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Old 09-24-2019, 02:13 AM   #1
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Help! Winter is coming, what to do?

I remodeled a 1989 skoolie recently and my wife and I moved up to Idaho, near Idaho Falls. We heard so many things about insulation and since it hasn't been insulated but we were short on time and it was already almost done, we decided not to change it. Now we are a little scared of the coming winter. We got a 8kw (it seems it's the same as the 5kw) Chinese diesel heater and a space heater and even in the relatively cool weather it feels cold unless we are near either heater. We are planning on putting plastic over the windows, it has all of them still, and we are about to put straw bales all around the bus to keep some wind out from under it, but we are scared! We also have a baby coming in December, what is your advice? What have you done? It can get really cold here! We are going to get another electric heater but we're not sure what will make a big enough difference.
There is a wall that separated the driver's area from the rest of the bus, making 25 feet from the back of the bus to the wall.
It has all the windows.
We aren't planning on moving until April.
1 diesel heater
1 1500 watt space heater
18" by 18" by 36" straw bales in
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Old 09-24-2019, 03:00 AM   #2
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You could start by adding heavily insulated window coverings like those discussed on other threads.
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Old 09-24-2019, 03:03 AM   #3
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Ouch, you got a challenge on your hands.
I'm glad I live in sunny south Florida!

I think that sealing the bottom of the bus with straw bales is a good idea. If you keep the underside warm then at least the cold might not come up thru the floor. Maybe have a diesel heater blowing air under the bus too, on the most frigid days???

School bus windows are your enemy here, need to seal them up. Plastic might not be enough. I would consider some foam insulation boards up on the windows.

I don't know if you can do this since I don't know your parking situation but, maybe creating some kind of tent structure so as to completely cover the bus, might keep the blowing winds from hitting the bus directly and hopeful trap some warm air inside the tent structure???

I got a feeling your gonna go thru a lot of diesel fuel to keep warm!

Also, please be super careful with the diesel heaters and carbon monoxide poisoning!

Good luck wish I could provide better answers!
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Old 09-24-2019, 07:36 AM   #4
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"Skirting" the bottom of the bus (in your case by putting hay bales around the bottom) will likely not accomplish anything (unless you have actual holes in the bottom of your bus). Wind has a cooling effect on a person because our skin is wet (or our clothes) and the wind results in evaporative cooling. With a bus the wind won't do anything except make the outside of the bus equilibrate to the ambient temperature a bit more quickly.

Honestly, I think you need to move. You're going to be miserable in an un-insulated skoolie in Idaho in the winter. If you completely buried your bus in hay, that would help a lot.
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Old 09-24-2019, 08:55 AM   #5
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The short answer is to use the wheels under your bus and drive someone where it's warm. If like me that's not possible and you have to deal with skoolie life in cold weather. If your build has no extra insulation, you are going to be in for some fun.

I am in MT and I have 1 1/2" foam board over the factory walls and floors, and it was not enough (my celling has just factory insulation). I had to end up covering about half of my windows with 1 1/2" foam board painted black, and the others with heavy thick insulated curtains.

Even with that I still have to heat in zones. 40K BTU RV furnace for the front half, (works very well) DR Heater space heater mid ship and electric oil filled for the back. (or two Wave 3's if I am off grid) and a heat lamp on a thrmo plug in the water bay, oh and a tank heater for my black tank with lost of fiberglass around it.

With that setup I am able to stay warm and evenly heated.
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Old 09-24-2019, 09:00 AM   #6
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I think we will do the heavily insulated window idea, and I have honestly considered moving to Southern Utah but we are attending the university here so it would really mess up our plans.
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Old 09-24-2019, 09:18 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by bigskypc50 View Post
and a heat lamp on a thrmo plug in the water bay, oh and a tank heater for my black tank with lost of fiberglass around it.
I didn't think about your water tanks...
Not only do you have to keep yourself warm but a frozen water tank???

Could spell trouble as in cracked tank or cracked water lines if they get frozen!

Might be a better idea to rent a place to stay for the cold winter months.
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:14 AM   #8
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Do you have a GOOD carbon monoxide detector? I can’t help but be suspicious of those cheap diesel heaters. Please be careful of CO especially when you include weatherization techniques that reduce air exchanges!

If you can afford it either upgrade that diesel heater or install a direct vent propane heater and get the local propane company to drop a big propane bottle.

