I may or may not have said before, but Old Red, brilliant as he may be, doesn’t have a leisure battery. I’d done a lot of reading online and had kind of expected that I would need one, seeing as it’s not usually a good idea to drain and charge your vehicle’s starter battery with any regularity. Sadly, I had fallen so in love with the big burgundy beast that I hadn’t even asked if he had one (foolish!), so I was in for a bit of a shock when I went to pick him up from the garage….but it seemed to be ok! The guys at the shop assured me that they (nor their customers) had suffered battery trouble while out in Old Red, and that I shouldn’t have any problems.
…and they were right! Sort of…
Red has a battery condition metre fixed into his wall, which allows you to operate the lights and water pump, whilst keeping an eye on how quickly the power is draining. In all the adventures I’ve had with Red so far, the light has stayed green, no matter how much music I’ve listened to, or phones I’ve charged. It was only after 7 months sat on the driveway, having the lights turned on and off periodically, that the light changed to red.
I was hoping that the runs to and from the garage, and the 60 mile trip to Loughborough would have charged the battery back up enough to keep us going for the whole weekend, but it seems that I hoped in vain. We played music from the moment we began setting up camp, charged both of our phones, had the lights on after dark, and generally revelled in electricity. The red light of doom was on before the first night was out, proving either that we hadn’t charged the battery enough or that it has dramatically dropped condition since last year…I don’t know which, but I hope it’s not the latter.
One thing to note is that when we pulled the phone charger out of the socket the light went back to green again. I’m guessing that this means the light came on to let us know the drain was too much? Later on, when we were a little less sober and were only using the lights, we took to switching the power to the van off and back on every time the light went red. This ‘cured’ the problem for a short while each time, but I probably wouldn’t recommend it as a way to extend battery power.
I didn’t think we had the room for a leisure battery (I hear they’re rather large), but as I said in my last post, we were lucky enough to meet a couple at Barefoot Festival who gave us some great advice on powering our van.
They had a leisure battery built into a wooden box, with all the points properly wired in and up to an 80w solar panel that they fixed onto the roof of their van. They stowed it all in the van when necessary, but when they were camped up they set it all up and ran not only their phone chargers and music system, but also powered a load of LED lights for their festival stall.
Hopefully we’ll get the chance to give Red a really really good run before the year is out so that we can test how well the battery recharges. If it turns out that it is in bad condition and won’t hold a charge, then at least we know there are options out there for a more reliable source of power. It’s going to cost us around £100 for a decent solar panel (hopefully they’ll be even cheaper by the time we get round to it) and a quick google search tells me that a battery will be around £60-100. All we (Luke) will need to do is build a box for it and wire the whole shebang up.