We bought a good quality pure sine wave 600 watt inverter, a Xantrex ProWatt. It's wired directly to the batteries with 42" long cables through a 80amp class-T fuse. Jim plugged in an outlet strip from the inverter to beside the sofa, and wired a 14-3 insulated tool cord from the inverter to inside the outdoor fridge cabinet. When we're boondocking, we can plug a short version of our trailer power cord into the inverter receptacle in the outdoor fridge cabinet. Bingo! Every 110vac outlet is powered from our inverter. Granted, we only have a 600 watt inverter, so the microwave and roof air can't run, and the fridge works better on propane. All clocks keep good time, we can use any outlet inside our outside, up to the rating of the inverter.
We also bought the remote switch to allow turning the inverter off and on without reaching under the sofa. We turn it off to conserve battery capacity and when we're towing. The remote switch is easy to access and readily indicates if the inverter is "on" or "off". A green LED atop the remote switch clearly marks the operation status. This is very convenient and we're enjoying it.
Debbie calls this smart meter a marriage saver. Jim was putting her in the dark to save battery power, even tho she may have only just turned away from the lighted area for a second. The Trimetric series of battery monitors provides you complete information about your batteries charging and discharging, or in accounting terms, your battery power sources and uses. Why guess at how much battery you need, or how much solar panel capacity you should buy (an expensive choice to guess about) if you don't know how much power you are using?
With our Trimetric 2025-RV we have been able to determine the precise amount of each load. We haven't recorded them but now know how much current each light bank uses, how much current we use for transmitting on each ham radio, how much current our furnace uses, and how much our recharging of laptops is taking. We can see readily both the instantaneous charging level from our solar panels and our PDI Intellipower 9260 converter/charger. And most importantly we see day's accrued charge level. How much are we drawing down the batteries each day? Are we using more than we are replacing into the batteries?
Now we know. We use 45 to 85 amp hours per day. Even throughout the winter we can, in full sun and neither shaded nor clouded, replace what we're using. We sensed, before the quad batteries (installed Feb 2012) and before the Trimetric meter (installed Oct 2012) we could too easily refill the batteries and they just didn't seem to hold up to a day's use. Here's the kicker -- the Trimetric battery monitoring probably would have discouraged replacing the two 6v golf cart batteries with four 6v golf cart batteries.
Four batteries is awesome -- we have somewhere around 430 amp hours battery capacity (20hr rate per Interstate Battery Co). No matter how much we use in a day Jim still has enough left over to operate the HF ham radio (15-20 amp hours load) the next morning without first recharging the batteries. We are pretty sure too we could do the same if we only had two batteries -- they would come closer to full cycle but still do fine. Friends of ours have been making do just fine for years with two 6v golf cart batteries with the same uses and sources as ours.
The point is, without an accurate battery monitoring system you won't KNOW what you really are using per day. Before anyone installs a solar charging or enhanced battery system for anyone, we think they should firmly recommend two week's careful monitoring with a high-grade battery monitoring system like the Trimetric 2025. Less than $200 for the meter, shunt, and wiring, and maybe another $100 or $200 for labor (this install required a mechanic and a helper an hour or two) is a small price to pay to determine how best to spend solar panels or battery dollars. We highly recommend this battery monitor, the Trimetric 2025-RV. We bought ours from www.bestconverter.com
Why couldn't we do the same? Except we wouldn't need to install a roof vent, we have a Fantastic Fan in the roof at each end of the trailer and each is covered with MaxxAir weather cover, to allow keeping the Fantastic Fan open in inclement weather. We only need a Salem Vent through the wall near our floor at the front of the trailer.
We ordered one with interior trim, but not as nice as the one offered by Airstream Co. Theirs includes a trim deep enough for the Airstream's wall thickness. The trim strip for ours required we add a piece of trim between the trim strip and the vent on the inside to complete the install. The job looks good, works great. We keep the vent open 24/7 except when driving.
You can see details about our installation at
We bought a terra cotta floor tile 1/2" X 12" X 12" from Lowes for $1, placed it in the oven. It immediately improved the evenness of our oven's baking. Unfortunately, eight months later on a bumpy stretch of secondary road near Boise, Idaho, the tile broke into a couple of pieces. We found a nearby Lowes and replaced it with a slightly thinner piece of slate. We chose the slate because Lowes didn't have the quarry tile.
Note, there is a great amount of information on the internet about what tiles not to use and why. The primary advice seems about avoidance of lead, mostly from glazes. The terra cotta quarry tile and the slate both are unglazed. The other advice was to pay upwards from $45 to almost $100 for a baking tile. You get what you pay for, and all that. We are happy with the results from the $1 tile except for it breaking in half after eight months, including driving from south Florida to Canada and crossing half of Canada.
