Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Not Enough Free Time To Go Where I Want - What To Do?

On The Way..Someplace!
    Time. We are all given a limited amount of it to spend as we wish (well Mostly!). Like most of you, I really enjoy traveling in my RV to interesting places. For some of you that have been reading these articles from the beginning, the main reason I chose the RV I have was to maximize the use of my time off. It's pretty rare that I can string 3 (or more) days together for a reasonable length RV trip. So far, it has worked out quite nicely. By keeping the trips around 4-6 hours max distance away I get to spend around 2 full days (minus travel) at each destination. The trouble is, I've been doing it for a few years now and my list of new and interesting destinations is dwindling. Ideally, I'd sure like to go farther away in distance to find more destinations, but my free time has shrunk in the last year. RV trip time has become a precious commodity and I find myself going back to favorite places within a reasonable distance just to be able to relax. How do you fix that?

I know, retire! Thing is, I'm not ready to retire and in reality I just can't. Too many bills to pay and people to keep happy. It's almost a catch-22. I freely admit I work a lot of hours, maybe too many. But with lots of folks counting on me, I do what I can. That includes extra hours where they need to be. I KNOW I am not the only one in the same boat. Lots of folks enjoy working and helping folks where and when they can and still manage to get away for longer times than I can manage. Maybe I just need to organize my work better so I can string together more than 4 days in a row once or twice in a year. Thing is, I'm not usually the one that messes up my carefully planned time off. It's always some external force that I have no control over. And, like Murphy said, " the worst possible moment." Any tips?

Hidden Boondock Location
Please understand, I am NOT complaining at all. Well, maybe a little. I really and truly enjoy each and every trip I get to take in my RV. And I do understand, eventually, I'll get to take longer trips. I do wonder whether or not I will enjoy them as much... Right now I am in good health, have lots of energy and enjoy the journey just as much as the destination. I prefer boondocking over camp grounds almost 100%. Will this be true when I can take really extended trips in the years to come? What do you think?

I write these articles each week and am grateful for the many folks that enjoy reading them and perhaps gain some useful knowledge from them. I don't get to meet nearly enough of you to have the opportunity for a serious discussion. Maybe next time I'm out and about at an RV show we could all get together? That would be nice...and fun too!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Rain, Rain Go Away. Don't Come Back, EVER! - Checking For Leaks Before They Become A Problem.

Ready For The RV Season!
    Before last week's hideous heat and humidity wave we had torrential, constant rain for well over a week. I have a friend that calls that kind of rain, "frog strangling." I love that phrase, and the description was pretty close to reality as I saw a frog carried away down the street past my house. Remember, lots of humans pay good money for the same experience at water parks. He'll be fine. Your RV, maybe not as well. In any extended rain event like these, it's always a good idea to get inside your RV and check for ANY leaks. Not just the roof, but when the rain is coming in from the sides due to harsh winds, check everywhere you can think of. You'll be happy you did.

A/C Controller/Lights/Vents, Check Them All!
First, try and get inside without making too much of a mess at the door! I try and open the door and get inside as fast as I can do so safely and leave my shoes and umbrella on the lowest step next to the door. The idea is to find leaks, not detect the water you brought inside! I begin by running my hands around every opening in the ceiling. Roof vents, plumbing vent pipes, skylights and then around all the edges where it joins the wall. Then INSIDE the cabinets where you don't normally look. Next up, every opening on every wall. I start with the windows. They can loosen over time and with large temperature extremes. I wrote an article about tightening them up when I found a leak. Check your main and other doors. The seals get squashed and deformed over time so sometimes they don't seal properly. Not only could this cause a leak, but if it's large enough you'll lose heated and cooled air. My RV has a driver's side door, so that gets checked as well. That one needed some adjustment at the hinges to seal properly, but no leaks.

