, and along the way I stumbled on to the ECOJOHN, which is basically the same idea, only propane powered. I also looked at various other technologies before deciding to go with an incinerating toilet of some sort, so lets begin with what I didnít choose.

Starting with the simplest, you can buy a toilet seat for a 5 gallon bucket. Itís dirt cheap and I do like cheap. I even bought one and tried it out. It worked, but there were a number of problems. The opening is a bit small compared to a standard home style toilet, so itís a bit awkard to get everything to go in the right place. Itís also a bit low and not the most comfortable thing to sit on. The biggest issue though is the smell. Dumping your load into water immediately seals it off from the air and keeps the initial smell way down. Dropping it into open air just seems to invite the stink to come for a visit.

http://www.cabelas.com/p-0009518.shtml

You could line it with a plastic bag, and then immediately seal it off after use, but my experience was that you canít seal it off fast enough. The bag would, however, make disposal a lot easier. Yes, I know, the idea of dumping your waste in a public trash can sounds bad on several levels, but it is no different than what dog owners do all the time. You could also put some kitty litter in the bucket, or in the bag in the bucket. I didnít try it but I am sure it would work to some degree. Presumably you could use it more than once before dumping the bag, kitty litter and all, or you could do the scoop thing. From what I know of cat boxes, they donít generally smell so good, but lots of people have them in their home, so I guess it could work. Ultimately I decided I didnít want that kind of smell in my tiny living space.

Several companies make small self contained chemical toilets. It amounts to a seat on top of a black water tank with some small flushing capability. I wonít say if itís a good idea or not. I can see where they could work temporarily, but eventually you have to dump and clean the things, and I would have no good way to do that, so the idea never really had a chance.

http://www.rvstuffusa.com/port...ti135bythetford.html

There is something called a composting toilet. In this case you dump into a disposable cardboard box. The box sits on a hot plate, which dries it out, but does not burn it. Clearly cooking crap is going to stink, at least until it dries out, so this idea uses a small fan which is continuously drawing air into the unit and then venting it overboard. I could see where this could work fine in a cabin where you have a steady supply of electricity to run the fan. (The hot plate only runs briefly) Besides the electricity used, which is really not all that much, there is the additional heating and cooling costs associated with constantly venting air. On the plus side, it makes good garden compost, not that I care.

http://ecojohn.com/ecojohn_basic.html

Obviously there is the standard RV style toilet with a black water tank. I will let others who know way more about them than I do speak to their advantages and disadvantages. I will have no good way to dump a black water tank so it doesnít work for me.

Finally, we come back to the incinerating toilets, of which I found two. They may be similar in terms of their ultimate goal but there are lots of differences, and only one of them could work for me, the ECOJOHN. I expect that most others, however, would be better off with the INCINOLET.

http://ecojohn.com/ecojohn_sr.html
http://www.incinolet.com/

The ECOJOHN model SR5-P12 is $3,695 compared to $1,779 for the RV model INCINOLET. When I added bowl liners, catalytic converter (to reduce smoke), stainless steel bowl (upgrade), sales tax, and shipping it all came to $4,725 for the ECOJOHN, which is admittedly a LOT of money for a toilet. Especially for one that I have never used. I am taking a substantial risk, and I will just have to let you know how it all works out when the time comes.

I had to choose the ECOJOHN because of the AC current required to run the INCINOLET, which is for better and for worse, all electric. Based on the manufacturers data sheets, the INCINOLET draws about 15A at 120VAC for about 50 minutes to complete a flush cycle. My generator can only manage 13.3A continuous. If I tried to run it off my batteries, just one flush would take my batteries down to half charge, which is the stopping point. It would draw 167A DC which is more than I should be drawing from my batteries just in terms of raw current, not counting anything else electrical I might need at the time. I could run the generator while it is "flushing" which would give me 90A from the battery charger, so only 167 - 90 = 77A from my batteries, which is at least possible, but now I have to remember to fire up the generator before I flush the toilet. Since flushing is something I want to be able to do somewhat spontaneously it really doesn't work.

The ECOJOHN draws very little current from my batteries, just .312Ah per flush, much less for a urine cycle. Most of the energy comes from the propane and I figure there is something like 120 flushes in a 5 gal tank of propane.

