After making the decision to go and live on the road full time, there were several other modifications that we (or at least I) felt would make life more enjoyable. We probably could have done without some of these, but seeing how we have several months to prepare our rolling home for departure, it seemed like a great time to get them done. So in not particular order, here are the newest modifications.
– Kitchen and bathroom counters. One of the things that has always bugged me about our RV are the counters and sinks that came with it. Our unit is by no means a luxury bus, but the way cheap formica counters with pressed in rubber edging just are not nice. The sinks are simple plastic white units mounted on top of the counters. They constantly collect dirt and grime. the faucets are cheap white plastic, again, just feels like a a camper to honest. Well, this is now going to be our home, so I would like it to feel more like a home. So I did some research and found that Corian is not difficult to work with, similar to wood working, and I could utilize all the same tools. So it was decided to change out the counters with Corian that I would fabricate myself. We chose a color we liked and I proceeded to purchase a full sheet and partial sheet from a supplier. I had to use Wilsonart material as opposed to Corian brand, as Corian will not sell to individuals only to authorized installers. I purchased a used specialty glue gun on Ebay and I was ready to go. Demo was the first order of business. I was amazed at some of the poor plumbing and electrical work that I uncovered when I took out the counters in the kitchen and bathroom. Just having the ability to repair and upgrade these installations made the whole project worth it to me. I sourced a great single bowl stainless sink for the kitchen as well as a smaller one for the bathroom. I was able to under mount the sinks, giving the whole setup a great custom look. While making the kitchen counter I was also able to add a pull out leaf to the side of the stove to allow for some extra counter space when needed. We also found some great brushed nickel faucets for both the kitchen and bathroom. The whole project turned out great and we could not be happier with the results. It really helped give the Seneca a upscale residential feel.
– The next item on the list was additional solar power. At the present time we had two Unisolar 12v 68 watt flexible solar panels for a total of 136 watts of solar power on the roof and a 20amp charge controller. We only have 2 Optima Gel-Cell batteries, each with 110AH for a total of 220AH, which is not very much. We will be taking the batteries down to 60% capacity on a regular basis and the 136 watts takes several hours to recover the batteries to 100%. Seeing how as we plan to spend as much time as possible boondocking, I felt we needed to add more panel to allow for more inverter usage each day and eliminate the need to run the generator unless absolutely needed. The plan is to replace the house batteries with two Lifeline 6volt 220AH batteries (they are close in size and will fit in the current location of the 2 Optima 12volts) wired in series for a total of 440AH. We will not change out the batteries until the current ones go bad, which could be a long time, but I wanted to beef up the solar capacity now to give us faster recharge as well as be ready for the additional AH capacity when it happens. I added 3 more Unisolar 12volt 68watt panels to the roof, for a total of 5 panels giving us 340watts of power. I also upgraded the charge controller to a 30amp unit and upsized the wire from the batteries to the combiner box on the roof to handle the additional power. This setup should serve us well. We will be able to not worry as much about getting charged back up each day. We have been out several trips so far and if the current batteries are drawn down to 55% on the previous day, if the sun is out, we are fully charged by 10am. This is even with the lower sun in the winter we have now. Sorry I do not have a photo that shows all 5 panels, but this photo from our stay at the Advocare 500 at PIR this fall shows three of the panels, which all happen to be the new ones.
– Onboard air compressor. From our years of off road driving and building Jeeps, we are well aware of the value of having compressed air available when on your own. There was a perfect spot under the coach to install a Viar 2 gallon air tank and 12volt continuous duty compressor. With the tank and compressor mounted, I installed a valve, gauge and quick release setup in one of the storage compartments. How, with the accessory bag I put together, we can handle any air needs that come up. Anything from airing up a low tire on the RV or running air tools to airing up the Jeep tires after an off road trip where we let the pressure down for added traction. This mod is a great piece of mind for me.
– Desk. Seeing how as both Toni and I will surely spent quite a bit of time on our computers, I felt it would be nice to have a separate desk space to work at so we will not both be sitting at the dining table. There was a great spot beside our recliner chair that I could build a lift out type desk on. I would be able to sit at the desk and have a view out the window in front of me and to the side. So a little planing and a bunch of wood working and I made myself a desk. It only sticks off the wall about 4″ when stowed and have a side door that will allow me to store my laptop inside when not in use. When I need the desk, I simply lift it out and put it into place and I have a great spot to work. I also constructed a storage cabinet along the floor that will be able to hold all our various cords and adapters, as well as cameras and such. I added an inverter powered outlet as well as a 12volt outlet right at the desk location. Now I have nice little place to call my own to sit and write my blogs!