Carpeted Ceilings Show Water Ingress!
If you're lucky and have followed some basic roof and seal maintenance you won't find any water intrusion. If not, there are some things you can do to try and find the leak. If you see water "stripes" on any hard surfaces or there are discolored spots on your wall, ceilings and carpets....especially below the windows, you may have a problem. The sooner it is addressed the less chance it will have to cause damage that will be difficult and expensive to repair. I believe water is the number one culprit in the deterioration of RVs. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. If you are in an area that experiences winter or you store your RV for long periods of time, make sure to check on it a few times during storage, especially if there has been a lot of precipitation.

Old Solar Panels, New Vent Seal
A while back I was surprised to find the areas around two sides of my vent fans were damp. Not completely wet, just damp. Turned out the sealing compound on the roof had cracked and water was seeping in. You couldn't really tell from on top, but it was coming in. Thankfully it wasn't a HUGE job to remove and replace the vent/fans and reseal. Then there was the time a chunk of tree smashed my shower skylight. No problem finding out where the water was coming from that time! But the fix wasn't nearly as easy. It didn't help that my skylight wasn't a standard size nor shape.

You can tackle any job with patience and a good attention to detail. Don't rush, and research/prepare before you begin. You'd be amazed at what you can accomplish on your own.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"


Wednesday, June 14, 2017

It's Hot - How To Care For Your Roof Air Conditioner

The Roof
    This past week has been incredibly hot, especially for Spring in the Northeast. It has been above 90 degrees for the last couple of days and it got me thinking about making sure my A/C unit would keep functioning efficiently far into the future. Since Murphy was an optimist (Murphy's Law - Anything that can go wrong...will. And at the worst possible moment) I figured the time to treat my A/C to some preventive maintenance was sooner rather than later. I kept thinking of a crazy hot day, enjoying the coolness inside the RV and then WHAM! No cool air. Even with all the vents open and fans running, it wouldn't be nearly as pleasant. Livable? Perhaps....but pleasant, not likely. With some very simple steps, you can keep your roof air conditioner working well.

Typical RV Roof Air Conditioner
First off is a good old-fashioned cleaning of the outside unit. Once that's done, I remove the shroud covering the A/C unit itself. It's very easy, usually just a bunch of Philips head screws around the edge. Then gently pull off. Depending on the make and model, you'll see what looks like a radiator from a car, a motor or two, a compressor, a large fan (or two) and some wires and piping.

Make sure the 120V power is off before reaching in to do ANYTHING! Once power is off, make sure all the vents are clear of debris like leaves, dirt, pollen, tree chunks, critter nests, anything at all really. You'd be surprised at how many vents are clogged. That will REALLY decrease the efficiency of your AC.Then get in there with a duster and start cleaning. Be careful. It is easy to bend or damage the fins on the radiator. If they are already damaged you should gently bend them back to straight. The more surface area, the more air that can circulate which equals better cooling. Look at the fan(s). Is there a gunk buildup on the blades? Gently clean with a rag, damp with a mild soap and water solution. Look for anyplace air travels and gently wipe away accumulated dirt and/or debris. If you have a compressed air source, you can use it to blow dirt and debris from between the fins and small spaces within the unit.

Before replacing the shroud, check to make sure the inside is clean. I was AMAZED at how much dirt was caked on the underside. There may be a foam gasket under the shroud as well. Make sure it's in decent shape. If it's falling apart, scrape it off, clean the area where it was stuck on and apply a new one. I used easily obtainable foam insulation tape and matched the curves of the original. It wasn't difficult to match the curves and I get a much better seal now. Once it's nice and clean inside, close it back up, replace the screws and go inside.

