New here, but not to van life

Hey everyone!

I’m on my third van after the break of raising my family over the last 20 years. I am now living full-time in my 2010 VW T5.1 (factory fitted high roof) after the breakdown of the relationship with my ex over the last few years. I bought it in 2020, before the first lockdown while van prices were still fairly low, and I have since spent the last three years converting it from an empty van…and it’s still not finished! :laughing:

Van life has for as long as I can remember, been something I love and I feel very fortunate that I do what I love, and I love what I do. I especially love the feeling I get when I can see that I’ve had the opportunity to pass some of the skills I learned on to someone who is also willing to learn.

I have plenty of boat refit experience alongside my van conversion experience and I am looking for an outlet to be able to give something back to the world…and I think I have found my place, so ask away!

All the best!

Similar circumstances. Sailboats, jet skis, camper trailers and now a van. 2007 Chevy Express Passenger extended 3500 6.0L. The van has served well to pull my 30’ camper trailer for the last 10 years. Now this van trend got me thinking that I need much less destination planning to just take the van and go.
For me to do this in a van I need to be able to take shower, inside the van so I just purchased a 40x20inch utility sink. Have had one in my house basement for years so I tried it out. Wife of course thought I was going crazy but that is another story.
The intended use is as a sink and counter. Remove the counter and I can take a bath/shower in it.
Now for the hot water marine angle to this. The passenger van already has antifreeze/glycol flowing to the rear blower assembly so I plan to tap into that heat source and install a 2.4gal water tank, calorifier by SureCal.
any thoughts?

@EzShot I have seen these tanks on boats and I would have loved to install one like this in my VW. My original plan was to install a tankless propane heater but efficient usage of space became a challenge so I decided against the idea in the end.

I looked at SureCal tanks, but at the time of looking they were a little out of my price range…I was also under a little pressure to get something installed so instead I opted for a 5 litre Truma 240V/300watt immersion tank (used from eBay) which can also use hot air from the diesel heater to heat the water inside…I wish I had been more attentive to planning during the build…or in my case as far as the retrofitting of the tank goes, installed a switch on the dash to switch it on and off because as things are I need to stop and switch the heater on about half an hour before I know I need the hot water…but I digress!

I had a browse through the forum and found the following thread which mentions SureCal calorifiers which may be of interest to you.

In a nutshell…I haven’t had personal experience with them in vans, but it is possible!

Thanks Wey I’ll give truma North America a call tomorrow and see what options they have for me. The aqua go seems like it would install in the van side wall And run on a combination of propane and electric. You mentioned you run yours on 220 V 300 W DC. How do you generate your 220 V? Alternator, generator, house battery?
I haven’t installed any battery/solar yet. I’ve just made cardboard models to make sure everything will fit. At this point I want to install the tub, the gray water tank under the van next to the rocker panels, the freshwater tank and the hot water heater.

I have a 1000 watt inverter which runs a normal household counter top refrigerator and I supply the water heater with this also.

I agree that it may not be the most efficient way to do it, but the pay off is that the items I bought were relatively cheap because they are household items, and with between 5 and 8 amps of solar on average at this time of year in the UK, I am getting fully charged batteries by midday after the night’s discharge with the refrigerator left on.

I do have shore power plug, but I rarely use it, and I am in the process of installing a 1.7kVA generator so there will be the option in future of giving the batteries a break.

Reviewed the Truma Combi eco plus today. Wow, great combination water heater and ducted hot air furnace that runs on propane and electric. Person who sold me my travel trailer bought one and made a youtube review on the combi eco plus and this multi use unit is a real space saver. Particularly like the same hose assembly for the fresh air intake and propane exhaust.
Apparently Truma only sells to RV manufacturers. Tomorrow I will call my Airstream dealer and see if they can sell me one. Wondering if I can buy this combi plus heater overseas from a dealer if no luck in the USA?
Anxious to move forward on this project. Thank you for your help.

Any European purchase sources for the Truma combo eco plus?

There is a list of countries (globe at top right of the homepage) where you can find Truma dealers.

No go on the Truma combi Eco plus at least for me in the USA. The Truma company was named after an American president (so I read) and they won’t sell the product to Americans. I don’t want to get into what I think about that.
So this leads me into the anti-freeze engine glycol family of water heaters. Sounds great, free heat from my engine, stored in a well insulated water tank. The smallest unit I found are too big at about 4 gallons storage. The smallest dimensions was 12” diameter and 22” long and the other rectangular unit was 23”x7.5”x16” much too large - made by IsoTemp.
I need hot water to take a really small shower, less than 2 gallons for a soap lather and rinse. I think the engine coolant heaters are too large for a one man van show.

I have decided to do a trial run with a Stiebel Eltron 231045 Mini 2 Point of Use Tankless Electric Water Heater, 1.8 kW, 120V, 7-1/2" W x 6-1/2" H x 3-1/4" D. It is small, inexpensive and may suit my needs. The main concern is the electric consumption at 1800W. I am only going to run this heater at a slow trickle rate for my short shower. I am thinking that a plug and play EcoFlo Delta Pro lithium power station with a 3000W 120V inverter and a 3.6kW battery should run this small water heater for my once a day use.

Instead of using electricity…have you considered this?

Chrome from Vancity vanlife gives a good review here…

Thank you for the link I like that guy Chrome. He got me into this van build adventure. Not a bad idea but I do not want to deal with the exhaust vent as I plan to use a tub in the van. Plan to locate the electric HW heater about 12 inches from the faucet so there should be little cold waste. If I see water has to run too long to heat up I will just spray it back into the fresh water tank until it gets hot enough.
Ideally electric everything is easiest with no condensation. Now that batteries have advanced so much I am leaning toward electric hot water, refrigeration, water pumps, exhaust fans, computers and kitchen accessories lights etc. Will carry my Coleman propane cook top and possibly replace it with induction if I have enough battery capacity. Will likely install a Propex propane cabin heater HS 2000 or HS2800 with outdoor combustion air and vented outside.
Will discuss batteries, solar panels and air conditioning in a future post.