Methods of Heating Your RV

How to stay warm in an RV during colder weather

In an earlier article we discussed the cold weather limitations of recreational vehicles and things you can do to reduce heat loss plus when RVing in cold weather.

Once the heat loss has been minimized, it is time to consider methods of heating your rig.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s best to use a combination of heating methods when dealing with extreme cold weather while RVing.

A word of caution: Be very aware of the dangers associated with each heating method and take proper safety precautions to avoid an RV fire, asphyxiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or even death.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Make absolutely certain you have a carbon monoxide, smoke, and LP gas detector in good working condition. Change batteries annually.

Never use your oven to heat your RV.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heaters are cheap and can help in reducing your heating costs if you’re NOT on a metered site. Some RV parks forbid these or will charge you extra.

We use our electric heater during the day while at home and the RV furnace at night on a low setting (between 50 and 55 degrees) and in the mornings to take off the chill.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Today’s portable heater models include a variety of safety features that help take a lot of the concern out of using them. A heater equipped with a tip-over protection switch will automatically shut off if it’s tipped over for any reason, and cool-touch housing prevents accidental burns on the exterior. These are useful safety features, particularly in areas with active children or pets.

Space heaters with overheat protection switches function in nearly the same manner. They use a temperature sensor, detecting when internal components become too hot. When an unsafe temperature is detected, the switch automatically shuts off the unit to prevent overheating.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Be certain to check for these safety features when purchasing a new electric heater. As a safety precaution, shut off and unplug for the night and when you’re away from the RV.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Educating yourself about the safety hazards that come with the improper use of portable heaters will help you achieve better peace of mind as you keep your RV warm, comfortable, and fire hazard-free during the winter.

Once you have your rig insulated and warm, the next consideration is how to get the moisture out so dreaded condensation inside the RV does not occur.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

In the course of a day living in the RV, you put a great deal of water vapor into the air space. Showers, dishes, cooking, heating, and our own breathing all contribute and it needs to be expelled from the RV. Left unchecked the condensation can quickly build up on all the windows and some walls and lead to mold.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Use the stove vent and fan when cooking, especially when boiling vegetables on the burner top. The quicker you can get the moisture out the better. Use absorbent cloths for removing moisture. Wipe down the shower stall and any condensation that builds up on the windows.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are numerous small portable, dehumidifiers on the market that are suitable for use in your RV. Place one near the shower and in various locations inside the RV and in basement compartments.

RVs are not designed for this weather but you can survive © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RVs aren’t designed for cold, but you can survive!

But the best advice of all is “The RV has wheels, Go South!

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

Raise Your RV IQ with These Tips

Steering RV owners both new and seasoned in the right direction with these tips

Your recreational vehicle is a vacation home wherever you want it, whenever you want it. It is freedom and security in equal measure. It’s Lewis and Clark on turbo-charge.

Whether you just bought your first RV or you have owned one for a while, nothing beats the ease and freedom of walking into your unit and hitting the open road. 

Before setting out on your next adventure, consider the following five tips to raise your RV IQ.

Travel with Propane Off

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

This is a common topic discussed around the campfire, and it is a bit controversial. The best I can do is to offer my personal opinion. It really is safer to drive with the propane supply turned off at the tank.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

I believe that having the propane on while traveling increases the risk of a fire if you are involved in an accident. If a gas line is damaged or broken, and the propane tank supply valves are open, there will be a release of potentially explosive propane gas. That’s a bad thing. For this reason, I choose to run with the main tank valve off.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Now, many folks will say: Hey, I’ve been running with the propane on for XX years, and nothing bad has ever happened to me. That may be true, but having the tank valves open increases your risk—it just does.

Travel safely with the propane turned off at the tank © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Many RVers want the propane on in order to run their fridges while traveling. Most folks find that, for the average trip, the refrigerator will maintain a low enough internal temperature to keep your food fresh. It is also possible to freeze some blue ice packs the night before and use them in the refrigerator compartment to help keep everything cold while traveling.

Extension Cords

If using an extension cord be aware of the dangers © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you use an extension cord to plug in your RV to the shoreline power, it’s essential that you utilize the right one. We’ve seen it happen far too many times: an RV owner uses a standard orange extension cord with a 15 amp rating to run their 30 amp power center. This is asking for trouble as the excessive power draw can overheat the cord and connection which can melt the cord and possibly cause a fire. 

