A couple of friends have asked how I manage living full-time in such a small, mobile place. Another asked how I got water and someone else asked about my refrigerator while I was driving. So here are some explanations for those of you who are not familiar with how all of this works. It gets a little complicated because most RVs have duplicate systems for water and electric. The duplicate systems mean you can camp in luxury when you have campground hookups, but you can also live comfortably when you don’t have them.
· Electric – My motorhome has two electrical systems: one is a 12 volt system and the other is a 120 volt system.
o The 12 volt system is powered by two 6-volt batteries under my step. It powers all of the interior lights, vent fans, automatic steps, blower motors for the two furnaces, several “cigarette lighter” plugs I use to recharge things when I am operating entirely on batteries, and the inside refrigerator light. It also provides a bit of power to the refrigerator motor when it is operating on propane. When I am driving or camping without hookups, this system keeps the essential systems running. The two 6-volt batteries are recharged in several ways: by the vehicle engine when I drive, with a built-in gasoline generator, or by a converter that operates on the 120 volt system when I am plugged into an electrical hookup. I can camp several days without having to recharge the batteries, depending on how many lights I use or electronics I have to keep charged.
o The 120 volt (shore power) system is used when I am at a camping site with “electric hookups.” My vehicle has a 25 foot, 30 amp electrical cord in a utility compartment on the left rear. When I pull up and park, I go back and pull out the cord, plugging it into a receptacle. This operates my AC, televisions, and microwave, plus it runs that converter which recharges the 12 volt system. It also runs my refrigerator and freezer. I have several 110 volt outlets that will only work when I am plugged in, so without this 120 volt system, you cannot run any appliances such as a hair dryer, coffee pot, or toaster. I like to have an electric hookup because it gives me the luxuries like TV and the microwave! Sometimes, if I am on the road and want to heat something up in the microwave, I turn on my generator for a few minutes by hitting a button.
· Water – My motorhome has two water systems. One is a 60 gallon fresh water tank that you fill from an outlet on the outside with a hose and the other is “city” water system. I use special fresh water hoses that look like white garden hoses that prevent that “hose” taste in the water.
o I always keep a little water in my fresh water tank so I can wash my hands and flush the toilet while I drive. I also fill it up when my campsite does not have a city water hookup. Once in a while, I sanitize my fresh water tank by adding a cup of chlorine bleach and letting it slosh around for a day or so. I use the water for bathing and dishes only until I can refill with more fresh water. Most of the time, I feel very comfortable drinking the water from my tank because I am careful of the source I use to fill it and I keep it sanitized. There is a water pump that moves the water from the tank to the faucets.
o The second water system is a hookup on the other side of my RV that attaches to the water spigot at the specific site I park at in a campground. Almost all commercial campgrounds and many state park campgrounds have such hookups available. When you pull in and park, you just attach your water hose from the spigot to your RV, and it is pressurized, just like the water system in your house.
· Propane – I have a built-in propane tank located just behind the passenger’s seat. That means I have to take the whole vehicle in to get it refilled, but unless I am using the furnaces a lot, a fill-up will last a couple of months. The propane runs my refrigerator when I am not hooked up to electricity so my food stays frozen or cold even when I am driving or when I leave my vehicle, like I did for five days when I left it in the economy parking lot of Tampa Airport when I flew back to Ohio last Christmas. I have a three-burner stove and an oven that also run on propane. Ditto for my hot water heater and my two furnaces—one in the front and one in my bedroom. (Often, I use a small electric heater instead of the propane furnaces to save refill trips.)
· Sewer – This is probably the most discussed system on internet blogs because it can cause so many problems. (Mostly from too much TP or leaving the valve open at a full-hookup camp site.) Almost all motorhomes and trailers have two waste tanks: one for “grey” water and one for “black” water. Grey water is soapy water that goes down the drains in your kitchen and bathroom sink and shower. Black water is what goes down your toilet. Almost always your grey water tank fills up much more quickly than your black water tank. I can take showers and wash dishes each day and only need to dump grey water every 3-4 days, if I am careful. The black water tank needs to be dumped only every couple of weeks. Surprisingly, you do not need to use chemicals to keep the toilet from smelling if you use lots of water to flush.
Most of the time, I have campsites with only electric or electric and water hookups, so hooking up takes only as long as it takes to plug in a plug, hook up a water hose, and hit a button to put out my two slides.The nice thing with these dual systems is that I can camp with or without hookups and still be comfortable. The refrigerator is amazing because it switches over automatically, so you never have to worry about setting anything.
In addition, I have a control panel that tells me how full my fresh water, grey water, black water, and propane tanks are. There are also switches that turn on my water heater, water pump, and generator when I need them.
There are a lot of things that are easier in when living in a motorhome. For one thing, you can unpack your groceries in the parking lot and put them directly into the refrigerator. No hauling them home! You always have your own bathroom, and it is also nice to be able to pull into a rest area on a freeway and fix a meal and run the generator to run the AC if it is hot. Snacks and cold drinks are always handy.