/ Van conversion: 17 days, step-by-step process video

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natetan - on 20 Sep 2016
Thought this might be of interest to people looking to convert a van for trips.. it is a day-by-day process for converting a builders van in to a (fairly pimped) off-grid camper.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wksm1xI1Ms0

Happy to answer any questions on the build!
Fraser on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Good effort! I only had a quick scan through the video but was impressed. (will watch the full thing later when I have more time.) One minor point was the small toggle switch on the roof, which looked like it could potentially do some damage to the old napper, if you're not careful!
natetan - on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to Fraser:

Thanks!

Yea, that bit is OK actually - it is positioned directly above the gas/cooking unit - so it is out of the way of your head.
La benya - on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

I really enjoyed that. Well done! Looks like a really nice place to be, instead of just somewhere that you can sleep if needed.
knighty - on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Great video. Not only informative, but interesting to watch! I've just bought an older converted van, but if I use it enough, I'll be looking to do a top conversion like this.

A couple of questions:

Do you have a breakdown of the cost of the conversion?
What was the reason behind using LPG over calor type propane?
Would you do anything differently if you were to do it all again?

Cheers,
Knighty

johnwright - on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:
I hope when your mate did the gas work, did you / he put in some floor vents below any gas appliances, it is very important, if you have any gas leaks, being heavier that air the gas will dissapear down the floor vents.
It's also very important that he checked the gas system for leaks using a U tube manometer or an electronic manometer.
The van looks great, hope have lots of fun using it.
regards John
Post edited at 22:58
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johnwright - on 20 Sep 2016

> What was the reason behind using LPG over calor type propane?

Calor propane and butane are LPG, Using the Gaslow system means you can fill up with gas at most large garages and supermarkets in Europe. Calor do not sell gas outside of the UK.
Timmd on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to johnwright:

I guess having some extra ventilation is a good thing anywhere if you're cooking with gas.
johnwright - on 20 Sep 2016
In reply to Timmd:

> I guess having some extra ventilation is a good thing anywhere if you're cooking with gas.

Not only floor ventilation but roof ventilation aswell. Smoke alarms and CO alarms and a fire extinguisher and a fire blanket should be installed, if only for personal safety.
Timmd on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to johnwright:

Would a vent at the top and bottom of the door to the side be good enough?
Cheese Monkey - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to Timmd:

I just open the door if I'm cooking. If it's raining then I only open it a little bit
teh_mark on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Fantastic video, and looks like a great conversion. I wish I had the patience to attempt one myself.
johnwright - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to Timmd:

> Would a vent at the top and bottom of the door to the side be good enough?

Opening a door should be OK, but a vent in the roof would be best for CO2, but floor vents must be below any gas appliance and gas bottle. The vent need to be at least 50mm in diameter. The vents in my camper gas cupboard are 2 x 50mm. The van is a Autosleeper so they should have got the requirements right. If you need any more info I will look in the gas regs book.
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to teh_mark:

I don't have the patience hence doing it as fast as possible :D
In reply to natetan:

Superb video. I need a new van, now I'm inspired...
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to knighty:

Gas:
As with what JW said - plus the LPG is super cheap. To fill the 11kg canister cost 11 - I think in the past 2 months of using the van (1 month by myself, 1 month with two people) I reckon it has cost about 1.50 in gas.

On that basis my gas costs will be about 24/year - although that will depend on how much I use the heater in winter. That could easily double it..

Conversion costs:
I do, it was about 4k all-in for the conversion. Obviously spending that money means you need to spend a bit more on a decent base van.

My theory is that, by doing a good job (and use good materials that last), I can use it for 2-3 years and then sell it - and I will essentially get my money back despite the added millage. And, if it is essentially going to be free to own it, you might as well be as comfortable as possible!

I will put together a long blog post for the conversion; in this I will include the process, reasons for a lot of the decisions and my 'parts' spreadsheet as a download with supplier details and precise component costs/specs. My blog is at njmurphy.com - i think you can subscribe and get an email update when I push it live (might be a few weeks).
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to johnwright:

Thanks!

Yes! I put a vent in the floor and had it checked for gas leaks. I have been living in it for 2 months now and so far, no dying!
johnwright - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

> Yes! I put a vent in the floor and had it checked for gas leaks. I have been living in it for 2 months now and so far, no dying!

That's great. The cost of LPG is good, much better than bottle gas especially that very expensive French stuff in the blue bottles. Can't bring myself to type the name in. Lol.
Regards John
teh_mark on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

My patience when it comes to DIY, woodwork and anything involving any form of fabrication or crafting is pretty much zero. Electrics I can deal with, but cutting and assembling things...
Duncan Campbell - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Brilliant vid - I only scanned through, but it looks really useful! I am going to potentially be buying a van to spend time living in in the near future and would like to convert it myself so this will be really useful!

