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Saturday, September 15, 2018

Speed Control For Endless Breeze Fan

The Endless Breeze portable 12 volt fan is made by Fan-Tastic Vent.  I use it in my Four Wheel Camper (FWC) to move air around the camper.  It also works good outside the camper on a 12 volt extension cord.  I have Fan-Tastic vents in the ceiling of my camper that I have a also modified with the PWM motor speed control.  Here is that modification post.

As with the Fantastic fan/vent in the ceiling of my FWC, the motor runs at a high speed for me on the low setting.  The Endless Breeze comes with a speed switch that gives 3 speed settings and my modification does not change the 3 speed settings if the PWM is fully on.  As with the roof units the fans can be noisy even on the low setting, thus adding the PWM speed control a nice change for noise when sleeping.

My problem:

When I just want the fan to provide a light breeze In my FWC camper, I want to be able to set the fan speed to what I want for air movement.  I also would like to conserve my solar power LiFePo4 battery system with lower my current draw when running the fan all night.

The answer:

Below is the PWM speed controller that I bought from Amazon.  What Pulse-Width Modulation does in this case is sends 12 v on and off.  The faster the 12 volt pulse the faster the motor spins.  When the pulse is off there is no power draw.  Therefore a 50/50 cycle the motor uses half the current.

Here is what WIKI has on PWM

I tested the current draw of the fan to ensure that the 2 amp PWM will work with it.  I did this by putting the PWM between the fan’s 12 plug and the battery.

Above is the open fan with the 3-position speed switch with a plastic cable tie holding wires from the PWM I added.  

With the PWM fully on the 3-position switch still functions as it was designed.

On the other side of the fan top from the 3-position switch I have installed the PWM

Above you can see the open space opposite the 3-position switch where the PWM fit nicely.

More of my wiring.  The added wiring is run along the fan edge like the wiring that comes with the fan.

Here is how the fan looks now with the PWM added to the top.

My test showed that the PWM would adjust the speed of the fan from full speed to off.  I set the speed to be a constant light breeze and  I was only drawing .49 amps.

Note the PWM has a light on the circuit board that shines through the white plastic so you can see that it is turned on.


Friday, September 14, 2018

Speed Control For Fantastic Fan in FWC

Most of the time my Fantastic fan is too high a speed on low setting.  The Fantastic fan comes with a speed switch that gives 3 speed settings.  I can just open the vent on the Fantastic Fan for natural airflow, but some mechanical draw helps.

Note: I had upgraded my Four Wheel Camper’s Fantastic vents because  the rear one was a vent only and this is where I cook.  The front one over the bed was powered.  Here is my modification on this conversation.

(Above is the upgraded vent only to power vent/fan with temperature control)

My problem:

When I just want some powered exhaust from the vent with my window cracked open below, I don’t need the fan on spinning very fast.  I also would like to conserve my solar power LiFePo4 battery system with lower current draw.  A side benefit of the slower speed is the fan runs much quieter for sleeping.

The answer:

Below is the PWM speed controller that I bought from Amazon.  What Pulse-Width Modulation does in this case is sends 12 v on and off.  The faster the pulse the faster the motor spins.  When the pulse is off there is no power draw.  Therefore a 50/50 cycle the motor uses half the current.

Here is what WIKI has on PWM

I needed to test the current draw to ensure that the 2 amp PWM will work on the Fantastic Fan. 

I dropped the cover of the Fantastic Fan and put my clamp meter on. The inspection showed 2 amp controller would work.

I then temporarily wired in the PWM and tested it.

My test showed that the PWM would adjust the speed of the fan from full speed to off.  I set the speed to be a constant light draw and I was only drawing .59 amps.

This low draw with lower window cracked will provide powered heat extraction cooling the inside of camper and making my Engel compressor fridge run easier.  Since I have the temperature control on the Fantastic Fan when the fan turns on my solar battery system will have no problem providing the power needed.

The spot I was able to fit the PWM was next to the speed switch.

This is the way it looks with PWM installed.  Note the PWM has a light on the circuit board that shines through the white plastic so you can see that it is turned on.

