Roger Lehet
September 25, 2022

Cozy Wood Heat For a Bus Conversion

Today’s world is full of wonder as well as uncertainty. One day, life seems simple and carefree, the next day could be a disaster. There are numerous reasons to live in accordance with the PREPPER thought process, the idea that if the “grid” were to fail, life would have to be centered on nothing more than survival. We have irrefutable proof on a near-daily basis that “being prepared” may be the difference between life and death. It certainly could mean living with or without the basic daily needs we have all grown accustomed to.

For a moment, let’s look at what could be affected if this were to happen. Throughout our day we rely on electricity for nearly everything we do. From hot showers to hot coffee, as well as for safe drinkable water. Of course, there are things like gasoline, natural gas, oil, telephones, laundry, cooking, refrigeration, heat, and shelter to name a few.

So what would happen to our daily lives if all of these were cut off?? How do we make our homes comfortable in the worst of times? Many people ask me why I focus on doom and silly. Just look at Hurricane Sandy or Katrina. Look at Joplin Missouri. During a recent journey through America’s heartland, I saw the destruction still quite evident after two years.

Do we really need to look any further than the skies for the possibility of serious issues which could cripple our high-tech, electronically controlled food chain, and infrastructure?? From sunspots to electromagnetic pulse events, our world could become back to nature really fast.

The focus of this article is how bus conversion owners can be self-sustaining by examining a more streamlined level of consumption in every aspect of life. You can make your bus a rolling escape unit and still have many of the comforts of life as we know it today. We will look at items such as water purification, 12V LED lighting, heating, cooking, baking, hot water production and producing electricity from the heat of an on-board wood stove, composting toilets, rainwater collection, rooftop gardening, solar showers, and solar panels to name a few.

We would like to invite people’s comments, and feature stories directly related to getting and being prepared if disaster strikes. We would also like to invite bus owners who are considering this type of retrofit to their existing bus to come forward and do these projects with us, and of course, have your bus featured in a future edition of Bus Conversion Magazine.

Our first article will be Wood Heat for a bus conversion. We will use a stove my wife and I invented during a really bad time in life. After losing a wood stove shop of 25 years in the same town, we were really on the down and out. We lived aboard a 30-foot Bayliner Contessa Sunbridge in 1986 for those who care to look her up, LOL.

The first several months were great; we had broken away from society, and the limits of having a job and home to pay for. The summer months of fishing and beer drinking gave way to bloody cold damp and windy conditions which last some nine months here in Seattle. We knew firsthand just how miserable and wet life must be in an alley, ours was on the water.

Long story short, we invented a wood-burning stove for the boat, and began learning to go back to the days of old, and in doing so gained much in the way of knowhow and security. In many ways, I could not much care if the grid went down, as long as our family can be prepared for it. Since then we have discovered that, from fire can come many of the creature comforts we are used to now, and without some forethought could be lost in a heartbeat.

For example, we are now able to create electricity from the heat generated by our wood stove, we can also produce hot water and cook and bake all at the same time. Hydronic heating or in-floor heat also becomes possible along with domestic hot water with water coils. Have you ever imagined powering up your battery bank with a combination of solar panels and thermo-electric power?  Now you can.

So how does this experience on a boat relate to that of a bus conversion? It is exactly the same as being on the water but on land. Imagine if you will, being far out in the wilderness with four dead batteries and two flat tires. You are cold and wet, hungry and tired, and worse yet your children are as well.

But you thought ahead and now you have the option of scrounging wood off the forest floor to build a fire in your coach. As the coach begins to be comfortably warm so as to avoid hypothermia (which can kill at 72 degrees) you begin smelling the food you are preparing for a nutritious and long overdue meal. All the while your stove is producing power to give your batteries a charge so you can get the tires pumped up and the engine started.......emergency averted.

For many, this may sound like fantasy, but this example of an emergency could become the reality of life if only a few things continue to turn south for our country and our economy. From natural disasters to drought to food shortages, even earthquakes, and tornado strikes, your bus could save your life.

Water cooled teg.
Air-cooled teg.

The first component we will discuss is a wood stove, the heartbeat of our system. Many stoves

“could” be used for this, but we feel The Kimberly is best suited for this purpose. It is small and portable weighing only 56 pounds, and measuring 10 inches in diameter, and 25.5 inches tall. It can safely be installed in as little as 22 x 34 inches (as per UL safety ratings for residential applications).  Some installations may be done tighter than that with special arrangements.

The stove is vented using a 3” double-wall pipe common to the stove industry. This unit can be removed for use in multiple applications with ease and expediency. Add to this the thermoelectric generator and you have 12V or 110V power from the heat of your stove. One of these generators can be used with water coils to make hot water and also to cool the generator for better power production. Next, we add the stovetop oven for baking, and a 12V blower to circulate the air around the coach.

In the next issue, we will go step by step through the technology behind this wood-fired, preparedness technology, and soon will feature a “makeover” of the heating system in an antique bus being “prepped” for life in hard times.

Article written by Roger Lehet

Inventor Roger Lehet, is the founder, owner, and Chief Executive Pyromaniac of Unforgettable Fire™. Developed out of necessity for his own family, Roger's little Kimberly™ wood stoves now heat buses, boats and vans. Roger is currently focused on creating sustainable energy solutions to empower all Americans to survive and thrive, while at the same time being gentle to the environment. Read more about Roger at: 

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