Home » This New Lightweight Plastic Camper Promises A Leakless Future With No Rot

This New Lightweight Plastic Camper Promises A Leakless Future With No Rot

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If you’ve owned a typical camper for long enough, you’re almost certainly aware of what happens as your rig ages. Rubberized roofs can leak, laun panels can delaminate and rot, and walls can literally split open from water damage. I’ve shown you what can happen to an aging camper. What if you could prevent such terrible expensive failures? International RV’s LIV says it’s a solution with 100 percent composite campers with no wood to rot or rubber to leak. And the best part is the fact that these units are both inexpensive and lightweight.

I just got back from Indiana’s RV Open House dealer show. This year was very different than last year’s RV Open House. Last year, vintage RVs were on full display and the event was so huge that there were beer tents every 50 feet or so. There was even a concert from Florida Georgia Line and Nelly. Yeah, one of the duo’s last concerts (if not the last concert) was an RV trade show! The pandemic was a boom for the RV industry. Americans who couldn’t go to resorts or take cruises instead bought RVs and hit the open road. This resulted in all-time record high RV sales. Now, those sales have more or less pulled back to their pre-pandemic levels.

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Because of this, the RV Open House was less of a party and more of a serious show geared toward the dealers selling the units. The beer tents were gone and media had to be escorted around and kicked out at a certain time.

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Despite the dramatic change in atmosphere, I was able to catch some of the latest developments in the RV space. You will soon read about how Harbinger and Thor Industries have a plan for electric motorhomes that should blow developments from Winnebago and Grounded out of the water. First, I want to show you one of the coolest campers I saw at the show that you can buy right now.

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Each year, Thor Industries sets up a massive display on the grounds of the RV/MH Hall of Fame in Elkhart, Indiana. Outside of the display on the entrance road to the museum, you’ll find a smattering of smaller RV conglomerates and independent RV builders. I love checking out what the independents are doing because they often love to stand out by doing something the big guys aren’t.

The Problem

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International RV

LIV, which stands for Lightweight Innovative Vehicle, certainly qualifies as different. At the RV Open House, I almost missed LIV’s display. From a distance, the campers look like any other travel trailer out there. But when you get close, you realize there’s something a bit different. The honeycomb texture of the walls piqued my curiosity:

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I spoke with LIV representative Brian Walczak. He told me that LIV was created two years ago in Americus, Georgia, to solve the problems faced by RV owners around America. As I said, if you’ve ever owned a typical camper before then you know how frustrating they can be to live with. You could follow maintenance to the letter and still find your trailer leaking water after less than ten years of use. That water damage is catastrophic, too, destroying everything in its path from the roof to the walls and the floor.

Nearly every camper my family has owned over the decades has sprung water leaks and usually, those leaks spell the end of the camper. If you catch the damage early enough, as my family did with our 2007 Adirondack 31BH, you could save the trailer. But that was a $7,500 job and it was closer to a patch than a true repair. Even today, as I walk through rows of trailers at RV shows, I see a lot of campers are still built with the same materials that can fail and leak over time.

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Something Different

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There are exceptions to this, of course, from campers with metal bodies and campers built out of molded fiberglass. LIV is showing another way to defeat leaks: Thermoplastic. Walczak tells me that every LIV trailer is built from top to bottom from a thick thermoplastic honeycomb that is ultrasonic-welded together, making for one immense unbroken shell.

LIV doesn’t just use thermoplastic for the shell, either, but for its trailers’ floors and interiors that are also ultrasonic-welded to the structure. Inside of these trailers, you’ll notice no fittings or fasteners holding those plastic pieces together.

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International RV

 

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In building these trailers basically entirely out of thick plastic, LIV says its trailers are so strong that they don’t need a traditional frame. Indeed, peek under a LIV and you’ll find a small chassis that the plastic box rides on. At the show, LIV marketed these trailer bodies as being so strong that they’re like a unibody car. LIV also showed photos of a LIV stacked on top of another LIV, a demonstration of roof strength.

