August 13, 2013 by · Comments Off 

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Lately our 3000 Watt generator has been having trouble powering our air-conditioning unit. It runs the A/C for a while, then overloads. So we’re now using “Sea Foam” fuel additive ( with the generator. Hopefully this will clean out whatever carbon & ethanol gunk might be clogging the carburetor. This begs the question: what the heck is Sea Foam?

Sea Foam has been been around since 1942. Many people swear by it. It’s a 100% pure petroleum product for use in all gasoline and diesel engines, including 2 and 4-cycle jobs like lawnmowers and generators and motorcycles. Like many fuel additives, it’s so easy to use, even I can do it.


"Sea Foam" is a serious engine cleaner. It wipes the gunk & sludge out of your engine. We add it to our generator. (Click the pic for more info.)

Sea Foam claims to clean dirty engine parts internally by removing harmful gums, varnish and carbon build-up. It also removes moisture from oil crankcases and fuel tanks, stabilizing and conditioning fuel to prevent it becoming stale. Many people use Sea Foam for engine storage.

Sound familiar? Yes, these benefits are similar to those offered by Sta-bil, which we add to our equipment before putting it in storage. However, these products are similar but different. The focus of Sea Foam is upon the cleaning benefits, whereas Sta-bil is more about stabilizing the fuel. I think it makes sense to own both.

"Sea Foam" - it's not just for boats any more. (Click the pic for more info.)

"Sea Foam" - it's not just for boats any more. (Click the pic for more info.)

I’m particularly interested in cleaning our generator, which may be subject to bits of ethanol residue from its time in storage, not to mention carbon in the carb. Early test results have been very positive.

We added two ounces of Sea Foam into our generator fuel tank and turned on our Airstream’s A/C. At first, the generator had the same trouble running the A/C as it had previously. It would work for a while and then veer into overload.

However, about half an hour after the Sea Foam treatment, the generator began running noticeably better. As the Sea Foam dispersed throughout the fuel, it seemed to take effect. In fact, our generator was able to power our A/C without overloading. Color me impressed.

The first test was conducted at night. The next test will be during daytime to see how our generator fares when the outside temperatures are hotter. But so far, so good. I am impressed by the performance of Sea Foam and eventually intend to test it on our Ford F250 diesel truck SEEMORE.

One ounce treats one gallon of fuel, so one bottle goes a long way with a generator. (Click the pic for more info.)

One ounce treats one gallon of fuel, so one bottle goes a long way with a generator. (Click the pic for more info.)

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Why Use Cetane Boost in a Diesel Pickup Truck?

July 30, 2013 by · Comments Off 

Why do we use cetane boosting fuel additive ( in our diesel pickup truck? Last year our diesel truck “SEEMORE” suffered a catastrophic engine failure. Specifically, the EGR cooler failed. We ended up needing to replace both the EGR cooler and the oil cooler with new units. It was quite an ordeal, and not easy on the wallet. As we were leaving the service center, I had an interesting chat with an engine technician.

We're now running this diesel fuel supplement in our Ford F250 pickup truck. One 80 oz. container treats about 250 gallons of fuel. If it delivers the claimed fuel economy benefits, the additive pays for itself! (Click the pic for more info.)

We're now running this diesel fuel supplement in our Ford F250 pickup truck. One 80 oz. container treats about 250 gallons of fuel. If it delivers the claimed fuel economy benefits, the additive pays for itself! (Click the pic for more info.)

“What should we do,” I asked, “to help maintain our engine in the future? Are there any products you recommend?”

“Get a cetane booster fuel additive,” he replied. “It will really improve the fuel.” He then went on to say some unflattering words about what the government has done to diesel fuel in recent years.

So I picked up 80 ounces of this stuff: Power Service Diesel Fuel Supplement. This 80 ounce container treats 250 gallons of diesel, so that’s about 10 fill-ups in our truck.

It's a sad day when your truck gets hauled away on a flatbed trailer. This is exactly what we're trying to avoid happening again. Will a fuel additive help? It doesn't seem to hurt!

