Friday, March 31, 2023

Tucson, AZ

Wednesday - Another test session this morning followed by the installation of another Shelly1 to control the water pump. This is on the bathroom wall. Pressing the momentary button sends an MQTT message to the Mosquitto service running on the Raspberry Pi which is also the HomeAssistant server. Automation on the server is a subscriber to the message and it sends a signal to the relay in the Shelly1 in the monitor panel above the RV door. It then sends a signal to the relay in the bathroom Shelly1 which lights the indicator light. BTW, the indicator light on the monitor panel also lights up. 

I’m thinking about installing the same setup in the wet bay replacing the physical water pump switch in that location. I rarely need water there unless I’m filling a bucket with hot water to wash the car or just wash my hands. 

This afternoon, we went to Purple Heart Park just north of the Pima fairgrounds to visit Garrett, Carolyn, and their family. They are in Benson for several days and came out to see Bridget after her surgery. Afterward, we were treated to dinner by Galen and Cindy, who were staying out at the fairgrounds.

Thursday - It has really cooled off today with the current temperature being 56°F at 9:30am. I'm waiting for the morning test session to start and this time seems to be a convenient opportunity to type blog entries. The exodus from the RV park, and AZ, has started. Lots of people leaving and heading north by April 1st including a lot of Canadians. The spaces on both sides of us are now empty which means that I can start on my slide repair project. I didn’t want to be messing around with the slide with the neighbor's truck parked there.

Friday - There was a large test session this morning with maybe seven groups of VEs. I was the lead for one of the groups and we tested several people (they passed!). I am now sitting in the pool area with my laptop to download the OS X v13.3 on my laptop. It's an 11.8 GB download so I'm using the free WiFi here at the park to conserve my data plan. In the last ten minutes, it's already downloaded 2.5GB so it's pretty decent Internet. The only challenge was finding an outlet for the laptop as I didn't want the laptop going to sleep in the middle of the download.

The download took less time than the actual upgrade of all of the other software such as MS Office and the Apple productivity apps. I guess there is a reason that this Mac is no longer officially supported. It's really feeling slow. I think the total download for the OS and all of my installed applications was about 40GB and to took about an hour and a half. I'm not going to complain about that.

Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Tucson, AZ

Friday - This picture of the moon catching Venus is from last night on my way back from the hot tub. It was cool. 

This morning, I'm leading a test session using the AT&T hotspot. This time useing the 5gHz band. There is so much WiFi around here that may interfere with my WiFi.

Saturday - It’s a beautiful, 65°F day with clear skies and a slight breeze. Perfect weather for sitting outside. I participated in the morning test session. There is an air show a few miles away and earlier this morning, quite a few jets flew over the area at low altitudes. Pretty loud!

I have another Shelly 1 that I’m going to put in the RV bathroom somewhere to trigger the water pump. I don’t have a use for the dry relay contacts yet but I may think of something. 

Monday - Not much went on yesterday. No candidates for the morning test session. We are at the clinic now. Bridget is getting some x-rays before her appointment in a couple of days. 

I decided to disable the touch sensor controlling one of the living room reading lights. It wasn’t very reliable and I have extra physical switches from the water pump project (which is still ongoing). Right now, I’m waiting for some indicator lights to show the status next to the water pump buttons.

There was a park-supplied dinner this evening with pulled pork sandwiches, some salads, and lemon cake for dessert. The pulled pork and lemon cake were pretty good but the live music was too loud and the salads were so-so.

Tuesday - The little LED status lights arrived last night from Amazon. Less than $1 each with nice stainless steel housing and waterproof. I just need to figure out where to install the unit in the bathroom that has easy access to an always-on 12V power.

Thursday, March 23, 2023

MQTT and Leased Lot

Thursday - I tried something new (for me) on the home automation front. It's been around for quite a while but I had never delved into it. It is a lightweight messaging protocol of the Internet of Things (IoT) using a publish and subscribe model. I installed an MQTT broker on the Raspberry Pi running Home Assistant. I set up an automation to subscribe to the Shelly 1 that I had installed in the RV control panel. I added a physical momentary push-button to the control panel and it sends an MQTT message out whenever the button is pressed. The automation will close the relay and power is supplied to the water pump for some specified period. Currently, for testing, I have it set to 5 seconds. 

Something else that we have been working on for a while is a place to park the RV when we aren't traveling. We are leasing this space and it has a concrete pad for the RV with a 218 sq-ft building with water and 20 amp power. The covered patio is 9' deep. There are full hookups for the RV (water, 50amp power, and sewer).

Wednesday, March 22, 2023

Tucson, AZ

Monday - Getting ready for another test session. It's 74°F so just about ideal to be outside. I did figure out how to add a button to the HomeAssistant interface and use the button state to trigger the automation. Now, I'm working on another D1Mini to add a physical push button to do the same thing. I plan on having physical buttons in the kitchen, bathroom, and possibly the wet bay to trigger the pump automation. For testing, I just have the pump running for 15 sec but the time can be easily changed.

