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2017 159" High Roof
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I think I can keep my AC needs to when I can run a generator or connect to shore power.

I do think, however, that my wife will want to run a small space heater if it gets cold.

Revising my electrical needs, I’d probably include these on my list:

Heater
Induction cooktop
Instapot
Charging laptop/phone etc
Water pump
Fridge
Fan
LED lighting

Could the system you suggested handle that?
A space heater will draw 1500W and will kill your batteries just as they would with an AC unit off your inverter. There are other fossil fuel based heaters which are better suited for vans. Save your space heater for shore power.
 

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2014, 138WB, High Roof, Gas, SW MT
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Hi,
I agree with the others that an electric space heater is a very big electric load.
Most people use a propane, gasoline or diesel furnace to provide heating. There are many posts on the forum showing these fossil fuel furnaces and what's involved in installing them.

If the heating needs are very modest, you might get by with good insulation and a 12 volt heated mattress pad.

We kept track of propane usage for heating on one cold weather trip with night time lows around 20F. If I convert the propane use to the equivalent amount of electricity, it comes out 12 KWH per day/night, this is about 1000 amp-hrs worth of batteries. Much more than you are going to want to carry.

Gary
 

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Basically "heating" and 'air conditioning" via a battery pack are very large power consumers.

To put it into a financial context - the battery pack alone costs ~ $1.5K for each hour of run time. ( 8hrs ) x ( $ 1.5K/ hr) ~ $10K just in batteries.

I build systems like this, partly because CA more or less bans generators but for most people, a honda 3000 is a better choice.
 

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I plan to have 3 - 4 full days per week to have to work on the van but am a newbie with “average” inclination to handiness.

So yes you’re probably right that 4 months is optimistic.

I was more posing the question to get an idea of how much time in terms of percentage of total build completion it would take to get to the point where I could take it on the road.

so let’s say it takes a year to complete, would 3 months be realistic to complete insulation & some electrical?

One of the things I’d like to determine in the first “trial” trips is whether I want solar or not. So my thought is to not complete the electrical work until I make that determination. Once I do, then I can move forward with carpentry, etc
You can probably pull off the build that quickly if you out source the electrical part.

A lot of time is spent on research and gathering parts / tools. The actual build time for the electrical portion is not that long.

It is sort of like deciding to drink wine that comes from grapes that you grow yourself in your own garden.

The drinking part is pretty quick. Figuring out what grape vines to buy, growing them, buying all of the equipment to do it involves a lot of overhead.
 

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Discussion Starter #26
Basically "heating" and 'air conditioning" via a battery pack are very large power consumers.

To put it into a financial context - the battery pack alone costs ~ $1.5K for each hour of run time. ( 8hrs ) x ( $ 1.5K/ hr) ~ $10K just in batteries.

I build systems like this, partly because CA more or less bans generators but for most people, a honda 3000 is a better choice.
I have a Honda 2200. wondering if there’s a good heating option that could run off that with a propane attachment/adapter if I’m unable to use the Honda
 

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One heating option you could think about while your van conversion is in progress is a heater like this:

This is a non-vented propane heater that works off small disposable propane cylinders. It would provide plenty of heat, but has disadvantages -- the fact that the combustion products are not vented outside means that you MUST have good ventilation in the van to use it. It also generates moisture, so again adequate ventilation is a must. I would not consider it as a permanent van heater, but for a few trips while you are doing the conversion, I think it would be OK. You could use it to warm the van before bedtime and again in the morning to take the chill off the van, and that would avoid any potential safety hazard that comes out of not venting the combustion products to outside.

One thing to be aware of is that generators are not popular with campers. They are outlawed in some campgrounds. This is due to the noise -- no one wants to go camp out in the "wilderness" and have to listen to their neighbors generator. We were at the Maroon Bells campground in CO once, and were next to two campers who came very close to an actual physical fight over one of them having a generator. It is true that of the generators out there, the Honda's are among the best noise wise.

