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Discussion Starter #1 (Edited)
Hi,
We are just starting a conversion of our new PM to a simple camper/RV -- I'll report how things go in this thread.

Main objectives are:
- Keep it simple
- An open feel inside
- 20 mpg
- Comfortable beds for 2
- No need for hookups
- Drives like a car

We got a high roof, 1500, 136 WB with the 10 ft load floor behind the seats.

This is our 3rd RV, and one thing we learned from the others is that keeping it simple and open rather than trying to cram too much into too small a space is what works for us. For us, what really counts is a comfortable bed, minimal cooking facilities, and a nice open feel. We are doing without shower and just going to use a portpotty for bathroom.

On the no hookups, we are keeping an eye on everything that consumes electric power. Will use LED lights, efficient fridge with Danfoss compressor, furnace with low electrical demand.
Solar panel for charging battery.
Will have propane for cooking and furnace.

On the 20 mpg objective, we started with a relatively short and lightweight version of the PM and plan to keep the conversion weight down and not add a lot of draggy things on the outside. This also helps with the "drives like a car" objective.


Layout:
So, seems like the first order of business before I can get on to insulation, paneling, wiring, making furniture... is to work out the inside layout.

We looked at what seems like a thousand inside layouts -- mostly European for similar size RV's, and came down to two finalists. Both shown below -- any comments would be very welcome.

Forward Bed Layout:
This idea came from the Murvi commercial RV -- its the 2nd one in this video.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-h8ruMKBog

Really like the open feel and what seems like practical layout.



We did a crude mockup of this one inside the PM -- hard to take pictures of, but looks like this.



To right (with blue cushions) is the bed in the seat configuration. Tape marks on the floor show what it comes out to when in bed configuration.
Long cabinet along the left is the galley.
The vertical plywood aft of the bed is where porta pot goes, and then floor to ceiling stowage cabinet would be behind that.
There would be a small table to go in front of the seat.



From the sliding door.

We like the nice open feel this one has and it seems to get the job done and has a comfortable bed.
Don't like so much that you have to do a bit of a conversion of seat to bed and bed to seat a couple times a day.


Aft Bed Layout:
This one has beds in the back with galley along drivers side up front.



Also did crude mockup of this one:




Like the open feel of this one as well.
Galley size suffers compared to the other one, but beds are probably better.

I cheated the driver side bed down to 5.5 ft to make the galley longer -- just right for my spouse :)

View from the back:



The portapotty is mocked up with cardboard just behind the passenger seat.


On both setups there would be some cabinets above the windows in the corner where wall meets roof.

There would be windows in the sidewall and sliding door for both layouts -- the aft bed layout might allow aft windows on both side.

Any comments or thoughts would be very welcome. Or, ideas for an altogether different layout.

Gary
 

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Wow it sounds like you and I are building the same van. I drew inspiration from the same video. I love the fact that you did drawings and crude actual mockups. That must have given you a pretty good idea.

Our requirements are:
Sleep 4 (2 adults, 2 children).
Open layout so we can use the van as a passenger vehicle as well
No hookups, low power consumption
Minimal setup and breakdown each night

I was thinking of getting the diesel and use that to power a wabasto/wallas stove and a low power fridge. I rented a sportsmobile sprinter with this stove in utah in the fall and really liked the stove.

I've heard you can get a diesel fridge but I'm not having much luck finding one. Fridges seem to use a lot of power.

Here are a few mockups I did in sketchup. I've posted images and the sketchup file if you want to play around. The dimensions should match the 159 wheel base but, like you i think I want to try to fit into the 136.

The adults would sleep perpendicular to the direction of motion and the center square seat in the rear would move forward to form a third bed out of the passenger seats. Smallest kid can sleep up front across driver/passenger seat.

The swivel seats allow you to leave the rear bed setup and eat dinner if you just have 2 adults traveling.
 

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Just a few thoughts, JM, from an old van camper and ex-Sprinter owner.

You don't need the expense and trouble of a diesel. Forget about a diesel fridge! Buy a $100 mini fridge and get a 2500 w inverter to run it off a AGM battery. your sleeping arrangement might sound good now but kids have a nasty habit of growing up fast and I don't know many that would be happy to sleep on the front seat of a van (even a double seat) for long. A small ceramic heater will also run a long time off the inverter and be very efficient if you insulate your van properly. Also, good seat turntables are expensive ($300 at least). I had them in my sprinter and hardly ever used mine, a total waste of money (for me).