It's a sad day when your tow truck gets towed. This is exactly what we're trying to avoid happening again. Will a fuel additive help? It doesn't seem to hurt! (Click the pic for more info.)

What are the claimed benefits?

It cleans dirty fuel injectors and prevents injector sticking.

It boosts cetane up to six numbers, so diesel engines run smoother with faster power delivery (less lag) and faster cold starts. It also boosts power, and thus reduces the need for downshifting during high-load conditions like towing an RV.

It claims to improve fuel economy up to 8 percent. If this claim is true, the fuel savings actually exceed the cost of the additive!

This formula also contains Slick diesel lubricator for maximum fuel lubrication. This lubricant protects pumps and injectors from accelerated wear.

Click the pic for more info.

Click the pic for more info.

So, there are a number of benefits offered by this additive. It’s effective in all diesel fuels, including ultra low sulfur diesel, biodiesel and biodiesel blends.

We are now running Power Service diesel fuel supplement in every tank of fuel. I will be tracking our fuel economy this summer to see whether the claimed benefits transfer to the real world.

By the way, many of you have asked about the status of our truck. Thanks for asking: at the moment, SEEMORE appears to be healthy and ready to go tow. I will be writing (and videoing) more about our truck in the near future. Stay tuned!

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Gr8LakesCamper: Gas prices are putting a serious dent in summer plans

March 13, 2011 by Gr8LakesCamper · 559 Comments 

UPDATE: I recently came across this excellent article by Marianne Lavelle for National Geographic News. Lavelle does a good job of explaining the history of gas gouging, and the reasons for it. In a nutshell, the lack of U.S. refineries means a handful of people/businesses can control the prices. I encourage you to read this article.

87690211 The cost of gas at stations near my home are typically about 15-25 cents cheaper per gallon than those around my in-laws. So, of course, every time I fill up I call my father-in-law to gloat.

But the price of gasoline is getting crazy, even around me. This morning it topped $3.50 per gallon. I realize it’s more expensive in other areas, but – as they say – it’s all relative. What’s worse, “experts” say the cost will only climb higher as the summer driving season approaches, turmoil in oil-producing countries escalates and any number of other reasons these people usually roll out at times like these.

Regardless of the reasons why they’re on the way up, the price of gas is serious business for RVers. For most of us, this can’t help but affect our travel plans this summer.

As for my family, we’ll either be heading out to campgrounds closer to home, or not camping as much as we’d like, or a combination of the both. Other circumstances will factor in for us – two kids are going to camp for a week or two, and the third will likely be playing baseball well into July – but the fact remains gas prices will be putting a serious dent into our RVing plans.

In January of this year, when gas was $3.10 per gallon, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) issued a press release putting a positive spin on how the cost of gas affects RVing. Excerpts of that release follow:

• RV travel is a great value. The PKF Vacation Cost comparison study showed that a family of four can save 26-to-71 percent on vacation costs depending on the type of trip and type of RV used. More than 80 percent of RV owners say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation.

• While fuel prices remain well below their pre-recession high, prices are 36 cents per gallon higher than they were a year ago. When fuel prices rise, RVers adjust by traveling to destinations closer to home or driving fewer miles, according to surveys of RV owners conducted by RVIA and CVENT, a leading provider of online surveys and research technology.

• More than 80% of RVers say their RV vacations cost less than other forms of vacation, even when fuel prices rise.

• To save on fuel, RVers typically spend more time enjoying the campground experience and less time on the road. More than 16,000 campgrounds nationwide give RVers the flexibility to save fuel and cut costs by staying closer to home. Whether they travel five miles or 500, they can still enjoy a great outdoor experience.

• Fuel prices would need to more than triple from their current level to make RVing more expensive for a family of four than other forms of travel, according to PKF Consulting. PKF’s spring 2008 vacation cost comparison study shows that RV trips remain the most affordable way for a family to travel because of the significant savings on air, hotel and restaurant costs, which continue to rise.

• Fluctuating fuel prices affect the cost of all modes of travel and transportation. Airfares and hotel rates rise rapidly when fuel costs increase.

