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School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Daniel 9-22-04  
I am working with a homeless advocacy group who is in the process of purchasing an old school bus and converting it into a mobile shelter for the harsh winter months. Our most fundamental concerns are basic heating. Does anybody know how to figure out what kind of RV furnace you need to heat a school bus (formula for BTUs relative to space?) or how to insulate the windows? This project has minimal funding and we are looking for the most economical means to heat the bus through the winter. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Phil Feinstein 9-23-04  
Using the calculator at, a space 30' long, 8.5' wide and 8' tall in a cold (Michigan/Vermont is the comparison) environment with "Poor" insulation requires a minimum of 5100 BTU and a maximum of 10200 BTU. This is a "Cocktail napkin" estimate, since a school bus ceiling is only 6' and there is no R value given for "Poor" insulation. I'd say there's a fudge factor of plus or minus 15% based on the internal volume and the fact that steel conducts heat. You'd be safe with a furnace rated at or above 10,000 BTU. The better you make your insulation, the cheaper to heat 'er.

Propane is very efficiant and readily available. Electricity is fairly efficient, but very expensive. You could work a kludge and build a heater as part of the cooling system for the bus's engine, but that's neither efficient nor cheap. Transit buses use this method, so you may find parts to do this with. Wood stoves are not as efficient as propane, but can be run on scrap wood and therefore are very cheap. They can also be dangerous (IF improperly installed) and unwelcome (neighbors). Propane would be my top suggestion. My second choice would be using the engine's cooling system.

How to insulate the windows? The easiest way is to just cover them with a layer of styrofoam insulation and some plywood or OSB from the inside and fill the gaps with liquid foam (i.e. "Great stuff"). You definitely *WON'T* win any prizes for beauty, but you will seal out the outside. It's critical to remember that the more you seal the bus, the more you need to make sure any fuel burnt *inside* the bus (i.e. Propane) has a way to get *out* of the bus.

Good luck and I hope this helps!
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Phil Feinstein 9-23-04  
Just a suggestion: If your group is registered as a 503(c), you could try to get stuff you need donated to you rather than paying for it. If you aren't a registered 503(c), now may be a good time to do so!

503(c) is the tax code for non-profit organizations. you can get the paperwork from the IRS, and they can help you with where and what to file to register.
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Daniel 9-23-04  
Thank you very much Phil
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Russ 3-1-05  
My personal advise would be to find a heater out of a camper and mount it through the wall or window with out side ventilation whitch would mean burning propane. At this time the price of propane is high but by using at least a 100 pound tank and parking it out of the wind in a sheltered area and insulating atleast the windows with styrofoam would help alot.

To answer a quick fix to the other individual using heating pads purchase a heating blanket and it should help. But probably not as much as a good sleeping bag rated for subzero temps would.

If I can assist in any other way please feel free to email me at the above address. ( please excuse the spelling) lol!!!!
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter tony carroll 11-16-04  
I live in a school bus in the summer months. I am currently living in it, and it is Nov 16 04. I live in Quinte west, and I am fighting with by-law officers regarding the bus being parked on a farmers feild.Both my girlfriend and I live in the bus with our 2 dogs and 3 cats.I use a propane ice hut heater during the day and just heating pads to sleep with at night.We are pretty much freezing at night.does anyone have any ideas regarding these problems.I wouldnt trade this lifestyle for a brand new house.this is the life.can anyone help us be more comfortable?by the way, waynescotting looks awesome in a large Tony carroll
Re: School Bus Converted to Mobile Winter Shelter Dave 12-26-08  
The best thing to do with the windows you don't plan to use is to yank them out. It's fairly simple (just remove the trim on each side and pop them out) and replace them with a sandwich of 1/4" luan (plywood) and foam insulation. Do what you can to park out of the wind. Two 5,000 BTU heaters (single plate, like for a bathroom) placed at opposite ends of the bus would work better than a single larger one
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