Sunday, February 18, 2018

Torklift Glow Steps Installed

Hi Folks,

This is a short post on the Torklift Glow Steps Revolution, part number A8004.  There are four steps and the width is 27.5 inches.  The old steps were 27 inches, but a few wacks with a hammer and the slide right in.

Original steps were 27 inches wide.

Four bolts and two screws hold the steps.

Step come out as a unit.

There are two sets of instruction, one for two people and another for one person.  With one person, the treads are removed from the frame.

Two bolts and the treads are free.

Here I am making the opening 1/2 inch wider.

Four bolts hold the frame in place.  I installed it at the same level as the old steps, but found I need to raise it up 2 inches.

Steps have no problem with my weight.

Folded up for travel

The 5th Wheel is jacked up petty high here in storage.

Here is 20 second video of step in operations

Monday, January 15, 2018

Lithium Battery Update and Magnum Magna Hybrid Sine Inverter / Charger

Hi Folks,

It has almost been a year since my last update.  I stare at a computer all day at work, so I can go weeks before I even turn on my Home PC.  As a results, this poor blog hasn't been updated, since I have other things I want to do.  

I started freeze drying back in September 2017 (kind of a hobby), so I would start eating more fruits and vegetables instead of other things for snacks.  It takes a fair amount of work to keep it going, but I hope to have a bunch of food freeze dried before we hit the road.  The nice thing about making freeze dried food, is it doesn't require refrigeration (can be stored for 25 years), is light weight (10 lbs of potatoes weighs only 14 ounces freeze dried), and it retains 97% of the nutrition.  Maybe someday I will do a blog on that. 

At any rate I retire in December of 2018 and we plan to hit the road until we get tired of it.  So maybe I will do a better job keeping up on my blog then.

Chevy Volt Lithium Batteries Reconfigured

This was done in February 2017.  After one year of use, several things were learned.  First, the batteries never really got hot from use or charging,  so liquid cooling is not needed for this type of application, but heaters are needed when RV sits in the cold in storage.  This is why I used a star configuration in the first place, was to allow for liquid cooling.  This configuration is not best keeping the four batteries balanced or maximizing space.  

Old Battery Box (Star configuration).

New Battery Box.  I added 1/2 foam insulation on inside.

Batteries are now lined up in parallel.  Each battery has a battery balancer which keeps all the cells at the same level (very import with Lithium batteries).

The second item I learned is the BMS hooked up to the battery port didn't truly keep all cells balanced.  I found the first cell in the first group to be way out of balance after one year of use.

The batteries were converted from 48 volts to 12 volts, so each battery has four 12 volt (of 3 cells each) inside each battery.  Here I am balancing the first of four batteries (inside the physical battery).  Only the first one was way out of balance.  BTW, this is the hobby battery balancer I have used for last two years and works great.  The nice thing about this battery balancer is it keeps monitoring and balancing after the cells are balanced.  Most hobby balancers marketed today quit balancing when cells are balanced.  The blue balancer in the previous picture to this one is that type, and is hooked up to the Boostcaps.  I can't use the black one above, because the cell voltage of the Boostcaps are too low.

So once all the batteries were re-balanced, I connected all same voltage cells together, and wired my battery balancer directly to the battery.  Here the before and after modifications.

Here is the 48 volt battery as converted to 12 volts by eBay seller.  Basically they cut the series plates after every three cells and then connect the four pluses and four minuses together in parallel.  The cells at 4 volts and 8 volts are not connected together.

I connected all the 4 volts and 8 volts cells together, and then I wired my battery balancers directly to the cells, which are now wired in parallel at the cell level.  After a year, I have had no more problems with one battery cell within the battery getting out of balance.
The third thing I learned in the first year was that it was easier to buy Arduino UNO Shields and sensors than to build my own custom circuits.  Also I don't need to worry about cell level monitoring, since the battery balancer will keep all the cells balanced.  This made the Arduino much simpler, as well as the programming simpler.  The Arduino now monitors battery voltage, boostcaps voltage, and temperature.  I also went to a solid state battery relay which connects or disconnects the battery as need.  Using a relay shield, I have four relays to control devices on and off.  Currently I use 3 of the 4, (1) battery connect relay, (2) fan control, and (3) heater control.

New Battery Monitor System (BMS).  Much simpler, using a Arduino UNO (bottom), Relay Shield (next up), Ethernet Shield (above Relay Shield), and finally Custom Circuit Board (on top).  There are also two voltage sensors attached to top custom circuit board.  These are used for monitoring battery and boostcap voltages.
Another view of the four boards.

