Saturday, February 20, 2010

WINNER - That's a great pair of mods! ;)

Pretty cool I must say. There is a site that I've been following which gave me the idea for a few of my mods, and information as to why they were important to do. told me about the Trimetric Battery Monitor, and gave me information for others I want to do, and plan to in the future (wilson cellular amplifier, solar panels, macerator, etc.)

Anyhow - they ran a contest to give away a couple of fans, and it finally drove me to send some of the stuff in that I've done to our RV. The first I sent in on a whim, the Aluminum Plate I put on the door to fix that stopper problem. I rewrote it when I found out it was a good enough mod to post, and although the pics weren't great, the mod was creative enough to get posted and declared a contest winner! :) Pretty exciting.

Then, since I have a couple of other projects that I felt were pretty big and detailed, I thought about submitting another, but didn't want to overstep someone else. I did want that mod to get posted (the water heater lights), but hesitated to put it in for the contest because I didn't want to take away someone else's fan, and because I saw how important good photos were - I didn't have great photos. I went down there and retook the photos last night, then I submitted it last minute when nobody else had been awarded (and I mean like the last hour of submissions), and won another. Also - very cool!

As a winner, I get a Vornado fan (installed pic right) for both mods. An under-cabinet mount 120v fan that actually is a pretty nice idea. It runs fairly quiet, tucks up out of the way, has storage for the cord when you aren't using it, and rotates 360 degrees to push air into/out of the cabin to/from anywhere. I got my first one on Friday, and mounted it that very night next to where the desk will be, over the window in the kitchen (so I can get all the great breezes). :) I think I'll put the second one in the master bedroom over my nightstand. With the 360 movement, it'll work well for placement from the corner, and tuck up out of the way when off.

Overall, I'm excited that my mods were so well received. To me they've been very logical modifications, but maybe there are just so many different things to do, and so many different ways to do them, that they are cool. :)

I can't wait to submit my next couple of mods. Maybe I shouldn't tell them that the trailer hasn't even been out on an adventure yet?

Friday, February 12, 2010

Porch Light Upgrade - Star Light.

On my trip to the Harrisburg RV show I found a couple of products that were great. One of them was the Star Light, which replaces the standard porchlight with a motion sensor and a battery health monitor. It was the motion sensor I was really interested in, since black steps in blackness tend to cause bruised shins :)

They tout a lot of things with the light, and it seems a little expensive (~$100) for a light, but for me it seemed worthwhile for what it offered. Being able to walk up to the RV and see where I was going made a lot of sense. Plus, their other features:

  • the slight down-tilt of the light which lit more of the pavement than the side of another rig
  • the battery monitor that would tell you if you were green or red (under voltage @ 11.5v) from outside the coach
  • the security of knowing that if anyone walked up they'd trip the light. Supposedly the detector can tell between a person and a squirrel...

I ordered the light online and was able to find it for under $80. I only ordered one even though I have two porch lights because we intend to use one door more than the other.


They claim that the screw pattern matches most generic lights, so installation seemed like it would be a cinch. Same two wires, and pretty much take the screws out of the old light, pull off the butyl-taped backplate, lube it up with silicone and poof - done. In reality, it was tougher than I'd thought.

First - the screw pattern didn't match, not even close. So, after removing the old light and cleaning off the butyl residue I matched up one screw and redrilled the other three holes. This time, instead of using butyl tape, they recommend putting a silicone seam around the backing. They provide a groove to do so. I thought this would be simple, boy was I wrong.

Problem is that you're working above your head and off to one side. The ladder I was using was too small. I recommend that the first thing anyone who is installing this do is get themselves a nice little platform setup at the appropriate height. You'll see why in a moment. ;)

Anyhow -First step was to clean the area where the old light was. I used alcohol and cleaned around the entire area. Second I filled all the screw holes, old and new, with clear silicone so there wouldn't be any breaches for water to penetrate. Then, after putting the connectors on the wires correctly (white to white, black to black) it was time to silicone the back of the light. Problem of course is that you don't have a lot of space to work with since those wires are on. If you went to do it the other way, the light back will rub silicone all over the outside of the rig. [Recommendation: Two people on a platform would make this a much easier mod. Unfortunately, I didn't have that option.]

So having the light lubed up, the wires connected, I went to put the light in the right location, and lined it up with the wrong screw hole, smearing silicone all over the side of the RV trying to find the right one. I knew that not only was that a mess, it wasn't going to seal right, so I had to do it again. After cleaning up the silicone with mineral spirits (be sure to rewax the rig if you ever have to do this), I learned from my mistakes and put in some small rods (headless screws work well for this) into the correct screw holes, allowing me to put the light over them and just pushing it directly onto the side of the RV. Then, I screwed in the two non-rodded holes, removed the rods, screwed in the last two. Then, with a wet finger and a paper towel in the other hand, neatened up the silicone line around the light.

So - learning experiences here:

  • even if the steps are simple, the mod might not be.
  • find a comfortable position to do the mods that are above your head. Though that might sometimes be tough when out on the road, it would be worthwhile in materials, frustration and neatness.
  • silicone is messy if you get it wrong. Get it right the first time.

Overall, I live the light and it does what I wanted. One thing that I would like it to have is the ability to choose how long you want it to light up. I know their goal is to scare away things that shouldn't be there, and not to use too much power doing it, but it'd be nice if they let me choose how I want it to work. A simple waterproof push switch to choose long or short would be enough.

Would I recommend it? By all means. If you're interested in the mod, more information can be found at The website itself isn't the best maintained - the mail form wasn't working when I tried, but the info there is everything you need to know to do this mod.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Alarm... Alarm... why don't they put the right alarms in these things?

