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    Morpheus
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    Post  Morpheus on Fri May 03, 2019 11:32 pm

    This thread is about a new kind of project I am undertaking. An Ambulance to an RV conversion that will be designed to be off-grid capable. It is also about any type of conversion that promotes the off-grid paradigm that is currently taking place. Ambulance, Bus, and Van conversion projects are welcomed here, Hopefully we can gather up and discuss creative ideas. How to live, where to go, what to do, how to, etc.


    Please feel free to post links, Youtube videos, and share your project. And if you don't have a project, let's see if we can help you get one! lol!



    I don't have all the answers but I do have an extensive background building boats and yachts. Maybe we can share our skills and succeed in our project goals. That being unplugged from the status quo. To be free from it. Ideas are valuable. So let's get started! Toast
    Vidya Moksha
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Sat May 04, 2019 2:39 am

    I converted an ambulance 2 years ago. It took me 9 months to rebuild it. I have been living in it for 18 months now. I am off grid with  solar power. There is a small wood burner in the back. I have a small hot plate for the summer.
    And even manage a compost toilet in here :)

    So.. maybe I can help...I did photograph the conversion stages and my rebuild..

    the biggest 'scam' at the moment is the bubble wrap insulation (which isnt insulation). I spent $1000 on insulation alone!



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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Sat May 04, 2019 2:53 am

    This is my second ambulance conversion.

    My first was an ex army ambulance. Amazing off road ability! A real 'go'anywhere' vehicle.

    But it was expensive to run (V8 petrol engine) and there wasnt enough room in the back for living space. It was more of a 'weekend' camper, though I did live in it for a while.

    This isnt mine, but a stock photo:

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    mudra
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    Post  mudra on Sat May 04, 2019 7:04 am

    I knew you two had things in common to share cheers

    Awesome we have some builders around Cheerful

    Love from me
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    Post  Morpheus on Sat May 04, 2019 10:25 am

    By all means Vidya, bring it on! Where are you now? What can you share with us as far as your adventures? How many watts of solar do you have? These solar systems have to be carefully calculated. They're not cheap either. What type of box do you have? Water heater system?


    Just by sharing, you will automatically be helping. cheers





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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Sat May 04, 2019 10:40 am

    if its adventure you seek, then go 4x4.. great fun in my LandRover ambulance..

    I was 15 years between ambulances. I sold my first to go to India, and I was then 15 years with only a back pack, and my feet (occassional bicycle)..

    I needed some money for my forest garden project, so I converted my second as a home, while I worked.. and paid no rent...

    So this ambulance has been mostly parked in the same spot, in which case its easy to utilise external space for showers, toilets etc.. But my van is road ready too, I just made a trip to my new base...

    Solar is much cheaper these days (in uk) and lots of second hand panels from large farms that are upgrading. Solar, water, condensation, insulation, batteries, build etc  are all big and important subjects. When I get the time I will describe my ideas and the route I took...

    Stay Away from Foil-Faced Bubble Wrap
    https://www.greenbuildingadvisor.com/article/stay-away-from-foil-faced-bubble-wrap
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Sun May 05, 2019 4:06 pm


    Ambulance conversion a big subject... and I dont know how much time I will have for it.. its not high on my priority list right now Wink However, am happy to answer any questions, or describe my set up if it will help.

    In the meantime I will post when I can. Insulation is important, i will describe my solar set up, and main things to avoid.. only 1 issue really: condensation / water.. rest is good /great Wink

    Any easy one for starters! Batteries .  If you need electricity (do you? really?..) then the good news is that a lot of stuff runs off few watts these days. I am writing this under a 12V 1 W light. My batteries could run it for weeks, even with no charge. I charge a laptop, an old nokia 2G phone (hardly used, weeks between charges), a 240V coffee bean grinder through an inverter.. and that's pretty much it. I have 1 and 3 W lights. I have the capacity for more power and can run small power tools /recharge cordless tool batteries etc

    OK.. so the simple part is : ONLY USE OLD SCHOOL LEAD ACID DEEP CYCLE BATTERIES. It doesnt matter what they tell you, or claim about new tech, gel, agm etc .. they simply dont hold up to life on the move. They may be ok in a static location (or may not?) but they will be dead within 2 years in a mobile situation.  Lithium may well be a future option, but too expensive and unknown to be considered at the moment.

