05-23-12: Work on the engine began today (she is having a lil trouble getting started). Things I learned by doing today: 1. Changed the oil and oil filter 2. Replaced the ignition coil 3. Changed 3 of the spark plugs (1 broke so will finish on Friday) 4. Watched the ignition control module be changed out 5. Oh, and learned the basics of what a fuel-injection 6 cylinder, 4-stroke engine does. We were unable to get her going, but have some ideas on what to check on next work day. The distributor cap could be a source of the problem with ignition.
05-25-12: Today we went through a series of tests to see what part of the ignition system is not working. Mark is suspicious that the PIP is bad, so based on an online forum we took the following steps: 1. Check for power (is there power to the ICM/Ignition Coil Module)-probe #4 red wire then test with the volt meter, should show 12 volts. PASSED. 2. Is the ICM getting ground? Is it connected to the frame? Probe #6 black wire to positive lead. PASSED. 3. Test the ignition coil signal. Probe #5 black wire to negative, crank engine and the LED meter should blink in a pulse. FAILED. This test should indicate that the ICM is bad, but we just replaced this so we are not sure about this one. 4. Is PIP signal received by the ICM? Probe #1 wire with the black LED wire, red to positive. Crank and observe, LED should blink. PASSED. So, now one question is if the wire from the ICM to the coil bad? We talked this over with a very effective diagnostic mechanic in town, Steve Kessel of Conoco, and when we explained the scenario and that we were going to replace the PIP, he recommended we just replace the whole distributor. Therefore, this is what we intend to do next week on our next work day. Stats for the current engine: 1991 Ford F-150, 6 cylinder, 2-WD, 4.9 liter, fuel injection engine. The forum website we used for the checklist: http://easyautodiagnostics.com/ford_ignition_module/distributor_mounted_module_1.php Today we also worked on a batch of biodiesel. We were having trouble with the titration process and discovered that the 1% KOH solution was actually meant to be 0.1% of KOH in distilled water (1000 mL). Mark’s favorite biodiesel website: http://www.dudadiesel.com/
05-29-12: Today Mark and I set up the new distributor, distributor cap, and rotar to see if we could manually get a spark going. Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful so we tried our previous ICM series tests to see if something different came up. After much wiggling around, we realized we were past our knowledge capacity and decided it was time to tow the RV to a mechanic to see what they can see. Let’s cross our fingers!
05-30-12: Today we went out to the north shed to free some glass panes from their wooden frames. Salvaging glass panels is a little tricky and delicate…I learned this when I was almost finished completing one and then the corner broke off. This glass can still be used in a different project, but will not be sufficient for a solar panel. We only freed up 4 panes today, my allergies were getting the best of me, and we headed back to campus so I could start cleaning the glass. We also decided that the best configuration for the solar system will be a 24 volt system using a series-parallel layout. Each panel will product appx 70 watts…with an average of 4 hours of sun charging then that will create 280 watts per panel, so a 10-panel system should average about 2800 watts of power per day.
05-31-12: Today I continued to work on prepping the panels of glass that will be used in the solar panels. I finished 3 of them today, figuring out that it takes 50 minutes per piece of glass to be cleaned enough to be used for a solar panel. Tomorrow I will likely have a helper as there are many lovely people who want to learn this themselves.
06-01-12: I worked on getting the salvage glass out of its frames today. After an hour of pounding away with my hammer from home I realized that I did not have “the right tool for the right job.” I bought myself some yardwork gloves (it is a challenge to find smaller gloves) and borrowed the bigger hammer from the workshop, and then suddenly it was like I had been doing this project my whole life. I salvaged 3 panes of glass…almost had 4, but the last one busted (it was single pane so I would not have used it for my project, but it could have been given some other purpose). I then took the panes of glass to my lil temporary workshop and cleaned one of them up to solar panel status, but that was all I had in me for one day. Hopefully on Monday I will, with Mark’s help, be able to get 3 more panes of glass from their frames and get them tidied up, ready for soldering on Tuesday. This was a very productive day and I will sleep well tonight :).
