Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Need More Storage Space? - Turn Useless Areas Into Useful!

Only 23' 8" And 99" Tall
    My RV is small. 23' 8" to be exact. I am always on the lookout for ways to expand my ability to store stuff. Yes, I probably carry too much, but I like being prepared! A while back I looked into mountable drawers, the kind that screw in to the underside of a cabinet or table. I ended up with two very low profile ones that are under my main table. They are OK, but very small. Pencils, paper clips, screws and the like fit nicely... maybe the odd utensil or chopsticks. Useful, but bigger is better! While perusing a local liquidator I came across some name brand ones that are much larger...I think I even have an inventive place to mount them. Curious? Read on!

New And Shiny!
Ever look in your wardrobe closet?  if yours is anything like mine, it has a rod that goes all the way across to hang clothing. When I first bought my RV I modified my wardrobe to become my main food storage pantry. It still has the ability to store some clothing, but how much hanging clothing do you take on vacation anyway? Over the years, I've found creative ways to add to its usefulness as a pantry. (Spice racks anyone?) Well the drawers that I found, a great deal at 3.99 each, looked as if they would fit nicely ABOVE the rod and attach to the ceiling nicely. My ceiling is sloped at the back of the closet, so it did not fit properly with the rod in place. I will have to shorten the rod and add a block to attach the smaller section to. Not all that big a deal. It WILL allow me to mount two of these drawers side by side. Now that's a good result.

Since the drawers actually tilt down when slid open, they are ideal for installing at slightly above eye level. It will be easy to see what's inside when they are open. Installation is simply a matter of finding the correct wood screws to use in the molded in holes. NO screws were provided at all. Not all that big a deal as I have several assortment packs of screws I can look through for just the right ones. Be careful if you are mounting anything to your ceiling -- make sure there is something to mount it to underneath the ceiling itself. And make sure there are no wires hiding up there. Ceiling vent fans, lights and the like love to hide up in the foam insulation in the ceiling!

All in all, I like these drawers, I will be able to reclaim some of my pantry drawers for better use and won't be losing anything at all. Hopefully they will stay closed when in motion. I may want to add a tiny bungee cord or something similar, unless they are secure against the inside of the closet door itself. We'll see...

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Even The Simple Things - Magnetic Liquid Crystal Thermometer

Keeping It Warm! or Cool!
    OK...What the heck is a "Magnetic Liquid Crystal Thermometer" anyway? Well, I know it sounds like a complex piece of technology from Star Trek, but it isn't. It's simply a way of measuring temperature by using some principles of liquid crystals. Liquid crystals are what's used in calculators and many other display technologies. We can get into the technology a bit later, but it really doesn't matter HOW it works to make it a VERY useful gizmo. These things are essentially flat, read out temperature pretty accurately and since they are magnetic, can be placed almost anyplace you can use a magnet. On-board an RV they have MANY uses!

On The Fridge
First and foremost, they are incredibly useful at determining comfortable temperatures inside your RV. Does your furnace heat some space to higher temperatures than others? Your A/C cool unevenly? Put a few of these babies around and find out. Many years ago I used to get one of these attached to an advertisement from a local insurance agent. It had each one with a copy of their business card and a yearly calendar. At the end of the year, I would cut off everything but the thermometer and keep them. I just counted, I have 12 of them! I wish the local insurance broker was still sending out advertisements via US Mail....they are incredibly useful

A Variety Of Styles And Temperature Ranges
That's not to say they are hard to find nor expensive. A quick look online reveals a 5 pack can be had from multiple vendors for around 6 dollars. I have seen them with both vertical and horizontal orientations in both Fahrenheit and Celsius or even both on the same strip.  On most of them, the actual display of the temperature will change color as the temp gets higher. So Blue for cold and going up to bright orange for hot. Sometimes it's the numbers that change color, sometimes a bar across the bottom. Either way works nicely.

On The Range Hood
How does it work? Well...that's a bit complicated but it's basically how the crystals reflect and diffuse light at different temperatures. Heat your crystals or cool them down and you will change the amount of distance between them.This will change the way light is reflected back from them and the color that you see. Pretty cool, huh?

Science aside, these are incredibly useful. The only drawback is the range of temperatures that they measure. They are limited to about a 30-degree spread. So if you buy one that starts at 44 degrees it will read all the way up to 74 degrees. The ones I have go from 64 to 94 in 4-degree increments. I have seen ones that go from 0 to 105 in 10 degree increments, but have never used one. Many of them are used for aquariums...not a bad place to know the temperature! But I prefer the air temps in my RV! These work great with my indirect read IR thermometer I keep in a cabinet.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

How To Winterize And Pre-Clean For Next Season - Work Smarter NOT Harder!

