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Old 09-19-2017, 09:50 AM   #1
Mini-Skoolie
 
Join Date: Oct 2016
Location: Minnesota
Posts: 29
Year: 1970
Engine: Chevy 350
Winter!

Hi guys,

I've been thinking an awful lot about full-timing in a skoolie lately, as my girlfriend and I talk more and more about figuring out where we want to move and go to school and travel and things like that. For most people, I think living full time is something that's a little more practical, but most people don't live in a climate where they see that a low for the night is -15F and they just say "ugh" instead of "oh my god that's not even possible".

Point being, I live in southern Minnesota. Wherever we decide to go to school will most likely be in the immediate area where snow travels and sits and thaws and freezes in every direction -- into door jambs, into little cracks in anything, onto window ledges, literally anywhere. The more I think about it, the more I wonder if it's even possible to survive in a bus over the winter. We talk a lot of insulation and direction potential wall compositions and trying to figure out what the best way to do it is. We've been encouraged to maybe look for an older camper to live in since it's already been prepared to live in and travel, and while I've never taken apart the walls of a camper, I can't imagine it's up to par with an infamous Minnesotan winter.

I'm wondering if we can just spray all exposed metal on the inside with some sort of anti-rust metal primer, then a coating of bedliner or something similar to cover all of the rivets and faces of the ribs especially for a little more of a thermal break, then filling all of the voids between the ribs with as deep of spray foam as we can, then wrapping it all up in a Tyvek envelope, then finished wall surfaces, be it poly'd pine tongue and groove or something similar. Is this realistic or are we just crazy? We plan on using a wood stove somewhere in the bus, as we stayed in a cabin up in northern MN in 30-40 degree temps at night and that kept us wonderfully warm and comfortable (here's a link for those interested -- look at those windows!). Obviously this is much newer construction on a permanent residence and these windows are designed for this sort of thing, not single pane whatever glass lining a tin can. But instead of dealing with LP every week or two and using electricity or gas as a resource, wood would be wonderful. Maybe not practical while going down the road though, and while I'm not scared of it setting things on fire, I'm a little nervous about me getting the wall composition right so I can ensure that the surroundings don't get too hot.

Then it comes to the flooring. The first bus we bought I couldn't quite stand straight up in -- I'd guess a 6'-0" ceiling and I'm around 6'-2". We looked at a different bus a couple of weeks ago, a fantastic bus, and I can stand straight up in it now, on the uninsulated floor and factory ceiling covering. I'm nervous that if we did add 1" - 1 1/2" insulation then I'd forever be annoyed I can't stand up, but I'm not sure how annoying it'd be exactly. I'm sure more often than not I'd be sitting or laying down or not even in the bus. I'm not sure how much insulation I'd need though for the flooring -- the floor is a lot of square footage and if it isn't done well then I won't be happy.

Then another thought -- what about water tanks? There's no way I'd want those things outside during the season. Would it be ideal to put them inside the bus somewhere? Under the kitchen sink or something, wrapped in insulation? It's a big loss of space but I'm not sure we'd have many choices.

And what about window treatments? I've never used them in a house, those plastic films you just put up and seal around the windows. I'm sure they would help a ton on the worst days we'd get.

And also what about the roof? What if we painted it black? It'd be nice in the winter but impossible to cool in the killer summers we also get (four season state, I suppose... worst winters and worst summers).

I'm almost thinking this could be a goal before next winter since funds are a bit short to do much of anything with the remainder of this season -- we buy a bus, gut it, then get all of the insulation and wall constructions figured out and install a wood stove and see how it heats up in the dead of winter.

There's a lot of things I'm trying to consider before delving into such an ambitious project in such a crazy state.

If any of you have any similar situations, I'm curious how you survive!

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Old 09-19-2017, 11:29 AM   #2
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For water, will you be on hookups the whole time you are parked during the winter? If so, you could hang tanks under the bus like most people do, but make sure you have a valve setup to allow you to keep line pressure running in your interior plumbing without having to fill the reservoir. RVs are set up that way. Then you just have to worry about heating the incoming line (heat tape) and the sewage line that is outgoing.

I've found that duct insulation - the kind with fiberglass batting and silvery exterior - is the perfect size to sleeve around a standard 3" RV style flexible waste pipe (the infamous "stinky slinky"). That, combined with a piece of electric pipe heater tape run the length of the drain pipe, will allow you to keep your drain hooked up 24/7 even when there are several feet of snow on the ground.