• Many RV owners surveyed take additional measures to reduce fuel consumption through simple steps like driving 55 instead of 65 miles per hour, packing lighter to reduce weight in the RV, and turning off home utilities to save energy when traveling. RVers travel at a leisurely pace with no tight schedules for flights, hotels or restaurants.

It’s hard to argue with several of those points, especially that the high price of gas also affects all other modes of transportation. Airlines are raising their ticket prices nearly everyday, and tacking on fees – carry-on baggage, really? – at a ridiculous rate.

About the only thing that isn’t going up is my salary, and that’s why our camping this summer will be less than what we had hoped. I suspect I am not alone. Sure, there’s going to be a certain segment of RVers who will continue on as they always have, but for the majority of us camping is one line item that gets cut when it comes time to balance the family budget.

How is the cost of gas affecting your plans this summer?

From the companion blog: Ohio recently improved its online travel site, making it easier to use and the search results better as well. Similarly, Indiana Department of Natural Resources also improved its online campground reservation system. I also have a number of other posts about events, festivals and other information about travel destinations.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Gr8LakesCamper: Holiday Gift Guide

December 13, 2010 by Gr8LakesCamper · 3 Comments 

Here — in no particular order (or rhyme or reason) — is a somewhat decent holiday gift guide for RVers, starting with three new products from the Fastway company:

Fastway Flip automatic jack footFastwayFlipB3WEB
The new Fastway Flip automatic jack foot adds 6 inches to your jack instantly, and flips up and down automatically as you retract or extend the jack. The Flip jack foot eliminates the hassles of storing and stacking wood blocks, or finding a place to store a removable extension. The Flip jack foot puts itself away each time you use it. No springs, cables, or pins are required. The Flip jack foot installs easily using pilot holes in the foot as a guide; then a single bolt (supplied) mounts the Flip to the bottom of the jack. The Fastway Flip jack foot fits most tongue jacks round or square, with models to fit 2-inch and 2 1/4-inch jacks. Maximum tongue weight rating is 1,400 lbs. and designed for use on horse, RV, cargo, boat, and utility trailers. For more information call (877) 523-9103 or visit

Fastway ONEstep tandem axle wheel chock84-00-4000Web
The Fastway ONEstep is the fastest and easiest tandem axle wheel chock. The ONEstep wheel chock eliminates common chocking hassles like ratcheting, pinched fingers, bending or kneeling down, splintery wood chunks, and stuck wedges pinched by trailer movement. The ONEstep chock sets quickly in place by simply stepping down on the scissor arms, and removes easily by pulling up on the cable handle, even when wedges have been pinched under a tire. The ONEstep chock is adjustable from 16 inches to 24 inches to fit most tandem axle trailers. It works great with horse, RV, boat, cargo, utility, and farm trailers. An XL model that reaches up to 30 inches is also available for trailers with “wide track” type axle systems. The ONEstep is made from solid steel wedges and arms, with zinc plate and powder coat finishes helping it look great for years. For more information, call (877) 523-9103 or visit

Fastway Zip breakaway cableFastwayZipCableOnlyWEB
The Fastway Zip is the new, fast and easy way to protect your breakaway cable. With the Fastway Zip there are no frayed ends or cables dragging on the ground. The unique coiled cable of the Zip easily stretches to your tow vehicle and clips right on with the included carabiner. There is no looping over and around the trailer tongue to keep the cable out of the way. It is faster and easier to use than the standard breakaway cable. The Zip quickly replaces your current breakaway system with its coated high-strength coiled cable, split ring, and easy to use carabiner. The Fastway Zip breakaway cable is available in 4-foot and 6-foot cable lengths, and is offered as a universal replacement cable only, or a complete set with a cable and switch. For more information, call 877-523-9103 or visit

iWavecube microwaveRedOpen_wDims
For those who want a microwave when camping, but not anything larger than necessary, the iWavecube measures just one-cubic-foot — plus it has all the electronic controls and safety features you would expect, and it plugs in anyplace that has a standard outlet. It’s quiet, super-energy-efficient, and measures just 10 inches by 10.5 inches by 12 inches — weighing only 12 lbs. It features a built-in carry handle and view-through door. The product is available in red, black, and silver. Perfect for a dorm room, camping trip or just at the office. For seeing the different ways campers are using their iWavecube check out this link.

