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Gary Hatt
April 3, 2020
150 views

Electric Shades for Your Bus Conversion

When I was in high school, many moons ago, I helped my dad, an electrician, wire a house with all electric drapes. By flipping a toggle switch in each room, the owners could open or close the drapes in that room.

Ever since then, I have wanted electric shades in my bus so that I could hit only one switch to open all the window shades upon rising each morning, and close all the shades in the bus when I was ready to settle in for the night.

When I had my MCI MC-9, all the windows were left in the bus when converted. The windows in the kitchen and bathroom area were covered on the inside with plywood and the side facing the windows were painted flat black. With factory-tinted windows, from the outside you could not even tell the windows were covered. That left 10 windows with shades on them.

Every morning after getting up, I would open all the shades one by one, as well as the shades in the cockpit. This required a few minutes of climbing over furniture to reach all the cords. On some days, I just would not bother because of the hassle of so many windows and I would leave a few closed.

When I bought my Eagle, it had fewer windows but nevertheless there still were quite a few windows and two sofas to reach over to open and close the shades twice a day.

The Eagle had day/night pleated shades, so you could open them using one of two cords. On one side of the shade, was the cord to open/close the day shade, and on the other side, was the cord to open/close the nightshades. They had been in the bus since the conversion in 1996 and were a bit difficult to operate because they were getting a bit worn and stiff.


In fact, one of the cords broke when I was opening it one day and that was it for me. I called Scott Smith of Shade Smith and he came over and measured my current windows and ordered new shades for all my windows.

There was a choice of day or nightshades or both as well as various fabric colors. It didn’t take very long to choose the color to match my interior but I had to decide if I wanted both day and night shades. Decisions, decisions.

My old shades with day and night pull cords.

I had my Eagle windows re-tinted while at the 2017 Bus Conversion International Pahrump Spring Rally because my tint had basically worn out. The UV coating was so old that it was not very effective anymore.

I decided to remove the old tint and put on a darker tint (not limo dark), but dark enough so I could still see out of the coach and during the day but it would be very difficult to see in. The new tint made the inside much cooler during the California hot summer, so my A/C units didn’t have to work as hard, so the tinting serves a dual purpose.

There was a dark tint on all my windows, except for my cockpit windows. I decided that I did not need the day shades because people outside could not see in anyway. That also saved me a few bucks, which I could spend elsewhere on my bus.

Besides, I have Magne Shades to cover the exterior of the front windows when camping. You can see out of Magne Shades but no one can see in, so that eliminated the need for cockpit day shades. I went with only the nightshades all around, which block out 100% of the light.

Once closed, it is very dark inside my bus. They also help at night too, as my windows are very big, so they also let in a lot of dark. The nightshades prevented too much dark from getting in, so it was lighter inside at night as well.

Scott returned a couple of weeks later with my new factory-made shades. We worked together to install them which was very easy. If you previously have 12V electric shades and just want to upgrade them, as many people do, you just unscrew the shade mounts, remove the old shades, screw in the new electric shade mounts, snap the new shades into the mounts and wire them up to the existing wiring.

My bus did not previously have electric shades so we had to do some wiring to hook them up. But it did have had indirect lighting above the valance in all windows so it was an easy matter of just running a new wire from the hot side of the wiring to the new switch for the shades.

I installed separate toggle switches on each shade, so I could control them individually. Later, I will install one master switch so I can open or close them all at one time in the mornings and evenings, but I will also wire them so I will still be able to control them individually.

Sometimes you want some shades open but not all. Even with individual switches, I can quickly walk around and flip each switch, as I mounted them in easy-to-reach locations. Now, I do not have to reach over the sofas to operate them.

Scott and I worked together to install the shades. It took us about 30 minutes per shade to mount the shades and wire them up. We programmed the high and low limits for the shades so they would stop at the top and bottom, which was a very simple operation. You want to adjust them so they go almost all the way up to the roller on the top and down enough so they are just short of the bottom, so no light comes in.

Large windshields in some of the newer buses or old buses with new front caps are different than automobile windshields in that they have a lot more surface area. This increases the chance that the sun will blind you when driving as it lets in a lot of light.

Unlike a car, there are a lot of windshields above eye level, which can focus a lot of heat when you are driving into the sun on a hot summer day making the driver, copilot, and even passengers in the front seats a bit uncomfortable.

For the cockpit, we installed shades for both windshields and both cockpit side windows using four toggle switches which we mounted on the dash within each reach of the driver. This allows me to easily flip one of the toggle switches when driving south early in the morning when the sun is rising in the east to prevent it from blinding my left eye.

I can also control the windshield shade in front of me by raising or lowering it with another switch, as necessary when the sun rises and sets when driving into it. This is convenient when driving east in the morning or west in the evening.

By lowering or raising the shades on one or both sides of the cockpit, you can make driving more comfortable. It is much more convenient to do this with electric shades. The big advantage of having power cockpit shades is that when you are driving solo or your passenger is napping, you can raise and lower the passenger side windshield and side shades from the driver’s seat.

This is a huge advantage when the sun is rising in the morning, setting in the evening, or when the sun is shining in from the passenger side of the bus to the driver’s seat. It is too far to reach, so instead of waking up your copilot or pulling over in a safe place along the side of the road to raise or lower the shade, you can remotely control the shades yourself without getting out of your seat.

Of all the improvements I made to my bus since I bought it, this is one of my favorite upgrades. I love being able to turn day into night with the flip of a switch. The old shades were getting old, dusty, and brittle, so I had to do something anyway, and because I always wanted power shades this worked out to be perfect timing for me.

An adjustment cord broke on one of my old shades shortly after I bought the bus and I knew it was only a matter of time before the others would break. I didn’t want to have to deal with repairing them, one at a time as they broke while on a trip. Not only that, when taking a nap during the day, as I sometimes do, the bus is much darker than ever before because zero light can get through these nightshades.

If you are upgrading your interior, this is something you should consider due to the convenience of raising and lowering them with the flick of a switch and the professional look of these shades, as they dress up the interior of a bus. They also will not gather dust like the pleated shades which is important if you have asthma or allergies.

Also, if your current bus electric shades are getting worn out, as they do over time, these replacement shades can be made to fit any window. I like the Shade Smith shades due to their simplicity and nice looks. They are also very easy to install. Almost any Bus Nut should be able to install their own. Also, if you like them in your bus, you can also install them in your house.

You can visit Shade Smith's website for more information at www.ShadeSmithCA.com.

Article written by Gary Hatt

Since July 2012, Gary Hatt has been the Publisher of Bus Conversion Magazine. Gary does most of his own work on his bus with the help of mechanic friends. He has owned tents, truck campers, travel trailers, and stick-n-staple motor-homes until he bought his first bus in 1997 which was a 1972 MCI MC-7 Combo. When he had a chance to buy a 1983 MCI MC-9 Log Cabin bus with larger windows he jumped at the chance. On Thanksgiving of 2014, Gary bought a 1967 Model 08 Eagle and has since been living and traveling full time in that.

You may reach Gary Hatt at
Gary@BusConversionMagazine.com

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