I added some buttons on to fine tune battery, boostcaps, and temperature, because when the PC is connected to Arduino it effects the accuracy of the measurements.

The new web page also includes raw data, so you can see what adjustments need to be done with the buttons on top of the custom circuit board.
The last change for the batteries was upgrading the battery cables from #2/O AWG to #4/O AWG to handle the 3000 Watt Hybrid Sine Inverter.

This winter we have been in the single digits and did not get above freezing for a week.  The RV sits in a storage lot right now, but I have alarm system, with a temperature sensor in the battery box so I can monitor the battery box temperature remotely.  The BMS turns the heater on at 38 degrees, and I have not seen it go below that, even with outside temp in the single digits.  If the box temperature gets to 32 degrees, the alarm system will text me, and notify the alarm center who will also call me.  This happened a couple of time last year, before I hooked up the heaters.  The heaters have been using about 16 AH overnight with current temps in the low teens.

Magnum Magna Hybrid Sine Inverter / Charger

Also done in February 2017, this was a big upgrade over the Xantrex PROWatt 2000 Inverter, which really didn't like running at the lower voltage of my lithium batteries, and could not handle high startup current of things like the vacuum cleaner.  

The Magna also has a charger function which I have tested on a 100 foot 14 GA extension cord and a standard 110 Volt 15 amp circuit.  Lithium batteries will take all the amps it can get while charging, and this will blow blow a 15 amp circuit in just a few seconds using the factory converter charger.  My factory converter will pull 34 amps, which will many times blow a 30 amp RV service when batteries are below target voltage. The Magna will let me set shore power to 12 amps, and will charge the batteries without blowing the 15 amp house breaker, since it will never pull any more that 12 amps from shore power regardless of load.

Before the Magna Inverter, I was only able to charge my batteries with solar when hooked up to 30 amp service, since the factory converter will pull 34 amps to change the batteries.

The other big advantage of hybrid inverters is to supplement shore power (or generator) using the batteries.  Example: if connected to someone's house, you can set the Magna to use 12 amps.  If you turn on the A/C or microwave, the Magna will make up the difference using the batteries.

Once the load drops back down, the Magna will then use the excess of the 12 amps to recharge the batteries, but at no time will it draw more than the 12 amps I set for it to take for shore power (or generator).   Since many places still only have 30 amp service, you can set the Magna to take 30 amps from shore, and can boost that to 60 amps (using the batteries).  When the load drops to less than 30 amps, the Magna will use those extra amps to recharge the batteries.

I also installed
 Micro-Air Easy Start With the Easy Start you can run the A/C on one Honda 2000, or just off the Magna Inverter itself. With the Magna Hybrid Inverter set to take 14 amps from the generator, I am able to run the A/C and the microwave at the same time. 

Magnum Magna Hybrid Sine Inverter / Charger.  It can take up to 30 amps shore (or generator) power and boost it 60 amps.  Just keep in mind, if pulling 30 amps from the batteries, will be around 300+ amps being drawn from the batteries.  That will drain your batteries pretty quick.  When load reduces below the 30 amps, the Magna will start recharging your batteries with the excess power from shore power.

This is the remote control unit for all of Magnum's products.  This is where you also set how much power to pull from shore power or generator.  I am also looking at replacing my Morning Star TRI-STAR MPPT 60 with Magnum PT-100 MPPT Solar Controller since it can handle 100 amps output.  The PT-100 will also use the same remote control unit I already have.  This will allow me to use my four panel in summer time.  Currently the three panels on the roof can produce more than 60 Amps, and the Morning Star will throttle the panels so output doesn't exceed the 60 amps the controller is designed for.

There are many other modifications I've done, and trips we have taken, I will try to put something together on those in the next day.

Spring projects for this year, are to replace the theater seating with higher quality seats, and upgrading the solar control Magnum PT-100 MPPT Solar Control.  

Not sure I can find space on the roof to mount the forth panel, so I will probably keep it as a standalone panel can place on the ground to catch morning and evening sun.  Also gives me options when camped under trees.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Installed Dometic 320 Elongated Toilet

This has to be one of the easiest modification I have done to the Montana.  It took 30 minutes, and most of that was cleaning the floor under the old toilet.

Ordered from Amazon with hand sprayer, since there was only $3 difference.  The new toilet wasn't what I ordered, box said it was what I ordered, but it was so light, that my wife picked it up with one hand.  

I opened the box, and they sent us the new invisible toilet that is super light weight, instead of the 55 lbs Dometic 320. The only problem was the toilet being invisible, I couldn't see it to install it.

