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Old 05-08-2012, 11:53 PM   #1
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Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

I read and searched many thread on here, but did not see anyone discuss glycol panels on the roof of their bus with a 12v circ pump/thermostat connected to the stock bus engine coolant/cabin heaters. It seems pretty simple. I wouldn't purchase a system new, I come accross pool or house systems for $500 complete. Seems I could install a couple in-line valves to bi-pass the block while parked and circulate hot water from a few panels on the roof through the cabin heaters. It would be mostly or completely 12v and not use gas or much electric. I would also install a small hot water heat exchanger to heat or preheat hot water. It would also function as a block heater when you want to start-up on a cold morning. Has anyone seen, heard or tried this?

My one concern is the integrity of the panels on the roof when I catch air! I think I am going to have to just try it.
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Old 05-09-2012, 12:17 AM   #2
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

Here is a bit of info I just came across: "On a typical summer day (sunny and warm), the fluid in the collectors reaches 140F to 180F (60C-80C). On a clear winter day (sunny and cold), it can reach 120F to 150F (50C-65C). When its cloudy and warm, collectors can reach 70F to 90F (20C-30C), and when its cloudy and cold, 50F to 60F (10C-15C). As long as the temperature in the collector is greater than that of your incoming cold water (usually about 50F; 10C), your solar hot water system is saving you energy." -Homepower.com
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Old 05-09-2012, 12:39 AM   #3
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

i think a system would be a good idea, under a lexan panel bolted to the roof. One of my friends did that on his house last summer, and it heated his water even when it was cloudy and not all that hot...
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Old 05-09-2012, 12:44 AM   #4
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

I found this too:
Butler Solar Hot Water Heat Exchangers:


The Butler Wand Solar Heat Exchanger screws into your Standard Hot Water Heater! The Butler Sun Solutions Solar Heat Exchange Wand (Patent Pending) allows readily available, standard hot water tanks to be adapted quickly and easily for setting up your solar assisted hot water system. The Butler Wand is one of the easiest, fastest and safest ways for you to convert your water heater into a solar money-saving machine.

Easy, Fast, Hassle-Free Installation
Perfect Retrofit Kit For Traditional Gas / Electric Water Heaters
Works With Flat Plate Or Evacuated Tube Solar Collectors
Patent Pending Design & Manufacturing
Attached Images
File Type: jpg butler wand heat exchgr.jpg (10.1 KB, 805 views)
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:10 AM   #5
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

Quote:
Originally Posted by Benny
I read and searched many thread on here, but did not see anyone discuss glycol panels on the roof of their bus with a 12v circ pump/thermostat connected to the stock bus engine coolant/cabin heaters. It seems pretty simple...
What we are doing is not much different. We are building a hydronic heat/cool system. We will use an electric heater & chiller rather than solar. Reusing the original rear heat exchanger and I have to buy a pump that can handle hot liquid (pet safe propylene glycol antifreeze). Everything is located/priced and we have ironed out the last few "wrinkles". Our DIY heat/air system will cost us well under $300.

You might want to study the DIY solar heaters at Mother Earth News. I like the solar air heaters and plan on building two modified ones (based on the Heat Grabber designed for an apartment) next fall using the leftover tempered glass from the bus windows.

We have an electric block heater on the bus engine. I don't plan on being anywhere that we would need it.
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Old 05-09-2012, 03:28 PM   #6
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

I found an several marine electric hot water heaters with built in exchangers for $300+ (11gallon size). What dar you planning on using for heat and cool? The charted temperatures that I saw from 40 square feet of panel in colorado was really promising. The internal temps barely ever dropped below 100F and that was when it was -10f outside!

For a split second I thought about hydronic cooling when I acme across an aquarium chiller.

The only time I'd use the solar panels for heating the block is boondocking without hookups on a cold morning. I wouldn't put extra effort into it.

I thought about solar hot air collectors on the roof, but then they are only single purpose and only used in winter. I like the liquid idea because the heaters are already there and heating water uses a lot of electricity or gas.
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Old 05-09-2012, 06:19 PM   #7
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

We mostly stay parked nowadays (unlike many here). We treat our bus like an apartment on wheels. We move our "house" place to place as work requires. I have to stick here until Spring 2014. Then we will move someplace else. Just not sure where at this point.

