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Old 09-17-2011, 09:33 AM   #1
Join Date: Sep 2011
Location: North Dakota
Posts: 26
Year: 1986
Coachwork: Thomas
Chassis: International S1800
Engine: DT466
Rated Cap: 77
Winter Thoughts

Hi all, first time poster. I just picked up a Thomas conventional 77 passenger, w/ DT466 and 5 speed stick. Goal is to have a few rows of aftermarket bus seats up front, the ones with seatbelts and LATCH anchors (we have 3 kids still in car-seats... so far) and do a conversion on the remainder. Goal would be to avoid hotels on long family road trips, and to have a flexible driving/visiting schedule. The kids need a place to go play that is baby proof, we need a place to eat that is less stressful than resturanting _every meal_, etc.

We live way up north. January temps are frequently -30F. While I am unsure if we'll ever do winter travelling, the decision to build for winter running is a big deal at the onset of the design phase.

I've read a fair bunch of conversion sites. THe huge basements of the coach conversions sure would be nice for tanks and other basement infrastructure. However, our bus has the standard battery box on the drivers side and the diesel fuel tank on the right. Otherwise, it has no boxes of any kind.

I measured the available space; from the bottom of the floor supports to the bottom of the C-channel frame rail is about 9 inches tall. The space is about 22 inches wide. I have about 10 feet of length behind the rear wheel well and about 12 feet between the wheel well and the battery box. Less room on the pass side due to the gas tank.

One reason I purchased a skoolie was because I wanted the ground clearance and drive-over angle advantages vs a coach. So my initial goal is to have nothing in my basement taller than 9 inches -- if I high center I want to be on the skirts or the frame rails -- not my tanks, batteries, or pumps.

I can get a fair bit of volume if I build a 8x20" tank. But there's really not much room for insulating this arrangement.

What is your experience with heating basement spaces in skoolies to prevent freezes? What about access ports?

Also, I don't think I want to mess with an Aquahot system (very spendy, and too tall). But I'm kind of interested in water-heat batteries (as seen on, for instance). I would want 3 main functions
1) hydronic heat (i've got gobs of pex experience from my home)
2) engine pre-heat system (it's a 30 year old diesel..)
3) instant domestic hot water

I was thinking that having a thermal mass tank with 2 or 3 coils would do this for me. The running engine would heat up the mass while driving. The heat would remain in the tank overnight, and 12v pumps would run it through the heating loops to keep us (and any basement boxes) warm. If i wanted extended stay, I'd have a pump and ports for solar collectors right into the tank mass, and I'd set the collectors up on the south side of the bus.

Of course, having a big thermal mass calls for excellent insulation in and of itself.

What are the coldest temps you've seen in your schoolies? What steps did you use to winterize for those conditions?
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Old 09-20-2011, 01:50 PM   #2
Bus Crazy
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Estevan, Saskatchewan, Canada
Posts: 1,485
Year: 1990
Coachwork: Goshen
Chassis: Ford
Engine: 7.3
Rated Cap: 25
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Re: Winter Thoughts

if your building for cold weather temps you better pull the walls and floor and re-insulate everything! those factory bus windows are no good either.
1990 E-350 Goshen Coach - 7.3L Diesel --->

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