Would a $50 tile not break, jarring about in our oven? We don't need to try it. This time we trimmed the corners and one edge so it nestles into the heat plate better. Meanwhile, the baking seems just as good as with the thicker quarry tile. The slate tile has lasted several years (+/- 30,000 trailer miles) of travel without breaking.
Jim threatened for a long time to build a sauna deck for the floor space in front of the toilet, just outside the shower stall. Turned out recently we stayed a couple of weeks somewhere with a nice woodshop and some wood scraps. Jim spent an evening cutting this, and the next morning sanded and sealed it. The 2"X2" frame sits on five 3/8" rubber feet from mud flap cut-offs, and brass brads attach 1/2" slats to the 2 X 2s. White toilet seat elongated bumpers prevent it from chafing the white boards at the toilet and shower.
On the one hand, some of these spaces house the little bits of mechanical, electrical, or plumbing equipment to support our camper. However the equipment items don't take much of the space and don't appear very at risk for harm from our storage of items nearby. The factory installed latches and hinges identical to those on the rest of the casework in the camper. We found a source for matching cabinet pulls and added them to three cabinet doors, one each under the pantry, Deb's wardrobe, and Jim's wardrobe. This increased our storage significantly, by allowing storage of our waste can, our small collection of adult beverages, with room left over. Return to top
Airstream installs these flush latches in the newer Airstreams, and the elimination of the long lever handle is very smart. Many times we each have caught a pocket or belt loop or sleeve on the wash room door handle. Not any more! We learned about a reasonably priced source for these latches from
Perlane Southco. Phoned the order in, told them it is for an Airstream interior door. They knew exactly what to help us order and the latch arrived in three days from ordering. It installed very easily and only required about an hour to complete the job. Looks great, works great.
We heard about the Oxygenic Shower Head, with almost cultish praise, at 2008's Easter Rally in St Augustine and again at the WBCCI International Rally in Bozeman, MT the same year. In a way, though, it seemed a little like promoting something as mundane as a toilet tank fill valve. What are you going to do, stand in your neighbor's bathroom and test his plumbing? So we didn't test it. And we were a little skeptical about the fantastic praise these water-saving shower heads generate.
But being the romantic, Jim happened upon one on sale and bought it for Deb's birthday. (What a romantic, right?) Then he couldn't wait for her birthday and he gave it to both of us during an extended caravan. Well, it is fantastic, does greatly improve the water velocity, feels great, and could save water. We laugh about the last claim because while it does reduce the flow rate even while increasing the spray sensation, it feels so good we want to stay in the shower longer. Well, we can afford that luxury when we have full hook-ups and when we are dry-camping we can benefit from the new shower head's reduced flow rate. We highly recommend this product. Ours is a Chrome #130-XLF25, and we paid $45 including free shipping from Amazon.com. Camping World stores often have these on the racks at reasonable prices, too.
UPDATE 4/26/2012: A couple of years later we found a nice in-line flow control for the shower head. It works more easily than the one in our Oxygenics, and we've notice some of the Oxygenics heads don't even have flow control. No problem, find one at your local RV supply store for $7-10.
While shopping for a source for the RV-style drawer guides we came upon guides for a 3/4 inch thick sliding breadboard. We ordered these for approx $10 including shipping (also from http://www.houckind.com/ model 120BB)at the same time to install two inches below the new drawer in an almost four inch space above the tallest existing drawer. We installed a magnetic knife holder on a piece of birch plywood and can now hold all but one of our eight kitchen knives. Yeah, only eight. We had at least twice as many in our house and thinned the collection down to the few we knew we had to have. These are an eight inch serrated bread knife, an eight inch carving knife, a six inch boning knife, a pair of four inch serrated tomato knives, and two paring knives. Only one knife doesn't fit on the new knife board and we use it daily, a very sharp serrated cheese cutter we store in its own sleeve. Return to top
A credit to Airstream Company has always been the optimal use of spaces in the camper. Sometimes though, we're willing to go even a little further. In our 2005 Airstream, we are delighted to have found a potential drawer space thirteen inches wide by sixteen inches long by four inches deep beside the galley sink. Jim cut the dead-front panel in line with the meeting edge for the cabinet doors immediately below. He added drawer pulls for the new drawer front and for the now-shorter dead-front, and attached rv-style guides (cost approx $10 including shipping from http://www.houckind.com/ model 950rv) and a drawer. The rv-style drawer guides prevent accidental opening while rolling down the road. The result is a drawer wide enough for a silverware organizer plus small boxes of plastic utensils at the sides and back of the organizer. Return to top
