This article describes the installation of electric underfloor heating to the main living area of a Buccaneer Caravel. The article is not to be construed as a guide or recommended procedure for the installation of an electric underfloor heating system, but simply intended as a journal of my experience of fitting a system to my own caravan.

If you are planning your own installation of any kind, the manufacturer’s procedures and legislative requirements must be adhered to at all times. 

Caravan make and model:

Buccanneer Caravel

Area covered:

Living area

Dimensions:

The floor width varies from 0.75 metres between the bench seats, to 1.3 metres between the entrance door and the fixed furniture opposite, with a length of 4 metres.

Installation materials:

  1. Heating mat (0.5m x 4.0m)
  2. Earth net (1.0m x 4.0m)
  3. Multi strand earth wire (3m2 x 3m long)
  4. Low tog (0.8 tog) carpet underlay (1.2m x 4.0m)
  5. 13 Amp plug fitted with 3 Amp fuse
  6. Duct tape

Optional:

  1. 3mm thick reflective under mat insulation (1.0m x 4.0m)
  2. Low tog (up to 1.8 tog) carpet (1.3m x 4.0m)
  3. 3 Amp fused spur neon illuminated switch to match existing electrical fittings
  4. Appropriate multi strand flex wiring for spur connection
  5. Room thermostat to control temperature

Notes:

  • carpet underlay cut to shape The mats are supplied with approximately 3m of wire for connection to supply the circuit, and it is necessary to establish the best position for the switch before fixing the mat(s).
  • Amorphous metal ribbon heating mats are normally supplied in 0.5m width up to 10m long in increments of 0.5m. Two heat outputs are available 120Watts/m2 and 150Watts/m2.
  • We chose a 0.5m x 4.0m mat with a heat output of 150W/m2 giving a total heat output of 300Watts.
  • The mats are supplied with sticky tape to the underside so they can be fixed directly to the vinyl (or direct onto the plywood) floor.
  • I chose to use a reflective underlay (3mm thick felt with a reflective foil top, normally used under laminate flooring) and to stick the mat to the foil top.
  • I used two loose fit carpets as the template for the shape of the underlay.

Method:

Step one

With the underlay fitted, the mat was laid out centrally along the length of the underlay. When I was satisfied with the position, I stuck it to the foil face.

mat fitted to foil underlay

Step two

I laid cables along the floor outside of the mats to the location of the connection point.

Step three

Next I made a temporary connection to allow the mat to heat up for a short period (i.e., 5 minutes). This was to test that it worked, and to help it to lay flat.

Step four

Using the same two loose lay mats as templates, I cut the earth net to shape and installed it on top of the heating mat.

Step five

I attached the earth cable at a suitable location and laid it so that it followed the other two cables. I then taped all 3 cables into place.

grounding mesh laid over mat

Step six

Using the same two loose mats as a template, the low tog carpet underlay was cut to shape and placed waffle-face down on top of the earth net.

Step seven

At this stage, because the upper surface of the low tog underlay was beige coloured Hessian, the loose lay carpets could be placed into position without looking out of place. However, we decided that the carpet was to be fully fitted. We therefore cut the carpet to shape and fitted it using the two loose lay mats as a template.

Step eight

We connected the 3 cables into the 13 Amp plug fitted with 3 Amp fuse, then commissioned the system.

carpet fully fitted over under floor heating

Summary:

We chose not to install a thermostat because the heat output was not great; if the room became too hot we would either open a roof vent or switch off the heating. Installing a thermostat would have greatly complicated the proceedings, and the installation cost would have doubled.

In a previous installation to a Bessacarr Cameo 500GLD, I installed an impervious barrier between the low tog carpet underlay and the fully fitted carpet as an added precaution in case of liquid spills. However, experience showed that this was not needed, so we decided not to install it in this project.

I intend to install a 3 Amp fused spur with neon tell tale to match the existing electrical fittings but at the present time there is a shortage of CEB fittings. I have scoured the internet and my local leisure outlets; however I still am unable to locate the three components necessary to complete the installation. Therefore, for the time being, we continue to operate via a 13 Amp plug, fused for 3 Amp.

This installation can be operated for up to 4 hours via an inverter from a 110AH leisure battery before the inverter cuts out due to low battery voltage. As I have 3 such batteries and my 120Watt solar panel, we have the potential to use the underfloor heating when off EHU and without the need to use the generator.

