If you've long dreamed of spending your retirement tooling around the country in an RV, you may be concerned about the volatility of fuel costs and how large price shifts could impact your financial planning in retirement. Fortunately, the relative small size and portability of most recreational vehicles can make them the perfect canvas for experimenting with various eco-friendly technologies that reduce your energy consumption. Read on to learn more about making your RV as energy efficient as possible.
While you may associate solar panels with the generation of electricity for homes and businesses, these panels can be just as effective in powering the heating and cooling systems (and electricity-using appliances) within an RV. In fact, an RV's smaller size and more minimal electricity needs can actually make it easier for the vehicle to become energy-independent as compared with larger homes and other buildings that may not have the sun-exposed surface area needed to generate the electricity to keep all systems running.
Installing solar panels on an RV should be a relatively simple process, as the solar panels designed for RV use are smaller and more streamlined than residential solar panels. You'll want to affix the panels to a part of your RV that receives direct sunlight (generally the roof) and may want to also consider installing some electronic controls that will allow these panels to rotate toward the sun based on the direction of your travels. The solar panels will be connected to a battery that stores the energy generated and allows you to access energy regardless of whether the sun is shining.
One of the inconveniences of traveling in an RV can be the restroom situation. Even with shower and restroom facilities available at rest stops and campsites throughout the country, you may find yourself longing for the privacy of your own restroom, especially on nights when it's too hot or cold to leave the comfort of your RV. Also, driving while sitting mere feet away from a holding tank of your own waste can put a damper on even the most exciting travel plans.
For those facing this dilemma, a composting toilet could be the answer. These toilets utilize sawdust or another absorbent material in place of water for flushing, and waste is quickly whisked away into a composting bin. This bin acts as a type of self-contained ecosystem, where bacteria and enzymes in the waste mix with the absorbing material to break waste down into harmless compost. This process dramatically reduces the volume of waste, and because you're not using water to flush it, your waste tank should remain lightweight (helping you use less fuel when driving from place to place).
While solar power is often the best way to generate a large amount of electricity in a short period of time, a well-placed wind turbine or two can also assist you with your energy needs. These turbines, like solar panels, can be hooked to a battery that allows them to store any electricity generated for later use, making turbines a good complement to an RV that's already utilizing solar energy.
One disadvantage of a wind turbine when compared to solar panels is its relative lack of portability. Although these turbines can be hauled from place to place inside your RV, most must be disassembled and reassembled each time you move more than a few feet. This can make solar power a better option for those who tend to be on the go while those who are parked at a campground or on private land for the long term may find a wind turbine to be more convenient.