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opinion:frater_secessus:beginner_mistakes [2019/11/02 16:51]
frater_secessus [van] title
opinion:frater_secessus:beginner_mistakes [2020/06/24 09:43] (current)
frater_secessus [relying on tilt]
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 +[[lifestyle:​words_of_wisdom|Words of wisdom:​]] ​ "We have a lot of people here who get all excited, move into a van, then quit after just a couple months. The fact that they get disillusioned means they were "​illusioned"​ to begin with. So don't be "​illusioned"​." ​ -- lennyflank((https://​www.reddit.com/​r/​vandwellers/​comments/​el567y/​any_advice_for_someone_considering_van_life/​fdgq087/​))
 +
 Note:  this area is for //​opinion//,​ not objective facts. I may be jaded, grouchy, or cuss a bit.  -- secessus Note:  this area is for //​opinion//,​ not objective facts. I may be jaded, grouchy, or cuss a bit.  -- secessus
 +
 +
 ====== Common beginner mistakes ====== ====== Common beginner mistakes ======
 There are many blessings and victories in van life;  this article is not about that.  It's about the various ways to fail, to skin our knees, to waste money, time, and resources. There are many blessings and victories in van life;  this article is not about that.  It's about the various ways to fail, to skin our knees, to waste money, time, and resources.
  
 +
 +
 +===== fantasy =====
 +
 +For whatever reason, vandwelling attracts a high percentage of daydreamers,​ naifs, and people looking for magical cures for whatever ails them.  ​
 +
 +People who have a good chance at successful '​dwelling are:
 +  * people who have camped or backpacked and liked it
 +  * people who are self-motivated
 +  * people who are disciplined
 +  * people who can figure things out for themselves ​
 +  * people who know basic cooking
 +
 +
 +People who are probably doomed to failure are:   
 +  * "high maintenance"​
 +  * social media addicts
 +  * people who make little effort and want to be spoon-fed
 +  * stoners, daydreamers,​ idiots, children
 +  * people who can't or won't take care of themselves
 +  * the easily bored
 +  * people who need constant excitement, crowds, "​action"​
 +  * picky eaters
  
 ===== planning ===== ===== planning =====
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   * etc    * etc 
  
-The seller must have a title in hand, and it must be in their name.  Breaking ​this rule typically results in heartbreak. ​+The seller must have a title in hand, and it must be in their name.  The van must receive a pre-sale inspection from an independent mechanic.  Breaking ​these rule typically results in heartbreak. ​
 ==== failure to find vans ==== ==== failure to find vans ====
  
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 ==== failure to assess interior space ==== ==== failure to assess interior space ====
  
-It is common for people to **buy a van then decide there is some deal-breaker about the living space**. This will be your home and it needs to suit you.  RVers have a saying about this:  "try to buy your third RV first"​. ​+It is common for people to **buy a van then decide there is some deal-breaker about [[rv:​cargo_van:​comparo#​living_area_comparison|the living space]]**. This will be your home and it needs to suit you.  RVers have a saying about this:  "try to buy your third RV first"​. ​
  
-The key to eliminating this mistake is to pay close attention to spend time the cargo area.  Bring a tapemeasure.  Lay down longwise and sidewise. ​ Stand up, or stoop if necessary. ​ Can you handle the space? Imagine how your build would work in that space. Step into and out of the cargo area.  Pass from the cargo area to the cab in both directions.  ​+The key to eliminating this mistake is to pay close attention to spend time the cargo area.  Bring a tape measure.  Lay down longwise and sidewise. ​ Stand up, or stoop if necessary. ​ Can you handle the space? Imagine how your build would work in that space. Step into and out of the cargo area.  Pass from the cargo area to the cab in both directions.  ​
  
  
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 ===== power ===== ===== power =====
  
-Note: power comes before the build here for a couple of reasons:+==== heating and cooling ====
  
-  * some of the infrastructure needs to go in before the rest of the build (wiring, for example) 
-  * position of large components like [[electrical:​12v:​deep_cycle_battery|battery bank]], [[electrical:​solar:​charge_controller|controller]],​ and [[electrical:​solar:​panels|solar panels]] may dictate the placement of other parts of the build 
-  * **having power in the van** can make the build easier 
  
