Fixing My Portable Icemaker and Making Clear Ice

This post will take me longer to write up than it did to actually do the project.  I have a portable icemaker that’s several years old sitting right behind the passenger seat.  It keeps a fresh batch of ice ready all the time, but it recently started showing the “add water” light even when the reservoir was filled. A new one can be had for $104.99 on Amazon, and would have been here in a couple of days.

I couldn’t see getting rid of an appliance that likely just had a bad microswitch.  When I listened to it pumping, it sounded like there was a little backflow from the switch/check-valve assembly–a small plastic part that I wasn’t going to be able to track down for a buck or two.  Instead of replacing it, I decided to look at the control board and see if I could bypass it.  Fortunately, the board is relatively simple, labeled in English, and there’s a wiring diagram on the back of the enclosure.

Wiring diagram on back of icemaker.
Front side of control board showing water switch location (empty plug)

Sure enough, you can.  If it runs out of water, I might ruin the pump, but then I’m just back to where I am now.  When you look at the board, the water switch plugs in on the right side.  The switch should be normally open, closing when water is present–but it isn’t.  I temporarily closed the contacts myself, and lo-and-behold, it works!

Now we just need to make it permanent.  Here’s what the back side of the board looks like:

Back of icemaker control board

The red circle shows the water switch connector.  It’s easy enough to bridge the two contacts with solder–here’s what it looks like afterwards:

Back of icemaker control board, with water switch contacts shorted

Here’s what it looks like making it’s first batch of ice after being dormant for a while:

Newly repaired icemaker making its first batch of ice.

Cleaning while it’s Apart

If you look closely in that last picture, you can see some crud in the water tray where the ice cubes are made.  It’s some sort of mold, and it’s not very noticeable when the icemaker is closed up and running.  But I don’t want it in my ice cubes, so now is the time to clean it up.

A little bit of bleach wiped around the inside goes a long ways, but also make sure to catch the underside of that tray–it was similarly ugly:

Bottom of water tray, showing mold/dirt accumulation.

But we can’t just return to a normal Icemaker…what about Clear Ice?

First of all, what am I talking about?  Clear ice is ice that’s clear like glass instead of frosty looking.  When water freezes in a normal ice cube tray, it expands all at once and creates a pattern of voids that appear white in color.  When you look at ice from a commercial ice machine though, it’s clear.  How’s that?

A commercial ice machine, making clear ice, continuously flows water over the mold while the ice is being made.  This allows the ice to freeze in layers, similar to the way a nice clear icicle is formed.

Normally, the icemaker runs the water pump until the tray overflows, then it shuts off while the compressor runs.  If we make the pump run while the compressor is on, we’ll get clear ice too–the same kind of stuff you’d normally spend big bucks to get.

A little more examination of the board shows that the compressor is controlled by a relay with a 12V coil.  The ground side is switched, just like the pump which also operates at 12V.  So we can jumper between the two and both pump and compressor will run together:

Pump and compressor coil terminals
Control board modified to make clear ice!

How well does it work?  Well, since we’re still working with a horizontal geometry, water doesn’t circulate uniformly.  So the ice isn’t perfectly clear–just mostly clear.  The first batch of ice takes a little longer, as it’s cooling the entire reservoir’s water content, instead of just what’s in the cube tray.

Overall though, for basically zero cost and a few minutes with the soldering iron, I’m pleased.

Health Care Sharing Ministries Comparison Part 2: Medical Qualifications

Ok, you’ve survived the ethical and religious qualifications test.  Next up is an overview of what medical qualifications you’ll have to meet, or what might be excluded from coverage based on your medical history.

Will you qualify?

Unlike traditional health insurance under the ACA, health sharing organizations can (and do) ask a series of medical questions when you apply for membership.  Legally, they can deny membership for just about any reason; in practice, it’s quite different.

In this post, I’ll go through what each of the organizations publishes as far as medical qualifications for membership, and how they treat pre-existing conditions.  In general, you can expect to be accepted for membership, but with limitations placed on sharing expenses for treatment of stuff you already have.

