Contact Gary

If you have a comment or question, you can leave a comment on any of the pages with a comment section, or you can contact Gary (BuildAGreenRV@gmail.com)

I’m always looking for good project to put up on the site, so if you’ve done a good project, or are working on a good project, or know of a good project please let me know.

 

Gary

About Gary…

Gary

 

32 Comments

  1. Hi Gary, this is Ellyn from Moab. I met you your last time through town. Mike and I finally got and RAM 136 and we are working on it. My question to you is that the back doors are pretty noisy when driving on surfaces not perfectly smooth. Is there a way to quiet them down?

    We are also looking into purchasing a Goal Zero 1400 lithium battery. We are planning on putting on 2 135watt solar panels. Do you think this is over kill? We only need energy for the fan, dometic fridge and lights and maybe computer.

    THANKS so much for your site.

    • Hi Ellyn,
      Remember meeting you by the coffee shop in Moab — glad to hear you went for a van conversion!

      Our back doors were initially pretty quiet, but after a thousand or miles of bouncing around on back roads they were getting noisy. Turns our all the door stops are adjustable, and taking the slack out of all the stops helped a lot on the noise. There are also some small rubber bumpers on the doors and they can fall off, so check for that. I started with the driver side back door and took all the slack out the adjustments on it, then moved to pax side door and did the same. There is also some material on the ProMaster Forum on adjusting the back doors. I did the adjustments just before our recent Yukon trip, and it made a huge difference and stayed in adjustment over a lot or rough roads.

      The size of the GZ 1400 seems about right to me — its about 130 amp-hrs and since its an Li battery, most of that capacity is usable. On your loads, the fridge is the big one — maybe about 40 amp-hrs a day — the others might add another 10 amp-hrs. So, you might get about 2 days worth of capacity from the 1400.
      If you decide to add a furnace where the furnace blower uses a couple amps when running, the GZ1400 should still be OK.

      The two 135 watt PV panels also seem about right — a lot of people have found that 200 to 300 watts of solar with loads about like yours keeps the batteries good most of the time. Mid winter trips up north might leave you a little short, but in a place like Moab the 270 watts should be plenty.

      I like the GZ units from the point of view that you get the whole electrical system in a box and don’t have to worry all the wiring, and you can even pull the GZ out of the RV for use in other circumstances (eg power outage at the house). On the negative side, you do pay a price premium for the convenience — you could likely do a couple of golf cart batteries plus and inverter charger for about half the price of the GZ. Another negative is that they take a long time to recharge on shore power due to the relatively low charge rate of 5 amps — this is less of an issue if you have the solar.

      I’m not an expert on Li batteries, but for the Li iron phosphate batteries that a lot of people use in RV’s, the life claims are up in the couple thousand cycles, whereas the GZ Li batteries only claim 500 cycles to 80% discharge — this could be an issue if you use the van a lot, and I’d make sure that the battery can be replaced if need be and check on what the price of the replacement is.

      Please keep us posted on how the conversion goes.

      Gary

  2. Hi Gary what a great idea I have been looking for this full package for a while. I built a tiny house and sold and know I want to be more mobile

    I live in Woodstock NY where is the best place to get this model and build the inside myself or get help Patrice and what is the gas mileage?

    • Hi Patrice,
      Gas mileage has been in the 19 to 20 mpg for full trips. Depends on speed and weight of the conversion and how much stuff you mount on the roof. We usually cruise in the 70 mph area on interstates and 60 mph on regular highways.

      The ProMasters vans are pretty available — most of the dealers that handle RAM trucks have the ProMaster. Its probably worthwhile to do some online searching of all the dealers in your area to see how much the prices vary and what kind of stock they have. The Ford Transit and Mercedes Sprinter have similar size models — all of them have their dedicated supporters.

      In addition to the material on this site, there are online forums for the ProMaster, Transit and Sprinter — they are really valuable sources of info. This site has a ton of detail on my conversion, and this page has links to other conversions I’ve seen that look good or interesting: http://www.buildagreenrv.com/diy-rv-conversions/diy-van-conversions/

      There is nothing terribly complicated about the conversions, so if you keep it simple, its very likely something you can do yourself — maybe with a little help on some parts.

      Keep us posted.

      Gary

  3. Hi Gary, I made a comment in the electrical section and I received a confirmation email that was caught in spam. I think my comment may have been deleted because I can’t find it now. Do you still have it or should I ask again?

  4. Gary!

    WOW! What a site. Amazing. You cover everything and I know this is going to be a great resource for me.

    Long story short. Getting divorced. Have wanted to do a USA trip for ever. Bought a 2017 2500 Promaster today. Going to kit it out and hit the road for a year.

  5. Hi Gary.
    Just wondering how your pro master is holding up. Lots of talk in the forums about them being cheaply built. Looking at what van to convert and am liking the FWD

    • Hi JB,
      We have about 40K miles on our 2014 and its fine – no complaints.

      We took it up to the Yukon last spring and with more than 500 miles on the vehicle eating (all gravel) Dempster Highway. It performed flawlessly on the whole 7300 mile trip.
      http://www.buildagreenrv.com/the-big-yukon-trip/

      There are some posts on the ProMaster forum with people asking about how people like their ProMasters, and the response has been uniformly favorable to the ProMaster from owners.
      One freight expediter recently reported crossing 461,000 miles on his gas PM.

      The only unfavorable posts on the PM I’ve seen are sort trash talk on the Transit Forum 🙂

      Gary

  6. Thank you for the detailed information and the drawings. I’m helping a buddy with his 2015 Transit T250 3.7l. We are following your drawings. I have a question. If the van has Solar, AC/DC battery charger, and Alternator each able to charge the house bank, how do you prevent more than one charging system from charging the battery bank?

