Tag Archives: propane

How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

I’m just at the beginning of the conversion of my cargo van and the decision about the final design of the electrical system is still a long way off. I had to rethink the design again, as I’m preparing for my first multi-day trip with the van.

The Electrical System

I have long envisioned a basic electrical system, comprised of a few solar panels, lead-acid batteries and a modest inverter, supplemented with some propane for cooking and heating. Continue reading How A Simple Inverter Saved My Day!

RV Electrical System: My Setup

PREVIOUS: RV Electrical System: Sizing

Now that we have a good understanding of the intricacies of a well-designed electrical/solar system for an RV, it’s time to select the actual components for my upcoming Ford Transit cargo van conversion.


The goal I’m striving for, is a fully electrical, self-sufficient van/RV that can handle a minimum of 5-6 days off the grid. No other power sources such as propane for cooking & heating are considered and average consumption is calculated to be between 80-90 Amps per day.


The heart of the electrical system is the battery bank. Long dominated by lead-acid batteries (first flooded and more recently AGM’s), finally the more appealing Lithium technology is gaining a foothold. With the Continue reading RV Electrical System: My Setup

RV Fridge Checklist: How To Store Your Food On The Road

RV fridges come in all sizes, and more importantly as a single 12V or three-way unit.

For years, the three-way fridge has been the traditional unit for use in RV’s, yet it had two major drawbacks:

  • The absorption type fridge requires leveling of the vehicle.
  • It has complicated power source requirements: 12V + 120V wiring and propane tanks.

That all changed with the advent of the Danfoss compressor. Refrigerators equipped with these compressors are energy efficient, highly reliable and compact. Connected to batteries, as a 12V power source, these fridges can run for days and indefinitely when connected to solar panels. No more restrictions when traveling through tunnels (propane) and more opportunities to build a propane-free conversion van. Continue reading RV Fridge Checklist: How To Store Your Food On The Road

“Selecting An RV Heater (Without Going Broke)”


My years of living in a travel trailer have long gone by, yet many good memories linger. Traveling along the highways from Vancouver Island to Nova Scotia in the North and Mexico to Guatemala in the South.
Visiting many of the well-known and lesser known treasures in North America, often following the seasons to stay comfortable both in winter and summer.
espar airtronic B1LC
Sometimes we ended up in Death Valley in mid-summer with temperatures over 110’F or similar heat in Saskatchewan. And under these circumstances, living and boondocking in an RV, the only thing you can do is open the doors and windows, take it easy and sip on a cold drink.

Continue reading “Selecting An RV Heater (Without Going Broke)”

Heaters for the RV

How To Stay Warm In Winter


Staying warm during such a period can be difficult, yet good planning of your van conversion will keep your Cargo Van and you nice and cozy.

coldHeating issues are common in RV’s, where manufacturers seldom make an extra effort to upgrade the wall, floor and ceiling insulation, which leaves the occupant vulnerable when no electricity is available. With full hook-ups there is seldom a problem, yet many of us with smaller sized RV’s frequently like to boondock and are struggling to stay comfortable.

Continue reading Heaters for the RV

Cargo Van Conversion v2.0


Its age and the increasing number of repairs have redirected my focus on the purchase of a new cargo van and restart the van conversion from the beginning.

Fortunately, the new cargo van models available on the market today have many improvements over the old models and manufacturer support is guaranteed for many years to come. Knowledge and experience gained with the current conversion can be applied to the new cargo van and improvements in materials, such as solar panels, may lead to a better end result.

In the next few weeks/months I will make a wish list of desired features, create new concept layouts, research materials, appliances and finishes and define requirements for the new van.
Continue reading Cargo Van Conversion v2.0

Power Generation


After upgrading to off-grid power and power storage, this post elaborates on the available power generating tools for a small RV. The electrical calculations are comprised into a detailed schematic overview, that serves as the basis for the installation.


The extra power from the alternator can be directed to the battery bank, to give the batteries an extra charge while driving. You likely have to install a heavier alternator.
I plan to move little once at my vacation destinations and as my research indicated a possible limited benefit, I will forego this option at this time.

Power Grid

Staying completely off-grid (boondocking or stealth camping) is the goal, but as the situation may require, a visit to a campground is an opportunity to replenish some battery power.
The battery charger is connected to the 110V external power inlet, that in turn can be connected to a 15 amp electrical outlet with a heavy extension cord.
With 420Ah in batteries and a charger rated for 15%-30% of it, the IOTA DLS-55 55 amp charger would be a perfect fit.


With a van, storage is always a major issue. In addition, the fuel is dangerous and smelly.
Personally, I never understood, why one goes through the trouble of finding that one, exclusive location, to have it disturbed by the noise of a running generator.

solar panelSolar

Panels are largely maintenance free and prices are still coming down. They are a great solution for off-grid camping, with some limitations on cloudy or rainy days.
With 420Ah in the battery bank, a balanced system ideally requires an equal amount in watts (420W) as panels.
That poses the problem of roof space on a (cargo) van. On my current Dodge, the available space is limited to 100” to 130” lengthwise with a 50” width and that includes the installation of a fan. Most available larger and cheaper panels are approx. 60” x 40”; where two pv panels would suffice, no room is left for the fan.
A better solution is four 47” x 22” photovoltaic panels from AMSolar or equivalent, that occupies about 90” of the roof, with plenty left for a fan. A consequence is the lower voltage rating of these panels of about 18 volts, which reduces the benefit of a MPPT controller.


With the planned propane cooktop and heater, a small 300W pure sine inverter is more than sufficient to power small loads, like a printer or scanner. Most small appliances, such as laptop and cellphone, that are ordinarily charged on 110V, will all have their own more efficient 12V inverter.


While finishing the multi-use cabinet, the idea of installing an induction cooktop developed as a possible alternative. I have been cooking with induction for years now and the advantages over gas are great. Extremely safe and efficient. With a different solution for heating, I could eliminate the proposed undercarriage, propane tank.
One obstacle is the power it requires to operate. Research on the different forums, leaves the issue unresolved. To experiment with induction, a larger 1000W-1500W inverter is required.


RV Photovoltaic System Schematic


The calculated size of the battery bank, the number and size of the solar panels and the other derived equipment are all comprised into this simple diagram.

Click on the image, for a larger view.


Multi-Use Cabinet (3)


Fitting the cabinet in the van

3738The RV’s cabinet overhangs the step-in area at the side doors. A simple box with a Cherry front will fill that in. The extension at the top of the will cover the end of the core bottom panel.


As we are approaching glue-up, it’s time to check the fitting of the cabinet in the conversion van to reveal any problems or necessary adjustments.



The relative size and location are as expected and with the additional top for the cooktop, it will extend nicely above the bed. One miscalculation I made, was the bump on the step-in panel. A little scribing and removal on the bottom box will solve that.




Back to the workshop for a full glue-up and the addition of the top.




Just before glue-up, I used a 7/8” forstner bit to put a hole in the side of the top and bottom panel; a plastic irrigation pipe will be inserted as a way to guide the gas pipe or the electric cord from the cooktop to the bottom of the van.


In addition to the pipe, several pieces of ½” blocking is applied to the sides, which adds a lot of rigidness to the cabinet and creates a base for the Cherry plywood finish panels.



Most plywood connections are simple dadoes or rabbets; a little bit of ordinary wood glue will form a unbreakable link.


Cherry frame

By dimensioning (sawing, jointing and planing) some raw Cherry lumber, I create a few 3/8” boards.


The bottom rail is fitted, the curve cut and then glued to the plywood core.



Bottom rail with its distinct curve.