Saturday, July 25, 2009

To blog…. or not to blog….

Taking on the “responsibility” of a blog is not as simple as just making a diary or a personal journal…. maybe I was naive to think it was mostly like that.

The truth is that, unlike a diary, a blog is potentially readable by more than one’s self.   It does require some sensitivity to what others might think or how they may react to something I put into it. The best case is that I can “unload” my mind and spirit into it. The worst case is that I reveal something that unintentionally offends, embarrasses or maligns someone else. So, whether it is nobler in the mind to blog uncensored and suffer the slings and arrows of outraged friends and family or distort and omit some of the expressed reality with censorship. This can become a really sticky point in the process and in the content.

I feel strongly that it is important to reveal the actual state of mind and affairs as we move through this process. It paints a picture of accurate realism and better perspective for those that may come behind. It does not ignore the sloughing off of great chunks of expectations at the expense of future disappointments of readers.

On the other hand, absolute truthfulness can quickly become a wedge between friends and family that induces an unwanted attitude and regard for the full timing transition relationships thereafter.

So, the daily availability of content becomes subject to the fine line between censored and uncensored content…. and therein lies the difficulty with maintaining a content rich blog on a specified schedule.  Sometimes, the mire of personal daily content that cannot pass the censorship process is so large that there is nothing to describe without opening the whole kimono.

I have tried to get some ongoing content online but each day has been mostly about personal, medical, financial and relationship issues that once posted, would not cease to cause me discomfort for a very long time. I am certain that I would also start getting a lot of comments on the site which, while I like to get them, would not be pleasant to read so I have abstained from posting.

To all this I will say that there are a lot of things that come up in the process of moving into a full-timing lifestyle that is of a very deeply personal nature. Realistically, I offer a caution to all that pursue this lifestyle to expect to have some uncomfortable and frustrating times that you will have to bear alone or only with your companion.  Just be aware that this is normal even though no one writes much about it in their books and journals. They just cannot describe the specifics so that future readers get a completely honest and revealed view of what to expect. In so doing, the future followers of the lifestyle may find surprises in their transitions but they should not be dismayed or discouraged by these “dips”. They are normal and should be expected and should not be seen as automatic show-stoppers.


Thursday, July 16, 2009

Go – No Go days….

It seems that every time I get a certain kind of respiratory bug its takes me forever for it to run its course.  This time I came down with it at the same time as my #1 son, Smitty, got it. He has worried through it while on the road and got over it in about 2 weeks.

Me, I am still struggling with the residuals from this thing.

To answer the usual first questions… I do take massive amounts of Vitamin C, Zinc, Magnesium, Flaxseed Oil, Omega 3 fish oil, and a descend multivitamin. The downside is that some of these things change how I feel but don't really seem to shorten the lifespan of this bug.  Likewise, antibiotics don’t really seem to make any improvement but they do often make me feel worse while I am taking them.

All of this points more to viral rather than bacterial based infections.

The bad side of all of this is it kicks my immune system into high gear and that stress brings on the whole team of discomforts and depressors that come out when I am suffering from long term stress.

This is the “downers team” and when it gets control there is little more that I can get done than sleeping, eating irregularly and just trying to keep the minimum daily chores done. I can usually forget dealing with anything that requires engineering thought, power tools, or that involve some sort of conflict. The first will be wrongly done, the second is too dangerous to handle and the last will put me in a completely dysfunctional PTSD funk just waiting to explode unpredictably . That is not good for anyone around me.

So I have been plagued with this bug since June 3rd and though I have gotten mostly through the phglm, coughing, nose itching and dripping, ears plugged, raspy voice, lung whistling, stomach hurting, gut pains and nausea they still come back from air pollutants, and food sources. If I am lucky I will be over this before Labor Day.

There is still way too much to get fixed, completed, planned and financed before we leave at the end of October and a lot of it requires my brain and body working nearly flawlessly to get it completed without incident and or mistakes. This is getting really hard, right now.

I have started a workspace for designing and building the Smart car loader on Clifford. I put in an Excel spreadsheet that provides something of an index to resources of threads and pictures that describe key information and pictures of several bed and loader building processes to give some perspective of the overall process.

So far, most of this has been done during my last few non-sleeping nights so the time has not been totally wasted.

My next step is to decide how much to do myself and how much to contract out.  With the financial state right now, I think I am going to have to do a lot more of the work myself than I had originally planned.  Unfortunately, I don’t work well outside during the heat and humidity and biting insects of the NC summer months. I couple of chigger bites or mosquitoes bites and I am damaged for several days or more.

Another piece of work to do is to get the shore power hookups on Clifford and to put in the old Magnetek converter/charger to keep his batteries up. I would not trust it to do the job long term but they will get good peak charging from time to time when we are driving it but the Magnetek won’t let them go dead on me.