    • Hi Ronald,
      Most people just let the various charges fight it out. Does not seem like the most sophisticated method, but it does appear to work without problems.
      Some people with solar put a switch between the van alternator/battery and the house battery and leave it switched off except when solar is not keeping up with charging the house battery — if so, they manually turn the switch on to allow the alternator to charge the house battery. But, this does not appear to be necessary — I don’t have the switch on my van.

      Gary

    • Hi Ronald,
      Most people just let the various charging systems fight it out. Does not seem like a very elegant system, but it does appear to work and does not cause problems.
      Some people put a switch in the line from the van battery/alternator to the house battery and leave it off as long as the solar is keeping up with the charging OK. But, not really necessary — I don’t have one.

      Gary

  7. Thsnk you very much , for all of your ideas posted there good is so sad how big companys take advantage of there prices , i ‘m in the proses of buying my cargo van to do a conversion, i will like then if i can get some ideas from , thank you Hector.

  8. hello, very great topics, im looking foward to have my 2005 chevy 3500 express 1ton converted into a cargo. trasport seafood, not sure on using ice or tom mount unit. whats the best route i can do. would prefer good insualtion with aluminn walls, and also ceiling and floors.

    • Hi — I just don’t know enough about that type of conversion to have an opinion.
      You might try posting the question on the ProMaster, Transit, and Sprinter forums — there should be some experience there.

      Gary

  9. I like many of the ideas you have shown. One question is about venting the batteries. You mention yours (under the bed structure) are to be vented, but didn’t show how that was done. I’m wondering how much and what type of ventilation is needed? Hydrogen rises, so floor vents wouldn’t be adequate? Does it need to be vented outside? Thanks!

    • The hydrogen fumes given off during charging can be explosive and MUST be vented to the outside of the vehicle. It is also quite corrosive to other equipment, so should be in a sealed enclosure.

    • Hi Mike,
      Our battery compartment is vented out through the sidewall of the van with 3/4 inch PVC pipe. The level of the vent is even with the top of the battery compartment.
      I looked around for material on how large the vent should be, but did not find anything really definitive — I went with a size that was toward the larger end of what people were using.

      There is a small air intake at the bottom of the battery compartment to let air in.

      The flooded lead acid batteries like I have don’t actually produce much hydrogen when charged at the recommended rate, but you probably have to figure that there could be a failure of the charging equipment that would result in significant hydrogen production — so, the vent is important.

      AGM batteries don’t normally produce hydrogen and many people use them without vents, even though techincally they should be vented. The downside on AGMs is that they cost about twice as much and don’t last as long.

      Gary

  10. Nice site Gary. Would like to through my conversion into your hopper. It is based on an Chev. Express extended cargo van that we bought new in 2000 for our conversion project. I am afraid the youtube video that I reference here is a little out of date now. Since made we have: gotten rid of ice chest and added a 3.2cf refrig. with 200 watts of solar, upgraded our batteries to two 6v golf cart batteries, replaced our center isle table with a dinette (does not block isle and can be left up all the time). Updating the youtube slide show is one of the ‘get around to it’ projects. Hopefully before 2016 is over. Safe travels…

    https://youtu.be/5Xqk_G6k95M

  11. gary-

    just found your site. it’s amazing. i’ve been working on a van for 2 years now. an old sportsmobile. gutted it and am now TRYING to put it back together. all this stuff is new to me. i’m just now starting to think about the “toxic” aspect of all the different materials.

    i’m trying to move forward on insulation now but never saw under your insulation post any mention of what kind of toxicity the polyio had? perhaps i missed it! any thoughts would be great….it’s all a bit overwhelming!!! thank you

    • Hi John,
      I’ve not really looked into toxcity for the polyiso, but have not heard anything adverse about it.

      I think you might be able to find at least the MSDS sheets on the manufactures sites.

      Gary

  12. Hello Gary, I trying to find a reasonable source for wall panel or foam backed wall covering for my project. Could you lead me in the right direction. I am located in Ontario Canada and not much is available locally.
    Love your new site. Thanks in advance.
    Niko

    • Hi Niko,
      I ordered the paneling I used at the local Kenyon Noble lumber yard. They had a book of available hardboards with with different colors and patterns that you could select from. You might check the local lumber yards and see if anyone can order paneling in a similar way.

      Some conversions use ordinary plywood or hardboard and then cover it with fabric that is contact cemented to it.

      You might try posting a question on one of the forums (ProMaster, Sprinter, or Ford Transit) and ask where people got their paneling.

      Gary

  13. Thank you for your amazing website and detailed step by step descriptions and pictures. I have been looking for this for a long time!

  14. Followed your design application which has made a significant improvement to heat transfer and noise reduction.
    As always, follow Dave and you will never get lost in the process.
    Thanks Dave. your loyalty to helping DIY van converters is appreciated.

  15. Thank you very much Gary for what you do. Please indicate what your favorite charity is so that one can send a donation in appreciation for your efforts.
    jorge

  16. I did the polyiso on the Sprinter. Ceiling worked fine as did the floor. Worked well on the wall window areas and above cab. Very tedious trying to fill the other areas with rigid insulation where you have small openings. Cut many small pieces to fit through the openings.
    Will use the rigid polyiso in the Transit in the ceiling and the large flat window area walls. In the small opening areas I will use Aerocel flexable closed cell foam. Two 1″ layers against the van steel, a layer of Relectix, 2″ of air between the Reflectix and the wall covering. Wall covering is 1/8″ plywood on top of 1/8″ closed cell foam. Wall attachment bolts are PVC.
    For more info visit “orton diy – walls” and “orton diy – floor” etc. on Sprinter site.

    http://sprinter-source.com/forum/showpost.php?p=151926&postcount=1

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