06-04-12: With the help of a dear, sweet classmate, Emily, I was able to harvest a few more glass panels. We almost had all 3, but then a few broke, one was discovered to be too small….it was a wee bit frustrating. Then, when we had them back at the “workshop” and were cleaning them, another one busted. When working on sustainable projects it is good to keep in mind what you have an abundance of….is it money? time? labor????? If you have a lot of money, but not a lot of time, sometimes it might be beneficial to pay someone else to do the labor intensive projects. I do not, however, have a lot of money, but I have a whole month in the summer and the month of December to do this project, so in my situation it is all labor and saving the big bucks! These panels will cost about less than $40 a piece, and retail would likely go for about $150-$200. Nice. Worth all the hard work and sweat and muscle aches. The mechanic who is working on the RV thinks the next step is replacing the brain box, so we ordered the part and tomorrow I will pick it up and deliver it to the diagnostic genius, Steve.
06-05-12: After delivering the brain box to the mechanic, I had another challenging day of trying to harvest glass. I had glass after glass bust on me this morning, I was red in the face from the heat…really not a pretty site. Finally, however, the final pieces were salvaged and cleaned…this is a relief. I also finished testing all 400 solar cells, with a few breaking in the process and about 4 of them being below grade A quality. This was a very productive day and tomorrow I will be ready to start soldering the cells and really seeing the magic happen :)
06-06-12: The days of soldering have begun! I only completed 1 panel today, but with my speed increasing and the addition of a fan for the soldering fumes, I should be able to finish 2 panels per day…so I should have them all completed in 5 working days. When they are all done a layer of silicon will go on the back and frames will be built to encase each panel. I have calculated the following as an estimate of time invested in each panel: Harvesting glass: 25 minutes per panel Cleaning glass: 50 minutes per panel Testing solar cells: Appx 2 hours/400 cells=12 minutes per panel Soldering cells: 120 minutes per panel Applying silicone: Estimating 15 minutes per panel Building/applying frames: 30 minutes per panel For an estimated 4.5-5 hours investing in building each panel x 10 panels=45-50 hrs of labor
06-07-12: 06-08-12: I continued to solder cells today until I ran out of solder. At that point, I took the remaining long-tabbed cells and strained their tabs out and batched them together in piles of 12 (1 short-tabbed one for the beginning piece, the rest long-tabbed). Now I am ready for a little production line set up. 06-10-12: A friend was willing to help, so today I went in and worked on finishing panel #5. I had run out of solder on Friday, so with a new batch of solder in hand we created a little production line. Kevin tapped the solder on the cells and I took the batches of tapped solder cells and adhered them together. This technique went ridiculously fast! I am now out of cells with long tabs that are ready to be soldered, so on Monday I will finish my 1-1/2 panels and then will need to adhere tabbing onto the cells…not quite sure how to do this yet. I also decided to use a piece of glass that I had harvested last week, that ended up being too short in width, to use for the solar cooker. I cleaned it and my friend will take it to get cut, likely to 20 inches in length (staying at its current width of appx 14 inches). We will create the dimensions for the solar cooker based on this piece of glass.
06-11-12: I spent most of today using the last of the tabbing wire to turn the short-tabbed cells into long-tabbed cells. When I ran out, I then began to harvest tabbing wire from broken cells.
06-12-12: Today was a mixture of harvesting tabbing wire from broken solar cells plus adhering it to the short-tabbed cells. This process started out frustrating, but then was fun and the time flew by! I had a helper in the afternoon who tapped dots of solder on the newly tabbed cells, so tomorrow should be a breeze.
06-13-12: The 10 panels are finished with the soldering! I am out of the thicker tabbing wire, some is on its way in the mail, so gonna make today a half day, hopefully can finish them up by Friday.
6-14-12: Now it is time to build the bridges that will connect the rows of soldered solar cells together, to make a complete series in a zig-zag fashion. This is delicate work as the spacing on the sides of the glass is limited and we don’t want the tabbing to run over the glass. I am not sure how we will have room for the wooden frames that will be built, but this I am sure I will understand better when we get to that part. Oh, and I got my first real battle wound today….set my forearm right on the very, very hot soldering iron!
