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Old 07-27-2018, 01:15 AM   #1
TamagoVan
2016 144 High Roof
 
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Default The Tamago

After a year without a trailer or a camper van my partner and I decided we might, one day, want to convert another Sprinter, but from scratch and doing all the work ourselves this time. Of course, as soon as we started looking we found a Sprinter we loved and we dove in the deep end!

Meet the Tamago: a 2016 2WD 4cyl passenger 144" wheel base, high roof.

It had been a loaner for a local dealer, and… it was alarmingly yellow. It reminded us of a type of nigiri sushi that involves a rectangularly-cut piece of cooked egg, called tamago nigiri. The trim even resembles the little stripe of nori sushi that holds the roll together. Forgive us our dorky food jokes.

Why was this eggy goodness the van we picked?
  • 144"WB: this will be my daily driver and being able to fit in normal parking spots and easily navigate the city was important to me.
  • Passenger version: it had windows in every position. Our last Sprinter camper started life as a cargo version and we added one window in the slider door, but we would have added more windows if we owned it longer. We live in the Pacific Northwest and we are often camping in the rain and wind and it's so nice to be warm and completely dry inside the van while watching the scenery around us.
  • High roof: one of us is 6'1".
  • 4cyl: we love the fuel efficiency and with good tires we found that our last 4cyl was able to get us where we wanted to go safely.
  • 2016: still under warranty. (12k miles on it when we bought it.)
  • 250 Amp alternator. This allows us to use the alternator to charge things other than the starter battery, if we decide we want to.
  • Leatherette seats: our family consists of humans and canines, and fabric seats are a pain to keep clean when half of us shed.
  • Driver Efficiency Package: this includes a rear view camera and cruise control.
  • Safety Plus Package: this includes the rain sensing windshield, multifunction steering wheel, blind spot monitoring, and high beam assist. All of these were in the nice-to-have category, but not required.
  • Trailer Hitch Package: just always a good idea to have a hitch. Again, not required for us, but we certainly liked having it.
  • Electric Sliding (self-retracting) Step: we would have added a running board if the van didn't come with this option, and it's way fancier than we need, but it's kinda fun.

It also had a bunch of things we didn't need/want.
  • Three rows of passenger seats.
  • A massive A/C unit on the roof (which also ate in to the interior head room)
  • It sure is yellow.
We've sold the seats, we removed and sold the roof A/C, and I might look in to doing a vinyl wrap if I can't get used to the yellow.

Things we learned:
  • Mercedes Benz of Eugene is a really great place to buy a Sprinter. Eric Voss (the Sprinter person there) was easy to work with, clear in his communication, didn't do any salesman-y stuff, and made the whole process really easy and fast. Definitely one of the best car-buying experiences we've had, especially from a dealer.
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Old 07-27-2018, 01:21 AM   #2
TamagoVan
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Default The Plan

This is our second Sprinter conversion. The first one we had was started by Outside Van and continued by us, but all of our modifications required working around what was already done or removing perfectly good modifications and doing something totally different. It was in part because we realized that our ideal configuration was different enough from what we had that we decided to start over, from scratch, on this one.

Floor Plan
After having a sprinter with a platform bed in the back, we knew we wanted a layout with a clear path to the back doors and a non-raised bed. We have dogs. At home, they sleep with us. For nimble and spry dogs, stairs or a ramp would work, but for senior or mobility-challenged dogs, we need to be lower to the ground. I hated trying to get dressed in the confined space of the raised bed. It limited our ability to put big windows in the back and to see out of the back windows.

We also liked the idea of having a bed that turned in to a couch during the day so that there are easy seating options other than the front seats.

We had seen layouts like this that placed the bed by the slider door and thought that this would also allow us to use the back doors for exiting and entering more quietly than the slider door, which seems impossible not to slam when closing.

Windows
As I've mentioned before, we wanted a lot of windows. Like all the windows. We would have done skylights too if the roof wasn't covered in solar panels.

We also didn't want to block those windows with cabinets and fridges, so everything needed to go above or below the windows.

