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Old 09-18-2022, 08:33 AM   #1
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1991 34' Excella
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Jolene Jolene the '91 Excella 34' Airstream - Project

Jolene Jolene the '91 Excella 34' Airstream - Project

So the wife and I purchased a beautiful 1991 34' Excella last week. I have been looking for an airstream off and on for years and I finally was able to find "the one"! "Jolene the Airstream" is her name. My name is Joel and living close to Nashville Music City... Jolene only makes sense. We live on 22 acres in Franklin, TN.

I'm hoping to start this project thread and get advice on modifications.

Due to the age, size, and weight of this trailer I do not intend on hauling on road for traveling. The plan is to make a permanent spot on our property to park it. It will be used for guests, personal entertaining, and also AirBnB.

Right now I have two goals. 1st plan is the work to be done on the Airstream. 2nd plan is creating the permanent location on our property to park it. Hoping to tackle both simultaneously.

Initial Jolene Airstream Project Plans:

1. Refresh interior - Nothing major. Paint and build custom L shaped foam couches/bed. The original couch was removed.
2. Replace water heater - Thinking tankless water heater? Suggestions?
3. Replace refrigerator - Any suggestion on replacement refrigerator? Found this one but out of stock - https://www.campingworld.com/dometic...E&gclsrc=aw.ds
4. New Queen mattress - Anyone have good suggestion on mattress?
5. Test plumbing for leaks
6. Test AC Unit. - If roof unit is not working sufficiently - possibly replace with a split unit w/heat pump.

Initial Permanent Site plan:

1. Run Electrical and water line to site.
2. Build Pavilion/pole barn metal roof to store Airstream under and out of weather.
3. Build wood deck for entry and outdoor space under pavilion.
4. Install underground holding tank for sewer or install septic system.



Any advice or recommendations would be greatly appreciated. We are absolutely in love with this Airstream and I have a feeling it will not be the last one we own. I will post updates along this journey. I have an optimistic goal of having everything completed in 6 months.

Here are some pictures of her when we picked her up and brought her home.
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Old 09-20-2022, 01:25 PM   #2
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Happy for you. We're rebuilding a 29' 1992 Excella Classic. Ours will be a travel trailer equipped for longer term boondocking, so much a more involved. You're going to save yourself a ton of work, going the way you are going. Have fun.
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Old 09-20-2022, 01:30 PM   #3
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Per the refrigerator, just go with an apartment sized electric fridge. Much cheaper and it will run better than any absorption fridge. A small tankless water heater would probably be a good bet. Again you might want to consider a residential brand.
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Old 09-20-2022, 03:14 PM   #4
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Per the refrigerator, just go with an apartment sized electric fridge. Much cheaper and it will run better than any absorption fridge. A small tankless water heater would probably be a good bet. Again you might want to consider a residential brand.



Thanks! I have read through some of your threads already. We are excited to start work on it. One of my first priorities is getting it under cover and out of the elements. I have looked for signs of water damage and thankfully have not found anything major. I want to keep it that way by having it under cover.



I have an electrician and contractor coming out next week to give me quotes on a building and running electric to the space I am wanting to set it up.


I bought a big generator a couple years ago for the property and was going to run it down to test out the refrigerator and AC unit. Unfortunately my generator only has a 30 AMP outlet. I was surprised my AS has a 50amp plug. It only has one AC unit so I'm not sure what the purpose of the 50 amp wiring is.


Being new to AS and after research I found that the refrigerators use propane. Do they always require propane, even with shore power? If so, I 100% agree about replacing with a new small electric fridge, regardless if the original works or not.


I've got a plumber friend I will talk to about the tankless water heater. I'm thinking that is the best set up for my situation. I will likely replace as much of the interior plumbing pipes with pex if possible. Really don't want a leak from old pipes. I've read stories about some of the water pipes becoming brittle.
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Old 09-20-2022, 03:25 PM   #5
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Here are some photos of what I am leaning toward building for the airstream.




I want to create a nice outdoor space for entertaining and enjoying the airstream. We are blessed to have a private piece of property surrounded by woods and plan on setting this up in the hollow.