The Perfect CampfireGrillNewOriginal
I have the Perfect CampfireGrill original grill and I have given them as presents. I love mine and recommend them to anyone who cooks over a campfire. The Perfect CampfireGrill original grill ($60), launched in 2005, continues to be popular for its large 20-by-25 inch grilling surface that can easily hold 24 strip steaks, 70 hot dogs or 30 large burgers. The Rebel ($40) fits easily into bicycle and motorcycle saddlebags. It can be used over the campfire or as a charcoal grill where campfires are not permitted. At 10-by-12 inches, The Perfect CampfireGrill Rebel is the smallest of The Perfect CampfireGrill products. The Explorer ($30) with its folding legs can be set up at any campsite on the beach, in rocky terrain or at a conventional campsite. The grill provides 12-by-18 inches of grilling surface. When its legs are folded, its 1 1/2 inch thickness makes it easy to transport in most backpacks and gear bags. The Pioneer ($40) provides a circular 18-inch diameter grilling surface that is perfect for weekend getaways and family outings. It is easily packed into smaller vehicles. For more information, go to

REI Camp Mini Kitchen36ad756f-9c74-444a-b6ab-571c7728fb8c
Stow your cooking and dining essentials in the REI Camp Mini Kitchen ($69.93 on sale) so you’re always ready to hit the road! Staying organized in camp helps keep the fun factor high. Features include: Aluminum roll-top table holds most 2-burner camp stoves or other gear up to 60 lbs.; Ripstop polyester storage compartment provides dedicated spaces for a 2-burner stove, fuel bottles, plates, utensils, spices, wet sponges and more; Frame has integrated carry handles. Note: the photo at right shows items not included. For more information, visit:

RV Handbook, 4th EditionRV Handbook
Completely Updated – the New RV Handbook, 4th Edition ($29.95) is a 299-page How-To Guide with handy checklists, helpful photos and easy-to-follow charts all designed to keep you on the road and enjoying your RV. This 4th edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is known as the “RVer’s bible” for the RV road warrior; it’s a “no-fluff” comprehensive guide for both novice and seasoned RVers. Packed with checklists; photos; schematics and charts, as well as plenty of sound, user-friendly technical advice. Features hundreds of proven RV tips, tricks and techniques to save you time, money and maybe even your sanity! You simply won’t find this level of detail covered in any other RV book. If you are looking for a complete resource that answers all your RV-related questions, the latest edition of The RV Handbook from Trailer Life Books is exactly what you are looking for. 
Click here for more information.

QwikShower WipesShower Wipes
Although this product is marketed toward kids who can use them after gym class at school, I think these would be a great addition to anyone’s RV. QwikShower Wipes – from a company that calls itself My Kids Stink, LLC — are large, moist, single-use disposable cloths with a subtle scent and economical price point. QwikShower Wipes are appealing for many reasons:
• Convenient. Each wipe is individually wrapped for portability and to ensure it never dries out.
• Effective. With a large 10-inch by 12-inch dimension and a resilient cloth-like material, QwikShower Wipes are big and study enough to clean the entire body, also leaving a slight fresh scent behind.
• Green. Environmentally friendly, QwikShower Wipes are non-aerosol and emit zero fluorocarbon emissions unlike popular body sprays.  This also ensures the scent won’t invade the personal space of others or overwhelm the small space of a camper.
• Economical. Starting at just 49 cents each coupled with the company’s free shipping policy, QwikShower Wipes are very affordable.
• Versatile. QwikShower Wipes are great for use after sports practices and games, a day at the beach, or an impromptu restaurant outing with the family. Also a stellar solution for adults, the wipes are perfectly suited for boaters, campers and fitness enthusiasts. They are also a must for emergency preparedness kits in the event of water outages.
For more information about QwikShower Wipes visit

State Parks gift cards
Quite frankly, a state parks gift card or gift certificate is just about the perfect gift to give an RVer. A State Parks gift card is an appealing choice for anyone who likes to play outdoors or unwind in comfort.  Gift cards can be redeemed for camping, getaway rentals, cottage rentals or overnight stays in state park campgrounds, and some are good for use at state park lodges. Many states allow them to be used used at State Parks’ public courses, boat rentals at some state park marinas, or for food and merchandise purchases.

