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kstills

New Member Introduction and First Question

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23 minutes ago, rpsinc said:

Seems from here that hydronic heating and a composting toilet to extend time for boondocking are opposite extents of the objective.  

Am I missing something?

My understanding of the hydronic system (and all hydronic systems for that matter) is that it's a closed loop, with a lot of antifreeze in it. It also acts as the water heater, I think, at least it can. Very low power consumption, at a trade off of long run times in order to bring the temp in the rig up. The ones in the Airstream are a swedish made unit, and work with fins around piping inside the cabinets, although they may be mounted in other places also. There is also an option to heat the floor by running pex underneath, but I think that would take considerably more work to retrofit into any of these units. 

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8 minutes ago, kstills said:

My understanding of the hydronic system (and all hydronic systems for that matter) is that it's a closed loop, with a lot of antifreeze in it. It also acts as the water heater, I think, at least it can. Very low power consumption, at a trade off of long run times in order to bring the temp in the rig up. The ones in the Airstream are a swedish made unit, and work with fins around piping inside the cabinets, although they may be mounted in other places also. There is also an option to heat the floor by running pex underneath, but I think that would take considerably more work to retrofit into any of these units. 

I am not confused about hydronic heating, I understand the concept.  My confusion is in wanting that type of system in an RV that you intend to use for extended boondocking.  You will need power for a heater, either electric or gas.  Also a blower or a pump will be likely.  Seems that a mini split with a heat pump would be a better choice as they have a proven trackrecord in RVs.  Better to invest in a high quality solar system for boondocking.  Better ROI.

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21 minutes ago, rpsinc said:

I am not confused about hydronic heating, I understand the concept.  My confusion is in wanting that type of system in an RV that you intend to use for extended boondocking.  You will need power for a heater, either electric or gas.  Also a blower or a pump will be likely.  Seems that a mini split with a heat pump would be a better choice as they have a proven trackrecord in RVs.  Better to invest in a high quality solar system for boondocking.  Better ROI.

Oh, yeah, the Solar is a given. Lithium Ion batteries for storage. I hear that the Li batteries have to be enclosed or they won't charge below freezing, but I'm pretty sure you can enclose and plumb the battery compartment to keep them warmed with the hydronics. Generator as a fail safe if the weather get's bad for long periods. I don't think there is a fan with the hydronic system, it's all radiant from what I saw of the schematic. There is a pump, but that's like the recirculation pump on a boiler, really low energy consumption. You don't have to move the fluid very fast, and there won't even be any head pressure to overcome in the motorhome, so they power consumption is much less than a traditional MH furnace. 

 

https://www.alde.us/how-it-works/

 

But that's another thing to consider, is how much roof space I'll need for the solar panels. I know you can add ~200 watts on a remote, but I'm not sure how big a rig I need to get enough solar to extend my stay off grid. Shooting for 2 weeks at a time. 

Edited by kstills

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2 hours ago, kstills said:

You seem to have done some of this before, I get that it's 'hard', what I don't know yet is in what way is it hard? Generally speaking, is it impossible to relocate the kitchen? Is the furnace unable to be relocated in the unit? One of the biggest issues I see are windows and placing cabinets around them, can the windows be modified or am I stuck with them where they are? 

To relocate the kitchen may be possible, but it would push the cost far up and with many rigs there could be structural problems that make it impractical. Moving the RV appliances adds a lot of cost and work since many of them (refrigerator, water heater, furnace) have openings to the outside and the hole to be repaired can be pretty large. Moving the furnace would mean patching a hole of about 18" square, rerouting the propane supply, the 120V & 12V electric supply and all of the duct work. Windows could be modified but changing the size or moving them may be impractical because there is often structural elements of the walls that are problematic. Major changes there is further complicated by the fact that most RVs today have walls that are constructed as a laminated unit with all openings structurally built into the unit. The electrical wiring is is usually also in the wall during the lamination process. 

You would do well to take the factory tour. 

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2 hours ago, kstills said:

But that's another thing to consider, is how much roof space I'll need for the solar panels. I know you can add ~200 watts on a remote, but I'm not sure how big a rig I need to get enough solar to extend my stay off grid. Shooting for 2 weeks at a time. 

We had 300w for our 40' motorhome and served us very well for 8 years.  Of course, we're not energy hogs.  Charging was easily done wherever we were in the West.... in the East it may be different.  We even got sufficient charge in Glacier Nat'l Park during one solid week of rain parked under trees.  Our panels were in an opening of the trees so even the daytime light in the rain gave us enough charge.  During sunny days we could last forever.

What is your idea of boondocking in the winter on 4x4 roads?   I guess I wrongly assumed by winter you meant in snowy conditions.  Many places in the Southwest to do this.  We used good gravel roads for our stays with the motorhome - up to approximately 20 miles from pavement.  We didn't need 4x4 although we towed a Jeep which gave us excellent options for exploring farther in on true 4x4 roads.

It's just us but we'd prefer a bigger RV for full-timing than you're thinking of and towing a car for siteseeing, shopping, etc.  A car can go and fit in more places than a RV.

