#127074  by Tim_n_Mal
 Sat Apr 29, 2017 4:53 pm
Hello All.

My girlfriend and I have decided that this "having a real job" and "living in one place" business is not for us. So we are going to try camper vanning part time. To that end we have been looking around at campers. We will probably be buying a bare vehicle and fitting it out our selves, despite this not being the cheapest option we are keen on the flexibility it offers.

Initially we were looking at vans (high top transits and similar) but we have been warming to the idea of a small box truck. But before we go buying a vehicle and cutting holes in it I wanted to run a few questions by you fine folks.

The vehicle that we are currently looking at is a Nissan Atlas truck. GVM is 4500kg so it will be subject to COF.

1) I would be keen to mount the water and waste water tanks under the truck if possible. Can I do this without requiring a certification so long as I don't modify the main chassis structure?

2) The truck will be a bit of a dark place without some windows. Will I run into any problems getting a COF if I add windows and vents into the box?

3) I would like to set the camper up as being "off grid". So I will be installing solar panels and all the associated electronics. My plan was to run the majority of the electronics from a 12V system, I was going to include an inverter for running any household appliances we may want (charging a laptop). We will be including gas for cooking and hopefully as an option for running a fridge as well. Will I run into any legal issues if I install all of this myself.

4) When re-registering a vehicle as a camper (self-propelled caravan) I understand the vehicle will be subject to a COF inspection. Is there a difference between the inspection for a good/utility vehicle and a motorhome?

5) Is there an official standard or other regulatory document that covers all these issues? If so where can i find it?

6) Does anyone out there use a composting toilet? Where would you empty one, I assume a standard waste dump site won't accept the waste from a composting toilet?

Thanks in advance.

 #127075  by mattn
 Sat Apr 29, 2017 5:44 pm
Easy stuff - All gas and 240V electrical is prescribed work and must be done by a registered practitioner. This includes running the wires and gas pipe lines. Effectively you cannot legally do any of this yourself.

12V electrics and solar up to can be done by yourself and is normally not prescribed electrical. Stay below 120V DC (open circuit voltage of solar) (ELV) and your good to go. If doing your own Solar, There is a long discussion here about AS/NZS 5033 that I wont rehash - just be aware that 240W and 50V are magical numbers that if you exceed a combination of ( Use of 'and' 'or' and commas with English language ambiguity befuddles me) and don't do it according to the standard the world will end and we will all die a horrible death. Oh - don't put electrical stuff in gas lockers, that is considered a high risk installation even if it is ELV and becomes prescribed work.

Fitting tanks would not need certification (unless you modify structural elements). I expect installing windows is the same, but they must be etched showing they are approved safety glass.

Applicable standards (note these are copyright material and you normally need to pay for them):
Gas - AS/NZS 5601.2:2013 LP Gas installations in caravans and boats for non-propulsive purposes
Electrical AS/NZS 3002:2008
NZS 5465:2001 - Self containment of motor caravans and caravans (New standard coming soon)

Standards can be purchased from standards NZ, you sparky and gas fitter should have a copy for that work, NZMCA is a good source of information of the CSC standard and have a good guide (which is being updated due to upcoming changes) for free.

A good book for you would be 'Motorhome electrics' by Collyn Rivers.
 #127078  by NeilV
 Sat Apr 29, 2017 9:35 pm
Mattn has covered most of what you need to know however,

If running only one plug at a time directly from the inverter then you WONT need a sparky to sign off this (or an electrical inspection every 4 years either)...

240W is now the max solar you can install yourself, and will not likely suffice for full time living, so you may well be getting in a sparky yourself anyway :(

Gas is excellent for cooking, (and I have an EXTERNAL Califont for hot water too) but since you're going to install from scratch, avoid gas/3way fridges, a compressor fridge (any using a Danfoss compressor) are highly recommended these days. I had a gas man run the pipes and sign off on my gas, after fitting the stove, Califont and creating the sealed-from-inside, vented-outside gas box myself, all of $850 (2 years ago now)

No difference in COF if no structural changes, but MH regs require a seat belted seat for every permanent bed space, so a truck will also limit your potential bed fitting(s).

One other thing, are you sure that small box truck will have all the space you want for a permanent home ?

A highly [HIGHLY] recommended strategy is to hire a several different camper vans/busses for weekends away before you buy, and write down all the things you like and dislike about each. This will give you an excellent idea of what you will want and how to fit it all inside your own build.

No idea about composting toilet, but I highly recommend a Thetford Cassette toilet, as spare cassettes easily extend your time between dumps (and can be taken by car if needed) and are even possible to empty -carefully- in public loos at a pinch...
 #127081  by RaymonD
 Sat Apr 29, 2017 10:42 pm
NeilV wrote:
240W is now the max solar you can install yourself, and will not likely suffice for full time living, so you may well be getting in a sparky yourself anyway :(
Tell us more about this solar panel limitation, I had 370W, and was thinking of increasing it, others had much more than that.
 #127083  by vansvilla
 Sat Apr 29, 2017 11:11 pm
The truck you are using should dictate what DC voltage you use.
If it's 24V then run your house at 24V as well. Water pumps, compressor fridges Led lighting all have a 24V option.
For anything else a DC-DC converter will suffice,

This will simplify charging whilst driving.
 #127084  by Rosemary&Peter
 Sun Apr 30, 2017 1:42 am
According to NeilV
... even possible to empty -carefully- in public loos at a pinch..
No. Not really. Emptying one's toilet cassette in a public toilet is considered one of those unacceptable practices.

At the very least you're going to stink the place out and inconvenience other users...at the worst your 20 or 40 litre dump can overload a pump driven septic system.

I have seen this happen, completely rendering the public toilet unusable over a holiday weekend in a popular spot. The pump overheated, and I can't begin to describe the smell of near boiling effluent when the plumber raised the lid to sort the problem.

Plan ahead, dump (at a dump station) whenever possible.


 #127091  by mattn
 Sun Apr 30, 2017 8:27 am
Can we take the discussion about 240W solar to theappropriate thread.

"If running only one plug at a time directly from the inverter then you WONT need a sparky to sign off this (or an electrical inspection every 4 years either)..." If you plug directly into the inverter, then yes you are correct. If any of the the 240 wiring is permanent, I believe it needs eWOF. I may be wrong, so would suggest talking this over with you installing sparky. Main thing is do it legally for the start, apart from the safety side there is the insurance side.

Composting toilets - sound great on the surface, but you have a waste disposal problem as the solids won't go down a dump station. As I understand, untreated human waste is considered a hazardous substance, and cannot be disposed of in normal house hold rubbish - this precludes any council provided rubbish bins. If you have a base you return to an empty the toilet into a compost bin, they are good. If not you will need dispose of the waste at a transfer station or wait until fully composted (6 months or more). Given the numerous dump stations around the country a traditional cassette or marine style toilet might be better. These can be setup for use with no chemicals if that is the motivation for a composting toilet (A small fan and charcoal filter does wonders).
 #127094  by Neddy
 Sun Apr 30, 2017 10:53 am
NeilV wrote: 240W is now the max solar you can install yourself.
Not true. So long as the panel output is less than 120 volts, the system is classed as ELV (Extra Low Voltage).
Work on ELV systems is NOT classified as PEW (Prescribed Electrical Work) so anyone can do it and no certification or inspection is required.

If the PV system is greater than 240W and less than 120 volts, you CAN install it yourself, but currently the work should comply with the standards AS/NZS 3000 and AS/NZS 5033.
It still does not require any certification or inspection.

Steps are being taken to relax these standards with a view to increasing the very low 240W cutoff point.

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