This is an update vlog of many things rather than one specific project. I show the solar panels, some electrical tweaks I’ve made, the new van cushions, the fridge now in situ. Plus I go over some of the seemingly endless list of things that still need to be done.
The solar panels are 100W each from Victron Energy, chosen purely because they’re the right physical size to enable me to have two of them side by side on the van roof without obstructing the roof vent. I mounted them onto the roof rack that came with the van (made by Thule and with “aero wing bars”). The roof rack is made with an inverted T-shaped groove into which you can slot bolts so I found some appropriate (and ridiculously expensive) bolts, designed for something to do with skiing, chopped them down a bit for length and drilled holes in the solar panel frame. Then I could fasten the bolts onto the panel and literally slide it into place on the roof rack.
Would-be thieves kindly take note that I have also added security measures to prevent the panels being removed which, for obvious reasons, I am not going to detail here!
The wires from the panels are connected in series (yes, series, let’s not argue about it, I’m quite happy with this) down through a waterproof vent which I stuck on the van roof using non-silcone sealant. Had to drill two 9mm holes to put the wires through and lined each hole with a rubber grommet to prevent chafing. The wires then drop into the back of the electronics box seen in the last video and into the solar controller.
A new addition to my electronics is a DC motor speed controller which I’ve wired in as the roof vent fan control. That way I can have it constantly running overnight at a very gentle (quiet) speed rather than the fixed and noisy full speed which is how the fan operates as supplied.
I’ve changed the voltmeter I installed on the panel to a different one which comprises two USB charging sockets as well as a voltmeter. That way I can both monitor the battery and charge my phone overnight, with the phone resting on top of the electronics box.
Next to the box I’ve added two mains sockets, one running off the inverter and the other coming off the incoming mains hookup, if connected (via the RCD and a 16A MCB). I could have used one socket and a switch but there’s a lot of very confusing and contradictory information on the Internet about how to earth the Victron inverter which worried me in terms of connecting it to the hookup (and they would be connected at earth if I used a switch). Instead I just put in separate sockets for each supply and that suits me fine.
The battery is now boxed in which also gives dedicated storage space next to it under the seat. The battery terminals have a wooden cover over them with access to the main 12V cutoff switch.
The most obvious new additions to the van, other than the solar, are the cushions. Quite thin because I don’t have any headroom left to allow for thicker ones and quite firm but I chose them like that and I’m happy with them. I ordered them from the same place I got my narrowboat dinette cushions, Marine and Contract Furnishings who are super to deal with, very helpful.
At the back of the van, the fridge – a Dometic CDF26 – is now accessed under a hinged lid. I’ve had to leave space around it for ventilation so that the poor thing has a chance to work properly. This still needs a bit of trim made to tidy it up. 12V fridges are stupidly expensive and this one was a relative (!) bargain at £375. Believe me, that’s cheap for a 12V campervan fridge.
Round the back I’ve added some trim to tidy it up and there’s now a dedicated compartment for stuff such as folding chairs and a camping stove for outside cooking. Plus underneath the fridge I have space for the mains hookup cable and a few other bits.
Stuff that’s still to do on the van includes lining the window surrounds with carpet which I’ve been putting off because the Veltrim carpet I bought is totally non-stretchy so it doesn’t wrap round corners well at all. I also need to make the shelving unit for the corner of the van. Plus there’s some more painting to do, the top of the bed frame so that it matches the vertical wood panelling.
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Products and tools used in my van build (as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Ecotree Lithium battery: www.ecotreelithium.co.uk
New heater unit (diesel): https://geni.us/Van_Autoterm
New inverter (Renogy): https://geni.us/Van_RenogyInverter
Induction hob: https://geni.us/Van_InductionHob
Portable toilet: https://geni.us/Van_Toilet
Mains charger: https://geni.us/Van_MainsCharger
Solar charger: https://geni.us/Van_SolarMPPT
Old heater unit: https://geni.us/Van_PropexHS2000
Old sink / hob: https://geni.us/Van_SinkHob
Old inverter: https://geni.us/Van_Inverter
DeWalt jigsaw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltJigsaw
DeWalt drill: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltDrill
DeWalt mitre saw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltMitreSaw
DeWalt circular saw: https://geni.us/Van_DeWaltCircSaw