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1 hour ago, 2gypsies said:

We had 300w for our 40' motorhome and served us very well for 8 years.  Of course, we're not energy hogs.  Charging was easily done wherever we were in the West.... in the East it may be different.  We even got sufficient charge in Glacier Nat'l Park during one solid week of rain parked under trees.  Our panels were in an opening of the trees so even the daytime light in the rain gave us enough charge.  During sunny days we could last forever.

What is your idea of boondocking in the winter on 4x4 roads?   I guess I wrongly assumed by winter you meant in snowy conditions.  Many places in the Southwest to do this.  We used good gravel roads for our stays with the motorhome - up to approximately 20 miles from pavement.  We didn't need 4x4 although we towed a Jeep which gave us excellent options for exploring farther in on true 4x4 roads.

It's just us but we'd prefer a bigger RV for full-timing than you're thinking of and towing a car for siteseeing, shopping, etc.  A car can go and fit in more places than a RV.

What kind of battery pack did you carry? 

You are correct, winter will be  in the snow, however not in the back country. I wouldn't think, at this point anyway, that we'd be off the paved road any real distance as the chances of getting stuck are very real. 

 

Interesting about being able to maintain your charge in the rain, I hadn't heard that before. 

As far as size is concerned, the 30 footer seemed like plenty of space, we really haven't been in a 25-27 foot yet. Once we see one, we may decide that we also need more space than that. I will say that the 27 foot Northwood Fifth Wheel had enough room, although neither of us liked the layout. The 34 footer seemed gigantic. 

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In my 24' van I had 400 watts of solar power with 400 amps of battery in an all electric rig--no propane but did have a diesel furnace. Frig, water heater and cooking all used electricity. But I did have to drive to recharge my batteries occasionally. I once got a solar charge from the light in a Walmart parking lot at night, though. 

Linda

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5 hours ago, kstills said:

What kind of battery pack did you carry? 

We started with factory installed 4 acid house batteries; 2 chassis.  Later we went to  AGM

As stated, we didn't use much electric at all. .. lights, radio, quick microwave use. Used a stovetop coffee pot and toaster was a fry pan. 

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10 hours ago, 2gypsies said:

We started with factory installed 4 acid house batteries; 2 chassis.  Later we went to  AGM

As stated, we didn't use much electric at all. .. lights, radio, quick microwave use. Used a stovetop coffee pot and toaster was a fry pan. 

Btw, that hydronic system DOES have a fan for waste gas. Very low draw. 

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A couple of comments:

I agree with others that you need to rent a unit and try camping for a couple of weeks, maybe do it at different times of the year to see what different temperature issues will be.

Moving plumbing items around can be hampered by black and grey water tank locations. These typically are not easily moved and can affect weight distribution on the chassis.

Size of the unit will affect how much solar panels you can install, the larger the unit, the more solar panels you can install. You also need to see how many batteries you will need for an extended time off grid. We have 400 watts of solar and 4 AGM 100 amp hour batteries and can only last a couple of days on just the solar panels recharging the batteries to allow enough charge to last through the night without running the generator and that is with only the residential fridge running. There are calculators available to help you size your system.

If you plan on a generator then you also need to allow space for either fuel tank or propane to power it which takes up more space and weight. How long will the generator run before you have to refill those tanks?

We have done winter camping before for long weekends. Our units were poorly insulated and required alot of heat to stay warm. Floors were the hardest and we had added 4" of Styrofoam where possible under the floor. Windows and walls had lots of condensation on them. We ran with no water in our tanks and used a 5 gallon jug for our water. One time we went to dump and the outside valve was frozen and took quite a bit of time to unfreeze (we were down south camping and was not expecting it to get cold before we reached the dump station). You need to see what kind of winter prep the unit will have for all plumbing and tanks. If the tanks and or plumbing are exposed beneath the unit you will have issues. A 5th wheel or class A with tanks in a heated basement would be better but still not perfect.

I have not heard of too many outfits that will change a floor plan in a RV, so you may want to find them first and talk with them as to what they can and cannot do. If you cannot find one that works, you may need to consider a custom build but the cost comes with that too.

One last item to consider, is if you need chassis or engine work on your unit, you lose your house. If you have a trailer, you only lose your tow vehicle.

 

 

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Welcome, Kevin. You are wise to start asking questions now. When we were at that stage it seemed that each answered question led to five or six more questions. I'd suggest that you focus your research a bit, so that you can do a couple of things at once.

First, get a particular type of RV out of your mind. Instead, get into every one you can, new or used, large or small, and evaluate it for livability (can you "take" a shower, can you"watch" television, can you "cook" a meal, can you "wash" the dishes, etc. This will tell you what floor plans will and won't work for you. While you are doing that, notice how well various brands hold up over the years. There are quite a few of us who are full-timing in coaches that are 25-30 years old, but most of us are in coaches that were at the high end of the scale when they were new.

