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Old 06-06-2016, 01:54 PM   #1
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Join Date: Dec 2015
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Just getting started, general questions!

Hi Everyone,

I made up my mind around Christmas time that I want to do a skoolie conversion and live out of it for a while and tour the US. I have been doing passive research into the feasibility of this however it is now time to step it up and do some active research! I have a few questions for you based on my situation and needs and I would like your wise and experienced input so that I can properly plan out my future conversion.

Intended Use
I intend to use this vehicle as a home/office for at least 2-4 years. As a programmer I am able to work remotely so I will need to setup a dedicated work area (small desk) to run a laptop and a couple of monitors. There are times I may have to work into the evening so of course power is already a concern for me if I am boondocking. And I do intend to boondock quite a bit so I am going for self sufficiency as much as possible, however I realize there are limits to this.

Basic questions
1) Vehicle length: Considering I this will be my main domicile for work and living I am leaning towards a larger vehicle (72 seats). Is there a drawback to this other than more space to renovate / wire? Will I run into mechanical issues that may be more expensive than say a 44 seat bus?

2) Veg Oil conversion: If you knew what you knew then, what would you do differently for a veg oil conversion? If I setup capacity to store 200 gallons in reserve with the idea that I get grease when the gettin' is good is that feasible and do you think I would be able to store 200 gallons? If these tanks are in the back or in the same spot in the bus is there a weight distribution issue and could that lead to unexpected wear and tear, will it ride low in the back?

3) Power will be a concern so I will plan on investing in solar and lithium batteries. Based on my research though this may not be enough to power the devices I will have on hand. Generally speaking if I am running low on power is it advisable to idle the engine, or would a generator be a better option to reduce engine wear and tear? What are the challenges involved with mixing solar and wind to power / charge? Since I am going the WVO route could I power a generator using WVO? I have to crunch more numbers but I am planning on mounting about 400w of solar panels on the roof and then deploy a ground array (400w) when possible.

4) Refrigeration advice: Since I would ideally like to boondock for extended periods of time refrigeration will be an issue, specifically storing veggies and possibly running out of space. One option is to get a propane fridge. A question I have about this is how long could one expect to run a fridge off of a propane tank of average size that would fit under a bus? I haven't researched this yet so any anecdotal advice would be helpful. Has anyone had success rigging up their own Peltier coolers to run off of solar / DC? Likewise if I went super low-tech what about using an ice box that could drain?

5) Water storage: It looks like most water tanks are around 40-50 gallons. If I want to store an extra 100+ what is the best way to do this?

I'll stop here I have more questions but I don't want to over-do it on the first post However any advice you may have that is not covered is appreciated. Specifically any costs or issues that new skoolie owners tend to run into but aren't commonly obvious or known. Thanks in advance.
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Old 06-06-2016, 02:47 PM   #2
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Join Date: Feb 2012
Location: Salt Lake City Utah
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Vehicle length & mechanical repair costs: so long as we're comparing short and long buses both from the medium duty truck family, ie not comparing against a Chevy/Ford van cut-away, the mechanicals will all be very similar between the short and long bus. Maybe the axles and springs will have a lighter weight rating on the shortie, but the common stuff like brakes, tires, steering/suspension/drivetrain parts should all be identical or similar in cost.

Backup power: use a generator; don't idle the propulsion engine. Much quieter, more efficient on the fuel consumption, cheaper to repair/replace. I know very little about wind but I suspect that due to size and height-off-ground limitations your money will be much better spent on PV panels than on wind. Also 400 w is only about one and a half high quality panels; you'll surely have room for more than that on the roof. Depending on where you boondock, ground-based array might be nice so the bus can be parked in the shade.

Refrigeration: Peltier have their place, but efficiency isn't one of their strong points! A conventional 120 volt unit from any appliance store will be cheaper to buy and more efficient to operate, whether run from PV or generator source. I've used propane extremely little but IMHO my money is better spent on an electric-only refrigerator with the other hundreds of dollars contributed to a better PV setup or fuel for the generator.. Surely the propane units must make sense for somebody's situation, and perhaps they do for yours.

Water: an array of small tanks might be nice. Redundancy in case one tank wall is damaged somehow, easier handling and mounting, less sloshing about when driving with a partial fill. Remember that a 100 gallon tank filled weighs around 900 pounds between the water and the tank itself.
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Old 06-06-2016, 05:22 PM   #3
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There are some new 12v units that are pretty impressive. Not Peltier but a high efficiency 12v compressor. All I have seen so far are chest type, but I prefer thm to front door models that dump all the cold every time the door is opened. Below is the one I am going with...

Whynter LLC
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Old 06-06-2016, 07:21 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Tango View Post
There are some new 12v units that are pretty impressive. Not Peltier but a high efficiency 12v compressor. All I have seen so far are chest type, but I prefer thm to front door models that dump all the cold every time the door is opened. Below is the one I am going with...

Whynter LLC

thats a nice little unit!! i may have to look into that instead of the conventional cube i was originally thinking of.. this looks large enough on the outside to be insulated really well too! great find

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