“Drives of a Lifetime” from National GeographicDrives_COVER web
Fall vacations conjure up images of cozy fireplaces, mugs of warm apple cider and drives through gorgeous foliage, rich with the changing colors of the season. National Geographic provides details of hundreds of scenic fall drives and more in “DRIVES OF A LIFETIME: Where to Go, Why to Go, When to Go” ($40 hardcover). Following on the success of National Geographic Traveler magazine’s popular Drives of a Lifetime series, this sumptuously illustrated gift book will appeal to all who have a yen for the open road and for every magnificent sight along the way. Click here for the page for this book.

Duraflame Gold Firelog177 gold_log_lft
Sick of the high cost of firewood? Sick of buying firewood at some campgrounds that’s little more than bark? How about trying the Duraflame Gold firelog for your next campfire. Packaged in chic gold and black, the Gold firelog is ideal for a great weekend fire, and burns longer with brighter with larger flames. The Duraflame Gold firelog is the first 7-pound firelog that burns for over four hours without tending, and is made from 100 percent renewable resources and burns 80 percent cleaner than wood. Available in a four-log pack for a suggested retail price of $24.99 or sold as a single log for $5-6/log. For more information visit

“Winnebago Man” documentary on DVDWinnebago Man DVD
The outrageously funny, critically-acclaimed documentary “Winnebago Man” ($29.95) is available on DVD by Kino International. Following its much-publicized U.S. theatrical release in over 100 markets, as well as Jack Rebney’s national television debut as a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, the DVD is one of the most talked-about documentaries of the year. Click here for the page for this DVD.

BananagramsBananagrams - Open Banana
Bananagrams ($14.95) is a fast and fun anagram game that drives players bananas! Requiring no pencil, paper or board, Bananagrams comes in a small portable banana shaped pouch and is perfect fun for kids from 7 – 97 years-old, at home or on the go. Bananagrams is available online as a free Facebook Application and on the iPad, iPhone and iTouch as well as in a series of books. Bananagrams recently launched in Spanish, French, Norwegian and German as well as in a larger version – DOUBLE Bananagrams, the big banana for the larger bunch (for 16+ players).

Cascade Sleeping Bag from Peak Camping4_Cascade20
I’m not one for mummy-style sleeping bags, but for those who are then jump in and snuggle up for a long rest with this best-selling High Peak USA Cascade Sleeping Bag.  With a temperature rating of +20, -5, and -15 degrees F (ladies bag is available in +20 and -5), you can be assured a restful sleep outdoors even during the most frigid nights. The Thermolite Quallo insulation is a special fiber technology that promotes warmth and easy packing and maintains resilience and high loft. The Cascade also features an insulated chest collar to keep cold air from sneaking in.  The shell is made of 310T/210T nylon.  Dimensions: 31 inches by 79 inches by 21 inches (footbox).

“Along Interstate-75″ booki75
Since 1992, Dave Hunter (and his wife and travel partner, Kathy) have acquired hundreds of friends and travel industry contacts along the I-75 corridor, who share their “local knowledge” of roadside secrets, local restaurants and ways to save money. “Along Interstate-75″ is published by Mile Oak Publishing, Inc. and is available in bookstores, at AAA in OH, by phone at 800-431-1579, online and at Useful travel information to help anyone driving this popular interstate from Detroit to the Florida border and back.

So there you have it. Granted, it’s not the most comprehensive list in the world, but these are things I’ve come across that I thought might catch your eye as well.

From the personal blog: I continue to post information on great getaways to many popular Midwest destinations, including Traverse City’s Winter Wow!fest, as well as great tips on how to protect yourself from the cold. Another pretty cool post was the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds recent announcement of the 32 campgrounds and RV parks that received an ‘A’ grade.

