It has been nearly three months since the BALLOSROY bus family arrived back at Bowie’s birthplace near New York. We arrived practically penniless and I very quickly procured a job as a bus boy (get it? I live on a bus!) at Enid’s bar and restaraunt in Brooklyn. This gig provided instant cash everyday, delicious food, a reliable source of very high quality waste vegetable oil, and many old and new friends as Enid’s was my favorite place near McCarren park since I can remember.
Shortly after finding comfort and regularity in busing tables at Enid’s, I began freelance permitting as a set electrician on union film and television productions. Goodbye 8am to 5pm food service labor. Hello sometimes work all night from 2 in the afternoon Friday till 6 in the evening Saturday, and more recently being sent up four stories on a lift in the freezing midnight wind for hours at a time. The rewards for a union gig film electrician are high though, and very quickly I had earned enough to add some much needed necessities to our bus home.
The first and most important addition was a truly respectable bank of deep cycle batteries. Working on the bus back at Bowie’s grandparents home, I added over 1,000 amp hours at 12 volts weighing in at about 1,000 pounds. Batteries were higher priority than solar panels to us because we already have a reliable recharger for our off grid battery bank, the alternator attached to our bus engine.it is a 130 amp alternator which is more than adequate to efficiently charge such a substantial amount of batteries, and the source of our energy to power the charge is still 100% free like solar power, pure waste vegetable oil.
So now I had to figure out a way of safely mounting this massive bank to our vehicle. With the recent disappointment of dropping our 55 gallon blue plastic water tank on I-95 (a whole other story where no one was hurt and I had to pay a hefty ticket for loose cargo) I decided I had better get a welding kit and teach myself how to weld.
I found a great deal on craigslist from an elderly man who was given a portable oxy-acetylene welding setup as a gift and had never opened it. With Tom’s experienced assistance a durable plywood box was built and sealed and then I got to work on welding scrap metal we found on the side of the road as a cage around the box.
To secure the battery box cage to the bus I purchased rated bolts and drilled though the cage and the main support beams of the bus. The rated bolts are very important, you need to know beyond a doubt that what you are doing is adequate and safe. Working and living on the bus has taught me that there is no risk worth taking due to laziness, especially where the safety of your family and others is concerned. My new motto, better safe than sorry. Each one of the welded joints on my under the bus supports are closed along every visible adjoining seam. More than is necessary for normal structural support. Each cage must be bolted to the bus, not welded, because a weld between such largely different masses of metal is difficult to make so strong and over time it may crack and then all of a sudden you have dropped a half ton of batteries on the high way, rolled over it at 55 miles and hour, perhaps flip and completely destroyed whatever was near you. So rated bolts were used capable all in all of supporting 8 times the static weight of my battery box.
I found the 8 times static weight requirement a year ago when I was doing research on fuel tank regulations from DOT and ANSI.
So our battery bank weighs under 1,000 lbs, I built the box to support 8,000, and I am still going to put safety chains under it on top of this. Better safe than sorry.
So with the addition of our +1,000 amp hour battery bank, we can finally rest in one place, even without sun, and have all the power we need to power our house for days on end. This importance of this is paramount, and we recently were reminded this as there was an unprecedentedly early and heavy snowfall in the New York area.
Over 12 inches of snow falling on trees still full of leaves brought huge limbs down absolutely everywhere. Roads were closed, power lines were ripped down, and we lost power as did everyone else on our street. Thankfully my parents had a natural gas stove and a fireplace, and we had a propane heater, a propane stove, and many batteries and our 5,000 watt inverter on the bus. We were able to keep very warm and comfortable, unlike our neighbors, whose house had only electric power for any heat appliance (stovetop included). This event was a good reminder on the importance of electricity on our lives, especially when it is freezing out and your life literally depends on staying warm. The only way to be truly safe and insured against a problem like this, is having a truly independent source of energy, such as some kind of stored gas power or electricity.
One neighbor on my parent’s street even has solar power, professionally installed and grid tied. Because they were grid tied they had no power… I’ll write that again to stress its importance, BECAUSE THEIR SOLAR SYSTEM WAS PROFESSIONALLY INSTALLED AND GRID TIED THEY HAD ABSOLUTELY NO POWER DURING THE OUTAGE.
Grid tied means the power produced from their solar panels were piped directly into con ed, and then their bill fluctuated with con ed depending upon how much grid power they used or did not. The grid tied solar system is devoid of a storage element… NO BATTERY BANK. They had thousands and thousands of dollars and watts of energy on their roof, and they had no access to it in a time of need… this is a huge flaw in such installations and in my opinion the only power system worth a damn is one that is completely independent and off of the grid.
That said, we are now enjoying full off grid power in our bus home conversion and have been able to turn our attention to the inside. Re-vamping our floors with carpeting in the bedroom, cutting a huge church pew in half to form an eating and working area near the kitchen, and adding a bedroom and playroom for Bowie next to our bedroom.
Its been alot of work and I’ll let the pictures and unedited video clips speak for themselves.. oh yeah, we added our rainwater collection as well… boom.
This week is the homestretch to leave Nonnie and Poppy’s place (what we call Bowie’s grandma and grandpa). Soon we will be saying our goodbyes in Brooklyn New York, and then its south for winter with the birds.