The engineer in me really hates the idea of burning gas to make mechanical energy, then electrical energy, then heat energy. The overall efficiency of that chain is around 35% at best. I know, no one but me would even know or careÖ

The INCINOLET is probably safer, being all electric. There is no potential for propane to leak, start a fire, or explode. Both toilets require a flue to exhaust the hot gasses. The make up air has to come from somewhere, implying that it has to be heated or air conditioned depending on the outside air temperature. The INCINOLET is not without safety concerns. It could short out and start a fire, or leak combustion products into the living quarters, but presumably it is well designed to prevent all that.

The ECOJOHN has all the same issues as a propane refrigerator. I need to set it up to draw in outside air for combustion and to exhaust the hot flue gasses overboard. I need to make sure that those combustion gasses donít leak into the living space, and I need to minimize the heat that it dumps into my living space. The unit comes with a double walled flue pipe, 6Ē on the outside, which makes it rather large and obtrusive. It is shiny chromed, but I may want to add a layer of insulation making it even larger. I can drill holes in the floor for intake air, and chimney effect should be more than sufficient if I vent straight up through the ceiling. I will need a vent cap of some sort, hopefully non-obvious.

The INCINOLET is a bit more compact and industrial looking. It requires 6Ē to 8Ē of clearance on the right side for access to the foot pedal flush handle. The access to the ash bin is from the front, which IMO is a much better design than the ECOJOHN. The INCINOLET can be mounted flush with the back wall with a special gasket to connect the flue.

The ECOJOHN requires 6Ē of clearance in the back for access to the ash bin, which is a problem in my application. I intend to create an access hatch through the outer wall that is hidden behind the right rear awning door. Otherwise I have to move the toilet away from the wall and even then the only access would be standing on my head reaching over the top of the toilet, because there is not enough room to come at it from the sides. The ECOJOHN is a bit longer than the INCINOLET 34Ē vs 24Ē so an additional 6Ē makes 40Ē which is a lot of space to give up in my application.

Hopefully the additional length of the ECOJOHN makes it a little more comfortable and easier to use. IMO, it is a bit nicer looking than the INCINOLET, though that is the least of my concerns.

As for technology, the INCINOLET uses a trap door concept to drop the waste into the incineration chamber. The ECOJOHN uses an auger to screw the waste back into the incinerator. Both units offer paper liners to minimize smearing in the bowl, and in the case of the ECOJOHN, along the surfaces of the auger. The ECOJOHN also has a small reservoir of rinse water to help clean the bowl and auger. As far as I know there is no similar feature on the INCINOLET.

Both toilets can be used again immediately after the incineration cycle is begun. They suspend burning when you lift the lid and resume when you are done. Both units offer a catalyst to reduce smoke and external odor.

Not to be gross, but I fully expect that both toilets will require some manual cleaning from time to time, and I donít just mean emptying the ash bin. Stuff sometimes sprays, splatters, and dribbles, you get the ideaÖ This may be one area where a more conventional water flush toilet has the advantage.

ECOJOHN also makes a diesel powered version, which some may prefer for safety reasons, or compatibility with your diesel powered truck and generator. If you have a big diesel generator then you probably have no problem with supplying the necessary current to the INCINOLET though.

To be ContinuedÖ.
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Old 08-30-2009, 12:49 PM   #66
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Quote:
Originally posted by geofkaye:
.....The longer you leave it on the more likely things turn to bricks....that is why the mechanical timer....cold is good-only to a certain extent and I too want to have drinks ready....but with a timer and a little practice you will learn to keep things on the bottom frozen and things on the top only very cold!....my freezer will do quite well with a half hour of electric power at nite....with the top loading unite there is a very good chance that only a small amount of cold is lost during the day by opening and closing a lot.....geofkaye
Geo could you please post the manufactures name or Tele # in Ohio that makes your freezer. What a great idea.
Thanks,
Tom
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Old 08-31-2009, 06:57 PM   #67
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Spending money like a politicianÖ

I have just completed spending what I hope will be the bulk of the money on this project. The truck itself is still mostly an empty shell, but I want to have all the big ticket items in hand to complete the final design tweaks. I also want to make all the necessary holes in the floor and ceiling and have everything be completely weather tight before I even begin the interior construction.

