Campervan plumbing – we have running water!

A splutter, trickle and finally a whoosh…and (with only one small-ish flood) we had two sinks full of water!

To install the plumbing system we used:

  • A 30 litre cold water tank
  • A Flojet Triplex Diaphragm water pump
  • A Truma 14 litre electric boiler
  • Various John Guest pipes and fittings.

We ordered everything from Caravans Plus, and were incredibly lucky that having built the cabinets in advance without any tank measurements, everything just fit with millimetres to spare. We were also pleased to come across the electric water heater, which had only just come on the market.

Most water heaters seem to run off gas, but with our gas tank on one side of the van and both sinks on the other side, it was going to be hard to lead the gas pipes across. We also didn’t want to use gas any more than necessary. The electric heater connects into the 240v system, heats the water to 70 degrees and then loses around one degree per hour. So we can be unplugged for 24 hours and still have relatively warm water.

The system was installed in two stages, with the plumbing and electrics. Here’s an overview:

Plumbing

The cold water tank is on the right, and Paul added a water level gauge, which is wired into the indicator by the door:

The photo below shows the plumbing system in more detail:

So following the circuit above:

  • A12mm pipe runs from the cold water tank to an isolation valve (blue & white tap on the right) to isolate the cold water.
  • The pipe continues into the water pump, which pumps the cold water out through the pipe on the left. The water runs through a pressure-reducing valve (see blue valve), and down to a t-junction.
  • At that point, the blue pipe runs up to service the cold taps in the kitchen and bathroom
  • The bottom pipe continues underneath the pump, through a non-return valve and to a safety drain valve (see yellow valve). This is a safety mechanism leading to a hole Paul drilled in the bottom of the van, which can be used to drain the hot water tank quickly.
  • The blue cold water pipe then runs up out of the safety drain valve into the hot water tank, which we had to raise onto its own shelf to separate it from the pump.
  • From the hot water tank, the clear pipe running down the middle is a ventilation pipe that prevents air bubbles getting trapped in the tank, and runs out through the same hole in the bottom of the van.
  • Hot water flows out of the red pipe and up to a t-junction to supply the hot taps in the kitchen and bathroom.

Electrics

The water pump connects to the 12v battery via a 15 amp fuse – the cable runs behind the fridge through the conduit in the doorway and round to the battery.

The electric heater has its own power point, which is wired into the fridge’s power point to link into the 240v system – this saves running two cables around to the 240v input socket on the other side.

So the result:

I’ll cover the input pipe and drainage in the next blog. So if, by any chance, you’re attempting your own plumbing and following these steps, don’t turn your taps on just yet!

Campervan cushions – and then there were five!

Hurrah! We finally have a full complement of cushions. Here in the seating configuration:

I had to step down the height of the backrests slightly so they would still fit side-by-side in the bed configuration:

I still need to adjust the padding on some of them but they’re almost there. Step-by-step instructions to follow shortly!

Who knew making a wooden seat could be so complicated?

Well ours has been very complicated, but having spent the last couple of weekends playing with hinges and bolts and sliding locks, Paul has now fixed and secured all the campervan seating. Let’s hope we’ve finally seen the last of the comedy seesaw moments.

The seats needed a bit of adjusting from their original position to allow for a 28mm overhang all around to protect the cupboard doors underneath. Once the seating panels were all screwed down, Paul turned his attention to the backrests.

Because the engine is underneath the driver/passenger seats, we had to hinge the backrest behind the cab to allow the front seats to still lift up and provide access to the engine.

And because the backrest doesn’t lean up against anything, Paul also fixed a small arm hinge at the side and a sliding lock at the back to strengthen it when it’s in the upright position.

The other backrest also had to have a sliding lock behind it to stop it falling forward. It’s this backrest which pulls over to form the bed support, and it’s really quite heavy to lift. To make this job a bit easier, I did attempt to fashion a handle out of a few scraps of gingham I had lying around (as you do). Unfortunately though, while clearly very beautiful, my handle was not up to the job and suffered major structural failure on its first outing. We might just buy a metal one from Bunnings.