Give Me Forty Acres

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When I’m hooked up to drive down the road, my setup is 58 feet long. That’s 38 feet of rig, almost 15 feet of Chevrolet Equinox, and a few feet of tow bar.

As most of you know, when towing a car with an RV, you should not back up. Some tow systems allow it for very short distances, but most advise never to do it; depending on the manufacturer, you will void your warranty.

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

It’s not an equipment or skills issue; it’s a physics issue. If you have experience backing trailers, you know that trailers move opposite to the rear of your tow vehicle; you can end up in a jackknife situation very quickly when in reverse. But, here’s the critical difference between a trailer and a toad: a toad has a steering wheel, and the toad’s tires can turn in all directions! You simply cannot back a toad the same way as a trailer. It will end up turning “Every Which Way But Loose,” as Eddie Rabbitt sang for that Clint Eastwood movie.

Practice tow bar safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since you can’t back up, it’s important to know your turn radius.You may wish to practice doing circles in a parking lot.

Install a Clear Sewer Hose Elbow

Clear See Through Elbow sewer hose connection © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

No one really wants to see what is going on inside the sewer hose. They make those things brown or black for a reason. But the truth is that by installing a clear elbow at the end you can prevent a lot of potential problems down the road. Seeing what is going on in your hose allows you to check for undissolved toilet paper (in which case you might want to switch brands), to know ahead of time if a clog is about to happen, and to have visual confirmation that the tank is done emptying. Also, when you’re performing a black water flush you can easily see the color of the water, and when it runs clear be confident that the tank is clean.

Move Over Law

Practice safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Always be aware of emergency responders, including tow providers, when they are on the side of road assisting motorists.  More than 150 U.S. law enforcement officers have been killed since 1999 after being struck by vehicles along America’s highways. Each year tow company drivers are also struck and killed on the side of the road. Let’s do our part and be sure to change lanes. And remember, it is the law.

Practice safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Worth Pondering…

Remember, safety is no accident.

Is Your RV Road Ready?

Are you and your RV ready for a brand new camping season?

There’s something magical about a summer road trip. And it’s a standby in literature and movies—from John Steinbeck’s classic Travels with Charley to Smokey and the Bandit.

Much has changed in RVs over the years © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Times have certainly changed since Steinbeck and his dog Charley made their way across the country 54 years ago. But one thing hasn’t changed: A summer road trip is still the best way to see America, see its natural wonders, national parks, historic sites, and big-name tourist attractions.

But RVers still travel with and pamper their pets © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Hitting the open road can be the highlight of any spring or summer camping expedition but don’t let preventable maintenance issues put a damper on your vacation.

Preventive Maintenance

Preventive maintenance includes inspection of the entire unit from top to bottom on a regular basis © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance is designed to prevent or identify potential problems that could lead to mechanical breakdown, malfunction, or failure of a component or system. Don’t confuse this with regularly scheduled maintenance (SEE below).

Inspect all the roof and window seals of your RV and reseal any that are showing signs of damage or aging.

Washing and waxing your rig on a regular basis is an important part of preventive maintenance © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check awnings for damage, mildew, and insects.

Examine the hitch system for wear, loose bolts, and cracks.

Check for cracks in hoses and fan belts and replace if necessary.

Check all lights. Make sure headlights, fog lights, taillights, brake lights, and turn signals are all functioning properly.

Preventive maintenance includes the interior of the rig © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Preventive maintenance applies to the RV interior as well as the exterior. Stains become more difficult to remove when vinyl or leather is allowed to become dry.

Scheduled Maintenance

Schedule maintenance as required by the owner’s manuals © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Scheduled or routine maintenance is performed in intervals normally based on time, mileage, or hours.

Note: It is absolutely essential that you read your owner’s manual and warranty information in regards to who is responsible for what when it comes to scheduled maintenance. Adhere to the service schedule outlined in the manual. Scheduled maintenance that is required by the manufacturer and not performed can void your warranty.

Safety Alarms

Maintenance includes ensuring that all safety features are operational at all times © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check Smoke, LPG, and Carbon Monoxide alarms for proper operation and replace batteries as needed.