Today, it was kind of windy with some stronger gusts. Nothing as strong as the winds in Yuma and Quartzsite. Today's small project was helping the neighbor mount his bike rack to the back of his Jeep JK. They have two recumbent bikes so it wasn't a regular bicycle rack. I broke a drill bit when modifying the rack to hug the back of the Jeep a bit more. Later, he showed up with a replacement set even though I only broke one bit. Pretty nice!

Tuesday - The windy day continues. It’s windy enough to bring in the main awning. The window awning is on the leeward side of the RV so no problem. I went to the non-park coffee and donuts this morning and had a delicious apple fritter and brought Bridget an old fashion. 

There was a morning test session and I lead one of the candidates (he passed). I tethered the laptop to the phone via USB as I wanted a reliable connection. For some reason, the WiFi doesn't seem as stable maybe because there is so much WiFi in this park. I'm just getting set up for the afternoon session where there is just one candidate and someone else is leading so using the AT&T hotspot over 5gHz. 

There may be some rain coming in but it probably won’t amount to much…

Wednesday - It is a cool and windy morning. Participated in the morning test session before heading out on a couple of errands.

With the rain and wind, I went to the rv park afternoon movie. It was a John Wayne western called Big Jake. I hadn’t seen it before and it was pretty good. It even had a motorcycle riding up and over boulders in the desert. 

Sunday, March 19, 2023

More RV Automation

Sunday - Today, I used a small iot device called a Shelly1 to allow home automation control of the RV water pump. Not to replace the switch but operate in parallel. I created a HomeAssistant automation to turn on the pump for ten minutes and then shut it off. Since we usually used the water pump for short periods, this would allow the most common uses by just pressing a button. I just need to add some momentary switches around the RV to trigger the automation. The pump status light on the front panel even registers correctly when the automation switches on the pump. 

There is also a pump switch on the HomeAssistant dashboard to turn the pump on/off as well as enable/disable the automation. This is the first Shelly device I've used and have some other plans such as enabling the battery heaters. Since they can be controlled by HomeAssistant, it would be possible to develop some interesting automations such as enabling the heaters based on a variety of inputs such as battery temperature, battery SOC, solar panel voltage, time of day, etc. I may even use one to remotely start the generator. 

Saturday, March 18, 2023


Wednesday - The speed on the free WiFi at the Tucson Medical Center (TMC) is pretty fast. This is the result through a VPN as their WiFi is unencrypted. Then again, it’s 6 in the morning. 

An update to the RV WiFi is an extender. This device connects to the existing WiFi network and creates another with a different SSID. The new microprocessor located in the battery bay regularly dropped from the network due to its location. The storage bays and doors are lined with painted aluminum so they do a pretty good job of attenuating signal. The TP-Link extender is located in the bedroom plugged into an always-on outlet. I.e both shore power and inverter. 

While in the waiting room, I went ahead and participated in a test session as it was pretty empty. 

Later - It’s 10:30am and Bridget is in recovery. The Dr said everything looks good. 

3:00pm - Still waiting for a room to open up. The particular wing that the Dr prefers is pretty full. So still in recovery at 3pm. 

6:00pm - Still waiting in recovery. The nurse said that this is kind of normal these days. 

 - Bridget was moved to a room by 7:30pm. This place must be pretty packed. The free WiFi is even faster at this end of the facility. So, I went ahead and participated in the afternoon test session. 

This morning, I made some lemon bars from Meyer lemons that someone in the rv park was giving away. I had never made them before but had heard that it was pretty straightforward. There are more Meyer lemons so, if the bars are good, I may be making some more. 

Saturday - Release day! 

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Sabino Canyon

Monday - This morning, we went to Sabino Canyon. This is a National Forest location so we got to park for free using the National Park senior pass. We took the tram tour, which was abbreviated due to high water, and it was about an hour long and included audio narration via earphones. The tram made three stops along the way to take some pictures. Lots of saguaro cactus. 

The last stop was at the dam at the bottom end of the canyon. The park is a beautiful location though it was crowded especially on a Monday. It felt like a weekend. Most people were walking along the road and it may be what we do the next time we visit. 

 - I finished up the battery box fan including wiring it up to power using a switch. There are no lights or displays on the box. Just the fan connection, 12V power, and the temperature sensor cable. 

It looks like the fan is working as indicated by the blue bar on top and the air temperature leveling out (blue line). The other temperature is from the Victron battery monitor which is at the negative battery post of one of the batteries. The battery warms up quite a bit when charging. And this is at 1/4C or about 25 amps per battery. The recommended charge rate is 40 amps with 50 amps being the max. 