The Two Side Covers Are Easily Removed
Once inside, look at your air control unit. If you have a ducted unit, there should be multiple vents across the ceiling. All should be free of dust and debris. I know someone that once found critter nests all throughout his ducting. No wonder there was no cool air. Bet the critters were comfortable on hot days though! On the simplest systems, directly below that outside roof-mounted unit is an air controller. Typically it has two filters under two separate covers and a couple of directable vents at the front and back. If you remove the filter covers, you will see a couple of replaceable or cleanable filters. Check them, clean if possible, replace if needed, then look up into the holes they were in. Make sure there is no dust nor debris in there. Be careful, there may be several sharp edges inside. While they are open, I usually check to make sure the four bolts that snug down the roof unit are indeed ... umm ... snug. Not too tight. Check the manufacturer's specs for the correct torque. Move on to the front and rear vents. Clean out whatever doesn't belong. Be gentle -- it's usually only lightweight plastic. Reassemble the filters and covers.

That's it. Sounds like a lot of work, but it really isn't. Once my roof unit was clean, I noticed a significantly increased air flow and a drop of 2 extra degrees in temperature. It may have been my imagination, but the compressor didn't seem to be working quite as hard as before. It definitely feels cooler. If I'm lucky, I may very well have increased the useful life of one very expensive piece of RV hardware AND made myself a bit more comfortable in the process. Win-Win!

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

The Amazing, Rechargeable, But Poorly Named LED Tube Light

    Yes, I am addicted to flashlights. As addictions go, this one is mostly benign. How many lights does one person need? I'll let you know when I get to that number. Well, I've gone and done it. I found another way cool flashlight I simply could not resist. It's small, lightweight and unbelievably bright. I'd seen it a while ago, but didn't want to spend $10.00 on it (plus shipping) so when I stumbled across a deal for 2 of them for $9.99 with FREE shipping. I couldn't help myself. Little did I know then, but waiting can be a tough climb. Up hill....both ways! Any way, good things come to those who wait. Most of the time.

The Light!
When I order things I usually expect them to show up pretty quickly. Especially from places like Amazon. If you have Prime you can almost expect your packages sooner than they say they will arrive. Well, much of the time any how. This is not always the case. Long shipping times still exist from some online vendors. Especially if they ship from China. I know lots of products, even many produced by huge United States companies, are made in China. Primarily to keep the cost down. Well, this beautiful little gem is no exception. It's TINY (odd to use CAPITAL letters to mean really small..but...). Only a couple of inches in length and 1/2 inch in width and 1/4 inch in thickness. What it lacks in size it makes up for in performance and features.

Cool Looking, Too!
The manufacturer has managed to fit a 45 Lumen, dimmable light powered by a Li-Ion battery pack, a waterproof switch and a micro USB charging port all into this little baby. It feels very sturdy and well made. The case is made from Polycarbonate just like F-16 windshields! It's a rugged material that should last a really long time in this application. Besides, it's cool looking too! There is a rubberized switch on one side that's very easy to find in the dark and controls all the light functions. Tap it once, you get a low Lumen output light, perfect for looking through a bag or other container. Hold it down and you get the full 45 Lumen output. (Sounds like it isn't really that bright. Well, it is!) Let go and it shuts off. Tap once then hold and it will cycle from low output slowly all the way up to full output. Cool feature. You can stop at any level and it will turn on at that level next time it's used.

Brighter Than Advertised!
The case is semi-transparent so you can see all the workings. I liked the fact that the case halves were screwed together rather than glued or snapped in place. The light also comes with two split rings. One goes on the light and the other is for keys. Both nice quality. I hate those things. I always end up getting skewered by the sharp pointed end of the split ring. I shouldn't complain, but sometimes I still do. OK, back to the light. Incredibly, when you plug in a standard micro USB charging cable (like the ones you have for your phone...sorry iPhone folks, not you) there is a tiny blue LED inside the case that illuminates. When charging is finished, it shuts off. Simple and effective. So far, I have been using it on and off for a few days and it hasn't needed a charge yet. The packaging says over an hour on high and 15 hours on low. YMMV.

So now I have yet another light to add to my collection. I think this one will live on my work keychain. I keep the keys tucked into my belt end so it will always be handy. If you are a flashlight fan this is a keeper.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"