Here’s What to Keep in Mind When Planning Your RV Trip
A Little Preparation Goes a LONG Way
Proper planning can make or break your RV adventure. While it’s easy to get lost in all of the luxuries of a modern RV, it’s important to remember how much of a journey RV adventures can be.
Simply put, most RV trips involve driving hundreds of miles or crossing state lines in a large, highly-complex machine. No matter how sophisticated modern motorhomes may be, there’s always a margin for something to go wrong.
While nobody plans oncomplications, it’s always a good idea to prepare for them. Here’s what to keep in mind once you start planning for your RV trip.
It’s Better to Have Extra Food and Not Need It …
… than the other way around. Even if you’re one of those RVers who eats at restaurants whenever possible, it’s still a good idea to stock your pantry with enough non-perishables to last a few days. You don’t need to go full doomsday prepper, but it’s a good idea to stock several meals per person of dried or canned food. That’s something you can easily accomplish with a single large bag of rice and a few cans of beans.
Don’t Just Count on GPS
Over the last decade, GPS apps have become so ubiquitous they’ve essentially replaced all other forms of navigation. While platforms like Google Maps may be incredibly accurate when routing through urban areas, they can lose a lot of their accuracy on more remote roads. In addition, GPS apps might not account for issues like road closures and detours. Plus, a lapse in cell phone coverage (or power) can prevent you from using them entirely.
There’s no substitute for knowing how to navigate to your destination manually. Print out the driving route you plan to follow, along with any maps that will help you navigate it if your phone stops working. Nobody wants to load up the RV to spend a day driving around lost. That little bit of preparation can save you plenty of frustration.
Know the Legality of Any Substances You’re Carrying
You should never get behind the wheel if you’re under the influence of ANY intoxicating substances.
Suppose you’re the sort of person who enjoys sitting in front of your (parked) RV and relaxing with a cold beer. In that case, it’s a good idea to know the laws regarding alcohol (and potentially marijuana) consumption in both your destination and any states you plan on driving through.
More than 40 US states have open container laws that limit where alcohol can be stored or consumed in a moving vehicle. The vast majority of these laws prohibit any consumption in the vehicle’s passenger seat, although many carve out an exception for any designated living quarters in an RV.
It’s essential to understand these legalities if you live in a state with legalized marijuana use. As states have vastly different laws regarding legalization and decriminalization, a perfectly legal $40 purchase in one state can be a felony if you drive just a few miles into another.
When in Doubt, Get Someone on the Phone
In a post-2020 world, there’s always the risk of disruptions or policy changes during travel, especially if you’re visiting a popular tourist attraction. It’s a good idea to review your itinerary ahead of time along with pre-purchasing passes and tickets whenever possible.
There are plenty of destinations where this won’t be an option. Any experienced RVer can tell you that RV attractions don’t always feature modern websites. If you encounter any confusion when pre-planning your trip, never underestimate the power of getting an actual, talking human being on the phone.
Whether you’re clarifying the check-out policy of an RV campground or trying to book day passes to a local history museum, don’t hesitate to call. After all, the worst-case scenario is that you confirm information you already know.
Of course, more goes into planning an RV trip than just preparing for worst-case scenarios. Figuring out a good trip itinerary can be a journey in itself, and that’s BEFORE you factor in all the long-term considerations that come with RV ownership. Storage, repairs and routine maintenance are all factors that greatly affect your RV experience.
Think of National Indoor RV Centers as your co-pilot in all of your RV adventures. We understand the ins and outs of everything RV, from sales to paint & body to storage. Our expert technicians have everything required to get you on the road – and keep you there.
Transform Your RV Experience With These Handy Life Hacks!
A Little Ingenuity Goes a Long Way, Especially in an RV!
RVing looks different for everyone. Some drivers are attracted to cross-country journeys on the open road, while others view motorhomes as the perfect way to check out local campsites on weekends. There’s no wrong reason to RV, just like there’s no single right or wrongway to do it.
There are plenty of small steps you can take to upgrade your RV driving experience significantly. These are some of our favorite RV life hacks for life on the road, starting with …
Shoe Racks Are an Easy Way to Create Storage Space
Once you realize shoe racks aren’t exclusively for shoes, you see just how many other ways they can make for convenient storage. For example, setting up a waterproof shoe rack outside your shower is an easy way to keep track of all your different toiletries—especially if all your passengers have their own skin care or hair care routine!
Shoe racks are a practical addition to living spaces and common areas. The right shoe rack can greatly simplify storing clothing, camping gear and even shelves of DVDs.
Of course, it should go without saying that having extra shoe racks also translates to better shoe storage.
Two Words: Blackout Curtains
It’s hard to appreciate the difference good blackout curtains make until after you’ve installed them. The sun doesn’t always cooperate with your driving schedule, and few things can suck the energy out of a day like fighting for sleep after a long night of driving. Their benefits also extend beyond sleep, as these curtains are helpful for privacy in busy campsites.
