Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Today it was somewhat colder out. At 6:29am, it was 29.5F outside, 28.5F inside. The van seems to drop slightly colder inside than outside during the night. I didn't run the heater near as long today. The rate of increase was rather slow. The biggest jump was between 6:29 and 6:31 - from 29.5 to 32.2. Then: 6:33 was 33.1 and 6:34 saw 33.5. By 6:44, it was 38F inside.
So while being directly in front of the heater was warm enough to get changed and such, if the temperatures drop much below 30F, I may have to try running both heaters, or add the van's heater into the mix. However, once I'm changed and under the sleeping bag, it really doesn't matter too much about the temperature of the van.
Monday, December 7, 2009
Let me preface this by saying that I didn't really start tracking daily expenses till 9/23. You should also read my equipment post to see what I am investing in equipment. Current running total is $2,853.
Since 9/23/2009 (2 months, 14 days) I have put 2,403 miles on the van, using 144.827 gallons of fuel costing me $399.92. This averages out to 16.59mpg or $0.17/miles. With insurance, comprehensive w/ a $300 deductible is $20.17/month (say $50.43). $450.35 For the untracked period from 8/17 to 9/23, we'll estimate $200 ($20+), giving us an estimated total of $630.49 -- we'll come back to that number.
I had intended to track the generator usage as well, but have little to go on right now. The last time I filled it up was 9/28. I put in 2.2 gallons, costing me $5.68. I have used it a couple times since then, but still have most of the fuel. I am pretty sure I won't be using it much at all during the winter. When Spring comes around, I will give it an oil change start tracking it more. $456.03
During this time, I also spent $15 for an inspection sticker. I am behind on an oil change, so that needs to be done soon. While the correct method is to divide that by 12 and come up with $1.25/month, we'll pretend the van won't make it to next inspection and assume the full $15 cost now. $471.03
Using our estimate for August through September, we'll assume I spent $671.03 on operating costs, along with equipment costs of $2853 (total $3,524). This gives us an average operating cost of $223.67/month and a total average cost of $1,174.67.
If I had an apartment, it would cost me $500 + utilities. I would have spent $2000 in rent plus my share of utilities, which used to run me at least $100/month. At this point, I would have paid out $2400 in rent and utilities. Assuming these numbers hold up, I save $376.33 each month vs an apartment. Taking my current total cost of $3,524 and subtracting the $2400 I would have paid, I am left with $1,124 more than the cost of an apartment. It will take three more months (March) to break even or 8 months since purchasing to fully break even and start truly saving over the cost of an apartment.
However, that's missing a very crucial element. My operating costs include the cost of transportation. Based on the first paragraph, I spend approx $180/month on fuel at 16mpg. My Kia gets 24mpg, which is 33% more efficient. If I drove the Kia, I would still be spending $120/month on gas on top of the apartment. So my $376.33 savings each month is actually $496.33. Four months of apartment + utils + fuel = $2,880.
Remove that from the total van cost of $3,524 and you are left with $644. At this rate, I should be breaking even by the middle of February and well ahead by March.
There is a change coming that will make this even more desirable. Starting this week, I will be parking the van at work and driving the Kia down to it. Doing so will eliminate most of the fuel costs from the equation, saving an additional $180/month. My primary costs at that point will be insurance and propane. I do plan to start up and move the van somewhat each week to ensure that it is operating properly, so that will eat up some of the fuel in the vehicle. Plus I plan on doing any other regular maintenance the van needs (like the oil change) -- It needs to remain in fully functional working order.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
The day warmed up and the heat woke me up by 1pm. I ran the fan again on medium and the voltage output kept dropping steadily from 12.7 to 11.7 over the course of an hour. At this point the inverter started providing quiet (yet annoying) warning beeps. The charger had showed the battery as fully charged on Sunday. I left another battery trickle charging this week, so I will test that against the fan this week.
The only good news is that the generator started up immediately. The bad news is that the air conditioner did not. I took the plug apart and put it back together to no avail. The parts inside look cheap - I will have to try replacing the plug itself this week.
