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Installing our Efoy 1600

Our Efoy 1600 fuel cell

Getting started

The installation instructions which were provided with our Efoy 1600 are a model of clarity and thoroughness. The pack comes with separate booklets for a number of languages including English and there is a separate user manual and installation manual.

We took care to read through the manual before starting; this would help to determine suitable locations in the vehicle but in our case this was already predetermined because there was only one possible place left where it could go in our small high-top campervan. However, we still had to decide on the finer points of positioning the unit, bearing in mind important stipulations in the instructions.

Our location

The bottom of a wardrobe (sorry, the wardrobe) has been home for our Honda EU10i generator; this was to be replaced by the Efoy; the two are in fact a very similar size although additional space is needed alongside the Efoy for the fuel cartridge; and the Efoy also needs extra space around it to accommodate the length of 10cm-diameter ducting which is used to carry warm air out of the Efoy's enclosure. A plus for the Efoy though is that its weight is not much more than half that of the Honda - 7.3kg against 13kg .

The essential requirements for the location are quite straightforward:

  • It must be reasonably level (the Efoy must operate within 15 degrees of horizontal)
  • The space must not get too hot which means that you will need to vent the warm air it produces away from the locker or other space where it is installed. Suitable ducting and a connector is provided with the Efoy. You also need to provide an opening where cooler area can be drawn in to replace the vented air.
  • The small diameter (10mm) exhaust hose (as opposed to the large heat ducting) which carries the exhaust by-products (water vapour and carbon dioxide) must be vented outside and the route to the outside should be as short as possible and without any dips.
  • There must be space right alongside for the fuel cartridge, in one of the approved positions.
  • It mst be possible to run the electrical wiring from the Efoy's location to the battery; and the control panel has to be mounted in a location where its cable also can reach the Efoy.

Our space was nice and level but as an enclosed space it was essential to vent the heat away and there was very little room for the vent ducting; we would also have to drill some frightenly large holes - 10cm plus - into the wardrobe side and it would be horribly obvious in the campervan's interior if we made a botch job of that.

And most worryingly - we had to find a way to get the exhaust tube vented to the outside and we were reluctant to drill holes through the vehicle's steel bodywork or floor, particularly since the cramped, hidden spaces would make it impossible to be sure we weren't going to drill through something vital. We had also noted in the manual that although the tube provided is 1.5 metres long, it should be kept to no more than .5m for winter use, to prevent condensate from freezing.

The electrical connections were inevitably going to be a pain for us: with the battery on one side of the vehicle and the wardrobe on the other, and no possibility of running the wires under floor or outside, they were going to have to be fished through tiny gaps behind various fixtures and the sides of the vehicle.

The battery itself, buried deep under the furniture, was already festooned with add-ons, including heavy-duty cabling for the Victron inverter-charger , and connections for the Victron battery monitor and solar panel. But this aspect of the installation, though tedious and holding the promise of body contortions and a very sore back afterwards, did not particularly worry us; we've got quite inured to it after various earlier installations.

So how did it go?

In fact the whole installation went very smoothly, at least regarding all the Efoy components and instructions. Any difficulties were due to our limited options for positioning and routing and the lack of working space.

First job, as already described, was to read the installation manual; next job was to look at the components that came with the Efoy so that we could relate them to the task ahead. Our photo and labels give you a preview, should you be considering an Efoy. Not shown is the flat mounting tray, with securing belt, for the fuel cell itself. This is packed separately in the box, strapped to the fuel cell.

Parts supplied with the Efoy

  • The fuel cartridge holder, which accepts either the 10 litre or 5 litre cartridge is screwed to the floor alongside the tray which holds the fuel cell itself .
  • The elbow has a removable flange which fixes to the side of the fuel cell so that the duct can be attached directly to the flange or via the elbow, depending on the routing required. The duct cover provides a decorative and protective closure for the duct.
  • The control panel is plugged into the Efoy via the cable, which is 1.5 metres long; if this is not long enough for your location you can use a standard ethernet-type cable.
  • The service kit, which contains a small bottle of fluid and a fuse, is not used when the Efoy is installed as it comes fully prepared: it is provided so that you have it available when eventually it is needed. campervanstuff.com sells replacement service kits.
  • Battery cables and fuses: this is one area where we were somewhat confused initially. The standard equipment includes two cable bundles (and each bundle has four cables - one pair to carry the charging current to the battery and another pair which is a 'sensing line' used by the electronics to monitor the battery state). One bundle plugs into the Efoy; the other bundle, which is complete with fuses and fuse holders, is connected to the battery and comes fitted with ring connectors to attach to the battery terminals. The two bundles simply plug together to complete the connection. However, each bundle is not very long, at 1 metre, so if your Efoy is located further away from your battery you will need an extension between the two bundles.
 

This is where it gets confusing because the manual shows, in a diagram of included parts, an extension bundle which simply plugs in between the two bundles. In fact this extension is an optional accessory and is referred to as such in the text. In practice we could not have used this extension because we would not have been able to 'fish' our cabling behind fixtures with the plugs in place because the gaps are too small.

So we bought the correct grade of twin flat 1.5 mm sq cable for our awkward cable routing, then connecting it to the two bundles by cutting off the standard plugs and joining it all together using butt crimp connectors. A word of warning though; in doing this you have to take great care to join the right wires; the original connectors do not allow you to plug them in incorrectly. With hindsight, we could have obtained the extension and cut the plugs off just one end of the extension, done our 'fishing' and then re-attached the plugs using crimp connectors; it would be easier to match the connections because the original power and sense lines have different diameters - while our add-on cable was all the same size and also had colours which did not match the original.

