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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #1
Hi Everyone,

First of all, I would like to say thank you for all the great advice I have gotten so far.

I ordered my motion windows the other day and my thinsulate insulation is arriving tomorrow.

My intention is to live in my van full time for a year or two. This is complicated by having 3 large dogs and residing in Arkansas. Obviously I will need some air conditioning to make this possible.

Currently with my telework set up I could go north in the summer when it gets hot. However, if/when covid gets under control, we will transition back to the office which is in the hot and humid south. My dream would be to telework from Alaska in the summers and not require air conditioning. I do not yet know if this is even going to be a possibility this year since driving through Canada may still be problematic for the near future.

I do not mind having a very beefy house electrical system. My current thoughts are 400 or more watts of solar on the top. A bank of lithium batteries 600 amp hours. A 3000 pure sine wave inverter. The ability to charge from alternator.

I will be able to monitor the temperature of the van while I am in the office and can easily go out and turn on the engine to provide additional cooling if needed. I was hoping this portable room air conditioner might be able to handle the job but I am open to getting a larger one with dual exhaust/intake. I was hoping to vent out the side of the van through a vent dedicated to air conditioning and install a hatch to run the drain hose.

I also do a fair bit of dog rescue and just drove my first rescue with the van to MO yesterday. Picture for the awwww 1609870588782.png effect.

I plan on boondocking all the time in nearby national forest if I am working in the office. Unfortunately Arkansans do not take very good care of their pets and I will end up finding a bunch of dogs out in the woods. I won't leave a single one behind (I've rescued over 140 in the last 5 years). This will make life even more interesting but why not!

So essentially I am building a big portable dog house that needs to be kept cool! I am selling my 3000 sq ft house on 18 acres so if I need to shell out more money for an up top unit or something else, I have the ability to do so. But I just want to make sure it is the best solution and if that solution can be removable for the months that I don't need it, even better.

I have read the other air conditioning threads on this forum and have seen where the dual exhaust/intake may be a better option. If that would do the trick I could probably vent it out the windows that I ordered for my sliding door and I could exit vehicle through the front. I ordered custom motion windows (19" wide x 9" tall) bunk type sliders for the back doors and the sliding door. That way they work for visibility and ventilation. I wasn't planning on venting out the slider but I could make it work.

My van is 2021 2500 159" silver. Just getting started but since the air conditioning may or may not require vents to be cut into the side of the van I want to get it figured out up front. I don't believe I want to do a window unit or a mini split.

Plan is for 2 maxx air fans on top and it seems the 14" opening could be fitted with an air conditioner later if I needed to upgrade.

Thanks for any advice.
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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33 Posts
Discussion Starter #2
This is probably also important. No, I can not plug in at the office. Additional electrical loads will be fairly small. 12 volt refrigerator. Puck lights. The other intermittent loads are optional (cooking, charging) and can be adjusted per power availability.
 

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2016 136WB low roof diesel, converted to an RV by Sportsmobile, TX
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I have pretty much what you describe: a 4kW inverter, 7200Whr of Lithium ([email protected]), and a Danhard AC unit. I can run the AC for a couple of hours max before the batteries are at low volt cut out. If you get a second alternator, e.g. a Nations alternator, you can get about 2-4kW out of that - a 24V alternator will get you about 2kW at idle and about 4kW at normal running. However, you can only get the second alternator on gas engines. If you get a gas engine, you might be able to get a remote start kit, and a good inverter (e.g. a Magnum MHS-3012) can be fitted with an automatic generator start function to start the generator (aka engine) when the battery is low.

Insulation will be your friend, as will light colored paint. You will also want window shades, preferably exterior shades, to keep the heat gain out of the van.
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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725 Posts
Here is the problem with air conditioning. If you are using it continously (every day) a big electrical system will not help much without a power source.

Batteries are power storage not a power source (generation). I am going to give examples using my van.

