Monday, March 16, 2015

RV Laundry Woes

The Quest for Quarters

Coin-op Laundry Sign
Our RV isn't equipped with a washer and dryer so we realized we would need to use the coin-op laundry at the RV park or a laundromat to do our wash.  The RV park where we are living has a nice laundry room and it is just a short walk up the road.  I used apartment house laundry rooms and laundromats before I owned my own home umpteen years ago so I didn't think it would be a big deal.  Been there, done that - I can do it again!  But when you've owned your own home for over 40 years, including your own own washer and dryer, it is easy to forget those long ago laundromat irritations.

Bag of Quarters for the coin-op laundry
The laundry room doesn't have a change machine, so we find ourselves on a constant quest for quarters!  We do most of our banking online or through ATMs, so we seldom have any reason to go into a bank  until now.  To skip an extra stop at a bank, every time we go into a grocery store, we ask if we can trade a $10 bill for a roll of quarters - sometimes they will - sometimes not.

I find myself putting a $5 bill into vending machines and pressing the coin return without buying anything to get $5 in quarters.  I've become a quarter hoarder!

I've started to measure the cost of doing laundry measured in quarters. The washing machines cost 5 quarters per load.

Coin Operated Washing Machine

The dryer costs 4 quarters for 1 hour of drying time.  A total of 9 quarters to wash and dry a load.  I look at my plastic baggie of quarters - do I have enough?

Coin Operated Dryer
Then there was the week (or was it 2 weeks) when 3 out of the 5 dryers in the laundry room were out of order.  During that time, when I needed to do laundry, I set my alarm to get up early so I could be the first one to put my clothes in the washer.  Then I could be sure there would be a working dryer available when my clothes were done in the washing machine.

Out of Order Dryers
In defense of the RV park, I think the manager called for repairs promptly, but apparently it took some time for a repair service to schedule an appointment or there were parts that needed to be ordered before the repairs could be completed.

The lesson here is don't turn into a quarter hoarder!    If you think you may ever want to go on extended trips or live in your RV full time, I would look for a model with a washer and dryer.  Since I  don't have that option, I am considering purchasing a small portable dryer, does anyone have any experience with the one pictured below?

Any other compact washer or dryer recommendations?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Prepping an RV for Winter Living

Before we started living in our RV full-time, my husband just drained the tanks and water lines, added antifreeze, plugged in a dehumidifier, covered it and parked it over the winter.  We tried using it a couple of times on camping trips in the colder months and from those experiences knew our RV wasn't well-insulated for living in it year round. 

Winterized water line in the RV Park
To keep the water lines from freezing we followed the suggestions of the RV park staff.  The hydrant and waterlines were wrapped with roof de-icing cable and then covered with foam pipe insulation.

The roof and gutter de-icing cables were recommended over the heating tape and cables that are usually used by home-owners for metal plumbing pipes

Foam pipe insulation on the RV water line 
To give the hydrant a little extra protection from the cold, a plastic 5-gallon bucket was placed on top upside down.

Since the Pacific Northwest usually has fairly mild winters, the temperature doesn't often go below much below freezing for more than a day or two.  So we kept an eye on the weather forecast and only turned on the heating cables when the temperature was predicted to be below freezing because we didn't really like how warm it kept the cold water coming from the tap.  That worked fine until we went away to visit relatives for 5 days over Thanksgiving.   We checked the forecast before we left and the low temperatures at night were predicted to be in the mid 30s and daytime highs in the 40s. The Seattle area is notorious for having inaccurate weather forecasts, so we should have known better.  We did take the precaution of shutting off our water heater and the water at the hydrant.  A couple of days after we left the temperatures dropped lower than we expected and we came home to our 5th wheel to find an icicle hanging from our kitchen faucet - darn- didn't get a photo!  We were able to unthaw the pipes quickly and fortunately there was no damage.

Thermostat for the roof de-icing cable
We did some research and bought a fairly inexpensive little thermostat that is made for use with the de-icing cable.  We plug the de-icing cable into the thermostat unit and it turns on the cable automatically when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.  So far it has worked fine and now our cold water isn't warm all of the time.  Unfortunately it looks like this product is no longer available which is too bad because it worked great.

We knew our vents were also a source of heat loss, so we bought some vent pillows to insulate them better.   We did notice that they need to be removed periodically to prevent condensation and  mold growth.  

Insulation for RV vents
We just wait for a fairly sunny day every 3-4 weeks to remove the pillow, wipe away any moisture and let the pillow and vent dry for a few hours.

The windows in our RV are single pane so we knew they were causing a huge heat loss and were also forming a lot of condensation.   We bought about 4 of these inexpensive window film insulation kits on sale.  We used my hair blow-drier to heat the film to shrink it.  The window film made a huge difference both in reducing the amount of cold drafts and the amount of condensation on the windows for very little cost.

Film window insulation

We did need to buy an additional roll of the adhesive tape that is used to attach the edges of the film to the windows.

The film wasn't that difficult to install and is virtually invisible on the windows.  I took this close-up of the only window where I could find a little visible wrinkle. 

Film insulation on the inside of an RV window
These few items really helped to make our 5th wheel more warm and comfortable over the winter months.