Christian Healthcare Ministries

CHM addresses the medical qualifications very simply in their list of Frequently Asked Questions:

 

 

In other words, provided you meet/agree to the religious and ethical requirements discussed before, you’ll be accepted.  They point out that ineligible expenses, which include certain forms of pre-existing conditions, still aren’t shared–but you can join, satisfy the ACA’s individual mandate, and get coverage per the terms of the sharing guidelines just like anyone else.

As far as pre-existing conditions, CHM distinguishes between “active” and “maintenance” treatment.  If it’s something being treated with more than routine medication, it’s not eligible for sharing.  In other words, you can’t break your leg, sign up on the way to the ER, and have CHM foot the bill.  That would be an active pre-existing condition.

If the incident is over and you’re getting maintenance treatment–high blood pressure comes to mind–there’s a schedule for new Gold-level members.  The condition is eligible for sharing up to $15,000 the first year, $10,000 in the second year, $25,000 in the third year, and after that it’s no longer pre-existing.

Of course, other conditions that are not pre-existing are eligible despite any limitations on pre-existing conditions.  In other words, if you join in the middle of treatment, whether active or maintenance, for something like cancer, it’ll be subject to limitations.  But if you have cancer and break your leg, it would be treated just like anyone who didn’t join while battling cancer.

For expenses subject to the limitations on pre-existing conditions, there is a “Prayer Page” where members contribute above the monthly membership amount.  These contributions are used to help share in other members’ medical expenses associated with pre-existing conditions.

CHM’s application is available online, in a single-page format so you can see exactly what they’ll ask before giving them any personal information.

Liberty HealthShare

Like others here, Liberty will accept anyone for membership.2  The application process can be done electronically, but they also publish a printable application form here, which lets you see just what kinds of things they ask about.

If you happen to be a tobacco user, overweight, or other similar conditions that result from modifiable behavior, Liberty may assign you to a program called HealthTrac.  While participating in HealthTrac, you pay an extra $80 per month, and meet by phone regularly with a coach to help you kick the bad habit–whether quitting smoking or losing a few pounds.  So long as you’re making progress and meeting as required, you remain a member.  If you fail to progress or don’t meet with your coach, they can show you the door:

Some individuals who qualify for our medical cost sharing program but have certain pre-existing health conditions that can be improved through lifestyle changes will be enrolled in HealthTrac℠. This required program is in place for Sharing Members to improve their health while reducing the risk of developing or exacerbating serious diseases.3

My dad fell into this category, and his goal is to lose 15 lbs over the course of a year.  The sooner he loses it, the sooner he graduates from HealthTrac.  For someone who’s wanted to lose a few pounds for a long time, the savings over traditional insurance, the $80 a month more he can save by graduating, and his coach combine for a lot better motivation than he’s had in the past.  He’s well on his way to meting his goal.

Before that scares you off, they’re not asking you to become a professional athlete, bodybuilder, or anything along those lines.  There’s a simple chart that lists weights that you need to be below based on height and gender to avoid the HealthTrac program.

As far as other pre-existing conditions, Liberty looks at a 3-year period prior to enrollment.  If a condition is identified as pre-existing, it’s excluded from sharing in the first year, subject to a $50,00 maximum in years 2 and 3, and is no longer considered pre-existing after that.

One new thing that Liberty added during 2017 is a limitation on certain types of sharing during the first 2 months of membership.  During that time, “medical expenses for any reason, other than accidents, acute illness or injury, are not eligible” for sharing.  In other words, you can’t join and immediately get coverage for preventive care–like a physical or colonoscopy.

Medi-Share

Unlike most of the other sharing organizations, Medi-Share’s guidelines indicate that they may not accept members with certain conditions:

Applicants provide medical and lifestyle information during
the application process. This helps determine qualification
for Medi-Share membership.4
They go on to indicate that medical records may be required before acceptance,   Medi-Share also looks back further, limiting coverage for pre-existing conditions for up to 5 years.  During the first 3 years, a pre-existing condition is excluded from coverage.  After that, coverage is limited to $100,000/year; for years 4 and 5 coverage is limited to $500,000/year.  Only after 5 years of membership, or 5 years after symptoms/treatment, is a condition no longer treated as pre-existing.