Battery Care

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Check the water level in your batteries monthly. Remove the vent caps and look inside the fill wells. Check the electrolyte levels. The minimum level required for charging the battery is at the top of the plates. When you add water, use only distilled water and fill the cell to 1/8 inch below the fill well. Also remove any corrosion on the connections with a wire brush and baking soda/water solution.

Tire Maintenance

Not the way to care for your tires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tire manufacturers stress that there are four main considerations concerning tire care:

  • Proper air pressure should be maintained
  • Under-inflated tires can cause handling problems, increased tire wear, and even sudden tire failure
  • And don’t just check the pressure at the start of the season, but every time you are heading out
  • Age of the tires: RV tires usually age out before they wear out; tires should be inspected annually, especially after the first five to six years, regardless of the mileage

Emergency Road Service

A quality road service plan provides peace of mind for problems that occur down the road © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Even with the best preparation, issues can still arise with your RV, so it’s a good idea to sign up for a roadside assistance plan.

Like any insurance plan, Emergency Road Service is an investment that you hope you’ll never need. But if you spend much time on the road, sooner or later you’ll have a breakdown.

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Excellent plans are available from CoachNet and AAA.

Your plan should provide coverage for emergency gas/fuel, lockout service, tire changes, and jump-starts. These services should be available no matter where you travel. Think about your needs and ensure that your emergency assistance plan will meet them. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does my plan cover all vehicles that we normally travel with: motorhome, toad, trailer?
  • Does my plan include a lodging allowance if we aren’t able to stay in our RV?
  • Am I covered in the U.S. and Canada?
  • Does my plan have an upper limit? A deductible?
  • What hoops do I have to jump through to get reimbursed if I have to pay cash for service?
See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Shop around. Match your plan to your needs and your budget—and you’ll drive with peace of mind this spring and summer.

See you down the road and Happy and Safe RVing!

See y’all down the road and happy and SAFE RVing © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

Stop worrying about the potholes in the road and celebrate the journey.

—Fitzhugh Mullan

7 Campground Hookup Essentials

Trouble-free camping makes for happy camping

You’re out on the road in your new recreation vehicle for the first time and pull into a campground or RV park. You commit that huge mistake that tells the world you’re a newcomer to the world of RVing. Everyone makes rookie RV mistakes, but you can avoid the worst ones if you do your homework ahead of time.

Pull-through site at Ambassador RV Resort in Caldwell, Idaho © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

For the first couple of years of RVing it seemed I learned something new every time I pulled into a campsite and hooked up to the utilities. Sometimes, it was not the most enjoyable experience but a learning lesson.

Pull-in sites with a view at Vista del Sol RV Resort in Bullhead City, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Over the years, experienced RVers develop a mental “checklist” of items to inspect, clean, and prepare for when hooking up at a campground or RV park.

Following is a list of seven campground hookup essentials to follow:

Choose a Site That Best Meets Your Needs

Pull-through sites with a view at Irwins RV Park in Valemount, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

You may want the patio side away from the glaring afternoon sun, or you may want to look out on a beautiful sunset. North facing campsites will have the sun warming the patio early in the morning. 

Back-in sites at Gulf State Park near Ocean Shores, Alabama © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The closer to the bathhouse, Laundromat, garbage bins, and dog park, the more traffic and noise. If you need Wi-Fi, check with the campground host to see if the signal is strong enough to get to the site you’ve been assigned.

The Springs at Borrego RV Resort and Golf Course in Borrego Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

If you are camping in extreme heat, check to see what side the refrigerator will be parked on during the heat of the day. Your refrigerator will run more efficient if it’s not in direct sunlight in the hot afternoon.

Inspect the Site

Inspecting the site at Coastal Georgia RV Resort near Brunswick and the Golden Isles, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Upon arrival at your site, do a walkthrough, and determine the best location for RV and toad/tow vehicle. Inspect the site for low hanging limbs and other obstacles that are in the way of an extended slide, broken glass, or other sharp items. Look down; look up. Check line of site for a satellite dish. Be aware of location and height of utility box in relation to your hookups and slides.

RV Leveling

Level sites at Cajun Palms RV Resort near Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Level the rig before extending the slideouts. A level coach means a level chassis which means a solid and flush sidewall for the room to extend out.