-Power in the camper ​is misunderstood by some and blown off by most.  It's mainly math with some extra reading required, so I get why it's not a fun topic. ​ But it'​s ​**central to the build** and rewards good research and good planning+The biggest mistake beginners make with power is **thinking they will heat (or cool) things with power they generate off-grid**.  The usual suspects are: 
  
-**A van is not an apartment**,​ so stop thinking that way.  A productive approach is to start from nothing then decide what specific ​you need to make your vanlife workable. This goes hand-in-hand with the math below. ​A counterproductive approach is assuming you can have everything ​you had in a house or apartment, ​then start cutting out devices until you can possibly, maybe, in the best possible scenario actually run them.  ​+  * electric coffee makers 
 +  * electric hair irons 
 +  * electric hair dryers (!) 
 +  * instant pots 
 +  * rice cookers 
 +  * electric water kettles 
 +  * electric space heaters 
 +  * electric water heaters 
 +  * electric stovetops 
 +  * power-hungry gaming or desktop PCs 
 + 
 +Compressor [[food:​refrigeration|refrigerators]] are an exception; ​ many are quite efficient. ​ [[hvac:​heating#​contact_heating|Contact heating]] may be an exception. 
 + 
 +Yes, it is possible to do these things. ​ But the people who are doing them successfully off-grid 
 + 
 +  - know what they are doing 
 +  - have typically invested thousands of dollars in battery banks and solar 
 + 
 + 
 + 
 + 
 +==== thinking like an apartment-dweller ==== 
 + 
 + 
 +**A van is not an apartment**,​ so stop thinking that way.  A productive approach is to **start from nothing** then decide what you need to make your vanlife workable. ​Prefer non-electric approaches to electric ones.  ​This goes hand-in-hand with the math below. ​**Wanting all the amenities ​you had in a house or apartment** will cause disappointmentgreat expenseor both.     
 + 
 +Power in the camper is misunderstood by some and hand-waved away by optimists.  ​It's mainly math with some extra reading required, so I get why it's not a fun topic. ​  
 + 
 +==== failure to consider all loads ==== 
 + 
 +Posts that include "my needs are simple, all I need are lights and a fan" develop, after questioning,​ into "Yeah, forgot the laptop. ​ And phone. ​ And tablet. ​ And toaster. ​ And coffee maker."​ 
 + 
 +[[rv:​build:​cardboard|Living in a van mockup]], for example, ​ //forces// one to assess what one really needs.
  
  
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 There are dreams and fantasies, then there is **what will actually work on the road**. ​ The lights won't magically come back on in the middle of the night somewhere in Kansas just because you want them to.  There is no wishing a dead battery back to life when you need it.  Being honest with the math will help you avoid such issues. ​ There are dreams and fantasies, then there is **what will actually work on the road**. ​ The lights won't magically come back on in the middle of the night somewhere in Kansas just because you want them to.  There is no wishing a dead battery back to life when you need it.  Being honest with the math will help you avoid such issues. ​
 +
 +
 +==== overbuilding the power system ====
 +
  
  
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 Solar power is not a cure-all and [[electrical:​12v:​mandatory_solar|not even mandatory]]. ​ There'​s [[electrical:​solar:​gentle_intro|a gentle introduction to solar]] on this wiki if you want to get a hold on what it can and cannot do.  This section is about solar mistakes. Solar power is not a cure-all and [[electrical:​12v:​mandatory_solar|not even mandatory]]. ​ There'​s [[electrical:​solar:​gentle_intro|a gentle introduction to solar]] on this wiki if you want to get a hold on what it can and cannot do.  This section is about solar mistakes.
 +
 +==== no solar ====
 +
 +Having no solar at all is generally an unforced error for vandwellers. ​ Even [[electrical:​12v:​alt_and_solar|adding small amounts of panel]] (100w) can make a solar, and can be added to an [[electrical:​12v:​alternator|alternator-charged system]] for as little as $100.((100w poly panel on sale for $90, 10A [[electrical:​solar:​shunt_tweaking|shunt controller]] for $10.))
  
 ==== worrying ==== ==== worrying ====
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 ==== buying the wrong panel ==== ==== buying the wrong panel ====
  
 +
 +=== panels that won't fit ===
 +
 +Beginners sometimes buy panels before measuring the available roofspace. ​ Either the panels don't fit at all, or they don't fit the way intended. ​ Measure first, //then// buy panels to fit your particular game of "roof tetris"​.
  
