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Old 04-22-2020, 10:25 PM   #1
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Dinette Ideas

I was cleaning out my bus today after getting it back from the mechanic (alternator install) and noticing the two bench seats I kept to use as a dinette.

My plan has been to remount those seats facing each other, with a table in the middle: a dinette. But the issue is, they would be permanent, and they take up a good deal of space. I'd like to have a sofa, so we can sometimes watch TV, and sometimes just look out the large window I put in. The sofa would be across the dinette and allow about 16-18" of walking space between them. This would be uncomfortable; not only for walking, but sitting down with the dinette benches right in front of us.



So...


I got an idea:


Make the dinette collapsible: a fold-down table and four nice wooden chairs (my bus will be have a Victorian/steampunk theme). This would allow for comfortable seating at a modular table, for two or four, while also allowing the sofa to face the window, which will have a hidden, fold-down flat screen TV overhead..

When not in use, the table can fold away, and the chairs can be backed up against the wall and secured.



My only concern is safety when traveling: there may be times when we have a couple of guests who would need to sit in the sofa during commutes. Installing seat-belts come to mind, but am I overdoing it? I don't think I've seen RVs with seat-belts other than at the cockpit area.


Anyone here experimented with your dinette setup?
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Old 04-22-2020, 11:08 PM   #2
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Admittedly, I haven't had much opportunity to experiment with such things.

But I would like to make a suggestion that came to mind when I was driving semis over-the-road. Plenty of wrecked semis and coaches at heavy truck salvage yards, some with perfectly good interior bits. Why not look through a few of those and see if anything catches your eye?

For instance, I'm not a fan of Volvo trucks, but they have a pretty neat bunk setup with a collapsible sort of dining table that when collapsed, can turn the dinette into a bed. Nice little space-saver if you can make it work. Here's an example of one design...

Volvo 780 Dinette.jpg

Plus all of these trucks have some sort of storage accommodations, some better than others. I liked the Navistar storage compartments (the one thing they got right on the PornStar, er, ProStar). Freightliner has some nice storage cabinets that are positioned and shaped right that they could fit the curvature of a bus' roof pretty easily.

The Cascadia's storage cabinets:

Cascadia Storage Cabinet.jpg

A shot of the ProStar's upper storage pockets:

ProStar Sleeper Storage.jpg

A short cabinet from a ProStar:
(usually located behind the driver's seat)

https://vanderhaags.com/detailview.php?part=24822178

Keep in mind, semis come in two roof heights, mid-roof and condo sleeper (taller), so not all cabinets will be the same height (condo sleeper cabinets are taller and have more of a curvature to meet their own roof), and some finagling / modification may be necessary, but it might be easier than building your own. And you're recycling!

Sure, you might get a bit more enjoyment out of it knowing you built it yourself, but sometimes it's better to work smarter, not harder... Just my $0.02 worth...
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Old 04-22-2020, 11:40 PM   #3
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CHEESE_WAGON, that is a GREAT idea! I will definitely look into those options!
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:25 AM   #4
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For instance, I'm not a fan of Volvo trucks, but they have a pretty neat bunk setup with a collapsible sort of dining table that when collapsed, can turn the dinette into a bed. Nice little space-saver if you can make it work. Here's an example of one design...

Attachment 43640
Does that top bunk have seat belts (bunk belts?) built into it?
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:39 AM   #5
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CHEESE_WAGON, that is a GREAT idea! I will definitely look into those options!
No problem... Just keep in mind, this stuff probably takes awhile to remove, so if you decide you want the lion's share of a Volvo sleeper or something, it's probably going to be a half-to-all-day job. That cabinet probably has to come out before anything else can.

But, on the plus side... There's an opportunity for an upgraded air-ride seat. ;)

One other thing, Freightliner Cascadias have a battery-powered APU (Automatic Power Unit) that is designed to keep the sleeper cool / warm while the driver sleeps. They are comprised of a sort of scaled-down mini-split that mounts dead-center on the rear of the sleeper. The battery bank is between the frame rails almost directly below. The system is designed to do its thing for the driver's DOT-mandated 10-hour rest period. Barring any issues with batteries, it works quite well.