SoÖ Now would be a good time to list a costed BOM (Bill of Materials). In order to keep it simple I will try to list what things actually cost me including taxes, shipping, etc. I bought it all new, so I assume you could do better via E-bay, or whatever, especially if you were to bargain or your name is Geofkaye.

$14,000__Truck, Mitusubish FUSO, 2002, 14ft box
_$1,155__Taxes on Truck
___$522__Registration (Annual)
___$300__Pegistration Penalties (one time only)
_$1,267__Insurance for Truck (Annual)
_$4,725__ECOJOHN Propane toilet
_$2,788__Sunfrost RF12 Refrigerator, 12V
_$1,374__Honda Eu200i Portable Generator
___$237__Turbo/MAXX Vent Cover w. Fan
___$794__Coleman Polar Cub Air Conditioner 9200 BTU
___$663__Atwood 3 burner Propane Range
___$116__Steel Safe, SentrySafe, X105
___$534__Platinum Cat Propane Catalytic Vented Heater
___$179__Sensar Amplified Directional RV Broadcast TV Antenna w Wingman focusing elements
___$407__Battery Charger, Iota Smart Charger/Converter w Controller
___$544__Inverter, Power Express, 2,500W
___$240__DC/AC Current Clamp Meter
___$154__Stove Hood w Charcoal Filter

$28,048__Subtotal

I will come back to this post and update it from time to time, but for now, here are some additional items that I plan to buy but havenít nailed down yet.

_________WiFi Antenna, high gain, omnidirectional
_________WiFi Antenna, Ultra high gain, directional, with crank up and pointing system
_________HRV Ė Heat Recovery Venting System
_________LED Task Lighting with Switches
_________Microwave
_________Sink
_________Electrical Outlets, Boxes, Conduit, 110V and 12V
_________Propane Tanks
_________Lots of ĹĒ Plywood and a fair amount of ĺĒ Plywood
_________Lots of R-MAX Foam Insulation
_________Single Foam Mattress (x2)
_________12V Electric Blankets

Beyond these larger ticket items there are lots of smaller items like miscellaneous wood, brackets, paint, etc. I havenít been keeping close track but it isnít that much yet.

As of this moment this thread is now fully caught up with the actual build progress. Future posts will have to slow a bit to keep pace. The immediate next step is to take delivery of all this stuff and find a place to store it.

To be continuedÖ
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Old 09-08-2009, 09:01 PM   #68
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Labor Day Weekend

I installed the floor safe. Itís nothing fancy, just a metal box with a battery powered push button combination lock and an emergency override key. I wanted to get a fire proof model, but they were all larger and would not fit between the metal floor joists, and I didnít want to cut a floor joist for structural reasons. The model I ended up with is $106 from Home Depot. Itís 8 11/16H x 13 3/4W x 10 5/8D and made of roughly 1/8Ē thick sheet steel. I may line it with some insulation to make it a bit more fire resistant.

http://www.officedepot.com/a/p...ySafe-Security-Safe/

I originally intended to weld the safe to one of the floor joists, but decided to just use several wood screws from the inside out into the floor boards which are 1 ĹĒ thick. You might be able to pound it through the hole if you had a sledge hammer and could get several good swings at it, but mostly I am relying on it being hidden rather than brute force.

It hangs down in plane sight if you know where to look under the truck but I disguised it a bit. It had a few holes in the outer walls for mounting purposes, and one of those was on the back, now the bottom. I bolted a huge nut on the outside, and with a little Goop and black spray paint it looks like some kind of a drain plug. After it was mounted I gave the outside a good coat of PAM (spray on cooking oil) to give it a good start towards developing the black grunge that covers everything else down there. I want it nice and disgusting so no one will look at it twice, let alone want to touch it.

From the inside it will be under a non-descript cover with vinyl flooring to match everything else, and hidden under some furniture where it wonít be easy to get to, even for me.

If you decide to try something similar, make sure you test out your proposed safe at the store before you buy. The first safe I bought (of a different brand) worked fine when mounted in the normal position, but when you lay it on its back it would refuse to let go of the emergency key. Apparently some of the locking mechanisms are position sensitive.