You can build a bare bones camper for your family that you won't out grow in a few years but I think you need to do a lot more research first or you will be wasting a lot of your hard earned money. And, most importantly, ask people what they would not do again and why in building a camper/daily driver.

I haven't even addressed the seating problems you will encounter for the kids as that is a whole different can of worms that will affect your conversion in a very substantial way.

Good luck if I can help please feel free to ask.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Wow it sounds like you and I are building the same van. I drew inspiration from the same video. I love the fact that you did drawings and crude actual mockups. That must have given you a pretty good idea.

Our requirements are:
Sleep 4 (2 adults, 2 children).
Open layout so we can use the van as a passenger vehicle as well
No hookups, low power consumption
Minimal setup and breakdown each night

I was thinking of getting the diesel and use that to power a wabasto/wallas stove and a low power fridge. I rented a sportsmobile sprinter with this stove in utah in the fall and really liked the stove.

I've heard you can get a diesel fridge but I'm not having much luck finding one. Fridges seem to use a lot of power.

Here are a few mockups I did in sketchup. I've posted images and the sketchup file if you want to play around. The dimensions should match the 159 wheel base but, like you i think I want to try to fit into the 136.

The adults would sleep perpendicular to the direction of motion and the center square seat in the rear would move forward to form a third bed out of the passenger seats. Smallest kid can sleep up front across driver/passenger seat.

The swivel seats allow you to leave the rear bed setup and eat dinner if you just have 2 adults traveling.
Hi JM,
We had some great times when the kids were small with the RV -- I think you will really enjoy it.

Sleeping across should work fine and saves some space. We thought about this, but are getting to the age where easy in/out at night is an issue -- strange how your criteria change :)

We did the small child sleeping across the seats with a piece of plywood and matteress to make it more like a bed -- she thought it was great, but I suppose it would get to be an issue eventually. Some of the rigs have bunk beds or an upper bed of some sort.

I do think that the 159WB might work out better for four, but its all a bit of a matter of how much you want to squeeze. There were times in working out our layout where we thought we should have gone longer, but are very happy with the end result.

Nice SU layouts.
I'm planning to do all the details in SU once I get a little further.

I do really like doing the actual mockup --even if its crude it seems like you always learn a lot.

On the fridge, there is a lot of difference in energy use for the various electric models. The 12 volt ones that use the Danfoss compressors are very efficient. Norcold (and others) make them. The price for the small Norcold one is about $670, which seems like a lot, but it lets you downsize the battery and solar charging system some, which saves some of the extra.
In our last RV we used one of the Danfoss fridges and it was fine with a single not to large deepcycle battery overnight.

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter #5
Our simple PM Conversion -- Insulation

Hi,
Added insulation to the walls and ceiling a couple days ago.


Decided to go with the spray polyurethane 2 component foam. Bought a foam kit from Home Depot that was supposed to do 200 sqft to 1 inch thick for $349 (yikes!).

The things that appealed to me about the spray foam is that it has very good R value per inch, and its impervious to water vapor, so moist air from the van cannot get to the cold metal skin of the van and condense.

I've never used one of the 2 component spray kits before, so was very careful to find out all I could about them before tackling the spraying -- there are some pretty good youtube videos on spraying.

Sent a lot of time masking all the areas I did not want to spray, which was a good thing as the spray gets all over everything.

One thing that everyone emphasizes is the the kit bottles, the van, and the air all have to be in the right temperature range in order to get good expansion. I warmed up the bottles in an ice chest with warm water to get them up to about 80F. Even with this the coverage was not as good as the package promised.


Checking the temperature of the two bottles after warming them up a bit.



This is spraying the wheelwells and side walls. All dressed up in my first every bunny suit.


And, spraying the ceiling.

One thing that can happen with the spray foam is that if you spray too thick a layer on sheet metal van panels, it can permanently distort the panels. So, I used several thin coats.

I ended up getting about 3/4 inch over all the areas that I wanted to spray before running out -- had hoped to get more like 1 inch, but ran out before that.



This is right after spraying before cleanup. Very glad I put cardboard on the floor.

