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mat_the_cat
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On 4/1/2020 at 8:43 PM, mat_the_cat said:

We haven't yet anchored it, but it has withstood the winter's storms so far! Maybe it's the weight which helps, with a steel frame it feels very different to a UK caravan. It even has a ceramic toilet, so clearly weight was not too high up the design brief...

I've heard that a lot about American caravans.  Often they have glass windows, big steel chassis, ceramic fittings, and in a number of cases full-size domestic appliances.  Towing restrictions and weights are very different in the US, and of course towing vehicles are often much bigger than here.  Apparently this:

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is "not ideal" but is legal.  That's a 2-ish tonne pick-up, with a truck tractor unit on the back, which must be what, 5 tonnes at least?  I know it's a 5th-wheel arrangement which is a lot more stable than a normal towbar, but still!

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That's for a dual-wheel rear axle model.  The basic model, single wheel rear axle (IE somewhat closer to the pictured vehicle) and smaller engine could be as low as 7600lbs, which is 3.45 tonnes.

Still seems bizzare that someone with just a standard driving licence can go and buy a duelly and then tow 16 tonnes

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 3/31/2020 at 11:31 PM, Mrs6C said:

In your siting of the lovely Airstream, have you given thought to the aspect of its doors and windows and also privacy from overlook for your guests?

Sorry, missed your reply somehow. It is a good point, but in order to have the view from the decking we plan to install on the door side, that limits us to one orientation really. Unfortunately, the West is behind a mountain, so puts us in shadow relatively early in the evening. It does mean you can watch the sunset on the mountains across the valley though.

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Unfortunately it will mean they can see the house, which is something we tend to avoid when looking for a place to stay. Nobody overlooking them though, as there's nothing but forest behind.

I've cleared the turf from the planned spot now, which I did by hand so we can use it elsewhere to fill in hollows around the place. Back-breaking work, but satisfying!

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  • 1 month later...

I think I've already mentioned that I needed to replace the fridge, so started to remove it to find it was a structural part of the 'van it seemed! Sturdy steel frame all arpund it which the worktop and cooker was screwed to. To give back some rigidity I cut some 19mm ply to match the curve of the shell, bonded it in place and screwed it to the cooker frame.

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Also shown is the replacement UK socket to power the fridge. I'm no carpenter, so own very few woodworking tools - this was cut with a chainsaw!

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Still, I'm pleased that it's come out ok, and will be painted in due course. Less pleased about the worktop, which has rotted due to an old water leak.

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This will need to be replaced, but annoyingly is 25mm thick so thinner than most normal UK worktop. Anyway, the new fridge is in, and the plan is to build in a wine rack below it, and also re-panel the end on the left hand side.

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Next job started with removal of a modern skylight which had been fitted, badly!

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Not only does it look a bit out of place, I want to fit it to the LT, and replace it with this:

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It gets pretty warm inside on a sunny day, not helped by whoever fitted the skylight pulling out half the roof insulation! Plus we need some method of heating, so this will kill two birds with one stone. Air conditioning which can be run in reverse as a heat pump, giving 1700 watts heat for 850 watts electrical input. I've calculated that it should pay for itself in 18 months of use, and also minimise the electrical load compared with conventional electric heaters. Just need some dry weather now... 

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Great solution, great thread :-) I'm sure getting hold of inch worktop shouldn't be a problem? It looks pretty bad but has it completely had it? That Ronseal wood hardener is brilliant stuff, sets like concrete. Maybe you could use that and fibreglass repair the bottom of it to keep it authentic?

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On 6/6/2020 at 1:36 PM, EyesWeldedShut said:

Thanks - I miss read he was in Jockland. Explians why his scenery looks a lot like ours ...

Nope, North Wales - Dave is right.

On 6/6/2020 at 12:23 PM, Scruffy Bodger said:

Great solution, great thread :-) I'm sure getting hold of inch worktop shouldn't be a problem? It looks pretty bad but has it completely had it?

Afraid so, in places there's nothing left apart from the melamine top!

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But we're planning a replacement which won't look out of place - not the same but I think it'll look good.

Onto the AC installation this weekend, and the first job once the existing skylight was removed was to repair the butchery to the roof strut. The photo doesn't show it particularly well, but it was hacked through where it was on the edge of the roof aperture, taking away most of its strength.

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I protected the cable from chafing, seeing as though there is no longer a grommet, and as you can see I have replaced the missing roof insulation with expanding foam. I had to make up a 1 metre extension nozzle to fill the void, which took 2.5 cans.

