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Old 01-06-2004, 03:25 PM   #1
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Lightbulb Save me from my effluence!

I have been developing some crazy ideas as of late. The most recent involve sewege. I spent the weekend familiarizing myself with the plumbing on my 1969 sovereign, it has only a black water tank. When I checked out the back of my rig underneath the rear bumper, I didn't see any kind of valve, just a cap that when twisted off revealed the entrance to a dark cavern floored in antique petrified doo-doo. I decided I did not like waste at that moment, and dreamt that night of a perfect system involving a retrofitted gray water tank, piped to an industrial filter(perhaps reverse osmosis), that would then pump effluence back into the fresh water tank. Below the toilet, I would like to find or devise an incinerator, fueled with the already present propane. Less dumping and filling would certainly enhance the freedom factor. With water recycling, I might only need 20 gallons instead of 50. I could then add an array of batteries fed off roof mounted solar panels, and not significantly add weight to the trailer. Like most of my best ideas this is probably impossible or utterly impractical. But if anyone has heard of a similar configuration(besides the international space station), I would love the investigate further. Or if I am too loopy for this limitations of awakness, then what else can I do to create a slightly more elegant arrangement for what I hope will be a future filled with many extended excursions and other miscellaneous adventures? Help!

Darin
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Old 01-06-2004, 03:57 PM   #2
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Might not be too far off the mark We used to have an early 70's vintage Class C MH, Aluminum, but the brand escapes me at the moment, it had a macerator pump on the black tank, don't recall if it had a grey tank or not. Anyway, while driving down the road you could open a trickle valve downstream of the pump and it would drip effluent on to or into the hot exhaust and it would be burned off and evaporated. So when you got where you were going the tank would be empty and you could start all over again. Might be you could rig something like this with a propane burner? Maybe pipe it to the HWH or perhaps the fridge?

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Old 01-06-2004, 04:20 PM   #3
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Save us all!

Darin:
I like your creative thoughts. A few comments, then let's find a way around them.
1. Reverse osmosis is not the best way to hand high "organic" loads.
2. Reverse osmosis takes a lot of energy.

What about a composting toilet? You could use the compost to fuel a small boiler to distill the liquid part of the effluent into fresh water?
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Old 01-06-2004, 05:48 PM   #4
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Well my thinking for the filtration was limited to the shower and sink waste, nothing 'organic'. I only mentioned the reverse osmosis system because it sounds cool, and I understand after this process you are left with the purest H2O. I suspect for showering, dish washing, and toilet flushing a typical cord wound filter might be sufficient. These filters are cheap and a periodic replacement, might be far less hassle then the constant dumping. If the filtered water was to be for drinking, a secondary(perhaps reverse osmosis) filter could be installed at the tap. In fact I believe there is already a secondary drinking water filter under the kitchen sink. As far as the energy requirements, I am seriously looking into solar panels. I know they are not the most powerful energy source, but in sunny California, and other temperate places I belong, and always long to be, I always have a considerable amount of 'energy'.
I really like the idea of running my nasty wastes to the tow vehicles exhaust, elegant simplicity. Correct me if I am wrong, but once completely burned, and therefore sterilized, our waste ought to be able to be legally dispersed along the freeway. At that point whats left but charcol. But would it be possible to pump semi-solid waste along the length of a 31' trailer, to then pass through an accordian style hose and then empty onto a heat collecter over the tow vehicle exhaust? Any other clever ideas welcome!
I am also wondering if there is such a thing as a propane powered generator, that can be permenanently roof, tongue, or bumper mounted, such would be welcome for those overcast days when I would really like to enjoy my yet to be installed entertainment center. I have been looking at a lot of portable gasoline units, but with 2-40 pound tanks, I expect to have ample amounts of propane for extended boondocking, weeks, maybe even months without resupplying.

Thanks for the ideas,
Darin
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Old 01-06-2004, 07:40 PM   #5
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Water purification

Darin:
Reverse osmosis does not purify water to nearly the extent needed for drinking. The usual process (for potable water) is:
1. a charcoal filter to remove halogens like chlorine in the water. Halogens destroy the RO membranes
2. A RO pump and membrane, which normally only removes about 50% of the contaminants (but not things like viruses) These require a lot of horsepower.
3. A ion-exchange bed to remove the remaining contaminants.

You will see some systems for lifeboats and emergency water supplies that are hand powered. These cannot be used for graywater because of the oils, greases, detergents, and bacterial contaminants. They work OK for seawater or fresh lakewater, but are not suitable for graywater.