Electrical supply

Progressive Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

First step is to make sure the circuit breaker on the campground pedestal is turned off. Attach your RV power cord to an electric management system and plug into the pedestal. There are numerous choices in the marketplace but we believe the Progressive Electric Management Systems are the best. These units continuously monitor the power supply coming into your RV and if it detects a variance outside of the tolerances will shut the power down. Without the device, a power spike or low or high voltage can damage to your electrical system.

Sanitize

At the very least, check the electrical supply at the campground before plugging in by plugging in a GFCI tester. 

Sanitize the city water faucet before connecting your water hose and pressure regulator © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Sanitize the city water faucet with ½ cup bleach in a gallon of water prior to attaching your pressure regulator and water hose. Fecal coli and other pathogens can form on exposed fixtures and a simple spray will provide a sanitized environment. Make sure you use an approved drinking water hose for the supply and store it away from the drain hose equipment. Make sure the valve is set to city water, not “fill tank” if you rig has this feature.

Dump Hose

Electric, water, sewer and cable TV connections © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Connect your dump hose to the dump station if applicable but leave the valves closed. Open valves let odors into the rig and worse, allow liquid to drain out and solids to stay in the tank and pyramid.

Propane Tank

Open your propane tank slowly! There is an excess flow valve designed into the POL valve connected to the tank and opening it fast with shut down the valve until pressure subsides which can be several minutes. Check the stove and oven before opening the valve to make sure they are not on.

And it was another beautiful day at Las Vegas RV Resort © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

5 Tips for Safe RV Travel

Plan to travel safely with these tips

It’s that time of year again. The weather is warming up and spring has finally arrived. That means more motorists on the road and as the spring and summer travel season to picks up.

RV travel can be enjoyable but these large recreational vehicles demand respect. RVs are not particularly difficult to drive but there are a few things to keep in mind that will make your travels safer and more relaxing and enjoyable.

Alamo Lake State Park, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Checklist

Many accidents are caused by simple forgetfulness: leaving doors unlatched, awnings up, or steps extended. Use a step-by-step checklist and conduct a final walk-around visual inspection before driving away. A pre-departure checklist should include the following:

  • Check propane level and fill if needed
  • Check oil, transmission, and coolant levels
  • Check tire inflation pressure and adjust as required
  • Ensure all signal, four-way hazard, brake, running, and fog lights are operational
  • Turn propane off at the tank
Sunset Valley RV Resort, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

RV Safety Check

Before leaving ensure you conduct a thorough inspection on your RV. Do a final 360-degree walk-around the RV before getting in the driver’s seat and leaving on your road trip. Check all doors to make sure they are properly latched, disconnect power, water, and sewer lines.

River Run RV Park, Bakersfield, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Look for any leaks and ensure your propane and smoke detectors are in working condition. Always test your carbon monoxide detector to make sure it is working properly. Carbon monoxide poisoning symptoms are only noticeable when you’re awake, they include dizziness, vomiting, nausea, muscle twitching, headache, throbbing in the temples, weakness and sleepiness, and inability to think coherently.

As a final step prior to departure, check mirror adjustments. Adjust the side-view mirrors to barely see the side of your RV. Adjust the convex mirrors to include blind spots, keeping in mind that distances may be distorted.

Jekyll Island Campground, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Drive Safely

Be extra cautious when driving or towing an RV. RVs brakes are different from those in a car or SUV. Since most RVs have air brakes rather than hydraulic brakes, braking will have a different feel. Turning a corner in an RV is very different from a car. You need to compensate for the additional weight, height, and length. Slowly approach your turn and make sure you finish the turn before straightening out.

Experience is a key. The best way to become a good RV driver is by practice.

Poche’s RV Park, Breaux Bridge, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Know RV Height, Width & Length

Some of the most common RV accidents include hitting bridges, underpasses, and gas station overhangs.

Post your exterior height, width, and total length in the motorhome or tow vehicle where it can easily be seen while driving.

Jack’s Landing RV Resort, Grants Pass, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Height: Measure to the highest point such as air conditioner or satellite dish

Width: Measure to the outermost points such as mirrors, awnings, or handles

Length: Measure from the front of the vehicle to the end of the towed vehicle or trailer

Also keep in mind that a typical highway lane is 10 feet. Most RVs are about 8.5 feet in width.

