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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi all, my name is David, my wife and I live in central Montana. For the previous 10 years we had a nice, relatively small 18’ travel trailer. The winter of 2016 we spent a month boondocking in Arizona. Prior to that we used the trailer for weekend and week long outings. With the trip to Arizona I did not want repeat that trip with a trailer, I missed the freedom we had with our 1987 VW Vanagon. Prior to the AZ trip I had started looking at van forums and blogs but after the trip the research really kicked in. We decided to sell the home I had built 20 years earlier and move back to the much smaller house we lived in previously and had been renting out. Our renters of six years were in the process of buying their own home so the timing seemed good.

We ended up selling our home without an agent to a young couple with two 11 year olds. This put us facing moving from 2700 square feet down to 1260 sf. Big time downsizing. More than 40 boxes of books went to the library for the annual book sale. Trip after trip to the Salvation Army, St. Vincent, Good will and the Rescue Mission thrift stores. Sold a lot of BIG shop tools and replaced them with more portable models. Gave away and left for the new owners tons of stuff.

We've downsized a lot but are still working on it, and we now also own a 2017 Granite metallic, 159”, gasser, window van. Haven’t named it yet but I'm sure that will come. This is it.

 

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Welcome. Great color for a PM !! We downsized 17 years ago from 3600 sf. to 945 sf. (then built a 3600 sf. shop/garage).
 

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We too did the downsize but from one big house and barn to two smaller ones to have a place in the winter sun. Being a builder I built them both to make it affordable. It feels good to get rid of all that stuff until you remember you sold or gave away the thing you need today! Welcome. We are planning an AZ meet-up next winter, don’t be left out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 · (Edited)
First thing we needed was to add running boards to make entry and exit easier for the both of us. The running board decision was the result of comments gleaned here on the forum. Next was trying to decide on insulation. For the floor I went with 1” polyiso under plywood, again info gleaned from the forum. The next chore was cutting the hole in the roof for the MaxxFan 7500. I previously had this same model in our travel trailer. For the wall and roof insulation I had originally planned the two part spray foam but changed my mind and went with the 1” polyiso anchored with Great Stuff Pro shot from a #14 pro gun.

From the beginning I knew I did not want to go the under body route for water, gray water and black water finally deciding to go with a composting toilet. Last week, in a snow storm no less, we went to Bozeman to pick up the Nature’s Head composting toilet from a dealer there. The big bonus was getting to have a visit with GaryBIS. Gary’s website and his posts here on the forum have been a great help.

At this stage the floor plan is still changeable but currently we are thinking along the lines of a lengthwise layout that will actually utilize the area of the sliding door. My thoughts are similar to the plan Gary posted here http://www.promasterforum.com/forum/showthread.php?t=53962&page=4 at post 34. We like the idea of using the passenger side back door for a number of reasons. When we had the VW van the sliding door was noisy, so is the PM door. The back door can be opened AND closed with a lot less noise. Having a sink cabinet where the slider is allows access through the cabinet back similar to what RD has in his. Having the composting toilet at the driver side back door gives easy access to it for emptying. Granted the overall look might be somewhat tunnel like but with all the windows I think we can live with it. But, I’m open to changes.

Yesterday morning I ordered a Solar World 290 W panel from Platt Electric that should arrive from the Salt Lake warehouse this afternoon. Now I get to decide how to mount it to the roof and route the electrics. I have considered putting the two FLA golf cart batteries from Sam’s Club inside the passenger side back door but maybe that is too far from the vehicle battery, any thoughts. Still haven’t decided on which MPPT controller to get but leaning to the Midnite Solar Kid.

I need to go to HD for yet another sheet of the polyiso. Still have the slider and back doors to insulate. Since there is mechanical stuff in those spots how thorough should I get with insulation there. Also, how about the ceiling cross ribs, Great Stuff them?

Here are a few shots showing the current status.
 