Propane generators are a great idea, but they consume a lot of propane. They use a little more propane than a gas powered generator, so your 80# of propane might last a few days or more, but not a week.

I'm not trying to be a nay-sayer. I really like your creative ideas! Keep 'em flowing
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Old 01-06-2004, 08:39 PM   #6
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Darin,

I think you have an excellent Idea! Be sure to check out this link, it may be what you are looking for.

http://envirolet.com/hybrid12v110v.html
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Old 01-06-2004, 09:12 PM   #7
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If you utilize a macerator it acts as both a pump and a grinder. The grinding process makes the waste into a slurry that can then be pumped thru a small bore hose.

This hose/pipe would be run to the TV and plumbed into the exhaust. I would bet that just aft of the cat would offer sufficient temps to burn the waste. This means one more thing to hook up, but the bulk of the system could be rigid tubing.

The key to solar is to have enough battery capacity and sufficent rechare from the panels. If you are willing to pay the weight penalty for a genset just add some more batteries. If the day is cloudy you will still have some charge power, but having the additional storage will be what gets you through. You will need to be sure to check the location of the batteries depending on the vintage you get. The pre 69 models have experienced outrigger failure from too much battery weight. We had good sucess with 2 group 27's and 4 50 watt panels.

You could plumb your toilet to draw out of a added gray tank for flushing water when you have a selector valve positioned just so, but it would require an additional pump. This would not relive you of much of the gray, but some is better than nothing.
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Old 01-07-2004, 12:21 PM   #8
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Burning the effluence

The 70' era technology mentioned was a product that Thetford sold under the name ThermaSan. It was actually developed by General Motors (they held the patents) for use in their legendary motorcoaches of that era. The system did not use a macerator, but rather worked on the principal that the solids breakdown due to agitation while traveling. The system used a finemesh stainless screen in the holding tank probe to keep larger matter from entering the system. The effluence was pumped to the exhaust via a commercial tubing pump (still available from ColePalmer) driven by a windshield motor/gearbox of that era. The system would pump and burn about 2 gallons an hour. It was fully certified by the National Sanitation Foundation. (the temp just downstream of the catalytic converter is 100s of degrees hotter than needed to destroy all odors, bacteria and viruses...hotter than in the incinerating toilets). The problem with the system was cost. Although the actual materials were not all the expensive, Thetford went the perceived value route and charged over $700 + installation, which in the late 60's/early 70's was a lot of money even for Airstreamers. Airstream actually sold the unit as a factory installed option on some early 70's trailers (as noted within the applicable owners manuals of that era).

You might ask how I know all this, I have the system installed on my 2002 Bambi and tow vehicle. I found one absolutely complete unit (still in original packaging and with all original documentation) and one partial on ebay (kids selling estate of former A/S service tech) and remembering them from my childhood latched onto them immediately. Other than the speed sensor, the system installed exactly as originally designed. I had to use my EE background to design a new speed sensor, but it was a fairly straightforward solution. In addition, the system uses a delayed action vacuum sensor that prevents the system from working unless there is a load on the engine (maximum heat production). All in all, an elegant design that works very well. In our experience, there is NEVER any odor from the tailpipe and as an engine creates over 25 gallons of water vapor per hour burning gasoline (roughly), the added 2 gallons per hour of effluence certainly can be handled by the modern stainless steel exhaust systems (the injection point is AFTER the catalytic converters). This whole system could be recreated using parts and technology available today. It does not recycle any water, but it does help solve the issue of where to dump the black tank, provided you are on the road periodically. It of course is NO help while parked.

On the idea of reverse osmosis...Reverse osmosis's real purpose is the removal of minerals from water, not solids/greases/harsh chemicals/bateria/viruses, etc. and it takes about 10 to 1 input to output. Meaning that for every 10 gallons of mineral laden water that passes thru, you get about 1 gallon of purified water and as has been pointed out, the water must already be fairly pure.

I like the idea of adding a second pump and appropriate filters to the gray water tank for use in flushing the toilet. It would not save a huge amount of fresh water, but it would save some and extend the dumping times of the gray tank a bit as well. Any use of gray water would require that the gray water be chemically treated as odorous bacteria love to grow in gray water. I use Chlorine Dioxide (sold as Odor-Con/Purogene) in my fresh, gray and black tanks and it is light years ahead of the more traditional chemicals. Chlorine is held in a molecule along with oxygen until an acid molecule (odors are all acidic) comes in contact. Then the bond between the chlorine and the oxygen is broken. The chlorine acts to oxidize the acid (eliminating odors and leaving harmless salt byproducts) and the oxygen acts as a very aggressive sanitizing agent (oxygen is more aggressive than chlorine as a sanitizer). The process is self regulating. Chlorine Dioxide is totally safe, approved for fresh water sanitation and is being used to replace straight chlorine in drinking systems all over the US. It is also safe for the plumbing and valves in our A/S systems and has been used in marine waste water systems for years. I found the stuff on the web at www.billdump.com/3r/3rhome.htm. You only use a few ounces per tank so the cost is lower than traditional chemicals. Our experience has been totally positive. NO odors from either the gray or black tanks.