It’s worth noting that you can enjoy the benefits of blackout curtains without installing a second curtain rod. Instead, consider running a line of Velcro across the top of your current curtains and mounting the blackout set with a matching strip.
Consider Some Anti-Fatigue Floor Mats
If you’re not familiar with anti-fatigue floor mats, they’re popular for workers who have to stand or sit in one place for extended periods. These mats are specially padded to lessen the strain staying still has on one’s posture, which means they’re solid for RV driving.
If you’ve got long trips ahead, then opting for some of these mats can go a long way in reducing fatigue among both the driver(s) and passenger(s). Just be careful – if you’re bringing an animal along, don’t be surprised if they try to claim one as a bed!
Dry Erase Boards Are Lifesavers
Given how widespread smartphones are for RVers, it can be easy to become a bit too dependent on them. Regardless of how well you know your trip itinerary, it’s a good idea to have any vital information stored in non-digital space, and that’s where dry erase boards come in handy.
Before you hop in the driver’s seat, write the name of your next destination along with any phone numbers or useful information you want to keep readily accessible. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, having everything in a single, visible place can go a long way.
Join a Club!
While many newcomers might view RVing as a solitary activity, experienced drivers know the community is one of the best parts of the lifestyle. Joining an organization like the All-Inclusive Motorhome Club (or AIM Club) is an excellent way to meet other RVers, discover new activities and make lifelong friends. You can even stay in touch and view the journeys of others on their interactive Facebook page!
AIM Club, in particular, is a great option for newcomers as it represents an opportunity to discover parts of the RV lifestyle that are hard to find if you only look on sites like TripAdvisor or Yelp. In addition to fantastic events and friendly meetups, drivers also benefit from awesome perks like discounted service and special rates on vehicle insurance!
Of course, these life hacks are far from the ONLY tips for life on the road. However, more important than shoe racks and blackout curtains is having a partner you can trust when it comes to repairing, storing and maintaining your RV.
NIRVC is here to take the stress out of every step of RV ownership, from before your first drive to long after you pack up at the end of the season. Between a full-service maintenance bay and climate-controlled indoor storage, we’ve got everything you need to start your next adventure. Contact us today to get started!
Most every motorhome is equipped with some sort of satellite TV. Satellite TV has its pros and cons but for an RV owner who is mobile, satellite TV is often a good choice as long as you can get a clear view of the southern sky that is not encumbered by trees or other obstructions. Oftentimes it’s not possible to get a strong internet signal when you are camped in an area where there is minimal, if any, cellular signal and the loss of that precludes streaming live TV or movies. The majority of campground Wi-Fi networks are not capable of handling the bandwidth and many have imposed limits on usage and don’t allow streaming. Combine that with the high cost of unlimited bandwidth cellular plans and it can make satellite TV a valid option for some RV owners at this point in time. Technology is constantly changing and ventures like StarLink may be an alternative, depending on how it is priced, but for right now satellite TV still has a place in the RV industry.
Satellite TV is typically serviced by either DirecTV or DISH Network, although services such as Shaw TV are available in Canada. Of course you can’t have satellite TV unless you have a satellite receiver and satellite dish, which serves as the antenna to receive the signal from the satellite. Most RV owners that are not full-timers simply take the receiver or DVR from their house and put it in the RV when they travel but satellite dishes are available in a number of different versions. Small compact portable units are available from manufacturers such as Winegard, King Controls and DISH network that can automatically locate and lock onto the satellite signal as are tripod based units that require a bit of setup time and will need to be manually aligned to the satellite. Automatic dishes, such as the Winegard Trav’ler, are also available that mount to the roof of a motorhome and can be operated by a remote control box located within the RV. These units will deploy and lock onto the satellite automatically at the push of a button as long as you aren’t parked in a spot where tree limbs can block the signal. When it’s time to break camp these units will automatically store themselves when you press the appropriate button on the control box.
Our coach came with a factory installed automatic dish mounted on its roof. When this unit failed, I found that it was not field serviceable. It could be sent back to the factory for refurbishment but, after searching on some RV forums, I found that this can take quite a bit of time before I would even receive an estimate of the repair costs, assuming the unit was even repairable. I also found numerous recommendations for the Eagle satellite dish by RF Mogul as being a better choice so I decided to go with the RF Mogul dish. I found that the RF Mogul dish was field serviceable and numerous owners gave glowing reviews about the product and customer support. It was also easy to convert between DISH network and DirecTV, Shaw or Bell. All it takes is a swap of the LNB arm and a software update so if I decide to change satellite service providers in the future it’s not a big deal. With all these positives, I decided it was time to replace my original satellite dish and go with the RF Mogul.