I actually have pretty close to what you describe. A 400 watt solar system (generation) and a 600 amp hour lithium battery bank (storage) with a Victron 3000 VA inverter. I can run my (5000 BTU window) air conditioner and it uses about 35-40 amps each hour to cool the van. So if I ran the air conditioning for 10 hours during the day it would pull 350 amp-hrs out of the battery. The solar system can put back in a little more or less than half that amount on a good day. So I would have a (600 - 350 + 175) 425 amp hours at the end of the day, ignoring other loads which really can be minimal. After another day I will have 250 amp hours in the battery bank, and on the third day I am at 75 amp hours in the battery bank (mine is lithium so this is ok).

As you can see the problem is not storage, I have massive storage, but an imbalance between usage and generation. For my usage this is fine because I typically use my van to live in when I am working out of town, usually 3-4 days a week. So if my battery is run down after three days it is ok, I park it in the sun at the airport and when I return it is hopefully charged back up from the solar system since the air conditioner would be shut off.

To run even a small air conditioner all day is a big job for a solar system. My system has massive batteries and a pretty big solar array and I could do it for 3 days or so, which is enough for me.

You will need a source of power. Solar will not be enough (at least not the amount that will fit on the top of a van).

Considering the amount of use, I am thinking that the alternator, even a second alternator, will not be optimal.
That leaves an external power source such as plugging in (several options there) or a generator. A generator will be expensive to operate as much as you will need, and plugging in has costs as well.

I am not sure what you are trying to do is economically feasible. My system works well for me because of my unique situation (no pets either). Even though I can run my AC for several days, I usually do not do that. I turn it off during the day when I am in the building working. By the time I leave work and drive to where I park it is late in the day, so I run the van AC while I drive, park and run the window unit (which is concealed FWIW) and enjoy the evening. Generally by the time I go to sleep I can switch from AC to just vents.
 

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2016 3500 ext-ht
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431 Posts
Here is the problem with air conditioning. If you are using it continously (every day) a big electrical system will not help much without a power source.

Batteries are power storage not a power source (generation). I am going to give examples using my van.

I actually have pretty close to what you describe. A 400 watt solar system (generation) and a 600 amp hour lithium battery bank (storage) with a Victron 3000 VA inverter. I can run my (5000 BTU window) air conditioner and it uses about 35-40 amps each hour to cool the van. So if I ran the air conditioning for 10 hours during the day it would pull 350 amp-hrs out of the battery. The solar system can put back in a little more or less than half that amount on a good day. So I would have a (600 - 350 + 175) 425 amp hours at the end of the day, ignoring other loads which really can be minimal. After another day I will have 250 amp hours in the battery bank, and on the third day I am at 75 amp hours in the battery bank (mine is lithium so this is ok).

As you can see the problem is not storage, I have massive storage, but an imbalance between usage and generation. For my usage this is fine because I typically use my van to live in when I am working out of town, usually 3-4 days a week. So if my battery is run down after three days it is ok, I park it in the sun at the airport and when I return it is hopefully charged back up from the solar system since the air conditioner would be shut off.

To run even a small air conditioner all day is a big job for a solar system. My system has massive batteries and a pretty big solar array and I could do it for 3 days or so, which is enough for me.

You will need a source of power. Solar will not be enough (at least not the amount that will fit on the top of a van).

Considering the amount of use, I am thinking that the alternator, even a second alternator, will not be optimal.
That leaves an external power source such as plugging in (several options there) or a generator. A generator will be expensive to operate as much as you will need, and plugging in has costs as well.

I am not sure what you are trying to do is economically feasible. My system works well for me because of my unique situation (no pets either). Even though I can run my AC for several days, I usually do not do that. I turn it off during the day when I am in the building working. By the time I leave work and drive to where I park it is late in the day, so I run the van AC while I drive, park and run the window unit (which is concealed FWIW) and enjoy the evening. Generally by the time I go to sleep I can switch from AC to just vents.
I have a very similar setup. But I also use electric heat whenever possible with generator backup in extreme conditions.
This is doable with DC-DC charging as long as you drive every day or so.

Insulation, insulation and more insulation. Keep your hvac load low and extend your lithium capability.

