My last post on living in an RV has generated a bunch of questions by comment and by email. Instead of responding to them individually, I'm going to answer them all here.
How long did it take you to outfit the RV with solar power?
Putting solar power into an RV is a simple job, primarily because most things in an RV (everything that I use) runs of 12V DC power instead of standard household 120V AC power.
All solar panels produce DC power, and almost all RVs have coach batteries, so it's simply a matter of hooking up a solar panel to a charge controller to the battery. If you get a really low powered solar panel, maybe just to power LED lights, you could connect directly to the battery without even getting a charge controller.
On my first RV I was going to have an RV shop install my panel for me, but they insisted on me physically leaving my RV at their shop for 2-3 weeks while it "waited in line" for the half day installation. I thought that was ridiculous, so I decided to try to install it myself. It was easy and took less than a day.
What do you do about cops and what not who hassle you? (I remember you talking about that) How does that typical encounter go? I think it would be somewhat obvious to the people around you that someone is actually living in the RV parked on their street.
Cops generally don't hassle me. I had one incident in Austin where a nearby resident was making constant complaints because I was parked there for months at a time. I talked to the cop and made it clear that I knew the law, and he agreed to stop putting stickers on the windshield telling me to move.
Keep in mind that I intentionally bought the smallest RV I could find. If I had a 40' behemoth, that might change things. Generally, though, you can park on the street for 72 hours at a time, and can just move to a nearby spot after that. Wash, rinse, repeat.
As a side note, finding parking is FAR easier than you'd expect. Even when we had the 40' school bus, it wasn't all that bad. I'm in Hollywood right now and within a week have already found three streets that always have parking available.
How about privacy and what not? I don't think I would feel so comfortable with noises and rocking while I'm doing the hanky panky.
It's really just not an issue. RVs have stiffer springs than cars, so I don't think rocking is a huge deal. If you close the windows, people outside can't hear too much. Also, when you have all the shades drawn, people tend to assume the RV is just parked and empty... people don't wait around by the windows to see if they can hear anything.
I randomly drove from Cali to NY, and crashed a few nights in the back of my Scion tC. It wasn't a comfortable sleep at all though because it got really cold. I wonder if your RV has good insulation, a heater, or if you just use a ton of blankets.
The RV does have insulation, and sleeping on a mattress helps a lot. After all, a mattress is basically several inches of dense insulation. I also have a down comforter, and a heater. Using a catalytic heater like an Olympian Wave 6, you can inexpensively and comfortably heat an RV in the winter.
A question though, do you have a toilet in the RV, and so where do you throw excrement?
I do have a toilet, as well as a shower and two sinks. The waste from the toilet is held in a 12 gallon tank, and the water from the sinks is held in a separate 7 gallon tank. The shower used to drain into the toilet tank, but I rerouted it outside. This is technically illegal, but it's just water and biodegradable soap, so I'm not worried about it.
Every 6-7 days or so I drain the tanks, usually at an RV park. They charge $5-15 for the privilege. The process is actually very easy and sanitary and takes no more than fifteen minutes. At the same time I also replenish my 20 gallon fresh water supply.
While on the highway, it's even easier. Many truck stops, including every Flying J, have dump sites that you can use for free. Los Angeles is the toughest place so far... I have to drive 20 minutes to an RV park near the beach.
Ty, how about the internet access?
I have a Sprint Mifi 2200 card. This tiny device connects to Sprint's mobile broadband network and acts as a wireless router. Besides my laptop and guests' laptops, my GPS can also connect to the Wifi and use it to get traffic reports. Download speeds are about 100-300 kilobytes/sec and the cost is $60/ month (I get it for less because I got a discount).
I also have a crank up antenna on the roof whose direction can be controlled from the inside. I'm thinking about putting a cantenna on it and wiring it to a router inside the RV. This would allow me to pull in unsecured wifi signals and download at much higher speeds when I'm in urban areas.
What's not great about the RV?
There are a few things that aren't ideal about living in the RV. The biggest one is that stuff breaks. My fridge just randomly stopped working (hence the picture at the top), so now I have to tinker and try to fix it. When things break on the car part of it, I'm homeless for a day or two while the shop fixes it.
Also, It's just not good for hot weather. If the weather goes over 95 or so and you don't have somewhere to plug in to use the AC, it's just too hot to stay in during the day. If night time temperatures are over 85, it's too hot to sleep in comfortably. It's doable, of course. I happily went through an entire Texas summer, but it wasn't especially comfortable.