Might take two or three of these to cool and heat a bus, but another idea that could potentially be cheaper than setting up your own. I would check with a Freightliner service department to see if these can actually run stand-alone without being in a Freightliner truck, though. Lots of systems are designed to talk to each other these days. The system, by the way, is called ParkSmart.

Alternately, you may consider a diesel APU and climate control system from a wrecked rig. An added bonus over the heating and cooling is that the small diesels these use can be plumbed into the engine's coolant system, which helps greatly with cold starts by keeping the engine warm, as the coolant circulates constantly while the APU runs. If you go that route, I recommend the Thermo-King TriPac, the Comfort Cool units SUCK. Most rigs also have diesel-fired Espar heaters. Be aware, however, that the APUs are noisy, and the Espar heaters are as well. Take some getting used to, but they work well.
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Old 04-23-2020, 12:43 AM   #6
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Does that top bunk have seat belts (bunk belts?) built into it?
If you're referring to the Volvo interior pic, it certainly appears so. Could also be buckles for a safety net, but I'm sure the mechanisms that latch are probably interchangeable. The one in the pic doesn't have the ladder I've seen on some, but a lot of Volvos have that too. Freightliner and Navistar generally have a little step pad on the cabinet to help reach an upper bunk.

And yes, I said safety net. Most trucks can be or are equipped with safety nets to keep a resting co-driver in the bunk if the truck crashes. Freightliner is pretty big on that. The pic indicates Volvo may be as well. It'd be a nice little scavenger hunt if you have the opportunity.

The nice thing is that most of this stuff is pretty generic to Volvo, NaviStar or Freightliner, meaning that while each manufacturer may have their own design, each design is made to fit in another truck built by the same manufacturer. Ergo, certain features can be deleted or swapped from one setup to another if built by the same manufacturer.

I'm sure with some improvisation a lot of this stuff could be used in any skoolie. Might be as simple as attaching some wood framing to the skeleton of the bus and screwing a few brackets in for these cabinets, etc.

One other thing. I've found that a $48 Rival microwave from Wal-Mart fits snugly into the storage cubby on certain cabinets the Cascadia uses. The ones I've done this on were passenger-side cabinets. It required some minor disassembly of the cabinet (cubbyhole trim) to fit the microwave.

Trust me, once it was in there and the trim panel was put back, that microwave wasn't going ANYWHERE. I did have to put a couple pieces of 2x2 or 2x4 underneath the microwave so the door opened without hanging on the cabinet. If you try this idea, carpeting or painting these pieces will make them invisible.
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:38 AM   #7
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You have brought to light several VERY good ideas. Thank you!
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Old 04-23-2020, 01:57 AM   #8
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You have brought to light several VERY good ideas. Thank you!
All are welcome. I forgot to mention earlier (added but mentioning again for those that didn't see it earlier) that the diesel APUs can be plumbed into the engine's coolant system to keep the block warm for easier cold starts as well. Most have their own smaller radiator, but you can connect its coolant system to the chassis engine's.
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:32 AM   #9
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I have been doing a little searching on the 'net on these APUs ... I see a few for as little as $500.00 ... most are $2500.00 to $5500.00 butNONE ofthelistings indicate thecooling & heating capacity.


Anyone know the capacity of these APUs?
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Old 04-23-2020, 02:59 AM   #10
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I have been doing a little searching on the 'net on these APUs ... I see a few for as little as $500.00 ... most are $2500.00 to $5500.00 butNONE ofthelistings indicate thecooling & heating capacity.

Anyone know the capacity of these APUs?
Well, that's the rub, they can vary. Here is a screenshot of the latest revision straight from TK's website, though...

Tri-Pac BTU Ratings.png

The Evolution, however may or may not be as efficient than its predecessors, as it is emission-equipped, though that might be a reason to go for the Evolution if you can afford it. Truthfully, ULSD fuel has cut emissions a LOT. I suspect older ones probably run R134a or R22 refrigerant, the Evolution will probably run the new space-age stuff in the future... TK offers an electric option, too, that I just found, it is on the site as well. Appears identical to the ParkSmart offered by Freightliner.

Website link follows for your convenience, their online brochure covers a lot of nice options that can be had with a new installation, though I think it would be far more cost-effective to salvage a working system from a wrecked truck.

https://www.thermoking.com/content/d...n_Brochure.pdf

Just for clarification, here is a diagram of how these systems are set up and how they work.

