Archive for December, 2007

Skirts and keeping warm

An RV is not easy to keep warm when it is cold out. The needs for portability conflict with what is needed to maintain and provide warmth. Insulation is usually rather thin. Supplies of propane or other energy are rather limited. There is a lot of surface area for a small interior volume.

If you are hunkered down for the winter, you can often rent a 100 gallon propane tank with a service to fill it up every month or so. You can add insulation to the windows to help reduce condensation and heat loss. You can also add skirting to take the entire bottom side of the RV out of the surface heat loss equation.

Skirting connects the side of the trailer to the ground so that the air underneath the RV is trapped. The heat that is conducted through the floor is not carried away so fast. The heat from the ground, which is often warmer that outside air, also helps reduce RV heat loss.

One favorite temporary skirting material is hay bales. A more civilized approach would be to use panels of materials from the home improvement store. 1″ styrofoam insulation is inexpensive and easy to cut to shape and should hold up for a season. Other options include OSB (Oriented strand board – Wikipedia) or even canvas or plastic sheeting. Duct tape can be rather handy with these installations but do keep in mind that a winter storm with high winds and heavy blowing snow might do significant damage to temporary skirting.

Another issue for winter living in an RV is keeping the plumbing working in subfreezing temperatures. That topic is for another day.

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Christmas, the nativity, what if …

Edwin Leap, M.D. speculates about what it would be like if it were modern times instead of Roman times – Joe, Mary and the baby.

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WBCCI SNU does a Christmas lunch

The WBCCI Sierra Nevada Unit gathered in a solar heated home in east Reno for their December meeting. Don and Randy headed the Death Valley rally planning, Jerry was getting geared up for 5 motocross events including a Baja run, the Roots were remembering their vacation at Zion and good times in an old Airstream (despite tire trouble), Don had a photo gallery going on the TV, The judge and the lawyer were discussing the good ol’ days, — There was just not enough time to catch up on everyone’s plans and gossip and business and happenings.
WBCCI SNU December 2007
See the photo gallery!

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Maybe a break in solar is on the near horizon

Solar energy has been a tarnished hope for many years. Cheaper methods to collect it have long been promised but realizing that promise has been a challenge. This time, it might just happen. There might actually be a significant bump in cost effectiveness with CIGS (copper indium gallium selenide). This is the ‘third wave‘ of solar power according to Nanosolar.

To make the solar panels you see on a typical RV requires a plant that costs about $200 to make a year’s worth of that solar power capability. The new CIGS method might reduce that plant cost to $25 and use cheaper materials and processes, too. Nanosolar has announced that they have their plant in operation but that its entire 2008 production is sold out. Shell appears to have moved its commitment from the old type solar panel to CIGS. Other manufacturers looks to be coming on line as well.

It may be that this will put some downward pressure on the price of solar panels over the next few years. If it does, that will make solar even more attractive for the RV crowd, The problem won’t be price so much as where to put all the panels you’d like to have.

The problem, however, is that solar electricity takes a lot of real estate, said Stanberry. The sun radiates about a kilowatt of energy per square meter on the surface of earth. There are 2.6 million square meters in a square mile. Thus, every square mile gets about 2.6 gigawatts. (A million kilowatts equals a gigawatt.)

On a practical level, solar energy is only going to harvest about 10 percent of the energy that hits a large area, so it takes about 4 square miles of solar panels to generate a gigawatt, or about the same amount of electricity provided by two power plants. (page 2)

This highlights some of the reason why solar is still a specialty item. The need to cover a lot of territory and the resulting massive plant requirements are costly and have a deep impact on the environment. Solar is also an energy source and not a storage method. Batteries or some other storage are always needed to accompany a solar system. When you put solar on your RV, you also have to plan your batteries and other equipment. That means the cost is more than just solar panels and the impact on your rig and lifestyle is also significant.

Besides solar, there are other power technologies that have been promising ‘real soon now’ for a long time. Fuel cell technology is an example. Who knows? Maybe some of the technologies will start to make a dramatic influence on our RV lifestyle. If you stop to think a bit, you’d probably discover a few that already have in recent years.

The just passed US Energy Bill has provisions that may make an impact on you. See the US News and Report FAQ: The End of the Light Bulb as We Know It -|- How the Energy Bill Will Change the Car You Drive.

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LED lights insight

Nicolas Mokhoff at Automotive Times describes the Good, bad, and ugly of LEDs and how they are used this year on the Christmas tree gracing Rockefeller Center in New York. LED’s are not only gaining traction as holiday lighting, they are also used for vehicle marker lights and other RV and automotive needs. Mokhoff points out that some holiday lighting strings use LED’s with aluminum leads plugged directly into copper outlets. This can cause a problem.

