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Electric & Solar


How Much Does A Van Conversion Cost?
Ron: My complete conversion and van cost $60K but you could do it much cheaper. I made a number of costly mistakes etc. and also bought some things I really didn’t need. The major expense is the vehicle itself, obviously. The 118″ wheelbase Sprinter is really hard to find and prices reflect that, especially if the vehicle has low mileage like mine. The 144″ wheel base are easier to find and can be had at a good price.If you go online and do some comparison shopping, you’ll find that the typical conversion costs between $30-40,000. That’s above the purchase price of the van itself. That puts the total for a new van conversion at approximately $80,000.

If you’re handy and can do most of the work yourself, you can do a conversion for much less.

More On van Conversion Costs
Ian: Great job and pride of ownership / craftsmanship…. It’s not totally my style but very much enjoyed watching your well thought out conversation. (Berkey gravity water filter is the best!). Love the toilet, love the stainless steal. —- How much money you spend total…minus the cost of the vehicle itself?

Ron: Hi, Ian: I spent about $40k on the customizing work. The body work and paint cost $7K; solar rig = $3K; custom tanks and fittings = $6K; electrical = $4k, etc.


Why Did you Make Your Van So Small?
David: I admire what you have done. It was an obvious thrill to do it and achieve what you have. I think the real shame is that you have no real space to just ‘be’ in the day! We converted an old bus a lot more simply and a lot more cheaply. The Queen bed is always up, plus the cooker, table, chairs and even a standing shower. If you like what Ron and others have done with really small vans, great. But stop and think before you start such a project and work out your priorities. Space was ours!

Ron: Thanks, David: two reasons I went small. 1) I had to fit the van in my garage. Period. I couldn’t park this thing on the street. and 2) I wanted fuel efficiency and maneuverability, especially in cities — this little van can go anywhere.

How Many Miles on Your Van?
Jesse: Hey Ron, I was wondering how many miles your van had when you bought it? I’m looking around and my price range equals over 100,000 miles…I just wanted to see if you had to consider that too. Thanks, Jesse

Hi, Jesse: yes the miles were important to me. I bought this one with 60K on it. It now has over 90K. They say Sprinters get broken in at about 100K.

How To Buy A Van Cheap?
Voivrenetwork: Where is a good place to get one of these vans on the cheap side? I don’t mind the dodge version at all but I’ll be working on a budget. Would conversion be better than hunting down a Vanagon Westfalia?

Ron: The Vanagons are cool and I was tempted to get one but they’re not cheap — and they are tiny. The good thing about getting a shell like the Sprinter is that you can make it exactly what you want — and do it in phases. The larger used Sprinters aren’t costly, comparatively. The little ones are hard to find. i checked Craig’s list, eBay, and used car dealers. Good luck — and let me know how it goes!

More on VWs
Saguache: I’ve converted a 1983 VW diesel L to a high top camper. Its a fun project, but because these vehicles are old you may get into it cheaper at first, but you’ll buy the van in parts over time. And that’s not considering the fact that you’ll want to complete your conversion. Hang in there, save your pennies. VWs are for enthusiast who can afford a very expensive camper (both time and money), there are a whole bunch of other conversions out there that have a much less expensive TCO.


Electric & Solar

Are Solar Panels Enough?
Ty-rant: Would you consider solar panels on the roof instead of car batteries as a power source? I sketched a design for my van/moble home and it includes a roof with a space for a solar panel to fit flush,is this a good idea?

Ron: For power, you need a battery bank to store the energy that solar panels create. There is no other way to store power. Solar panels are not a replacement for batteries. Solar panels replace the generator, which runs on gas, diesel, or propane. I have installed 4 solar panels on the roof of my van.

How Do You Control Solar Panels?
Jeremy: What kind of panels do you use for solar? Do you need something to control them?

Ron: yes, you need a charging panel to control/monitor the voltage. Also a fuse between the panel and the battery bank. There are lots of companies out there that can give you this info. this is what I got: (2) SolarTech SPM-85 panels (85 watt 4.9 amp 26″ X 40″) (2) SolarTech SPM-55 panels (55 watt 3.1 amp 14″ X 51″) (1) Blue Sky Energy SB-2000E controller (25 amp capacity MPPT controller with digital volt/amp readout) I got mine from


Can Solar Panels Get Power from the Van’s Alternator?
Alan: I have a 285A leisure battery. The person who did my electrics said that it could not run off the alternator as the power drain was too great (plus of course charging the starter battery). However, I get the impression that your battery set up is bigger. Currently my leisure battery is charged by the sun which here in Sicily there is no shortage of! Any opinion on the alternator situation?

Ron: Hi, Alan: you should be able to power your leisure battery with a line from your alternator. Use an on/off switch to control it. “On” will feed the leisure battery 14 amps of charge from the alternator. Your mechanic says you need a bigger alternator in order to charge your leisure battery? I don’t know why. An alternator puts out 13-14 amps of charge, which should be enough to feed both batteries. You’ll need a battery isolator on the leisure side to keep from draining the other battery. If your alternator is rted at 90 amps, it should be sufficient. 120 amps would be ideal.



What is Your First Layer of Insulation?

Emily: I recently bought a sprinter and am attempting to convert it.  I’m working on insulation, but was wondering where you get that first tape layer?  What is it actually called?  Any help would be greatly appreciated!!


Ron:  you can use soundproofing material like Roadblock:


Air Barrier?
Jonothan: The air barrier you mention on the battling?? How did you make the air layer??? 1. Sound deflection 2. Bubble wrap 3. Battling then your panels ????