I also installed a couple of standard heating registers in the floor to allow in make up air for the ceiling vent fan. Since they are exposed directly to the outside world under the truck I got some louvered covers and mounted them under the floor. There is enough room under the vents to slip in some filter material which will be easily accessible from above for replacement or cleaning. Since registers come standard with dampers I can close them to keep the heat or cold in, or open them wide for maximum air flow.

The biggest job for the weekend was mounting the generator. Itís a Honda Eu2000i so you might assume it was just a matter of opening the doors to the generator bay and dropping it in. Unfortunately, my generator bay previously housed an Onan generator and had a bunch of large holes in the floor for inlet air, the muffler, etc. I had to weld all those shut except for the inlet air opening between the feet of my generator. My little 120V wire feed welder has a hard time getting good penetration on 1/8Ē thick sheet steel, so I am afraid I made a much bigger job of it than it should have been.

I also cut an opening in the back of the bay for the exhaust and exhaust cooling air. The Eu2000i probably pumps out 10x as much cooling air as comes out of the exhaust pipe and I wanted to make sure none of that stayed inside the generator bay so I built up a thick gasket of ĺĒ weather stripping on the inside of the opening to match the back of the generator.

The large air inlet under and between the feet of the generator was covered on the underside with a commercial louver (no damper) I added weather strip around the edges and a layer of filter material and some aluminum screen to try and keep the worst of the dust out. Overall the inlet area is probably 3x the exhaust area, which is generally what you want. It all seems to work fine. I ran it for a while and couldnít detect any heat build up in the generator bay at all.

I added a couple of ľĒ square rods down each side of the inlet opening that fit loosely between the rubber shock absorbing feet of the generator. The idea is to keep the generator from walking around inside the box. I also welded in heavy oval rings to mount a 1 ĹĒ strap with quick disconnect that loops up and over the generator, and through the handle to hold it gently but firmly in place. We will have to see how it holds up to long use and pounding.
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Old 09-08-2009, 10:23 PM   #69
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....SAFES ARE GOOD UNLESS YOU HAVE A FIRE OR A ROLL OVER-THEY TAKE TOO LONG TO GET YOUR STUFF OUT....I LIKE MY TOILET SAFE.....NOBODY STICKS THEIR HAND IT IT!.....AND I CAN PITCH IT OUT THE WINDOW-KINDA SELF EXTINGUISHING SO TO SPEAK....MORE ABOUT THAT LATER......GENERATORS LIKE PLENTY OF COOL AIR WHEN RUNNING IN ONE SPOT.....VENTULATION IS NO BIGGIE WHEN MOVING---BUT HOLD STILL IN TRAFFIC OR IN A CROWDED X-WAY TRUCK PICKLE PARK-RUNNING THE AIR FOR HOURS AND HOURS TO KEEP COOL WILL GIVE YOU A GOOD TEST OF THE COOLING ISSUE ON THE GENERATOR....MY ONAN SITS ON THE BACK DECK OF THE VOLVO ALL BY ITSELF PLUGGED INTO THE TRUCK CIRCUITS AND WITH A PIGTAIL TO THE TRAILER----PLENTY OF COOL AIR ALL THE WAY AROUND B/C IT SITS OFF THE DECK BY 14" WITH ACCESS ALL THE WAY AROUND AND THE EXHAUST POINTS STRAIGHT UP.....geofkaye
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Old 09-09-2009, 11:22 AM   #70
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Geofkaye, you raise some good points. I would be curious how a toilet safe works with an incinerating toilet. If you told me it was a Tupperware container inside your black water tank I might understand. Depending on the fire, I expect something inside a water tank might survive even if you didnít get it out, especially since the tanks are usually mounted under the truck and most of the heat of a fire would be going up.

As for generator cooling, I have the Eu2000i set up to be removable. If I am in a place where I can do it, I will take it out of the generator bay and chain it to a nearby tree. Not only will it get better air flow, but it will reduce the noise and vibration back into the truck. As a stealth camper there will be many times when I need to run with it in the truck though.