 === toy panels === === toy panels ===
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   - panels don't require maintenance in the usual sense   - panels don't require maintenance in the usual sense
   - having more panel than you need in normal conditions ("​[[electrical:​solar:​overpaneling|overpaneling]]"​) will allow you to make sufficient power even in crummy conditions. ​ About the only issue overpaneling doesn'​t help is snow covering the panels entirely.   - having more panel than you need in normal conditions ("​[[electrical:​solar:​overpaneling|overpaneling]]"​) will allow you to make sufficient power even in crummy conditions. ​ About the only issue overpaneling doesn'​t help is snow covering the panels entirely.
 +  - overpaneled systems don't overcharge batteries -- they start earlier when sunlight is weaker and are already tapering off by the time the sun gets high enough for max output. ​
   - having lots of panel means you can run a lot of daytime loads [[electrical:​solar:​offthepanel|off those panels]] ​   - having lots of panel means you can run a lot of daytime loads [[electrical:​solar:​offthepanel|off those panels]] ​
   - roof mounted panels are out of the way and not underfoot. ​ They are always deployed and ready for business.   - roof mounted panels are out of the way and not underfoot. ​ They are always deployed and ready for business.
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   * tilted panels take time to deploy, store, and interfere with your ability to leave a given location for safety or other reasons.  ​   * tilted panels take time to deploy, store, and interfere with your ability to leave a given location for safety or other reasons.  ​
  
 +==== failure to add alternator charging ====
 +
 +[[electrical:​12v:​alt_and_solar|Adding an isolator]] can be very cheap and //​supercharges//​ solar configs;​((this effect is strongest on systems with PWM controllers)) ​ if run at the right time it [[opinion:​frater_secessus:​panelsizesforinsolation|can double or triple the effectiveness of solar]], meaning one can
 +
 +  - run more loads; and/or
 +  - reduce the amount of panel; and/or
 +  - use the excess capacity to extend [[electrical:​solar:​sizing#​your_reserve_needs|autonomy]]
  
  
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 It seems that vanfolk are making their battery choices based on the ramblings of social media influencers. This is //no bueno//. It seems that vanfolk are making their battery choices based on the ramblings of social media influencers. This is //no bueno//.
  
-First off, **very few vandwellers ​actualy ​need [[electrical:​12v:​deep_cycle_battery#​agm|AGM]] batteries**.((yes,​ there are [[https://​boondockplan.wordpress.com/​2019/​10/​22/​backchannel-agm-for-vandwellers/#​exceptions|exceptions]])) ​ AGM  cost 2x as much as flooded batteries, generally have lower capacity, and require [[electrical:​12v:​charging#​charging_agm_batteries|charging regimens]] vandwellers usually can't or won't provide. ​ I blame the fad on social media and people thinking that "more expensive == better"​. ​ But for the love of doG if you need AGM to make your Insta pop, at least get real deep cycles (see below).+First off, **very few vandwellers ​[[opinion:​frater_secessus:​the_case_for_agm|actually ​need]] [[electrical:​12v:​deep_cycle_battery#​agm|AGM]] batteries**.((yes,​ there are [[https://​boondockplan.wordpress.com/​2019/​10/​22/​backchannel-agm-for-vandwellers/#​exceptions|exceptions]])) ​ AGM  cost 2x as much as flooded batteries, generally have lower capacity, and require [[electrical:​12v:​charging#​charging_agm_batteries|charging regimens]] vandwellers usually can't or won't provide. ​ I blame the fad on social media and people thinking that "more expensive == better"​. ​ But for the love of doG if you need AGM to make your Insta pop, at least get real deep cycles (see below).
  