Right now I am trying to decide if I just do a simple gravel base and build a wood deck like 1st photo or if I pour a concrete slab and build small wood steps to enter the airstream.
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Old 09-20-2022, 05:30 PM   #6
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Both structures look great. We use a lot of DG (decomposed granite or granite gravel) in Central Texas since thatís a native stone. The upside of a gravel base is rain water soaks in. Concrete is also good, but expensive. If you go with concrete just make sure thereís a crown in the middle so water drains off after a blowing rain. Also remember thereís two kinds of concrete, the kind thatís cracked and the kind thatís gonna crack. Good luck on your fun project.
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Old 09-21-2022, 09:38 AM   #7
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Both structures look great. We use a lot of DG (decomposed granite or granite gravel) in Central Texas since thatís a native stone. The upside of a gravel base is rain water soaks in. Concrete is also good, but expensive. If you go with concrete just make sure thereís a crown in the middle so water drains off after a blowing rain. Also remember thereís two kinds of concrete, the kind thatís cracked and the kind thatís gonna crack. Good luck on your fun project.



Thanks Bubba! Yes, I'm leaning toward gravel for cost. Good points on the concrete. I've got a concrete buddy that would probably give me a deal on the concrete work, but still a considerable expense.



My plans for the building are initially for the Airstream and entertaining space. But I want to design the building in a way that it could be finished out as a stand alone fully enclosed building in the event we ever change our mind about the Airstream.



Thoughts on a 40x24 size building? Do you think the 40ft length is adequate coverage to protect both ends of this 34' trailer from rain? A little rain blowing in on it should not be a big deal, but if I am going to the expense of building something I want to build it right. Also thinking I want minimum sidewall height to clear the airstream. The taller the side walls the more chance of the wind blowing the rain inside.


Appreciate the comments!
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Old 09-21-2022, 12:10 PM   #8
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Looking at your sample pictures, you could extend the roof rafters a couple of more feet along the sides. That would help to keep the rain from entering. That would also help to save energy by shading the windows in the event you closed the structure in and acclimated. At the gables (second picture) you could close it in from the tie beam upward with a gable vent. Our trailers are under a shed roof against our barn. We still get blowing rain, but wash the trailers in place before towing.
I guess you plan to run a sewer pipe to your septic? Water hookup, 30 or 50 amp service? We water the trees with the grey water. Have fun
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Old 09-21-2022, 12:54 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by Adventure TN View Post
Thanks! I have read through some of your threads already. We are excited to start work on it. One of my first priorities is getting it under cover and out of the elements. I have looked for signs of water damage and thankfully have not found anything major. I want to keep it that way by having it under cover.

I have an electrician and contractor coming out next week to give me quotes on a building and running electric to the space I am wanting to set it up.

I bought a big generator a couple years ago for the property and was going to run it down to test out the refrigerator and AC unit. Unfortunately my generator only has a 30 AMP outlet. I was surprised my AS has a 50amp plug. It only has one AC unit so I'm not sure what the purpose of the 50 amp wiring is.

Being new to AS and after research I found that the refrigerators use propane. Do they always require propane, even with shore power? If so, I 100% agree about replacing with a new small electric fridge, regardless if the original works or not.


I've got a plumber friend I will talk to about the tankless water heater. I'm thinking that is the best set up for my situation. I will likely replace as much of the interior plumbing pipes with pex if possible. Really don't want a leak from old pipes. I've read stories about some of the water pipes becoming brittle.



I agree. In your case since this will not, and does not need to, be a full blown rebuild, sheltering it makes good sense.

Also adding an accessible, reliable, and safe source of power is will not only come in handy when you've completed the remodel and repairs, but for that work as well. As for the 50A plug. Something tells me that the only thing rated 50A on that trailer is the plug. Don't connect it to 50A without making sure. I don't think Airstream built a 50 A trailer at that time, but I really don't know that for sure. At this point until you are sure treat it as a 30A trailer. Also, just in case you don't know this already, we're talking 30A 120V, NOT 240V, which is what most of us associate with when we discuss voltages above 15A to 20A.

You probably just need to change the plug to 30A. It's possible that the trailer has been converted to 50A, but it's more likely the PO simply put that plug on for convenience. If that's the case it was a super dangerous decision.

Regarding the Fridge, the absorption refrigerators were at one time a sensible solution for RVs because they could run on both propane and electricity. They use ammonia as the cooling gas and it uses a heater as opposed to a compressor to change the ammonia into a gas. The process works, but not nearly as well as a modern compressor system which have become very efficient. Also, I recently read that propane refrigerators are the major cause of RV fires. So, I'm going electric. Plus with that big shelter you're planning you can set up a nice solar collection system. So electricity IMO, is the best bet.

Again, I don't think you can go wrong with a tankless system for hot water and the good news is that all of this could be done outside of the trailer under a tastefully done cover. I'm also a big fan of the mini-split HVAC system for heating and cooling your AS. I raked my brain on how I could do that, but never came up with a happy solution since mine will remain a travel trailer.

Replacing water lines might be a bit more tricky and my advice is that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Your lines are most likely the gray plastic "Quest" plumbing. If it hasn't been a problem, it probably won't be. That said, I did replace mine, but that's because it was easy for me to do once I gutted it and pulled the shell off.

