Thursday, December 13, 2012

Home Improvements

Joseph Herrin (12-13-2012)

Every now and then I like to post a writing on the practical aspects of living an unconventional American life, such as the Father has called me unto. Perhaps it is becoming less fitting to call it “unconventional,” for I am learning of more people all the time who are being led to downsize their lives, lower their monthly obligations, and live more simply. I am confident that making the transformation to a leaner lifestyle will serve the saints well in days of financial and economic turmoil that lies ahead.

The Dreamer

I snapped the above photo just a minute ago. It shows my converted school bus at the location I am presently parked at in a rural location in South Central Georgia. It is a very quiet place. The surrounding land is given primarily to raising cotton, corn, cows and chickens (the 4 Cs), as well as pecans. Many days I do not see another soul, which does afford me much time for quiet contemplation and for writing. (Although I have not posted many blogs recently, I have been carrying on a large correspondence through e-mail.)

I had mentioned that the roof AC unit on my bus quit working a couple months back. The Father was very gracious in that the unit did not fail until after the hot weather of the Georgia summer had passed. I was able to drive “The Dreamer” up to Camping World and get the AC repaired about a week ago. The starting solenoid had gone out. I suspect that very poor power quality at the last RV park I stayed at had a hand in it failing.

A couple weeks ago we had an early cold snap here where it dropped slightly below freezing two nights in a row. The freeze caused some line, or fitting, inside my tankless hot water heater to burst. It was not something I could repair, so I had to replace it. The hot water heater is pictured above. It runs off of propane and needs to be vented, which is why it is mounted outside. It supplies hot water to the shower in the back of my bus. Fortunately, the units are not expensive. A new one costs $105 on Amazon.

I learned my lesson, and will either drain the water out of the unit, or leave the water running at very low volume on cold nights, to keep it from freezing up again. There is an on/off switch on the unit which will enable me to switch it off when I am running water through it to prevent freeze-up. We don’t have too many sub-freezing nights here, so it will not be a regular event.

While I was at it, I decided to add quick connects to the water lines that run between the trailer and bus. Cold water is supplied from the bus to tankless water heater. It then returns via another line as hot water. When I drive the bus somewhere local I do not normally take the trailer with me. It causes some wear and tear on the hose fittings to have to disconnect and reconnect them. I have to keep them tight, so I had been using teflon tape and also tightening them with pliers, and I was concerned that the connectors would eventually be damaged.

Connections for Hot Water

You can see that I added a fitting to shut off the water as well. This enables me to keep the water pressurized in the bus when the water heater is not connected. I added a quick connect fitting to the water supply input as well (Pictured below).

If you have not used one of these fittings before, there is no screwing, or twisting involved. You just press the spring tensioned parts together and the hose will pull right off. It saves a lot of time when I need to go somewhere in the bus, but more importantly it saves wear on the connectors.

Another recent home improvement was the installation of some under the shelf drawers to hold spices. This freed up shelf space for me to store other items which were cluttering up my limited counter area next to my sink.

I installed three drawers. These are the only drawers in my bus. The furthest one is half the width of the other two, as I had less space to mount it.

The drawers drop down in the front when pulled forward which is a nice feature. It lets me access my spices more easily. Some of my readers may wonder at all the spices I have. I don’t eat out often, and I prepare most of my food from scratch, including baking my own breads from grains I grind into flour with the grain mill mounted in my trailer. When cooking from scratch, you come to appreciate a good selection of spices. If you are eating prepared meals, such as soup from a can, or an instant meal from a box, one might get by with salt and pepper.

When installing things in a motorhome one must always keep in mind what might occur when driving down the road. I did not want the drawers to come open so I used one of my favorite products - Velcro.

I have a piece hanging behind each drawer that I can attach to a piece mounted on the underside of each drawer when I am driving. I have velcro all throughout my bus. It is great stuff. My curtains are all hung with velcro. My curtain tie-backs are made of velcro and are held in place on the wall with velcro. I have storage containers on my counters held in place with the stuff. I have driven hundreds of miles and this has proven to be a good solution.

I know a number of people who anticipate living in an RV, whether a motorhome or travel trailer, in coming days when troublous times strike this nation. It is a real benefit to be an early adopter of such a lifestyle. It gives you time to figure out what needs improvement, and what is required for off the grid living.

When I built my bus I desired to put a wood burning stove in it to have a source of heat when electricity was unavailable. The Father graciously provided me a used one for only $40, which I installed near the front living area.

