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Old 07-26-2012, 08:35 AM   #1
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Conversion/construction/building guidelines?

I'm wondering if there are any formal guidelines I ought to follow in terms of how the conversion should be done, maybe some sort of codes to follow? Similar to electrical and plumbing and construction code for homes. I'd imagine there are safety and durability guidelines.

I've come across the NFPA 1192, which seems to have some suggestions for heating, cooking, plumbing, electrical, etc. Are there other guidelines to follow? Or is it a safe general rule of thumb to go by residential structural, electrical, plumbing, etc codes when possible?

For example, i've gotten some indication that the exterior faucet/hose adapter needs to be somewhere on the driver's side and not the passenger's side. Are there some things that need to be on the passenger's side? Is there anything that says where the propane tank needs to be positioned relative to the stove? I'd imagine it shouldn't be inside the vehicle and it may not even be safe to have it under the bus in the proximity of the stove - that it may need to be much further away, though I'm not sure. And are there guidelines about fire safety in the proximity of the stove?

I'm not using a wastewater tank at first, so there's got to be something somewhere saying that a 'portable waste receptacle' (ie a 5 gallon bucket connected via plumbing waste pipe/hose) is good enough for the sink grey water.

On a side note, I have all this polystyrene 1 1/2 inch foam insulation panels (R-6.5), it's blue on one side and silver on the other. I've read that they are flammable and toxic when burned, and they they need drywall put over them to resist any heat/fire/etc. However, I've only seem conversions that put panel board over the insulation, not drywall. I'd imagine drywall would add a bunch of weight to the vehicle. Is the panel board safe? Maybe it's nothing to really worry about? Would I avoid insulation near my propane stove? I'd imagine there are some extra regulations to consider in the proximity of the oven/stove/heat source.

I'm going to the Motor Vehicles in a bit to see what guidelines they know of. I'd imagine both them and insurance companies might be picky and I don't want to do a bunch of work only for both of them to say I did it wrong and then have to redo a bunch of work.

I'm not sure if an RV dealer/repair shop might know much in terms of formal guidelines since they may be used to things already being pre-made and to whatever guidelines there are - and they may just replace like-for-like, which is a different story than starting from scratch.

Thanks,
Tomas
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:21 AM   #2
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Re: Conversion/construction/building guidelines?

Plumbing, sewage and electrical hookups are generally on the driver's side because that's where the campgrounds generally put them (assuming you back in to the slot). Dump stations, from my limited experience, are on the driver's side.

Residential plumbing and electrical codes are a good guide for installing RV stuff. In both you need to provide flexibility to prevent the vibration of the rig from breaking or wearing away pipes and wires so stranded wiring and PEX plumbing are preferred. Mixing DC and AC can be hard for the new converter to figure out and there is disagreement on that score about grounding methods ( I say ground everything back to the shore power panel). Wire your AC panel as a sub panel with ground and neutral bus bars isolated from each other. It's best to keep AC and DC wiring runs separated by a few inches to prevent the AC runs from inducing current in the DC runs. I'm familliar with residential electrical codes but RV electrical was the hardest system for me to wrap my head around.

As for fire, let common sense be your guide. Don't put flamable stuff near heat sources, have fire extinguishers front and rear and install smoke/CO detector/s (and test them often). Many of us have used the insulation you describe with no fireproofing applied. Covering with drywall would add a LOT of weight and the drywall doesn't hold up well to all the shaking and temperature swings an RV experiences. From what I've read, the worst culprit in RV fires is the propane refrigerator.

Your rig will likely have propane tanks and those hoses come into the living space at some point so a propane alarm is good insurance. Propane detectors are installed down low because propane is heavier than air. If you use a catalytic propane heater, be aware that while they don't produce carbon monoxide they can use up all the oxygen in the RV if you don't provide ventilation (a window cracked an inch or so).

Always have an escape plan in case something goes south.
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Old 07-26-2012, 10:40 AM   #3
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Re: Conversion/construction/building guidelines?

Propane bottles should be outside the living area if practical, or, should have a sealed, vented enclosure if installed in the living space. The gas is heavier than air so vent the bottom of the enclosure. The conventional wisdom is to put them where a rear-end collision won't smash them.

Many people have 5 gallon buckets to catch their sink water but people in campgrounds take a dim view of those who dump waste water hither and yon. One of those little wheeled blue waste water tanks might be a good thing to have around so you can haul your sink water to the dump station.

If you have your coach batteries in the living space those need to be vented also (AGM batteries don't need a vent). Wet cell batteries vent hydrogen gas when they charge so your battery vent needs to be above the batteries. Don't put batteries and electronics in the same compartment because the sulfuric acid in wet cell batteries will corrode your expensive electronics.

Those are all the pitfalls I can think of at the moment.
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Old 07-26-2012, 11:03 AM   #4
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Re: Conversion/construction/building guidelines?

One more thing.

In my experience, the DMV only cares that you have the required equipment installed to qualify as an RV /motorhome(sleeping, cooking and toilet are the common provisions but your state may be different). In Michigan I only had to sign an affidavit saying I had the required equipment to get it titled as a motorhome. I'd only had the bus for a week or so at the time and though I did actually have receipts for most of the stuff they wanted, (and was able to forge the rest) none of it was installed at the time.

As far as insurance is concerned, our buses are usually considered non-professional conversions and as a result most insurance companies won't sell full coverage on them. Most of us have liability only covearge from GMAC but if you have a good insurance rep you might get better coverage.
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Old 07-26-2012, 02:48 PM   #5
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Re: Conversion/construction/building guidelines?

Quote:
Originally Posted by roach711
... AGM batteries don't need a vent...
Many say vent AGMs as well... There have been a few (rare instances) when AGM was a problem. So if possible, vent your battery compartment and seal from interior. You never know when you may end up with different batteries and you could be the rare exception to the rule.
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