What advice would you give a new owner of a 2019 170 ext 2500 4 x 4?

PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
Hi everyone,

I am new to the forums, but I am reading as much as I can. This is obviously an impressive and knowledgeable community, and this type of fan club around the Sprinter is ultimately one of the reasons we chose it over pro masters and transits we considered.

My wife and I are planning a $25k max budget build out, and I’ve been doing months of research and have designed our van in 3D, though we are still making minor alterations.

The general plan:
- 80/20 aluminum framing
- Hydronic heating
- Double Murphy style bed (folding from each side to meet in the middle)
- 1,080 watts of solar (6 flexible Renogy 180 watt 6lb panels- which is the only reason I think I will go with Renogy, since weight limit of roof is 330lbs)
- 5,000 watt Victron Inverter
- 2 maxxair 7500’s
- Shower pan built flush into the floor At sliding door, with teak insert, 360 curtain, etc, as seen on many YouTube builds
Shooting for 40 gallons of fresh water and 35 gallons grey
- slide out nature’s head composting toilet that slides into pop up shower area
- reverse osmosis water filter for drinking water
- Rooftop “garage” (Like Curt from Snow and Curt on YouTube) made of 80/20 with actuators to tilt the lid, where the flexible lightweight solar panels are attached.
- swivel seats
- 55” bench seat immediately behind driver seat along driver wall that can fold flat against the wall, or, when set up, has adjustable footrests with Lagun tables on either side, the fore side of which can be used by the driver and passenger seat when swiveled.
- brava oven for cooking (1,800 watts)
- vitamix (1,500 watts)
- dual portable AC induction cooktop (1,800 watts)
- there will be a continuous counter top from the sink that sits on passenger side behind sliding door, and runs to the back of the van while Murphy bed is up
- cabinets from edge of Murphy bed area to door on passenger side, and to the bench seat on drive side.
- electric all resides along the driver side wall at end of van
- 48 volt 300 AH LiFePoh custom made batteries with custom BMS system
- victron battery balancers
- victron mppt charge controller sized to the battery bank’s max charge draw.

ok, whew, I think that’s about all of it... sorry for the length, but i think the main point of my post might need all that for context when I ask you kind folk:

What advice would you give a new Sprinter owner of a 2019 170 extended 2500 4 x 4? What do you wish you had known when you first bought your Sprinter or started your conversion(s)?

thanks to anyone who read all of this and to anyone who takes the time to share their thoughts. Cheers. -Josh

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Eric B

Well-known member
Maybe plan to do a temp / wip build with just the basics (bed + insulation + fans + heater) and take it out on the road and see how you feel about it before you deep dive into everything listed on your OP

maybe some of the things on your list would be useful if you plan to live in the van FT, but might not be needed for the weekender / occasional summer road trip build out

Personally I can’t get excited about having a cooktop inside of a van because of how all the cooking smells / oils / etc will immediately and permanently (?) embed in the headliner / upholstered surfaces ... but to each his own ...

and for sure +1 on suspension first like @gltrimble said before all that weight goes in !
 

PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
You better add a complete suspension package such as Agile’s RIP as your completed van could easily exceed max GVWR.

Some additional research on this forum may make you change your mind about a number of items in your list. Many of us have been there and done that.
Thanks for the advice. I’m keeping tabs on the weight of everything in a spreadsheet and I will be careful not to exceed GVWR.

Will you please point me in the direction of the items on my list you think I should prioritize investigating on the forum/ reconsidering?

I’m trying to plan ahead as much as possible as someone who hasn’t built a van before, and any advice on ideas i should reconsider are much appreciated.



thanks again
 

PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
Maybe plan to do a temp / wip build with just the basics (bed + insulation + fans + heater) and take it out on the road and see how you feel about it before you deep dive into everything listed on your OP

maybe some of the things on your list would be useful if you plan to live in the van FT, but might not be needed for the weekender / occasional summer road trip build out

Personally I can’t get excited about having a cooktop inside of a van because of how all the cooking smells / oils / etc will immediately and permanently (?) embed in the headliner / upholstered surfaces ... but to each his own ...

and for sure +1 on suspension first like @gltrimble said before all that weight goes in !
Thanks a lot for taking the time to reply. I think building the van out in phases definitely makes sense. My wife and I can both work full time from the road, so we are considering just committing for a year to save up money to build a cabin somewhere. I will hopefully be tapping into your collective experience and wisdom on how exactly I schedule the phases of the build.