The RF Mogul is a bit more sophisticated than my original dish. It relocates the electronics from the rooftop unit to the controller box inside the coach. This shields it from excessive rooftop heat and any potential moisture penetration, making it more reliable. This also meant that my original 8 conductor cable needed to be replaced with RF Mogul’s 12 conductor cable to allow communication from the controller to the dish motors and other components in the satellite dish. Another consideration was that the original dish had one coaxial cable that handled the signal from the satellite. It ran from the dish directly to a coaxial 1×4 splitter in the coach basement so that the signal could be distributed to the four TVs in the coach. The RF Mogul runs a cable from the dish to the controller and the controller then uses a second cable to output the signal to the 1×4 splitter to feed the TVs so a bit of coax rerouting would be required.
The DISH itself ways 53 lbs.so it can be fairly heavy to lug up a ladder. Obviously not a concern if you have it installed by a certified RF Mogul dealer, such as National Indoor RV Centers but a bit on the heavy side for a one man do-it-yourself installation. I first removed the original dish and threw it off the roof, then proceeded to scrape off all of the old sealant and clean up the roof. Once I had a nice clean roof I fiberglassed up the old screw holes used to mount the dish to the roof to seal them up and make way for fiber glassed the new mounting pattern of the RF Mogul. I then brought the main turret of the RF Mogul up to the roof with a rope and ladder and prepared to assemble the unit. Next I installed the arm, the reflector dish and the LNB to the turret, following the excellent instructions provided. I did have one question and gave them a call and left a voice mail message because it was a fiber glassed Saturday. Within 15 minutes I received a return call and my question was answered, which was something I would never get from the manufacturer of my previous dish. The RF Mogul also has the capability of being illuminated by LED lighting. The wires are in place and you do need to connect them on the backside of the dish if you want an illuminated dish so I decided to connect them up and position the assembly on the roof and used screws to fasten the assembly to the roof.
Once the dish was in place I ran the wires into the coach. When stowed the RF Mogul only took up 37” of roof space whereas my original dish required 44” when stowed so that gave me a bit more room to locate the RF Mogul unit. The joints in my original dish were fairly sloppy and that allowed the hard roller on the dish to wear a groove into the fiberglass roof material which I had repaired with a piece of 3M SafetyWalk vinyl material to prevent wearing through the fiberglass. But the RF Mogul came with a nice set of skids to support the arm as well as a stainless steel plate for it to rest on so I removed the vinyl material, cleaned up the adhesive and replaced it with the stainless steel plate.
The controller for the original satellite dish was installed in an entertainment center cabinet that was located in a slideout. It wouldn’t be practical to replace its 8-pin communications cable with the RF Mogul’s 12-pin cable, plus run the new coax from the dish to the cabinet due to the minimal size of the wire chase in the slideout mechanism. Instead, the new controller was installed in an overhead cockpit compartment on the driver’s side where it was easy to run the new cables between the dish and controller. All of the cable entrances, as well as any rooftop fasteners, were sealed up with sealant to prevent any leaks. The coax cable leaving the controller then ran down to the satellite TV distribution splitter and power inserter in the basement, where it fed all of the satellite receivers in the coach. After making the required connections to the controller the system was ready for testing.
When the RF Mogul was installed it was plain to see that this unit was constructed better than the original satellite dish that was installed on the coach. When the arm was raised it was rock solid and wasn’t as sloppy as the original dish. I couldn’t test the system immediately after installation due to heavy tree coverage but we were scheduled to leave on a long trip shortly after completing the installation so my testing was reserved for our first night on the road. I pulled into the campground and switched on the system. I performed the initial synchronization procedure to marry the controller to the dish, as stated in the manual, then pushed the Search button and waited. I walked outside as the dish quickly found its GPS location and raised and rotated the dish to find the satellite. To my dismay, there was a tree branch overhanging our coach with brush partially obscuring the dish so I didn’t’ expect to get a signal. But, to my surprise, when I went inside the coach I found that the TVs were working anyway. I didn’t expect that, based on past experience.
We had a number of overnight stops during this trip and I was very impressed with how rapidly the RF Mogul would lock onto the satellite. Both the raise and stow procedures were much faster. The GPS built into this unit really makes a difference. Our old dish would rise up and rotate, trying to find the satellite, then continue on in steps until it finally found it. The GPS on the RF Mogul tells it just where to look so it goes right to that area, then peaks the signal. It also locks in with a stronger signal. All satellite dishes will encounter rain fade when the rain clouds start to darken the sky. But the RF Mogul gave us much more signal strength and we retained good reception until the rain came down much heavier. With our previous dish we would have been out of service much earlier. I didn’t think there would be any difference because the dish and LNB are the same as what is used on most every dish setup out there but the proof is in the results.