The last very minor complaint is that there are limits to how customized you can make an RV. I want to get rid of my microwave, but the wall is unfinished behind it and wires run back there, so I can't really take it out. I'd like to add larger waste tanks, but it's just not a practical thing to do.
These are minor quibbles, though. The first one is something that genuinely annoys me, but for the others I had to stare at the carpeted ceiling and think hard.
What does it look like inside the RV?
I'll make a video, but the fridge is pulled out right now and I have clothes hanging up to dry, so I'll wait a couple days.
If you do not have a permanent address how do you get your mail or file taxes
We have a GENERAC 75D Quietpac auxillary generator in a 2002 Alfa "See Ya" RV motorhome. I recently disconnected the fuel lines in order to pull the generator to replace the starter. Now the engine starts but only runs for a few seconds and shuts down. Do I need to do something to get fuel consistently to the engine? It sounds like it is not getting fuel. Thank you, DIanne
I have a c pap machine that uses 5 amps. I want to run it for 8 hours when I am off the electric grid. What type and size of 12 battery do I need. I also need an inverter and battery charger. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.
I have a 1998 gulfstream scenic cruiser that works fine when plugged in to power source and also works fine when generator is running. but when I turn off the generator the power panel shows that the batteries are dead and nothing works including restarting the generator. If it is plugged into a power source when generator is shut off the power panel shows the same but in a short while 20-30 minutes it shows batteries are good again. please help
Really interesting and well done site, Tynan! I am considering the vehicle of choice. I have a '97 f-150 club wagon which i may trade for a school bus. ***Incidently,on a daily basis, how do you spend your time??**
I suspect most of mine will be spent in a gym or on a beach.
I'm going to jump onboard the rv lifestyle soon. The thing I can't work out is the water->shower situation. In your post you say every 6-7 days you refill the 20 gallon tank. What does that translate to in shower frequency for you? Have you figured out any sneaky alternatives to driving to an rv to refill the water tank?
Also, do you have gas hot water? How often do you find you need to re-fill the cylinder.
Thank you for an amazing site, very inspirational and it's crazy how many of the writeups are exactly what I want to be reading about.
I'M A PERMANENT DWELLER IN MY 24" RV AND FIND IT VERY COMFORTABLE. THE ONLY THING IS THE PARKING PROBLEM FOR I'M A BIT LONGER THAN THE LEGAL AS WELL AS THE STREET WIDTHS I NEED TO DO BUSINESS. MY RV IS 7'9" WIDE.
I am considering getting the Sprint MiFi 2200 card so that when I am on the road I can connect to the internet, but I will be using it as my only source of internet... I know its $60/ month, but I see that if you go over the 5gb limit then you get charged. it could double the price if you hit 6gb. I use my laptop for just about everything. I check my email a lot, surf the web, make videos, and do freelance work online. Do you think that 5gb/ month is enough. Is it enough for you? or do you end up getting charged more?
I've lived in my RV for 10 days now. I have only gone back to the condo to get clothes, and to sleep one night (basically I picked a loud parking spot that was 10 feet from the condo and it was 5am so I just went inside instead of driving to a quiet spot). A lot of things have panned out as expected, but there have also been some big surprises.
I could go on and on, but you probably get the idea. I totally love living in this RV. It's a great feeling to drive over to my mom's house and have her say "Oh, you didn't happen to bring those tickets, did you?" and to just be able to walk into my house and get them.
My parents are really into the RV thing, which is funny. They're always a bit skeptical about my schemes. My dad helped me take out the CRT TV and the Microwave which I replaced with a flat panel and a flash bake oven. My mom made me nice curtains. I'm trying hard to resist the urge to totally trick out the RV. The carpet smells a bit musty so I might put in granite tile or bamboo floors. I think that would be neat.
I visited Taos, NM last year and I stayed in an Earthship while I was down there. The experience of living in an off-the-grid 'house' blew my mind. It was a completely self-sustainable, mortgage-free structure - electricity was generated by solar panels on the roof and stored in a huge battery, rainwater was captured by a large water tank built into the house, heat was produced by a long South facing window, and the toilet/water waste produced was composted and recycled back into the earth.
I was skeptical at first and I was expecting some of kind of issue to arise - being too hot or too cold in the house, having restrictions on our water or electricity use, simply something malfunctioning or breaking. But I have to say, staying in an Earthship for 4 days was extremely easy and I didn't have to change a thing with my daily routine.
The Earthship experience really got me thinking and asking questions about the future of sustainable living. Why aren't these Earthships the predominant method of building houses? There are many reasons but a few include: