Decision made!

GerryCwmbran

New Member
Well we've gone and done it! Made the decision that we're going to full time starting early next year, so we're selling off all our accumulated crap from the last 40 years, I'm using my pension cos i turn 55 in a couple of months, we're buying a motorhome and off we go!

Been looking all over the interet and boy, is there a lot of information out there - half of it rubbish of course - but so many things to think about!

We're planning to stay in the UK for the first year, lots of Scotland etc and then we'll see, apart from that, no plans. Mostly wild camping is the plan with the odd site stop for charging batteries, water and waste but we can decide that as we go along.

Lots of issues to look into, from what van we will buy to how we deal with monthly medication, but nothing insurmountable and if it all goes wrong - we just rent another home somewhere.

Here is where we are right now:

MH - looked at a few dealers, can't see much difference between the £40k ones and the £15k ones so we'll be looking at £10 - £20k and hope to spend as little as possible but getting what we want. It's got to be rear lounge/bedroom, right hand drive and easy to get into but apart from that we're open to anything really though a coachbuilt seems to be the way to go for now. Upgrades/breakdowns/repairs aren't too much of an issue as I'm pretty handy, I've never put my car in a garage for repair in over 30 years of driving and I've both rewired our home and fitted a central heating system before now so I think I can handle most stuff - though age makes it a little more difficult these days!

Insurance - we'll need fulltimer insurance and there's lots of scare stories on here, but spoke to Adrian Flux and they'll be able to insure us on whatever we get, no vehicle age restrictions, value restrictions etc so that sounds much easier than we have heard, I guess the industry moves on at a pace!

Equipment - well we don't bother with TV and haven't for the last 7 years so no issues there. Internet we'll probably use a mobile phone and free wifi when we can but we can always use a mobile dongle too if we need to. Looks like a SOG unit would be great but I'll make my own version, loads of rubbish spoken about these but as a microbiologist for 20 years I have a little understanding of waste breakdown.......lol. A rear view camera and/or sensors will also be on the shopping list if not already fitted as will new batteries and a few other things as we go along I am sure.

Great to see that there's forums etc to help out, this one seems to be about the best, and we're hoping to create a blog too but for the moment it's all plan plan plan and we can't wait to get going!!

Cheers
Alan n Ann
GoodLuck A&A!! Keep us informed! GerryCwmbran
 

vortex

New Member
hi there Gerry and the very best of luck to you ... im slightly younger than you and about 8 miles down the road lol ... any idea what type of van you will be looking for mate ?
 

Ann 'N' Alan

New Member
So we went and did it, we bought a van to make into a camper! Bit of a cheat really as it's an ex police riot van so already all boarded (even if it is plastic) and insulated, anti shatter windows fitted, diesel heater in the back, air con, interior lights, and deadbolts all round. No flashing lights or sirens though - they took those off! It's big! It's a lwb Iveco Daily 50c15, so it's registered as 5.2t (don't have to worry about the weight we put in it much) and it's long with a 4.6m load length.

Still lots and lots of work to do, all the habitation electrics need sorting as they cut all the wires to lights, sirens etc and leave you to sort it all out! Then there's stripping out all the stuff we don't want and adding the bed, kitchen, toilet, gas, 240v, etc etc etc to get sorted and all the other things that come along with a second hand van, but at least we know its been looked after and been fully serviced all its life.

So we've been buying all the bits we need and have a small pile ready to go, all we need now is the van to be delivered - should be here any minute now!!
 

vwalan

Well-Known Member
hi. hope it all goes good.
are you going bed across the back ,large boot/garage underneath?
i always say dont combine the actual cab into the conversion . best curtain behind seats thick curtain so if wilding at night light doesnt shine through plus you can keep the cab looking empty so you look parked only.
but let us know how its going .
can be good fun doing the build and understanding how things work.
cheers alan.
 