    There are some pretty good lead acid batteries out there these days, they should give 5 good years and maybe another 5 okish years. A couple of decent, say 120 Ah batteries, will be around $250? its not so much.. even 5 years is only $50 per annum.
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    Post  Morpheus on Sun May 05, 2019 7:06 pm

    Batteries??????????? This is one of the things that has jumped up in cost across the board. Another one, are wipers. Getting back to batteries, they have doubled in price just in a few years. Just a 5 year battery for my truck is now $145.00 from Autozone. Put me in shock mode. Then add up your toys; bikes, RVs, boats, etc and that cost just goes through the roof. My bass boat uses a starting battery and two marine cycle batteries for the trolling motor. The starter was $120.00 and the Marine batteries ran $115.00 each. That's $350.00 just for one boat. My other boat takes four batteries.



    You have to research this battery stuff out and find out what will be feasible for you. I couldn't help but notice from the kayak fisherman, using lithium batteries because of the weight factor being a lot less, plus the percentage of charge that could be used. 80% compared to lead acid's 50%. Plus the weight of the lead-acid batteries being a whole lot more. Your right about the wear and tear if you're mobile.



    I'm gona figure out the load requirements first and then go from there. I want to be able to run enough solar to be able to use a good a/c unit, 24/7. You need that in Florida. Use propane as primary fuel source but also have a few back up systems. Maybe a small wood stove for heat. Also one of those catalytic heaters.



    What I also like about this rig, is that I have plenty of options in terms of space, to install whatever system. Yet, I have to keep in mind the balance of weight. Especially with water. It would be temping to put a 60 gallon water tank on one of side of this rig. 498 lbs. on one side. Plus the weight of the tank.





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    Maybe you can do a small video? Cheerful





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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Mon May 06, 2019 3:52 am

    I know a guy who fitted lithium batteries in his van, cost him best part of $3000.... if thats your thing..

    In florida.. ok.. a quick idea. I wasnt really going to mention it..and it may not help (windows, open doors etc) but there is an insulation developed for space shuttle re-entry.. Amazing R value.. best available by a distance.. but expensive.. its called Aerogel.. I did look at using it, but couldnt justify the cost.. however, it may be worth considering if you really need a/c 24/7   (or move ! Wink a/c is horrible to live in anyway)..

    My van will be in the hot sun all summer, but static, so i will go for an external shade option, keeping only my solar panel in full sun.
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    Post  Morpheus on Mon May 06, 2019 8:26 am

    Very expensive indeed! Especially when you are doing a major tear out. Insulating isn't a fun job either, let alone the cost. But I think you have to look at it as an investment in yourself. Your comfort. That's if you can...... You of course have to make the best of it with what you have. But what I am liking about this project is that I can determine what I will be comfortable with.



    I don't like the RV industry. They take to many short cuts if you ask me, unless you have millions to spend. The materials many of them use, isn't up to better standards. For instance, Bayliner boats. You could buy one that was brand new, take it home and park it in your garage, not use it, and in 3 or 4 years, it would start to fall apart. Talk about a lemon floating on the water. So I always consider the base structure first. It has to start there. There is truth as to the saying, you get what you paid for.



    What made total sense to me was the ambulance. The structure of it. 2.25" insulated doors, diamond plating that is stainless steal plus aluminum framing. You know you bought something cheap when you find all those staples in the framing and the floors. At least with this ambulance, the base structure is welded together.



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    Hey Mudra, guess how many letters are in the word, ambulance? Cool
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    Post  Carol on Mon May 06, 2019 2:16 pm

    Great thread Lionhawk. I thought I'd move this info from the Brook's thread to here. Cheers

    The following is a youtube on Bryant's Sprinter Van. There may be something in this list that may appeal to you. She did a great job with interior items:


    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCTBbb1kWlU

    Here is a list of some of the items she used to outfit her rig:

    Comes with little step in back and hitch.

