Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Window and roof vents (cutting big holes)

We bought 2 old caravan windows on ebay (about £15 each). One has a hinge, but the other one didn't seem to, so we had to drill holes in the top and fit a hinge.
The first thing we did was try to figure out what size hole to cut. This was not easy! In the end we just sort of guessed and cut a hole in an old bit of plywood. We were wrong, so it was lucky we had practiced first! We tried again and eventually got it right. We also cut out some celotex to line the window to roughly the right depth, then mounted the window to check it would close properly.

Next we cut a big hole in the van!

Then we cut out a bit of celotex to the right shape and glued it in place.

Then we ply lined the top part of the door. This was a bit tricky as the depth of the window was more at the bottom than the top and we had to pad it a bit.
We realised after we did this that a wooden frame would have been better on the inside of the window, for structure and to attach some kind of closing mechanism, so we had to cut out a bit on the celotex and shove some battens in. (When we did the next window we did this properly).

Then we tried to stick the seal on. The seal which came with the window was not wide enough, in fact I don't think you can buy one which is. Also the depth is not the same all the way round, so we ended up cutting in in half. The inside seal sort of stuck, but we screwed it into place as well. The outside seal would not stick, no matter what we used (glue, non-setting mastic, silicone sealant), and also the window wouldn't close because it was so thick. In the end we gave up on the outer seal and stuck draught excluder foam round the outside edge of the window.
To make sure water doesn't get through and run down inside the ply and insulation we used damp proof  membrane overlapping to the outside by about 2cm, which is very sticky and malleable, and hopefully waterproof! I am a bit worried it might melt in intense heat though.
The window now closes and doesn't seem to leak. The closing mechanism (garden wire and screws) is not really pretty, but it works for now.

We did the same for the second window, but it took about half the time because we knew what we were doing! The closing mechanism is different, we screwed 2 L shaped brackets into the sill.

The outside edge needs tidying up!

For the roof vent we got a proper Fiamma 40cm square vent. (about £50).
We cut a 39cm square hole as instructed. We tried to even out the ridges on the roof with some pliers. We made a frame for the inside using 25x 40mm battens (the depth is 40mm, which is the maximum depth the vent can be, and about the minimum the ply lining and insulation can be). We used the sticky damp proof membrane folded up several times, to act as a seal, both on the vent and around the hole. We screwed the vent on to the frame really tight.

It rained yesterday and it leaked a bit! Damn it! There is a slight dent where water is pooling and seeping through. As the roof is so ridged it was pretty difficult to find a place to put the vent where it would be flat. We will have to try to seal it better before we do the plylining.

In the end we bought some Plumbers Mait putty and shoved that in under the gap. We also pushed the van roof up a bit so the water doesn't pool as much. We sealed around the edges with all weather clear tape and this is now waterproof (fingers crossed)!

Saturday, 14 May 2011

Solar panel and electrics

We got 2x 40w solar panels from ebay. ( about £160). We decided that 2 panels would be better than 1 big fixed panel, as now we can attach one flat to the roof (which is inefficient, but convenient as it will always be there) and keep the other one for when we get to a safe place and can get it out and angle it more directly at the sun. I have bought a charge controller (8amp steca, about £27 I think). 8 amps should be over the maximum for both 40w panels connected at the same time ( watts /volts = Amps    so  80/12 = 6.666).
I had a Steca controller in my old caravan and it was easy to use and always worked, so I stuck with that brand.
We bought 2 x88amp hour calcium plated leisure batteries (about £100 from ebay, yes I do love ebay!).  We thought that 2 batteries would be better than 1 big one (122ah) for about the same price. If anything goes wrong we will have a spare, and this way we have more capacity and will hopefully keep them above half way discharged (the charge controller should help with that a bit).
I have also bought a 100amp heavy duty relay and a smartcom self switching relay (ebay about £10 each). This is (the cheapest way) to charge the batteries while the engine is running. This is how other people on the sbmcc forum have done it, so I am copying them! More details on this when I understand how it works.
 Brackets which we bought from B and Q (I feel like I live there at the moment). We got zinc plated L shaped cupboard brackets and bolted them together, then bolted them through the roof. We also got rubber washers to help stop water leaking through and sealed it all up with soudaflex. We were going to seal up the wire in the centre but once we had bolted the panel on we couldn't reach it! It is a tight fit and raised up on a ridge, hidden under the panel, so we decided to seal it from the inside instead.

 Here is the charge controller, the fuse box and a load of wires! I tried my hardest to keep it neat, but failed. We may need to hide this somehow. All the electric things were bought from Vehicle wiring products and The 12v shop. The whole lot cost about £100 (cable is expensive!). The LED lights were bought from ebay.

We build a box for the socket to live in so the wires don't keep falling off. The socket charges the laptop and the phones. There is also a fire extinguisher, just in case!

Here is a light. Working!

I still haven't connected the smartcom to charge the batteries when the van is running. It is sunny at the moment so the solar panel is working fine. We might even sell the second panel (be bought 2x 40w , but only mounted one on the roof).
As we are not running a fridge we don't need that much power and one panel (and a hook up to charge while driving) will probably be enough.