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Monday, April 22, 2019

De-winterizing - 2018 Lexor TS

Spring is finally here and we're ready to de-winterize the fresh water system on our 2018 Lexor TS.

As with any of the information on this blog, we're not professionals so, take what we say with a grain of salt and consult the manuals for your specific RV before proceeding.

The procedure is pretty-much the opposite of the winterizing process we wrote about in this post: Winterizing - 2018 Lexor TS

Supplies we used were a drinking water safe hose, glass measuring cup, bleach, phillips head #2 screwdriver, and an RV Water Filter.

We broke out a new Camco RV water filter for this process.  We use these for a season and replace them annually.

There's great debate over whether to put the filter close to the faucet, or at the tank end of the hose. We fall into the faucet camp thinking that it will keep the hose as clean as possible.

To freshen the water system, we add 1/3 cup of bleach into a gallon of fresh water.

That's all the bleach we use.

It is NOT 1/3 cup of bleach per gallon of tank capacity.
Before proceeding, check the valves under the van to insure they are all closed.

Here are the three low point drains in the closed position...
...and the fresh water tank drain valve in the closed position.
Now we are ready to add fresh water.

Open the fresh water door and  put a little filtered water in.

Next, pause to add the gallon of diluted bleach.

Finally, continue filling until the tank is about 2/3 full then replace the cap and close and lock the door.

Moving inside the van, take a look at the plumbing under the galley sink. Check to make sure all the fittings are connected.

We unscrewed the hose just before the water strainer last fall and it hasn't yet been reattached in this photo. It would be easy to miss without looking closely.

After snugging the hose on by hand, the fit now looks good.

Next, turn the pump on and watch for leaks.
With the pump turned on, run the cold water until the pink anti-freeze is out of the line.

Again, check for leaks under the sink around the pump.
Now move the handle to run the hot water line until it runs clear.

Note that it won't get hot yet. We will work on the hot water system later in the process.
Moving to the bathroom, depress the  pedal to flush the pink anti-freeze out of the toilet bowl and lines.
The valve should work freely and the water run clear.

The bathroom sink should be run on cold and again on hot until the pink is gone.

By this time, the smell of bleach should start to replace the smell of anti-freeze.

Don't forget to also run the shower attachment until the anti-freeze is gone from that line.

Ours shower head is an after-market replacement with a metal hose. You may have a plastic hose and shower head.
For those of you that made it this far, here's a bonus. Fellow Pleasure-Way owners Trish and Duane told us about this suction cup soap dispenser. It has held on for over 10,000 miles so far, but can be easily released to clean the counter.

Search Amazon for "Cuisipro 13.2-Ounce Foam Pump, Chrome" if you would like one. They were $12 last time I looked.
Back to de-winterizing, it is time to move outside and run the exterior shower until both the cold and hot water run clear.
With that pink stuff out of the pipes, now we take care of the hot water system. Our unit has a Truma AquaGo Comfort Plus.

Twist the top knob a quarter turn counter-clockwise to open the water heater compartment.
Find the water filter. We tucked ours in the lower right corner last fall when we winterized.

Pull the yellow lever out and down after releasing the black tab right above the word "Caution."
With the yellow lever down, insert the screen end of the filter into this round opening.
Orient the filter so the word "TOP" is on top and the pins drop into the slot on the yellow handle.
Gently return the handle to a closed position. The black tab should click over the top when it is locked in.

Back inside the van, remove the four phillips head #2 screws holding the panel that hides the water valves.
Here you can see the valves in the winter position. This bypasses the hot water heater.
Now that the anti-freeze is out of the system, all four valves can be returned to their summer positions as shown here.

Red is hot, blue is cold, and white is the hot water recirculation line. The valve between the red and blue lines is the water heater bypass.
Now, to test the hot water, turn the "LP GAS" switch on.
And turn the Truma Power to On. It doesn't matter if the switch is up or down, as long as it isn't in the center "off" position.
Back inside, run some hot water to release any air bubbles from the system.

Now the AquaGo control can be turned on. Here it is shown in the off position. The detent on the knob is tiny and the same black color that makes it difficult to see.
One click up turns it on.

