What’s the next big project?

I’ve said, perhaps incorrectly, there’s a limit to how much one can do to an Airstream trailer only 25 feet long. I’m a tinkerer or, as Deb and I think of our fathers, a piddler. Few things suit me as well as piddlin’ with some piece of aluminum or wood to see if I can make it into what I want. Sometimes it works out, nice surprise.

The Airstream gets much of my attention as you know if you’ve read our Home Improvements Page. We’ve enjoyed identifying ways to improve convenience and utility of our Airstream. All the projects have been successful. And I think I’ve figured out my next undertaking — a through-floor fresh air inlet.

Did you know Wally Byam, Airstream’s creator and the father of WBCCI (the Airstream owners’ association) had floor air inlets in his personal Airstreams? We’ve seen pictures and read he improved ventilation in his trailers by allowing the air from under the trailer to flow through the trailer and out the roof vents.

According to PeeWee Schwamborn, Wally Byam’s second cousin, “Most, but not all, of Wally’s trailers had a 12 x 12 (or there abouts) vent in the floor of his trailers. This allowed him to open his roof vents, the floor vent and allow a flow of air without opening the windows. Allowed sleeping without all of the “extra” noise.” [sources: http://www.airforums.com/forums/showpost.php?p=559149&postcount=16, and http://sierranevadaairstreams.org/memories/history/peewee/index.html%5D

Why wouldn’t this be a good idea for us to do? We use a propane-fired catalytic heater which consumes oxygen. We use a three burner propane-fired cooking stove which consumes oxygen. We are warned to provide at least twenty-four square inches (24 si) of fresh air intake and the equal amount of exhaust outlet for the catalytic heater.

And the appliance labels warn to provide at least another two square inches for ever 1,000 btuh of input for any additional fuel burning appliances. Our Amana RV propane cooktop is rated approximately 23,000 btuh input, so we’d be considering another 46 square inches inlet if we used all three burners and the heater at once! I guess we could just open a window whenever we are using the cooktop or oven. Or, just put in the equal to a 12″ X 12″ fresh air vent and capitalize on fresh air flow any time we want?

I think I have a space below the catalytic heater to install a 10″ X 14″ through-floor fresh air vent. I’ve started looking around for the floor register we want to use in the camper. And I’m working on Debbie, to get her used to the idea of me cutting a big hole in her flooring. Some things take a little longer to sell than others. This may take a while.

How bad it would be to cut through then realize the wiring, plumbing, gas piping, and trailer chassis are in this same spot? I’ll sniff around under the camper and confirm there’s nothing conflicting with the vent coming through the sheet aluminum of the belly pan. And I’ll need to configure a water/mud/bug deflector and bird screen and insect screen and a damper mechanism. Otherwise, just a piece of cake!

Have you done this project in your camper? I’d love to hear how it turned out and what you’d do differently. See, there may always be one more project in front of me.

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3 responses to “What’s the next big project?

  1. Open a window, for heaven’s sake!
    Seriously, you might try a vent to an outside bin. We get a lot of ventilation from around the platform beds above the outside bins. We have thought about sealing them, but most nights, the cool vent is a sleep aid. Why not make a low controlable vent there and preserve the intergity of the flooring?
    Just a thought.
    Ricardo

  2. Seems like a good idea to pull air through a cargo compartment for simple ventilation. But, goal is not only to provide gravity ventilation (convection currents) but specifically to vent from near or under the catalytic radiant heater, by the stove/oven.

    We sealed between the bed and the exterior cargo compartments to reduce dust and other infiltrating air. We also tightened the cargo compartment door seals.

    Thanks for comment!

  3. Jim,
    I’ve been thinking quite a bit about your project. I believe Wally Byam used the floor vent in the desert where the only shade to be found was under the floor. If I were planning to do a lot of dry camping away from electricity (and a/c) in very warm areas, this would be a good way to keep cooler. A roof vent might be turned upside down and ducted to make up for the difference in the thickness of the floor. The handle could be removed and a panal could be inserted when vent was not needed. If you only need a small amount of vent for the catalytic heater, a duct through an outside bin with an external port might work well enough.
    Just a thought. We trust you and Deb are doing well. We look forward to seeing you in Madison.
    P.S. How did you like the March Blue Beret Cover?

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