6-15-12: I finished the building of the bridges and then discovered that Mark remembered One More Step that needed to be done before we can test the panels. I took a short, maybe 3-inch, piece of tabbing wire and doubled it over then stuck that under the bridges I just built and soldered it on. Then, when all were complete, it was time to finally test the panels! We laid down 2 pieces of glass in between 2 tables so that it was open space on the bottom, placed a light source underneath, and then was able to place one panel at a time on the glass to see if we are getting power. All the panels tested between 7.8 to 9+ volts, all except for ONE! I moved around some cells, releasing the tabbing with the soldering iron, in parts where I thought the cells might be touching and intereferring with the flow of power. I could not figure this one out, so Monday is another day. I will then set up at least 2 lights underneath and can test the rows, where I should get a quarter increase in voltages on each cell (if one cell is getting 0.80, then the next cell should be getting about 1.25 volts). So what does that all mean: Ohm’s Law V = IR Power P = IV From those you can calculate voltage, amps, watts, ohms V = Voltage (volts) I = Current (amps or amperes) R = Resistance (ohm’s) P = Power (watts)
Oh, I singed my hair for the first time on the soldering iron, well that was unpleasant. Here is a working spreadsheet of my energy needs: Energy Needs-Usage Spreadsheet
06-18-12: First thing this morning Mark helped me figure out what was wrong with the one panel that was only getting about 0.5 volts, when it should be getting around 9 volts. There was an incorrect built bridge from one row of cells to the next, and this was easily fixed. When completed, the panel was getting 8.5 volts, a success! Then we began caulking the panels with silicon in between all of the cracks in between the cells. This is a stinky and uncomfortable on the wrist and back process, but I am getting the hang of it. We then mixed one full tube of silicon with the Xylol and make a mixture that would be poured on top of the cells, encasing them all together. This is a super duper stinky process and I ended up going to buy a charcoal dual respirator face mask to help me get through this safely. During the pouring of one batch, I noticed that one of the tabs came unsoldered, so I had to scrape the mixture off of that area and scrape the to-be-soldered areas clean with a utility knife and sandpaper and was able to re-solder this tabbing, thank goodness. I have noticed that when the silicon mixture dries that some of the tabbing wire is not completely covered, so I am guessing that, to be safe, I might just do a quick row of silicone caulking on each row of tabbing wire. Tomorrow I plan on testing the panels that have been “gooped” to make sure we are still getting appropriate voltage.
06-20-12: I had that “ah hah” moment when I figured out that if I poked 2-3 holes into the silicon tubing instead of just 1 then my whole life is different. Suddenly the silicon flows out easily, with like 3/4 of the effort needed to squeeze the trigger eliminated. It definitely comes out faster with the risk of wasting a little, but I tell you that I’d pay bit fat money to make this process so easier and quicker. I do get stronger every day, at least on the right side of my body. Also, so far all of the encased panels have measured at least 19.5-20.5 on the volt meter :)
06-21-12: Yesterday I ran out of Xylol, so today I went to 5 different placing looking for it, and no luck. So I went in and did some caulking and made a trip to Ottumwa, a nearby town (25 miles) that has a home store…Menards (in Florida it would have been Home Depot or Lowes). I could have spent all day in there! I stayed pretty late since I was so close to finishing the enclosure project, and I did it! Now the panels are ready to be mounted, but I think we will add one more piece of something to the back to give it more support and they will be ready. Mark’s vision is to mount some 2 x 4s on the roof with a divet in the wood that the panels will slide into, with something at each end of the wood that will keep the panels from moving around, and some sort of strapping system (I couldn’t vision this part of the project, but I will see it soon enough). We also checked in with the mechanic today and he is going to commit some time tomorrow to figuring out the engine problem, and will call on us for help if needed.
