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Living in a caravan
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cassy



Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 1047
Location: South West Scotland
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 11:28 am    Post subject: Living in a caravan  Reply with quote    

We're about to move into a caravan while we build a house and will be living there for several years until the house if finished. We'll be off-grid with a composting toilet, rainwater harvesting and powered by photovoltaic panels with a generator back-up and we'll be trialling the system that we'll later use in the house.

I'm really interested to know the following-

What tips can people give for living full time in a caravan?
What do you wish you had known before you moved?
We're assuming that we should buy the biggest van we can afford and we're thinking that so long as it is water-tight, the interior condition is not important as we can re-fit. What else?

Thanks for your help!

Annette H



Joined: 18 Jul 2008
Posts: 245
Location: Worcestershire
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 11:42 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We lived in a caravan while we converted a barn and in winter it was cold and damp . Our friends did the same thing but installed a small wood burner, it made such a difference

I loved the caravan, hardly any housework !

boisdevie1



Joined: 11 Aug 2006
Posts: 3897
Location: Lancaster
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 11:50 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Why a caravan. Mobile homes second hand are very very cheap. Make sure it's well insulated. Would it not be possible, for example, to stack straw bales outside the van and then protect the whole lot with a very big tarp?

tahir



Joined: 28 Oct 2004
Posts: 44104
Location: Essex
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Might be worth getting a container for storage?

earthyvirgo



Joined: 24 Aug 2007
Posts: 7972
Location: creating prints in the loft, Gerlan
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 1:07 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

I lived in a caravan for three years with my then partner whilst I was in art college. The location was brilliant, on a farm on the outskirts of Exeter but it caused a few tensions because of;

- it was flippin' cold in the winter, ice on the inside!
- almost constant damp and condensation from Autumn through to late spring
- lack of space

On the plus side, the farmer let me have the small patch of ground next to the caravan as a veggie plot (rent free) which was the most fertile soil I've ever gardened in.

EV

RichardW



Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Posts: 8423
Location: Llyn Peninsular North Wales
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 5:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Get a wood burner
buy one thats 4 season rated & double glazed
put a skirt round the out side t stop the floor chilling
insulate ALL the pipes
It will get damp
it will freeze on the inside
check the floor they are often rotten especialy in the corners
dont block the vents but do seal up the drafts
open ALL the windows EVERY day during daylight hours to reduce humidity
change the beds as you will get damp on the underside of the mattress
get a big battery bank
forget solar power PV in the winter you will need FOUR times the summer rate to get the same power
battery charging is not a simple replace the amps used caculation. You need to put 150amps in for every 100amps you use. Far better to use the power as its made if you can.
Dont use micky mouse chargers in inverters. They will fail & will end up damaging the battery bank.
Get a diesel genny
Get a quiet genny, yes it will cost LOTS more for the same power but is worth it. Ours is THIS ONE its only 57dba compared to the more normal 70 odd dba but it does mean that you cant hear it over any internal noise at all.
Smaller gennies that are 1-3kw have similar dba levels but having borrowed a 1kw one whilst waiting for our new one the sound level might be the same but the frequency is SO annoying it gets in your head.
Also consider wind power if site suits it, or better yet is water power but that requires even more site specifics.

Richard

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 33991
Location: yes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 9:44 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

RichardW wrote:
Get a wood burner
buy one thats 4 season rated & double glazed
put a skirt round the out side t stop the floor chilling
insulate ALL the pipes
It will get damp
it will freeze on the inside
check the floor they are often rotten especialy in the corners
dont block the vents but do seal up the drafts
open ALL the windows EVERY day during daylight hours to reduce humidity
change the beds as you will get damp on the underside of the mattress
get a big battery bank
forget solar power PV in the winter you will need FOUR times the summer rate to get the same power
battery charging is not a simple replace the amps used caculation. You need to put 150amps in for every 100amps you use. Far better to use the power as its made if you can.
Dont use micky mouse chargers in inverters. They will fail & will end up damaging the battery bank.
Get a diesel genny
Get a quiet genny, yes it will cost LOTS more for the same power but is worth it. Ours is THIS ONE its only 57dba compared to the more normal 70 odd dba but it does mean that you cant hear it over any internal noise at all.
Smaller gennies that are 1-3kw have similar dba levels but having borrowed a 1kw one whilst waiting for our new one the sound level might be the same but the frequency is SO annoying it gets in your head.
Also consider wind power if site suits it, or better yet is water power but that requires even more site specifics.

