Photography life in the motorhome - Katey Jane Photography

Going back to basics sort of in the iceberg

I hate the 9 to 5 lifestyle, merely unable to live that life, its taken 47 years to get there. You know that feeling when you think, fuck this, my life is shit, wake up each day (groundhog day) and think, why I do bother!!!, living in prison for 47 years (the fens in Cambridgeshire and hard luck if what I say offends you! ) it feels like one to me, I,m too adventurous for this flat dull and lifeless world, so that's where the motorhome comes, in, I fully intend to go full-time off-grid and make up for the lost 47 years, I plan to live life as it comes.

Making a motorhome a real home

Mum and her sister on the left at Thornham at flood on the 2nd August 2019

I had two choices, buy a van and convert or buy a motorhome and convert some of it. So after nearly 15 months of looking for the right vehicle, I bought the ford transit tribute 2.2 LT with 140 BHP with the sports X pack. Knowing these big white vans are not built to be lived in I set to work to make it a home on wheels.

For my lifestyle and remember my lifestyle is also my business, I needed a few things to make the dream a reality.

The to-do list
Fit twin solar panels
Twin AGM batteries
Build an under van battery box
Fix draft issues
Remove the front seats (not in the cab)
Installing the inverter
Make a one-off table
40 amp MPPT solar charge controller
Cab curtain with full insulation with soundproofing
Bathroom heater via wardrobe where wasted chimney heat it is vented inside the bathroom
fixing many small issues that seem to plague motorhomes.

I've removed about 150 kg of weight but only added a bit back. The work has been long and sometimes tricky, the large battery box handmade by myself took the longest. Doing all the work myself has saved around £2300 in labour charges and because I have done everything myself I know in the ins and outs of every part and fitted all the items to my standard and not some rogue trader and it's great fun too!

Thornham saltmarsh at flood North Norfolk.

Are you now wondering if everything has gone to plan and is it fun living full time in a motorhome and going back to an older way of life?

Well, of course, it's all gone to plan, I mean I built the dam thing myself as I sit here with my nose growing longer and longer. I better tell the truth! I bought on the motorhome on the 28th July 2019, and it has taken all that time making it a home and one that suits me, everything has been fine up to about four weeks ago when I notice the batteries were not charging. Within the last ten days (7/12/2019) the battery power has been so bad I've had to sop the full-time living, still living in the van, but it is parked outside my mothers. The van is booked in to see a someone who fits solar panels, there's power from the panels but nothing going to the batteries.

As for other issues, water can be a problem; My RV holds 70 LTs of freshwater which is suitable for around eight days, I then carry two 10 LT water tanks, but when needing to fill up, it can be hard work. Mostly you would either go to a petrol station and fill up, but they hate you using that amount of water. That leaves churches with their water tapes outside in the churchyards, but nowadays they are removing them, you may find one that will still have them, out of the 70 churches I have photographed just two still has water taps. It then leaves the good old fashioned could you fill my water tanks up please as I only can't find anywhere. that has worked 100% of the time, but it is just not convenient.

The solution to water issues, use rainwater, I do not drink it but use it to wash with and use it to flush the loo, so I'm looking at a pre tank filter system which uses the van's roof to filter water. This is achieved by a water guild on the roof where send the water down a small pipe that leads into the water filler cap which then results into the filter system, the filter system then merely using the existing piping into the water tank.
Going back to the Goodlife is fun but bloody hard at times, living full time in one is ok but this motorhome is very roomy and with its separate shower and substantial over-cab bed it makes for a very relaxing place to be. Bear in mind, and I do not go on campsites EVER! but park in all kinds of situations, forests, farmers fields (in summer only), dirt tracks but never parking in villages or towns, always out in the countryside and in places where the solar panels can get a suntan (catching some rays as they say)

Keeping the van clean and tidy is hard work with my all-weather adventure lifestyle, but a few simple tricks will hold it's cream carpets looking good for months, and yes it has cream carpets!!!!, you can tell these vans are not designed for full time living when you see a cream carpets in one. For the doorstep I use a folded waterproof cloth, it is wrapped over the rug, when it is raining, I step on that, then lay the dirty part back inside the doorstep which is fully washable.

Front seat conversion for a ford tribute 720 motorhome

Converting a tribute 720 motorhome seat for storage.

A straightforward and cheap conversion. The front side seat can be used as a bed, being the motorhome is six birth, but I wanted more storage space and will never use that bed.

