Where the Livin’ is a Little Easier
This post is just kind of an update to the prior one, just for those having a morbid sense of curiosity. That’s so you aren’t left with the situation appearing to be in limbo. Now that I have broadband DLS Internet and running hot and cold water, life is good.
The new blood pressure-lowering meds are a slight dampener on both energy levels and outlook, which requires more perseverance to bull through each day. As a result, cleanup has about a day more to go before I will be able to touch or lean against everything in the trailer without fear of wearing black or white clothing. It’s been a bit overwhelming, but the naps are good.
As for cleaning, I worked on my old-style IBM “clicky” keyboard, which was long overdue for a good scraping off. I was careful to rub each key with a cotton cloth dampened with Simple Green. The problem apparently came when I took a dampened toothbrush to the more resistant parts. I let it dry overnight, but when I turned the desktop computer on the next day, it didn’t recognize the keyboard as being attached. Dead. Waited another day and tried it again. Nope. Fortunately, they are still available from the same outfit (Unicomp) that made the original IBM-style keyboards and bought the patent, though they are relatively expensive. In the meantime, I’m using the wireless Apple keyboard that originally came with the iMac desktop. Though it’s quite effective for keystroke feel, it just ain’t the same as those classic units that once drove the people in the surrounding cubicles nuts from the noise. Sometimes, you just develop a preference for something, and nothing else will do. If you’ve never used one of these, then of course you’ll have no idea what I’m talking about. That’s okay. It’ll be a week before the replacement shows up.
The clogged drain situation compelled me to call in the troops (a bonafide plumber). Turns out that the 1994 Gulf Stream Innsbruck’s plumbing setup is funky. Not only did the joint connecting the two kitchen sinks include a molded-in mystery plate cutting water flow in half and stopping my cleanout devices from going past it, but sloppy assembly at the Gulf Stream factory produced a pipe run to the grey water tank that’s free of any incline at all. Unsupported, it also sags enough in the center to create an enhanced spot for grease and debris to settle. The only way to mechanically correct it is to get full access to the full span and brace it up enough to create a pronounced incline. That requires disconnecting and removing the stove/oven unit, which of course is not going to happen. As a consolation, the plumber replaced what he could to eliminate the blocked joint, and added a cleanout that will let me shove in a rooting thingie and take a shot at clearing out that unfortunate pipe run. And, now that the trailer is not boondocking, he also advised me to be generous with my use of water, to try to get stuff all the way to the tank. Way to go, Gulf Stream.
That overall assembly approach matches the oddities with the 20-gallon freshwater tank that I discovered a couple of years ago: if a flexible hose to that tank or a draining or hookup fixture needs replacing due to age deterioration (like my leak-prone tank drain valve), good luck. The water tank has been pre-assembled and fixed in place, so that clamps and doodads are either inaccessible from lack of space and/or are oriented such that there’s no way to get a tool on them. Since the tank itself is now trapped by a surrounding bench to hide it, and that bench is constructed such that it cannot be disassembled without essentially destroying it, that makes any problems with plumbing in this area unserviceable. It’s a safe bet that were I somehow in the market for a new TT, I’d be ignoring the existence of Gulf Stream, its parent company, and all of its new step-sibling brand names scooped up during the last “recession”. Features like this reflect a top-down management policy to minimize build costs and boost profits in any manner possible, and tend to be infectious across brands, regardless of their former reputations.
The balky Mr. Heater Portable Buddy is now in a dumpster. A dual-mantle Coleman propane lamp is filling in until a smaller heater arrives, perched atop a Mr. Heater Compact Distribution Post. This distribution post mounts to a bulk-size propane tank and offers multiple outlets in order to supply propane to several gizmos at the same time, if needed. For example, you could fuel a couple of lamps and a propane grill at the same time. The main benefit for me has been to hold the bright Coleman lamp securely at chest level. This lamp has represented Plan B for warmth on cold mornings since I first hit the road, offering somewhere around 3,500 BTUs at full-gun. That’s officially enough to heat 100 square feet, while the entire trailer is closer to 200 square feet. The plus of the Coleman lamp is that its output is highly adjustable, while its negative is that it is not specifically rated as safe for indoor use. This perturbs me little, since the Defiant is fairly leaky as far as sealing effectiveness goes, and it’s an easy matter to crack open a window or vent at each end of the trailer.
