Orton DIY Transit

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Brilliant Dave. And oddly enough, I was just thinking how I hadn't used my Anova Sous-Vide machine since the early Spring — after getting an email pitch from Anova.
Thank "sprint2freedom" on this site. Did not know what a Sous Vide machine was until he said that was what he used to heat shower water. Googled it and sure enough in my opinion he had discovered the simple solution for a van shower. So I spent some time trying to optimize the idea.

Today I ordered a battery and parts to make a portable 12 volt power pack so the system could be used anywhere. We live in Ca. where there are fires. Expect next fire season to have PGE regularly turn off the power so they do not get sued for starting the fire. We can use the portable shower water heater in the house to shower. Heat the water in the van and carry it into the house and power the pump with the portable power pack.
 
Geez, I'm glad all I have to worry about is hurricanes and tornadoes. Oh! and living just 70 miles from a SAC Base (no longer called that) but it still flies B-52's every day. Don't know if they are still going out armed with nukes or not. :whistle:

Gene
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
The ortontransit.info web site has been replaced with a new site. About double the information, better menu organization and pictures that can be enlarged.

Building a conversion is the basically the same no matter what brand the vehicle is.

Hopefully the work and money spent in improving the site will be useful to others.

https://www.ortontransit.info/
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Did a test of my method of staying warm at night. Do not want a Espar due to the noise which is not compatible with city street parking or my sleeping.

Installation information:

Van is a 148" WB high roof Transit. About same interior length and width of a 144" WB Sprinter but 5" taller inside. Van has a slider door window and two back windows that were covered with Reflectix. There is a 27" wide sleeping platform at the back of the van with two REI 25" x 70" x 2 1/2" self inflating camp pads for a "mattress". Use a zero degree sleeping bag on top of the camp pads. Platform is surrounded by a insulated tent. Two layers of cloth with 1/2" Thinsulate between the layers. Back curtain is between the platform and the back doors that goes from the ceiling to two inches below the platform. Front curtain is in 3 parts to allow in/out entry and it closes off the front of the sleeping platform. There is a $30 1" x 50" x 18" Zonetech car back seat heating pad placed between the two self inflating camp pads. The Zonetech has two heat settings of 33 watts or 45 watts. Only used the 33 watt setting for the test. Initially I placed the Zonetech on top of both self inflating camp pads. That proved too be to hot so moved the heating pad between the two camp pads which solved that problem. Zonetech replaced the $100 Electro-Warmth bunk heating pad that I initially used. Two of the Electro-Warmth pads failed so I looked for a better solution. No curtain behind the front seats to wall off the cab or cab window covers. Van is insulated with polyiso, closed cell foam and Reflectix with air gap. Refrigerator was not running. The van normally uses 1% of the SOC overnight due to numerous small loads. So 1% of SOC used is not due to the heating pad.

Test:

Used a portable digital temperature gage for inside and outside the tent temperature readings. Used the Transit dash temperature to determine the outside the van temperature. Have a Magnum remote to give me the 255 amp-hr house battery state-of-charge. Started test at 100% SOC. Wore a balaclava to keep my head warm.


Results:


Time, inside tent temp., outside tent in van temp., outside van, SOC

8:00 PM, 48, 48, 39, 100

10:30 PM, 48, 48, 37, 98

12:30 AM, 46, 47, 36, 96

3:00 AM, 46, 46, 37, 95

6:00 AM, 43, 43, 36, 93


What was learned:

1. The inside the van tent idea was useless. Still hard for me to believe that it does not retain any of the body or heating pad heat inside the tent but obviously it does not.

2. Zonetech heating pad works very well. "Mattress" is very comfortable and heat level on low is about right.

3. The van insulation works. Kept inside van 7 to 9 degrees above outside temperature all night. As expected the interior temperature slowly decreased toward the outside the van temperature.

4. The seat heating pad used 6% or about 15.3 amp-hr of the house 255 amp-hr battery capacity. Easily back to 100% SOC before noon with the 300 watt solar panel power.


Next test will be determining if using the 1000 watt Magnum inverter to keep 6 gallons of water in the uninsulated shower water tank at 95 degrees is useful at night. The radiation from the tank and the 15% inefficiency of the inverter will add heat to the van interior. Will that be useful and how much house battery capacity will be used?

Do not have any difficulty warming the van in the morning. I can start the gas engine with the remote start and let it idle before getting out of bed. Dash controls set to deliver heat and the vehicle powered inverter is set to power the 750 watt electric baseboard heater in back of van.
 
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Matt Foley

New member
I love that you've always got a different way of thinking thru these things. Thanks for documenting it.

You know about the hot water bottle in the sleeping bag trick? It's had me warm enough to be opening my sleeping bag in a single wall tent in the snow at 9,000ft and high winds lol.
 

HarryN

Well-known member
Hi Dave, I am a little surprised that the tent didn't help much either.

I watched a show on the sami people, also sometimes known as Laplanders.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sámi_people

One of the interesting things that they do is to set up a "tent within a tent" with an air gap.

Of course they are dealing with much larger temperature differentials, and the tents are made from thick furs, but the concept works. They go to bed with a sort of candle for warmth.

