Our friends are starting to get concerned about us. Not because we are living in a bus (well some of them might be) but because the temperatures are starting to drop and they are wondering how we are making out. We are so fortunate to have friends who care and have offered to share their homes if ever we get too cold or need a place to go. But it made me think that writing a blog about what we have done to winterized the bus might put our friends at ease. It's only November but so far this is what we have done to keep warm:
1. Insulate the floor. I bought a couple packs of those foam mats that fit together like puzzle pieces and put them together covering our beautiful floor. To be honest I wasn't sure how Michael would feel about it but he loved it and couldn't believe the difference it made. That started a whole conversation about what else we could insulate. I suggested buying more foam mats and covering most of the windows but Michael thought that it would make the bus seem like a rubber room so that was out!
2. Insulate as many of the windows as we were willing to give up.
What we ended up doing was using 1" styrofoam (that was originally insulating the garage but was just insulating the storage unit) and covering the back three windows on both sides leaving a three inch gap on the back windows for air circulation. Then we bought a piece of the cheapest wood paneling we could find ($23 I think) and paid a few dollars for the cuts we needed so we could install it immediately. We covered the hideous styrofoam with the panelling blocking most of our windows. Surprisingly, it looked great and made the bus feel like a cabin! That week we couldn't believe how cozy the bus felt and decided that the following weekend we would insulate the remaining two windows on each side but leave the top halves open so that we could see out and still use those windows of we wanted to let fresh air in. It is unbelievable the difference this has made even on a nice weather day.
3. Install a heater. We found the smallest Mr. Heater Buddy on sale ($99) bought it and installed it on the back door. It burns propane and therefore we have to keep the windows down a crack to make sure there is enough fresh air in the bus but it works great even with the window open. Right now we are still using it with a 1lb. propane canister but have purchased a mount to install a 20 lb. tank outside on the the back which will be much more cost effective for both heating the bus and cooking our meals. My bus living friends seem to all be using Mr. Heaters of varying sizes and have had no complaints about staying warm. If I had taken the time to do a little more research I think I would have purchased a propane furnace instead so that I wouldn't have to worry about keeping my window open a crack and also because I think the furnace would have exchanged the air better eliminating any condensation problems we might have in the future. For now the heater seems to work fine and can warm up a cold bus quickly!
4. Insulate the passenger door. During the summer we had taken the door closing mechanism off and installed a simple door handle. It worked okay but the door definitely didn't have a tight seal like it did before. We added a few more parts to each door and now we can open and lock each door individually. That made a huge difference but still wasn't good enough! Next we added a foam seal strip down one side of the door (where the doors meet when they are closed) and a seal across the top of the doors. This has entirely eliminated the draft but we may add an additional foam strip down the insides of the door for added protection. I had a few pieces of foam from mats left over and we had realized that we don't ever use the bottom windows on the door so we covered them with black foam for the winter. Lastly, (and I'm really not sure that this is going to make it warmer) we installed a black roller blind above the door so we can pull the blind down to cover the top windows. It also gives us a bit of privacy! :)
5. Cover the windshield at night. We are making use of an emergency blanket (those thin silver sheets people use to stay alive in emergencies) to cover the front window at night. It reflects the heat back at us from the heater and acts as a insulating window covering. It also gives us privacy!
6. -7 degree sleeping bags. The sleeping bags we use when we hike are on the bus and although we use sheets and a big comforter we have the sleeping bags handy if we need them.