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Not to criticize what you have done but you went to a lot of work to fill the floor ribs which is unnecessary and little was gained. It looks great though as does your work on the insulation and the fan. If you can wait for a delivery I would pull Thinsulate into those ribs. NOT great stuff as they are then blocked off forever and you might someday need them. I don't know what you plan for a ceiling but headliner or carpet glued to the polyiso is a great choice.
I really like my Tracer MPPT controller as it has settings for FLA,AGM etc and is sold under many names of very good solar providers.
I found the back doors and slider could be insulated by cutting the pieces that would fit in half, putting one in with foam then the other. I would guess I got 90% coverage, even along the sides of the glass in some cases. Those areas might benefit from Thinsulate too.
Great progress.
 

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Hi David,
Looking good.

On the issue of locating the battery toward the back, I don't think its too big deal a -- the only wire run from the van battery to the house battery will be the charging line, and if you use the FLA golf cart batteries, you could size the line for 50 amps and put a 50 amp breaker in it (both ends). The wire will just have to bigger to handle the longer run without too much voltage drop.

For two FLA golf cart batteries, the charging current should not be more than about 35 amps, as higher charging currents will result in more outgassing and shorter battery life -- so limiting the charging line to 50 amps will alert you if the charging current gets out of hand by opening the breaker.

The Bluesea circuit wizard says AWG 10 or 8 wire for a short run from van to house battery, and AWG 4 for a 24 ft round trip run from van to house battery.

Best if you can locate the inverter in the same area as the house battery to minimize the required wire size on that high current line.

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 ·
Worked on adding insulation to the back doors and the slider today. What a pain that is. End up cutting multiple pieces just to fit a relatively small area. Getting most of them stuck in place with the Great Stuff is a real challenge, and getting pieces in behind bracing, and not getting in the way of mechanical or electrical stuff.
l Still got orange stuff on my fingers. Trying to wedge the foam in place is not so easy either. Maybe I need a beer!
 

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Beer does help. What you are experiencing is the antiKarma of polyiso in small spaces. I did this before Hein had Thinsulate sales for inside the ribs and such. I’d use some if I were doing it again, along with a spray adhesive to keep it in place where needed. Polyiso on the panels though. You will be so smug once it is done! Tell ‘em its Cheetos!

Highjack alert here.
We don’t have a place or time yet for winter but December if I remember and Southern AZ would be best as it does get cold up on the northern heights. Gilbert Ray Campground just west of Tucson might be a good choice although I picked the summer site and got us into a mass-'O-bugs State Park so others may chime in. If folks want to go to a more deserted place the BLM area north of Organ Pipe is free. Organ Pipe National Monument has a nice campground near the visitor center too, with showers I believe, and 1/2 price to Senior Pass holders. Patagonia Lake State Park is great but more spendy. More will be posted.
 

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I wouldn't suggest putting any sort of batteries in your rear doors (or any door for that matter) just too much unnecessary added weight for the hinges, etc. The rear doors of the Promaster just aren't designed to carry so much extra weight. Even adding a spare tire to one is questionable although several here have done it successfully, I presume, because there haven't been any negative reports back from them.
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
KOV, actually I did not mean that I was thinking about actually mounting the batteries on the back door but inside and behind the wheel well. After reading more and doing a little rethinking I have pretty much decided that I want to find a way to put them as close as I can get to behind the driver's seat.

RD, thanks for the info and thoughts on the meet-up in December. I have been considering the thinsulate but trying to figure how much for the nooks and crannies has me scratching my head. I'm sure that like any loose insulation I don't want to compress it. The ebay site shows Hein selling it in 5 foot increments and the more you get the more the per foot price goes down. Any idea what might be a reasonable length to get?
 

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If I remember Thinsulate comes 54" wide. If so I would think about 10 ft would be plenty. The area over the cab itself will need 2' and there is no good alternatives for that. The rest would be strips cut and pulled in with a string after snaking the string in.
I like the battery forward near the bulkhead. Less dangerous there. Better for connection too.
 

