Sunday, December 28, 2014

Living in a Camper?

Can you live in an RV and use it as a house?  In most cases, no.

A reader asks:

"How safe is it to live in an RV?"

I am not sure what they were referring to specifically, but it raises an interesting issue.  Most RVs were not intended to be used as full-time homes.

When we bought our fifth-wheel trailer, there was a sticker on the inside of the door that said to the effect, "This RV was not intended to be used as a full-time home but for camping purposes only."

Odd they would say that.   This was a 1992 model, and I notice today, they don't put such stickers on newer units.

Why would they put such a sticker on an RV?   I think the answer is mold and mildew.   RVs are sealed up like a tomb - or at least they are when new.   Unlike a house, which has soffit vents, ridge vents, attic fans, and other means of allowing air to flow in and out of the attic and wall spaces, an RV is sealed with outer fiberglass walls, caulk, and a rubber roof.   There is nothing to let the humidity out.

Over time, moisture builds up.   Your breath, your showers, your cooking, whatever - it all adds moisture to the air.  And since many RVs are thinly insulated (and have single-pane windows) the humidity may condense inside, and then form an ideal environment for mold and mildew to form.

If the RV develops a leak - which they all eventually do - then the problem gets worse.   And this is why when you are shopping for a used RV you should shy away from an RV with mounds of caulk on the seams and a funky overpowering moldy smell when you open the door.

The problem is mold, and in particular toxic mold.   Get a mold test kit and use it - to insure that you are not living in a mold habitat.   It could kill you, over time.

And open a window - or a roof vent - and leave it open when you are in the rig, even if it gets cold out.  Better to have fresh air and to dry out the camper than to be breathing in the same old mold spores.

Running the Air Conditioning can dry out your camper and reduce mold and mildew.   If you can run the A/C and the heater at the same time, it can act as a giant dehumidifier and help keep the unit dry.

But really, most campers were not meant to be used as full-time homes.   Maybe a month or two here and there, but not for months or years on end.