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Old 02-04-2007, 01:53 PM   #1
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Hi All,

I'm a first-time poster here, new to Airstreams, but with a mind to purchase a shell to work on as a restoration project. I expect I'll be bothering some of you with questions in the future, so thanks in advance. Actually, to begin with, I was wondering if anyone has done much in the way of insulating an Airstream to make it more comfortable in a cold environment, and if so, what kind of material was used?

Thanks for your time,

Rob
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Old 02-04-2007, 01:56 PM   #2
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Hi Rob, and welcome to the forums. You can find more than you ever wanted to know about just about any topic related to airstreams just by using the search function. I cant wait to see what project you end up with.
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Old 02-04-2007, 02:16 PM   #3
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Ditto on the welcome! Search on the term wintering -- that'll give you a lot of ideas. People have put skirts around the bottom of their parked Airstreams. Big issues will be how to keep water flowing in and waste flowing out. Others have had high capacity stationery propane tanks brought in to supply all the fuel to keep warm. If the furnace stops working you'd better be ready to blow out the pipes with an air compressor and pump in some RV antifreeze on a moment's notice! Fortunately, winterizing is pretty easy to understand and accomplish.

There are limits to how comfortable this can be. The wall insulation space is just too thin to provide much help -- and then the structural ribs are conductive aluminum -- a double whammy! Other issues in such a small volume is buildup of humidity from breathing and the resulting condensation on inner shell and windows.

Weather like this weekend's would drive the hardiest out of their Airstream and to the airline counter for tickets to Florida!
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Old 02-04-2007, 06:20 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Canoe stream

Weather like this weekend's would drive the hardiest out of their Airstream and to the airline counter for tickets to Florida!
Aaahhhhh, YES!

The weather in Florida. Wish you all could 'come on down' for a visit!
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Old 02-04-2007, 07:03 PM   #5
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Welcome from the West coast! Good luck with your search! An option I don't see discussed too much is the new sprayed foam insulations such as Walltite by BASF. It has an R-value of 6 per inch. A typical house wall has an R-value of 20 to 22 in a 2x6 stud wall. The equivalent value using the BASF product could be as high as 33 in that 5 1/2" wall cavity.
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Old 02-04-2007, 10:28 PM   #6
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With a clearcoated metal interior wall (Special Edition), I readily watch the difference in condensation pattern over the ribs when it is cool outside and I have a teapot going on the stove. The ribs are metal and highly conductive. To me that would negate going overboard on insulating.

Two somewhat unrelated points:
  • The inner skin must not be modified to move it away from the ribs. Riveted in place to the ribs, it contributes significantly to the semimonocoque stiffness of the shell. The inner skin is much more important to the structural strength than any partition walls.
  • Insulating foams that are injected are said eventually to be ground into powder by the complex small movements while underway. I would come up with a very different structure if asked to design a stiff and thermally efficient shell -- probably a skin-rib-skin-rib-skin multi-ply structure where the inner and outer ribs were offset from each other.
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Old 02-04-2007, 10:58 PM   #7
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The structure you mention is essentially providing a thermal break. This in itself would eliminate the thermal bridging problem. I would never inject a foam insulation because it expands, potentially causing damage to outer and inner skins. The insulation would be best applied with the interior skin removed. As for the insulation breaking down, that is entirely possible, and I hadn't considered that. However this insulation is used in tall buildings an roofing systems and are subjected to expansion and contraction due to cooling and heating, not to mention building movement due to winds (tall buildings move a considerable amount in even moderate winds). It would be interesting to see if there have been any studies on the impact of repetitive movement on expanded foam insulation.
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Old 02-05-2007, 06:31 AM   #8
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Hi and welcome to the forums!
I would agree strongly with Canoe Stream about humidity and condensation. When my AS arrived in the UK a month ago I found the furnace needed a repair and hence had to manage with just a 2kw heater. This warmed the air but wasn't enough to warm the body. As a result I ended up with a huge amount of condensation which I'm sure got into the flush-mounted electric sockets and threw the main breaker. Get a dehumidifier capable of at least a gallon a day and leave it on overnight. Since I've got mine everything dries quicker and more effectively. After all, the water's got to go somewhere and you don't want it either rotting your frame or tripping your electrics!
Marc
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