The final stage in the seating was to make a trap door (with fully functioning custom-made handle) above the battery compartment to give easy access to all the electrics.

Here’s the bedding configuration:

The kitchen work surfaces are also now secure, having been screwed down to the cabinet shell underneath with small right angle brackets. Paul fitted a gloss white side panel onto the cabinet containing the fridge, and added a water indicator, which will link to the fresh and wastewater tanks.

Then on the outside of the van behind the fridge cabinet he fitted an air vent:

We also saw the first splash of red above the fridge:

So the seating is completely finished. Stay tuned for phase one of the plumbing!

The picture that tells a thousand words

And as most of those words are not very lady-like, I thought it wise to only publish the picture: And just to prove the cushion even has a zip and (gasp)… semi-reasonable corners:

That is all. The first complete campervan cushion. One down, four to go. I’m off to lie down in a cool, dark room.

A sewer’s guide to being pragmatic (while still making beautiful seat cushions)

Pragmatism. noun 1 the art of dealing with things in a practical rather than theoretical way. 2 the art of embracing campervan cushions as a practical seating application even when the corners are theoretically lop-sided, sticky-out or have a tiny hole in the middle.

I started off with a rather romantic notion of making these cushions; being holed up at my sewing machine on a Sunday afternoon with a nice cup of tea, radio on and the heater warming my feet. When I realised I was actually quite good at sewing in a straight line, I was already converting my desk into a sewing table and planning all sorts of ambitious projects.

The vision was shattered as soon as I reached my first corner. The general idea with a box seat cushion is to have a top and bottom panel, a side strip that runs around three sides and a back panel with a zip. None of this sounds too complicated, but whichever method I try to sew the side strip around the corners, they look completely different.

I have dusted off my library card and tried four different patterns. Through the wonder of YouTube, I’ve had lessons from Darlene in Detroit and taken advice from Barry in Texas. I’ve tried the meticulous ‘pinning and pressing’ method and the more kamikaze ‘just snip and pivot’ method (that was Barry) and nothing seems to work consistently. Every time I think I’ve cracked it, no sooner have I made a celebratory brew than I line it up with the opposite corner and realise it’s two centimetres lower.

Hurrah!

Aaaaaaarghhh!

So after several frustrating weekends at the sewing machine growing increasingly despondent, I came to the conclusion that imperfect corners would just have to do. I would take a pragmatic approach and just get them finished. Shamelessly seeking reassurance that my corners were, in fact, brilliant and I was being way too hard on myself, I showed Paul a selection and asked for his honest opinion.

And in the next moment, in a brief memory lapse when all the rules that had been carefully instilled over the last 12 years were inexplicably discarded, there was a pause. A frown. A very close look at the seams. And then, ‘Hmmmm. Yes, I see what you mean.’

Followed by a look of complete surprise when a fine plume of smoke started escaping from my ears.

‘But, you said you wanted…’

‘I DIDN’T MEAN IT! I WANTED YOU TO SAY THESE ARE THE FINEST EXAMPLES OF CUSHION CORNERS YOU HAVE EVER SEEN AND WHY HAVE I NOT JOINED BARRY AND DARLENE ON YOUTUBE WITH MY OWN SERIES OF SEWING VIDEOS’.

‘Oh.’

So that’s that. It’s back to the drawing board. But, having relayed the whole sorry story in a long teleconference, Mum has come up with a new plan of attack, which requires sewing no corners whatsoever. Round cushions! Actually no, that will be a very last resort, but I will try the new method this afternoon and report back. Meanwhile, the heater’s on and the radio’s blaring, but I may add something a little stronger to my tea cup.

Access to the campervan gas bottle

Is it me, or are these post titles getting increasingly less intriguing?

Anyway, it’s always a slightly hairy moment when you take a power tool to the van’s shell. Particularly when the size of hole you’re cutting could not be easily patched up with a bit of sticky-back plastic and passed off as a ‘vintage’ feature if anything went wrong. Thankfully, it didn’t! So we now have external access to the gas bottle.

