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Old 08-19-2010, 10:27 PM   #1
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Hi folks,

skoolie noob here. ive been lurking for over a month now and i am blown away by the creative, mechanical and wandering nature of everyone. all of you are quite inspiring. take a bow.

more about me over time i suppose. here is what i am planning:

conventional nose, international, gmc or ford - in that order
no preference on body manufacturer but blue bird seems to be an eventuality
engine/trans t/b/d - the more i read, the more ill probably turn to diesel (a first for me)
intermediate size. not a shorty nor a full size
will tow a jeep or pickup - hopefully w/o the need for a trailer

solar with agm's to run 120v (that stranded/solid debate has me scratching my head!) im leaning toward solid since i trust my attention to detail
shore hookup just in case id like to grace some rv lots
propane to fire cooktop, backup gen, heater and hot water heater
fresh/gray/black tanks - debating underbelly or interior (i would like as much capacity as possible without being a pool on wheels)

bath with small sink, rv toilet and largest shower i can shoe horn in there (36"x36" maybe)
kitchen with two burner cooktop, sink and spot for micro (i am considering forgoing an oven)
refrigeration via coolers possibly, rather than conv fridge. id build them into cabinet/counter top, maybe two.
bedroom loft with queen bed up top and u shaped desk underneath (an extended height bus would be nice here)
salon area with loveseat sized sleeper and a lounge chair of some sort.
not sure about dinette, if not, then a dual purpose coffee table/dining table - adj height
sat tv (man i hope its feasible for hd as i am spoiled...if not, change is good and less is more
cellular 3g for internet and phone

ive been looking at all of the photos and even a few videos for ideas on installing everything with the best ratio of strength, weight, function and insulation
i would rather engineer than overbuild to save on weight which should equate to better mileage (although i read about the jacuzzi dude with identical mileage )

its a lot to cram into an intermediate bus and still have some open feeling but im just one person and quite a good designer
i would like to boondock or workcamp as much as possible but i also intend to buy property here and there to homestead maybe
so far i have my eye on nevada in the elko area and northern maine

havent made up my mind entirely on that last bit yet. but i am done with the rat race in new jersey

ive secured a spot to park and work on the project (interior only, no major painting etc exterior)
ive got apparent intent to insure by foremost via an agent that did lots of legwork for me and the only hurdle i see is that the conversion must be done by a "professional"
when asked for clarification on what a professional is, they said mechanic basically.
perhaps forming a "Coach Company" LLC would give me some angle lol
for the record, i called and was upfront about the bus conversion just to see what it would take...i can also shut my mouth
nj dmv is awol on this at the moment so, ill be registering a mh or suggestions on my part

well thats it so far. ive got gobs of ideas and this site has truly been an inspiration. the whole concept has come along at just the right time
i have lots of experience in just about all areas that a conversion requires except welding and diesel mechanics (im more familiar with small block chevys)
ive been asking around for someone to teach me how to weld but i mostly get stupid looks /sigh
and ive read enough about solar that i think i can design an acceptable system for myself with just a little help
only mystery to me at this point is how the hell do you buy a school bus out of state and drive it legally back home?

ok sorry for long first post is what it is....i blame you all

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Old 08-20-2010, 09:20 AM   #2
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Re: Hello

hello and welcome .... registering was the toughest part in my opinion...well at least most stressful...
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Old 08-20-2010, 08:02 PM   #3
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Re: Hello

Originally Posted by Smitty
I will promise you, if you plan to live in your bus, especially a mid-bus, you're going to run out of room quick. You may not think so now, but you will. You need to lean more towards "efficiency" and less towards creature comforts. Now I'm not saying you won't/can't be comfortable.....just saying it's a delicate balancing-act, and you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices and lifestyle adjustments.

Ain't that the truth!
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Old 08-20-2010, 08:19 PM   #4
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Re: Hello

thanks for the welcome! hope everyone is doing ok

Originally Posted by Smitty
DItto on the welcome! Going the LLC route would be an expensive'd need liability insurance to cover doing bus conversions for a living, how can that possibly be cost effective? Not to mention business licensing, the gov in your biz....wondering where you conduct your business, where's your employees, why aren't you having expenses or reporting income from your business......see where I'm going with this?

yeah it could get out of hand but...LLC's are formed millions of times a day and then terminated. i think concert promoters form an LLC for single events and my idea was just to form one to do the conversion myself...subcontracting out certain things like diesel repairs etc...then once it is insured...terminate it. i figure a year would be enough...i might not have to bother anyway since their explanation of professional seems to indicate that i just need to have a few invoices to show for the work.

Originally Posted by Smitty
Sounds like you intend to boondock/dry camp more than running from shore power. If that's the case.....

I'd reconsider the microwave in exchange for an LP oven.
interesting...i plan on spending the coin for a large enough solar system to run the nuker....i rarely use my oven at home...i figured a solar oven would come in handy if i wanted some fresh bread or made me think about it though since a micro would wash out any space savings from eliminating an oven...have to mull that over..

