Electricity & Allergies


When I first decided to complete a bus conversion, I had the intention of doing it  ALL on my own. I would just  take classes on electricity, plumbing, welding, construction, automotive, etc. if I needed to. Somehow, between the 6 kids I am raising (homeschooling 5 of them), running a home, and trying to begin a family business, I have been unable to learn much, especially in the area of electric and plumbing.

A year ago, I had 3 different estimates on the electric and all came in around $300.  I didn’t have any money then, but when I did, this past winter, we began interviewing for an electrician again. I had 3 appointments set up for one afternoon. The first guy showed up, and begged (literally begged, it was almost embarrassing) me to give him the job. He said he would not only run all of my 110 and 12v electric, but he would also reconnect my radiant heaters, hook up my propane, and even help me put in an awesome stereo system. All for $300. I took pity on him, and told him I would pay him a hundred more to have him do it all. Tommy the Tweaker, as we now (lovingly) refer to him, couldn’t finish anything he started.  After a week of work, we were still struggling to have him even show up on time, if at all. I heard sob story after sob story. He told us that he’d be willing to trade for a used laptop we had, then asked for it before he’d even began roughing in any of the electrical wires. He said that it would help him to be able to look up info for completing the job, online. When he disappeared for a month…..which was really strange, we still held hope that he would follow through on his end of the bargain. We waited patiently. When I finally did get a hold of him, he gave me some bogus story about how he’d been put in jail for not paying child support. We knew he was probably in there for other reasons, but still tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, just trying to give a fella a chance to make things right. He was always pointing out how he kept his tools at my house, so we could trust him that he’d be back. Well, when he finally came back (after his month-long sabbatical in a cell), he sent me off to get a longer drill bit at the local hardware store. When I came back, only about 15 minutes later, Tommy the Tweaker and all of his visible tools had disappeared….along with the $200 worth of work he’d already been paid for.

Fast forward to this year….we have our home up for sale, a HUGE pile of wood crowding our patio, several items we collected to add to the conversion (nearly filling up the garage), but without a way to complete the conversion until we got the electric completed. After my experience with Tommy the Tweaker, I promised myself that I wouldn’t attempt any more work on the bus until I found competent, honest, and decent people to help me with the electrical, gas, and plumbing. I haven’t had any money to even think about it.

Almost a month ago, my friend on Facebook, Carolyn, asked if she, her hubby, and her son could come and stay with us for a couple of days while they traveled from Texas up to California. Carolyn and I have become good friends over the past couple of years and I have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to hang out with her….so much nicer than just visiting on the phone. I told her that we’d love to have them visit us! Then, she said that she noticed that we were in need of a good electrician to help us get our bus conversion done. Yeah? Her hubby, Rich, just happens to be a jack-of-all-trades. Maybe he could help us out while they are staying with us. I told her that I would see what I could do as far as funding went, and didn’t hold my breath that it would work out. During that next week, I sold an entertainment center I had placed online quite a few months earlier. Yay! I now knew I would have enough money to pay Rich, should he bid around the same price as the other 4 guys.

They arrived a week later than we’d planned, and we were thrilled to finally have them here. I had intended for Carolyn and Rich to sleep on our pull-out and Ian to sleep in with our boys (they are the same age). When Carolyn informed me that they have dogs, I told her that I am allergic to doggies, but they could stay outside while they were here. Of course, like most pet owners, their doggies sleep with them every night, so they decided to give Ian the sofa bed and they tented it in our backyard with the doggies. Worked for me!

When they finally arrived at our home, it was late at night. Carolyn, Rich, and Ian, their 13-year-old son, were exhausted. I apologized for the inconvenience of having to keep the doggies outside. Carolyn was so sweet, saying that she totally understood allergies, as Rich was gluten-intolerent…as she was saying this to me (I had no idea he had allergies), I was thinking about the meals I had just recently purchased food for…the veggie lasagna, Aaron’s famous spaghetti, and the chicken enchiladas would obviously be a no-go. But, having a mom with Celiac Disease, I knew enough about gluten intolerance to make the best of the situation and just make sure we avoided wheat when Rich ate with us. Then she went on to say that he was also allergic to tomatoes, bananas, berries, melons….the look on my face was probably one of horror (I have never learned how to not wear my heart on my sleeve).  I’ll be honest with you, I was a bit worried, at this point. How was I going to sustain this family and keep him from having an allergic reaction while they ate with us? I use bananas in just about every smoothie I make and we have berries in our hot cereals to sweeten them (since I am trying to avoid processed sugars as much as possible).  I told her we’d figure something out and we called it a night…we were all exhausted.

