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Discussion Starter · #1 · (Edited)
Edit to add links to various photo updates throughout the thread.

Photo links:
Seat swivels.........................................82
Bed platform.........................................91
Sliding door window.............................92
Bunk windows & fan............................101, 103
Primer..................................................109
Insulation, furring, etc..........................110
Roof rails, electric box started.............114
Mattress, electrical box........................115
Electrical..............................................116
Solar panels.........................................124
First trip................................................135
Propex, start wall panels......................157
Second trip...........................................161
Ceiling..................................................166
Upper wall panels.................................190
Toilet.....................................................191, 208, 304
Driver side cabinet, fridge.....................218, 219, 222, 229, 233, 234
Water tank, cold and hot, plumbing......237, 246, 267, 269
Passenger side, kitchen.......................249, 267
Sink, trash............................................276, 277, 278
Third trip...............................................291, 292
Fourth trip.............................................299
Upper cabinets.....................................302, 303
Shelf over slider....................................307
Lighting.................................................309
Outlets, control panels..........................334, 335
Subwoofers..........................................337, 338, 348, 349
Flooring................................................347
House stereo........................................349, 366
Cab speakers and amps......................350
Gear and bike drawers.........................351
Bed shelves..........................................352
Epoxy Lagun table top..........................357
Storage and mounting items.................367
Shower, near-complete photos.............368

Original Post

Hi, I just bought a van and have spent some 60+ hours researching. Trying to settle on a layout before getting into the details of every inch. Need space for a bike or two, and also need space for mobile offices. Thinking of converting part of the raised bed into a workstation, and using the swivel seat as another station. The annoying thing here is the location of the toilet, which seems a bit inconvenient as a seat. Thinking propane system up the right, electric up the left. Anyone put propane+gray water beneath sink/counter?
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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
The convertible bed looks a bit complex. Do you need two “normal” workstations? Is this for two people who need to work simultaneously?
Yes it could be too complex - just an idea. I figure there has to be some way to remove part of a bed that isn't too hard to build. Yes, 2 people 2 workstations. One thing I haven't even thought of yet is where to put a litter box...

I find it helpful to have different desk orientations (a U shaped seating section in the rear, my van is usually parked on some sort of angle and don’t want asymmetry in my body for too long). Also, I use a raised bed in the rear as a standing desk height, may want to consider.
My wife would be fine with a standing desk, so that is something to consider. The fixed bed would get back some under bed storage and simplicity.

Congratulations on your recent van purchase.

Your floor plan looks similar to ours. I would think if you had a pullout desk that just slide out from under the bed that might be a solution for a work station, but I don't even know the model of van you have purchased.

It is great that you started this thread with a floorplan & section, we would also need to know your “needs” vs “wants”. Looks like it you are keeping it basic which is a good thing. The more we know about your “intended” use the more design ideas we can provide you here.
Don't even know yet. I'd probably be cool with moving into it full time and traveling. My wife is thinking shorter term, but still several weeks at a time.Either way, 2 work-from-home-away-from-home stations are needed. So far I haven't given up on fitting in at least one bike, thus the raised bed. We are pretty minimalist already and won't need extra stuff. Just a bike and some tent camping (backpacking) gear. We have a cat who might not like it but we intend to try. He won't last forever but in the meantime gotta find a way to deal with litter.

My main opinion at this stage for you is “Design” is everything. A good simple design is a great start to a successful project.
The more I research the more difficult design seems. So many things to consider, including what order I have to do everything. How to fasten everything. How to build cabinets. How to wire electronics. How to cut a hole in the roof.

Another point I can think of is; it looks like you have designed your conversion for a single person use. If that is the case, you may want to consider a design that can incorporate a double sleeper (if things change for you or for resale value down the road). If we can keep our designs flexible or convertible “with ease” I think that is a good thing.
2 person use. Double bed. Was thinking of making a section of the bed convertible for a second workstation. The pull out or standing desk ideas might be better.

The front half of your van is similar to our design. I suggest putting a box underneath your feet behind the swivel seats. If you don't your feet will be dangling in the air when the seats are swiveled around because of the 6" bulkhead behind the seats. The box we did is approx 9" high and 14" wide running all the way from the drivers side to the sliding door. The top lifts up so you can store a lot of stuff in it.
Ho wide does the box need to be? I'm not sure where the front of the seats end up when swiveled around.
 