06-22-12: I measured the length of the roof today while it is still sitting at the mechanics, waiting to be repaired. I tried to climb up the ladder mounted on the back of the RV, but after pushing aside the tree branches that were all up in the ladder, I discovered that the ladder was not securely fastened, so I quickly got off. I then tried to climb up the ladder that I borrowed from the SUM workshop, but once reaching the top of the ladder I discovered that I felt very unstable and unsafe and did not trust myself to hop onto the roof without someone below to make sure I was steady. Therefore, I measured the roof by just measuring the width of length of the body of the RV. There is also a vent from the bathroom on the roof as well as the AC unit, which I estimated the length of and will have to subtract that from the surface area. I measured the length to be 20 feet 3 inches, and the width to be 7 feet 10 inches. The vent is approximately 2 feet in length and the AC unit is approximately 3 feet in length.
06-24-12: This was not part of the project, but because of what I learned through this project I was able to confidently change my oil in my personal vehicle today. This was hugely empowering for me. Oil Change: Position pan, pull oil plug, let drain, unscrew filter, if vertical, fill with oil, oil gasket, screw back on, reinstall oil plug, fill with oil (don’t overfill!!!) use dipstick or owner’s manual. Use 10-40 in summer, 10-30 in winter unless manual says otherwise. My SUV recommends SAE 5W-30 all year round).
06-25-12: The solar panel aspect of the project is at a standstill because the RV is still at the mechanics and is not available for the mounting of the panels. I am supposed to be researching inverters and charge controllers, but I am finding this search a bit over my head/understanding in regards to the correct product to purchase. Mark is out of town today, so I will work with him on this tomorrow.
06-26-12: One of my biggest struggles while doing this project is fully integrating amp, voltage, and wattage in all the different elements of an energy system. After spending some frustrating time researching inverters and charge controllers that will handle a solar and wind system, Mark finally broke it down for me once again, hopefully to finally stick in my brain. MY solar system has 10 panels at appx 70 watts a piece, for a total of 700 watts. Since P=I*V, if you want to decipher the ampage of a system you can change the formula to read I=P/V, where P=700 watts and V=24 volts (the type of series system we will use, with 24 volts worth of batteries). Therefore, I/amps equals 29 amps. Now, if I plan to have a small wind turbine, which would approximate 500 watts of input, I then need to so the same with a 1250 watt system of input. So, 1250 watts/24 volts=52 amps. In this scenario, a 60 amp charge controller would then be sufficient. This is the charge controller I just purchased! http://colemanair.us/vp_asp/scripts/shopexd.asp?bc=no&ccode=C60-PWM As for the inverter, I had to calculate what my instant load would/could be. This means to add up the wattage of every possible thing that one might be running simultaneously at any given moment. As you can in the spreadsheet below, my total instant load is 1107.16 watts. Mark says I could likely do with a 1000 watt inverter, but a 1500 watt inverter would be more ideal. Therefore, when I research inverters I will look for a 1500-watt, 24 volt input, 60 Hertz inverter. Tomorrow Mark and I will meet at the mechanics to help him with the diagnostic process of getting the RV up and running :) I also started researching golf cart batteries for the solar/wind system. I was unclear why Mark thought these kinds of batteries were ideal, and so he said “The main thing you need to know is that batteries come in two classes: 1) starter batteries, designed to give a lot of instantaneous energy to start a vehicle. Most batteries on the rack will be this type. 2) storage, or deep-cycle batteries, designed to give out moderate amounts of current over long periods and to be drained down without damage.” I had found a utility vehicle battery and was not sure if that was the same as a golf cart battery (the little icon picture sorta looked like a golf cart). Mark that it was likely a starter battery variety. He also said that “as a “cheap” solution you could use two 12-volt “marine” deep-cycle batteries, but I caution you that they don’t have nearly the amp-hour capacity nor the resilliance of the four 6-volt golf cart batteries.”