As an advocate for solar panels (have 110watts on our Bambi), I might warn you that solar is basically limited to prolonging the runtime of your batteries, as you simply lack adequate roof space to install enough solar panels to truely be self sufficient (so one of those great little Honda EU2000 units is almost a requirement). Also adding additional batteries can quickly overload the weight carrying capacity of your A/S. Lead acid batteries are extremely heavy. I have thought of creating an auxiliary lead acid battery unit (2-4 of the Rolls deep cycle 6volt batteries) that would be carried in the cargo area of my tow truck. That would put the added weight where it it matters less plus you have the ability to charge them via the charging system on the truck while running around during the day. The solar panels can work their magic on the batteries in the A/S and at night, you simply connect the aux bats by plugging in the normal umbilical cord from the trailer (ie power would be drawn via the charge wire in the umbilical). Obviously the aux batteries would require an isolator so that NO power could be drawn from the tow vehicle starting battery, but that is something you should have regardless.

Love your ideas on actually using our A/S as self sufficient, self contained units. So many owners have long abandoned the freedom for the slab-of-concrete parks. Not that full hookups aren't nice, but sometimes we like to go off the beaten path and then you truely get to enjoy nature as well your A/S.

David
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Old 01-07-2004, 01:32 PM   #9
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David,


Now I know who I was bidding against on the thermosan stuff

While I will admit on your Bambi you have limited roof space for the panels, on a longer trailer there is a fair amount of space if there are no skylights. On a 69 Sovereign I know he can fit 4 smaller panels as that was what we had. True that the solar will not give you the instant gratification that a genset will, but if you oversize the panels you can run fans all day and still have fully charged batteries when the sun goes down. The only time that we ever had to conserver is if we had a 3-5 day stint of cloudy days.

I am very interested in what you use in your tanks. I think I will start a thread...................
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Old 01-07-2004, 02:13 PM   #10
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some more ideas and questions

Thanks for all the feedback, I checked out the envirolet(composting toilet) website, and am very interested in their product. I never would have imagined such an ingenious solution for handling the least glamorous/most horrifying aspects of mobile living. It is a shame they haven't designed a unit specifically for an RV, with a smaller remote composting area that can fit where the black water tank would be. The remote units they do have look too large for my purposes and are designed for stationary use. But there is a smaller fully self contained one, I may still have to cut some of the plastice ledge around the existing toilet to make it fit, but the expense and effort should pay off in the long run. This arrangement would allow for effective and nearly effortless processing that will work even when the trailer is stationary for long periods of time. After installation, the black water tank can then be replaced with a new one, repiped and used only for gray water. I wish the water recycling issue could be as easily resolved, and am wondering if I were too carefully select and control the types of cleaning products and other material that I allow to enter the gray water tank, if it might then become easier to envision a filtration system to handle the restoration of clean water, I know now reverse osmosis is not a viable option. If there is no great solution, and I will not be able to reuse any water, will it be difficult to find water sources on the road without having to stay at a campground. Seems like it really wouldn't be a problem at least not in suburban areas(gas stations, rest stops, anywhere there is an outside ungaurded faucet I could run a hose from to fill my tanks).
Dumping would then be the only concern, and from what I hear it is not legal, or is it? to dump these gray tanks anywhere. I would of course avoid using any toxic materials that would do any damage to the enviroment so it should be Ok, I would think. If not I am wondering about installing a few drip irrigation nozzles on the bottom of the tank that would slowly empty the tanks(like only a gallon every few hours), so any illegal dumping would escape notice, being readily absorbed into the ground instead of puddling. But still empty fast enough to keep up with my usage. As for the power supply issue. Seems solar power would probably not provide the energy needs at quite the capacity I might want. So propane with a propane generator might work, if I can find a way to carry much more propane. Is there a retrofit available to gain significantly more volume. Or maybe it might be possible to install an auxiliary tank in the bed of a tow vehicle. Since I haven't purchased that vehicle yet, I am even toying with the idea of aquiring a small, used propane tanker truck to provide a lifetime supply on demand(I know this would be over kill, just an idea). And now for my last curiosity, the trade-off between solar and propane. If I did have enough panels and batteries installed to run my a/c, tv, lights, and normal living accoutraments, how much would this whole system weigh? And if this weight was instead substituted for a propane generator, and enough propane to equal about the same overall mass, then how long could I expect to travel between refills?
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Old 01-07-2004, 04:00 PM   #11
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Solar and Air conditioning don't mix