The new Invisible Toilet, and it is light weight.

Amazon shipped a new toilet, and said, it would arrive on Sunday.  Package never arrived, and when I looked up the tracking info it said:

8:37 AM
Delivery attempted - mailbox was full 
Fort Mill, S

Well hello, the box is 2' x 2.5' x 2' and there was nothing in the mailbox.  Well the Post Office was closed Monday, so I had to wait for the Tuesday.  I talked to our regular carry, and she said, she will deliver it tomorrow.

She delivered it the next day.  The box didn't show any signs of damage, but when I opened it, the bowel was broke in two places.

Call Amazon again, and they shipped another toilet, and paid the return shipping on the broken one.  Keep in mind the toilet weighs in at 55 lbs.

New toilet arrives Friday (UPS).  Box looks a little damaged, so opened the box while the driver waited.  No damage.. yea, but wait, this toilet doesn't have the hand sprayer.  Another call to Amazon.

Amazon said, they could ship are replacement, and pay to return the toilet I just received.  I asked if they would consider some credit back on my credit card instead, since it weighed 55 lbs.  He talked to his supervisor and they offer me $40.92 refund, and I told them that would be fine.

Here are some picture of both the old and the new toilets.

Old Toilet
New Dometic 320 Elongated Toilet
I put a 90 degree elbow in water line to relieve stress on the water line.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Installed MORryde Slide Out Tray

I installed MORryde Slide Out Try in the basement of my Montana.  The outside width of the tray is 48" x 90".  It will pull out either side about 60% of the tray length.  I put 2"x3" under it to raise the height, so I could put my four solar panel under the tray.

Here you can see the extra Solar Panel fits under the Sliding Tray.

Built a new enclosure around the water pump, that can be removed without having to take the tray out.  Also gives us 10 more inches in the basement for our long chairs. 

My tray came in a box not pallet, but here is video on the installation.

MORryde Installation Video

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Redesign Keystone Washer / Dryer Layout on 2015 Montana

The only thing we hated about our 2015 Montana 3611RL was how Keystone put the Washer / Dryer setup.  We have put up with it for a little over a year, and I decided we had enough of the Stupid Keystone Engineer that designed the Washer / Dryer hookup on our 2015 Montana 3611RL.  See earlier blog post that covered initial install.  Shakedown Cruise and Washer / Dryer Combo Installed.  You have to move (or remove) your cloths to get to the Washer / Dryer.  Not good when you are going to be on the road for several months.

The mirror panels on the Left and Right are fixed and do not slide.

The two center panel open, and you can see the way Keystone Engineer put the washer/dryer.
First step was to remove right panel.  About 2.5 inches from the top of the panel had to be cut off to put at the bottom so the panel could slide over the center section.  That 2.5 inch piece is used at the bottom, to raise the panel above the center section.

If you look at the bottom you will see where the Right panel goes below the center section, so it cannot slide to the right.
Since existing doors used full extension draw slides, I followed the same method.

Below the Combo Washer/Dryer you can see the draw slide.
The only other gotcha I had was the dryer vent.  There was no way to re-use the current vent, so I had to put in a new one.

Here you can see the new vent installed up in the black paint area.  Since there is more room to run the duct to the new vent, it doesn't have the sharp turns the old had.
New Dryer Vent Duct.  I made a big hole in the back to make connections easier for maintenance.  The shoe case on the front cap wall can easily be removed for more access.  Something that original layout did'n't have.

I also raised the power plug to above the unit so the plug doesn't have a sharp bend in it.

Plug relocated above Unit.
 I still have some clean up work to do, but over all I am pleased with the re-design, since we use our Combo Washer / Dryer a lot.

Notice the right panel is not lined up with others, this is because it needs to slide over the center fixed section, so I had to raise the panel 2.5 inches to clear that section.
Closet Doors open
Right panel open so you can do Landry.  Still need to put bottom panel on Combo unit and re-screw down the seat.  Washer door opens with 2-3 inches of clearance over the seat. 
All done, I will attach some more pictures to give you a better understanding on how I made the fixed panel a slider.

Attached Full 24" Extension Draw Slide to a couple of scrap 1x4.  There isn't anything really solid up there to screw into, so 95% of the load is carried by the slide at the bottom, and this one just keeps the door straight. 

Another picture of the top track.

Bottom Track, mounted to the floor, and carries most of the weight.  Again made from scrap 1x4's.  The Draw Slide is 24" full extension.

Picture to both doors sliding.

Another picture of top track taken from inside the closet.
All Done, here are some pictures.