Run the water in the galley sink and listen for the burner to ignite. Keep running the hot water and it shouldn't be long before you feel hot water coming out of the faucet.

A solid green light means all is well. If the light is flashing, consult your Truma manual for troubleshooting advice.
Next, check the water heater exterior and see if there are any leaks.

If everything looks good, close up the cover.
Turn the latch clockwise to lock the cover back in place.

You should now have a working water system.

To complete the freshening of the water tank and lines, close everything up and take a short drive around your neighborhood. That mixes the water bleach combination and sloshes it around the inside of the tank.

We let the bleach solution sit overnight to help sanitize all the lines, then dump and refill the tank and lines with fresh water the next day.

That's it for the water system. Now take out your maps, find a friend (furry or otherwise) and plan your next adventure. We hope to meet you down the road.

I hope this was helpful. Please leave constructive suggestions in the comments. We're always looking for better ways to do things.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Can I leave this on?

New RV owners often ask if they can leave the inverter, the fan, or some other appliance on. We all want to understand how long the power in our batteries will last. Newer Pleasure-Way vans include a tool, the Spyder Control Panel, that helps answer this question. If you don't have lithium batteries and a Spyder Control, check out our post on how to install a Smart Gauge.

The Short Answer

On the Spyder Control Panel home screen, a "Loss/Gain Amperage Meter" shows the current in "Net amps." It is the "-4A" shown in the picture. Net amps means the amount of current going into the batteries less the amount being pulled out of the batteries. The secret to learning how much current an appliance uses, is eliminating any current going into the batteries.  Eliminating any incoming current leaves how much current is being used by appliances showing on the meter.  Here are the steps:

1) Turn off any charge sources

2) Turn on only the appliances you are interested in understanding

3) Read the number of amps (A) from the meter (it will be a negative number)

4) Multiply this number times the number of hours you will use the appliance to get the number of amp hours (Ah) that the appliance(s) will draw.

5) Subtract this from your usable battery capacity (160 Ah in the 200 Ah batteries) and you will know how long the appliances can be run without recharging your batteries.

Example: Refrigerator on DC shows -16A. If we run it 10 hours overnight, it will exhaust the the entire 160 Ah usable capacity of the house batteries. That's why we run the fridge on propane whenever we aren't driving! Here are the calculations.

-16 Amps x 10 hours = -160 Amp hours. 

160 Ah usable capacity -160 Ah used = 0 Ah remaining

6) Now go ahead and turn your usual charge sources back on so you don't run out of power.

The Longer Answer

Insure there is no power going into the batteries. Pleasure-Way gives us lots of power sources, so here are all the sources of charging you need to make sure you aren't using before you can measure appliance power usage.

1) Disconnect shore power
2) Turn off the van engine
3) Turn off the generator
4) Turn off solar panels (use the red key) or wait until after sunset

With these off, you can turn appliances on and look at the reading on the Loss/Gain Amperage Meter to see what each appliance, or combination of appliances, pull from your batteries. Here are some of the readings we found in our 2018 Lexor TS.

Amps       Appliance
    -1          Inverter with no load
    -1          Propane Switch (in the on position)
    -1          Two phones charging via USB
    -1          Valence lights
    -3          All interior lights
    -2          TV with antenna amplifier
    -1          Vent Fan at 20%
    -3          Vent Fan at 100%
    -5          Furnace fan
  -16          Refrigerator on DC
-142          Microwave through inverter

Note that these are rounded to the nearest amp because the meter doesn't read less than 1 amp.

Amps is current used at a single point in time. If we want to know how much is being used over a longer period of time, we calculate Amps (A) x Hours (h) to get Amp Hours (Ah).

For example, using the 2 amp TV for 4 hours would consume 8 amp hours from our battery ( 2A x 4h = 8 Ah).

If we run the fantastic fan at 20% and have the propane switch on for eight hours, we'll consume 16 amp hours from our house battery bank ((1A+1A) x 8h = 2A x 8h = 16Ah) .