And I hear you on the cooking smells too. I believe the two maxxair 7500’s will extract enough air to evacuate any smells, but if people know for sure otherwise, I would definitely like to know. We love to cook outside, so if we have to cook hot food outside, it won’t be the end of the world. We don’t want to ride around in a smelly van for sure.

it is starting to sound like we will have to make room for suspension upgrade in our budget. I appreciate both of your advice on that. Thanks again.
 

Eric B

Well-known member
Unless you put an actual cooktop vent directly over the stove, there’s going to be a bunch of upholstered surfaces in the way of the cooking smoke / fumes before it exits out the center of the roof where you installed your maxxair/dometic fan ... know what I mean ? I’m imagining a growing olive oil stain directly above the cooktop in the coved part of the headliner ... not to mention sheets / comforter / etc ... but again everyone has their preference ... if it were up to me I’d prefer a removable chuck box / camp kitchen setup and awning for cooking outside if not at a campground with tables / fire rings / etc
 

gltrimble

Well-known member
Some comments below

- 80/20 aluminum framing - Easy to use but expensive and not the lightest way to build cabinets.
- Hydronic heating - An Espar D2 will be your best investment on the van, heats fast and less complicated
- Double Murphy style bed - Few van owners I know tried this and later reverted to platform bed
- 1,080 watts of solar (6 flexible Renogy panels - Flexible panels have bad track record with users.
- 5,000 watt Victron Inverter - 3000 watt is still plenty. Victron expensive and bulky. $600 for quality 3k pure sine.
- 2 maxxair 7500’s - One fan centrally located works great, more room for solar on roof
- 40 gallons of fresh water, 35 gallons grey - I have 46 gal fresh (rarely full) and 16 gray, gray rarely more than 1/2 full.
- RO water filter for drinking water - Insufficient water pressure for RO, extra unneeded weight, bring jug of drinking water.
- Rooftop “garage - Too much weight, why climb on roof when you have all that inside storage in 170ext.
- 48 volt 300 AH LiFePoh - Think you need more batteries, say 400ah, and less solar. Also most things are 12 volt.

Hot water system? I can see this van exceeding 10,000 lbs with two people and gear given all the extras you are looking to add. Take a look at my 170 build, link below, to get an idea. My van is on the heavy side and not a lot you can do to reduce weight except eliminate certain features.

Cooking in the van is not an issue for us. Maxxair fan located directly over range and shower, does double duty.

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PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
Thanks for all your replies. I’m definitely taking everything into consideration and appreciate your experience.

I just crunched some numbers on the weights, and I expect my batteries, inverter, and electric will weigh 300 lbs, water will weigh 625 lbs (Only if 75 gallons were full at one time, which is doubtful), each 80/20 built structural feature will weigh 80lbs max (the bed, the counter framing, cabinet framing, bench framing, roof rack, and floor framing = 400- 1,000 lbs). The Renogy 180 watt solar panels weigh less than 50lbs for all 6 of them (the only reason I’m going with flexible Renogy’s, plus, they have a new flexible model that has been well reviewed and has a good warranty.

hydronic heating will be done by an Espar Hydronic heater. It will heat endless hot water via a heat exchanger plate, with none of the weight of electric systems. It will also heat the air through a blower exchanger with Btu’s that should be more than adequate to heat the cabin in any weather.

so- that’s a lot of the heaviness issues, but that only puts me around 2000 pounds of payload before my wife, dog, our clothes and small appliances.

if I end up having to cut weight, I will definitely cut water and battery weight first, as they are the largest offenders so far.

I will definitely keep up with every pound of weight. I will not mess up our new van by overloading it or smelling it up.

thanks again for all your great feedback
 

nctrailseeker

Active member
Leave the keys in it and run!! :smirk:

Just let me know where it's left for me.
Nice looking rig.:thumbup:
 

flyag1

Active member
Thanks for all your replies. I’m definitely taking everything into consideration and appreciate your experience.