You mention the exhaust going straight up, and that is a concern for me as well. I know some rigs have an exhaust pipe that runs up all the way above the roof line, but that isnít really a practical option for me. Since it dumps the warm exhaust air under the floor of the box I am concerned that it could rise up and come up through the floor registers. They are probably 12 ft. away, and with some big stuff in between, like the rear axel, but air can find a way. I am thinking to add a vertical plate in front of the left rear tires. The idea would be to block the flow of rising air a bit, and a side benefit would be to reduce the tire sling on to the diesel tank.

On a different but related subject, I am rethinking the cross flow heat exchanger idea (Heat Recovery Vent) I know you use yours to rapidly change out the air. I am thinking I can do that with the overhead vent fan. Yes, it would imply dumping the warm/cool air overboard so there would be a price in terms of heating or cooling costs, but I donít really plan to do it that often, especially not when it is blistering hot or freezing cold outside. That and anyone who sprays hair spray inside my truck will find themselves standing on the side of the roadÖ

My original thought was for a very small but constant flow of air to keep the inside air from going stale. I am vaguely worried about waking up with headaches or dead because there just isnít enough air in that small space for two people overnight.

As I continue the build I am seeing more small air leaks that are somewhat unavoidable. For example, the floor registers for make up air have dampers, but they donít seal super tight. If I pull air in through the heat exchanger via a tiny fan, then I was assuming the internal overpressure would push air out the other side of the heat exchanger to complete the circuit and transfer the heat energy. If there are several other small leaks then the air just sneaks out that way and doesnít exit via the heat exchanger and no heat is recovered. If I was pushing a high volume of air then those other small leaks would not be significant, but I donít want to push high volume. I could add a 2nd fan, one to pull and one to push, so as to balance the external and internal pressure, but this all just keeps getting more complicated for a dubious benefit.

I started to make my own small low flow cross flow heat exchanger but the more I thought about it the more I thought that it probably wasnít going to recover enough heat or cold to be worth the trouble. I might as well mount a tiny 12V muffin fan somewhere to continuously exhaust air and then add a couple of tiny closable vents directly into the sleeping quarters from the outside. If there is any significant temperature difference between the inside and the outside then chimney effect alone would probably be enough to get the air flow I need, without even turning the fan on.

If it really is nearly the same temperature inside as outside then I can open the ceiling vent and probably get all the air flow I need with no fan at all. All this mental masturbation leads back to the idea that I donít even need the tiny 12V fan, just a couple of little closeable vents into the sleeping quarters.

As an engineer, I donít like all this gut feel analysis, but there are too many unknowns to do any serious math. I guess I will just have to finish building it and see if it kills me.
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Old 09-09-2009, 01:33 PM   #71
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I just filled the tank for the first time since I first filled it after buying the truck. 14.28 MPG is better than I would have expected for a mix of highway driving at 65 MPH and mostly short trips to the home improvement store . Not bad at allÖ
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Old 09-10-2009, 09:33 PM   #72
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....the issue of killing you would be a great loss to the community as well as those on this list that are learning from you instead of their own mistakes....it is truly a good thing that you write so well of your trials..... please keep on as I'm sure that your insight has given a lot of guys the opportunity to build their own unite instead of spending the hard earned money for all the glitz and twinkie stuff the manufactures have tried to load on the consumer all these years.....it is a good thing that you have an enginingr back ground as proof will be linked to "Form Follows Function"-[Frank Loyd Wright IIRC] and I'm sure you will speak of your errors as certainly you have spoken of your succcesses....some of your comments seem minor until one has decided to go down the build it your self route....then everything becomes major-specially at nite when the brain isn't finished for the day!.......geofkaye....keep on with Gusto!
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Old 09-13-2009, 08:46 AM   #73
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Another issue that I was in discussion with.. [a potential client this AM...] was the location of the fartfan in the bathroom.....since there is an odor problem with most MHs and ALL trailers no matter what type of toilet there is installed,..... I suggested lowering the fartfan towards the back or side of the toilet so the fan works at the source of the odor instead of evacuating all the air from the bathroom to remove the smell.....seems to work for others.....I need to design a side mounted and/or ceiling mounted fan that exhausts through the floor.....MONDAYS project all ready....geofkaye
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Old 09-14-2009, 08:44 PM   #74
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Converter and Inverter Testing