Sunday, March 12, 2023

Battery Box Cooling Project

Friday - Most of today was spent messing around with the D1mini microprocessor. I think I've run into some CPU limitations. If I added one of the small OLED displays, it wouldn't reliably connect to WiFi. If I set the PWM frequency, which controls the fan speed, too high, WiFi would disconnect and reconnect and the temperature wouldn't reliably feed to the HomeAssistant server. So, it is back to "simple mode" and I'm just measuring the temperature every 15 seconds and recalculating the fan speed (as a percentage) based on my hard set lower and upper temperatures and the minimum fan speed. For testing, I used 20% as a minimum, 25°C as the lower temperature, and 37°F as the upper temperature. The fan speed is linear over that range from 20% to 100%. If the temperature is below the minimum, a relay cuts power to the fan as even with PWM at 0, the fan would still be turning.

I did this on a project board and now will be moving the project onto a breadboard which will fit in the small weatherproof boxes I've been using for these microprocessors. All of these components are incredibly cheap and I still have a small bin of these bits and pieces from other projects.

One of the differences between the D1mini and the other 8266 microprocessors is that everything is 3.3V instead of 5V. So I’m using a bi-directional logic level converter between the microprocessor I/O ports and the other components. Very inexpensive component and it seems to work. I’m not running the PWM signal through it to the fan just the temperature sensor and relay board.

At 4 on Fridays is the park-sponsored happy hour with complimentary drinks (free beer, wine, soda) and live music. It’s too loud to carry on a conversation but it’s nice. This is the group that we’ve gotten to know during our time here. Last fall, most of them were across the street. 

Saturday - A morning test session on a cool morning. Its only 64°F mid-morning. Waiting for a test session to start up. The high is forecast to be in the mid-70s (°F) which is ideal.

Maybe I'll work on the circuit board out here under the awning this afternoon. I tend to have a lot of stuff out on the table when I work on one of these projects. I need to get it wired up before I forget how I made the circuit. I guess I could always make a schematic...

 - Another beautiful day here in Tucson. In the middle of the afternoon, it was a very pleasant 76°F with high clouds. Nice enough to make a mess outside instead of the dining table. I accidentally shorted out the buck converter which put 12V on the 5V buss. So I had to replace the temperature sensor and the microprocessor. Fortunately, I have spares…

It’s time to try and fit this into a weather-proof box and see if it’ll still connect to WiFi. 

After a dip in the hot tub, we sat by one of the fire pits around the pool. I keep forgetting to check them out during the day to find the valve and igniter. They are pretty nice. 

BTW, WiFi connectivity is pretty sporadic from the Faraday cage of a battery compartment. 

Thursday, March 9, 2023

Tucson, AZ

Tuesday - The Jeep went in for its second free oil change and tire rotation. The dealer advertises a free car wash but, apparently, the machine is broken. The change interval is 10K miles, which has been since the last oil change in Athens, TX. 

My e-bike was not working properly and it turned out to be the cadence sensor bracket was bent, probably from the chain which had come off during the storage process. It’s kind of difficult getting the bike into the basement storage due to the weight. It’s a bit awkward. 

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that the Magnum remote had a lithium battery preset as part of the remote. I used it for a while but have switched back to the CC/CV setting for flexibility. The LFP setting has an absorption voltage of 14.4V which is fine. The float voltage is 13.6V which is also fine. I’m currently using 13.8V. The absorption time can be set to whatever you want with both settings and I’m currently using 30 minutes. The difference is the re-bulk voltage or the battery voltage where bulk charging starts. The LFP setting is 12.8V and I’m using 12.9V. The difference seems small but with the LFP setting, the battery discharges to under 20% before it starts bulk charging again. With the 12.9V setting, bulk charging starts around 70%. 

The behavior with the LFP setting is discharge, followed by float charge to not complete, then discharge again, followed by float to not complete, etc. until it eventually gets down to 20% which could take days. Too unpredictable. 

Wednesday - Participated in the morning test session. Only one person is testing. The number seems to be dropping as more in-person sessions are happening. The person passed easily for his Extra, which is the highest amateur license available.

I started working on another 8266 microprocessor board for the battery compartment. I hope that it is able to connect to the RV WiFi which is in the very front cabinet. This one is to monitor the temperature inside of the battery box and possibly the batteries themselves. Initially, I will be controlling a PWM 12V fan designed for computer cases. It is variable speed from 200 to 1800 rpm with the 8266 sending a PWM control signal based on the air temperature above the batteries. This is something that new for me...

Thursday - Another microprocessor project for today. This is for controlling a PWM fan to ventilate the battery box. It’s been a while since I had worked on a project. 

