Eric J. Bowman

Eric J. Bowman 4 days, 22 hours ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

When swamp-cooling the housetruck, I'll have two fans and a swamp cooler running on the roof. Power consumption will be dramatically less than running A/C, conditions permitting (which they usually do around here). But, all that power running through the wiring (from the panels, to the fans) generates even more heat. Hence, 24VDC devices to keep the current levels (and associated heat) down in the wiring.

That's going to be my new galley "system" with the cabinetry re-done such that my "shelves" are removable, bog-standard catering vessels. Instead of having regular shelves holding cookware, the shelves are the cookware! With my back, I may wind up preferring to cook my meals on the housetruck, so I can just stand in one place with everything I need within arm's length (then take the dirtied dishes into the house to run through the dishwasher). I may splurge for the larger, 5-burner cooker. Also looking at replacing the 5-yr-old Norcold unit with a newer, more-efficient fridge with icemaker. This will require running a new water line, to the fridge then on up to the roof for the swamp cooler.

One solid reason for spending big bucks replacing a fully-functional head setup (including the electric water heater -- the hydronic heating system also functions as a tankless on-demand), is replacing the black-water tank with a new fresh-water tank. This needs to be done in order to have extra water for the swamp cooler. My housetruck has no water filtration system, this will be added in the compartment the water heater currently occupies. I'll also be fitting an external showerhead, mainly to hose mud off the dog. Which reminds me, the shag carpeting is coming out in favor of something easier to clean! Mud season, meh.


Eric J. Bowman 4 days, 23 hours ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

Oh, I'm also going with one of these marine-grade (snow/rain around here permeates through the original fans, designed for the arid southwest) round, low-profile vent fans, 24VDC:

The original fans on my rig are 12VDC, but the motors aren't the required-nowadays anti-RFI type, so my FM reception goes all static-y when they're on. Bigger problem is how high they stick up above the roof, gotta fit in the 4" gap under the panels. A common mistake on RV solar installs, is mounting panels flat and flush on the roof -- the ensuing lack of air circulation dramatically reduces the efficiency of the panels. When solar PV panels are generating power, they heat up significantly, and need air circulation because they're designed to be air-cooled.

Even driving down the road with the panels stowed flat, I'll want that 4" air gap to keep the panels cooled and generating, without heat infiltration through the roof.

This is why I went with the Norwegian panels. Think about it -- in order to keep an RV cool by running the A/C from the solar panels, it must first be parked in direct sunlight; then, the radiant heat from the operational panels must be combated. It's why the headliners are coming out, so I can give the roof several inches of insulation. What you'll see upon entering my housetruck, will be recording-studio acoustic foam on the ceiling. Because the housetruck also has an awful standing-wave problem leading to the worst 200Hz resonant frequency of any vehicle I've ever owned.

Anyway, I ought to be able to park my rig in partial shade, still run the A/C on solar power, and not have too much heat coming in from the solar panels. With a nice marine A/C, not those ubiquitous rooftop pieces of power-hungry junk which assumes I'll always have an RV campsite with power included in its price, which is why nobody seems to care about how crappy rooftop RV A/C units are.

The main problem with these bog-standard A/C units, is the startup "surge" power requirement. Sizing a solar system to handle that surge is costly and inefficient. Having an extra-large inverter because it's needed for a few seconds, makes no sense because the larger the inverter, the greater the losses from just operating it. Hence, the marine DC air conditioning unit -- the brushless DC motors don't cause large startup surges. A little planning around power consumption, will yield an overall system that's sized just exactly right for my rig, and will actually amortize over the years instead of being a boondoggle full of expensive mistakes.


Eric J. Bowman 4 days, 23 hours ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

"That with things like LED lighting and electronics natively being DC then why convert to AC and then have power supplies?"

Because, in the case of electronics, the output voltage and current from the AC power brick can be very different from whatever DC house wiring you try. So don't forget a DC/DC conversion loss, not to mention voltage drops on the DC wiring the longer the run. The house needs AC anyway, unless one wishes to abandon all appliances which don't make sense on low-voltage DC because the amperage would require wiring as thick as your wrist (microwave, dishwasher, washer/dryer). IOW, it often makes less sense to go DC because the various losses add up to more than the conversion loss from an inverter that's already running for other reasons, so you can't chalk those losses up to just plugging a device with a power brick into a household outlet. Not to mention the greater danger from high amperage than high voltage -- a draw of 1.2 amps @ 120V, is a draw of 12 amps at 12V, and 5-6 amps is enough to stop a human heart in its tracks, regardless of voltage.

