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Old 09-30-2016, 05:22 PM   #1
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1977 31' Excella 500
NEW HARTFORD , Connecticut
Join Date: Sep 2016
Posts: 45
Camper vs tiny home

Hi guys,
I just brought home a 73' excella that needs gutting (in my opinion) I have a billion questions! I'm designing it to be a full time home, at least for a few years until I design and build my house. I'm wondering what tips must dos/must not dos you could give me I'm terms of design. I do care about resale value so I want to make sure it could be easily adapted to be "campable" down the road.
So my specific questions relate to:
1) Wiring: does anyone have a wiring diagram or just description worked well? I'd like to do solar, as little propane as possible, perhaps a tiny woodstove.
2) appliances, again don't really want to be married to propane except for of course the cooktop
3) plumbing and electrical is there a way to make it adaptable from "permanent" hookup, back to camping hookup. Also, I have a middle bath, once I start opening things up will I be able to move plumbing locations if I want, and does that entail a ridiculous amount of extra work?
4) weight and balance: I'm considering an asymmetrical floor plan to make the bath and kitchen more "living" friendly. Will his have a deal breaking on hauling balance?
5) HVAC- I'm considering doing a small mini split system instead of the noisy (and kinda ugly) roof top unit. Has anyone done this? Is it a horrible idea?

Thanks so much!
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Old 09-30-2016, 05:50 PM   #2
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
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Here is a bunch of stuff off the top of my head in no particular order.

Insulate. Adding foam tape to the inside surface of the ribs before hanging interior skin seems to have helped a LOT. I really liked the mix of reflectix and rockwool I used

Mid bath is desirable, I'd keep it where it is if you can. Composting toilet would give you a bit more flexibility. I have the AirHead. Kinda wish I bought the Nature's Head.

The current tank configuration allows for permanent hookups or travelling, so no need to reinvent the wheel.

If you're looking into lots of solar, consider a DC only fridge like vitrifrigio. If I had to do it again, I might do a DC only fridge.

I used the combiner box from AM solar to do my prewiring and install panels later. Glad I did.

Lots of wiring diagrams available, but if you're moving stuff around, you'll end up rewiring lots of stuff anyway. Recommend using stranded marine wire for both 12 and 120v systems.

Don't just look at RV appliances and fixtures. Marine appliances and fixtures work in an RV and are generally better made (and priced accordingly).

Mini split has been done successfully. Google "airforums mini split" and you're sure to find several threads.

You do want balance side to side but that doesn't mean you have to be symmetrical. There are small heavy items (batteries...) and large light items (beds...). With some thought, you can make an asymmetrical layout weight-balanced. Some folks here think there's something sacred about the OEM engineering of the coach. I'm not one of them. Just try to keep the heaviest stuff over the axles or as close as possible, balance side to side, stay under your weight rating with all your stuff, and get your tongue weight right. Youll be fine.

And have fun. Welcome.
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Old 09-30-2016, 11:18 PM   #3
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1979 31' Sovereign
Spring , Texas
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First of all, for resale, did you get clear title or your state's equivalent of this document? A buyer looking for a camper has to have it for license and registration if they want to take it on the road.

Some of the things you're considering doing, such as heat sources, we're looking at ourselves, including a small wood stove. Though that one is at the bottom of the list. Our trailer was purchased for the purpose of traveling, so we have to be careful about making selections that stand up to the rigors of bad roads. (Plenty of them out there.) Keep in mind any new opening you put in the shells has the potential to become another leak.

When looking at finishing materials, it's not only best to keep on the light side but best to avoid breakable. Glass tile is not a practical choice, but many interesting vinyl products keep coming on the market. Peel and stick tiles are coming in many different sizes, colors and finishes. Some look like glass or metals. If you like the industrial look you can find sheets of vinyl diamond plate.

Something else you can consider is changing the vents on the roof to functioning fans. We switched the front and rear fans to MaxxFan Deluxe 700 models. We had an alternative LED light source in our plans, meaning we could take the 12V wiring for the lights in the vents to power the fans.

Have fun with your renovations, and if you have the opportunity to locate one, try to get a service manual for your trailer model. It will give you exploded drawings of all the components, including the chassis. You might find it helpful to study things before you decide to relocate things, like the bathroom.
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Old 10-01-2016, 11:25 AM   #4
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1977 31' Excella 500
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Thanks Greatleys that's all really helpful.
To clarify, you are saying to do the foam tape between the "stud" and the interior skin and do the other insulation you mentioned "stud to stud". Sorry I'm in residential renovation I'm sure I'm using the wrong terminology.
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Old 10-01-2016, 12:23 PM   #5
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You will probably need new axles if you are going on the road. IMHO you will be putting in a minimum of 10K into restoration. Don't look at this as an investment. You will be lucky to break even.
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Old 10-01-2016, 01:09 PM   #6
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In an Airstream it is ribs, not studs.
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Old 10-01-2016, 02:18 PM   #7
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1974 27' Overlander
Baltimore , Maryland
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Quote:
Originally Posted by stormbornSG View Post
Thanks Greatleys that's all really helpful.
To clarify, you are saying to do the foam tape between the "stud" and the interior skin and do the other insulation you mentioned "stud to stud". Sorry I'm in residential renovation I'm sure I'm using the wrong terminology.
Exactly. You can see what I did on the blog. Parts tab in the top right, there is a page on insulation. I used 1/16" double stick foam tape on all of my ribs, and stuck pink sill gasket foam to the exposed sticky side. That gave me about 1/8" of foam between my interior skin and my ribs.