Wood Stove

There is a fan mounted behind the stove to circulate hot air throughout the bus. The fan is 12 volt DC and runs off of my auxiliary batteries. I haven’t used the stove that much as I have had access to outside electrical connections most of the time I have been living in the bus. (The end of this month will mark two full years of living in The Dreamer.) I do have a hand saw, an axe, and a hatchet for cutting firewood, but I have found that these hand tools are only practical for very small jobs. If I needed to lay in a good supply of firewood, something more efficient would be needed. (I am not Paul Bunyan. I am a wimpy man who sits at a computer day after day writing.)

As I have considered the manner in which I will meet various needs in coming days, I have desired to choose methods that will not require a dependency upon outside sources. For this reason I do not have a gas powered generator, choosing instead to use solar panels to charge my auxiliary batteries. I also did not want to purchase a gas powered chainsaw. I don’t like having to store gasoline, and what limited amounts that I could practically store would not last long.

I recently found a solution that is very much to my liking. It is a cordless electric chainsaw. Now, if you are like I was, you may think that a cordless electric chainsaw is a poor substitute for a gasoline one. I was surprised to find out how far this technology has advanced. Sure, you can still get a cheap, low powered, 18 volt chainsaw from vendors such as Black and Decker, and the batteries may last 15-20 minutes before having to be recharged for hours. However, there are far better electric saws. The one I settled on is made by Greenworks. It comes with a hefty 40 volt lithium ion battery, and it will cut through the biggest logs I will be putting into my woodstove. It will saw continuously for about two hours before needing recharging, and a full recharge takes only 90 minutes.

I did a lot of research before settling on this saw. The user reviews on Amazon’s site were very compelling. There is a similar 40 volt cordless saw by Oregon that sells for about $500. It has a few more features, such as a self-sharpening blade, but for my needs the Greenworks saw is a much better value for $220.

I was eager to get out and try it, so the day after it arrived I tackled a large section of oak tree that had fallen a year earlier. It was well seasoned wood, and something I could burn this year.

A previous occupant of the property had left behind a three wheeled baby stroller, the type that you can jog behind. I decided it would make a good firewood transport. I loaded up my cordless chainsaw, some oil, and my hatchet and work gloves, and off I went.

The above photo shows the large limb that I bucked into pieces which were a suitable length for my wood stove. The saw cut through the hardwood like butter. In short order I had my three wheeled conveyance loaded.

Got My Wagon Loaded

I discovered that all three tires had gone flat while sitting unused, but I was able to roll the wood with little difficulty back to my bus to store under shelter. One of the chief benefits of this saw is that I can charge the battery from my solar panels. I am not dependent upon available gasoline, or the power grid. The battery will outlast me during a wood cutting session. It is very simple to operate, and the blade tension adjustment is ridiculously easy.

I saved this next item for last. I am sure you will be amazed by it. It is a solar and wind powered clothes dryer. I have written about washing my clothes in a 7 gallon bucket with a plunger type device. I also purchased a mop bucket and wringer to get the bulk of the water out of my clothes. Completing my clothes washing outfit is this hi-tech, solar and wind powered clothes dryer. It was quite a bargain considering what it accomplishes.

And you thought that your grandparents’ generation was technologically deprived! They were using solar and wind power long before it was considered “green” to do so.

Now you know some of what I have been up to recently.

P.S. I supply links to the various products I am mentioning as there are generally a number of people who want to find out more about them. I don’t receive any compensation for sales of these items. The drawers listed above are available on Amazon at the following links:

Heart4God Website:    

Parables Blog:    

Mailing Address:
Joseph Herrin
P.O. Box 804
Montezuma, GA 31063


Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Joseph, for these practical tips and info!

Anonymous said...

Thanks so much Joseph, we appreciate your sharing this practical info. Our kids enjoy it too. Shalom to your home!

DissentFromDayOneDOTcom said...

I don't know if this is an Amazon mistake or not, but Amazon has the cordless chainsaw today at $47.98. I ordered one:

According to the description it DOES include the battery. I am not sure if there is a catch but I wanted to get one anyway and will deal it if it turns out to be an error. FYI and thank you for the practical posting. Enjoyed it all.

Joseph Herrin said...

The inexpensive listing for the saw on Amazon is NOT a mistake. The battery is the most expensive part of the saw. You can save some money by purchasing the saw and battery separately, if you choose to do it that way.

May you be blessed with peace and understanding in these days.