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Old 02-22-2018, 08:41 PM   #1
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Ridley: a Very Green Transit

Hi everyone –

It’s so good to be back at the SMB home-build forum! So many familiar names from 2009-2013 … and so many that seem to have vanished….

After four years without a van, I’m back (though some of you knew that from a thread I posted in August on the electrical and electronics subforum about house batteries). Four years without a van is not a good way to live. I hope my last van is still happy with its new family in Ohio.

So, everyone: meet Ridley (as in Kemp’s ridley sea turtle) -- a Very Green Transit van.



The Green Gem Metallic color is interesting: in bright light at just the right angle, it shimmers emerald green. In other lighting conditions, Ridley looks almost black.




Ridley is a 2017 148” wheelbase long (not extended) body T-250 with a mid-roof (MR) and the 3.7L gas engine. I got Ridley in July and have been playing and building since then, racking up 17,000 miles over the past seven months. MO to KS, OK, TX, NM, CO, WY, MT,WY, UT, CO,NM, TX, NM, UT, NM, TX, NM, TX… (I must say, the total eclipse in the Tetons was amazing!)

Nearly empty at altitude in Jackson in August, Ridley got about 23 mpg. Seriously. However, into a headwind in eastern NM, make that about 15mpg. Being used as a daily driver in mixed city street/highway driving, Ridley turns in about 17.5 mpg. Road manners are excellent, unless there is a strong crosswind: then I know I am driving a sail or giant box.

At 5’7’ I can stand in the MR with about three inches to spare (it took me about four week to not reflexively bend over when I was in the van …. perhaps the vestige of 20+ years of E-series ownership?). With my new floor and cedar ceiling, I still seem to have nearly 2” to spare, depending on humidity (that’s a hair thing).

The Transit allows a standard 74” long east/west bed at about 30” above the floor. In my E350, the best I could eek out was 69”.

The build objective is a van that is suitable for long-term touring, 2-4 months at time (yes, Alaska, I hear you calling …. and another year to Labrador and Newfoundland…. )

Ridley’s van crush is LenS’ van (hey, if “boy-crush” and “girl-crush” and “celebrity-crush” are things, why not “van-crush”? Just sayin’. )

House electric will be 12v DC only (though there will be an extension cord threaded through the B-pillar to a household socket in the van). House batteries (initially 2 AGMs @105 AHr each) will be charged from the HD alternator via a Blue Sea ACR. The batteries will inside the van, not underneath. Solar is in the cards, but I need to study/learn more.

(Who am I kidding? I barely understand 12V and have no idea how to splice wire, so while I sort of have the theory down, I think in the interest of safety and efficiency I will hire someone else to do the major wiring and to teach me how to size, run and splice wire.)

I’m on the fence about an interior propane tank in a sealed vented locker; that may be Phase 2. Most of my cooking will outside, anyway, but on nights like tonight I am reminded that heat is good.

My bicycle(s) will ride inside the van, hanging by the front fork between the east/west bunk and the rear doors (there is a gap of about 18”). I have drawn much inspiration from FarOutRide (and even met Antoine and Isabel in Red Rock Bakery in Moab in October!). Following their example, under the bunk the rear storage will be “garage” and the aft storage will be “house” (with the MR, putting my bike under the bunk just isn’t feasible).

So that’s Ridley! Build posts will follow shortly.
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Old 02-22-2018, 09:15 PM   #2
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Hey there Meredith, I really dig the van! I knew you had one but hadn't seen it.

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Old 02-22-2018, 09:23 PM   #3
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Quote:
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Hey there Meredith, I really dig the van! I knew you had one but hadn't seen it.

Hi Eric --

These photos are Ridley's first media appearance. I'm several months late in starting a build thread. Mea culpa.

The eastern gathering in late April sounds really interesting -- I may have to wander that direction, and then you can see Ridley in person.
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Old 02-23-2018, 01:30 AM   #4
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Wow I hadnt seen that green yet. It looks beautiful. I am looking forward to following along!
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Old 02-23-2018, 08:18 PM   #5
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Step 0: the MaxxAir fan

[August]

I cheated: I don’t have the nerve, tools or skills to cut a 14” hole in the roof a new van and wire the fan, so I had Greg at BivyVan in Colorado Springs install the MaxxAir fan the week after I got Ridley. Great person to work with, and the quality of the install is excellent.



Note: the roof metal of a Transit is very thin and will dent if you lean on it. It cannot carry a load. The four squares on each side of the roof are the reinforced places for rack attachment.

I'm very pleased with the 10-speed MaxxAir fan; the electrical draw is quite low, and it moves quite a bit of air at level 3 or 4.

Next I headed out for fan-cooled wandering around the Rockies with a folding cot, ice chest, Coleman stove and a few milk crates in the cargo van. During that time my floor-plan changed at least four times.

