What kind of insulation to use? How to balance all the variables – sustainable, healthy materials that are also efficient. No sense using green materials that aren’t going to be good insulators in a trailer warm or cool, as needed.
Spartans are the best trailers. The body, which is made from airplane material, contributes about 70% of the trailer’s strength; the rest of the strength is in the chassis. An Airstream is about 50-50%. For other trailers, it’s all in the chassis [i.e. the body is basically useless.]
Timeless Travel uses PIC insulation
We use PIC insulation which is fiberglass without formaldehyde. It has an R5 value, which is best you can do with a Spartan, which has an average depth of 2” on the wall. Insects don’t like it and [I think he said it is fire resistant.] Once installed, it has an R10-R13 value. We use foil tape. The PIC has a lot higher R value than other stuff; we install it in panels. PIC insulation is fairly green, doesn’t outgas. When installed, it creates a vapor barrier.
There is a lot of exhaust inside the trailer, from cooking, heating, showers, even humans [people give off 2 liters of water/day.] That goes to the outside of the skin. The air gap helps air from getting in and also air going out.
Steven Harasim, chemical engineer with Aerogel
Q: We have a limited budget, but we are interested in following up with your idea of using strips of Aerogel (Thermogel) over the ribs along with some other form of insulation. What is the R-value of Aerogel?
Our product has an R4 value for each layer (the idea is to layer it). Harasim’s idea was to use some other kind of insulation in the gaps and then use strips of aerogel over the metal ribs before putting the paneling on (see the above photo where exposed metal ribs aren’t covered by insulation.)
Harasim says this method would get rid of the thermal bridge where the steel is in direct connection with the paneling which is very inefficient, thermally.
He said steel has a conductivity far greater than wood. When the metal is exposed and it touches the walls it acts as a much larger sink in terms of conductivity than even the gap in between where the insulation would normally go. So the idea is to isolate that contact by putting a strip of Aerogel on the metal beams.
Santa Clara University’s submission for the 2009 Solar Decathlon
Harasim mentioned the Solar Decathlon (http://www.solardecathlon.gov/about.cfm), a competition sponsored by the Department of Energy where college students design homes that are almost entirely net zero homes. According to Harasim, Areogel was used in 4 out of 10 of the winning designs, including the Refract House (photo above) a collaborative effort between the University of Santa Clara and California College of the Arts (click to download PDF of project manual, lower right column)
Coincidentally, Harasim actually used to work for the PIC insulation company that makes the stuff that Timeless Travels uses. He says it is an “adequate solution”. From looking at the pictures I showed him he said, he says “It is well insulated. The only downside is that the still the steel studs are still exposed.”
He continued: “What is difficult about the Spartan is the varying cavity size. But I don’t see anything wrong with this solution. The PIC foam would be a mid point solution. The aluminum foil is 100 percent recyclable. The foam is not but it has a higher R-value than other foams per mass basis. It is more efficient than other insulation.
Question: Is the PIC insulation “green”?
Harasim: It’s hard to describe insulation as being “un-green” since its primary objective is to save energy [I suppose some people could argue with that statement]
Q: Does you think it would be more green to use something like a newspaper product?
The newspaper, being 100 percent recycled would be an advantage, but overall probably not because of the insulation value and the difficulty of installing it in a trailer.
Q: Do you think Areogel might be willing to donate some materials or otherwise help with the cost?
We aren’t against it but they are stretched pretty thin right now. We are a new company and have already been donating (I bet to the Dethlon). But he would help with advise on the installation. And the strips actually come from a different company, Thermal Block, and they may be able to work with you as well. He’ll give me all the info.
Note: Timeless Travel uses a different kind of insulation in the floor. (I don’t remember why). He may have said the stuff is styrene or else fiberglass??
New chaissis, Timeless Travel
Timeless Travel’s Brett Hall said Spartan trailer chassis often have structural problems, especially from the wheels back. “We start looking right away for problems.” About 40% of the Spartans have serious problems, about 10% need work. (It should be noted, however, that Timeless Travel tends to add 2,000 – 3,000 additional pounds on average to their renovated (high end) restorations.
Note: Hall said the original Spartan chasis were built by a third party.
Hall added that it’s very important to pay attention to wiring. The trailer must conform to the National fire Protection Association’s Standards for Recreational Vehicles (NFPA 1192)
Twenty five hours of work and the ceiling/walls have been cleared of leftover fiberglass insulation. The job was pretty mindless but I don’t mind that kind of work, especially after a long day of class. The only trouble was protecting myself from the fiberglass: coveralls, respirator, goggles, gloves etc. It’s not too pleasant when it’s hot outside, so I ended up doing a lot of work at night.
Once I removed all the insulation, I used a shop vac to clean out the inside. Finally got rid of a lot of the rat droppings, dust etc. (It smells a lot better in there all of a sudden!)
After some trial and error with different portable saws, I found that the circular saw worked best to cut out the plywood while avoiding the steel frame beneath it. I cut small pieces at a time and popped them out with two crowbars.
In the process, I found a Ninja Turtles pencil case…
and some old newspaper clippings stuck to the linoleum. 1985 newspaper clipping from Redding, CA.
The clippings were from Redding, in Northern California. Such an odd coincidence. I recently bought a second vintage trailer, a tiny 1960 Corsa camper trailer, now parked next to the Spartan, which I use as my hang out.
1960 Corsa: My home away from home away from home...
It came from a town near Redding: Big Bend, CA, located near Mt. Shasta.The previous owners were a couple I now consider to be my friends – Bern Haggard and Eviane Cotton.
Homesteaders Bern and Eviane
In addition to their responsibilities on their 80-acre homestead, they are restoring the town’s old campground complete with old hot springs!
The campground at Big Bend (not yet open) will feature soaking pools built into a cliff that overlooks the Pit River.
The Pit River as seen from the soaking pool.
Eventually, Bern and Eviane also with others, also hope to transform the town’s trailer park into an eco village (current residents will stay if they wish)
Back to my own trailer project…
The shower/bathroom unit needs to come out. It’s unsalvageable, unfortunately. We debated whether to clean it up and re-use but the thing is gross and falling apart.
Yes, we actually considered trying to save the metal bathroom unit.
The bathroom unit is all one piece. It will not fit out through the doorway so it will have to be sawed out.. a job for later. I did manage to rip out the linoleum flooring inside the bathroom, just to see what was underneath. Bad news is the aluminum floor under the linoleum is in bad shape. It’s going to have to go, too.
One of the previous owners caped off the shower head and installed new flooring. (It seems they only used the toilet and sink.)
As I rip away the flooring throughout the trailer I’ve found more nasty insulation, rat droppings and all sorts of presents left behind by pack rats.
Speaking of which, I have a new roommate in the trailer. When I lifted up a piece of floorboard, a little mouse scurried away. I don’t mind the company.
Oh, and today, we had our first rain! No apparent leaks, except of course from the missing windows and skylight, but I didn’t look too closely. I’m not ready to deal with that yet. Small steps.
I want to get the old floor out as soon as possible. I can’t wait to get rid of all the insulation. I won’t feel it’s a clean slate until that happens…
From www.Spartantrailer.com (interior restoration)
Before any refinishing was done all leaks in the trailer had to be sealed. I used a liquid seam sealing product called Capt. Tolly’s. This is a marine product which has a capillary action by which it draws itself into the crack and hardens. Vulkem 116 Sealant was used for larger seams.. Another option is to coat the interior with a gas tank sealer such as POR-15. to create a water tight seal.