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Discussion Starter #161 (Edited)
The Hot Water Heater

Building a Van;

For me just one mistake after another - Price of a “Real” Education ?

so during my build analysis brought on paralysis, and I forced a decision that I regret. This was buying a residential hot water tank that did not have a drain. The crazy thing is I knew better but I went ahead and did it anyway.

last week I ripped out that hot water heater/tank and the majority of my water lines, and I’m in the process of choosing a new hot water heater/tank and it is coming down to these options

On my list are;

isotherm, Johnson pump, (both 120v & engine heat exchanger)

Rheem (120v residential unit but bottom (base of unit) cold inlet & top hot outlet) - the idea is when I blow out my lines for winter storage the air enters thru the top hot outlet & forces the water out the bottom cold inlet to the drain (Photo below of this unit)

propane or propane/electric



today after visiting the local boat store and talking to my favorite sales guy, I’m pretty much sold on buying a Johnson Pump hot water heater/tank. I also considered the isotherm, but am happy with my choice to go Johnson Pump. FYI incase you are wondering they come in 500W & 1200W 120v (engine heat exchangers in both - other sizes other than the 22L)




So I am in the process of “renovating” the van so I can fit this water heater/tank into the systems. All we have is a sink??.

I will update my build thread as I progress...

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Discussion Starter #162
A Bed Mattress;

On another note one of our choices was a queen size memory foam mattress cut down to 74 inches from 80 inches length so it could fit between the walls. We like this mattress so much we bought one for our cabin.

for us it was extremely comfortable and being all foam, you can unzip the fabric covering cut the foam and zipped the fabric back up. There’s a trick to unlocking the zipper that you have to know which is using a paperclip





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Discussion Starter #163
Upper Ceiling Cabinet Supports

Earlier on my thread build I show photos of my “Frankenstein Brackets” I fabricated for the uppers. If I was starting from scratch I would install aluminum stringers like the following centering 4x8 ceiling birch plywood panels in the centre of the ceiling

a website that shows these aluminum stringers;



A Photo;

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The Hot Water Heater

today after visiting the local boat store and talking to my favorite sales guy, I’m pretty much sold on buying a Johnson Pump hot water heater/tank. I also considered the isotherm, but am happy with my choice to go Johnson Pump. FYI incase you are wondering they come in 500W & 1200W 120v (engine heat exchangers in both - other sizes other than the 22L)
Don't have any experience with the Johnson pump unit, but one advantage the isotherm has is it comes with an adjustable thermostatic tempering valve that mixes cold water with hot water to keep the water temperature below scalding. The engine coolant will heat the water to well over 200 degrees.

With either unit make sure when you install it that you can get to the manual reset button on the high limit thermostat because engine coolant temperature can trip it and then the electric element work work when you plug in.

And I added a hose going from the pressure relief valve straight down through the van floor. When the water heats up to engine temperature it will expand and weep from the pressure relief valve. Plus you can use the pressure relief valve to drain the tank in the winter.
 

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Discussion Starter #165
Don't have any experience with the Johnson pump unit, but one advantage the isotherm has is it comes with an adjustable thermostatic tempering valve that mixes cold water with hot water to keep the water temperature below scalding. The engine coolant will heat the water to well over 200 degrees.

With either unit make sure when you install it that you can get to the manual reset button on the high limit thermostat because engine coolant temperature can trip it and then the electric element work work when you plug in.

And I added a hose going from the pressure relief valve straight down through the van floor. When the water heats up to engine temperature it will expand and weep from the pressure relief valve. Plus you can use the pressure relief valve to drain the tank in the winter.
Thanks tgregg ?

The marine store I buy from in town suggested the Johnson Pump unit (referencing as good or better than the Isotherm). I do not believe as consumers that sales opinions come unbiased or with the best intentions of the buyer, however I do trust ”my sales guy” @ this store, so I will pick it up in Jan 2020 & install it $600 vs $800 for the Isotherm & $100 for the “mixer” if I need it which I wont to start as I am going to run it to start only on 120v 1500W electric. You may wonder why I would buy a engine coolant capable HWT and only run on electric, however we only have a sink. I am “fixing” an earlier decision of my non-drainable residential tank that I originally tried

Thanks for the heads up about the high limit switch, I will make sure it is accessible? I already have a floor drain pipe that will drain the PR valve & the potable water system (pressure & non pressure side)

The Johnson Pump unit looks good to me, but have not seen any reports of these on this forum other than mine. So I will post here once I have some “120v” experience with it.

