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Old 07-22-2020, 02:37 PM   #1
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DIY insulation addition on an animal shelter airstream

I volunteer at an animal shelter in Central Texas. We have an airstream that we use to give the dogs a chance to get out of the weather, be it hot or cold. Currently, there are issues with keeping the space cool. We are investigating an initiative to add insulation to the space, to keep the heat out in the summer and in during the winter. I have absolutely no experience in airstream maintenance. I am a young, mechanical engineer. I design commercial HVAC systems, but not projects like this.

Can anyone provide any advice or possible designs for this? I would greatly experience some wisdom and help, so that we can avoid having to potentially pay a professional to do this, if we can avoid it. We have the manpower to implement a plan.

Thank you all in advance for your help.
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:37 PM   #2
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Sounds like a great use of the trailer!

You could get some Rockwool type of insulation in an R14 or about 3 1/2" with a liner on the inside surface. I think you can get a foil lined Rockwool. Then you can install it wth sticky pins that adhere to the inner trailer wall and you simply push the insulation over the pins and install a little cap that grabs the pin but holds the insulation on the wall. I would probably use a foil tape to seam around the windows where the edges are exposed. Then either snip off the pin ends or put a cap of some sort (like a cork) over the pin ends so the animals don't poke them selves.

Spraying an expanding foam could do it as well but that requires that the construction suppliers will supply it to you. They usually reserve that for approved installers.
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:40 PM   #3
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More info..

Is the shell on wheels or ground?
Can you “skirt” the ground to the AS?
Is there power available?
Is inside skin in place?
Floor in place?
Do you plan to install cool/heat (mini split or window heat/cool?

We used a ceramic roof coating where the roof paint once was. Excellent thermal barrier. You can mix the “ceramic beads” into any paint or buy it already in a special roof coating (ours HS been in our AS for 6 years). You can also paint the interior with similar process. That would block a lot of heat transfer both directions. There are many sources. We used BusKote following manufacturer directions. https://www.hytechsales.com/prod2150.html
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Old 07-22-2020, 03:44 PM   #4
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Short answer: there is no such thing as a well insulated airstream.

Not quite so short answer: airstreams are constructed with an outer shell of aluminum riveted to aluminum ribs with an aluminum inner skin riveted to those ribs. Aluminum is a fantastic conductor! There is 1.5 to 2 inches worth of fiberglass batt insulation stuffed in between.

Yes, the fiberglass batt insulation is not the most efficient insulation possible, but even if you had a perfect Insulation material installed, you will still have substantial thermal bridging from the outer skin across the aluminum ribs to the inner skin.

Newer airstreams have attempted a thermal block across the ribs by putting a very thin strip of double-sided sticky foam tape on one side of the ribs.

The way airstream tackles the problem is via brute force HVAC.

For a longer and more involved answer, use the search function in these forms and search for many threads dealing with “insulation”. Most commonly, people seeking to do a complete tear down and rebuild their airstream often seek advice on the best ways to insulate the trailer. Unless you are planning to tear your trailer down to the “studs”, these would be of limited value

Other options I can think of off the top of my head is to either build a Styrofoam igloo within the trailer, or cover the outside of the trailer with some sort of spray foam insulation. Also using reflectix bubble foil attached to the inner skins with a quarter inch air gap between the foil and the inner skin would help reflect a lot of the radiant heat.

Perhaps a better option would be to avoid using an aluminum trailer to keep the animals cooler or warmer
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Old 07-23-2020, 09:56 AM   #5
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perhaps the shelter should consider selling the airstream and using the funds to build a frame structure with proper insulation. Even old beat airstreams these days can sell for many $1000.
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Old 07-23-2020, 10:39 AM   #6
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Ya, if the Airstream is something that you will convert back to a travel trailer, then you will want a solution that is reversible.

Or like rucos says, sell it and build a shelter with the proceeds.
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Old 07-23-2020, 11:17 AM   #7
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Our RV "farm"

We collect useable RVs for use as bunk houses at fish camp. Each gets a "hut-o-matic" pole barn covering to ward off winter snow loads and summer heat. It is effective. If the airstream is exposed, you could knock down the heat gain with a simple Costco or equivalent shelter in a box, and see if that helps... cheap.
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