Various enhancements

As launch date counts down and the solar project is done, there are numerous other little things that I can work on now. We have about 2 weeks to get all this done and time is running out. Here are some of the things that have been done.

Stove guard

The small little piece of aluminum that Airstream stuck to the wall next to stove was for some protection but it slipped over time and was more unusable.

We also needed more space for stuff. I got a piece of stainless steel and attached it to the wall:

We plan to put spice containers (magnetic backed) on there and a magnetic knife rack:

 

Bedroom lights

The trailer came with two lights on each side of the bed. One directional and one a sconce on the side. These were nice lights but we always seemed to hit our heads or arms on them.

We liked the direction lights but not the sconces so much. I was able to find some flush mounted lights that did both white and red light! I love a red light at night. I removed the sconces, put the flush mount ones where the directionals are and moved the directionals. Like this:

Another mod that needed to be done was using the old holes for the sconces. We put small baskets in the mounting holes. The power cable hole will have a phone charger cord going through it. That way we have a location for our phones that is easily accessible:

 

Underbed storage

The trailer bed will lift up and grant you access to the drawers that are there. You can also access some of the rear storage in that manner. We thought it would be nice to have a bit more storage available underneath. I took a piece of plywood and made a divider wall to cordon off some extra space under there. Space I wasn’t using from behind:

 

Key hooks

I have a habit of putting my keys, wallet, sunglasses on any flat surface that is near a door. This will be a problem in the limited confines of the trailer. We got a small set of hooks and are looking for a basket to hang by the front door for me to use. Here is the hook set (with a set of keys on it!):

 

Centramatics

I have looked at Centramatic wheel balancers for quite a while. I wanted to get them when I got my new tires and wheels but wasn’t able to until now. We only have 3400 miles on the new tires so I don’t feel that bad about the delay.

These devices are automatic wheel balancers. These are rings that attach to your wheel that have a weighted ballast in a viscous fluid. As speeds go above 35mph the ballast will move to a location opposite where your wheel/tire has extra weight, balancing it on the fly. This video can explain it.

This requires removing and reinstalling ALL 4 wheels! Not a great job but it needs to be done. Time to use the trusty trailer aid.

Simply take off the wheel and put on the centramatic:

The instructions state that if your wheels have been balanced recently to NOT remove the weights. I considered 3400 miles to not be recently so I removed the weights:

Put the wheels back on and torque them to 110ft/lbs.

 

Inline Surge Protector

I have two surge protectors (30a and 50a) that I try to use whenever I hook up to shore power. Better safe that sorry. However, this can be inconvenient and easy to forget them. I recently saw something about an inline version by Progressive Industries. I got one and just installed it.

There appeared to be room by our fuse panel above the bed ( the same picture as above but it shows it):

Disconnect all the power, remove the shore power wire from the panel, put the shore panel wire into the surge protector, run another wire from the surge protector into the panel. Done! Just like that, easy, no problem. Right. Anyone that has worked on any project knows that things are not that simple.

The panel after the front cover is off. Take out that red, black, white and ground wire. Remember these are 6ga wires and are not real flexible. THEN I had to put another set of 6ga wires back in and connect them. Lots of vise grips twisting and cramps in the hands.

I was able to move the panel up higher to leave room for the surge protectors. Here it is all wired up:

I also made a video to show it and the monitor display that you can get. I made a mistake in the description, it is a Progressive Industries unit, not a Progressive Dynamics.

I still have a few more projects to finish so I will post another entry.

 

Solar Install (Part 3)

As we left our story I had just got the cables (battery, monitor, and temperature) ran to the back of the refrigerator through the underside of the dinette bench. I showed Roxie the progress and she asked if I was going to put the controller under the dinette.

I said that I was going to put the controller behind the refrigerator and had already put a lock on the refrigerator door:

However, she had a really good idea. By putting the controller, switch, and breaker under the dinette it was much more secure and more accessible. All I had to put in the refrigerator area was the 2 gauge wires going to the top of the trailer through the refrigerator vent. That proved to be a bit problematic.