Of course, they probably consider it to be "warm" when it is 30 F inside.
 

Matt Foley

New member
Hi Dave, I am a little surprised that the tent didn't help much either.

I watched a show on the sami people, also sometimes known as Laplanders.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sámi_people

One of the interesting things that they do is to set up a "tent within a tent" with an air gap.

Of course they are dealing with much larger temperature differentials, and the tents are made from thick furs, but the concept works. They go to bed with a sort of candle for warmth.

Of course, they probably consider it to be "warm" when it is 30 F inside.
A single candle in a snowcave does wonders for comfort.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Hi Dave, I am a little surprised that the tent didn't help much either.

I watched a show on the sami people, also sometimes known as Laplanders.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sámi_people

One of the interesting things that they do is to set up a "tent within a tent" with an air gap.

Of course they are dealing with much larger temperature differentials, and the tents are made from thick furs, but the concept works. They go to bed with a sort of candle for warmth.

Of course, they probably consider it to be "warm" when it is 30 F inside.
Also hard for me to believe tent did not make any difference. Suspect that a much colder outside temperature would provide some difference. In a van it is difficult to have a sealed tent with curtains. Lots of gaps for air to circulate.

I have a couple more tests to conduct. One is to see if leaving my inverter on powering my 6 gallon uninsulated shower water tank overnight at 95 degrees makes any difference in van inside temperature. A second more ridiculous test will be using car seat heater pads hung on either side of my head to attempt to keep the air warmer around my head.

What I do know is a back seat heating pad works very well to keep the body warm and the van is insulated well enough to keep the van interior about 10 degrees warmer overnight than the outside temperature. Slowly the van interior loses temperature and eventually would match the outside temperature without adding heat inside.
 

HarryN

Well-known member
I suspect the air gaps might be a large part of the issue.

Frankly, tent canvas and curtains are not furs either.

Sometimes I wonder if we should be going back to using thick carpet for wall covering.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
I suspect the air gaps might be a large part of the issue.

Frankly, tent canvas and curtains are not furs either.

Sometimes I wonder if we should be going back to using thick carpet for wall covering.
I thought the curtains with 1/2" of Thinsulate between the two layers of cloth would provide the insulation. I suspect the curtains work but there are too many gaps between curtain to curtain and curtain to the van walls. Also gaps between the curtains and the bed platform. They are not large gaps but must be enough to defeat the idea and allow air movement.

I did use 3/16" indoor/outdoor carpet for the wall covering in the two rear window indents.

Tonight I will try using turning on the 1000 watt inverter to keep the 6 gallons of shower water at 95 degrees during the night. Since the SS tank is not insulated it should radiate heat and the inefficiency of the inverter will also create heat. Be interesting if the difference between the outside the van and the inside the van temperatures are different than it was without keeping the water warm.

Do not think it will make that much difference but I could be wrong.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Test done to see if van interior could be warmed by turning on the 1000 watt house inverter to keep water in an uninsulated SS 6 gallon shower water tank warm. Hope was that the heat from the inverter inefficiency and radiation from the shower water tank would heat the van. Had curtain behind the cab seats.

Used shore power to heat the tank water to 95 degrees. Then turned off shore power and turned on the house inverter and used it to keep the water at 95 degrees.

Results:

Time/House battery SOC/inside van temp./outside of van temp.

6:48 PM/99% SOC/56 degrees in/43 degrees out

9:15 PM/92% SOC/52 degrees in/41 degrees out

1:00 AM/82% SOC/49 degrees in/39 degrees out


So the result was total failure. Did not think it would be worthwhile but did think it would provide some increase in interior temperature.


Since I was still connected to shore power at 1:00 AM I changed my selector switches to direct the shore power to the 750 watt electric baseboard heater. Ran air heater for 1/2 hour and gained 4 degrees to inside the van temperature. Then switched the shore power to the shore power charger. At 4:20 AM the house battery was back to 99% SOC. I charge at 40 amps.

Learning what I must do at different interior temperatures:

Above 60 degrees just need the sleeping bag.
Between 50 and 60 degrees I need to wear the balaclava.
Between 40 and 50 degrees I need to use the car rear seat heater under the sleeping bag on the low setting.
Have not tested below 40 degrees but suspect the low seat heater setting should work down to 30 degrees. Below 30 degrees will probably require the use of the high setting on the seat heater.

Did some testing using two seat heaters as curtains on each side of my head to keep my head warm. That may work. Crude setup shows a 5 degree increase in air temperature compared to the rest of the interior. Will improve the setup to enclose the small volume surrounding my head and do further testing.

Interesting to see what works and what does not.
 

HarryN

Well-known member
IIRC, your battery has about 1 kW-hr of usable capacity? I wonder if an incan light bulb (heat of light version) would be useful. 100 watt version could go most of the night.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
IIRC, your battery has about 1 kW-hr of usable capacity? I wonder if an incan light bulb (heat of light version) would be useful. 100 watt version could go most of the night.
That might work heat wise except it would make sleep difficult. Battery is a single 255 amp-hr 8D AGM.

