Trying to figure out which Class B motorhome to buy? Our client, Sue, shared an insightful post on Facebook. Sue shopped for almost a year. She participated in a variety of Class B, boondocking, and VanDwelling groups and forums online, which helped her determine what equipment she needed to live comfortably off-grid, as well as how to find good places to dry camp and overnight park. She also visited many RV dealers and the annual Tampa RV Supershow. According to her, the process involved, “Taking my time, sitting in every available van for long periods, and thinking about how it would work as my new tiny house. When I felt I had seen everything and narrowed it down to two choices, I rented a van for four days to finalize my decision.” Here’s Sue’s post from March 2016, just before she bought her own Advanced-RV:
I’m up in Ohio this weekend renting a Sprinter Class B (named Pebbles) from Advanced-RV as a final trial to determine if I can realistically live full-time in a van, and if so, which brand to buy. I need the most capable electrical systems for full-time boondocking. I’m also trying to determine how large the battery bank/solar need to be, and how well I can live with the smaller Class B water tanks (I’ve been full-time in a 5er, then a Class A, for 10 years).
Here’s what I’ve learned:
1) ARV has the SilverLeaf control system with a single panel readout that makes it stupidly easy to monitor your battery status, water usage, etc. Everything in the house is tied in, and you control your Espar furnace and water heater, the auto-gen start, etc. from there. This is a huge advantage over other systems I’ve seen—and I love it.
2) The low temperature last night was 31 degrees. It was absolutely no problem for the Espar diesel-fired heating system—I was toasty warm all night.
3) Pebbles has a 400 AH lithium battery bank and a second high-output alternator (similar to RT’s “underhood generator”). Each day/night, I’ve used 40-45 percent of the 400 AH lithium battery bank capability. I’ve been running the Espar heat/hot water, the refrigerator (12v electric—no propane in this van), a few lights, the TV and DVD player, and charging my cell phone and iPad. The second alternator has easily replenished the batteries to 100 percent in less than an hour of driving.
4) With 400 AH lithium, I will not be able to run the A/C or bake in my large toaster oven for very long on batteries alone. I would need at least 800 AH lithium to do that. However, I could either plug in or turn on the engine (with second alternator charging) to use either of those appliances, so I believe 400 AH is a good compromise. It is not transparent electrical usage like in a house, but enough to be fully functional with good battery management.
5) Pebbles also has 260 watts of solar. The one day it wasn’t raining, the solar started to keep up with the van’s vampire draws (including the fridge) by around 10 a.m. (winter in New York under partly cloudy skies). When the sun came fully out around mid-day, the solar input was +3 amps over the vampire draws, according to the SilverLeaf readout.
6) Since Thursday, I’ve taken three basin baths and one hot shower. My tank levels currently read: fresh 69%, gray 39%, black 30%. (ARV tanks hold 40/26/18 gallons, and the SilverLeaf readout measures tank fullness by weight, so it’s reported to be fairly accurate). I haven’t cooked yet and have only washed a few dishes. Even with cooking, I believe I could easily go a week before having to find a dump station.
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