Saturday, October 29, 2022

Some Remodeling

Thursday - The flooring contractor came around 10am and started removing the old flooring. The carpet went pretty quickly but the tile required hammers and power tools. Hopefully, they can break it up quickly as it is a very noisy process. Once the tile is removed, the dust should no longer be an issue. We put most things away even more so than when we change locations. 

It looks like the water from the ice maker has damaged the subfloor. I have the ice maker unplugged right now and will cap the water line. I set up a fan to dry out the wood. 

This morning, I disconnected the solar panels and just connected one of them to the charge controller. I’ll monitor its output and try each panel on its own. 

The 1st and 3rd panel put out 91 watts and the second panel was 85 watts. After hosing them off, they all put out around 94 watts. So I just wired them all back. I guess I shouldn’t count on more than 300 watts from 630 watts of panels at this time of year. Which means that we probably need another 3-4 panels to meet our needs. 

Friday - Last night, Bridget took this picture while heading for the pool. It turned out to be a SpaceX launch from Vandenberg with more StarLink satellites. 

The floor crew was back before 8am to continue working on the floor. First, they used something to level the floor before starting to lay the vinyl plank flooring. While this was drying, the worked on the bedroom carpet installing new tack strip and padding. 

The flooring, a waterproof vinyl laminate, goes in pretty fast but the edges are what usually takes the most time. 

Saturday - They were back at 9am. They installed the carpet in the bedroom including the slide. Put in the quarter round trim along the edges of the floor. Finished the floor where it goes under the slide. 

They left around 3:30 or so. The only thing left is the carpet on our living room slide. The edge banding isn’t done yet. Maybe Wednesday. Everything else is done. The black plastic pieces on the right side are attached to the slide to sort of support the carpet in the slide where it overlaps the flooring. The living room slide touches the floor for the last six inches or so. I need to come up with some sort of material to go under the slide at each end to prevent contact. More on this later…

Wednesday, October 26, 2022

Finishing Up Projects

Monday - For the first time in quite a while, long pants and a sweatshirt have been dug out. It’ll warm up soon enough but first thing in the morning, it feels chilly. 

I disconnected the compressor this morning for a while as the refrigerator was down to 24°F. A little on the cold side. We don’t have any produce in the fridge as it’ll go bad if frozen. 

I primed the refrigerator trim after using the tools in the RV park wood shop. I had wanted to use their router table to round off the exposed edges but the collet was broken on their router. Instead, I used the table saw to put a 45° bevel in the edge. I am planning to prime the back of the trim to protect it from moisture then paint it with semi-gloss black enamel. I think it’ll look pretty good. They had a nice drum sander that I ran the pieces through to reduce their thickness from 3/4” to 5/8” which is what I needed. Pretty nice tool.

 - This morning, I installed the new controller. This one is installed inside of the refrigerator replacing the fans. It has a temperature sensor built into the unit and is actually adjustable using the built in LED display.  I left it at the factory default of 34°F. I also left the original controller wired in since that is where I’m pulling power for my microprocessor. This is counter to their directions where they have you remove all of the Dometic components. 

Afterwards, I lightly sanded my trim pieces and painted them with satin black enamel. It takes 24 hours to dry completely. I’ll see if they need a second coat at that time. 

Around 5pm, I turned off the shore power charging function of the inverter to see what our overnight power use is. At the current consumption of 8.4A, the projected battery life is 1d 4h. That assumes only 50% of our lead acid batteries are available. 

 - This morning, we got a call from the flooring contractor asking about starting tearing out the tile and carpeting in the RV. We headed back and started putting things away. The only flooring that will remain is a small section of the bedroom in front of the closet and the carpet and tile around the front seats and door. The slides and the bedroom will be re-carpeted and everywhere else will have vinyl plank flooring.

