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Old 05-04-2013, 09:01 PM   #1
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Designing boondocking travel trailer

I am new to the group. Would like to get some feedback on a project on which I am working. For the past year and a half I have been designing a travel trailer specifically for all season boondocking. The objective it to be able to comfortably stay on site for an extended period of time (maybe 3 weeks or more), in any weather condition, without the need of re-provisioning. Would love to get some feedback on the following design features. I already know I am crazy, but the question is "how crazy"? Initially planning on building a 14 foot prototype.
  • Will use new technology for ultra-high insulation values. R50 in ceiling and floor and R30 in walls. I want to require as little energy as possible to heat and cool the unit. Will use aluminum construction for light weight.
  • Will have 1200 watts of solar panels, and still sizing lithium ion batteries, but considering 9600 watt hours of batteries. This should get me through the night for using the heat pump. Will have a 3000 watt gasoline generator as a backup initially.
  • Will use a 9,000 BTU minisplit heat pump for heating and cooling with a SEER rating of 26.
  • Will also be using a high efficiency wood stove for heating in the winter.
  • Will use a composting toilet to eliminate black water tank. Okay, I know this is really iffy. But I really hope it works.
  • Have designed a system for treating and reusing the gray water, and will have a 100 gallon fresh water capacity. Will have a system that allows pulling water from streams, lakes and rivers. The purification system will take care of that.
  • All lighting will be LED.

Some of the key issues I am still working on are:
  • Do I use a diesel hot water heater and cooking range, or go electric all the way. Yes, for the low flow shower, I should be able to use an electric tankless hot water heater. I am avoiding propane, as having tried to find someone to refill a tank in New England in January for an RV is not easy. I will also be adding a hot water heater to the wood stove I will be using for winter use.
  • If I go diesel on the hot water and cooking, I will also go diesel on the generator eventually. If it were not for the extreme cost of a small diesel generator, I would go with one initially. But I figure I can save about $12 k by using a small gas generator first.

I really researched the Earth Roamer RVs (and LOVE them). But I know I would never talk my wife into springing for $275,000 for one. Thought I would build this travel trailer first and see if my designs work in the real world, and then maybe put it on an F-350 chassis. Any feedback would be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.

Alex
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:12 PM   #2
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This comes from the marine side. It is do-able! However, still gray water to contend with. Bet there is a way!

Air Head Dry Toilet: Marine Composting Toilets - Environmentally Friendly Marine Composting Toilet System

Nature's Head Composting Toilets - The environmentally sustainable waterless toilet for Your Boat, RV, Cabin, Big Rig, Barn, Workshop, or Yurt!
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:30 PM   #3
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I don't want to discourage you, but I do have some concerns. I know there are some folks who use wood stoves in RV's but the thought of it scares the day lights out of me. These cracker boxes burn too easily and VERY FAST! Also, space is tight. How do you avoid bumping into a hot stove, and then there's maybe a weight issue.

Have you plotted all this out yet? It might not all fit in only 14 ft. It sounds like an interesting challenge.
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Old 05-04-2013, 09:51 PM   #4
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Woodburning stoves have been used in boats forever! No need to reinvent the wheel, lol. Here are a few and there are more.

SARDINE STOVE INFO & SPECS.


Newport Solid Fuel Heater. Accessories are ONLY sold with the purchase of a heater..* Manufacturer: Dickinson Marine
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:13 AM   #5
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Thanks for the feedback. On the wood stove issue, as timarti points out, they have been used on boats. I am planning on using this one. www.unforgettablefirellc.com. Very expensive, but well worth it on the space savings and the efficiency. I am really more concerned about the fire hazard of the lithium ion batteries I am going to use than the wood stove.

On the composting toilets, I have read mixed reviews. I am planning on using the SunMar mobile, but I have not looked at the Air Head Dry Toilets yet. Pretty sure I have the gray water recirculation worked out. Will scrub with several filters and polish it with a reverse osmosis step.

Thanks for the feedback so far. Keep it coming. Going to look up Air Head Toilets now
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:46 AM   #6
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Okmunky, you are right on the size constraints. I went back and looked at my schematics and I had changed it from a 14 foot interior layout to a 17 foot interior layout. And that is still a bit tight. It will mostly sleep 2 people, but I want to be able to sleep 4. I have read on some sites that a 14' foot trailer can sleep 4 "comfortably". I have a feeling that with 17 feet, I can sleep 4, but will not be bold enough to say "comfortably".
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Old 05-05-2013, 09:13 AM   #7
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Have you any practical experience in RV travel?

If you have, I'd suspect that while the exercise in trying to build something like this is, or even PLAN to do so, may be fun, and a useful fill of time, experience would likely show that, practically, it's a lesson futility as it's completion to a working project is practically nill.