This is the projected layout of the solar panels on the roof: 06-29-12: What a productive day. First we re-measured the roof of the RV, with brave Mark actually climbing up top, and it’s a good thing because there were vents up there that we did not see from the ground which will get in the way of our set up. Also, the layout I had drawn out was oriented incorrectly. In order to not mount to the roof membrane, we will have 5 rows oriented horizontally with 2 panels in each row. We then went and re-measured the panels and drew out our layout and make a cut list. Then, we went to the north shed and got some of the spare wood left over from a previous project and I learned some knots in order to mount it to the truck to get it back to the workshop (the round over and double hitch and trucker’s knot…these names may be incorrect). We came back to the workshop and then measured out the wood, make the appropriate cuts with the circular saw (and I made 1 inaccurate cut). We then measured the halfway point of each piece and cut them down this middle line with the band saw. Finally, we ran the pieces twice through the planer on the cut sides.
07-06-12: We assembled the 2nd panel frame! The silicone needs to dry overnight and then we can flip them and do the wiring. I will likely add a silicone caulk layer on the back too, just for added support. 07/09/12-07/13/12: This was a week of finishing up the panels, securing all of the wiring, touching up any missed silicone caulking spots, drilling holes for the wires to go through, and attaching the junction boxes.
8-05-12: My friend, Kevin, used his mad welding skills and made me the body of a solar cooker! All I need to do is have the glass cut to fit, insulate the sides, and paint it all matte black. Happy Ree.
08/08/12: Today, with the help of Mark, Jim, and Patrick, we loaded the panels in the back of Mark’s truck and drove them up to the RV (as we are not going to want to drive the RV after the panels are on top in case it takes some time to get them mounted). The fellas, with the tiniest help from me, got the panels up on the roof of the RV….this is one of my most stressful events so far (will we drop them and break them…biting nails).
08/10/12: Today I am feeling significant frustration with the project. I asked a friend to be my helper to mount the back brackets, but I quickly learned that each bracket had to be altered because it was either too long or too far away from the wood frame. I let him go and waited for Mark to be free to talk it through. I was then left to my own to mount the brackets and this was terribly scary and frustrating for me. I do not have any experience working on a ladder, barely hanging on while I am drilling into the side of the RV (which alone causes me anxiety, will these now be sources of water leakage or critter holes???). I thought for sure that I would fall down and break my neck, but by the grace of the Universe I did not and I effectively cut each bracket where needed. The caulking used for additional support needs 24 hours to dry and I am wiped out from my emotional morning, so gonna call it a day. I also duct taped mylar to the wings of the solar cooker, I can’t wait to use this sucker! I need to find someone to cut the glass and then attach a handle to the glass and then hopefully she will work “as is” without insulation or painting.
08/13/12: Mark is not very available this week, so again I am feeling a bit lost on this adventure, doing things I have never done in my life, filled with all sorts of anxiety. I will graph out a sketch of the front part of the mounting on graph paper to have an idea of how high the panels will be able to be propped when parked. I still don’t know how we are doing the front mounts, so hopefully I will be able to sketch this out properly. I also made a copy of the keys to the RV…fun stuff. Mark better explained the graph, so I think I have it figured out…if we want a 45 degree angle on the panels then we will need to weld 2 brackets together for each front side, not a big deal (we will ask Nelson, the metal master in town). I also got up in the RV and started measuring distances, trying to decide where to put the wiring from the panels on the roof, into the RV. It looks like the wire will come from the outside and go into the east side bedroom cabinet, down the wall, L down, and then in through the bed frame, then out into the battery box outside. I cleaned up the batteries that Mark I lending to me until I can afford my own set (also good to be sure the system works, which I am sure it will, before I dish out $400 for golf cart batteries (ouch).
08/15/12: I did not get much done today because Mark was busy and it was the new student orientation, which I volunteer for. I did, however, meet a really sweet couple this evening that lives in their 16-foot RV that they drove here from Utah…I can tell we will be really great friends and have tons of stories to compare. They have a desire to help with the project, which I am thrilled about! I hope to be able to show them how it could be done on their rig :)
08/16/12: I mounted all of the front brackets today…easy sneezy! Today I drilled the hole from the outside of the RV into the inside of the RV (through the bedroom cabinet); this is one of the steps I was feeling anxiety about, goes against “nature” to drill through the wall of the RV, in my head.
08/17/12: Today I mounted the charge controller and began wiring the system. I drilled the hole from the bed to the battery box, which was something I was hesitant to do.