I appreciate your experienced advice here - Thank You !!
 

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Maybe I missed it but I went through the entire thread... How do your ceiling panels attach? I'd like to do something similar, but am curious if you bolt through them and the aluminum strip, or if the strip just clamps them in place? Also, how did you tackle the front and back where there is no rib?

Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #167 (Edited)
Maybe I missed it but I went through the entire thread... How do your ceiling panels attach? I'd like to do something similar, but am curious if you bolt through them and the aluminum strip, or if the strip just clamps them in place? Also, how did you tackle the front and back where there is no rib?

Thanks!
Hi Cantle

It starts near the bottom of Page 2 of this build thread;


The process in order;

get cleco clamps
get aluminum bar strips to length
pilot drill aluminum bar for cleo size hole (I think I had them every 5 or 6 inches)
put bar in place on th ceiling rib, drill thru the aluminum bar pilot hole middle hole with same pilot drill & cleco
ensure you line up the bar at on side drill & cleco
ensure the other side of the bar is lined up drill & cleco
drill the remainder of the pilot holes using the cleco in place aluminum bar
* At This Point; you have pilot holes in your Aluminum Bar & “match drilled” pilot holes in your steel van ceiling rib*

So now @ the van ceiling rib;
use the proper size drill bit and drill thru the pilot holes you just created to accept a rivnut
now install the rivnut

So now @ the Aluminum Bar;
drill out you pilot holes so your bolt can go thru (I used 1/4” SS countersunk heads)
now countersink the hole for a counter sunk head

so now you “test” bolt your aluminum bar into the rivnuts to ensure ease of assembly

so now you have an aluminum pinch bar attached to the ribs with 1/4” countersunk bolts

Repeat the above, on all ceiling ribs

Now you position you plywood panel where you want it & mark where the “center” bolt hole needs to be

Now you drill 1/4” holes for all center bolts

Now you install the plywood and all the aluminum bars “center bolt only”

repeat the “line up process” as with clecos above & drill thru the 1/4” hole in the aluminum bar & match drill your plywood & the end of the bar- install bolt

now do the other end of the bar - install bolt

do the remainder holes in the plywood “match hole drill” & install the bolts

now repeat this with all the plywood & aluminum bars


That is basically it






Now; If you want to do it easier & you do not care about a bit of plywood waste or the way the “grain” of the wood in the plywood runs, then I suggest the following;

rip your plywood widths in strips so that it fits between the bolts / rivnuts from ceiling rib to ceiling rib (ie every rib / aluminum “pinch” bar). Cut the plywood to the correct length

With this method you do not have to “match hole drill” large 4x8 plywood sheets the way I did & described above



FYI (I used);
aluminum bars are 1.5” wide by 1/8” thick IIRC
SS 1/4” by 1” countersunk phillips head bolts
prefinished 1/8” or 3/16” birch plywood 4x8 sheets (for all my ceiling & wall panels)

also; use “drill stops” - very important so you do not drill thru your van roof



clecos





hope that helps
 

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Hi Cantle

It starts near the bottom of Page 2 of this build thread;




Now; If you want to do it easier & you do not care about a bit of plywood waste or the way the “grain” of the wood in the plywood runs, then I suggest the following;

rip your plywood widths in strips so that it fits between the bolts / rivnuts from ceiling rib to ceiling rib (ie every rib / aluminum “pinch” bar). Cut the plywood to the correct length

With this method you do not have to “match hole drill” large 4x8 plywood sheets the way I did & described above



FYI (I used);
aluminum bars are 1.5” wide by 1/8” thick IIRC
SS 1/4” by 1” countersunk phillips head bolts
prefinished 1/8” or 3/16” birch plywood 4x8 sheets (for all my ceiling & wall panels)



clecos





hope that helps
It does help, and I follow. Are you saying you would run the seam between the plywood sheets along the line of rivnuts in the roof ribs? In theory, doing each this way would have a 1/2 circle at each end, which seems a little weierd to me?
 