Boondocking example

Say we want to stay in a park that doesn't allow generator usage or have any plug-in power for three days. Here's how to estimate if there will be enough power. First we estimate how long we will use an appliance each day and calculate how many amp-hours that consumes.

Hrs  Amps    Amp-hrs   Appliance
24     x 1         =  24            Propane Switch
8       x 1         =   8             Inverter
2       x 3         =   6             Fan at 100%
8       x 1         =   8             Fan at 20%
6       x 1         =   6             Lights
                           52            Total

Multiplying hours by amps, then adding up the amp-hours, we get 52 amp hours each day. With no other usage, we would have 3 days worth of power with some to spare 52 x 3 = 156. Subtract that from our 200 amp-hour lithium battery capacity and we have 44 amp hours or a little over twenty percent remaining after three days. Read on to see why that is really closer to zero percent.

Battery Capacity
Although the Lithium batteries in the van have a capacity of 200 amp hours, that isn't the same as usable capacity. Just like cell phones or computer batteries, in order to preserve their life, we shouldn't use more than 80% of the total capacity before recharging. Taking 200 Ah x 80% gives us a usable capacity of 160 Ah.  While it is disappointing that we can't use the total capacity, lithium batteries are considerably better than older wet cell or AGM batteries where only 50% of the capacity is usable. We had a 110 Ah AGM battery in our previous RV that only had 55 Ah of usable capacity. The lithiums in our new Lexor give us almost 3x the usable capacity.

More Input
But wait, don't we have power coming in through the solar panels that can extend our boondocking time?  Yes, if you have solar panels, there is power coming in to offset the appliance consumption. So how much power? Pleasure-Way offers from one to three panels, each rated at 95 watts. Watts doesn't help us much because all our meter shows Amps. To convert watts to amps, we divide by the voltage.  Since our vans run on 12 volt power, divide 95 by 12 to get 7.9 amps. Unfortunately, solar panels aren't 100% efficient, so we need to further reduce this by 35% to get 5.1 amps. Round this to 5 amps and multiply times the number of panels on your van to get the total number of solar amps available. We have three panels so we have (3 x 5 = 15 amps) of solar.

How Much Sun?

If we have 12 hours of daylight, do we get 12 hours x 15 Amps = 180 Ah of charge every day? Unfortunately the answer is no. Solar panels only provide their full output when the sun is close to overhead so they are hit by direct sunlight. A good rule of thumb is to use six hours per day. This gives us 6 hours x 15 amps = 90 Ah added to the batteries every day.

Going back to our boondocking example, if we use 52 Ah each day, but are charging 90 Ah from our solar cells, we won't ever run out of power (90-52 = +38 Ah per day). Note that there are all kinds of things that can reduce solar panel efficiency; heat, shade, clouds, dirty panels etc... so it is good to build a safety margin like the 38 Ah above into your calculations.

How do you know how much solar charge your batteries are getting right now? The Go Power charge controller has a panel that will display that info.

Here the solar panels are adding 4.3 amps to the batteries.  If you don't see this screen, push the "B" button repeatedly to cycle through
Battery Charge %,

(this isn't really an accurate % of charge indicator because it is designed for AGM, not lithium batteries. A shunt based meter would be needed if you really want to monitor power in and out of your battery bank.)

to Amps.

In this case, it was late afternoon and shady, so we weren't seeing the 15 amp maximum our combination of three panels can produce.

If the camping area allows it, you can always start the generator and recharge your batteries, but we prefer the quiet of solar and only use the generator if we really need air conditioning. Note that the air conditioner isn't even wired to the inverter since it would overpower the inverter. Even if the inverter was higher power, the air conditioner would drain the 200 Ah batteries in less than an hour.

The bottom line for us is, with three 95 watt solar panels and the refrigerator running on propane, we run out of water, or fill our holding tanks, long before we run out of electricity.

An electrical engineer could calculate more accurate numbers with an understanding of how capacity is depleted or gained at differing rates of charge, but the above guidelines have been close enough for our purposes.

