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Chris 'n' Steffie

Gaming, adventuring, DIY

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First time buyer

So… an update!

Apparently we had forgotten that we had a blog!

Anyway, what have we been up to since the last post? A great many, many things. In a roughly chronological order:

The heater broke:
The caravan heater is a 2kw dual fuel heater with a blown air system. On gas, it is fine (and very quick to heat up!), on electricity, it works to a point. When the thermostat turns off, the heater won’t turn back on again. There are many parts that it could be, according to the wiring diagram there are several thermostats – it may work out cheaper to get someone to fix it. Luckily… it also got warmer! So a heater was largely not needed. We had an oil radiator which sat in the bedroom to keep the chill off during the night, this was more than sufficient.

 

The wind and the rain:
The worst storms that we have ever seen during our lifetimes continued to ravage the campsite – we had a break away to The Netherlands (Center Parcs was 1/3 the price it is here, including all travel!) and the weather continued to be relentless. After a while, you get used to the caravan rocking around. The rain however… this is a sound which we do not get used to! People often say that it must be nice to fall asleep whilst the rain is sprinkling on the roof – it’s not. It starts off nice, after a week it gets old – combine that with the storms, and it was horrific!

We resorted to using eyemasks and ear plugs to keep everything out! The caravan stood up to all of this weather admirably, with no damage. We are in an exposed location, the the first object that wind and rain come into contact after rolling up the valley is us! No strapping down has been required, and the awning (the instructions state that it shouldn’t stay up for more than two weeks) is still going strong months on!

 

Toilet:

Not everyone’s favourite subject, so feel free to skip it! Despite the weather, the toilet must be emptied, and you can guarantee it will be howling when it needs to be done. So, waterproofs, rigger boots and gloves on, and I’m set to go. Now, the entrance to the awning gets a big muddy from time to time due to being in constant use. I avoided falling over. I collected the cassette from the rear of the caravan and began making my way across the field to the disposal point, this is another well travelled part of the campsite. The long grass was covering a large puddle of mud it would appear… to cut a long story short, I ended up falling over, unable to discern what was mud… and what wasn’t. Luckily, it was washing day and I had just filled the water!

 

The internet solution is still working well, as is the satellite TV. We purchased a finder which was on deal at Maplin, which made it a 30 second job to find the satellite.

As it turns out, you can fit a desktop PC in a caravan! My laptop unfortunately broke, so needed to be replaced.

LED bulbs are being used whenever a conventional bulb needs to be replaced, this has resulted in a cleaner light which is kinder on the electricity usage.

 

We have also bought a house:

Back in January, we found a house which we fell in love with, due to some confusion (on the vendors part), someone else ended up buying it. Months of searching and saving continued. During the most recent half term, we received a phone call that this house was back on the market! We booked a viewing as soon as we could and had an offer accepted. That was over eight weeks ago! Hopefully it won’t be too much longer…

The thought has crossed our minds that we may need to sell Lexi! Whilst heartbreaking, Lexi is just too big for keeping for us as a tourer. So far, at least, living in a caravan full time is defiantly possible!

 

Chris

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The recent weather has taken it’s toll.

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Luckily, the caravan is still warm and dry! The field, not so much.

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After a little while…

It is a widely held belief in society (this line got us through Uni!) that the sound of rain on a tent canvas, or on a caravan roof is a lovely sound to hear.

The novelty wears off.

Some of the gusts are even strong enough to blow Lexi around! Trying to sleep through that is a case of grabbing the earplugs and holding on for dear life!

The vast majority of the time, sleeping in the caravan is great, perfectly dark with the blinds shut, and no outside noise. But during the recent storms which have hit the UK, it is taking a toll on our sleep.

Getting across the mudbath field to the car can also be interesting first thing in the morning!

Keeping Clean

Keeping clean in the caravan is slightly more involved than being in a house.

 

Shower times are kept to a minimum, as the hot water runs out very quickly. After a while, you get used to the: rinse, soap up, rinse again routine. I can’t remember the last time either of us had a shower in excess of 5 minutes, or a bath for that matter!

We have only ran out of water mid-shower the once, so the forward thinking and routines have been working well.

But the biggest problem of all: I miss the Dyson!

