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Ok so here we are! Just brought her home off a lot in CT! I had ordered a van earlier this year that wasn’t built, they told me they didn’t have all the parts required and just didn’t make it. Got upset but ended up searching around, made some compromises (which saved me some money) and came home happy! Blue Jean color, Medium roof, 148” WB, EcoBoost engine, Sync radio, Vinyl seats, rear and sliding door windows and heated side mirrors with turn signals. Ironically I wanted the 130WB but I really think I’m going to be happy with those extra 18 inches!

She is totally naked inside but tons of fun to drive already! Under 100 miles on her when I got home! I do have to say I love the “carbon fiber” looking panels inside the back that came with it and may utilize them in my build after insulating and wiring takes place. The vinyl floor though seems really “wobbly” with the ridges in the floor underneath. I may end up with a thin ply floor or may go with a cool heavy duty flooring I found that is cut to size for the vehicle with foam laminated on the bottom to fill the gaps in the flooring. Vanrug I think was the company name.

I am considering getting three things added to the vehicle by ford: A Tow Package, A drivers door keyless entry code panel, running boards. I also plan on making it a dual battery system, but I’m just going to order a matching battery to the stock one for now and parallel them myself. I’ll talk more about this below.

I’m hesitant to start, it’s so clean and pretty and I’m definitely going to make it messy before it’s done! so this is my first thought... start with electrical. I’d like a vent fan in ASAP. So I’m thinking my first shopping cart is:
*Fantastic Vent Fan (I am getting a thermostat but no automatic elevation)
*Fuse panel
*AC inverter 1500w
*3 100w solar panels (mounting with heavy duty earth magnets) and connectors
*solar charge controller
*sealant
*wire

I know it’s really frowned upon in general in builds, but my plan is to double the van batteries and use them directly as my power source, no separate house battery. solar wired to batteries and powering house lights and light power loads, fuse panel to batteries for ventilation and heavier draws. Inverter will Be Set up for a possible television eventually, however I don’t think I’ll have much use for it until then, I’d like to get it installed in the first wave.

I’m still thinking on lights, uncertain if I want to completely remove the cargo lights or keep them and still add my own interior lights. I’m also considering installing a matching louvered window behind the drivers side but I’m unsure if it’s necessary.

Happy to take any suggestions or input. Going to take my time and live with a blow up mattress for a while, but I thought ventilation was key to making her livable!
 

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Congratulations with your new van.

You will want one of our adapters for your vent install. You might also consider some Thinsulate automotive grade insulation but that could come later.

There are a lot of opinions regarding solar panels but rigid panels seem to be preferred over the flexible ones. The magnets will probably hold them OK but those will likely mar the paint on your roof and heat generated by the panels will transfer into the interior.

If you use your chassis battery for house loads you may want to consider a low voltage cutoff. The chassis batteries are not deep cycle so they won't last as long if you draw them down frequently.

There is a way to replace the bulbs in the existing cargo light fixtures. Here's how: https://www.fordtransitusaforum.com/camper-vans-conversions/24553-considering-130wb-medium-roof-sports-wagon-r-d-work-31.html#post986012

Please call or write if you have further questions or want to discuss your build plans. Its what I do everyday.

All the best,
Hein
DIYvan
541 490 5098
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Wise words! Thank you

Thanks Hein, I was considering one of your adaptors already, I have followed your work for a while, ever since I started to plan.

I will insulate top to bottom eventually but I’d like to plan and start installing my wiring and cutting any needed holes first! I figure the vent fan will do for now to keep it cooler until I can insulate. I also have a buddy who offered to spray foam the interior, he does it professionally and that may be ideal.

As for batteries, I’ve already ordered a set of deep cycle/cranking batteries with quite a bit more power, the stock battery will be replaced for now and if I find in the future that I really need a separate starting battery I’ll add a separate one.

I did get three 100w rigid solar panels, as for the mounting method, the magnets I got are quite strong, they will have rubber on their bases to protect the paint, though I’ve also considered getting the top covered with white van wrap to keep it cooler and that would also protect the paint. The magnets will mount into the corner holes of the panels and keep them high just enough that there will be enough air flow under them to prevent heat build up.

Thanks for your input! I’m sure we will talk more!
 

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Interesting idea mounting solar panels with magnets. Please take photo and tell how it works out. Why three 100W panels and not one 300W panel for a cleaner look and less wiring? I mounted a 300W panel with brackets and VHB tapes, and 3 screws just to make sure. It works fine, but if I have a chance to do it again I would use a roof rack and mount it on the roof rack, for a cleaner look. Congrats on your new van and have fun!!!
 

