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Advice on caravans and stuff

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Posted: 5 years ago
Hi all, I just have a couple of questions and I hope I can get some advice, me and the wife are looking to buy our 1st van, I think for us it will be on the lines of either an Adria Altea Tay fixed bed or a Bailey Persuit fixed bed, the bailey does have a little more of what we want but after reading a lot of reviews the build quality seems to let it down, the Adria also has what we are looking for and I haven't seen any bad reviews so far. also would you go for a solar panel to keep the leisure battery charged at all times? I have been advised to have one by a friend. and I am contemplating a caravan club sat nav, is this a good idea, finally tow bars is there any one that seems outstanding, I want a fully detachable one witter and another one are both the same price fitted £340, is this a good price. any help or info will be greatly appreciated.
thanks
Wayne

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Total Posts: 228
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Posted: 5 years ago
First of all the make and model is up to you it's what you prefer, you can get some rave reviews about certain caravans and you can get real clonkers about the same caravans it's not a cut and dried thing, are you going new or used?
Solar panels please go through the forum I have explained in full as to the requirements and what you should be paying. I think it is the accessory section.
Sat navs again it's your choice but get a caravan friendly one (some people will advise that this one is good and that one is crap} don't compare an ordinary sat nav that is for cars to one that is fit for a caravan outfit it does NOT work because a true caravan one lets you input the size of your outfit and will choose routes that should accommodate your outfit and also remember that when choosing a route the shortest one is not necessarily the fastest one and visa versa also if you think that the sat nav is taking a funny route compared to the one you think it should take, remember if the route is shorter by whatever distance be it 1 yard 2 yards or a few miles and you have chosen the shortest route it will take you on the shortest route (thats if there are no bugs to be fixed in the software ) so get one with free software updates and sometimes free mapping updates ( those can be expensive)
Towbars are again your choice but the detachable ones do not compromise the looks of your car when not in use also some cars require the dealers computer to switch on the harness so the lights will work when you are towing your van.
Total Posts: 80
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Posted: 5 years ago
Great thanks for your advice im heading over to the other sections now
regards
wayne
Total Posts: 45
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Posted: 5 years ago
Being relatively new to caravanning, I've thought about solar panels, but in my (limited) experience, if you're not rallying, you can usually get EHU, so the battery as a storage device, doesn't get used???

On the one rally I attended, the battery lasted into the third day. Given that it wasn't on a full charge (it had been in workshop, who I believe must have used the battery at times), that would have been adequate. The rally proved that I wouldn't bother again, but that's another story.
So, why bother with the expense of a solar panel, if not rallying?
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Posted: 5 years ago
thanks RedMick ill bear it in mind
Total Posts: 228
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Posted: 5 years ago
The idea of solar panels is to get free electricity, well you might say they are expensive, well depends on where you buy them from if you are silly enough to go to a caravan shop and pay nearly £300 for a 120w panel then you must have more money than sense. Almost all solar panels are made in China even the branded ones so if you are prepared to pay an extra £150 for a peice of paper that is stuck to the panel with a brand name on it then go ahead. I know a guy who sells chinese panels at an average of £1 per watt, I have 3 and they work just fine, he even sells them for domestic use, you can buy controllers off ebay for about £30, but be warned those are bog standard controllers and I personally would not touch them with a barge pole.I use a very good MPPT one that looks after my panels we do not use electric hook ups why because at an average of £3 + per night and probably will cost more with the recent hike in electricity prices makes an average holiday of say 2 weeks cost about £63 for electricity my monthly bills at home only come to £35. I have a refillable gas system in my caravan and for a 14 day holiday using gas for running the fridge, cooking and hot water for washing dishes etc and washing and showering, using electricity that was converted to 240v using an inverter for the 240v led tv 12 volts to run the lights and the pump and the pump that is in the heating system, 12 volts to run all the other ancillary items all told spent £9 on energy(that was for filling 1 empty bottle)
Oh and by the way did you not know that you are NOT supposed to discharge a leisure battery down to less than half of it's capacity, if you do you can shorten the life span of the battery so you will be buying a leisure battery more frequently than you should, so a 120 ampere hour battery will only give you 50 ampere hours worth of 12volt electricity that equates to 50 hours at 1amp on average a caravan uses about 15 amps per day just to stay alive, so to speak, so the battery would only last 3 days then it is useless for anything probably just capable of supplying power to a light. A 10 watt halogen lightbulb, which is what a lot of caravans use , the more modern caravans use led lights, uses just under 1 amp per hour, most of the light fixtures have 2 in them so if you have a 2 bulb light on for 4 hours plus the stay alive power usage the battery would last you 2 days and that is if it is fully charged.
Solar panels last on average over 30 years and loose 0.5% of their conversion into electricity per year so after 30 years a solar panel will still be converting sunshine into electricy at about 70 - 75% that takes into account internal loses, so it makes real good sense to invest in solar panels for a caravan.
So after 30 years of hols at 2 weeks each aprox cost of hook ups (and this is NOT taking into account price rises) would be £1890 that is way and above what you would pay for 300watts of panels(and that is all you would need) and a very good MPPT controller, most people anyway use their caravans for more than 2 weeks so the saving would be even greater, use the maths before you commit yourself to either buying or not buying you will be amazed at what you can spend over the years, even refillable gas systems.
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Posted: 5 years ago
again thanks for the info I am looking at a 90w solar panel which should be enough to keep my battery fully charged and even when stored it will be charging. seems to be a sound investment to me, is it easy to install your own or should I go to a company (not a van company) but someone who just does solar pv
Total Posts: 45
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Posted: 5 years ago
rcpilot , excellent post, you're very thorough in your analysis and I can see the merit of solar panels for many of us. I will say that to make the maths work, you would be looking for sites which don't offer EHU. In this day and age, they are in the minority, I believe, albeit a significant minority.
One has to decide panels or no panels, then plan your caravanning around the sites with and without EHU.

