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Old 07-04-2020, 01:00 AM   #1
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Wink Converting my Skoolie for my Senior Project

Hello! My name is Brinn and I am going to be a high school senior this year. I have been interested in van life for quite some time and decided I wanted to create an eco-friendly living space and research the low impact it has on the environment. Any tips on how to make it the cheapest and most self-sustaining I can would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 07-04-2020, 09:44 AM   #2
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Best advice I can give you is to get the latest model bus you can afford with the most up to date emissions gear. I would go for a short bus on gasoline.

The buses buillt within the last 5 years emit orders of magnitude less NOx and other pollutants, especially soot, than older models from 20 years ago. The smaller the bus, the smaller the environmental impact. Emissions is not something most of us here have as a high priority, but we are generally older and frankly don't care enough. Its a worthwhile goal.

Top-quality insulation is probably the most environmentally friendly thing you can do. See Greg Virgoe's YouTube videos on the subject to get smart on it and learn how to calculate values for yourself. For greenest ratings, go heavy on solar and battery power. Don't use a wood stove. Propane is probably greener than diesel for heat/hot water, but solar beats them both. Problem is, it isn't cheap up front, and takes a long time of full-time occupancy to pay off the initial expense.

At any rate, what you're doing is important and you'll learn a lot keeping track of energy use, efficiency and emissions. Have at it...
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Old 07-04-2020, 10:27 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TomA View Post
Best advice I can give you is to get the latest model bus you can afford with the most up to date emissions gear. I would go for a short bus on gasoline.

The buses built within the last 5 years emit orders of magnitude less NOx and other pollutants, especially soot, than older models from 20 years ago. The smaller the bus, the smaller the environmental impact. Emissions is not something most of us here have as a high priority, but we are generally older and frankly don't care enough. Its a worthwhile goal.


Contrary to what it might seem, this is *TERRIBLE* advice, at least for diesel powered buses. The vast majority of us avoid later model buses specifically because of the EPA mandated emissions hardware which made the engines horribly expensive to maintain and in many cases, unreliable especially after a few years. Some have literally spent more time in the shop with emissions issues than they did on the road. As an example, the replacement cost for the various exhaust parts for a MaxxForce (DT466, 2005-up) I heard was in the $8000 range, plus labor. The Ford 6.0 diesel was also notoriously bad (they can be "bulletproofed" at considerable cost, after which they are considered good engines, the IH VT365 is its closely related brother).



Many school districts, especially in California, have reverted to buying gas powered buses (even the full sized ones), partly because of this, and partly because of extremely strict California diesel emissions laws.


On the other hand, modern gasoline engines have come a long way and most are pretty reliable and clean. Do some research on whatever engine you are considering (for example, I have an '08 Suburban with the GM 5.3, which is notorious for AFM problems. If disabled, they are usually reliable engines after that.)


Quote:
Originally Posted by TomA View Post
Top-quality insulation is probably the most environmentally friendly thing you can do. See Greg Virgoe's YouTube videos on the subject to get smart on it and learn how to calculate values for yourself. For greenest ratings, go heavy on solar and battery power. Don't use a wood stove. Propane is probably greener than diesel for heat/hot water, but solar beats them both. Problem is, it isn't cheap up front, and takes a long time of full-time occupancy to pay off the initial expense.

At any rate, what you're doing is important and you'll learn a lot keeping track of energy use, efficiency and emissions. Have at it...

Now good insulation is an excellent idea, and most here will strongly recommend it. You'll want to remove the inner skin and factory "insulation" (more of a token effort than real R value) and put in something much better. Not only insulation but also Thermal Breaks. Metal is an excellent conductor of heat, you'll want to mitigate that heat transferring to the inside of your bus. If you attach plywood directly to the steel ribs, you'll still get some thermal transfer from the mere wood-to-metal contact. If there's a thin heat barrier between the two, it will cut down on this effect.
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Old 07-04-2020, 12:17 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by brinn_iseri View Post
Hello! My name is Brinn and I am going to be a high school senior this year. I have been interested in van life for quite some time and decided I wanted to create an eco-friendly living space and research the low impact it has on the environment. Any tips on how to make it the cheapest and most self-sustaining I can would be greatly appreciated!
Since this is a Senior Project it may not matter that the bus run and may be better from an environmental standpoint. You could start by promoting this on your social media platforms. Along with your promotions you would seek out donations from local or national vendors for the funding along with the goods and services needed, including the bus. After it is all said and done, donate to someone in need. The experience that you gain will help you for the real thing after you graduate.
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Old 07-04-2020, 03:51 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TomA View Post
The buses buillt within the last 5 years emit orders of magnitude less NOx and other pollutants, especially soot, than older models from 20 years ago. The smaller the bus, the smaller the environmental impact. Emissions is not something most of us here have as a high priority, but we are generally older and frankly don't care enough. Its a worthwhile goal.
It's worth mentioning, though, that the greenhouse gases output of these engines remains unchanged from 20 or 30 years ago. So driving any bus around extensively, regardless of its vintage, is not exactly environmentally friendly. If you're going to do it, diesel emits a bit less CO2 per mile than gas.

Also, I think a <5 year old bus is going to be pretty expensive to cut up for a skoolie.
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