Monday, October 12, 2009
As things felt warmer, I bundled up and got nice and toasty. I probably only ran the heater about 20 minutes and used it as a hand warmer. No battery or generator usage today.
I did however, get more curtains hung up and will install the final two tommorrow. They are already making a difference.
I am practicing typing this entry on my phone instead of a laptop. Perhaps I can connect my bluetooth keypad to it for faster typing.
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Monday, September 28, 2009
Tuesday, September 22, 2009
When I walked out to the van this morning, I saw one truck unloading what appeared (in the dark) to be one of those wide deck mowers – most commonly used on football fields and large grassy areas. I remember thinking that it was a bit overkill for the amount of grass at work. All of the grass is segmented by concrete walkways. Later though (say around 10am) I was noticing a lot of equipment noises, which I attributed to groundskeepers and their oversized machinery. Eventually, I realized more was going on and started looking around. The machine has something to do with smoothing pavement. More equipment had arrived and they were tearing up the pavement in front of the van. Around 10:30, I relocated to another side of the building.
Since then, I have not been able to catch more than a few minutes of sleep. I don't know if it's from the added traffic at my new location or just the act of having to wake up again so early.
On the bright side, I hooked up the inverter to the battery and ran the Vornado. From 12:45 till 14:15, it ran on full speed. When I first turn it on, the battery's voltage reading goes from 12.9 to 12.5 within seconds. The display also shows 10 Watts to start the fan, and then remains at 0 thereafter. The voltage charge has remained at 12.5. If I turn the fan off, it jumps back up to 12.8. If I turn the fan to low, voltage moves to 12.6.
Even more importantly, the fan runs at full speed off of the inverter. At full speed, I felt fairly comfortable today running just the fan. Today makes the first day that I remained comfortably in the van without running the generator/air conditioner.
I returned to the van around 14:50 and turned the fan back on. At one point, I also let it power my laptop (which was at 80% battery). Running the fan and the laptop reported first 30 Watts, then it dropped to 20 Watts. I'm assuming the inverter displays wattage in 10 Watt increments. I probably ran the laptop for about 40 minutes while it did some file copying operations. The fan ran from 15:50 till 17:20 at which point, the voltage read 12.3.
Total fan/inverter run-time = 12:45 till 17:20, - 25 minutes (4hrs), During that time, the voltage went from 12.5 to 12.4 "under load". I believe the fan by itself could run for 2 of my normal days on one charge, but two batteries would get me through the long week. However, running the laptop would drain the battery that much quicker.
I had a few ideas:
Battery bank underneath van, with an access panel to them from inside - this would take the form of a recessed compartment.
Bed frame could be made out of angle iron rather easily, using either bolts or welded. Bolts/pins can operate as the hinge mechanism.
A few updates. Mom finished the back curtains, which worked fairly well. They do hang away from the window enough that my feet end up slipping behind the curtain. Between the curtain and the door get much warmer than elsewhere. For the back, magnets can be used to clip the curtain to the door itself.
Instead of firing up the air conditioner, I instead fired up the Vornado fan. Where the fan was blowing across me, I felt cooled down. However, my legs were getting warm from sunlight hitting the bed. I also felt slightly disappointed in the fan's performance. I was expecting air to be bouncing off of walls and circulating around. So around 12:30, I fired up the air conditioner. When I turned the A/C on, the generator hummmed a little louder and the Vornado roared to life. Apparently, the generator provides power in levels. The fan wasn't pulling enough power to kick the generator into higher gear, but once the air conditioner did, the fan received that extra power.
It's hard to tell how comfortable the Vornado makes things when the air conditioner is running. However, unless the air conditioner is running, the Vornado doesn't receive enough power to operate as designed. I could possibly place a large load across the generator to get the fan working, but that seems rather silly. Ultimately though, I plan to run the fan off of a battery/inverter combo that I recharge. Hopefully this will bypass the issue.
My battery plans will be to start out putting a battery on the cargo carrier. This battery will be attached to the generator outputs and to the Cobra inverter. This way, I can run something like the fan off of the battery. Once the battery goes dead, I can start the generator to charge it. Ideally, I would have a bank of batteries to power things inside the van and charge them with the generator. If that scenario works, replacing the gas generator with high-wattage solar panels would be the next step. Slowly, slowly working things out.
