Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Not at all awkward

Here we are in the middle of November. I haven't been posting as much, so I figured it was time for an update.

The summer months of July and August were unreasonably warm and I was running the generator a lot more than I remember in previous years. The big difference to me was that things warmed up MUCH sooner than before. It got to the point where I would start the generator at 6 in the morning so I wouldn't have to get up at 9 to turn it on. However, as we went into October, I was able to get by with just running the fan off of the batteries.

In September, I had to take the van in for some shock and strut work, as well as new tires on the front. I also got the van's air conditioner fixed for the first time since I purchased the van. I paid over $500 for the repair work and over $200 for the tires, so my expenses did jump up a bit.

Now that we are firmly into Fall, there are some days I don't even have to turn on the fan. The only power I use is to charge any portable devices and run my drop light. It's rather pleasant this time of year.

Either this week or next, I need to take my van up for inspection, but since I did those repairs in September, I shouldn't have much issue. I also plan to drop off the generator at home so we have it available during the winter months.

I have updated my spreadsheet, and posted my current summary below. I am rather pleased to report that my "savings" is well over what I have spent on the van including investment and operating costs. Over the course of two years, I saved over $9k in post-tax dollars! Or for those of you familiar with living costs around DC and NOVA, I have maintained an "apartment" for 2 years for just under $7000.

Totals as of November 15th, 2011:
Equipment: $5,500
Operating: $1,380
Total: $6,879

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%.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

When you can't wait 2 years

This would probably be better as a 2/year 24-month post, but I just updated my expense spreadsheet and wanted to share my findings.

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!

Another fact I like to keep in mind is that all this equipment I've purchased (the van, the solar panels, the generator, etc) is all still in working order and should continue to remain so. So if my situation changed tomorrow (say I got to work from home)I would still have a working camper van and equipment to either use or sell.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Spring Cleaning

Today I did some spring cleaning in the van.  I also re-arranged the furniture somewhat, placing the bed at the back of the van.   This works for me, but for taller people, it would be rather cramped.  It's almost too small for me at 5'7.  The width is 66", so I sleep at an angle or with my knees slightly bent.  The one window does give a few more inches for my feet to hang out.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Winter wrap up, oncoming Spring

Since I replaced the battery, my power situation seems to be stable.  However, with some of the warm days, I tried running the air conditioner off of batteries (this is the 9500 BTU air conditioner) and it only runs a few hours.  My watt meter's screen doesn't appear to be turning on, so I'm not sure how much it is drawing.  I also tried running it on "fan only", and that seems to draw the batteries down just as well.    More on this further down.

Some tidbits from Winter:  I bought a heated blanket from Target.  It worked wonderful... for about 3 hours.  I woke up freezing.   Now, these blankets have an auto-shut off for 8 hours that can be reset by turning it off and on again.  That was not the issue.  So I exchanged it for another blanket and that one never turned on in the first place.  This was very frustrating.   I returned that one for cash.

I ordered a Sunbeam heated blanket from Amazon.  This works "ok".  It takes about 20 minutes to heat up, but does remain heated.  However, the blanket seems to only be useful if I foldit up around me (which the instructions warn me against doing).  Otherwise, you don't really feel any warmth from it.  I would say my sleeping bag remains more useful.

What would probably work better would be a mattress pad.  These are designed to be placed under blankets and radiate warmth.  I would love to have one of these setup with a remote control/timer.  Say at 5:50am it turns on and starts heating up.  I would get out there by 6:20 and just climb right in to heated goodness.

Finally, today marked a grand entrance into Spring for me with temperatures outside bordering around 90F.  I had brought the generator back down yesterday, topped it off, and had it ready for today.  It got to 84F by 11am, so I went out, started up the generator, and fired up the air conditioner.  The temperature started dropping nicely and I actually got cold enough to put a blanket on.  Sweet, sweet, air conditioned bliss.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Battery replaced

Battery D has been completely replaced now.  I ended up spending $49.77 for the replacement.  The warranty is 24-months, but the warranty is really just a pro-rating.  I will have to add that cost to my spreadsheet.

The battery pack held 24 volts overnight.  This morning, I ran the electric heater for a bit, which took it down to 23 volts.  I was expecting it to recharge that almost completely during the day while I slept.  It did not.  The reason is rather simple though -- the panel was covered in snow. 

I also managed to clean out the front and back of the van today.  I never let it get very messy, but there was some stuff strewn about under the bed and in one of the baskets.  Some bread I've been meaning to throw out for several months, things like that.  Since it's nice and cold, nothing was creating a stink, just going bad.

I also finished off another propane tank today.  I have been using the heater a lot more this winter than last.  I usually like to get it up to 50F before turning it off.  That takes about 30 minutes from 25F.  However, I realized that I could avoid that by purchasing a heated blanket.  Last winter, I didn't really have the power (except via generator) to run an electric blanket, but this year I can just plug one in and sleep under it.  It would also be nice just to heat up the sleeping bag before I crawl in.  So that's on my list for this weekend.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Nice weather

Today had some amazingly nice winter weather.  The temperature was at least 45 all day and I did not need to run the heat for anything.  I also managed to sleep till 4pm, which was sweet.

I dropped my battery off on Thursday, and they were supposed to call me either that day or Friday, but as of today, there is still no return call.  They were going to attempt to recondition it, so I hope that takes.  If that, hopefully they can pro-rate me the cost of a new battery.