Technology update in the van

Two new batteries and an inverter: 120Ah batteries and 2000w modified sine wave interter.

It took a week, but Ken Peachy Caravans have upgraded the battery system and installed an inverter in our van. We only had one 100Ah battery and had issues with it running down so much that the alarm flashed. Our van was two years old when we bought it and the owners were living in it full time. I’m not sure how they coped! A couple of times we’ve run the engine for about half an hour to replenish the battery. Our concern has been the fridge, which only runs on 12v power.

We don’t have a habitat heating system installed, but have thought of running the engine and using the van’s heating system if we are in really cold conditions. Even in the larger motorhome we would only run the diesel heater for about half an hour, so would expect that it would only take a relatively short time in our smaller van. I don’t expect the van’s heater to work as well as a diesel heater of course.

We never have the gas on when running the engine and I wanted to have a way of boiling water for our morning cups of tea without having to switch the gas on. My research suggests that I shouldn’t run the engine whilst using the inverter as it puts too much power back into the system and might fry the cables. However, I will contact Appolo Campervans to check on this. With an inverter we can quickly boil the kettle, switch off, then start the engine and heat the van whilst we have our tea. We also need hot water for washes, but it doesn’t take very long once we switch on the gas (after first switching off the engine). It sounds more complicated than it is, we are used to being careful about gas.

The new installation is two 120Ah batteries. One replaced the old battery in the electrical box, the other had to be mounted in the bottom of our pantry. The workman was also able to fit the inverter next to it, and we actually don’t lose any space as the pantry is actually a little wardrobe and is quite high. Our dishes and stuff have just moved up onto a new shelf.

I’ve been trying out our applicances to see what works. The 2000w induction cooktop doesn’t, a pity, but not vital. I was surprised to find an ordinary 2000w electric kettle works just fine. I can now use our electric coffee grinder, that’s a win as hand grinding coffee is quite hard work. The 800w Instant Pot works, with no difficulty getting up to full pressure. Next thing to check is how much power it uses to stay at pressure for half an hour to cook a meal.

I’m not sure about my coffee machine, it seemed to give an error message, but then was OK, needs more testing. It’s rated at 1300w. At least it didn’t trigger the alarm on the inverter as happened with the induction cooktop. I’ve got a little travel hairdryer that is about 1200w and works just fine.

We went for a modified sine wave inverter because we have six USB ports around the van to power all of our sensitive electronics. There is a 12V plug in charging point near the TV if we need to charge higher powered electronics. The laptop and all the cameras come with USB-C ports which can work either from the normal USB ports with an adapted cable, or from the higher powered port where we use a 75w USB-C adapter. The inverter is only needed for kitchen appliances which are less sensitive to power fluctuations. By the way, all of my knowledge comes from watching YouTube videos about power solutions for vans. It might be wrong, but this is the consensus. Modified sine wave inverters are cheaper than pure sine wave inverters.

We have one solar panel panel on the roof and absolutely no room for more. We think the panel is 150w as it registers up to about 140w in good sun. We think its probably enough, given that we also drive the van most days, which also charges the batteries. If we need more power we could consider a portable system, good for when it’s hot and we need to park in the shade, but still want to have good solar. However, our plan is to go with our present system for the time being and only look at getting more solar panels if it is really necessary. Thing is, solar panels work on light (even moonlight and street lamps) and are very good at providing some power even in cloudy weather or in partial shade. At the moment we have a lot of smoke haze, the solar is drawing 95w(17v  5.6 amps) and the batteries are at 100%.

At this stage we don’t have a way of directly measuring the power usage of applicances. I can only keep an eye on the battery levels. The device I want, with Bluetooth, is $320, plus the cost of installation. It’s possible we can get something much cheaper that will work just as well and Bluetooth is not really necessary, just fun as I can use an app on my phone.

I’m very happy with the new setup and have sent an email to Ken Peachy Caravans to let them know.

From tomorrow we will have access to more regions of Western Australia for camping. We are all set to go.

UPDATE:

One of our big concerns has been that we don’t have a heater in the van. Running the engine and using the cab heating was a possible workaround. However, I have just tested our little ceramic fan heater. It is rated at 1800w and should, in theory, work. And it actually does. It doesn’t appear to be a big draw on the batteries either. We are unlikely to have it on for more than about 20 minutes at a time as it’s more than enough to heat such a small area.

The odd thing is that whilst an appliance is running the battery level goes down to about 80%, but once the appliance is switched off the batteries go back to 100%. I thought it was because of solar power replenishing the batteries, but this time there was very little light outside. I’m very puzzled.

Vanlife in York

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This was our first visit to Cherry’s ‘new’ house in York. She has been there a couple of years now. Although she makes weekly trips to Perth to visit friends and pick up grandkids for babysitting, she still finds she has plenty of time to herself, which was the aim of moving there. At first she said she wasn’t much involved in the local community, but she has been along to a couple of choirs and is presently participating in a book club as well as running Yoga classes.

