Nothing like a summer heatwave to slow things down. Here was the actual weather report for Portland on Wednesday, including a lot of smokey haze from brushfires all the way up in British Columbia:
I did successfully modify my cool digital weather station from 120V to 5V, so now its backlight can stay powered up like any other helm instrument. That involved cutting the plug off its AC adapter, and butt-splicing it onto this 12V-to-5V step down converter (replacing its crappy plug):
Getting this to work was quite the confidence booster. The only problem is, this voltage converter spits out 7.5V according to my multimeter — not 5V as advertised. It does work, but I wonder if it’ll burn out that gadget over time?
Next up is the TV. We’ve had this little 19″ Sony BRAVIA TV for a few years now, and it’s a trooper. It sports the requisite B&W design to fit the RETROvan theme. And it’s got great industrial design to boot. The problem is, where to mount it? It takes up a lot of shelf space so I don’t want to just set it on the galley counter. And the rig doesn’t have much open wall space to hang it, either.
So here’s my solution. This is a $129 motorized ceiling mount for flat screen TVs. Those X-shaped fins are optional, and I won’t need them for such a small TV. I should receive it Saturday, and then I’ll know whether the 100x100mm VESA mounting holes line up with my TV without some crafty modification. If so, then I’m good to go. This thing will be amazing, hung directly over the helm like some tactical heads-up display on a battle cruiser. It also has a remote, but you can make it hoist up or down just by nudging it too.
Its motor plugs into 120V AC, so I bit the bullet and will run a second Belkin power strip straight up the passenger wall from the helm’s AC panel. I’ll need to plug in the TV and an Apple TV box anyway, then I’ll still have three empty outlets on that side. To wire a power strip like this directly to an AC panel you have to cut off its plug, strip down its three wires, and butt-splice them to another cable. In my case I’m using Ancor 12/3 AWG marine grade wire for AC, along with Wirefy heat-shrink terminal connectors. So the business end of this power strip screws directly into a circuit breaker inside the helm, and the plugs never know what hit them. The two Belkin power strips I’m modifying this way also have their own surge protectors.
I’ve had to drill so many ragged 3/4″ holes in the RETROvan’s frame ribs that I just had to find some decent grommets. The ones I got from Ancor really suck, but these are great. They actually stay in place! Of course now I have to figure out how to replace all the bad Ancor grommets. I’ll likely wait until I have a good reason to pull a cable and push it back through, because that means replacing connection terminals which take a lot of time to fabricate. I may have to do that in order to install the wall panel next to the helm, which will require a line of holes or some kind of slot. But I shouldn’t forget how important these are. You don’t want power cables getting frayed by shrapnel inside your walls. So all of the 120V AC circuits will have these heavy duty grommets for sure, but I’m not so worried about the 12V circuits.
And that brings me to Climate Change. This week’s heatwave proves that two vent fans aren’t going to keep a metal box any cooler than the ambient air temperature, even running at full blast and even though the breeze feels good on your skin. At one point on Wednesday, my weather station said it was 109° outside and 117° inside. Really? I thought this was the Pacific Northwest — not Death Valley!So, I started researching A/C units and came up dry. I really like this new Blizzard NXT model by Dometic. But it’s a whopping 30×40″ and weighs 96 pounds! I only left 21″ between my two columns of solar panels, which means I’d have to un-tape them and move them. Worse, this unit requires a 20A circuit breaker, which means I’d have to replace a 15A module in my AC panel. This unit can be had for around $749, but when you add the required air distribution box and the separate wall thermostat, you’re looking at close to $1,000 with shipping.
I do like this Penguin air distribution box for the interior because of its retro design. But it’s not clear whether it’s compatible with that A/C unit. Dometic does make a Penguin top unit of course, but it’s not as sleek as the Blizzard — and it’s still 29″ wide which still won’t fit.
So now I’m thinking A/C can wait until maybe next spring, or I’ll just avoid being inside the RETROvan when it’s this hot. But I do hate the thought of opening up ceiling and wall panels later to retrofit more technology. The degree of difficulty for installing one of these systems is at least an 8, considering that Dometic doesn’t even publish any installation manuals. They want you to pay their dealers to do it for you.By the way, my Nostalgia Electronics fridge is still holding up its end of the bargain, maintaining around 50° even in 117° heat. I didn’t really expect that kind of performance, but that’s the advantage of having a real compressor versus the typical RV “cooler.”My backordered microwave finally arrived this week, and it’s appropriately badged as a “RETROwave” oven.
Oh, hey! I just got an email saying my eight porthole windows are ready to pick up. I’ll wait until the two back windows are finished too, then I’ll make a single trip up to Motion Windows in Vancouver, Washington. I saved a ton of money on crating and shipping that way.