Willum

Active Member
Half of this has probably already been said and I'm late in the day but my twopennorth, for what it's worth:
1. Big lead/acid leisure batteries - NOT the AGM type, too unreliable and fussy. There is so much crap in battery advertising, it's unreal. This:
http://www.aandncaravanservices.co.uk/battery-technology.php
plus a lot of other valuable info on their website is probably the best read there is on camper electrics.
2. If you want to free camp lots: as much solar as you can get on, with a regulator that charges both the leisure and vehicle battery as well.
3. A SOG-type system ..... but you said you were a microbiologist, so I'm interested to hear your thoughts on bio washing machine liquid added to it as well. My advice is to dump gas through the roof and upwards. A spare cassette might be useful. It has been for us.
4. A full-flow water filter and a Shurflo-type pump. (standard 10" canister is easy to get filters for and a lot cheaper than MH specials). We look after our tank and use it for everything, drinking included - but you do need to sterilise it regularly. VWP is good for us. Again, your thoughts.
5. A shopping trolley that you can shop with then take the bag off and use to lug a 20 litre water barrel/container around. We use an old submersible pump in the barrel to pump into the tank and save old bones lifting it.
6. The biggest LPG autogas tank you can, within reason, underslung - plus various adapters for Europe. Some ferry/tunnel operators require demonstration that it is isolated at the tank.
7. A small inverter. We run a hair dryer, chargers various - and a slow cooker.
8. A gas/diesel hob. We found a little electric grill great (Lidl raclette-type) for when we find a hook up. That said, we love food and cooking.
9. Heating is always problematic one way, or another. You say there is a diesel heater. Depends what level of comfort/sophistication you are willing to accept - but being cold and damp is no fun long term. Alde systems are wonderful but complex, expensive and quite heavy. Canal barges use them a lot. Space heating by gas/diesel/electric is simple.
10. Microfibre towels. Lightweight and quick drying.
11. Use slats under your mattress. Ventilation stops the (surprising amount of) condensation.
12. 5Kg (min) fire extinguisher, fire blanket, first aid kit, CO and smoke alarms. Hi-vis vest per person, warning triangles, headlamp deflectors. Most are mandatory in Europe anyhow.
13. A good wind-up torch. No batteries to go flat and always there when the lights go out.
14. Use LED lights. Saves a LOT of battery power.
15. A spare wheel and competent jack. A bottle of snot and a pump is no use with a gashed tyre.
Good luck. Keep us up to date.
Will
ps from personal experience: if it's a Sprinter, get the dual mass flywheel checked out by someone who knows what they're at, especially if it's high mileage.
 
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Ann 'N' Alan

New Member
Hi Willum, you may be late to the party but your pennies are worth as much as anyone else's!!:thumb::thumb:

1. Exactly the article I read and thought excellent, I went with their advice and bought two Yuasa L36-EFB's.
2.Yes we want to free camp lots, solar is on the list but I hadn't thought of charging the vehicle battery with it too - something to look into!!
3. Yes I used to be a microbiologist and was well versed on poorly run waste treatment that could upset the neighbours for miles around but I never tried bio washing machine liquid - in theory it should be ok, but unnecessary as a proper running and maintained SOG shouldn't need it, I think people use it for the perfume rather than any active ingredient. There's lots of misinformation around the SOG but there's no magic involved, all it does is add oxygen to the system and therefore the decay process making it aerobic (think of a well run compost heap) rather than the standard anaerobic setup (think of the process inside a dead body). Additionally exhaust gas is expelled through activated charcoal which should remove any residual smell(usually due to little use of the system so little added oxygen or too much liquid compared to solid). If you can smell someone's SOG unit then it's not being managed properly. Anyone who fits a SOG and then empties daily has wasted their money as the microbes take a little while to get going and do their thing, especially in colder temperatures - my advice would be empty when nearly full to allow it all to work properly but yes, exhaust through the roof and upwards but ensure the activated charcoal canister is in place. I think the vehicle movement probably allows liquid into the activated charcoal on some installations which will cause the smells some associate with SOG's, the charcoal should always be higher than the top of the tank in my opinion. A spare cassette has been purchased!
4. I was going to go for a submersible pump and completely separate drinking water, after some of the sealed tanks I've seen inside buildings I'm not keen on even mains water sitting around for too long, though your system does seem to be an excellent long term solution - especially the filter system so I may revisit that side of things...:thumb: Sterilising the tank is a good idea, doing it properly though is of utmost importance..
5. Great idea! ( That I will be stealing!!)
6. Still struggling with the gas side of things - underslung/refillable/standard and Propane or Butane??? I've used LPG extensively, having had several cars that run on it and toured France in two of them I know of it's benefits but I hear that the number of sellers in the UK is dwindling and I only know of two anywhere near where we currently live near a major City, so I am a little wary of the investment if this is true - what are your experiences with locating LPG these days?
7. Just bought a small inverter - a brand new 1000w Sealey at a knock down price (£80) - didn't fancy the 5000w Chinese ones that plug into the cigar lighter :rofl::rofl::think::think::think: I don't need a hair dryer - got no hair - and the other half has dreads so I'll just hang her out to dry :rofl::rofl::rofl: chargers I'll run from 12v mostly but a slow cooker??? Can this work using an inverter?? Does it not flatten the battery really quickly?? I'd be very interested how you get on with a slow cooker in the MH.
8. We'll use gas for all cooking, we find it better anyway and I'd rather stick to one system for all cooking I think - except of course that slow cooker you mentioned......
9. Yes, Eberspacher diesel heater already fitted, never used one so I'll be interested to see how good it is. We generally don't mind being cold but damp is a totally different issue!
10. Hate microfibre so it's traditional or drip dry for me :rofl::rofl: Hopefully weight wont be a problem as it's a 5200kg van and has Shatterproof plastic windows due to it's past help with weight saving a lot too!
11. Yes, great advice, always ventilate your mattress kids!!
12. Again great advice, I have some of the list but I've just added the rest, thanks!!
13. More good advice - you've done this before haven't you?? :wasntme::wasntme:
14. As above.......However, my van is fitted with fluorescents as standard, any idea on power consumption comparisons??
15. Now, the van doesn't come with one, has twin rear wheels so three different wheel types and I have full RAC cover (with Arrival) do I need a spare???:rolleyes::rolleyes: "A bottle of snot and a pump is no use with a gashed tyre" :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:

I looked and looked and read soooo much about choice of van and seriously, the Sprinter is the sensible option. So I bought an Iveco - just gotta be different I guess......

Thanks so much for your post, not only do posts add much information and real life experience, they make me think about things that hadn't crossed my mind!! Looking forward to getting stuck in now, we've stripped all the Police stuff out the van and tomorrow is creating our chosen layout in the van itself, also known as 'finding out just how wrong we got it ' day! Will keep you posted.

Cheers
Alan N Ann
 

Willum

Active Member
Hi Willum, you may be late to the party but your pennies are worth as much as anyone else's!!:thumb::thumb:

6. Still struggling with the gas side of things - underslung/refillable/standard and Propane or Butane??? I've used LPG extensively, having had several cars that run on it and toured France in two of them I know of it's benefits but I hear that the number of sellers in the UK is dwindling and I only know of two anywhere near where we currently live near a major City, so I am a little wary of the investment if this is true - what are your experiences with locating LPG these days?
7. Just bought a small inverter - a brand new 1000w Sealey at a knock down price (£80) - didn't fancy the 5000w Chinese ones that plug into the cigar lighter :rofl::rofl::think::think::think: I don't need a hair dryer - got no hair - and the other half has dreads so I'll just hang her out to dry :rofl::rofl::rofl: chargers I'll run from 12v mostly but a slow cooker??? Can this work using an inverter?? Does it not flatten the battery really quickly?? I'd be very interested how you get on with a slow cooker in the MH.
8. We'll use gas for all cooking, we find it better anyway and I'd rather stick to one system for all cooking I think - except of course that slow cooker you mentioned......
12. Again great advice, I have some of the list but I've just added the rest, thanks!!
13. More good advice - you've done this before haven't you?? :wasntme::wasntme:
14. As above.......However, my van is fitted with fluorescents as standard, any idea on power consumption comparisons??
15. Now, the van doesn't come with one, has twin rear wheels so three different wheel types and I have full RAC cover (with Arrival) do I need a spare???:rolleyes::rolleyes: "A bottle of snot and a pump is no use with a gashed tyre" :rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl::rofl:

I looked and looked and read soooo much about choice of van and seriously, the Sprinter is the sensible option. So I bought an Iveco - just gotta be different I guess......

Cheers
Alan N Ann
4. I use my former submersible for the water top-up barrel. They don't last long when you run them dry - easy to do - and the Shurflo type don't care, dry, or not. The Shurflo make a better job of coping with our filter, as well.
6. With regard to LPG outlets, once you've worked out where they are - there are websites - it needs a bit of planning but I've never really found it a problem. It's not like using it for a propulsive fuel, you don't go through that much, especially if you aren't using it for heating. It's also a lot cheaper than bottled and there are only 3, or 4 different adapters Europe-wide. It's not a universal solution but there are lots of bottle-type connections and who wants to swap pipe attachments to the regualtor every time? I now use a Gaslow system because I haven't the room for a decent sized underslung but still managed over a month in Morocco without any worries of running out. As attractive as Butane is with the extra calorific value, it won't work (gas off) if very cold.
7. I'm hoping you've bought a full sine wave inverter. Some of the cheaper (square wave) varieties will most certainly kill some units. I was lucky and only on my third toothbrush charger before I worked it out. Ours is only 300 watts. The bigger ones can easily destroy batteries with regular use at full load (again, reference to A and N caravans website is a good source for details) and it takes a lot to replace the energy if you don't drive/hook up regularly. Also hence the reason we have lots of solar.
If you stay for a long time without running the motor, the engine battery will suffer - regardless of what's said by some about it. A dual circuit charger will keep it topped up and extend its life immeasurably.
Our slow cooker is only 180 watts. It's quite surprising what it will do in terms of preparing a one-pot meal. It has the job of cooking two good sized baked spuds if we plan to drive for a day. Daren't try a stew on the move - yet...........
8. Other electric cooking-wise, we carry a low wattage kettle, a single ring induction hob (Ikea, as it happens) which is very good - with the right pans. If you find a hook up it saves quite a bit of gas (for the fridge to keep the beer and white wine cool) We also carry an electric toaster. It's slightly less likely to set off the smoke alarm than the gas burner type we carry but doesn't make such good toasted sandwiches:) - and you can use it outdoors under the awning on hook up. Then there's the aforementioned raclette grill, mainly for outdoor use. When we ran a 5750 Kg tag-axle there was a huge payload and therefore a breadmaker (the smell alone makes the rest of 'em jealous), an oven with spit roaster, a microwave and a multicooker (stirfry) pan. We cook a lot!
8a. If you go into Europe a lot of sites only have 6 amp supplies, eg, where we are now in Portugal, so be wary of big wattage appliances of any type.
13. ........................ and been groping around in the dark, looking for the bl**dy lighting fuse, as well!
14. Off the top of my head, fluorescents use about twice that of LEDs but doubtless the luminaries (pun intended) on here, or Google will tell.)
15. Are you sure all three wheels are different? I don't know much about the Iveco - other than a rear wheel drive Fiat/Citroen/Peugeot in disguise but I'd still have a spare if possible, even if only the front - plus the bottle and pump for one of the rears. Can you limp for a few miles on a single on one side of the rear? (I've seen it done on a Transit but is it safe to do? Don't know.....) Waiting for the RAC/AA, whatever, at the side of a lonely road in the Highlands is pretty tedious.
Will
 

chrisjones18

Well-Known Member
7...i use a "split charge relay for solar" to charge the vehicle battery. Cost £25. Though if you know "how to " its about £5 for a relay... I didn't know how so I bought it ready made.
 