I toured a few LIV models that were on display at the RV Open House. Stepping inside, I was most surprised by how normal these trailers’ interiors are. Here’s the inside of a LIV 201FIT:

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Ignore the textured plastic and what you get isn’t much different than what you’d buy from one of the big brands. Even the baby LIV 19BHD, which has a total length of 21 feet, has a full bathroom, bunk beds, a kitchen, a dinette, and a master bed. The LIV 19BHD even has decent holding tanks for its size with 25 gallons for fresh water, 30 gallons for waste, and 30 gallons of gray water.

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Standard features include an awning, a power tongue jack, a stereo, and an electric fireplace. Other factory equipment includes a two-burner stove, LED ambient lighting, an instant water heater, an air-conditioner, and deck mats to cover up that plastic floor. The options list is short and includes a lift kit, knobby tires, solar power, a lithium battery, carpet, and a galvanized chassis.

You can get all of this in a trailer with a dry weight of 2,250 pounds and a current starting price of $18,990. To put this into comparison, one of the cheapest Dutchmen trailers, the Coleman Rubicon 1200RK sells for around $15,000 that thing is 13 feet long, 1,682 pounds, has no bathroom, and it’s so tiny that you cannot even stand up in it. The LIV 19BHD has 6 feet, and 4 inches of headroom.

Ok, that comparison probably isn’t fair. How about the Aspen Trail Mini 17BH below?

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It’s about the same total length as the LIV 19BHD but is built out of traditional materials, costs $23,104, and weighs 3,069 pounds. In fact, I toured this very trailer, and at least after my short inspection, I’d say the LIV’s interior and build are miles ahead.

Now, look at the LIV 19BHD. Sure, the exposed furniture and trim fasteners aren’t pretty and the colors are equally drab, but unlike the Aspen Trail, nothing felt like it would snap off if you looked at it the wrong way. It feels like function over form:

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Something For Almost Everyone

Currently, LIV offers a lot of sizing options from that baby 19BHD to the large 26RB (below), which comes in with a total length of 29 feet, 8 inches, and a weight of 4180 pounds. The features and options are largely the same across LIV’s line. In going with a larger trailer, you get more space, more places for people to sit and sleep, and larger appliances. The larger models also offer up to 6 feet, 7 inches of standing room.

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International RV
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International RV

Walzcak tells me that the company also has an even smaller model in its pipeline. Prospective customers have reached out looking for a trailer they could tow with vehicles like a Volkswagen Golf TDI or various wagons. This demand for a plastic trailer that could be towed by a smaller vehicle is great enough that the company plans on rolling out a 1,300-pound model in the near future. Sadly, an example of that trailer was not at the RV Open House.

One question I have is if how a plastic trailer would hold up to temperature cycles. Will it warp in high heat? LIV trailers went on sale in 2022, where the company sold 42 units. As of June 2023, an additional 105 units have been sold. Some of these have sold in hot places like Arizona, where at least one owner reports that their trailer is holding up just fine. Again, the sample size is small, but it does appear that LIV has happy customers. Most of LIV’s current customers live in Florida.

As of present, you can buy a LIV from a dealer in Americus, Georgia as well as a dealer in Tennessee, two dealers in Florida, and one dealer in Indiana. I’ll be watching this brand and I hope to be able to test a LIV one day. At least on paper, this is a great concept. But, time will tell if thermoplastic is the durability hero the RV world needs.

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(Images: Author, unless otherwise noted.)

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06dak
06dak
5 months ago

I didn’t know about this company… very interesting, and reasonably priced! They don’t have the “standardish” layout I prefer, but looks to have many of the most popular options. I agree with another though, their cargo capacity seems really low. 1000ish pounds on a 29′ trailer??? That seems dangerously low! Also, their tank capacities are on the small side.

Pedro
Pedro
5 months ago

Have you covered Sylvan sport? They make really interesting campers and trailers. A little pricey, but really inniovative. https://www.sylvansport.com/

Mike Smith
Mike Smith
5 months ago

When I worked at Volvo on their SuperTruck 2 project they partnered with Wabash trailers to come up with a lightweight and aerodynamic trailer to go with the truck. The prototype trailer they came up with used what looks like the same skin-bonded-over-honeycomb-thermoplastic construction for the walls of the trailer as these little RV’s. I’m impressed/happy to see the technology getting used in broader applications!

