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Monday, April 13, 2009

More RVs Go Green

While most RVers recognize the fact that our lifestyle is one of energy efficiency, there's been plenty of sour-puss press casting all of us in an ugly light. Typical is a comment from the Santa Cruz Sentinel where RVers were described as, "a group of consumers not immediately associated with environmental responsibility." For those of us who've been boondocking for years, this slamming of the lifestyle is a particularly difficult torture stake to bear. 

Happily this same paper recently started research on a story for the upcoming RV Manufacturer's Show in Alameda, California, and surprise, surprise, the reporter noticed a shift toward the greening of the RV industry. Noted in the Sentinel's story was a shift toward more solar panels and the use of formaldehyde-free wood products in RV production.

If you're new to the RV world, you might wonder just how a behemoth of an RV getting a fuel economy figure of say, 8 miles per gallon. Good question! With the concern about greenhouse gas, you'll find it interesting that in reality, the typical RV outing has a much smaller carbon footprint than a plane/car/motel vacation. And when it comes to the use of electricity and water--wow! The differences in consumption are oceans apart.

So what can you do to make your RV more green? There are several areas to consider:

Electricity:  Install solar panels and perhaps even a wind generator system. Properly sized to meet your personal needs, you can stay "off the grid" almost indefinitely. You'll also need an inverter, which changes the battery power panels and wind machines produce into something palatable to "shore power" appliances.

Will you need a generator? Not unless you need air conditioning, although we've met at least one RVer who actually does run his air conditioner from power supplied by his solar panels.  In many instances, we've found by the use of fans and shade, air conditioning might be thought to be a requirement, but in reality it often was not.

Another trick some boondockers use to keep down juice use: Get another 12-volt deep cycle battery for when you're "hunkered down" for longer periods. When you use your get-around vehicle, connect that battery to the vehicle's electrical charge circuit to "bring it up" while you're running errands. That full battery can be used to power 12-volt stuff outdoors--like a 12-volt television, or a light used outside.

Water: The six-gallon water heater typical of an RV often lends itself to keeping water consumption down. You can only stand a cold shower for so long. But as cagey boondockers will tell you, the old "Navy" shower is one way to keep consumption down. Rinse down, shut off the water, soap up, rinse again--it definitely cuts consumption down.

You can save water when "cleaning up" in other areas. Wash dishes once a day, and use a dishpan--rather than the sink itself--as your basin for your ablutions. Why so? A dish pan is generally smaller than the RV sink, but plenty large enough for the job at hand. And don't "pre-rinse" your dishes--think "pre-wipe." Use a bit of toilet paper to wipe off food remainders while still fresh, and you'll use less water cleaning up.

All this is great for the environment--and there are great side benefits. Less water used means less time spent running to fill your fresh tanks--and dumping your waste tanks. And if we might make an unvarnished pitch, check out our book, RV Boondocking Basics, available from rvbookstore. com


  1. I had another idea similar to one of these, I explain it some below, perhaps a small solar fan on top would help as well, as that would draw the air through the unit. Please let me know if anyone's willing to try this, e-mail the website at .

    I haven't tried it in my unit yet, but I'm thinking I might! :)

  2. While I'm at it, I might as well also mention that it seems like a good idea to have a solar hot-water heater designed for RVs!

  3. Isn't it funny how just this week the "Green" people would not allow a prominent British scientist to present indisputable proof of the fallacy of "Global Warming". Nope! Can't hear both sides of an argument. No need because We're right! HOGWASH! Global warming is a rip off.

  4. Then use the water in the dishpan for flushing the toilet. That saves on water usage, too.
    Happy Trails, Penny, TX

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  7. Just how did the "green people" not allow the British scientist to present his "undisputable proof" on global warming. Sounds like it would have been one of the big headline stories of the year. And of course, the press would just ignore it. Sounds like the old conspiracy theory mindset lives on.