Like Liberty, Medi-Share has a program for addressing medical conditions treatable with lifestyle modifications, in this case called Health Partners.  It sounds very similar in its structure and operation.

Altrua HealthShare

Altrua says anyone who meets the religious/ethical guidelines is eligible for membership, but those who exceed their weight criteria will have an additional monthly share amount.  It appears that weight is the only criteria with additional cost, and it is not obvious what the terms are for that.  Unlike Liberty, it doesn’t appear that there is any coaching to help you meet the weight targets.

Altrua indicates that they may define “membership limitations”, as in conditions for which coverage will not be extended based on your health history.  They will notify you of any limitations when you apply.

As far as pre-existing conditions, Altrua looks at a 24-month period prior to enrollment.  Within the first 90 days, any of the coverages requiring pre-authorization, surgery (unless delay would cause certain harms), or resulting from recreational activities are ineligible for sharing.  They also exclude any cancer diagnosis within 12 months of joining.

Altrua’s only application process requires creating an account and logging in before you can find out what kinds of questions they ask as part of the enrollment process.

AlieraCare/Unity

AlieraCare is somewhat silent on the application process and who might qualify.  They look back 24 months for pre-existing conditions, and after 2 years of membership, no longer regard a condition as pre-existing.  For cancer, however, there are additional limitations, and any occurrence within 5 years prior to enrollment is considered pre-existing.

 

 

Samaritan Ministries

Samaritan has a blanket guarantee of acceptance for membership as far as medical qualifications.  Their rules for pre-existing conditions are somewhat more complex than some of the others, depending on the specific condition.  It would be imperative that you look at the details here if you’re considering this path, but it basically breaks down into a couple of categories:

  • Conditions cured and symptom free more than 12 months are covered
  • Conditions that have been symptom free, not needed treatment, and not deteriorated for 5 years prior to enrollment can be covered
  • Pre-existing type 1 diabetes is not covered at all
  • High blood pressure, even if not symptom free, is not considered pre-existing as long as it’s controlled and you haven’t required treatment at a hospital in the past 5 years.
  • Elevated cholesterol (including taking a statin drug) is not considered pre-existing, but if it’s prescribed for arteriosclerosis for a particular location, it would be pre-existing for that location.

Summary

It looks like with the exception of possibly AlieraCare and Medi-Share, you can enroll regardless of your medical history, and none of the organizations base your monthly share amount on your health history.  Liberty and Medi-Share charge a flat fee for their health coaching programs, but only until you meet your goal.

All of the sharing organizations have some form of waiting period for pre-existing conditions, ranging from 12 months to indefinitely, most generally falling in the 2-3 year timeframe.

 

 

 

Hosting Pictures on your own Domain with DreamHost

This is intended to be a step-by-step tutorial for getting your own website up and going for the primary purpose of hosting pictures that you can link to from other sites (including forms such as rvnetwork.com).

The intent is to get you in control of your own information, and get unlimited storage and bandwidth for a relatively low cost.  Should rates change, service degrade, or anything else where you’re not happy, you’re empowered to move elsewhere without breaking all of your old content.

To do this, I’ll walk through setting up a hosting account with your own domain name, and get WordPress installed so that you can use its media library as a web-based upload tool.

The last part of the tutorial will show how to use a free synchronization tool so that you can upload files en masse, or update them if you’ve edited local copies on your computer.

Continue reading Hosting Pictures on your own Domain with DreamHost

Health Care Sharing Ministries Comparison Part 1: Religious and Ethical Standards

I was tempted to call this post “sex, drugs, and worship,” but thought it might leave way too many people disappointed.  One of the first questions for anyone considering participation in an HCSM is whether they can honestly agree with the religious and/or ethical standards laid out for the group.  This post will outline those religious and ethical standards for each of the sharing organizations.

WARNING: This series of posts about health insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Many of the plans have several general philosophical principles, but the ones I want to discuss here are the binding religious and ethical standards that pertain to membership.  Some are absolute–like abstaining from illegal drug or tobacco use–while others are more subjective, like agreeing not to abuse alcohol.  We’ll start with the easiest ones first.

