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Old 01-09-2022, 09:20 PM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
Location: Iowa
Posts: 35
Just Call Me Bobert

Just Call Me Bobert
This post will be the first in what I hope to be a long detailed thread of a build Iím just starting to plan out! Several years ago I built a pretty sweet bar and home theater on the back deck of my house and used a forum site similar to this one to document my build. The advice from people following on what I was doing was invaluable. The journey is just as important as the destination and even though YouTube Channels are all the rage now over traditional blogs, I really donít like filming myself and have no patience for editing video, so Iím hoping youíll come along with me on my build in this medium.
I doní have a bus named picked out yet, but Iíve used the pseudonym Bobert on the internet before so thatíll work for a thread title for now
About Me
Iím in my mid 30s, unmarried with no kids and I live in Iowa. I work full time as a self-employed technology consultant. This has been a strategic move years-in-the-making that now allows me the flexibility to work (more or less) when I want and from wherever I want, in so long as I have fast internet access. I also make an above-average income and live fairly modestly so I can do the things I want with some thoughtful budgeting and saving, but it doesnít take me years to save for major purchases or investments.
I own party bus company (more on that later) and have had my CDL class B for longer than I can remember. I have no qualms about driving a bus.
For hobbies I enjoy camping and being outside. I have a pop-up camper that I enjoy using for trips to national and state parks. Iím not overly athletic, but do like easy hikes, kayaking, and having a couple beers around a campfire. I also like sitting in a lawn chair under a shade tree or by a creek and reading a novel.
I grew up partially in Iowa and partially in Arizona. I have modest carpentry skills, above average engineering skills, above average electrical skills, pretty weak metal-working skills, and darn-near miserable mechanical skills. I have an outstanding command of Google-fu and an ability learn anything I donít already know though!
I have adult attention deficit disorder so one of my struggles is, and will continue to be, taking on new projects that I donít get done before (squirrel!) some other new and exciting project comes along and I lose interest. However, the journey to me is more important than the actual destination.
What are my goals
My intention is not to live in the bus full-time, be a nomad, hippie, or other touring adventurist. I really just want a customized RV built more solid than the flimsy things I can find at my local Winnebago dealership. While I intend to live mostly year-round in my existing home, I do want the ability to do extended travel for up to 3 months at a time; so a solid and quality build is important. The journey is as important as the destination, so the build process is a primary driver over me just going out and buying a Winnebago.
My goal is to be done around 2023-2024 so I can drive the bus to Arizona to and start ďsnow-birding.Ē My Dad will be retiring around that time and plans to winter in Arizona as well, so that kind of aligns. Iíve got several things in-flight in my life right now so I figure it may be a year or so before I can dedicate much time to a build. I also want to wait to find ďmyĒ bus and not buy something just because itís whatís available right now.
For the bus I want something professional looking that isnít going to cost an arm and a leg. Iím not trying to do a cheap $5k build but also donít want to drop $50k into something that I may have little interest in using 5 years from now. So I plan to use a lot of recycled components, at least on the interior, to keep my investment down and try to choose the high-dollar components that I can recycle or resell if necessary if I do decide to scrap. From what Iíve seen there is very little resale value on a skoolie so Iím going with the assumption that if I decide after a year or two I donít like travelling with it that most of my non-recyclable investment is going to be lost.
The Bus Selection
My party bus company is comprised of a fleet of converted school buses, so I have a bit of a ďleg upĒ in that I have a fair amount of experience with old school buses. The vast majority of my fleet now is 2005-2007 IC (International) with a mix of conventional and pushers. I have past experience with 90s model Bluebirds, 90s models Internationals, one early 2000s Thomas with a C7, and one 2008 MaxxForce DT front-engine flat-nose.
My plan is for a 2005-2007 IC CE300 conventional with the DT466E and Allison transmission. That late of model year was past the AT545 so Iím ok with all of the Allison models of that generation. I settled on the late 2005-2007 ICs for a couple reasons. First, a friend of mine is a diesel mechanic and has convinced me of the quality of the DT466 now that Iíve ran a fleet of them for many years. I have experience with them and know what symptoms to look for and can estimate what the most common repairs are and are going to cost. My plan is to pay him to help with maintenance and make sure upon buying its road-trip ready. An engine re-seal may wind up being in order depending as well as replacing most of the HUEI system up front depending on what maintenance records are available when I purchase. On a related note, I have the adapter and software to view the engine diagnostics and tweak some parameters like the governor. Aside from the EGR, itís pre-emissions and Iíll never do another DPF-enabled or Maxxforce engine again. He will probably want me to delete the EGR, but Iím inclined to keep it just in case I need to visit an International dealer for repairs while travelling across the country.
I like the body style as well. Itís a little more curved and rounded than the pre-2005 models before IC did their own bodies. Those are much more squared off and just look too much like a traditional school bus. The 2005-2007 CE models when re-painted and the red/ambers/stop arms are taken out look more like a coach than school bus (in my opinion). Plus the ceiling height is taller at about 6í4Ē which works better than some of my shorter 2001 Internationals with the AMTRAN body.
I went back and forth on a pusher and a conventional for my skoolie. While I personally like driving the flat-nose pushers with my current fleet, they are a bit harder to maneuver in tight spaces like campgrounds. I also intend to flat-tow my 2013 Toyota Corolla (5-speed) so the added maneuverability of the shorter wheel base will be better. Plus in my (limited) research on the topic so far, getting setup for towing is more difficult with an RE because of the framing around the engine. Also, most conventional school buses have side-exhaust which will keep the car cleaner than having to create exhaust dams or re-route exhaust under the bus. Iíll never do another front-engine flat-nose, primarily because theyíre a nightmare to work on, but also theyíre noisy and hot when driving. On my road trips I often drive for long-days rather than stretch out my driving over many days of shorter-distances. So a conventional keeps most of the heat and engine noise outside.
Air brakes are a requirement, I donít deal with hydraulic brakes on buses. The parking brakes suck and often fail. And if I have a service brake failure, Iíd rather fail-stop then fail-rolling (that happened to me once with a party bus Ė I vowed never to drive a hydraulic-brake system bus ever again after that A 100 gallon fuel tank is also a requirement. I donít really care on air or electrical powered door as I plan to modify that. While a side-emergency door would be a nice-to-have, itís not a deal-breaker. Underbelly storage is pretty rare on most CE300s, so I plan to utilize the ďgarageĒ space for most of my storage needs. Iíll also be towing my car for some outdoor storage type stuff. Minimal-rust southern bus a must. I have enough fun with my Midwest-run rust buckets in the party bus fleet, lol
For those not as familiar with the IC models, here is a photo of something similar to what I want to buy:

Exterior
I want something that is on the exterior visually appealing and doesnít stand out in a crowd. Essentially, a clean-looking exterior is a must for me. Iíve seen some very ďuniqueĒ fabricated and painted builds online. Iím not knocking people who build or own buses like that, itís just theyíre not my style, and donít align with my goals. My build isnít going to have much, if any, custom metal work on the outside. No roof raises, no windows removed (I think Iíve seen this called skinning?), no rooftop patio, no rear-bumper deck. One reason is simplicity, but second Iíve read some of the horror stories about getting insured with these high-risk modifications.
I have experience sanding down buses and, repriming, and hand painting with Rustoleum. I donít have facilities for spraying, and Iíve had the best luck with clean painting without runs by hand-painting in multiple thin coats.
All of the windows will be tinted anyway, but for the ones that are covered inside by a wall theyíll be painted over from the inside.
Iím thinking a hunter green color, black trim, and the white Tropicool roof; but may go with something lighter for the primary color for heat management. Iím open to feedback on that.
My electrical plan (more on that later) includes flexible flush-mount solar panels on the roof.
This generation IC buses have either air or electrical doors that swing out from each side. My intention is to modify these to be one solid door that opens out. I donít want a household door, I want it to look original, but actually be one solid piece that swings out towards the front bumper. The factory dual-swing out doors really donít stay shut worth a darn while driving down the road and warp. Then they donít seal up when parked, so some fabrication here is going to be a must.
Floor Plan
This is a rough floor plan, although not even closely drawn to scale or including utilities.

I do have some back issues from an old injury, so I try to avoid bending over or squatting too much. Therefore I plan to build most of my storage spaces ďupĒ and utilize low-areas for infrequently accessed utilities.
My (current, most likely subject to change) floor plan roughly calls for the traditional bedroom in the back, a closet and bathroom, living/work area, then the kitchen up front. The living/kitchen area is a reverse from many common builds.
Trim, etc
On the inside I want a ďlog cabinĒ look and feel. Iím not really into the modern/contemporary or painted looks. Stained tongue-and groove on the ceiling, and probably LVP flooring for durability. Unsure on walls yet, they may get a painted look so as to not completely feel like a wood box, ha ha. Stained wood cabinets and walls, stone-looking surfaces for counters, desk, etc. Some of the puck-style LED lights in the ceiling on two-way switches. A shelf-type perimeter mounted along the roof line above the windows. Iím also thinking these can double as recessed reverse-mirror lighting as well as serve as pull-down shades for most of the windows.
Bedroom
Bedroom is in the very back with a queen bed. I havenít laid out exact measurements yet, but Iím thinking the bed against one side with a small walkway on the other, maybe with a very narrow armour-style cabinet. Some headboard-type storage along the bed as well perhaps. Unless I do dual water-tanks in which case the bed would be more centered with horizontal cubby-based storage on each side.
Probably make the bed hinge-based for under-bed access. I donít intend to put much accessible storage under there, but rather use the space for water tanks and ďgarageĒ access through the back door.
Bathroom/Closet
From what Iíve seen most people are recommending utilities on the drivers-side for campground hookups, so the bathroom will either be split on both sides of the hallway or entirely on the drivers side. Iíve gone back and forth on traditional versus composting toilet and Iím leaning compost. Probably a 30x30 shower.
Most likely no dedicated sink in the bathroom.
I donít have a large need for a lot of hanging clothes, so most of the closet space is going to be cabinet-based and storage-drawer type. Back here will also be a combo washer/dryer. I have no patience for sitting in laundromats so this is a must for me.
Living/Work Area
This area is probably the most important. I donít really entertain and when Iím camping if I have company weíre mostly outside anyway. So building out a large couch, chairs, table and room for people just isnít very important to me. However, since I will have to work from my bus, a large work-area is important. So on one side Iíll build a relatively large desk and plan on buying another office desk chair like my one at home (which Iíll have to find a way to secure while traveling). The desk will have a couple permanently mounted large monitors and room for my peripherals and other necessary work material. Iím thinking of mounting a 32Ē (or so) TV in the corner of the desk near the closet that can double as another external monitor.
Across from the desk Iíll build a relatively simple couch. I will probably make this a pull-out/futon style that Iíve seen many do on the rare occasion I do have overnight company. I plan on housing most of my electrical components under this couch. I may have to reverse the desk/couch from my diagram for weight distribution reasons. I think Iíll also build a collapsible combination coffee table/ottoman as I do sometimes work from the couch. I also like watching movies at night with my feet up
Kitchen
Both at home in the summer and when camping I mostly like to cook and eat outside, so I want the kitchen area closer to the door, so hence the variation from the ďcommonĒ floor plan. A fully functional kitchen is important to me, even though I prefer cooking outside. Plan here is for a large, deep, single-bay sink, and full LP oven/range on the drivers side. This area will have relatively little workspace, so the passenger side will primarily be counter space and more cabinets and drawers. Standard 110v household fridge on probably this side to keep away from the heat of the oven. Iíll likely place the fridge fairly close to the front door to be easily accessible while on the road. Under cabinet lights on the overhead cabinets for the workspace.
Utilities
Charging/Battery - as much solar as I can get. I figure that even if I do decide to eventually scrap the skoolie many of these components can be re-purposed at my rural workshop, so Iím ok with a larger investment here. The plan is for the flexible flush-mounted solar panels on the roof with enough to power the mini-split while travelling. I also intend to do a few suitcase style portable solar units. When in hotter climates I much prefer to park in the shade which I know will limit my solar production. However, I do want some solar generation while travelling, so a hybrid setup of both fixed rooftop and portable solar makes most sense to me.
Enough lithium batteries on a large enough inverter/charger for whatever I calculate out my power requirements to be. Given the electrical nature of my day job Iím guessing this will be fairly high. Some of this may change, but initially planning as much as I can get. Shore hookups built into the bus of course.
110v Electrical System Ė run throughout. My motto when building/remodeling has always been put outlets even where you donít think youíll use them. Better to have too many than not enough or have them in places where you have to run extension cords. Major appliances should just be the fridge and the A/C unit(s). Iím still debating about running some outlets outside. While I want to keep the outside clean and factory as possible (and also do as little metal work as I have to as thatís not a strong skill of mine), running cords back inside through doors or windows is also inconvenient.
12v Electrical System Ė run throughout. Most of the LED lighting, water pump, USB chargers, diesel heaters.
HVAC Ė
One (maybe two) diesel heaters connected directly into the busí fuel tank. Factory coolant heaters will come out. The in-dash heater and defroster will be good enough while driving and my understanding is these diesel heaters can be run while travelling anyway.
One (maybe two) mini-split A/C units. This will be one of the few areas that will require some outside fabrication to mount the outside units. The IC bus has a pretty lengthly skirt around the outside that I should be able to mount outside and get high enough as to not ride too low. Some good metal fabrication should make these look flush and clean. If my purchased bus has factory A/C that will have to come out. Iím going to try to find a bus that doesnít have it though.
I may do some 12v fans built-in throughout the living areas for air circulation. Maxforce fan in the ceiling for sure.
Water/Plumbing Ė
Outside mounted LP tanks on an auto-changeover. In-line on-demand LP hot water heater. The only other LP appliance should be the range/stove.
One, maybe two, 100-gallon fresh water tanks in the bedroom for freshwater. City and gravity fill hookups. I go through a lot of water and like to boondock so as much water as I can get. The catch here is going to be gray/black water. I want to make sure that I have an equal amount of graywater storage as I do fresh so Iíll largely be inhibited by my under-chassis area to mount greywater tanks.
Water connections will be PEX with a water pump and accumulator. These are pretty standard for builds based on what Iíve seen.
Iím planning on doing a composting toilet with a slight modification in that the liquid side will drain into the ďgreywaterĒ tanks (technically theyíre blackwater tanks). Standard RV flush connections with a stinky slinky for dump stations or sites with full-hookups.
Communications Ė fast and reliable internet connection is a necessity for my job. Iím hoping by the time Iím ready to go with this that Starlink has evolved to support easier mobility. A usual cellular hot-spot for backup.

So, if youíve read all that thanks for your time and I look forward to your feedback as I get rolling!
Attached Images
File Type: png ce300.PNG (697.3 KB, 7 views)
File Type: png floorplan.PNG (37.7 KB, 11 views)

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Old 01-09-2022, 10:11 PM   #2
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Oct 2020
Location: Florida
Posts: 577
Coachwork: Integrated Coach Corp.
Chassis: RE-300 42ft
Engine: 466ci
Rated Cap: 90

This detailed plan has been laid out by a fellow madman. Clearly you are in the right place, Bobert. Welcome to the Insane Asylum.
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Frederick Douglass: "A man is worked upon by what he works on. He may carve out his circumstances, but his circumstances will carve him out as well. - I didn't know I was a slave until I found out I couldn't do the things I wanted.Ē
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Old 01-11-2022, 03:22 AM   #3
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
Location: Iowa
Posts: 35
Looks like I accidentally created two threads.

After reading Chris post "think before you take our your factory a/c" post I've already made a significant design change in that the bus I want now must have factory a/c. Before getting that education, i had very wrongly assumed two mini splits could cool a 40' bus while traveling down the road. While I don't plan on going to Phoenix in July ever again, it does get into the 90s and humid across the Midwest so everything he described is applicable.

A few of the buses in my party bus fleet have a/c... One is a carrier system with front and rear bulkhead systems and a single overhead midship. The other two are TransAIR with three overheads. I think my target his will be like my carrier systems with the bulkhead design for better floor plan layout.

I was also driving one of my buses with spring suspension recently, my air ride buses are so much nicer! So we'll add that to the shopping list too.

I get the feeling I'm looking for a needle in a haystack with my very specific bus requirements, but I guess I have time. I just need to be ready to pull the trigger without delay when it does come available...
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Old 01-11-2022, 03:29 PM   #4
Bus Nut
 
Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 634
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dbacks2k4 View Post
Looks like I accidentally created two threads.

After reading Chris post "think before you take our your factory a/c" post I've already made a significant design change in that the bus I want now must have factory a/c. Before getting that education, i had very wrongly assumed two mini splits could cool a 40' bus while traveling down the road. While I don't plan on going to Phoenix in July ever again, it does get into the 90s and humid across the Midwest so everything he described is applicable.

A few of the buses in my party bus fleet have a/c... One is a carrier system with front and rear bulkhead systems and a single overhead midship. The other two are TransAIR with three overheads. I think my target his will be like my carrier systems with the bulkhead design for better floor plan layout.

I was also driving one of my buses with spring suspension recently, my air ride buses are so much nicer! So we'll add that to the shopping list too.

I get the feeling I'm looking for a needle in a haystack with my very specific bus requirements, but I guess I have time. I just need to be ready to pull the trigger without delay when it does come available...
Nice introduction.

I applaud the patience you are using to get the bus. Others could learn from that.

And the only other comment I was going to make was about A/C. I think it's short-sighted to remove the existing system, but you're researching and adjusting your position. Lots of newer members just dig in on their preferences even in the face of lots of sage advice. People here will be more inclined to provide advice, I think, because you're demonstrating it won't fall on deaf ears.

