Tuesday, September 29, 2009

9/29/2009 Day 12

A perfect day for camping. Temperatures started around the 40s and made their way up into the mid-70s. No need for air conditioner or even the fan for most of the day. I did kick the fan on when I got back from the gym, but that was mostly to cool down from the walk back.

Let's see. The one battery I have of unknown Ah rating ran the fan most of yesterday, along with charging my laptop from a dead state. I left the inverter on all night to charge the laptop, but turned if off when I got out in the morning. I'm running the laptop and fan off of it now. It's reading 20W and 11.9V.

After today, I will be on vacation until October 11th, at which point I expect to remove the air conditioner from the van and move into cold weather mode.

Monday, September 28, 2009

9/28/2009 Day 11

I left my lights on last night, so today when I got out to the van, I found things to be a little dark. I was unable to jump it using my spare battery, but a friend was able to bring his car around and get things started. When I permanently install my battery setup into the van, I will give myself the ability to jump the van.

I finally have an inside/outside thermometer in here. It was about 55F both inside and outside the van today, but by 2PM temperatures had made their way up into the low 80s. However, it felt cool enough in the van that I didn't feel too uncomfortable, nor did I have to run the generator. So today is the second day I got to save on generator usage. From the weather report, the rest of the week looks to be very similar in temperatures, with some rain thrown in for good measure.

While I should be good this week, the next week I come down (Oct 11th), I will need to bring warmer clothes and perhaps the sleeping bag. I ma soon be able to remove the air conditioner itself from the van.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

9/22/2009 Day 10

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:

  1. Battery bank underneath van, with an access panel to them from inside - this would take the form of a recessed compartment.

  2. Bed frame could be made out of angle iron rather easily, using either bolts or welded. Bolts/pins can operate as the hinge mechanism.


9/21/2009 Day 9

Slept in today. I woke up around 11:40am after shifting away from the heat/sun for a while. I suspect that with some curtains on the side windows, the interior will stay cooler much longer.

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

9/15/2009 Day 8

Slept badly today. I could feel every cross bar on the bed of the van. I have two directions to go. I could get the 3” high-density memory foam, or I could remove the built-in bed an put in a regular single bed. The latter option would give me more room in the van, both in storage underneath the bed and in space beside the bed. Currently, I can't fit a battery under the existing bed, but a replacement bed would be higher. A friend of mine suggested a bed that could fold up against the wall, which I like the idea of as well. Research must be done!

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

9/13/09 Day 7

This is also my first day camping at work as a married man. I got married last week and have been on my “domestic honeymoon”. All last week was really cool, overcast days, most of them below 70. On Sunday, it got up to 75 and this week looks like a warm one. I really need to get a thermometer for the car.

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

9/1/2009 Day 6

A pleasant day. I slept till about noon before I had to start the generator. However, this time, it had to be done from outside. The generator is fickle about whether you need to move the choke lever or not. Perhaps a method could be found to manipulate the choke lever from inside the van. A remote controlled motor or perhaps a cable and spring setup of some sort. Perhaps take a remote control car and turning the wheels to the right closes the choke, while turning the wheels to the left opens it. Brilliant! Otherwise, slept till past 3pm. The air conditioner didn't fill up at all this week, which probably means that it is much less humid out.