Willum

Active Member
A few more thoughts, again from my experience, and with due deference to others on here who have done it for years and years more than me:

Reference Chris's above: I think he may be hinting (forgive me if I'm wrong, Chris) that it's easy to be snowed under by gadget manufacturer's waffle and buy the unnecessary/expensive bits but just as he says, the system can be set up with a relay for little cost. I too bought my solar regulator. It was an exercise in convenience and speed, a bit more than £25, is a complete solar system controller, has a remote display if needed and includes the relay to charge the vehicle battery, once the solar puts out more than necessary for the habitation batteries. It works well.
There's all sorts of arguments about MPPT/PWM chargers and most of the arguments seem to based around how much solar you have. One thing does seem certain, though. The ones that trip the fridge supply to the solar to use the 'excess' aren't viable, either - unless you have LOTS of solar. Regardless of the amount of solar, fuse the system fully.
Fuse the supply to the inverter as well.

I have several 12 volt supplied chargers, hard wired/fused/switched to the 12 volt system. They are a few pounds and save fitting and looking for 12 volt sockets -'cos there's never enough. By chance, most of our stuff, phones, tablets, mifi, use the same (USB micro B) plug but there are versions available with USB sockets at the business end and adapters aplenty to suit, as well as the USB lead that comes with most gadgets. We also have a 12 volt supplied laptop charger. Saves having to switch the inverter on and it's marginally more efficient to put the voltage up once, rather than up to 240 AC, then down again to whatever the laptop needs via its own charger.

Reference the Loo: The one thing I've noticed whilst using the washing liquid is that the inside of the tank stays very clean. The build up of grey plaque just doesn't happen. I was originally persuaded to go the route after reading that the enzymes in the bio stuff helped the microbes on their way.
Myth? Probably - but I've got very clean (a relative term) cassettes..... Again, your thoughts would be interesting.
Another thing I found reference loos is that the bench-type seem to be more 'comfortable' in terms of space to sit. So many of the swivel type seem to be crammed in corners. The other gripe I have with our new (Dometic CT4000 type) loo is that the bowl is a 'ceramic' finish. Looks good, doesn't yellow but is very vulnerable to stuff dropped onto it. A dodgy bathroom cupboard door catch, or something not stowed properly, or slippery, soapy bottle is all it needs. It's how we got our spare cassette. Some poor soul did that to his, I believe as he was about to sell it, and had to replace the whole (expensive) thing. He sold us the spare cassette to recuperate a bit of the cost.
Worst of all, are you aware of the saying about stuff sticking to Army blankets? The analogy applies. I see no advantage in the complexity and vulnerability.
Please keep us posted.:)
Will
 

chrisjones18

Well-Known Member
I have a mppt controller 30 as I got told they only need daylight to work and not sunlight.
Not sure if it's true but it does work without the sun.
If I can find where I bought the split charge relay I will put it on here as it does the job and is simple to fit.. I am rubbish with electrics.... I got told after it is simple to wire a relay into the system..... where is an electrician (a mate is one)when you need one.
edit
found the one i used
https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/SPLIT-CHARGE-KIT-LEISURE-TO-ENGINE-BATTERY-CAMPER-MOTORHOME-BOAT-12V-SOLAR-/113368380864?hash=item1a654835c0
 