I need to start putting my various project plans on the website, too. A place to keep it all together and easy to find “what’s next to do”.


Monday, July 6, 2009

Tankless days – followup

I want to tell you…. this Precision Temp RV-500 tankless water heater is outstanding!  I actually showered AND Merrily did wash at the same time and I could not even tell it other than a few little glitches in water pressure!!!!

Granted, I also turned on the RV water pump to provide supplemental water and pressure since our shore water supply is about 100’ of 3/4” polybutal pipe plus another 50’ of RV hose to get to the RV connection. This is all just fed from a common (and 40 year old) frost proof hose bib on the back of the basement of the house. These are definitely NOT full flow valves and it does not take much pressure drop in the house to give us less than 40psi out here. When it does drop off I have found that running the RV Shurflow Extreme flow plump in the RV draws enough additional water from the RV tank to make up the lost pressure and volume so its not noticeable.

BTW, I have found another important thing about occasionally doing this with the pump. When these Shurflow pumps sit unused for long spells they seem to get stubborn about starting up again.  From tips from others with these smart flow pumps, using them even while shore water is hooked up is not a bad idea… just so long as you don’t forget it is on and run the RV water tanks dry.  I generally flip the pump ON during laundry days and keep the RV tank nearly full most of the rest of the time, just in case of… whatever.

I did finish up the replumbing job, though. I had intended to reuse some of the pipes and fittings from the old HWH bypass valves “Christmas tree” but decided that this stuff was all over 10 years old and the fittings were all plastic. I opted to use some of the 1/2” PEX I still had from replumbing the house a few years ago and bought new brass fittings for everything I installed.

One thing that turned out to be pretty nice is that the new tankless HWH is not nearly as deep as the Suburban 10 gallon DSI HWH so I now have quite a bit more space under the kitchen sink for storage. 

I just need to relocate a couple of 110volt electrical boxes that feed the whole slideout and I will actually be able to put a lot more under there than a bottle windex and a 1/2 bag of new sponges. Nothing heat sensitive,of course, even though it does not even get a little bit warmer under there when the new HWH is operating.

This is the “before”DSC00991 picture and here is the “after” shotDSC01048 with the newly operational tankless HWH and plumbing.  Quite a difference as you can see from the electrical junction box in both pictures that has not yet been moved. There is just that much more available space, now.

I just need to do some dressing up of the routing of the pipes, wires, heater hose, etc. to make the space more accessible.

The only item left to do is reinstall the water filter to the ice maker and the separate filtered water tap on the sink.  The original installation had the filter mounted horizontally (against the printed instructions on it) and on the shelf above the HWH. I am still puzzling as to where to put it so I can easily change it without emptying anything out of this cabinet. Maybe I will have an epiphany tonight…. if I ever get to sleep.


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tankless days on the way

I mentioned awhile back that I was bidding on an RV-500 Precision Temp tankless hot water heater on EBay.   I eventually won the bid and got the unit for $600 + $10 S&H. It arrived here several weeks ago in a box that was distressed. I worried about the shape of the unit before even opening the box.

It turns out that they had packed it with some Styrofoam blocks and the only visible damage appeared to be that it was packed on its back and that is where the hot and cold water lines fittings protrude. The fittings stick out about 3” each and 1 looked to have been DSC01021 pushed in pretty hard. Hard enough to bend it to the side and slightly buckle the copper housing for the heater DSC01019 chimney where it is soldered around it before exiting the back.

I took pictures of the damages but it seems like its ok. The bottom corners of theDSC01012 cabinet DSC01010 look like they had taken a few licks, too.

I have been fighting a bug for 3 weeks and the weather has not been helping so it has taken me until now to get on with this installation.

Though I had seen forum comments about  swapping out a Suburban 10 Gal DSI HWH to a precision temp that made it seem very easy, I am not one to take off with that shining assumption… As I have said before, my middle name is Murphy and if it can go wrong it usually does. 

To get started, I did not want to just go and do the full conversion and then find that there was something wrong with the tankless unit and now could not easily swap back to my old Suburban until they could be worked out.  I decided that I should do some basic tests of the tankless, like water pressure test, gas leak test, electronics test and then heating test.

Since I am not equipped to do these all on a bench in my shop I figured that the most damaging failure was probably water leakage so I made some adapters and hooked up the water hose on the bench and flushed it then let it hold pressure… No Leaks!  Good.

Next test (electronics) required water and gas hookups so I decided to make some adapters to the existing water and gas lines rather than go heavily modifying what is in there.  This really was just a matter of picking up some 3/8” copper tubing, A flaring tool (I had one that got away from me sometime ago), Some flare nuts for the gas line adapter (and a shutoff) and some PEX to FIP connectors for the 1/2 water lines to be attached to the new HWH.