And before anyone pipes up about a parking heater, consider altitude. I am the proud owner of a Webasto brick that does not like over 2k asl.
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #6
Thanks jracca. I could definitely do some driving to help build up the batteries each evening and each morning depending on how far into the forest I go each day. I'm guessing a 30 minute commute twice a day would be typical. I could even do a little drive at lunch to help and to get the dogs out into the woods for a break.

This past summer was pretty mild and I am guessing most office days would have required 6 hours of AC use.

I know the 12 volt roof units would be more efficient. Does anyone have any suggestions?? I am pretty sure I'm doing this. I suppose the worst case scenario is I end up renting an apartment for the summer just to have a place to keep the dogs. But with the money I would spend on that I would rather just put into the van to make something work.
 

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2020 159 HR
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The math for A/C run from batteries is not favorable. You might want to think about instead running a generator mounted to a hitch rack/carrier and using that to power and RV-style roof A/C?
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #8
Sounds like I really need to spend summers in Alaska!!! I will explain this to my boss. :)

el jefe, that is good to know about the webasto. I was considering one but first I will see what my heating needs actually are since I will have 3 large dogs to help heat up the van.

I am getting ready to start insulating so I will make sure to do all I can to beef it up. I also plan on blocking off the cab area and I could even block off the bed area and make the dogs stay in the middle kitchen area. It will have open floor space and not be filled in on both sides with cabinets, benches, showers, etc. I am doing a minimal build with maximum cooling (I hope).
 

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2016 3500 ext-ht
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431 Posts
Sounds like I really need to spend summers in Alaska!!! I will explain this to my boss. :)

el jefe, that is good to know about the webasto. I was considering one but first I will see what my heating needs actually are since I will have 3 large dogs to help heat up the van.

I am getting ready to start insulating so I will make sure to do all I can to beef it up. I also plan on blocking off the cab area and I could even block off the bed area and make the dogs stay in the middle kitchen area. It will have open floor space and not be filled in on both sides with cabinets, benches, showers, etc. I am doing a minimal build with maximum cooling (I hope).
Dogs, in general, do better in a much lower temperature than us two legged folks. When I was designing animal shelters with RFH, there was a distinct surface temperature/area that had to be maintained vs. human occupancy. Increased air exchanges were also paramount.
Your "zoning" by blocking off an area for the pooches would be to your benefit and reduce your overall loads.

Google "ASHRAE and animal facilities".
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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I have a very similar setup. But I also use electric heat whenever possible with generator backup in extreme conditions.
This is doable with DC-DC charging as long as you drive every day or so.

Insulation, insulation and more insulation. Keep your hvac load low and extend your lithium capability.

And before anyone pipes up about a parking heater, consider altitude. I am the proud owner of a Webasto brick that does not like over 2k asl.
If you drive you can also just run the van AC. The engine is a power source but I am not sure that will be enough without a second alternator system.

I have a lot of insulation, R10 in most walls and ceiling. This is why I can run a 5000 BTU AC and hold temperature when it is over 100 outside.

I have a Webasto heater and it works fine for me.
 

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2016 3500 ext-ht
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If you drive you can also just run the van AC. The engine is a power source but I am not sure that will be enough without a second alternator system.

I have a lot of insulation, R10 in most walls and ceiling. This is why I can run a 5000 BTU AC and hold temperature when it is over 100 outside.

I have a Webasto heater and it works fine for me.
And where are you located and sustained altitude?
I would not want to mislead anyone that the gasoline Webasto model (US version) will perform at altitude. That is a lot of money to spend based on internet, anecdotal evidence.
Check the specs and warranty in regards to altitude. Please post evidence of Webasto saying their product will operate without failure above 2k asl.

Insulation, insulation and more insulation.
 

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Wow, unreal to read about your electrical systems!

For a couple of days has anyone considered bringing a large amount of very cold ice and letting it cool the van? THinking a giant well insulated cooler that you store under a platform bed filled with clear ice at -5f, you'd open the cooler at nite and perhaps blow a fan over it. Would require many days and lot of grid power to freeze the ice at home.