Unless you're an extremely large person, or plan to share showers.....I'd nix the larger shower. All it will do is make you more comfortable in the shower, thus apt to spend more time & use more water. I'm 6'2" & about 220lbs, and have a 30" 1-piece shower in my bus, and it's more than ample for me....and you've already expressed a concern for space, a little here & a little there adds-up.
im built like a brick ****" shower does seem large...have to try one out at depot...maybe smaller is better...thing is, whenever i go on a cruise, i have to soap the walls and spin...

I omitted the bath sink to save room & additional plumbing, and just shave & knock the fuzz off my teeth in the small kitchen sink. Having a bathroom sink seemed kinda redundant to me, but then I live alone so there's no one to please but me.
i can see would allow me to split the shower/toilet to separate compartments more like to keep the plumbing in close proximity, kind of like a plumbing wall in a house...i wonder how significant others feel? i do expect company...would they be grossed out by no sink in bath? man its funny how we are wired to expect certain things

Constantly having to buy ice, especially if you're 25 miles from the nearest civilization, will get old.....FAST! Reconsider adding a 'fridge.
i should have stated...electric cooler. i read somewhere about a freezer mod or something...i like the idea of refrigeration with a lid for some reason...

Satellite TV is all well & didn't mention any sizing plans for your PV solar set-up, but it all takes power to operate. Take that from someone who is looking to shave power consuming items. Find something to occupy your time so as to not spend as much in front of the TV (unless you don't mind fuel to run your gen).
i thought about this....i currently watch about 6 hours of tv a week on average...not counting a movie or two...i can live without it but if i can make it work id like to...the BIG thing is broadband way spoiled...have had fast unlimited connections forever...not sure if 3g will be adequate to replace it...but im up for the change either way...its exciting to think of ways around these problems and trying to balance them out...

I will promise you, if you plan to live in your bus, especially a mid-bus, you're going to run out of room quick. You may not think so now, but you will. You need to lean more towards "efficiency" and less towards creature comforts. Now I'm not saying you won't/can't be comfortable.....just saying it's a delicate balancing-act, and you need to be prepared to make some sacrifices and lifestyle adjustments.
you hit the nail on the is a concern...only in that im a big guy and will have less space than i currently do...i live in a tiny 2br outdoor living (even tho im in the burbs)...but being "out there" seems like ill have so much more space being able to design a space around my needs should settle any concerns...and yeah, lifestyle change...too true...and its what i look forward to...

i plan on having a pv setup capable of powering a medium sized cabin....800-900 watts in panels and 1600ah in batteries...its going to be expensive i know...but im hoping prices come down a little by the time i start still learning about solar so i may have to adjust expectations/usage and the specifics....2 of the buildings i manage are going solar. about 100,000 sq ft of roof space will be pv...grid tie...i will have a huge opportunity to learn and make some buddies....maybe that will result in some freebies...cant wait..itll be done before autumn sets in...

how do you find your comfort level? anything you'd do different?
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Old 08-20-2010, 08:21 PM   #5
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Re: Hello

how does everyone find towing a vehicle with a standard size bus?
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Old 08-21-2010, 11:12 AM   #6
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Re: Hello

yeah the LLC isnt going to be necessary as it turns would help solve the problem i thought i would have initially but since then theyve clarified what they mean so all good...i suppose i was pounding a brad with a sledge in that regard...i was just freaking out about building the thing only to not be able to use it...that would suck...i really need it to be insured and registered in nj while i work on it (state law)...i wont have the option of doing so in another more "friendly" state just least not easily...but it seem to be ok for now...fingers crossed

well you can tell how much i use an i didnt even think about residual heat benefit in cold weather...

im set on eliminating the bathroom does make sense to just use the kitchen sink...i can always keep some wipes in the bath

entertain mostly outside is the plan so im with you on that...

i thought about using a convertible sofa with a good mattress as my would eliminate a need for a bed but i havent found one i can be comfortable on...that would be ok with cramming a loft in the back of the bus with a desk underneath...i think it will work headroom/sleep room-wise with a standard height bus...but im keeping my eye open for one that has the extended height just to be sure...either way, i will have a loveseat and it will open into a bed...i just dont plan on using it to seems like a waste to put a normal loveseat/couch on the bus so i always pictured a convertible...or even a futon.

as for pv...1600 is typo...around 1000 it should be...4 255ah batts...or 245ah... id like to acquire 4 230w panels...the panels should fit ok on the roof with a spot for sat and a/c..itll be tight but i think i can make it work...should be at least 20' of linear space up there...

i was looking at those portable dishes that you plop down when you park...i can live with that...and yes it does get expensive per hour but im thinking of it as an "access" thing more than a value fact...a portable makes sense because if i find that i just dont want the sat i can cancel and sell the setup and i hadnt bothered with installing it on the roof...i guess the reverse is true too...if i find that i want it more, i can turn around and do a more permanent not much of a dvd watcher more of an on demand or scheduled type movie watcher....i also have no delusions about 3g for entertainment...unless i have broadband wifi where im parked...i wont be using the internet to watch movies so im not worried about the 5gb 3g cap...directv on demand or their scheduled movie programming satisfied me...there is also going to the movies in the theater! how novel! lol...something i do like once every 3 years now since its such a rip...but...doing so in new places mike make it fun again..

