Category Archives: Our 1st year

These are the ramblings of first-timers Ian & Janette – follow us on our journey with Hilma the Hymer

Solar panel installed!

Well I finally got around to fitting the Solar Panel provided by Leading Edge. I have to admit to knowing someone in the company so I have no hesitation in linking to their site. As a complete novice in this area I needed all the help I could get which is why I went to Leading Edge. David and Martin both talked me through the installation and along with notes made from the excellent A & N Caravan Services website I set about gathering all I needed.
So what did I need?

    1) Solar Panel (100w), cables and connections
    2) Solar panel controller (Schaudt LRM1218)
    3) Solar panel readout panel (Schaudt LT320)
    4) All appropriate connectors
    5) Cleaning compound and mounting glue for the solar panel spoilers and cable gland.
    6) A willingness to drill a hole in something that is meant to keep you dry!!

The last point being the most scary. The solar panel came with all the necessary, 5m cable (more on this later), connectors, mounting spoilers and cable entry gland.

100W Solara solar panel (100/12 = 8.33A)

The solar panel controller came with all the necessary connections for all the different options that are possible (connection direct to batteries (not recommended), connection via Electroblok with analogue 12v panel (IT 992) or a more modern digital readout panel. The cabling that came with the controller allows for starter battery charging and limits/controls the amount of charge going to the batteries, first charging the leisure batteries and once they are full will charge the starter battery only if required.

Schaudt MPPT LRM1218 controller (note the 15A in-line fuse from the solar panel feed)

The Schaudt solar panel readout panel (LT320) also comes with all the necessary instructions and cable connections (essentially only data supply from the controller).

Schaudt LT320 solar panel readout

I would recommend downloading the pdf’s for both the controller and the readout panel from the Schaudt website. Thoroughly read it all and ‘visualise’ how it all fits together and works before attempting to fit. Of course there are those of you that will be familiar with electrics and 12v systems so it could be a breeze for these people. For those like me who are unfamiliar with all this, the pdf instructions and the A & N Caravan Services website are a must for reference.
The only way I could get through this is by writing EVERYTHING down starting with what I thought was the obvious. I have taken a photograph of my notes just to show you how little I know about these things and how much assistance I need!

My notes

The very first notecheck – the leisure battery type (as the MPPT controller needs to know). The main thing to sort out first was the cable run – make sure you have enough! With 5m I only just had enough (although I could have mounted the solar panel a little more forward if necessary). I am not going to run through the whole procedure as it would be rather dry and boring. What I will say is that one of the very first jobs to do is to sort out your cable run and where the controller will be fitted (has to be close to the Electroblok).

Cable entry from roof

Cable run along lockers

Cable run – out of lockers

Cable run behind seat

The information that you can get from the Schaudt website is really useful, download pdf’s of all that is necessary. All the necessary cables come with the controller for the different set up’s you might have. Follow the instructions and you should not go far wrong. Just to prove that all was working when finished I switched all the lights and the extractor fan on at the same time – the readout panel gave a magnificent 5.2A being fed back in to the batteries (it was sunny with a little light cloud).

The solar panel readout fitted into the locker (a wooden blanking plate was fitted later to stop anything snagging on the panel)

Photo shows the charge going back into the batteries

Roof fitting of panel and cable entry gland (note the cable secured with ties). Do not try and fit the cable through the gland after fixing to the roof! Once the cable gland had been fitted and glued I put some silicone sealant around it.

And you can hardly see it from the ground

MiFi personal WiFi

So – we went the Caravan Camping & Motorhome show on Saturday. We had a couple of purchases in mind but the main one was to be a 3G/4G internet connection pack from motorhomewifi.com. I had e-mailed Adam a couple of weeks ago and said we were going to the show and could we have a chat with him about our requirements at the show. Well it didn’t take long (we were the first on the stand!) and we quickly established we needed the 4G Roof Antenna & E5577 MiFi package.
MiFi pack
Having gone through the pro’s and con’s with Adam this certainly certainly looks like it will do the job for us. Adam kindly threw in a 12v cigar connector at the same time (used to power the HUAWEI Mobile WiFi unit).
Basically, what the kit does is allow you to use a 3G or 4G mobile network signal and translate that into a personal WiFi network in the motorhome. We need it for business reasons but also we will be using it for searching t’internet for sites and place to stay.
All I needed to do now was fit it! For someone who was told he had hands like pig’s trotters (thanks Dad :-)) these kind of DIY jobs are always a bit of a challenge for me – something usually goes wrong, knowing this I had to read everything twice to make sure I did it right. For that I also have to thank Jason of ourtour.co.uk (a fantastic site I can’t recommend enough) as he and Julie had already fitted on to their B544 – Zagan. So off to the garage I trot, ladders, cleaning equipment, drill and bit (25mm hole saw) and all the kit bits. I took my time and surprisingly for me the kit was fitted in 90 mins with no errors (apart from not taping the wood when I drilled so the rear of it split a little (sorry Dad).
I determined the best way to tackle this was to put the aerial on the roof first. Drilling my first hole in the roof of Hilma felt very daunting. Making a hole in an object that is meant to keep you warm and dry does not come naturally, but once done, no going back. Fitted like a glove, the sticky panel did it’s job.