Gary
 

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2020 159 HR
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On the question of "how quickly" you can make the van usable - lots of folks have pointed out that basic camping functionality (especially insulation) is easy to do fast. I think that's especially true if you are willing to go for Thinsulate rather than Polyiso rigid foam (the two preferred methods on the forum). Of the two, Polyiso seems to allow for lower cost and slightly better R value - but having gone through well over half my insulation in what I estimate to be about 3-4 hours, the Thinsulate is something you might want to consider. Especially if you want to be able to then use the van before you've done all the wall/ceiling paneling (which can be timeconsuming depending on what you do). Thinsulate cut roughly to size and adhered with 3M 90 will stay in place and not make much of a mess (unlike Great Stuff, which requires a fair bit of either masking before, cleanup after, or both, unless you're a real wizard with the Pro Gun applicator), and you're then looking at the black fabric side of the insulation which is far from aesthetically pleasing, but definitely not a problem for a trip or two. What's more - if you're putting in windows/fans later, you can still insulate those areas until those come in/you get around to installing them, because you can simply rip the Thinsulate off the wall/ceiling and clean the area up with Acetone. So you'd buy yourself some flexibility not just on early use of the van, and a bit less total work time - but there's also the workflow issue. I can go out into the driveway and spend 20 minutes putting up some Thinsulate, with minimal prep/cleanup time - so I can fit that in whenever, as opposed to having to wait for a big block of work time to cut polyiso, mess with Great Stuff, etc. The tradeoff, of course, being that Thinsulate is slightly lower in R value and a bit more expensive.

Heat... - I've thought long and hard about installing a heater. And decided against it - for now. That's because our use profile won't, at least at first, include serious winter camping. So I've added an extra two 100ah LifePo4 battery to the build sheet over the one I had planned originally (Renogy sold each of those for somewhere around $600/100ah battery around Black Friday on their Amazon store), and I plan on using that extra capacity to take the chill out of cool (but not seriously cold) nights by powering (a) a 12V mattress pad and (b) a 300W electric (also 12V) ceramic car heater (think of it as a 12V version of one of those tiny under-desk space heaters). So the idea is to get the van warm with the engine running when getting ready for the night, then using the mattress pad to get the bed warm (while the engine is still running - so no draw on battery capacity yet), and then use those devices to keep things warm. Max usage is going to be around 400W - so that gives me six hours with both on at full blast or more realistically 9 hours with both on "low" (with the 3rd battery's 100ah capacity being available for lights, fan, fridge. I had originally thought I'd use one of those neat infrared panel heaters (200W would be plenty for this use) - but those only come in 120V AC as far as I've been able to find, so the little ceramic space heater will be the proof of concept. This won't work if we can't recharge between nights in the van - but we're thinking that's OK for how we're planning on using it (winters would be more about road-tripping to warmer places - so lots of drive time with the alternator charging the house batteries, and not a lot of staying in one place for a couple nights). If we find that winter camping becomes a thing - well, the next step would be either a gasoline or diesel heater or a generator providing the electricity for a bigger space heater.

And wow, Wayfarer vans... - I think they're really onto something conceptually (simple modular conversion, airy and cozy and not super-heavy interior; plug and play). But I can't quite justify the pricing for what they're offering - then again, the plug and play part might well be worth it to a lot of folks. Contributors on this forum tend to be more of a DIY mindset for a variety of reasons (joy of building your own stuff; knowing exactly how it's built; budget; being able to tailor to one's own use in a way that would be hard/costly to achieve with a builder). They seem to be selling a lot of vans/buildouts, so they must be hitting the sweet spot for a lot of their customers.
 

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2018 3500 EXT
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perhaps the heater is best run off a propane tank
Propane was not our 1st choice, but eventually that is what we did. Next van build we will probably go Propane frm the get go; Furnace, Cooking, Hot Water.

We did try van camping without the propane furnace, but that got c(old) fast. We are happy with our Propex Propane furnace.
 

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I don't have a van yet but do plan to purchase a used 3500 extended within next two months so take it for what its worth. I think I've watched 100 hour plus of promaster builds and countless van tours. Not to mention spending mindless hours researching and planning and spending time on this forum though I'm not very active in responding. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want but still not 100% sure. I think only you can answer the question you have but I'm planning to use it similarly as you, a family travel van. I'm pretty sure I'm going Goal Zero/Jackery route due to simplicity and I also have a foldable 160W solar panel which I could charge the battery. I do like the idea of building my own Lithium ion battery pack but that can be updated later. AC and space heater question and few other follow ups tells me that I think you should have someone else build it for you. DIY for you sounds like it will be a burden rather than enjoyment as you mentioned being kind of handy. Think someone who is geeked about DIY vanbuild would have just as fun researching it then doing it actual build itself. But that's just me. Also note with generators is that you won't be able to have them on overnight at campsites and stuff. Perhaps you can outsource bits and pieces or get someone local to you who is just starting to do van conversions to build your van to get a better price. Good luck and do keep us updated!
 

