The Building of Moonbeam

The first visions of converting a conversion van into a mini-motorhome/home struck me as bordering on the absurd.  Could I possibly pull this off? Is it more than my abilities to complete this crazy idea? You be the judge. Welcome to Moonbeam!

All last

Little by little, I’ll post pics and verbage detailing the process of designing and building my home. Several have contacted me wanting the plans but there are none. That is what made this project so difficult. I knew what I wanted the end result to be, I just wasn’t sure how to make it happen.
The first sketches I made were way more grandiose than what could have been possible given such a small space. But dream big, right? Once I removed the seats it looked like there was a ton of room for all my ideas.  Using graph paper, I transfered all the measurements of the van and those things that were known like the fridge, storage units and water tanks. Cardboard cutouts and blue tape lines were laid out and then moved and moved and re-arranged over and over until the lay-out was confirmed. It was a major compromise from the first sketch for sure! If attempting a project like this of your own, this is the most important part so triple check everything.
It’s much easier to build around things of known dimensions than to build and then try to buy items to fit your spaces. For example, the height, width and length of the bed were determined by the storage and electrical components that fit under it.  For sleeping, the bottom of the bed slides out and the back cushion of the couch lays flat to make the bed a twin size but its only 72 inches long. (Sleeping bag size) Plan ahead for bedding storage when the bed is converted back  into the couch. I didn’t and it’s a bit of a problem I deal with daily.  One solution would be to stay in climes that don’t require so many blankets! I draw the line when the temp inside is around 32 to 35 degrees upon waking, then I move.
 Finishing the bed/couch bolstered my confidence to tackle the other side, the kitchen, sink and fridge area. The bed was just boards coming together but this side was different. Three electrical outlets and all the plumbing system as well as the microwave and storage needed to fit in a very confined space.
This is a series of photos showing the process in part. It was pretty much trial and error with the whole section going together and coming apart over and over again until the bugs were worked out.

Finished bed and storage area & electrical center

Early layout of kitchen area

 The fridge will be on the left side. Ventilation panel is installed. Water tanks are 7 1/2 gal each, Wal-Mart issue. One will be for fresh and the other grey water from sink. The cabinet on the right is army surplus and holds all my kitchen and cooking stuff. This unit is essential in making my kitchen functional for cooking both inside the van as well as outside which I prefer. All the fittings for the water tanks had to be cut in and placed exactly perfect for the fill/drain and supply fittings to work. Everything was attached with RV grade silicone and several layers for strength. So far after thousands of miles on rough roads, no problems. A 12 volt demand pressure pump provides water pressure for sink and is plumed to the back door for outside use. About $70 or so for the pump. I don’t use the microwave as much as I thought I would. It makes for nice storage though when not in use.

So far, so good

very early planning stageThere were so many systems that had to be considered all at the same time it was overwhelming to try to think of everything . Lots of lost sleep over this part of the project. The 110 volt electrical system has seven receptacles scattered throughout the van. Power comes from three sources. Shore power, my 1000 watt Yamaha generator or the 3000 watt inverter. The little generator isn't big enough to power the microwave however. (700 watts)Two circuit breakers, left for shore and genny power, Rt for inverter

 Code police comments go straight into the round file so if you see something you don’t like, get over it. It’s my system and it’s works perfect for me. When you build yours, you can do it your way. If I were to make any changes, I would put the microwave and fridge on a switched circuit of their own so I could control them independently of the rest of the system. A word about the inverter. If money isn’t a limiting factor, for a 3000 watt pure sine inverter, expect to shell out around $500-$700. Some fancy gadgets don’t like the modified type sine wave. Everything I have works fine on modified. Boo hoo Harbor Freight if you want but my 3000 continuous watt was less than $200 and works fine and it runs 10-12 hours daily.

Power inverter

 What would be nice is a remote control. With this economy unit, the three wee tiny cooling fans in the unit run any time and all the time it’s on. More expensive units have heat sensitive cooling fans which would be nice. I have never detected any heat given off while it’s running if that might be a concern.
The blue cord (bottom of photo) plugs in and provides 110 volt power to the breaker box. The unit with the blue fins is the isolator for the 12 volt charging system, around $70 or so. There are many ways to “skin this cat” from very simple and inexpensive to very elaborate and fancy. This is middle of the road. Give a lot of thought to where you place the electrical nerve center. Make sure easy access is available and adequate room is left for future changes if needed.  A blown 12 volt fuse could make life unpleasant if it takes two hours of dismantling you van just to be able to see it. Speaking of fuses, put the on every 12 volt circuit! There is a HUGE amount of energy in two 125 amp hour batteries. Within a couple of seconds of a shorted-out circuit, wires melt and a fire will follow.
12 volt fuse block and one of the circuit breakers

It's not as bad as it looks, really


8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. LG61820
    Sep 23, 2011 @ 20:36:44

    I have been wanting to recommend the interview that another female blogger did with you in which you outlined the conversion you did. I can’t find it on either of the two blogs I suspect posted it: Living in My Car or Gone Scamping.

    Do you have a link to the video? I was hella impressed!


  2. LG61820
    Sep 26, 2011 @ 18:43:10

    Thank you! I was impressed when I first saw them and, if possible, I’m even more impressed today. I have been focusing more on my limitations of time, money and workspace and I need to be focused on the possibilities. LG


  3. Carolyn
    Sep 28, 2011 @ 12:57:32



  4. Me and My Dog
    Sep 29, 2011 @ 10:06:18

    Moonbeam is beautiful, very warm and cozy. Good job! 🙂


  5. Debra
    Oct 01, 2011 @ 07:53:42

    So warm and inviting. Very inspiring.
    Be blessed.
    Deb (still in the idea-dreaming stage)


  6. Trackback: About The Van « Learning To Live Outside My Box
  7. Roman
    Apr 20, 2013 @ 17:52:15

    Calculate the amp hours used by each appliance below:. There must be at least 2 20-ampere, 120-volt circuits supplying
    power to ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles for countertop and dining areas.

    With concern for eco-friendly appliances as well as prefer to save the household
    utility bills, some company is downsizing the length of their houses and,
    consequently, their appliances.


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