I just crunched some numbers on the weights, and I expect my batteries, inverter, and electric will weigh 300 lbs, water will weigh 625 lbs (Only if 75 gallons were full at one time, which is doubtful), each 80/20 built structural feature will weigh 80lbs max (the bed, the counter framing, cabinet framing, bench framing, roof rack, and floor framing = 400- 1,000 lbs). The Renogy 180 watt solar panels weigh less than 50lbs for all 6 of them (the only reason I’m going with flexible Renogy’s, plus, they have a new flexible model that has been well reviewed and has a good warranty.

hydronic heating will be done by an Espar Hydronic heater. It will heat endless hot water via a heat exchanger plate, with none of the weight of electric systems. It will also heat the air through a blower exchanger with Btu’s that should be more than adequate to heat the cabin in any weather.

so- that’s a lot of the heaviness issues, but that only puts me around 2000 pounds of payload before my wife, dog, our clothes and small appliances.

if I end up having to cut weight, I will definitely cut water and battery weight first, as they are the largest offenders so far.

I will definitely keep up with every pound of weight. I will not mess up our new van by overloading it or smelling it up.

thanks again for all your great feedback
I see you're plowing ahead and following your initial post: basically not listening to the folks running around in built out Sprinters.
Weight is a huge deal in these vans: I have built up 3 and what is said above is correct. Cut you WONT list to what you must have and not what you WANT. Even at that your finished weight will shock you.
 

PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
I see you're plowing ahead and following your initial post: basically not listening to the folks running around in built out Sprinters.
Weight is a huge deal in these vans: I have built up 3 and what is said above is correct. Cut you WONT list to what you must have and not what you WANT. Even at that your finished weight will shock you.
I will not exceed the gvwr- I swear. I don’t want to screw up my investment. I am taking anything that can possibly affect the vehicle into the most consideration. That’s why I’m going with so much solar- because I’m unwilling to tap into the vehicle’s charging system to alternator charge.

like I said- I will account for every single pound added into the van. I’m taking all the advice into consideration. I want to build out the van asap, but I am ok with it taking 8 months as well. I’m not going to rush anything and will post step by step plans here before I execute them.

I do appreciate your feedback, and I hear and comprehend how important it is to be under weight.
 

sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
- 80/20 aluminum framing
- Hydronic heating
- Double Murphy style bed (folding from each side to meet in the middle)
- 1,080 watts of solar (6 flexible Renogy 180 watt 6lb panels- which is the only reason I think I will go with Renogy, since weight limit of roof is 330lbs)
- 5,000 watt Victron Inverter
- 2 maxxair 7500’s
- Shower pan built flush into the floor At sliding door, with teak insert, 360 curtain, etc, as seen on many YouTube builds
Shooting for 40 gallons of fresh water and 35 gallons grey
- slide out nature’s head composting toilet that slides into pop up shower area
- reverse osmosis water filter for drinking water
- Rooftop “garage” (Like Curt from Snow and Curt on YouTube) made of 80/20 with actuators to tilt the lid, where the flexible lightweight solar panels are attached.
- swivel seats
- 55” bench seat immediately behind driver seat along driver wall that can fold flat against the wall, or, when set up, has adjustable footrests with Lagun tables on either side, the fore side of which can be used by the driver and passenger seat when swiveled.
- brava oven for cooking (1,800 watts)
- vitamix (1,500 watts)
- dual portable AC induction cooktop (1,800 watts)
- there will be a continuous counter top from the sink that sits on passenger side behind sliding door, and runs to the back of the van while Murphy bed is up
- cabinets from edge of Murphy bed area to door on passenger side, and to the bench seat on drive side.
- electric all resides along the driver side wall at end of van
- 48 volt 300 AH LiFePoh custom made batteries with custom BMS system
- victron battery balancers
- victron mppt charge controller sized to the battery bank’s max charge draw.
Everything, and I mean Everything about living in a van is a trade-off. Before you choose something, be sure you know what you're trading away by getting it. If you're not sure, ask!

Focus on finding the best possible solution for the usage scenarios you'll encounter most frequently (e.g. 85% of the time), and don't spend too much time/money/weight on the other 15%. That's a trade you won't regret making at least 85% of the time (but probably closer to 100%).

You'll likely spend at least a year building it, so if you're only going to live in it for a year, prioritize. It's seductive, but Youtube does not reflect reality any more than pornography does. There are a lot of stupid things that I'd never do on Youtube where they're being offered up as good ideas.

