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Chris 'n' Steffie

Gaming, adventuring, DIY

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Caravan

Easter adventure – Southerndown

Upgrading lights to LED (battery saving!)

Issy currently uses the old style bulbs, some of which are halogen, others are fluorescent.

Put together, these consume a total of 128W -whilst that doesn’t sound like a lot, it works out to 10.6 amps. That’s less than 4 hours running time on our battery!

An upgrade to LED bulbs means that in total they consume just 14.16W, or 1.18 amps, so the bulbs could run for over 36 hours – or about 9 days usage.

The bulbs are just as bright, if not brighter than the original bulbs, total cost was about £10.

Before:

After:

Caravan misc. purchases

Some various things we installed into Issy when going to clean it recently.

We don’t store the battery with the caravan – in order to keep it in good condition, it needs to stay out of the cold and plugged into an optimser. At the end of the battery leads, the caravan had clamps to attach it to the battery – these were OK, but fiddly and slow to use. These new clamps simply lift on and off, whilst maintaining a secure connection:
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We are lucky to have a motor mover with our caravan. It allows us to site it perfectly each time – with no reversing! The remote control is awful for interference, meaning the caravan will suddenly come to a stop mid-maneuver. PowrTouch charge over £40 for a cable to provide you with a wired control – it’s only a 3.5mm jack cable (headphone lead!). We definitely did not pay £40 for this cable, and it work perfectly!

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A lot of the time when we are making or breaking camp, it is dark.These weatherproof LED lights are powered by 4xAA batteries, and have a PIR sensor to turn on and off automatically. The simply stick on with a foam pad:

Out of battery

So, as we said earlier the caravan battery is shot. We keep a solar trickle charger in the Kia, just in case we are parked up for a long time, we threw this on the roof to try and get a little charge in the caravan’s leisure battery:

It was easy enough to do, just poke your head through the skylight and you are good to go. It’s only a small panel, about 2.4w! That’s barely 0.2 amps, on a good day that means only 1.6 amps back into the ruined battery, the pumps alone are 1-3 amps. Towing the caravan from site to site helps, but it only gives us enough back in the battery for another half a day (short distances between sites). So, we needed some way of moving electricity:

We hooked up the jumpstart box from the Kia to the battery, the box is in a permanent state of “jumping” the caravan battery (although the caravan battery is so bad, I suspect we are running just from the jumpstart box). It has a tiny 17aH battery in it.
So, currently we are taking that out of the caravan and charging it up in the car whenever we go on a day trip, and then putting it back in then caravan upon return. We are still running at a deficit, but it enough to get us by for now!

To further save our electricity usage, we are switching to just the external water tank, as then we aren’t wasting electricity by bringing it on board when parked on a site. Obviously, we will need to run on the internal tank exclusively when we are back on the road.

Europe trip 2016

We started our trip to Europe. We left home at 23:00, for the 2:40 Dover to Calais ferry – a first for us as we usually take the Dover to Dunkirk route. This was the first time making the crossing with the caravan, so far it was easy. 

When we docked, we set off to a rest stop an hour away to put our heads down and sleep. It was a service station in The Somme. It’s defiantly not like the service stations we have in the UK, there were dedicated places for motorhomes and caravans well away from the other traffic – it was actually nicer than some of the sites we have stayed on before, not to mention it was free! It even had waste water dumps, fresh water and electric hook up.

After doing a similar trip last year, having some sleep mid journey is defiantly the better way to do it!

Caravan final prep.

After spending a day cleaning it inside and out, we realised that the clothes shelves are very nice, but won’t actually work to store clothes on if you are travelling!IMG_20160726_125406

Turns out the B&Q black and orange foldy boxes fit perfectly here too!

Leaky water tank and float switch woes

Two of the original outlets decided to break within moments of one another, thankfully, this happened whilst we were still at home which made repairing it a little bit easier than whilst away!

The original push-fit connections are gone, as they started to leak with the new outlet, jubilee clips are now holding it firmly in place. I think the ceramic cartridges had broken (happens if you don’t drain the caravan down in the winter) by the previous owner – they are only just cheaper than replacing the outlet, so we opted to just replace the outlets, they are nicer to use, and provide a nicer flow than the older units.

After the second float switch decided to break, I thought that the pump might have a high start up current which I couldn’t detect with my DMM. So, I decided to put a relay in line with another new float switch:IMG_20160717_153802

It was easy enough to install, it seems to be working well – it gives a satisfying ‘click’ to let you know everything is OK!

Controlling the on board tank

After doing the plumbing work, it was time to hit the electrics. I had some scraps of old wood lying around, so thought that they would as something to mount the switches on. It could be prettier, but it’s pretty simple to move it to something nicer.
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The label maker came in handy for this job, as we were bound to forget what the switches do! From left to right:

  • Selects between the internal or external tank (SPDT)
  • Turns the float switch on or off (SPST) (if the external tank is empty for example)
  • Forces the external tank to be on (SPST) (if we want to over-fill the internal tank)

Fitting an on board water tank to the caravan

Finding a place for all of the cushion bits is hard, they just about fit in the bathroom:

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Have to be a little careful with the weight, so decided to weigh all of the parts:

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My hammer clearly in view, it is my most used tool!

Part of the design allows us to take in water from the external tank, fill up from mains, or just run from mains. Cutting a hole this size in the caravan was worrying!

The aluminium sheeting was surprisingly thin, no wonder it dents so easily. The connector is installed in the front locker, it keeps it secure and removes the need to do a lot of waterproofing.

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Decided to put the water filter just before the kitchen cold supply, as this would be the only water that we would drink, in theory it would prolong the life of the filter.

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Although as it turns out, the pump hasn’t got enough grunt to be able to push the water through it this far away, so I’m going to have to move it next to the pump instead.

There was only one small obstruction, part of the blown air heating system – this was easily moved:

To complete the plumbing, a system of valves needed to be put in, these would allow us to:

  • Run from the internal tank
  • Run from the external tank
  • Run from mains water (the inlet has a pressure limiter to avoid damage to the internal systems)
  • Fill the internal tank from mains
  • Fill the internal tank from the external tank
  • Use the mains water inlet as an outlet to hose things down.
  • Any other combination of the above which I may have missed out!

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Whilst it may look complicated, it is fairly simple. The original pump in the caravan was operated via microswitches in each of the fittings, however, it now operates using a pressure switch, it is on the whole a much easier to manage system – the only downside being that it does need some adjustment.

All in all, it used 10 metres of semi-rigid pipe and 1 metre of flexi pipe. I thought I had overbought, but it turns out it was spot on.

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