Some good battery  and charging information is available on-line. One of the best sources is the DIY Instructions area on the AM Solar website --> Click here for link

My reference for all things electrical is the Boatowner's Mechanical and Electrical Manual by Nigel Calder. The most current issue, as of March 2019 is the Fourth Edition (2015). There might be an equivalent book that is specific to RV systems, but this is the most understandable, thorough, and best illustrated book I've found. Please leave a comment, if you have a favorite electrical systems book to recommend.

Friday, January 25, 2019

Site Index

Index of Places 

Click on the blue link below to open an index of all the places we've visited:

Updated 3/14/2019
905 entries Indexing 385 of 385 posts

About the index: Although we tried having the index live on this page, it overwhelmed Blogger with over 900 pages of HTML, so it is now in Google Sheets.  Sheets is more interactive and allows anyone to sort and filter for the subjects and locations of interest.

Saturday, December 1, 2018

Blythe Island Bunnies

From Anastasia State Park it was a short jump over the Bridge of Lions into St Augustine. Stopping wasn't in our plan this time, but it is one of our favorite towns.

This Red Train waited at a light after picking up passengers at Castillo de San Marcos National Monument. The fort, completed in 1695, can be seen in the background.
Two hours later we exited I-95 at Brunswick, Georgia and pulled into Blythe Island Regional Park. A white rabbit lurking behind the van reminded me of a scene from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. We were offered a full service site, but noticed that there are "primitive" sites for far less, so asked if we could use one of those. Sure, as long as you will fit was the answer.
So, for $16.80 we chose site 18. There were only two other sites occupied in this 24 site section of the park.
We fit in the site without even needing to move the fire ring or picnic table.
Unlike the full service sites in the woods, our "primitive" site backed up to the river.
Another day, another Lexor. This twin belongs to Jack & Linda Dunnigan. We're stopping to visit them on Silver Girl, their winter sailing home.
Jack and Linda gave us a tour of Brunswick Landing Marina, their home port while they prepare for sailing south.

The clubhouse is a nice gathering spot.

Their porch gives a good view of one of the 15 groups of docks. Screening doesn't help the photo, but does keep the Georgia bugs away.
The marina is known up and down the east coast for having free beer.
But an even better amenity is a clean and free laundry room. Plus the marina owners have a great sense of humor.
Dunnigans recommended Marshside Grill for local seafood. The trawler docked behind the restaurant was a good sign and we weren't disappointed. We bumped into another sailing couple, Duane and Peg Siegfried on Wanderer, so were able to make new friends as the six of us swapped stories over fresh fish and shrimp. Thank you Jack and Linda for the tour and visit.
Crossing Fancy Bluff Creek after dinner brought us back to the campground where we enjoyed a lightning show before drifting off to sleep. We woke to showers and grey skies in the morning.
Speaking of showers, the campground had nice modern facilities back over in the full service area.
Cute cutouts made the park look festive.
And a shrimp litter sculpture advertised Georgia's most valuable water crop while urging folks to keep the waterways clean. Georgia shrimpers pull an average of  3.4 million pounds of shrimp from area waters every year. There was no mention of how much trash.

In the distance are two car carrying ships delivering new cars to a one of the largest terminals on the east coast.
The park does have a launch ramp for pleasure boats. With significant tides, you might wonder how to get boats in and out.

A "monorail" launch is their answer.

Hook your boat up to the lifts.
Use the remote control to power your boat down the monorail.
And gently lower your boat down to the floating dock. There's a video at the end of today's blog if you want to see more about this unique boat launch.
Having explored the park, it was time to visit the office and check out.
The covered porch provides a nice social area for people... and rabbits. We learned that one of the campground hosts breeds rabbits and they are allowed to roam the campground. Apparently they don't lose too many to gators or coyotes. This is a delightful campground with friendly people and some unique residents. The only drawback is an occasional whiff of sulphur from the paper plant up river.
Beth had to explain to this bunny that we didn't have any rabbit food before we were allowed to leave the park.
By five-thirty we were home in Durham trying to find our driveway through the fallen leaves. It was a good end to a fun twenty-nine nights of camping over the 2,432 miles of (mostly) Florida back roads.

Monorail launch video. We put videos at the end of blogs because blogger cuts off emails when it encounters a video.

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