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I don't have a van yet but do plan to purchase a used 3500 extended within next two months so take it for what its worth. I think I've watched 100 hour plus of promaster builds and countless van tours. Not to mention spending mindless hours researching and planning and spending time on this forum though I'm not very active in responding. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want but still not 100% sure. I think only you can answer the question you have but I'm planning to use it similarly as you, a family travel van. I'm pretty sure I'm going Goal Zero/Jackery route due to simplicity and I also have a foldable 160W solar panel which I could charge the battery. I do like the idea of building my own Lithium ion battery pack but that can be updated later. AC and space heater question and few other follow ups tells me that I think you should have someone else build it for you. DIY for you sounds like it will be a burden rather than enjoyment as you mentioned being kind of handy. Think someone who is geeked about DIY vanbuild would have just as fun researching it then doing it actual build itself. But that's just me. Also note with generators is that you won't be able to have them on overnight at campsites and stuff. Perhaps you can outsource bits and pieces or get someone local to you who is just starting to do van conversions to build your van to get a better price. Good luck and do keep us updated!
@kumatae

You might benefit from starting a “Build Thread” on here now even though you do not have your PM yet. IMO, if you do that you will get the full benefit from experienced DIYers & in particular “a one stop shopping” of reference for “Your Build”.

Being my 1st DIY Camper Van, I went thru the same hours & hours of research on the web to attempt to figure out my design - it was exhausting. Had I been smart enough to join this Forum & start a build thread I would have benefitted greatly & wasted less time designing around such items like “All Things Heat” & maybe other decisions that I got wrong. By the time I joined this forum properly my build was complete.

You having joined this forum before even acquiring a PM Van is way ahead of me. You could use this forum (& other DIYers ideas) to your maximum benefit.
 

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One heating option you could think about while your van conversion is in progress is a heater like this:

This is a non-vented propane heater that works off small disposable propane cylinders. It would provide plenty of heat, but has disadvantages -- the fact that the combustion products are not vented outside means that you MUST have good ventilation in the van to use it. It also generates moisture, so again adequate ventilation is a must. I would not consider it as a permanent van heater, but for a few trips while you are doing the conversion, I think it would be OK. You could use it to warm the van before bedtime and again in the morning to take the chill off the van, and that would avoid any potential safety hazard that comes out of not venting the combustion products to outside.

One thing to be aware of is that generators are not popular with campers. They are outlawed in some campgrounds. This is due to the noise -- no one wants to go camp out in the "wilderness" and have to listen to their neighbors generator. We were at the Maroon Bells campground in CO once, and were next to two campers who came very close to an actual physical fight over one of them having a generator. It is true that of the generators out there, the Honda's are among the best noise wise.

Gary
We have a Mr Heater “Big Buddy” heater. IIRC they are not allowed in Canada for internal use. I would not use one in a van, but I have used it in a tent. Humans at a cellular level all die from basically the same thing “lack of oxygen”. Anything combustion for me, I want the intake & exhaust to be on the outside (not inside).

We all have to assess our own risks that we take with DIY Vans,,,or I suppose starting up a generator in the wilderness. 🙀

I agree with you, as I seem to get punched out less with the Honda. In actuality we only carry it for emergency use & when isolated (I prefer the sound of nature over a generator).
 

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Discussion Starter #33
I don't have a van yet but do plan to purchase a used 3500 extended within next two months so take it for what its worth. I think I've watched 100 hour plus of promaster builds and countless van tours. Not to mention spending mindless hours researching and planning and spending time on this forum though I'm not very active in responding. I think I have a pretty good idea of what I want but still not 100% sure. I think only you can answer the question you have but I'm planning to use it similarly as you, a family travel van. I'm pretty sure I'm going Goal Zero/Jackery route due to simplicity and I also have a foldable 160W solar panel which I could charge the battery. I do like the idea of building my own Lithium ion battery pack but that can be updated later. AC and space heater question and few other follow ups tells me that I think you should have someone else build it for you. DIY for you sounds like it will be a burden rather than enjoyment as you mentioned being kind of handy. Think someone who is geeked about DIY vanbuild would have just as fun researching it then doing it actual build itself. But that's just me. Also note with generators is that you won't be able to have them on overnight at campsites and stuff. Perhaps you can outsource bits and pieces or get someone local to you who is just starting to do van conversions to build your van to get a better price. Good luck and do keep us updated!
[/QU
One heating option you could think about while your van conversion is in progress is a heater like this:

This is a non-vented propane heater that works off small disposable propane cylinders. It would provide plenty of heat, but has disadvantages -- the fact that the combustion products are not vented outside means that you MUST have good ventilation in the van to use it. It also generates moisture, so again adequate ventilation is a must. I would not consider it as a permanent van heater, but for a few trips while you are doing the conversion, I think it would be OK. You could use it to warm the van before bedtime and again in the morning to take the chill off the van, and that would avoid any potential safety hazard that comes out of not venting the combustion products to outside.

