My New RV Needs Upgrades?
Yes, like any other product out there the manufacture is on the look out to keeping costs down and leave it up to the customer to add on or improve some things. Drawing from my experience RVing full time here are a few of my upgrade ideas for you new RV folks, especially if you plan to do some dry camping with out the convenience of electric hookups. These upgrades will improve the comfort, usability off grid and add extra protection to that new or “new to you” RV.
Most new RVs come with a single 12 volt deep cycle battery to power the electrical when not hooked up to shore power. This is usually sufficient to power things for a few nights while dry camping. Adding an additional 12 volt battery or installing a pair of six volt golf cart type batteries will double or even triple the power capacity allowing for longer periods of RVing without power hookup or give the ability to run more of your electronic gadgetry. The more batteries the better for power, but space and weight has to be considered when upgrading the battery bank. Your RV has a max weight capacity and only so much precious cargo space. Batteries are heavy and bulky so you have to weigh the pros and cons of adding them.
In my particular fifth wheel I had space for an extra couple 6 volt batteries which I wired onto my existing 12 volt OEM one increasing the total Amp Hour capacity from 85 AH to 310 AH. I also added in a battery switch to separate the 6 volt batteries from the 12 volt forming 2 banks. Check out my setup. It’s not a good idea to charge mixed batteries together, so I charge them separately. When boondocking I use the pair of six volt batteries and keep the single 12 volt one as a backup. It’s nice to be able to flip a switch when I’m ready to leave and have a fresh battery in reserve to power the trailer jacks and bring the slide in.
Now that you have the extra 12 volt power storage capacity the next upgrade that is nice to have is an inverter. Inverters basically take the 12 volt DC power a battery has and changes it into 120 volt AC power like in your house power outlets. The inverter allows you to run things like TVs, small appliances, satellite boxes, etc. and gives you the ability to use the small AC chargers so many of our new gadgets use these days. The inverter can be installed very simply to run a single AC outlet like I have done in my rig or you can wire into the RVs main electrical system using a transfer switch so you have power to all the rigs AC sockets. It’s best to get one called a pure/true sine wave inverter as these put out a little cleaner type of power ideal for modern electronics. When you’re deciding on the maximum wattage of inverter to choose a good rule of thumb is you’ll need roughly two batteries for every 1000 watts of inverter power. I run my 1000w inverter using two Trojan six volt golf cart batteries. If I went up to a 2000 watt inverter I would want to add two more of these batteries to supply enough juice to adequately power it.
The modern RV is full of lighting. In general the light is produced by multiple 12 volt fixtures using small incandescent light bulbs. This is fine for RVing in full hookup parks where the electricity is free and plentiful, but if you would like to dry camp off the grid they are quite the power hogs. Each 12 volt incandescent bulb draws approximately one amp. It doesn’t take many lights on to start using a significant amount of power from the batteries. An upgrade to LED type bulbs can really help out with this problem. The replacement 12 volt LED lamps will use as much, as 10 times less power, since they don’t waste it on heat like traditional incandescent type bulbs. This easy upgrade can dramatically increase your battery life off grid and reduce that annoying converter fan noise when on full hookup power.
One of the best upgrades we have done is to invest in a foam mattress topper. When we first got the RV the mattress seemed not too bad but after 30-40 nights the springs on the cheap OEM unit started to poke at us and it became very uncomfortable. A new high quality RV mattress was a little pricey for us having just bought the new RV so a good solution was a couple inch memory foam topper. It made a world of difference.
RV plumbing is a little different than that found in typical sticks and bricks homes and one drawback is reduced water pressure. This can lead to a less than adequate shower experience, especially with the cheap run of the mill RV stock shower heads. But, there are replacement shower heads on the market like the Oxgenics that are able to amplify the reduced water pressure and make the shower water flow feel much stronger. This can help out with conserving water when boondocking as well.
Water Pressure Regulator
Speaking of water pressure this next upgrade can be a pipe saver. Very few RVs have a built in water pressure regulator and just expect you to fend for yourselves. At most RV Parks this is not much of a problem because low water pressure is generally the issue not too high of pressure. Every once in a while though I will encounter a RV Park with humongous pressure , like fill a 5 gallon jug in 10 seconds flat type pressure. This is where a quality water pressure regulator will come in handy. We stayed in one park during the summer and it had 100 PSI. That was a little much and would have caused a mess if one of the plastic RV plumbing pipe fittings had burst. With my regulator I was easily able to knock that down to a safer 50 PSI and enjoy my summer not worrying about my RV plumbing.
On the subject of protecting the rig, what is protecting the RV electrical systems from a power spike or surge? Surprisingly it is not a lot. With most RVs if you were to hook up to a faulty or miswired power pole there is a good chance for damaged electrical circuits. I’ve talked to a few RVers who had almost every electrical item in their rig fry out by a faulty park power situation. Sure in some cases all the damage is covered by your insurance or the offending RV Park but what a hassle getting so many things in the rig replaced or repaired. Being an electronic tech by trade I realized the risk and the first major upgrade I did to the rig was install an Electrical Management System from Progressive Industries. There are other brands out there but I feel this one has the best quality and warranty. (Made in the USA) Now I can see at a glance what’s going on with the voltage and current coming into the rig and feel confident that the surge protector will do its job when the time comes.
Replacing the noisy little bathroom fan and installing a high volume main vent fan are two great comfort upgrades you can make to the RV. The OEM bathroom fans are a joke, small and noisy as all get out. Upgrading it to a Vortex fan is easy and will move tons more air where you need it. For the main vent I recommend the Fan-tastic Fans, great, quiet, quality fans from a company that stands behind them. These are the choice of many boondockers that aren’t able to run the AC unit but need a little rig cooling on those hot days.
These are some of the best upgrade ideas for your new RV I can think of. If anyone wants to add to this list then please tell us about your favorite upgrade in a comment below.
For more Mod and Upgrade ideas check out the RV Happy Hour forum.