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Old 05-03-2012, 06:12 PM   #21
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3000W is not only big enough to run the fridge, it is big enough to run the air conditioner with room to spare. 3000W is 25A at 120VAC. A Coleman polar cub draws about 11A to 13A depending on how hot it is. Such a big inverter is expensive, which is why you don't want one like that. You probably need something closer to 3A for a refrigerator. That's only 360W. Don't take my word for it though, check the specifications, or better yet measure it yourself. Make sure you measure it in all modes of operation, including when the compressor first comes on. Most inverters are rated to handle more than the nominal current for a short time. Yes, a modified sine wave will probably run a refrigerator. Many have done it and perhaps some of them will chime in. I just can't make any guarantees. Motors run hotter and less efficiently if not fed with a sine wave.

Yes propane fridges are fine, and many use them. Thus far you have avoided the need for propane and all that entails. All electric (no propane) is getting more and more popular though.

All these systems and design decisions interact. More AC requirements, bigger inverter, bigger batteries, more cost. At some point you need to nail down the line between what you need and what you want. Once you define your mission parameters the rest of the tradeoffs can be calculated. Then you convert mission parameters to a design, which converts to cost, and forces you to rethink your mission.

I'ts entirely your decision of course, but I might start with batteries and inverter that only support your refrigerator and a few minimal lights for 24 hours maximum, and that's only drawing down the battery 50%. That should get you from point A to point B where you can plug in and charge up, or at least run the generator for a while. Once you have a rough idea of the cost you can go from there.
Need and want are different many times. With this design, they are closer. I am doing a very simple box. I want it to be livable, with basic needs met, and not be extravagant. Half a dozen lights, one roof vent, one AC unit, 2 sinks (one kitchen one bath), fridge (type to be determined still...I have a couple in storage I wouldnt mind using to start off with), shower and a toilet. A place to sit down to eat or read the paper (dinette shouldnt cost more than a couple hundred in lumber at most..and will double as another sleeping spot in case I have company), the countertop to prepare simple foods, and I am good. I dont watch TV, so no antenna set ups are needed. I have internet off my phone, so that is covered.

I looked at a pure sine wave because of the laptop. I dont know how well the modified sine would interact with the laptop, and I dont want to replace it right away (mostly because I am cheap, lol). And I agree with RanD, the 3k inverter is *more* than enough to run the fridge and some lights. I went bigger because I have bought smaller tools in the past instead of the next size up, and it always bites me in the butt. I looked at an apartment fridge online today (nothing special about it) than ran on 3amps, and the draw was only 90watts. I am sure it's more than 90, as I am sure the one I have in storage is as well. But I am sure it will run fine. In the end, it will come down to what is nice to have, vs is it worth the cost. I dont plan on having hundreds of dollars of food in the fridge. I live alone. So I can shut it down if needed between jumps.

I did plan on using all electric in the house. It did avoid the need for propane. But there is one part of the house that might be better off using propane, and that's the stove. Someone suggested all DC in the house instead of AC, but that didnt make a lot of sense to me, at least not on the surface. Running AC to the truck, converting it to DC to run everything seems odd. Especially when the only thing I have that will only run on DC is the roof vent? Or is the air conditioner a DC item as well? None I have seen so far are DC, but I have been wrong before..
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Old 05-03-2012, 06:25 PM   #22
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Insolet toilets. Pros and Cons? Need people to weigh in on experiences with this type of unit. I have read someone said the liners were a joke and didnt work right. What else can I look forward to if I choose this type of unit? I know RanD picked a EcoJohn instead of the insolet (I would imagine because of the large power draw from the Insolet.) I have to admit 1800 watts is a big number when you are not on shore power 95% of the time.
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Old 05-03-2012, 09:20 PM   #23
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I and two of my friends have incinolets and we love them. no more black water. no more charge at the flying j for dumping. no more chemicals, no more special toilet paper. the only thing is the liners and they just take getting used to. you have to open them completly. very easy to maintain
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:34 PM   #24
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Air conditioners are the one thing I have seen that do not seem to come in a 12V DC version. There is no technical reason why they could not, but there doesn't seem to be much demand, so no supply.