Power
We have experience with electrical systems on campers and trailers, and we know how much power we use when camping in various conditions. For this build, we wanted 560W of solar panels, 300 Ah of lithium ion batteries, and a 2000W Inverter/charger.

I will share our power consumption and electrical details in another post, soon. For now, just know that I'm pretty excited about our plan.

Heating and Cooling
We knew from past experiences that we absolutely did not need the rooftop AC. Before anyone gets worked up about this: we have camped in Death Valley in the summer. We know what hot is like. The rooftop AC draws so much power that we would need to design our electrical system around this draw if we ever wanted to be able to use and it’s just not worth it to us. We will still have the front AC when the engine is running. This is totally sufficient for our needs.

What we did want, however, was the space on the roof that was being hogged by the rooftop AC unit, so off it went.

Of course, any conversation about heating and cooling starts with insulation, which will be covered next, but we will also have:
• Two Maxxair Deluxe Fans
• One vented window
• Espar D2 diesel air heater
More details coming soon.

Insulation
We used the tried and true Thinsulate approach in the walls, and we added to this two layers of Lizard Skin. The first layer is be sound insulation, the second layer will be a ceramic thermal insulation (thanks for the tip, KeneTube!). Both are spray-on application. Both are new to us. We will document this process and do some before and after testing.

On the floor we installed vinyl coin sheeting on plywood over the stock floor with a layer of cross-linked polyethylene between the floor panel and the Lizard Skin.

Appliances and Plumbing
First: we like food. A lot. We've had campers with tiny fridges and huge fridges, and we like more fridge. For this build we will use a 4.6 cu ft Isotherm fridge.

We have always hated winterizing our campers. In the Pacific Northwest, four season camping means a lot of winterizing and de-winterizing each winter. The Tamago will have no external tanks or pipes and no electronic water pump (the sound of 12V water pumps - even the "quiet" ones! - drives me nuts). Instead, we will use a foot pump.

We are installing a 30 gallon fresh water tank inside the van so we don't have to worry about it freezing when winter camping. Our grey tank will be a small (5 gallon) portable tank under the kitchen sink which will be easy to grab and dump as needed.

We're going to install a desiccating toilet (frequently called composting toilets - but they don't really compost). We're installing the AirHead, but we will use it more like a Separette (no agitator, bag liners, etc.).

One thing we never liked in our past campers was having propane-powered appliances. Our concerns with propane are about safety, condensation, and noise (in the case of propane heaters). So, one of our goals with this build was to go without any propane anything. Another goal was to have no open flames in the camper. Enter the diesel appliances.

We will use an Espar (Eberspaecher) D2 Airtronic air heater and a Webasto diesel cooktop.

Cabinets and Roof Rack
We decided to fully commit to 80/20 framing in this Sprinter. Even our fold out couch/bed. This is my first time working with 80/20 but so far I love it.

Other Goals
Some other things that are important to us in this build:
• No rigid foam
• No self-tapping screws (hooray for plusnuts!)
• Dog-friendly designs and strategies
• Open floorplan with lots of visibility
• Minimizing holes in the exterior of the van as possible
• A van for camping when it's cold & dark, but also when it's hot & sunny
• Maximize self-sufficiency
• Do as much as we can ourselves
Attached Images
File Type: png floorplan1.png (71.5 KB, 705 views)
File Type: png floorplan2.png (105.8 KB, 642 views)
File Type: jpg floorplan3.jpg (52.5 KB, 627 views)
File Type: png floorplan4.png (82.0 KB, 635 views)
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Old 07-27-2018, 02:01 AM   #3
TamagoVan
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Default Electrical Plan

Electrical Systems

We are big fans of winter camping in the Pacific Northwest. For us, this means lots of solar power. We're installing 540 Watts of solar panels and a 300 Amp-hour lithium battery to power everything in the van except the air heater and the cooktop (which are diesel powered). When it is really cold, or incredibly dark, we like having the option to plug in, so we will have a 30 Amp shore power connection and a 2000 Watt inverter/charger. We sometimes work on the road, so having a comfortable space to work in during dark, stormy days is greatly appreciated.

