Mistakes and First Impressions
I received my stuff from Radiolabs,
All the stuff I bought from them, which includes the antennas, cables, splitter, and Wi-Fi amplifier appear to be of high quality and well made. I do have a couple of problems though. The antenna cables I bought are very large and stiff. The cable itself is 0.4Ē diameter and the N-male connectors are almost 0.8Ē. I consider this to be my mistake, not theirs. The cables are well made, probably very low loss, and the connectors are high quality. They would probably be perfect for a fixed application that didnít have to move.
I also didnít realize how big N type connectors are. I have been using BNC, or the even smaller SMA type connectors all my life, and just assumed that N type was similar Ė My mistake. The connector size is important because I need to fit the cables through holes in the roof and I donít want to make those holes any bigger than necessary. I could feed the cables through tight fitting holes that would be easier to seal, and then install the connectors later, but installing connectors on Co-Ax cable (Co-Axial, meaning an inner conductor and an outer shield) is not a trivial matter. It often requires special crimping tools, or good soldering skills, and even then it can be a challenge to make reliable connections that are subject to weather and constant movement, especially when you are doing it on top of the truck.
Do it yourselfers should be warned not to use the cable and connectors sold at the local hardware store for TV antennas. TV antennas are traditionally 75 ohms, while the cables for Wi-Fi are almost always 50 ohms. It would take me a page or two to explain the difference between the two, so lets just say that mixing them up wonít damage anything, but it wonít work very well either. It would pretty much negate all the money you spent on a fancy antenna to use the wrong cable.
Fortunately there are many other options for 50 ohm cable, and there are also connector adapters. They probably all involve some slight loss of signal strength or are not as weather resistant, but it is all a necessary compromise. I probably wasted about $60 on cables I canít use, but given my life history, thatís nothing.
I also received my Range. Itís a standard 22Ē RV model from a major supplier for about $500. I wonít mention the exact make because I donít like to bash, but I was not impressed. My first impression is that it is cheap and will probably not last. The burners are light weight aluminum, not cast iron, the grate is just glazed wire, the knobs are cheap plastic, and the valves feel sloppy and donít operate smoothly, at least in terms of their mechanical feel, and the whole thing is made from fairly light gauge sheet metal.
I suppose you get what you pay for, and the quality is probably similar to other RV type units. Most RVís are used only occasionally so the appliances donít need to last as long as a home unit. I needed something smaller than the full sized ranges you might find at the home improvement store, and those units tend to go for twice the price. It remains to be seen if it will stand up to steady use. If it lasts a year or two then I will do some more research and try to upgrade when the time comes.
It didnít help my impression when it arrived damaged. The shipping company had stacked on top of it and stomped on it as well. I could see the footprints on the top of the box. At first I thought it had survived unscathed, but then I realized that the grate was bent.
They warn you up front to note any external damage to the shipping container at the time of delivery so you can pursue any claims with the shipping company. I am having all this stuff delivered to my work, so I am not personally there when the trucks arrive. The guys in shipping are doing me a favor so I canít yell at them (even though they are supposed to note damage like this on everything they receive anyway). The bottom line is that they didnít note the damage, so I havenít got a leg to stand on. I ordered a replacement grate for another $50 plus shipping. I will recommend the folks at RV Dealership.com as a source for replacement parts such as this.
I also received my over-stove power module. This is the metal box insert that goes into the hood containing the fan, filter, and overhead task light. It was a standard home unit from a major manufacturer that I also wonít name. It is very much a chincy piece of junk, thin sheet metal, spot welded, right out of the 1950ís. I think they are intended to be more or less disposable. They make the actual stove hood out of stainless, or something more durable that looks nice, and then these inserts, that are mostly out of sight, just drop in.
Fortunately, all I really wanted was the sheet metal and filter. I wonít be using the cheap AC shaded pole motor, nor will I be using the 40W light bulb sockets. I will replace the motor and fan with a 12V muffin fan from the electronics store, and the 40W light bulbs with white LEDís. The stove hood itself, to the extent that I have one, will be integrated into the cabinetry and probably made of plywood like everything else. If I get ambitious, I may bend something up out of stainless, but there is lots of time for that later.
A word of warning about 12V DC fans and motors. I recommend you always get something with ball bearings, not plane bearings, especially in a horizontal application (meaning blowing up or down). Plane bearings will go dry due to gravity if mounted horizontally and will eventually jam. Also, in this day and age, there is no reason to use a brushed motor. Brushes wear out over time. Modern electronics replaces the brushes with solid state switching circuitry that will outlast the motor and are no longer that expensive.
As for the LED task light over the stove, I know that LEDís are still considerably more expensive than florescent technologies for conventional lighting applications. They are starting to show up in some specialty applications where mechanical durability or low current are of primary concern. I think in time they will come to dominate, just as florescent lights have come to dominate over the old fashioned incandescent (filament style) bulbs.
I have a cheap option for those who are handy with a soldering iron. Just after Christmas there will be sales on the white LED Christmas lights at about $5 for a string of about 64 lights. Altogether they make about 40W of light. (Light output similar to an old fashioned 40W incandescent light bulb.) You could just shove the entire string into your light fixture and run them off of 120V AC, but I have a somewhat more elegant plan.
I pull the LEDís out of the sockets and wire them up in 15 strings of 4 each in series. They can then be connected directly to 12V with no regulator or series current limiting resistor. You do need to be aware of polarity as they only work with the current flowing in one direction. The combination of 15 x 4 = 60 LEDís gives about 40W of light for about 5W. By contrast, I have a 12V florescent light with two ď15WĒ bulbs that draws 1.95A at 12.6V or 24.57W. Florescents are about 4.3 times more efficient than the old incandescents so it puts out about 107W of effective light.
(I know, referencing everything back to incandescent is an archaic and silly way to do this, but we all have a sense of how bright a 60W incandescent light bulb is. If I started talking lumens no one would have any idea what I meant. Besides, I donít actually have a light meter so this is all very approximate anyway.)
Bottom line, the LED Christmas lights are about twice as efficient as the florescents, and they will probably never burn out in my life time. They will get a little dimmer over time, but so will the florescents. With no current regulation they will get noticeably brighter and dimmer as the voltage changes which could be a little annoying when you fire up the microwave for example. Itís not fair to compare the cost of the LEDís to the florescent, which was about $60, since the florescent is an entire fixture ready to install. Also, the LEDís produce a blue-white light, while the florescents, depending on the specific tubes, produce a warmer orange-light. The light from the LEDís is also very concentrated and blinding, so you really need a diffuser of some sort.
I will still be using the 12V florescent lights for bulk lighting in a recessed ceiling mount. I may replace the guts with LEDís some day, but for now there are many more important things to work in than saving about 1A of 12V DC.
To be ContinuedÖ