    Outside ladder by bioluminesce

    200 watts of solar panels on roof. Eclipse panels by Renergy small enough to fit lengthwise. Glued solar panels with strong adhesive

    Thule covered rack on top.

    Paint cabinets with Pro Industrial Semigloss Hybrid

    Black exterior and white & blue interior

    Extended floor light color wood grain purchased at speciality store in San Diego.

    Fabric for seats is by Perennials Fabric and called acrylic dyed solution.

    Bench pulls out into a bed. Extra storage under bed and water bottle.

    Kitchen quartz counter top and marble tile. Used adhesive grout
    Faucet extends (16 gal of water lasts about a week. Deep sink, 10” sink.


    Ramblewood cooktop use small green canisters from Walmarts for $3 each

    Isotherm Elegants undercounted fridge.

    Shelving by the Container Store Alpha

    Inside lock for bathroom door / waterproof wet room / has portable shower.

    Tempur-pedic topper for bed

    Table top by San Diego Urban Timber (olive wood with gaps filled in with resin).

    Enamelware: https://amzn.to/2PtuUQd
    BattleBorn 100 AH Battery - https://amzn.to/2LsvYBd
    Victron 3000 watt inverter/charger - https://amzn.to/2sNE8wk
    Battery Monitor - https://amzn.to/2LsxuDp
    2 Space Load Center - https://amzn.to/2JhxWrv
    15 amp breaker - https://amzn.to/2sNFhnC
    20 amp breaker - https://amzn.to/2M6cCms
    Renogy 400 watt starter kit - https://amzn.to/2xSjtwV
    Lagun Table Leg - https://amzn.to/2JhYsAZ
    Seaflo 2.8 gpm pump - https://amzn.to/2Jipgky
    23 gallon tank - https://amzn.to/2LyXWvh
    5 Gallon greywater tanks - https://amzn.to/2sF5yFg
    10 gallon tank - https://amzn.to/2Lx70jY
    Bosch 2.5 gallon hot water heater - https://amzn.to/2LwlIaX
    Drawer Locks: https://amzn.to/2kzjtrY
    Motorized Ball Valves: https://amzn.to/2L3e3Ri
    Nautilus Shower Door: https://www.stoett.com/product-catego...
    Shower Pan: http://amzn.to/2h6fPao
    All van products listed here: https://saraandalexjames.com/vanlife/


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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Mon May 06, 2019 4:08 pm

    i think im in the wrong thread Wink that sprinter looks awful.. and so much stuff!

    it looks like a fashion shoot rather than a serious live in home.. we talking weekend campers on an official camp site or an off grid mobile home?  Greywater tanks? Where do they get emptied? (why?)

    That Battery is $800? and she cant run that system on a single battery.. 2 or 3? (or she oversized her inverter and power needs) $2400 for batteries? seriously?  guess its a good job she bought something from walmart for $3.. should balance the books a little.

    im not in that league, thankfully :)
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Mon May 06, 2019 4:33 pm

    Morpheus wrote:

    what made total sense to me was the ambulance. The structure of it. 2.25" insulated doors, diamond plating that is stainless steal plus aluminum framing. You know you bought something cheap when you find all those staples in the framing and the floors. At least with this ambulance, the base structure is welded together.


    Both my ambulances had aluminium bodies on steel frames. My current one was converted by Dormobile, straight out of the Ford factory. Great for longevity..

    However,both had aluminium panels on the outside, and inside, and a steel frame between.. therefore rendering any insulation irrelevant, there is a heat /cold bridge that bypasses any insulation.. pain eh? So you need a strategy to deal with that.

    The other big problem.. is that all metal surfaces attract condensation, and that is a real issue if you want to live full time in your van. I wouldnt put a shower in a van, its not a good idea.
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Tue May 07, 2019 8:41 am

    A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, my house was solar powered. I calculated everything, down to the thickness of the wires to transport 12V without excessive loss...

    Now I dont bother calculating much. You'd maybe be surprised how almost no solar energy calculations actually describe reality. So there are a few rules of thumb which work just fine, for me.. I am not a big electricity user... I want to go the other way....