So your comments about an "easy to avoid" 10% conversion loss simply don't hold in a real-world application, particularly if safety concerns are taken into consideration. But, you didn't know I'm friends with a guy who's been a self-employed solar installer for 30 years who I used to do work for, or that I was once responsible for getting solar hot water installed at a rec center I managed. But, that doesn't make me an expert, I'm struggling through this every step of the way. Guess I shoulda just asked Scott!

Now, in the housetruck, it makes infinite sense to get rid of the old incandescent and skinny-little-tube fluorescents, and use that DC wiring to power modern LED/CF lighting. Plus, converting the AC A/C unit to DC under-hood, freeing up a roof hole for a DC swamp cooler. Oh, and swap the furnace for DC hydronic heating. The most-efficient mode on the 3-way Norcold fridge is AC -- while it has DC mode which consumes less power, that's only good for keeping things cold when the fridge isn't being opened/closed or filled with warm/hot items needing refrigeration. But, in such cases, propane's more efficient.

So the fridge, microwave, and home stereo system will be AC powered on the housetruck. The DC wiring will be 12V and 24V. The costs of also adding 3V, 5.5V, 6V, 9V, and 18V circuits to directly power electronics and avoid conversion losses, would be staggeringly higher than the costs of those conversion losses (while incurring additional losses from DC/DC voltage conversion) vs. having some 110VAC outlets to plug power bricks into.


Eric J. Bowman 4 days, 23 hours ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

"Likewise, panels on a pole is going to require a structural engineer to say that pole is strong enough and to specify how it will be anchored."

No, it won't. At least not the way you're implying. The structural engineer for the mounting-pole manufacturer already certified it for far more load than I'll be subjecting it to, provided it's anchored as shown in the specifications for the mounting pole. Maybe a building inspector wants to sign off that it was indeed anchored properly, which seems silly because if my solar installation comes crashing down out in the pasture, it wouldn't cause any damage the County needs be concerned with. But I don't see where I'd need to hire a structural engineer to independently re-certify an ASME etc. certified mounting pole.

"As for your Tuff Shed, building dept told me that they will want engineered plans on how the solar PV will attach and an engineer's stamp. So the shed if under 160 sq ft does need any engineering or a building permit, but it you put a solar PV array on the roof then it needs a full structural analysis."

No idea how you get from stamp to full structural analysis for a shed. You're taking a problem you have going solar on the Curry and applying it to everyone else's situation, comes across as confirmation bias. What you're saying about the Curry makes sense, but then again that's a housing tenement, not a shed.

I would've thought you'd post a link to exactly where you're getting this stuff by now, Scott, instead of arguing from authority that "the County says so."


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 1 day ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

Hmmm... I haven't been Doomsday Prepper enough. Defenses! Especially heading through hostile territory after Trump builds his wall and Mexico refuses to pay for it. Well, as far as firearms, that's for me to know and you to better not, ya know. Seeing as how I'm redoing the electrical system and have a 6KW generator on board, I could use some of that current to make the housetruck bear proof and maybe some sort of loud audio system (erm, done, hehe) to chase off the coyotes 'cuz have you ever tried shooting one of 'em in the dark?

As long as I'm doing that, should probably extend the system a tiny bit to zap tailgaters. Dual-button horn on the steering wheel could be altered to honk forwards, zap backwards. Get past that and there's still a malamute to deal with, and a crazy armed owner won't let anyone hurt her, and I think I may even make it back from Tierra del Fuego! Don't mess with an electric housetruck. Huh... odd premonition that might go on my tombstone after I electrocute myself...


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 1 day ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

It does concern YVEA if, when the housetruck's parked outside my house, I want it to dump its solar power to the grid. Then, and this makes sense, an ad-hoc bespoke solution just won't do. So I'm being very assiduous about following the codes for the RV, because when I do build, it may very well be manufactured housing. Which, like I said, if it meets the NEMA standards, I can't imagine the County causing any problems about putting up solar panels using certified panels/mounts.


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 1 day ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

As I do not have any structures, or even a pole, to mount panels on since I don't yet have an address, I'm starting small with the housetruck project.

Yeah, it's my SHTF bugout vehicle a la Doomsday Preppers. What calamity am I prepping for? Election 2016. Do you folks realize that it's entirely likely that either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be the next President of these United States? Time for that road trip to Tierra del Fuego I've always meant to take. Might take about, oh, four years or so...

But, as you can see, the disaster I'm worried about has a date certain, therefore my project has a timeline.

Another reason to design for cost-effectiveness vs. efficiency, is to end up with a system that doesn't need to be scrapped and re-thought if considering leaving our 60Hz 110VAC norteamericano cocoon, perhaps by ship. Brazil alone has, like, five different electric-power standards, so shore power goes beyond which adapter to use on the plug! So I want to upgrade the components in my system to handle said conditions, which means adding plenty of cost for "marine grade" kit. IOW, best keep the concept and installation mounting/wiring/monitoring/controlling simple, or I won't get further than the nearest U.S. RV repair depot acting as a tether, and forget international travel to points South.


