Repaired my Xantrex inverter

Last year I bought a 1500w Xantrex inverter for my RV.  At most I expected to run my microwave.  I was testing it out when POP!  The power went out.  This inverter has a surge current rating of 2000W and microwaves don’t use that much power.  Still.  It couldn’t handle it.  I was sad.  I expected better from Xantrex.

Not knowing what to do I just let it be.  This year I decided I would try some exploratory surgery and see what happened.  What could I hurt?  It was already dead.  Maybe it was just a fuse or something.

Fortunately it wasn’t too hard to open up.  A few screws on the ends and pull out the bottom plate.

Taking the circuit board out would be difficult so I hoped that would not be necessary. There were a bunch of fuses which I was getting ready to test first.

I noticed right away that a capacitor had completely blown up.  There were cap guts all over. It seemed unlikely that JUST replacing this capacitor would fix the whole thing but what the heck.  I looked through my parts bins and found an exact replacement.  A 100 uF electrolytic.  It was used and had short leads but it was on hand.

The remaining plates sticking up wouldn’t hold solder so I had to remove the rubber base and trim down the plates to the leads.  I still didn’t want to take out the whole circuit board so I decided to just solder onto the existing topside leads.

I added some short wires to replace the missing capacitor leads and soldered it in place.  I was lucky. The positive side was marked on the circuit board.

It isn’t pretty but it will be perfectly fine if it works.  No big loss if not.

 

I buttoned it back up and connected it to my battery.  No FAULT light!  Promising! I grabbed a nearby fan and plugged it in to the 120V outlet.  The fan spun to life!  SUCCESS!!!!!   I just saved myself a few hundred bucks buying a new inverter.

Damn I’m awesome!  You would think women would be all over me.  If only they knew.

 

 

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Built my model house

It’s July 4th 2017.  I am happy to have a day off from work.  Really not knowing what to do to celebrate Independence day, I decided to just stay home.  It’s far to hot outside and the world is far too crowded anyway.  I asked myself, if I could do anything I wanted on my day off, what would it be?  The answer was stay home and enjoy the time.  Besides, where’s lonely guy going to go all by himself anyway?

I had a brain idea the other day to build a scale sized model of the house I want to eventually build.  I did some googling and ended up on Youtube watching Adam Savage build a model of his childhood home.  It looked easy enough so today I popped by the store and picked up three sheets of foamcore board.  Thanks Adam!

I already had a 3d drawing I did on my computer using Google Sketchup and another using a program called SweetHome so I already had the dimensions on record.

I spent a good portion of the day measuring, cutting and hot-gluing my model together.  It’s far from finished but at least I have the basic framing done.  I might also build some furniture and accessories.  I’ll probably print out flooring and tile and glue it to the floor and walls where appropriate.  It might end up being rather detailed by the time I’m done.

You can see the room layout.  The roof slopes from 8 feet in the back to 12 feet in the front.  The large front room will be the kitchen and living room.  The back side is divided into the bedroom and the bathroom.  You can see a piece of the roof that shows how it overhangs the front to shade the top windows which will be electrically operable for air flow in nice weather.  It has a nice 10 foot wide porch that stretches the whole width of the house.  I’m really going to enjoy that.  I’ve always wanted a large porch to sit in my old-man rocking chair.

All the rooms are very large and spacious including the bathroom which will have huge shower and laundry rooms.  The kitchen is huge an will have a lot of counter space plus a large island.  I never have enough counter space in my current kitchen.  The whole house has a fairly modern and clean look while being very simple to build.  The simplicity is reminiscent of early house design before families exploded and houses became unnecessarily large McMansions.

It’s a 1/24 scale model and the design is completely my own.  I probably should have gone into architecture.  Apparently it’s in my blood.  I understand my father built a scale model of his dream house once too.  That’s kind of cool to know since I don’t remember much about him.

I believe I will be able to build this house pretty much all by myself.  I did the Sketchup model board by board as if I was actually building it.  That took me a very long time but that was during my last job where I had nothing else to do for 8 hours a day.