Above is the installed PWM controller ready to adjust the speed to what I want it to be.

It works in both exhaust venting or power fan pushing in air.  As stated I have it set to start on venting on low speed once it gets hot inside the camper by setting the temperature control in the upper right corner in the picture above.


Thursday, September 13, 2018

White Perforated Window Coverings for FWC Camper

I first became aware of perforated vinyl window coverings as Fire Chief, when our ambulance vendor suggested it on a new ambulance purchase.

My first exposure to the use of perforated vinyl for RV’s was when I saw my friends Dan and Brenda’s RV mini bus conversion, with the windows covered.  At this time, a couple years ago, I was on my travels with my Prius. 

When I traveled in my Four Wheel Camper / Tacoma this year, I didn’t like that I had to put up and take down curtains only for privacy.  I decided I wanted to try putting the white perforated vinyl on my camper.

Above is my Amazon purchase for Perforated vinyl.  I bought more than I needed and will share the extra with my friends.

I started with the side window area.  The right side is fixed glass and my starting point.

I tape the vinyl sheet at the top and peal the paper backing down from the top.  As I do I press and deal the vinyl to the glass dealing with wrinkles first and then pull the vinyl back off window and press to the sides and corners.

I use a credit card to move the wrinkles as I can.  Care needs to be taken not to tear the perforated.  I trim with a sharp utility knife blade.

Above is an example of the left and right top window now has the perforated vinyl applied and the bottom right doesn’t.  This shows the visibility you have and how much is reduced when you apply the vinyl.

Above the side windows are all covered including the smaller crank windows.

Here is the final look with all windows on the side covered.

I also covered the rear door window.  This still allows me to view out the back through my Tacoma’s rear view mirror.  

I did not apply the perforated vinyl on the window that needs the rear cab window so I would not reduce my visibility.

The issue of security and privacy is not as much of an issue on this cab window as there is a lot of glass over a distance to try to peer through.  I will use the curtain here as needed.

It’s amazing how well this product works, but if it is lighter inside than outside the camper, you can see in the camper a bit.  There is an advantage not covered above using the perforated vinyl.  That is I get ambient light in and at night in a lit area.  You don’t need to use the flashlight for all nighttime activities.


Saturday, August 11, 2018

Prius Brakes Do Last 100,000 Miles

I had a coupon for a reduced cost oil change at the dealer I use.

I wanted the oil changed and tire rotation.

While waiting for them to finish, the service representative came over and said he wanted to show me something in my car.

He andvthe mechanic slowed me that my brakes were getting thin.  3-4 mm of pad was left.  Nothing that required immediate attention, but good to know.  He said I’ll save you some money by turning the discs.  I said thanks.

I asked what the cost was knowing that I do my own brakes.

He came back saying that the front brakes would be $333 and the rear $364.  (They are disc brakes all around).  Then he said the engine air filter needed to be replaced for $48 and the cabin air filter too for 58.

I just smiled and said I wouldn’t be able to spend the additional $800 today.  I explained that Toyota was right that Prius brakes last 100,000 miles as my Prius has 98,500 miles.

They were right that in the near future I would need new brakes.  I decided to just do it this pm since it was going to rain and I could do it in the garage.

PS: (8/13/18) My friend David, who has much more knowledge about Prius maintenance than I do, wrote to me after my original post.

He cautions that some people who have changed their own brake pads have had problems doing it.  I checked online and did find some postings about getting error codes and one where the brake system activated pressure from sensing the fob.  Although I didn’t remove the 12 volt battery power before performing my work and I have not seen any codes or problems, it is good practice to remove 12 v power as the Prius is a sophisticated computer system and we know not what it all does.

End of PS

The rotors were in very good shape withvery little rust and heat disapating vanes are clear.  Turning wouldn’t hurt the but it wasn’t necessary.

I bought the disc pads for all 4 brakes.  It cost $120.
I took the calipers apart and checked the pins to make sure they moved freely.  I then replaced the front pads.

I then moved to the rear brakes.  I use a “C” clamp to push in the caliper piston on all other disc changes in the past, but in the rear this didn’t work.