As you can see, the seat has left up lid, but you have to remove the cushions, I wanted something quick and painless. After inspecting the unit, I notice the wooden board could be unscrewed, meaning I could use a curtain as a cover.

The board had nine screws and no glue which made for a ten-minute job. On removing the board, the board is part of the bracing for the sides of the seat, so to fix this, I bought a 2x1in blank of wood £2.39 from Wickes, cutting it to be used as a brace, (note its not a load-bearing part), That took just Ten minutes.

Wooden bracing cut for the front seat conversion for the tribute 720 motorhomes. The sliding bed top with its lid, I wanted the bed not to slide so looked at drilling two small holes through the aluminium, but at the back of the sliders, there are holes already in place.

Lastly, I bought a cream carpet remnants to fit under the seat and to fit inside the wardrobe. The carpet does several jobs; It looks more beautiful, it stops items sliding around, cuts down on noise and is great for extra insulation.

This storage unit will also be used to house the power converter plus the second leisure battery.

The cost of this conversion, Wood £2.39 Carpet £24 but has been used elsewhere due to the size of the remnant. Time took about an hour.
Will add some more photos showing how much this storage unit can take.

The Finished Seat

Ford tribute 720 front seat conversion with a curtain cover system.

Ford tribute 720 front seat with large capacity.

The finished seat and storage unit holds the same amount as the stock item but removed the need to remove the cushion and cuts a hell of a lot of effort if you are looking for something, take my camera bag, its far too large for any of the upper lockers and when placed inside the wardrobe it will take up far too much room, so the best place is under the seat, it merely slides out like any other item — been testing it out today and for about £15 its a job well done.

Ford tribute 720 front seat conversion costing just £15 and makes life easier.

Fitting the Gaslow refilable bottles

Fitting gaslow twin refillable gas bottles

After looking at Calor gas bottles and their rip off prices, I wanted something cheaper, and luckily there are a few companies who make refillable bottles. The one I went for is the Gaslow twin set up. After doing some research, there will be a saving of around £40 per refill, and with the cost of the set up at £420, I will get my money back in about 10 refills.

gaslow twin gas bottles

As well most things in life, I like to DIY it, and this set was no exception, it can be hazardous, and gas will kill you, being foolish or cost-cutting will no dought shorten your life.

 gaslow twin bottles-how to fit yourself in a motorhome

I Used professional grade pipping and connections throughout, (no cheap crap). All pipes and bolts should be very tight but not overtight, hanging on a large T-bar is a big no no!!, if pipes have no rubber seals then use tape that is designed for gas and water pipes.

Do a test install first with the bottles, measure the change over the system and make sure the test point in the cut off can be seen and used.

To check for leaks, use a spray or proper old fashioned washing up liquid, if you see bubbles then you have a leak, tighten the bolts up.

Issues with petrol stations and refillable gas bottles, There's been a few idiots turning up at petrol stations and almost blowing the petrol stations up, these dickheads have now made it harder for us ordinary folk who wish to fill up with LPG, so here's how you get past the issues.

Morisons have a blanket ban on refillable bottles but if you have a fixed system like me and have the filling tap fixed to the outside of your motorhome, then simply turn up and fill up (never open the gas locker door in the petrol station, don't give them an excuse to get rid of you!,) if they state you can't fill up, they are breaking the law themselves, tell them the motorhome is an LPG conversion, that should work.

There are fewer issues with BP and Jet petrol stations, but these issues are also down the fucking greed of Calor, maybe cut your prices Calor, you are not the Dons of gas!!!

Fitting the 1500 inverter in the 720 sports x motorhome

With my adventures lifestyle comes a hell of a lot of work and running this website takes more than a laptop, I need something that is to get on with, I have never found laptops helpful, so I need to take pc away with me.

As the PC is 240 volts AC I needed to add an inverter to the vans twin battery set up. After some weeks of research and testing how much the pc uses on power, I could have bought a 1000 watt inverter, but I wanted to future proof it so went for the 1500 watt from SunShine Solar, I wanted the inverter under the front seats where it is close to the batteries and easy to get to, I set out and made an all in one bracket for the inverter and its inline fuse. I then screwed the bracket inside under the seat.

To connect the inverter to the batteries, it really can't be simpler; remove the battery cables starting with the negative first then the positive. Bolt the inverter cables to the right battery clamps then connect the positive first, remember, there will be a spark from the neutral negative and don't be bothered about the spark as this is normal.

The inverter then will run household items up to the wattage, never go over the wattage stated on the inverter, so a 1500 watt inverter like mine will run around 1200 watts, give some room for items starting up as they will use more watts.