The batteries were at 85% this morning with just the refrigerator running on 12V. The temperature of  the refrigerator stabilized at around 38°F and the freezer was in the teens. Then I checked the ice maker and it was dribbling water into the freezer. I turned off and unplugged the ice maker and the freezer temperature steadily dropped and stabilized at around 5°F. 

Sunday, October 23, 2022

Uneventful Days

Thursday - An uneventful day. It started out cool but hit 88°F by mid-afternoon. Participated in two test sessions and received an email from JC Refrigeration that the new control board is being shipped out 2-day UPS. The new controller board doesn't use any of the controls on the top of the refrigerator. But, since I am using a couple of the wires for my microprocessor, I will be tapping into the 12V feed when I connect the new controller. 

Friday - Another uneventful day. I finally dug out my can of black spray paint to cover up the scratches on the door from the Dremel. I may end up using it to paint the wood I’m using to shim out the refrigerator on the inside. The refrigerator trim is black so this sort of matches. The wood shop here at the park has a router table and will be open Monday morning. I think I’ll round off the edges. 

 - Just a graph from the HomeAssistant monitoring the refrigerator temperatures. The built-in ice maker still has water running down the back of the freezer so I unplugged it and will probably disconnect and plug the water line just to eliminate potential freezing issues.

 - Another uneventful day. Much nicer (cooler) weather today with a high of 74°F. I replaced the cheap MC4 connectors that I used to connect our solar panels to the charge controller. After just a year and a half, they were looking grey and weathered. It was an easy replacement as I have the tools with me to easily replace the connectors. I don’t know how it may have affected charging but I wanted to replace them before they became brittle. The connectors that came pre-installed on the panels still look great it was just the cheap batch I picked up on Amazon that look weathered. 

A few months ago, I had picked up a "smart power strip" on Amazon. I finally got it integrated into the RV home automation server, HomeAssistant. I can now use automations to control AC devices and USB charging. Not sure what to start with. Maybe Christmas lights...

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

Mt. Lemmon

Wednesday - This morning, we drove north of here towards Mt. Lemmon. The first picture is Thimble Peak with Tucson in the background. The temperature kept dropping as we gained elevation. The road went above 8000' and the temperature had dropped down to 49°F. Pretty nice even with the wind. 

The rocks were pretty impressive on the way up. The pictures don't really capture what it looks like. The colors aren't accurate.
This last photo is from the bottom of a ski lift (still closed). On the way back, we stopped at a national forest visitor's center and there was a note on the whiteboard that their first snow was ten days ago. And there was more than one ski area up here. Given its proximity to Tucson, it must get pretty crowded up here on the weekend.

While we were heading back, I heard back from JC Refrigeration and they said that it sounds like a bad Dometic control board. I ordered one of their control boards which actually mounts inside of the refrigerator. Until then, I just have the compressor wired up to run full time.

Tuesday, October 18, 2022

More Projects

Saturday - The project for today was installing a new door lock on the RV. We had one of these combination locks on the 5th wheel from day one and it is much more convenient than always carrying around keys. We didn’t install on earlier on this RV as they weren’t made for class A RVs… until now. I had pre-ordered one last month and it arrived last Tuesday. I tried to install it on Wednesday morning but ran into a snag and needed to pick up a rat tail file to enlarge the “calibration” hole used to adjust the door latch. To lock/unlock the door you can use the keypad, a key, or the lock button on the provided remotes. An option, which I did not purchase, is a BT module allowing you to use a phone app.

The refrigerator is running fine. This morning, I filled up the refrigerator with everything that wasn’t sensitive to freezing and filled up the ice cube trays. Last night, the freezer had gotten down to -9.5°F and the refrigerator was 32°F. Neither had either worked this well in the past. 

I may finish wiring up the ice maker tomorrow so see how well it works with the new system.

 - How about these temperatures! Granted, it dropped to below 60°F last night which is also a big deal. But the freezer was -13°F and the refrigerator was 34°F. Granted, the compressor is running full time. This weeks project is to add the new 12V wiring run into the storage compartment under the refrigerator. 

