Along with C.Martin, my enabler, I too decided to install an electric dump system. I looked into this a year ago and based on the challenges, my newness to mods and RV'ing, I opted it wasn't the right time for me and I have no problems with the current T-handle system, rain, slides, stinky slinky, etc. As with many mods I do, it's about learning the capabilities of RV systems and exploring the options out there. Last December I had HWH Active Air installed, a pure luxury item, not a necessity, simply to see what it's all about and enjoy a hi-line feature in an entry point DP. At that time I decided to get a Sani-con and see what it's all about, and recently sometime around Dec/Jan Charlie brought up the electric gate valves and of course I joked about Alexa, etc. So we sorta had a challenge and I proceeded as Charlie somehow always leads me to do. Note - I will never go bunji jumping with Charlie or skydiving. I'll end up out the plane while he laughs! Not happening!
Charlie and I discussed the various systems out there from Drainmaster, Barker, Valterra and whoever else. Knowing my T-Handles weren't always the easiest to pull or stow I couldn't see a motorized system pushing or pulling the T-handle working very well so I went with the dedicated system by Drainmaster. Charlie just posted about his install with the Barker setup and going wireless, click here
to read his story of this "adventure."
In my research of Drainmaster
it appears they came out with a newer system since I last looked. The S2VT. So I called and spoke with them and confirmed what I needed knowing Newmar uses a 3" black and a smaller size (1.5") for gray. They sell the reducer to work with their system on 1.5" plumbing.
My project was a bit more broad than just the electric gate valves, it involved enhancing the wet bay following the acquisition of a Sani-con Turbo 400S as recommended by Thetford. That is a saga in itself that started in January from wiring, to plumbing, to pump orientation, pump level vs. sewer outlet level, what a situation. So I made a decision like others to add another exit hole in the bottom of the wet bay so I could bayonet attach the sanicon which has the hose going left so I needed a port left of the existing hole. I also wanted to secure the water pump as it can vibrate and make more noise and then add vibration dampening to get the remco water pump as quiet as possible. That all worked great, you can hear the water pump so you know it's running but it's subtle - perfect! I also took the opportunity with the wet bay panel off to get new SeeLevel sensor strips installed as they sucked on the pegboard side. Later learning the tank design reveals why, pegboard side is not the right place for tank sensors! Lastly, I added soap dispensers to the master bath and kitchen sinks.
Time to remove the wet bay panel and that wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and many thanks to those here that helped such as finding out the black valve levers pop off and how to remove pex crimps with heavy duty cutters. Fast forward, it was a whole lot easier taking off then putting a brand new one ($230 by the way) back on.
So now it's planning time, where is everything going? How does this 1.5 inch reducer work and where does it go? The instructions say you need a 2 inch section to install it in. Only problem is the entire plumbing path from gray to gate is curves (elbows). So a phone call to Drainmaster and now I'm contacted back by Doug, the owner. Doug was outstanding throughout this entire month long mod helping solve many problems encountered, more challenges then problems and outstanding advice along the way. I sent him a few pictures of the Newmar plumbing and we took a close look at the connection to the gray tank, he realized it's threaded, not ABS glued. Many of us have heard about tanks being removed from coaches, Newmar was smart enough to install tanks in a way that they could remove them. I've never done plumbing before whether PVC or ABS. Quite frankly, it was a neat learning experience, ABS glue is awesome stuff!
Poor Joe Gentry at Newmar parts handling my daily call for more stuff. The parts team sent me the plumbing parts that go from black to the gate so I could mirror the black plumbing on gray. I asked several at Newmar and got handed off to some people I've never heard of there to try and answer my question: Is the gray plumbing glued or removable? I got both answers so this was going to be a huge risk but I really believed it was not glued. How are you going to tell? You can remove the gray plumbing at the gate but then what? You can just take a saw to the pipe as you're then in a point of no return. So I disconnected at the gate and then gently rotated the pipe realizing the torque you're going to get with that long moment arm, it rotated! Out came the saw, pipe cut and sure enough the fitting unscrewed. Aaaah!
