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Tech Topics - November/December 2017

by Paul and Kerri Elders

RVing is a great adventure and there’s always something new to learn!

This month, we’ll explore some water filter options to improve your RV’s water quality and take a quick look at a few water heater tips and tricks. Ready? Let’s go!

Water Filters:

As RVers become seasoned Road Warriors, we begin to realize just how greatly water quality can vary across the country. In some areas, tap water tastes as fresh and clean as a pure

mountain spring. Other areas have water that’s over-chlorinated, clouded with sediments or even tastes like iron or sulphur. What to do? One solution is to buy and drink bottled water, but for many longer term travelers, a better solution is to use some type of water filtration system. Many RVs have water filters pre-installed by the manufacturer, but if your model doesn’t, you have LOTS of great aftermarket options. You can use a simple outdoor in-line water filter that you attach between your water inlet and your water hose each time you hook up to utilities. Or you can install a permanently mounted, under-the-sink filtration unit. Or you can opt for a faucet filter, a countertop filter, or a water-pitcher type filter. You can even install a full-fledged reverse-osmosis system in your RV.

Generally speaking, three types of filtering systems are commonly available for treating drinking water: filters, microfilters, and purifiers. Filters improve taste by removing some contaminants from water (such as sediments like dirt, sand, and rust particles); some can even remove chemicals like chlorine. Simple water filters are usually charcoal-based and are available in a variety of standard inline filters and many water pitcher filtration systems. Microfilters go a step beyond this simple filtration, removing everything a water filter can, as well as removing smaller particulates and microorganisms like protozoa and some bacteria such as campylobacter. Microfiltering systems are often two-stage filters designed to be permanently installed under the sink. Water Purifiers go a step beyond both filters and microfilters, combining microfiltration with disinfection. Purifiers can effectively remove protozoa, bacteria, and viruses as well as sediments, tastes, and odors. Good examples are the small portable purifiers popular with backcountry hikers and larger, permanently installed reverse osmosis (RO) systems. In the reverse-osmosis water purification process, water is forced through a membrane, screening out minerals and impurities. These impurities are then reversed and sent down the drain. In an RV, an RO system can be installed under the sink or even in a weatherproof utility bay. Reverse osmosis is an extremely effective water filtration method, but its one downside, at least for RV use, is that it generates a large amount of wastewater.

RV Water Heaters 101:

Ever wondered how to keep your RV’s water heater operating at peak efficiency? It’s easy! Most RV water heaters utilize dual energy sources: electricity and LP gas. When we’re connected to shore power, most RVers choose to power our water heaters with electricity. But as a general rule, electric water heaters are greedy, power-hungry appliances, requiring 1000 to 1500 watts of electrical power. If you’re running an air conditioner, microwave oven, or other appliances, it’s usually a better idea to use LP gas to heat your water in order to reduce your RV’s overall

electrical load. Since an RV water heater operating on electricity can be an energy hog, travel veterans have learned easy ways to do more with less. RV water heaters are usually just 6-10 gallons in size, so thrifty RVers have learned to improvise, especially when camping in metered spots. Their “old school” solution? Simply use the heater on an as-needed basis. When you get up in the morning, turn on the water heater. Enjoy your first cup of coffee as your water heats and by the time you’re ready to wash your  breakfast dishes and take a shower, you’ll have plenty of hot water. Turn the water heater off to conserve electricity & you’ll probably find you’ve heated all you need for the rest of the day. If you’re in a metered site where you’re footing the electric bill, you’ll be glad you did! Heating elements in water heaters can occasionally corrode over time, mostly due to the hardness (mineral content) of the water you’ve introduced into your RV through your varied travels. This corrosive effect is a natural chemical reaction to the heat of the water in the tank, which causes the minerals contained in all water to adhere to the heating element. This is normal, but, after an extended period of time, can actually cause the water heater element to burn out.

This same chemical reaction can also affect the thermostat (temperature control) of your water heater, as well. If your RV’s water seems to be getting hotter than usual, it’s usually due to this accumulation of mineral deposits on the internal thermostat. These accumulated deposits can insulate the thermostat from the water, causing the thermostat’s reading of the water temperature to be considerably lower than the actual water temperature. If you encounter this problem, it’s usually best to simply have an RV service technician examine your water heater.

Happy trails!

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