Why is it that RV companies, even fairly expensive ones, use the absolute cheapest stuff sometimes? The difference is just a couple of bucks, but I guess that if you do that a couple of dozen times, you fill out the bottom line. Still, at an $82K MSRP, I'm still surprised they went with the bare minimum just to meet the requirements. Maybe that's why they quit the biz?

I'm talking about smoke alarms. I just don't understand using alarms that you can't mute near a kitchen. I don't buy that's its being cautious - I'm thinking its really just all about being cheap and lazy.

Anyhow - I spent $10 and upgraded the alarm near the central area of the RV with one that not only has a 'pause' button on it (muting it if it goes off from burning something on the stove), but also has a light on it that lights the entire door/evacuation area when it truly goes off. Any normal house would have this (I hope) so that people don't go crazy, and the upgrade cost was minimal. The mounting bracket even fit into the same mounting holes. How easy can a mod be? ;)

All that stuff I read about the simple, little life-mods really makes sense to me. This one should be done by every RV'er, though it would make more sense if RV companies just spent the extra - what - 2 dollars wholesale? - and put them in.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Water Heater - show me the light(s)!

Since we have one of those water heaters that's a double boil... Electric and Gas -- it has a light in the middle of the switch. That light only goes off if there is a problem. Well, while that works for many - I have kids. They turn on the front lights to our regular house six times a day, and I need to know when a switch that's at their level is on without my permission... right?.

So, I decided it was necessary to put lights in for when any switch was on. Criteria was - 1. if it lit, it had to be very low draw. 2. lit up, it had to be rather small because I don't want it lighting up the room. 3. I didn't want to have to 'check the panel' by the door to see what was up.

So, I found some LED lights from Radio Shack - they were small, both in size and in draw. I'd seen from that it wasn't unheard of to make this mod, so I decided I knew enough how 12V worked to do it. I wanted to see if the waterheater was on.

So, I bought the lights, drilled the holes, found the connectors, and modified the switches. Now, when the WH is on - we'll all know. I think its a mod - using LED's - that should be made to every Water Heater.

Friday, February 5, 2010

FOOD POST: Five Guys, a pilgrimage?

I'd heard so many good things, so much press and they posted so much "best burger in the world" in the window that even though we aren't on our trip yet, I had to start the tradition that I plan on running throughout the trip and visit those places that are "must's" (like Nathan's, Primanti Brothers', Rueben's, Katz Deli, etc.) Icons in their own right - places that Food Network devotes hours to telling you about what they do ;) I'd heard that Five Guys was an icon.

So - Five Guys... We have one here in Lexington, and while we'd heard good things, we hadn't had the opportunity to visit yet. Young kids can be problematic when it comes to food, and that place failed on a number of fronts. First, the kids don't like hamburgers really. Second, and most importantly - they seem to be all about the peanuts, and though you readers may not know it yet, peanuts are not for us. One of the kids is pretty allergic, and its something we stay away from. Unfortunately, while I knew they served them in the restaurant (in the shell, but I went in to get it to go), I had no idea that's what they fried with - and it was everywhere. But, once you order (and plan to eat at a different location - right next door) you do the best you can.

First impression - it was fiiine -nothing special really. Simple menu, straightforward options and they seemed nice enough. I made sure to only touch what I needed to and make sure that I knew what I was getting. Jill and I ordered our usual type of burger and I ordered fries... After I paid, I regretted that order immediately (fries, once I saw the peanut oil), but went with the flow, knowing I could keep safe as long as I only touched the bag with one hand. :)

While the menu is simple - I've done that before :: In'n'out has a menu that's simple, and I go there all the time - they just don't need more options. Five Guys does offer toppings, and there are a lot of them. Jill, as usual, went pretty plain. I chose to get what I liked (three or four things including onions and mushrooms. I knew I'd be able to judge the burger on that combination.

They don't ask anything about how you're eating. Everyone gets a sack. When I discovered the fries were fried in 100% peanut oil, and then watched them pour extras in over the top of the packaged burgers (and on the bag, and it swelled with oil from the fries), I knew I was in for a paranoid evening. You'd think that with so many allergies out there now the company would take a little different approach, especially being national. I guess they get around liability with small signs on the doors that say "Peanuts used inside. Do not take them out of the store."

Anyway - where all this is going. I took the burgers in my left hand, and we went to our other location next door, where the kids got meals of their own. I had to be very careful about what I touched, where M sat, and what Jill and I passed back and forth. Let me tell you this - none of that was worth it. If I touch M all peanutty, she reacts. If she reacts severely, I can't do anything about it until after I wash... BAD place to be - and I'll never be there again... but I digress, we were talking about taste.

TASTE Bottom line - they weren't worth it. In fact, to both Jill and I they weren't worth it if they were cooked in anything else and I could eat them everyday without worry. My opinion was simply that it was a good 'Booster Club' burger that you buy to support the team at the home games. Certainly not something I'd go out of my way for, nor something that I'd 'travel hours to eat', as the signs in their windows tout. Matter of fact - the fries were so bad (underdone and I didn't finish close to a quarter) that I'd have opted for McDonald's over these. I understand why some people might find the restaurant good, but I'll not be one of the followers. If there were any other choice in town - I'm seeking that out, and that probably includes Shell Station Hot Dogs... so, yeah... 'nuff said :)

Anyhow - after a lot of paying attention to the things I touched, tossing the offending greasy bag, making sure that I washed myself in all the ways I needed to (lips, hands, under the nails, etc.), my experience was over. Peanut Oil aside, bad fries aside, I'm not sure why people whoop and holler for this fare. Maybe my expectations are set too high? ;)