The 2kg gas bottle sits in a metal box, which would provide some protection in the (hopefully unlikely) event of any gas leakage. The three-sided box sits underneath one of the seats and we’ve now fitted a vented door to the outside.

Paul made two cardboard templates to work out exactly where to cut the hole: one the size of the box and one the size of the door frame. He lined up the box template on the inside and drilled a hole through the centre. He then lined up the centre of the frame template on the outside of the van with the hole, and drew around the outline. He then cut the corners using a 50mm hole saw and cut between the holes with tin snips.


Paul sealed all the cut edges with rust primer, squeezed a layer of silicon around the door frame (to prevent water seeping through) and pushed the frame into place.

He then bolted the door frame to the van using nylon locking nuts (try saying that after a Sunday afternoon beverage – I am failing miserably), so they don’t vibrate loose once we’re on the road.

The next step is to connect up the gas and have it certified.

The cupboard doors arrived from Laminex this week and are trying desperately to blend into our carpet before being fitted. Here’s a sneaky peek:

Wiring a campervan

Phase one of the campervan wiring is now complete – hurrah! There is finally a light at the end of the tunnel. Actually there’s not because lighting is part of phase two, but at least the fridge is whirring away nicely.

What follows is a very simplified description of how we got to this point. If you have any more detailed questions, please leave a comment at the bottom of this post!

<Disclaimer> Now, I am (clearly) not an electrician and neither, for that matter, is Paul. All the works described below are still to be certified by a licensed electrician to ensure we’re in no danger of electrocution down the track.

Okay. We have two main circuits: One that will plug into a 240v power source at a campsite, and one that is powered by a 12v battery for when we’re travelling off-piste.

Here’s an overall view:

240v power circuit

  • Paul cut a small hole in the shell of the van and attached a 240 socket so we can run a cable to an external power supply.

  • From the other side of the socket, a 2.5mm cable runs through a conduit (to protect from any sharp metal) along the inside of the campervan to a 16 amp fuse.

  • The fuse clips onto a small metal bracket, which is screwed to the van. The yellow and green cable shown above connects to the metal shell of the van (we had to scrape a small patch of paint off the interior) to provide the earth.
  • Three cables then run from this fuse. The first runs to a power socket for the battery charger – ours is a CTEK Multi XS 150000. The charger will eventually be hard-wired to the battery.

  • The second cable runs around the front of the living area, under the doorway (in the lower of two conduits) to the power point for the fridge.

  • The third cable will run to an additional socket. Perhaps for a hair straightener.

12v battery circuit

There are two circuits from the battery.

  1. The first solely powers the fridge when we’re not connected to external power.  The fridge will automatically recognise when we disconnect from the 240v, and will switch to battery power.

The cable runs from the battery to a 15 amp fuse, then through an isolation switch, around the front of the living area, through the top conduit in the doorway and to the fridge.

We used an 8mm diameter cable to prevent any voltage drop between the battery and fridge and it seemed to do the trick; even with a 4.5m cable, we’re getting a consistent 12volts to the fridge. In fact, we seem to have gained a few…

In this case, the van’s metal shell provides the negative connection to the battery. Very handy.

2. The second battery circuit will power all other elements, which we’ll install in phase two: the water pump, lights and extractor fans.

The cable runs from the battery to a 40 amp fuse, then through an isolation switch, around the front of the living area to the control panel. Each switch in the control panel has its own fuse, ranging from 10-15 amps.

We’ll use the control panel to switch on the lights, fans and water pump. The water pump sits to the left of the fridge, so the cable runs around the fire extinguisher above, through the top conduit in the doorway and past the fridge to the pump.

Isolation switches

Running the cables through an isolation switch means we can manually switch the circuit off if necessary. We have also installed a dual-battery isolator; the car’s alternator will charge our 12v battery while we’re driving, but the isolator prevents our battery taking power from the car’s battery.

So that’s it! We bought everything from Bunnings (surprise, surprise), Supercheap Auto and a local electrical shop. Phase two is to install the lighting and fans, which involves cutting a hole in the roof, yikes.