Lots of odds and ends this weekend. I now have my battery charger and inverter, but no batteries. I donít want to buy the batteries until I am within a year of using them as they have a limited life. Meanwhile I was able to power up the Converter/Power Supply/Battery Charger (110V AC to approx 13.5V DC at 90A), and plug it into the Inverter (2,500W). Without the batteries to help out, the charger canít keep up with the full input requirements of the inverter but it was enough for a partial test.

http://www.theinverterstore.co...hp?model=chg-dls-90#
http://www.theinverterstore.co...t.php?model=chg-iq-4
http://www.topsalesdepot.com/bwapusiwapoi.html

My paint stripper heat gun draws about 800W on low which translates to about 6.6A AC from the inverter or 60A from the DC Power Supply. It all worked as expected. The paint stripper on high tried to pull double that and the DC Power supply managed 100A for a second before the voltage sagged, and then the inverter cut out complaining of low voltage. All this is as it should be and everything protected itself and came back to normal when reset with a reduced load. Once I have batteries they will make up the current that the Power supply canít handle, and I will be able to get the full 2,500W from the inverter. For now, I am limited to a little over 1,000W.

Some other side benefits I hadnít expected, or at least counted on. The inverter will go into sleep mode and draw minimal current if it seeís little or no load for a while. The sleep mode current looks to be less than 1/2A so I can leave it connected to the batteries all the time with little concern. The inverter also came with a little key fob remote on/off which works nicely. That will save me having to install a constant duty solenoid in line with the batteries. For those not living in their vehicle, I would still recommend at least a manual battery disconnect switch though. Thatís on top of a fuse or circuit breaker of course.

I ran things for a while just to get them warmed up, but mostly the only thing that got hot was the paint stripper. The fans on the charger and the inverter did begin to ramp up after a while, all normal and expected. I checked the sine wave output on a scope and itís a sine wave alright. Not perfect, but close enough. It actually gets better looking under load.

At one point I thought I might have a problem as I noticed the AC output of the inverter was flickering. I traced the problem back to the battery charger module that converts the converter/power supply into a 3 stage battery charger. It seems that under heavy load the battery charger was confused about what battery charging stage it should be in, so the DC voltage was fluctuating. For now the problem was cured by disconnecting the battery charger module and operating in simple power supply mode. Once I have the batteries in the circuit I should be able to put the battery charger module back in as the batteries themselves will prevent the voltage from fluctuating.

To be continuedÖ
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Old 09-15-2009, 07:07 PM   #75
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TV and Wi-Fi Antennas

I received my Winegard crank up TV antenna and have been checking it out. It seems simple enough. Just a worm gear to crank it up and a lazy susan type bearing so you can point it. Itís all manual which I like since there is little to break. Being a very standard off the shelf product it was not very expensive and replacement parts should be easy enough to find if necessary.

http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/p...ntennas-winegard.htm

My plan is to add a small 16Ē omnidirectional (omni) Wi-Fi antenna with about 8 dBi of gain to the top of the TV antenna Mast. That should be enough to give me a strong connection at many locations like truck stops and public libraries. I also ordered another crank up TV antenna from Winegard that I will modify to hold a 14 dBi Yagi antenna that can pull in Wi-Fi from as far as a mile away. It is directional though, meaning it has to be pointed, which might not be so convenient, or even necessary with the 8 dBi omni available.

http://www.pplmotorhomes.com/p...-tv-antenna-5095.htm
http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...s/2.4gig/8dbomni.php
http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...2.4gig/14eleyagi.php

For those who donít speak dB, 3 dB means double the power, so the difference between 8 dB and 14 dB is 6 dB, or 4 times the power. Using the Inverse Square Law (signal strength is reduced as the square of the distance) then twice the distance requires 4 times the power, which is exactly what the Yagi buys me over the omni. Thatís on top of the 8 dBi of the omni which is 6.3 times the power, or a range increase of approximately 2.5 relative to a nominal, or isotropic antenna. All of this is a theoretical approximation as real life is almost always more complicated.

