Okay, so winter is here. And once again, we got virtually no fall. It was nearly 80 degrees outside a few days ago, and now it’s barely 50. As a life-long Midwesterner, you’d think by now, I would know how the weather works. I’m about 2 months into my life in the bus (Lovely Rita), and so far I’m loving it. I’ve been urban camping: sleeping in parking lots, but there are still difficulties to address, the most pressing one being the temperature. The last two nights I thought I was going to freeze to death! So here are my options for keeping the bus warm:
I have a generator on the back of my bus, and I could potentially use it to power a small space heater. However, the generator is loud and I’m living in parking lots. Of course I’m concerned about drawing attention to myself from local riff raff, but more worrying is drawing attention to myself from business owners who aren’t keen on me sleeping in their parking lot. I’ve got a parking pass through a university, and if they catch wind that I’m living in the vehicle, I risk losing my comfortable parking arrangement; multiple, safe lots within walking distance from my job. Worst case scenario, I could run the generator long enough to get my bus warm, and then turn it off and hope my bus stays warm throughout the night. This seems less than ideal.
I’ve been looking at a lot of propane heaters, but anyone who knows anything about propane will immediately alert you to the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning. Now normally when people are overtly fearful of something, I tend to scoff and tell them to be less worrisome, but this is one topic in which I share their concerns. Carbon monoxide poisoning is a real threat; the silent killer as they call it. Now I’ve had well-intentioned friends suggest I “crack a window” or “keep a detector handy” but these are not safe precautions. If I’m going to live in this bus, I want to do it safely.
I considered the Mr. Buddy Heater which claims to be safe indoors, but apparently even it requires some ventilation. In order to have a sufficient amount of ventilation, I’d have to have multiple windows open and all my heat would escape. I’ve considered getting a propane heater, and rigging up my own exhaust system to go out a window, but even if I took the safest of precautions, I still wouldn’t be confident in my own handiwork.
So I went to Camping World today to look into further options, and the most ideal option happens to be the most expensive. They can install a propane furnace with a vent just inside my cabinet. This furnace would be powerful enough to heat the whole bus and I would have a thermostat to adjust the temperature. The propane tank would be mounted under the bus, out of sight. I love this option, but after totaling up the cost of the furnace, the tank, the parts, and the labor, it would probably cost me somewhere in the vicinity of $4000.00. I’m just not sure I can afford that, especially since I’m still in the middle of trying to prep and sell my house. However, I do think this might be the safest and most efficient option for me.
So a few friends suggested wood-burning stoves and I initially scoffed at the idea because it conjured up images of these gigantic black stoves, and I live in a 12 X 7 foot space. But then I got online and started doing some reading and they sell these adorable, mini-stoves. Now, I love burning wood. It would definitely keep the bus warm, or maybe I’m making assumptions, but I’ve been told they’re quite efficient at keeping the place warm. My bus would smell good, too. However, I’d have to stay stocked up on wood and the risk of starting a fire is something to consider, especially since I’m accident-prone. There’s also the need to install a flue and I’m sure smoke coming out of the top of my bus would raise as many red flags as a loud generator. I think I would enjoy this option most, but for my space, it might be unrealistic.
Now my cheapest option is to just buy a really nice sleeping bag designed for cold weather camping and spend the entire winter roughing it. I could do it. I’ve roughed it before, but I want to enjoy living in my bus. I can’t do that if I’m just hiding in my sleeping bag and never sitting in my chair, reading my books, cooking, or doing anything else.
Could the right set of solar panels crank out enough watts to power a small electric space heater? Because I’ve been meaning to get solar panels anyways but I was waiting for the sake of saving money, but if it’s an option, I could invest in the project now and just get a nice, little electric heater.
I’ve got a lot of options, and they’ve all got their advantages and disadvantages, but it’s cold now, and I’m running out of time, and I need my bus to be warm!!! What are your thoughts?