did you raise your roof because you are tall (i dont recall) or wanted the headroom/storage space?

i really like the chest freezer conversion you have a freezer as well or just refrigeration?
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Old 08-21-2010, 11:14 AM   #7
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Re: Hello

just realized im asking lots of questions that might be better asked in specific forums...
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Old 08-22-2010, 04:49 PM   #8
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Re: Hello

haha i know all about the "stuff" people own...i am in the self storage business and if it taught me anything is that less is wouldnt believe what people store...for example, an old washer and dryer in a 5x10 for $120+ per month! the stored them for almost 4 years. eventually, they stopped paying so we held an auction. when we opened the unit i couldnt stop laughing. sheesh.

ive been giving lots of thought to freezing makes me wonder about the holding tanks. easy to drive around the cold but i dont mind cold myself. so the idea of moving because its freezing outside hasnt really formed a sense of urgency in my head except when i think of freezing tanks and lines. im not sure how far enclosing them underneath the bus and insulating would get me. ive installed pipe heaters (heating wire type) for people before and it is a perfect solution but for the electrical draw. another thing that would need to be added to the pv calc.

despite having lots of toys and gadgets im pretty old school. ive got 1 tv in the living room, thats it. i have craploads of computers all over the place. its what i do for spare $. but ive no problem using one or the other. its what i do now. good point though because i can see a tv being left on while surfing the net. total waste. im starting to prepare for life with a laptop only, as opposed to an htpc, main, spare and server lol. its all doable given hd technology and ssd. ive started migrating all of my files off of my server onto a simple large cap hd in an external enclosure in anticipation of eliminating the server. the others will soon follow.

sounds like if i practice water conservation to a degree slightly more strict than yours i might stretch a 100 gal tank to a month? washing clothes is something i hate myself. really going to have spend time researching that one. drying outside is a no brainer. i suppose if i shower every other day and wear my clothes in there it might solve it hahah

to reduce or eliminate phantom power ill be able to switch everything off when not in use...surge protectors are a good idea. i was thinking of a switch in each wallplate. doesnt give me surge protection though...unless the inverter can handle that. or an inline device that does it at the panel.

that brings me to another question...if i connect to shore power, dont i need to change the ground? the bus 120v system will be grounded to the chassis but the shore power needs to be grounded as well. can the inverters that automatically switch from pv to shore to gen handle this?

the a/c is going to be a challenge. no doubt. im going to try and do whatever i can to reduce its need. paint, insulation, air flow & venting. vehicle color. where i live, when its hot, its ridiculous due to humidity. i feel as though if spend the majority of my time in nevada, new mexico, arizona etc the heat can be really brutal but at least dry. also, im more worried about keeping the bus cool so that food/devices/finish etc wont deteriorate too fast. i can create outdoor living space with shade and just deal with the heat. i doubt ill be inside too much during the day. night time should be cooler which is good for sleeping. i can picture, given all of this, running the a/c very little. but its all a guess at this point. ill have to experience it. if things get really monstrous and i just need to cool off, ill fire up the gen.

i appreciate your input on all of this smitty. got some good ideas and food for thought. i cant wait to get started. its killing me just being able to plan for now. i suppose the next thing ill do is inventory all of my devices and get a usage spreadsheet. im expecting that to be a real shocker (sorry) the heck do you guys tell if your tanks are full/empty or whatever? how do you know to fill the water tank if you cant see it and i think the question is even more pertinent regarding the black water tank are there sending units? sight gauges? guess? crawl under bus?

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Old 08-27-2010, 02:04 PM   #9
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Re: Hello

Tanks: I have 2. 1 45 gal the other 35 gal. I have the back floor tubbed out so the tanks are actually IN the cabin but 3/4 under the floor. The reside in a storage area under a bed so I just have to lift up the mattress and hatch door to check. I keep both tanks seperated by a shut off valve. Essentially the smaller tank serves as a reserve. I have only gone for long weekend trips ans the 45 gal tank has never run out. That's with typical use and 8 showers.

Transporting purchase home. I just slap a tag on it from one of my cars. That's legal in NC.
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Old 08-27-2010, 04:16 PM   #10
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Re: Hello

You will need AC in the summer in New Mexico. It's a dry heat... with wind... like a convection oven! There is NO SHADE. When you do find shade it's only a few degrees cooler (like 3 to 5... we've used thermometers). It's not enough to make a difference.

You need to go look at RV's. You need to look at the spaces. Look at the smaller Class C's. For a mid size bus, I would guess that you need to look at Class C's that are 25 ft long. To full-time, even for one person, I would suggest a larger bus.

How do you deal with freezing temps??? Head south. Otherwise you will have to insulate tanks (& heat them), insulate hose (& heat it). Been there, done that. Will most likely do it again this winter (were thinking of staying in Albuquerque for the winter).

We towed the jeep out here with the bus (40 ft). No sweat.
This post is my opinion. It is not intended to influence anyone's judgment nor do I advocate anyone do what I propose.
Fulltime since 2006
The goal of life is living in agreement with nature. Zeno (335BC-264BC)
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