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Facts To Consider Before Making An RV Your Home - Part 2 of 3 Hubs

Updated on July 6, 2015


The journey of a thousand miles begins by putting it into drive. When you are ready to travel and know for certain where you want to travel to, it is a really good idea to map out your journey and do your homework before you put it into drive. I'm not just making reference to the map book or google maps but all the things that you may need access to along the way. A place to fill or top off your fresh water, or a rest area that allows overnight parking and possibly has a dump station for your grey and black water holding tanks. If you're going on a short journey then simple driving directions and the resources that you have on board will probably be the only things that you need to get to your destination. If the journey is going to be a long road trip that last for several days and nights then it will be vital to make that list and do your homework before you begin. Here's two different situations that I can demonstrate from my own travels to help you understand option A vs option B. Once upon a time we decided to close up the RV and make a run for the East Coast. We had been docked in one location for a couple of weeks and just decided to pull out the USA map and literally dart toward the Atlantic Ocean but knew that we would need an itinerary. This short journey had a starting point and simply needed a destination that would accommodate us for a week or two at an RV park with low rates and plenty of amenities and still be just a couple hour drive to the Atlantic Ocean. We looked at all the parks listed in our travel guide and called each one to find out rates and what they all had to offer. Finally, we needed to know about availability. How long could we stay by booking our reservations before arriving at their gate. We chose Columbia, South Carolina in an RV park called The Barnyard. Yes, that sounds crazy but it turned out to be an awesome stay with everything we wanted and it was the lowest rate of all the RV parks in the 50 mile radius of where we wanted to be for all of our tour visits. The park informed us that we could stay for a week by pre registering but once we arrived and spent a few days there we began to see many other sites open up and the park management informed us we could stay longer if we didn't mind moving a few feet around the corner to a different space within the park. A simple 30 minute move was all it took for us to decide to stay for another week. On a much longer journey with very little pre-planning there were many unexpected things happening along the way that did not make the trip a wonderful experience. This journey would be 700 miles of very trying lessons that had to be learned the hard way to really become a true RV road warrior that lived to tell of the battle. Having no itinerary meant driving a house on wheels through some areas that were not RV friendly. The first uh-oh...was pulling into a Walmart parking lot to scope out some local stations for fuel and a fresh water tank top-off. Most of the time this would not be a big deal but this parking lot was literally a MAZE of small curbs with trees and shrubs that filled the parking lot so drastically there was NO Turning around in a 60 foot long RV and Trailer! I went straight and that led to the semi tractor trailer loading dock in the back of the store where there was only 1 dock that had a truck backed up to it and the space I had to turn around in meant turning and backing up to the dock would be the only egress from that lot. Ultimately, I made several slow attempts to make the tight turn around but in the end I managed to bend the chrome tail pipe on the RV while backing up in that very small space! Lesson learned - look ahead and if it doesn't look big enough to land a C-4 cargo plane, I don't go near it!!! After hours of driving and nightfall very near, there was no sign of exits or roadside rest areas that allowed over night parking. The combination of no place to pull off and rest, dark night, heavy rainfall, oncoming head lights, and road construction that had us in one lane with concrete barriers on both sides of the narrow interstate made for some very stressful driving and I will be the first to say, "Don't let yourself get into that situation!" It's not fun and it is not safe. Far too late in the early morning hours of the second day of that journey, I found a public rest area that was open and allowed extended parking. They even had an RV service area that included dumpsters, a dump station for grey and black water with a non-potable rinse station and then obviously they had vending areas and a welcome center with maps and tourist information. Simply getting off the road and being able to park and get some sleep was the best thing to happen during the first two days of this trip. I will share more of the excitement from this journey in the sections to come. I mentioned in part 1 that I would write about topics that readers have a serious interest in learning more about and the first place topic that has been chosen by readers is the RV electrical system. I'm going to call this section the Kilowatt section and get started.

On Board Electrical System / Controls

Section of Coach Control Panel
Section of Coach Control Panel

Kilo-Watt / On Board Electrical System & Controls

Modern Class A RV's have a complex electrical system that is engineered and built to supply electricity for everything on board using a simple AC plug and land line source or the on board batteries, power inverter and / or the coach generator. This section will look at all of these options for power independently from the source, to wiring, to components and control panels to the final outlets and hard wired devices that will use the electricity.

