Tuesday, February 04, 2020

Resource Management: and $$$ is a Precious Resource.

If you are a regular RVer, then this post might be boring. If not, this will give you a sense of the thought, planning, and expense that goes into living in an RV. One of the things we take for granted when living in a 'sticks & bricks' is resource management. We don't even think of electric power when we flip on the light or go to make coffee. And after a tough day, we think nothing of taking a long, hot shower. Not so easy in an RV.

Staying in an RV park usually means that you have 'full hookups', including water, electric, and sewer connections. Not much different than your sticks & bricks. Except that a full hookup site runs from $30 to $70 a night, unless it's a holiday week. But many people prefer to stay out in the boonies, close to nature, like in all of the Federal land out west managed by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) or in some of the beautiful state parks with no hookups, or even the overnights in a Walmart parking lot when you are traveling. Resource management can be a real problem.

While we can carry 60 gallons of fresh water, you must use it sparingly. Otherwise, you need to pack up your entire home (RV) and go find more fresh water. The waste water is just as important. The average American uses about 20 gallons of water for a shower. Two showers and a couple of sinks full of dishes, and you can use up all of your fresh water and fill your waste (gray) tank. Now you would have to pack up your home and go find a dump station. So taking "Navy showers" can conserve a lot of water. The toilet goes into the 'black' tank and fills up less quickly.

Unlike a sticks & bricks, an RV has two electrical systems. Lights, water pump, and your fridge run from a 12 volt system, which is basically your 'house' batteries. The outlets and appliances, like microwave, TV, hair dryer, and heater blower run on the 120 volt AC system, just like your house. While our motor home has a generator, they are loud, stinky, and burn thought plenty of propane. Wouldn't it be nice if the TV, microwave, hair dryer, and coffee pot could also run from the batteries? Fortunately, both battery and charger technology have improved since our coach was built in 2003. So one of my big projects before we embark is a major electrical upgrade. Many full-time RVers power their rig with solar. But we're not going there just yet.

Without getting technical, there are three battery technologies used in RVs. Regular wet-cell lead acid batteries, like your car battery, are the most common and the least expensive. Newer AGM (gel) batteries are at least twice the price and have some nice advantages. The latest battery technology is lithium. Running between $800 and $1,000 each, these are a significant investment. But they weigh less than half the others, can be recharged much faster than the others, and can be recharged thousands of times making them last seven to ten years. But batteries are only half the problem. It does not make sense to pay for lithium to run a few lights. But how do 12 volt batteries run 120 volt appliances? It is called an inverter. It changes the 12 volt battery power over to the 120 volt AC power for the outlets and appliances. Newer RVs have them, ours does not.

Being able to run much of the day on battery power and only run the generator a hour or two to recharge, makes a world of difference in quality of life in an RV. But it does come at a cost. Two lithium house batteries are $1,600. An adequately sized inverter-charger will cost $900. Throw in another $500 worth of heavy wire, fuse, and battery monitor. We are now pushing $3,000 for an electrical system upgrade before we even leave town. I guess the next thing to plan out is the budget.



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