    In the summer, or full sun then you have free power during the day. In winter you have enough for lights but will need to generate electricity to run anything of a size.. this is european weather, if its sunny all the time, its a different story. Temperature is important, cold batteries dont hold as much charge as warm ones. So the location of the batteries has to be considered during cold periods... (or else, run a generator. or source a different electricity supply, through the winter). If your van is mobile, then a split charger off the alternator to the leisure batteries will keep them fully charged, enough to keep using as normal. Its also possible to run the van whilst stationary so the engine is in effect just a generator. I have a split charger in my ambulance.

    Its not worth solar tracking (on a house), simpler and easier just to add another panel.

    The equation is simple and basic. The batteries provide power and power storage, and need charging. The amount of charge is governed by the sun and limited by the number of watts your panels are rated at. I have 200W on my ambulance.

    Tilting your panels on a quarter-annual basis, to match the azimuth of the sun is a big solar gain. Not so important in the summer, when the sun is high anyway, but in winter, it can be the difference between power and no power. On a flat van roof, most panels are flat.. they like to glue panels these days (see the sprinter above..) but as sun tzu reminds us 'no glue survives contact with the enemy'. so really, you need to bolt your panels onto a frame.. or bolt through the roof (which WILL then leak, whatever you do)...in which case it is possible to tilt them. Here's my solution, still on the ground..

    OFF-GRID AMBULANCE CONVERSION PROJECT Van_2910

    another rule of thumb for the angle of tilt for the panel:  summer is latitude minus 20 degrees, spring and autumn are latitude, and winter is latitude plus 20 degrees... so if you are at 50 degrees north latitude, then the panel angle settings are 70 degrees in winter, 50 spring, 30 summer, 50 autumn...  

    of course, the panel needs to be flat whilst driving !

    and of course if you tilt your panel then the panel needs to face south (in the northern hemisphere). I have a ship's compass in my van to orientate it if i want to tilt the panel... most times my panel is flat...but I had an electric hook up through the winter.

    There is no point running lots of panels on a small battery, (no storage, require sun) and no point running lots of batteries off a tiny panel which wont charge them. I am approx 200W solar panel, 230Ah batteries and 1kw inverter. its a good ratio..I could easily add another battery now i am further south with much more sunshine hours.  I always learned to replace batteries en mass, so i wont bother..
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    Post  mudra on Tue May 07, 2019 9:30 am

    Morpheus wrote:


    Hey Mudra, guess how many letters are in the word, ambulance? Cool

    cheers Yes another 9 Morpheus that is easy !
    I am glad I could give  my participation to the whole thread LOL
    You and Vidya are doing great Thubs Up

    Love from me
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    Post  Morpheus on Thu May 09, 2019 4:43 pm

    Decals?????????????? I thought I had gotten rid of all of them. There is one left and it's on the roof. Big too! I guess so that helicopters can identify what is what.



    Condensation you say! I am going to put a dehumidifier in it and combine that with a wood stove, it should lessen the effects. Maybe some added vents too.



    The transfer of cold and heat in metal, is a two way street for sure. I think the trick to that is by getting ahead of it. Also the air in the cabinets is another factor. The air that is trapped. I don't know how many times I would open a cabinet door and feel the warm air come out of it.


    The solar part of the equation is going to be the most expensive part of it. Thanks for reminding me that it isn't sunny all the time. Some good points you have mentioned to factor in.



    I have no plans on drilling holes straight through the roof. I agree there too. They always end up leaking. Typically, a leak leads to rot of some sort. Rust, even.


    Great Feedback! cheers




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    Post  Carol on Fri May 10, 2019 7:26 am

    Wood stoves dry the air and help with the humidity factor. Have you decided what type you're going to use?


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    With deepest respect ~ Aloha & Mahalo, Carol
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Fri May 10, 2019 7:27 am

    We have had 3 days of rain and thick clouds here, and I havent charged my laptop during this period. With the cold my batteries down to 12.8 V.. whereas in full sun and warm they are 13.8 (shows 14.3 some days, but you need to put a load on your system to get an accurate Voltage reading).