Scott Ross
Scott Ross
5 months ago

Its nice to see a more affordable camper trailer. Im sorry its like there was a streak of expensive ones. Keep finding the affordable campers for everyone else.

Shop-Teacher
Shop-Teacher
5 months ago

Now that is an intriguing camper. I love how low it is. So many new campers are shockingly tall and draggy. I could see picking one of these up in a few years maybe.

Ben
Ben
5 months ago

Looks like a reasonable layout and as someone whose trailer is all fiberglass panels joined together I can appreciate this, but I have serious questions about how plastic will age. Sure, existing trailer materials degrade too, but plastic is notorious for failing in the sun. Good thing most rvs don’t spend 99% of their time outdoors. 😉

That said, if, and it’s a big if, they solved that and these do legitimately age better than other trailers this could be the future of rvs. That’s a great price for a small volume manufacturer.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
5 months ago
Reply to  Ben

There are a great many kinds of plastic, some of which see little to no noticeable degradation from ultraviolet or oxygen. Or they could have painted it – an automotive style paint job would successfully protect the plastic – look at the thermoplastic used on old Saturns.

Ben
Ben
4 months ago
Reply to  Tristan Hixon

Fair point, although the Saturn body panels weren’t structural so if the paint was damaged it didn’t junk the entire car. And even automotive paint doesn’t tend to hold up well to 24/7 UV exposure, at least not in the long-term.

Here’s hoping they listened to their materials engineer (you’d be surprised how many companies don’t) and spec’d something that will stand the test of time.

Ok_Im_here
Ok_Im_here
5 months ago

I’m super puzzled how a bunch of people can stand on top of it but the carrying capacity is less than 1100 lbs. I like the thing–the bunkhouse model appeals to me..I wish the largest one came in a bunk house. Also wish they made one with slides. and…can it have a higher carrying capacity? I’ve just noticed that lots of trailers are pretty thin on how much they can carry once you tank up. People are like “but you aren’t supposed to tank up and drive with it”, but um, that’s the very definition of boondocking–load the fridge, fill with water: 30 gal x 8lb = 210lb, that’s almost 25% of the weight there. It doesn’t take much to fill these things up to capacity. And the interiors are ugly. That said…they are affordable and if they are indeed water tight and low maintenance, then it’s something to look into.

Paul B
Paul B
5 months ago

Honeycomb panels are at risk of leaks at the panel edges. Sealing the edged is super important.

If water gets into the cells in the honeycomb, a few freeze-thaw cycles and the skin will detach. This leads to a weaker problem.

Same issue if you poke a hole in it.

As long as they took care, honeycomb panels are incredibly strong for their weight and this is a good use case.

Tristan Hixon
Tristan Hixon
5 months ago
Reply to  Paul B

Well, they are ultrasonically welded, so the panel edges should be about as sealed as they can be.

Slow Joe Crow
Slow Joe Crow
5 months ago

I like,the idea and I’m happier with the fiberglass boat aesthetic than the discount furniture warehouse look of a lot of mainstream campers. Since I have a pickup weight isn’t a concern but leaks and ability to survive bumpy roads is key. This is why my current inclination is a fiberglass trailer although I would definitely look ant a LIV if they had a dealer in the PNW.

B L
B L
5 months ago

Does it have something that stops it from getting brittle in the sun? Because that’s the problem I’ve had with most plastic that gets used outside, even if it’s designed to be in the sun – it eventually becomes brittle and will break.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago

The only way I find a camper to make sense, is that I buy a modestly sized one that meets my family’s needs, and then say “Hey guys guess what, this is how we vacation from now on!”. It would need to basically last a lifetime, as I’m not spending more on a camper than I would on hotel rooms over it’s lifespan. And I’m not buying a damn truck to tow one around either.