You’re already in a small space, but you can make it smaller by partitioning inside so your heater heats a smaller space

I think window plastic works great and it’s going to go a long way in helping. I have an apartment that has old windows that leak so bad I can run the wall furnace full blast all day and just barely get the place warm, but with plastic on the windows the place gets toasty no problem.
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:16 AM   #9
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You could start by adding heavily insulated window coverings like those discussed on other threads.
Yes, inexpensive to do
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:39 AM   #10
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Yeah we have a new carbon monoxide detector and we are going to get heat tape stuff for the greywater tanks underneath it. Does skirting really not make that big of a difference? I have heard it’s the biggest source of heat loss and the floor does seem to get cold fastest.
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Old 09-24-2019, 10:45 AM   #11
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If you've got a diesel air heater it should keep you plenty warm in the bus... But might cost you a couple gallons of fuel per day. Keep in mind the freezing point of your diesel fuel.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:23 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Brownish View Post
Yeah we have a new carbon monoxide detector and we are going to get heat tape stuff for the greywater tanks underneath it. Does skirting really not make that big of a difference? I have heard itís the biggest source of heat loss and the floor does seem to get cold fastest.
The straw bales will help if you can place them tight enough together and tight enough to the body of the bus. Fill any gaps with loose straw, making it all as tight as possible. What youíre doing is reducing convective/conductive heat loss. Any gaps will reduce effectiveness.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:23 AM   #13
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If you will be totally stationary, you might be able to get your diesel delivered. In October start asking for winter blend, and in November and December add straight #1. I have experienced -40F temps there in Dec and Jan. The bales "may" help to keep the floors warm. Make sure you totally protect the newborn in that climate.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:29 AM   #14
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If you want to do a little test to see how much of the heat loss is from infiltration, spend $30 for a 100’ roll of painters masking plastic and a couple rolls of packaging tape. This won’t hold up to much abuse, but you can cover the entire bus with it and it will tell you how much of your heat loss is due to drafts through windows and gaps.
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Old 09-24-2019, 12:02 PM   #15
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I believe straw bales to be a good idea. The ambient temperature of the ground is around 54 degrees all year. By putting bales around you create a pocket where the air under the bus has a chance to warm a little from the ground temp and be less to fight against when trying to keep the bus warm.. Cold wind blowing through would not allow that to happen. Also, get curtains, a box fan and a woodstove!
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Old 09-24-2019, 01:38 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by musigenesis View Post
"Skirting" the bottom of the bus (in your case by putting hay bales around the bottom) will likely not accomplish anything (unless you have actual holes in the bottom of your bus). Wind has a cooling effect on a person because our skin is wet (or our clothes) and the wind results in evaporative cooling. With a bus the wind won't do anything except make the outside of the bus equilibrate to the ambient temperature a bit more quickly.

Honestly, I think you need to move. You're going to be miserable in an un-insulated skoolie in Idaho in the winter. If you completely buried your bus in hay, that would help a lot.
Ever seen the signs at bridges that say "bridge freezes before roadway"? Keeping air from moving under the bus will make a considerable difference.
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Old 09-24-2019, 02:48 PM   #17
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Skirting will for sure help. Be cautious with the heater, both electric and propane and stuffing your underside of your bus with Hay. If that catches fire accidentally I can guarantee the last 5 minutes of your life will be very toasty inside the bus.

A propane direct vent furnace is a good idea.

I have been in Idaho falls in the winter. With good insulation I was still sometimes cold. The heater keeps up and will keep it 70-80 inside but once it goes out my bus looses about 10 degrees an hour. 3" blown foam, 1" in the floor, 50% of windows covered.

I personally would go for it if it were just me being cold in the bus. With a newborn too? Folks, that sounds like a irresponsible decision to me. Just my 2 cents.

The Skoolie life gets far too romanticized, I think if you stay the winter in the bus as you have described you are going to experience just how un-romantic it can get...
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Old 09-24-2019, 07:48 PM   #18
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I've survived (so far) 4 Montana winters in Brunhilde. I have 1" double faced foam on the sides, carpeting on the floor and about 6"of good German comforters. I also have 2 Wave catalytic heaters.
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Old 09-24-2019, 11:16 PM   #19
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Your best option would be to go somewhere warmer. Skirting the bus would reduce heat loss through the floor. Even finding an unheated building to park in would help. You could buy an insulated concrete blanket and tarp the whole bus with it. It would be much safer and less expensive to heat with electric heaters if you have enough capacity.

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Old 09-24-2019, 11:47 PM   #20
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Yes, just like the reason they put skirts on mobile homes and wrap plumbing to keep them from freezing. Best advice is plan for the worst case. Have redundant heating sources in case of a blizzard (or two or three etc.). You can make it and all depends on how bad of a winter it is. However, you may regret it. Personally, I would head for warmer climate if at all possible.
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