- Written by Patrick Schmidt
While spending several hours on Instagram this week and ignoring most of life’s responsibilities, I came across quite a few posts and accounts of Bus folks struggling through the winter.
"We nearly considered selling the bus and quitting bus life altogether after wintering in Seattle. It was simply too wet and difficult. Our sheets were cold and damp, and the mattress seemed to get heavier the longer we lived there. Then we found mold in our bedroom."
My wife and I have been living in our 189 square foot bus for the last 4 years, and have found several “necessities” for comfortable bus living.
Throughout the article, we have attached Amazon links to purchase items similar to what we are using. Most of the items you can find at your local big box hardware store (we are partial to Home Depot).
Any purchase made through one of our affiliate links shares a small monetary kickback with Bus Life Adventure for recommending an Amazon product to you. At the very least, clicking the link will provide you with more information about what products to look for.
From #BusLifeAdventure to #BusLifeResponsibilities
Here are 10 crucial products and ideas that we have found to make Bus Life "better" and healthier.
Through torrential downpours and sticky icky humidity in Florida, Georgia, North Carolina and Louisiana to constant foggy mist in Oregon and Washington, a dehumidifier is on the top of our list. If you live in a bus with 110v power, and have the ability to run and store it, a dehumidifier is a must.
While wintering in Seattle, we were constantly running our unit. It was simply too damp. We had several mold outbreaks because of the wetness and had to entirely re-adjust our thought process on living in the bus. Cooking, breathing, showering - just living in the bus creates moisture and humidity. Add to that the constant drizzle and water vapor in the Seattle air, a dehumidifier is just about the only way we could stay dry and comfortable. We bought our unit on sale at Target before moving to Washington. There are different sized units, your need depends on how large an area you intend to keep dry.
We have tried and used all theDamp Rid products. We really like the large RV bucket version (which does take up quite a bit of floor space) and we really love the closet hanging ones. They take out a great amount of moisture from small areas like closets. Beware of leaking bags/rupturing them as you are in motion. The water solution it produces is nasty and will stain your clothes and ruin your building materials. They are useful, but not comparable to a Dehumidifier. We cannot run the unit unless we are plugged in to shore power. It draws quite a bit of electricity and would drain our house/solar batteries in minutes. If you are constantly in motion and off-grid, this would not be something for you.
On a side note, the way the Dehu's work, they don't function well under 55 degrees. So in order for the unit to function properly, you'll need a way to heat the surrounding area. However! Another positive of the Dehu is that it pumps out dry, warm air, which warms up your space while drying it out. It kind of becomes a balancing act of dry/damp/cold/warm. We were constantly amazed how fast the water container would fill up after a few hours of run-time. We could feel the wetness in the walls and then we couldn't.
2. HyperVent material underneath the mattress
We nearly considered selling the bus and quitting bus life altogether after wintering in Seattle. It was simply too wet and difficult. Our sheets were cold and damp, and the mattress seemed to get heavier the longer we lived there. Then we found mold in our bedroom. We talked to a friend of our property owner, who used to build boats and furnish the interiors of them. He told us while sleeping, the human body releases around 2 liters of water – breathing, sweating, etc. All that gets released into the air and, yup, into the mattress. He told us to drill holes into our wooden bed frame as well as buy “HyperVent”
This stuff goes between the wood/mattress platform and your mattress and expels any extra moisture that's being introduced. My wife was able to buy scrap pieces of it from a local mattress store for $20, after being quoted $100+ for a single piece the size of our queen mattress. We also drilled several small holes into the wooden boards underneath the mattress.
THIS IS A MUST HAVE FOR ANYONE THAT SLEEPS AND LIVES IN A SMALL, ENCLOSED ENVIRONMENT LIKE BOATS, VANS, BUSES, RV’S, ETC
We immediately noticed a difference and have not had a soaked mattress since. We do still spray a bleach/isopropyl alcohol solution onto the bottom of our mattress and bedroom area. This HyperVent stuff is magic and absolutely worth the price! It works!
If you’d like to read more about the process of installing and using this wonderful material, check it out here.
3. Bubble Wrapping windows during the winter
This is a trick we learned about at the Tiny House Living Festival in Portland before we moved to Seattle for the winter.
If you live in a bus or any sort of vehicle with single pane windows, you WILL experience condensation. Looking through all the posts this week, I have seen an increase in the conversations and complaints about the single-pane bus windows condensating.