I have done some preliminary testing with the two seat heaters placed at the head end on each side of the 27" wide bed platform as curtains. Sort of back to the tent idea but a much smaller tent just around my head. No problem keeping the body warm with the back seat heating pad under the sleeping bag. In fact it has too much heat directly under the bag on the low heat setting. I had to move it between the two camp pads so I had one pad between the heating pad and the sleeping bag. The Electro-Warmth bunk heating pads worked well but failed because the were not robust enough. The back seat heating pad looks to be much more robust and only costs $30 instead of $100. Making progress.

The testing process is just exploring different ideas. So far I have determined that the back seat heating pad works very well keeping the body warm, the balaclava works keeping the head warm, the insulated tent does not work, the use of the inverter and shower water tank for heat does not work and the heated head end curtains might work.

Interesting to explore different solutions. Trying to find a solution that is quiet. One night parked next to a van with an Espar cycling on/off was enough to eliminate that option.
 

HarryN

Well-known member
Since your key fob can start the engine, perhaps there is a way to have the engine auto start a few times a night for 30 - 60 minutes?

In theory the alternator could at least do some bulk charging of that 8D a few times a night and you could just do electric heating.

It is ideal to always fully charge, but if you are willing to accept a few more wear cycles on it, perhaps just partial charge a few times at night, then full charge the next day.

Is there a way to plug in a little plc or timer into the starting circuit?
 

Matt Foley

New member
That might work heat wise except it would make sleep difficult. Battery is a single 255 amp-hr 8D AGM.

I have done some preliminary testing with the two seat heaters placed at the head end on each side of the 27" wide bed platform as curtains. Sort of back to the tent idea but a much smaller tent just around my head. No problem keeping the body warm with the back seat heating pad under the sleeping bag. In fact it has too much heat directly under the bag on the low heat setting. I had to move it between the two camp pads so I had one pad between the heating pad and the sleeping bag. The Electro-Warmth bunk heating pads worked well but failed because the were not robust enough. The back seat heating pad looks to be much more robust and only costs $30 instead of $100. Making progress.

The testing process is just exploring different ideas. So far I have determined that the back seat heating pad works very well keeping the body warm, the balaclava works keeping the head warm, the insulated tent does not work, the use of the inverter and shower water tank for heat does not work and the heated head end curtains might work.

Interesting to explore different solutions. Trying to find a solution that is quiet. One night parked next to a van with an Espar cycling on/off was enough to eliminate that option.
If you just want to stay warm in a sleeping bag and don't care about heating the air in the van then a hot water bottle will do the trick with zero electricity and in far, far colder temperatures than you're experimenting with.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
Since your key fob can start the engine, perhaps there is a way to have the engine auto start a few times a night for 30 - 60 minutes?

In theory the alternator could at least do some bulk charging of that 8D a few times a night and you could just do electric heating.

It is ideal to always fully charge, but if you are willing to accept a few more wear cycles on it, perhaps just partial charge a few times at night, then full charge the next day.

Is there a way to plug in a little plc or timer into the starting circuit?
Do not want to start the engine in the middle of the night.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
If you just want to stay warm in a sleeping bag and don't care about heating the air in the van then a hot water bottle will do the trick with zero electricity and in far, far colder temperatures than you're experimenting with.
Will test the heated curtains first and then I will try the water bottle. Could make a 27" long tube to hold hot water and put it across the end of the bed under the pillow. That would be another use for the Sous Vide shower water heater.
 

Matt Foley

New member
Will test the heated curtains first and then I will try the water bottle. Could make a 27" long tube to hold hot water and put it across the end of the bed under the pillow. That would be another use for the Sous Vide shower water heater.
I have a fair bit of experience with backpacking in the snow, and I've always just boiled water on a white gas or canister stove and put it in a Nalgene bottle and just put it inside my sleeping bag. I just wear a beanie and have a hooded sleeping bag for my head.

In your situation 2 bottles might work better - one in the sleeping bag, one under the head. I'd get the water pretty hot, hotter than the temps you've posted from your sous vide as you've been using it for showering. Obviously one of those soft rubber, heavy duty water bottles would be better for underhead than a hard-sided water bottle.
 

Graphite Dave

Dave Orton
I have a fair bit of experience with backpacking in the snow, and I've always just boiled water on a white gas or canister stove and put it in a Nalgene bottle and just put it inside my sleeping bag. I just wear a beanie and have a hooded sleeping bag for my head.

In your situation 2 bottles might work better - one in the sleeping bag, one under the head. I'd get the water pretty hot, hotter than the temps you've posted from your sous vide as you've been using it for showering. Obviously one of those soft rubber, heavy duty water bottles would be better for underhead than a hard-sided water bottle.
I have the sleeping bag warmer solved with the heating pad. No issue with keeping the body warm. Now working on the head warmer. I can heat the water to 180 degrees in the Sous Vide shower water heater. Thought a full bed width tube at the very end of bed between the end of the sleeping bag and the van wall under the pillow may work better than a rubber water bottle lump. Will pursue the idea. Easy to get the hot water using the Sous Vide machine.
 

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