Newbies - heating issues - thinking of solar

mikethebike147

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Feb 26, 2018
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We have fairly recently bought our first motorhome, A Hymer B778 which we are very happy with. It's a LHD as we are planning to take it over to France and leave it at our place there as we will get much more use out of it. We have had a few trips away to test it out etc but are not mad about driving something so wide around the UK's busy roads! We have been staying at sites where we could hook up, but last weekend tried a site with no electric to see how we went on. We have 2 leisure batteries and so thought we would be ok for a couple of nights. But on 2nd day we got warning messages of low battery. I'm still learning the ropes and I THINK it was because on the Alde heating panel I selected 'gas' but I didn't change the priority over from elec to gas and so as it was absolutely freezing we had the heating on a lot. We have LPG in two bottles and so the heating should have been running off that but like I say maybe I cocked up and it was running off the batteries? We were not using much else, some lights naturally though they are all LED's and we had the telly on. Anyway the heating went off, much to my wife's distress lol cos it said that the fan had failed! It was a temporary issue clearly as it was ok after we drove for a while, but it made me realise that you can't just rely on gas as if the battery is goosed the heating still won't work!
Anyway all this has made me think about solar. As we are likely to be having a few nights without a hook up as we tour around France, would it be a wise investment? If so, any advice about the size/output etc would be appreciated. And finally if anyone knows of a good installer of such systems in the North of England that would be great!
 
Jun 30, 2011
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Solar always a good idea but not very good in uk winter, just remember to switch it to gas although if not on EHU it wouldn't work on the electric setting anyway would it? A couple of solar and an mppt regulator would be useful.
 
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Jul 29, 2013
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Hello and welcome.
You need to check up on how long a UK registered van can stay in France as there will be implications for insurance but also it would need to be registered in France with appropriate number plates etc I’m told it’s not easy to do but there are those on the forum that will be able to inform you better.
 
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Apr 17, 2016
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Do you know how old the batteries are and what capacity they are? They may be fairly small capacity (Ah) and of an age that have had the best out of them. Secondly fit solar (as much as possible) as stated previously with a good mppt regulator. (Take advice from some very knowledgeable people on here-Lenny HB). Thirdly if you are not on electric hook up the Alde heating does not use 12v to heat only uses 12v to operate the pump.

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DBK

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Welcome and solar is a Good Thing and Dave Newell in Telford could do the deed but for the immediate problem I suggest you check your leisure batteries as the symptoms you describe suggest they are in need of replacement. The electric heating thing is a red herring, it is run off 240 volts when on hook up.
But if you are going to leave your MH in France for any longish period it will need to be French registered and insurance might be problematic when it is left while you are in the UK. Insuring through a French company could be the answer and probably the only one once it is registered over there. :)
 
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mikethebike147

mikethebike147

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Feb 26, 2018
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Many thanks for the replies. Ok firstly I should have mentioned that we do know all about the process of putting the van on French plates and insuring it there. I have found so far that the UK insurance companies are less than helpful. Because of the high value of it (and the fact that I had just had a (non fault) accident in the car, though while it's still ongoing they consider it a potential claim etc, all that made it quite hard to find insurance especially one that allowed unrestricted foreign travel. I eventually got that sorted through Adrian Flux, they are very good by the way, and so when we get there we will have about 90 days I think to get it switched. We tend to fly back and forth once we have got a vehicle there but they say it's only insured whilst we are with it! So we'll just have to crack on it with it asap.
With regard to my issues, as the van is nearly new I would expect that the two big leisure batteries are also newish and have seen little use. It's useful to know that the heating can't run off the batteries, so that means it was using the gas after all. So the big question is what was it that managed to flatten the batteries so quickly? The vehicle had been stood for a couple of weeks as we had to leave it at the dealers in Nottingham for them to fit a tow bar and an 'Easy-Lifter' trailer for our motorbike. They're called Oaktree Motorhomes and I would highly recommend them, really nice people to deal with and very helpful. When we left there we drove for about an hour (much of it slowly due to problems on the motorway) so I don't know if the batteries should have been nicely charged up in that time? When we settled for the night we had phone chargers plugged into the 12V sockets and lights on and we put the sat dish up and watched tv for a few hours. Next morning the heating went back on (cos it was freezing!!) and as soon as we were sorted we drove from there to the NEC (about 15 mins away) to visit the show. My wife has to have a lie down for an hour in the afternoons so she went back to it around midday and that was when she noticed the problem. The electric step wouldn't come down and there was a red light flashing on the panel warning of low battery. We have clearly left something on somewhere unless it's the case that the batteries were just not charged up enough! The 15 minute drive back to the site did nothing to alleviate the low battery issue and we then got messages saying 'fan restarting' and then 'fan failure'. At that point the heating went off! When we got back home (which took 3-4 hours) I checked on the panel and it was showing the batteries as well charged up so clearly there is no issue there. Any advice or ideas welcome. I have to say this is a great website and so glad we found it!

