RV Power Improvement Options

There are several things that can be done to improve an RV to make it independent of public utilities, including power upgrades, solar power kits, inverters, generators, portable recreational vehicle (RV) generators, and other miscellaneous energy improvements.

Power Upgrades

With gas prices being what they are, and RV’s tendency to be bad on gas economy, many people are considering making engine modifications in order to give their RV more horsepower and better gas mileage. While the individual components to upgrade RV power usage can be bought separately, it is more convenient and less problematic to buy one of the many available kits that has the intake, headers, crossover pipe, exhaust, and (in some cases) programmer included.

Installing a kit, with all expenses included, will end up costing somewhere in the neighborhood of $4,000. After installation gas mileage will increase about 25 cents a mile, meaning that when everything is said and done it will pay for itself in about 14,000 miles. So, deciding whether it is worth the effort depends on how much the RV is going to be used.

Another thing to keep in mind with engine conversion systems is that it is important to make sure that any modification that is done will not constitute “emissions tampering” by verifying that it has been tested and certified in all fifty states. Otherwise, the vehicle manufacturer will have grounds to void the engine warranty. Any enhancement produce that is certified, installed, and calibrated correctly will be fine, and honors standard engine warranties.

Solar Panels

Great for travel in areas that are sunny, solar panels will charge batteries so that interior lighting, electrical appliances, and other miscellaneous electrical devices can be run.

Several kits are available to connect the solar panels to any battery, allowing it to be recharged during daylight hours. These kits generally include the panels, mounting hardware, charge controller, fuses, and all the wiring needed to run between the panel, controller, and battery.

The kits are generally moderately easy to install, and are available in wattage capacities ranging from 10-440 watts, which gives an assortment of options to choose the right kit from in order to match individual RV power consumption needs.

RV Inverters

For those who are traveling to areas that are less sunny and where an RV will be able to connect periodically to a gridded power source, or who want something to work in conjunction with the panels, an inverter is a dependable option.

An inverter converts direct current (DC) into alternating current (AC) which allows an RV to use street power to charge batteries (preferably deep-cycle ones) so that electrical appliances can be used when the RV is no longer connected to a power source. The wattage of the inverter and amount of batteries that are best to use depend on the size of the RV and its individual energy consumption needs.

Portable RV Generators

First the load has to be calculated, and then a generator can be picked to correspond to that load. Generally speaking, if the generator is only going to be used to charge the RV’s batteries, to watch a television, or to run some other small appliance, around 1000 watts will work. If anything is going to be used that has a heating element, like a hair dryer or microwave, then 2000 watts are better. Running larger items (A/C) will take 3000 watts or more.

Generators can weigh up to 175lbs and are generally mounted, or stored, on the back of an RV. This means that the generator’s weight will have to be counterbalanced by storing heavy items in the front of the RV to avoid problems with hauling or driving the RV.

Other Improvements

Installing fluorescent bulbs is an inexpensive way to conserve energy, consuming 15% or less power than normal light bulbs. This is especially helpful if the RV is being run off-grid because they pull less power, making batteries last longer, and generators consume less gasoline.

Another simple power management tools is a timer, which can be set to turn power off after a set amount of time or if voltage being consumed goes beyond a certain point. Otherwise, there is a danger of accidently leaving a light (or other appliance) on only to return to find that the batteries have been drained miles away from public grid power.

These six suggestions are practical ways to conserve energy and gasoline, while maintaining the freedom of an exhilarating off-grid RV experience.

RV Security

Another common upgrade for RVs is the addition of a RV security system. There are several different styles of security systems to consider depending on your needs. Two main considerations when choosing a system are when it will be used and if there is going to be an external power source.

Usually a different system would be used if the security system is only to be used when it is in storage next to your home than if the system is to be used primarily while traveling or at a RV storage facility. An external power source is also part of the consideration (if the security system is meant for use while being stored) because the alarm system will drain the RV’s battery in time damaging the battery and rendering the system worthless.

The proper power upgrade can help with this problem. One upgrade that is usually quite effective is solar panels. It is also good to consider adding a low voltage shutoff upgrade to protect your battery.