Tuesday, September 15, 2009
The good news is that the air conditioner started today without an issue. Since it is running, I will wait till I arrive home before attempting to figure out the issue. Last night, I also ordered a Vornado room-sized circulator fan and the Coleman catalytic heater (propane). Somewhere between August and September, they shot up from around $35 to $55! Hopefully they arrive before I leave on vacation again in October.
These last 2 days, I am running the air conditioner around 4 hours a day. I typically don't start it up till after 11AM and I leave between 3 and 4. Today it was around 11:30 that I started the A/C and I'm leaving the van by 3:20.
Monday, September 14, 2009
On the way down yesterday, I heard a noise from the rear of the van and pulled over quickly. The one side of the luggage rack had snapped off. The metal pieces and the white tire cover had flown off. The strap was still there. I was eventually able to track down where everything had landed and recover it. The wheel rode with me on the way down. Today, I was able to bolt it onto its original holder without interfering with the generator.
I made my way up to the nearby hotel and got on their wifi without incident. One of my customers called me saying that their website was slow, so I wanted to check it out. While I was there, a hotel employee walked by and looked strangely at the van, but did not say anything. However, I may want to limit my use of their parking lot. Perhaps I could get my flat panel and point it at the hotel from work.
Bad news today. The air conditioner is not starting up. It had done this once before, but after letting it sit a bit, unplugging and plugging back in, it started back up. This time, I did just about everything.. unplugging, resetting the gfci, draining it, and playing with the generator. I am getting power to the plug. There is a chance the GFCI plug on the A/C is bad. It has some hot glue on the connectors. Tomorrow I will try replacing the plug end itself with a plain 3-prong plug. I also plan to make an emergency acquisition of a high-speed fan. I think that on most days, running a fan and some open windows could be enough to keep me comfortable for most of the day.
Filled up the generator today: 3 gallons @ $2.489/gallon for $7.49. I need to get a log book that I can utilize outside of this blog. I do want to keep a detailed total of how much this arrangement is costing me, both in summer and winter. It gets a bit tricky with gas as I do use the van for domestic use from time to time.
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Monday, August 31, 2009
Left the van around 3:30 for the gym. Did a few upper body exercises and finished up with a 3 mile run (18min), after which I felt like puking. Did the hygiene thing and returned to the van shortly after 5pm for a quick rest before heading into work to rest.
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
Had to drain the air conditioner again today around 1PM. Putting a physical drain is becoming an even higher priority, one I hope to accomplish this weekend. I also hope to remove the other seat in the van and replace it with a makeshift table/shelf (actually an old wooden packing crate I have). I came up with some ideas today on putting in a sink, all of which is dependent on the table going in. With a proper table and “sink”, it's not too far of a jump to form a small “galley” for cooking rudimentary meals and perform basic washing.
Around 3PM I took off for lunch and when I came back, I fired up the generator -- no issue. But the air conditioner wouldn't start. Power was getting to the plug.. other things I plugged in worked. Over the next few minutes, I tried multiple things to get the A/C working with now luck. The temperature started ratcheting up and I hurried to open windows. But ultimately I was becoming drenched in sweat inside that vehicle as the air conditioner failed to start. Finally, I turned off the generator, played with the circuit breaker, and started back up. This time the A/C worked. The only thing I could find in the generator was that if you attempted to start the A/C within 3 minutes after a power failure, it may refuse to start the compressor to prevent overloading it.
Based on today's failure, I may consider getting a Vornado circulator to use as a backup to the air conditioner.
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Fill-up: 3.239 gallons @ $2.559/gallon for $8.29
I discovered that I hadn't packed a towel this week, so I can't hit the gym until I locate one. Alternatively, I could use a t-shirt for the job, but I've done that before under different circumstances and it didn't work out quite so well.
