Our guide to caravan utilities
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Utilities - not the most exciting thing in the world, but when you’re caravanning, they’re essential! They make all your creature comforts possible - drinking water, a hot shower, light, warmth and most importantly, a hot cup of tea!
If you’re looking to buy your first caravan, about to embark on your first trip or considering changing models, you’ll need to investigate the utilities in your caravan to make sure you’re happy with them and that you know how they work. It is important to do this before you set off on your trip to avoid worries or a stressful situation whilst you’re away.
At Winchester Caravans and Motorhomes, we’re happy to demonstrate all the systems within any caravan we sell you, it’s what we do! Due to our extensive experience of many different makes and models, we’re sure to have the answer to whatever caravan utility question you have, so just ask!
We use water in many different ways within our caravans, from drinking water to showers, washing up to heating (if on a radiator system). The water we use is categorised into fresh water and waste water. Fresh water goes in and waste or ‘grey’ water comes out. Toilet waste will go into a separate chemical tank.
So you’ll have three tanks in total. At most campsites there are three separate water areas - one to fill your fresh water tank, another to dispose of your grey water and another to dispose of your chemical waste. It’s best to travel with empty tanks to avoid any possible spillages and it will also reduce your vehicle weight. Be sure to keep your tanks clean and check them regularly for leaks.
There are two different options when it comes to caravan heating - blown air or radiators. Blown air systems are usually either Truma or Whale and the radiator system is Alde. Truma usually comes in more entry-level caravans, whilst the higher end models are more likely to have Alde. When buying a caravan, find out more about both systems so you can decide if you have a preference or if you’re happy with either.
Pros and cons of blown air systems
+ Very efficient on modern vehicles, so it will warm your caravan very quickly.
+ Works off both gas and electric, which makes heated off-grid caravanning possible.
+ Ability to reduce the temperature at night quickly if desired.
- Air blown systems do make a little noise, which may cause annoyance at night.
- It’s more expensive to run than a radiator system.
- You can sometimes experience cold patches, where the warm air hasn’t reached.
Pros and cons of radiator systems
+ The system is silent - no noise disturbance at all.
+ It’s very cost-effective and cheap to run.
+ Even warmth with no hot or cold patches, providing a constant, comfortable temperature.
- This system can be trickier to use as you need to make sure you get the fluid levels right in order for it to work well.
- It takes longer to reduce the temperature.
- Could be considered higher maintenance than a blown air system as there is the risk of leaks and the system will need to be topped up with antifreeze from time to time.
Gas can be used in caravans for radiator heating if you have it, hot water and appliances such as ovens, hobs and fridges. Make sure you give your gas supply some consideration before each trip; it’s important and can be dangerous if not handled correctly. Before you set off, make sure you have a plentiful supply (or the knowledge that you can access some easily whilst away) and check your system regularly for leaks.
It’s a good idea to carry two cylinders - one large for regular use and one small as a back in case you ever run out. If you do run out, you can usually exchange your cylinder at a number of outlets such as petrol stations and outdoor shops. Turn off each appliance’s gas supply before travelling and always transport cylinders in an upright position in the appropriate gas locker and fully secured with straps.
Ventilate your caravan well after using gas and consider installing a carbon monoxide alarm. It’s a good idea to keep a fire extinguisher and fire blanket on board at all times too in case of emergencies, but remember, only use these if it is safe to do so without endangering yourself.
Did you know?
- Gas is actually a liquid when compressed and it only turns to gas on release from the cylinder.
- There are two types of gas you could use - propane and butane. Propane comes in red cylinders and butane in blue. Propane is ideal for use in all temperatures whilst butane is best suited to milder weather. Propane may therefore be more convenient, but butane is more efficient.
- Calor cylinders are one of the most popular brands in the UK, but keep in mind that these cannot be exchanged in Europe if you’re holidaying there.
Caravans use electricity to power lights, run appliances, provide plugs throughout the vehicle and power the heating if it is a blown air system. Plugs ensure an easy and comfortable caravan lifestyle by allowing you to use all the things you would at home - toasters, kettles, hair dryers and of course chargers for your phones and devices!
Caravans access the electricity supply at campsites with an electrical hook up cable, so be sure to check if your caravan comes with one or if you need to buy one. Our online shop stocks many electrical items and our on-site shop will be able to get you anything not in stock online. Call us on 01962 714844 with any queries or just drop in.
It’s a good idea to also have a leisure battery for when you stay at sites without electricity. Designed to power 12V appliances by providing a steady level of power over a prolonged period of time, these batteries will power your lights, TV, kettle, oven and similar appliances.
Get your caravan service booked
It is extremely important to keep up with your caravan’s service plan and the utilities are some of the things that will be checked at this time. This is especially important for the gas supply, which could be dangerous if a problem went unchecked. Our workshop is NCC-approved and our engineers are careful and thorough in all they do. We have a number of measures in place to enable socially-distanced drop offs and collections to ensure customer and staff safety and peace of mind. We will talk you through the procedures when we call to confirm your appointment the week before.
Get in touch if you have any utility-based questions or if you wish to book your vehicle in for a service or repair. If you’re thinking about purchasing a caravan, browse our available ranges online and pop in to discuss your options soon!
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