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Oh that makes more sense. I actually put mine end to end right in front of the drivers side rear wheel well.just because it worked out that way but just behind the drivers seat is actually the closest and best place. I don't like mounting anything like a battery under the seat but a lot of people do it and are happy with the results.
 

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Discussion Starter · #15 ·
Well, some progress but all the research I feel I need to do is resulting in pretty slow progress. I have finished all the insulating with the polyiso that I can get into place. UPS brought me a roll of Hein's thinsulate yesterday and I managed to get back doors and the slider stuffed into the multiple places I couldn't get the poly into. What a chore that was. Looking back I am sure it would have been much easier to get the thinsulate into those tight spots IF I would have done it prior to putting in the rigid stuff. A little late to realize that now! The thinsulate is pretty nice to work with but it is advisable to have a good pair of shears. Tried cutting it with a razor knife and straight edge but the shears seemed to work better. I managed to salvage the plastic rivets that hold the door panels on which is good because coming up with the right ones from the internet left me pretty confused. I had thought about getting those to mount the panels I have cut for the lower side luan wood panels but I think I'll just go with what HD calls lath screws. HD has those with sharp points or self drilling points. Tried one of the self drilling ones and think I'll take those back and exchange for the sharp points. With the sharp points I can predrill a smaller 7/64" hole and get a snugger fit.

Tried getting the headliner rivets loose with my cheep prying tools and finally went to my friendly body shop and they popped them loose for me. Now I can put a piece of thinsulate above the headliner. Downside of that is that a couple of the rivets didn't fare too well. The little Christmas tree branches got pretty well sheared off by sharp metalwork. Those a beige color so I'm guessing those will be next to impossible to find.

Picked up a couple of FLA golf cart batteries from Sam's club. Have a 2000 watt solar controller coming. Already have the Solar World 290 watt panel that I need to decide on how to mount and get the wire to the inside. Might try Gary's method of going through the backup camera housing. Pretty much have decided to go with KOV's suggestion on the Harbor Freight inverter. Main thing the inverter will be called on for is to power the wife's small sewing machine and possibly a small microwave and maybe an electric tea kettle.

Before I screw the lower wall panels in place I need to decide how to deal with the exhaust vents behind the wheel wells. The plastic framework doesn't protrude enough that I would need to cut a hole in the panel to fit them over. I am thinking that I want to somehow use that vent to handle the exhaust from the Nature's Head. It doesn't push a lot of air but I think it really should go outside. Any ideas? I'd be happy to hear them. Just for a reminder here is the vent.
 

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You can get the Xmas trees from the dealers. Some might even stock them to replace the ones that break for the techs.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
I have a window van so for me it was just a guess. I went with RD's guess as above and purchased 10 feet of the Thinsulate from Hein. I got the headliner down and sure enough that takes two feet just there. So far I have cut a lot of pieces at 2" to pull through the areas at either side of the back windows and the sliding door. I've not done any wiring yet so have not filled any of the possible ribs that will serve that function. I'm thinking that the 10' that I ordered will probably come pretty close. I've not seen a post that addresses what others have done with the back corner areas where there is a fairly big volume of space behind the plastic grill work. Because it is curved on the outside I can't see how I could even use the polyiso.

Would gluing Reflectix to those curved areas then adding Thinsulate over it work well or would adding the Thinsulate negate any benefit there might be from the Reflectix?
 

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Discussion Starter · #20 ·
Well, a little more progress. I've put together a couple of bed "boxes", 1-1/2 x 1-1/2" pine framework and 1/2" ply. I'll get pictures of those soon. What I did get done was the solar panel mounted, Solar World 290 watt, and the wiring run to the inside. Made homemade brackets of 2" x 1/8" aluminum angle. Fastened those to the panel with #14 x 1" stainless sheetmetal screws and fastened to the roof with Sikaflex 221 and the same #14 ss screws. Cables run inside through a Renogy cable entry housing which I think works really well. Still need to do the inside wiring. Here is how it is looking.
 

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