Getting Ready For Winter
    After my last trip of the season a week ago, it came time to shut down all the RV systems. Drain and winterize the water system, unpack the fridge and move all the food out. In addition, I like to clean and sanitize the interior so it's mostly ready to go next season. You would be surprised, or maybe you wouldn't(!) at the amount of mold and mildew that can develop inside an RV over the winter season. I do my VERY best to prevent anything like that from happening and also include critter intrusion prevention to the mix. What works? What doesn't work? And, most importantly, what are the easiest methods to do all of the above?

So Much For My Nice Black Hooded Sweatshirt!
Once the hard core winterizing of all the major RV systems is done I move on to the "pre-prep" items. Let's start with the easiest, and for me, the one I hate the I get a bleach based cleanser and some gloves and begin wiping down the inside of the fridge. Pull all the shelves both on the door and inside. Make sure you wipe down any residue you can find and make sure the bleach mixture gets into the nooks and crannies. then make sure it's wiped off. Careful of your clothing as bleach will...well...BLEACH out colors pretty easily. I ruined a brand new, expensive hooded sweatshirt this year. So I know all about it! Next wipe down the walls, "ceilings" and "floors" of both the fresh and frozen compartments. Once done, wipe down the seals and the outside. Figure out a way to hold the fridge slightly open over the winter months as the air circulation will help reduce mold and mildew growth and keep smells to a minimum. I also have an activated charcoal cube hanging inside as well as a box of baking soda to be extra sure!

Next, work on the toilet. Clean the inside and outside with your bleach cleanser, make sure you get under the seat and cover as well as the entire outside housing down to the floor. I have a smooth floor surrounding mine, so I wipe all that down as well. Getting to the back can be a bit of a problem, but do your best. Mine had a lot of accumulated dirt and grime back there. It will also give you a chance to check for leaks from the hoses leading to the toilet. Once done, pour in some RV antifreeze over the blade valve to keep it moist and lubricated. Move on to the shower stall. Clean the entire thing, top to bottom. Pull the rubber mats, if you have them, and clean underneath. Lots can grow on and under them! Check around the window (if you have one) for any growths or dirt and clean. Clean the lavatory sink and cabinets. I usually end up with toothpaste remnants in places I didn't know could have them!

In the main living area and bedrooms, wipe down the cabinets and walls to get rid of dust and dirt buildup. Then I move on to the carpets. Vacuum everything you can! So much dirt gets tracked in during your trips, you will be surprised how full your vacuum will get just doing this simple cleaning. Make sure you empty it and clean the filter to maintain maximum suction. This will save you the time of going back over the carpets again and again. I use a 12 Volt canister vacuum that I wrote about a while back. It works great and I really don't have that much floor for carpet anyway. It's also A LOT easier to do the walls and floors with it.

As for Critter prevention...while you are cleaning, check for any leavings and points of ingress. Fill those with steel wool or patch the hole with silicone sealant if it's small enough.. Later on, I'll write up an entire article about critter proofing and prevention both during the RV season and in between. Stay Tuned! It's always sad to perform this cleanup, but if you do it now it will be easier to get going again in the spring. I can't wait!

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

Harvest Hosts Trip #2 - Last Trip Of The Season. Very Sad.

Big Lot, Small RV!
    This past weekend I received an unexpected present in the form of a mild, even warm weekend. It was over 50 degrees during the day and only dipped down to the high 40's at night. Night time was easily fixed by the furnace running about 15 minutes out of every hour, mostly due to the additional Mylar bubblewrap custom window and skylight/vent fan covers I use. They really insulate very well and kept the heat inside and the cold outside, where they belong! So to exploit my good fortune and fortuitous weather I planned a quick trip. This was made MUCH easier by using my Harvest Hosts membership to find a place for an overnight (or in this case, two) within easy driving range. This particular location was about 130 miles away in Connecticut.

A VERY Big Building!
The place is called Bishop Orchards. While it is true, they do have large orchards, they also have a very large market with name brands, organic and exotic items, as well as a vast selection of pre-made foods to choose from. A supermarket really. Meats, fruits, vegetables, wines, bakery...lots to see.

When we arrived we were told to park up by the llama pen(!). While the parking lot was large, it had a pronounced slope. I don't have leveling jacks, so I was a bit off side to side, even with the rear airbags inflated on only one side. Not enough to cause real issues, but the bathroom door kept big deal.

