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Monday, August 11, 2014

Feeling the RV heat

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have a forced air furnace in our motorhome. It works fine. My husband thinks we need to add a catalytic heater. He claims the forced air furnace fan drains our batteries too fast. I don’t want another gas appliance in our small space, it doesn’t look that safe, and I doubt it will make much difference in battery drain. He is insisting we need it. I need some help in convincing him this is not a rational idea. Please help me.
--Feeling the Heat in Helena

Dear Helena:
It is a rational idea. Your husband is right about the battery drain. The catalytic heater would be cheaper to operate, give constant heat, and create zero battery drain. Cons: it would produce more condensation, necessitate some added ventilation, and add a substantial investment to buy and plumb into your motorhome. You have gas equipment in your rig now, but perhaps you are not comfortable with this addition. If that is the case, you can add solar instead. A small solar investment will replace the battery drain from the furnace fan. When comparing prices between the two, don’t forget to add the cost of plumbing the gas into the motorhome. You will spend as much on brass fittings and copper lines as you will on the heater itself. I wish I would have bought brass fittings instead of stock for my retirement. I would be rich beyond my wildest dreams. Brass is the new gold. If installed properly and used properly, one of the auxiliary heaters is a fine addition to any RV. We personally use all three, solar, catalytic and forced air and enjoy the freedom of not worrying about keeping a healthy battery charge. Your husband is on the right track. I have often seen people leaving campgrounds early because of dead batteries. They have to drive or use a generator to power a battery charger. This often happens when there is a cold spell and the furnace is working overtime. A small investment in solar will pay for itself over time. Calculate how often you find yourself paying for an electric site so you can charge your battery bank. If you like to dry camp a lot, your payoff will occur much quicker. Heaters like Big Buddy and Wave are radiant heat. They transfer heat to surrounding objects, which in turn release heat into the space you occupy. It is a very comfortable heat, but does entail finding a space that will be safe, convenient and aesthetically pleasing. Good luck. Discuss this with your husband and maybe you will warm up to the idea of an added heat source.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

RV labor force

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
My wife and I are entering the intersection of agreement and disagreement. We are both moving at full speed ahead and I fear a catastrophic collision is imminent. She wants to agree to a host position in Arizona this winter that works out to a full-time position at a volunteers wage. I agree we need to reduce our living expenses, but to work full-time for half the cost of full hookups works out to about a dollar an hour. I think the owners are taking advantage of the supply of retired RV owners willing to work for rent. My wife says she gets bored and needs to work. The problem is the job offer is for a couple. That involves me working the same amount of hours. My wife refuses to comprehend that we are actually bartering 320 hours of work for a $300 savings in rent. How do I explain to her my unwillingness to work for slave wages without the conversation turning into a shouting match.
--Labor Dispute in Douglas

Dear Doug:
I think you are wise to look for a compromise before you both reach the intersection at the same moment. It is pretty simple math. It is also supply and demand, an economic model of price determination in the market. You can’t blame the park owner for making the best business decision for himself. If he can find people willing to work those hours for that compensation, he is going to take advantage of that. One of the elements that has evolved from the thousands of boomers retiring and traveling has been “volunteerism.” That has evolved into “work camping.” Both the public and private sector have embraced the idea of part-time workers who live full or part-time in an RV. The number of people looking for these types of positions continues to grow as more and more people take to the RV lifestyle. The two of you will have to work out a compromise. That usually involves both parties getting some of what it demands. Have you discussed looking for a park that offers better bartering terms? Have you considered one or both of you looking for a better paying position nearby this park? You could then stay busy, pay full price for your rent, and come out ahead financially. A great part of the RV lifestyle is portability. Take your skills and desires and transfer them to another geographic location that may offer better compensation and still give you the climate you are seeking for the winter. Along with the fact that supply is beginning to erode away demand in this labor market, new opportunities are being created constantly. Corporate America is beginning to appreciate the possibilities of utilizing seniors enjoying the RV lifestyle in filling gaps in the workforce. Amazon is the perfect example with a seasonal need for holiday workers. The Oil and Gas industry has found a great fit using RV owners to monitor production site gates. You can find great natural camping, bartering with state and federal parks and wildlife refuges for various part-time hours, in trade for full-hookups. Like any other position in the workforce, sometimes it takes time and patience to end up with what you ultimately desire. Try a few jobs, build a network of friends, gather information, discover the little nuances of how the system works and focus on the positions you want. It is often easier for a couple to find a work camper job than a single applicant, but there are thousands of singles doing exactly the same thing. If you can afford to be choosy, take your time, start early, apply for multiple positions and take the one that appeals to both of you. Closing your eyes to the conflict, with your feet in the carburetor, moving headlong into the intersection, will only result in casualties. Don’t be crash dummies. Practice “safe service” when scouting for a work camping billet.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

RV Cat-astrophe

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We have been traveling in a 29 ft. travel trailer for a couple years. We said when we first retired this would be our first step into RVing. It was not expensive. We wanted to see what others were doing, get some opinions, and try the lifestyle without making a huge investment. We are now convinced that this is the lifestyle for us. We have also decided that we would prefer a motorhome about the same length as our trailer. We started looking for a lightly used motorhome. Recently we found one that was a steal. It was a divorce situation. The wife ended up with it in the divorce and never wanted the thing to begin with. She is a very motivated seller. It was everything we wanted in a floor plan, price, options and color. The problem is, my husband is allergic to cats. This unit had been occupied by the owners two cats on quite a few occasions. He claims symptoms every time he walks into the unit. We have looked at it three times and each time he has complained. I told him we could have it professionally cleaned, but he says he is not willing to gamble on the fact that cleaning would completely eliminate the problem. It is such a great buy and I think we should take the chance. This has caused a lot of heated debate between us. Am I being unreasonable? Should I drop my campaign to buy this unit and try to make it work for us?
 --Cats in the Cradle in Coeur d’Alene

Dear Cats:
Everyone with allergies will have different levels of severity. It sounds like your husband may be at the top of the scale. It would be a gamble to buy the unit and discover it did not solve the problem. There are several ways to approach the issue. If the seller would work with you and hold the sale, you could spend the money to have it professionally cleaned. That way you would know ahead of time. It would be a win-win situation. The owner would have a professionally cleaned unit whether you purchased it or not. You could buy it outright and work on it yourself. If it is truly a great buy, you could always resell it, perhaps at a profit. It is hard to say what all would need to be done. You may have to replace bedding, furniture, and floor coverings, even after cleaning. I have witnessed people walking into professionally cleaned RVs and immediately asking, “Has this unit had cats living in it?” Unless you are sensitive to the presence of some pets, you would not understand completely. If you can’t work something out that eliminates the reaction your husband is experiencing, this unit is not the great deal you think in your circumstances. Move on and forget it. It will be a great deal for someone without your husband’s condition.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink