I have to say, right from the start, electric metered campsites makes perfect sense. You only pay for what you use; that sounds perfectly fair. We don’t expect campsites to subsidise our holiday, nor do we expect them to make excess profit. Although exactly what excess profit is, it’s hard to say.
We’ve recently stayed on a metered electric site, and in this article, I’ll explain the pros and cons of doing such a thing in the winter.
Electric Metered Campsites; Fair Site Pricing
Some further ground rules, or rather explaining my thought process before we embarked on our journey of discovery. We think Certificated Locations (CLs) should be about £20 per night; these are usually basic sites, five pitches, and their facilities vary. The site we were staying on had water, waste, elsan point for the disposal of toilet waste, a shower and toilet room (showers were 50p), but the room wasn’t heated. For regular sites, we think that about £30-£35 per night is normal; we sometimes stay on sites above £40 if they’re in a location we need to be in.
As we left home, there was a cold snap, which meant that the temperature dropped below 0 at night (-2 to -4) when we were on the site and wasn’t a great deal warmer during the day. For our stay, it probably didn’t get above 2 degrees, so, this might be an extreme example of what you might expect to pay on a metered electric site. Probably not the best weather to stay on an electric metered campsite, but it was a really good learning experiences.
So, that’s set the parameters of our visit. The CL we stayed on was £19 per not, excluding electricity.
Using Electric Meter
This was easy enough and there were good instructions. When “checking in” (reporting to the farm house) we were given and electric meter card (I have noticed some electric metered campsites use an app) and were advise to top up which 50kw which was £21. We were told to expect to use about £6 a day and that we could get a refund on any credit still on the card when we left. All sounded fair. However, that now took the CL daily price to being about £25, probably the top end of what you’d expect to pay. However, the site is about 5 minutes from Stratford-Upon-Avon, which is why we were there in the first place.
So far, so good. You place the card in the meter, turn on the breaker, turn a weird knob and we have electricity, perfect.
Initial Warm Up
As it was really cold, we connected the electricity and put it on 3kw immediately. After a short while, I put the heating on gas as well, so we could get the caravan up to temperature. We finished off setting up and retreated to the still-chilly caravan. Mindful we were now “on a budget,” I turned it down to 2 kw and turned off the gas heating as the caravan heated up.
If you need to top up this system, you need to visit the farm house again to arrange the top-up. I’ve seen other systems that use an app, which for me would be much easier.
The First Meter Reading
After a cosy night in the caravan, I went outside the next morning to read the meter. At this point I’ll explain the temperatures we like to run the caravan at. During the day, we like it at 23 degrees, now, I’m not sure if it’s actually 23 degrees in the caravan as the Alde heating and Swift command can’t decide between them how warm the inside of the caravan is and there seems to be a difference of between 4-5 degrees. Anyway, we set it to 23 degrees on the Alde 3020 and 18 at night, we leave it on 2kw.
The next morning, I dressed as though I was going on an artic exploration and went to read the meter. I opened the little plastic door and read the numbers, not at all concerned.
That’s ok, we were being charged at .42p KW. Calculator to hand .42*12.5 = £5.25, which is pretty much exactly what the owner said we’d use. Nice. I reached for the instructions and read.
Reach for the calculator again.
50 – 12.5 = 37.5kw
37.5 * .42p = £15.75
I retreat to the caravan, scratching my head. We paid £19 per night for the site, then add on the energy use of £15.75 that’s £34.75 and that wasn’t a full 24-hour usage.£34.75 per night for a CL. No way! I immediately formed a bad opinion of electric metered campsites, I had hoped they were the future, just not in the winter then.
I wasn’t overly concerned about the price as such, in my mind I was off-setting what I would use at home (the heating at home was in “holiday mode” to ensure no pipes froze) We’ve paid more than £34.75 staying on a regular site (not CL) I was more peed off that I’d have to arrange to get the card topped up again, which meant walking over to the farmhouse, hope someone was in, or ring the owner on the phone to arrange to top-up.
We briefly discussed just going home as at nearly £35 a night, we could have stayed on a site with full facilities and wouldn’t pay that for a CL; the whole idea of a CL is that you sacrifice facilities and save some money (ok there are other reasons too, but that’s the main one, for us at least).
We decided to stay and I wondered over to the farm house, where someone was available.
“I need a top up”, I said
“I’m not surprised”, said the same person who yesterday said it would be about £6 a day. “Oh the joys of an electric metered campsites”, I thought
I added another 50kw (£21)
Change of Plan
After topping up the meter, we now had about 60kw. As an experiment I decided to run the heating on gas for the next day, which I did. Coming out the next morning I estimate we used 1/5th of a bottle. We use gas light bottles where you can see the level of gas available. It was full when I started and had gone down about 1/5th. At £55 a refill (10kg) 1/5th of that was £11.
For the same period, I estimate we used £11 for gas, against £15.75 for electricity. However, we still used electricity; when I read the meter the following day, we’d used about 5kw, which was £2.10. I guess this is what we would have used if it was summer, so the site would cost about £21 per night in the summer. So, on electric metered campsites, in the winter, you’re better off using your gas, especially if you’re using safefill
Conclusions on Electric Metered Campsites
On Sunday morning, as we left, I read the meter, and it had 10kw available, so that’s a £4.20 credit. So from reading the meter Saturday at 09:00 until Sunday morning (approx 08:00) we have used 27kw (or £11.34) but for part of the day I’d had the heating running on gas as I didn’t want to run out of electric during early hours of Sunday morning.
The difficulty with the calculation per night is that we only actually stayed four nights (although we paid for 5). The CL was £24, discounted to £19 if you book more than four nights. We had planned to stay five nights, but the cost of energy made the decision to leave a day early a simple one.
Site fees @ £19 per night base on a 5 night stay £95
Electric meter charges 2*£21 = £42
Estimates gas used £40
Credited meter charges £4.20
£95 + £42 + £40 – £4.20 = £172.80
We did leave a day early, the £19 a night was discounted from £24 as we’d booked more than 4 nights.
As we only stayed 4 nights, I’ll minus £19 so, £172.80 – £19 = £153.80
What Did I Learn?
In a nutshell, don’t use electric metered campsites in the winter. I have to say that I had absolutely no idea how much electric we would use. I certainly didn’t know that we’d be charge on a business rate for electricity.
The amount of electricity we used the first night was similar to our 3 bed semi, this I find absolutely unbelievable! Why? My next thought was, “How well are these caravans insulated?” The manufacturers give it the big one regarding. Swift state :
I wondered how efficient is Alde Heating. All of these questions are things I’d never considered before because I haven’t had to. BTW, Alde says the boiler is 93% efficient.
Time To Rethink Safefill?
If I were caravanning a lot in the winter months and it was minus degrees for any length of time, I could see the benefits of moving to safefill bottles. I’ve been against these for some time, mainly because of the seeming lack of places you can refill the bottles. Safefill have partnered with Morrisons, but I’ve noticed in the past couple of years, they don’t seem to have partnered with any other large chains.
Using Safefill has advantages if you use a lot of gas. I have 2 * 10kg gaslight bottles, and these are £55 to get a refill (you don’t refill them yourself; you exchange them for a full one). Homebase supply bottles, which suits me fine. Also, under normal caravanning in the summer, 2 bottles might last me over 2 years.
Safefill bottles have a larger initial outlay. At the time of writing a 10kg bottles costs £213.99, but refills would be cheaper than the £55 exchange price I pay for Gaslight.
89p per litre 10kg safefill bottle holds 15 litres max, so 89p *15 = £13.35, so it’s A LOT cheaper than gaslight at £55
I have seen LPG cheaper at .59p and that makes it even cheaper at £8.85 – wow.
If I were to replace my 2 10kg bottles, it would cost me £427.98, which is about 8 refills. I’d estimate summer caravanning I’d refill once a year, so payback would be in 8 years. However, If I’m winter caravanning, I’d refill probably once a week, maybe? I’d get the money back in 8 weeks!
Comments From The Vlog
As usual, it’s a mixed bag from the comments. A few campervan owners suggesting I installed a Diesel Heater as they run their heating all year for .27p (I joke of course). Some comments suggesting Safefill, whilst others asking if I was growing “Weed” keeping the caravan at 23 degrees.
In the vlog, I say 23 degrees, as that’s what I set it on the Alde heating control. Swift command informed me it was 19 degrees in the caravan, so I’d have to guess at somewhere in between the 2. We have it set to 21 at home. “Temperature shaming” apart, feedback was positive as it certainly gave people food for thought.
There was a section of the Motorhome community (from the motorhomefun forum) that turned it into a “look at this stupid caravanner” thing, but I’ll address these comments in a later vlog, as I consider it a form of bullying and bullies must be outed.