Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Changing to daylight

This week I started working daylight, 4x10 hour days. This is a big change after nearly 5 years of night shift. Instead of getting off work and going directly to bed, I'm getting off work and having hours to kill before sleep. Then I get up shortly before going into work.

How does this affect a van dweller like me? First off, I'm getting off work as the sun is preparing to set. I still have the heat  from the day in the van, but hopefully on the downward slope. I might have to run the generator and air conditioner a bit in the beginning to get things cooled down. Then it should continue to cool during the night. I won't have to sleep through the daylight seeping into the van. Ultimately, it will definitely help during spring and summer. During the winter.. hopefully it won't get too cold at night. I guess we'll see how that plays out.

My first night, Monday, I went to flip on a light and it didn't work. I have two lights in the van. One is mounted "permanently" over the desk. The other is a fluorescent drop light plugged into a cigarette lighter. The power for both of these is provided from my solar/battery system. That system is 24V and I have a 24V to 12V converter. I tried both lights and neither worked. I also tried my exhaust fan that is connected to the same system. No dice. At this point, it was already getting dark in the van and I have hours till bed - no lights. 

I use my cell phone to dig out a multimeter and connect it. I get a nice 12V. I test my appliances again, still no luck. I disconnect all of them, then try each one at a time with still no luck. Finally, I give up and watch some shows on Hulu until it's time for bed. 

Today I did some more troubleshooting. Even with a load attached, I was still getting 12V. Eventually I discovered a loose ground. I have two grounding bars - one stand alone that the batteries and 12V downverter connect to, and another that sits on top of my fuse block.  The two are tied together with a wire. My devices use the grounding bock on the fuse block. Measuring the voltage between positive and that ground only gave me +5V. Tightening the ground returned me to 12V and allowed me to power all my devices at once. 

This means that tomorrow, I will be able to do something I didn't do Monday or Tuesday - run the exhaust fan all day. There should be plenty of sunlight to power the fan without touching the batteries. That will help keep the van from cooking up into the 90s like it did today. I  may still need to run the air conditioner off of the generator for a while, but hopefully not for long.