When the warm air of the interior meets the cooled windows from the different temperature outside, water droplets will form on the inside of the windows. There is no way to mitigate this happening, it’s simply how it is always going to be. My wife and I had a tight regiment of wiping down the windows every morning with a towel and an RV Mold Spray / light bleach mixture to combat the growth of mold. Then we tried the Bubble wrap method.
At first we were skeptical, but it truly works! The air gets trapped between and inside of the bubbles, so it helps warm the cool air from the outside, and puts a barrier against the warmer inside air. It helped tremendously with condensation.The windows still got a little wet, but nothing like it was before we taped the bubble wrap onto all the windows. We only had to wipe the bubble wrap lightly some mornings/after intense cooking. It seemed to help keep the bus a few degrees warmer. It made so much of a positive difference with wet windows that we will ALWAYS do this during the winter if we are permanently parked in a wet and cold climate.
The downside to covering all your windows is lack of sight to the outdoors and letting less light in. We felt more trapped in our tiny space than at any other time living in it. It felt small with all the windows covered, permanently parked in the middle of the woods. It did not help that we were in Seattle where it rained/misted everyday. We definitely experienced our fair share of SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder.) To combat that, we used a light box during the day.
4. UV Light Box
This box puts out light that mimics the Sun's Rays and color spectrum.You only need to have it on for an hour during the day somewhere in your tiny home, you do not need to be looking right at it. Through science, it activates the happy chemicals in your brain, and helps you deal with the depressing blues while going without less sun in the winter.
Our unit also comes with an ionizer, which discharges electrons into the air that binds to dust particles, pollen, smoke, pet dander and so forth and makes them heavier, so they fall to the ground instead of floating around and end up being inhaled. It basically helps clean the air. Many electric air fresheners have built in ionizers as well. My wife and I highly recommend having a light box on a few hours during the day during the dreary winter time.
As for the ionizer, you do not want to be in the bus when that is on, as the extra electrons floating around can give you a headache and make you sick. Sit with the light on for an hour, and when you leave your home turn the ionizer on.
5. Several layers of curtains
Along with bubble wrapping, this winter we have come up with a curtain system that consists of several layers.
Against the windows (not pictured) we have a thin white polyester layer. Then we have two layers of wool felt, which has been lined with a plastic sheet/vapor barrier and stuffed with a layer of quilt batting.
On the inside of the bus, we have a separate set of curtains, to add some texture and color to the interior.
We velcro'ed the thin white curtains right to the gray wool felt. They are attached on one set of steel cables. These are our first contact to the windows, and are there to take on any of the condensation. These can be easily removed and washed/replaced. We would like for the middle layer/gray curtains to stay dry and free of funk.
Then we installed a second set of steel cables for the green curtains. These can be easily changed out to different materials and colors. All of it can be rolled up, or tucked behind our "crown molding."
So far, driving from Vegas to Florida, we have noticed that they make quite a difference combating cold drafts and keeping the cool window temperatures outside, and leaving us warmer inside.
Most underutilized material during Skoolie Builds we’ve seen, including our own build.
We’ve had several mold outbreaks and needed to replace wood paneling all throughout the bus. Utilizing plastic sheeting as moisture barriers when attaching any wood to the interior metal of the bus is a must. That includes the ceiling, and some moisture barrier material underneath the floor.
Any metal throughout your bus will sweat with different temperatures/humidity changes and will rot your wood over time. Metal sweat is water droplets forming on any metal surface, basically like condensation on windows, caused by different air temperatures. The cold metal coming in contact with warm interior air. Moisture on metal will ruin the wood that's attached to it, if it's not separated by a moisture barrier of some kind.
Also make sure ALL YOUR WINDOWS ARE SEALED. Leaks can and will ruin your entire interior wall structure. Vapor barriers, treated/painted wood is super important in these builds. You will experience every kind of drastic climate.
While I loved and highly recommend the Cuisinart two burner hot plate, it’s difficult to store and you have to wait for it to cool down to put away. It also draws too much electric power to run without being plugged in to shore power.
While on the road, to cook simple meals I bought a cheap camp stove which uses throwaway butane canisters. It worked great and heated up my stove-top espresso maker quicker than the hot plate. I don't enjoy the idea of the throwaway canisters, and the other week, the butane leaked while it was installed in the camp stove, while the burner was lit. A large flame shot out, nearly catching the nearby towel on fire. So we trashed that thing.
