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Old 06-07-2010, 04:33 PM   #1
Junior Member
Join Date: Jun 2010
Posts: 5

Hello everyone,
My name is Justin, I am new here to not only the forum, but the motorhome world! Last week I purchased a 1979 Chevy Coachman Cadet (19 foot.) I live in Connecticut and I commute everyday to New York City for work (250 mile round trip or 2-4 hours each way depending on traffic) Thus my hunt began for a motorhome. I had a limited budget and a great idea! So I went ahead with my plan to own my own living space that I can keep in New York City for my monday-friday work week. (I work 12-20 hours each day so the commute was just becoming unsafe by friday) After purchasing my motorhome, my mind began running as to how I could make this motorhome perfect for my needs. To keep it somewhat brief, I will skip all the fun details and get into my ideas, ultimately, I am looking for feedback and ideas to inspire me on my quest. I originally made the mistake of joining a different r.v. forum, and for the most part the only responses I got were "your an idiot, why are you doing that? Why dont you just get an apartment" etc. To clear the slate, I have all of my reasons to do this, and I feel like this forum is the right forum for me and understanding this! Thanks in advance for reading and responding!

My first point to bring up, is the plumbing. I intend to completely leave the water pump and water tank out of my operation. Seeing that I will be living in it throughout the winter and summer, my decision was to avoid using the tanking on the undercarriage to prevent it from freezing and on initial tests my water pump made noise but nothing came out of the fresh water tank that was full. I also dont want to drive my motorhome 250 miles each week (gas mileage isnt great nor eco friendly) so my idea was to find a way to make my shower water portable and inside. So between my shower and the kitchen there is a closet, and i want to put as many five gallon water jugs (the kind you see at the baseball field) in that closet and insulate it. From there I would run a portable battery and propane operated instant hot water pump (its an $88 camp shower pump at walmart made by zodi and runs on propane). I have yet to find a problem with this plan (I havent made any purchases yet, still problem solving). It allows me to drive my 5 gallon tanks in my car to my home on the weekends for refilling and it avoids my need for using the liquid petroleum tanks for heating my hot water (you cant buy liquid petroleum in new york city so I would have to drive the r.v. a fair distance to refill the tanks if I stuck with the original hardware) As for the toilet, I decided on replacing my flush toilet, with a small pump flush toilet with its own holding tank (I have access to my work restroom most of the day so I believe I will be able to avoid using my own toilet most of the time other than those late night or early morning needs.) My only worry will have to be emptying the shower water out of the tank, but my work has many campers and they have a truck that empties waste out of the travel trailers that are on site.

I have no concerns about the stove or fridge, living in new york its just easier to order food and my work pays for my breakfast and lunch and sometimes dinner, so I figure a nice 5 day ice cooler would be fine to have some water bottles and sodas.

I had spent alot of time tooling with ideas for power. I was trying to find a way to house a generator in an box that I can access from inside and outside the r.v. (to prevent it from getting stolen) but even if the compartment was air tight to the inside, it still just seems like a bad idea (No generator housing built in.) Thus I have decided to purchase a 1200 watt generator, and one of those bumper hitch cargo shelves. I would move the generator in and out as need (I will be parking it in my works security guard parking lot but its still new york, i dont want to leave anything to chance) and I would use thick steel chains and locks to lock it to the rear bumper. I think I need to replace the marine battery that it has because everything works when I have the r.v. plugged in, but after a day of having it plugged in, the battery didnt hold a charge enough to turn on a light. I eventually intend to hook up some solar panels. I also want to attempt to switch anything I can to rechargeable AA batteries, just to ease the load. The less I have to depend on gas, the better i feel. I have battery power lights and I am looking into other battery powered items, i know these days they have battery powered fans and all sorts of things, so it will just be shopping for ones with good features and less of a reputation to eat batteries on a daily basis.