To me the only difference between boondockers and folks like us is capacity. I believe WE (personally) need to be self contained for several days even though WE (personally) are normally on full hookups. This is because WE (personally) have been in situations where we have lost power and/or water for anywhere from a few hours to a few days. We also tend to parking on parking lots when we travel for a couple of nights. This is a personal thing. But I want to be a self contained for a few days in case we have to leave out (chased by a hurricane) and are forced to stay in a parking lot or someplace without facilities due to a mass exodus. But then I also keep a stocked pantry too. Boondockers tend to need to be self contained for anywhere from a few days to a few weeks or months. Other than capacity, the basic systems are still the same.

This is what we came up with that suits us and our needs, both real and perceived. It probably will not suit anyone but us. That's okay.

The solar air collectors will be sized to fit the bus windows (we kept part of the original windows) and be small enough to store during the summers. I can attach the collector to the top down window and slide it back up, then tip the window screen back into place (keeps any bugs out that may sneak past the collector... NM roaches never go away, they try to come inside year round). I will pick up a couple el cheapo car solar vents this summer for this project because I do not want to use any wiring. When the sun goes, and the heat stops, so do the fans. I know how to keep the units from siphoning the heat back out. We got a lot of passive solar heat gain during the winter here in Central NM on sunny days. Overcast days were a different story but I feel the solar collectors would still collect a lot of heat. I would like to utilize it better next winter. We spend a lot of energy heating the bus in winter. Right now, we don't pay for electric (unless we go over a certain amount) but we have in the past. Still, I like to keep the power usage down. The solar air collectors should allow me to keep the bus warm without the hydronic heat kicking on until late at night and they will be cheap to build as well. I'm all for cheap. Takes too long to make those $$! The propylene glycol antifreeze fluid will be heated using an old 6 gallon LP RV water heater that we will convert over to AC for $75 by installing a Hott Rod (part of the LP parts are missing we think, if all there, they would have to be replaced completely anyway, too many $$). We had an LP/AC water heater that we used from 2006 thru 2011. Never in that time did we ever use the LP side of the water heater. So why pay for the LP or dual fuel ability when we don't seem to have the need for it. The heating side is a slight variation of this set up. The chiller will be plumbed into the fluid line somewhere. Our domestic hot water will be supplied by a 20 gallon electric water heater. I plan on having a top load washing machine and an apt sized dishwasher added to the bus in the next year. I will add a generator (before we leave here) that will easily handle the 20 gallon water heater along with everything else for when we need to shower in a parking lot while traveling. Unless we stay in a public campground with no hookups, a parking lot is the closest we get to boondocking. Our livelihood prohibits boondocking for the most part.

As for the chiller... that is an "experiment" that I won't go into detail over. I haven't been able to find anything (DIY) online that would work for us. So we dreamed it up ourselves. It will be put together soon. If it can keep us cool during thru the NM summer, then we feel it will be a success. We just want to keep the bus about 20F or so cooler than the outside air. So we are hoping for 30 to 40 air from the chiller. I don't want the temp difference to be so great that we can't stand to go outside in the heat because we have gotten accustomed to the cold air inside. The old noisy rooftop Coleman on our old Class C could keep the old RV so cold it was like standing in a freezer. Some folks keep their homes like a deep freeze. I don't like that. So the double fans on the heat exchanger should work great to keep the air moving and allow us to keep the bus slightly cooler in the summer. If I go into details now, then everyone will tell us it won't work. It's only a small part of the heat/cooling system so we will not say anything until we have tried it out. It it doesn't work then we aren't out all that much money.