Overall, I thought the spraying worked pretty well. It was fairly quick -- basically one day for all the masking, spraying, and cleanup. This included an extra trip down to HD when the first kit proved to have a big leak in the middle of one of the hoses -- sprayed stuff all over the place -- luckily it was just one of the components and did not cure and was easy to wipe off.
The foam appears to be very well adhered to the metal and looks like good polyurethane foam to me.

I've started to document this whole project on my website and included some additional pictures and text there, but will keep up the progress here if there is interest.
Insulation page:

main page:
[URL="http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Vehicles/PMRV/PMRV.htm"]http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Vehicles/PMRV/PMRV.htm


Any thoughts or suggestions appreciated.

I've been spending some time trying to work out the electrical for the conversion and will put up something on that shortly.

Gary
 

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I love your forward bed layout. Genius. So roomy. I could sit on the sofa and look out door opening and relax.

I could see my old favorite Futon working perfectly as the sofa/bed.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Our simple PM Conversion -- Electrical

Hi,
Have been working on the electrical system for the PM camper van conversion.

This is a tentative diagram for the system, and the list of main components I'm leaning toward.
Would value any thoughts or comments on any problems you see or ideas for better components or design.

We want to be able to camp independent of hookups and would like to be able to last a couple days without having to run the van engine to charge the house batteries. So, we have tried to avoid high power consumption stuff, included a fairly large house battery, and included a PV panel for charging when there is sun.



This is the electrical design I'm leaning toward. The house battery is two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series. The batteries can be charged by 1) the van alternator, 2) shore power via the inverter/charger, and 3) the pv panel via the charge controller. The battery isolator keeps the van starting battery from being run down as the house battery is depleted.


These are the tentative choices for the main components. If you have some good alternatives, please let us know...

Item Description Cost
House Battery 2 @ 6 volt, 225 AH golf cart batteries (Costco) $170

Inverter/Charger Xantrex Freedom HF1000 w/20amp Charger $400

Battery Isolator Install Bay IB200 200 amp Battery Isolator $45

Charge Controller Blue Sky 3000i MPPT charge controller $264

DC Distribution Panel Blue Sea 5025 six circuit DC panel $32

PV Panel Solar World SW250MONO 250 watt, 60 cell PV module $296

Total (not including fuses, wire, ...) $1207


It appears to me that this setup will keep us going for all but the dead of winter where the horizontal PV panel does not generate enough power to handle the daily drain -- it would be OK if it could be tilted.

I am liking the Blue Sky charge controller in that it will not only take 12 volt PV panels, but will also take a single larger 30 volt (60 cell) pv panel, and this lets us get 250 watts all in one panel, which simplifies wiring and roof mods and (maybe) reduces drag a bit. It also includes a battery monitoring system with an amp-hr meter, so it eliminates the need for a separate battery monitor.

I'm really in doubt about the battery isolater as there are so many choices over such a wide range of prices.

I've written up how I went through adding up the electrical loads while camping, and how the batteries, pv panel, inverter, sizes were picked to meet these loads. Also the logic behind the particular components listed above.

Its all laid out on my site here:
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Vehicles/PMRV/Electrical.htm
But, its too long to repeat all of it here.

If you have the time, I'd appreciate any thoughts on the system and any suggestions for improvements.

One thing I kind of wonder about is that we set out to make this a "simple" van conversion and the electrical system looks a long ways from simple to me -- maybe there is a way to do this more simply?

Thanks,

Gary
 

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Hi,

main page:
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Vehicles/PMRV/PMRV.htm

Any thoughts or suggestions appreciated.

I've been spending some time trying to work out the electrical for the conversion and will put up something on that shortly.

Gary
Gary: I was looking at your page. I'm no expert on electricity by any stretch, but I've been wondering if it would make sense to have two AC circuits at least, rather that one, and have the second one powered by a second pure sine wave smallish inverter, to power and charge more sensitive electronic stuff, and that would be quiet over night. Thoughts?

John
 

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Gary: I was looking at your page. I'm no expert on electricity by any stretch, but I've been wondering if it would make sense to have two AC circuits at least, rather that one, and have the second one powered by a second pure sine wave smallish inverter, to power and charge more sensitive electronic stuff, and that would be quiet over night. Thoughts?