The ďiĒ in dBi means relative to isotropic where the energy is radiated equally in all directions. The omni antenna radiates energy equally in all directions horizontally but is not isotropic because it mostly avoids sending energy straight up or straight down. The Yagi is more like a flashlight and focuses the energy to within about 15 degrees of where it is pointed. Antennas can also have more ďgainĒ by simply being larger and gathering more energy. Unlike TV, Wi-fi is bidirectional, but the principles of antenna ďgainĒ apply equally well in both directions.

I plan to use a splitter, which is also a combiner, to feed both the omni and the Yagi into my Wi-Fi adapter. In some cases the two signals can cancel each other out, but in my experience they more often add to give the benefits of both without having to switch between them. I currently use such a system at my house to pull in TV stations in San Jose and San Francisco (two different directions with two antennas) without having to adjust the antenna rotor all the time.

To keep all these antennas busy I ordered a Wave Magnum High Power USB Wi-Fi adapter for my PC. You might assume that I think Wi-Fi is pretty important. Next to my cell phone (which I donít have yet) it will be my primary source of communication, possibly even primary if I can get something like Skype (voice over internet) up and running. It might also be my primary source of entertainment with so many movies and other content available via the internet.

Here are some, hopefully helpful, links to some other stuff I bought.

http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...less/wave-magnum.php
http://www.radiolabs.com/products/cables/cable.php
http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...sories/coax-seal.php
http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...tning-protection.php
http://www.radiolabs.com/produ...s/2-way-splitter.php

In case you were wondering, I donít plan to install a satellite dish. One of those dome units would be a dead giveaway that my moving truck is really an RV. I could install one of the fold down dishes offered by Winegard, but thatís not the real issue. Mainly I am unwilling to put up with the monthly expense. I donít have satellite or cable at my house now, and donít see the need for it. I figure between the internet and those old fashioned paper things called books I should have plenty of passive entertainment options. Better to get out of the truck and go do something once in a while.

You might assume that with all this emphasis on technology that I just love hi-tek gadgets, but Iím actually a bit of a luddite. As far as I am concerned, technology is just a tool that is sometimes useful and most often annoying. Heck, I donít even own a cell phone, let alone a crack-berry (Blackberry). Itís cool to understand how things work, but more and more I find that technology is buried under layers and layers of complexity that leave you helpless when it doesnít work for even the simplest but unknowable reason. Donít even get me started on the subject of crappy user interfacesÖ

To be continuedÖ
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Old 09-15-2009, 08:03 PM   #76
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I've been following this along the whole way but the biggest head scratcher I've had in this whole build is Why the Stealth?

If you park that thing within a mile of any decent police station, some one is going to knock on your door. Park it in the wrong place and the gangbangers will think it a stake out rig and then figure out your not LE and knock on your door.

Truck stops and rest areas; stealth? Who cares? If it doesn't look like an RV of some sort, camp grounds may say no.

I just think you are cutting a bunch of corners to stay stealthy only to finish up some day with a mobile spartan cell that will get disappointing and boring in a very short time.

I love the tech, I just don't get the mission.
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Old 09-15-2009, 10:52 PM   #77
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....huummm....another interesting point of view....since my tractor /trailer are somewhat "stealthy" i was kicked out of a campground in FLA. 7 years ago after Christmas....so what? It has led to the best ever camping area that I could wished for....was it luck or divine intervention?....Who knows-but it was the best thing that has happened to me over the years-camping wise......- I'm 7 minutes from Sanibel 7 minutes from the boat launching area and 7 minutes from the X-way....full service campground with 50 amp service!....at $25 a nite for me [with a dog] and a few girls to keep me company and entertained.......sometimes I just can not screw up!....geof kaye
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Old 09-16-2009, 01:22 PM   #78
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I also have been kind of un-clear. But I think in the first few or so posts he said he wants to be able to hide amongst trucks and warehouses and not have to pay for a site? I wouldn't be quite as worried as blizz about parking places. But it is certainly something to keep in mind about where you are parking for sure.
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Old 09-16-2009, 01:58 PM   #79
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LEO's have been instucted to look for old vans trucks and units similar to these for the potential mobile meth lab, quite common around here- now that folks will turn in any neighbor that has strange smells coming from it. (One way to get back at the aparment that also has frequent loud partys or strange looking freaks that stumble up and down the halls all night.) So they buy old U-hauls and go out into the country and mix their poison. If I was a LEO, I'd lock the doors from the outside and drive away for a week or 2.
-blizz
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Old 09-16-2009, 07:39 PM   #80
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Blizz and Bob raise some good points, so I will try to clarify. First, I would not be doing this if I thought I had a better option. I have a son with a low IQ and learning disabilities who will probably never be able to support himself. I also have an ex-wife who will do her best to turn in him into a lap dog and then use him to extract money for the rest of my life. He will be an adult soon, but even if her claims have no legal basis I can expect to spend the rest of my life defending myself in court. Thatís not a life worth living for him or me.