Once that had cured I cut a length of aluminium angle extrusion to splint the old strut, bonded and riveted in place.

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This still won't be quite as strong as originally, but the old AC unit weighed 45kg, and the new one only 33kg. Plus it won't be doing many road miles, hence few dynamic loads - and it takes my 80kg load doing pull-ups!

I'd also found that it was dripping from several of the securing screws, so this will give me an opportunity to cure that.

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I spent an entire afternoon routing the power and control cable, as I didn't want them to be visible on the inside. Threading them through the first grommet was not too tricky...

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...but getting them through the next strut took lots of patience and probing with a thin fibreglass rod. Eventually I got them to pop out where I will be fitting a fused spur unit, inside a cupboard.

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Next morning I began to tidy up the shocking job they'd made of the roof aperture! 

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I cut back to the correct size, wire brushed away the old sealant (some of it just peeled off), and drilled out the end of a couple of cracks which had propagated from cut notches.

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You'll notice I've put in a wooden spacer each side; this is to prevent the roof from collapsing in when I tighten the clamp plates which secure the unit. The wood extends on the inside to rest on one of the existing roof struts, to spread the load.

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You can just seal the unit to the roof, but I bought a reinforcement frame, which helps to seal the old screw holes plus again spreads the load a bit.

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The lead flashing is to cover the screw holes left by the original AC installation, and can't be seen from the ground. Next was the nerve-wracking job of hoisting up 30+kg up a ladder and onto the roof!

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Must admit my arms were feeling the strain a bit! Back inside I connected the wiring and clamped it all in place.

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Final job was to fit the interior air outlet. This is usually grey, but you can get cream/brown to special order. This matched the inside of the Airstream much better than grey would have done I think.

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I even quite like the LED strips it has - at least they are a warm white, and are dimmable from the remote control, so hopefully will create a cosy atmosphere inside. Firing it up it all works nicely in both cooling and heating modes, although yet to try it on a *really* hot day.

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If the melamine on the worktop is still in good condition than you can reuse it, just scrape off the remains of the old timber and glue it on to a piece of plywood of a suitable thickness. Judging by its thickness it is probably Laminex or Formica (or similar) so should be plenty strong enough to be separated from the base timber.

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I hadn't thought of that, but has cracked in places unfortunately. Plus (and this is likely to be the major stumbling block) my wife doesn't like it, and she is the one stumping up the cash! I'm just the labourer...

We're still keeping the colour scheme in the bathroom though, which is a similar retro shade. Plus I think I've persuaded her to keep the original light fittings :-) I reckon the sort of people who'd like to stay in one of these are likely to want a more genuine experience, rather than an interior which could be anywhere. But maybe it's just what *I * would want, and the general public think otherwise?

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The end plywood panel at the side of the fridge was delaminating terribly, as a result of what must have been a long-standing water leak.

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This fits into an aluminium channel on the wall, and is also capped on the outer edge with another aluminium extrusion, so I had to match the thickness of 5.5mm, which it turned out that 6mm ply measures typically! I've gone for a moisture resistant phenolic glue to better withstand condensation, and any future leaks.

Marked out the shape:

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And cut to size. I've only loosely put it in position for now, until the worktop is sorted.

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Tapped on the capping, and looks a lot better :-)

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I also found this old carrier bag in the Airstream!

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  • 2 weeks later...

I hired an excavator this weekend, so the warm, dry weather of course ended on Friday. Trying to work with wet soil is just so much harder, especially when it's clay. The reason it was needed was to install a septic tank, and lay the electricity supply.

The tank was based on a reclaimed IBC, so required surrounding in concrete before backfilling.

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The outlet from this was led to a generous sized soakaway.

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And then all filled in and smoothed over as best I could. I've run the mains cable under the track, from my workshop.

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And this is the finished area, looking a bit of a mess right now! 

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I'm only really concerned about the gradient side to side, as front to back there is a deliberate slope down to the stream to aid water run-off, which will be accommodated by levelling the Airstream at the hitch. Question is, how level did I manage to get it?

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That'll do! 

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Worse than that. I had been very naive in choosing what to install, and had settled on a simple system similar to this:

I normally research everything to death, but having little interest in sewage, and had seen this fairly early on in my fact-finding so didn't look any further. It even stated on the website that planning permission was not required!

We have had heavy rain all weekend, which progressed to torrential on Sunday night. When we awoke the whole thing was submerged :-( 

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As an absolute best case scenario, this may be because the hole was filling up with rainwater through the excavation, coupled with abnormal rainfall afterwards (the river downstream of us had flooded for only the third time in 15 years). But the thought of water backing up through the soakaway once the septic tank is put 'to use', doesn't bear thinking about! There then followed the research I should have done to start with.