John
Also, as to the 12v distribution panel, don't you need a circuit for the overhead fan? And lights? What about for a 12v tv? Also, if you have given any thought to a Thetford cassette, you'll need 12v for that too.

Again, all this from a man who knows just enough to be dangerous.

John
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Finally, and I'm sorry to keep posting, but what about surge suppression with built in Ground Fault. Something like this: http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/30-amp-surge-protector-with-voltage-protection/56419

Thanks John -- all good points.

Guess I will go with the 9 circuit version of the same brand DC distribution panel.

One thing that is keeping me from wanting to go to more AC circuits is that I can't find a compact AC distribution panel -- the only ones I see are the kind of large and clunky ones intended for home use (as in a subpanel for a shop or similar). I guess my thinking is that there is only 1000 watts available from the inverter, so why do I need more than one circuit?

Gary
 

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Thanks John -- all good points.

Guess I will go with the 9 circuit version of the same brand DC distribution panel.

One thing that is keeping me from wanting to go to more AC circuits is that I can't find a compact AC distribution panel -- the only ones I see are the kind of large and clunky ones intended for home use (as in a subpanel for a shop or similar). I guess my thinking is that there is only 1000 watts available from the inverter, so why do I need more than one circuit?

Gary
I did a quick search and found this one: http://shop.pkys.com/Blue-Sea-Systems-8058-Panel-120VAC-3-Circuit-Breaker_p_693.html Is that something that would work for you?
 

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Hi,
Have been working on the electrical system for the PM camper van conversion.

This is a tentative diagram for the system, and the list of main components I'm leaning toward.
Would value any thoughts or comments on any problems you see or ideas for better components or design.

We want to be able to camp independent of hookups and would like to be able to last a couple days without having to run the van engine to charge the house batteries. So, we have tried to avoid high power consumption stuff, included a fairly large house battery, and included a PV panel for charging when there is sun.



This is the electrical design I'm leaning toward. The house battery is two 6 volt golf cart batteries in series. The batteries can be charged by 1) the van alternator, 2) shore power via the inverter/charger, and 3) the pv panel via the charge controller. The battery isolator keeps the van starting battery from being run down as the house battery is depleted.


These are the tentative choices for the main components. If you have some good alternatives, please let us know...

Item Description Cost
House Battery 2 @ 6 volt, 225 AH golf cart batteries (Costco) $170

Inverter/Charger Xantrex Freedom HF1000 w/20amp Charger $400

Battery Isolator Install Bay IB200 200 amp Battery Isolator $45

Charge Controller Blue Sky 3000i MPPT charge controller $264

DC Distribution Panel Blue Sea 5025 six circuit DC panel $32

PV Panel Solar World SW250MONO 250 watt, 60 cell PV module $296

Total (not including fuses, wire, ...) $1207


It appears to me that this setup will keep us going for all but the dead of winter where the horizontal PV panel does not generate enough power to handle the daily drain -- it would be OK if it could be tilted.

I am liking the Blue Sky charge controller in that it will not only take 12 volt PV panels, but will also take a single larger 30 volt (60 cell) pv panel, and this lets us get 250 watts all in one panel, which simplifies wiring and roof mods and (maybe) reduces drag a bit. It also includes a battery monitoring system with an amp-hr meter, so it eliminates the need for a separate battery monitor.

I'm really in doubt about the battery isolater as there are so many choices over such a wide range of prices.

I've written up how I went through adding up the electrical loads while camping, and how the batteries, pv panel, inverter, sizes were picked to meet these loads. Also the logic behind the particular components listed above.

Its all laid out on my site here:
http://www.builditsolar.com/Projects/Vehicles/PMRV/Electrical.htm
But, its too long to repeat all of it here.

If you have the time, I'd appreciate any thoughts on the system and any suggestions for improvements.

One thing I kind of wonder about is that we set out to make this a "simple" van conversion and the electrical system looks a long ways from simple to me -- maybe there is a way to do this more simply?

Thanks,

Gary
Nice conversion and great topic, Gary.

A question/suggestion for your electrical setup, Gary.

Instead of the isolator that is connected to the alternator, I used a Voltage Sensitive Relay that is hooked directly to the main battery.

One obvious advantage is that it simplifies the wiring, since the main battery is located under the driver's feet. No need to access the alternator.

