As I had mentioned, there are some upgrades that have been and will be completed prior to our living full time in the Seneca. I figured it was best to break the modifications into 2 separate posts. This post will be about the upgrades made over the last 5-6 years to our motorhome and a second post will deal with new modifications for full timing. I am not certain I mentioned what type of motorhome we have in my previous posts. We will be living in a 2006 Jayco Seneca 35GS Super C. It has been a great unit, we have owned it since it was new and it is our second RV. Our first unit was a 1995 Coachmen Catalina 29QB which we also owned from new. The Seneca has treated us very well and is very suited to our type of travel. Many of the features are on par with the fancier class A units. It is equipped with 3 slide outs and full body paint and powered by a DuraMax diesel on a Kodiak 5500 Chassis. We prefer the Super C to the class A for several reasons. First of all, there is room to sleep many people, which was important as we traveled with our children and their friends on occasion. Our unit can sleep 7 comfortably. The other feature we like is the extra ground clearance afforded by the rugged Kodiak chassis. We REALLY enjoy boondocking, and there have been many occasions we go WAY off the beaten path. It makes a big difference when traveling questionable roads to be a little higher off the ground. The super C has also given us the towing capacity we need. Over the years we have towed our Jeep and various toys on trailers. There has never been an issue with capacity for whatever needed to pull.
Our longest trips in the Seneca has been 2-3 weeks thus far. Being a tinkering kind of guy, I always want to improve on our RV and make it more usable and comfortable for us. So there is a list of upgrades that I had already done over the years. Here is a summary of some of the modifications already in place prior to the decision to live in it full time:
– Solar Power. I already had installed a 20amp Sunsaver Solar Charge Controller and 2 Unisolar PVL-68 68 watt flexible solar panels to give us 136 watts of solar power. The flat adhesive backed Unisolar panel seemed like a perfect solution. While they are not as high in wattage, the fact that they are directly installed on the roof makes them very durable. This solar allowed us the recharge our AGM batteries pretty well each day with limited power usage. We have actually been able to go several days of boondocking without needing to run the generator with some careful power use. Solar really does give you alot of flexibility when off the grid.
– Garnet Sea-Level gauge tank monitor. The standard tank level monitor panels that simply show 1, 2 or 3 “dots” for how full the tanks are, just do not cut it for me. This unit shows you the actual percentage full of all tanks. It handles the fresh water, gray water, black water and propane. I do not need to go on about this one, I think everyone will understand the reason for this change. It does require some work installing the sending units and such, but it is more than worth the time.
– Tri-Metric TM-2025RV power usage monitor. This is another invaluable device when doing alot of off grid type camping. This unit allows you to monitor exactly how many amp hours are being drawn from your batteries. It also allows you to see just how many amp hours your solar is putting back in. You can test different appliances to see just how much battery power they use. To install this unit was a bit involved. It requires the use of a shunt device and a large fuse as well. This device is all about knowing what is going on with your system and is an awesome piece of technology to have on board.
– Shoreline Power Cord Reel for shore power cord. Our Seneca is equipped with a 50amp shore power connection. From the factory, this cord has to be connected to the exterior of the unit, then plugged it to shore power. As many of you may know, a 50amp rv cord is not much fun to deal with. It did not take long to be sick if rolling up the 30′ cord and storing it. I purchased and installed the Shoreline 50amp marine power cord reel. Now I have a 40′ 50amp cord that is on a power reel. This means I just grab the end of the cord and plug it into shore power. When we disconnect, I simply unplug from the shore power and press a button and the cord is retracted automatically onto the reel! One of my favorite modifications by far. Took some work to re-wire the shore power connection to the reel, but worth every single moment and dollar.
– Fresh water hose reel. I also installed a 35′ hand crank type fresh water hose reel. While it is not power operated, the fact that the water hose is just pulled off the reel and when cranked back up is a huge improvement over dealing with the white snake of a hose everytime we hook up. This reel is also made by Shoreline.