The llama pen had some goats and roosters, as well. I gotta tell you, those roosters must have been defective because they didn't just crow at was randomly, all the time. Maybe I should have bought them watches?

Overnight, it rained. A lot! No worries, I've taken care of all the leaks and didn't see a single drop. For two days, it was overcast and drizzly. Good thing I like to cook and watch movies on the projection screen since we were stuck inside most of the time. The digital media player got quite a workout!

On the trip back Monday evening (Very cool blue-lit bridge!), the weather report was for a drop to 30 degrees that night and 20 degrees(!) the next night. I had better winterize and quick! Tomorrow that is exactly what I intend to do.

At least I can get started on many of the projects I have been putting off. The colder weather always gives me the opportunity to get lots done. Of course, I'd rather be traveling...but tinkering is a close second.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Have A Dead Round Bathroom Vent Fan? Can't Find One? Noisy? Replace It With Better!

Old Dead Vent Fan.
     Recently, on a trip (of course) I switched on my circular bathroom vent fan to exhaust moisture while (and after) I showered. A couple of sparks and it was all over. No fan. I had previously replaced this with one from another Aero Cruiser owner's rig. He had decided to put a 14" Fantastic Fan in. Wow, that was like having a bathroom in a wind tunnel, but I digress. His old fan worked for about a year. Then this happened. I did manage to find a direct replacement, but the newer model would have required me to remove the entire vent assembly from the roof and re-do all the seals. Since it isn't leaking, I really didn't want to do that. Besides, the round fan was always very noisy and an energy hog. I found a better and easier replacement.

Our RVs run (mostly) on 12 Volt power. The ceiling and roof fans are no exception. My bathroom vent fan used about 2.2 amps while running and was crazy noisy. It had a 12 Volt DC motor and a flat plate with vanes attached to the spindle of the motor. It worked OK. It did wobble occasionally and would have to be straightened so it didn't hit the side of the vent cap and stop. There had to be a better way. A long while back I added a 12 Volt computer "muffin" fan to my fridge chimney to improve cooling. It worked great! Why couldn't I adapt that style fan to the circular vent. No reason at all! So, that's exactly what I did.

First I removed the trim cover's three screws and removed the cover itself. Then two tiny screws holding the retract handle. Once that was done, I went up to the roof and pulled gently straight up to remove the vent fan cover. That exposed the top of the spinning section of the vent fan. I gently pried that off with a rocking motion. It came off the motor relatively easily. Don't force it, you may bend the mounting bracketry and we will be using that later to mount the new fan. Once it's off, remove the two even tinier screws holding the motor to the bracket. Support the motor when the screws are almost out. I didn't and dropped the motor onto my toilet damage, but it sure sounded scary from the roof, whew! Everything is now disassembled.

Back down to the inside portion of the fan, I pulled the fuse for the fans and cut both the positive and negative wires. Now I had to mount the new fan. It's square, but the vent is round. Luckily, my 5" fan fit nicely inside the old bracket, tucked up out of the way of the cover. The fan had 4 mounting holes, one at each corner. They were perfect for some 11" black zip ties I had lying around.

Will Not Move!
I threaded the zip ties down through one hole and up through the other on the same side. NOT Diagonally, that would have blocked the fan. Make sure you have most of the excess slack on the pointy side of the zip tie so it will be easy to tighten. I didn't and wasted a couple of zip ties before I figured that out. Back up to the roof, I threaded the zip ties so the fan was under the left/right bracket and the ties were on top. Now adjust the fan so it is horizontal and centered. Pull the zip ties tight. Now take a single zip tie and weave it under the first tightened zip tie, up and over the middle of the bracket and under the second tightened zip tie. Pull this one tight so it pulls on both of the first two and will keep everything from moving. Sounds isn't!

Once done, I wired the positive and negative to the fan. Be careful. I had the positive wire coming from the switch be a black wire instead of any other color. Usually, black is negative. Not this time, it was positive, and the negative was white! Then I slipped some heat shrink tubing over the connections, replaced the fuse and tested the fan. It's way quite and moves a reasonable amount of air. At that point shrink the tubing with some heat, tuck everything above the bracket and close up the vent fan assembly. Test again to make sure nothing disconnected. that's it...done!

So far, it works great. MUCH quieter. I took a shower in there and it's about the same exhaust volume as the old one had, but since it only draws .15 amps/hour I can leave it running MUCH longer. The replacement vent fan assembly would have been over $100, and a pain to install. This fan was $4 and works great. The entire job took about 40 minutes. That makes me happy!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"