Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Desire To Create

My girl and I shared a glass - after we each polished off our own personal glasses - of our favorite locally brewed craft beer, "California Black," made by the Dale Bros Brewery here in Upland, California.  The temperature hadn't peaked out as high as it had earlier in the week, but I sure did welcome that frosty mug of "Barley Pop," after a long day of scheming, testing and fantasizing about my future.

Anyway, we both agreed that a driving passion in one's life adds much fulfillment to our days spent away from work.  She's embarking on her first book, and I of course, have taken upon the task of building an entire house in 92 square feet - nutty.  But we're both excited about the potential.  She's already filling up her notebook with one-pot campfire meals, and today I reminded her of the small propane oven made by Brinkman that could accommodate her Sunday morning scones, quite nicely.  We clinked our glasses in honor of good times ahead.

From a computer rendering to the real thing -- pretty cool.

We spent the weekend in collaboration, as the seeds of the Roving Home have finally begun to bear fruit.  My application of blue tape on the interior walls of the van brought the vision to life. 

Prior to that, I'd often watch as her eyes would glaze over while I espoused the merits of AGM batteries and MPPT solar charge controllers. 

But now, our exchange was lively.  We analyzed and contemplated where this and that will go in order to appease each of our individual desires -- as if you can have any sort of individuality in such small living quarters.

I spent most of the weekend simply translating my perfect world vision into the reality of what I have to work with.  As I began to tape off the walls and partitions, the oversights became glaringly clear.

I panicked, at one point, after suddenly realizing that the 12 volt receptacles might just stick out further than my slim junction box backing. 

Sure enough!

It's fine.  I'll cut a hole in back because within the wall, I've got two inches total to work with.  I think I alleviated any more sleepless nights. 

Another concern of mine, as of late, is whether or not extending the wiring to the switch on the hot water heater is such a brilliant move.  The thing runs off of 2 D cells.  Yet, it still has all of the components of a normal water heater. Too good to be true? 

Since the system only runs on 3 volts and I want the switch to be about 5 feet away, I thought it best to do a test, rather than to spend a painful weekend installing the plumbing system only to realize later on that the voltage drop would be too great to fire the thing up. 

Here's the switch now -- not a handy place to work with.


I recited a quick prayer.



A wave of nausea suddenly overcame me.  What have I done?

I added about 4.5 feet of wire and crimped on some terminals...

A new switch...

And it worked!  Holy mackerel!  The burner fired up ( you can see the propane tank in the background).


I've been tossing around the idea of just how I'm going to get all of the outlets I need at the dinette to work efficiently and aesthetically.  I want to have A.C. power, D.C. power and a USB connector to the computer printer.  The whole point is to avoid a spiderweb of wiring all over the place.  I just want to be able to sit at the dinette with my laptop and plug it into the wall for charging and have print capabilities from the cabinet beside the dinette.    

Here are the components.

I started by drilling some holes with the new press.  Man, a drill press is where it's at!  Let me tell you.  I can't believe I didn't buy one sooner.  Whew!

Just line it up...

And, there you have it.  I did, however, have to do a little bit of fine tuning with the hand held rotozip. 

I went O.C.D. on the unfinished look of the U.S.B. hole, there.  Back to Home Depot for the fourth time, today. 

Ahhhhhhhh, that's better.

So, that happened. 

Next was a little test of the recessed light fixtures.  You've seen these before, if you're one of the 5 people who regularly view this blog. 

They're 1 watt and they're crazy bright.  But, I called the manufacturer and asked them if I could buy the cans that they mount into.  The guy said you just need to drill a hole where you want them and stick them into the ceiling, springs first.  I wasn't so sure about that.  It didn't seem right and I needed to verify. 

There's the test hole.  I know I've done better jobs with the rotozip, but it's only a test.  Pretend it's perfectly round.

Pulling the springs back, I carefully inserted the housing, and WHAM, the springs slapped down onto the wood, locking the whole lamp into place.  Who would have thought?

And, for those of you who don't remember, the housing pivots. 

Talk about "groovy," right?

And, that was my weekend. 


  1. Hmm, that comment on the 5 people regularly viewing this made me feel self-conscious as I'm a guilty lurker. I don't even remember how I found the link to your blog but I have been following for awhile and the planning was neat, but it's so cool that you're getting into the realm of actually making your plans solid now! Looking forward to it.

    I'm comparatively a wannabee. I recently purchased a camper van that I'm hoping to adventure in for awhile at least. Beyond that, who knows.

  2. Hey Mark,

    Thanks for sending a nod my way. I salute your newly achieved "de-lurking" status.

    I'm sort of in the "who knows" realm as well, because one just never knows what's really going to happen. Stay tuned for more chills and thrills.

  3. Good way to make your visualization 3 dimensional. Blue tape rules!

  4. It’s been neat to follow along during the planning, and now it’s getting really exciting.

    Here’s a suggestion – why not run your hot water tank directly off your 12V house battery and do away with the D cells. You could use a micro DC-DC converter such as shown in the link to reduce the 12V input to the 3V you need.

    Check out these specs:

    Might work, eh.

  5. Merikay,

    The blue tape is pretty righteous, but I'm concerned that the heat from the metal will lift that stuff from the walls. I imagine opening the back doors next weekend to a pile of tape on the floor. We'll see. It's been pretty darned hot here in the southland, this week.


    I briefly entertained what you're talking about, but I'm just concerned with the heat that would be generated from stepping down that much. I'll have to check the wattage draw and see if that's going to be a lot of amperage to have to deal with. But for now, I'll stick with the D's. If changing them becomes a frequency I can't deal with, then I'll be forced into other options. Thanks for the suggestion. I welcome and appreciate the input!

  6. Congratulations on the beginning steps of your roving home!

    I commented awhile back about adding windows(long time fulltimer) and have another suggestion now about 12 volt appliances. Our TV and DVD player are both 12 volt and work good but most other high wattage appliances just don't do a good job.
    Try them out but you may be disappointed with 12 volt coffee makers and hair dryers.

    We've had to give up some of the conveniences like our microwave because it was killing our battery bank. Some of our electronic equipment uses rechargeable batteries - sweepers , razor - which work great. We also use lower wattage 120 volt appliances with the inverter -drills , soldiering iron ,glue gun ,saber saw,fan. We have a 400 watt true sine wave inverter so have to be a little careful but we leave the inverter on for hours a day and didn't want to be wasting power. Previously we were using a 1700 watt inverter which was larger than we needed.

    I looked back at earlier posts and see that you're planning on having 200 watts of solar power and an inverter. This should be more than enough for your needs. We have about 250 watts with 4-6 volt golf cart batteries and have not been plugged into power since February. We have two laptops plugged into 120 volt with the inverter and usually some batteries charging everyday. The rest of our electrical load is all 12 volt - lights , fans ,etc.

    Here's a site where you can download a very good solar power guidebook. You may find the wire loss table especially helpful.


  7. Karen,

    Thanks a bunch for all of the great info! I'm going without the coffee maker, as plans have changed once I took real world measurements of the vehicle. I'm glad to hear that your solar system works well. That's encouraging. I'm definitely going to read up on the wiring tables as I know upholding voltage throughout the system is key to good performance. I love the tips. Keep them coming!