While you are doing the above, you and your wife should spend an hour or so most evenings talking about how you want to travel. You've mentioned boondocking and getting somewhat off of the beaten path, but you haven't actually done that. If you have a vehicle that can tow a small trailer, I'd suggest you buy a used pop-up trailer (or borrow one from a friend) and try it for a night or two. Go out to a State or Federal park and camp without using electricity and just the water you have on board. For a better experience, though, use the hookups provided and learn a bit about camping first. If you can't tow, get a tent, a couple of cots, a portable stove and a cooler and camp that way. Most of us started out that way. You may well decide that you really don't like camping. If so, you haven't spent much money.

I'm guessing, though, that you will like it, but want more creature comforts, and that's where the RV come in.

We know a couple who full-time in a 1973 (yes, 1973) Dodge van conversion. They aren't small people, but they are minimalists. They set up a screen tent around the picnic table and put some things in there, so that if they take the van away it is obvious that someone is using that spot.

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On 8/16/2020 at 10:41 PM, kb0zke said:

Welcome, Kevin. You are wise to start asking questions now. When we were at that stage it seemed that each answered question led to five or six more questions. I'd suggest that you focus your research a bit, so that you can do a couple of things at once.

First, get a particular type of RV out of your mind. Instead, get into every one you can, new or used, large or small, and evaluate it for livability (can you "take" a shower, can you"watch" television, can you "cook" a meal, can you "wash" the dishes, etc. This will tell you what floor plans will and won't work for you. While you are doing that, notice how well various brands hold up over the years. There are quite a few of us who are full-timing in coaches that are 25-30 years old, but most of us are in coaches that were at the high end of the scale when they were new.

While you are doing the above, you and your wife should spend an hour or so most evenings talking about how you want to travel. You've mentioned boondocking and getting somewhat off of the beaten path, but you haven't actually done that. If you have a vehicle that can tow a small trailer, I'd suggest you buy a used pop-up trailer (or borrow one from a friend) and try it for a night or two. Go out to a State or Federal park and camp without using electricity and just the water you have on board. For a better experience, though, use the hookups provided and learn a bit about camping first. If you can't tow, get a tent, a couple of cots, a portable stove and a cooler and camp that way. Most of us started out that way. You may well decide that you really don't like camping. If so, you haven't spent much money.

I'm guessing, though, that you will like it, but want more creature comforts, and that's where the RV come in.

We know a couple who full-time in a 1973 (yes, 1973) Dodge van conversion. They aren't small people, but they are minimalists. They set up a screen tent around the picnic table and put some things in there, so that if they take the van away it is obvious that someone is using that spot.

Good advice. 

I can tell you I was all in on a Phoenix Cruiser for a bit, then I watched a walk through video and was thinking "that guy is shorter than I am, and he's almost hitting his head on every cabinet around the kitchen area....". 

As for camping, been there, done that. I don't want to experience that much nature anymore, but if I can take my 'house' out into the wilds I am pretty sure I'll be happy to be there. A sit down toilet does wonders for improving the camping experience, especially one that isn't in a Boy Scout campground (my God, went the weekend without going the smell was so bad. One of the other dads on the last day looked around at all of us and said "when I get home, I'm going to hug my toilet....". I know I did :) ). 

At this early stage, I'm all over the map as far as what rig to get. New Horizons says they'll custom design a Majestic, all I have to do is sign over two of the kids and a few hundred grand and it's mine. 

Anyway, thanks for the advice, I'll be dropping in to ask some more questions as we get closer to the date. 

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2 hours ago, SWharton said:

You might want to Google "camper van kits" as a starting point

Cool! I'd never seen these.

Linda

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11 hours ago, SWharton said:

I started seeing(or should I say noticing) them 6-9 months ago. Great idea!!

I have an idea of how I could furnish a short Sprinter with stuff I already own but I need one of those wheel cover boxes. I would probably just have my brother-in-law make one for me, though. I would also have to have him cut some length off the knee hole portion of my desk and reset the leg. But those soft storage bags that hang from the ceiling would be well worth having since the things I have all stand on the floor.

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Something I did not see being brought up in reference to a Class B (van conversion) was the bathroom/shower.

Do you fit inside/close the door and move around?  I am 5'-11" and 235#  I do not fit into small spaces very well.

I had a 10 foot cab over camper a number of years ago, it had a comfortable wet bath (toilet/shower combo) but 

what you are talking about is even smaller.  

We have a 5th wheel trailer now with a decent size bathroom.

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33 minutes ago, Phil Saran said:

Something I did not see being brought up in reference to a Class B (van conversion) was the bathroom/shower.

Do you fit inside/close the door and move around?  I am 5'-11" and 235#  I do not fit into small spaces very well.

I had a 10 foot cab over camper a number of years ago, it had a comfortable wet bath (toilet/shower combo) but 

what you are talking about is even smaller.  

We have a 5th wheel trailer now with a decent size bathroom.

In my van's wet bath I learned to leave the door open but close the shower curtain; that let my elbows have more room without washing the rest of the interior of the van.

Linda

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