We would also like to be able to use small appliances, like an induction cooktop or a small water kettle, occasionally, when we have lots of excess solar.

Our setup:
3x 180W Grape solar panels
300Ah LiFeBlue Lithium Ion Drop-In battery
Victron Multiplus 12/2000 Inverter/Charger
Victron MBV-712 Battery Monitor
Victron 100/50A MPPT Controller
Victron 200A Battery Protector
2x Blue Sky 600A Bus Bars
500A Shunt
300A Class T Fuse
3x Blue Sea switches
2x Blue Sea DC fuse blocks
Blue Sea 60A circuit breaker
Blue Sea 200A circuit breaker

I considered installing a second inverter that could be powered by the alternator while driving (we have the 250A alternator), which could then charge the battery via the charger (a la Graphite Dave). We may still do this at some point.

In the wiring diagram below I didn't draw both positive and negative lines on the smaller DC lines. I just got tired of drawing them all in. I also didn't indicate the wire lengths, but I did indicate the wire sizes.

Thoughts and feedback are welcome!
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File Type: pdf Tamago.pdf (85.2 KB, 161 views)

Last edited by TamagoVan; 07-27-2018 at 09:31 PM.
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Old 07-27-2018, 05:34 AM   #4
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Default Re: The Tamago

Looks interesting.

I guess if I were to make suggestions:
- consider to use the 3000 instead of 2000 size inverter for the loads you are planning. The victron 2000 is 2000 VA, not 2000 watts - closer to 1500 watts than 2000.
- consider to do the system in 24 volts vs 12 to reduce copper consumption and have a more efficient system

(each lb of copper wire produced results in over 500 lbs of permanently contaminated mining waste tailings)

With those changes, you can now switch to breakers which are a lot more convenient that changing out a class T fuse.

- Two fans in a 144 ?
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:16 PM   #5
TamagoVan
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Default Re: The Tamago

Thanks for checking it out, HarryN.

Yep, the Victron 2000 was a continuous output of 1600W. That fits well within our power consumption estimates as long as we don't run an induction cooktop AND a water kettle at the same time, which seems more than reasonable to us.

I like your attention to copper use and the impact of mining!

We had two fans in our last 144 and we knew we wanted to do that again. We are using MaxxAir Deluxe fans, which we love because of how quiet they are on the lowest settings.
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Old 07-27-2018, 04:34 PM   #6
TamagoVan
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Default Rooftop AC Removal

The Sprinter we bought had an OEM rooftop AC unit. We wanted all the space we could get on the roof for solar panels and vent/fans, and since these AC units use way too much energy to run when the engine isn't running (without sizing our battery and electrical system just for the AC), and we had no use for it. Before anyone freaks out and wants to tell me how sorry we will be: we have had several campers with AC units and we've never used them. They add weight and take up space and we don't need it. So! On with the removal!

First, I was very grateful for the very helpful post by Paul Adams on how he removed his rooftop AC. This was the best information I could find prior to attempting it myself. Thanks Paul!

1. Disable Rear AC Pump and Evacuate Rooftop AC lines.
I brought my van to the neighborhood mechanic who disabled the rear AC pump and evacuated the AC lines for $200. The front AC still works great.

2. Remove Headliner and Rooftop Air Distribution Components
The plastic interior air distribution components come out easily once you expose the screws. The headliner removal wasn't bad with a set of trim removal tools.

3. Disconnect all the tubes and wires on the inside.
Even though my AC lines had been evacuated I still got a startling "pop" on the first coolant line I disconnected. There is one line in each B-pillar. Loosen the screw and pull the two silver cylinders (below) apart. Also remove the coolant lines where they go through the roof.

4. Disassemble the Components on the Roof.
The rooftop components were relatively straightforward once I was able to expose all the bolts. Some of these were covered with impressive amounts of sealant and took some work to expose.
Although some of the rooftop pieces are large and awkward, none were too heavy to remove solo. I just made a lot of trips up and down the ladder.