Further research revealed that the signal improvement was mainly due to three factors. The tighter tolerances of the mechanism allow for very accurate aiming without any freeplay or movement by the wind. If you grab hold of the unit while it is extended you can’t feel any movement in the elevation, azimuth or skew. The tighter tolerances of the steel gears used in the RF Mogul give it a closer lock on the satellite whereas the cast steel and nylon gears of my previous unit had quite a bit of play which allowed for signal drift, especially in windy conditions. The GPS also adds a bit more accuracy, working in combination with some sophisticated algorithms to allow for extremely accurate peaking that yields the strongest possible signal.
My final test was at a campground in Wyoming. We stay at this campground frequently on our trips out west and always get our same favorite spot. But many years ago we lost the ability to use our satellite dish because the huge oak trees just kept growing and blocking the dish’s view of the southern sky. This wasn’t specific to any one RV either because all four of our motorhomes had the same issue at this spot. We just gave up on satellite TV in that location due to the large overhanging branches. But just for kicks I figured I try it with the new RF Mogul dish. The system took a bit longer to lock on but it actually did find the satellite. I actually had satellite TV inside the coach! My DirecTV system had a triple LNB dish so some of the channels reverted to standard definition because the outer LNBs couldn‘t see through some of the heavy limbs. But we were still able to watch our channels, which was amazing for this location. Given the overall quality and performance of this unit, plus excellent support from both RF Mogul and an installing dealer such as National Indoor RV Centers I have to rate this amazing satellite dish a full five stars.
There are plenty of benefits to storing an RV, especially if you plan on taking a break from the road for more than a few months. In addition to the convenience of not maintaining your RV in the off-season, a good storage facility also provides you with the peace of mind that your RV is safe and being properly tended to.
However, the quality of service at a local RV storage facility can vary greatly. To that end, let’s look at the three biggest things to be mindful of when looking for a place to store your home-away-from-home.
Let’s Get the Obvious Out of the Way: You Want Indoor Storage
Storing an RV can significantly decrease your cost of ownership during months of downtime. The winterization process can be a hassle, and an expensive one at that – especially if you have to do it more than once! Indoor storage keeps your RV safe, warm and dry and protects against damages to your battery, electronics and tires, to name a few.
First and foremost, make sure that your RV will be stored in an enclosed, covered space. Direct sunlight can be harmful to your roof, paint and tires when exposed for long enough. Additionally, confirm that storage space is waterproof to ensure that your RV is being kept in the best possible condition.
If you do decide to head out during the winter months, a good facility should prep the vehicle for you. Nobody wants to winterize for a quick Christmas trip, only to have to do it again upon returning! The convenience provided by a reputable storage facility is an invaluable service.
No matter what year or make your RV is, you wouldn’t store it by just parking it on the side of a city street. While that might sound like a no-brainer, plenty of RV storage facilities offer roughly the same amount of security as an abandoned gas station parking lot. That’s not a joke, either. Unscrupulous RV storage facilities might just rent some affordable city lots and park RVs there in hopes that a single chain link fence is enough to keep them safe.
Your RV deserves better than that. As every RV has expensively engineered parts – and priceless personal memories – you’ll want to make sure that it’s kept under a watchful eye at all hours of the day. When talking to a potential RV storage location, make sure to ask about what security systems they have in place in order to protect their vehicles.
A good RV storage solution will feature 24/7 video surveillance in a gated facility. Professional RV storage solutions will also subject employees to background checks and drug tests in order to ensure that they’re reputable.
Fortunately, an RV storage facility that offers good security will likely offer high-quality services in other areas too. Security is one of the most common cost-cutting areas of unprofessional RV storage. This means that if a prospective storage facility protects your RV, they’ll likely be taking care of it in other ways as well, such as:
A Good Storage Location Is Able to Maintain Your RV, Not Just House It
Nothing throws a damper in road trip season like getting your motorhome out of storage only to find that it needs several costly repairs before it’s able to hit the road again. Systems can degrade over time if they’re not used or maintained properly, especially if you store your RV for multiple years at a time.
To that end, you’ll want to make sure that your RV storage solution is committed to giving you a road-ready RV when you come to pick up your keys. Features like tire pressure checks, battery recharging, and freshwater tank refills go a long way in getting the season’s maiden voyage off to a smooth start.
While you’re at it, ask about any additional convenience that your RV storage facility is able to provide. The best ones will feature dump stations, on-site repair and detailing. If you pick a good one, you can also look forward to valet service!
If you haven’t noticed, there’s a commonality between these three things: you’ll want to make sure that whatever indoor RV storage facility you choose values your RV as much as you do. A good RV storage facility understands that every RV is unique – full of special memories and particular mechanical considerations. Picking a good RV storage facility isn’t just a matter of finding a place to park your motorhome, it’s making sure that it will be taken care of by people who are as excited about the open road as you are.