– Sea Eagle Kayak. This one is an accessory more than a modification, but I still felt it was worth mentioning. We purchased a Sea Eagle 370 (you can check out a link to the boat here( http://www.seaeagle.com/SportKayaks.aspx?hullID=SE370 ). We have only had it out a couple of times, but I know we will use it often once we are traveling. What a great way to get out and explore the awesome rivers and lakes we will come across as we see the country.
– Bed Topper. While we tend to sleep very well in our RV bedroom, the mattress is not exactly luxurious. In our previous RV we had installed a memory foam mattress topper and really loved it. These days they have made them even better and they are sort of a foam/gel type operation that actually helps to keep you cool on warm nights. We scoped out one of these toppers and installed it. So far, two trips in, it is great. it makes a huge difference in the overall comfort of the bed, feels better that the one at our current house. No doubt this will be a huge plus once we are in sleeping in the RV every night.
– Upgraded inverter. I had already installed a Xantrex Pro XM1800 watt inverter in the RV a couple years back. What I did not realize at the time, was that a modified sign wave inverter, such as the XM1800 is not the greatest for electronics. The RV has LED televisions, laptop computers, blueray players and all kinds of sensitive electronics. From what I have learned, the modified sign wave can damage these over time, which is not good. This got me to thinking about the whole inverter setup and how I should proceed to upgrade to a pure sign wave setup. I looked into all kinds of options. The current setup, the Xantrex XM1800, had some features I really liked. It is hard wired to both the shore power the loads and the battery and has a built in transfer switch. What I like about this is that I could utilize the existing 110volt outlets in the RV and tie them to the inverter and would not need to install new outlets. I simply needed to decided which outlets I wanted on the inverter and intercept the wiring and tie them to the inverter. The reason I like this inverter is that when I turn it on, all the outlets wired to it run from the batteries via the inverter, but when shore power is present, or the generator is running, the inverter passes the power straight through and the outlets are then powered from shore power. The transfer is automatic and works great. BUT, when I wired the current unit, I simply tied all the feeds to the outlets directly to the inverter via a junction box. The bad part about this, there is no individual circuit breaker protection for each outlet. This I did want to change. I looked into whole unit type pure sign inverters, but I would have to do alot of rewiring and they are VERY expensive. My inverter location is also about 10′ from the batteries, which is far from ideal and requires some hefty and expensive wiring. I already had in place 2/0 wire from the batteries to the inverter location, so really I need to stick with about a 1800-2000 watt inverter to save the trouble and expense of rewiring from the batteries. So I found that Xantrex makes a 1800 Pure Sign Wave inverter the PROSign 1800, that is also hard wired and has the same transfer switch operation as my current unit. Here is a link to the specific unit I purchased ( http://www.xantrex.com/power-products/power-inverters/prosine.aspx ) The big plus, Pure Sign Wave, so now all the electronics would be happy happy happy. That is the route I decided to go. It took a little re-working, as the new inverter is larger than the old one, but I was not too bad. What I did decide to do was put a sub-panel on the load side of the inverter. So now, each individual outlet that the inverter feeds is protected by a 15amp circuit breaker, which makes me happy. I also upgraded the breaker feeding the line side of the inverter with a GFCI breaker as recommended by Xantrex. I was able to use my existing wiring to remotely mount the new control panel, just had to modify the mounting hole to fit the larger remote panel which how has the added benefit of showing the load on the unit. So now we have pure sign wave inverted power for all our 110volt outlets for all our needs. For certain this will save us $$ in the future by not damaging any of our devices.
– Updated backsplashes. I will admit that this is simply another cosmetic item, but after the new counters and sinks the wallpaper backslashes just do not look good. We found a cool product called Smart Tiles ( http://www.thesmarttiles.com/en_us/ ) that seemed like they would really look good. They are basically a rubber type self adhesive tile that emulates the look of glass and tile. It is three dimensional and actually looks like real tile. It really intrigued us, so we bought a sample and checked it out in the RV. We really liked it and decided to “press on” with the idea. Toni handled this install, with me as the assistant to hand her tools and do her bidding. We did the kitchen areas as well as the entire wall area around the bathroom vanity. It looks amazing and we love it. We hope it is durable and stands the test of time, but it sure goes a long way to improve the overall looks of the RV. Scroll back up and check out the photos of the kitchen and bathroom after the counters and sinks were completed. Then take a look below at the transformation after the Smart Tiles
At this point, I think (and Toni prays!!) that we are done with the mods and upgrades to the RV before we hit the road. Now it will just be a matter or organization and selecting just what goes along with us and what we can do without. We are more excited then ever to get out on the road, and being close to the end of 2013, we are withing only a few months of making it happen!This entry was posted in Blog by Kurt Kuhl and comments are open.