Welcome to the group, and to the journey.
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Old 01-11-2022, 04:23 PM   #5
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
Location: Iowa
Posts: 35
Read another couple build threads since last night and, of course, some more YT videos. Started creating an Amazon wish list/cart of items to get a worst-case scenario budget started. Plan is over the next year to be watching the discount bins, sales, classifieds/marketplace, etc for better bargains. I am fortunate to have ample storage space at my workshop where this build will happen. I'm still playing with the shopping and parts list some, so will wait to post that.

The main accomplishment today was the creation of the project plan and order. Much tweaking to happen to it over time, but it was nice to get the random thoughts bouncing around my head into a clear and logical work plan. That's not to say it will go in order A-->Z, there are obviously some areas that can overlap based on resource availability.

EDIT: Apologies the spacing did not come through cleanly from my spreadsheet.

1 Acquisition
1.1 Locate Bus For Sale
1.2 Purchase Bus For Sale
1.3 Pickup New Bus Milestone #1 (Purchase Complete)
1.4 Mechanical Inspection & Repairs
1.5 Obtain Initial Registration as a Private Bus (Iowa has a pretty clear, albeit stupid, process for this)
1.6 Obtain Temp Insurance for build (commerical vehicle for private use, most likely. Need to confer with my agent yet).


2 Demolition
2.1 Remove Seats
2.2 Floor
2.2.1 Detach Heating Units
2.2.2 Remove Subfloor
2.3 Ceiling
2.3.1 Detach A/C units for Build (to be reinstalled later)
2.3.2 Detach Drivers Overhead
2.3.3 Detach Entry Door Panel
2.3.4 Remove Ceiling Panels
2.3.5 Detach Front Bulkhead
2.4 Remove Wire Runs
2.5 Disconnect Emergency Alarms

3 Exterior Paint
3.1 Remove Stop Arms
3.2 Remove Vinyl Decals
3.3 Remove Adhesive Residue
3.4 Remove Red & Ambers
3.5 Metal Patch Holes
3.6 Bondo Metal Holes
3.7 Pressure Wash
3.8 Sanding
3.9 Pressure Wash
3.10 Prime
3.11 TropiCool Roof
3.12 Paint Body
3.13 Install new exterior LED lights

4 WeatherProofing
4.1 Floor
4.1.1 Remove Rust Spots
4.1.2 Paint Floor
4.1.3 Lay Insulation
4.1.4 Lay Subfloor OSB
4.2 Windows
4.2.1 Remove Windows
4.2.2 Scrape old seals
4.2.3 Fix latches
4.2.4 Repaint
4.2.5 Reseal Windows
4.3 Ceiling
4.3.1 Reseal or Replace Roof Hatches
4.3.2 Install Maxxforce Airfan
4.3.3 Scrape old insulation
4.3.4 Attach Furing Strips
4.4 Frame Wheel Wells

5 Bodywork
5.1 Rebuild Single Entry Door
5.2 Install Water Inlet
5.3 Install Shore Power Connector
5.4 Install Dryer Vent
5.5 LP Tanks
5.5.1 Fabricate Frame
5.5.2 Mount
5.5.3 Plumb Inside
5.6 Waste Tank(s)
5.6.1 Fabricate Frame
5.6.2 Mount
5.6.3 Plumb Inside
5.7 Rear Mini Split
5.7.1 Fabricate Frame
5.7.2 Mount
5.7.3 Plumb Inside
5.8 Front Mini Split
5.8.1 Fabricate Frame
5.8.2 Mount
5.8.3 Plumb Inside
5.9 Solar
5.9.1 Install Panels
5.9.2 Install Exterior Combiner Box
5.9.3 Run Cables/Conduit Inside
5.10 Install Toilet Vent
5.11 Reseal Entry Points
5.12 Touch-up Paint

6 Spray Foam & Ceiling Install
6.1 Preparation/Masking
6.2 Spray Foam Installation Appointment Milestone #2
6.3 Scraping/Cleanup
6.4 T&G Ceiling Installation

7 Rough-In
7.1 Bedroom
7.1.1 Install Water Tanks
7.1.2 Frame Bed with Slats/Hinge
7.1.3 Frame Bed Surround
7.1.3.1 Cubbys
7.1.3.2 Night Stand
7.1.4 Frame Under-bed Drawers
7.1.5 Plumb Water Tanks
7.1.6 Frame Bulkhead/Mini Split
7.1.7 Mini split install
7.1.7.1 110v Electrical
7.1.7.2 Run drains
7.1.7.3 Run Outside Unit Lines
7.1.7.4 Mount Inside Unit
7.1.8 Electrical
7.1.8.1 110v Outlets
7.1.8.2 12v Reading Lights
7.1.8.3 12v Phone Chargers
7.1.8.4 12v Air Circulating fans
7.2 Laundry/Closet/Hallway
7.2.1 Frame Washer/Dryer
7.2.2 Plumb Washing Machine Water
7.2.3 Plumb Washing Machine Drain
7.2.4 Frame Closet
7.2.5 110v to Washer
7.2.6 12v Closet Lights
7.2.7 12v Hallway Lights
7.2.8 12v Air Circulating fans
7.3 Bathroom
7.3.1 Frame Toilet
7.3.2 Frame Shower
7.3.3 Frame Shower Recessed Shelf
7.3.4 Install toilet
7.3.5 Install Water Heater
7.3.6 Install Shower Pan
7.3.7 Plumb Shower Water
7.3.8 Plumb Shower Drain
7.3.9 12v Lighting
7.3.10 12v Air Circulating fans
7.4 Living Area
7.4.1 Frame Couch
7.4.2 Frame Ottoman
7.4.3 Frame Desk
7.4.4 110v Outlets
7.4.5 12v Outlets
7.4.6 12v Lighting
7.5 Electrical Utility
7.5.1 Mount Batteries
7.5.2 Install Inverter Charger
7.5.3 Install 12v System
7.5.4 Install 110v System
7.6 Kitchen
7.6.1 Frame Cabinets/Counters
7.6.2 Frame Overhead Cabinets
7.6.3 Install Range/Oven
7.6.4 Install Range Vent Fan
7.6.5 Frame Fridge
7.6.6 Install Sink
7.6.7 Plumb Sink Water
7.6.8 Plumb Sink Drain
7.6.9 110v Outlets
7.6.10 12v Outlets
7.6.11 12v Lighting
7.6.12 12v Air Circulating fans
7.7 Drivers/Entry Area
7.7.1 Frame Bulkhead/Mini Split
7.7.2 Mini split install
7.7.2.7 110v Electrical
7.7.2.2 Run drains
7.7.2.3 Run Outside Unit Lines
7.7.2.4 Mount Inside Unit
7.7.3 12v Outlets
7.7.4 12v Lighting
7.7.5 12v Air Circulating fans
7.7.6 Stereo Installation
7.7.7 Frame Entry Door