Water is a basic necessity in any RV, both for our health as well as convenience for washing dishes, ourselves and other uses. But not all water is created equal. The typical fresh water supply can contain any number of contaminants such as minerals, alkalis and acids or even bacteria and microorganisms such as cysts. All of these items detract from what is desired in clean, pure water. Minerals such as calcium and lime can cause damage to plumbing fixtures. High iron content is equally destructive and bacteria and cysts can leave us with some serious health issues.
Fortunately, there are a number of ways that water can be treated or conditioned to rectify these situations. But each type of system has its own area where it functions well and other areas where it does not so you need to determine which particular water condition you need to treat. You wouldn’t go to an orthopedic surgeon for an issue with your heart nor would you go to a cardiac doctor for a hip replacement. In the same way choosing the correct solution for your specific water supply condition is just as important.
ORP and pH
One particular acronym that is well known in the health care field but not so much in the RV industry is ORP, which stands for Oxidation Reduction Potential and is also known as Redox. ORP is a measure of the tendency of water to either acquire or donate electrons. Oxidative agents (like free radicals) need and acquire electrons. Reductive agents, (antioxidants) donate electrons. ORP is measured in millivolts (mv). An ORP of 400 mv is four times more anti-oxidizing than an ORP of 100 mv. We’ll see later on when we talk about reverse osmosis systems why ORP is important.
ORP is not pH, which is the measurement of the acidity or alkalinity of a solution. pH stands for “potential hydrogen” and measures on a scale of 0 to 14, with 7 being neutral. pH less than 7 is acidic so the lower the number, the greater the acidity is with a pH of zero being extremely acidic. A pH measurement greater than 7 is alkaline, with a pH of 14 being the most extreme alkaline. Blood typically has a pH of between 7.35 and 7.45, which means it is slightly alkaline. Your stomach is acidic so that it can break down and digest your food. Your body fights hard to neutralize acids and maintain the proper pH in organs, tissues and body fluids. But it can only do that for so long before a condition known as acidosis occurs. You have to give the body what it needs, in the form of alkalizing fruits and vegetables, so that it can properly maintain the delicate acid base balance. However there is a loose relationship between pH and ORP. High pH (alkaline) water has more reducing agents (-ORP) and low pH water (+ORP) has more oxidizing agents. A negative ORP is only beneficial to the body if the pH occurs naturally in the water due to its minerals.
Oxidation is great because it kills bacteria in swimming pools and sewage systems but isn’t something that does any good in the human body. Oxidation is what forms rust, which weakens metal. It also turns an apple brown once it’s been cut and occurs by stealing electrons from whatever is being oxidized. A reducing agent, or antioxidant, is something that inhibits or slows the process of oxidation. Instead of stealing electrons from the surface it donates them.
Most types of water, including tap water and bottled water are oxidizing agents because their ORP is a positive value, generally between +200 to +600 mv. Alkaline ionized water is an anti-oxidizing agent, as it has a negative ORP value and is able to donate extra electrons to neutralize the harmful effects of free radicals in the body. This shows that health wise, it makes sense that the optimal drinking water should have a negative ORP. Many water sources have chlorine in them to kill harmful bacteria, which gives them a positive ORP. But the fluids in the human body will still have a negative ORP because the drinking water with a high ORP is reduced to a negative ORP at the expense of consuming the electrical energy from cell membranes.
Oxidation is a regular function of cell metabolism and strips an electron from free radical molecules. These molecules then strip an electron from another cell to repair themselves and the cycle continues but finally ends when it finds a donor molecule with a free electron to give. These donor molecules are called antioxidants and can be provided by nature in vitamin C and E, Beta Carotene, Selenium, etc. Oxidation is the leading cause for premature aging and degenerative diseases. Pollution, chemicals, food additives and antibiotics dramatically accelerate the oxidation process. Refined foods have much of the vitamins and antioxidants removed during processing so unless you are eating farm-to-table you’ll need to take supplements. People who take regular doses of supplements such as vitamin C &E, Beta Carotene, grape seed extract and alpha lipoic acid have lower rates of heart disease, cancer and chronic degenerative diseases. Like these supplements, ionized water is a natural antioxidant and is easily absorbed into your system because it’s already dissolved.
Of course, even the most perfect water won’t help unless you drink it. 75% of North Americans are chronically dehydrated. Symptoms vary as per the following table:
Gastrointestinal problems, heat exhaustion, dizziness, headache, dry mouth and fatigue
Severe, potentially fatal level, may lose loss of thirst
Heat stroke, hallucinations, lack of sweat and urine, high body temperature and an unsteady walk
A recent study at the University of Washington found that drinking 5 glasses of water a day decreases the risk of breast cancer by 79%, bladder cancer 50% and colon cancer by 35%. When cells are dehydrated the membrane becomes convoluted and oxygen and nutrients find it harder to penetrate the cell’s membrane nor can waste products exit the cell. It’s especially important for smokers and people who eat instant food to drink a greater volume of water to preserve their health. One common problem is that our thirst signals decline as we become more accustomed to dehydration and as we age so we don’t drink as much water as we should.