Monday, August 24, 2009
I bought a toggle switch and a pushbutton switch, but I have yet to solder everything together. I can work it by connecting the battery to the starter for a few seconds. To shut it off, I have the connect the ignition to ground until the generator stops running. This is a bit backwards from most starter switches I know, but it's workable. I tested this quite a few times over the weekend, so I was pretty psyched about being able to start my generator from inside the van.
Today I didn't wake up till 10am and it wasn't as hot as last week. But it was getting warm. I grabbed my wires and tried starting the generator. I could hear it trying, but no dice. After several attempts, I finally went out to the generator and started it by hand using the choke. This worked and back into the van I went.
Getting back to sleep wasn't easy. I slept, but I ended up tossing and turning. While the generator is fairly muted inside the van, I wonder if that or the vibrations keep me awake, or if it's just the amount of daylight coming in that is keeping me awake. The air conditioner was making it downright chilly inside. I even found myself wearing the blanket throughout the day!
Anyways, I "slept" till about 1pm before starting my day. I'm actually not sure what to do between 1pm and 6pm.
3PM: I've cleaned out the van. Apparently I didn't pack my screwdriver, so I am unable to hang the curtain rods. However, now that I have cleaned out the van and played a game of Spider Solitaire, I am exceedingly bored. I don't want to show up for work before 5:20pm (at which point, I will head to the one bathroom for teeth brushing purposes). The boredom will definitely motivate me to hit the gym, I just wanted to try a full day in the van today.
4:30PM: I am going to head out and get breakfast before work.
Monday, August 17, 2009
After I woke up, I must confess I got a bit nervous about firing up the generator in the work parking lot. I had chose the side of the building that almost never gets used, but there were some cars near me and people would occasionally walk by. What would they think seeing me hop out and fire up my generator? Would anyone raise a ruckus?
There was one person in particular that kept walking back and forth in front of my van. I suspected that she was on a lunch break and chose to spend it in the rear parking lot. I ended up waiting until she had gone past the driver's side of the van. Then I hopped out, fired up the generator, and jumped right back in.
The air conditioner worked great for cooling the van down. Within minutes, things were much more tolerable inside, cool even. However, I couldn't get back to sleep. I could lay there with my eyes closed, but every time I came close to drifting off, I would hear a noise and be instantly alert. I was certain that someone from work (perhaps a security guard) would come walking up to the van to inquire about my running generator. Nothing happened, but I lost a lot of sleep over it. At the least, I felt rested.
Around 1pm, I noticed the air conditioner was making lots of "water noises". Shortly after that, it started getting warmer in the room. The air conditioner wasn't blowing as cool of air as it had been. At this point, I decided enough was enough and prepared to hit the gym.
Later, I worked out that the air conditioner had filled up with water. It's designed to turn collected water into water vapor and send it out the vent. My guess is that on really humid days like today, it had nowhere to send the water vapor, so it collects. I will have to run a drain hose from the air conditioner to a point outside my van. Hopefully I can do this without putting another hole in the floor.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
As you should have gathered from previous posts, I did end up needed to run the generator again.
Here we are at the "22-month" status. My operating expenses come to $50month and if you factor in the original equipment costs ($4,750) divided over 22 months ($215), it comes to $265/month expenses. In other words, I spent $5,860 over the last 22 months vs $13,200 on an apartment ($500/month rent + $100/month utilities) for 44% savings!
Update 4/14/2010. I have been collating my recent expenses. While I still plan to add updates and summaries below, a detailed list of my expenses is being kept here. I will not be tracking vehicle fuel on this spreadsheet, but will maintain that on a separate sheet (soon to be available). Additionally, since I shouldn't be running a generator anymore (it's not even on the van anymore), I don't expect generator fuel to increase either.
With the recent conversion to solar panels, I spent an additional $1737 on solar panels, charge controllers, insulation, batteries, and various wiring.
As of 4/14/2010:
Non-Fuel Operating Costs: $387
Equipment Costs: $4698
Total Costs: $5,085
Comparitively, a $500 apartment plus $100 utiltiies ($600) would have cost me: $5200.