Thanks for sharing!
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to teh_mark:

haha fair enough.. the wood work does go on a bit!
gethin_allen on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to johnwright:

If using gaslow be aware there are different "standards" for filler fitting. The adapters are available but it's no good if you haven't got one.
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to Duncan Campbell:

Cool, glad it might be useful!
johnwright - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to gethin_allen:

> If using gaslow be aware there are different "standards" for filler fitting. The adapters are available but it's no good if you haven't got one.

Good point, just been looking at the Gaslow site, very informative.

regards John
natetan - on 21 Sep 2016
In reply to johnwright:

I got a set of continental adaptors (from eBay I think) for about 15
Tomtom - on 22 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Awesome, video and great channel. Love your estate car build too. Have a handful of praise and a dash of jealousy.
natetan - on 23 Sep 2016
In reply to Tomtom:

hehe thanks!
Ben Sharp - on 24 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Great conversion, really enjoyed the video thanks.
1
kathrync - on 24 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:

Thanks for the video. We are (very slowly) converting a small van too - ours will be much less pimped, but you have given us some great ideas (and solved the problems we were having insulating the roof!)
ads.ukclimbing.com
Scott Anderson - on 24 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan: Thoroughly enjoyed watching that! Have been thinking for a while about doing a stealth conversion.
You've given me some cracking ideas, excellent job!

philpdr - on 25 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:
Just a point on the use of the twin and earth cable .
From my experience as it's just a single core cable then it's not as flexible. When your van is chugging about the vibration it endures will potentially weaken the single core cable at connection points (like socket terminations etc).
Multi-strand cables are stronger which is why they are used in such applications like cars, vans & planes etc.........
Nice job though.
Post edited at 20:18
gethin_allen on 25 Sep 2016
In reply to philpdr:

I was wondering why t+e was used rather than cheap flex.
My consideration would as much be that it could rattle around in the conduit when driving.
My parents have had vans for about 30 years and did a comprehensive conversion on the first one including gas fridge, cooker, heating, installing windows, roof vents, sinks, water tanks, chemical toilet.
In this case it was for a family of four so the focus was more one flexible seating and bedding systems that could be packed away neatly for driving and daytime use.
In this van everything was run on 12 v with a simple leisure battery and split charger setup so most cables in the living quarters were tiny.
SteveM - on 26 Sep 2016
In reply to natetan:
Great van and video, I'm very impressed! Interested to see the detail on your blog and the bill of materials/suppliers

Cheers
Steve M
markmywords - on 05 Oct 2016
In reply to natetan:

Thanks for the excellent video! I'm looking forward to the blog post with more details.
I'm intrigued by van conversions and considering it as a more flexible option to camping out of my car but a bit clueless.
I'd like to better to understand:
How much benefit does insulation provide during April-November in central/southern Europe? Does it noticeably cool the on hot afternoons? Or is it only of benefit on cool nights? Does it also improve sound insulation at night?
How much additional weight does the complete conversion add? Does that weight compromise the driving/handling of the van, especially on mountain roads?
The solar panel is cool, but realistically is a diesel generator or charging batteries at a campsite a more practical solution?
Thanks!
Ciro - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to markmywords:

It's pretty cheap and practical to go fully off grid with solar these days if you're wintering in Europe. If you want to park up for extended periods in Scotland outside the summer months you'll need a wind or diesel generator.

Best bang fit your buck is usually a 40v domestic panel with an MPPT controller.

I got mine from a company called Bimble Solar... delivery takes a while but great prices and when I had a problem with a component the customer service was great.

They have a 315W panel now that would fit on most van roofs: http://www.bimblesolar.com/solar/individual/LG-315W-solar

I was almost tempted to upgrade before I came away again this year, but the 170W panel I have was fine for cameras, laptop, phone and stereo last winter in Spain.
natetan - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to SteveM:

Slowly getting some stuff up. I will sort bill of materials over coming day or two.

Here are build details so far.. http://offgridvan.blogspot.com
peebles boy - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to markmywords:

Yet to find out if insulation stops the van heating up in Alps summer, but i can 100% say for sure that a white van is a hell of a lot cooler in the alpine sun than a dark blue one!!!

Insulation definitely improves sound proofing - both from inside to outside, and from road when driving. Acoustic 4way stretch carpet is also ideal.

Additional weight for natetan's one is probably quite high as he's gone all out on it in terms of wood panelling etc. If you use a combination of cheap thin ply where possible and expensive lightweight furniture ply where needed, including sink, hob, gas, fixtures and fittings, R&R bed etc you're prob looking at an extra 200kg all in. If you add a big fresh and waste water tank, an extra 50kg easy. Will defo feel the difference to a bare panel van if it's a small van, but it shouldn't effect your handling too much, though will add a bit to your fuel costs. Check your van MAM's etc - most big vans are designed to carry upwards of a tonne so a couple hundred kg's of conversion are no hassle for them! Wee van with wee engine and a heavy conversion may be a different story though...