Monday - Received the Amazon order with the 8AWG copper wire, 30amp circuit breaker, fuse block, and terminals. I started by running to wires from the battery compartment. Along the frame rail to the water compartment. I drilled a 1” hole between the rear fender well and the water compartment. I need to pick up a rubber grommet to protect the wire as it goes through the metal fender well. Once it’s in the water compartment, it’s an easy run to the front furnace compartment which is right under the refrigerator. I’ll mount the new distribution panel in that space.

Tuesday - I installed the new distribution panel and ran 10AWG wire to the refrigerator. The voltage is now 12.6 while the compressor is running. I removed my control board bypass and we will see how the system works now. 

I also found a kink in the ice maker water line. I had reconnected the ice make on Sunday but it hasn’t made any ice yet. 

Later - It looks like the system is still cycling. I put my bypass back in place and will call JC Refrigeration tomorrow. They mentioned that my control board may have issues but I decided to try it anyway. 

I wanted to run the new power run anyway as the portable refrigerator was running on marginal power. 

Saturday, October 15, 2022

RV Refrigerator Conversion - Part 2

Friday - After I finished installing the interior pieces including the ice maker, I tested the refrigerator and it seemed to run fine. Both the refrigerator and freezer plates were getting cold. So Bridget and I put the unit back into the opening. It was a very tight fit. I finally ended up asking our neighbor for a hand and we got it all the way in. 

When powered up, I noticed that it kept cycling on and off. After measuring the DC voltage at the refrigerator, it dropped to about 10.5VDC when the compressor was running. The 12V wiring was inadequate. Too small of gauge for the distance. Well, I was planning to run a new DC run to the basement refrigerator/freezer anyway and the built-in refrigerator is just above it. 

For now, I bypassed the controller until my wiring order gets here from Amazon. We’ll just continue to use the portable units for things that shouldn’t freeze. If the freezer is too cold, that’ll be fine. 

To be continued…

Friday, October 14, 2022

RV Refrigerator Conversion - Part 1

After prying, cutting and scraping, I got the back of the refrigerator loose from the gobs of silicon. I don’t know what they were thinking. Once it was loose, the refrigerator slid out of the opening. 

We put it face down inside the RV and started to remove the absorption unit. The only part being reused is the control board which includes the thermistor inside of the refrigerator and possibly the ice maker. We haven’t decided on that just yet. 

The old absorption unit is now sitting outside and time to clean up to get ready for the new cooling unit. 

Another example of the incompetent dealer (Parkway) tech. The unit comes with a thermally conductive mastic and a can of insulating expanding foam. The tech used the thermally conductive mastic to insulate the gap between the rigid foam. Why would you use anything designed to transfer heat as insulation? What world do these people live in?

The new unit is mostly on. I just need to squirt the expanding foam around the opening then seal it with aluminum tape. The wiring comes next.

I’m pretty sure it’s wired correctly but I will double check tomorrow morning before connecting to 12VDC. I didn’t follow the directions exactly. They had the circuit board mounted higher up. I wouldn’t have been able to access it from the outside compartment opening. I also added the temperature sensor on the ground side for the heat wire for the ice maker supply line. I’m considering moving the fans currently mounted on the compartment cover to the inside of the roof vent blowing up and out. 

Thursday, October 13, 2022

Visiting Friends

Wednesday - We visited Robert and Sonja at their beautiful home in Oro Valley north of Tucson. I had known Robert when he worked at UAF and have been following their adventures on FB. Including their RV trip (towing a Jeep) to Fairbanks this past summer. 

This morning, I started to install the RV Lock on the front door. There is a “calibration” hole to get access to a 7/16” nut to adjust the DOT latch. The existing opening was too small to allow a socket or nut driver access to the nut. I used the Dremel to enlarge the opening enough to get a socket in there but it needs more clearance as the nut isn’t centered in the hole. 