A simple method for determining how much water you should consume in a day is to take your body weight in pounds and divide it by two. That is the number of ounces of water that you should drink in one day. Don’t count on coffee or soda pop to supplement your water intake. The caffeine found in coffee and soda means you will have to drink an equal amount of water just to break even and cancel the negative effects brought by the coffee or soda. The sugar content in soda exerts osmotic pressure and water is lost from the blood to make the soda dilute enough to leave the stomach. Sports drinks are good for extreme athletes who burn through blood sugar and electrolytes during extended workouts but the average guy who works out at the gym will get enough nutrients from their food to make up for what is lost during athletics.
Filters are fairly simple in theory. They are just like a screen that keeps large particles out. The finer the screen, the more particles will be removed. Filters are commonly rated in microns. One micron is equal to one millionth of a meter therefore a filter that is rated at 10 microns will filter finer particles than one rated at 40 microns. A filter with a low numerical rating also creates more restriction to a similar sized filter with a higher rating because the finer filter media creates more resistance to water flow. But choosing a larger filter with more surface area can overcome this and restore the water flow to an acceptable level. Most motorhomes will come equipped with a whole house canister style filter with replaceable elements to filter all of your coach’s water.
Filter media varies from one filter to another. A common basic filter uses pleated paper to filter out particles, much like the air filter in your vehicle. Once the paper pleats fill up with particles that have been removed from the water the filter will restrict flow and need to be replaced. Other filters may use a blow molded media that allows the particles to be embedded into the filter with some depth, which will result in longer life. Both of these types are basic filters suitable for removing sand and solid particles from the water as long as they are larger in size than the micron rating on the filter. They will not remove fine particles or ions that are suspended in the water so while they filter the water, they do not treat it.
Carbon is an excellent choice for removing odors in the air. It also works well to treat water, removing taste and odor artifacts from your water supply. Carbon filters will remove chlorine, sulphur and other contaminants from your water supply. There is some discussion regarding removing chlorine from fresh water tanks but in reality it’s not a concern. If the water in the tank is used and replenished on a regular basis, such as when full-timing, the water will never get stagnant. If the water in the fresh tank does sit around and get stagnant, especially in hot climates, the chlorine will evaporate out of the tank anyway. Your best bet is to sanitize the fresh tank when needed. If used regularly this may only need to be an annual thing but if allowed to sit for extended periods of time you may need to do this much more frequently.
One drawback to carbon is that bacteria can build up and grow inside the filter. By choosing a bacteriostatic filter with Kinetic Degradation Fluxion (KDF) media you will prevent this. The KDF media is a high purity copper-zinc media interspersed with the granular activated carbon (GAC) media inside the filter. It protects the carbon media by extending its life and preventing fouling due to bacteria growth through a process called redox (oxidation/reduction). It will remove chlorine, lead, mercury hydrogen sulfide and even iron to an extent from the water supply. The GAC/KDF filters cost a bit more than standard GAC filters but the results are well worth it.
Another filtration system is the Quantum Disinfection system by US Water Systems. This technology uses highly charged substrate areas that have been modified via a patented process. Any microorganism, (bacteria, yeast, virus or cyst) is immediately destroyed as it comes in contact with the media. UV systems kill the bacteria with UV light but the dead bacteria remain in the water. Quantum disinfection actually removes the dead bacteria from the water. The drawback to Quantum disinfection is that algae iron, and suspended solids can bind the media so you need to pre-filter the water prior to entering the Quantum filter. But the end result is that 99.99% of all bacteria are removed. Any water entering this system must first be filtered by a prefilter to remove iron, sulfur and other elements that can render the Quantum Disinfection media inoperative.
Water with a high iron content will affect the taste of the water as well as leave ugly stains in your plumbing fixtures. Iron can be difficult to remove from the water supply. To a certain extent KDF based filters can remove the iron or at least reduce it to an acceptable level if the iron content is fairly low. But for those water supplies that have a fairly high iron content a dedicated iron filter, which will also remove sulphur, will be required. Iron filters operate by drawing air into an oxidation chamber where the iron or sulphur is oxidized into particulate. The water then percolates over a bed of filtration media that traps the iron or sulphur oxides before exiting the filter. When the media no longer is effective, the iron filter is regenerated by backflushing, similar to a water softener. However, no salt or brine tank is required. The filter is simply backflushed with water and then air is allowed to enter the top of the filter to recharge it. Iron filters can be equipped with manual heads or automatic heads to facilitate regeneration. A drain line is required to be connected to the gray water tank or sewer to accommodate the waste water when backflushing although the water is safe and could be dispersed onto the ground if allowed. The media has a long life and most likely you’ll never have to replace the filter or its media for as long as you own the coach. Because it does not require disposable filters or salt for its operation it’s basically a zero cost maintenance item for as long as you own the filter.