We installed these throughout the trailer. We think replacing the old vinyl roller shades with these hatch shades is one of the most attractive changes we've made. These shades fit closely to the wall of the trailer and most of them will tuck in under the lifting handles to hold the shade even snugger to the wall for better privacy. The OceanAir shades look so much better than the original vinyl roller shades -- Airstream Co seems to agree, they now install these on some of their models. We purchased our shades from Airstream while we were at Jackson Center September 2007 having other work done. Airstream had a window schematic for our model trailer with dimensions and part numbers. Their prices were far better than what we had found on the internet and no shipping. Jim installed them instead of paying Airstream hourly service rates. We reused some of the same holes from the original shades but where these didn't fit, we covered the old holes with rivets. Return to top
We had one motivation for adding a fourth heat mode in our Airstream. Two of the three heat sources (rooftop a/c heat strips; ceramic cube heater) require 110 volts (shore power) and the furnace requires a lot of battery for its fans. A catalytic heater burns propane, is extremely efficient (converts almost all the energy to heat), doesn't take a lot of space, is quiet, and uses NO battery or shore power. If we are camping without shore power this heater is great for daytime use -- it heats us wonderfully with radiant heat. It has a lighter (piezo) like a BBQ grill and three heat settings. We mounted it on a hinged plate on the end of the counter so it can be swiveled toward the dinette or the sofa. We like the warm radiant heat from our Olympian Wave6.
Funny thing -- we wondered if we should have considered a Wave 4, with its lower heat output. This Wave 6 was driving us outta here sometimes. Fall 2009 we dry camped alot in Washington and Idaho, often well above 2,000 feet and up to 6,000 feet. More recently, Winter 2014, we are traveling and camping in low 20s to 40s. The Wave 6 is just perfect, thank you. We run it on high or medium almost all the waking hours when it is below 50 F degrees outside and it keeps us very comfortable. So the Wave 6 is a great choice for us in our 25' trailer.
The downside of an unvented catalytic heater, and this is critically important to us, is it removes Oxygen from, and produces carbon monoxide into, our living space. We have to be very careful to adequately ventilate the camper whenever this heater is operating because the heater is unvented (note that you can purchase vented catalytic heaters instead.) We faithfully follow the manufacturer's recommendations for venting our camper whenever heating with this device. Until 2013 (when we added a low-wall intake vent,) we opened a window near the sofa and opened the rear fantastic fan a couple of inches, with fan "off." This creates a low to high fresh air current to refresh a portion of the interior air (See 2014 edit 2 paragraphs below.) We NEVER burn the catalytic heater when we are asleep, not even napping. We NEVER sleep with this heater on. Loss of oxygen is extremely dangerous -- you just fall asleep and don't wake up, ever.
edit 2/16/2010 -- we ran the Wave 6 all our waking hours (first time ever for such a long burn) one weekend while camped in a field in Orlando, FL, for Hamcation 2010. The weather was just crummy, rainy and cold all day. Opened a front window (before we had installed the Salem vent) and roof vent at opposite ends of the Airstream, and kept the heater on low the entire day. Wow, it was great to have heat! And, several days later as I edit this I'm on the sofa, just turned off the Olympics television coverage, and am enjoying the warm rays from the heater. Low setting is very comfortable, the trailer is 65 degrees but I am toasty.
We first saw these in new Airstream International CCD 22s and really liked the clean design. We have sufficient gap between the back of the dinette bench and the arm of the L-sofa to accommodate these magazine racks. We ordered them from the Airstream factory store. They are very pricey but look and function great. They were available in white or black. As of May 2009 these are still available but only in black or orange and are approx $45 each. Ours are out of the way, very accessible, and don't clutter our space. They do make a little more challenging reaching the 110v receptacle against the roadside interior wall because the arm can still go where the eye can no longer see. Okay, I may install a small outlet strip on the back of the dinette directly above the receptacle beside the magazine rack. It's not been a big problem at all.
The original furnace control was an inexpenisve bimetallic thermostat which provided NO indication whatsoever of the temperature you have set for heat -- you set it and guess. We wanted to be able to select a night low-limit (we use 45 degrees when we are sleeping) and in the morning set the temperature to a warmer temperature. We replaced the cheap t-stat with a $20 Hunter model 42999b two-wire electronic thermostat. (You can find similar thermostats with programmable feature for automatic setbacks and warmups like many people have in their houses, but these will cost from $35 to $40 and we didn't feel we needed it. We live in a 200 sf house and can reach the t-stat in 3 or 4 strides.)