5. Patch the Holes
I started by taping up some plastic sheeting to catch any adhesive or metal shavings.
I cut a piece of aluminum sheet metal to size and tested the fit, trimming around the roof channels.
I decided to use an auto body panel adhesive, rivets, and sealant strategy:
I began by sanding the paint off the first 1/2" immediately around the opening so that the adhesive would have metal-to-metal contact.
Since these adhesives really need to be clamped and there's not a great way to clamp these pieces I decided to use rivets to clamp the patch pieces down. Very importantly, I used Olympic rivets, which are waterproof and do not have a through hole. First I drilled the holes for all the rivets in the patches and matching holes in the van roof.
I sprayed the patches with a self-etching primer and then a silver automotive paint.
Then I applied the auto body panel adhesive , pulled the rivets, and let it cure for 24 hours. (Sorry no photos of this stage.)
Finally, I sealed all the edges and the rivets with Sikaflex non-leveling sealant.

You can see in the photos that I patched the large hole and two of the three smaller holes. I will use the third hole for the solar panel wire pass-through.

There are also several bolt ends that were sticking up through the roof. They seemed well sealed and protected, so I left them there. I'll keep an eye on them for rust or other signs of compromise, but I thought maybe one day I'd be glad to have some reinforced bolts and in the meantime they won't get in the way of our other plans.

More photos here: https://escapecapsules.weebly.com/bu...the-rooftop-ac
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File Type: jpg img-3365_orig.jpg (101.6 KB, 530 views)
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File Type: jpg img-3234_orig.jpg (112.3 KB, 548 views)
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Old 07-27-2018, 05:23 PM   #7
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Default Re: The Tamago

Nice project, best of luck. I like the color!

3 large solar panels, 2 fans, and an awning seems as a tight squeeze on 144” WB roof. Awning like Fiamma requires clearance on the inside side of the roof rail. I have 300W, one Maxxair fan carefully located to prevent shadow casting on the solar panels. The fan was located on the flat portion of the roof eliminating dealing with the roof ridges. In your case 2 fans could cast shadow on the left panels.

See attached picture with 3 configurations of back contact 100W panels possible in my case.

I would question 2 fans and large wattage. Certainly, large wattage would be possible with a roof structure over fans.
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Old 07-27-2018, 05:40 PM   #8
TamagoVan
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Default Re: The Tamago

Thanks GeorgeRa! The color is growing on me. :)

Yes, that's part of why we decided not to use a Fiamma awning. We used a Dometic 9500 12' awning and built an 80/20 roof rack. I used your drawings to help guide our placement of the fans on our roof! When the fans are closed they will be level with the solar panels. I'm almost done with the solar panel/fan install (just waiting on a last order of screws to arrive), and I'll post photos to show you what I mean.
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Old 07-27-2018, 11:49 PM   #9
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Default Re: The Tamago

Quote:
Originally Posted by TamagoVan View Post
Thanks GeorgeRa! The color is growing on me. :)

Yes, that's part of why we decided not to use a Fiamma awning. We used a Dometic 9500 12' awning and built an 80/20 roof rack. I used your drawings to help guide our placement of the fans on our roof! When the fans are closed they will be level with the solar panels. I'm almost done with the solar panel/fan install (just waiting on a last order of screws to arrive), and I'll post photos to show you what I mean.
I too like the color, but then my first van was a yellow 1973 Dodge. Considering this color for my next Sprinter van.

Attached is drawing I've been toying with to get Max solar on the roof of a 144" WB Sprinter with roof A/C and vent fan. It uses 80/20 raised rack that could also hold a awning.
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Old 07-28-2018, 12:10 AM   #10
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Default Re: The Tamago

If you do happen to find complications with fitting it all up on the roof, the location that was formerly assigned to the rear compressor can be fit with a secondary alternator. Assuming that you stay with that battery pack, a lot of charge can be pushed into it in even 30 minutes of engine run time.

Somehow I missed that you were putting the fans offset and the innovative panel locations. Good use of space. I am also very curious about the implementation.
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