I may have misjudged your intent. If you want that much power out of your inverter then you need something close to what I did in the Stealth Camper. I thought you were aiming at something lower cost.

It may be that you are not yet fully calibrated in terms of what constitutes simple living in the RV world, and how much it costs to live the same life style as in your stix and bricks (at least off grid). Simple living in the RV world is often no inverter, no air conditioner, minimal batteries, everything in the house runs off of 12V and if you need AC to make coffee you fire up a small portable generator like the EU2000i. The house batteries charge off the alternator with a relay or a diode, or they plug in a tiny "Battery Minder" to keep the battery charged when sitting empty in the driveway.

A 3,000W inverter and the batteries to support it is fairly high on the luxury scale for most RV's. Even expensive rigs often have much less because they don't plan to live off grid much. They basically drive from camp ground to camp ground. Your needs are mostly "on-grid" as well, but you can spend as much money as you want.

Residential window units are tempting because they are cheap, but they may not take the pounding as you drive down the road. A tiny little air conditioner like that will not cool you off very quickly either. It would have to run basically all day to keep things livable in hot conditions. If you have been traveling and stop, the house is likely to be very hot inside. It might take hours for a small AC to knock it down to something livable.

I hope all this comes across as friendly input, not bossy.

Good luck.
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Old 05-04-2012, 05:53 PM   #25
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Air conditioners are the one thing I have seen that do not seem to come in a 12V DC version. There is no technical reason why they could not, but there doesn't seem to be much demand, so no supply.

I may have misjudged your intent. If you want that much power out of your inverter then you need something close to what I did in the Stealth Camper. I thought you were aiming at something lower cost.

It may be that you are not yet fully calibrated in terms of what constitutes simple living in the RV world, and how much it costs to live the same life style as in your stix and bricks (at least off grid). Simple living in the RV world is often no inverter, no air conditioner, minimal batteries, everything in the house runs off of 12V and if you need AC to make coffee you fire up a small portable generator like the EU2000i. The house batteries charge off the alternator with a relay or a diode, or they plug in a tiny "Battery Minder" to keep the battery charged when sitting empty in the driveway.

A 3,000W inverter and the batteries to support it is fairly high on the luxury scale for most RV's. Even expensive rigs often have much less because they don't plan to live off grid much. They basically drive from camp ground to camp ground. Your needs are mostly "on-grid" as well, but you can spend as much money as you want.

Residential window units are tempting because they are cheap, but they may not take the pounding as you drive down the road. A tiny little air conditioner like that will not cool you off very quickly either. It would have to run basically all day to keep things livable in hot conditions. If you have been traveling and stop, the house is likely to be very hot inside. It might take hours for a small AC to knock it down to something livable.

I hope all this comes across as friendly input, not bossy.

Good luck.
If I didnt want input, I would simply lurk on the forums and generate my own opinion. (then again, I still formulate my own opinion, I just ask for in depth answers to questions rattling around in my brain..lol)

I realize that 'simple' living is basically tent camping without the tent. Or a tent with wheels perhaps? And there is a HUGE gap between a tent with wheels and say, Bob's rig which is around 100k+. I considered the inverter and the batteries for when travelling, and stopping for the night in a truck stop or a local WallyWorld and I didnt wish to fire up the genny. But I also have to think about how often that type of travel will really occur, and I dont think it's that often. Between work and the cost of deisel, I wont be running around the countryside that much. (yet) I can run a fan and some lights off a couple marine batteries that I will recharge with the car charger (4 cycle pro grade charger) when they run low.

Which brings up 2 more questions. (naturally) We discussed all air conditioners are ac powered. Most of the roof vents with the 'good' fans seem to be DC powered.. do they make the good ones in an AC version? Or will I need to run DC wiring for the few lights and the vents, and everything else runs on AC. And the other question. Those of you who dont live in the units full time, how often do you use the oven? Do you find yourself using the cooktop more than the oven?
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Old 05-04-2012, 09:42 PM   #26
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I have never seen an AC powered vent top fan, but it may be because I never looked for one. Someone else out there might know of one.

