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Old 05-29-2015, 05:32 PM   #1
New Member
Join Date: May 2015
Location: Orange County, CA
Posts: 2
Year: 1997
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: Diesel pusher
I got a bus, but I need some help

Hey there fellow Skoolie enthusiasts!

So I just acquired a 1997 Thomas School Bus, The seats have been removed, and I am working this weekend to get the vinyl floor off and the wall panels/ceiling panels removed.

The next logical step seems to be insulating, framing and wiring.

I am trying to figure out what would be the best possible solution for electricity. My wife (and four boys) are planning on moving into this thing in the fall...but I need to figure out how to do the electric. I need to run a fridge, and since we are moving to the southeast from Orange County CA, I'd also like to install one or two roof mounted AC units (is this advisable?), also a fridge, hot water heater and charging electronics like cell phones etc.

From what I have read, it seems like doing a solar system that could power this would be costly...does anyone have any recommendations or could someone point me to a thread that could help with figuring this stuff out?

Any help would be majorly appreciated!

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Old 05-29-2015, 06:08 PM   #2
Bus Nut
Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
Posts: 916
Year: 2000
Chassis: Blue Bird
Engine: ISC 8.3
This is a good place to start. Hang on to the end; IIRC the good stuff gets started a few pages in.

To run a residential refrigerator and portable electronics off solar+battery bank is pretty feasible in my opinion. Electric water heating and air conditioning would probably raise the budget by an order of magnitude.. if you won't have shore power, then consider heating water directly from solar or with a liquid or gaseous fuel instead of photovoltaic.

It's hard to guess whether PV-powered air conditioning could really work for you. There are so many variables: heat load depends on ambient outdoor temperature, the paint on the outside of the bus, how much insulation, how many windows, how much heat produced inside (people, cooking, equipment). I'd suggest building your PV system with an eye toward expansion so that when things are put together you can do some experiments and determine how many BTUh/kW of cooling is needed, then figure out whether to expand the PV system to support it.

In case you do pursue PV-powered A/C, you might like to know there are some dc-powered compressors available. They're often used in telecom and off-grid home type environments. Plan a 48v battery system if this is a direction you might go..
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Old 05-29-2015, 10:57 PM   #3
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Farmington Hills, Mi (Detroit area)
Posts: 1,340
Year: 2000
Coachwork: Eldorado Aerotech 24'
Chassis: Ford E-450 Cutaway Bus
Engine: 7.3L Powerstroke
Rated Cap: 19
The two AC units will take up most of a 30 amp shore power connection all by themselves. Add a refrigerator and you're looking at a 50 amp service to run it all. I would think that running it all off PV panels and batteries is going to require a pretty hefty system.

The AC units probably draw 14 amps each and the fridge around 11 amps so just those three add up to 39 AC amps which equals ~4800 watts. Granted, those are full load (start up) amps but you have to size the system for max load.
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