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The Green Life: 5 Easy Ways to Green Your RV

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September 16, 2013

5 Easy Ways to Green Your RV

This RV and tent are green on the outside but what about the insideAbout ten years ago, Ty Adams asked himself a question that became an obsession. How do you make RVs green? The question led him to quit his job at an RV magazine, sell his house, and build his first green RV, the biofueled BioTrekker. Adams now works as a freelance writer, but is still involved with green RVs. He volunteers as an adviser to SolTrekker, another biodiesel RV and environmental program on wheels. The non-profit that operates it, also called SolTrekker, uses the RV as a sustainable showroom, exhibiting solar systems and renewable materials. Adams’s projects are exciting because RVs are notorious for their carbon footprint. He found ways to turn this symbol of excess into one of sustainability.

The SolTrekker boasts some labor intensive projects like a biodiesel engine, a solid waste compost system, and a rainwater catchment/grey water collection unit. But what can RV owners do today, in a couple of hours, at minimal cost? We asked Adams to share some tips for RVers just starting to green up. It turns out you can do a lot of things without a huge expense or technical know-how.

  1. Install LED light bulbs: "This is a great place to start," says Adams. LEDs use about half the energy of conventional bulbs, decreasing the RV’s footprint, and increasing the length of time it can stay off the grid. 

  2. Throw out the TV: Many motor homes have large wasteful TVs installed, but it's still nice to watch a movie on the road. Ty ripped out his energy sucking TV and watched movies on his laptop.

  3. Inflate your tires: According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, “under-inflated tires can lower gas mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 psi drop in pressure of all four tires.” For RVs, more tires and more friction with the road makes inflation even more important. 

  4. Upgrade the fridge: Adams threw out his RV’s inefficient fridge from the 90s, replacing it with a low-energy marine fridge that used half the power.

  5. Solar power: It’s easy to retrofit your RV with a solar panel to supplement or replace the generator. Easier, in fact than your house. The 12 volt system is already there: batteries, inverter, and wiring. Ty recommends single or multi-panel kits that use 3m adhesives for the roof. Few or no tools required. 

With TVs, fridges, and solar panels, Adams has an overarching suggestion. “When you’re doing upgrades look at boating stores. 'Marine' products are way better because boaters need them to be better.” RV stores, by comparison, sell less efficient and less durable gear. Essentially, experience on the high seas spawned more innovation than that of the KOA.

--Photo by iStock/typhoonski

Headshot_Cedar_BlogCedar Attanasio is an editorial intern at Sierra. He has blogged for 
National Geographic's Daily NewsPeter Greenberg Worldwide, and others. A graduate of Middlebury College and a 2012 K. Davis Language Fellow, Cedar is a perpetual student of Brazilian Portuguese, Spanish, and all things Latin America. You can follow him on Twitter @cedarattanasio.



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