And yeah, it worked in -15f. I know. Because I had to design it once temps dropped and the waste hose we did have in place froze solid. Bleh. Once I put the insulated/heated one in, we didn't have any more issues. Of course, that's in a park with constant hookups, so trying to maintain only onboard utilities in that kind of weather would be a whole different set of issues.
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Old 09-19-2017, 04:16 PM   #3
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Location: Billings, MT
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Year: 2003
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Get's colder than that in Montana.

I've 1" double-faced rigid insulation on the sides and carpeting on the floor. I've wintered twice now, and the only real problem I have is the water in my 8 gal container freezing around the edges. I pop off the spigot and take a hammer to the ice.
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Old 09-19-2017, 05:17 PM   #4
Mini-Skoolie
 
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Originally Posted by CaptSquid View Post
Get's colder than that in Montana.

I've 1" double-faced rigid insulation on the sides and carpeting on the floor. I've wintered twice now, and the only real problem I have is the water in my 8 gal container freezing around the edges. I pop off the spigot and take a hammer to the ice.

What do you use for a heat source?
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Old 09-19-2017, 05:28 PM   #5
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Location: Billings, MT
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Wave 8 and Wave 6 heaters. Wave 8
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Old 09-20-2017, 07:00 AM   #6
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Location: Iowa
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Year: 1989
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Iowa here..winter sucks and the sooner im in the SW the better..floor warmers, definitely spray foam insulation. I think the cold would radiate up from the floor. There are some really fantastic wood burners on the market these days. Did i mention i hate winter?

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Old 09-28-2017, 02:31 PM   #7
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Location: Ann Arbor
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Year: 1972
Coachwork: Blue Bird
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Glad you made this thread, I was about to make one lol.. I live in MI, not as cold.. But gets into the teens all winter..
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Old 09-29-2017, 11:46 AM   #8
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We live outside Chicago. Hubby has dragged his feet all summer about moving and getting ready. He's freaking out, thinks we will be basically homeless living out of a car. Since we are supposed to be out of our apartment in the next few weeks, now he's decided that a wood stove is unsafe and therefore not an option. I have seen countless buses use wood stoves. I was all ready to pick up a stove and now he's refusing. Any suggestions?
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Old 09-29-2017, 12:24 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dayrae View Post
We live outside Chicago. Hubby has dragged his feet all summer about moving and getting ready. He's freaking out, thinks we will be basically homeless living out of a car. Since we are supposed to be out of our apartment in the next few weeks, now he's decided that a wood stove is unsafe and therefore not an option. I have seen countless buses use wood stoves. I was all ready to pick up a stove and now he's refusing. Any suggestions?
if he is that nervous then I would stay in the apt till the worst of winter is over and break in slowly.. worst thing you can do is hurry and not do things right...

there are success stories of wood stoves in busses.. but you can also go with more traditional heating like propane or install a webasto diesel-fired heater..
-Christopher
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Old 09-29-2017, 02:59 PM   #10
Bus Crazy
 
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Location: Orange County, CA
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Year: 1990
Coachwork: Crown, integral. (With 2kW of tiltable solar)
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Rated Cap: 37,400 lbs GVWR
Or just drive to somewhere warmer?

Only the toughest can survive these brutal Southern California winters here when the temperatures plummet way down to the 70s, with a wind chill in the 60s. Brrrr. At times like that I have to wear my special thermal insulated flipflops, and on the very coldest days I even wear slightly thicker shorts to stave off hypothermia. I think I may have some long-sleeve T-shirts somewhere just for winter, but I can't remember the correct way to wear them. The biggest problem we had last winter was when our air conditioning didn't work. Woe is me.