For those reasons, I am absolutely in love with our new built-in RV propane stove. Initially, I did not want anything to do with propane on the bus, for safety reasons. My dad and I could cut wood, install electric, run plumbing, but when it came to installing a propane tank and proper lines, we did not feel comfortable doing that work.
After living in the bus for nearly 4 years and seeing other people’s setup, I was less intimidated with installing a stove. So during our recent renovations, we decided to go ahead and get ourselves a propane stove. AND WE ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT! At this point, I have no idea how I managed to cook before, because our stove-top/oven is amazing.
8. Waste bin for toilet paper.
DO NOT FLUSH ANYTHING EXCEPT YOUR WASTE. It will clog your system!
After wrapping a large trash bag around my arm up until my elbow to unclog our toilet plumbing three too many times, I did some research and found that many full-timers use a separate small trash bin with close-able lid for their paper waste. Since we started doing that, we have had ZERO plumbing problems. I know for folks just joining the mobile tiny revolution, this is an odd one. But trust us, it is a must! The specifically made RV paper that disintegrates quickly is hard to find and more expensive than regular toilet paper, so in the long run, it’s better just to use a separate waste bin.
9. Roof Deck
We were lucky enough to find a bus that already had a roof-rack structure. The church I bought the bus from had used two identical International 3800's to take rafting trips with the church kids. They used the roof deck to secure their inflatable rafts and other gear. When they arrived where they were headed, they used the air brake tank to fill up the water rafts.
Once my dad and I started converting the bus, he came up with the great idea to attach beautiful wood paneling around the existing bare metal frame. Then we added two-by-three's attached to each metal rib and covered it with treated plywood panels. Roof deck complete!
I am so glad that the bus already had a roof rack and a ladder installed. It is something my dad and I would not have been capable of building ourselves. So I took away this lesson, buy a bus that you know you can complete and work on. My dad and I are not welders or metal workers, and did not want to spend tons of money to have it made by someone. So I was looking for a bus that was rust free, enough headroom without a roof raise, and already had a deck.
The deck is excellent to use for extra storage, and is the perfect place for our Renogy solar panels. It is especially amazing at night, laying down with our blankets and staring endlessly into the sky. It has provided us some of the best experiences that bus life has to offer.
I could not imagine living in a bus without a deck.
10. Big(ger) Fridge
Downsizing is the name of the game for going tiny. BUT! After living 1.5 hours away from the nearest grocery store when Workamping in California, we realized that our little dorm sized fridge was not big enough.
As we were fridge shopping, we noticed that many of the fridges that were slightly bigger all had doors which were designed to mostly hold cans. While we love drinking La Croix and other bubbly water, we felt that the way many of the doors were designed was unusable for us. You can't really store anything in these plastic shelves that were designed to hold cans.
So we decided to go slightly bigger and get the next size up, which still has can storage, but also storage for every-day items we would definitely be using.
The bigger fridge allows us to meal prep larger meals, being able store more than one or two meals at a time. That allows us to shop in bulk/Costco for cheaper meals. The fridge we had before used 1.3 amps per hour, and the much larger one we have now uses only 1.6 amps, so negligible power usage compared to how much better this fridge fits our lifestyle. It is a 110 volt unit. We would love to get into a 12 volt unit, but for the price/size it doesn't make sense for our budget.
Since you made it this far on the 10 Essentials list, here's a reward! Let's turn it up to 11.
11.Miscellaneous Essentials / Must Have’s
When I first left my parent’s driveway in the bus on August 15, 2015 I had no idea what exactly I was getting myself into. I did not do a test drive with the newly built interior of the bus, and had minimal idea of how to work on a diesel engine. Luckily enough, everything went better than I expected!
3.5 years later, I have learned so much about the upkeep of a bus and home-ownership in general.
It is really important to have a good set of tools with you. Screwdrivers, all sizes of wrenches and sockets, Allen wrenches, pliers, vice grips, a hammer, etc. You WILL use all your tools, and you will be happy you have them when something goes wrong (and to keep things from going wrong) It's not a matter of IF, but WHEN.
Open your hood and look at the engine everyday while on the road! Take a look around, wiggle wires, touch and feel hoses and sniff stuff. Get an idea of "What's it going to be today" to take care of your ride and your home. Check for leaks!