8 Conversion to RV Status for Insurance Milestone #3 (Minimal Sustainability)
*Note, Iowa's registration rules don't allow for registration/title change for 5 years so really nothing to do on that front, just the insurance side*


9 Finishing
9.1 Install Side Walls
9.2 Install Side-Recessed Lighting
9.3 Build-out all drawers and cabinets
9.4 Install Shower Walls
9.5 Install Mattress
9.6 Install Trim
9.7 Install Flooring
9.8 Install Latches
9.9 Install Window Treatments/Blinds
Milestone #4 (Completion... to the extent projects are ever *really* completed)

Constructive feedback, as always, appreciated (it's why I'm here )
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Old 01-11-2022, 07:43 PM   #6
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Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,259
Year: 2003
Coachwork: IC
Chassis: 3800
Engine: t444e
Rated Cap: 24
LOL. You can tell you're in IT

Really dig your priorities. Maintenance / mechanical first, and making sure the exterior is squared away & weathertight before starting the interior build.

Personally, I'd rethink the tropicool. White paint gets you the 'cool', and proper inspection & repair (if needed) of the roof (rivets/seams) makes it watertight. At least do a lot of reading here on tropicool to round understand the pros/cons.
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Old 01-11-2022, 09:58 PM   #7
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Join Date: Jan 2022
Location: Austin, Texas
Posts: 2
Year: 1995
Coachwork: IH
Engine: 7.3 Turbo Diesel
Rated Cap: 53
Nice well-thought-out plans for both above posts! I am just getting started on my journey and this is exactly the type of info I am here for. Thanks guys and good luck with your projects.
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Old 01-11-2022, 11:17 PM   #8
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
Location: Iowa
Posts: 35
Quote:
Originally Posted by TheHubbardBus View Post
Personally, I'd rethink the tropicool. White paint gets you the 'cool', and proper inspection & repair (if needed) of the roof (rivets/seams) makes it watertight. At least do a lot of reading here on tropicool to round understand the pros/cons.
I will certainly look more into that! I've just seen so many builds do it that I assumed that it was "the thing to do" like spray foam.

Most of our party buses that originated in the south (Florida, Arizona) already had white roofs, although somewhat faded. On those we just left them alone but I've always wondered if I should've given them a fresh coat of bright white. I definitely learned my lesson about painting roofs dark colors. Our black bus can double as a dutch oven on bright sunny days. The red and silver buses aren't quite as bad, but not nearly as cool as those white roofs. I'm less concerned about comfort on that fleet, people are just getting drunk on them anyway ha ha, but for my skoolie that I plan on wintering in I want to make sure I do it right!
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Old 01-12-2022, 08:41 AM   #9
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Our black bus can double as a dutch oven on bright sunny days.
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Old 01-12-2022, 12:24 PM   #10
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Chassis: All American
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I'm in Wisconsin. I have 6-7 years of experience driving buses for a job and still have my Class B CDL.

I love Blue Birds and drove All American FEs for pretty much my entire time driving. I agree with your point about FEs being hot in the summertime and difficult to work on. To me having a pusher was important for this reason and so far length hasn't been an issue on my bus.

The best thing I ever did was going out west to get my bus. Not only did i get the premium drivetrain (8.3 cummins) but no rust and pass through understorage as well.

I like the detailed list! For the 2ish years I've had my bus I have been nowhere near this organized. Mainly when I saw deals on stuff like tanks etc I would move that up in priority after buying the stuff.
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Old 01-13-2022, 05:25 PM   #11
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Budget

Finally got my preliminary budget done.
  • As mentioned previously I'm using this as sort of a worst-case scenario assuming almost everything has to be bought new at retail prices.
  • Acquisition costs are an estimate. Since I'm looking for such a specific bus it'll be hard to tell what it'll end up costing me, as well as what work I'll need to put into it. New tires are probably a given.
  • I really really hope lumber prices come down some more before this happens!
  • Includes 800ah lithium battery storage and 800w of rooftop solar. I have more research to do on this yet. Doesn't include any of my plans for portable solar so I anticipate this going up.
  • Includes $1000 for Screws, Adhesives, Sealants, Misc. All that "gotta run to Home Depot AGAIN for xyz..." stuff.


I was a little surprised how quickly it all added up. Did a cursory scan of RVTrader and found the the average for a used Class C in my area that is way smaller and doesn't meet half my requirements runs $40-60k. Only glanced at the Class A page before determining that was a waste of time So that reaffirmed my decision to go with the skoolie route!

Question for those who've completed a build - $47,840.86 seem reasonable based on what I've described thus far or am I off my rocker?
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Old 01-13-2022, 06:55 PM   #12
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Well, this just popped up for sale that caught my eye. Sent off a request to the seller for some more information. Purposefully cropped and omitted the photos to avoid over-advertising something I may want

It's a midwest bus, so I wouldn't have to go far to get it.