Wiring was extremely simple -- we carefully removed the old thermostat, disconnected the two wires from its two terminals and attached the wires to the two terminals on back of the new thermostat. Instructions for the new thermostat were clear and complete. The new thermostat has an LCD display of present temperature and will display setpoint if you touch either button on the front. You can adjust the span (hysteresis) easily if you want. Best of all, you set a temperature for the furnace to maintain and this thermostat gets you there accurately. This thermostat or a similar one is probably available at super-size department stores everywhere. This improvement is over three years old, works wonderfully, and we've only replaced the 2 AA batteries once.
A funny undocumented feature we discovered last year - we can reset the furnace, in the unlikely event it trips, with the on-off switch on this Hunter t-stat. Previously we would start the furnace just before showers or bedtime to warm up a little. Sometimes the furnace would briefly run and then trip on some auto-detect failure condition. We originally were taught to reset it as follows: 1) open the furnace access panel outside with a large screwdriver; 2) locate the flashing red LED indicating trip condition; 3) momentarily press the reset switch; 4) observe the red LED light extinguishes; 5) close the furnace access panel and refasten the two screws to hold it closed.
Now we simply turn off the furnace selector switch (just inside the t-stat's left hand compartment door); turn off the on-off switch for a few seconds; turn on the on-off switch; hear (and feel) the furnace starting again. How easy is that? Cool!
This modification is so subtle yet so powerful for our use of the cabinet over our refrigerator. We were surprised there was no means of keeping the door open for the cabinet. We needed three hands to place anything in this small cabinet, one to keep the door up and two hands to arrange space and place the object. One day we were browsing in West Marine and found just the thing for this cabinet, a Spring Hatch Holder. This is a 8 1/2 inch stainless steel spring designed to hold a yacht deck hatch open. When extended, the spring becomes rigid and holds the door up. Pressing on the side of the spring releases the tension and allows the coil spring to fold out of the way and the door closes. Simple!
We used a Bose® subwoofer and two tiny Bose® cube speakers in our house for several years. These sound much brighter and deeper than the pair of five-inch Sony speakers factory-installed under the front roof locker. We left the front speakers and wiring in place but disconnected the wires eight inches from the radio and tied the Bose sound system in there instead. The two tiny cube speakers sit just inside the front roof locker, aimed out at the open curve of the camper's interior aluminum nose cone. The subwoofer fits between the dinette and the sofa, aimed at the camper's wall. It sounds really good and we still have the choice of fading from front to rear speakers. One of the best parts? Plug the television sound into the Sony radio and play movie's sound through the Bose system. Wow! Return to top
UPDATE 4/26/2012: This item moved to the Failures page although they work well. They didn't seem worth the weight and space required for the subwoofer, when we had placed it between the sofa and the dinette bench. The SONY 5" speakers sound really excellent and just don't need the Bose in this compartment.
UPDATE 1/16/2014: We decided the Bose "almost invisible" cubes and the subwoofer really do sound better, and found a great place for subwoofer -- under the L-sofa. Space was available, speaker wiring was still there. We tuck it down with earthquake putty (like we used years ago to put posters on the walls). On deep notes, while we're watching a movie, our seat cushions rumble -- cool!
Jim replaced the already out-of-date Sony® radio with a new model (SONY CDX-GT520) with iPod® interface built-in. The new radio, like the 2004 model, has remote control, plays CDs, sits hidden in a cabinet over the sofa, and controls speakers front and rear. This slightly newer radio additionally will play newer music formats, has more input jacks, and has high definition capability. We now can plug the iPod, portable TV, or the XM/Sirius receiver directly to the radio front face. All our music resides on the iPod® so we can easily select and play our music library through the radio. We had added a second XM account (we already had it in our Silverado) and more frequently pipe XM through our Sony to listen to the XM's pretty nice playlists. Works great. Return to top
Every owner of an RV is likely, we think, to sleep in it. People sleeping aren't reliable at detecting smoke buildup
in time to allow escape to safety. If someone gave you a choice of late alarm or fifteen minutes earlier alarm to a smoke condition in your sleep space, which would you choose?
In 2014 we replaced our single mode smoke detector. We had stumbled upon a strong recommendation to update to dual sensor smoke detectors in homes. The NFPA on their website states, "For each type of smoke alarm, the advantage it provides may be critical to life safety in some fire situations. Home fatal fires, day or night, include a large number of smoldering fires and a large number of flaming fires. You can not predict the type of fire you may have in your home or when it will occur. Any smoke alarm technology, to be acceptable, must perform acceptably for both types of fires in order to provide early warning of fire at all times of the day or night and whether you are asleep or awake."
