Monday, 29 May 2017

Van Damp Mk 2 - and a Physics Lesson...

Apologies for not blogging much lately!  We've been struggling with Van Damp again over the past week.  Ugh, it's such a pain!  We spent a couple of days last week getting everything out of the van again and drilling a heap of ventilation holes to allow air to circulate in our underbed storage.  Whilst our clothes and possessions hadn't gone mouldy - yet - they were damp to the point of being wet and the metal over the wheel arches were running with water and covered in mould.  The four containers of 'Damp Rid' that we had put in each corner hadn't done a darn thing, except become mouldy on the outside themselves!

Winter has arrived early in Gore!

Worst of all however was the underside of the mattresses.  Foam is notorious for holding moisture and although we were snug and warm at night, every time we went to flip the mattresses over we just about had kittens at how soaking wet they were on the undersides.  Not only that, the moisture in turn sits on the top of the timber bed frame and in turn that was becoming wet and mouldy.  It's not all bad; the bubble wrap on the windows has done a sterling job at keeping condensation at bay, and the best thing we ever did was get the foil windscreen visors to go on top of these.  You wouldn't believe what a difference they make at keeping us warm and dry!  If only we could say the same for the window sills, which are already becoming covered in rust spots after only a couple of weeks of colder weather.

As an extra preventative measure we packed all our clothing and belongings into large sealable storage bags from the Warehouse, a steal at just $4 each!  We were really hopeful that the new ventilation holes would go a long way in stopping both them and our mattress from going damp any further, helped along nicely by the dehumidifier.  So we were far from happy when we flipped everything over yesterday and found that all our efforts had made little or no difference.  In fact we were really, really pissed off.  At least we knew we weren't alone.  Pretty much every traveller, whether in a 12 metre bus or large motorhome or a van like ours has problems with damp at some stage through the year.  At least Ken didn't have any leaks, which a lot of the motor homers we come across have issues with.  And we didn't have freezing cold water dripping on our heads while we slept from having no insulation, like a lovely young English couple from Devon we met a few days earlier had been struggling with.  In comparison to a lot of people, we lived in relative luxury!

The ever-changing sky here is beautiful no matter how bleak!

Disheartened as we were, one thing was for certain - we were NOT giving up.  We love Southland, we love van life and we love the people.  No way was this setback going to force us out!  Besides, it doesn't matter where you are in NZ over winter, if you live in a van you will still get damp.  Gore might get a tad chilly but according to the many locals we have spoken to, we don't get anywhere near the rain here that a lot of other, warmer areas do.  Speaking from experience so far we'll take the cold over the wet any time!  Even so, what were we going to do in order to make things more bearable?

By now Bevin the caretaker and our fellow campers Brian and Evelyn were used to seeing us turf everything out of the van on a regular basis in a vain attempt to try and air it.  'It won't make any difference now, the air outside is just too cold at this time of year, nothing dries', said Evelyn.  She was right, we knew it was a futile exercise.  We had already blown up a cheap hairdryer in two minutes flat the week before from trying to use it to dry the mattress!  'You need a heater', said Brian.  'Yep, you've got to have a heater', agreed Evelyn.  We already had a dehumidifier but it obviously wasn't enough, not to mention the fact that it automatically cut off when the temperature hit below zero degrees, which was pretty much daily now.  Having already spent the past two years living in their bus in Gore, we trusted their judgement and traipsed off to town to get a heater.

Off to town to get a heater.  Am dressed from head to toe in kids' clothes,
saving myself over $70 on getting decked out for winter!

Fortunately this wasn't a big expense; oil column heaters are pretty cheap to buy these days and it's not as though we needed a large one.  But did we really need to run both a dehumidifier AND a heater in such a small space?  I said no, Gareth said yes.  Being the physicist out of the two of us and having the most logical mind by far, I Googled to see what was the best option and found the answer was very surprising.  Gareth was indeed right; to get the best results at combating damp you need to run both a heater and a dehumidifier hand in hand, preferably at opposite ends of the room to one another.  But get this - a dehumidifier is designed to operate AT ABOVE 20ºC.  By the time a room gets down to 15ºC they do a pretty shoddy job and at 10ºC they are downright awful.  One of the main reasons for this is as the temperature drops, the dehumidifier has to turn the water into ice in order to remove it from the air.

At least we're prepared for the great outdoors!

But wait, there's more!  According to statistics, the average bedroom temperature in NZ is 10ºC.  Yet manufacturers only test dehumidifier capacity down to a temperature of 18.3ºC.  Over a quarter of NZ homes run a dehumidifier, yet most people run them without a heater because they think (like I did) that drying the air out is enough.  However if you do not also run a heater to bring the air up to temperature for the dehumidifier to do its job properly, you're basically throwing money away by running it.  Especially if you live in Otago or Southland, according to Otago University's head physicist.  When I think of all the years I ran a dehumidifier in all the bedrooms, thinking they were doing the job of both heating and drying the atmosphere I want to slap myself!  Honestly though, considering around 45,000 dehumidifiers are sold to NZ consumers every winter, don't you think it would be nice if manufacturers also informed people that they should be used in conjunction with a heater, rather than as a single magic solution to cold and damp problems?  I'll get off my soapbox now but it was a very interesting lesson and we now run both appliances together.  It's too early to say how much of a difference it is making, we can only hope; however we woke up for the first time this morning with a dry wall behind us and neither of us slept with blankets on last night despite it being -2ºC outside!

Somehow this couple of hippy metal heads have wound up in
NZ's country music capital!

Damp problems aside, it's been a good week and we've met some lovely people.  They deserve a blog of their own so will tell you all about them next time, however I imagine by then there will be a lot more to tell you about too!  This weekend marks the annual Gold Guitars festival and awards in Gore. It's the biggest event the town hosts and our campground is no exception.  Instead of it just being us and Brian and Evelyn, another 50 - 80 motor homes are about to arrive in our backyard for the long weekend, eek!  It's the nearest we have been to a motor home convention and it starts this evening with a pot luck dinner.  Our visitors all have another thing in common as well as owning homes on wheels; they are all country music fans, which is what the Gold Guitars festival is all about.  Gareth and I on the other hand are most definitely NOT country music fans!  But we are big fans of meeting other travellers, no matter their taste in music.  Should be a very interesting few days!

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