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Discussion Starter #169
It does help, and I follow. Are you saying you would run the seam between the plywood sheets along the line of rivnuts in the roof ribs? In theory, doing each this way would have a 1/2 circle at each end, which seems a little weierd to me?
Close ??

plywood edge ”then” 1/4” bolt space “then” plywood edge “then” 1/4” bolt space “then” plywood edge

no 1/2 circle as the plywood edges are a bolt thickness apart

the 1.5” aluminum pinch bar covers the 1/4” gap between the different plywood strips


make sense?


again not what I did, as I am a glutton for punishment & labour ,,, all to get full sheets & the grain running front to back. On Van #2 in the future I may not be so ambitious & just do the plywood strips with 1/4” gaps
 

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Close ??

plywood edge ”then” 1/4” bolt space “then” plywood edge “then” 1/4” bolt space “then” plywood edge

no 1/2 circle as the plywood edges are a bolt thickness apart

the 1.5” aluminum pinch bar covers the 1/4” gap between the different plywood strips


make sense?


again not what I did, as I am a glutton for punishment & labour ,,, all to get full sheets & the grain running front to back. On Van #2 in the future I may not be so ambitious & just do the plywood strips with 1/4” gaps
Yep makees sense. Something about not bolting "through" the plywood seems odd to me to hold the sheet in place, but I'm getting to terms with it. Thanks!
 

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Discussion Starter #171
The Hot Water Tank Saga;

Two months ago I had decided on buying & Johnson Pump Hot Water Heater/Tank. Two months later the marine store still does not have them in & doesn‘t know when they will get them.

So I went to Home Depot to see what they have. I found a 10 Liters Rheem with a drain valve on the bottom to assist in winterization.

120V
1440 W
10” diameter
14” high
$300
gets hot in 15 to 20 minutes ( scolding hot )
6 year warranty

The Johnson Pump was 22 Liters. We only have a sink (no shower). The Rheem was easier to install as I did not need to reconfigure a pile of my mechanical items & build a platform as I would have with the Johnson Pumps


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What I'm picturing is a 30-40 amp B2B charger under driver seat, (2) 155ah batteries behind the seat, a 12v fridge, one 12v water pump and 2 led factory strip lights (already wired into starter batt system). For 120v ac, I probably won't have any outlets. I will probably have the inverter mounted so it's accessable, so I can turn it off when not used. That will likely only be used to run a small Keurig and the ryobi battery charger (probably not often). Possibly a small microwave but not sure how often that would get used either. So, short cable runs from starter to house batteries and daily driving.
I'm thinking it might be good to have a portable solar panel to plug into the B2B for the times we might park somewhere for an entire day or 2. And even then, it would depend on how much we tax the house batteries while parked. Probably not much.
I think that might be better than a whole solar system and the extra wind drag, considering how much driving we will be doing and how little stationary camping. But, naturally, we need a few trips under our belts to know for sure.

Just a reference point for you to ponder in your thought process.

A customer of mine has a battery pack with 4 each , Lifeline GPL-27Ts. Those are 100 amp-hr, 12 volt, very good quality AGMs.

With that setup, it would power her 100 ish liter fridge, exhaust fan, lights, inverter occasional use, and a couple of other things for ~ 3 days before it was at ~ 50% SOC.

It was in a sprinter, so we opted for the more conservative approach of not connecting into the van's electrical system (due to how sensitive those can be) and power it all from solar. The solar is 4 x 150 watts IIRC and that largely kept that running all of the time including some cooking.

This all works until of course mid winter and the local cloudy weather, plus the natural increase in power draw that happens from doing more heating related stuff.

Unlike many others, I am a big believer in having a large refrigerator in a van. Ideally even a large freezer as well. The reason is that you can put absolutely everything from spices to paper plates in there and they will stay clean and insect / pest free.