Space doesn’t allow us to have a regular vacuum cleaner – we have to have a small, handheld one. It has extension poles so you can not be entirely on your knees – although it has so little suction that you might as well pick the pieces of dirt out with your fingers! In terms of space, there isn’t as much to keep clean, but it takes just as long! I do have some sympathy for the little hoover though – it has to deal with masses and masses of hair.

Gas Usage

Buying a new canister of propane was one of the first things which was required when we embarked on our journey. Our caravan is equipped to take 2x 6kg bottles of gas. We keep 2 in there at any one time, when one is empty, we simply disconnect the empty bottle and connect the new cylinder (reverse thread always gets me!) – then we set about replacing the empty one – more about that later.

There are automatic changeover valves which remove the need to swap the gas hose manually. This ensures an uninterrupted supply of gas, until you empty both cylinders. Then you are stuck. We decided to stick with the manual cylinder swap, as we can track our gas usage more easily, plus, we always have a spare cylinder – just in case our heater breaks and it’s the middle of winter (this has happened!).

 

Propane is the gas of choice for us (the other being Butane). The red coloured propane cylinders were the gas of choice, as it has a lower freezing temperature and is therefore more suited to all round usage. Butane on the other hand usually comes in a blue cylinder and will not as effectively in the colder weather.

In terms of cost, gas is gas. The cheapest place within a reasonable distance was GoOutdoors at £18 per 6kg bottle.

 

As we are permanently on a 10 amp hookup, this provides the heating and the hot water. The only thing we usually use the gas for is cooking. There have been several occasions where the electric heater has stopped working, so the gas was used. Sometimes the water heater operated off of both gas and electric (it can almost heat the water as quickly as it can be used) for those times when large amounts of hot water were required.

It has taken us approximately 10 weeks to use a 6kg cylinder of propane. That calculates to just over £7 a month for gas! Much more friendly for our bank accounts!

Somebody’s got to do it…

Not being plumbed into mains anything  means that there are many extra jobs which need doing when living in a caravan.

No mains water means having to take your Aquaroll, and fill it at the closest tap. Luckily, we are parked very close to the tap, and I can use my lay flat hose to fill up the water! Lexi benefits from having an onboard tank as well, doubling our water capacity. This is filled from the Aquaroll by means of a pump automatically using a float switch, or, can be manually overridden to fill it past the float switch- we also have the option of using a hosepipe to fill. We can use either the Aquaroll, or the onboard tank, or both – should any problems arise, they are easy to isolate. The onboard tank is great for short stops, and for the cold weather as it is kept warm.

The Aquaroll sits on a stand:

This keeps it off of the ground, to help protect from the cold. It’s not been cold enough yet to warrant an insulating jacket – keeping things off of the ground is one of the best ways to  keep them warm (overstatement – warm = warmer than freezing)

Our wastewater all drains our of the back of the caravan, and could go into a Wastemaster, which could then be wheeled to the disposal site. Our wastewater however, is used to water the bushes. We keep several lengths of waste pipe just in case it needs to go into a container. Wastemasters don’t work terribly well in the winter, so, this can always be substituted for a bucket!

Emptying the toilet is another job which needs doing. It is about 3 days (twice a week) that it needs doing. One of the main issues was

with it being a chemical toilet, it would need chemicals to aid the breaking down of the waste. They looked expensive, there were loads of different kids, some for the flush tank, some for the waste tank. There was just too much choice! And the space needed to store it all was huge!

So, after some research, we decided to use the Kem-Direct Toilet Granules. They are cheap, take up virtually no space, and 1 box lasts 6-7 weeks! Inside the box there are packets of the chemical, in solid form. Half of the packet for the waste tank, the other half for the flush tank. It simply pours in, no measuring, no mess, perfect! It doesn’t have any of the perfumed smells which other toilet chemicals do, but does mask the odors well.

There have been few incidents whilst emptying the toilet. There are no ‘glugs’, thanks to the pressure release button (yellow button, near the handle) on the Thetford cassette. However, having a clumsy moment earlier resulted in the dump cap being lost down the drain! Luckily, this sits at the end of a ‘arm’, at the top of the cassette. A replacement is to be picked later today. Thanks, GoOutdoors!