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Discussion Starter · #14 ·
I was thinking the same as @jracca

use the factory seats swivel & a couple of collapsible tables/work stations

then a full elevated bed in the back that you can get a couple of bikes & other gear under

If that does not work for you, one swivel seat/work station & a work station @ the bed (standup or otherwise)

If you can design “spaces” in your van for dual or triple functions IMO those make the best designs. Our slider area is a way in & out, our fridge slides into that space, & we both sit on the floor In that space with our feet on the outside ground, we also access the fridge from the outside thru that space
Oh fridge at the sliding door is a good idea.
 

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Discussion Starter · #16 ·
The front of the seat hangs a few inches over the bulkhead. I made my box 14 inches wide which should for most feet comfortably. If say anywhere between 13" and 16" is good.
Oh look at that, you already said how wide it is and somehow I missed it. Good to know for planning even if it's not the exact final size.
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
In a van, everything has to do triple duty.

Some conveniences go away.

For example, is there a way to make a combination "wet area" that combines ALL of the needs of a shower, sink, toilet, etc into a 3x3 foot print?

A large refrigerator / freezer setup can be used to store ALL food related items, including paper plates.

There isn't much water in a van, so consider to not wash dishes (yes those dreaded word - paper plates and cups) and only "reheat food " instead of "cooking".

Skip installing a full water system. Use a gallon of bottled water to take a shower.

Reheat pre-made frozen meat instead of frying it in the van.

Combo convection microwave oven.

A bench and a bed become one item.

Mount the bike on the back door when feasible, move it inside only when really required.

From my perspective, the part assigned to electrical might be too small to really work for your likely needs in a mobile office.

Just some thoughts for squeezing out some space.
Thanks for the thoughts. As far as conveniences going away, we are both comfortable with backpacking for a couple nights, but I don't think my wife wants the extended backpacker experience for several weeks at a time. We are good with minimal conveniences though.

"wet area" - I intend to buy a composting toilet, sink with gray water, and shower outside when available.

"paper plates" - We would much rather use plastic dishes than make waste. When we backpack I use a few ounces of water to wash our 2 dishes, and I drink the gray water. A few extra ounces for the convenience of basically RV living seems reasonable.

"water system" - Like I said, when we backpack for a few nights we are fine. But for more than that I would need (very much like) to proper wash my hair, and I'm not gonna cut my hair. I will put in a proper water tank.

"reheat food" - We always cook food. Never had a microwave dinner in my life, nor do I want to start now, but I might install a 600 watt microwave for leftovers. A portable cheapo coleman seems reasonable, and could be moved outdoors for cooking when weather is nice.

"bed and bench become one, bikes outside most of the time" - I am mostly set against this, but this may be SF bias - I've had several bikes stolen. From 3rd floor balcony, from being locked up in well lit attended downtown garage in the middle of the day, from inside a store when I turned my back for 20 seconds. I like my bikes secure, but might consider sketching up a layout with bikes outside while we are awake and in the middle of nowhere. But still, they would need to be inside if we are near town or asleep. Also the raised bed provides extra storage options. Something to think about.

"Electrical too small" - This I really have no idea. I'm a structural engineer. In other words, I hate black magic such as electricity. I was thinking 2400 Wh (2-12V 100Ah LiFePO4 batteries), 400 watts solar, battery to battery charger (I have a 220 amp alternator if that makes a difference), charge converter, fuse box. The fancy ass batteries save space vs the older lunks and last more charge cycles with less maintenance. Basically I just assigned a space as a "design development" placeholder. It could spread out if needed.

Here is a revised layout idea. The fridge by the door was scrapped - Top open fridges are pretty long and I like the cook stove by the door, plus trying to balance weight a bit by keeping the fridge on the driver side. Open to revisions of course. Scrapped the convertible bed. The rear workstation could be stand up at the bed, or pull out while sitting on the toilet box. I may have to chamfer the counter to provide easy access, but that shouldn't be too bad since fridges are typically not super deep (from a quick google search of various models).
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Discussion Starter · #21 ·
Another thing I have to ponder is windows.