I went to YouTube for direction to find that the rear pistons need to to turned back into themselves.  Below is the tool that is needed to put in my 3/8” drive socket wrench.

This tool cost $13.00 (below)

The tool is designed to adjust 6 different type of calipers as each side has a set of different placement and type of pins.

I used the tool and finishedvthecrear brakes.

I then checked the filters and both were in good shape and nothing that my airhose couldn’t address to clean them.

In the end I paid.

$120 for brake parts
  $13 for brake tool
$133 totalnpaid for about a $800 quote

The tools used are 
- lug wrench
- jack
- jack stand
- 14mm socket for 3/8” wrench below
- torque wrench
- bladed screwdriver (remove / replace brake pad guides)
- caliper piston adjuster
- 3/8” socket wrench and 3” extension 
- large “C” clamp
- possibly a hammer to loosen bolts

Prius dwellers have a choice in maintaining their vehicles.  Even if a small show was 1/2 the price you can save by learning g how to do it yourself.

Although, I have done brakes manybtime in many vehicles I have had my Prius since 8,000 miles and I knew that around 100,000 miles I would need to do them.

Always consult proper technical information before attempting repairs on your vehicle.  Ensure you have and use appropriate safety equipment.  When in doubt bring your vehicle to a trained mechanic.


Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Vehicle Comparison including RAV4 & Highlander

Hi folks,

Since getting home from this year’s travels I have been very busy around the house getting many things done. My thoughts have been with vandwellers having linked up with two couples in MA.  I took a short trip for a long weekend getaway in ME too.

Some time ago, I was asked to include the RAV4 and Highlander in my blog.  The following is a reader of this blog’s question.

“I am interested in buying Rav4 or Highlander. Could you please compare these cars totally grade with your 3 cars ?
thanks a lot”

Below is the Toyota RAV4 I caught at an event.

Although I have never owned a RAV4 I have gone to the showroom many times to look at them.  Why?

Answer: For all the things I love about the Prius and all the things I don’t like about the Prius.  If I hadn’t my Tacoma or found a Fleet shell model I suspect I would be in a RAV4 today for my travels.  

First, is ground clearance and the RAV4 gives me better ground clearance over my 2011 Prius and the newer Prius that is yet again a bit closer to the ground.  

Look up Ruby, AZ on Google and see that I drive the road from Nogales to Ruby only to get there and couldn’t get over s cattle guard that had too large of a drop off on the other side.  My Prius would have hung and gotten stuck on top of the guard.  

Ruby Road is leftbto right at top of picture.  The cattle guard is on Ruby Access Rd.  (Brown rectangle) can only go over guard crossing.

So, follow the map from Ruby to Arivarca.  A few miles north of Ruby the road crosses a wash.  The water wasn’t high, but the ridges left in the road from moving water made it impassable for the Prius to continue to Arivarca 

Above this is the section of Ruby Road on way to Arivarca with pin drops in both sides of the road Prius couldn’t get through without hanging on sandbars.

Fail!  But the Prius does well in so many other ways but so does the RAV4.  For me it has to be the hybrid RAV4 to fill in for the Prius and it does.  Drawbacks of the RAV4?  Yes.  The current RAV4 hybrid has a battery bump to design around, but I can design compensat for that.  Any other issues? Yes. The RAV4 hybrid is not true all wheel drive.  After reviewing the design of the AWD it does not matter to me that the front wheels are powered by the engine and back are powered by the electric motor.  Heck the Prius doesn’t have AWD

Now to the Highlander and yes the hybrid version.

Below is a Toyota Highlander picture I took from a Google search.

I owned an older non- hybrid highlander and although nice and more room, I don’t care.  I’m good in my Prius for room and don’t need more at the cost of lower mpg that doesn’t make sense.

So, as you can tell.  I have an opiolnion.

This year at the RTR I met up with my friend Susan from Oklahoma and her new RAV4 and installed a solar panel that I would be proud to have on my RAV4.

You can’t tell it’s there and you passively charge lithium battery so you don’t have to run the engine.  Susan’s RAV4 is not hybrid and she gets all the solar she needs from 80 watts and can set up to charge her lithium battery when she drives if she wishes.

