Sunday, December 3, 2017


The pics show the pretty basic idea of what I did, how and why. It's pretty much done now other than a few little things to finish up. I still have to rust treat and paint the exterior and finish some minor electrical. I hope this info has given you some ideas and inspiration to do your own. The energy savings of this highly insulated container are very evident. Especially compared to the storage half and when I started construction and the sun started shining on it. In temps down below zero the furnace will run about once an hour or so and used very little propane.

The storage half really needs some ventilation. I installed some regular drier vents in the top of the doors to help with that. A 3" hole was cut with a hole saw and plenty of oil while cutting. I cut out the flaps from the vents and stuck some screen in there before screwing it to the door.

Do some research, watch some videos and ask questions. Most importantly get out there and just do it. You will learn more by doing than worrying you don't have the skills.

More interior, trim, cabinets and furnishings

In the base of the cabinet on the right you can see the intake for the RV furnace. I left space in the corner for a small refrigerator.

The couch is from a local store that removed it from a hotel. It's a commercial grade sleeper sofa and is actually quite comfortable. Cost was about $75

For water I added an RV city water inlet underneath for connecting a hose etc. I also added a line through the wall to the storage side where a water barrel can sit with an RV water pump. There is a shut off valve to the storage side to prevent pressurized water from exiting if no pump is connected.

Interior, drywall, flooring

There are many different wall coverings. I decided to keep it simple and modern with drywall. For flooring vinyl snap together was an easy option. It holds up well and resists moisture. It works great in basements due to it's imperviousness to water a frequent issue in basements.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Air ventilation and exchange

I had to set up an air exchange system to prevent mold and humidity build up when closed up for periods of time. Due to the small space air quality is more important. Here is some info I learned and used.
Another important issue to keep in mind is air circulation. Older homes and campers have lots of cracks and crevices to introduce air. If you seal your home up it becomes more of an issue with moldy stale air. So you can look into Air Exchangers but at a minimum you want some kind of way to exhaust the air which will pull in air when doors are opened etc. A simple bath vent fan and Stove hood fans are useful. There are automatic switches available that can activate the vent fan. In any case add something to keep the air quality high. I suggest having a dedicated one in the bathroom on a switch. As well as one separate just for air exchange connected to a timer switch or occupancy/motion switch. New regulations require essentially that for finished basements that have no forced air exchange. Air quality is becoming a bigger issue now that we are sealing up our structures.
One option is to use a regular vent fan mounted somewhere either in a ceiling or a cabinet. The vent fan should exhaust through insulated flexible duct if possible unless it's going straight out. It will contain conditioned air and can cause condensation or mold if not insulated. Powering that vent fan is a timer switch like linked item or similar.


This timer switch will activate the vent fan according to the programmed schedule. Or you can activate it manually. Once fan is mounted use foil tape to seal all holes in housing and seal housing to drywall or mounting surface. That way it's most efficient and sends the air out where you want it. For calculations figure the cubic square feet of your structure by multiplying length, width and height in feet. If in doubt round up. If you have a barn roof, just use the
height from floor to highest point of ceiling and full width, like one big rectangle. Then you have total cubic feet of your building. The vent fans are rated in CFM (cubic feet per minute) usually around 70,80,100 or 130 for a larger high volume one. So just divide your total cubic feet by the cfm rating of
the vent fan and you will have the number of minutes that fan will take to tot
ally exchange the air. That gives you some idea of how long to run your vent fan. I calculated one small structure at about 30min with a small cheap vent fan about 70cfm. So running it for 1hr a day will change the air 2 times approximately.
The vent fan will only be able to exchange the air if there is fresh air coming in from somewhere whether it's a window, door or another vent hood for example. Ideally one should add a fresh air intake.
It could be a 2
3” pvc pipe from underneath if fresh air is accessible or straight out a side wall maybe hidden in a cabinet with a hole and cover through cabinet side etc. Just make sure it's fresh odor free air. If underneath is wet rank and don't want that pulled inside so intake from outside. Itwouldn't hurt to have a valve on it so you can close it off completely or partially like in the cold when it's not needed as much. Be sure to seal the outside with a screen of some sort to keep bugs out. Many claim now oooh you don't need all that houses have be
en built for years without it. Modern structures are much better sealed now and need a flow of air. Especially if you start sealing things up like I have described. It wasn't really an issue in the past because house were built different and much
more open.