I was initially thinking a skylight would be nice, but might be hard to fit 400w solar, fan, maybe an evap in the future, and a skylight. Also skylights are pricey. What windows would y'all recommend for semi-stealth yet still livable? Thinking passenger door would be nice for living light and driving. Rear door windows I'm not quite sold on, but might make driving easier. Side bed windows... meh - are these really useful to have?
 

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Discussion Starter · #23 ·
There is no such thing as semi-stealth! Your van either looks like a work van or an RV. People who care about who/what you’re doing aren’t easily fooled.
I say "semi-stealth" as someone who lives in SF and sees very very many stealth and non-stealth campers everywhere. Depending on where they are. There are full on RVs running generators during the day at the park down the block. There is a camp of tents down the other block. Other places one might want to "fit in" more. But I think there are many places where something that looks like a van at first glance, yet seems to be an RV on closer inspection, would fly for a few nights. Thus "semi-stealth". I don't think we are gonna fool any Karens with solar on our roof, and I'm fine with that risk. But I don't want every random passer-by to be a potential tattle-tale. I think my van with a few upgrades could pass in my neighborhood for a week or two before some busy-body felt it's their duty to get rid of me.
 

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Discussion Starter · #36 ·
The reason to be "stealth" is to park in places where certain NIMBYs think I shouldn't be. Not to park places where I actually shouldn't be. It's really not that hard to find places without a 7 ft height restriction and that's in SF.

Ok, sliding door window is a no brainer. Can always cover it with insulation at night, and can't build cabinets on the door anyway. I'll leave the driver side as is. A vent/window at the bed makes sense also.
 

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Discussion Starter · #49 ·
Idk, adding cameras seems really tough/pricey.

I'll look more into roof mount options. I don't think the ladder rack comes with rails new, I think they are a separate package based on the vehicle.

Another question is battery usage estimate. Assuming I do propane heat and cooking, one apple laptop 8 hours, one gaming laptop 8 hours, 2 monitors, fridge, and all the little stuff. I think 200Ah LiFePO4 should be good unless sitting in one spot for a couple days. Hard to know when I'm not sure what I'll want in the future. Can I charge from my alternator while idling? Looking into a 60 amp b2b charger. I have the 220A alternator, not sure how many amps I should try and pull from it.
 

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Discussion Starter · #54 ·
I know the basics of how to calculate power usage, problem is I'm in schematic design phase and only have rough estimates for component power usage. For example, I can do a quick fridge search and get a range of current draw, but without actually using one on the road I can't know how many hours per day it will be working. I can pull rough numbers out of my ass.

Was also trying to guess how much our laptops draw on average without ordering a kill a watt meter. Then I realized I can estimate 3 full charges per day with a 65 wh battery ~= 200 Wh. Portable monitor 50 Wh/day. Lets say my wife uses the same (she won't on her wimpy mac), so 500 Wh/day for work. That's much better than what I was imagining. Lets say another 500 Wh/day for fridge, and another few hundred for misc. 2 kwh should be ok for a few days between drives with a bit of solar.

Found some Dutchman branded 100 Ah LiFePO4 with BMS on ebay. Only $550 including shipping. I was thinking I'd be spending $2000 on 200 Ah, so now I'm tempted to buy an extra battery but I really think I'd have to try hard to use it. Maybe power a dance party in the desert? Lol.
 

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Discussion Starter · #57 ·
We're planning on getting this charger for my MacBook Pro: 72W Type-C PD Car Charger Adapter. Won't have an inverter.
Unfortunately there aren't any DC chargers for my MSI laptop.

I'm debating inverter size with myself now. (I should be working.) Seems 1000 W should be good for most anything unless I want to bring a toaster on board or run power tools. Laptop is 180 watts, and the wife's mac could run on DC. I don't plan to have grid power but an inverter/charger would provide flexibility for future options but costs a lot more.

Any opinions on Renogy brand parts? For:
  • Solar/charge controller
  • B2B charger
  • Inverter
 

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Discussion Starter · #58 ·
Thanks for that. So my van is the EXT which has 14” extra between the wheel wells & the back doors

@RnR has a standard 159” & has been designing a floor plan for awhile, so I would think he knows the dimensions quite well. I posted the Sportmobile layout pdf & that will also give you dimentions To help you rough in sizes.

