Tom Sandner has been fascinated for a long time by the idea of also using his car as a house on wheels. At 18, just out of school, he converted his first VW bus into a camper and drove to Italy with three friends. “There’s simply nothing better than tossing some clothes and a bike or skis into the car and driving off,” says Sandner, who is now 35. “I like being outdoors a lot and being able to decide where to go next on a whim.”
Now Sandner drives a Bresler van on a Fiat Ducato chassis and allows himself more comfort, such as a permanently installed high roof and a heating system with hot-water boiler. They make the vehicle capable of journeys in any weather and during all seasons. Last winter, Sandner drove to Spain and Portugal for four weeks. “In the Sierra Nevada at 2,300 meters, it can easily cool off to minus five degrees at night. Then it’s important for the heater to work reliably.”
Sandner can count on that since the heater is from his employer, Truma Gerätetechnik GmbH & Co. KG in Putzbrunn near Munich. A family business founded in 1949, Truma is the market leader in liquid gas heaters for recreational vehicles. Its customers include Hymer, Dethleffs and Fendt — nearly all European motor home and camper manufacturers. The Truma Group is also active internationally, in Europe, China, the United States, Australia and elsewhere.
Small, lightweight and quiet
Truma Combi heaters warm up living areas and heat ten liters of water in a tank. One component, the integrated blower for combustion air, was specially developed by ebm-papst to meet the heater’s requirements. “Small, lightweight and quiet were the requirements,” says Bernhard Schloderer, who works in international strategic purchasing. Small because there is not much space in a house on wheels. Lightweight because the permissible maximum weight of vehicles is regulated, and a high base weight automatically means less luggage is allowed. Quiet because the unit is often installed under a bed and should not disturb the occupants. The result is a compact heater that is barely audible and smoothly adjustable as well.
Another requirement is reliability at extreme temperatures. “The unit has to work safely from minus 30 to plus 70 degrees Celsius,” says Schloderer. “The blower from ebm-papst is like the Mercedes of its market, exceptionally long-lasting and reliable. That’s important to us. No customer would forgive us if he was in the mountains in subfreezing temperatures and the heater failed.”
Hot and cold solutions
What is true of cold is also a must for heat: a pleasant climate inside the vehicle even in the summer sun. In addition to the heater, which Truma is developing in cooperation with ebm-papst Landshut, ebm-papst Mulfingen has been delivering centrifugal fans for air conditioners to Putzbrunn for 13 years. Truma then installs them in roof-mounted or storage compartment air conditioning systems. Lightness is crucial for these units as well. Schloderer describes working with ebm-papst as complementary cooperation: “We find solutions together. One can’t do without the other.”
Truma has added a special new gadget to its range, an app to control heaters and air conditioners. A freezing or overheated camper is a poor welcome after a day spent on the slopes or the beach. Not a problem, because the temperature can even be controlled from outside. No wonder the trend toward living in a small space, so-called tiny living, is becoming increasingly popular if it means not having to forgo comfort.
Tom Sandner is on the move outdoors during every free minute. Even in winter. (Photo: Tom Sandner)
The temperature in the Camper can be adjusted from the outdoors. (Photo: Tom Sandner)
Some of Tom Sandner’s coworkers do not have campers of their own, but they can still experience some of their company’s products at work. Truma makes a pool of ten vehicles available to its employees, who can borrow them for excursions and vacations. Then the valuable experiences gained from traveling end up right where new ideas for improvement get developed.