We are trying to keep our power usage down plus we are only wiring for 30 amps based on our long experience in campgrounds. In our personal experience, 50 amp is harder to find, it always costs more and more sites are 30 amp than 50 amp. I think what we are putting together will use less energy than most off the shelf systems. Like with everything we do or plan to do... THIS IS WHAT WILL WORK FOR US! I do not expect it to work for anyone else. We've been in campgrounds both as weekenders, long-timers and full-timer since 1979 (we met in a FL State Park campground). We have mostly been in public campgrounds and are familiar with them. I generally put the info out there just to help some folks do a little thinking before they mindlessly follow everyone else like good sheep. Too many don't bother to stop and really think about how they will use their bus both now and a few years from now. It disturbs me a little to see how many don't insulate (keeps you warm AND cool plus quietens the outside down a bit) and/or put in a toilet. We've stayed in a few places that either didn't have a bathhouse at all, you either couldn't use it (out of order) or didn't want to use it (filthy). Some of our fav public campgrounds would get so slammed on weekends that the bathhouses were simply unusable. Even a cassette (portipotti) toilet that you can dump in the bathhouse toilet is better than nothing. I know, it's what we used in the popup for years and we fulltimed in the popup with a cassette toilet. The kids and I always seemed to "go" more when it rained! All that "running" water?


MEN is a great resource. A great deal of their stuff is archived online. I like the older DIY stuff when they weren't so hot to have you buy something you could make yourself. A great deal of it can be adapted/modified for mobile use. Just read enough of the variations of any one method and you should be able to figure out if you can adapt for mobile use.
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Old 05-09-2012, 11:22 PM   #8
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

I can get caught up dreaming of long excursions out in the middle of nowhere, I start thinking of all the possible scenarios to be prepared for and pretty soon I am dreaming up three backup sources of hot water, heat and electric. The reality is that our needs will be very similar to yours. We'll be living in our bus with our 2.5 year old and a baby for at least a year, but not traveling much as I am attached to work. We may live in it longer if we can handle it. When my wife and I got married we lived in 180 sq. ft. cabin on the north coast for 3 years. Then we plan on keeping it to travel/live in part time for ....ever. I have read about 30 amp versus 50 and I agree, I think I'd like to just go with 30 amp. Our biggest energy draw will be from a washer dryer comb unit(not stacked) which draws 1300w. We don't have a microwave or tv now and don't plan on one for the bus. I have been eyeing a near new rv/countertop dishwasher wondering if we could justify the space/energy/$$. with how we go through dishes now in our house I can hardly imagine doing dishes by hand again(especially in a smaller sink).
I would not poopoo your hydronic cooler exchanger idea! I have been thinking of using a window a/c coil in conjunction with a water tank or flat plate stainless exchanger. I understand the abuse that can be had on forums though and feeling it is not worth it.

I really like your window heat exchanger idea and orienting the bus perpendicular to the sun in winter for max solar gain.

I have a couple piles of rigid R5.9/inch insulation and rolls of LowE foil backed (R7) equivalent insulation. Evwery square inch will get insulated! A wood stove since we'll mostly be parked in the country next year and down the road. We'll have a toilet for sure. We used to use a porta let dumpndump too for camping and traveling. It wasn't bad really.

Thanks for sharing your set-up and experience, there is no substitute for time and experience in my opinion, so I like to hear it.
Benny
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Old 05-17-2012, 03:25 PM   #9
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

There is a website dedicted to DYI solar items. There is a wealth of information on this site in the project pages. In fact there is a link to someone that used the solarwand that is shown above and his reviews of it. One of his projects is a sub $1000 solar hydronic heat system. This includes making your own solar hot water panels. The system is based on a drain back design which allows for water to be used instead of antifreeze. This does not preclude the use of antifreeze but allows for a cheaper and more environmental friendly solution. I think the plans could be modified to fit an installation in a bus. I would also think the drain back design would be less weight on the roof when traveling.
http://www.builditsolar.com

Mike
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Old 05-21-2012, 04:05 PM   #10
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Re: Solar Hot Water Panels + Bus Cabin Heater???

Great! Thanks Mike!
I have found that hydronic heating systems are readily available for coach/motorhomes. Of course they are $$$$ most have a diesel boiler+electric backup+engine heat all in one unit. I haven't found any that incorporate solar though.
Benny
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