– Sureguard 34560 Surge Suppressor to protect our power system. Having been “zapped” by bad power in the past, not to mention being an electrician, I know the problems it can cause to an RV. The Sureguard unit checks out the shore power and will not transfer power to the RV is there is any issue. It also protects us from any surges from the park power that could come from many issues. This is excellent piece of mind. While it is costly, it is more than worth the money.
– Upgraded entertainment. Our Seneca came from the factory with a lovely huge tube TV up in the front and an equally lovely tube TV in the bedroom. These worked, but as the years went by, it just made it seem dated. So, while Toni was off visiting her sister out of state, I proceeded o demolish the interior of the RV. This project involved new cabinet work and alot of wiring. We are now sporting a 46″ LED television up from and a 24″ LED in the bedroom. I also re-wired the entire television system to be HDMI. I installed an HDMI switch in the front electronics cabinet that allows us to choose any of 4 separate HDMI inputs and play them on any of up to 4 different televisions. So each of 4 televisions can watch separate things, such as satelite, Blueray, Antenna, Ipad and Wii. Not using all the capability at the moment, but allows for future upgrade and addition of devices. Overall, the upgrades turned out great. Now the tech in our RV is up to par, actually above par for what is available in the market today.
– Exterior entertainment. This one was also a handled while the wife was out of town. This was by far the most risky of all my modifications. Many new RVs have televisions on the exterior of the coach. All we had was a lowly radio and speakers. Not very good for watching the big game or a movie under the stars. I really wanted an exterior television. Problem is, they where fairly new items on RVs at the time and I could not get a manufacturer to sell me a cabinet to cut into the exterior of the motorhome. No worries, I just made my own. With the purchase of a couple of new metal work tools, I made the entire enclosure myself. I then proceeded to cut a big hole right in the side of our perfectly good RV. Here are some pictures, I figured this was work showing for impact. So now we have a 42″ LED television on the exterior as well as a CD player with Ipod control. This was quite the task and did require a painter to complete the project after I was all done. I am very proud of how it turned out and I am pretty much certain we have the only 2006 Seneca with an exterior television mounted in the side.
– Winegard Traveler Satelite System on the roof. In order to watch the before mentioned big game, we needed a way to get a good HD signal. I installed the power HD Dish unit from Winegard. Perfect unit, it sets itself up with the push of a button and grabs an HD signal which is awesome for all the HDTVs we have now. It is wired into our HDMI switch, so we have a choice of satelite, Blueray, Ipad or Wii now for each television. We have been very satisfied with the Dish Network service, but seem to get a lot of trash talk from all the Direct TV users, which seem to far out number us Dish guys. Whatever, it works for us.
– LED lighting. Every light inside and on the exterior of our motorhome is now LED. Out main lighting was fluorescent down the center with a whole bunch of halogen lights for accent and reading. It is all now converted. What a huge difference in power usage. Being able to monitor each light via our Tri-Metric 2025RV, we tested out the before and after. The LEDs that replaced the fluorescent bulbs use only about 1/4 the power and they are more pleasing light. The halogen is obvious just in the wattage reduction. As an example our halogen undercabinet lights were 20watts each and now they are 3 watts each. We (mostly I) do not have to be so stingy with the lights now and still have battery power to spare. I have to admit, it is costly to do the whole RV. I believe we spend close to $275 to change out everything, but I still feel it was very much worth the investement.
– Xantrex 1800 Watt Pure Sine Inverter for 120 volt power. Yes, we have a 5500 Onan Quiet Diesel generator, but who want to listen to that thing run. Especially when out boondocking in the middle of nowhere for the sake of the piece and quiet. Our Seneca came with a little 400watt cheapo inverter that only ran 1 outlet up in the front of the coach for the TV. I re-worked the electrical system and the Xantrex 1800 now powers all the 120volt outlets in the coach. This was we can charge small electronic devices and laptops, run misc appliances and such off battery power. Better to drain the battery power and re-charge it with the free solar power that to pour diesel into the generator. I actually have enjoyed this change more than I thought I would. It is great to utilize the battery power for about everything we need.
