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Discussion Starter #1
I work out of state, and unlike many that use their vehicles for travel, or use the vehicles for work, mine will be a place to stay while I am working. It is essentially a replacement for a 1989 Dodge Explorer Class B (which will be sold later this summer). I may use it occasionally to transport a few people or tailgate with a friend, so I want to have seating for 4. It will be my only vehicle in my work location (in the Northeast). I have been using the 1989 for 5 years while I work (mostly in the southeast where the climate was different). I typically fly in to work during the week and fly home on the weekend, only occasionally staying for the weekend. It saves me from having to rent a hotel or apartment (at least 700-800 a month), plus it also serves vehicle duty (avoiding at least insurance if not a payment on a vehicle or renting car every week)

The vehicle is a 2018 Promaster 3500 Extended, with cruise control and power folding heated mirrors and not much else other than a factory plastic floor.

A few design choices have been made based on my 5 years of living in an RV during the week.
1. I don't want propane, a second fuel seems to be a hassle (at least to me in my lifestyle)
2. I want a shower and toilet, I don't use campgrounds often, I just park and stay in parking lots, but prefer a port a potty over having a black tank, I removed the toilet and black tank in my 1989 and preferred it that way
3. I don't often cook in the vehicle, but want the option for a minimal meal (microwave with a hot plate)
4. Going with a lithium battery system (already purchases 600 AH, Victron Multiplus inverter, B2B charger, Victron 100/50 solar charge controller)
5. Ordered a Smartbed Evolution R for my second row seating / secondary bed
6. Decided on a Webasto 2000 STC gasoline heater after considering many options, ordered yesterday
7. Using a Isotherm Square slim 4 gallon water heater with 750W electric element and engine heat exchanger (I have a propane water heater with engine heat exchange in my 1989 and I loved having engine heated water!)
8. Had a permanent bed, will still have a permanent bed. Either twin or 3/4 full across the Promaster. It is just me in the bed.

I don't need massive amounts of storage as I can keep some things in my office and the majority of my goods are kept in my house in Texas.

So I am just getting started, but need the vehicle to be minimally ready by Mid July! I started with insulation last night and have all the ribs stuffed with Thinsulate as well as about 25% of the panels covered. My goal of for the rest of the weekend is to finish the insulation and install some speakers in the front doors (it is starting to storm so the window in the back door, roof vent, and roof rack are on hold)

The Smartbed is a holdup on some of the interior work as I don't want to interfere with its mounting, but I can still put on the heater, water system, bathroom, insulation, as well as install the two roof vents and finish the insulation. I plan to use a design where I put a wall at the back and use a window AC in the wall. I will have a roof vent directly above the AC to vent the hot air from the space.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
600 AH lithium ion battery bank to run it (anticipated draw is less than 40 amps, plan to use a 5000 BTU window unit) I should be buying it this week to get the exact measurements for the back wall.

Even with conversion losses 8-10 hours shouldn't be a problem if the battery is fully charged, but it should not have to run continuously, I plan to have a curtain across the front of the bed and cool just the sleeping area (about 72 ft^3, or less than a half height 24 square foot room), which is the same thing I did in my class B. The class B had a generator so it had to run all night, which I did not like and could not always do. So I cooled it down at night and the relied on ventilation for the most part.

To generate the electricity the plan is for 4 120 watt solar panels. To start with I have a sterling 60 amp battery to battery charger to add some current while driving, but if that proves insufficient a second alternator may be in the works, I already purchased the E-Guard skidplate just for the extra protection, so I can see myself adding a second alternator later if needed, but I do not think it will be needed. Either way in the part of the year I anticipate using the AC, I would have the best solar and would also be driving a bit more.

I have been living part time for work in a class B for a while, but this is my first build so feedback is welcome. This is certainly not a budget build, suggestions are welcome and cost is secondary consideration to functionality. I consider this a money saving tool. The more comfortable I am the better.
 

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Cloth partition? Great while driving to maximize heat/ AC but once parked maybe doing a fabric/insulation to screen off glass only is a better idea?


Remember doing one or both seats with swivels could do a huge increase in living/working space; personally I am repulsed at the idea of touching one of the seats after 12-16 hours driving on a road trip but jumping into the van after a days work it could be a good place to sit 'outside' of the living space...
 