What size bed do you want? Our is queen width 60”. How long are your bikes you want to put under the bed, as that will be a deciding factor (assuming the bed is going from wall to wall length 73” to 74”
I measured everything. ±1/2" or so, should be good for fairly detailed design. Thinking 54" for the bed. Bikes are a bit longer but the bed can't fit right up against the doors anyway so it might work. Will have to measure the bikes exactly for more detailed design and required bed height. My gravel bike has a dropper post and my wife is super short so we might not need as much height as others, but might not be good to store the bike with dropper down. Gotta check the bike forums.

My wife is suggesting store the bikes outside locked up during the day and driving, and bring them into the kitchen when we sleep but I'm not optimistic about fitting the bikes in the kitchen. Even it they do fit, doing that every night sounds annoying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #61 · (Edited)
I have their 60A MPPT charge controller, a 40A DC-DC charger, and their 100Ah LiFePO4 battery. All serving well. I would've gotten their inverter too but they were out of stock at the time. I find their products to be good, priced reasonably, and, importantly, have decent North American based support. This is key for a noob with vehicle electrics systems.

Oh, and I recently got their shunt-based battery monitor. It's excellent.
I was comparing their solar panels to HQST panels today. Renogy is a good bit more expensive, but it looks like their dimensions are much better for fitting to van roof - the 100 W panels are narrow for mounting long ways, and the 200 W panels fit nicely crosswise. The 200 W panels are $300 which seems pricey but may be worth it if it's as simple as bolting to the existing rails.

Looking at charge converters and can't figure out what the amp rating means. Is it output or input? Or both? For instance, solar panel voltage is typically higher than the battery, so the current will increase on output. 4 panels at 5.3 amps = 21.2 amps in, but at 12 volts it's 33 amps out. Will a 30 amp charge controller work? Assuming less than 90% efficiency I guess it would but is the current rating output or input?
 

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Discussion Starter · #68 ·
Ok I plan on 40 A charge controller cuz more current is a lot more $$ and I doubt I'll install more than 400W solar. I plan to be able to fit 600 but that's a maybe someday.

Looking at a 2000W China pure sine inverter on ebay, with all the trimmings like remote control, AC hook up spot and the usual safety features. Only $210 but not sure if this is a good spot to go noname China. Renogy is out of stock and much more pricey for what seems to be the same thing with the same features and the same warranty. Tho I doubt I'll be able to use a direct from China warranty.

My batteries just came in! It'll be a while before I get to put em in but found a deal and bought em. Got a non-china warranty on the LiFePO4 with all the usual safety shutoffs and such for $550/100 Ah.

We are moving apartments today and in the next few days. Then I'll be planning a trip to Iva Bell Hot Springs backpacking in a couple weeks. But after that I'll be full hobby time on the van. So I gotta buckle down and order some windows and research what I will need to install them, and probably insulation at the same time. Hopefully I can get windows and insulation done by Thanksgiving and we can take it down to visit family in AZ with a bed mattress and camping gear.
 

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Discussion Starter · #70 ·
A good quality inverter runs $0.50 / watt to $1/ watt.

There are factories in China that make inverters. You can have any inverter they make labeled for any capacity that you like. That is what Renogy, Cobra, and others do.

It is literally "what do you want stamped on the box."

A $200 inverter is a 200 - 300 watt inverter that has been labeled as whatever was requested by the re-seller.

US inverter companies make and sell their own inverters and they actually will produce what they are labeled.

There is no greater fraud in the van market today than inverters. It is a really a crime.
I don't believe that. It's really easy to plug a microwave or something in and see if it works. 2000 can't pass ass 300. And renogy seems to be a quality brand with 2000 watt inverters around 300 -340.
 

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Discussion Starter · #75 ·
They do have their inverters made in China and you can get the same inverter directly from China, with a different name on it, for less $.
In fact, if it looks just like a renogy product with a different name, it's probably the same product.
Got a link to the one you found for $210?
No it's not the same.
 
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