Tuesday, July 31, 2018

New Electric Dump Valves, And MORE!

This is just one of those things that is going to make me smile for a very long time, while I am doing something that always made me frown. That makes it to my "A List" of upgrades to an RV.

Our beautiful new Drain Master electric valve
control in the lower right. We are SO pleased!
We did a lot of research, and learned from others who did the same job, and we knew that we had to have the Drain Master electric dump valves. We previously installed the Drain Master sewer waste management system that they offer, and have been beyond happy with it.  The most unpleasant chore, BY FAR for full timers is tending to your waste water. Anything that we could do to improve the experience, we were all about that.

Not only did we install the valves, we did a major reconfiguration of our plumbing system. You see, our fifth wheel has two gray tanks. They are each 45.5 gallons (totaling 90 gallons of capacity).  Our freshwater holding tank is 107 gallons. We do a LOT of boondocking (or dry camping) and our water system is a critical piece to our lifestyle.  If we join the capacity of both tanks by capping our sewer outlet with a twist-on Valterra gate valve, we can go about 2 weeks before needing to visit a dump station to recharge because both tanks will fill to capacity by equalizing.  If we do NOT do this, one of our tanks fills within a very short time, while the other one remains nearly empty. What a wasted use of tank space!

Our wet bay valve switches
upper right. They light RED when
valve is open, GREEN when
valve is closed.
We followed logical thought on the exterior temporary valve and thought, "What if we internally plumbed the two tanks together permanently?"  What a concept. We did some hard thinking and decided it would work. So, we took the opportunity of the electric valve installation project to tackle it, while the belly cover of the trailer was off (a big job in and of itself!). We also changed the inch and one half size grey tank plumbing to 3" plumbing. Our grey tanks, when full, take quite a while to empty at the dump station. That is cumbersome when you have a line of RV's behind you.

The big day finally arrived. Four days were allotted to do the job. We had assembled our supplies and products, done our research, and purchased, what we thought, would be the correct ABS pipe to do the plumbing job. As they say... the road to hell is paved in good intentions.

It begins... 
I'm not going to lie, this was, BY FAR, the most confounding, frustrating, difficult and scary job we have ever attempted. It was hard. We both decided that we do not EVER want to do something like this again. The valve installation was EASY. The re-plumbing was not.  There came a very sobering, terrifying moment when we had finished cutting off the factory plumbing to our three holding tanks. Looking at those three gaping tank openings with no plumbing was intimidating... so, mustering as much courage as could, we laid our big patio mat under the trailer, in 97 degree temperatures, and dove in. Yes, that is my blue yoga mat that Todd used for a headrest. It just got nuts under there, I'm not kidding.

First we assembled what we envisioned would fit in the limited space to get the tanks joined. Nope, didn't fit. It was crucial to make sure that there was always a downhill-flow from one end of the tank system to the other. Easier said than done! Back to Home Depot.  More pipe fittings. More swearing and sweating and dust eating. Back to Home Depot again... You know the drill. Day 1... Day 2... Day 3... Ugh.

Finally, we came up with our pipe conglomeration (which we called "the unit" with disdain). It was actually a simple design, and of course simple is best, wish we would have tried it FIRST. It fits in the space with nary a fraction of an inch to spare.

"The Unit"
The upper 90 degree pipe is the outlet for the conjoined grey tanks coming down from above. They then make a 180 degree turn into the electric valve before joining the main exit pipe. The 90 degree pipe on the lower right is the entrance from the black tank. This is the location of the second electric valve (not shown).

Reminds me a little of heart surgery... only I would rather have done heart surgery. We both needed heart surgery a couple of times. And maybe diapers... but I digress.

Turns out that in retrospect, had we known what we do now, it wasn't difficult at all. The installation of the electric valves and the associated wiring and switches (We chose to have them located both in the wet-bay outside and inside the coach with our other controls for remote tank dumping while in a park) were simple to install. The installation instructions and resources from Drain Master are SUPERB and we didn't struggle at all.  After installing them, they immediately worked exactly as they were supposed to. Imagine our relief!

After installation. The two valves are side by side.
You can see how little room for error there is!
The valves are sturdy. Next to the cable-operated factory installed valves there is no comparison. These work flawlessly, and they are extremely strong. I wouldn't want my fingers to be in the way when they shut! This should end pesky black tank "dribbling" when toilet paper gets stuck in the blade. I cannot see that happening with these valves. We always used to dread the ugly "surprise" we usually got when opening the cap on our sewer system to hook up the hose. It leaked all the time, after taking the valve apart, it was easy to see why. ICK.

No more struggling with sticky, non-functioning levers!  Hurray!!!

After getting everything installed and satisfying ourselves that it was all working properly (the proper word would be "gloriously") we began the arduous process of re-installing the Coroplast under belly. What a job that is. Definitely don't want to be doing any of that again any time soon! We took the opportunity to tend to any rusty spots and other items while we were in there. We were happy to see that things were in pretty good shape, if not sloppily thrown together by the factory.  We did a lot of cord and hydraulic line tidying up while in there. 

So, now we LOOK FORWARD to our next tank dumping chore! How's THAT for an improvement?

Sunday, July 8, 2018

END Sugar Ants in Your RV!

Every spring there is a surge of request asking for help to get rid of sugar ants in RVs. Sugar ants are virtually harmless, they don't bite or really do anything other than swarm your RV looking for what they love, sweet stuff. If you ever spill anything sweet on any surface in your RV you will instantly know how they got their name. You will see swarms of these little critters appear seemingly overnight and it can be a little overwhelming!

Take heart. There is a simple way to get rid of them. It's not instant, but it is safe and effective and cheap!

Sugar ants have a sophisticated way in which they communicate a "sweet find" to the rest of their nest. When a single ant finds something good to eat, it immediately shares it's location with all the others in the nest, and they all do the same. They march (often in a single, orderly black line that you have to see to believe) to the source and they devour it.

Using this knowledge you can knock out the entire nest in one easy step. Using a specific type of ant trap found in most stores in the pest control section, you feed them the sweet, deadly concoction containing basically borax (deadly to ants, but pretty harmless to people) and sugar. The bait comes in a tidy little plastic pouch that you simply set out and wait for the feast to begin.

The ants gleefully gorge on the syrup and transport it back the to their nest, feeding it to all the others. Pretty genius to have them help you kill the nest, right? Yes, it does take a day or two or even three. You will see an alarming swarm of ants all over the traps-and you will be tempted to nuke them with ant spray. DON'T! They will keep to themselves, focused on harvesting the deadly nectar and rushing it  back to the nest. Let them do their job. Then one morning, you will find they are GONE! I mean GONE. Not one. It's magic.

If you are transient and not staying more than a day or two, this method is not very helpful. Just know that the ants will go away after you leave. They will not breed in your coach and multiply. This is when spray might be a little more helpful.