Some future refinements will be adding a second house battery, hooking my solar trickle charger up to the system and wiring my car stereo to the house battery system instead of my starting/car battery so I can listen to the radio into the night. I am going to add some running/fog/off-road lights to the car battery and maybe some exterior flood lights to the house battery. Since the van had running lights and side markers on the running boards (both of which I removed) the switches and wiring are already there. Should be pretty easy.
Thursday, August 11, 2011
.....was necessary after I added the Edgestar fridge. The system consists of a continuous duty solenoid hooked up to my charging system and a marine dual purpose battery mounted in the cab. When I turn my van on the solenoid closes and my alternator charges both batteries. When I turn the key off the second battery is disconnected from the starting battery (but still connected to the fridge and all my interior lighting). I can run this battery all the way down and still start the car with no issues. I intend to add a second house battery for longer periods of not charging but for now I need to run the motor at least a half hour a day to keep my house battery charged to run the fridge. The fridge has a neat feature for saving the house battery too. Since it is bad for a battery to run it too far down, the Edgestar cuts out when the battery reaches a certain voltage. Although it is still possible to kill the battery this makes it a bit more idiot proof. Also, since the house battery is a dual purpose, in a pinch I can jump my main battery from it if I ever leave my lights on.
.....So cooking for one person is hard.....unless you like canned food. I don't. Storing leftovers was always a problem. I had a big cooler which I would ice every day and it just became a huge mess. I had read about 12v refrigerators like Engle and Weaco on some 4x4 forums but they were just too expensive. The domestic fridge/freezers like you find in RV's were just too big (and still expensive) so when I started reading about the Edgestar 12v fridge/freezer on the Expedition Portal forum I got pretty excited. They were originally priced below $400 and were small enough fo my van. Earlier this summer I googled the model number and found an Ebay classified ad for a used one for $225. The best part was that it was located just about an hour away. Needless to say I went and bought it. It was like new and fit beneath my stove in the cabinet (with a few modifications). The fridge works great although it proved to be a bit more of a battery drain than everything I had read. That was OK since I planned on adding a second house battery anyway. I mounted the fridge on a slide out under the stove on 100lb drawer slides and hard wired the fridge to the second battery with a 10 amp fuse. The battery will run the fridge for about 2 days with a full charge and I find if I drive a bit every day (30 minutes or so) it keeps the battery charged enough. The fridge keeps a 12 pack, leftovers, eggs, cheese, milk and a few bottles of water at a cool 38 degrees when the outside temp is in the mid 90's. Not too bad. It actually keeps beer colder than the fridge in the outpost.
The vandaminium started out as a high top conversion van with 4 swiveling captains chairs and a fold down bench seat in the back. I removed the center row of captains chairs and the bench seat in the back. The bench seat was replaced with a platform bed (biggish twin size?) with enough room underneath for storage. A counter top with a sink and stove runs the length of the remaining room on the drivers side. The cabinet started with a stainless sink with a 12v water pump (Jabsco), a blue Reliance 7 gallon fresh water tank and a 2 burner camp stove which did not fit right due to my mis-measurements. I replaced the stove with a 2 burner RV stove and added an Edgestar FP430 12v refrigerator/freezer.
The bed is laid out the width of the rear of the van and although it is a little short, if I lay at an angle I can stretch out. The mattress is a couple of pieces of foam giving me a total thickness of about 4 inches (could use a little more!!) It is covered in cotton sheets and in the summers I use a fleece blanket and in the winter I use a down sleeping bag. The bed is pretty comfy and I usually sleep pretty well.
The kitchen setup is a work in progress with one element usually working at a time. The stove works great and is hooked up to a 5lb propane tank which lasts a long time. The tank is located under the sink although I would like to get a horizontal mount propane tank under the van. The sink is hooked up to a blue Reliance water tank that kind of fits under the sink. The pump runs off the second battery and this setup has never really worked to my liking. When I re-do the kitchen I think I will go a different direction. As it is, I usually just use a gallon water jug when I need water. The sink drains directly through the floor and since I am very aware of the cleaning products I use, I don't have a problem with discharging grey water on the ground.
This year I added a closet for hanging clothes with a set of plastic drawers beneath for t-shirts and underwear. The closet works pretty well but is not quite tall enough. It is better than last years solution which was a plastic bin under the bed with all my wrinkled clothes mismashed in. This way at least the upper parts of my shirts a relatively wrinkle free. I have also removed the passenger seat for more storage. My raft lives there now but I hope to move that to a hitch mount cargo carrier and build a small platform with storage underneath where the passenger seat used to be. I also have a small storage ottoman which doubles as a seat. The interior is a little cramped but not too bad. If I could change anything, I would have a higher roof like a bubble top van. as it stands, I have to stoop inside.
I moved into my current home a couple of years ago. It is a pretty nice home with most of the amenities of any other home. I have a comfy bed, a closet, a fridge, a stove, a sink, a shower, a washer and dryer, a computer, a radio.....etc. Only for me all of this is contained in a 1986 Dodge Conversion Van.....my "Vandaminium"
My "house" gets about 16-17 miles per gallon (more than all of my friends houses combined) and is not stuck in one place so when the scenery gets old I can easily move it for a different view. In the summer months I park near a river (that I work on as a River Guide) in western North Carolina and in the colder months I usually travel south to warmer climes. For the most part, the van runs well and a few hundred dollars every year keeps things going nicely.
Living in a van has certainly had it's share of challenges but for the most part it has been a great experience and has taught me how to live a simpler life with a lot less stress and a lot more free time.
Welcome. This blog is about small living.....camping.....van-living.....dreaming and making a living outside the conventions of modern society. I have been there.....mortgage payment.....car payment....credit cards. All of it. 4 years ago everything changed and I decided that a rebirth was needed and with that I left the comforts of regular society and became a Pikey.....living in a van down by the river. This blog has started late and much of this will be a re-telling (to me at least) with fuzzy details. I hope some of the information helps others that are looking to step outside the boundaries of convention.....