I agree with BubbaL, there is a lot you can do with a nice structure cover. Gravel will be less expensive and allow for better drainage, but that's a personal choice. Done right will also provide good protection for a nice deck. All in all it and a deck should last for many decades with minimal upkeep.
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Old 09-21-2022, 01:30 PM   #10
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Pete, a mini split on an Airstream holds up well even while traveling. The most comfortable and quietest system weíve ever installed.
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Old 09-21-2022, 03:52 PM   #11
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Mini-Split

Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
Pete, a mini split on an Airstream holds up well even while traveling. The most comfortable and quietest system weíve ever installed.

I'd love to see what you did. Please send me a link of where I can fin it in your reno thread.
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Old 09-21-2022, 09:51 PM   #12
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Looking at your sample pictures, you could extend the roof rafters a couple of more feet along the sides. That would help to keep the rain from entering. That would also help to save energy by shading the windows in the event you closed the structure in and acclimated. At the gables (second picture) you could close it in from the tie beam upward with a gable vent. Our trailers are under a shed roof against our barn. We still get blowing rain, but wash the trailers in place before towing.
I guess you plan to run a sewer pipe to your septic? Water hookup, 30 or 50 amp service? We water the trees with the grey water. Have fun

That's a great idea on extending the roof. I plan to have the AS off center like the photos. I will have the builder extend the rafters on the back, AS side, of the roof to help keep rain from entering on the side. And the Gable ends make sense also. Thanks for the ideas.


I plan to run the black water to a septic tank and the grey water tank can water the trees and grass.
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Old 09-21-2022, 09:51 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Re-Pete View Post
I agree. In your case since this will not, and does not need to, be a full blown rebuild, sheltering it makes good sense.

Also adding an accessible, reliable, and safe source of power is will not only come in handy when you've completed the remodel and repairs, but for that work as well. As for the 50A plug. Something tells me that the only thing rated 50A on that trailer is the plug. Don't connect it to 50A without making sure. I don't think Airstream built a 50 A trailer at that time, but I really don't know that for sure. At this point until you are sure treat it as a 30A trailer. Also, just in case you don't know this already, we're talking 30A 120V, NOT 240V, which is what most of us associate with when we discuss voltages above 15A to 20A.

You probably just need to change the plug to 30A. It's possible that the trailer has been converted to 50A, but it's more likely the PO simply put that plug on for convenience. If that's the case it was a super dangerous decision.

Regarding the Fridge, the absorption refrigerators were at one time a sensible solution for RVs because they could run on both propane and electricity. They use ammonia as the cooling gas and it uses a heater as opposed to a compressor to change the ammonia into a gas. The process works, but not nearly as well as a modern compressor system which have become very efficient. Also, I recently read that propane refrigerators are the major cause of RV fires. So, I'm going electric. Plus with that big shelter you're planning you can set up a nice solar collection system. So electricity IMO, is the best bet.

Again, I don't think you can go wrong with a tankless system for hot water and the good news is that all of this could be done outside of the trailer under a tastefully done cover. I'm also a big fan of the mini-split HVAC system for heating and cooling your AS. I raked my brain on how I could do that, but never came up with a happy solution since mine will remain a travel trailer.

Replacing water lines might be a bit more tricky and my advice is that if it ain't broke don't fix it. Your lines are most likely the gray plastic "Quest" plumbing. If it hasn't been a problem, it probably won't be. That said, I did replace mine, but that's because it was easy for me to do once I gutted it and pulled the shell off.

I agree with BubbaL, there is a lot you can do with a nice structure cover. Gravel will be less expensive and allow for better drainage, but that's a personal choice. Done right will also provide good protection for a nice deck. All in all it and a deck should last for many decades with minimal upkeep.

Yeah, I am a little confused why it is wired with a 50 amp plug. You are probably right to rewire with a 30 amp plug instead. Will do some more digging to see if I can figure out a reason why it would have a 50 amp plug.

Thanks for advice on refrigerator. Definitely will plan to use an electric apartment size fridge. Need to find a thread on removing the old original dometic 3804 fridge. Hopefully isn't too difficult. Found a decent looking stainless 7.1 refrigerator for $350.

On to the water heater: For my purposes, I would love to run everything on electric and not have to rely on propane and changing tanks. Maybe keep the propane for the stove/oven until I replace that with an electric stovetop.

Do you think an electric tankless water heater would be efficient enough?

AC/Heat unit: I haven't been able to test the rooftop AC. Whether the rooftop AC and furnace work or not, I am leaning toward installing a mini-split unit with heat pump that I could run 100% through electric and not have to worry about the propane for heat.