Whilst I’m there, one of our awning pegs needs to be replaced – it was lost to us during the recent storms. They are only £1.99 for 4 pegs, and are straight, rather than rounded at the top. This means when knocking them into solid ground, they (almost) can’t bend because there are no weak spots.

Despite our awning only being a cheap and cheerful porch awning, it has survived being up permanently. It has a small tear which we can’t repair as it it is where the fabric is stitched through to the groundsheet and a zip. Well, it could be repaired, but it’s not worth it as we are on the hunt for a new awning.

Whilst readjusting the awning in preparation for the windy conditions, as is usually the way with many of the cheaper porch awnings, there is a small gap left between the caravan and the awning. Usually, this isn’t an issue, however, when it is very windy it flaps against the caravan wall, few noises can be this irritating! Masking tape proved to be the answer here, and survived the storm, and eradicated the flapping entirely.

We can do everything!

In an effort to try and make living in a caravan as much as living in a house as possible, we make sure that we try and do as many things as we can ourselves.

Even down to having a haircut:

20131117_124929All done in the shower tray to keep the carpet nice and clean. Steph does a good job on Chris’s hair, she won’t let Chris do hers though!

A small vacuum is used to clean the carpet. It is a small handheld, but reaches the floor with the extension poles. It does an OK job, not as good as the Dyson we once had, however, it is much smaller!

 

Washing clothes

One question that we are frequently asked is how do we wash our clothes.

We had debated taking them to a launderette, but the closest one… isn’t so close. Besides, being self-sufficient is a much better alternative.

One of these was bought:

20131102_095212This is a twin tub washing machine. The tub on the left washes, whilst the tub on the right hand side spin dries. With both tubs running, it consumes about 200W of electricity, meaning that it can easily run from an inverter should it need to. Both tubs run independently from one another, each with it’s own timer. The only thing this washing machine doesn’t do is heat the water up – as you can see, the twin tub is sitting in our shower, so we simply remove the shower head, and use the hot water produced by the caravan.

Each wash cycle takes about 15 minutes, and so far, has produced great results. The spin drier is able to remove most of the water from clothes, although they still need further drying afterwards.

It is all placed upon a foldable box, it keeps the machine from getting wet when it is draining water into the shower tray. The power cable comfortably reaches the outlet in the bedroom. In terms of capacity, you can easily fit in a couple of shirts and trousers to be washed at a time (bed sheets and towels will also fit, individually), the drier will take about 1/3 of the load of the washer to dry – although the wash cycle lasts 15 minutes, and the spin cycle is 5 minutes, so it all works out wonderfully.

 

Drying it was a challenge… Despite the weather being like this:

20131102_140943It was still proving difficult to dry clothes. The wind helped (we are the first object the wind hits as it rolls up the hill), although a few pegs were required to prevent the clothes airier from falling over!

We needed a solution which would allow us to dry the clothes inside the caravan – in case of bad weather or over night drying.

 

The first step was to hang up all of the clothes in the washroom:

20131116_183238

It did take up the entire washroom, the above picture is only half the story! Clothes hanging on hooks, vents, cupboard doors. Any available space is being occupied! We made the mistake of not opening the vents and windows at this stage, after everything falling over, we were ready to try again! With the roof vent open, and the windows on night mode, the clothes were hung and ready to dry.

To aid the drying process, a fan heater was used – the hot air vent from the caravan was able to do the job, but it took a long time. The fan heater is able to dry all of our clothes overnight. There is an added bonus that the fan heater also keeps the bedroom warm, this is useful because we have to turn the caravan heating off to be able to use it!

(Maths bit: we are on a 10 amp supply, which means we can use approximately 2400 watts (240V x 10 amp)  before tripping the RCD. The fan heater consumes approximately 1800w when heating, the caravan heater uses 2000w. This would push us over the 2400w limit, meaning that we can only use 1 heating device at a time. The same story for the toaster and the kettle – these are used next to the isolater switch for the heating as a reminder!)

20131116_183500_Aldbourne RdHandy as a clothes dryer, an awning heater and a backup caravan heater!

 

With regards to water usage, two fills of the washing tub are usually sufficient to wash all of our clothes on a weekly basis – this is about 20 litres.

 

 

 

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