First Impressions Part 2

concealed behind a cupboard above the entry door

concealed behind a cupboard above the entry door

Continued from First Impressions blog a little while ago, we have now done a few thousand miles and a few nights away to start to assess some of the other aspects of the vehicle in detail.  There will undoubtedly be a First Impressions three and possibly a four down the track as time goes on.  I thought it might be interesting (a man’s perspective) to start with the control panel kit installed behind a cupboard above the entry door to our RS Motorhome A Class.

Working from left to right starting with the top row:

The E & P Hydraulic levelling system which operates four jacks to level the motorhome once on site.  Mostly (75% of the time) the system works well to automatically level the vehicle.  Once stopped but with the engine still running I will push the button to see if it will work where it is.  If not, I might move a little.  If all else fails it is perfectly possible to level it manually and a remote control which can be used outside the vehicle is provided as part of the system.  I rate this bit of kit as excellent in all respects and wouldn’t be without it.

The slide out button – clearly they couldn’t find a button with a symbol to represent a slide out and so we have one that is the same symbol as putting out the step and with a label that says slide out.  Pretty simple – one way is in and the other way is out.  The lounge and kitchen all ‘slide out’ when operated creating great living space.

Victron Battery Monitor – another excellent piece of kit which tells me the state of my 440amp hour leisure batteries, how many amps are going in or out at any one time and the percentage charge.  Because of this piece of kit, when we first had the vehicle we discovered that the leisure batteries were not being charged when driving.  A thread on Motorhome Fun swiftly revealed that the new Ivecos from various manufacturers also had this problem which required a change to the ECU which was swiftly carried out by RS for us.

Immediately below the battery monitor you can see two gauges showing the status of the gas in our two LPG tanks.  We have a 55 litre tank for the habitation and a second 25 litre tank used solely to drive the Dometic 2.9KVA Gas Generator.  Bottom left is the control panel for the Dometic Generator – easy to use, turn it on and press the start button, sometimes takes a couple of goes to start but does what it says on the tin and happily powers the hairdryer, coffee machine, microwave and toaster plus charges the batteries (but not all at once)!  In total it will deliver 2.6Kw but no need to push it that far.  Interesting factoid is that the on board battery charger consumes 800 watts to recharge the battery although I can knock that off if I need those watts elsewhere.

To the right of the generator control is a round silver button marked Battery Guard.  This can be used to kill every 12 volt function in the vehicle.  However, it’s main purpose is to automatically kick in and switch off all the batteries when they hit a critical level in order to avoid total discharge and/or damage.  In fact, I used it today when our Crystop Satellite system froze, the control panel remained lit and it wouldn’t retract when the ignition was started.  Turning off the 12v didn’t cut the power to the panel but the Battery Guard did, after which when the power was put back on all was well (not sure why it froze in the first place but seemed to be a software fault locating Astra 3A)

To the right of the Battery Guard button is an isolation switch for the Alde Boiler system.  Mains electric power only goes to the Alde system if this switch is in the on position (at which point the electric power symbol can be seen on the Alde 320 Control Panel.  If not switched on then gas is the only form of heating in use.

That leaves the 230 volt and 12 volt control panels and switches.  The 230 volt panel simply does what it says on the tin and has three isolating options, one of which enables me to turn off the onboard charger if the generator is running and I need those watts for something else.

The 12 volt panel has the following switches and functions:

  • Switch off 12 volt power (unlike the battery guard this only affects the leisure batteries)
  • A battery power gauge – there as standard but superfluous given the addition of the Victron battery monitor
  • Three push switches to tell us the levels of the fresh, grey and black tanks.  Fresh and grey work pretty well, black is disappointing and the measuring gauge system for the black tank is being changed to be more accurate.
  • And finally, a bank of switches with the following functions:
    • Water Pump on/off
    • Outside lights switch ( I would have preferred this to be by the habitation door entry)
    • Power to the slide out on/off
    • Awning control power on/off (now defunct as we switched back to a manual awning – see below)
    • Inverter power on/off
    • Tank heater with warning light to show when on – powers heaters in the tanks to prevent freezing when in exceptionally cold climes.

Initially we did have an electric motor fitted to the awning but to be quite honest, I didn’t trust it.  Setting it up was complicated and if it did get stuck in the out position it required a ladder and a great deal of patience to get it back in.  Much easier and better exercise to have a manual wind in and out system.  One bonus is I now have an extra external 230v option so at some point i could add a bunch of LED lighting to the awning I guess if I could ever be bothered to get round to it.

So, second impressions generally very positive, disappointed with the black tank gauge but I am sure that will be sorted.  The rest of the control system works a treat.

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