As for ovens and a cook top, I am sure that you will get many different reply's as it is a lifestyle thing. Speaking only for myself, I have a small gas oven and cooktop and I almost never use them. They both generate a ton of heat inside the living space and with such a small living space it quickly becomes a problem. When it is cold, or at least cool outside I can flush the hot air with the ceiling vent fan but the hot air still hits me right in the face when I stand in front of the stove. I made a design error by not putting in a dedicated stove vent and fan. I thought the ceiling vent fan which is just a few feet away would suffice, but it is a compromise.

So, back to your question, I used the oven once just to prove that it works, and I have used the cook top only occasionally. The microwave gets the most work just because it is the most efficient way to heat something. It seems that most of my use has been in hot to extremely hot weather though. I might have a different answer if I did more cool to cold weather travel.

Oh, and I have used the stove top to heat the place up quickly (with plenty of fresh air input because it can be dangerous otherwise). My Platinum Catalitic heater is great but it generates heat slowly, which is adequate due to the excelent insulation, but takes a long time to overcome the thermal mass inside. (Same issue as with air conditioning in reverse.)

I think your truck might have a higher internal ceiling height than mine. My ceiling is just a few inches over the top of my head (tall people need not apply). Thus a layer of hot air from the stove is in my face rather than being over my head.

Unfortunately, if you want to use your microwave off grid, that implies a fairly big inverter. You can buy microwaves with a dedicated inverter built in. Be aware that a high energy device like that draws roughly 10X the current at 12VDC than it would for 120VAC. That means you will need some monster wires to carry the current, much more than a typical 15A AC house wiring application. A microwave will also draw your house batteries down quickly, but unlike an air conditioner, it only needs to run for a few minutes.

If you want to make coffee, or run a toaster, these are also things that draw a lot of current for a short time. Together they make a good reason to have a fairly big inverter, even if you never run them at the same time. The alternative, that many people favor, is to run the generator while making breakfest. That takes care of all those things and gives your batteries a boost when they need it most.

I have never had a problem running a quiet generator like a Honda EU2000i in a Walmart parking lot, or pretty much anywhere for that matter. Contractor type generators are another matter though. They are generally very loud and tend to make enemies, or at least chase your friends away. I am also told that contractor generators are not good for running things in the house as their voltage and frequency are not well controlled. I don't have any personal experience on that one though.
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Old 05-05-2012, 01:19 AM   #27
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I used the oven in my motor home just a few times in over twenty years. I used the cooktop to boil water for my tasters choice coffee and jiffy pop if I was not on shore power. If on shore power I used a small microwave. If at a race track I made my meals at home and just heated them in the microwave with either shore power or the generator. My new motor home will not have an oven as I would use the room for storage. I will have a three burner LPG cooktop and a convection microwave. I will have four six volt deep cycle batteries and a 2500 watt inverter. I will have one air conditioner and two 12 volt fans. I hope that helps. I know people that use the oven in the RV and would not like my set up. Good luck with your project.
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Old 05-05-2012, 02:07 AM   #28
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I for one, love the oven in my current motor home, having one in my truck conversion will be a requirement. Microwaves are great for re-heating, but you can't beat a home cooked meal fresh out of the oven. Most of my trips involve back country camping, truck stops and stays in the Wally-world parking lot. I will always have as many appliances multi powered as possible. LP/elec fridge, gas/elec boiler for hot water and room heat.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:10 AM   #29
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I for one, love the oven in my current motor home, having one in my truck conversion will be a requirement. Microwaves are great for re-heating, but you can't beat a home cooked meal fresh out of the oven. Most of my trips involve back country camping, truck stops and stays in the Wally-world parking lot. I will always have as many appliances multi powered as possible. LP/elec fridge, gas/elec boiler for hot water and room heat.
Room heat? That would be something to see... a RV with a water baseboard heating system, lol. I am sure you meant something else, but that was the first thing that popped into my head, and the mental image was an amusing one.
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Old 05-05-2012, 07:12 AM   #30
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So the general opinion so far is that the stove is taking up space in the rig. Personally I didnt see myself using it that much, but wanted to get input from road warriors who have done it. I might save the space. One thing I am looking into next and the one thing I would *really* like to have is a large water heater. One that will allow me to take more than a GI shower (get wet, soap up, rinse off).
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:19 AM   #31
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AKat777, you are not far off. I am referring to a Boiler with a hydronic heating system using a combination of radiant floor heat (pex tubing in the floor) and some compact fan forced wall radiators (much smaller than a baseboard). This system will more than likely be diesel fired, with an electric element for when i happen to have shore power. big advantage is it can also be heated by the engine coolant while driving, and it provides an almost endless supply of hot water for showers etc. very quiet and energy efficient system, will be supplemented with a heat pump unit for air conditioning and extra heat if it gets really cold. If installed at the time the coach is built it is simple to install. big downfall is it can be expensive, especially the ones sold for the RV world.