All IMHO


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Old 05-05-2013, 10:08 AM   #8
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Regarding the lithium batteries, I wouldn't worry about fire hazard as long as you use the right type. The versions that you've seen on the news (e.g. the Dreamliner Lithium Cobalt batteries) are not the ones being currently used in RVs and boats (Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 aka LFP)).

You may want to talk to these folks:
http://www.technomadia.com/category/...y/lithium-ion/

They've been living with a self-made lithium system for over a year now, and also decided to go all-electric on their rig. They haven't decided on a solar system yet, but I have no doubt it'll be leading edge when they do.

Curious what material you're using for insulation?
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Old 05-05-2013, 10:32 AM   #9
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Regarding fire safety, have a look at this option.


Fire Fight Supplemental Halon Fire Suppression Systems
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Old 05-05-2013, 11:34 AM   #10
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Also a previous thread here with more info and links on lithium battery design:
Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs
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Old 05-05-2013, 08:07 PM   #11
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As someone who's built a lot of trailers over the years, office & camp type, I have a couple of observations.

First, at 14' long, and all the other stuff you're adding, aluminum will be a colossal waste of money. It will increase the cost of construction, as well as causing huge thermal losses. Unless you plan on towing it a lot, a wood superstructure will be far cheaper and self-insulating.

Second, IMHO, the heat pump will be another (expensive) white elephant, it will only heat down to ~50 deg F., and terribly inefficient at that point too. If you need a/c use either an RV rooftop unit, or a small split system which will have far less heat loss in cold weather.

Finally, propane will be your easiest fuel for cooking, heating (other than wood) and hot water. Getting it easier than you think, you just need to know where to look. Use 30 pound aluminum "80% fill" tanks like those used on a forklift. Filling them is far cheaper, you pay by the gallon of liquid not pound like a portable grill tank, and available in almost any town.
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Old 05-06-2013, 12:14 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Murf2u View Post
As someone who's built a lot of trailers over the years, office & camp type, I have a couple of observations.

First, at 14' long, and all the other stuff you're adding, aluminum will be a colossal waste of money. It will increase the cost of construction, as well as causing huge thermal losses. Unless you plan on towing it a lot, a wood superstructure will be far cheaper and self-insulating.

Second, IMHO, the heat pump will be another (expensive) white elephant, it will only heat down to ~50 deg F., and terribly inefficient at that point too. If you need a/c use either an RV rooftop unit, or a small split system which will have far less heat loss in cold weather.

Finally, propane will be your easiest fuel for cooking, heating (other than wood) and hot water. Getting it easier than you think, you just need to know where to look. Use 30 pound aluminum "80% fill" tanks like those used on a forklift. Filling them is far cheaper, you pay by the gallon of liquid not pound like a portable grill tank, and available in almost any town.

Could you give detail on the 'small split system' ?

Maybe some links and approx. costs ?

Thanks
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Old 05-06-2013, 06:33 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ed-Sommers View Post
Have you any practical experience in RV travel?

If you have, I'd suspect that while the exercise in trying to build something like this is, or even PLAN to do so, may be fun, and a useful fill of time, experience would likely show that, practically, it's a lesson futility as it's completion to a working project is practically nill.

All IMHO


Ed
Ed,

I have vast experience in tent camping and backpacking. I have limited RV experience which amounts to a week and a half trip which took me to New York City, Boston, Scranton PA, Washington, DC, Raleigh, NC and Sarasota, FL. So I had the extremes of single digit temperatures to mid 80s in a 30 foot old class C.

I am a journey person, so the fun is in the design and thinking about it. Fortunately, I am also a person who make take a long time to complete a project, but I do complete them. My goal is to have the working prototype by this time next year.

As a person who has started, or helped to start dozens of technology based businesses, I often tell my clients that one of the hardest things in the world is to find someone who will actually do what they say they are going to. As you correctly point out, this is a rare quality.
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Old 05-06-2013, 06:36 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by WheelingIt View Post
Regarding the lithium batteries, I wouldn't worry about fire hazard as long as you use the right type. The versions that you've seen on the news (e.g. the Dreamliner Lithium Cobalt batteries) are not the ones being currently used in RVs and boats (Lithium Iron Phosphate (LiFePO4 aka LFP)).

You may want to talk to these folks:
Lithium Ion Batteries for RVs | Technomadia

They've been living with a self-made lithium system for over a year now, and also decided to go all-electric on their rig. They haven't decided on a solar system yet, but I have no doubt it'll be leading edge when they do.

Curious what material you're using for insulation?
Thanks WheelingIt. I will take a look at that. I am planning on using the Lithium Iron Phosphate. Right now I am leaning towards the Winston brand and going with eight 400 amp hour batteries for a total of 9600 watt hours for my 12 volt system. I like the fact that I should be able to go to an 80% depth of charge on these when needed, without significant harm to the batteries.
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