The reason Airstreams are so poorly insulated isn't because the walls are only 1.5" thick. That's part of it, but it's not the major flaw. The biggest issue is that you have aluminum ribs in direct contact with both the inner and outer skin, which quickly transfer heat between the two skins, right past the insulation. Check out a heated Airstream in the snow -- you can see the ribs where the snow has melted. Same way you can drive through a neighborhood and see who doesn't have good attic insulation because the snow on the roof is melted.

Add a small thermal break between the interior skin and the rib and you make a huge improvement in the r-value of the assembly. It makes it harder to re-hang the interior skin, but boy is it worth it. My 9200 btu AC unit didn't have any trouble this summer with 100+ degree days and ridiculous humidity. I'm now finding out just how far I can push the heat strip, which isn't meant for primary heating, but seemed to do just fine in freezing weather last year.

To be fair, it's not my idea. I got the idea from Reniergirl's blog, and she got the idea from another member on Airforums.
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Old 10-01-2016, 02:53 PM   #8
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Don't throw out propane heat with the bath water.......Platinum Cat vented catalytic propane heaters use very little propane, very little electricity and are vented, so you can shut all doors and windows when in use. I would use these over a wood stove for safety reasons, any day of the week.

http://ventedcatheater.com/6.html

Even better would be a Precision Temp system, which is heating with water radiators from a central water heater,$$$$$ though.

http://www.precisiontemp.com

I'm glad you're considering balance, weight distribution and tongue weight but keep in mind GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and try to be as the same or less if you can. This is going to be a lot harder than you think, as AS built things as light and minimalistic as possible in the first place.

How is your subfloor and frame as these models of trailers suffered rear seperation issues?

Good luck, Cheers
Tony
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Old 10-01-2016, 07:37 PM   #9
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1977 31' Excella 500
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lumatic View Post
You will probably need new axles if you are going on the road. IMHO you will be putting in a minimum of 10K into restoration. Don't look at this as an investment. You will be lucky to break even.
It's an investment in that I got it for a song and it will allow me to live without a mortgage for a while, in that aspect it will pay for itself. I may never sell it, but if I do I'm more concerned with the resale "audience" I don't want necessarily to limit it so someone that's only going to live in it and never camp. But I do want it to be comfortable and don't want to spend exorbitant amounts of money on say a propane fridge, when I will likely never boondock it.

My plan would be to run wires, plumbing, propane lines etc, so that it could be converted without ripping out all the interior skins again.
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Old 10-01-2016, 07:47 PM   #10
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1977 31' Excella 500
NEW HARTFORD , Connecticut
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Isuzusweet View Post
Don't throw out propane heat with the bath water.......Platinum Cat vented catalytic propane heaters use very little propane, very little electricity and are vented, so you can shut all doors and windows when in use. I would use these over a wood stove for safety reasons, any day of the week.

http://ventedcatheater.com/6.html

Even better would be a Precision Temp system, which is heating with water radiators from a central water heater,$$$$$ though.

http://www.precisiontemp.com

I'm glad you're considering balance, weight distribution and tongue weight but keep in mind GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating) and try to be as the same or less if you can. This is going to be a lot harder than you think, as AS built things as light and minimalistic as possible in the first place.

How is your subfloor and frame as these models of trailers suffered rear seperation issues?

Good luck, Cheers
Tony

I will admit, I'm a bit of a closet prepper, hence the woodstove. Also I grew up with one and just love it. I will be living (eventually)in the mountains of North Carolina so it will get cold. Not as cold for as long and nasty as the new england winters I'm used to, but cold nonetheless. I'll check out both of those links though thanks.!


It doesn't appear to have separation issues with the frame, no visible sag either. There is some frame damage and the subfloor in the rear is shot because both of the rear corner end caps and some of the center were dented and allow water to run right in. It's been raining today so I can see first hand where it's coming from.
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Old 10-02-2016, 01:04 PM   #11
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I'm so much in favor of mini split units that I think it's stupid that trailer makers don't use them in ALL RVs now. Quiet, efficient, and cheaper.
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Old 10-05-2016, 04:24 PM   #12
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1958 22' Caravanner
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1958 22' Caravanner. 4" foam = R 26 insulation. Both wood burner and 46,000 Btu kerosene military tent heater. Turkey fryer hot water pressurized w/ foot pump 1 gallon water jugs. 1 pound propane bottles (which are refillable). 6v LED and propane and kerosene lanterns . Candles. Lots of Coleman stuff. Window air. Dorm frig. ( but I use block ice in my 4" rigid foam walled ice chest -home made) Porta pot (although I use 5 gallon bucket w/plastic bags.) No tanks, no battery, no pipes or installed wiring. Do have 3.5K dual fuel electric start generator when OTR and back country. Wood burner goes outside to evaporate grey water. No winterizing and good to 40 below. Inflatable couches (make to queens) and twin size air mattresses. 3 whirlygig roof vents. Build it but nobody will ever buy it.
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