They rust from the inside out, and stop working. Quite visible. Problem apparent after a single season. The ones that are not socketed? When an LED bulb burns out, you can’t replace it … LEDs generally get dimmer as they get older. The white ones are the worst, because they act like a fluorescent light. They are actually ultraviolet LEDs that shine against a phosphorescent coating on the outside of the bulb.”

It does not seem that this dissimilar metal problem is common in other applications but there does appear, from some discussions on RV discussion forums and elsewhere, that LED lighting is something of a mystery.

One fact that creates some confusion and may relate to the aluminum meets copper thing is that LED’s have to be used in an electronic circuit. That circuit is necessary to make sure the LED gets the right voltage and current to do its thing. The simplest circuit is just a series resistor. Modern LED lighting systems often use new custom power IC’s that can control several LED’s at once and provide dimming and other control capabilities. When you get an LED, whether as a marker light fixture or an incandescent bulb replacement, these circuit components are built into the device along with, usually, several LED’s aimed in the right direction.

LED’s have several characteristics that appeal to the RV and automotive (and trucking) communities. They can be very durable and last a long time. They are bright and very efficient in power use. They do tend to be directional which is great for a reading light but not so great for space lighting. They come in colors.

The cost of LED lighting is currently rather high but it is dropping at the same time efficiency and brightness are improving.

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Dale (Pee Wee) Schwamborn remembers (cont.)

Dale, known as PeeWee to Wally Byam, and his mother were resources Wally depended upon the early days of his caravan club. That left a lot of memorabilia and memories and Dale is sharing them with us.

The Early Days of WBCCI – Library of published materials is an index to a number of publications Dale had on hand.

The Early Days of WBCCI – Wally Byam Foundation is an index to selections from programs and activities.

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Identify the bird

Ever wonder about a bird you see? One way to put a name on it and learn more about how to identify it; what it sounds like; where it lives; what it eats; and how it behaves can be found at What Bird. Some other useful birding sites could include the USGS Patuxent–Tools for Learning About Birds -|- -|- Idaho State University -|- Bird Watcher’s Digest -|-

What Bird has a nice search capability where you can click on icons that allow you to select location, size, color, bill shape, and some other basic criteria to find what birds might match your criteria. That makes it easy to figure out what it is you see.

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Tis the season – to practice safe computing

The Christian Science Monitor has a story that explains its warning

Before you click on that holiday greeting, learn how you may be helping a hacker or spammer.

In your e-mail inbox you will likely get a lot of invitations to go see an electronic greeting card. It would be a good idea to take the paranoid approach.

1) make sure you know who is inviting you to click on the link. absolutely positively sure, and somebody who you can trust.

2) check for a verification or reference number that allows you to go to a trusted site, like, and punch in the number to see your card.

It doesn’t take much. It is like making sure you know who is at the door before you invite them in or not leaving your credit card on the table at a restaurant. Take due care and you can use your computer to share the joy of the season with family and friends and to make your shopping less of a hassle. Just do take care.

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After testing those recipes

Be considerate of others! HealthBolt has a few tips on how you can reduce bad breath problems. – “Parsley’s natural oils help neutralize icky garlic breath in a hurry, so chew one now and stash one for later.” – “Mint-flavored dental floss will do the trick” for meat or other food stuck in the teeth. – “keep a pack of cinnamon gum on hand to thwart that coffee breath aura. Cinnamon is a natural germ-killer and cuts bacteria by half.” – “since cheese does not exactly excel in the breath-freshening department, grab a cup of black tea and wash it on down. Black tea contains antibacterial properties that rinse away the proteins in cheese and reduces smelly plaque.”

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Cookin’ for Christmas

foogazi posted a nice list of links to Free Christmas Recipes.

As always, when you check out the links, also check out the website. Look for a link to the home page or edit the URL to point to the top of the domain. For example, edit
to see what is at

Creating good food is almost as much fun as sharing it with friends!

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SNU December newsletter

The December 2007 Newsletter has been posted – Links to photo galleries and additional information mentioned in articles in this newsletter can be found there, too.

Topics include:
* The November Luncheon in Dayton
* Special guests over Thanksgiving
* SNU facts and figures
* Welcome new members
* President’s Ramblin’s

->-> Luncheon at the Damoth’s

The SNU Holiday Open House and pot luck will be at the Damoth’s house in Reno on December 15, 2007. This will be the last event of 2007. We look forward to seeing everyone, those that have attended rallies this year and those that haven’t so we can all swap tales, share stories and enjoy the holiday season. The Damoths will provide the main course and rolls. The rest of us are asked to bring salads. casseroles, or desserts. Coffee and punch will be available. Feel free to bring your own preferred beverages.

*-*-* Please RSVP Call 775 972 5011 or email *-*-*

Check Zephyrs to see what’s new on the website.

SNU hq

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