So, from my requirements/desirables list:
1. 2005-2007 IC CE300 This is a 2008 title year but I can tell from the dash and engine photos its 2007 build (CHECK)
2. DT466e and Allison Transmission. The build year is the DT466e and pre-Maxxforce. From the dash photos it looks like the transmission may be the Allison 3060 which would be ideal (CHECK). Request for more info sent to seller.
3. Air brakes (CHECK)
4. Air suspension - can't tell from photos. Request sent to seller.
5. Southern Bus with no rust. Midwest bus and some visible signs of rust. Will have to inspect to see how bad. Request for photos sent to seller. (MAYBE)
6. Southern Bus with A/C. What's unusual is it does have A/C in it so we'll go ahead and call that a (CHECK). Benefit is it only has a single unit which is desirable so that's a plus. Downside is it's clear in the rear instead of midship or front. Maybe a relocation in the future?
7. I'd assumed to get what I wanted I'd be looking at a full length 40' bus. This is 34'. I'd never seen an IC handicap bus this long and that didn't have the cursed VT365 so assumed they didn't exist. Shorter overall length for towing could be a plus! Having to remove the lift is going to be a pain.
8. Side exhaust. This has rear exhaust. Will have to create a dam for towing or do some exhaust work. Not a deal breaker.
9. Price. High end of what I'd expect. May be able to negotiate...

I really didn't expect things to move along this quickly! But I just said literally 2 days ago "I just need to be ready to pull the trigger without delay when it does come available..."
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Old 01-13-2022, 07:51 PM   #13
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Join Date: Apr 2020
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Year: 1999
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Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dbacks2k4 View Post
Read another couple build threads since last night and, of course, some more YT videos. Started creating an Amazon wish list/cart of items to get a worst-case scenario budget started. Plan is over the next year to be watching the discount bins, sales, classifieds/marketplace, etc for better bargains. I am fortunate to have ample storage space at my workshop where this build will happen. I'm still playing with the shopping and parts list some, so will wait to post that.

The main accomplishment today was the creation of the project plan

<snip>

Constructive feedback, as always, appreciated (it's why I'm here )
First, I love, love, love this level of planning. My journey from Newbie 1.0 to Newbie 2.0 included similar planning, along with searching my garage and sheds for repurposable materials and obsessive consumption of all skoolie-related YouTube videos. I found this forum, and that was magical. Still, I did NOT crack open MS Project. I do that for a living but I purposely chose the art approach instead of the project approach because I didn't have a deadline and wanted to enjoy the journey of discovery. No issue with your project approach, there's really no one right way to attack a conversion.

I do have a Kanban whiteboard (看板). If the term is unfamiliar it refers to a method to handle a flow of work, not so much a project. I like the idea of flow a little better than a linear project.

Kanban lists the work in the near term more or less in front of me in weekend-size chunks of work. That gives me a near-horizon view of work I can select from and to help ensure I get started and productive quickly when the weekend comes. The Kanban board has four columns: Backlog, Work in Progress, Completed (the last few things I finished, just so I remember I'm actually accomplishing things and don't get too discouraged), and Blocked-things I haven't figured out and still need to design, or overcome, or decide on.

You can use one in conjunction with the other, too.
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Old 01-14-2022, 12:11 PM   #14
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I do have a Kanban whiteboard (看板). If the term is unfamiliar it refers to a method to handle a flow of work, not so much a project. I like the idea of flow a little better than a linear project.

That is very interesting, I've never heard or seen that before. In my day job when we have project mgmt staff available everything is in MS Project and when we don't we're usually working off a scope of work that looks a little like my Excel list above.

I knew when I created that plan up above that it wouldn't be straight linear and that within a major section I'd probably be bouncing around a little bit as materials were available, time allowed to accomplish something on a given day, and when I engineered solutions to the inevitable obstacles that appeared. My main goal was to have a list of everything I wanted to do in there and some sense of order so that I didn't put a wall up somewhere I still needed to run a utility line.

So I may take your Kanban approach within each major section as I'm working to be better organized.
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Old 01-14-2022, 03:06 PM   #15
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Join Date: Dec 2021
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Got some electrical research and planning done last night and into this morning. The general advice of "do a power budget and know what your loads are" is great for sizing a system, the gotchya as I think most people run into is the answer to a power budget is "I have no idea"

I started with making a list of everything that will draw power in the bus and putting it into a spreadsheet. I'm pretty decent with electrical knowledge so calculating watts, amps, volts, watt-hours, and amp-hours isn't a foreign langugage to me. The gotchya is with the draw of stuff. A quick Google search tells me what my phone draws for power and I know I need to charge that once a day. I can figure out what all my LED lighting will draw and plug that in. Ironically it's the miniscule stuff that's easy. Its when you start getting into the bigger stuff that gets tricky. My laptop for example. I'll have two external monitors, but they're USB 3 powered off the laptop, so no additional 110v load, at least directly. The power supply on my laptop is rated for 130W, but there's no way it's pulling all that all the time, especially once the laptop's battery is charged. It'll obviously draw more the more accessories I have connected up. No simple math here... arg! I ordered a new Kill-o-watt, for the life of me I can't find mine, thinking I'll take some average readings off my laptop next week. Onto the next.... appliances. I was able to find out what the washer will pull. But it has different power draws at the different cycles. Spin is about double of wash. Well, how long does each cycle run? No idea. So I'm probably not going to do laundry at the same time I'm cooking something in the air fryer, so that gets into designing for both max amps on the system as well as the watts used and the amp-hour drain on the batteries that must be replenished by something (in my case, solar)...

Then the fridge. Oh my, the fridge. The one I have picked out is an apartment-style (so compressor based) ergo its max pull is pretty high, but that's only momentary. How often does it kick in? Google tells me that's dependent on half a dozen factors.... its efficiency rate, set-temperature, air-flow around the unit and external factors like ambient temperature. Ah yi yi. I'm ready for a drink

So at this point last night I pretty much abandoned the power budget and went into "I'm not the first person to do this, I wonder what everyone else is doing" mode. 4 hours of YouTube later, here's what I've come up with: what I want is ~3200w solar system with ~1000ah of Lithium for off-grid (including A/C use) and basically have so much capacity that it doesn't matter what I use. Great idea, however I'm not dropping that kind of cash until I know its something I'm really going to use

So, new plan . I have no idea how much power I'm actually going to use until I get the thing built and start using it. From my rough power chart done so far and seeing what other "average" people online are doing I think starting with 700-1300W of solar and 400ah of battery seems reasonable. Knowing I'll likely expand on it, I'm going to plumb in the guts for a big setup (including heavier gauge wiring), but start with a smaller battery and solar footprint that when I want to expand should be as simple as wiring in additional units.

