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Old 06-08-2016, 10:31 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Jul 2015
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Cold Weather Skoolie

While I've narrowed down my search to the 8.3 Cummins Blue Bird set up, I have some general questions in converting it.

Has anyone successfully converted a skoolie to be used in the colder months? I have noticed the trend is the chase the warm weather for most. My lady and I would like to spend the colder months on the slopes, and the warmer months in the northwest. My concern is the amount of Windows that skoolies have and effectively insulating them for temperatures down near 0. Plan is a wood burning stove and space heaters as needed, however I'm still concerned about this. Has anyone successfully completed a well insulated skoolie suitable for winter months? What kind of internal temperatures are feasible to expect?
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:22 AM   #2
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Mar 2015
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Welcome!

What you want to do is very feasible. I have been involved in three businesses that are key to your idea - first in the wood stove/solar business and now in the spray foam insulation business.

Full-timing in that climate will make you aware of ALL the deficiencies in your bus in very short order. In order to produce a conversion you'll be happy with over time, I recommend the following:

1) Remove all the school bus windows, raise the roof and re-skin.

2) Install a limited number of double pane RV windows

3) After figuring out wiring and framing, insulate the whole thing with 2 lb. closed cell polyurethane spray foam. I'd suggest 5-6 inches in the roof and 3 in the walls. (Raising the roof allows you to put in adequate insulation and still stand up...)

4) Insulate the floor. For that kind of climate, I'd seriously consider spraying 4-5" of foam underneath the floor and protecting it with spray-on bedliner.

5) To help offset short winter days, put AT LEAST 1000 watts of PV on the roof, with charge controller and batteries sized accordingly. Needing shore power will really narrow parking options and running a generator is both cost prohibitive and offensive. My goal would be completely off-grid.

6) There's a lot less oxygen at elevation, so remember to de-rate the output of any combustion device (including wood stoves) by 3% per 1000 ft. elevation.

7) As with everything else at ski areas, firewood is usually rather expensive. Get a new EPA approved wood stove with "secondary burn". This, together with proper insulation and minimal window area, makes comfort possible/affordable.

Finally, install all tanks and plumbing INSIDE the thermal envelope created by the spray foam insulation. No plumbing in the exterior walls. Strongly consider a composting toilet to eliminate the entire issue of black water.

If you do these things, you will be VERY comfortable living at elevation in the winter. If you skimp on anything on this list, you'll probably have regrets every evening when you come home to it.

This should be a very cool build. I'll be watching!
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:37 AM   #3
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Starting to wonder if it would make more sense to outfit a coach instead of a skoolie
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Old 06-08-2016, 11:56 AM   #4
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You would have to do all the same things to a coach. Starting with an 8.5 foot wide coach would give you a wider finished space - always a nice thing.
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Old 06-08-2016, 12:54 PM   #5
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So the theory of the roof raise is to allow ample insulation and still be able to stand. Not sure I'm willing to take on that kind of project. Might just buy an RV at this point and flush the skoolie dream down the shitter.
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Old 06-08-2016, 01:24 PM   #6
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 1,615
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All-American R/E
Engine: 8.3 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
We do it. I have all my windows covered with insulated curtains at night. Retained all the original heaters and run a Webasto. We've been out in -15 and been ok. More ok if you dont hover near the windows though.
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Old 06-08-2016, 01:39 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by opus View Post
We do it. I have all my windows covered with insulated curtains at night. Retained all the original heaters and run a Webasto. We've been out in -15 and been ok. More ok if you dont hover near the windows though.
Do you do it full time in the winter? We are basically trying to live out of this in the winter months, while maintaining comfortable temperatures around the clock.

Did you roof raise and spray insulation? Convert to RV Windows?
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Old 06-08-2016, 01:57 PM   #8
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Join Date: May 2010
Location: Montana
Posts: 1,615
Year: 1995
Coachwork: Blue Bird
Chassis: All-American R/E
Engine: 8.3 Cummins
Rated Cap: 72
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Originally Posted by JHands View Post
Do you do it full time in the winter? We are basically trying to live out of this in the winter months, while maintaining comfortable temperatures around the clock.

Did you roof raise and spray insulation? Convert to RV Windows?
We dont live in it full time. Just a few weekends a month.

No roof raise, no spray insulation, original windows.

If you are to do a wood stove, I would think 2 smaller wood stoves would work better....if you have a 40' bus.
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Old 06-08-2016, 02:31 PM   #9
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Join Date: Apr 2012
Location: So Cal
Posts: 1,879
Year: 1935
Coachwork: Superior
Chassis: Chevy
Engine: 317 ci/tid / Isuzu
Quote:
Originally Posted by JHands View Post
So the theory of the roof raise is to allow ample insulation and still be able to stand. Not sure I'm willing to take on that kind of project. Might just buy an RV at this point and flush the skoolie dream down the shitter.
Sounds like that might be a good Plan B. Skoolies aren't right for everyone. I wish you luck whichever way you choose to go. Jack
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Old 06-08-2016, 03:02 PM   #10
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Join Date: Mar 2015
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Two wood stoves is crazy unnecessary. One stove with an efficient blower to circulate air around the cabin will do just fine.

JHands - The reason fewer and fewer things are done right these days is that doing things right isn't easy. Factory built RV's are one of the best examples of this. They look really cool when new, but the more you use one and the more you ask of it, the more you will curse it.

I described an ideal build based on what you said you wanted. Any build is a lot of work, but if you do it right the outcome would be a noteworthy accomplishment, a real showpiece and the subject of much admiration and envy.

I've seen very few RV's that could even come close to working as a residence in a ski area in January. Even the so-called four season units generally aren't insulated well enough to maintain 24/7 even-temperature comfort unless you're willing to use astronomical amounts of energy.

You will likely spend more than the cost of the bus conversion to get a motorhome that (more or less) works in that situation. Then, be prepared to lose most of the purchase price in deprecation over the first few years.

In a couple of decades, the RV will be forgotten and most likely scrapped.

If you do the bus and do it right, you can enjoy the result for the rest of your life...
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