 Secondly, **there are very few actual 12v lead chemistry deep cycle batteries**. ​ Those that do exist are on the high end (Rolls, Odyssey,​Lifeline),​ are very heavy and very $$$.  Deep cycle batteries have seriously thick lead plates which are too heavy for humans to carry in 12v configurations.((the thick places are the reason they can tolerate deep cycling)) ​ For this reason, **most real deep cycle lead batteries are 6v and run in serial for 12v**. Secondly, **there are very few actual 12v lead chemistry deep cycle batteries**. ​ Those that do exist are on the high end (Rolls, Odyssey,​Lifeline),​ are very heavy and very $$$.  Deep cycle batteries have seriously thick lead plates which are too heavy for humans to carry in 12v configurations.((the thick places are the reason they can tolerate deep cycling)) ​ For this reason, **most real deep cycle lead batteries are 6v and run in serial for 12v**.
 +
 +Third, you are unlikely to find a real deep cycle battery at a walmart or auto parts store. ​
  
 ==== required maintenance ==== ==== required maintenance ====
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   - Bulk: maximum current until Absorption voltage ([[electrical:​12v:​electrical_notation|Vabs]]) is reached((ie,​ "​constant current"​))   - Bulk: maximum current until Absorption voltage ([[electrical:​12v:​electrical_notation|Vabs]]) is reached((ie,​ "​constant current"​))
-  - Absorption: ​ hold Vabs for a given duration and/or until the batteries don't any more(("​constant voltage"​))+  - Absorption: ​ hold Vabs for a given duration and/or until the batteries don'​t ​want any more(("​constant voltage"​))
   - Float: ​ reduce Vabs to a lower maintenance voltage (Vfloat) and hold it indefinitely.   - Float: ​ reduce Vabs to a lower maintenance voltage (Vfloat) and hold it indefinitely.
  
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 So why charge from the alternator at all?  Because **isolators are fantastic at delivering massive amounts of current** to the battery bank [[electrical:​12v:​charging#​bulk_stage|in Bulk when the bank wants it]]((lithium chemistries always want it)), and it **does it for cheap**. ​ A $25 constant duty solenoid can provide more current to a deeply-discharged bank than $1000 of solar. ​ And it does it automagically when you drive; ​ no sun needed.  ​ So why charge from the alternator at all?  Because **isolators are fantastic at delivering massive amounts of current** to the battery bank [[electrical:​12v:​charging#​bulk_stage|in Bulk when the bank wants it]]((lithium chemistries always want it)), and it **does it for cheap**. ​ A $25 constant duty solenoid can provide more current to a deeply-discharged bank than $1000 of solar. ​ And it does it automagically when you drive; ​ no sun needed.  ​
  
 +There is **no particular benefit to upgrading the alternator** (or adding another one) beforehand. ​ Run the OEM alternator sanely((ie, not idling)) and replace it with a higher-output one when/if the OEM fails. ​ You'll be paying for labor then anyhow and the upgrade to an HD alternator will be nominal. ​
  
  
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 Belief that x-thousands of watts in [[electrical:​inverter|inverter]] capacity means you have x-thousands of watts to pump into it.  It's not true;  **the inverter could pull x-thousands of watts but that doesn'​t mean your battery can provide it**, or provide it for long.  And you **still have to stuff those x-thousands of watts back into the battery before sundown**.((plus charging inefficiencies)) Belief that x-thousands of watts in [[electrical:​inverter|inverter]] capacity means you have x-thousands of watts to pump into it.  It's not true;  **the inverter could pull x-thousands of watts but that doesn'​t mean your battery can provide it**, or provide it for long.  And you **still have to stuff those x-thousands of watts back into the battery before sundown**.((plus charging inefficiencies))
  
-**Wasting money and power on an inverter that is larger than your forseeable needs**. ​ Big inverters cost much more, and tend to squander more power just in running themselves with no load.  The proper size for an inverter (if one is needed at all) is one big enough to handled ​all the inverter loads you plan to run at one time.((remember to account for start-up draws, not just running draws))+**Wasting money and power on an inverter that is larger than your forseeable needs**. ​ Big inverters cost much more, and tend to squander more power just in running themselves with no load.  The proper size for an inverter (if one is needed at all) is one big enough to handle ​all the inverter loads you plan to run at one time.((remember to account for start-up draws, not just running draws)) 
 + 
 +===== stealth ===== 
 + 
 + 
 +The common mistakes with [[camping:​stealth_camping|stealth]] are at the extremes:  
 + 
 +  * believing one can be 100% stealth and not be noticed; and 
 +  * believing the opposite, that one cannot tilt the balance in one's favor of not being kicked out of a spot 
  