For best protection, NFPA states in this paragraph their recommendation for use of both types of smoke alarm technologies. NFPA says, "For best protection, it is recommended both (ionization and photoelectric) technologies be used in homes. In addition to individual ionization and photoelectric alarms, combination alarms that include both technologies in a single device are available."
Kidde further states on their product sheet
, "This smoke alarm combines both photoelectric and ionization sensors. Ionization sensing alarms may detect invisible fire particles (associated with flaming fires) sooner than photoelectric alarms. Photoelectric sensing alarms may detect visible particles (associated with smoldering fires) sooner than ionization alarms. Kidde strongly recommends that both ionization and photoelectric smoke alarms be installed to help insure maximum detection of the various types of fire that can occur within the home.
Originally the smoke detector was installed in the living room on the ceiling above the sofa. This, to us, added to the clutter of an otherwise beautiful curved ceiling already containing recessed lights and the television antenna hand crank. We relocated the smoke detector to the wall in the bedroom beside the CO detector and five inches below the ceiling to avoid the dead air pocket at the wall against the ceiling. We patched the two holes in the ceiling with 1/8" pop-rivets and you would not notice anything was removed. The new dual sensor smoke detector fit in the same place and, in our case, used the same mounting screws locations. Return to top
Our Airstream has forty (40) 12 volt lights to illuminate the interior. Thirteen of these are ceiling lights, two are closet lights, two are vanity lights, four are reading lights, eight are task lighting, and the remaining eleven are indirect lights in the roof lockers. Thirty-five of these were ten watt quartz halogen lights.
An energy czar from Tennesee was said to have remarked, many years ago, "There is only one energy saving device, the on-off switch." This works well for us, we don't use much lighting in the first place. The only time the overhead lights are on is for cleaning the camper. We'll sometimes turn the indirect lights on because they just look so darned cool. Otherwise we only use the lighting we need to read, or cook, or put things away. Still, ten watt lights are really bright so we thought we'd try reducing the wattage (therefore, the power consumption) in half to five watt bulbs.
We found a very good source in Atlanta, GA (http://www.atlantalightbulbs.com/) with a wide variety of bulbs to serve our needs. We selected 5 watt xenon bulbs. They create less heat, have longer lives, and are sufficiently bright for all our indirect lights and our reading lights. Since these are the lights we use most often we can operate at almost one-half the lighting energy. This extends, a little, our battery life when we are not on shore power. Return to top
We also are using four LightBlasters LEDs. We have four three-diode strips and three bayonet bases (as for automotive 1143 bulb bases). We have one in position A of the washroom ceiling fixture, one in the porch light, and one each in our two wardrobes. We like these in the limited applications. The LEDs produce plenty of light and use almost no power at all, compared to the 5 and 10 watt bulbs they replaced. Color quality isn't terribly important to us in these four spots. We're waiting on market pricing and color improvements to add LEDs to our living space.
S8. Rewired the light in washroom:
Summertime we sometimes are in areas boasting temperatures, at least temporarily, above 75 degrees. If the temperature gets a little too warm in the camper, or on the patio, we can turn on our portable 12v fan and direct it where we want the breeze. The fan also helps with the bugs when needed. The camper has two 12 volt cigarette-type lighter sockets for power inside. We added a 12v power receptacle in the curbside cargo compartment so we can plug in the fan outside as well. Return to top
We carry enough clothes and linens for two weeks without laundering. We have enough changes of shirts, pants, socks and underwear to last without offense to anyone near or far. (at least, that's the theory) We tried this out on our trip to Vancouver BC last Fall and it worked very well and the same thus far this year. We wanted a convenient place to keep a week's dirty clothes until we move them to the larger laundry bag. We found a steel-framed woven reed basket at Michael's Crafts in Charlotte to fit precisely in a spare space under one of the dinette benches. There is enough room at the top to place clothes in without drawing the basket out. We line the basket with a mesh laundry bag we lift out when full and add the clothes to the larger laundry bag. Return to top
Jim frequently found himself inside the trailer with pants pockets still carrying bits and pieces of stuff that didn't belong inside. Rivets, bolts, washers, tye wraps, you name it, Jim looked for space on the sofa armrest or on an edge of the dinette table top. No longer! He installed a nifty add-on drawer under the dinette table. Camping World had these in stock during one of our visits in 2014. Jim spent all of ten minutes installing it, and saves that much every week not having to look for stuff that didn't have a home before.
It's just a handy spot to put frequently used items, like our scissors, small tape measure, a pencil, marker, pen, business cards, and a small writing pad. Sort of like a desk drawer, this has been handy and is out of sight when we don't have it open. Great deal for us.