Richard


what you said

and dont park under trees

and dont put cornflakes on the roof for the birds in the summer unless you want a 4 am call

Penny Outskirts



Joined: 18 Sep 2005
Posts: 23385
Location: Planet, not on the....
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 9:51 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

dpack wrote:
and dont put cornflakes on the roof for the birds in the summer unless you want a 4 am call


That sounds like the voice of experience

dpack



Joined: 02 Jul 2005
Posts: 33991
Location: yes
PostPosted: Wed Jan 14, 09 9:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

umm
the tree thing is nice till there is a branch in the house
the birdy thing was my mum

and get an industrial boot wash

Bulgarianlily



Joined: 01 Jun 2008
Posts: 1667
Location: South West Mountains of Bulgaria
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 8:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Put everything you might need on the table before you sit down for a meal. Jumping up and down in our van meant moving the table back and forth between the seats, and it got bloody annoying. If you can, make one bed permanent with a proper mattress raised up on a ventilated bed frame. Frame out the floor of the awning with wood and reinforce the awning poles with wood poles, and put boards over this under the cover in case of snow.

cassy



Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 1047
Location: South West Scotland
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 12:41 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks everybody - lots of good specific advice, just what I was hoping for .
Annette H wrote:
Our friends did the same thing but installed a small wood burner, it made such a difference
I loved the caravan, hardly any housework !

A wood burner would be good - maybe one with a flat top to cook on. Lack of housework sounds good!
boisdevie1 wrote:
Make sure it's well insulated. Would it not be possible, for example, to stack straw bales outside the van and then protect the whole lot with a very big tarp?

I've seen some with strawbales underneath, presumably to stop the wind? If we can get a static caravan we should be able to dry-line the inside and add extra insulation.
tahir wrote:
Might be worth getting a container for storage?

Yes, you're right. Either a container, or a barn depending on the timescale. We've been hoarding things that might come in useful - can't see them all fitting into the caravan!
earthyvirgo wrote:
almost constant damp and condensation from Autumn through to late spring

That's one of the things I'm most concerned about!

@RichardW - that's lots of really good advice, thank you! I hadn't thought where the floor was most likely to be rotten or about the floor chilling. Good recommendation on the genny. Cheers!
dpack wrote:
dont park under trees
and get an industrial boot wash

It's ok, no trees available . Lots of mud though. Hoping to put some planks in front to stop too much coming in and looking at building a 'porch' to leave wet coats and boots under.
Bulgarianlily wrote:
If you can, make one bed permanent with a proper mattress raised up on a ventilated bed frame

That's a good idea. We could build a frame to stop the mattress getting fusty and maybe re-think storage under the bed.

gai



Joined: 31 Dec 2004
Posts: 407
Location: Ireland
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 3:52 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

We bought a second hand dehumidifier from the local free ads to help cope with the damp. Damp mildewed clothes were the worst.
Forget about your living environment being clean, tidy and dust/mud free for the duration. Adding some form of decking with covered porch type area is good for dumping wet muddy boots and coats in. Cement and plaster dust plus sawdust are impossible to keep in check once you start building. Some form of heating is essential. Freezing of water pipes and gas bottles is a real problem in winter. We once went without water and cooking facilities for 2 weeks. You will really need a separate building for storage (building materials, tools, bikes etc). We were lucky that we had existing farm buildings but a second hand large shed will do. I also situated my washing machine and freezer out there.
That all sounds really negative but if you go into it with your eyes open then living on site is great. You can get on with things like veg and livestock whilst the house is being built. You will save a fortune in rent and keep on top of most building problems. We lived in ours for 3 years and I would do it again.

cassy



Joined: 04 Feb 2008
Posts: 1047
Location: South West Scotland
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 6:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Thanks gai, lots of good ideas there. 3 years - wow! It's nice to know it's do-able if we have to.

gai wrote:
You can get on with things like veg and livestock whilst the house is being built.


This is the bit I'm really looking forward to!

Mrs R



Joined: 15 Aug 2008
Posts: 7202

PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 6:22 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

before my mum built her log cabin on a mountainside in scotland i spent a new years even up there in the caravan, with just a little gas heater....it was the coldest i have EVER been. I literally felt frozen, like I was going to die of the cold I think it was the damp inside the van on top of the cold but i spent the whole time huddled in as many blankets as i could find trying to glean heat from that little heater. Not something I would ever want to repeat, so woodburner = NUMBER 1 Priority!

RichardW



Joined: 24 Aug 2006
Posts: 8423
Location: Llyn Peninsular North Wales
PostPosted: Thu Jan 15, 09 6:28 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote    

Ditch the LPG heater as they PRODUCE water vapour when burnt so makes the damp worse.

Richard

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