Lakeside RV Park, Livingston, Louisiana © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Tips to Backing up an RV

Have the co-pilot get out of the vehicle and scan the site before backing up, checking for site obstructions, overhanging branches, levelness of site, and location of utilities.

Adjust the mirrors to tilt down enabling you to see the lower rear corner of the RV.

Waltons Lakefront RV Resort, Osoyoos, British Columbia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

The co-pilot should stand at the back of the site slightly to the side of the vehicle. Make sure that you can see the co-pilot in your side-mirror. The co-pilot should use hand signals that you both understand.

Back in slowly and very carefully.

Practice makes perfect. Try backing up in a big parking lot before tackling a campsite.

Blakes Ranch RV Park, Kingman, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserve

Remember, safety is no accident.

Worth Pondering…

Take your time.

Slow down.

LIVE.

Handling Cold Weather While RVing

Sometimes you get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or unexpected circumstance

A major benefit of the RV lifestyle is the ability to follow good weather.

We hide out in the south during the winter and cool off up the north in the summer. We also enjoy spring and fall for several months as we move in between.

But sometimes we get caught in cold weather due to an early winter or an unexpected circumstance.

Our latest introduction to winter resulted from a delay in taking delivery of our new factory-ordered 2019 Dutch Star 3717 diesel pusher.

The typical recreational vehicle is not designed for use in the snowy, cold, and icy northern climates. Even with the cold weather limitations of most RVs, there are things we do to reduce heat loss and stay warm.

Upon arrival at our destination, we try to select a site that will receive sun exposure throughout the day, and also offer some type of wind break.

Since windows are a major heat loss in RVs, we lock our windows. That extra latch helps close the seals in the window. We close the blinds/curtains when we don’t need them open for the view or the warming sunshine.

A goose down duvet is an investment with high returns that’s realized every time you cozily cuddle in bed. A duvet cover is typically purchased separately.

Down is a great natural insulator. It is the very first undercoating of goose feathers. The clusters of down are made of plenty of soft fibers that directly radiate out from the central core of the feather. The structure of down is perfectly created to trap air. For this peculiar characteristic, goose down duvets keeps you suitably warm. It still allows the moisture to escape and is a great product to keep snug yet dry. Goose down duvets is amazingly soft and light.

The quality of down duvets is measured by its insulation abilities. The best quality down duvets have larger clusters of down. Best quality down is able to acclimatize according to warmer or cooler atmospheric temperatures. If the thick, fluffy and breathable down can keep the goose so cozy out in the cold, it definitely is a sure winner for you.

We don’t need spare blankets for the bed with our down duvet but they add another layer in insulation during our waking hours.

It’s best to use a combination of heating methods when dealing with extreme cold weather while RVing.

A word of caution: Be very aware of the dangers associated with each heating method and take proper safety precautions to avoid an RV fire, asphyxiation, carbon monoxide poisoning, or even death.

Make absolutely certain you have carbon monoxide, smoke, and LP gas detectors in good working condition. We change the batteries annually.

Never use your oven to heat the RV.

Space heaters are cheap and can help in reducing your heating costs if you’re NOT on a metered site. We use ours during the day while in our rig and the furnace at night on a low setting (between 50 and 55 degrees) and in the mornings to take off the chill.

Today’s portable heater models offer a variety of safety features that include tip-over and overheat protection Check for these safety features when purchasing a new heater.

As a safety precaution, shut off and unplug for the night and when you’re away from the RV.

Once we have our rig insulated and warm, the next consideration is how to get the moisture out so dreaded condensation inside the RV does not occur. Left unchecked the condensation can quickly build up on all the windows and some walls and lead to mold.

We use the stove vent and fan when cooking, especially when boiling vegetables on the burner top. The quicker you can get the moisture out the better.

We also use absorbent cloths for removing moisture. Wipe down the shower stall and any condensation that builds up on the windows.

There are numerous small portable, dehumidifiers on the market that are suitable for use in your RV. We place one near the shower and in various locations inside the RV and in basement compartments.

RVs aren’t designed for cold, but you can survive!

But the best advice of all is “The RV has wheels, Go South!

Worth Pondering…

I’ve never gotten used to winter and never will.

—Jamaica Kincaid