Heat and A/C

I don't believe I have any decent pics but I bought a new RV furnace for about $350. It is the direct output kind that blows straight out into the space, not ducted. I mounted it in a cabinet on the side wall and posed a bit of a problem with the wall depth. I ended up having to weld extensions on the exhaust tubes which I found easily at an auto parts store in the exhaust section. I guessimated the size of the furnace to be a 20k btu which turns out to easily heat the space with the excellent insulation.

I black piped the line through the floor where a hose connects to a 100lb cylinder. I had the hose made up at my local propane supplier complete with the regulator and fittings to connect right to the tank.

Cooling, I haven't actually needed any A/C yet. But If I was putting it in I would use a minisplit unit. They are quieter, more efficient which costs you less to run and draws lower power. There are also geothermal ways of cooling with pvc pipes buried in the ground then a fan blowing that air into your space. They can be found and researched from places like


The only real option for these steel containers is sprayfoam. Using anything else will end up giving you condensation. So I opted for 3" of sprayfoam. In the ceiling I wanted more insulation so after the 3" of sprayfoam I added batts of R 11 giving me about R32 which is excellent for the ceiling and really helps to muffle the rain. DIY sprayfoam is not recommended due to the chemistry involved in the 2 chemicals mixing etc. It costs about the same to DIY as hiring a contractor. So it's much easier to hire it and there's no learning curve.
In the one picture you can also see the dividing wall that separates the storage half from the finished half.


The standard AC wiring was installed and has an outlet accessible underneath in the middle. There are plenty of outlets around on all the walls. I also installed low voltage for running everything on a battery bank. I also added RJ45 jacks underneath for quick easy access for a data network, security cameras, phone lines, long range wifi equipment or anything else needed. There's also a cable jack for an antenna or cable service. There's RV lights in the ceiling as well as regular AC lights for running off a generator or grid power. I added cable jacks inside along with RJ45 for a data network. There's also wiring in place on a wall to mount a tv on the wall if desired.

I am running everything off solar and batteries. In this case I got some extra Canadian solar 250w and a damaged old Sharp 200w. I can see a regular 35-45Amps at 12v. I have a Midnite Classic 150 controller that does an excellent job of all that power. There's room to grow also. I built a very basic ground rack to mount the panels and keep them out of the weeds that grow 3-4' high.