Having said all that, the original wiring bundles are extremely well thought out by Efoy and designed so that they are truly 'plug-and-play'; if you go and mess with that, like we did, you have to be very careful to avoid mistakes.

While we were making all the electrical connections we worked with the fuses removed from their holders on the battery-end bundle, so that none of it was live. When the rest of the installation was ready to go the fuses were replaced - and the bundle plugged into the fuel cell; but more of that later ....

The finer points of our position..

The photo below shows how we managed to position our Efoy so that it met the installation requirements:

Efoy in position

 

The fuel cell (note that it is belted down in its tray which is screwed to the floor) is placed as close as possible to the right while still leaving just enough room for the elbow to be attached to the warm air outlet; the duct is attached to the elbow and is then bent through a small storage 'bin' (now I need a new place to keep my underpants). In the wall of the bin a 10cm hole was drilled and the duct fitted into it so that it vents outside the wardrobe; the hole is protected by the supplied vent cover - the upper vent in the picture below. The lower cover (OK, not a match - it's by courtesy of Marley from B&Q) has been fitted over a second 10cm hole which serves as an intake for cool air, via the lower 'bin' (which formerly housed my socks.... ).

This was about the scariest part of the whole installation: a hole saw of this size demands very careful control of the electric drill - better after practising on some scap plywood - because a slip could end up with some very nasty scarring of our lovely interior. As it happened, halfway through the first hole, the hole saw suddenly bit hard into the material and jammed, causing the drill to be nearly wrenched from the hands. Trembling hands made ready to continue: but the drill was dead. Subsequent checks that the drill and extension leads were plugged in firmly found no fault. It transpired that, at such a critical moment, the fuse in the drill plug had blown; as the hole saw slowed it was unable to cut through the wood fibres and jammed leaving the remaining energy in the rotating mass to try to turn the drill instead.

Efoy duct outlet cover

 

A couple of points worth noting about the vent positioning: the heat vent emerges in the toilet compartment which is good for two reasons: it provides a small amount of warm air there; and the Efoy makes a slight noise which probably tends to escape via the vent but this is minimised because we can close the toilet door.

It could be considered a disadvantage to have the heat ducted into the interior generally - rather than to the exterior - since this might not be desirable in very hot weather. But in our vehicle it would be very difficult to make a 10cm hole to the exterior and besides most of the time we seem to be in cooler climes; yep, the UK. In any case we can always open the toilet window which would soon get rid of the gentle heat from the Efoy.

Although there appears to be plenty of free space to the left of the fuel cells, in fact there was not enough room to turn the cartridge holder through ninety degrees, which would have allowed the use of 10 litre cartridges. So we are restricted to 5 litre cartridges but there's room behind for a spare; and another spare goes in the very lowest compartment which is beneath the Efoy.

The thin translucent exhaust tube - which incidentally is made of silicone not pvc - can be seen running from its connection at the top right of the fuel cell; it drops down smoothly to an exit point which - a miracle - was already present within the chassis construction and was covered by a rubber grommet which, having been removed and had a 10mm hole drilled in it, was replaced and provide a perfect exit and seal for the Efoy tube. Even more amazingly, the hole is in a position where it is completely protected from spray and dirt and yet is completely outside with no path for the exhaust gases back into the vehicle interior. W still can't believe our luck. Actually it wasn't luck that found it; it was a long time poking about from inside and from beneath the vehicle, with torch and mirror, and mud and grit falling in the eye. But still luck that it was there to be found ...

To top it off

Shelf added above Efoy fuel cell

A shelf was added above the Efoy to restore some storage functionality to the wardrobe. The shelf was made high enough to allow the fuel cartridge to be changed without lifting the shelf; on the other hand the shelf can be easily lifted from its rests to allow unimpeded access to the cartridge and fuel cell.

Everything under control

The final part of the installation is the mounting of the control panel. The panel has circuitry protruding behind it so if it is to be mounted flush you have to make a cut-out in the surface you are mounting onto; this requires a pretty large hole. In our case we also had some other control panels which had been installed in a fairly temporary way so we decided to take the opportunity to mount them all together. For this we made a plywood 'instrument panel' with a cut-out for each instrument and enough depth to allow them all to be correctly recessed; after it was painted a suitable colour it all looked very neat. A hole in the bulkhead which formerly accommodated one of the instruments is now behind the panel and provides an opening for the leads to each panel

Note that Efoy produce a neat, matching plastic mounting box which allows the control panel to be fixed without having to make any cut-outs. We can supply this optional part.

Connecting the control panel is simple; the supplied lead plugs into the panel at one end and into the fuel cell at the other end.

Efoy control panel with Victron

The Efoy control panel mounted with the Victron BMV-600 battery monitor display and the control panel for the Victron Phoenix MultiPlus inverter-charger.

Start up

When all of the installation was complete, we strapped a cartridge into the holder and removed the cap. When the cap is removed the cartridge is still sealed by a valve which only opens when the connector from the fuel cell is screwed down onto the cartridge. It was then time to replace the fuses in the wiring, as mentioned earlier. And then the wiring connector was plugged into the fuel cell.

It was late at night, very quiet and dark and cold - and we were startled by the instant buzz and hum which the unit makes on startup; this soon settled down to a much quieter buzz which was further silenced when we closed the door.

Everything had gone to plan. We settled back while the Efoy completed its start-up phase, which takes about twenty minutes, before it reaches full output. The output is regulated according to the state of the battery but very soon the control panel was showing a charging rate of just over 5 amps.

 

 

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