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Old 05-07-15, 07:08 PM   #1
Lurking Renovator
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Join Date: Jan 2015
Location: Utah
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Default Fifth Wheel RV Efficiency Mods

My wife and I moved into a 28' 2003 Keystone Cougar fifth wheel a couple months ago. Its been an interesting exercise in downsizing our living space and possessions. Energy usage is one area that likely didn't shrink compared to the house we were renting (at least per square foot). I would like to fix that. This trailer is kind of a stepping stone towards a different RV/tiny house/small regular house, so I'll be trying to keep the mods cheap, high ROI, and/or transferable.

So far I've put Reflectix in about half of the windows and in the roof vents. I can feel the reduced temperature on the back of the shade for one of the windows on the insulated vs uninsulated part. Reducing usage is the other main mod so far. I washed dishes with warm water in the house, now I mainly use just cold. I still need to work on getting my water usage down, though.

Now, on to some of the trailers specs and future plans. My ultimate goal is to be off the grid energy-wise, though this probably won't happen in this trailer, but in a future RV/tiny house/small regular house.

Part of this includes going propane-free, and is something I'm already doing/shooting towards. In this trailer, the furnace, 6 gallon water heater, and oven/stove all use propane. I've only used enough propane to test each of them. When it was cooler outside, a 1500w resistance space heater was used instead of the furnace (electric is included where we're staying, so I justify this by using the money saved to go towards mods to reduce the need for the space heater). The water heater has an electric mode that we've been using. The recovery rate on electric is about half of propane, which helps to reduce usage because when the shower goes cold, you either tough it out or call it good. Stove is replaced by using the microwave or the toaster oven and hot plate we've purchased. I would like to find a more elegant solution than the toaster oven and hot plate, but other than a induction hot plate, we'll probably wait until we're in whatever dwelling we have in the future.

Heating and cooling are another area that I believe could be improved upon. The roof AC doesn't seem like the most efficient option, and the space heater we used for heat is definitely something that can only get better. I would like to use a heat pump for my cooling and most of my heating needs, but I'm not sure what my best option would be. A ~$1000 mini split would be nice, but I don't know how they would like travel. A portable AC seems like a good option, though from my research on here, they don't seem very reliable and its hard to find one with two vent hoses, most are just one. There are also roof mounted RV specific heat pumps, but reliability is an unknown.

The fridge can use either propane or electric. It is very inefficient, using 4-5kwh a day according to my kill-a-watt even though I only opened is maybe 6 times that day. Not only that, its also tiny inside. A dorm/apartment size fridge should be able to fit in its place, while at least doubling the space and likely using less than half the power. The fridge is right next to the water heater. I would like to use the fridge to preheat the water heater's input line. I've seen discussion on doing this, but not much on how to actually do it.

This trailer has a 30A power hookup. Normally its fine, until the AC is running, the water heater is on, and the microwave is on, tripping the main breaker. I've considered converting to 50A to make it possible to use a tankless water heater, but I think that's more than I want to do to this trailer. I would like to get a surge protector for the trailer, some even display power usage, which would help me track how much mods help.

That's all for now. I'll post more later and add pics when my post count is high enough. My biggest question right now is what kind of heat pump I should look into getting. Thanks.

Last edited by vskid3; 05-25-15 at 12:10 PM..
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