I always have extra fluids in my outside storage as well – engine coolant, diesel fuel enhancers, engine oil, distilled water for my batteries, etc. I also noted which belts are on the engine, which run the alternator and the engine fan, and have a set of those tucked away.
I also keep an air hose and some air tools on the bus. I am lucky enough to have air brakes, and an air tank that has a hook up for the air hose. Because of that setup, I am able to fill up my own tires.
And lastly, I have a few emergency items on the bus. That includes a couple flares, emergency triangles, a charged battery pack for my phone, flashlights, tape and zip ties.
That about does it. Thanks for coming through and reading the 11+ essentials list for successfully navigating the Bus Life. It’s always an Adventure, that’s for sure!
Make it a wonderful day!
- Written by Brock Butterfield
The basic tools needed for a skoolie conversion.
In the four years and two bus conversions I've done, I've been wanting to share a basic list of the tools I find myself using the most. In my opinion you could easily complete a school bus conversion with just these basic ten tools and a little ingenuity. Skoolie conversions consist of a warfield on metal and a funky sawmill operation on wood.
The task of removing the seats is typically first on the "to-do" followed by removing the subfloors, walls and ceiling. After some preventative measures towards rust and insulating, the real fun begins with attaching wood to metal and designing a functional living space.
Here is my list of what I believe are the top 10 tools to get you started with a school bus conversion.
- Angle Grinder and cut off wheels
~This by far has been the most used tool. It will do just about anything you need done to metal and is a rusted seat bolts worse nightmare. I've been running a Ryobi angle grinder and have beat the snot out of it but it still keeps going. Dewalt, Porter Cable and a few others make angle grinders as well.
A angle grinder and cut off wheel will be the go-to tool for rusted seat bolt removal, rivet removal, rust removal, etc. I'd recommend getting a face shield, dust masks and ear muffs. I've seen cut off wheels blow up and send shrapnel in all directions. Last thing you need is your ugly mug getting any uglier...
~ I recommend the fiberglass handled hammers as opposed to wood. You'll be "hammering away" on a constant basis and having a hammer that can take the abuse will be worth it.
- Tape Measure
~If reading a tape is a daunting thing and calling out fractions sounds like a whole other language then I'd recommend getting one with the fractions clearly printed for you. Work smarter not harder.
- Speed Square or Building Square
~Ok, this could make you confused AF but yes, a "square" is actually a triangle. I presume it gets its name from helping you "find square" when building something that fits together as planned. Anywho, this will help you mark straight or angled lines.
- Rafter Square
~I find this square most helpful with laying out the floor plan or putting up a dividing wall in the bus conversion. If you use this building square throughout your planning and building, you'll notice things line up nicely and come together as hoped for.
- Chalk Line
~The obvious use of this is to mark large sheets for long cuts but you should also be using this inside the bus for things like marking a straight line down the whole length of the bus ceiling so that you have a line to follow when installing the first ceiling board whether tongue and groove or plywood.
- Circular Saw
~This tool if used right can do just about everything you'll need done with wood. With a few hacks it can easily serve the place of a miter saw (chop saw) and table saw.
- Drill Set
~You'll want at least two drills if you want to be efficient with your time. A regular drill and an impact or driver drill. Cordless is obvisouly the way to go but if you're doing a lot of drilling for the day then you may want to also pick up a corded drill for all your pre-drilling. The impact / driver drill will be another favorite tool you come to appreciate as you can pretty much drive a screw into anything.
- Cobalt Drill Bit Set
~Why Cobalt? Because you're going to be drilling into lots of metal and cobalt bits last the longest. Ordering a set as opposed to individual bits is the way to go and ordering a couple extra 1/8 and 7/64 bits is also a wise choice as you'll be using these the most.
- Orbital Sander
~Whether it's sanding the outside of the bus to prep for paint or sanding down cabinets, a palm sander will save you hours or work as opposed to hand sanding.
Now while these are just the basic top tools I'd recommend, there is definetly a much more extensive list of tools that will make your bus conversion much smoother if you have the budget to invest in. Guess I'd better start composing that article!