This actually makes a lot of sense, provided that it really does last far, far longer than the typical crap out there. We don’t own any property outside of our house, but know a number of people with tiny camps; this would be perfect to bring to a number of places we go to without burdening the main house. I could probably get use from something like this for 4-5 weekends and a full week or two a year. I don’t want anything fancy, just something functional that doesn’t rot.

Manwich Sandwich
Manwich Sandwich
5 months ago

The only way I find a camper to make sense, is that I buy a modestly sized one that meets my family’s needs, and then say “Hey guys guess what, this is how we vacation from now on!”. It would need to basically last a lifetime, as I’m not spending more on a camper than I would on hotel rooms over it’s lifespan. And I’m not buying a damn truck to tow one around either.”

Those are the reasons why I never ended up buying a camping trailer. I do some camping vacations using a tent. But for other trips, I want to stay in a hotel/motel.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago

I recently experienced tent camping for a couple nights with my two young children. I can see the benefit of a camper now, lol.

The real use case would be at my wife’s parents tiny house in NC (where they keep inviting us to come down but we obviously do NOT fit) or my wife’s grandparents camp on Lake Champlain, also a tiny house, where we also do not fit. Right now both places are pitch a tent or nothing. That camp is only 2 hours away, so we could probably use a camper 4-5 times a year there alone. The tiny house in NC we outright avoid because sleeping in a tent in the summer in NC sounds objectively awful. A camper with AC would solve that issue. Neither location has hotels nearby, or at least a hotel anyone would ever want to stay in.

With the current camper climate of “spend 40k+ or get a total piece of crap (or both)” this at least seems viable.

Robert Simons
Robert Simons
5 months ago

I think many times “buy a used enclosed trailer and mount a 6000 btw window unit” seems like a reasonable half measure. I grew up camping. There are a lot of luxuries I can do without. But AC in summer nights is soooo nice.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Simons

A window AC is the cheapest method, but roof mount RV AC units are self-contained and aren’t all that expensive. And they’re even cheaper when you find them used.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago
Reply to  Robert Simons

Honestly, while a tent isn’t ideal up on Lake Champlain, it’s manageable at least.

I do not want to sleep in a tent outside Beaufort, NC.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

I bought a trailer specifically because I travel a lot, multiple weekends a month, and felt like I was spending way too much on hotel rooms. In practice, it hasn’t worked out – campgrounds either don’t allow check-ins after a certain time of day, which makes it impossible for me to get there, or they require a certain minimum night number, or they don’t return phone calls when you try to reserve, or there just isn’t one conveniently close to where I’m going. I’ve used it twice in this year and have continued booking hotel rooms otherwise, going to give it one more season next year and see if I can get some heavier use out of it, and, if not, it will go up for sale by the end of 2024. You’d think having a trailer would give you more travel flexibility vs booking hotels, but my experience has been the exact opposite.

Col Lingus
Col Lingus
5 months ago

For me the issue is the fact that most places I visit have rooms that start at $350 to $500 per night. And up.
I don’t want one of these ever, because towing shit around the country is not my thing.
But I guess it’s better than being eaten by a bear if you think about it.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago
Reply to  Col Lingus

I’m not a big fan of towing things, or even the premise of towing.

In the case of something like this, it would probably live at the family property up north as sort of a home base for us, and then I would bring it home with us for when we’d go somewhere else, so at least I wouldn’t have to tow it somewhere every time it gets used.

NosrednaNod
NosrednaNod
5 months ago

“Hey guys guess what, this is how we vacation from now on!”

That’s the problem.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago
Reply to  NosrednaNod

Haha, yeah, that would sort of be the issue for me. When I spend money on things, I feel the need to obsessively get use out of it (fair I think). And I don’t necessarily want to feel guilty when I opt to do something that leaves the camper behind.