– Progressive Dynamics 9200 Converter for charging duties. I figured out pretty quickly that a cheap converter/charger is a good way to quickly ruin your batteries. Our motorhome is plugged in at all times while in storage and the old cheap converter ruined our first set of batteries in just a few months. This more sophisticated converter protects the batteries and will not overcharge them and ruin them. It is also capable of correctly charging AGM batteries, which we now have. We have now had the same batteries for almost 4 year now and no issues and they show no signs of going bad anytime soon. See below for our battery upgrade.
– Optima AGM Blue Top Batteries to replace the wet cell deep cycles. I cannot begin to explain how much I love the AGM battery upgrade. We did this on our first RV and as soon as our crappy converter toasted our first set of deep cycle batteries on the Seneca I changed them out. There is no maintenance with the AGM batteries and they have lasted me many years. Yes, they cost more, but I just would not have any other type. Perhaps I would like to use Lifetime brand next time so I can have more amp hours, but that is all I would change. Each of our Optima Blue Top batteries is 110amp hours, for a total of 220amp hours, which I realize now is a bit low. BUT, as I mentioned, we can use about all the power we need day and night, and the minimal 136watts of solar we have can charge the batteries back up to 100% by 2-3 in the afternoon with some good sun. If we are conservative, we can have them at full charge by noon each day. At any rate, I cannot sing the praises of AGM batteries enough. I also know some people swear by 2 6 volt batteries instead of 2 12volt units, but we are satisfied with the 2 12volts at this time. To each there own.
– Scangauge E to monitor fuel usage. We picked this up at an RV show in Quartzite on a whim. It has turned out to be a great investment. It just simply plugs into the OBII port under the dash, put in some info on the engine you have and such, and it accurately shows fuel mileage. It actually learns as you go, as you enter the amount of fuel you put in at each fillup. After a few tanks, it gives you a very good idea of how many miles are left in the tank. Much better than the fuel gauge alone, which we have found to be pretty unreliable. Our Seneca has an 80 fuel tank, and we would run to below the E on the gauge and when I filled up I could only get 65 gallons in. That means we still had 15 gallons. For me, part of having the large tank is to limit the fuel stops as much as possible and now we are able to do so and not drive in fear of running out at any moment.
– Doggie Dungeon, as our middle son calls it. We travel most of the time with our 2 beagles (Bagel and Cream Cheese). They really had no place to call their own in the RV. I installed expanded metal doors about 24″ x 12″ into the sides of the cabinet below our bed. I also carpeted the area and put in an electric fan we can turn on and off for them. They now have an area about 5′ by 6′ beneath the bed where they can sleep and relax. It is much larger than the crates that most people keep dogs in, plus they get to be together. It is tall enough that they can actually walk around as well. They sleep there and hang our when we are off on excursions and leave them behind. When they are tired, they actually go and stand in front of one of the doors and ask to be let in. They really like having a space of their own, even if it did cost us some storage space.
– Stereo system in the cab. The boring original stereo had no way to play our ipods. This is a big problem for me as I love my music and have it on all the time. I replaced the head unit with a new touch screen DVD unit that has full ipod control. It also is Bluetooth capable, so I can play music direct from my iPhone without even connecting a wire. This one was huge for me, Toni really could care less. But, my sanity (meaning ability to listen to music) is obviously in her best interest.
– Oxygenics Shower Head to reduce water usage. This unit does a great job of making the shower in the RV feel like home. The original shower head just sort of sprayed water and it actually used ALOT of water. This unit uses far less water but feel much stronger and spa like. This in conjunction with a shut-off valve, allows us to take great showers everyday while boondocking and use very little water.
Wow, Toni may be right, I have done alot to our RV already! I have never actually sat and thought about all the different modifications until I wrote this journal. In my defense, we are talking about 6 years of time, not like it all happened overnight. These things have vastly improved our enjoyment of the motorhome, and for sure made it far more functional.
Check back for the next post and I will discuss the modifications that have happened and will happen for our full time living. I think that list is shorter, but based on the above info, I am not going to promise!This entry was posted in Blog by Kurt Kuhl and comments are open.