Much as we would like it otherwise, with solar you are talking, at best, less than 500watts of power (more like 300watts with 4ea of the 75watt panels). Even if you had the necessary 12V to 120V inverter that could deliver the required 3500watts needed to start and run an air conditioner you can see that there is a serious missmatch between the two. If running your air conditioner is on your want list, then a generator is the only solution. Other than the air conditioner, most everything in an A/S is 12v and with only minimal conservation, you can stay within a solar systems ability to replenish (provided the sun cooperates). If you are serious about doing solar, then you will need to invest in a good battery telemetry system. I installed the Tri-Metric unit that gives me instantaneous current draw, total amp/hours withdrawn since last recharge, percentage left and many other parameters. You should know that even though you can run a deep cycle battery to zero, doing so repeatedly shortens the life span of the battery from several thousand cycles to under 500 as compared to the same battery used to only about 50% max before being recharged, so the need for good information on battery use is imperative. With accurate information, you are guessing and voltage is NOT a good indicator of battery charge. You really need to know how many amphours have been withdrawn and replaced (ie a running gas gauge for the battery). I have found the Tri-Metric makes this easy as you calibrate it at installation as to the capacity of the battery(s) and then during use, you can just have it display the percentage remaining. I set mine to think the capacity is about 60% of the real capacity and this way, I avoid running down the battery totally since even when it indicates 0% left, I have about 35-40% remaining.

The best solution on the generator angle that I have found is the Honda EU2000. This is a 2000W unit that is small, lightweight, virtually silent (I do mean silent) and you can gang two of them together as they are electronic units and get a 4000W capacity for running the air conditioner. You will also not be run out of a campground by management or neighbors by running the units as they are so silent. Two of these units are far lighter in weight than a single 3500w unit and this gives you the flexibility of only running a single unit which uses less fuel. These units also put out PURE 60cycle sinewave power so they are safe for your computer and electronics. I like these units also as they throttle the engine speed in response to actual load. Normal generators can't do this since engine speed dictates output voltage and these little Honda units are actually 12VDC alternators whose output is then converted into 120V 60cycle by onboard electronics. This is also why you can gang two of them together which is something you can't do with other gen sets. Unfortunately, these are gasoline units only, so your have to refill the tanks every 6 hours or so of heavy continuious use. They also are not electric start, so you have to go outside to fire them up.

BTW, it is ILLEGAL to dump ANY waste water, gray or black along the roadside. Getting caught is another matter, but even gray water is not legal. You can't dump gray water on the ground in state and national parks, so as your unit is lacking a gray tank, you will need to invest in one of the tote along gray water tanks. One of the more inventive vintage owners created a gray water tank by using 2" PCV pipe laid side by side with "U" at each end so that they formed a LONG tank that held, if I remember, about 30 gallons. Now granted this whole assemble was mounted underneath the A/S, so it was not usable in freezing weather, but if you can avoid the cold it a great DIY option that leave the existing black tank intact.

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Old 01-07-2004, 04:07 PM   #12
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Correction on Odor-Con website

I just reread my prior post and caught a typo on the website. I should read www.billydump.com/3r/3rhome.htm. Sorry about that

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Old 01-07-2004, 05:17 PM   #13
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Re: Save us all!

Quote:
Originally posted by markdoane
Darin:
I like your creative thoughts. A few comments, then let's find a way around them.
1. Reverse osmosis is not the best way to hand high "organic" loads.
2. Reverse osmosis takes a lot of energy.

What about a composting toilet? You could use the compost to fuel a small boiler to distill the liquid part of the effluent into fresh water?
How about a scaled-down nuclear reactor? It would certainly generate enough power, with only a small chance of another 3 mile island...

Terry
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Old 01-07-2004, 06:43 PM   #14
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A portable reactor would be great, no need for refueling. Another product awaiting the brave designer. Or what about a portable, folding wind turbine. Would be great while parked, I doubt it would be very smart to try and aim it towards the wind while moving, but maybe?

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