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Sep 26, 2011
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We have a Hymer with a similar system it takes more than a few hours on ehu to fully charge the batteries or a good run to fully charge them. Has the van been stood in the dealers for a while this may be the reason the batteries are low.

The Alde pump uses next to nothing to run try to take note of the hrs tv and also current/amps used on your panel this will give you some idea of amps per hr used this will give you an idea how long your batteries will last.
 
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Jul 5, 2013
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If your van has been standing in the dealers a long while before you bought it then they may well have let them run right down. That will damage the batteries, and now you have let them run down again that will add to that damage. So your batteries, even though relatively new, could be goosed. Get a multimeter and check what voltage you are getting at the battery terminals when you are not charging them, then report the figures back here. A full battery should show 12.8V or so. If it shows 12.0V then it is flat.

As others have said it takes quite a long drive to fully charge batteries that are already low. Better to get them charged by plugging into mains for at least 48 hours.

If you want to have the benefit of going off grid then you will need to get a decent solar set up. Then you can enjoy the many Aires that France and the rest of Europe have, rather than being stuck in campsites. But the first thing is to see if your batteries are any good, because there is no point in producing lots of solar power if you have nowhere to store it.
 
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Minxy Girl

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It sounds like your batteries weren't fully charged up before you left home and then using your 12v for charging the phones as well as lighting and watching a few hours TV didn't leave enough juice in them for the heating. A short run won't put any real energy back into them which is what you appear to have found, which seems supported by the fact that your longer run got them to a better power level. If you can work out your actual power usage when watching TV etc it will give you an idea of how long you may last with fully charged batteries but things like cold weather can affect how efficient they are especially if they are in an outside locker.

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Sep 26, 2011
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On a B778 the batteries should be in the floor from memory, a good compatible controller and solar will keep them on charge even in low sun light. We used a LRM1218 but I now think a Votronic is a more suitable if you intend to use more than 280 Watts of panels.
With the use of a good regulator it will also keep your engine battery topped without over charging.
 
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EX51SSS

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welcome animated smiley3.gif

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Mar 23, 2012
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Depends how you intend to use your van we tend to tour around and only stay in one place a night or two and so far one battery no solar has been fine especially as we tend to tour in the summer, If you have the cash I would get some solar otherwise wait and see if its a problem the way you use your van
 
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soreeyes

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We do seem to of created a situation for ourselves in modern motorhomes and caravan that the gas appliances require a 12v feed to operate . Heating now require fans or pumps to run to operate and fridges require a 12 v feed .

30 years ago you could run the gas fire with no battery and the fridge just run on gas with no feed . Now you can have full gas bottles but can't use it unless you have the 12 v . Advancement or a step backwards ?

As said a solar panel will help but in winter months when you need heating the output is reduced .

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mikethebike147

mikethebike147

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Many thanks for all the welcome messages and advice. I have ordered a multimeter to check the batteries and fingers crossed that they may be ok and were low due to not having a good charge and the very low temperatures to boot.
What I think is obvious is that a solar set up will be a wise investment, as soreeyes pointed out, these things are designed to work in such a way that you are pretty much dependant on having a steady 12V power supply to assist in operating things. So my last question to anyone in the know, where is the best place to go to have solar fitted? Ideally within a 50 mile radius of Liverpool as I don't fancy another long trek in this weather and especially if we have to leave it with them!! Cheers.
 
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suavecarve

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And if thinking of changing TV look out for 12 volt occasional bargains at Lidls.
We went to a 12 volt tv and were amazed at how much more tv was available off of 2 batteries on a wet day.
No more limits on watching the news in the morning so you can charge the mobile phone, laptop, torches, cameras etc. We also invested in a little solar charging battery pack (which can be charged off 240 or 12 as well as the sun) and this keeps enough charge in it to charge a mobile phone 5 times fully. (allegedly) and this was bought just so that i dont have to prioritise what needs charging and can keep maps.me running !

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