Solar panels are always working, always charging, and silently, without follow on costs. They won't screw your alternator like normal leisure batteries on a split charge can. If an engine based leisure battery runs flat you need to start engine/go for a journey to recharge it - kinda defeats the purpose!
natetan - on 06 Oct 2016
In reply to markmywords:

Insulation definitely makes it cooler in the summer.. like a really big difference. Separating the cab from the body of the van makes a pretty huge difference too.

Sound insulation - yes for sure this is better than if you did not have much. The fabric panels make nice acoustics too I think.

Not sure of the weight, quite a bit, but the van is still faster than my old car... I suspect that even with the build it is carrying significantly less than the 1tonne it is designed for.

Solar is amazing - I have not had to plug in (or even connect up the split charge - the cable is just laying beside the battery). I have a 300W panel and an MPPT solar charge convertor - plus 2x 140 AmpHr batteries. Not sure if they have gone below 90% charge.. if so, not by much.

The big benefit is that I do not have to spend 10-15 euros a night for camping plus 5-8 for electric hook up. This means I save 450 to 690 euros a month - but at the same time I get to use all the power that me (and my friends need). It is the coolest thing.

See some solar calcs here: http://offgridvan.blogspot.fr/2016/10/off-grid-solar-system.html
markmywords - on 14 Oct 2016
In reply to natetan:

Thanks for that! I bought the ebook and although you covered many of the topics on your blog it is nice to have it all collated in 1 tomb and the BOM will be very helpful when I do this. I'd like to get your views, and those of other forum members, on a couple of topics.
1) I'm not worried about the insuring the value of the conversion but would be concerned if the conversion invalidated any 3rd party insurance. Did you get clarification from an insurer on that topic?
2) As you are spending most of your time in Euroland, why did you buy a UK left hand drive?
Thanks again for posting all this info!
natetan - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to markmywords:
I insured with Shield insurance; they were not only the cheapest by some way (250ish - insured in Cornwall - full no claims/clean lisence) but they covered it during the build. Friendly lot too.

I had to send photos pre and during and finished proving that it met the dvla standards and I am going to have to reclassify as a motor home.

Insurance as a commercial van can be much more expensive!

-

Left hand drive, yes you are probably right there but it is ok and I would have lost a lot of time buying on abroad, natirisiling it or dealing with regulations over there etc.. but maybe another time I'll look in to it.

--

Thanks for downloading the ebook super kind - my email is in the back of it if you have more question or other feedback!
Post edited at 17:21
Darron - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to natetan:



> I had to send photos pre and during and finished proving that it met the dvla standards and I am going to have to reclassify as a motor home.

> Insurance as a commercial van can be much more expensive!

You may have a problem there. I'm trying to get my conversion (converted when new by IH Motorhomes Ltd in 2008) changed on the V5C document to motorhome. The DVLA have refused on the grounds that the dining table is not permenently fixed (one of their criteria for it to be classed a motorhome). I've provided pics and a letter from IH motorhomes but they are not interested. The fact it has a cooker,oven,fridge,toilet, shower, TV, bed etc etc appears not to convince them it IS a motorhome.
Alasdair Fulton - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to johnwright:

Vent in the roof for C02?? It's heavier than air...

Alasdair Fulton - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to natetan:

How did you break your ankle and, is it better?? I liked some of your ideas and might incorporate them into some future van upgrades.
wheelo - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to Darron:

Hiya, the table doesnt need to be permanently attached....from the DVLA website...


A seating and dining area, permanently attached to the vehicle. The table may be detachable but
must have some permanent means of attachment to the vehicle. It is not good enough to have a
loose table

natetan - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to Darron:

I can make my wide drawer in to the dvla table. It will be fine with the photos.
natetan - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:
Belay error resulted in a bit of a surprise asi lowered off. Broke ankle was a decent thing to get away with :P
Post edited at 19:47
johnwright - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

The need for a roof vent is correct, the problem is that I put CO2, but it should be CO. Carbon monoxide is lighter than air. Just checked it on my CO alarm paperwork. Sorry for any confusion.
Darron - on 17 Oct 2016
In reply to wheelo:

My vehicle has a free standing table that stows in a dedicated space (it has to be stowed to put the bed up). DVLA will not change the V5 document because it is not possible to fasten the table to the floor of the van.
Alasdair Fulton - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to johnwright:

Ah, fair enough.

Natetan: Our "table" is the door of our cupboard, which flips round and an L-shaped leg swings out to hold it. We don't use it a lot, but it was enough for the DVLA.

It sounds like you were reasonably lucky with you accident then, hope it heals soon/has healed.

We've been toying with putting speakers in the back for ages. It's wired and ready to go, but your USB/bluetooth idea is tempting. We could always use the wires for little lights or something.
natetan - on 18 Oct 2016
In reply to Alasdair Fulton:

Haha yea, I'm totally content with the Bluetooth speakers. Enough for the space and I can take them places too.

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