But I guess you weighed both options, so why did you choose the battery isolator instead of the VSR?
 

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Thanks John -- all good points.


One thing that is keeping me from wanting to go to more AC circuits is that I can't find a compact AC distribution panel -- the only ones I see are the kind of large and clunky ones intended for home use (as in a subpanel for a shop or similar). I guess my thinking is that there is only 1000 watts available from the inverter, so why do I need more than one circuit?

Gary
Any of these suit your need?

http://shop.pkys.com/AC-Main-Branch-Panels_c_89.html
 

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Nice conversion and great topic, Gary.

A question/suggestion for your electrical setup, Gary.

Instead of the isolator that is connected to the alternator, I used a Voltage Sensitive Relay that is hooked directly to the main battery.

One obvious advantage is that it simplifies the wiring, since the main battery is located under the driver's feet. No need to access the alternator.

But I guess you weighed both options, so why did you choose the battery isolator instead of the VSR?
For what it's worth (not much probably) my conversion has the relay that Gary is talking about. Robert Morehead explained it's (the relay) operation to me and it sounded logical.
 

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Discussion Starter #16
Nice conversion and great topic, Gary.

A question/suggestion for your electrical setup, Gary.

Instead of the isolator that is connected to the alternator, I used a Voltage Sensitive Relay that is hooked directly to the main battery.

One obvious advantage is that it simplifies the wiring, since the main battery is located under the driver's feet. No need to access the alternator.

But I guess you weighed both options, so why did you choose the battery isolator instead of the VSR?
Hi Guy,
Partly ignorance I guess :) -- did not know about the VSR option.

After doing some more looking on the VSR, it looks like it could be a good option. One problem I'm having is that its hard to find one rated at more than 180 amps at a reasonable price. I think I need at least 180 amps as that is the PM alternator output?

This is the only one I've found so far (still looking) that does more than 180 amp: http://sterling-power-usa.com/ProConnect-VSR240amp12vor24v.aspx
Its $131, which is not too bad, but not sure about the company.

It looks to me like the battery isolator relay I selected earlier and the the VSR type both have a relay that switches the house battery in or out for charging wires in at the same location, but that the thing that controls the relay is the difference?
That is, on the VSR, the battery voltage on the starting battery side controls the relay, and on the battery isolator, the extra wire from the ignition switch controls the relay?

So, as you say, the VSR has one less wire to hook up, which is nice.

The diode type battery isolators appear to go into the wire between the alternator and the start battery, and I'd like to avoid that if possible.

It occurred to me that I could just put a 200 amp manual switch on a heavy wire from the start battery plus terminal to the house battery and just manually control it. Turn the switch on manually when the engine is running and turn it off when parked and running on the house battery. This would have the added advantage that I could do things like use both batteries to start the vehicle on a cold morning when the start battery is low. Or, charge the start battery and the house battery from the shore power (or even solar) chargers.
The big down side would be forgetting to flip the switch off when parked and end up with a flat starting battery.

Thanks

Gary
 

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Discussion Starter #17
For what it's worth (not much probably) my conversion has the relay that Gary is talking about. Robert Morehead explained it's (the relay) operation to me and it sounded logical.
Hi Steve,
Still thinking on the isolator.

I've been watching your conversion with great interest -- some really nice features.

Hope you will take a LOT of pictures that show all the details.

Gary
 

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Hi Guy,
Partly ignorance I guess :) -- did not know about the VSR option.

After doing some more looking on the VSR, it looks like it could be a good option. One problem I'm having is that its hard to find one rated at more than 180 amps at a reasonable price. I think I need at least 180 amps as that is the PM alternator output?
I had mine installed by "professionals" (the ones that dented the roof when they installed the solar panel ;) ). I didn't ask for that solution, but I told them I had a 220A alternator.

Now, I read that the alternator must not exceed 140A, so, theoretically, my device is not suited for my alternator.

On the other hand, it works perfectly fine and there is a 100A circuit breaker in between the VSR and the battery and it never disengaged so far.

But I'll look more closely into that.
 

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In my view (not that it matters:)) But you guys/girls have nothing to fear.
Going over the amp rating is next to impossible. The 220 amp alt. is for
the whole system and including boosting another car.
You have brake lights,head lights,starter,heater motor and so much to
list.
I think it is all fine.
 
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