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Old 06-25-2015, 08:02 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Tips for a future hopeful fulltimer?

Before I decide to just jump in the deep end, I want to get all my ducks in a row. Looking for any constructive criticism. A little background on us: We are a young, minimalist couple that has the desire to explore life before retirement. We do not need a lot, just a few basics, and we are willing to volunteer or work anywhere along the way for some extra cash or food. I don't mind living life in the slow lane, but I would prefer not to drive a huge rig, so the smallest bus I can get away with, the better.

Some ideas I was hoping to accomplish:
-totally redo all the insulation, floor, walls, and ceiling
-small fridge, chargers (computer, single cell phone), LED lights (maybe 8-12), and a small TV that will only run every so often, on a solar set up - this is probably where I am most lost.. I was thinking 200W of power, with a 1500W inverter, and 2-4 battery bank. Does this sound reasonable?
-Propane heat, and cook top
-Rain water collection with small (5-10 gallons), used only for kitchen sink and drinking water - possibly an overflow tank in case we get some real rainy weather.
-rooftop deck
-Outdoor cold shower using limited collection water (I figure using a heating system with a pump will just require more storage, resulting in more weight)

I think I can figure out the design, and consider what we want vs need. As I said, I am most lost in the solar electric set up. I have done research, but it is all so confusing to me. Here are some things that are up in the air for me, that I could use some experienced advice on:
-Propane cooking vs induction - If I add induction, will I need a lot more solar power?
-Propane heat vs electric - We plan on pretty much chasing the weather, so I don't see us using a lot of heat.
-Composting toilet vs camping toilet vs black water holding - I would like to do as little plumbing as possible to avoid any future headaches, and as I said, we are in no rush, so we don't mind stopping at rest stops whenever we need to (we have a dog, and will have to stop to let him out anyway).

Lastly, and probably most importantly, the bus.. I always had it in my mind that diesel was the way to go, considering their lifespan, but I have opened my mind, and am totally open to suggestions. Who knows how many miles we end up putting on this thing, but I am hoping to find a bus with under 150k miles in our price range, regardless. Are there any notorious drive trains, transmissions, motors, that I should avoid?

Again, any and all constructive criticism is appreciated (I know this was kind of lengthy, but I don't want to short myself).

Keep in mind, we are young, with a budget. Thanks!
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Old 06-25-2015, 08:13 AM   #2
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Welcome to the insanity. Read through the various build threads and see how others have built their rigs. Unless you're made of money, avoid gassers and CAT engines- gassers because of extremely low mileage/gallon and CATs because their parts are proprietary and can only be found at a CAT dealer. Navistar and Cummins parts can be found just about everywhere.
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Old 06-25-2015, 08:54 AM   #3
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I am either terrible at navigating this thread, can't find answers specific to my needs, or am just being too needy. In any case, I will dig a little deeper, and get a little more involved. Thanks for your support, and I look forward to starting my project!!
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Old 06-25-2015, 09:08 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by kvanydke287 View Post
I am either terrible at navigating this thread, can't find answers specific to my needs, or am just being too needy. In any case, I will dig a little deeper, and get a little more involved. Thanks for your support, and I look forward to starting my project!!
Quote:
Originally Posted by kvanydke287 View Post


I don't mind living life in the slow lane, but I would prefer not to drive a huge rig, so the smallest bus I can get away with, the better.

More space is probably important if you're living in it full time. I got a shorter full sized bus (instead of a short bus on a van chassis). It is 26' overall length. 22' of livable interior. 12' wheelbase. It's about as easy to maneuver as a large pickup truck. There are 1-ton trucks with longer wheelbases.


-totally redo all the insulation, floor, walls, and ceiling

If you're gonna be living in it full time this is the only way to go.

-small fridge, chargers (computer, single cell phone), LED lights (maybe 8-12), and a small TV that will only run every so often, on a solar set up - this is probably where I am most lost.. I was thinking 200W of power, with a 1500W inverter, and 2-4 battery bank. Does this sound reasonable?

Look into forklift batteries. You're probably gonna need more power than you think.

-Propane heat, and cook top

Get a carbon monoxide detector. And a fire extinguisher.

-Rain water collection with small (5-10 gallons), used only for kitchen sink and drinking water - possibly an overflow tank in case we get some real rainy weather.

You probably need more water than that. And I wouldn't drink rain water.

-rooftop deck

Sounds like fun. A lot of people put those on Nascar/Tailgating busses. You need hand rails for safety. Also, keep it short enough to be legal. Know your height and the height of any thing you'll be driving under.