    I wanted to limit these batteries to 50% discharge, around 12.3 V, but couldnt find an easy and cheap solution when I built the system.. so I didnt bother. I ran my house batteries to 10% for 5 years with no issues.  In winter you may find yourself tweaking the settings anyway, in the search for energy. My house ran on a combined controller - inverter, and it was easy to set a cut off at any chosen % discharge.

    Your humidifier will work well in areas of air flow. Same with the burner. But... I used a foil backed insulation mat... I didnt want the foil backed version, but the stuff is crazy expensive and I managed a job lot of off-cuts.. with the foil. Inside my cupboards, under my bed, wherever there was foil I got condensation, and then its going to go mouldy. I had to glue carpet to all the foil surfaces to stop the water condensation.  You are going to have to do the same on ALL metal surfaces that are not in the main living area, all the nooks and crannies, inside cupboards etc. Or not, and they will get wet. If you run a sprinter... then it will rot from the inside out in no time at all. Same reason its not such a good idea to install showers etc. Your humififier and wood burner will not save you this task....

    The wood burner was one of the the first things I put in my van.. essential bit of kit for serious off grid.. lots of free firewood out there.
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    Post  Carol on Fri May 10, 2019 8:24 am

    Vidya, what brand name is your wood burner?


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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Fri May 10, 2019 8:34 am

    Carol wrote:Wood stoves dry the air and help with the humidity factor. Have you decided what type you're going to use?

    Ideally, need to be able to cook / heat water on it. Doesnt need to be big.. the van is small..

    here's mine, built by a guy who lives in a van..

    https://www.glastonburyburners.co.uk/griffin.html

    I used aluminium as a heat shield, from the wheelchair lift on my ambulance. Only need a 1" air gap behind it, and its completely fireproof..

    OFF-GRID AMBULANCE CONVERSION PROJECT Burner10

    The flue pipes exits the roof via a silicone sleeve.

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    and dont forget the rope swing Wink
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Fri May 10, 2019 8:47 am

    Condensation is probably the main issue in a camper. If you have a steel camper then it is essential you have a fully waterproof membrane between the living area and the steel van panels. Even then, your van is going to rot.

    So an ambulance is a really good choice, the coachworks on my van are aluminium and fibreglass.. Neither will rust and the fibreglass is easy to patch if ever needed. A van for life.

    So in an ambulance only really need to worry about the chassis, and a fully waterproof membrane on the floor is essential. I used a dpm..
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    Post  Vidya Moksha on Fri May 10, 2019 10:15 am

    I know a situation where the wood burner and / or humidifier would work..

    A friend of mine has lived in his van on and off for many years now. Its just a shell. He hangs all his stuff from hooks/ ropes /wires on the roof.. and makes the living space according to his needs, be it bedroom, workshop, living room, studio etc... or just the space ... Its a good idea if you can manage it.
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    Post  orthodoxymoron on Fri May 10, 2019 2:15 pm

    deleted-post


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    Post  Morpheus on Fri May 10, 2019 3:01 pm

    Breath OXY! Breath................ bounce 




    That was very creative of you. YES! Take the show on the road! Why not? Take it to the next level. You have already gained everything you need to know and now you can put your words into action. A new van project to aid you in delivering your message. What a great idea! How can we help you?




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    Post  mudra on Fri May 10, 2019 4:04 pm

    orthodoxymoron wrote: ...I'm rambling and miserable (and borderline-delirious). I feel as if I'm being poisoned while being electronically and supernaturally messed-with.

    OFF-GRID AMBULANCE CONVERSION PROJECT C35cba10

    For you Oxy a see through tent in a nice spot. Some place to ground you to the Earth while connecting  to the immensity of the sky, sun, and stars.
    Plenty of greens to eat , fresh air to breathe, a beautiful view, a river to bathe and the song of birds and gentle winds in the trees. Nothing to think about. Just Be and See .

    You would soon feel great you know.
    Just do it.
    Hugs

    Love from me
    mudra

      Current date/time is Mon Jun 24, 2019 7:02 pm