In our ’92 the area behind the refrigerator was wide open. Lots of room. However, in the 2012 it appears that Airstream created more of a controlled updraft for more efficiency. In looking at the specifications for the refrigerator they do have plans for a tight air draft configuration. But this makes it harder, nearly impossible, to drop a cable behind the refrigerator. But another problem was that I had the cable at the BOTTOM of the refrigerator!

I have to take the refrigerator out. I have done it before in our other trailer and knew there weren’t too many screws, etc. holding it in. It is just a larger one than our other one and much more cumbersome. As luck would have it our son came by right when I was going to take it out. He was able to muscle it out and I had all day to work on it. Alas, I did not take pictures.

Another issue was the gauge of wire. At the top of the trailer, the combiner box attaches to the refrigerator vent but I could not bend the 2 gauge wire enough to get the combiner box cover on. I had to use a smaller gauge for the combiner box, I chose 6 gauge. It would still handle the current.

I followed her recommendation and mounted it all under the dinette:

Above you can see the solar panel cutoff switch, the solar panel controller, and the circuit breaker.

Also, the wiring behind the refrigerator is much simpler:

The next step was doing the panels on the roof but first I wanted to get some of the internal wiring cleaned up. The set of three wires that go from under the dinette to under the couch goes along the base of the wall and needed some wire management:

There is also a set of two wires that go to the IPNPro Remote that I mounted on the wall:

Now off the panels on the roof. I have 3 Grape Solar GS-160 panels to mount. I had an idea where to put each of them but still had a bit of trepidation of the actual fitment. Our son helped me with the fitting and bracket mounting since the panels are 26lb and awkward. They went up very easily and the VHB tape worked well on most of the brackets.

We removed the panels leaving the brackets for me to secure further. We decided to put two screws in each one and put a lap sealant completely around each bracket:

But there was ONE bracket that gave me fits. Trying to put a screw in I hit something very hard and twisted off a head of one screw. I tried to flip the bracket and another screw would not go in. Great, now I have 4 holes to fill (maybe some FlexSeal Tape?). I moved the bracket on the solar panel and was able to mount it finally!

Here are some shots of the panels:

Wiring is next. I had to build a few MC4 cables to get to the combiner box but that was easy. They hooked up just great and I was ready to flip the switch:

I go down to the solar panel isolation switch and turn it. I check the voltage on the wires from the solar panels at the controller. 0 volts? It should be around 15-20v. I look at the switch and realize it was already ON and I had turned it OFF! Ok, really turn it on now. Now the voltage is 0.2v, still not enough. I turn the switch off and check the voltage on the panel side. 18 volts! Turn the switch back on. 0.2v. OK. That is enough for the night and I am losing the sun.

The next day with good sun there was still the same issue. Time to call Blue Sky. I talked to Ryan and he was extremely helpful. He said it sounded like some type of wiring issue. I wired the panels directly and not through the switch, same issue. I was perplexed and Ryan was also.

On the controller, there are 4 places to attach the 2 gauge wires. A positive and negative to/from the battery, which I knew was working fine since the monitor was working. Another connection point was from the solar panels (PV – photovoltaic). I looked at those connectors and saw something. The wire I was using is stranded and about 3-4 of those strands didn’t fit in the negative connector but pushed out to the side and actually touched the positive connector! There was the short!

I bent those wires away and the controller came to life! I was slightly embarrassed but pleased that it was working.

Now I get to play with tracking the in and out of solar power energy. As a non-scientific empirical test, I disconnected from shore power, turned on both Fantastic Fans and let it run all night. In the AM I had 84% battery capacity remaining. Once the sun started hitting the panels, the energy started flowing. Here are some screenshots of the monitor at a peak time:

It shows the panels charging up the batteries just fine. The batteries were fully charged up around noon that day.

I am pleased with the performance and very pleased that it is done!

Here are a couple of shots of all 3 panels on the roof:

Many thanks to the numerous blogs, videos, information that I used to plan and execute all this.