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Discussion Starter #5
I have insulated covers for the windows, and plan to have insulated curtains right behind the seats (for driving to keep cab cooler, plus privacy when parked and don't want to deploy the shiny window covers) and another across the fixed bed to keep the AC cooling only the bed area when sleeping. My 1989 class B had a curtain that pulled around inside the glass (just for privacy) and one across the bed area and it really seemed to be a good system.

I have swivels for the seats, just waiting for lowered seat bases to install, figured I'd only do it once. I had swivel seats in the old one and they were great, those old seats were more comfortable than the Promaster seats for sure.
 

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Discussion Starter #6 (Edited)
Insulation (layer 1)

Working on the insulation, probably 70% done with the thinsulate, stuffed it in all the ribs and covering all the open areas. This will be covered with 1/2" XPS panels under the walls as an additional layer as well as a thermal break between the ribs and interior walls. As I plan to run air conditioning off battery at night, I want the insulation to be thorough. Figuring thinsulate and XPS will do it. Only windows are cab windows and rear windows.

 

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Discussion Starter #7
Update

Done with the thinsulate, with the exception of the over cab area, doors, and the two ceiling panels that will have vents. All that I will come back to.


Started on the floor today, got the back 4 feet down, 1/2 inch plywood over 1/2 XPS, I cut the foam for the next section but have to go get the wood. Next the back section of the walls, same 1/2 plywood over 1/2 XPS for the bottom portion, the top will be a little different as I need to keep it thin to fit the bed. The bottom section of the walls will be part of the bed support.


The big projects I really need to get done next are

1. The rear window
2. Front roof vent
3. Rear roof vent
4. Water heater - this taps into the coolant lines
5. Webasto heater install


I really hope to have all that in the next 10 days or so, but I have a job and am working sporadically. I must have it livable and road worthy by July 11-12. Finishing touches on the inside can come after that, but I will not have an easy place to work on it, so everything exterior must be installed and ready to go.



So that includes
1. E-guard protection plate
2. Roof rack
3. Running boards


It can be a bit overwhelming at times.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
A week of progress

Did quite a lot in the last week or so


The fiamma roof rack is installed



The E-Guard is installed, I don't have a second alternator at this time but will consider it if necessary after using this van for a while. The underside just looked vulnerable




And the rear window is installed





I also finished the floor (1/2 ply over 1/2 xps) except for where the heater will go, that section will be done soon. Thinsulate insulation is 95% finished (except over the cab, expect that soon)


I have the back lower wall section in (guess... 1/2 ply over 1/2 xps), the bed will sit on top of the lower wall sections (with additional support of course), so I am ordering some material for the upper wall tonight (this will be thinner, no room for a 75 inch long bed and and inch of material on both sides)


Next steps

- running boards
- hitch
- rear roof vent
- front roof vent
- Webasto heater
- Isotherm water heater


Hope to have all of this done in the next week. July 12th is coming fast
 

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nice, i got the e-guard as well, will be installing it next month.
 

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I don’t know what else you’re looking to put on the roof, but you should be able to fit at least 2x330W panels for 50% more solar. If you use a low profile vent under the panels a third panel for 990W would give you much more charge capacity for your 600 Ah of batteries.
(I have 800 Ah battery and 660W solar for similar reasons)

Where do you plan to mount your AC?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
nice, i got the e-guard as well, will be installing it next month.

One of the easier things I did, a hour tops. I did it alone, it really isn't that heavy if you set the back on the rear bolts and lift the front up to start a bolt. I imagine it would be even easier with help.
 

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Discussion Starter #12
I don’t know what else you’re looking to put on the roof, but you should be able to fit at least 2x330W panels for 50% more solar. If you use a low profile vent under the panels a third panel for 990W would give you much more charge capacity for your 600 Ah of batteries.
(I have 800 Ah battery and 660W solar for similar reasons)

Where do you plan to mount your AC?

I am using a low profile rear vent, the front vent should be clear of anything I want to mount. The rear vent is a Maxxair Mini, lower than the panels would be, so I planned on panels above that vent. The front is a Maxair deluxe,


There will be a vertical half wall extending from bed deck height (38 inches) to the ceiling approximately 15 inches in front of the rear doors. The air conditioner will be mounted in this half wall. Incoming air will come from the window and be exhausted out the rear roof vent (maxxair mini). The AC will not be visible from the exterior. It is not supposed to require a condensation drain, but I will likely put a pan with a drain to the exterior just in case. It can get pretty humid in Connecticut.



I typically park in front of my 24 hour gym, but have used other locations as well, so stealth is a factor. This is something I plan to sleep in (or did use to sleep in the case of the 1989 model I am replacing) so I can't have an AC hanging out the back or anything too obvious. Just need to look like a service vehicle parked for the night.



