Powering Your Caravan

One of the main virtues of a caravan holiday is that a caravan is more economical than a fixed building. But in order to take the fullest advantage of this virtue, we need to ensure that we keep our running costs down. In this article, we’ll look at some of the ways we can do just that.

Gas

A gas canister is a great way to provide your caravan with energy. Through the use of Liquid Petroleum Gas (or LPG), we can remove the caravan from the site power supply entirely. The gas is pressurised within the can, to the extent that it becomes a liquid, and then gradually fed into the caravan via a special pressure-controlling device called a regulator.

LPG generally comes in two different forms: propane and butane. The former is better for supplying large number of appliances at once, and can be used in lower temperatures, while the latter is marginally more energy-dense.

Gas is typically sold by the cylinder. You’ll be able to trade your old cylinder in to the retailer every time you need a refill – except for the first time, where you’ll need to pay a deposit of around thirty pounds. If you’re going travelling on the European mainland, then you might find yourself unable to find a compatible cylinder, so be sure that you’ve got enough gas to last you the distance. 13kg of propane should, in most cases, last you a fortnight – but you’ll want to keep checking your gas supply as time goes on.

Another option is an on-board LPG tank, fixed to your caravan. These are far more capacious than the exchangeable cylinder, as they’re not designed to be carried. This means they can be filled up far more – but be aware that this extra weight will eat into your available vehicle payload.

Another cost associated with gas is the cost of maintaining all of the pipes and valves which allow it to be safely used. Gas hoses deteriorate as they’re used, and should be regularly inspected for wear-and-tear. They should be safely secured so that they’re not at risk of damage, and they should be replaced every five years at the very least – if they’re seeing extensive use, then more often.

Water

Having a readily available supply of clean drinking water is something that most of us now take for granted. We simply turn on the tap, and there it is. But this isn’t quite as straightforward when you’re in a caravan. While even the smallest caravan site will usually have a drinking tap that can be trusted, we also want a supply of clean water in our caravan, too.

From a health perspective, it’s vitally important that the water containers on your caravan are kept clean. Stagnant water runs the risk of breeding algae and bacteria – and this is all the more so if the container lets in light. This makes it essential that containers be cleaned before every camping trip using a suitable chemical agent.

Obviously, you’ll want to use a cleaner that’s non-toxic, so bleach and the like is right out. You’ll find suitable chemicals for this purpose in camping shops – they come in both tablet and fluid form, and are often but to use by beer and wine makers.

There are a few handy items that you might want to bring camping in order to make getting clean drinking water easy. You’ll need hoses that are just as well looked-after and cleaned as the tank itself. Don’t let the ends drag through the mud, or through puddles!

You’ll also want a means of ferrying water from the campsite’s tap to your pitch. Since this might be a tremendous quantity of water, you’ll want a sizeable jerry can – preferably one with a tap. You can also get wheeled barrels which can be easily pushed around the site.

It’s worth also mentioning waste water – you’ll need to keep this entirely separate from your drinking water supply, even when you’re disposing of it. And this goes especially so for the waste from your chemical toilet.

Electricity

Of course, many of the items in your caravan will run on electricity. This can be obtained in two different ways. There are portable power sources, which provide a steady stream of 12V DC, and the mains electricity you’ll find on site.

If you don’t have access to the latter, then you’ll need to fall back on the former. It can be used to power everything in your caravan that’s designed to work on 12v. Other appliances, like televisions and games consoles, will be designed to accept 230v from the wall, and so won’t work without a power supply.

On most sites, you’ll find a mains hook-up on at least some of the pitches. These supplies vary in terms of amperage, however, as site operators want to keep their costs to a minimum. On some European sites, this can go as low as 5 amps per pitch – so unless you want to go through the ignominy of tripping the camp circuit, then you should try to avoid using too many appliances at once.

In conclusion

When you’re working out how you might most efficiently power and water your caravan, you’ll need to take into account the relative cost of all of the different sources of fuel and water. A gas bottle, for example, might represent a significant up-front cost, which in the long run proves amply frugal. Similarly, investing in devices which help you to transport water from one end of the campsite to another might prove wise. Of course, these decisions will be informed by the makeup of the site you’re visiting, and the amount of power you know you’re going to get through when you’re caravanning.

You might also want to factor in other costs which are less quantifiable. For example, the time it will take you to research and implement a cost-cutting solution, and the stress that will result from any attempt to ‘cut corners’. If you think you’ll only get a marginal efficiency saving from installing an LPG tank into your caravan, for example, then it probably isn’t worth the hassle.

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