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sundowners

Well-Known Member
A lot of really good stuff there!!!!
We would only have pure sine wave inverter
We have a 3 KVA inverter as we run short term some larger draw stuff and it saves tripping out if we forget to turn one off!!!!! Our inverter plugs into the EHU socket so everything electric like water heater, fridge etc. in the van can be used on 240 if required, we unplug it when on EHU ( or use our little honda Genny which we would never travel without!!) Don't forget to switch off your onboard charger!!!! with inverter plugged in or you will eventually flatten the batteries!!!!.
We have 500 w of solar and 500 ah of batteries, we could easily use more if we had the roof space to take more panels, we use power according to what we have. In Portugal in the summer we have quite a lot!!!
We have tried all sorts of electrical equipment, mostly really good stuff, our latest 'discovery' is an electric pressure cooker we are very impressed with it and does not use too much power!!!!
We run an Iveco 6 ton van and all 6 (7) wheels are the same size------ we would never run without a good spare wheel and good equipment to change it!!------ we do tend to travel to isolated areas and phone/wi-fi is not always available!!!!!
We have a professional fitted split charge but in my opinion it is wrong as it prioritises the habitation batteries-------- I believe it should work on engine battery first, so parking long term I disconnect the engine battery as all the crap that is drawing power 24/7 often leaves the battery low on voltage!!!! ------ just my opinion in my experience. I could run another wire from the solar controller to the engine battery---I just haven't got around to it-----the mppt has the second set of terminals for it!!!!!!!
 
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Willum

Active Member
Alan.
After reading your bit about the SOG, I had another thought. If you are designing your own system, would it help to incorporate an air admittance valve and a timer to draw in more air (oxygen) other than the bit that gets in when the cassette valve is open?
Will
 

Ann 'N' Alan

New Member
Some great info here, and already I have changed plans based on everyone's experience and advice!

Sundowners, I'm interested in a few things you say, I bought pure sine wave inverter too and will be looking to buy one of the small inverter generators, mostly for emergency use but I have a feeling it'll get used more often than I am planning! You have lots of solar and battery power - do you find the solar can keep up with that amount of battery? We have 200ah at the moment and I am hoping that will suffice - we plan on using sites with EHU maybe once a week or so to keep topped up and do at least some driving most days.

My Iveco is a 5.2 ton van but the rear twin wheels look very different to the front wheels with the outer rear being very deep dished - surely this is not the same as the front wheels just reversed? I've not removed any wheels yet but they certainly look quite different and again, I've not checked but even the tyre sizes look different - something to check next time I'm at the van!

Do you know what weight your van is day to day? I understand mine is about 3200kg unladen so should have plenty of payload.

I'm not sure I understand your split charge system - surely the whole point is that it isolates the engine battery via the relay when the engine is off so it cannot discharge no matter how much power you use from the habitation batteries - unless you have a drain on the starter battery somewhere. I am fitting a split charge controller that does just that but has a manual switch option to reconnect the leisure batteries to the starter battery in case of a low starter battery - just another 'in case' option.

Willum, yes I believe it would help to add oxygen to the cassette often and I may even set it up so that it is constantly fed air whilst we are in motion, though venting could be a problem with that with the contents splashing around........so maybe just a timer that adds air for a couple of minutes every hour or so - the more oxygen, the more aerobic the process can be - it is quite quickly diluted with the amount of gas produced by faecal bacteria. This is one of the problems with all such systems in that it is very dependent on usage, temperature etc etc so everything is a compromise one way or another. Heating it to 37C would also be very useful but pretty impractical!
 

BigMomma

Well-Known Member
When we had Our original van we had 180w Solar panel and 2 x 100amp leisure batteries. We went without EHU for 19 days without any problems, only reason we didn't do longer was because on 20th day we were on an Aire with EHU :thumb:
 

coolasluck

Well-Known Member
675 amps of batteries and 720 watts of solar. Never been on electric hookup yet in almost 4 years and never owned a generator.Another good reason to not buy plastic fantastics who seem to enjoy polluting the roof with too many vents amongst other crap people think nessarsary to put up there. I have a battery charger fitted so that my vehicles batteries can be maintained when my inverter is on. No need for relays.In the summer I use my inverter to heat the water in my calorifyer.Nothing better than a self build just make sure your roof is clear of clutter and you have a good payload.
 

Ann 'N' Alan

New Member
I wondered that Ramblin Rose, but they didn't look the same so I assumed not but maybe they are! I will have to check. What model do you have? I have the Iveco Daily 50c15 - it's ex police so well maintained and relatively low mileage with a few extras!
 

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