I went to a lunch with park staff and several other residents. It was a scheduled monthly activity. We went to Divine Bovine, a gourmet burger place, but I didn’t have a burger. I went with a couple of delicious sides. Fries and brussel sprouts. Both were fantastic.

Late in the afternoon, we drove up towards Mt. Lemmon and found snow at over 7,000’. This is at a viewpoint on the way back down. No snow here but a good view of Tucson. 

Monday, March 6, 2023

Setting Up in Tucson

Sunday - This morning, I finished setting up. If it looks kind of familiar, we are at the same park in Tucson where we spent last Fall through the end of December. It’s nice and we need to be stationary for a couple of months. The weather is much warmer than Quartzsite but, we were told, it snowed here last week! The low temperatures are still in the 40s (°F) but the highs are and forecast to be in the mid and upper 70s! 

Today was a day to relax a bit, clean up the dirt and dust. Washed the Jeep as it was filthy. The free Internet doesn’t work very well as the park is pretty full so we are still using cellular data.

Monday - Ahhh! Nice to have access to this amenity again. I have nothing against boondocking but this is nice. At 4pm, we met with the group that used to be across from us the last time we were here. They call their get together AA for attitude adjustment. 

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Travel to Tucson, AZ, and Boondocking

Saturday - The windshield work was done this morning and I was on the road to Tucson at around 10:30. I was planning to fill up in Tonopah and take the highway to Gila Junction but road construction forced me through Phoenix. At least the gps routed me south and west of downtown. I stopped at the T/A in Eloy, a bit east of Casa Grande, and filled up. The savings was $23 on $190 of diesel. Not going to complain about that.

I arrived back at Far Horizons RV Park at 3:00 and were parked and mostly set up by 4. For dinner, we went to Jason’s Deli for their fantastic salad bar. It’s nice to be back in Tucson. 

Boondocking in Quartzsite and Yuma was fine and we really can go for a while on our tanks. The generator used about 2 gal of diesel/day as we would need over double the solar to meet our daily requirements. We used almost a full tank of propane for the furnace. If the generator was running to recharge the batteries in the morning, we ran the heat pump instead of the furnace as it heats up the main living space much faster. The refrigerator worked great maintaining the refrigerator temperature at around 35° and the freezer around 0°F or colder. We didn’t use the chest freezer as we didn’t bring much frozen items with us. Grocery stores were convenient enough. 

Boondocking isn’t free. We spent $80 for LTVA permits, about $150 in diesel, and around $80 for propane. Plus, I gave the windshield shop $100 for electricity. Our primary reason was to spend time with friends who were out there and we had a great time. 

Windshield Work Part 3 - Quartzsite, AZ

Wednesday - It's too windy today for any work on the RV windshield. The opening is covered with plastic. I hope it holds up to the wind and rain. 

There is a test session scheduled for this morning with one person signed up who happens to be in Fairbanks plus one more who hopped in at the last minute. And, since it was last minute, he wasn’t prepped ahead of time and probably didn’t read all of the requirements. But it was all good. He passed easily in spite of the stress of a last-minute test. 

Around 11am, it started to rain sporadically. Just enough to get the pavement damp. It continued throughout the afternoon with a total of 0.25” of rain. The wind changed direction so I ended up rigging a tarp over the plastic covering the windshield opening. 

Thursday - Sunny but not really warm this morning. It was just after noon and 57°F with a light wind from the north. Hence the cooler temperature. I turned the RV around so the back end is now facing into the wind. The fiberglass/bondo is being sanded in preparation for primer/paint/clear coat. The cardboard is the height of the windshield and is much easier to maneuver than the heavy windshield to measure where to cut the additional fiberglass. 

After marking the cut line, the straight part of the top was trimmed. The glass was set in place using short sections of the rubber seal and the upper corner cut line was established. The glass was removed and the fiberglass was trimmed.

One side is almost there. Just about another ⅛” to be trimmed and a little more work on the corner. It’s a nice tight fit which provides additional support for the fiberglass cap above the windshield. Without trimming, it was a little bit too tight though the glass did fit in. 

Several more trial fittings and small trimming later, one side is fitting nicely. 

Friday - A much better fit than before. Both the body and the windshield are now fully seated into the rubber seal. Before, there would be a ¼" gap between the body and the rubber seal when it was fully seated on the glass. Around a half inch was added all across the front and around the corners. In some areas, such as this corner, almost ¾" was added. This corner was one of the most problematic locations.

This morning, work began on the driver's side glass after some additional fiberglass was added last night to add some more thickness to a couple of sections.

I'm taking the opportunity to participate in another test session this morning. 

Later - We ended up testing two people serially. 

After masking the area off, two coats of primer followed by very light sanding. Then two coats of paint followed by a couple coats of clear. Install windshield and it’s almost done. 

Before sunset, both halves of the windshield are in! Urethane and the lock strips still need to done but they fit really good.