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Interesting idea mounting solar panels with magnets. Please take photo and tell how it works out. Why three 100W panels and not one 300W panel for a cleaner look and less wiring? I mounted a 300W panel with brackets and VHB tapes, and 3 screws just to make sure. It works fine, but if I have a chance to do it again I would use a roof rack and mount it on the roof rack, for a cleaner look. Congrats on your new van and have fun!!!
Hi Bez and thanks for your comments! I will of course post photos as I proceed. I didn’t go for one 300w for three reasons. One is simply that I’d like to cover more of the roof with solar to absorb and reflect heat, I think it will help, even if only minimally. The second was simply price as the three 100s were less expensive than the single 300. Lastly I really want them to be low profile and conform to the shape of the curved roof. The single 300 is just so large and flat! I don’t really like the look of the raised rack much and want the van to be a little incognito and I think keeping the panels low and contoured will help that.

As a side note part of the magnetic concept came from wanting to be able to move the panels if I’m stationary for a longer period of time to maximize sun absorption, I also think three will work better to contour around the vent fan I’m installing as well.
 

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Those must be some heavy duty magnets. What kind and size. I have some that are about the size of a half dollar and they are very strong, but not hold a solar panel on strong.
 

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Interesting idea mounting solar panels with magnets. Please take photo and tell how it works out. Why three 100W panels and not one 300W panel for a cleaner look and less wiring? I mounted a 300W panel with brackets and VHB tapes, and 3 screws just to make sure. It works fine, but if I have a chance to do it again I would use a roof rack and mount it on the roof rack, for a cleaner look. Congrats on your new van and have fun!!!
No need for a outside rack with a single panel. Think inside the box. I glued wood stringers between the roof ribs under the roof. Four mounting bolts for the legs go through the steel and wood.

https://www.ortontransit.info/solar-system

I agree with you about using one large panel instead of three small ones. One panel eliminates the rack, combiner box and a bunch of wiring on the roof. A single panel will be less obvious due to the lack of a rack. Panel height location would be the same and is governed by the need for 1" or so clearance between the panel and roof at the center of the roof. I am 98% sure the OP will never move the panels to get more sun. Just too much effort for a marginal gain. I would be afraid to use only magnets. A strong enough magnet would be too strong to retain the ability to move the panels.
 

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With your planned battery setup, a compact lithium jump start battery pack would be cheap insurance in case of a dead starter battery.
 

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Those must be some heavy duty magnets. What kind and size. I have some that are about the size of a half dollar and they are very strong, but not hold a solar panel on strong.
They are each rated at 35 pounds and I plan on using five on each panel as well as clamping all the panels together. They are about 1.5” across and over 1/4” thick. We will see how it goes!
 

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No need for a outside rack with a single panel. Think inside the box. I glued wood stringers between the roof ribs under the roof. Four mounting bolts for the legs go through the steel and wood.

https://www.ortontransit.info/solar-system

I agree with you about using one large panel instead of three small ones. One panel eliminates the rack, combiner box and a bunch of wiring on the roof. A single panel will be less obvious due to the lack of a rack. Panel height location would be the same and is governed by the need for 1" or so clearance between the panel and roof at the center of the roof. I am 98% sure the OP will never move the panels to get more sun. Just too much effort for a marginal gain. I would be afraid to use only magnets. A strong enough magnet would be too strong to retain the ability to move the panels.
I’m curious myself. I’m a huge magnet fan and happen to have these on hand. They may be too strong to move them easily, but it would be cool if I could place them on a side of the van while stationary. I am concerned with the wiring. The one thing I don’t agree with is because of the curved roof, I think three thin panels will contour way better than one big one with one inch clearance in the middle, however I love your setup and lack of roof rack!

Thanks for the input all of this is truly helping!
 

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I really recommend a battery isolator to make sure you can start up in the morning.


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An isolator is on my list, however, I’d really like to try it straight and see how it goes, I’m definitely getting way more solar than I need for what I’ll be running so I’d like to see if I can get it to maintain well together before I add an isolator. I also drive a lot, I’m not one to stay anywhere for days on end so the alternator will certainly do it’s job as well. In fact, if it doesn’t work I think I’ll most likely add back in the original battery and use the two deep cycle as house batts. my last van, which was a 69 VW bus, I had 40watts of solar and dual batteries that both started and powered which were much fewer amp hour batts than what I’m getting this time and even when I did get stuck, I’d stay an extra afternoon, let the solar charge up and turn over and over and drive off. I’m pretty certain the solar is going to over power the batteries but I’m willing to modify if needed!
 

