Passenger 144 Weekender


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Nineteen years ago, at 45, sleeping in the Isuzu Trooper was a dream come true. But I was working hard and it saw more trips to Lowe's than trips to the Sierras. And the pop-top I wanted never got off the starting blocks.

In 2010 we bought a 2007 Winnebago View (23.5' on a 2006 Sprinter 3500) which we still have. The View taught us a lot about what we need to camp and, even though it's about as small as a motorhome gets, taught us what a hassle it is to drive a larger RV. And also taught us that we're old enough to require a comfortable mattress.

After another year or so, the idea of a smaller Sprinter for daily use started sounding pretty good. Now, here we are eight years later and after years of waiting for the opportunity, months of searching for the right van, and then more months waiting for delivery, on 7/23/19 we finally took delivery of our new silver passenger van. A cargo or crew van would have been workable but the passenger model looked like it would be a lot easier to build out.

For a lot of reasons, I really like the floorpan of the Winnebago Travato, with a walk-through wet bath and comfortable lounges/beds on each wall. I want to incorporate that design into the van without making it too cluttered.

For our weekender, a bath is more important than a kitchen, but an open floorplan is the most important thing for us. So, I'm going to try to figure out a way to have a toilet and shower at the rear of the van, which will be hidden underneath the two lounges.
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The rear seats in the passenger van are individually reclining and much more comfortable than I expected. I was going to get rid of all the seats until I saw how nice they were, so I sold two rows of seats and am hanging on to one of the three-seat benches and cutting it down to a two-seat bench.

First thing to do is insulate. I ordered a 30' roll of Thinsulate, and two boxes of Noico products - the black mass-loading sound insulator and the green 170mil foam insulator.

The Sprinter brochure and The Equipment Book show that some insulation is standard in the passenger van:

Heat Insulation, Front & Rear Compartments: Includes the insulation mats in the front doors and in the rear/partition wall. Insulation material is fitted up to the belt rail in the sidewalls of the load/passenger compartment and in the rear doors.

Weight Optimized Plastic Floor: The load compartment floor consists of a three-dimensional center layer with bubble structure on which a TPO film (thermoplastic pol-yolefin) is laminated. The TPO film is durable, stain-resistant, slip- resistant and has low wear. The bubble structure of the center layer ensures a low weight while offering strong rigidity and good damping properties. Below that is an insulating foam layer. Support bars connect it to the vehicle floor. The plastic floor has a thickness of 0.31” (8 mm) and builds as tall as the wood floor (code V43).

Plus my van has the optional acoustic package, with additional sound insulation in the areas around the cab and the sliding door.

Based on all this, I'm going to leave the floor and lower sidewalls as-is and only try to install additional insulation and sound deadening behind the headliner. AndyMac's Clark2 build thread gives great instructions. If the factory installed installation isn't adequate for cold weather, I'll come back to this part of the job again later.


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If I want to maximize solar wattage on the 144" van with air conditioning, after looking at every alternative I could find, it looks like a single rigid panel is going to be my best bet.

The air conditioner gets in the way of maxing out the solar charging capability. There's only an area of about 51" wide and 76" long to work with. Even if I go wider, it looks like a single 60 cell panel will be the best bet. These panels are available from about 300W up to 375W. They are about 65" x 40", which would keep them out of the shade from the air conditioner. And by shifting the panel to the passenger side, the mounting feet would be in the flat recesses between the ribs, which will give me a good surface to mount to and also lower the profile of the panel a bit. Plus that will move the panel away from the shade of a future awning.

The best price I can find is at SanTanSolar, for a no-name (looks like Mission brand) 300W mono panel for $120 (plus $128 shipping from Gilbert, Arizona to Southern California). About a year ago, I bought a larger 355W panel from them at close to the same price for our Sprinter motorhome and it's great. Or, if I can find a 350W LG panel that I can pick up nearby (I'm in Ventura, California) I'll spend $325 for the better panel and to get it immediately. Or, for $450, I can get a 375W LG panel - I'll probably just go for whatever is in stock locally.

The only decision left is whether I'd be happier with two 100W panels (about 42" x 42") and still have room for a roof vent. The van is going to be more of a weekender than a live-aboard, but the refrigerator by itself could probably use the entire daily output of 200W of solar. But it seems like every time we use the van, ventilation is the primary concern.

Here's a quick photoshop showing what a 60 cell panel looks like. Not a lot of room to spare, but not nearly as tight a fit as the other configurations I was considering. Now, if I can just find a roof vent that could be installed below the solar panel.



'20 144" HR 4x4
I'm planning to use two 100W Renogy panels and have a Maxxair fan. I will carry another 100W flexi panel that I can set up remote . This will be especially useful in those time when I park under trees for shade.


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... I will carry another 100W flexi panel that I can set up remote . ...
It was tempting to try and figure out a way to slide two flexible panels under the large panel, but I wanted to get my new panel installed right away.


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Given the constraints of the roof size, the location of flat roof surfaces for mounting, and the 60V/10A limitation of the battery bank, I decided that a 60 cell panel (most are about 40" x 69") would be the best bet. This size fits nicely in between the roof ribs and is well out of the way of the future awning.

Usually I spend a lot of time shopping for bargains but these days there aren't many choices that don't require $200 in shipping costs. I finally found a retailer who could get me a panel immediately and I decided on the Hanwha Q CELLS Q-Peak Duo G6+ 335 Watt Mono Solar Panel for $261. ( New technology, pretty good specs and quite a bit cheaper than the LG panels I was originally looking at.)

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Nice having a Sprinter van for picking up solar panels!

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Really a nice looking panel. Quite lightweight at 44 pounds.

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Plugged it in for a test run before I installed it and went from 0 to 1500Wh in about 20 hours including a night. Getting about 290 (out of 335) watts in the middle of the day.

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I really wanted to use the plastic brackets because they look really good, but they require a perfectly flat roof.

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Got it installed Monday, a few hours before it started raining, using metal brackets. (Has to bend them slightly to match the slight slope of the roof.) The panel had four mounting holes, so I used stainless bolts and lock washers for those, plus 3M VHB 4950 tape. The other four brackets are fastened to the panel with tape only and all of the brackets are fastened to the roof with tape only. I used a plastic water jug for weight to seat the tape.

(We've had solar panels taped onto our 2007 Sprinter motorhome for over ten years, with plenty of driving during high winds in the Mojave, and no problems. But, when we recently reconfigured the panels on the motorhome, one bracket had only about 50% adhesion because it didn't match the curve in the roof. When using VHB tape, it's important to have consistent contact.)

For the van, just to be confident about the job, I’m going to run a bead of 3M 5200 (the "non-removable" adhesive sealant) around the base of the metal brackets. This will partially protect the VHB tape from the elements and also provide some backup adhesion to make the brackets bombproof.
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The solar panel is just about hidden from view.

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For now, the cable just runs to the back of the roof and then through the crack in the rear door. I'm hoping that when I take the cover off of the air conditioner, I'll see some way of feeding the cable through the air conditioner area and behind the headliner. We live at the beach and rust is relentless, so I'm hesitant to drill unless it's absolutely necessary.
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