First thing I discovered was that septic tanks cannot discharge to a soakaway - it has to be a drainage field, i.e. a network of trenches filled with gravel relatively close to the surface. This is so that the bacterial action necessary can take place BEFORE seeping down to the water table. Too deep and this will not happen. Secondly, there needs to be a sufficient distance AT ALL TIMES between the drainage field and the water table so that the two never meet. I should have dug a test hole to a certain depth, and carried out a percolation test. But I'm confident that with the weather we have here, that test would fail unless we're in a drought.

So that leaves two options really (three if you include a composing toilet). Firstly a large holding tank aka cesspit, which is emptied at regular intervals; or a sewage treatment plant which cleans the outfall to such a level it can be discharged to a stream, subject to a permit. (In England you don't need a permit if it's less than 5000 litres a day, but in Wales I'm not certain this still applies).

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Where does the wastewater from your house go?  I would suggest you leave your septic tank, have it discharge into another tank and then have a submersible pump that pumps the cleanish solids-free water up to the house waste water system.  Saves digging up everything you've done.  It can pump up a bit of DN25 pipework, and they're really very cheap these days.

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Also.  Have you seen this guy's channel, in particular, this video:

He does ramble on a little bit, but the content is very good.  He's completely off-grid and most of his videos are really informative and interesting.

 

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That is an option I hadn't thought about, so thanks. I had considered pumping the waste to our septic tank, but gone away from that due to pump costs, and the fact we'd need to dig up the actual garden where our tank is sited. But a 1" pipe would be easier to hide...

The one thing which did go to plan was the electricity installation - mains is now hooked up although I'm still on an exported earth for now. The earth rod is in place at a depth of 1 metre, but I need to get someone out to test the resistance before I know whether to bother driving it further.

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How much did that A/C unit set you back if you don't mind me asking?

Something like that is very high on the wishlist for my van as hot weather is something that I just really can't deal with these days.  99.9% of the time we'll have a mains hookup on hand, so power usage isn't a huge issue.

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23 hours ago, mat_the_cat said:

mains is now hooked up although I'm still on an exported earth for now. The earth rod is in place at a depth of 1 metre, but I need to get someone out to test the resistance before I know whether to bother driving it further.

On the assumption that you have RCD protection on every single circuit with <30mA trip current, the quality of the grounding is almost irrelevant.  The only point of good grounding is that you get a big enough current to trip an MCB quickly enough in the event of a fault.  Given that almost any fault that would need to pop an MCB would take out the RCD anyway, the grounding only really needs to pass that >30mA current.  In 99.9% of faults, the RCD will pop before any MCB.  The only time that's not true is a Line-Neutral short, which will still pop the MCB without needing a ground.

I really wouldn't concern myself over it.

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33 minutes ago, Talbot said:

On the assumption that you have RCD protection on every single circuit with <30mA trip current, the quality of the grounding is almost irrelevant.  The only point of good grounding is that you get a big enough current to trip an MCB quickly enough in the event of a fault.  Given that almost any fault that would need to pop an MCB would take out the RCD anyway, the grounding only really needs to pass that >30mA current.  In 99.9% of faults, the RCD will pop before any MCB.  The only time that's not true is a Line-Neutral short, which will still pop the MCB without needing a ground.

I really wouldn't concern myself over it.

I would. I used to test RCD's day in and day out and the number that don't work after a period of time may well be more than you might think. How many people press the push to test button quarterly as instructed on the sticker that the spark throws away on most installs?

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10 hours ago, Scruffy Bodger said:

I would. I used to test RCD's day in and day out and the number that don't work after a period of time may well be more than you might think

I'm surprised.  I've tested a reasonable number of RCDs (although clearly fewer than you have) and have yet to find one that hasn't tripped correctly.  Even some really quite old ones have been fine and tripped at less than their rated current on both sides of the sine-wave.

Two in series then.  One on the feed from the house to the Airstream and another in the dist board in it.  The chances of both failing at the same time is vanishingly small.  And of all people who might actually test their RCDs on a regular basis, I suspect Mat might be one of them.

I still think that grounding isn't the be-all and end-all.  The reason most people have this misconception that good grounding is essential is from the days of rewireable fuse distribution boards (IE not actually that long ago) where a low-resistance ground was essential to blow a fuse very quickly in the event of a fault, so that if someone is being electrocuted, that stops as soon as possible (there's not a person being electrocuted for 15 seconds while a fuse slowly decides to get red hot and then fail)   Same is true of MCBs as they basically just mimic a fuse.