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 1 day ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

So, if I want solar panels on my property, I can either put them up on a TuffShed and submit TuffShed's schematics to the County along with schematics for the mounts. Same with a pole -- if I'm not making my own, then why do I need to hire an engineer to do a structural analysis of a product currently in widespread use?

Now, in your case with the Curry, back in the summer of '94 when I was paid under-the-table to operate a sledgehammer and finish gutting it out, it didn't have a roof. Now it does. That isn't an old roof. I don't see where it would be a big problem to point to your existing engineering work for that roof (if you didn't get/keep it, the County probably did). Certified panels and mounts have known loads which either are OK for the roof, or not.

Anyway, I can't begin to see how your position on this could be right. I see an awful lot of solar installations in and around Steamboat, without ever hearing widespread condemnation of the County for putting insurmountable barriers in the way.


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 3 days ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

Speaking of batteries, yesterday I bought a pair of 12V's to wire together in series. The Interstate battery stand at Montgomery's in Yampa had a pair of deep-cycle RV batteries in each of two sizes. The smaller size will fit into the moho's house-battery box. Cost-effective, especially seeing as how I got 'em on a grocery run, so my shipping charge was zero. $250 for the pair, plus tax...

This was an impulse purchase after months of hemming and hawing about battery tech. Went old-school on the basis of cost-effectiveness, and I've always used Interstate batteries for their generous warranties. No telling how long these have been in the rack, but if they fail early, so what? One of those intangibles that even the fancy Trojan batteries don't match for twice the price, without factoring in shipping and ubiquity.

Still, it's pretty impressive how much power my 3 solar panels generate, even right now with 50% cloud cover. Those two batteries aren't going to hold that, and what if I go off-grid? Won't I just be wasting 80-90% of the power I'm converting? Well... heheh...!!!!

Actually, 8.5 out of 10. If you read the end of that thread, you'll see another buyer came along at the last second, but the seller followed through on my $11K offer. I was worried because he was talking up a car that someone chopped a hole in the roof of for an aftermarket sunroof, which even if it doesn't leak now, eventually will. So I was surprised when he cashed my check anyway, because we had a deal. Nice!

So I'll be stripping it down and upgrading the brakes/suspension to prepare for adding 800lbs to it for an AC motor conversion. It'll be a tow-behind battery bank / supply-getter for the moho, featuring 18 6V golf-cart batteries. Oh, the moho came with a tow bar and a Brake Buddy system. But that's the gist of the project -- it ain't exactly off the grid, ain't exactly a solar-powered moho eco-wise, but it's a cool transitional vehicle setup while I'm building up my place.

One attraction of going 24V with supplemental power from a jenny, will be the ability to charge/jumpstart a certain temporarily-stranded Unimog. The only upside to destroying its batteries over the winter, is you don't really want milspec gel batteries to begin with. It'll be getting high-cranking-amp AGM batteries.

Until the wind picked up and the sun mostly went in, I was having a gas getting all this gear laid out outside. Eventually, fuel prices will go back up, and having a solar-powered Scirocco will pay for itself sooner the more I drive it, but it isn't a cheap conversion. Figure 50-100K miles to amortize. Meanwhile, if it's charged and the moho's parked at my place, dump surplus power to the grid. Or the house, once built, if the power goes out.

I have a plan...


Eric J. Bowman 1 week, 3 days ago on Council offers city manager job to Gary Suiter

So, I lost a post (and apparently the ability to "reply") when the power cut out here, a minute ago. Just long enough to need to reset clocks and reboot. What I need is the ability for my RV to power the house it's parked next to and keep me from being affected by this sort of thing.

BTW, I have no affiliation or financial arrangement with any products I mention, nor would I care to have my reviews colored by handouts from even Mom-n-Pop shops like this:

I have several pieces of their kit sitting here, and if you look at the specs for my panels:

You'll notice that three of 'em wired in parallel is exactly what that charger can handle more cost-effectively than any MPPT charger setup with another zero on the cost. Especially up here, perhaps a little less efficient, but then again these are Norwegian solar panels (my chips may have been fabbed in Taiwan, not sure).

My Uncle restored MG's and bugeye Sprites bitd, those old British cars were positive-ground systems because in Old Blighty, early wiring insulation wasn't adequate to the task of preventing cars from grounding to wet cobblestones. What was an occasional occurrence elsewhere, was an epidemic in England. For some reason, after the sun goes in, solar panels will retain a charge on a negative-ground system instead of allowing it to drain to the batteries.