John
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Old 10-06-2017, 07:12 AM   #11
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Fellow Minnesotan here; if people can survive in tipis here, a diesel sardine tin can do it too ;) . It's mostly a matter of insulation and reliable heat. The number one thing people seem to regret is that they didn't properly insulate their bus, so I really wouldn't cut corners. 3in spray in foam will cost more upfront but seems to be the standard for surviving hot/cold temperature extremes in the Midwest. You can maybe get away with rigid foam in the walls and floor, but seal up any gaps with spray foam. As for the ceiling you probably won't want to skimp on spraying. If headroom is a big concern, and it probably should be if you're living full time in it and don't want a permanent hunch, there are buses with higher ceilings, or you could consider a roof raise. Replacing single pane windows for RV windows would also help, or you could board some up, or use the plastic sheathing like we do in the old houses out here. I wouldn't personally attempt to use exterior paint to help you heat the bus because if it had any effect in the winter, it would make the bus unbearable in the summer. Instead try to consider your heat source. Lots of people use propane, and we are not as prone to the moisture issues as the northwest so it could still be an option, just again, insulate. Wood stoves are frequently installed in skoolies, but you'll probably want one large enough that you don't have to wake up every 4 hours to add another log. Composite logs will burn longer, do not pose the same pest/investation issues as regular wood, and come in standard sizes, they're just not as picturesque. You'll also need some form of heat shielding like tile or metal, not a hard install. You might consider electic heat so long as you have a reliable power source. As for water tanks, if you're not going to be hooked up, it may be worth the lost floor space to either make them fully/partially internal. Alaska has worse winters than us, and tiny houses up there seem to all build them internally. You might consider insulating the rack for the tank and treating it as an extension of the floor. You can also add straw bales underneath the bus for added insulation which is what mobile home owners tend to do out here. TLDR: You'll be fine, decide your priorities, don't skimp on insulation, figure out your heat source, don't paint the roof black. Hope that's food for thought!

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Old 06-28-2018, 08:21 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Iceni John View Post
Or just drive to somewhere warmer?

Only the toughest can survive these brutal Southern California winters here when the temperatures plummet way down to the 70s, with a wind chill in the 60s. Brrrr. At times like that I have to wear my special thermal insulated flipflops, and on the very coldest days I even wear slightly thicker shorts to stave off hypothermia. I think I may have some long-sleeve T-shirts somewhere just for winter, but I can't remember the correct way to wear them. The biggest problem we had last winter was when our air conditioning didn't work. Woe is me.

John
Yeah those winters in the SW are rough..i envy you! Lol
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Old 06-29-2018, 12:17 AM   #13
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Wisconsin N.E.
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Year: 2000
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Chassis: Thomas
Engine: 5.9
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I'm in Wisconsin, same troubles.

I got a higher roof bus I can stand up in and I'm 6'4" but I plan to lift the roof so I can fit the insulation I need to not freeze to death when it hits -30f. I am more worried about my water system and having to plug in the engine heater
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Old 06-29-2018, 07:51 AM   #14
Bus Geek
 
Join Date: May 2009
Location: Columbus Ohio
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Coachwork: Carpenter
Chassis: International 3800
Engine: DTA360 / MT643
Rated Cap: 7 Row Handicap
Quote:
Originally Posted by Whatthefak View Post
I'm in Wisconsin, same troubles.

I got a higher roof bus I can stand up in and I'm 6'4" but I plan to lift the roof so I can fit the insulation I need to not freeze to death when it hits -30f. I am more worried about my water system and having to plug in the engine heater

if i were in a place like wisconsin.. and was planning to be someplace where I dont have shore power available.. i would invest in a webasto or similar coolant heater.. you can run bleed loops through your floors, and put your plumbing pipes into the same chaseways as your heater lines.. you can also valve your webasto so it can either circulate through the engine or not depending on whether you plan to run the bus or not.. it uses diesel fuel.. and may not have enough BTU to heat your whole bus at -30f. but with the right thermostats you can definitely keep your plumbing from freezing if you want your bus to be useable in winter vs moth-balled with RV anti-freeze.
-Christopher
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Old 06-29-2018, 08:47 AM   #15
Bus Nut
 
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Join Date: Apr 2018
Location: Wisconsin N.E.
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Chassis: Thomas
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Running the heater lines and plumbing in the same chase is genius. Never would have thought to use a webasto like that.

I have not really drawn up the plan but I'm hoping to put my water tanks under the floor box them with insulation and open part of the floor for air flow. I don't want frozen tanks but I'd like to also keep as much floor/storage space as possible inside
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Old 06-30-2018, 05:16 AM   #16
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Possible Option

Investigate a Pellet Stove. They put out amazing heat, are much cleaner than wood, and are self tending once filled.
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