I really like the way this foam-core model turned out.  I impressed myself again.  I never cease to amaze myself.  It just goes to show that one can do anything he puts his mind to.

 

 

TARDIS almost finished

Last year I, crazily enough, decided to build another TARDIS to sell.  Thought I might make some extra cash.  This will actually be my third.  My 1st eventually rotted away in the back yard due to rain infiltration.  The second is on it’s way to the same end due to lack of maintenance and rot.  It might still have a year or two left in it if I don’t do any upkeep.  Just too lazy and it’s way too hot outside.  100 degrees in the sun is most unpleasant and the winter slipped by before I had time to do any upkeep.

So the third was intended for sale on Craigslist.  It costs me around $400 in parts and a year of labor so I expect to get at least $1500 to make it worth my while.  More if possible because I’m not going to build another one anytime soon. I’m pretty sure this is my last one depending on how well it sells.

Number three is almost done.  Just a little more wood work, preparation and paint and it will be ready.  I may even have a buyer lined up.  There is a restaurant here in town that is known for such novelties.  They had an interview in the paper with the owner who said the he would like to add a TARDIS to his collection.  I’ll probably go and hit him up when it is done and see if he wants to buy it.  If not, I’ll put it on Craigslist and I’m sure it will sell quickly.  If not that, I’ll keep it myself to replace #2.   I’m sure that as popular as Doctor Who has become, it will be an easy sale.

 

 

Smart Meter Installed. Booooooo!

I came home from work today to find that the dreaded Smart Meter has been installed.  I was kind of surprised to see that they hadn’t cut my power because they can now see that I have solar panels feeding power back into the grid.

Now it’s just a matter of time before I get a call or letter asking why they are detecting reverse current at my meter.   My choices will be to turn off the solar system that I spent a lot of time and money on or spend unknown mass quantities of money to have it made official.  Neither one will make me very happy.

I guess now we just wait and see what happens.  What is my punishment for going solar?  Stay tuned and we’ll see how this pans out.

 

 

What to do?

mynwhseI’ve been mulling the idea of buying the aforementioned house in the woods.  I’ve been both ways and back and fourth on the issue many times.  It’s still early and I plan to think on it more but here’s the brain-facts so far.

The price is good and I think I can get it even better.  They list it for 99K but mention “Bring all offers.”  I might try offering $75 due to it’s poor condition.  I shouldn’t wait too long though because special things tend to disappear if you don’t act quickly.  This seems special to me though not for everyone.

Assuming I sell my investment portfolio and buy it what would be the plan?

I wouldn’t move right away because that would mean quitting my well-paying job and losing my healthcare which I currently need.  I’m hoping to see what becomes of TrumpCare before I know for sure.  I would probably just hold on to it for 1-3 years before moving.  That would give me time to fix it up a bit and make it habitable.  Property taxes would cost me $2500 a year.  I would have a place to visit and enjoy away from the city that is MINE!  Once it is habitable, I could start looking for a new job in the area.  Something always comes up eventually if you wait.  There’s always something available for a special person like me.

Money spent on buying land or a house is never “lost”.  Just transformed.  If my retirement plan doesn’t go as expected, I can always sell it and get the money back plus more because it will be in better shape than when I bought it and property always goes up.  Even during the recent depression you did not find any property cheap as you would have expected.

I don’t really see how I could lose on this deal.  My investment portfolio wasn’t doing anything anyway.  Even in an up economy over the last few years I ended up down at least 10K.  That won’t happen with property.  I still have plenty left in my retirement portfolio and other investments that are doing rather well.  Even after all expenses, my net worth was up $36k last year.

I think I’ll think for a few more days and get more serious next week. I didn’t hear back from the realtor so I think I’ll find a different one who is more local to the area and see if I can meet him/her there for another look-see and get their impression on the deal.

Once the deal is done, There’s no rush to move or do anything. (After a new roof is installed to protect the remaining salvageable interior.)  I can take my time and have a feeling that my dream is actually within reach.  That would be a wonderful feeling indeed.  Certainly worth the price.  What do you think?

 

 

 

My Future House In The Woods?

mynwhse
Actual picture of the house.