I do not plan to have anything other than the roof vents up top, I planned to mount the solar panels slightly below the top of the roof rack level. I am sure I will have to fabricate brackets to get them at the height I want. The goal is about 1/2 inch below the rack so I can still carry stuff on the rack if I ever need to. I also need to be able to park in my garage at work, the roof rack is 8' 10" high and the garage clearance is 8'11" so I can't go above the roof rack with anything, the front maxxair will need to be in the closed position to go into the garage or it will be right at 8'11.5" and will likely scrape. (I laser measured the garage and every sign and light that hangs down, my 1989 just barely fit with the vent cover off and the vent closed)
 

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I am using a low profile rear vent, the front vent should be clear of anything I want to mount. The rear vent is a Maxxair Mini, lower than the panels would be, so I planned on panels above that vent. The front is a Maxair deluxe,


There will be a vertical half wall extending from bed deck height (38 inches) to the ceiling approximately 15 inches in front of the rear doors. The air conditioner will be mounted in this half wall. Incoming air will come from the window and be exhausted out the rear roof vent (maxxair mini). The AC will not be visible from the exterior. It is not supposed to require a condensation drain, but I will likely put a pan with a drain to the exterior just in case. It can get pretty humid in Connecticut.



I typically park in front of my 24 hour gym, but have used other locations as well, so stealth is a factor. This is something I plan to sleep in (or did use to sleep in the case of the 1989 model I am replacing) so I can't have an AC hanging out the back or anything too obvious. Just need to look like a service vehicle parked for the night.
...
Sounds like a bunch of clever solutions to your constraints - very nice! I see why you chose the smaller panels now. I am still concerned about your ability to recharge your battery bank with the panels and dc-dc you have, but changing out your engine charging approach later (second alternator, HD alternator with larger converter, etc.) shouldn’t be too hard. You wouldn’t be able to use the larger panels I have given your other constraints.

Others have used a hole in the floor (or multiple smaller holes) to provide the inlet air for AC - you could consider that instead of your window idea, but I don’t see why the window wouldn’t work.

We have a separating/composting toilet (airhead) instead of a porta-pottie. Very happy with it during about 8 weeks of travel (multiple trips) so far. Easier to empty than a portapottie in my experience, but ymmv.

We will be building some insulated curtains around the cab doors/dash for when the seats are swiveled before next winter, although our webasto worked well enough without them.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
...

Others have used a hole in the floor (or multiple smaller holes) to provide the inlet air for AC - you could consider that instead of your window idea, but I don’t see why the window wouldn’t work.

We have a separating/composting toilet (airhead) instead of a porta-pottie. Very happy with it during about 8 weeks of travel (multiple trips) so far. Easier to empty than a portapottie in my experience, but ymmv.

We will be building some insulated curtains around the cab doors/dash for when the seats are swiveled before next winter, although our webasto worked well enough without them.

I originally was going to do just that, cut holes in the floor and use a portable AC rather than a window unit, but when I researched the energy consumption I found that the portable units were just not very efficient, especially the single tube models. I ultimately decided a small window unit to cool just the bed area was a more efficient use of electricity (which may be somewhat limited). Most of the time I stay at work pretty late and even generally eat dinner at work since there is access to a toaster oven, microwave. I even keep my ARB 50 qt freezer in my office currently, but that may change. In general I go to the van to find a place to sleep but stay in the office or other locations for the day, so I am trying to keep everything efficient.



I bought the insulated window covers from Eurocampers and they seem to really help while I am working in the van. For staying in general I used a curtain behind the seats in my old van because it is more stealthy, but I had a curtain that went around the seats as well for those few times I was in an RV park or didn't care that I was identified as a sleeper. I like having both options. If you regularly use the swivel seats a curtain around the windows is a great addition, I suggest making it as easy as possible to deploy.



My van will be unattended in airport parking lots 3-4 nights a week and I just wasn't sure that is ideal for a composting toilet. I generally avoid using the toilet in the van as much as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter #15
Major progress. Two roof vents installed, a Maxxair mini in the rear to vent the heat from the AC unit (air comes in window and out roof), and a Maxxair deluxe up front for ventilating passenger area.



100% complete with the thinsulate insulation, so I can take that material out and store it (might add some in my Subaru crosstrek to quiet it down)


All the lower walls are done including the wall separating the under bed cargo area and the passenger area.