Basically I want enough power on either the rooftop OR the ground for an average daily use for situations where I'm either parked in shade or not in a position to deploy the portables. Then the aggregate solar when I can deploy both should get me max power for running full blown A/C in hot weather and hiding out inside running a computer and TV at full power or for times where its overcast and rainy for a week at a time and solar generation is pretty low. Initially I'll be well short of being able to do that, but that's the foundation I want to lay to eventually get there.
  • 4x175W (700W) renogy flexible solar panels on the roof, wired in parallel (for max efficiency due to partial shading and roof slope/non-optimal angles). As I add on I may do series-pairs then connected in parallel in order to get more oomph without having to add or upgrade controllers. I've read all I can find on flexible panels and heat management. I chose the Renogy's because they're warrantied for power output for 25 years and material for 5 years.
    https://www.renogy.com/175-watt-12-v...e-solar-panel/
  • 2 portable solar arrays (TBD yet) wired in series. Will custom fab a folding suit-case style setup so they'll be deployed in pairs. While I'd like 300W units on each side of the suitcase, for 600W per suitcase, they are horrendously expensive. Will likely go with 100W units for 200W per suitcase and just do a couple of them. I saw some pre-built portable setups that don't look bad, but think I could fabricate my own using just standard panels for less.
    Since the portables will always be in full sun and angled correctly, but possibly a fair distance from the rig, deploying these in series will allow for smaller wire running out to them. I saw a cool video of someone using a standard extension cord with molded ends to make connection/disconnection easy and be able to have a dedicated "port" on the exterior of the bus that can be weather-proofed rather than just a bunch of wires dangling out.
  • 1 Victron Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT Tr 150V 30 amp controller for the portable array. Size may change as I finalize the portable panel configuration.
    https://smile.amazon.com/SmartSolar-...15&sr=8-3&th=1
  • 1 Victron Victron Energy SmartSolar MPPT Tr 250V 100 amp controller for the rooftop array. This one is a little bigger so that will get me 11 rooftop panels (19.5V at 8.98amps) before having to go to series-pairs.
    https://smile.amazon.com/Victron-Ene...qid=1642191238
  • Victron Energy MultiPlus 3000VA 12-Volt Pure Sine Wave Inverter 120 amp Battery Charger
    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B01AD2MJ...=24BQY4W4QRV1Q
  • 400ah ExpertPower 12V 100Ah Lithium LiFePO4 batteries, wired in parallel at 12v. I liked the BattleBorn batteries and everything I read about them but there is a significant price difference and those with these batteries seem to be pretty happy with them.
    https://smile.amazon.com/dp/B08WJPSV...=24BQY4W4QRV1Q
  • Victron Energy Monitoring System with the smart shunt and color display

Feedback as always is welcome!


In other non-electrical news I still have not heard back from the seller on the bus I talked about yesterday. Not surprising, I've dealt with this dealership on the party bus business before and their customer service is.... lets just say lacking. I may just show up, but we're getting a snowstorm today so maybe Monday.
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Old 01-14-2022, 04:09 PM   #16
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Join Date: Apr 2019
Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,259
Year: 2003
Coachwork: IC
Chassis: 3800
Engine: t444e
Rated Cap: 24
You don't want a 12V battery bank for what you're envisioning.

This link should prove useful.
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Old 01-14-2022, 04:24 PM   #17
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
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You don't want a 12V battery bank for what you're envisioning.
I wondered about that. I read somewhere someone saying that 24v is way overkill for most buses and you have to deal with converting back to 12v for 12v devices. But those are for smaller systems, closer to what I'm planning to deploy initially

But this could grow into a pretty large system later. My initial thought was start at 12v and change to 24v later as it grows but I'm now seeing that my inverter would have to be replaced if I did that, which is a big $ item. So I think you may be right in that I should start with a 24v system.

So my quandry here is that I don't know for sure how large it'll be. My plan is to use it for weekend trips in the summers and a 2-3 month snowbird winter. While I generally dislike campgrounds and will definitely boondock on weekend trips, in the winter it may not be practical to boondock for long periods and I may wind up in a park where I have access to shore power. So many unknowns!! But as I'm building an expandable system from day 1 I guess I should start with higher voltage.

Now I have to decide if I'm going to do 24v or 48v. The 48v inverters look expensive!
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Old 01-14-2022, 07:02 PM   #18
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Join Date: Apr 2020
Location: Northern California (Sacramento)
Posts: 634
Year: 1999
Coachwork: El Dorado Fiberglass
Chassis: Ford E450
Engine: V10 Gas
I wouldn't abandon the power consumption calculations. It's good to make some assumptions you can later check.

Get a multimeter, a DC amp meter and an AC amp meter, ideally those with inrush or max current capability to see the initial draw for devices with electric motors.

Here's my experience, maybe this helps get you jump started.

Water pump: negligible. If you care to estimate, use the rated max amps of the pump and and its max gpm and calculate how long it would take to pump your freshwater tank dry. It won't be a big load. My Shurflo 3 GPM pump will drain my 25 gallon tank in 8 minutes using about 7 amps, so honestly, nothing.

Toilet exhaust fan: depends. Run a standard computer fan for a day and it will draw about 6 amps. Mine is on a voltage control and set at a low speed and draws .1 amps, so closer to 2.4 amps per day. Providing it does the exhaust thing at that speed, your amps could be between 2.5 and 6 per day.

A diesel heater: significant. It will run at 2.5A pretty much continuously in cold weather (ignore the initial and ending amp spike for the igniter, it is also negligible in your calculations).

Lights: moderate. The transformer rating for LEDs is usually larger than the max draw-a 16 foot strip of LED runs about one amp, or 2/3 the rated capacity of the 'wall wart'. LEDs draw less if you run dimmers. A puck light draws about a quarter amp, but if you reduce voltage the current will drop faster than the brightness.