Some info on batteries and solar:
more will give you longer run time. Forklift or cell tower backup batteries can be found used etc. You can use L16 sized or golf cart batteries(GC2) or AGM. For 12v 2 6v wired in series, then wire pairs of 2 in parallel. Something like 10-12 should work for starters and keep you running
virtually everything. Or you can wire 3 8v in series or 4 6v in series for 24v but you need to match all voltages of devices and battery bank. Then you would need a 24v reducing device for running 12v devices, like this
Or just keep it all 12v for simplicity sake but then your wiring has to be
bigger and you are more limited in number of panels you can connect to each charge controller etc so there are other complications. Best price on batteries I have found is at Sams club and Costco the 6v batteries are $85ea and Costco told me they will accept an AA battery to remove the core charge per battery. Or Batteries Plus has Duracell 6v for $99 and you may get 10% off if you ask for it. Making the price $90ea or order online and pick up in store using the online coupon code. You can also ask around to find old batteries people have laying around you can turn in to remove the core charge. There are also 12v AGM 100ah batteries on Amazon shipped for $160. Standard lead acid batteries need a box and venting to exterior. AGM or Lithium don't need venting. Battle Born has the best price on 100ah Lithium drop in style 12v batteries. At around $800 ea, but check around for deals.
There are millions of vids on Youtube on selecting sizing installing
and maintaining solar and battery systems.
Your other option is to set up a grid tie system and just offset your power bill.
 For a few suggestions on maintaining your batteries. Don't discharge a lead Acid or AGM down below 50% or about 12.1v. A battery monitor like the Trimetric or Victron that tracks State of Charge(SOC) is easier
and more accurate to use. Keep your battery water level filled properly. Make sure to charge properly with factory recommended voltages for best results. And research equalizing your battery bank based on your battery type. You will probably have to resort to a generator for A/C. Unless you have around 2000w and 8-10 batteries with a larger inverter. Something like the Honda EU3000 Pure Sine Wave inverter generator would work fa
ntastic. But here is a page to educate you on generators. Pay the extra for the Pure Sine Wave, your electronics will last longer and will thank you.
There are also knockoff brands that seem to be working well for many
like the Champion and Predator. Regardless of the brand stick with the Pure Sine Inverter style. It's better for your electronics and some devices won't even work without the Pure Sine.
If you’re trying to do install it yourself, one has to put in the time and effort to learn. Or just pay someone who already has. Find a Solar Facebook group or website and start reading. Don't just join and start asking how do I choose a system. That has been covered a million times all you have to do is use the search button and read. The info is there exercise your grey matter and educate yourself. You're doing yourself a favor in the long run. You can watch vids on Youtube, one series is by Pippi Peterson
and she does a great explanation of solar systems. A useful FB group to join is “Solar Powered RV'sand Boondocking”. Brian Boone runs it and does installs while traveling the country. He does personally restrict links to products and info as he sells products and makes a living doing it. They are good products for average prices. Some nice panels for example is 160w US MADE 12v panels for
$165 shipped, very good bang for the buck. They are about the largest to ship without freight charges.
160W Panel
There are larger panels available that can be found online etc but most require pallet shipping which starts at $300ish if you're buying a
few it's not bad but building as you have money it gets expensive. Check around on CL and your local Solar installers they many times will have damaged or extras. Might be worth it.
Brian Boone's blog with links to products etc, all are available on Amazon or Ebay
For panels:
HQST, Solar World, Canadian Solar, Renogy, EcoWorthy, Grape, Hyundai, Trina, H
Windy Nation,
NO Harbor Freight!!!
Charge Controllers:
Magnum, Midnite, Outback, Victron, Bluesky, Renogy
Vmax AGM, Amazon 100AH, Interstate Lead Acid, Duracell Lead Acid.
Battery Monitor:
Trimetric or Victron
Inverter(Pure Sine Only):
Magnum, Aims, Go power, Xantrex, Victron


(Pure Sine Only Inverter type) Honda EU2000 or EU3000 are excellent. Yamaha has similar. Here is a good link to learn about generators.
Off Grid and fridge\freezer:
Since many are off grid I thought I would throw this in here to point
some in the right direction. There are 12v portable coolers that are convenient from Coleman or others.They work sort of but only cool 40deg lower than ambient temperature. So at 90 deg they can only hit 50deg which is too warm. Up to 40 deg is max recommended temp for refrig.They aren't necessarily the most efficient, but certainly an easy option. There are better compressor style refrig/freezer coolers.  They are much more expensive but they have digital temp control down to below zero. Many use them as a freezer to make ice that is then kept in a cooler. They are brands like Outsunny, Della, Dometic, Edgestar etc. They will work more efficiently using less power and will actually maintain temp regardless of ambient temperature. There are the obvious Home type fridges of different sizes. There are regular RV style fridges that come in 2 or 3 way being 12v, Propane and 120v electric. Those tend
to be very expensive and many newer RV's are not even using them anymore. They are switching to battery banks inverters and 120v since they are so efficient now. There are also DC low voltage fridges
available I believe in 12v mostly but also 24v. They also tend to be a bit expensive but are gettingbetter. There is also the option of using a standard chest freezer used as a fridge. There are plug in modules with a temp sensor you just plug it into and set the temp and it will run it at about 35deg.
There's also ways to modify the temp control module. These can all be found through a search engine with terms similar to modify chest freezer refrigerator.