Dave
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Old 05-05-2012, 12:55 PM   #32
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Long hot showers in an RV? You have the same kind of issues as with batteries and an inverter, only now it is with water. I am going to assume that this luxury is limited to when you are hooked up to shore power and water, and possibly a fixed source of natural gas or propane. Doing this off grid would require big tanks, pumps, a large propane supply, space for a 40 gal. water heater, or possibly an on demand type.

I haven't done what you suggest myself, so I can't speak to it directly. If you haven't already, you may want to broaden this conversation to the Escapees forum. There are lots more people who visit there who might be able to give you input.

Assuming you are doing this with hookups I see some issues. The water pressure from a hose bib (or whatever) might not cut it. You might need an auxiliary pump and possibly a small accumulator tank to buffer the demand. If you go electric then I assume it has to be 220V and lots of current, otherwise it will take a long time to heat the water. You might have crossed the line into needing propane. I have heard mixed reviews for the on demand type heaters for RV use. Assuming a tank type any residential unit should do. I believe they have propane conversion kits. In my experience propane takes a smaller jet due to the higher pressure from the regulator. Some have used an air tank to pressurize the system instead of a pump. Some trucks have a ready supply of high pressure air as part of the braking system.

Be careful to consider the weight of all these things you are adding. I have no idea what your truck is rated for but you keep adding heavy stuff everywhere, like water and batteries, and your tools are probably pretty heavy as well.
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Old 05-05-2012, 04:01 PM   #33
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Long hot showers in an RV? You have the same kind of issues as with batteries and an inverter, only now it is with water. I am going to assume that this luxury is limited to when you are hooked up to shore power and water, and possibly a fixed source of natural gas or propane. Doing this off grid would require big tanks, pumps, a large propane supply, space for a 40 gal. water heater, or possibly an on demand type.

I haven't done what you suggest myself, so I can't speak to it directly. If you haven't already, you may want to broaden this conversation to the Escapees forum. There are lots more people who visit there who might be able to give you input.

Assuming you are doing this with hookups I see some issues. The water pressure from a hose bib (or whatever) might not cut it. You might need an auxiliary pump and possibly a small accumulator tank to buffer the demand. If you go electric then I assume it has to be 220V and lots of current, otherwise it will take a long time to heat the water. You might have crossed the line into needing propane. I have heard mixed reviews for the on demand type heaters for RV use. Assuming a tank type any residential unit should do. I believe they have propane conversion kits. In my experience propane takes a smaller jet due to the higher pressure from the regulator. Some have used an air tank to pressurize the system instead of a pump. Some trucks have a ready supply of high pressure air as part of the braking system.

Be careful to consider the weight of all these things you are adding. I have no idea what your truck is rated for but you keep adding heavy stuff everywhere, like water and batteries, and your tools are probably pretty heavy as well.
You are correct in this is a hook up only situation. I understand that a 20 gallon heater tank (All I need) would be too much for an inverter/battery set up. And the 20 gallon tank is a 110v system. So there isnt too much of an issue there. IIRC, it did require a 30amp breaker, the one I looked at online today was a 3800 watt unit. I have not looked into the pressure issue. The water in the last house I built was only 55psi, and that was because there was very little piping and didnt need to be higher than that. I have owned homes where the psi was over 100. bleh.

This entire project will be dependent on shore power / city water situation. Which is why I am leaning heavily towards the Incinolet or something very simliar. I can still use the facilities travelling from one spot to the next to relieve myself, and just fire up the genny for a couple mins to take care of the byproduct. There is the added benefit of no black water tanks, no pump outs, etc etc.