Here’s what I settled on, though the arrangement directly behind the cab is still iffy. Pretty standard layout in the Transit world: an east/west bunk at 29” high with storage underneath.



And the general location of the 12V stuff:




When I headed back down to Texas in September to do Hurricane Harvey muck-and-gut work volunteer work, it must have gotten hotter than 120degrees in the beautiful -- but impractical -- green van ….




Time to insulate!
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Old 02-25-2018, 09:55 PM   #6
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Step 1: Insulation.

[late September]

Is there any topic more controversial than insulation in the #vanlife world?

After looking at lots of alternatives (spray foam, foam board, Reflectix, Low-E and Thinsulate) I settled on Thinsulate for ease of installation. On the ceiling, I also installed a layer of Low-E, so the sandwich is sheet metal/Thinsulate/LowE/ceiling wood cladding. Does the Low-E really make a difference? I don’t know, but in a dark van I will grasp for straws.

For reference, I spent about $600 for the Thinsulate for the MR van (50 lf, 60”wide). That took care of the walls and ceilings, including feeding it through the various ribs and between the cab headliner and ceiling. I have Thinsulate left over, but I still need to do the doors. There may be a bit left after that, which I can use in insulated window coverings. Hein at Impact Technologies (the only seller of Thinsulate for vans, and who owns both a Sprinter and a Transit) is great to work with.

I borrowed a shady driveway and a couple of friends from my old Habitat for Humanity crew, and we insulated the van in about six hours. The Thinsulate adheres easily with 3M-90 spray (2 cans). Cutting it is a challenge unless you have really really sharp shears. A utility knife will work if you cut before the unrolled Thinsulate expands much.





To get the Thinsulate into the channels and ribs, we found that fishing a string and using that to pull it through worked better than trying to push lengths through the channels.



Did it make Ridley quieter? I don’t know. But I didn’t think the empty cargo van was noisy. What do I know?

Was it easy and quick to install? Yes. Lots easier than the Reflectix I used in my last van, as it was very conformable and I didn't have to worry about air-gaps for radiant barrier.

Did it make Ridley cooler? First, anything will help a dark green van! (Yes, a white or silver van would have been the sensible choice –and I have had three of those over the decades -- but I have always wanted a sporty two-seater in British Racing Green). Given how large the Transit windows/windshield are, I suspect that having them tinted with the fancy heat-reducing films from 3M will make as big a difference in the summer as the Thinsulate does.

I’m also thinking of installing a DIY bulkhead between the cab and the house to minimize heat gain/loss from the cab windows. Plus it would add to the log-cabin aesthetic I am trying to create….
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Old 02-26-2018, 05:49 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GreyDawg View Post

I’m also thinking of installing a DIY bulkhead between the cab and the house to minimize heat gain/loss from the cab windows. Plus it would add to the log-cabin aesthetic I am trying to create….
Now on ownership of my 4th E-Series cargo/work only vans I've always installed some sort of dividing curtain between the front seats and rear area. In fact many of us old hippies from the 60's who first "converted" a van hung a heavy blanket or something to keep the heat in the front.

I use the partition curtain from a Volvo big truck. These are heavy duty, can be installed on a sliding track so they can be opened if/when needed. Rather than a hard fixed separation such a curtain works very, very well to minimize heat loss or solar gain from the rear area.

Tinting the windows will certainly help during the summer months so that's an option if you feel there's too much solar gain.

BTW love that color---a bit unusual but eye-catching none the less!
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Old 02-26-2018, 08:02 AM   #8
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Thanks, JWA. I have had 3 E-series over the decades, and hung a cab curtain in a couple of them. The curvature of Transit ceiling makes that a bit more difficult and there's not a good rib right at the cab headliner/cargo area transition to support a heavy curtain. That's a complaint that crops up often on the Transit forum.

I've read that there are high-zoot window tinting films that are designed to cut thermal gain significantly rather than just tint glass. One of the films is clear, and thus legal for windshields. And the Transit windshield is HUGE and probably the greatest culprit for the greenhouse effect. That may be on my March list, as I will be in Texas where fighting the heat is a sport.

I decided not to put in a window behind the driver mostly to cut thermal gain: while I would like another window, I'd rather have the insulated clad wall.
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Old 02-26-2018, 11:44 AM   #9
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I was just checking out a nice green Transit on Ebay. Nice color!

https://www.ebay.com/itm/2016-Ford-T...0/323091030711
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Old 02-26-2018, 12:54 PM   #10
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Don't want to hijack but it looks like someone got a great deal on that unless the seller ended it. If the seller hadn't mis-listed it as a Transit Connect (common mistake) it certainly would've gotten more attention.

Back to Ridley......sorry.
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