The RV500 Documentation recommends removing any HWH bypass kits as they are not needed. This step will greatly simplify the water supply and routing.  Plus, in my case, it makes it much easier to put the water filter for the sink where it really should be located.

The most difficult issue I faced was that the unit I got came with a flush mount kit and door and this required some significant modifications to the existing opening that the Suburban had been removed from.  I wanted to not make that mounting position unfriendly to put the suburban back into should the tankless not work out satisfactorily for us. These were not cosmetic changes to mount this guy flush.  However, Precision Temp makes a surface mount kit that should work perfectly for what I have to mount and where.

I put a 2x2 across the DSC01008 bottom of the opening. The entire opening is exactly outlined with 2x2 aluminum square tubing welded in place. I  was not interested in tangling with that structure so the 2x2 wood spacer across the bottom raised the tankless up 2” and centered it pretty well in the opening.   I then put in a 3/4” spacer over the top of the unit to give the top facing screws something to bite into .  I made it DSC01009 T shaped so that the ends of the Ts extended beyond the side vertical supports to keep the strain off of the screws holding it in place.  It cannot pull out through that wall without taking the whole welded aluminum wall out, too.

Finally, I put a stop cockDSC01020 on the end of the existing gas line so it can be shut off if needs be.  Also, the difficulty of getting a line into and connected to the gas controller in the tankless water heater was not going to be made with the existing copper gas supply so this was an easy way to pre plumb the inside gas connection and bring it out to where it can easily  be connected to the gas shutoff valve (you can see it in the middle of the picture with a blue shutoff handle.

Finally, I was running out of time for the day and figured I could just hook the two twist on connections that had fed the other HWH directly to the replacement, but…..  The tankless has the hot and cold water connection reversed from normal tank type HWH. Hot is at the bottom and cold is at the top of the back of the unit so the lines I needed to test with were about 6” too shortDSC01038 …. grrrrrrrr.

A quick trip to Home Depot with a stop for dinner at Char Grill and then home again to make patch tubes to hook up the water lines to the rest of the trailer.   They put such a combination of Tees, valves, elbows and more Tees in there to feed the kitchen, and the icemaker that trying  to use it was another 1/2 day job and I still did not want to wreck that piece of plumbing incase the tankless did not work. This would get water to everything in house but the kitchen sink, the water filter and the ice maker. We can live with that overnight.

Once it was all made and installed and pressure tested for leaks (gas and water) I was ready to take a shower….er… not quite.

I had used the water pump to provide the cold water supply to the tankless because the outside shore water supply was still connected to that rube Goldberg bypass tree of piping and there just was not any way to quickly connect shore water into this new hookup without a lot of surgery.

So, the problem was to get shore water either into the water tank to fill it enough to shower or hook it into the cold line somewhere other than cutting a Tee into what I had just finished up.   A little thought reminded me that there is a drain valve for the cold water line and when I checked the end fitting that the protective screen screws onto, I realized that I already had something that could screw onto that fitting and just put shore water  straight up DSC01040the regular drain line to pressurize the system and make it work until I can rework the Christmas tree of plumbing on the bypass setup. 

And it worked perfectly so I could have my shower tonight.

AND BOY WAS IT WORTH THE WAIT AND THE TROUBLE!!! That is the first full body, full time, full function shower I have had since moving into DakotR 19 months ago.

The hot water it produces is definitely hotter than anything I ever got out of the suburban HWH even when using both electric heat and gas heat simultaneously. I did notice that when I pinched down the water flow with the “pause” valve on my new shower head, it did shut off the heating. But that was just a way to stretch out the hot water from the old tank HWH, anyway.  I will give a little more info on my new shower head that I really like, somewhere else.  But for now, its a great combination… a 1.5gpm showerhead handheld that delivers all the water you want to shower, wash hair, shave, etc. with the tankless HWH.

This first experience with the RV-500 has me cussing the years of “tiny” showers, with no water soaping sessions and ice water to rinse out my hair. This is a no brainer.  Some folks can argue the fine points of conservation of water, gas, electricity,etc. but people have priorities based on real life personal experiences and its no sin to be able to enjoy a good shower, occasionally, rather than NEVER.

Tomorrow, I will unhook all of this and remake the replacement plumbing tree that feeds the sink, water filter and ice maker. I will also mount in the backing plate that must be slipped over the entire tankless unit from the back before it is pushed into the mounting hole in the wall … (a little step I missed when I was putting it in this afternoon while fighting 3 squadrons of anopheles mosquitoes intent on sinking my spirits before I could finish this job enough to take a shower.)

P.S.  and put away all the collateral DSC01039damage on the kitchen counters from emptying the under sink cabinets where all this work has taken place.