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Author Topic: Winters and price  (Read 1516 times)


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Winters and price
« on: April 17, 2018, 02:41:33 AM »
Hi everyone, I'm looking to convert a van while going to university. I wonder what could cost cost a conversion (a quite basic one that I would do myself) and if it is possible to isolate the van enough to be comfortable enough to pass the winter in it.


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Re: Winters and price
« Reply #1 on: April 17, 2018, 12:24:23 PM »

Greetings & Welcome!

If you start with a passenger van, then the floor, walls, and ceiling are pre finished, and the opening windows should provide  all the ventilation you'll ever need.  Nobody needs insulation... They may be convinced they do, but they don't.  What you need is HEAT!  I just spent the winter in -45f degree weather, in a stock window van with no added insulation, while people with heavily insulated cargo vans were freezing their butts off in much warmer temperatures.

To make a long story short, insulation alone isn't going to keep your van comfortable.  With or without insulation, you're still going to need heat.  Without insulation, you MIGHT use a little more heat, but in my humble opinion it isn't worth the added cost of insulation.  I don't even cover my windows unless I'm trying to keep heat out during the summer.

So we have multiple choices for heaters, and several choices of fuel types.  Let's take a look at them.

First there are RV type heaters & furnaces, these are very expensive, very power hungry, and not very efficient.  I don't recommend these.

There are two main types of heaters, convection and radiant.  A convection heater heats the air, and in turn the air heats the surrounding objects.  A radiant heater heats the surrounding objects, which in turn heat the air.  I recommend convection heaters because they are much less of a fire hazard, and require much less clearance in an already cramped space.

I use a kerosene heater and cooktop, because of the improved safety over propane.  The biggest drawback, is that while they are adjustable, they do not have a thermostat.  That means that even on the lowest setting, I need to regulate the temperature by opening or closing windows.  It's not too hard, and pretty easy to figure out.  I have no problem keeping the temperature where I want it. These require no power to run them.  I do safely run mine all night long if  it's cold enough out.

The other choice is propane.  The ONLY advantage to propane is that you can get heaters that do have a thermostat.  They cost more to run, and they're not nearly as safe, but a thermostat is a huge convenience that makes it worth it to some people. These also use no electricity.  But beware, not all of them come with a thermostat.  Also beware that they say it is never safe to run any unvented propane heater while sleeping.

Another option is to use out stoves as a heater.  I can adjust my stove lower than I can my heaters, so sometimes I will fill my dutch oven with sand or dirt to act as a heat exchanger, and place that over a one burner on my stove adjusted down as low as it will go.  I wouldn't suggest running this while you sleep either.

When it's not too cold, I will turn my heat off at night, but I keep it within reach of my bed, so I can turn it on without getting out of bed, then I stay in bed until the van is warmed up.

I also have a 12 volt electric blanket that I use occasionally, along with many choices of coverings to meet any temperatures.  It is important to have the ability to sleep warm, even if you don't have heat.  There are also various head, body, and foot coverings to help in extremely cold weather sleeping situations.

I wouldn't want to live in a van in the winter without a reliable source of heat.  I guess some people get by with just dressing warm enough and maybe the car heater, but I wouldn't suggest it.

Any time you're using heat or cooking in a vehicle, you should have a smoke detector, a carbon monoxide detector, a fire extinguisher, and ample ventilation.  If you're using propane, you should also have a propane detector, and a low oxygen detector.  Always read and follow all of  the safety instructions too!

To answer the question of cost, my entire conversion cost between $200 & $300.  That includes a bed, seating, full kitchen, toilet  & shower, heat and air conditioning, my power system, and my generator.  It does not include solar panels etc; roof vents, insulation, inverters, or powered fridges,  all of which are added expenses with little to no gain.  I also use junkyard batteries, not expensive new ones.  I charge my batteries mainly while driving, but do have a generator for a backup plan.  I also purchased some of my items used.  Dollar stores, thrift stores, yard sales, wrecking yards, and craigslist are your friends.


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