2017-07-02: Starting the electrical install

This weekend, we started running cables and mounting components so we can get the electrical systems hooked up. We already have the solar panels on the roof, and the battery fitted under the passenger seat. We also have a fair amount of conduit routed through the side panels of the van so we can run cable from front to back (e.g. from the fusebox to the ceiling lights or rearmost USB sockets).

Green lights are always a good sign. We are now successfully charging our battery from our solar panels. Very exciting.

Nothing at this stage is fixed, but we need to commit to some decisions so we can continue the build. So it’s a delicate balancing act of deciding where things should go, while leaving options for us to change our minds. In practical terms, that means:

  • Making prototype mounting boards and boxes for components roughly out of MDF to test out placement and design before rebuilding them properly in nicer plywood.
  • Making some educated guesses about where we want wires to emerge, and cutting cables to length.
  • Wherever possible running wires – cut to a generous length – through conduit so we have some flexibility in exactly how we place the end components (lights, sockets, appliances, etc.).

Our electrical system starts in the area immediately behind the cab. It’s something of a no-mans land that in many conversions would just be wasted space. We’re hoping this will be a space-efficient placement. The main elements are:

  • Leisure battery in the passenger bench seat base (with space for a second battery in the other half of this seat base if we need to expand)
  • Solar controller on a board mounted to back of passenger seat base (with space for some other components we might add later, such as a battery-to-battery changer, inverter, or mains power charger)
  • 12V fusebox and distribution mounted to back of driver’s seat base.

By separating the ‘power in’  (solar, alternator, shore/hookup power) and ‘power out’ (12V circuits) into 2 areas, we have more space to mount components without intruding into the main living space of the van.


Meanwhile, the insulation installation continues, as we desperately try to clear our house of bulky building materials.

We’re getting through cans of expanding foam at an alarming rate.

2017-06-25: Solar panels

 

Another big job done this weekend, and one we faced with some trepidation – installing the solar panels. While they’re not yet wired up, they are now mounted on the roof. It’s a very tight fit up there, as we want to fit 2 large panels (1m x 1.3m) as well as a roof light and fan.

Cleaning and polishing the roof. Our last chance before we cover it with solar panels.

We had measured the available space, and checked for obstructions both inside and outside, but until you start the job, there are no guaranteees. Sure enough, we soon discovered our first brackets supplied with the panels didn’t  quite fit between the raised ledges that run down the edge of the roof. So we had to mount the brackets on the inside of the aluminium frame of each panel. Mounting to the panel was easy, but when it came to mounting them to the roof, the brackets were underneath the panels.
This was the easy bit, before we had to deal with misaligned holes and bolts in hard-to-reach places
 

Aluminium angle brackets mounted underneath the panels. The only way to fit them on our roof
Fabricating some spreader plates to go on the inside of the roof skin, to spread the load in case of an upward force in the panels
Spreader plates. The clear goo is the CT1 adhesive

So we had to lay the panels where we intended to place them, mark all the holes with a pencil, move the panels aside, drill holes and then hope they all lined up. 

As well as M6 bolts (2 per bracket, 4 brackets per panel) fastened with locknuts, we also glued each bracket down with CT1 adhesive and fabricated some aluminium spreader plates to spread the load on the inside of the roof. 

We also made some progress buying materials we need to fit the rooflight and fan, installing more insulation, and treating more rust we found on the roof.