This weekend I hit the road to look at some houses and land in a small town.  Something my broken heart yearns for. I had a number of potential candidates printed out so I spent the day on the road.

The first house I looked at was the best match with what I am looking for.  It is a partially dilapidated, home-built, country house located on 6.8 wooded acres of land about 15 miles away from my small town of choice.  I usually do my house shopping on my own first before contacting a realtor because I don’t want to waste his/her time with my window shopping.

Looking into an open window showed that the house was empty and surprisingly did not smell exceptionally horrible as I expected.  A little pet urine but nothing really nasty.  The front door was locked and had a sticker on it with words about tress-passers being shot.  A little scary but there was nobody there.  I walked around the outside to the back where I found a large step past a missing deck to the back screened patio door which was not so much a door as a piece of highly worn plywood.  The screened porch area contained a nasty washer and dryer.  I was surprised to find the back door not locked and hanging open.  “Come on in.”  it said.

The house is only 1000 square feet consisting of a large living room, good sized kitchen, big enough bathroom and a good sized bedroom with a strange office/2nd bedroom just of the first bedroom.  I would use it as an office.

The metal roof has been leaking in a few places and the ceiling had collapsed.  Not too bad though.  The structure looks good and a new roof and drywall work will fix it right up.  The floor is a mess.  A hodgepodge of mixed media from nasty carpet to bare sub-floor.  Not a big deal.  I can do flooring.  The hot water heater seems to have sprung a major leak at one time.  It was located in a small box in the bedroom closet.  Due to the leak, there is mold on the closet walls.  I can fix that.  The leak must have been large or went on for a while because some of the dirt under the house in that area had been eroded by the flow to about 6 inches deep.  It doesn’t seem to have compromised the pier foundations.  That’s good.

The bathroom was pretty messed up.  A large but fancy tub was rigged with an electric on-demand water heater sitting on the sink plumbed through a gaping hole in the drywall.  I guess the water heater was gone for a while, while people still lived there.  They tried to make do but were obviously not plumbers.  It looked bad but nothing I couldn’t fix.  I would replace the tub with a walk in shower and replace the sink and toilet and put down new tile.

The kitchen was also a mess.  The old cabinets would have to go.  I would get rid of the bar and move the sink from the wall to look out the window.   After a remodel it would make a nice sized kitchen that would suit me well.  There was the 4 foot square hole in the ceiling where the leak was.  Parts of the drywall was falling where the seams were.  I would replace it all anyway.

The living room is not in bad shape.  Replace the old carpet, remodel the fireplace wall a bit to remove some built in bookcases and paint would be sufficient.  A large sliding glass door leading out to the missing deck would be replaced with a nice french door and a new deck and stairs.

I was a little surprised to see that there was no air conditioning or heating system in the house.  I don’t know how anyone can live like that.  I would put in two high efficiency Mitsubishi split heat pump systems.  One in the living room and one in the bedroom.

The exterior is not high quality but in decent shape.  I would probably replace it with cement board siding anyway.

The house is set back maybe around 100 feet from the road and completely not visible from the outside except to passers by the driveway entrance.  The driveway leads through the brush offering nice privacy so I can run around naked at all times.  The tall pine trees are alien to me and were scary.  I like them though.  It’s one of the things I like about the area.

I braved a walk through the brush and fallen trees toward the back of the property which is the largest area.  About halfway I found a seasonal stream that would run when it rains.  On the other side, more forest.  I didn’t go any further.  Satellite images show that it is rather thick.  If I cleared out the underbrush in the middle it would be pretty cool.  I would build a bridge over the stream.

Back at the house I found a outdoor shower and a decent sided shed that would make a good workshop and tool storage building.  I might put in a larger one.  An old MG convertible car sat low on the ground.  I wonder if that is included.  It is probably not easily revive-able but I might give it a shot.

The place needs a LOT of work but it is actually around 80% what I am looking for.   The other land and houses I’ve looked at over the last few years have been in the 5% or less range so 80% might be a keeper.  I like the fact that it needs remodeling because that will give me something fun to do.