After meeting Robert and Sonja, I started to remove the refrigerator. I got all of the wiring disconnected, and the mounting screws removed. One side would come out but not the other. After a lot of looking for additional screws, I discovered that gobs of silicon were glueing the back of refrigerator to the plywood. What kind of incompetent dealer would do that? Pretty clearly, Parkway in Georgia…

Tomorrow, I’ll try to cut away the silicone from the back. It would be easier if the plastic access panel could be removed but there are gobs of silicon caulk on that as well. The lesson is, never take your RV to a dealer for service. Frustrating…

Dinner was a CurderBurger from Culver’s. Basically a

Thursday - After my morning coffee, I walked down to Walgreens to get my flu shot. My doctor had instructed me to get it around mid-October. Walgreens is only around 3/4 mile so it’s convenient enough. And 74°F is a nice temperature for a walk. I have plenty of projects to keep me very busy. 

Tuesday, October 11, 2022

Tucson, AZ

Sunday - There was a special test session this afternoon for a class. The instructor was in Eugene, OR, and the students were from coast to coast including one from Hawaii. It was a long session lasting over three hours but all but one of the students passed.

I finished the day out sitting in the jacuzzi until around 8pm. Pretty nice...

Monday - The temperature this morning was only 61°F and this wasn't the overnight low. Those are pretty nice temperatures. And the high of 82°F is nothing I'm going to complain about.

I'm going through the directions for the refrigerator upgrade and I think it will take a couple of days. A lot of steps in the seventy-five pages of instructions. Plus, it must sit upright for a minimum of twelve hours to allow the oil to drain back into the compressor in case the direction arrows weren't followed during shipment.

Tuesday - Lead one of the test sessions today. I wasn't planning on it but no one had volunteered. I called the applicant about ten minutes ahead of time and he had tested with us before so he was familiar with the drill.

The replacement refrigerator back arrived via FedEx truck at around 5:30pm. The paperwork indicated that it weighed 95lbs but I’m sure that includes the pallet it was sitting on. It seems to be very well packed for the weird shape. 

I disconnected several more wires from the back and discovered that the ice maker shutoff doesn’t shut off the water so I just removed the valve from the back of the refrigerator and left the supply line connected. 

Saturday, October 8, 2022


Thursday - Another minor chore was defrosting the freezer. Since we will be upgrading the refrigerator next week sometime, I wanted to get all of the ice melted since it'll be lying face down on the floor with the doors removed. After the late afternoon rain, it was a pretty nice evening at the pool. There was still some lightning about fifteen miles northwest of here occasionally lighting up the clouds but it was nice here.

Friday - Since the freezer was defrosted, the freezer temperature actually got into single digits again! I guess the ice is a pretty good insulator. While we will be doing the upgrade, we borrowed a portable compressor refrigerator/freezer from Mike and Kathy. Currently, it has most of our freezer items and our compressor refrigerator/freezer will have our refrigerated items. The upgrade will take over a day since it needs to sit upright for at least 12 hours to let the oil drain back down to the compressor in case it was ever inverted while being shipped. I already have been contacted by FedEx about the delivery on Tuesday late afternoon or evening. 

This afternoon, Bridget saw a FB message that corn and tomatoes were available here in the park. We walked down and the produce looked fantastic. Especially the tomatoes. While we were there, a storm came through and this area got dumped on. Some of the hail is shown in the next picture which was taken behind the RV.

The water flowing down the street was curb to curb. A lot of water. Plus, it dropped the temperature quite a bit. People around us were digging out their sweaters.

Saturday - It was a wonderful, cool morning with an overnight low in the mid-60s. So I was able to lead a test session while sitting outside using a large step stool as a table. It is nice to be able to use the outside space again. 

After the test session, I washed the Jeep. This RV park doesn't prohibit it as long as you don't leave the water running and don't wash the car on the street. I used the RV pad behind us as they left much earlier than planned. 