So, as of today, I have a $115 savings. This is somewhat low as a result of me purchasing all the van renovation stuff. However, I shouldn't need to purchase anything large for a LONG time. If my current solar panel is not up to the task of keeping my batteries charged, I may have to consider another $600 solar panel for the roof, but I'm hoping it won't come to that.
I have also freed up the Sharp Air conditioner and the PoweMax generator for use at the house. I could claim to sell them to myself and reduce my equipment costs, but I like to keep it real.
I break down the cost of my equipment and expenses below, but my equipment cost from August 2009 till today (2/19/2010) is $2,856.
Operating Costs (as of 2/19/2010): $890.66
Omitting travel related fuel: $290.70
- Van fuel: last fill-up 12/3/2009 ($21.07), running total: $599.92
- Gen fuel: last fill up 9/28: $5.68. running: $25.68
- Propane: (as of 2/19/2010): $9
- Insurance: $20.17/mo starting 8/2010. As of 2/19/2010: $121.02
- Gym Membership: $20/mo startin 8/2010. As of 2/19/2010: $120
- Other: $15 (inspection)
- Operating cost monthly breakdown: $148.43 (w/o travel: $48.45)
- Total cost monthly breakdown: $624.44 (w/o travel: $524.45)
- '91 Chevy Van G20 with 122000 miles ($1800)
- This beast came equipped with a hardwood dashboard, seat that folds into a bed, and dual-blinds on each window in the rear. It also has a 2" hitch, luggage rack, and ladder to reach the roof.
- I added curtains around the rear interior of the van to further block out light and provide additional insulation.
- Haul-Master 500lb Cargo Carrier ($80)
- PowerMax XP4400E 4,400 Watt 6.5 HP OHV Gas Powered Generator With Wheel Kit And Electric Start (CARB Compliant) ($480)
- I wired in a "remote start" that allows me start and stop this beast from inside the van. The generator sits on the aforementioned Cargo Carrier.
- SHARP CV-P10MX PORTABLE AIR CONDITIONER 9,500BTU~ WHITE ($255)
- This portable air conditioner has a duct/vent that I can run out a van window. In fact, I have semi-permanently mounted the duct/vent in the van window and I can connect and disconnect it from the air conditioner as needed. This keeps the inside of the van cool on hot days.
- Century 6205 2.6-Gallon Portable Toilet ($50)
This double-gasketed portable toilet allows me to perform necessary functions without hoofing it to the treeline or a neighboring gas station. It's a step up from using bottles and keeps the smells inside. Most dept. stores and RV shops sell the pour in "deodorant" for these to help keep the smell from building up. At the end of each week, this gets emptied into a regular house toilet.
Initial Cost: $2,665
Equipment added in September, 2009:
- Coleman SportCat Catlytic Heater ($50)
This is a catalytic propane heater that runs off of the smaller propane tanks (16oz). These heaters are considered safe for indoor use if you have some ventilation. They produce no harmful gasses or smoke, consuming only Oxygen. As long as the vehicle is vented (allowing fresh Oxygen to enter), they are very safe for use. This one is supposed to run for 14 hours off of a 16.4oz tank. The problem I had with is is that it only puts out 1400btu. I want something that will crank the heat out to quickly warm the van. Then I would shut it off while I slept in my sleeping bag. In December, I replaced it with the ProCat.
- Two 16.4oz propane tanks ($3 - included in operating cost)
Running Cost: $2,715
Equipment added in December, 2009:
- Coleman ProCat Catalytic Heater ($85). This replaced the SportCat Heater above and kicks out 3,000 BTU. It also has a small fan that runs off of two D batteries.
- Inflatable Twin Air Mattress ($50). The bed that came with the van was quite uncomfortable. The air mattress takes care of that. It also comes with a built in pump to quickly inflate the mattress as needed.
Running Cost: $2,850.
Purchases in January, 2010:
- Two 16.4oz propane tanks ($6 - my how prices double in winter, operating cost)
Saturday, August 15, 2009
Totals as of November 15th, 2011:
My comparison is a $500/mo apartment + $100 utilities.
From 8/1/2009 to 11/1/2011, the cost would be $16,000.
Which means I have currently saved $9,120 or 43%.