Standard filament bulbs are incredible energy hogs and will flatten your batteries quickly.

Laptops: the transformer that charges the battery is max amps; your usage will determine average amps. Note that for optimal (minimal) amp draw it's best to run the laptop off its battery (let it run down), then plug in power only when it needs a charge. That way you're not suffering the vampire load of the charging cord continuously. One of my power cords says 2.5A, another says 1.5A. But as you point out, that's only at max draw, which would be something less than the rated max because they always provide headroom on consumer electronics.

To calculate the consumption you can use a kill-o-watt, or, if you've ever needed to charge your laptop from near-empty you can probably remember how long it takes for a full charge. My work laptop takes about an hour from flat to full, but it lasts about four hours from full to flat, so 8 hour day, two charges, 2 hours total at 2.5A, 5 AH for a working day. Like that...

Fridge: your label on the fridge may have LRA (locked rotor amps). That's the max inrush current at startup. Not a factor in terms of draining a battery but an important number for sizing your inverter (which ideally has at least 1.5X inrush in its rated capacity, not it's peak capacity, else you risk premature failure of the inverter by constantly stressing it on fridge starts.) My 2,000 watt inverter has 4,000 peak, but my LRA for my dorm fridge is 8.3 amps, well below the 16 or so max amps the inverter can produce.

If you don't have a listed LRA (or a max inrush feature on your amp clamp) you can estimate 3x to 5x running amps, should be safe, unless the fridge is quite old. A Victron SmartShunt will also show you the dip when the fridge starts in the 'trend' tab. Just don't forget that the shunt measures the 12 volt side, so you have to divide by 10 to get the corresponding AC inrush.

For Fridge amp hours, I have a amp clamp and found it ran at about 3.5 amps, so I just guessed that it probably ran about 10% of the time in cool weather, and 20% of the time in hot weather, so amp draw would be about 4.2 hours times 3.5 amps or about 15 amp hours a day.

I have a kill-0-watt but never checked the actual consumption because my solar and battery easily handle the demand unless I have four days of clouds. Probably should measure it to be able to predict (especially) hot day usage.

If you got to the bottom of this rant congratulations, you are truly engrossed in skoolie conversion.

If you have tweety birds around your head, don't despair, it just takes practice and some time. Methodically work though the math, and ask more questions here.
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Old 01-15-2022, 11:15 AM   #19
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Location: Arizona
Posts: 1,259
Year: 2003
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Chassis: 3800
Engine: t444e
Rated Cap: 24
I agree with Rucker. You're putting all this time & effort into your build. It would seem worthwile to pursue a more accurate estimation of your energy needs. You don't have to do all this now... utilize your Kill-o-watt meter (or more than one) now to determine exactly what you're using over a period of time for the items that won't change in your bus. Every electrical appliance should have specific energy consumption specs available. Obviously some guess-work is involved with many things regarding how long you'll need to power them, but you can probably get in the ballpark making sure to err on the side of overestimation. Plan for things you want later as well as now. Still think it's a good plan to create a system plan which is expandable, but I'd still want to know exactly where I eventually planned to go, and how I planned to get there.

It will surely turn out to be an iterative process. Of all the things we labored over, energy needs (& how to meet them) were the most challenging. We probably had 20 different 'plans' before we settled on one. Lots of thinking about what you really need, what you don't, and what you can modify to accomodate a more reasonable system.

As far as 12V vs 24/48, many 12VDC appliances can also be found in higher-volt versions (though 48 is not as common as 24), lights can be wired in series-pairs, DC-DC 12/24 chargers are available, and good step-up converters (if there's anything you can't power off 24V natively) can be stupid-efficient.
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Old 01-16-2022, 01:30 AM   #20
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Dec 2021
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Posts: 35
Thanks for all the feedback and information. I'm still continuing to work on the power budget with estimates as best I can. Once my new kill-o-watt comes in (still can't find the old one, I think it might be in a toolbox at my bus shop from when we were testing block heaters last winter...) I'll be able to get a few different measurements to start dialing in some numbers a little more.

I'm also still researching 12v vs 24v vs 48v. From my reading even though 3000W systems at 12v are pretty common, it's really not the "best" as you guys have said. The choice is really more 24v or 48v. I'm leaning 24 at this point due to it being more common and a significant amount less $ than 48v inverters and converters. Plus I'm not seeing a lot of Lithium batteries out there built at 24 or 48v without getting into custom-made batteries from EV cells, so we're most likely talking 12v batteries in series. A 48v system would require 4 of those for each expansion which defeats my build small and increase as I really understand what my usage pattern will look like. I'm not 100% sold yet, still reading.

One of my quandries with the power is how long I will really boondock in my rig. I like boondocking and generally dislike campgrounds. Most of the year it'll just be used for weekend or short 3-4 day trips. The gotchya is my plan to "snowbird" winter in this. I plan on initially doing some longer road trips in the south for part of the winter and then settling in Arizona near my Dad for the remainder.

So I'm starting to think a little more in-depth about plumbing. The road trip part, not to worried, easy to fill fresh and drain the waste tanks on the road. The long-term parking is a differnet animal. Since I'm towing my car, I won't need to break camp to drive anywhere, and I really don't want to have to break camp every 5 days to get water and flush the tanks. I'm still considering a 200 gal system, but here's my thing - I enjoy being active outside which means sweating, and I really don't like being dirty and stinky. So that means a minimum of 1 shower a day, sometimes 2. That's a lot of water usage for boondocking!

Circling back to my power decisions I've been wondering if my water requirements would ultimately lead to me parking in an RV park for the winter where I'd have access to hookups. Which would negate my need for such a massive power system. That's not what I want to do, but I thought I might be forced into. And then I stumbled across the concept of the recirculating shower. Until yesterday I'd never heard of such a thing. I'm still researching and analyzing, but if this would wind up working for me, then that would solidify my intention of long-term boondocking and thus solidify the need for the power system to grow.

It's very interesting in the planning stages how one decision in one area of the bus can have such a cascading effect on other areas!
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