I'd feel massively safer having an electrical system that is RCD protected with a known working quick-tripping RCD with a really crappy (or even non-existent) ground rather than the other way around.  A well-grounded system can still very easily kill someone.  A working RCD-protected system cannot.

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1 hour ago, Talbot said:

I'm surprised.  I've tested a reasonable number of RCDs (although clearly fewer than you have) and have yet to find one that hasn't tripped correctly.  Even some really quite old ones have been fine and tripped at less than their rated current on both sides of the sine-wave.

Two in series then.  One on the feed from the house to the Airstream and another in the dist board in it.  The chances of both failing at the same time is vanishingly small.  And of all people who might actually test their RCDs on a regular basis, I suspect Mat might be one of them.

I still think that grounding isn't the be-all and end-all.  The reason most people have this misconception that good grounding is essential is from the days of rewireable fuse distribution boards (IE not actually that long ago) where a low-resistance ground was essential to blow a fuse very quickly in the event of a fault, so that if someone is being electrocuted, that stops as soon as possible (there's not a person being electrocuted for 15 seconds while a fuse slowly decides to get red hot and then fail)   Same is true of MCBs as they basically just mimic a fuse.

I'd feel massively safer having an electrical system that is RCD protected with a known working quick-tripping RCD with a really crappy (or even non-existent) ground rather than the other way around.  A well-grounded system can still very easily kill someone.  A working RCD-protected system cannot.

I was doing independent electrical inspection for years, some of the bread and butter work was doing council properties so the numbers of places tested soon stacked up. Some old ones used to fail due to lack of use/test. A quick couple of whacks with a screwdriver would revive some so it was safer in the interim, then report to be changed. Some simply didn't trip even on the 100mA on a 30. RCD's are a wonderful invention when they work, one of those things that truly saves lives. It's amazing how many places still don't have them installed and still have earth leakage breakers, they went out the book years and years ago! Ps, don't ever test one of those, my old man had one burst into flames on him many years ago lol.

I was putting a socket in at a mates the other week in his chalet thing on a large site, no ring on the neutral, would have been that way for years. While there I thought I'd check for an earth, no RCD in the board, the Fluke showed error, very strange. Turned out it does this when there is absolutely no earth reading whatsoever. I found the unmarked rod, the cable hanging by it in fresh air, clamp broken and rusty, it hadn't been connected for years. Some of these landlords are utter twats, this one's a multi, multi millionaire and tight as a drum.

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The RCD in my van is getting replaced soon because it's intermittent about tripping, think it's a mechanical issue where it's physically sticky rather than electrical. 

The one on what I've labelled "Ring Main No. 2" in the house is at the other end of the spectrum and does my head in as it takes great pleasure in tripping at even the slightest provocation.  In particular it does not play nicely with any significant inductive load.  It's been slightly better behaved since I found a "leaky" surge protector when it started tripping daily, but still goes off now and then.

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5 hours ago, Zelandeth said:

The RCB in my van is getting replaced soon because it's intermittent about tripping, think it's a mechanical issue where it's physically sticky rather than electrical. 

The one on what I've labelled "Ring Main No. 2" in the house is at the other end of the spectrum and does my head in as it takes great pleasure in tripping at even the slightest provocation.  In particular it does not play nicely with any significant inductive load.  It's been slightly better behaved since I found a "leaky" surge protector when it started tripping daily, but still goes off now and then.

My Flukes got a 1/2 test setting to check for cases like that as too sensitive is a pain in the arse like you say. I've personally always noticed Crabtree to make the best and fastest RCD's, normally less than 10 milliseconds to trip time after time after time. That may however have changed in the last few years?

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10 hours ago, Talbot said:

Two in series then.  One on the feed from the house to the Airstream and another in the dist board in it.  The chances of both failing at the same time is vanishingly small.  And of all people who might actually test their RCDs on a regular basis, I suspect Mat might be one of them.

I resemble that remark...
The ones in the house I tend to check whenever there is a power cut (every winter, without fail!) as reprogramming the cooker timer is not something I would willingly choose to do! The SWA cable to the workshop, and onwards to the Airstream is not RCD protected - partly because if something does cause a trip it's a PITA walking back to the house to reset. There's an RCD in the workshop CU, one in the pitch outlet box, and another in the Airstream CU. Both will be tested at every changeover when we're renting it out, and records kept. I don't need to do it at anything like that frequency, but it becoming a habit ensures it doesn't get missed.

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