 ===== money ===== ===== money =====
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   * driving around like an unhinged werewolf, **racing from place to place** across the country. ​ Gas isn't cheap, and vans don't get great MPG.  Plan ahead. ​ Stay longer at places. ​   * driving around like an unhinged werewolf, **racing from place to place** across the country. ​ Gas isn't cheap, and vans don't get great MPG.  Plan ahead. ​ Stay longer at places. ​
   * **paying for campsites**. ​ What is it that you are getting from the campsite that you can't handle yourself? [[lifestyle:​faq_toilet|Toilets]]?​ [[electrical:​12v:​intro|Power]]? ​ Take that campsite money and use it to make your camper more off-grid capable.   * **paying for campsites**. ​ What is it that you are getting from the campsite that you can't handle yourself? [[lifestyle:​faq_toilet|Toilets]]?​ [[electrical:​12v:​intro|Power]]? ​ Take that campsite money and use it to make your camper more off-grid capable.
-  * **overpaying for "​unlimited"​ data plans** when you could [[communication:​bandwidth_conservation|use less bandwidth]],​ use [[communication:​internet#​mobile_data|an MVNO]] instead of a major carrier, etc. +  * **overpaying for "​unlimited"​ data plans** when you could [[communication:​bandwidth_conservation|use less bandwidth]],​ use [[communication:​internet#​mobile_data|an MVNO]] instead of a major carrier, etc. If you "need unlimited for work" then why aren't you writing off that expense already?  ​
  
 ===== research ===== ===== research =====
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   * use human-readable style. ​ Avoid run-on sentences, "wall of text" word vomit with no organization,​ punctuation,​ or paragraph breaks.   * use human-readable style. ​ Avoid run-on sentences, "wall of text" word vomit with no organization,​ punctuation,​ or paragraph breaks.
   * write a concise and specific title. ​ "​Configuring a Morningstar TS-45 MPPT" is good.  "​don'​t understand solar!!!!!!!!"​ is not so good. "Can anyone answer this??​!?"​ is annoying and manipulative. ​ Also, any title that includes the word "​anyone"​ indicates a low-effort question. ​ Why should //we// care if //you// don't?   * write a concise and specific title. ​ "​Configuring a Morningstar TS-45 MPPT" is good.  "​don'​t understand solar!!!!!!!!"​ is not so good. "Can anyone answer this??​!?"​ is annoying and manipulative. ​ Also, any title that includes the word "​anyone"​ indicates a low-effort question. ​ Why should //we// care if //you// don't?
 +
 +> I am always surprised to see some people demanding the time of others and meeting a most obliging response. Both sides have in view the reason for which the time is asked and neither regards the time itself — as if nothing there is being asked for and nothing given. ​ - Seneca
 ==== failure to judge advice ==== ==== failure to judge advice ====
 When advice comes in, consider the source: When advice comes in, consider the source:
   * is the responder a salescritter with a vested interest?   * is the responder a salescritter with a vested interest?
 +  * is the responder willing to go for "the best!" with //your// money but not with their own?
   * is the responder a partisan of some kind:  anti-Renogy,​ pro-Renogy, etc   * is the responder a partisan of some kind:  anti-Renogy,​ pro-Renogy, etc
-  * is the responder an idiot, a zero-experience dreamer, a poorly-informed blowhard, a black/white thinker?  ​+  * is the responder an idiot, a druggie, a zero-experience dreamer, a poorly-informed blowhard, a black/white thinker?  ​
   * did the responder read and address your questions?   * did the responder read and address your questions?
   * is the advice upvoted/​downvoted/​liked by onlookers?   * is the advice upvoted/​downvoted/​liked by onlookers?
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   * does the responder use absolute language like "you should",​ "what you need is", "​junk",​ "​nothing but problems",​ "​crap",​ etc?   * does the responder use absolute language like "you should",​ "what you need is", "​junk",​ "​nothing but problems",​ "​crap",​ etc?
   * does the responder seem irrationally emotional or invested in your decision?   * does the responder seem irrationally emotional or invested in your decision?
 +  * does the responder claim to know "what you want"? ​ Tip:  people who tell you what you want don't //know// what you want, and don't //care// what you want
  
 Does the advice pass a sanity test?  Does it seem possible and worth of follow-up research or questions? Does the advice pass a sanity test?  Does it seem possible and worth of follow-up research or questions?
opinion/frater_secessus/beginner_mistakes.1572738661.txt.gz · Last modified: 2019/11/02 16:51 by frater_secessus