4G antenna

The MiFi antenna safely installed on the roof

The next job was to drill the holes between the clothes cupboard and the old TV locker. This is where I made my first error – I remember as a kid helping my father with DIY (and that’s probably what put me off doing it in adulthood) – he always put some tape where he was drilling thin wood to stop it splitting. Anyway, measuring where the cables should enter, I duly drilled (10mm) and split the wood. Still, I suppose not many people other than ourselves look in the cupboard.

MiFi antenna fitting

Cable from the roof antenna into the wardrobe and then into the TV cupboard

Once the cables were put through it was then a simple job to attach the magnetic MiFi unit holder to the side of the locker, hook up the 12v feed from the cigar lighter.

Cables into the TV cupboard and magnetic holder in place

From then on in it was simply connecting the aerial cables and the 12v power supply to the unit, placing the unit in place and switching on. Eh voila! Job done. All that remains now is to actually try it out. As Hilma was going back into storage that will have to wait for another post to see how my ‘aged’ brain can cope with the technology side!

The MiFi unit all hooked up with cables and 12v supply (no SiM card inserted yet).

Add-on’s

Add-on’s for a motorhome – there is actually no end to what you can buy for a motorhome. One starts with a small list of necessaries when you first own one. Then you go away for the first time in it. Hmmm – why didn’t I think of that. So you buy it. Then you go away again – ah, I see THEY have one of those, that’s a good idea. Next you go to a Motorhome and Caravan show, the wallet takes another hit (thank goodness we took our own sandwiches). List, upon list, upon list – it’s never ending – but it’s great fun 🙂

So what’s next on our list? Well we are currently looking at a solar panel. Ha, dead simple, and then one starts reading about all the ins and outs about what can and can’t be done. I could go on forever about MPPT v PWM solar charge contollers, readout panels, Schaudt elektroblok’s, battery temperature sensors, flexible solar panels v solid and many, many, many more little things that could trip anyone up at any time. I’ve probably spent more time researching this than it warrants – and then I’ll probably have to get someone else to fit it!

So will it be worth it? I’ll tell you when we are in darkest Scotland in May!

solar-panels

Day 3 at Dell Croft CL

Packing up to move!

We both felt it was time to move on and try somewhere different. we were eager to put some miles on Hilma’s tyres! Funny, we thought we would be here for 3 nights but we have ‘itchy feet’.

Raggs taking it easy!

Packing up to move from Dell Croft – lovely as it was.

Toilet talk – the first emptying of ‘the Thetford’ – not a job I was looking forward to, but it turned out to be relatively ‘smell free’. Bob and Sue of Bundesvan had already emptied it for us when they collected it in Germany – goodness only knows how long it had been full sat on the forecourt – Bob you have my sympathies.
We are moving to Devizes, staying on another CL (Caravan Club Location site – 5 vans max) next to the Kennet and Avon Canal.
Ian

Day 2 – Dell Croft CL site

Well a great night’s sleep

….well I had one – Ian didn’t fare so well. Still getting used to everything, temperature was down to 1°C outside so we left the heating on in the Hilma not knowing what to do. Well every now and then the blown air heating would kick in and wake Ian up (I didn’t hear a thing!). Woke up to a chilly 5°C in the van as Ian had had enough at 3 o’clock in the morning and switched (in his words) “…the damn thing off”. Still nice and snuggly inside the quilt! The bed is an up and over cab bed so it was packed away in 30 seconds – marvellous. Heating turned back, temperature up to 17°C within 40mins.
Oh dear…. Ian’s had another spillage!
Janette

Cooked breakfast, walked Raggs and the set off at 11:00 for a 7 mile walk up Longwood Warren and Foley Down.

Rape seed in flower

Fowley Down walk

Acres of rape-seed in flower, bluebells in the woods, plenty of Skylarks with the occasional Kestrel. Crossed the South Downs Way – easy walking – 3¾ hrs with a lunch break. Managed to avoid the rain.
Site is lovely and quiet, early morning there are plenty of birds in the garden including Blackcaps and Grey Partridge.
Ian