Great point on the water lines. Don't fix what's not broken.
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Old 09-21-2022, 09:54 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Bubba L View Post
Pete, a mini split on an Airstream holds up well even while traveling. The most comfortable and quietest system weíve ever installed.
I would love to know more on how to install also. I found these photos of airstreams at Yonder Escalante of their Airstreams with the mini-split units. First photo - Looks like they mounted the outdoor part of the unit on the front trailer frame where the propane tanks sit. Looks like they had to cut a hole through to connect the indoor and outdoor parts.



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Old 09-22-2022, 02:09 AM   #15
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AC/Heat unit: I haven't been able to test the rooftop AC. Whether the rooftop AC and furnace work or not, I am leaning toward installing a mini-split unit with heat pump that I could run 100% through electric and not have to worry about the propane for heat.

Keep in mind that your AS will not be going anywhere. You are not limited to mounting the exterior part of a mini-split on the AS. You can mount it on a pad beside the AS. If you use a 220V - 240V mini-split it should provide great heat and ac. That and an electric tankless WH (yes, they are efficient) and a electric (possibly an induction) cooktop will get you to your goal of being totally electric.
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Old 09-22-2022, 07:25 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Adventure TN View Post
I would love to know more on how to install also. I found these photos of airstreams at Yonder Escalante of their Airstreams with the mini-split units. First photo - Looks like they mounted the outdoor part of the unit on the front trailer frame where the propane tanks sit. Looks like they had to cut a hole through to connect the indoor and outdoor parts.



Didnít realize that RV destination existed in Utah. They were smart to install energy efficient minis. It is much simpler to install a mini split on a park model setup. Since we travel in our 55 with the condenser on the tongue, we placed rubber isolation feet. We also place an aluminum shroud over the condenser when traveling to protect the unit from road debris. And yes, you have to cut a small hole in the bottom of the AS for the line set to enter the interior of the AS and connect to the air handler.
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Old 09-22-2022, 08:40 AM   #17
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Keep in mind that your AS will not be going anywhere. You are not limited to mounting the exterior part of a mini-split on the AS. You can mount it on a pad beside the AS. If you use a 220V - 240V mini-split it should provide great heat and ac. That and an electric tankless WH (yes, they are efficient) and a electric (possibly an induction) cooktop will get you to your goal of being totally electric.



Yes, right now I am leaning toward mounting it on the tongue of the trailer like the photo in previous post if not overly complicated. My reasoning for that is it would be easier to move the trailer if needed. Not really planning on moving it once it is there... but we all know things happen that we weren't planning and I would rather have an easy option for moving the trailer in the event that happens.


By making the trailer 100% electric and removing the propane tanks, that should allow space on the tongue to mount it. I need to look at the different size mini-split units to see what size would be best.



I'm guessing the interior space on my 34 is roughly 250sqft. A 1 ton mini-split unit says it will cover a 450 sqft space. I know Airstreams are not the most insulated so do you think a 1 ton unit is about right or overkill? Keep in mind, this will not be sitting in the full sun on a 90+ degree day. It will be shaded which should help lower the AC costs to cool it in summer.
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Old 09-22-2022, 09:20 AM   #18
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Can you email me a copy of your structure to marshall.hall50@gmail.com. I have a property in a restricted covenant area and want to show it to the powers that be. Thanks in advance, Marshall
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Old 09-22-2022, 04:25 PM   #19
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Can you email me a copy of your structure to marshall.hall50@gmail.com. I have a property in a restricted covenant area and want to show it to the powers that be. Thanks in advance, Marshall

Hey Marshall,


Those pictures I just pulled from other websites. They are actually two different buildings. I haven't built one yet. Those two buildings are what I am aiming at.



I don't have any plans of the building if that is what you are looking for. Just those images from the websites.



If you are on your computer, you should be able to hold down the control button and click your mouse on the image at same time and then it will ask if you want to save the image to your computer. I'm using a Mac so may be different on a PC.
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Old 09-22-2022, 04:41 PM   #20
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OK, another question. I know the stabilizing jacks in the corners are only designed to be used for added stability and NOT leveling.

Also, from what I have been reading, the trailer is designed for the axles to carry most of the weight of trailer and not the stabilizing jacks.


So, the question, All the tires seem to hold good air, except one of the rear axle tires has very slow leak. Since this trailer will be parked permanently, would it be a good idea to use floor jack stands under each axle on both sides to the trailer? That way the weight of trailer is still resting on axles and a flat tire will not effect the level of the trailer? Hopefully that makes sense.
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