The kids awoke the following morning and were completely stoked to have doggies in the backyard (only one of them is allergic to doggies like me, so I just had to make sure the kids washed up before loving me, once they came inside)! Rich started right away on the electric. He was so honest and knowledgable, and I was so appreciative for his patience with me and all of my questions. I warned him that I wanted to learn as much as possible, so I would be shadowing him most of the time.

Did I mention that the kids really enjoyed the dogs….and their make-shift kennel?

Here is a picture of the FINAL Electrical Floor Plan. The week before our friends arrived, I sat down and revised my Electrical Plan (once again). After 2 years of planning and discussing it with those who understand electricity more than myself, there were a few areas that needed adjusting. After Rich arrived, however, we realized that the light I had planned for the wall next to the fridge, wouldn’t work. Another item that is different is the 5th outlet in the Bunk Room. Rich had completed everything on the list I had written out for him and our friends had left on their journey to California before I realized that he had forgotten the extra outlet in the Bunk Room. I bet he thought I was crazy for having 4 outlets in there, as it was….so, I laughed about it and will adapt.

The first real decision I had to make, was with the radiant heaters we removed a couple of years ago. I had wanted to save them and relocate them in the completed RV, so we could keep warm while in motion. But then I finally realized that, for the amount of space they would be occupying and the amount of time we would actually be using them, it just didn’t make sense to keep them. Now, the space under one of the dinettes can be used to house 6-8 deep cycle batteries instead and this also means I won’t have to take one of the bottom bunks up another couple of inches. Plus, it will be one less project to worry about. They look so sad, out on the cement…abandoned….I’ll find them a good home soon. Promise. 😉

The next issue we had, was with the used converter we were hoping to use….it didn’t work at all. We found a new one at State Trailer, and this one had an area for both breakers and fuses. Then, Carolyn called around and found some refurbished breakers to go in it, saving us around $25. Thanks, Carolyn! 🙂 The switches to the right, are for the porch light (inside) and the kitchen lights.  The switch to the left is for the outside light. This will cabinet will one day be beautiful and have some stained paneling covering it, with a cupboard door leading into the upper part where we will store off-road emergency triangles and etc. Also, on top of this front control cabinet, there will be 3 more dc adapters and a place to put our keys, etc. (another post for another day).

Rich was awesome! He knew so much, and what he didn’t know, he quickly learned. Such a great example of how to be.

He did a fabulous job on the wiring. This is the completed work. The duct-taped breaker is for the AC units (which we won’t be able to purchase until the house sells). I still need to fill out the panel cover….maybe tonight?

This is our shore hookup box. Rich asked if I had a metal or wooden box and I just happened to have a table with folding sides that I had kept, for just such a project. We dismantled the table (myself and the boys) and Rich attached it to the bottom of the bus and cut out an opening for the door. We purchased a 30 amp extension cord and Rich hooked it up to the converter and with the removed end, made a piggy tail for me to use, should we be connected to someplace without 30 amp hookups (which we presently are….our own house).  I’ll get more pics of it, when I complete the box (it has a part of it that needs to be added on). Pay no attention to the horrendous scar on the side of Liahona….she was obviously in a little accident before we got her. At some point, we’ll have her looking all pretty.

Rich worked most of the day, most days. We did take breaks, as it got extremely hot out in the bus. He ran all of the 12v first, then hooked up the 110. We made several trips to Home Depot and State Trailer over the week and a half that they were with us.

The kids are all stoked to have their own lights and outlets for plugging in their devices….can’t wait to complete the bunks (but wait I must, as I am waiting to get the new glazing I ordered for a couple of the windows in the bunk room….another post for another day)! By the way, the dc adapters (cigarette lighters) are not attached, but will be, once I finish the walls….Rich was really good at making sure everything was lined up perfectly, which I greatly appreciated.

Here is the other end of the bunk room. We put the switches for the one 110 light in the room up high, in order to keep Simon (or any other little ones) from playing with it. And there is a switch on both sides of the room. Rich laughed at that fact, as it is only a 6 ft walk to the other side of the room….I know, it was probably overkill. I also had him put a 3 way switch in for the 110 lights over the dinette tables, one is right outside the bathroom (which glows….I didn’t know I had purchased a lighted switch, until Rich installed it and we were hooked up to power. Hey, it works for us!) and the other switch is located near the front door.

Even the little ones have their own lights! Simon was so excited the first few days after I showed him. And, notice the CO/LP detector….we’ll have another one up front, when we are done.

This is where the rear furnace thermostat is located, for obvious reasons. And there is another 12v light there as well.

