Friday, November 26, 2010

The simple joy of sunlight

Today I went to the beach, parked where I was facing the ocean (and the sunlight), and broke out of my strict-stealth mode, by opening the door to the cab. The whole van was flooded with natural light, for the first time in a year or so. And it heated up in here almost immediately, going from maybe 50 degrees to a comfortable 65 or more. The cab greenhouse is indeed an excellent solar heater. Interior of refrigerator remains at 35 degrees, batteries are at 14.4V.

Just joyful and wonderful. I took pictures and have posted them on the vandweller's Yahoo group, here. Looking at the pictures, I felt particularly good about the work I've done, and how comfortable I've made this home-- that I built, myself, with my own two hands (and a couple hands worth of help from friends).

Speaking of friends... sitting in a friend's Westphalia/Vanagon some months ago, I noticed that, due to the darkness of the interior, even though he had tons of windows everywhere, people still couldn't really see us inside the van from the outside. Maybe a shadow, a bit of motion, but not nearly as clearly as we saw out. It was more of a one-way-mirror kind of thing. So, I'm warming up (literally) to the idea of windows.

Maybe I'll spend a bit more time this winter (but never in summer!) with my door open, letting the warmth and sunlight in. It is so much more pleasant.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

First cold

Looks like this is the first really cold night of the year. Will be interesting to see how the TruckFridge deals with it. I have no idea how R134a refrigerators deal with temperatures that are at or below the temperature they're supposed to be cooling to.

Today it was really cold in here, and I've done such a good job insulating for summertime, that it didn't warm up in here at all when it got warm and sunny outside. Oops. I briefly thought about cutting a hole in the wall from the cab to the box, and putting in a vent, to let the solar-heated greenhouse air from the cab in here. There are windows on three sides of that cab, and it gets much warmer than outside temperatures in there. If I could vent that air in here, it'd be nice and toasty. But I'd have to figure a way to do it so that I could seal it off completely in the summer. Shouldn't be too hard, but I have to think about it some more.

In the meantime, I'm closing my roof vent and one of my two floor vents to try to keep it warm in here. Let's see how well all my insulation works in wintertime.

My batteries are very very happy now with the new TruckFridge. On even a mostly-overcast day, nearing the winter solstice, and up here in the north latitudes, I've got enough sunlight to keep get my batteries up to 14.3V by mid-afternoon! And it's great fun to be able to buy ANY kind of food without having to worry if it needs refrigeration. The upside is that I'm eating a LOT better, since I can buy more fish and meat and cheeses and things that need refrigeration. The downside is that I'm spending a lot more on groceris too, like almost twice as much. So I guess I have to work on that. It might work out OK if I can stop going to restaurants almost completely, and I've been able to cut back a lot on that now with the fridge.

I did a bit of work that made me some money. Between all the odd jobs I'm doing now, I'm ALMOST at my break-even point. It is encouraging.

I flushed out my brake fluid a few weeks ago; that was easy. Also found a new/old fuel leak. It's from the fuel regulator where the brand-new return hose comes in from the right head! Same place it was last time! Or maybe it's from something else and I just never fixed it the first time. There doesn't seem to be anything coming from my fuel pump, but I have the part in case I need to R/R it. I've become resigned to the fact that leaks are just a fact of life. I'll fix 'em when I fix 'em, as best I can. It's like shoveling sand against the tide, an impossible task.

It sure is great to get away for the long weekend though. I don't plan to do any maintenance or home imporovement, or any work for money, but I do plan to do a lot of work on other creative projects and personal organizing that needs to get done.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Extreme airflow sensitivity

I've noticed something very odd about this PowerStroke engine: if I screw up and don't put the air hoses and this odd, empty "percussion chamber" on exactly right and completely tightly, I have no power at all. Like, climbing a hill at redline and 40MPH kind of no-power. Like, thermostat is full open going a couple miles no-power. Like, blowing though a tank of very expensive biodiesel in half the time no-power.

I've made this mistake often enough that I dread taking the air hoses and filter off, because I know if I put all back less than super-tightly, it feels like I'm driving on a treadmill.

A somewhat lesser sluggishness happens if I forget to connect the air temperature sensor back onto the air filter housing. This happens often-- it's easy to forget to reconnect the thing--, and I can always tell, because my mileage sucks and there's a lot less power... though it's not nearly as bad as if I don't tighten/seat the hoses and have an intake vacuum leak.

I'll have to figure out why this engine is so sensitive to the tiniest intake vacuum leak, nor why I seem to get them so easily. I'm still reading the docs, and it looks like the mass airflow pressure sensor is in fact upstream of the leak, though I haven't gotten down in there to figure out where it is.

It may have something to do with the fact that it's a turbo, but I haven't figured out exactly how. Being lazy I guess. It's easier to just get out an 8mm socket and re-seat the hoses and re-tighten them whenever this happens.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

I've got the wanderlust

Only two weeks of living in one place all the time, every day, all week long, and I'm already missing being mobile!

This weekend I made a long-ish trip just to get out, and I realized a weekend is not enough time. As soon as I got exploring, I had to turn around and come back. Drat.

I realize now that I'd gotten used to disappearing for 4-5 days at a time, whenever I wanted. I miss it now.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

TruckFridge FTW!

I sold some gear and was able to scrounge up enough to buy a TruckFridge.

These things are awesome. I'm stunned at how amazing it is. It's the size of my crappy TEC cooler, but much better built, a lot more expensive, and it actually works! It keeps the food cold, like 35 degrees cold! All the time! And it runs the compressor maybe 5 minutes out of every hour, and uses only about 2A when it does! This thing is PERFECT. I should have bought one years ago. It keeps my food colder than when I was using ice blocks, and I don't have to deal with ice blocks. And it doesn't drain my batteries either, like that awful TEC cooler did.

3 months of wrestling with the wrong thing, putting in hundreds of hours on microcontroller development and research, and I finally solved the problem in 1 hour by just replacing the peice of garbage with the correct and proper unit.

Truckfridge, and I have the same kind of refrigeration convenience that anyone in a stick house would have. At last!