Before diving in, just to keep things simple: so far as the qualifications, Liberty1 and AlieraCare2 use the exact same language.  When referring to Liberty, know that the same applies to AlieraCare.

Tobacco

All of the sharing organizations prohibit tobacco use while a member. Samaritan Ministries3 makes an exception for a rare celebratory cigar or pipe, giving the example of the birth of a baby.  Medi-Share4 requires that members have not used tobacco in the preceding 12 months.

Alcohol

All of the sharing organizations address alcohol use in some form.  Medi-Share requires that members not abuse alcohol, and that they haven’t in the preceding 12 months.  Christian Healthcare Ministries5 and Liberty HealthShare require that you follow scriptural teachings on the use/abuse of alcohol.  In the case of Liberty, that requirement is more lenient, as one of the shared beliefs is that you have the right to worship in your own way.  Altrua 6 simply requires that you not consume in excess.

Samaritan Ministries requires you to choose one of two options.  Option 1 is to abstain from all beverages containing alcohol, with wine used for communion as the only exception.  Option 2 is to “limit consumption of alcohol to moderate amounts so as to never drink to drunkenness.”  There’s no sense in choosing option 1, as it’s more restrictive than option 2, unless you want to increase your likelihood of getting kicked out.

Drug Use

All of the sharing organizations have some requirement related to drug use:

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries Abstain from illegal use of drugs.  This presumably addresses both use of illegal drugs as well as illegal or excessive use of prescription or over-the-counter medicine.
  • Medi-Share Drug use is addressed under a prohibition on unhealthy lifestyles.  Illegal drug use is explicitly prohibited, along with abuse of prescription and OTC medicine.  Applicants must attest that neither illegal drug use or illegal use of legal drugs has occured in the preceding 12 months.
  • Samaritan Ministries No abuse of legal or prescribed substances, total abstention of illegal drugs and recreational use of marijuana.  While the prohibition on illegal drug use would seemingly include a prohibition on the use of medical marijuana, the wording gives rise to possibly permitting it.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare This one is a little complex, in that it names quite a few substances.  Unlike the others, abuse of prescription drugs is defined.  Abuse is “consuming prescription medications in a manner not intended by the prescriber that would likely result in bodily harm or dependency.”  That means that simply using a medicine in a different manner than prescribed by itself wouldn’t be abuse.
  • Altrua “The use of any form of illicit drugs is harmful to the body and soul.”

Health/Exercise

These requirements are very imprecise.  Generally, they require something in regard to doing things to maintain your health.  Obviously, with shared costs, anything that can be done to stay healthy benefits the member directly, and reduces the long-term costs associated with sharing.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries No explicit requirement.
  • Medi-Share “Members should strive to maintain healthy lifestyles”
  • Samaritan Ministries Members “agree to practice good health measures in accordance with the principle that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit.”
  • Liberty/AlieraCare “Exercise regularly and eat healthy foods that do not harm the body.”
  • Altrua “We keep our bodies clean and healthy with proper nutrition.”

Marriage and Sex

Now that you’ve eaten healthy and exercised, let’s head to the bedroom. Liberty HealthShare and AlieraCare stand out from the others as the only ones that don’t require or imply requiring sex within traditional marriages.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries No specific requirement, however they require that you be “a person who embraces and follows the teaching of the New Testament in its entirety.”  This presumably prohibits sex outside of marriage, as well as non-traditional marriages among members.
  • Medi-Share “Sexual relations only within a Biblical Christian Marriage.”  This doesn’t explicitly define Biblical Christian Marriage, but the use of capitalization implies that they have something in mind.  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
  • Samaritan Ministries No sexual activity “outside of traditional Biblical marriage as designed by God between one man and one woman.”  Does not address same-sex marriage separately from sexual activity.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare No requirements related to sexual activity or marriage.
  • Altrua Marriage must be between a man and a woman; no sex outside of marriage.

Worship

Some of the sharing organizations have requirements for worship; however, this carries very little practical weight except in the case of Samaritan Ministries.