Security is a big one for me. I just cant think of a logical way for this. There will be nights where I cant park in the parking lot (its locked from 10p to 6a and sometimes I start working at 3a, I can get in and out with the assistance of a security guard, but I prefer to keep myself low key and not draw attention to the fact that I am living there. Not for the fact that I shouldn't be doing it, but as many boon dockers know, its just easier on everyone if you don't disturb anything. I have "boon docked" in my car for a few days at a time but this will be my first time boon docking in a real home!) I want to put the reflective covers on the inside of the windows to keep heat out or in depending on the season, but thats not going to stop a thief. So I had thought about making a small chain link fence cover for all of the windows that I would permanently fasten to the interior of the r.v. (that way I can still open the windows if there is a night that I feel like open windows would be good.) And I would like to create a removable (lockable, so its only removable with a key) chain link gate that goes from the cab over bed to the hood. Still havent figured this one out. I had thought about buying an r.v. cover that comes in sections and figuring out a way to lock it onto the vehicle, but I suppose that may not work either because it just takes a good knife and you could cut it up and smash a window.) There are security cameras around where I would park it outside of the parking lot, and its always smash and grabs because people are around the area, it tends to be someone leaves some change on a the seat of the car and someone runs up and smashes the window grabs it and runs. No one has time to sort through anything. Thats still a tough one for me to figure out how to protect both the r.v. and myself.

I will have to find an economical heat source in the winter, and an air conditioner in the summer (though I may put a small a.c. unit in and run it off generator power for a few hours to cool the place down and just hope it lasts through the night until I have to wake up again. Chances are I would do the same with the heat.) The heat I have some time before I really have to worry about it, but keeping cool will be a concern of mine in the near future. (Estimated boon docking start date is July 15th as long as my modifications go well)

I am sure there are lots of things I am over looking, or thinking about doing that i shouldnt do, but thats why I am here. My goal is to have a long dry camp time minus water which I will be refilling in my portable jugs (unless you can tell me why thats a bad idea!) I look forward to hearing everyones opinions and thoughts on the subject. Remember I am new to the r.v. world! This is bigger than my first apartment in New York City (which cost me $11,000 a year, so I am already ahead on my purchase even after my calculated $2,000 of updates and renovations) And it sure beats all of the nights I have slept in my car the past few months. Thanks for reading and thank you in advance for replying!
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Old 06-07-2010, 05:49 PM   #2
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Join Date: May 2004
Location: Auburn, CA, Havasu, AZ & Mulege, BCS
Posts: 5,372
First, welcome to iRV2. You're not an idiot. Just a nutcase, and here you will be in good company. Hope you find all your answers, including to the question of why you work that much.

General comment: get used to every space/utility decision being a compromise; there is no perfect solution for living in next to no space.

Water: usually on a rig that small there is a gravity fill scupper. I recommend using your jug idea to fill the onboard water tank, fixing the pump (or maybe just turning the right valves so the pump sends pressure where its needed?). Fiddling w/jugs for transport once a week is one thing. Losing valuable storage space to the jugs is not likely to last as a final solution. You'll love the convenience of the tank/pump until its freezing time. Then you can jug it 24/7 if that works better. More likely you will work on freezing weather solutions which get regular discussion here, usually around the time freezing starts each year.

Waste water: if you have a honey wagon service you will use for anything, again I suggest using the tankage you paid for in vehicle volume as well as cash. The toilet water should disappear to the honey wagon just as easily as the shower water which will be much more voluminous. This way you don't need another appliance, taking up space which you will covet dearly before too long.

Batteries (i.e. 12Volt power): This takes some calculation for intelligent decisions. Storage batteries are rated in Amp Hours, i.e. # of amps that could be used in an hour or # of hours you could use one amp, or some combination in between. Reading lights come in watts or "volt-amps"; to get the amps you are using divide the volt-amps by 12 volts, e.g. 24 watts = 2 amps. Now say you use 24 watts for 2 hours, you have 2 hours x 2 amps = 4 Amp Hours or 4AH. Get the most AH you can afford or have room to store in battery size as you will be matching that against your usage. Usage comes in watts and you use it for hours, make a table of items (lamp, inverter charger for laptop (probably gotta do some 120V conversion), radio, TV...) with their wattage, amps, hours of usage and add it up to estimate your lifestyle usage. The real questions here are how do you charge the battery(ies) and how much energy conservation will you invest in? LED lighting is about 1/6th that of incandescent and about 30x the price; and if you get lousy LED replacement bulbs they will die an early death and piss you off to the moon that you can't just mail them back to China for a refund (ask me how I know, go ahead, ask....). O2 Cool fans are great stand-alone battery devices that are efficient and quiet and do a good job, now available in various sizes so as not to wear down the house battery. Google "12 Volt Side of Life" for a great tutorial and more than you are likely wanting to know about living on lead-acid.

120V power: if you can stretch a cord, you can live like the King of Queens. If not, you have the gen and can get a battery charger. Usually gen output includes some wimpy amount of 12v direct, but not enough to charge the battery(ies) quickly, and the noise gets old fast, not to mention you are broadcasting that you have a free generator for the taking. BTW, a full box of some sort over the gen removes some temptation; maybe you can bolt the gen direct to the grate/platform w/tamper proof bolts & lock the platform to the hitch, then do a box over... IIWMI'd get a 3-stage battery charger (eBay) after shopping the need around to get the size right; 15 or 20Amp seems like the ball park but your calculations & battery purchase will dictate a smart decision.

Hope this helps. Good luck on entering the wonderful wacky world of wheeled wiving (oops, I mean Living).
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Old 06-07-2010, 06:43 PM   #3
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I got to the part about the chain link over the windows and it conjered up images of a Rambo mobile. Can't you go across the river and find a nice place to park your RV in New Jersey so that you don't have to go through all the drama in NYC ? That way your life is not in danger and your very close to work.
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Old 06-07-2010, 09:21 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Chuck 1935 View Post
I got to the part about the chain link over the windows and it conjered up images of a Rambo mobile. Can't you go across the river and find a nice place to park your RV in New Jersey so that you don't have to go through all the drama in NYC ? That way your life is not in danger and your very close to work.
HAHA, that was great! It had crossed my mind of doing the liberty harbor park, but the rates are pretty high (compared to somewhere far away!) I'd need to find a place that does less than $20 a night, which maybe i could haggle in the off season, but its a $60 a night rate during the summer. So my instinct was to rough it out. Its purely a safety comfort. I will be parking inside of a gated parking lot most of the time. Ultimately my goal is to save money and time. As I said, I work a lot, so parking in an r.v. park in New Jersey, means taking the subway or path train at 2:30a with a laptop and camera on my back! So its one of those choose your battles, I can attempt to protect myself in my home and wake up at work, or I can risk the train very early in the morning or late at night.

Engineer Mike, great advice! Ill scale down one by one! I have already adjusted the space/utility of life itself! I have gone from a 7'x8' room with no windows, to a large new room with everything possible, to a railroad apartment with no functionality, to an apartment with no closets, to a hallway with mattress and a suitcase, to a place with no working water (bucket and cup shower method in the tub), not to mention thats all been within the past 2 years. Its safe to say, other than my apartment with everything in it, this is the best place I have had to live!

The jug idea is definitely sounding like a keeper to me. The closet I intend to store the jugs in, just seems useless to me. There is a big closet and lots of drawers elsewhere, so this middle closet is very deep, but just thin enough that its not worth filling. I dont have alot of things (after moving so much I slowly shed my belongings and have free'd myself from the materialistic life) So as far as my storage concerns, I am not terribly worried about losing the closet. Theres plenty of storage (frankly I was surprised, when I started looking at this motorhome, I was thinking I would have to shed the last of my belongings to fit but after I started opening up cabinets and evaluating, I said to myself I might need to add some belongings to fill it!)

I suppose the toilet idea does make sense. I dont know what my original thought process was in replacing the toilet with a self contained model. I know I have to replace the toilet either way, I have removed the toilet that was in there because it was just falling apart (valves were dried and cracked, it looked to be leaking), so I guess I figured I would replace it with something that made me have to do more work, which is why you are right and I will just skip the hassle of emptying a separate tank.

I will definitely look in to the battery fans you have suggested. Like I said the less I have to rely on my deep cycle the better I feel. I dont think I will plug this r.v. in for a few months at a time, so recharging will have to be done with a generator, thus my longing for a more independent form of recharging, the AA and D cell way of life! No t.v., no appliances, so far the only thing I have drawing power are the lights, and cell phone and lap top charging. I do know i will need to run air conditioning for an hour or two when I first get back from work and thats obviously generator run, so I figure while I cool down, I can recharge.

Generator Box, ingenious! I was looking at plans for a "silencer" sort of generator box that by using 2 half boxes, you create enough of a wind stream for fresh air and exhaust while cutting noise in half, but I was never really convinced (I will be parked near a loud bridge so the humming, while not drowned out, will blend in with passing traffic and other generators on the trailers) But using it as a theft deterrent was a thought that never crossed my mind! Thats a brilliant idea.

I was lucky I came across this forum! So far it has been nothing but helpful! Thank you both for replying!
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