Gr8LakesCamper celebrates the world of RV Camping in the Midwest. Gather around the campfire and share tips, ideas and stories on RVing, camping and travel destinations. Follow Gr8LakesCamper on Twitter, Facebook and the personal blog.

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Nickel-Lithium: The Next Battery Break Through?

October 10, 2009 by Bob Difley · 21 Comments 

By Bob Difley

Nickel-Lithium-ion batteryAs electric vehicle proponents, alternative energy entrepreneurs, and venture capitalists have predicted, the development of better, more efficient batteries will give the electric vehicle (EV) industry the game changing boost it needs to change the way we think about transportation. Battery technology, which produced the successful development of the lithim-ion battery for laptop computers and then in the Tesla sports car, is now about to take the next leap forward with a battery that can be produced at lower prices but with greater capacity, meaning an increased range between charges.

Well, the lower price hasn’t happened yet, but researchers have created a new generation battery by combining Nickel and Lithium to produce a battery that can store more than 3.5 times the energy of lithium-ion batteries..

This is a prime example of the payoff from the money and effort going into the development of smaller, cheaper, safer (the Nickel-Lithium batteries are less prone to burst into flames as some lithium-ion batteries in laptops have), and more powerful batteries that will deliver more miles between charges as the era of the Electrical Vehicle (EV) is knocking at the door.

Other companies are developing the components that will complete the EV. One such company (Proterra) claims to deliver a full charge to lithium batteries in ten minutes, and has produced an all electric bus that also includes a regenerative braking system that they claim will capture 90% of a vehicle’s kinetic energy during braking to put back in the battery.

These new batteries will also be a boon to the several municipalities, including New York and Toronto, have already ordered hybrid/electric and all electric busses, which, lucky for us, are of the size that could be used for RVs. With break-through battery technology we might have taken another step closer to more hybrid/electric and all electric motorhomes, as well as trucks with enough power and range to be practical for towing fivers and trailers.

With these kinds of improvements on the horizon, we may be hearing the last of the negative comments about RVs as “gas hogs” and “gas guzzling behemoths.” Not only that, but the saving in fuel costs and repairs (electric vehicle parts last longer and require less maintenance than fossil fuel engines and drive trains), it is possible to recover a big chunk of the inevitable higher prices of the first electric RVs to hit the streets. And as popularity increases, demand rises, and finally mass production and competition will bring the prices down. The day will come when EV RVs will be priced equivalent to gas and diesel RVs of today, and fuel costs will be a concern of the past.

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Want to be on top of alternative energy? Learn Chinese

October 3, 2009 by Bob Difley · 23 Comments 

By Bob Difley

solar arrayThe shift away from fossil fuels to alternative fuels like bio diesel and diesel fuel made from algae–which is now being tested in airplane jet engine–as well as the the expansion of alternative energy sources like wind and solar to power the coming electric vehicle age is exemplified by the opening of a giant solar energy center by Silicon Valley based Applied Materials, Inc. and the government’s decision to invest up to $60 billion annually in alternative energy.

Wait a minute. It seems that Applied Material’s solar center will not be providing jobs and energy in Silicon Valley, or even in California–or anywhere in the USA. Instead, it will be in Xian, China. And the government’s $60 billion dollar investment in alternative energy, that’s the Chinese government, not the one in Washington, D.C.

Not only is China where the alternative energy action is, but analysts predict that in as little as two years China will be the world’s largest consumer of solar energy.  And by 2013 their clean technology sector could top one trillion dollars annually.

“If the US doesn’t get serious, China’s going to own this industry,” says a spokesman from Applied Materials. “The get that these are the industries of the 21st century,” says Silicon Valley tech investor Alan Salzman (whose investments include Tesla Motors, BrightSource Energy, and Solazyme). “The level of support for green tech there is breathtaking. It exceeds anything done here on a state or federal level.”

Other green tech innovators s are considering moving to where the actions is–to China. And so is investment money–including Warren Buffett–who has recently increased his holdings in a large Chinese electric vehicle manufacturer, where electric vehicle start-ups are growing like weeds. It seems the rest of the world is getting a big jump on us while our government still diddles around with trying to get clean tech bills through the legislature. If we Americans don’t get serious about alternative energy, we will quickly lose whatever advantages we have on the international market.