In the afternoon, there is a demonstration of a remote test using special software. Right now, I'm waiting for the Zoom session to start and it's a good opportunity to write a blog post. To pass the time, I just took one of those FB trivia tests where they guess your education level. Perfect score and the software guessed Ph.D. Guess their software needs some work...

Wednesday, October 5, 2022


Sunday - It looks like cooler weather has finally arrived! High temperatures in the 80s again will be nice. We haven’t seen those temperatures for quite a while. And lows in the 60s will be a nice change.

We spent the morning with KathyK at a craft market east of here and also stopped at a nursery complete with alien staff. Not very talkative…

Monday - Wonderful morning temperature. Made breakfast outside on the Blackstone griddle then sat talking to the neighbors before the morning test session (9:00 AKDT). 

Around noon, the refrigerator vent fan I ordered from Amazon arrived. I had it installed on the side refrigerator vent blowing outside air into the space behind the refrigerator. The old fan was installed above the condenser blowing air up. A better setup but would require removing the refrigerator to install. I’ll move these fans to that location when the compressor retrofit is installed. 

It has a thermocouple to sense temperature but I currently have it running at maximum speed on manual to see if it helps lower the temperature of the refrigerator and freezer. 

 - The original plan was to go on a bicycle ride this morning. With the morning thunderstorms, it’s been postponed. This storm wasn’t even in the forecast!

That little storm just sort of sat over this area for quite a while. Today’s novelty was no A/C needed all day long! This is the first time in a long time that we didn’t need to run the A/C.

And another task, adding distilled water to the four golf cart batteries that provide 12VDC to the RV. They took about 1½ quarts. 

 - We went for a bike ride this morning along Pantano Wash initially heading north until the path ended around Costco then south to Golf Links Rd. Nice path and nice temperatures. 

There was a movie scheduled in the activity center called Cry Macho at 1:00. Free popcorn and soda. There were only about six or seven people but it was a decent movie that I hadn’t seen before. And the popcorn was fresh. 

We went to a poké restaurant for dinner. Delicious! It was near Costco so we stopped there for a few items including a bargain $4.99 cooked chicken. 2.7 lbs without bones…

Saturday, October 1, 2022

Another Repair Project

Thursday - Back in spring while we were at a HH, the MaxxFan started misbehaving. If we ran it on auto, which is the preferred mode, as it got warmer and the fan sped up, the fan would shut down. The manufacturer said that it was probably the controller board and they would send out a new one - once they get hold of some. 

After multiple delays and shipping address changes, I finally asked a ham radio friend, BobB, who lives in the Orlando area to just mail it to us whenever it arrives. It took months. He mailed it to our home in Fairbanks and Bridget bought it back with her at the beginning of September. I finally got around to replacing the board. 

Friday - Thunderstorms and wind this afternoon. Enough potential wind for me to bring in the patio awning. By 4:30, it was dark to the south and east with lightning in the clouds. 

Not much going on today. Two test sessions and grocery shopping. I did order the 12VDC  compressor conversion kit for our Dometic RV refrigerator. It is a complete replacement for all of the ammonia and propane pieces on the back of the refrigerator box. The control board is reused.

It’s supposed to work much better than the absorption refrigeration unit. With an average power consumption of 60watts, that’s still 1,440 watt-hours or about 115 amp-hours. So we may end up upgrading our 220 amp-hour (usable) house battery bank and maybe adding more solar sooner rather than later.

Around 6:00, I wandered to the pool but it started to rain around 15 minutes later. It stopped around 6:30. Then started again around 6:45…

Saturday - This is one reason why we are replacing the absorption part of our refrigerator. Kind of too warm for a refrigerator. It should be in the upper 30s to low 40s. Not in the 50s. I think that it’s kind of interesting that the jump from the 40s to 50s was shortly after I had ordered the compressor conversion unit…

I did notice that I couldn’t hear the fan running behind the refrigerator. There is a 12V fan to blow air up towards the upper refrigerator vent on the roof.