Also, for sleeping I recommend you setup an insulated curtain system where you can just cool a small area you sleep in rather than the whole van. I do this for heat on very cold nites (when its less than -15f). With a platform bed you could just cool the sleeping area which would be about 10-20% of the total van square footage.
 

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If you want your solar to supplement the electric demand you're describing you need to park in the sun. To be blunt, this plan sounds like a miserable summer for 3 large dogs.
 

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I stay in my van three days a week in East Tennessee. I am only sleeping in the van for about eight hours. I run a small window unit AC on my Honda 3000 EU generator. It will run for 24 hours on one tank which is about 3 gallons. I have to change the oil every fifty hours. So in 48 hours the gas and oil alone costs about $22. You're looking at $75/week for gas and oil in a generator if you run it 24/7. I park my van in a public place but it is somewhat secluded. The generator is quiet enough to have not drawn any attention and with a small noise machine I am able to sleep at night. My 5000 BTU window AC is enough to keep the van very cool on a 100 degree day in direct sun (with the windows blocked and 1.5 inches of insulation).

tldr; The $2000 for the generator + the $3900 in gas and oil if you run 24/7 is a pretty big investment and might be enough to rent an apartment. :)
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #15
Is anyone using the Cruise In Comfort system?? I need to look at the math and calculate amp hours.
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #16
OK so I am nothing if not flexible. I don't have to sell my house any time soon so I can keep building my van and ground truth air conditioning to see if I can get anything to work sufficiently. Then I can either 1) keep house and use van for extended adventures to cooler climates. 2) sell house but keep part of the land that has a 10x14 shed on it and do a quick and dirty shed to tiny house conversion so dogs have an air conditioned space in summer. 3) get a telework gig that will allow me to chase weather and sell house. or 4) really get an AC system that can work for dogs even if it means spending some money and driving across country to get it installed. I'm a working person and don't have unlimited funds but I'm willing to spend on things that are worth it.

I was just hoping to get rid of this big house before my 18 year old know-it-all son and his fiancé decide that living with mom would be cheaper and easier than trying to make it in the real world!!! :D
 

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Are there really companies that will install a 6kwh or more battery system in a van? Would love to know how much that system costs installed. This seems like the realm of the DIYers with an engineering background. Not only is this incredibly complex and expensive, its also very dangerous! Id be suprised if a company would accept the liability but then again there are companies bolting bench seats to the sheet metal floor. If done correctly Id expect this battery system to cost a small fortune.
 

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2021, Promaster 159 HR 2500, Silver
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Discussion Starter #18
I have no idea about a 6kwh battery system. I was referring to getting a Cruise In Comfort air conditioning system professionally installed. But I would need to learn more about that system before I commit to that.
 

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MMXVI - L2H2 in IN
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Another route that no one seems to ponder is to use an auto-start system that monitors interior temperature. IMO it would be no different than using the ESS feature used in Jeep models that have the 3.6L.
 

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2018 3500 EXT Camper Conversion in CT (TX for now due to Covid)
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Are there really companies that will install a 6kwh or more battery system in a van? Would love to know how much that system costs installed. This seems like the realm of the DIYers with an engineering background. Not only is this incredibly complex and expensive, its also very dangerous! Id be suprised if a company would accept the liability but then again there are companies bolting bench seats to the sheet metal floor. If done correctly Id expect this battery system to cost a small fortune.
I believe that there are a few commercial class B rvs that have 6kwhr or larger battery systems. I don't follow all the commercial outfits any more, but they are out there.

I don't understand the sense of danger. Every vehicle carries much more energy in the fuel tank and most people survive.

There is no technical difference between a 12 volt battery bank of 100 amp hours or a 12 volt battery bank with 600 amp hours. Both will push the same amount of current across a given resistance, the 600 amp hour bank will do it for a longer time period but has no more potential to create current than the smaller battery. The voltage is the same.

Its not dangerous to have a large battery. It is dangerous to have a poorly designed and implemented system regardless of the battery capacity. There is no added complexity introduced with a larger battery. You simply wire more batteries in parallel.

On the other hand, I have seen some sketchy seating.
 
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