I guess my point is that with a small house battery bank like you are suggesting (150 amp-hr) and a fridge, strongly consider 300+ watts of solar or you will feel like there is a boat anchor around your neck. It isn't about "going green", it is about convenience vs PITA.
 

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The Hot Water Tank Saga;

Two months ago I had decided on buying & Johnson Pump Hot Water Heater/Tank. Two months later the marine store still does not have them in & doesn‘t know when they will get them.

So I went to Home Depot to see what they have. I found a 10 Liters Rheem with a drain valve on the bottom to assist in winterization.

120V
1440 W
10” diameter
14” high
$300
gets hot in 15 to 20 minutes ( scolding hot )
6 year warranty

The Johnson Pump was 22 Liters. We only have a sink (no shower). The Rheem was easier to install as I did not need to reconfigure a pile of my mechanical items & build a platform as I would have with the Johnson Pumps


View attachment 60706

View attachment 60705
Are you managing shower temps the traditional way ( twist a knob until you are happy) or these modern, super bulky, auto mixing valves?
 

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I wish I could at least get started, so I can feel like it will never be done.
It's like being 5 yrs old and feeling like Xmas is 100 yrs away.
I went out and stuffed some insulation in a few holes so I can feel like I'm working on it. I even have some batteries, polyiso, misc junk and tools in there so I feel like it's in progress. But it's just making a mess.
But with all the mess with the house and family going on,....and now my youngest daughter is getting married next yr,.....it might be a while before there's any major work or $ invested.
I told her it was very inconsiderate to get married right when I wanted to build a campervan.

It is hard to do a build at home. Consider to rent a space that the van can fit into and you don' t have to put your tools away every time.
 

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That's a good topic to chew on for DIY water heating systems.
Temp regulation for the shower is a trick I'll need to learn.
 

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Just a reference point for you to ponder in your thought process.
A customer of mine has a battery pack with 4 each , Lifeline GPL-27Ts. Those are 100 amp-hr, 12 volt, very good quality AGMs.
With that setup, it would power her 100 ish liter fridge, exhaust fan, lights, inverter occasional use, and a couple of other things for ~ 3 days before it was at ~ 50% SOC.
I do appreciate different perspectives to consider. I'm trying to avoid solar in the short term. Just because I know we will be traveling more than camping or sitting still.
If things change in the future and we decide we would like to camp in one spot for a week at a time, as opposed to traveling around to see things, solar is pretty much a guarantee. For now, I don't want anything on the roof.
I suppose I could always upgrade my battery bank and B2B charger to accommodate a larger battery bank. I would probably do that before adding solar at this point.
It is hard to do a build at home. Consider to rent a space that the van can fit into and you don' t have to put your tools away every time.
Disposable funds are at a minimum currently, otherwise, renting a space would be a great idea.
Currently trying to remodel the current house, while trying to finish up a new home build. Eventually there will be a 30x40 pole barn at the new place. 2 parking bays and the 3rd will be my shop. But I'll probably be done with the van before the barn goes up. Once the weather gets decent, the van build should go pretty quick. Between revising the drawings and discussing things on here, I feel like I've already built and rebuilt it several times.
 

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Discussion Starter #180
Are you managing shower temps the traditional way ( twist a knob until you are happy) or these modern, super bulky, auto mixing valves?
Hi HarryN

We actually do not have a shower in our van, just a sink. The sink temp is managed the traditional way with our single level kitchen style faucet.

So we decided to have a kitchen sink in our build. For this one sink we have; faucet, sink, hot water heater/tank, 12v pump, filter, 30 gal fresh water tank, drain to under chassis grey water tank c/w vent & discharge slide gate.

Lots can be said for an overhead cabinet that will hold an “Aqua Cube” with a spigot supply valve & a plastic dish washing tub??

This is the 2nd hot water tank/heater I have installed in the van. The 1st one did not have a bottom drain, & that is why I replaced it with this one.

Just did the install yesterday, so Im in the testing ensuring I have no leak stage. Once the water is hot, the run from the tank to the faucet discharge is maybe 2 feet. So not much wasted water waiting for the hot. We are very water conservative due to limited tank size & being particular where we fill from.
 
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