08/18/12: We’ve got solar power! Today I finished wiring the panels to each other and then the panels to the charge controller then to the batter box! When I left the charge controller monitor was reading 26.9 volts. This is a magical day! Now, I need to decide where I will mount the inverter (I want to disenable the inverter that controls the wiring to the existing outlets and use our power source, maybe with an alternate switch when I need to plug in somewhere)
08/21/12: Today I temporarily plugged in the inverter which takes the solar DC power and converts it to AC, usable, power. I was able to run a fan just sittin in the parking lot of the Sustainable Living parking lot…this was tooooo cooool! I did have some sparky issues with plugging in the batteries and was very, very, very hesitant to work with them. See video below, hehe:
Today I also hooked up a 12-volt battery and tested the fuses to see which went to which lighting system. We might need to install a DC to DC converter to change the 24-volts my system is putting out into a 12-volt that this part of the electrical system can handle. When I arrived at the RV the charge controller box was on “overheat.” Apparently this box like a 72 degree Fahrenheit max and it was definitely hotter in there than that…hopefully this will not cause us any problems.
08/24/12: Today I finally started to mount the panels to the brackets! This took longer than expected today because I realized the bolts I had bought were not long enough for the front brackets of each panel and the ones on the driver’s side were too short altogether. I went and got new bolts, only to discover later that even the new ones were still too short because we needed enough length coming through to the other side for 2 nuts. I also got new hardware to fix the ladder on the back that goes up to the roof, this project is mostly completed, but not yet finished. Oh, and Mark and I played around some more with the existing 12-volt wiring, trying to see what goes to what. We got some lights to come on the display of the fridge, but don’t think it is working yet. Did I ever mention how everything takes FOREVER! Bad news…one of the panels is cracked :( I am totally depleted. Mark is going to donate a 3/4 finished panel that I will caulk with silicone and let it rest, ready to be installed in place of the broken one next week. Ugh.
08/27/12: I picked up even more screws to try to finally finish fixing the RV ladder. I am officially in love with stores like Orscheln’s and Tractor Supply Company. I pulled out one of the bulbs in the RV and will research an equivalent LED 12-volt version of this 1141 bulb. Go ebay!
08/28/12: Today I finished off fixing the RV ladder! I will test this tomorrow when I have people around, just in case. Not much to be done on the RV today w/o Mark, so I will do some more research on LED 12-volt DC lights for the RV. Tomorrow I will have friends helping me test out the arms that were built to prop up the panels for optimal sunlight.
08/29/12: Today was a big day! With the help of my friends, Jenti and Barbara, I unbolted the arm side of the panels, got on the roof (super scary), and was able to tilt the panels up on the arms, giving it about a 30-degree angle. This took a lot of time and nerves, so I did not attempt the highest notch on the extension arm (about a 45-degree angle), but I am sure it can be done. What did I learn today? I learned that there is no way in heck that I can do this by myself while on the road. Barbara and another friend, Josef, had some good ideas about ways to get the panels up in a way that I could do it by my lonesome…gonna discuss these with Mark and see what he thinks. Big day, yes indeedy.
08/30/12: Today I just did a lil cleaning…she needs a good wipe down after sitting for 2 years!
09/09/12: Today was a big day of pulling out the cracked panel and replacing it with the new one. This was, as I expected, a big ordeal that made my heart drop in my tummy. First Mark used his knife to cut away the existing silicone on the broken panel. Then, we made the mistake of unscrewing too many parts of the frame and several other panels started to pop out and I was certain they were going to break. Luckily, by the grace of the lovely Universe, we are able to carefully put the new panel in and pop all the strayed panels back in, got the frame back together, and everyone snug like a bug. After the silicone has set we will to back up there, prop up the panel and silicone the bottom side and solder the wires to the new panel and we should be back in business!
09/28/12: Installing the new golf cart batteries now. I discovered that the terminals on these batteries are not the same as on a regular car battery, so I had to buy battery cable and these terminals and soldered them on to connect the batteries to each other. What a pain in the rear!