Top 10 Recommended Tools For School Bus Conversion
- Written by Brock Butterfield
How to Build a First Aid/Emergency Kit for Camping, Hiking, and Beyond
Guest Contributing Writer: Jamie Strand
Intro: Brock Butterfield
One of the worst feelings in the world in my opinion is being unprepared for an emergency or first aid situation. I've made it a habit now to carry a first aid kit and some emergency supplies in my school bus conversion as well as my hiking backpack, work backpack and our additional car that travels with the bus. I've been lucky enough to provide supplies to exhausted and lost hikers, gauze and other medical material to a dog that got clipped by a truck as well as extra food for myself when I thought I had packed enough and found myself out in the woods much longer.
Contributing guest writer Jamie Strand reached out to me and asked if he could submit an article on First Aid/Emergency Kits for camping, hiking and beyond. It's a good read and gentle reminder that "chance favors the prepared mind." Give it a read.
Whether you’re taking the kids out for a hiking adventure, heading out for a romantic night in the woods with someone special, or taking your beloved dog fishing, you need to know how to keep yourself (and the people you love) happy and safe. While modern conveniences have made camping a mostly safe activity, there are still dangers lurking in the woods. Here is how to build a first aid/emergency kit that can handle whatever comes your way - from camping and hiking to road trips and even long traffic jams
First and foremost: Essential medical supplies
A good first aid kit needs to be able to handle anything from minor cuts and bruises to more serious injuries that require a doctor. Many times, a first aid kit is the stopgap between wherever you are and the hospital. With that in mind, here are the Essential Medical Supplies any good kit should have:
- Adhesive bandages (standard and triangular), compression dressings, medical gauze, and medical tape
- Scissors, tweezers, and small pocket knife
- Antiseptic wipes and ointment
- An instant cold compress
- Breathing barrier (mask)
- Non-latex gloves
- Aspirin and Ibuprofen
Emergency hydration and food supply
Dehydration is a real concern if you get lost camping, hiking, or are stranded in a car for a long time. Your kit should include enough food and emergency water rations to last at least two days (three or four is better). For proper hydration, make sure to drink water every 15-30 minutes during physical activity. But in a survival scenario where you are dipping into an emergency kit, drinking at least a liter of water per day should work in normal circumstances.
Your food kit should include easy-to-eat, easy-to-store, non perishable items like protein or fruit bars, cereal or granola, peanut butter, beef jerky, and dried fruit. If you want to pack a larger kit, canned meat, fruits, and veggies and a can opener can also work.
Remember, you’re not the only hungry animal out there. Proper storage of food at all times may be all that stands between you and a bear, aggressive raccoon, or a plague of insects. The KOA blog suggests “packing your food in tight, waterproof containers and storing them in an insulated cooler.” Don’t forget to hang your trash on a tree far away from wherever you sleep. With this in mind, one-pot camping meals are also a good idea for an emergency kit. They are really easy to clean up because you grill everything in the same pot. A cleaner area means less chance of unwanted visitors.
First aid for animal encounters
If you’re out in the woods the chances of interacting with a bug, spider, or snake are pretty high. Your first aid kit should include medicines and remedies for interactions with animals and insects -- think hydrocortisone, calamine lotion and antiseptic spray Pack a high-quality insect repellant (bugs like ticks aren’t just annoying, they can carry diseases). And don’t forget an EpiPen - you never know who in your party will be deathly allergic to bees or other stings.
Don’t skimp on the other essentials
When you’re out in the wilderness, the only barrier between you and anything ranging from a rotten time to severe injury is a solid first aid/emergency kit. Apart from the aforementioned (extra supply of emergency water and food, first aid kit), make sure your kit includes: a flashlight, extra batteries, whistle, all-purpose camp tool, poncho, waterproof matches, zip ties, and a crank-powered radio/battery.
A solid essentials kit isn’t just good for camping. You should keep one in your car at all times - especially on longer road trips. You never know when the need will arise. You’ve heard the motto “Be Prepared” your whole life, and it’s cliche for a reason. Because it’s important!
Online First Aid / Emergency Kits to explore
- Written by Patrick Schmidt
This bus is SO hott, it needs TWO(2) AC Units
to cool it off!
We’ve gotten quite a few questions about our A/C setup in the bus. So, now that summer is coming to an end, we decided to write a little article about how we kept ourselves cool in the bus for the past 3 years.
"The bus came with a front and rear AC installed. Neither of them worked when I bought the bus."
1990 International Amward 3800 with DT466 engine linked to an Allison transmission.
"Purchased in March of 2015, this Big Blue Church bus has been a dream come true."