This isn’t the best picture of the Master Alcove, but I wanted to show you how we ended up putting in the lights. There is a 110 light on the wall, which is ran along the entrance into the alcove, where I will be adding an arch soon. There is also a double 12v light at the foot of the bed (just in case we need light over there) and a couple of reading/directional lights that are right next to the mirror. This entire headboard will look different, once it is complete. I had Rich install a quad plug up in the corner, just in case we ever decide to purchase a tv and dvd player. In the meantime, I will be creating versatile storage space up there….also, for another post on another day. 😉

Here are the lights in the kitchen on the curbside (passenger side). The 110 lights are in the middle of the double 12v lights and are directly above the dinette tables (well, as much as they can be, when the storage area only comes out a foot). There are also 2 12v fluorescent lights above the kitchen counter and another 110 light on the wall. And the light on the end of the upper cabinet has its own switch, also located on the front control cabinet. We had a new, elegant light (that I had picked up for about $5 from someone online), which Rich hooked up for us. The glass cup had a huge chip in it, so we ended up getting this new fixture. What a pain to install! Made me appreciate all of Rich’s work all the more.

This is the other side of the kitchen (streetside or driver’s side….there is a debate over what to call it in an RV. lol). The lights are the same, under the cabinets, and there is a little 12v light above the driver’s seat, which can be used for reading maps, etc. I forgot to have Rich run the electric behind the shelf  leading up to the front cabinet (hadn’t built it yet), but it will work out well, as I will now have a nice open shelf to store maps, etc. and I even located some awesome metal wall cornering to install over the open wires and paint to match the walls, $1 for a 12 ft piece from The Restore (Habitat for Humanity)…..another post for another day. Ha! Rich also installed a dc adapter in the driver’s side panel (not pictured) for me to charge my phone while on the road….guess I will have to check and see which states allow drivers to talk on their phones while driving, eh?

These are the outlets in the kitchen, right next to where the fridge will be installed (behind this wall). I had Rich put the plugs on top of each other (rather than run a quad outlet), so we’d have enough room for the fridge on the other side. Also, there is a dc adapter (hey, you never know where you are going to want to plug in your laptop or phone while on the road or boondocking) and a switch that will go to the fan that will be located to the left of the stove (we couldn’t get the used fan I had purchased to work, so I either need to remove the one from above the windshield area or purchase another one to go under the cabinet there…..another post for another day). I am also excited to have a magnetic board to put my dried herbs and spices up on the wall….it will probably be painted to match the green I am going to use in the kitchen (you guessed it, another post for another day). There are quite a few outlets in the kitchen: two in the dinettes (one on each side of the bus), another one in the converter/control cabinet up front, another below the switch in the hallway, and these two above the countertop. I don’t think we’ll have to search too long to find power.

The boys and I had just completed putting the wall that will border the bunk and fridge on the curbside, when I realized that it would be about 1/2 inch too tight for a fridge to fit in without being difficult. Aaron wasn’t thrilled about having to come out and help me move it, but he was pretty bored, so he pitched in and helped out with moving the wall over an inch. Thanks, my love. 🙂

Rich offered to help me install the furnaces (as much as we can without hooking up the gas). He used the drill, grinder, sawzal, and the jigsaw to get through on both sides…..and for his help I was EXTREMELY GRATEFUL. I was too much of a chicken to cut out the sides of the bus until I saw him do it with such grace. Thanks for the example, Rich. 🙂

Rich had his scary side….lol!

Here is the rear furnace. This one is used and the fan works well. Hopefully it blows out warm air, once we have it hooked up to the gas. One of the vents will go out into the Bunk Room and the other will blow out into the Master Suite. The thermostat for this furnace is the one that is located right outside of the Master Alcove, above the file cabinets.

And this is the rear furnace from the outside of the bus. It will painted to match the rest of the bus, when we finally reach that step in the conversion….haven’t decided if we will stick with pale turquoise or attempt a sunset/sunrise….so many decisions! 😉

And this is Rich cutting out the hole for the front furnace. This opening was so much smaller than the other opening.

This turned out quite nicely. Just need to do a little caulking around the edges and it will be done on the outside.

After watching Rich cut so many holes in the bus, I offered to cut the outside outlet. I began by tracing the inside of the case.

I drilled 2 holes and cut out the piece of the outside of the bus with my jigsaw and a metal blade.

Then I drilled a hole into the inside of the front control cabinet and Rich connected the switch, and put it together.

Rich put some caulking around the edge and installed our lovely outside outlet….which I am thrilled to have. This is where we will plug in our electric skillet or crock pot, when we don’t want to get the inside of the Liahona too hot.