When she was looking for a property she told the agent the land was more important than the house, consequently she is surprised that she has ended up with such a large house. However, it is handy for having children and grandchildren to stay and by not adding too much furniture she is able to take advantage of the generous kitchen/dining/living area. She has 4.6 acres on a sloping hillside, with an inner fenced area containing the house, large verandahs, shed and chicken run. In the cooler weather we have had for the last couple of days it was a very lovely place to be. There are a few large trees, but mostly smaller trees and shrubs. She has done a lot of work to tidy things up and plant more trees and bushes. She has pleasant view both uphill and downhill and the slope is quite gentle.

We parked on a flat space beside the house. It turned out to have quite a lot of morning shade, but I didn’t worry about the battery as we were driving home yesterday, which would give it a good charge. She invited us to an evening meal, so we left the food we had taken for our Friday evening meal and had it for lunch on Saturday.

We spent time in the morning sitting outside talking and enjoying the view down towards the river. She rarely has flow in her section of the river, but it seems to be quite moist, promoting thick undergrowth and lots of trees. She has glimpses of the grain storate beyond, but it doesn’t spoil the view, rather adding to the interest of the location.

In the late morning we drove up to Mt Brown to enjoy the views, then went to check out the new free camping area in town near the river. Cherry has invited us to come and stay at her place at any time, even if she is away. I was hoping the camping space, which is new, would have lots of trees and shaded areas, but it is rather regimented and there is only one really shady spot, which was taken. We had our lunch and a cup of tea before driving home. We had some shade, but although the temperature was pleasant, with a cool breeze most of the time, it was still better to be in shade rather than sun. Thereore, if we a going her way in future staying at her place is much the nicest option. We won’t over do it, most of the summer is likely to be very hot and it wouldn’t be much fun being in the van.

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Evening at Cherry’s
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Looking down towards the river
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Cherry showed us around her large front and rear yards.
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Mt Brown view
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Viewing point rocks with what looks like bitumen holding them together
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More bitumen holding rocks together at Mt Brown

Stephen and I took turns with the driving. We were waiting for an opportunity for Stephen to get used to driving the van away from city traffic.

 

Travels with the Winnie: Day 73

Bourke to Cobar

We woke to a red dawn, with rain by the time we were packing up to leave. This is only about the 5th or 6th time we have had rain in all our days of travelling. The night was fairly warm, 11 or 12 degrees.

Our only task was to refuel, which also happened in rain. As we drove down the highway towards Cobar, we had one or two rainy periods. All the rain was fairly light. I was pleased for the folk living in Bourke, our hostess told us that rain often skirts Bourke and lands elsewhere.

The landscape changed dramatically too. From being an overall grey green in Bourke, within about 30 kms the earth changed to red and the bush became a pleasant woodlands with some taller trees and bright green leaves. It wasn’t uniform, some of the bushes which looked a bit like pine leaves were grey-green. When we arrived in Cobar to a town with attractive town like buildings and normal trees, it was like being in a different world. Cobar doesn’t have a river which can be used for transport, as the river in Bourke was in the early days, but I know where I would prefer to live. Visiting Bourke was very interesting indeed, of course.

We had done our research and headed for our free camping spot on the edge of town. RVs are allowed to park along a road on the side of the lake. We had morning tea on the way here and were able to wait until our arrival at about 2.00 p.m. to have our lunch. After afternoon tea we took a walk around the lake. The featured image shows a little stream we had to cross as part of the walk.

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the lake is popular with locals, including many different types of water birds
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this rocks looks like it has been painted
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there are vans all along the edge here, but largely hidden by the willows
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view from our front door
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view from our walk
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another view
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most of the walk was very easy
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after sunset

 

 

 

 

Travels with the Winnie: Day 57

Morven to Soggy Mitchell

The town’s name is Mitchell, but the heavy rain this afternoon means it’s very soggy, hence the name.

We both had a difficult night, with lots of coughing. I didn’t feel confident that we could drive very far, and when we reached Mitchell at about midday, I suggested we stay here and have a restful afternoon. We had lunch at a cafe, then did some shopping. As we took the shopping back to the Winnie the heaven’s opened, with wind, rain and hail.

We waited until the rain eased, then drove to the Neil Turner Weir, where RV’s can park overnight. As usual when there is free camping there were lots of caravans and motorhomes already here.

As the afternoon wore on, with the rain continuting, we realised that we had made a good decision to stop driving for the day. I had bought some chicken, and am cooking it in our oven with some vegetables. This has the benefit of keeping the van quite warm. Usually I only cook meat when we have electricity, so it’s good to have the gas oven available.

As we are on the edge of town we have internet and TV, though I am slightly worried about having enough power as there would not have been a lot of solar power generated during the afternoon. I will keep and eye on the batteries as it is considered best to keep them at above 70% charge.

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A level spot on some grass, good for minimising mud when we go outside.
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the weir
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we can see the water through trees from our van, but I walked along a bit to get this view
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slow van, please pass

We should have this written on the back of our van! The owner of this van hasn’t raised the roof, perhaps it isn’t waterproof.

Speaking of being waterproof, when we arrived at our site, we found the kitchen mat was very wet, and we worried that we had a leaking hatch or something. When we put the slide out, we found there was water on the lino, so somehow water must have come into the van that way. I must make sure we close it tight tomorrow when we leave. The water didn’t do any obvious harm and I sort of washed the floor with the cloth I was using to mop it up, getting rid of fluff and stuff.

Our casserole should be ready at 7.00 p.m. and we hope we have a bit better night tonight.