Since you asked for thoughts on your list, here are the items I'd reconsider or at least think hard about:

- Hydronic heating. For space (not water) heating, an Espar D2 or equivalent will be faster to heat up and simpler to install.
- Double murphy. A major purpose of a van is to be comfortable. Be sure you really want this and can tolerate separate pairs of sheets and a noticeable gap between the bed halves. A permanent bed is underrated, IMO.
- 1080W of solar is probably more than you need, and having 330 lbs up high is going to negatively affect handling.
- 5000W inverter is more than is reasonably needed. Once you see how big, heavy and inefficient at low loads that inverter is in person you might wish you'd sized it correctly.
- 35 gal graywater. Graywater is like raw chicken, it doesn't keep well at room temperature (or above). 8.3 lbs x 35 = ~300 lbs. That's a lot of weight and space to dedicate to a waste product, IMO. Focus on water conservation.
- Rooftop garage. Haven't seen what you're talking about but in general, don't put extra weight on the roof. The van will handle poorly with a bunch of crap stored up there. For added storage, consider a basement instead.
- Swivel seats. Make sure they are usable with your layout and that the added seat height works for you ergonomically.
- Dual induction portable. That's pretty big and heavy (2 feet wide and over 11 lbs). Be warned, everything magically gets much bigger once you bring it from a house into a van. I would suggest picking either a dual built-in or a single portable. Single portable is most versatile as you can cook outside.
- 48V electrical. A 48V build is likely to be turn out to be a dual voltage (48V and 12V) build in reality as there will be stuff that only works on 12V and/or 24V. That means you need a DC-DC converter to get 12V, as well as a bunch of extra wiring (and associated weight). For the right van, 48V is a bold (and good) choice but with a lithium bank you should make sure you have a plan to take advantage of high current charging from the (2nd?) alternator somehow. You won't always have sun, and on some days 1 kW of solar will get you essentially zilch.
 

hilld

Active member
Not sure if you thought of this, but I would rethink RO water treatment. While RO is great, generally you waste 3 Gal of water for each Gal of usable drinking water. A multi-stage filtration system might be a better choice than RO.
 

sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
What advice would you give a new Sprinter owner of a 2019 170 extended 2500 4 x 4? What do you wish you had known when you first bought your Sprinter or started your conversion(s)?
This is a sickness. Expect your life to be taken over during the build process. Plan to blow your budget, strain your marriage, make mistakes, and spend every night and weekend building. Welcome to the asylum!

Focus on how the van will be used, don't objectify the van itself. As a recently van-less individual it's easy to fixate on the van, since that's the thing your life seems to be lacking. But when planning a build it's more important to visualize what your life will be like with that van and how you'll ultimately end up using it: Where will you go, in what season, where will you park, what will you do there, for how long at a time, etc. Not everybody wants the same thing, and it's harder than you would think to build something "universal".

Prioritize day to day living. Think about how/where will you sleep, prepare food, eat, use the restroom, shower. Go through a typical day in your imagination from opening your eyes in the morning to closing them at night, including flipping light switches (how many and where?), fetching and stowing clean and dirty clothes, preparing food, etc. Don't begin by thinking having about a projector screen that drops from the ceiling.. there's time for that near the end of the project after you've got the core elements fully figured out. The essentials are hard enough to do well by themselves.

Think hard about your layout. Building a van is like baking. Simply mixing the best and most expensive ingredients together doesn't guarantee a tasty or appealing result. Put the time and care in to learn from those before you. Layout is a big deal, something like 10-100x more important than it is in a small apartment. CAD alone is not enough.

Plan to change your mind. You think you've got it all figured out before you've even started, but you're wrong. The van will throw you curve balls, as well as literal curves- some of which your plan will fail to anticipate. Be flexible and ready to change your design during construction. Also be ready to cancel elements of your build when you suddenly realize that they aren't worth it the trade-offs.

Try to get multiple uses for everything, except things you'll use frequently. Focus on multipurpose items for those items where one or more are used infrequently. For example: a faucet that's also a showerhead. A drawer that functions as a step. A shower curtain that's also a privacy curtain. One way that people go wrong is (for example) making a table that's also a bed. Those are both things you'll use on a daily, if not hourly basis. You won't want to be constantly converting things.

Simplify. As tempting as it is to have heated floors and an electrical system with 40 individual circuit breakers.. keep everything as simple as possible unless you have a good reason not to. It's not a case of "one size fits all".. some people have a very good use case for heated floors. But don't over-complicate things needlessly. You'll waste time, money and payload. Go with small, simple, isolated/modular systems whereever possible.