Now I have to decide whether I am man enough change my life like I want to.  I could easily move and take a year or two off to remodel then look for a job in the town.  Maybe I could get into something completely different than computers like house inspecting or real estate.  I wonder what is involved in getting started in that?  It would be nice to work on my own schedule for my remaining years.

I would only be 1.5 hours away from my mom so I would not feel so bad about leaving her like I would if I moved to Colorado.  Technically, this plan is a go.  Mentally…not sure yet.  I’m sleeping on the idea for a while before I do anything rash.

The asking price is $99,000.  More than I think it is worth in that condition but I might try to see if they will accept $75,000.  If they sell for 75-80 I would feel OK with the deal.  I have 89K in my extra money investment portfolio so I could pay cash for the house and skip the mortgage.

I could sell my current house for $140K or rent it out for a few years and make $1100 a month off of it.  Sell later.  Maybe.  It would be nice to have the income if I wasn’t working.  It would at least pay my Obamacare bill plus more.

I wrote to the realtor on the sign but he hasn’t responded.  If I don’t hear from him in a few days, I’ll try a different realtor.  He isn’t even local to the town for some reason. I would rather deal with a local anyway.

I’m taking it slowly.  In the shape that it is in, I don’t think there will be too many buyers right away.  It has been on the market for around 160 days as is.  Maybe that will help me get a good price.

The more I think about it, the more I like the whole idea.  We’ll see.

 

Off-Grid RV Camping

cmpngsptNow that the weather has (relatively) cooled off in Texas, I decided it was finally time to get away from work and take a little vacation.  I scheduled some time off and booked a spot.  The location wasn’t exactly what I had in mind because the whole world is currently booked up but I was lucky enough to find a place at Canyon Lake.

It worked out because I had just installed 200Watts of solar panels on my roof and needed a sunny place to try them out.  This place had water and power but I decided to pretend to be dry-camping so I filled the water tank at home and planned to not use any shore power.  There are really no legal places to boondock in Texas because all the land is owned by some bastard or another even though they probably never even visit it.

pnls2
Two 100W solar panels

I arrived and set up camp.  There were no clouds to be seen the whole time so I had full sun on the panels.  I designed the mounting system myself using aluminum angle iron.  These L shaped pieces are full of holes making mounting a snap.  I bolted the rails to the roof and then using a tap-and-die set made holes in the corners of each panel so that I could use thumbscrews to hold them either flat or with the addition of a brace (unfortunately on the other side of the panels) keep them at an angle.  The angle is best for winter camping.  The cables run along a flexible conduit down the refrigerator vent.

pnsls1

Seen from the ground, they look damn cool.

I kind of expected them to be a conversation starter at the campground but the other camping zombies weren’t conscious enough to realize a good thing when they see it.  Nobody cared but I had a great time being off the grid.

It’s really just as much fun as you think it is.

CntrollrI used a MPPT charge controller I bought on eBay for around $80.00.  Be careful.  Not all charge controllers on ebay are actually MPPT.  False advertising is rampant in this category.  Make sure before you buy. This model is verified to be MPPT so I got maximum power out of it.

Shown here, I have it mounted next to the power converter conveniently located under the sink next to the refrigerator so only a short run of wire was needed.   It was a quick job to connect right to the battery cables on the power converter.  Don’t yell at me about the wires.  I’ll tidy it up eventually.

WTTSHere you can see the readout on the charge controller.  It indicates a battery charge level of 12.9V.  11.7Amps or 150 Watts are being supplied by the solar panels in full sun.  Pretty good to get 150W out of two 100W panels.  There’s always some loss.

Even in the shade in my driveway I got at least a few watts.

I was easily able to run the ventilation fans, lights and the inverter to power my entertainment system.  It’s really quite fun to be watching TV and using power that is coming directly from the sun.  Why isn’t this stuff everywhere?

So now I’m ready for real boondocking.  In the winter of course.  I would need to cover the roof and tow a trailer full of solar panels to run the air conditioner for summer camping.  They really need to come up with a more efficient way of keeping cool.