Whatever wolf decides ( that's a very doggy looking wolf :-) ). I'm sure he'll enjoy the delights of caravanning, all the best to him, and you rcp. .
Total Posts: 228
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Posted: 5 years ago
The 300 watts of panels is to run an inverter (true sine wave) as we have an electric kettle, and a 22 in domestic Led tv that has the converter built in ie it has an ordinary 13 amp plug on it, some of the older led tv's have the transformer box in the lead and has a 13 amp plug to plug it in the domestic socket and a 12v plug to plug it in the tv if you have the older led tv DON'T just plug it in the 12 v supply of your caravan without a 12 v to 12 v stabiliser as you can damage it, how? because a leisure battery can supply upto 13v and over depending on state of charge. Obviously if you just run 12v stuff ie lights, pumps etc you will require less panels. Rule of thumb to just keep your leisure battery topped and NOT use it then 11% of your battery capacity is the required wattage of panel ie for a 120a/h battery a 14watt panel is all thats required, that size of panel will NOT require a solar controller, any bigger panel will require a controller.
Installing a panel is very easy, you can use one of those fold away panels then all that is required is a connection into the caravan ie through the battery box and if the panel is as I said 11% of your leisure batteries capacity the panel connects straight to the battery terminals + to + and - to - , if its larger then it connects to the controller the terminals on the controller are marked as to which are + and - and which is the battery and which are the panel connections.
Fitting it on the roof of your van requires some brackets and some adhesive DON'T start screwing the brackets to the roof you will not know where the timber batterns are in the roof void and you will just be screwing into 1.5mm thick aluminium and your panel will end up on the road as you drive along, believe me the adhesive is strong enough (sikaflex 512, had from the popular auction site for a tenner) it's stated as a sealer but it also an adhesive it's what I use and have had no problems with it, in fact if you want to release it a very sharp scalple does the trick. The cables from the panel are then fixed to the roof using those adhesive cable ties they are then fed through the roof via a hole which is drilled through the roof in a convenient place where there are no cables in the roof void and the hole covered with a cable gland, again had from a popular auction site, and sealed and stuck down with the sikaflex. A word of advice I took the cables down inside the wardrobe and mounted the controller in there as well all out of sight to give a neat installation.
Redmick we have had no problems in finding sites that have hookup free pitches, we are in the camping and caravan club so they must provide pitches like that as not all tent people want hookups and there are always CL sites, but some people do not like CL sites and prefer to stay on sites that have vast amounts of caravans on them, not so quite and peacefull.
The guy who I buy the panels from uses the same auction site his shop is called Friendly Green Giant but there are many people selling panels on the auction site for around the same price make sure you get Monocrystaline panels they are the best.
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Posted: 5 years ago
Again thanks RCP for the great explanation of solar panels, I think when I do purchase my van I will get them to have one installed, (don't want to ruin a new van)
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Posted: 5 years ago
i bought a new challenger 480 se this year and can see the benefits of solar panels, which came as part of the package, in keeping the battery topped up whilst in storage in maintaining the functioning of the alarm system. i would think it would be useful in minimum use of electricity if none is available