Perhaps the most common situation is hard water, which is water that is high in mineral content. Hard water isn’t all that harmful to your health. In fact the World Health Organization has found that hard water can be a good dietary supplement, rich in calcium and zinc, as long as it isn’t too excessive which makes it’s taste undesirable. But hard water isn’t the greatest for your coach’s fresh water system. Minerals such as calcium carbonate will cause a lime scale buildup. This scale can restrict flow in Pex water lines and can also lead to galvanic corrosion when two dissimilar metals are in contact with each other. Hard water also inhibits soap suds, leaving a soap scum after showering or leaving white calcium deposits plastered to the side of dishes and cups after dishwashing.
Hard water can’t be effectively treated by conventional filters and will require a water softener to effectively treat hard water. A water softener consists of a tank filled with polymer resin beads and operates on an ion exchange principle. The resin is treated with a salt brine that is given a salt bath that coats the media with sodium ions. As the water passes through the softener the resin exchanges the calcium and magnesium ions for sodium ions, which effectively neutralizes the hardness in the water. Eventually the sodium ions become depleted and the resin beads become coated with the calcium and magnesium ions. At this point the softener won’t be able to treat any more hard water and will require regeneration.
Regeneration is a process where the ion exchange process is reversed. A salt brine is passed through the softener and picks up the hard water deposits from the resin media and carries it out into the waste water through a backwash process. Once these deposits have been removed from the resin a salt brine is run through the softener to recoat the resin with sodium ions so that it can continue to soften future incoming water. Residential softeners are equipped with metering systems and automatic regeneration controls to do this automatically, based on the volume of water but these are designed for a residential application and are too large for use in a motorhome. Small portable units are available for RV applications but these will require manual regeneration. Inexpensive test strips will allow the RV owner to sample their water and measure the hardness according to a color chart to determine when regeneration is necessary.
I originally had one of these manually regenerated units in our coaches. This was a good unit that was equipped with a canister-style pre-filter housing that contained a blow-molded element to prolong the life of the softener’s media. When the softener needed regeneration I would have to shut off the water to the coach, remove the prefilter from the canister and fill the canister with solar salt crystal and insert a pickup tube to draw water from the bottom of the housing. Then the water was turned back on and a sink faucet was opened so that the water flow was about the size of a pencil stream. The water would run for about 30 minutes as the salt in the prefilter housing ran through the softener and regenerated the sodium ions in the media. I then shut off the water, dumped out the little bit of salt that remained in the canister, removed the pick-up tube and installed a new blow-molded prefilter element. I then turned the water back on and drained the gray tank, which now had all of the backwash water in it. All told we were without water for about 45 minutes during this process.
Fortunately, National Indoor RV Centers handles a custom residential system by Motor Coach Water Filtration that is compact enough to fit in a basement compartment of a class A coach. I replaced my original manual softener with one of these in our Entegra Cornerstone and it’s a world of difference from my previous manually regenerated unit. This softener has a meter that monitors water consumption and can automatically regenerate the softener at a set time after a specified number of gallons have passed threough the softener. Typically I set my softener to 600 gallons of water and have it programmed to perform this at 2 AM in the morning when we are sleeping. The regeneration process takes over an hour but at 2 AM, that’s not a concern.
The regeneration process backwashes the softener’s media, then draws the salt brine in from the brine tank to regenerate the media. After a period of time it refills the brine tank with fresh water so that the brine will be ready for the next time regeneration is needed. The whole process is fully automated, uses less water than the manually regenerated systems and never locks out your water usage during this process because the softener goes into bypass mode during regeneration. The only user intervention is to dump some salt into the brine tank every month or so and make sure your gray tank isn’t very full on the day the system will regenerate. The gallons remaining will be displayed on the softener’s LCD display and you can manually regenerate at any time or set it to regenerate at 2 AM that evening if the water at this particular stop is particularly hard.
When selecting a water softener, keep in mind that some water softener claims can be suspect. Any softener advertising that claims to treat a certain amount of gallons is misleading. Water softeners are capable of treating a given amount of hardness in the water. If the water is mildly hard it will treat many more gallons than when treating water that is extremely hard. Some areas such as the Pacific Northwest and New England states have the softest water while the Great Lakes states have moderately hard water. Arizona, New Mexico, Texas and the southern portion of California are known for extremely hard water. Softeners with larger tank sizes will be able to treat more water between regeneration cycles than softeners with smaller tanks. The trade-off for a motorhome owner is that storage space is limited so compromises do have to be made. If space is not available you can always utilize a large softener and place it outside the coach near the campground water supply, which works quite well in a full-time environment where you have an extended stay at that campground. However the softener must be kept from freezing so if the weather drops below freezing during the night you could damage the softener. Also, softeners should be transported in the vertical position because the strainer basket can be damaged in transported in the horizontal position.