There's (almost) nothing new under the sun. If you think you have a great idea, chances are that someone else has already tried it. Find out how it went for them first and see if you can glean any insights from their success or failure.

Plan ahead for future systems. What I mean by that is... if you expect to maybe add hot water later on, figure out where the tank and water lines will likely go and try to leave space to add them. If you expect to add cameras or sensors or whatever, run the wires ahead of time. This is hard to do, but may save you tearing everything out later to rebuild slightly differently. Make sure whatever accommodations you make add only a trivial amount of weight.

Don't expect to be outside all the time. The weather doesn't always cooperate. If you're traveling full time, you'll occasionally spend multiple days inside your van without even setting foot outside. Make sure you have somewhere comfortable to sit that isn't a bed. An indoor shower of some kind is highly recommended.. "showering" outside in a snowstorm is just standing around naked, shivering and wet in a snowstorm.

Plan for winter. To a degree that varies depending on where you are, winter can be hard in a van. Unusually cold weather can persist for weeks. Days where you (and your panels) see the sun can be few and far between. Even when the sun's out it's low in the sky and the days are shorter. Easily accessible water sources are turned off and winterized. Seasonal forest roads are closed, gated and/or unplowed, and even the ones that are open can be muddy and impassible.

Realize you can't have everything. This is a big one. Prioritize. Why not repost your list in priority order for us all to see?

Weight is critical, budget is not. You can always earn more money, but you can't buy more payload. This is no joke especially with the 170ext. The elephant in the room is all the small things you forget about and even if you remember you can't reasonably measure ahead of time: 1000s of screws, trim pieces, drawer slides, bedding, shelves, cabinet doors, canned food, flooring and subflooring, etc. It's death by 1000 cuts. Even if you somehow come out just under GVWR, that doesn't mean you'll be happy with how your van handles and accelerates. It can't be said enough times.. keep weight down!!
 
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sprint2freedom

2008 NCV3 170ext
one more piece of advice:

Commit. As with marriage, you'll get a better result if you're both fully committed. If you're going to live in this thing, plan to LIVE in it. A year will be over in the blink of an eye. Jump in with both feet. Consider making arrangements to be on the road for an indefinite period- it sounds like your jobs would allow for this. If you hate it, you can always go back to how you're living now. If you think of this project as a toy for the short term you won't take it as seriously as your enthusiasm fades from exhaustion and you'll end up with an inferior result. On the other hand, if you're planning to "burn the ships" and jump in with both feet.. your resolve to do the best you can will strengthen with time- out of necessity. What began as a year of travel could become a major life change, and you will wind up making build-related better choices for it. Sure it's scary and unknown, but if you're already considering a year.. you're basically like a parent of one child considering having a second. It's a lot less of a radical life change than going from zero kids to two.

An 80% commitment is in some ways more painful than just tearing off the bandaid and going "full crazy".

My 2 cents.. (we burned the ships just under 2 years ago)
 

81duck

Active member
Get a bigger budget or start cutting. $25k will be gone in no time. You'll have $7-10k + in just your electrical system and that's if you do everything yourself. You'll be hovering around $5k for just the batteries and inverter.
 

PictureMeFree

2019 170 ext 4 x 4
Wow! You all did not fail to impress. Thank you so much for all of your feedback.
There’s much I want to address to give you more insight into my process and logic up to this point, but I won’t have time until later tonight.

In the meantime, I just wanted to let everyone know I’m reading all your replies with gratitude and will respond ASAP. Thanks again
 

HarryN

Well-known member
I assume that you are referring to the victron 5000/48 inverter. It is IMHO the inverter that Victron uses to rest its laurels on. The rest are sort of mediocre. I don't use those very often but I keep one around. It is a beast. It is the only inverter that they make that can sustain heavy overload and not complain very much.

Just an FYI, the 5000/48 is a 4000 watt inverter. Still a very good one.

So (48 volt) x (300 amp-hrs.) is a pretty decent size pack. :)

$25 K? Not sure.

Perhaps you remember the famous line from Tom Hanks movie "Charlie Wilson's war?" Every few months they would talk about the budget and he would say "double it".

My advice to you is to find a helper and a place to work on the van that doesn't require you to put your tools away every night.
 
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