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nanoplane 01-12-2018 10:54 AM

Marcel's Magics Kool Bus
So I'm new to the Skoolie world and this is my first conversion.
I'm starting with a 1995 Rear Engine Thomas Sad-T-Liner and have a full workshop so this will be "fun" :-).

So far, I've gutted the bus and have some of the plans done.

Work will include:

- Solar power: 22 100 W solar panels, 18 of them on tracking mounts, 880 AmpHours of AGM batteries, 3KW Inverter. This also includes multi-source charging (engine, solar and grid). Haven't decided if I need a generator yet.

- Mini-Split AC for heating and cooling: Condenser (outside) unit on the Rear deck of the bus with the rear windows replaced by metal grates. Inside unit near the front of the bus with small forced air circulation from rear to front.

- Leaving most of the windows intact, replacing 6 windows with panels and splitting another 3 with half/panels.

- Adding keyless locks to the doors

- Separating the rear part of the bus as a "utility room/shop"

- Adding water, gray and "dark gray" tanks. (Not sure if I need the dark gray tank.. it'll basically only contain urine.

- knotty pine bead board ceiling

I'll be posting pics and designs as I go along...

Good to be here with the rest of you..


brokedown 01-12-2018 11:06 AM

I just have to say, that's a lot of solar panels. If my power requirements were that high I would spend serious time trying to reduce my consumption. For comparison, we're getting by with 400 watts of solar and engine driven AC. We are also built for boondocking rather than having external power sources available, so I accept we're on the lower end of power requirements.

nanoplane 01-12-2018 11:15 AM

MagicsKoolBus - starting
Here's a couple of pics of the bus so far:

Sitting in my yard:

It's great having sons with friends when you need someone to crawl under the bus to remove the bolts holding the seats in: :-)

Didn't need that "extra" vent where I wanted a wall to be:

Ok, the roof is painted now..

And the place gutted:

nanoplane 01-12-2018 11:18 AM

Well, I'm trying to get away with no propane.. I suspect that if I wan't to do a lot of winter boondocking, I will need to get a generator for those dreary days...

PNW_Steve 01-12-2018 11:22 AM

Good looking bus!!

nanoplane 01-12-2018 11:25 AM

MagicsKoolBus - Design
I have the floor plans done:

And a rendering of what it "should" look like:

brokedown 01-12-2018 11:31 AM

No propane is a pretty tough goal. Figure a typical electric range will use about 3KW per burner, 5KW for your oven, you're talking about 400A draw from your battery bank for 10 or 15 minutes to preheat to make a frozen pizza.

Given the realities of Solar, not every day is sunny and even in Florida you can have weeks over overcast skies and rain... Propane starts to look really practical.

If you regularly need to heat your bus, propane isn't great. We have a small Mr Heater Buddy but we need if infrequently, and are working on a wood burning stove to replace it.

This is based on our experience of living full time in our bus for over a year and experiencing all 4 seasons travelling a lap around the country.

nanoplane 01-12-2018 11:37 AM

I have:
- an induction cook top.. max 2KW.
- Inverter microwave 900W max
- 9000 BTU 22Seer Inverter minisplit AC - 700W

The water heater is electric (900W) dual exchanger. It will have a solar water heater on one exchanger and the engine on the second with control valves. The Electric element will only run to the extent there's enough power available. There will be a control system that monitors the power draw and shuts down or reduces the consumption of the water heater when everything else is running....

Should work. :-)

nanoplane 01-12-2018 11:41 AM

It's in great shape. I brought it to a diesel Mechanic who inspected and tested and they say it has no mechanical problems and seems to have a lot of new parts.. (they fixed it before they sold it :-) )

Twigg 01-12-2018 12:12 PM


Originally Posted by nanoplane (Post 244781)
It's in great shape. I brought it to a diesel Mechanic who inspected and tested and they say it has no mechanical problems and seems to have a lot of new parts.. (they fixed it before they sold it :-) )

How easily did the ceiling screws come out?

I have the same bus, but a '98, and that's my next job.

nanoplane 01-12-2018 02:14 PM

Ceiling screws
Almost all the screws came out fine. Only had to drill out 4 of them

brokedown 01-12-2018 02:21 PM

Sounds like you've got a handle on the electrics. So many people come in without that!

Bus is looking good. Looking forward to following your progress.

nanoplane 01-12-2018 02:29 PM


Originally Posted by brokedown (Post 244807)
Sounds like you've got a handle on the electrics. So many people come in without that!

Bus is looking good. Looking forward to following your progress.

My background is electronics, my career was computer science and I have way too many hobbies and a nice shop to entertain them.

Having too much fun since I retired

john61ct 01-12-2018 05:38 PM

Will need a genny, unless shore power's available a couple overnights per week.

Run it in the mornings when you know solar won't be enough to get the nank back to 100% Full.

Good SoC monitoring will help tune your intuition as to when that's needed.

Consider LFP too.

nanoplane 01-14-2018 12:11 PM

Solar limits
In the Seattle area, the summer is Ok (about 5 equivalent solar hours per day). I think this would be enough to charge the bank fully from depleted in one or two days (assuming minimal usage). I'm not sure yet what my overall power usage will be but initial simulations look like I'll use half to 70% of the 10kW battery capacity on a daily basis.

On good days, I think I'll be OK. ..

In the winter the average is only about 1.6 hours equivalent sunlight... This means I'll only generate about 3600WH of power... Not enough for the batteries to recover unless I use little hot water and little heat...

For a generator, What's the consensus? Is it better to go with a "built in" diesel (expensive) or go with a portable generator?

I've been looking at the Champion 3100W dual fuel inverter portable Generator as one option.... but then I'll need to either carry gas or propane.)

Also looking at some Diesel inverter generators (expensive... about $8K)... It would be the "ultimate" though.

john61ct 01-14-2018 12:35 PM

Whatever you get make sure it's **quiet**. Start cheap see how you go, upgrade when the first one dies.

If you stick to lead, learn how to measure SoC and how to ensure the bank is truly 100% full, as per mfg endAmps spec, a quality set can last 7+ years.

brokedown 01-14-2018 05:16 PM

Also keep in mind that the wattage ratings of solar panels require optional conditions and if you aren't orbiting the sun you won't get those maximums! My 400w set occasionally gets above 200w actual.

Sent from my Nexus 6P using Tapatalk

john61ct 01-14-2018 10:38 PM

If that is true in the full summer sun at noon, something's wrong.

I agree in winter far from the equator it's normal.

nanoplane 01-24-2018 06:00 PM

design updates - Solar Panels
Some more design pix. Solar panel layout on the roof.

It's not quite right.. I haven't figured out how to get Inventor to bend the panels to fit the roof profiles...

This is if I install al the panels... I still have some solar water heaters and venting to include here somewhere...

I also haven't added in the tracking systems.


Tango 01-24-2018 08:07 PM

There are flexible panels but I have no idea how they compare to fixed.

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