Ron: I don’t have a lot of air in my walls because they’re not really deep. The air I do have is in the fiberglass batting — you want the batting sandwiched really loosely so that air is in it.


Styrofoam or Fiberglass?
Matais: Hi Ron, i’m working on my van to take a 5 month trip to the west coast. I tried to get info about insulation and most people said styrofoam and or fiberglass. So i choose pink panther. But now that i saw your video seems like i did it all wrong : ( . I glued the pink panther directly to the metal sheet of my cargo van and the floor. i haven’t apply any panels yet, so i’m still on time to replace it. What would recommend? i’m only keeping the van for 1 year. Should i replace it?

Ron: Hi, Matias: I’ve seen insulation installed in many different ways. Glueing styrofoam to the wall should work okay. I’d put another layer of something — like reflective sheeting — between the foam and your inside wall. That should help. Let me know how the trip goes!
Floor Insulation?

Jebb: How do you insulate the floor?

Ron: I used the sound-proofing material you see here and that’s all. If I had to do it over again, I would have added another layer of something but I didn’t want to raise the floor.

Jebb: Cool! How about aside from that material, is it ok to add a layer of 3-5mm double sided aluminum insulation foam? My problem is that the part of the floor near the engine firewall gets hot in long run, anyway,I forgot to say I’m doing the insulation the other way around (i.e. resisting heat from the outside) since I’m in a tropical country. My ride is Mitsubishi L300 Versavan, similar to Mitsubishi Delica Start Wagon which is the engine lies beneath the driver/front seat.

Ron: That sounds like it will work, Jebb.

Jebb: One more thing, what do you think of Flashband as an alternative to a more expensive sound deadening/dampening material?

Ron: Flashband is flashing, which means it doesn’t have any dense material for deadening sound.You need something dense to absorb the sound. Most flashing is just thin metal or material.
EL EL: Sound proofing , you are adding unnecessary weight; you don’t need cover the whole panel half to a third of the panel only need to be covered and you will get the same noise reduction.

Ron: Thanks for the feedback.
Sprinters Are Noisy
Trailerhood: I used to drive a Sprinter for my old job it was the longest one available, very long distances I was the noisiest ride I could imagine the soundproofing is very necessary. Yes it was like driving a long tin box. Is the shorter version more comfortable? The one I drove for thousands of miles was very uncomfortable.

Ron: Yes, this little van is fairly comfy. It’s not a rough ride at all. And, yes, it’s a noisy bugger. The insulation and soundproofing help a lot but, frankly, it could use more! Reply · in reply to MrTrailerhood (Show the comment)

How to Install Fiberglass?
Skelelot: How can I apply fiberglass? how can I? keep the air layer? and how can I apply the wood panael above the insulation?

Ron: Fiberglass is sandwiched behind the wood panel — you just lay it in there. it’s stiff enough to do that. The air layer is created simply by NOT packing your insulation tightly when you sandwich it. The wood panels are applied (last) by screwing them (self-tapping screws) either into the metal bracework of the van or wooden ribs you have attached to that bracework. Fiberglass is sandwiched behind the wood panel — you just lay it in there. it’s stiff enough to do that. The air layer is created simply by NOT packing your insulation tightly when you sandwich it. The wood panels are applied (last) by screwing them (self-tapping screws) either into the metal bracework of the van or wooden ribs you have attached to that bracework.

Window Insulation
Vanessa: Hey Ron, we were watching your video on stealth camping and I noticed your reflectix for the front windshield that looked like it had fabric on one side with a metal ring attached. Did you make it yourself or did you buy it? If you bought it can you share that info please.


Ron: Hi, Vanessa: you want this sunscreen:



An Accumulator Tank Needed for My Water?
Watson: I have watched some of your videos on you tube and we have been in touch in the past. I am doing a DIY sprinter conversion. About to order my plumbing and saw you had a Shurflo pump, I am going to get one as well. Didn’t look like you had an accumulator tank ? Did you have issues with the pump cycling on and off ? Not sure weather I need one or not as they aren’t small. Any advice helps . I am thinking of the shurflo 4008 revolution. 3 gpm

Ron: you don’t need an accumulator tank because you turn on the pump only when you need it, then switch it off. That’s how all RV pumps work. Shurflo has been a good pump for me. Make sure you get a filter to attach to that.
Toilet Install?
Martin: Hi Ron,u did an excellent job here,this is something im after…so there is direct line between toilet and waste water tank?no trap at all?

Ron: That is correct, Martin: it’s a straight drop.

A Vent for Gray Water?
Beetleful: Do you need to vent even if you only have grey water tank?

Ron: Yes: grey water gets really foul smelling. Best to vent it.

Body Work

Holes In Your Van?
Voivrenetwor: When you cut the holes for the windows and went to get it painted, did you drive it down the road with big holes in the van?

Ron: Yes, exactly!

A Shower?
Freemind: Do you plan on installing a shower in? the van? If so please tell us how! Would love a video of the shower build!

Ron: I installed toilet but not a shower. Showers take up too much space in a small rig like mine. And they use a lot of water, which is heavy to carry–again a burden for my small rig.

What’s That Bull Bar?
Mawsea: I like the color! I’m curious what truck those bull bars were? originally made for? I’d like to do the same.

Ron: 2006 Dodge Ram 1500 2500 3500 Bull Bar 06-08 Item # 250888766655