Brazil is far ahead of us in replacing fossil fuels with ethanol. Denmark is powering a great part of the nation with wind power. Spain and Germany are way ahead with solar power. Will we wait until we are too far behind to catch up?

navistar_electric_truckHow does all this affect RVers. Take Navistar, that owns Monaco Coach, for example. They announced that they will be building an all-electric delivery vehicle in Elkhart. Delivery vehicles are the precourser to building RVs, which with their Monaco division, would be a natural fit. But how long do you think they will concentrate on trying to develop a new market in the US, i.e. electric RVs, when they can probably sell more easily all the product they can make, as well as finance expansion, just in China. If you were Navistar’s CEO, what decisions would you make? Think about it.

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Subsidies, Mandates, and Renewable Energy

July 25, 2009 by Bob Difley · 28 Comments 

By Bob Difley

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Algae: The New Oil?

July 11, 2009 by Bob Difley · 6 Comments 

By Bob Difley


“ . . .  alternative energy is behaving more like high-tech as opposed to old school energy” says Riggs Eckelberry, CEO of OriginOil. “Old school energy seeks to dominate massively, with vertical integration and specialized utilities. With new energy we are looking at a networked approach and we need rapid adoption for this to succeed . . . “

Read more

Narrow Victory for Energy Bill in the House

June 28, 2009 by Bob Difley · 38 Comments 

By Bob Difley

The energy bill that passed the House on Friday will no doubt antagonize a lot of people around the country, mostly those from industrial Midwest, farm, and southern states whether Republicans or Democrats. All the Republicans and 44 Democrats that voted against the bill warn that we are in for economic disaster, that carbon caps will raise energy prices forcing more manufacturers to move to China where there are no caps, and to other countries that do not limit greenhouse gasses. They also contend that energy costs will rise to consumers, jobs will be lost, and the country will sink into such debt that it may ruin the country.

On the other hand, those who voted for the bill, all Democrats, feel that this climate legislation would begin to tilt the equation of energy policy in the US. It would cap greenhouse gas emissions for the first time in US history, boost production of renewable electricity sources, create investments in clean-energy technology, create thousands of jobs, and help free us from the grasp of foreign oil producers and their hold on the nation’s economic and foreign policy.

You know that it is going to result in higher energy costs, at least in the near future. Fuel prices will rise, affecting our RV lifestyles. But it may also mean that we will buy smaller, more fuel efficient vehicles, and install renewable sources of energy on our rigs, like solar and wind, and maybe boondock more.

I guess it all comes down to whether:

  1. You think that doing nothing is the best policy
  2. You think that doing something is necessary
  3. The Democrats will always find a way to tax and spend your money
  4. The Republicans will always try to keep your earnings and savings in your hands
  5. You think that global warming is real
  6. You think that global warming is a hoax
  7. You are progressive and think the nation needs to move ahead on energy production even if it costs us more for energy
  8. You are conservative and think that big oil and coal are the right answer because they are cheap and efficient
  9. You think that paying more for energy will benefit us all in the long run, and eventually costs will come down as the technology improves
  10. You are tired of having to shell out more money when the systems in place work fine and will for decades to come

I live in a coastl state (California), a blue state, and like the majority of us on the coasts, we tend to be liberal, progressive, and feel that we need to do something now to improve our energy policy and to head off into a new direction, toward renewables and sustainable sources of energy both for our future and that of our children and grandchildren. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, of the twelve House Representatives, eleven voted for passing of the bill. But what can you expect, the Bay Area doesn’t have a single Republican Representative. But maybe it won’t pass in the more conservative Senate. Then nothing will happen.

But what do those of you in the Midwest and South think? Is it an ideological matter? Or are you concerned that the timing (mid-recession) is wrong, the cost is too high, it is unnecessary, or it is a ploy for those in power to get rich? I would be interested in your comments.

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Autotransformers steal power?

June 18, 2009 by Fred Brandeberry · 27 Comments 

AUTOTRANSFORMERS Manufactured by Hughes, Frank’s and Power Master.