A 3,800 BTU Mr. Heater Little Buddy (which is indoor-safe) is onroute to me now. Built to mount atop a 1-pound propane canister, this heater will replace the Coleman when it arrives. But what about the relatively limited heat output? In the past, I’ve used the full 8,000 BTU output of the now-defunct Portable Buddy only occasionally – to break Quartzsite’s overnight lows in the high 20s, and to speed up initial heating in more normal temperatures. Yuma is always a few degrees warmer, the Defiant’s location in the RV park has consistently less wind, and so there’s much less need for the Buddy’s extra heat capability. This trailer isn’t going anywhere any more. If I don’t need it, I don’t want it, and it’s nice to have a heater that doesn’t take up additional aisle space or use a fallible rubber hose. When hoses finally split or loosen at the connections from being moved around, they can cause considerable excitement, which is one thing I also don’t need in a box full of combustibles. The Little Buddy’s ceramic plate is angled up at a 45-degree cant, so if it spends too much time throwing heat at the ceiling, a joint in the distribution post allows remounting it at tabletop level. It should work out fine.
These heaters throw a heap of heat directly in front of them in the form of radiant heat, more so than convection heat where warm air is expelled. I’ve always been a bit wary of how people place them in confined, junk-filled spaces like truck campers and vans. I think it pays to be a little paranoid, both from a fire standpoint and an emissions standpoint. A blurb in a local paper has stuck in my mind over the years, one about a man and his grandchild being found dead in his truck camper, the cause being a “propane heater”. No doubt this was the equivalent of a cooking burner mounted to a 1-pound canister, or similar. They are extremely cheap, but consume all the oxygen in small spaces, replacing it with carbon monoxide. The smaller the space you have, the pickier you need to be. The choices are widening in heater types, and rather than regurgitate my ignorance here about them, I’ll shuffle you off to a very nice article here.
But I will mention the one problem I’ve found with oxygen-sensing heaters, which shut down when they detect that oxygen has been somewhat depleted within the given space: elevation. Camp at 7,000 or 8,000 feet, and it’s likely that your Mr. Heater ceramic will fail to fire up, as mine regularly did. It treats thin air as having not enough oxygen, and you’re quite likely to have no heat that morning unless you have a Plan B to fall back on. I assume that other heater brands that detect oxygen levels share the same issue, but that’s no more than an assumption on my part. Probably wouldn’t hurt to Google “elevation” along with the heater brand/model you’re considering.
The Little Buddy I’m getting likely suffers from the same limitation, but since the Defiant is staying put at 246′ elevation, it’s no longer an issue for me. This elevation thing is a prime reason why I opted for a traditional vented factory heater in the Four Wheel truck camper. It needs no such sensing devices, includes a genuine thermostat, and fires up no matter what. Set and forget. It supposedly is much less efficient than a ventless heater and uses onboard 12VDC electric power to run its fan, but neither of these “problems” seems to apply to it. Apparently, it is small enough that the camper’s 20-gallon propane supply still lasts a very long time, and its fan must be pretty efficient, because there are no dings to the batteries in running it all night. True, I do have an excess of battery capacity available, but other devices such as the inverter or the idling laptop show a detectable voltage drop, while the heater does not.
The one thing I do know is that, if using a Mr. Heater Portable Buddy adapted to a bulk tank with a hose, they call for you to add one of their filters in line at the heater connection. This is because the plasticizer used to keep the hose nice and flexible bleeds out into the propane flow, and eventually ruins the heater. The Mr. Heater filter I used was poorly made, and its seal was defective. As soon as the heater fired up, the leak ignited with it, and the only way to stop the impressive flames was to shut off the valve at the tank and wait for the supply to run out. This was an exciting few seconds, since I’d placed the heater against an interior wall. I feel that a better idea is to swap out the standard hose and filter for Mr. Heater’s “green” hose, which lacks the plasticizer. This hose may be a little stiffer, but needs no add-on filter. This 10-foot hose, P/N F273704, is not actually green in color, and looks like any other, but it simplifies the setup. My “new” setup will get rid of the hose entirely as a risk point. That’s it for Tips & Tricks, Strolling Amok style: don’t set your rig on fire! That’s always good advice, I’d say.