And should my needs change in the future, adding something to the existing system shouldnt be that hard at all.
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Old 05-05-2012, 05:19 PM   #34
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Did you check out Aqua Hot? About 8 large and a diesel tank and you have all the hot water you need, AND a boiler for your space heating.
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Old 05-05-2012, 10:28 PM   #35
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Did you check out Aqua Hot? About 8 large and a diesel tank and you have all the hot water you need, AND a boiler for your space heating.
That's the system that Dave was talking about earlier today. 8k... that's funny. my whole truck didnt even cost me 8k. The entire conversion will only be about 12k... lol.
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Old 05-06-2012, 12:11 AM   #36
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Rheem makes a series of small electric water heaters that range in size from 6 to 30 gallons, the 20 gallon model is #81VP20S. This series of water heater is available in 120 volt with a 2,000 watt element. by code this would take a 30 amp breaker. (I think they make an optional 1,500 watt element that would work on a 20 amp breaker, but not sure if that is still available) a 3800 watt element (not a common size) on 120 would need a 40 amp. most water heaters are usually 2,000 watt 120 or 4,500 watt 220.
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Old 05-06-2012, 10:15 AM   #37
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Ah, I LIKE those Rheems!
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Old 05-06-2012, 11:49 AM   #38
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Is there something special about Rheem I dont know about? it's twice the money I can buy a Kenmore or a similar brand..
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Old 05-06-2012, 02:22 PM   #39
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You will also want a whole house filter, sedement and charcoal. They are cheap and readily available. Reverse Osmosis is optional and probably not in your budget. Full timers often have water softeners as well, especially in some parts of the country where the water is so hard it damages the plumbing.

Let us know how you come along on keeping the conversion to under $8K. Sincerely, we need more data points on what can be done on the cheap.

You might also check out this site: Cheaprvliving.com

I found it before I found this site, and it was the inspiration for the Stealth Camper. The section on living in a box van was especially helpful. Their mission is different, fulltiming in a small space in mostly urban environments, but they share your desire for low cost and the space is similar after you subtract out for your shop area.

Actually, what I think is most similar is some of the toy hauler setups that the racing guys use. You really should check out racingjunk.com before you spenda lot of money. (I know, you already own the truck.
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Old 05-08-2012, 09:53 AM   #40
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There are some good ideas here but also some of you are making this way to hard. Go ahead and use an apartment model refrigerator. They use less power, are bigger, and work better than RV refers. The standard unit will stay cold for a long time if you leave the door closed. My parents have had them in 3 bus conversions and no trouble with it warming up while traveling. Absorbtion refers don't work as good in very hot weather. For cooking get a microwave, a toaster oven for the ocasional baking, and a portable 110V induction cooktop. Dad uses an standard 10gal 110V water heater like you would find in an office, him and mom take regular length showers, one after the other, without running out of hot water. Your regular 12V water pump will provide adequate pressure. Use a standard RV toilet. Someone said that the gray water should be 3X bigger than black. I will agree with them. My toter has equal tanks. The gray water fills up while the black barely has anything. You can use a single tank for both with no problems if you want. They use very little water and serve the purpose just fine. For heating and cooling go with a minisplit system. These are heat pumps so they provide heating and cooling and are much more efficient than than space heaters. They even make dual zone units if you want to heat/cool the workshop separately. Look at minisplitshop.com for ideas. Used stranded wire in you conversion because solid wire tends to break with the vibration caused by driving down the road. I think that you can get away without an inverter. Do you really need 110V while moving? You can use 110V lighting but make sure to have a couple of 12V lights so that you can see what you are doing while not plugged in. Make sure that your generator is properly installed and vented. Carbon monoxide kills. Put CO detector in your rig. You can use household sinks, faucets, shower..... You mentioned a bathroom sink and a kitchen sink. Think about putting a utility sink in the workshop. Its very hard to wash your hands and arms in a tiny bathroom sink. I work on big dirty stuff and I'm always dirty all the way up to my elbows. Maybe an outside faucet would be handy also.
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