We’re the types that do a lot of preliminary vacation planning, but then hardly ever book anything due to cost, time, whatever. I’m not sure if having something like this would promote more unique trips, or less. My guess is that it would open up a lot more “free” trips to various properties we have access to. But I also would guess that it would keep us from doing anything other than visiting the same places over and over again. The question is, would we ever book those unique trips even if we didn’t have something like this? I don’t know.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
5 months ago

I’m with you. I just happened to get a nice old Coleman pop-up gifted to me recently and it is awesome. My dad gave it to my uncle, who used it for several years and gave it to me. He re-canvased it, added solar, and most importantly did not just let it sit and rot. I love how light it is, and it is not so fancy that I feel like I am still roughing it to an extent. If I am ever in the market, I’d give these a serious look. It’s is just the no-BS solution I typically look for. I’ll take substance/rugged simplicity over cushier options any day.

Last edited 5 months ago by Boxing Pistons
Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago
Reply to  Boxing Pistons

I’ve always been interested in pop-ups, but my understanding is that they can be built pretty poorly. Your’s sounds like an older one, so that might be the difference. That and clearly it was well-maintained. Curious if any of the newer ones are well-made.

Boxing Pistons
Boxing Pistons
5 months ago

Oh, build quality is all over the map on pop-ups. Lots of them are absolute junk. Mine is an ‘85 Coleman which seems to be in a sweet spot for that brand. It sports some quality materials and leading (for the time) features.

Opa Carriker
Opa Carriker
5 months ago

Mercedes, Back in the 80’s I was stationed in Germany and had the opportunity to attend a camper exhibition. One of the campers that I remember well was made of similar materials as this one featured. What made it exceptional was that it was a fold down collapsible design that when completely folded was you ended up with a camper the size of a trailer. It was about 3′ high when folded. I don’t remember much about ammenities but do remember that it did have a commode and sink.

Does this ring any bells for you?

OverlandingSprinter
OverlandingSprinter
5 months ago

I was going to ask about the R value of the plastic roof and walls, but the photos of the undercarriage tell me this isn’t winter worthy. At least the plumbing would be easy to replace.

Were I a trailer buyer, I’d cross-shop this with Scamp or Casita, as these other brands also offer lightweight TTs.

Still, an innovative use of materials, and a great find.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago

Winter? Hah! I doubt this is even spring and fall worthy.

I still love the idea of using durable but inexpensive materials.

But I dismissed these from my shopping list a while ago because they’re not made for serious use anywhere north of Georgia.

LastStandard
LastStandard
5 months ago

Pleasantly surprised to see this isn’t another $75k ‘overland’ trailer.

Nic Periton
Nic Periton
5 months ago

Why do I keep thinking about Trabants?

Forbestheweirdo
Forbestheweirdo
5 months ago

So it has bunk beds, a master that looks roughly queen sized, then does the table fold into a bed as well? If so I may have to look into these. The main reason we do not have one is because we’ve got 3 kids, and a Sienna, so max towing is 3500, and very few trailers with a bathroom can sleep 5 and stay under that. This might fit what we want. Not going to lie, I read all the RV articles here, but usually not with any real intent, just out of curiosity. This one I might actually be interested in.

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago

I’m in the same boat. I have a Voyager with a 3,600# tow rating, and two kids, so I would need something both light and sleeps 4. I also have no interest in towing a literal apartment on wheels.

I’m borderline shocked by what LIV has to offer considering price. Fiberglass trailers are pretty pricey for what you get, and I absolutely refuse to buy a hastily put together, leaky POS made from garbage materials. This is like… honestly not a bad deal? Currently their 19 footers start at around 19k? This is the first time I’ve seen a camper product that I would genuinely consider buying (given… ahem a little more money in the ol’ bank account).

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

Not a bad use of space, either, like that bathroom looks decently sized for a trailer in this class, has an actual shower stall instead of a wet bath and there’s a little bit of floor space around the toilet and sink, and it isn’t like they did it at the expense of sufficient living space either

Taargus Taargus
Taargus Taargus
5 months ago
Reply to  Ranwhenparked

The layout seems solid to me too. Permanent bunks for the kids are perfect, and way better than having to convert a dining space to a bed every night. A lot of the smaller/midsize campers I’ve seen seem to cater more to couples than people with kids, the assumption that families are going to buy a full size truck and a massive trailer. We are not that family, haha. So I’m just glad to see someone is trying to provide something in the middle that’s useful for more than a couple.