  • Christian Healthcare Ministries “must attend group worship regularly as health permits.”  Does not require organized church service–this could be a bible study or other similar gathering.
  • Medi-Share No specific worship requirement.
  • Samaritan Ministries Members must “attend a Christian church regularly (at least three out of four weeks per month that your health or weather permits).”  Samaritan Ministries requires an annual statement from your pastor supporting your claim to meet this requirement.
  • Liberty/AlieraCare No specific worship requirement.
  • Altrua No specific worship requirement.

Summary of Religious and Ethical Standards

Liberty HealthShare easily has the least restrictive membership requirements.  Smokers will have a tough time on any plan, but Liberty HealthShare does accept smokers as members, charges an extra $80/month fee, and assigns you a health coach to help you quit.  Others may as well, but the criteria are less clear.  In general, outside of Samaritan Ministries, none of the requirements are very difficult to meet or to keep up with.  If pre-marital sex or non-traditional relationships come into play, the field narrows quickly.

New Awning Fabric, Under $100!

It’s new awning time!  After a tear in the Sunbrella fabric that was put on in 2012, it was time for something a little different.  I was never happy with the Sunbrella material–it tore easily, and was too tightly woven to allow light breezes to pass through.  In other words, it was always fluttering.  At 5 years old, it needed to go.

My old Safari motorhome had a different material–instead of an acrylic fabric, it had a vinyl-coated polyester mesh.  When I sold that rig at 21 years old, its original awnings still looked brand new.  There wasn’t the slightest tear, they breathed well, and water couldn’t pool on them. (In a hard enough rain, water would drip through)  I’ve been able to find the same stuff, but only in 60″ widths, and it’s quite expensive.

While looking for something else, I came across this material that I could get for about $75 big enough to do one of my 10’x16′ awnings with no seams.

It’s not exactly what I wanted, but it’s an open mesh, non-fraying, and most importantly, cheap enough to try.  If you look at the reviews, there are lots of people that leave them out in all kinds of weather (not always without incident), standing up better than you’d expect with most RV canopies.

Continue reading New Awning Fabric, Under $100!

The HCSM: Healthcare Sharing in General

After a couple of dense, long posts that were kind of dreary in tone, it’s time to shed some light on a set of viable options for RVers.  Generally, what I’m referring to in this post are Health Care Sharing Ministries (HCSMs).

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading The HCSM: Healthcare Sharing in General

ACA/Marketplace Insurance Policies for Full-Time RVers: One Size Fits Few

By the time you’re done reading this post, it’ll probably be pretty clear there’s little love lost on the insurance providers I’ve dealt with.  They don’t get what full-time RVers do, or they get it and don’t like it.  I don’t get anything for my opinions here (if I was, I probably wouldn’t get away with what follows).

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading ACA/Marketplace Insurance Policies for Full-Time RVers: One Size Fits Few

“Insurance” for Full-Timers

Phew!  Yes, this post and the ones that follow on this subject are going to touch on some sensitive subjects, but dealing with medical care is both sensitive and plays a large role in our comfort, security, and freedom to travel.  This first post is intended to outline some of what conventional insurance is and how it works.  The follow-on posts will cover some of the issues for RVers, including insurance alternatives, and my experiences with them.

WARNING: This series of posts about insurance contains some political commentary, along with both religious concerns and alternative lifestyles. If you’re offended by an approach to managing medicals costs that doesn’t offend someones preferences (religion, diet, or otherwise), this post probably isn’t for you.

Continue reading “Insurance” for Full-Timers

Camera for Hood-Mounted Mirror

NOTE: This post is something I wrote back in May 2015, and was published on the Escapees HDT Forum.  Here it is with a few minor updates.  Still my most-used electronic driving aid!

After adding a Volvo hood-mounted mirror, I still wasn’t quite happy with how well I could see my front right corner. I feel like I have really good coverage down the side with the normal and wide angle mirrors, the over-the-window mirror, and now the hood mirror.

This afternoon, I added a camera to the mirror, facing down, so I can finally see how close I really am. Total project cost was about $35–slightly more for the Voyager connector I needed ($18) than for the camera ($17). Here’s how I went about it (with a few pictures).

Continue reading Camera for Hood-Mounted Mirror