An additional testimony is directly from me as Susan followed me and my Tacoma with FWC camper up and down roads that were challenging.  Yes this is true and I was sold on the RAV4 since I left Utah at the end of March.

Am I still a Prius guy.  Yes I love my Prius but one day it will need replacing.  The RAV4 is the only vehicle I would replace it with right now


Friday, June 1, 2018

A Test Of My 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 Battery

I had bought a 50 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery for my FWC camper for this year’s (2018) travels.  I figured I would want more than 30 Ah Bioenno LiFePo4 battery I used as my house battery in the Prius.  The reason for the larger battery was that the camper had vent fans, more lighting, and more things to charge.  

The 50 Ah was great this year and even with heavy cloudy conditions I got .5 amps charging from my 170 watt solar.  I guess that I could have used the 30 Ah battery but decided to have it as a backup.  In the end I didn't use the 30 Ah at all.

I decided to conduct a test of the 30 Ah battery (before returning it to the Prius as the house battery) and a 900 watt inverter to make iced tea in my iced tea maker that uses 750 watts. (Setup in picture below)

For the technical inclined the 900 watt MSW inverter is set up with 4 gauge wire 24” long.

The Bioenno manual for the battery states 30 amps continuous with max 90 amps for 2 seconds only.

My test with the 750 watt draw used 64.8 amps continuous for the full brewing cycle.  This is about 10 minutes.

The voltage dropped to 11.47 volts during the 64.8 amp draw.

When the brewing cycle was done the battery rested at 13.17 volts. (It started at 13.3 volts). 

Since I was using 64.8 Ah from the battery it would have been fully depleted in about 20 minutes.  So my test used about 1/2 of the battery’s capacity or 15 Ah.

If charging with the 10 amp charger from Bioenno, or 10 amps from my 170 watt solar panel, it would fully charge in a bit over 1.5 hours.

I contacted Bioenno and asked if it was ok for the battery to be subject to this high of a current draw considering the specs stating 30 amps continuous.  Bioenno said it was ok for me to draw this higher amperage the way I did.

Bioenno makes great LiFePo4 batteries and their technical support is very responsive.  Remember that once the  battery is depleted it automatically shuts off to protect itself.

The purpose of this high current test is to confirm that the Bioenno LiFePo4 batteries can run a 600 microwave like the one below from Amazon and be recharged with solar or other charger.

Although I may not run a small microwave.  The battery has the technical ability to do it.


Thursday, May 31, 2018

Conclusion On Vandwelling Vehicle Experience

In the last 5 years of Brent’s Travels I have traveled between 16K and 20K miles in my approx 4 months each year inbthe road.

To recap my first year of travels in 2014 I had a Class B camper below.  Years 2,3&4 (2015,2016,&2017) my Vandwelling Choice was a Prius.  Finally this year was my Tacoma with a Four Wheel Camper (FWC).

Over a series of blog posts I have looked at different aspects of my various Vandwelling travel choices.  I now share what I plan on using next year 2019 Travels.

What I vehicle will I use next year:

Since I don’t have the Class B what is in the picture is my Tacoma/FWC or my Prius.

I actually like driving the Prius more than the Tacoma. The Prius is more cost effective, but it can’t get me off road to places I still want to go.  Overall I rated the Prius better too.

I have thought about the gas prices going up in this analysis, but I want to go back to Utah and go off road to see more sights.

Therefore, I pick the Tacoma/FWC camper for 2019 and I’ll live with the added fuel costs.  I think I can get at least 1 mpg more next year by reducing weight of what I carried.  Using 1013 gallons of gasoline this year means saving 1 mpg I’ll get to travel 1000 miles free.  So this is my goal to offset the rising cost of fuel. 

I’m sure I can save 1 mpg with the reduction of things I take next year.  

I’m not giving up my Prius.  In fact, I’m already putting back the 12v things I took out and used in the Truck/Camper and didn’t end up using.  The Prius will be able to be put into vandweller service if I want to take a trip or attend a gathering.