-Outdoor cold shower using limited collection water (I figure using a heating system with a pump will just require more storage, resulting in more weight)

If you're living somewhere that you won't be needing A/C (which I'm assuming because you've only mentioned a heater and not an A/C) you probably won't be taking many outdoor cold showers in the winter. Pumps are small. Hot water heaters can be pretty small too. You've already got that propane for the heater, why not use it for the cooktop and hot water as well?

I think I can figure out the design, and consider what we want vs need. As I said, I am most lost in the solar electric set up. I have done research, but it is all so confusing to me. Here are some things that are up in the air for me, that I could use some experienced advice on:


-Propane cooking vs induction - If I add induction, will I need a lot more solar power?

You might not have enough power for electric. Go with gas.

-Propane heat vs electric - We plan on pretty much chasing the weather, so I don't see us using a lot of heat.

You might not have enough power for electric. Go with gas.

-Composting toilet vs camping toilet vs black water holding - I would like to do as little plumbing as possible to avoid any future headaches, and as I said, we are in no rush, so we don't mind stopping at rest stops whenever we need to (we have a dog, and will have to stop to let him out anyway).

Composting toilet will save you plumbing work. You'll just have to do the vent. Living out of rest stops does not sound like my idea of a good life.

Lastly, and probably most importantly, the bus.. I always had it in my mind that diesel was the way to go, considering their lifespan, but I have opened my mind, and am totally open to suggestions. Who knows how many miles we end up putting on this thing, but I am hoping to find a bus with under 150k miles in our price range, regardless. Are there any notorious drive trains, transmissions, motors, that I should avoid?

People tend to prefer six cylinders over eight. People tend to dislike the AT545 transmission. I just bought a bus with the AT545. I don't hate it yet.

Again, any and all constructive criticism is appreciated (I know this was kind of lengthy, but I don't want to short myself).

Keep in mind, we are young, with a budget. Thanks!

You're talking about building a full time house. It's gonna be expensive to get something good and reliable. Keep that in mind.
Good luck with your build. I'm having fun with mine so far. Chosing to live in a skoolie is a big decision. There are some people here who can talk to that.
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Old 06-25-2015, 09:21 AM   #5
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Another thing to keep in mind is your axle ratio. That drives your top speed. Know your top speed at a comfortable RPM before buying the bus.
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Old 06-25-2015, 09:32 AM   #6
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Consider alcohol base cooking. Propane is under pressure and can leak. Ask our forum photographer about that deal. He got heavy burns from his build. That's why we're looking at alcohol. No pressure.

As far as size, larger is ALWAYS better. No one enjoys squeezing into a shoebox. Remember, the objective is to make this your home.
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Old 06-25-2015, 09:48 AM   #7
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Austin - Those are the exact type of answers I was looking for. Thank you for taking time to answer them. I understand your point on budgeting. I will more than likely take a little more time to build this than my desires intend, just to make sure I make it livable. We live in eastern MD (not that it gets real hot, but its not uncommon for it to be in the 90s for a couple weeks at a time), and we rarely turn our AC on, so our house in usually around 85-90 in the summer time - we can live with that.. its the cold that we can't really stand. That is why I want to add a heater just in case, but chase the weather around. As far as drinking water, if we wanted to go as off grid as possible, do you have any suggestions? Maybe some sort of filter? Maybe get a larger tank and fill at campgrounds or any other free or cheap place we find? I didn't want to add too much weight to the bus, so that's why I limited the size.

M1031A1 - Thanks for the tip. I haven't even considered that, but definitely will now. After minor research, I also see alcohol heating options. Again, I want to keep it small, but not too small, as not to sacrifice space, but if we plan on chasing the weather, we plan to spend a lot of time outside, so most of the cooking would be done outside (I understand that will not always be the case, so I still need indoor cooking). I will do more research on this topic. Thanks again for the tip!

I am loving this forum already!
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Old 06-25-2015, 09:52 AM   #8
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Check these out for water filtration-
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Old 06-25-2015, 01:49 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by austin1989us View Post
Another thing to keep in mind is your axle ratio. That drives your top speed. Know your top speed at a comfortable RPM before buying the bus.
A thousand times this. Many route buses have really low axle gearing so they're next to useless for highway driving. I've driven some Bluebirds that couldn't get over 55 mph due to the axle/transmission setup.

Try to find trip buses, they're usually identified by the underbelly storage and sometimes interior luggage racks.
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Old 06-25-2015, 02:08 PM   #10
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The guy who owns my storage unit told me about one of the other guys who has a bus in the storage unit. Apparently he killed the bus driving it home at 60mph. Basically running it at way too high rpms.

Luckily, my bus has a 4.33 rear end and 38.5" tires. So, even with the AT545 I can go 65mph at less than 2500rpm.
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