Don't get me wrong. I fully understood when I bought the bus, that even with the most beautiful interior and exterior renovations, it will continue being a 1990 International bus. At the end of the day, it's a metal/aluminum tube with old cranky, leaky windows. I knew the entire process would challenge me.
I was then, as I am now, prepared for anything. To be cold and hot, to take cold showers not take showers at all, to eat cold meals, to need more blankets, or to sleep with a fan running, limbs spread far apart, sweating into my pillow top mattress.
Bus Life, to me, has always been about simplicity and living with less.
I have learned to be grateful for what I do have.
In comparison to the Skoolie Love bus, our great friends living the BlueBusAdventure don't have a bathroom, minimal insulation, storage, less space, etc and they are doing absolutely wonderful living in their bus. It’s about balancing your needs and your wants, keeping everything in perspective.
They absolutely love their life, and you can tell in the way they look you in the eyes, speak with you, and give you the most heart warming smiles and hugs. A little is a lottle!
"I had been online friends with Nick and Jessica for a long time, until I met them at Descend On Bend in 2017"
What do you NEED and what do you WANT?! You can get by with much less, and have so much more time and space for other things in your life.
Installing the A/C Unit(s)
Parked on my parents property, the Big Blue Bus was converted in Las Vegas, Nevada during the summer of 2015. It was a ridiculously dumb idea to build it during these months - May to August 15 - as we had nuclear temperatures in the bus.
"16% Humidity, with a current temp of 122, and a high of 131."
When I initially day-dreamed about the road trip in my new Skoolie, I was not that concerned with how the interior would come together. I was prepared to slap some wood in, lay down a mattress and poop in a bucket. There would be a foot-pump hand wash station. The conversion would be done super quick and I could hit the road with most of my savings intact. Now I have full electric, plumbing including a 6 gallon water heater, lamps and LED ropes. And much less in the way of savings.
My dad was adamant about adding an Air Conditioning unit right from the start.
“No way old man, you don't know what you are talking about."
"I do know what I'm talking about. You're going to love having it."
"I don't have to listen to an older, wiser person that happens to be my dad. I'm a mountaineer and camper."
"Sure you are."
"I DON'T NEED IT!”
"A brisk walk uphill - 14,411 feet on top of Mount Rainier in Washington."
My parents were not having that. They were not going to support that kind of lifestyle. If it was going to be a bus home, it was going to be a proper and beautiful bus home. Something I am proud to show off, and happy to come home to. They would not work on a literal dump bus for me to live in, as much as I wanted it to be "minimal."
So it has become what it has become - The most beautiful home I have EVER lived in.
Once we really got working on the bus interior, as it got into late May and the temps in the bus were constantly above 100 degrees, it made complete sense to install an AC. It was clear to see that installing one would help make the build more tolerable. I am glad that my parents talked me into it. It has been a COMPLETE LIFESAVER from day one.
Once we decided to go ahead with installing an AC, we wondered how we would go about it. We did not want a window unit in an actual window, for safety reasons. I also did not want an AC on wheels, because those have huge vent hoses, and I did not want to worry about storing something that tall when not in use.
There was really no other simple place where we could install a permanent window AC unit. So my dad and I decided to cut a hole in the back of the bus. We went to Home Depot and measured their AC units, and got the biggest one we could fit into the available space at the top end of the bus.
My dad cut the hole with an angle grinder, and then we wedged the AC in, after cutting off the feet and small nubs of the unit, and sanding down the sharp edges of the brand new hole in the bus. The AC unit fit like a charm! We attached small pieces of wood around the unit, encased the inside of the wall with Styrofoam insulation, siliconed all sides of the unit, secured it, and installed wood trim around all of it. It has been doing a necessarily fantastic job!
"Dad, you were right."
"I'm glad you're enjoying your new home."
Be ‘COOL,’ listen to your parents
Adding a Second Unit
For the past 3 years, the unit in the back has been working out great. Once I close the curtain and put the AC on 65, it blasts out cold air and spreads out into the bedroom. While the bedroom has a chance to cool off, it became apparent quickly that the unit does not, and never really has, covered as much square footage as advertised.
Anywhere I've parked, as the outside temperature, and ambient temperature of the bus became warmer and warmer, and the windows were taking on the sun's rays, the AC unit couldn't produce and push cold air past the 20 or so square feet that is the back bedroom. The conditioned air barely reached the hallway of the bus.