If I go underground I can invite him along, but I canít force the decision. If he joins me then we might just have a chance to see some of this country, and along the way I might be able to give him some options for earning a living that are within his capacity. His mother can hire all the lawyers she wants, but she will have to find me first.

I figure I have maybe 10 good years left, but itís not about me anymore. I donít feel like the government should have to support any of us, least of all my ex, but I canít stop the libs from giving her money. What I can try to do is give my son a chance by setting him up with a low cost lifestyle and some employment options. If he wonít accept that then at least I can leave him with some cash by reducing my expenses.

None of this would be my first choice, or is even in line with my nature. Most people dislike change and fear the unknown, and I am not that unusual. I am facing a future full of unknowns, and if you havenít figured it out by now, my nature is to plan and minimize risk. Like I said before, if this lifestyle doesnít appeal to you, and I can certainly understand why it would not, then I hope you always have better choices.

As for the specifics, like where will I park without getting rousted all the time, I donít claim to fully know. I have never stealth camped in my life. All I know is what I have read, and what seems reasonable. Others claim that if you show up in a quiet urban neighborhood shortly before bed time, and then quietly hit the sack, you wonít even be noticed. There are also K-mart and Walmart parking lots that often actively invite campers. I know I have seen several regulars at the K-mart near my home.

Mostly I see no reason to camp in urban areas. Not when there are quiet country roads with turnouts and wide shoulders with hardly anyone around. There is also BLM land, and national forest land. I do have some experience with hang gliding that involves dusty logging roads to unimproved camp sites with no services and no fees. I am also told that there are minimum wage jobs being a park ranger that often go unfilled at the most remote locations. There is also the high desert of California and Nevada where I am told transients often settle for the winter. Oregon or Washington are more popular in the summer.

It would not surprise me if many camp grounds refused me, not that I want to spend much time there. I hear that some camp grounds are refusing admittance to even nice RVís that happen to be over 10 years old. I canít say that I will miss their snooty attitude.

I would not want to spend the night at a rest area. I understand the thieves hang around and pray on the uninformed that make that mistake. I might occasionally end up at a truck stop, if I am making an extended trip to the Midwest or down south, but mostly I donít see the appeal of being ďpickle parkedĒ as geofkaye calls it. I hear that truck stops are at least relatively safe though. I would not want to hide out in the warehouse district as it might well be noisy in the AM and possibly unsafe in the PM.

As for the Spartan accommodations, well thatís fair. A friend of mine refers to my truck as a mobile prison cell. Iíve never been in a prison cell, so I wouldnít know, but it has a door and I have the key. I donít see any reason to hide out in the truck all day. There are lots of things to do and see, and between school, and work, and just being poor, I never felt like I had the option. I have one last chance to change all that. Besides, at night, with my eyes closed, the truck is all but infinite.

As for being bored, well I donít think I could blame that on living in a truck. I would think it would be easier to get bored tied to one spot. Perhaps it is more fair to say being tired of being on the move all the time. I wonder if that would be any worse than being tired of working umpteen hours a week with no future, or being tired of supporting a parasite of an ex wife. I suspect that happiness is more internal than external, and that I will be my own grumpy self no matter what.

I do have my paranoid fears, like breaking down in the middle of nowhere, or getting towed and not having access to my home or belongings. I suspect that those fears are overblown. I will be researching roadside service contracts, and generally taking pains not to piss off the locals.

All this will end somehow, somewhere, but we all knew that.
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