Spartanjohn113
Spartanjohn113
5 months ago

I’ve been reading way too much about Scamp campers following Mercedes’ greatest drunk purchase ever. With a Ford Maverick hybrid as my daily, a 13′ fiberglass rig would suit my needs and come in under the 2,000 lb tow capacity. But this? It would fit my significant other’s hopes for space and comfort perfectly, especially since she’s not as hardcore of a camper as I am.

In a perfect world, LIV makes a slightly smaller camper that works for my trucklet…or Ford makes a PHEV Maverick with improved towing capacity. I’d also settle for a hybrid Toyota Stout or the PHEV Ranger being brought goddamn stateside.

Ranwhenparked
Ranwhenparked
5 months ago

2250lbs is really good for that much space with a kitchen and bathroom, approaches British caravans for svelteness

JShaawbaru
JShaawbaru
5 months ago

This may be the first camper article where I actually OVERestimated how much it would cost. Still much more than I’d pay for a room on wheels that I’d use a few times a year at most, but significantly less than I’d expected.

A. Barth
A. Barth
5 months ago

One question I have is if how a plastic trailer would hold up to temperature cycles. Will it warp in high heat?

If memory serves, thermoplastics need to be above 100C / 212F before they will start to deform: low-density polyethylene (LDPE) is in that neighborhood, but most need at least 130C or higher.

Normal temperatures on the earth’s surface shouldn’t be a problem, but it may deform if there is a fire.

Usernametaken
Usernametaken
5 months ago
Reply to  A. Barth

So, don’t park in the sun in the summer anywhere in the Southwest and it shouldn’t melt. Probably.

James Mason
James Mason
5 months ago

My brand new 2021 Aspen Trail 17BH was an enormous POS when I bought it. Parts falling off, wiring coming loose, shoddy construction all around, missed welds, etc. It took many weekends of tearing stuff apart, fastening appropriately, and modifying things to make it ‘good’.

Toecutter
Toecutter
5 months ago

Paul Elkins, a former Boeing engineer, built the bicycle equivalent of this. See the following:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZiejAhol4Ps

I plan to eventually build something similar with its own battery pack and perhaps 500W of solar panels integrated. If I ever end up homeless again, that would be a very comfortable way to live as such, and I could tow it with my electric velomobile. It would be great for bike touring. Alternatively, once I buy a plot of land in the boonies, I could live out of such a thing while building more permanent shelter.

Cheap Bastard
Cheap Bastard
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Intriguing. Dunno how far I could pull that 60 lbs + other stuff on anything but flat and paved road but if I’m not in a hurry it could be a fun way to spend a few days sans hotels.

Now cover the outside in that silver foil insulation to give it a proper air stream look.

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago
Reply to  Toecutter

Thanks for the link. I love playing with coroplast. As I get it free from work, I can be imaginative: mistakes only cost me time

When time comes to build that live-in, you could do worse than coroplast backed by 2” blue board insulation. Slap some adhesive aluminum duct-cover on the outside and it would last for years

Last edited 5 months ago by TOSSABL
PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

Coroplast is epically cool stuff. I’m wishing I could find it around here more reasonably priced and you’re getting it free.

Last edited 5 months ago by PaysOutAllNight
TOSSABL
TOSSABL
5 months ago

Check your local commercial HVAC contractors. We constantly get new units shipped to us with coroplast protecting the coils. Drive by their shop & see if they put out pallets for someone to pickup (they don’t want to deal with that trash). If so, they may well be open to you hauling off their coroplast also.

-the smaller units for homes are usually in cardboard: you’re looking for large commercial or industrial units. The high-end stuff is more likely to have the fancy protections. Can’t hurt to ask. Often an offer of a good 6-pack will get a relationship established with their yard guy. Asking around local hvac supply houses could get you a lead on a friendly outfit big enough to generate lots of waste—but not so big they do their own recycling.

PaysOutAllNight
PaysOutAllNight
5 months ago
Reply to  TOSSABL

No luck yet, but thanks for the lead.

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