The roof vents were a major dread and I am relieved to be done. Heat index was over a 100 degrees and the van roof was hot, but both vents are in and I feel like I am not horribly behind (as much).
 

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Discussion Starter #16
The big projects I really need to get done next are

1. The rear window
2. Front roof vent
3. Rear roof vent
4. Water heater - this taps into the coolant lines
5. Webasto heater install

So that includes
1. E-guard protection plate
2. Roof rack
3. Running boards

From my prior post, I have completed the rear window, front roof vent, rear roof vent, the E-guard and roof rack.


Still need to do the water heater and webasto air heater, plus the running boards, but I am making serious progress. July 12th still keeps coming fast. I may have to do some triage and complete some projects on the road. So priority is stuff I couldn't do on the road.



My Evolution R smartbed is in Customs, so I expect to have that in a week or so, that is a major install and not something easily done on the road.
 

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Discussion Starter #17
More progress. Not that I have a choice, July 12th I hit the road, two short weeks.



I have almost all of the structural elements of the camper in except for the bathroom. I am in triage mode, focused on getting it so that everything can be physically in the van, if not hooked up and working.



The smartbed is in the van, not bolted, just sitting there, bolts should be here Tuesday.



I have the rear dividing wall in, will cut the hole for the AC tomorrow. The wall will be layered, 1/2 plywood, 3/4 polyiso, 5mm plywood.



This means I can put everything in its place and start hooking things up.


Next steps
Finish the other 2/3 of the ceiling
Put the batteries in the battery box (and take all the tools sitting there out)
Running wires so I can finish the upper sections of the walls, wiring arrives Monday
Bolt down the smartbed (bolts arrive Tuesday) (it came with bolts that are too short considering my factory plastic floor with 1/2 xps and 1/2 plywood over the top)


Basically anything that involves the table saw or other tools I won't have on the road needs to be done. I also need to get rudimentary power set up.



I still need to get two exterior jobs complete, installing the hitch and the running boards.



Hooking up the water heater to the engine is another high priority but not completely required, I think it would be a hard thing to do without a place to work.
 

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Discussion Starter #18
I haven't even had time to update the build thread, too busy with the build.



I had to redo the front walls in order to fit the Smartbed, with the plywood and xps it moved the mount location over structural members, so I changed to just 5mm plywood with EZ cool behind it (plus the already installed Thinsulate, so still plenty in my mind.


I got the back wall up, the AC installed, and the front roof vent installed.

The full ceiling is in.



Next
-Bolt the Smartbed down
-Get the upper walls installed.

-Finish the rear vent framing, it crosses into the living space, but is designed to vent the non-conditioned space, so there is a little adapting involved.

-Frame the bathroom

-Install webasto heater (its summer, I might just box it up and do it later, or just get it physically installed and connect later, like a lot of things are looking)
-Lots of electrical stuff, its all sitting in the battery/electric box, priority to get the basics up and running.

-Plumbing
-Install hitch
-Install running boards
-Flooring (didn't plan on keeping the floors plywood, but might be throwing down a rug for a while)


I leave on July 12th.
 

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Can you update with pictures once the smart bed is installed? I bought the Evolution II and I'm waiting for it to arrive. How long did it take you to receive the seat from the manufacturers with shipping? I ordered mine about 5-6 weeks ago.
 

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Discussion Starter #20
I ordered mine April 8th.



Received June 28th. They are apparently very popular. I received mine without the end caps for the rails, because they were not ready. Glad they went ahead and sent the bed anyway because I needed to get it in. They promised to send along the rail end caps soon. These are strictly cosmetic (and to keep from breaking your toes if you kick it) I will have a lot of cosmetic touch up to do later anyway.



Almost have it installed. Hopefully by the end of the day. About to take a break and go get a longer jig saw blade to install the base for my Webasto heater.



I have 8 days left on this build


To update, I did get the rear vent 80% framed, the input power connections (110 volt and 12 volt inputs) and the hitch installed yesterday before taking the afternoon off to spend with family. Didn't get started until 1pm today but drilled the holes for the smartbed and started the hole for the Webasto. Goal is to get the bed and heater physically in today.



Tomorrow I will be working on the bathroom/shower and plumbing.



Saturday is slotted to get the heater connected and plumbing in (except for gray water tank which is ordered)



Sunday I plan to work on getting the water heater connected to the engine loop



I am not expecting delivery of my wire until Monday so a lot of electrical work is on hold.
 
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