TK TriPac System Diagram.jpg
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Old 04-23-2020, 03:47 AM   #11
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Thank you. The A/C looks to be about what our rooftop puts out. Same for our electric heater. I like the electric "idea" though ... quiet operation. I would imagine it to not have quite the same specs.


By the way, I did find the ThermoKing site, just did not open the brochure thinking it was sales fluff. Duh!!!!!!!!
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Old 04-23-2020, 04:03 AM   #12
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Thank you. The A/C looks to be about what our rooftop puts out. Same for our electric heater. I like the electric "idea" though ... quiet operation. I would imagine it to not have quite the same specs.
You'd be surprised, heat is actually near-identical, the A/C is about 60% capacity of the TriPac, respectable for an electric unit. Has options for solar and shore-power plug-in as well.
TK Envidia Specs.png
The ParkSmart system kept me quite comfortable as long as I kept the curtains drawn for the windshield and sleeper. Shame the truck I had that had it was not wired correctly at the factory and took five trips to the dealer to correct it. Quiet operation is a fairly loose sense of the term when it comes to these.

These electric units are quieter than a diesel APU, but they're not whisper quiet. Reminded me of a Shop-Vac running behind the cab. Nickel's worth of free advice, mount the compressor away from sleeping quarters. ;)

And as I stated earlier, it may take two or three of these electric units to heat and cool a bus. Remember, you're talking about 4-6 times the square footage of a road tractor's cab, and reducing the amount of sunlight entering will help dramatically in the daytime.

Here's the link to the Envidia (TK's Electric APU) sales brochure...

https://www.thermoking.com/content/d...a_Brochure.pdf

I seem to have hijacked this thread from the original topic... Sorry, OP...
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Old 05-04-2020, 11:22 AM   #13
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I LOVE that idea. I was thinking of doing the same in ours, but we are still in the beginning of our conversion.
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Old 05-04-2020, 11:27 AM   #14
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I wound up relocating the dinette to the rear of the bus. Works well and gives it more of the Victorian train feel I want.



As far as the heating/cooling, I think I'll go with a "mini-split" and a diesel heater. May also put in a mini wood stove for backup and for ambiance.


Lots of great ideas here though!
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Old 05-04-2020, 03:30 PM   #15
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I wound up relocating the dinette to the rear of the bus. Works well and gives it more of the Victorian train feel I want.

Cool ... I'd like to see a picture of that.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe45 View Post
As far as the heating/cooling, I think I'll go with a "mini-split" and a diesel heater. May also put in a mini wood stove for backup and for ambiance.

Check your mimi-split ... it probably provides heat as well.



Quote:
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Lots of great ideas here though!

Oh how true! I've been enjoying the flow of ideas immensely.
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Old 05-04-2020, 06:21 PM   #16
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Cool ... I'd like to see a picture of that.

I am keeping a video record of my build here:







I should be putting that up soon.
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Old 05-04-2020, 09:32 PM   #17
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Dinette a different way

If you use bench seats from vans, many have rails that bolt to the floor. The seats latch to the rails. If you install more rails, you can move the seats. I have seats from a 2018 ford transit. Cloth. Recline like an airplane seat. Arm rest, head rest and built in seat belt. They can also be had in vinyl. I have 2 foam and then plywood on that. For a floor. The rails are bolted to the bus floor and are below the level of the plywood.

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Old 05-04-2020, 09:34 PM   #18
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Let us know when, Thank you.
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Old 05-04-2020, 09:36 PM   #19
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Another way

Many conversion vans have removable 2nd row seats that also swivel. You have more than one mount plate on the floor. Move the seat to suit your desires.

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Old 05-04-2020, 09:41 PM   #20
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If you use bench seats from vans, many have rails that bolt to the floor. The seats latch to the rails. If you install more rails, you can move the seats. I have seats from a 2018 ford transit. Cloth. Recline like an airplane seat. Arm rest, head rest and built in seat belt. They can also be had in vinyl. I have 2 foam and then plywood on that. For a floor. The rails are bolted to the bus floor and are below the level of the plywood.

William
I have a double transit van seat and that thing is really heavy and awkward to move. I considered a set of extra rails so I could mount it in front of a table, but it would just be too much of a pain to move it around. Single seats are probably more workable.
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