One thing to be aware of is that generators are not popular with campers. They are outlawed in some campgrounds. This is due to the noise -- no one wants to go camp out in the "wilderness" and have to listen to their neighbors generator. We were at the Maroon Bells campground in CO once, and were next to two campers who came very close to an actual physical fight over one of them having a generator. It is true that of the generators out there, the Honda's are among the best noise wise.

Gary
I actually have helped someone cut into a van to install a window so I feel pretty confident in my ability to install a maxxair fan. I plan on that being one of my first projects. Would that be adequate ventilation?
 

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I actually have helped someone cut into a van to install a window so I feel pretty confident in my ability to install a maxxair fan. I plan on that being one of my first projects. Would that be adequate ventilation?
The maxxair fan moves a ton of air, but you do need both an air inlet and an air outlet.
For most people the maxxair is set to exhaust air, and the air inlet is a window. But, there are other possibilites of the inlet, like a floor vent.

The Mr. Heater has a low oxygen sensor which should turn it off if the oxygen level gets to low, but it would also be good to have an carbon monoxide detector. This is a good thing to have whether you have the Mr. Heater or a conventional furnace.
This is a nice one to use in that it covers both smoke and CO, and it has a 10 year Li battery..

Gary
 

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I actually have helped someone cut into a van to install a window so I feel pretty confident in my ability to install a maxxair fan. I plan on that being one of my first projects. Would that be adequate ventilation?
Not sure what location you are planning to install the roof fan, but there is a perfect spot on the PM roof for a standard opening 14” x 14” standard opening for these fans.

It is the highest part of the van & allows for a flat area to mount the fan as the corrugations can get cut out.
 

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2019 159 High Top - White, of course!
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I have a Buddy Heater and have used it judiciously in the van. I also have a CO monitor, and I have never seen it even register. I do use the MaxAir either exhausting, or at least open. This also helps reduce the condensation caused by the moisture inside the van. And I never sleep with the heater on. I get the van up to temp, including all the interior parts and pieces, then shut it off as I go to bed (and close the fan). The van is well insulated and it rarely cools down to uncomfortable levels. The last time I used it, the temps got down to only 40f, and in the morning, the van was still 60f.
 

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I thought the electric would be tough but it was actually really easy. I'm not "handy" - in the sense that I've rarely done any tinkering or building or fixing, spending my free time on physical activities instead. And I knew nothing about electricity other than my basic physics and one circuits class from college maybe a dozen years ago. But if you got the brain for it, the basic circuits, wires, fuses, components, and VI=P is pretty much all you need. Learning, planning the system, shopping, and planning the layout took most of the time. The system was installed in a couple afternoons, plus another couple for solar. Very happy with it and glad I did it.

We've took a trip with just insulation, windows, bed, and electric installed. Installed propane heat for a cold weather trip.

If you are desert camping maybe look into evaporative coolers, provided you can carry enough water.
 

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2021 Ram Promaster 159" EXT (its a CAVE)
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My experience with my self installed solar on my RV (and will be in my van too!) it really isn't that hard to set up if you just worry about 1 step at a time. We boondocked a lot (admittedly mostly down south in AZ, NV & CA) and every day had full batteries. For me waking up in the morning to an almost FULL battery was the benefit of having a permanent install that started charging while I was still lazing about. I didn't have to think about it. I didn't have to worry about it. It just WORKS automatically if the sun is shining. For those portable systems, you have to worry about them growing legs and "walking" away, and for that reason I wouldn't want them sitting outside overnight without a very vicious and deadly guard dog trained to watch over it, either that or YOU have to babysit it and that means you are stuck sitting next to/in your van while charging. Go permanent install and you will NOT regret it! I will be doing a write up soon on our solar install once we get to that (I've already got most of what I need sitting in my garage). First things first though, I go pick up my van on Monday ;)
 

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oh, and you are NEVER going to be able to run A/C on a portable power generator currently available. So you need to find other ways to stay cool. Truth is if you are going to be at Burning Man is that you are not going to stay inside of your van the whole time. Wear clothing that you don't mind soaking with water and that will keep you cool even in temps as high as 112 degrees, that's how I enjoyed the outdoors while up near Zion NP this summer. We were near both a river and at other times a lake, and anytime I felt hot I jumped in the water for full submersion. Bring lots of water and hose yourself down. Your water might initially feel like it's hot tub temp, but the evaporation will cool that off.
 

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If you are worried about heating your van, space heaters are great for when you get to hook up to shore power. But when boondocking that won't work for long before draining your battery bank. Webasto is gasoline powered (Ram Promaster even has a specific spot in the floor where you can tap into your gas tank!!!), takes fuel from the van's gas tank, and only uses a little electricity to run. It's a dry heat and all venting happens outside under your van. That's what I've seen others doing with great success, and what we will do when that time comes.
 
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