Doug suggested I use a coupler to give flexibility in fitting the plumbing and also it will help when the time comes to replace the seals in the gates (yes people, you may have to do that someday). He had great advice, start with black and work your way to gray so you don't try to meet in the middle. Worked like a charm.
Next up is the electrical. HUGE thanks
to my electrical engineers and wiring coaches Stuart W
. I chatted a bit with Stuart on where to mount the switches inside the coach. Ideally I'd like them to be under the bedroom TV so I could dump while looking out the window making sure nothing tragic is occurring while dumping without monitoring the process. The next best location would be where the bedroom slide button is, can I find a path into that wall from below? While I do know how to run wires into the FWS the two phone cord (RJ11) wires with IP66 (or whatever) water tight fittings on the end was not something I wanted to do so FWS was out. Stuart mentioned a common location is under the half bath sink by following the black tank rinse lines up and in. I thought of that but that's not an ideal location, it's cramped, you have to look around the door below the sink in my floor plan's orientation, how about the half bath fuse panel area. Yeah, that's where I want it. I know the path across the tanks and I really didn't want to remove the pegboard again but so be it, off it came. Long story short, I could not find my way up into the half bath so that's out. Next option is a path I know and that is up under the kitchen sink. Wires run and layed loosed for later connections.
My electrical design goal was to be able to operate Sani-con and the gates from inside. I wanted the same system like the water pump in the ventana uses, a latching controller allowing you to turn sani-con on or off from any location just like the water pump. Seriously complex then how to integrate Sani-con's wiring, wowza! I got the designs from Stuart and Charlie but as always, it does not compute to my non-electrician brain. So emails, texts, calls ensued, as usual. I ended up removing the Sani-con switch as they use a relay just as the design presented me offered so a low voltage latching controller can drive high amp equipment.
Charlie and I worked for hours getting the momentary switch figured out so all that was good, Sani-con worked, the gates are very easy to wire up as Drainmaster has some of the best documentation
, diagrams, of any vendor I've seen. Then after realizing how easy it was to hit the momentary switch in the coach and how quiet Sani-con is, I better put Sani-con under the master on/off switch that is in the design for the gates so the gates are NOT powered unless a hose is hooked up. That was implemented, now there is a master on/off switch that controls sani-con and drainmaster.
The drainmaster gates work outstanding, they open/close in approximately 1 second, very fast and their switches indicate a gate open with a red led, and closed with a green led. The system auto-closes the gates when power is applied as a safety feature.
After many challenges, 3D print designs, I finally got things completed today. I still have a few tweaks to some 3D print designs for the hose big and master/momentary switch mounts but it's pretty much a done deal. I also installed a dual water filter system which had its challenges as well as they use a 1/2 inch connection and Newmar uses 3/4" and finding parts for RV configurations is not the easiest.
As stated in Charlie's post, electric gates are not for everyone. This job was very labor intensive, had numerous problems to be solved, tons of trips to Lowes and orders from Amazon. I have no issues with stinky slinkies or pulling T-handles under slides. This is an experiment in RV vendor enhancements. Charlie and I joked about smartphone, wireless, Amazon Echo (Alexa) and he put that to use with his. With easy to access switches for inside coach dumping I doubt I will venture down the wireless path, it's just not necessary with the Drainmaster config. By the way, if you ask what happens if no power to gates, they have an included (side mounted) allen wrench you can use to open/close the gates.
While this project was massive, traumatic, challenging in so many ways, it was an amazing learning experience. Learning how to get the wet bay panel off, learning about pex connections/crimps, about relays, etc. etc. it's been a great education.
I am so ready to go camping! Things start opening up around here mid March and I'm ready to get back to grilling, pellet smoker'ing, walking the dog, and doing that thing we're supposed to do in RV's. It's amazing how many of us did some pretty major projects this winter, not sure what got into us!
So this is my story of the Drainmaster system. I know TJ is jealous, if I were on the left coast I'd install this for him. Glad I'm not on the left coast!
Thanks again Stuart and Charlie for your help. Without your help this would not have happened!