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Those must be some heavy duty magnets. What kind and size. I have some that are about the size of a half dollar and they are very strong, but not hold a solar panel on strong.
You have to keep in mind, it’s not one magnet on each panel, the weight and pull of each is distributed among the anchor points. So the narrow edge of each panel will face forward and that is where I will put the extra magnet since that’s where the wind force will hit. I’m actually pretty certain this plan will work!
 

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Ok another question for people.... have people installed a 14” vent fan directly in the ceiling of a medium roof without an adaptor?
 

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Solar is here!

The panels are so much more sturdy than I expected! Thankfully everything is here in good condition. I’ve got a maintenance charge going on my dual deep cycles together, to match them up. Unfortunately I have a few trips I need to take so work will have to wait a few weeks to progress. I’m so excited! Oh and I have been testing these magnets and they seem like they will be MORE than strong enough to do the job!
 

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Update #1 the project really starts today!

Blue Boxer update #1 (my new van’s name) project update! I got a few requests to keep people updated on my project so here is update #1 :

Vent fan installed! Happy to say this went quite smoothly! I had fun cutting a 14 inch hole in the roof of my new van! I did use Hein’s nifty adaptor plate, I could have done it without it but it did make it remarkably easy and barely added a quarter inch to the installation height which was my concern!

I used marine grade UV resistant sealant I have experience with from my boating days (and I used it a lot on my VW Bus)! It will take 24 hours to cure completely and then I’ll pain the whole base of the fan and roof around it with rubber sealant to really make it tight!

I found a great discovery while I was up there too! The rear brake light/rear camera assembly has two wide easy access openings on top of it so I’m pretty sure I can route my solar through here and not have to make more holes in the roof!

THOUGHTS: first I’m pretty sure I’m painting the roof white! I think it will help remarkably with preventing heat absorption and also will make me feel ok using the magnets to mount the solar and scratching anything.

Also, after sleeping in the van for the weekend camping with friends I was able to make some solid decisions on the layout as well as the build itself. I don’t think I’ll add more windows, I’m going to get my ventilation in another way, screens for the front windows and an under the van vent hole for cooler air circulation. I think the van is more than bright enough already and more windows just seem to add to insulation worries!

As usual any comments are appreciated!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Just a quick insulation update! After doing a ton of research into water retention, heat reflection and insulation ratings, plus thinking of my health, I just picked up some sweet, 100% all natural, moisture self regulating wool insulation for my van on the way home from Memphis! It was hard to find, not many distributors, highly in demand. It has some amazing qualities which include amazing noise dampening and water wicking capabilities that supposedly rival thinsulate in many ways (plus it has an actual R rating). It also has the ability to draw in moisture and expel it as needed depending on ambient humidity. It is also mold and mildew resistant. I’m very excited to get working!
 

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Talk about buying into the marketing... Half the stuff you just said isn't even tested in a lab it's just claimed by the wool people. Thinsulate on the other hand (and all the other ways to insulate your van) actually conforms to it's specifications.

You bought it already, I get it, but man, don't really think anyone wants organic compounds in their walls.

You live in a moist enough climate that the wool will absorb moisture on a daily basis, even when you aren't using it during the summer. (Edit, I thought you lived in ct, but I see that is not the case, can't tell where you are located so let's hope you live in the desert ;) )

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Talk about buying into the marketing... Half the stuff you just said isn't even tested in a lab it's just claimed by the wool people. Thinsulate on the other hand (and all the other ways to insulate your van) actually conforms to it's specifications.

You bought it already, I get it, but man, don't really think anyone wants organic compounds in their walls.

You live in a moist enough climate that the wool will absorb moisture on a daily basis, even when you aren't using it during the summer. (Edit, I thought you lived in ct, but I see that is not the case, can't tell where you are located so let's hope you live in the desert ;) )

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Actually not quite right about that and testing in a lab owned by the company that owns the product isn’t a real test, it’s advertising! Thinsulate has NO r value! That means, the giant US testing structure in place for rating insulation doesn’t even think it’s worth testing to see if it insulates ANYTHING AT ALL! Wool is a tested and rated product available commercially for houses and any other insulation situations, in fact you can’t get an R rating or sell retail without one in the USA, so testing HAS been done! where as thinsulate isn’t sold at all for this purpose commercially, that should tell you something right there.

As for water regulation, wool has some qualities that people have known about since before science was even invented, it’s tried and true!

As for wanting organic compounds in your walls, go ahead and breath off gassing from your plastics, glues and rubber if you want, I’d rather go natural! Thanks for your negative view! Have a great day!
 
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