And here is inside of the outside outlet. By the way, all but a couple of the switches, plugs, and light fixtures came out of a Class A Motorhome that had blown over in a wind storm and was being parted out by  a guy who purchased it for a song and a dance. I picked up the flat outlets and switches for around 25 cents a piece and the mushroom lights (6 of them) for around $1 each. I also bought some electrical wiring, both 110 and 12v for around $20 total. What I deal! I didn’t realize what an awesome deal it was, until I went to buy more of these same items brand new. Wowza!

During one of our trips to State Trailer, I found this outdoor 12v light for $5 and asked Rich if he would install it. He let me drill the hole for it, and let me watch him hook it up. What fun! The switch is located on the bottom of the cabinet that hangs right above our heads, where we will be sleeping. It will be so nice to have a light to turn on quickly, should there be anything that goes bump in the night! 😉

This is a used light I picked up from another fella for $5….I may switch the lens cover out for a clear one, but they run around $15, so that won’t be for a while. There is a switch right inside the front door and it also runs on 12v. I am planning on replacing the front door, once I am brave enough. Already have the door ($20 from a yard sale), just need the nerves. lol….I’m getting there!

After 10 days of work and a lot of effort, Rich completed the electrical system for the bus. He was such a trooper! He even made out a couple of diagrams of what he had done, one for the 110 wiring and another for the 12v wiring. He did a superb job! So happy to have friends like him and his sweet wife, Carolyn.

Trying to work out in the bus and learn from Rich was quite difficult at times, with my little wanderer (Simon) and my curious gal (Ryan) needing a lot of attention. I was so thankful to have Aaron, Alex, Ethan, and Jamin around to help keep an eye on them. Plus, all of the kids enjoyed a lot of play time with Spike and Trixie. Simon loves to spray the hose and Trixie loves to play in the hose water….perfect pair!

Ryan had fun dancing with Trixie, and we let the two girls play together a lot, until we found out Ryan had been feeding her all sorts of plants…..no, they don’t eat plants. Yes, I know you saw her eating grass….but, no she doesn’t eat lamb’s ear.

I finally let Ryan come into the bus one day to “clean” the front area. It was pretty disgusting, dusty from a couple of years of sitting.

Ryan even developed a new form of yoga….we call it Sun Dragon creative cleaning pose 1…..what a goof! lol

We had our share of challenges during the 10 days we had our friends staying with us. One night, Rich and the boys noticed that there was a great amount of water coming out of where the sprinkler box was located. Aaron dug it up and sure enough, there was a leak. We couldn’t figure out where our turn-off valve was. After a few hours of looking, we finally called our neighbor, Jim, who owns a landscaping company (and if you saw his yard, you’d hire him in a heartbeat!) and asked him what he suggested doing. He told us to get a hold of the city and have the water turned off. He came by our house and said he would send a couple of his guys over in the morning.

Sure enough, the next morning, a couple of Jim’s guys showed up, assessed the problem, and fixed the pipes for us. We buried the pipes and were thankful to have water again. At church, the following day, I asked Jim how much we owed him for his service. He smiled and said, “Absolutely nothing….just pay it forward when you can.” And we will. We are so grateful for such kindnesses in our life. Thanks, Jim!

The following evening, our oldest daughter pulled out of the driveway, heading to work, and realized that one of the back tires on Aaron’s car was Com. Plete. Ly. Flat. Not only did Rich begin helping, but so did our other neighbor, Mike….it took Aaron and I a few minutes to get back home and we were so thankful for the service rendered. Again another great act of kindness, leaving us feeling very loved.

Making meals was crazy, as I was out in the bus or driving around running errands for most of the day. I also gained a great appreciation for all of my sweet friends who have family members with food allergies, especially my mom. I may sound like I am complaining, but I’m not. Just as I am sure our friends realized what a great blessing it is to not have all of their friends allergic to doggies, I am thankful that no one in our family has food allergies. It was a great way to help us to gain appreciation for what we have. lol!

I’m not gonna lie to you, we all miss this sweet family. Yes, even I miss the doggies. We had hoped to have enough money and time to show our friends around Utah, but we were all short on both, so we worked together, ate together, and even played together instead.

And sometimes, just living life is enough of an adventure in of itself, especially when you are spending time with those you love. 🙂

Pura Vida!


2 responses »

  1. My son and I can relate to your families … we both have allergies. I hope if any of you have very severe reactions that the person has an epi-pen…and never have to use it!
    Can’t wait to read about your experiences! :]

  2. Pingback: Americana | Sun Dragon Adventures

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