It stands to reason that if ionized water is good for your health then deionized water is bad for your health because certain minerals are needed in our daily intake. Deionized water is simply water that has had all of the ionized particles removed. Once all of the organic material has been filtered from the water supply, all that’s left are ions such as calcium, sodium, chlorides, etc. When you wash and rinse your coach the water will evaporate but the minerals in the water remain and leave water spots behind on your painted finish. The way to eliminate this is to deionize your rinse water, which replaces the positively charged mineral ions such as calcium, magnesium, iron and sodium (cations) and negatively charged ions such as silica, chlorides, sulfates, nitrates and carbonates (anions) with hydrogen (H+) and Hydroxyl (OH-) ions, which combine to make pure water that will not leave any water spots when dry.
Deionizers can be had in a variety of configurations. Like a water softener, the media will eventually give up its ions and no longer work. It either needs to be replaced or regenerated. Regeneration is only feasible on large scale applications because concentrated acid and caustic material is used to strip away accumulated ions through physical replacement. For normal consumer use, such as in our RV wash routines, replacement cartridges are more desirable. A two bed system uses separate cation and anion resin beds. Both types of resin are required to totally deionize water but mixed bed systems are available that only require one tank. A mixed bed system provides the highest water quality while a two bed system has a larger capacity. Once the resin has been exhausted it must be replaced. Some tanks can be rebed with new bulk media while some systems use disposable cartridges. A dual probe TDS (Total Dissolved Solids) meter, with one probe sampling incoming water and the other sampling the outgoing deionized water, can tell you when your media is no longer functioning. Deionizer media life can be extended by using regular softened water for washing the coach, reserving the deionized water for the final rinse.
On my coach I use a large mixed bed system from Motor Coach Water Filtration that NIRVC handles. It has a longer life than the two smaller portable tank system that I previously used. I strictly use this for my rinse water and that lasts me between 1-2 years, depending on how often I use it. I installed a TDS meter to measure the incoming and outgoing water quality so that I know when to rebed the softener, which is simply done by dumping the old media out and replacing it with new media. The end result is that I no longer have any water spots so I don’t have to quickly wipe down the coach after rinsing.
Reverse Osmosis Systems
One popular trend with RV owners is the increased use of reverse osmosis (RO) systems. The RO water purification method involves forcing water through a permeable membrane, which filters out any contaminants, depending on their size. If the contaminants are larger in size than the water molecules they will be filtered out but if they are smaller in size they will remain in the water as it passes through the membrane. RO systems do require pressure to force the water through the membrane. There is a fair amount of waste water involved in the RO process and the fairly low water pressure found in an RV water system means you’ll waste more water than you purify. The filtered water passes through the RO system quite slowly so it is put into a storage tank so that it can be used as needed. RO systems require reasonably clean water to begin with and will utilize pre-filters and carbon block filters prior to entering the RO membrane. The water that passes through the membrane will be 95-99% pure. In fact it can be too pure.
The main health benefit to RO water is that the RO system removes unhealthy contaminants such as arsenic, nitrates, sodium, copper, lead, some organic chemicals and the municipal additive fluoride. However, the disadvantages of RO water can outweigh its benefits. RO water is demineralized yet minerals are an important component to our health. The World Health Organization released a report in 2009 stating that RO water has a definite adverse influence on our health. Some nations began using RO water treatment in their municipal systems and in just a few short months the effects began to show. Increased cardiovascular disorders, gastrointestinal problems, tired, weakness and muscle cramps were common. Not only does RO water not contain the minerals our bodies need but it also leaches minerals from our bodies. Most notable, calcium was leached out of bones, resulting in bone density issues and joint conditions. Any minerals that are consumed in the food we eat are simply being urinated away. Studies have shown that increased mineral intake from food was not sufficient to compensate for the mineral loss from RO water. The end result was effective dehydration with the same accompanying symptoms.
RO water is also acidic. As we saw earlier in the section on ORP, our bodies need to retain a proper alkaline balance and adding acidic water will harm that. RO water is corrosive to our fresh water system plumbing. Brass fittings, faucet fixtures and water pump components can have shorter lives. Also, RO systems do not totally remove everything. Volatile organic chemicals (VOCs), chlorine, pharmaceuticals and a number of other synthetic chemicals are not filtered from an RO system. If you have an RO water system and aren’t ready to give it up you can add a remineralization cartridge to your RO system’s output to put back some of what has been removed. This isn’t as good as drinking water that contains minerals naturally but it will help somewhat with the acid-alkaline balance in the body.
Mark Quasius is the founder of RVtechMag.com, the past Midwest editor of RV Magazine, writes for numerous RV-related publications and a regular Contributor to FMCA’s Family RVing Magazine. Mark and his wife Leann travel in their 2016 Entegra Cornerstone.