What’s it really like to live in an Advancd-RV? Our client Sue shares her experience after 10,000 miles and 110 nights of full-time traveling fun. This was originally posted on Facebook. Read on to learn more about full-time life in Pebbles:
Pebbles is equipped with ARV’s standard 2800W inverter, high-output second alternator, and diesel-fired heat/instant hot water (no propane at all and no generator). Her battery bank is “only” 400 AH lithium (newer ARVs have 800 AH lithium). She also has 260 watts of solar on the roof.
When I was shopping, I read everything I could get my hands on about all of these fancy new-tech systems, but it was hard to get a feel for what those capabilities would really allow me to do in everyday life. Here’s how the tech translates:
With this electrical system, I rarely “need” to plug in. I mainly dry camp now, even when staying in campgrounds for other reasons like hiking or scenery. I can easily go a full day and night without conserving energy and without starting the engine or plugging in—even when I use the induction cooktop, hot water, MaxxAir fan all day/night, 12v compressor fridge, TV for hours, microwave, a 15-minute run of A/C to cool the house before sleeping, CPAP overnight, etc. If I was conservative, obviously, I could go longer.
After a day or two, I’m usually bored anyway, so I drive an hour or so to someplace new. Voila! The batteries are fully charged by the 270 amp output of the second alternator while I’m driving. And many of the newer ARVs have an even faster 320 amp alternator.
If I didn’t want to move, I could run the engine for a while using the second alternator to recharge while high-idling. If you had wet-cell or AGM batteries, you would need much longer to recharge (or a much larger solar array) because they need to be topped off regularly using a lengthy float charge at the end that the lithiums don’t require.
If I’m someplace I want to stay for several days or longer without driving at all (like an RV rally or driveway surfing at mom’s house), then I usually just go ahead and plug in to electric to keep charged. ARVs have a low-power charge setting, so I can charge from a 15 amp outlet safely.
Using the MaxxAir roof fan as an exhaust fan (air flowing out) with the small awning windows on the shaded side open, my interior stays within 5 to 15 degrees of the ambient outside temp even when I’m parked in full sun. This is as long as I have the drapes closed on the sunny side, the padded Reflectix window covers in place on the cab windows, and my bulkhead curtain (full-length curtain behind the cab seats) closed.
That’s usually cool enough because I mostly park in pleasant, shady spots while I’m in the van, but sometimes I do want A/C. With 400 AH lithium, I can run it about 2 hours. Then, when my batteries are discharged down to 30%, the engine auto-start kicks in to recharge (the A/C can stay on, but the batteries recharge slower). Fully recharging the batteries with the A/C (including the dash A/C) running takes around 90 minutes. When the batteries are back to 100 percent, the engine shuts itself off, and the A/C is good to keep going for another 2 hours.
The auto-gen will allow five cycles of discharge/start engine/charge/stop engine before it requires human intervention (pushing a reset button). I’ve never let my auto-gen run for more than two cycles because I’ve never needed A/C anywhere near that long. If I really need the A/C overnight, I go to a campground and plug in, but the vast majority of nights, I just run the MaxxAir fan with the small awning windows next to the bed open, and I’m completely comfy.
I can’t overstate the value of ARV’s SilverLeaf control system—it’s awesome. This single-panel readout shows me precise battery status, as well as fresh/gray/black tank levels, using easy-to-understand percentages. At a glance, I can easily see how much capacity I have left, so I can go ahead and drive to the grocery store if the batteries are low or wait until later if I have plenty left. (I usually end up with 25-50% of my battery capacity remaining every morning depending on when I last drove, how long I cooked, etc.). If I want more details, like temperatures and volts for each battery cell, or how many amps are flowing in and out at any given time, I can get that, too.
For the water: ARVs have 40 fresh, 26 gray, and 18 black gallons. I can easily go 2 or more weeks on those tanks if I’m showering elsewhere. Normally, I just take conservative showers in the van and go 7-10 days between dumps. Once again, I know exactly when I have to find a dump station because I can see my tank level percentages on the SilverLeaf screen. The level gauges are pressure sensors and are way more accurate than any other tank gauge I’ve ever seen—no need to worry about them getting gunked up with toilet paper in the first week of use.
Those are the questions I wanted answered when I shopped for a Class B—I hope it helps you!
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