Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Debugging the Initial Problems

Coleman Stove top and dust and dirt (from fan installation)

Coleman Stove top and dust and dirt (from fan installation)

WICKHAM CP, FL—Since we last talked, I’ve installed the refrigerator and the mattress and “fixed” the propane stove.

The Propane Stove

The propane stove just fixed itself. Don’t ask me how or what was wrong with it ’cause I don’t know. It just works now.

Sofa Bed.

Sofa Bed

Synchronicity and the Mattress

Though I didn’t like the idea of trying to find an upholsterer to sell me some furniture cushion foam, when my mother heard my mattress conundrum, she mentioned that JoAnn Fabrics sells the stuff. Figuring I had nothing to lose by looking, I stopped in the local shop.

As it “turns out” (synchronicity), they sell the stuff in 24×90″ pieces. My bed is 30×72″ and if you multiply each of those two dimension you’ll find that they both come out to the exact same 2160 square inches. Exact. This was just too much of a coincidence for me to ignore so I had them cut the large piece into three smaller 30×24 inch “cushions.” The three cushions, when laid next to each other fit exactly to the dimensions of my bed.

I then bought a queen sized set of sheets and wrapped the cushions like a cocoon into one continuous mattress. And suddenly the bed is done.

Refrigerator

Refrigerator

Refrigerator Concerns

For the refrigerator, after testing it on AC current, I wired in a simple 12v outlet and plugged the fridge into that. It is now running straight off the van’s house batteries (which are charged via the solar array).

But…

Florida is a very hot and muggy place (still) this time of year and the van isn’t very well ventilated. This seems to affect the refrigerator’s cooling ability and basically, the refrigerator’s compressor ran the entire night, trying to get to its set temperatures. This morning, my battery bank was down to 60% (about 12.3 volts). Plus the refrigerator puts out quite a bit of heat trying to cool itself down and, with the lack of van ventilation and Florida’s hot and humid climate, this just made it all the hotter inside the van, intensifying the problem. I’m thinking I need to address this.

So the game plan to deal with the refrigerator issues:

Fantastic Fan (not yet wired in).

Fantastic Fan (not yet wired in).

  • Have a Fantastic Fan installed (being done as I type this). This will dramatically increase circulation and make the interior far more cooler (and comfortable), reducing the load on the refrigerator.
  • Add another battery to the battery bank. While the battery drain is probably only a situation that occurs when initially cooling the fridge, it does demonstrate what can happen when the refrigerator needs to run for an extended time in high heat/humidity. With an extra battery, I’ll have 330 amp hours, which will put me just above what I have in my travel trailer’s bank. This probably isn’t a necessity (as many Whynter owners don’t have this size bank), but Florida’s heat and weather is a whole different animal than the weather out West (where most of these other owners reside). The extra e-juice can only help as no full timer has ever complained about having too much electricity.
  • Cut away the insulation where the refrigerator’s one vent is near the van’s wall. While I had about two inches of space on the wall side of the refrigerator (and there are two other vents that face open air), I was concerned that this wasn’t helping matters, so I cut away the wall insulation in that area to allow a good 4-5 inches of space. If this is still a concern later, I’ll wire in a little computer fan to blow air from the cabin over that vent and upward to further ventilate it.
  • Shade the windows next to it. I still haven’t worked out the blackout curtains, but when I do, these should block the sunlight from hitting the refrigerator directly.
  • Fill the refrigerator with cold stuff. “Stuff” is more dense than air which more efficiently maintains the temperature.

Easing Into It

While I have a purely self-imposed departure date of October 1, I may delay that a few days (week?) in order to debug the van. Bob Wells had a great article recently about adapting to van dwelling (part of an upcoming series) and he made some very good points about getting used to all the changes that van dwelling entails and how it can affect you emotionally. Since I am doing the van dwelling by choice (which is supposed to be enjoyable), there’s no reason for me to push it (unless She tells me to of course). So I took his article as a reminder to ease into this new lifestyle and may even spend the first few days/weeks on the road by staying in campgrounds to help reduce the impact.

Stay tuned.

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5 thoughts on “Nissan NV Stealth Camper: Debugging the Initial Problems

  1. Everything is simple and functional, no unnecessary prettification. I like it! Good call on the Fantastic Fan. I love mine. My Whynter fridge, however, is suffering woes and is going back for repair/replacement. I’m wondering if this model is fundamentally flawed.

      • After checking packing/shipping costs and listening to my heart, I think I’ll be dropping the Whynter off at Goodwill. Why throw good money after bad? The odds do not seem good that I’ll get a reliable one back. And the built-in Norcold propane fridge appears to be functioning well enough. When the time comes I’ll just replace the Norcold.

        Thus ends my solar-electric refrigerator experiment. Propane isn’t really that evil or costly anyway. And I could use the space for a computer desk ― the laptop stand I have is awkward for extended typing. 😉

  2. If you want to see the fall colors in New England don’t wait too much longer Wayne. The trees are just starting to change now. Peak color will probably be in 2 or 3 weeks.

    Ernie

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