My twin battery set up is two 130 amp hour AGM batteries from alpha batteries, so they will give 260 amp hours, these batteries can be drained to 60% each without damaged so I,m getting around 150 amp hours from both batteries, this means I can use the PC for 2-3 hours per day, (it runs about 180 watts when editing photos) on an overcast day with the one 150 watts solar panel (fitting another 150 watt panel soon) but if I don't use the pc but use the monitor as a regular tv I can watch tv all day if I wished (mother loves her tv and soaps)

My portable free energy crop 150W XPLORER German Cell Solar Panel

As the motorhome already came with a 150-watt panel, it was ok for regular use but after fitting two large 130 amp hours batteries plus the 1500 watt inverter the whole system needed another 150 watts, also to run my desktop pc I knew I would need more grunt.

Fitting two 150 watt solar panels to the roof of a ford tribute 720 motorhomes 150W XPLORER German Cell Solar Panel supplied by alpha batteries The old panel that came fitted was in the wrong place, the people who installed it didn't allow enough room for another similar sized panel, but I came up with a way around the problem, the three back brackets I cut notches in all three to fit over the vans seam that runs the width.

Because I'm entirely off-grid and never plan to stay in any campsites, I have to gauge the power I use each day. The batteries can be discharged under load to 12 volts which are 60% for the AGM batteries I'm using, and the batteries will charge back to full under 3 hours each so for the two together about 6 hours using the. MTTP charge controller supplied by Photonic Universe.

And the work never stops 14/12/2019 Fitting the one off solar panel tilting system and the bulkhead photos coming soon

New bulkhead system with sealed and soundproof curtains. As the van is a full-time home, I wish not to see the driver bits upfront. The cab area is mostly the coldest in any motorhome. So I built a new bulkhead with a doorway and covered with a cotton backing (also a brilliant sound deading item) and a decorative curtain, the build cost just £65 most of the cost was the cotton. I'm shocked at how well the bulkhead works is interesting, in testing the temperature was only 11 degrees leaving only a small gap in the curtain. Still, only 10 inches away on a finished and fully sealed part the temperature shot up to a warm 19 degrees. In the doorway area, I can watch the air movement breathing on the curtain, so you can tell how poorly insulate the cab area of a van is. Also with the bulkhead, it had almost cut out all condensation which before was a pain in the ass.

Solar panel one of tilt system

Being my home on wheels was bought never to venture anywhere near a campsite and be lived in all year round meant the RV would need to go through some dramatic changes and upgrades. TBH it seems never-ending, but it is fun too.

As you know if you live in the UK, the sun can be very shy at times plus how low in the sky it is n the winter months I needed to come up with a new and radical solar panel idea. So with my overly active creative brain, I came up with an idea Friday the 13/12/2019 removed both 150-watt panels and by the following day and the design built and in front me being tested on the floor. My system may be a one of a kind 4-way tilt, why four-way you ask, well parking in the UK is often a painful experience, and sometimes you can't park at the angle you would like, so to make life as easy as possible I came up with the 4-way tilt system that has cost just £22 per panel. Ok so I have to climb on the roof each time I park up but without tilting the panels I can't change the massive 260 amp batteries up, so to me climbing the roof is a small price to pay until I find an electrical system that controls the panels from inside the van.

So an example, 300 watts or 2 150 watt that's about 18 amps at full power panels gives around 3 amp hours on a sunny day in almost mid-winter, that's not enough for hungry batteries like bubble and squeak (yes I have names for my batteries lol) when the panels are flat on the roof but after some exciting tests, after tilting the panels to about halfway and nowhere near pointing at the sun the panels managed an impressive 9.5 amps, so I reckon when tilted directly at the sun the amps will shoot up to around 15 amps or almost full power. I plan to add another 150-watt panel that will take the roof of my van to its maximum, that will then give the batteries around 24 amps in mid-winter which will be fine to run the pc and the run the small electric heater which then saves gas.

The old panel that came fitted was in the wrong place, the people who installed it didn't allow enough room for another similar sized panel, but I came up with a way around the problem, the three back brackets I cut notches in all three to fit over the vans seam that runs the width.

Because I'm entirely off-grid and never plan to stay in any campsites, I have to gauge the power I use each day. The batteries can be discharged under load to 12 volts which are 60% for the AGM batteries I'm using, and the batteries will charge back to full under 3 hours each so for the two together about 6 hours using the.

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