During the first part of my road trip, I spent the winter in Florida, and then made my way back to Vegas during that following summer, a year into Bus Life.
I went back in Summer because...well...that's how Life wanted it. So I came back to Vegas at the end of April, heading into Eternal Hellfire that is a desert summer. I knew what I was in for.
It was not fun being stuck in the bedroom of the bus in order to stay cool. I did not want to be in bed all the time while reading or working on the laptop. Since the AC unit did not work past the bedroom, most definitely not the 300+ Square feet it advertised, the front of the bus became roasty toasty, unbearable to spend time in.
I still wanted to be “Home” while parked on my parent's property, so I stayed in the bus as long as I could, before heading in to the house to live in my parent's guest room. To escape the heat.
My dad and I brainstormed what we could do, from trying out a swamp cooler, to adding a rooftop AC, or installing another window unit.
But where and how would we put it?!
This is what we came up with! We were able to install a bigger BTU unit into the emergency window. We found a unit at Home Depot that fit right into the window when it was opened.
My dad got to work right away on building a sturdy and safe mount. He used scrap pieces of wood to build a base that supported itself against the outside of the bus, as well as an extra piece of wood on the interior side that sits against the metal frame of the window.
Then he put together a metal wire support system, attached to holes on the underside of the roof/window rivets. The black wooden support base is simply laid on top of the window frame, nothing is physically attaching it. The weight of the AC unit, and the cable supports, is all that's needed.
** This is ONLY for when I am permanently parked. **
This is not safe when driving. I only use it once it gets hot, when I am permanently parked somewhere. Otherwise it is too much of a hassle to set up if its only for a night or two. I store it in its original box inside the bus when not in use.
More Appliances means More Power needs
It’s plenty nice to have 2 A/C units, but not as much fun when you can’t run either of them.
With my limited 200 watt solar setup (Amazon Link), with 4x 6 Volt batteries with I believe 215 Amp Hours, I am unable to run either unit while I am on the road. They simply draw too much power for the battery bank and Inverter to keep up. Both units only work when the bus is plugged in to Shore Power.
You would need a minimum of 400 watts, full sun and high quality batteries to be able to run either of these units. Both come with an Energy Saving mode, as well as only a Fan mode. The fan mode, only to move some air, DOES work when on the road. If you have a generator, then you might be able to run both units.
The permanently installed unit in the bedroom is functional all the time, where as the unit in the window is only temporarily in the window if I am parking long term.
The Square Foot coverage that the AC advertises is not true to Bus Life. The back unit said it was good for 300+ sq ft, and it barely cools the bedroom down. The front unit, when on full blast, cools off the front area of the bus very nicely.
However, in the 100+ degree heat this summer in northern California,we needed both AC units running the entire day, as the direct sunlight was heating the bus us to 95+ degree temperatures easy.
Without them, it would be extremely difficult to get through such hot temperatures. You can open the windows as much as you want, if there is no breeze, it's simply hot. NO matter where you are and what you live in, when it's over 100 degrees, it's just going to be hot. The AC units do make it extremely bearable to live in the bus.
Our neighbors were living in an older RV, and their roof top AC units were not able to keep up. Even at full blast, it would be in the upper 80's and climbing into the 90's in their RV.
Thanks to my parents, especially my dad, for making sure that my bus became a proper Home, a place that I can feel comfortable in, no matter where in the world I am.
If you are going to be traveling and living in your bus, I highly recommend adding an A/C into your home. No matter where you are going to be parked, you'll be happy you have an AC during the warmer months.
Companies also make AC / Heater unit combos. Those would be perfect to keep you cool in the summer, and warm in the winter, without a need to find storage for the unit during either season. For our specific build, the hole in the back, as well as the available space in the windows, we found these units were too big, too heavy, and too expensive to consider.
Another positive that my wife and I found, running the A/C or only as fan-mode, it helped our tinnitus and made it easier to fall asleep. The white-noise was able to distract our hearing enough to get better sleep.
And let me tell you, we get amazing sleep on the bus. The bus has one of the most comfortable mattresses I have ever owned. When the temperature is right on the bus, it is the most perfect place to be. Making the decision to install the AC units is one I would make over and over again in future builds.
You can always just leave where you are, and head to cooler climates.
If you don't like it around here, leave. GET OUT!
That's the beauty of living in a mobile Skoolie Home, isn't it? – Don't like it here? Drive somewhere else!
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