Sunday, February 21, 2010

NECCESSITY: The Mother of Invention

As we sit, parked in our daughter's driveway, awaiting the arrival of our first grandkid, several things become apparent about urban camping. First, 15 amp electric power doesn't run much. We have to be very aware of what we have running before turning on any other appliances. We found out the hard way that the circuit we are plugged into is also shared by our daughter's bedroom and if the breaker trips in the middle of the night their alarm clocks don't go off in the morning. Ooops!

The second problem is what to do with full waste water tanks. It is a big hassle to get the trailer ready for the road and drive 15 miles to the nearest dump station and back again ever two weeks so I was really looking for a simpler option.

Ideally one would just tap into the houses sewer system through the clean-out plug but it hasn't been opened in decades and the previous owners built a wall that partially encloses the drain making it almost impossible to get a wrench on the plug. I've got some ideas on how to go about getting the plug out but for now I needed a sure way to get my tanks emptied.

I searched on the internet and found "blue buddies". The name belongs to one manufacturer but is used generically to describe any small tank with wheels, a handle and sewer hose connection. They are called "blue buddies" because the originals are made out of blue plastic. They are made to be either pulled by hand or the handle is designed so that it can be hooked over a hitch ball and then pulled to the dump station. The problem with this is that the wheels are cheap plastic ones like on a kiddie car and the handle just loops over the hitch ball. I have to go 15 miles on the freeway to the nearest dump station plus the largest "blue buddy", at 45 gallons, is over $250.

Since I already have a Flomax mascerator pump that liquifies everything so it can be pumped through a regular garden hose I decided I could put a tank in the back of the truck. Tanks of any kind are still not particulary cheap so I ended up with a used white plastic barrel I got for $20. I built a cradle out of a 3 ft by 3 ft piece of 3/4" plywood I had laying around with 4 plastic wheel chocks screwed to it and two ratcheting tie-down straps to hold the barrel in place. I used two more tie-down straps to secure the whole thing in the back of the truck.

The barrel has two 2" bungs in the top. One is standard pipe thread and I bought the necessary PVC fittings at the local big box store to fit on a 2" PVC ball valve and reduce to 10 ft of 1 1/2" spa/pool hose. The barrel was placed in the cradle so this would be on the bottom.

The top bung was coarse thread but had been pre-cast with an option to use a 3/4" fitting. I just had to remove the molded in plug. I used a pipe thread to female hose adapter and added one of those in-line garden hose shut-offs.

Just above and to the left of the top bung I drilled a 3/16" hole to let the air out when pumping liquids in and used a 1/4" sheet metal screw to plug it when not in use.

The Flomax mascerator pump is designed to twist on to the rv's sewer outlet and has an outlet to attach a garden hose. The garden hose connects to the top fitting on the barrel, open the shut-off valve, make sure the 2" ball valve is closed and take the screw out of the air bleed hole and we're ready to try it out.

After the fact, it all worked as planned. The waste water tank pumped into the barrel in about five minutes with no problems and emptied in less than 3 minutes at the dump station at the I-5 rest stop. It took about 10 minutes to rinse out the barrel because they have some funky fitting on the ends of the hose at the dump station. I have a new gizmo to try next time called a "water thief". It's kind of like a piece of hose about 4" long with a male garden hose fitting on one end and the other fits over any kind of outlet with or without threads and has a hose clamp to keep the connection tight. That will free up my hands to tilt the barrel around while the water is running to rinse it out.

Not including the mascerator pump I have less than $100 invested. One advantage of the "blue buddy" is that it doesn't take up as much room to stow it if you are taking it with you.

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