Our experience has been that underfloor heating creates such cosiness that we only need to supplement using the OE heating system(s) during extreme cold snaps. In fact our caravan became the meeting place of choice during rallies in the cooler season.

 

Case study kindly supplied by Superpete.

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11 comments

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  • sulyka
    29 January 2014 15:10 sulyka
    Well! We can only speak as we find and to say we are delighted with our installation is an understatement. We spend our winters in Spain where the nights can be quite cold and especially the caravan floor. Since we installed our u/carpet heating we have not had cold feet and we have not used the normal caravan heating. It is on thermostat and we just forget it is there. It is brilliant, many thanks for the original post as it has changed our winter experience immeasurably.
  • scousegit
    29 January 2013 18:39 scousegit
    Three 110AH batteries solar panels Generator (inverter5kg) what do use to tow your van a Pickfords low loader If her indoors takes what mine does your van must be seriously over loaded and not an 85% match to your vehicle ???
  • Superpete
    16 October 2012 08:17 Superpete
    Commanderdave;
    You're quite right the thermostats are available but as barelyhere says the correct type for UFH has a floor sensor as well as a room sensor but in my opinion it is just not worth the cost and involvement of fitting it. Try it without and if you feel the need to fit it can be done retrospectively. My experience is that it is not needed and not worthwhile.
  • Superpete
    16 October 2012 06:29 Superpete
    Hi, gravon42;
    You're looking in the wrong place. Forget the "kits" go to the ribbon mat system and select the size of mat you want. When I bought mine (0.5X4.0) it was priced at £55.00 - I note from their website that this is now £66.00.If you choose to include thermostat (I didn't based on previous experience) expect to add about £50 to £60. I note that they now offer stick-down erthing mat for £19 I made my own using chicken wire for about £3. The electrical quick connectors are worthwhile and you should only need two (about £6).Get your underlay from a local discount carpet outlet for about £12 to £15.
  • gravon42
    14 October 2012 20:45 gravon42
    Hi superpete, I have looked on Allbrite site, and it is over
    £550.00!!
  • barelyhere
    13 October 2012 18:24 barelyhere
    From what I remember from when I did my electric underfloor heating a specific type of sensor was needed that fits between the element loops as the thermostat is not a room stat it is there to control the temperature of the heating loops. I've had mine for a couple of years now but in the very cold weather last winter I cranked the thermostat up a bit too far and it caused the insulation board under the heating loops to become very brittle and in places it has started to powder. My installation is not a lot different to Superpete's but I did connect it to a fused spur with its own rcd that I fitted under one of the bunks.

    I have certainly found the underfloor heating to be a great help in keeping the caravan comfortable especially on sites with limited (6 Amp)EHU. On such sites I run the underfloor heating off the electric and the Alde off gas but the latter only cuts in if the temp drops to below comfortable.
  • CommanderDave
    10 October 2012 16:01 CommanderDave
    Domestic house thermostats as used on heating in the home are only about £10 for a hardwired one and about £40 for a wireless and are rated to 2A (480w ) so should handle your 300w demand .
  • Superpete
    05 October 2012 11:46 Superpete
    The "erth net" is a galvanised wire mesh (chicken wire?) and the heating mat supplier will also supply. It is used as a safety grounding system in case of short circuit. The heating element is a two wire double insulated circuit and so an earth net provides the added facility of the earth circuit. The sole UK supplier of Advanced Heating Technologies (AHT) mats is Allbrite UK ltd. website www.allbriteuk.co.uk. They are sold by many other outlets but, if you don't but direct from Allbrite, then you are paying somebody's mark-up price. An other great advantage for this low cost ecconomical heating system is that we leave it switchen on continuously while the caravan is parked at home during winter - keeps the whole place aired and ready to use.
  • Superpete
    05 October 2012 11:33 Superpete
    As said in the article Dave, the cost of fitting a thermostat will likely double the installation price - considering that the basic materials cost only £55.00 ish.
  • Gav74
    05 October 2012 11:32 Gav74
    Love this article, thanks. I fitted electric underfloor heating in my bathroom, but never considered doing it in the caravan. We don't have heating at the moment and we're short of space so this may be the solution.
    One question though, What is an earth net and where do you get one from?
  • CommanderDave
    05 October 2012 11:11 CommanderDave
    Why not use a domestic Programmable wireless thermostat ? The thermostat can be put anywhere without running wires and it can be programmed for a set temperature at different times of the day and at night .

    Dave