  • At 105 volts we get 30 amps of power, or 3150 watts of energy.
  • At 130 volts we get 30 amps of power, or 3900 watts of energy.
  • We get 8% increase in usable energy. Or 750 watts of power.
  • 750 watts can run some coffee pots, a blender, vacuum cleaner, and some toasters
  • Most space heaters draw 15 amps.
  • The circuit breakers in most rigs are 20amps. But not hair dryers, microwave ovens, or larger appliance.
  • Most campgrounds have 6-8 sites on a 200-amp breaker.
  • 200 divided by 6 is 33 amps, but line losses can subtract another 5 amps.
  • HEAT is a major loss on energy from any electrical device.
  • We lose less heat (energy) the lower the amperage we can obtain.
  • The higher the voltage (up to 130volts) the less power we use while operating any electrical device.
  • A 600-watt electrical appliance will use 5.45 amps at 110 volts.
  • This 600-watt device will draw 4.6 amps at 130 volts.
  • We save almost one amp using the higher voltage.
  • Your converter/battery charger will use 3-4 amps off the top.
  • These autotransformers act as a superior Surge-spike protector.
  • The autotransformer will draw ½ to one amp of power on it’s own.

Do we steal power-when we use an autotransformer?
The following scenario is offered by Dave & Helen Dmouth,

You and one neighbor in a remote part of the RV Park share a long power
feed from the park’s distant feed. I’ll assume that the main feed is always at
120vac, but that the long power wires shared by these remote sites have a
resistance of 0.25 ohms (not unlikely – that’s only 200 feet of #8 cable).

You and one neighbor in a remote part of the RV Park share a long power
feed from the park’s distant feed. I’ll assume that the main feed is always at
120vac, but that the long power wires shared by these two remote sites have a
resistance of 0.25 ohms (not unlikely – that’s only 200 feet of #8 cable).

Further assume that both of you are using exactly the same appliances which
would add up to each of you drawing 25 amps, if the voltage remained at 120

But the voltage won’t remain at 120 volts (because of the resistance in the
long power feed). Under these conditions, the voltage at each site will b
e108.68 volts and each site will be drawing 22.64 amps.

Now suppose you, but not your neighbor installs an autotransformer. The
(older) Autoformer increases the voltage by a fixed 10% in a low-voltage
situation, so inside you Rv, you now have 118.88vac. This raises your current
draw inside the RV up to 24.66 amps. (This additional load causes more
voltage drop in the shared line, dropping the voltage coming into each RV to
1-7.62 volts, so your inside voltage increased a bit less than the expected

Your use of the Autoformer has reduced your neighbor’s voltage from 108.68
to 107.62 volts. Reduced his current from 22.64 to 22.42 amps, and reduced
his power usage from 2.46 kilowatt to 2.41 kilowatts. You voltage inside the
RV increased from 108.88 to 118.88, your inside current increased from
22.64 amps to 24.66, and you power from 2.46 to 2.92 kw. Your neighbor has
a 2% power reduction while you see a 19% increase in you own power usage.
This analysis assumes that the loads in your RV are resistive. (Fred’s
comment = no motors)

This seems like a pretty good tradeoff, unless your neighbor has a power
management system that shuts off her power when the voltage drops below a
certain level. In some situations your ability to use additional power by using
the Autoformer could result in enough additional incoming voltage reduction
so that your neighbor loses power completely. If you want to be a nice guy,
you can turn off a bit more of your own power usage, returning her voltage
and power to where it was before you used your Autoformer while still
retaining the advantage of having normal voltage in your own rig.

Note that even though you may have a 30-amp power pedestal, you cannot
increase your internal current all the way up to 30 amps in a low-voltage
situation. This is because when the Autoformer increases the inside voltage
by 10%, (which is 20% increase in power), it also must increase the current
drawn from the power pedestal by a bit over 20%. So if you turned on 30
amps of load inside the RV, you would be drawing considerably more than
the 30 amps from the pedestal, tripping the 30 amp circuit breaker.

Happy Camping,
Fred b. 101BYFRED.COM

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