Electrical and Levels Monitoring Panel

Monitor Panel
Monitor Panel

RV Electrical Basics

The basic system for electrical power in your A class RV is simple 12 volt batteries. There's typically two for the engine starter / block heater and then a basement compartment with anywhere from four to eight batteries connected to a DC to AC power inverter. This basic system allows you to use small house appliances that require an alternating current (AC) from your direct current (DC) batteries. When used alone, this basic system will only provide power until the charge inside the batteries drain to a low level and they shut down until they can be recharged to a full level. This basic system is set up to be recharged by having the main 30 amp or 50 amp power cord and delayed start incoming (AC) supply cord plugged into a land line power supply. The basic battery set up will also recharge by starting up the on board generator and using automated power select grid to direct a steady charge to the systems 12 volt battery matrix. If you need long term or extended stay AC power for not only your small house appliances but larger units such as your roof top air conditioning and do not have access to a land line power outlet then you should run the on board generator that is designed to power everything on board your RV and can be manually selected from the power control panels to be your main electrical power source. Most A class RV generators operate on diesel fuel, oil and lots of clean air flow. These units can run all the time even while driving the rig down the road and they use just a small fraction of the fuel that is required to run a big pusher diesel engine. The main thing of importance to know about your generator is to keep the oil level full, the antifreeze full, and all the filters clean. There's a filter for the oil, the air and the fuel line and any that get clogged or too dirty can put strain on the generator or even cause it to stop running. The ultimate system for electrical supply is the 30 or 50 amp power cord supply that plugs directly into a camp power outlet and gives AC power to the main electrical sub station. This sub station routes the power to a soft start (time - delay) switch that once activated will distribute power to the inverter batteries for a slow - trickle charge and to the main power breaker box and small dash fuse box that is usually located in the bedroom area of the rig. (See the photos for examples of all these systems.) They're almost always interconnected and will either automatically activate depending on the power need vs power supply available or can be manually activated at the main control panels for maintenance or specific needs determined by the operator of the rig.

3 Electrical Supply Systems

12 volt batteries
12 volt batteries
12 volt battery to AC inverter
12 volt battery to AC inverter
Generator and auto select power source panel.
Generator and auto select power source panel.
50 amp power cord and time delay selector switch.
50 amp power cord and time delay selector switch.
Main AC Breaker Panel from 50 amp power cord and dash fuses from the batteries to appliance circuits.
Main AC Breaker Panel from 50 amp power cord and dash fuses from the batteries to appliance circuits.
Battery Disconnect Manual Switch
Battery Disconnect Manual Switch

Using the basic battery system is simple and can be monitored for charge level, activated for use or shut off for storage or charging.

Power matrix monitor for all 3 supply systems
Power matrix monitor for all 3 supply systems

The power matrix monitor allows the operator to view battery charge level, AC and DC levels and manually setup for charging, inverter power, main 50 amp power, generator power or a power share setting.

General battery condition can be checked just by pushing a button on the monitor panel.
General battery condition can be checked just by pushing a button on the monitor panel.

In addition to battery charge level, this quick view monitor also allows the operator to check the levels of the fresh water tank, the grey and black water holding tanks and the main LP tank. The main On / Off power switch for the water pump is on this panel.

Home Sweet Home
Home Sweet Home

Outside lights, leveling jacks and other outside components that require basic 12 volt power are controlled by switches on the dash that the operator can control while driving. The 3 systems have a main control and monitoring matrix panel. Each system has a separate compartment with a self contained control panel and network of wire harnesses that connect to relay boxes with fuses or surge protectors. Some appliances are equipped to run on AC / DC power or can be operated on liquid propane gas if the electrical supply is suddenly shut off. Appliances like the refrigerator and the hot water heater can be operated on electric power or LP gas. Most modern appliances are equipped with Auto sensors that will select whatever power source is available and automatically use that system for power. To conclude this section on electrical power I would recommend having a simple AC plug in power meter that shows the level of AC power at the plug in and it will read low in the red or green in the 110 - 120 volt range or red in the too high range. Keep a good supply of replacement bulbs for all the outside driving lights and inside lights because they do burn out and need to be replaced. Keep a good supply of dash fuses in the various amp ranges from 5 amp, 15 amp, 20 amp and so on. Something as simple as not being able to activate a slide out could be a blown dash fuse. This concludes part 2 and thanks for coming back to check it out. It's been a long road and part 3 is in the works with an amazing photo collection taken from the Atlantic Ocean all the way to the Grand Canyon. The RV is my home and the photos that will be featured in part 3 have been taken from land, sea and air. Be sure and come back for the final part. Thanks!


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