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My life in the Wild thing
Taking a £42.000 motorhome and pimping it to the max for a new off-grid, all-weather, all year round living fulltime wild and free.
From the outset, I had paned to live full time, a life of freedom without the need for campsites. It is just not me. So in 2018, I started to look for a motorhome I could make changes too before you ask and why didn't I convert a van like many others. They not for me whatsoever it is as simple as that.
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. Which is ideal as a base for my DIY home build.
The to-do list
Fitting three 150 watt solar panels with 4-way tilting brackets
Twin Carbon 260 amp AGM batteries
Twin under van battery box
Fix many draft issues
Remove the front seats (not in the cab) making a large living area
Installing the inverter
Make a one-off table for the monitor
40 amp MPPT solar charge controller
Cab bulkhead with a door and insulation
Bathroom heater via wardrobe chimney (free heat)
Fit a diesel heater
Remove spear wheel
Replace carpet for a thick carpet tile
Lights in cubards
Roof fed water system with UV
Replaced solar wire cables
Increased engine power to 170 BHP
Improved many smaller parts
Doing all the work myself has saved some £5000 or more in labour changes. Its been great fun, I've learned a shed load of new things about solar power and how to repair the van on location. The extra engine power has been most welcome. The transit 2.2 with its standard 140 BHP is a slightly odd engine. It has a 3 stage power curve which makes it not that great when the extra weight of the RV. At low RPM it would hasitate but now with the tuning box fitted it pulls more smoothly with its new 170 BHP lease of life.
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.
Front seat conversion for a ford tribute 720 motorhome
A 6 both motorhome for one person isn't needed, so the front bed seat was changed. I removed the front board and fitted a curtain, making for a quick storage area. It's also the place for the inverter.
The cost of this conversion, Wood £2.39 and the curtain was froma charity shop for £1.50
The Finished Seat
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.
Fitting the Gaslow refilable 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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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