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Old 08-16-2008, 04:35 PM   #1
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Juno , Alaska
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Insulation width

I am an engineering student who is looking for an interesting project. I have thought about making a completely self sufficient airstream trailer. I know that this has been done before, but those are mostly minimalist trailers. I am thinking more of a green home on wheels. Something that I could take up to the mountains and ski bum in for a while in the coldest winter months and still come home and enjoy warmth, television, and other perks. I have an idea of how I want to do many of these things, but what I am struggling with at first is the insulation. I plan to tear out the entire interior of an airstream and basically start from scratch, but how much width is available for insulation or another way of saying it is how much distance is there between the outer and inner layers of aluminum.

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Old 08-16-2008, 05:11 PM   #2
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Hello J -- welcome to the Forums! The answer is 2". The semi-monocoque stiffness comes via the contribution of both the inner & outer skins. Don't discard that inner skin! At least you'll use it as a pattern. The design is "semi" monocoque because the frame & floor aren't an integral part of the shell top-to-bottom like an aircraft fuselage would be.

Various foam insulation schemes have failed due to slight shifting movement in the shell grinds most to dust. High insulation isn't the complete answer due to the lack of a thermal break with the metal ribs. I could imagine various ways of overcoming that while still maintaining the structural contribution of the inner skin.

High enthusiasm isn't the complete answer -- see Best wishes in your project -- we'd still welcome working with you if you'll open your soul (Danger Will Robinson!). The forum format yields incomplete and too frequently abrasive answers. I'll certainly wish you a shop full of metal working equipment and experienced first-hand assistance.


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Old 08-16-2008, 07:33 PM   #3
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That sounds like an intriguing project. If you want to use an airstream as a winter ski lodge, I would say look at exterior surface treatments (like vinyl sheets) in a dark color so that you could improve solar absorption at those high and sunny elevations near Denver. You could strip the vinyl sheets off for summer use, where the emissivity of the aluminum would reflect some of the solar gain.

I found the wall to wall distance in my older airstream was 1.5 inches. I used 3.5" batts of formaldehyde free fiberglas insulation, ripped in half and held in with spray adhesive.

You will see several forum members have used Reflectix foil bubble material as an insulation media. If you consider this route I would carefully look into the radiative and covective heat transfer equations for such an application.

Good luck and success in your endeavor.
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Old 08-18-2008, 08:24 AM   #4
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Jfalcey, Hey - I use mine as a luxury ski hut 30 days out of the year. Think in terms of floor insulation, etc. . . . no one silver bullet, it is a composite of several things being well thought out and well executed.
Atlanta, GA + Steamboat, CO
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