When improving or renovating your motorhome, compare the initial costs of the project against the immediate and long-term benefits.
By Janet Groene, F47166
Home improvement experts can tell you whether the resale value of a stationary house will be affected by remodeling a kitchen or adding a wood-burning fireplace. According to an article that appeared on www.money.cnn.com, the top three features sought by potential homebuyers are a laundry room, a linen closet in the bathroom, and an eat-in kitchen. Three top losers in terms of adding value to a home are a refrigerated wine cellar, a game room, and an outdoor kitchen.
For full-timer motorhome owners, figuring out which changes will be good for an RV and which won’t isn’t so easy. For example, an outdoor kitchen may not be high on the list for buyers of a stationary home, but for an RV owner who spends a lot of time outdoors, adding an ice maker and a mini kitchen that slides out of the basement can be a home run. Whether to install an onboard washer and dryer is another tough decision for full-timers. This equipment occupies space many travelers prefer to use for other things. And most campgrounds have clean, pleasant coin laundry facilities.
As a full-timer, the changes that you make to your motorhome probably will pay back in comfort and livability more than in dollars. If you spend a lot of time boondocking, the most important benefit of some changes might be in energy savings and reduced generator time. If you cover many miles each year, installing lighter appliances or adding features to improve the motorhome’s aerodynamics can offer a measurable payback.
Like oddball changes in a house, however, some “improvements,” such as a custom paint job or a radical layout change, could greatly devalue your coach. Even if you plan to own the motorhome forever, it’s smart to keep resale in mind. Following are some areas where “home improvement” may result in a payday immediately or at trade-in time.
Lighting is a leading energy hog, yet it’s essential for livability and security as well as compliance with highway laws. By replacing every bulb inside and outside your motorhome with LED bulbs, you can reduce battery drain for lighting by up to 90 percent, according to LED lighting specialist Kinder Woodcock at Imtra Marine Products (www.imtra.com). However, that’s just part of the story.
First, look at the light fixtures and decide whether they should be replaced or simply retrofitted with LED bulbs. Replacing fixtures can be a redecorating plus, but it costs more, especially if new wiring is required. If fixtures are recessed or enclosed, they may not be suitable for LED bulbs, which lose brightness and reliability in hot environments.
Mr. Woodcock recommends starting out with fixtures that are designed for LED use. You probably will get better light intensity and electrical protection. It’s smart to consult an electrician who specializes in marine or RV systems and wiring, especially when switches, remote controls, and dimmers are involved.
Think about aesthetics, too. Both “cool” and “warm” LED lights are available. A cold, harsh light at the dining table is unflattering, but it may be welcome at the sink where you’re scrubbing vegetables. When making the decision to switch to LED lighting, understand that LED bulbs are expensive, with some costing $20 or more. Protect your investment by looking for bulbs that offer the best warranties.
Keep abreast of the rapidly changing lighting marketplace. LED lights are available in more and more sizes and styles, including spotlights, solar, motion-activated, work lights, bar clamp mounts, and those that can be dimmed.
“Mood” lighting in changeable colors is a hot trend. So is a new type of remote control that relies on a radio signal. Unlike traditional infrared remote controls, new designs are not limited by line of sight. They can “see” through a cupboard door to trigger your sound and light show. One company that offers these types of remote controls is ZigBee Alliance (www.zigbee.org).
One final suggestion: If you’re gradually replacing bulbs with LEDs, keep records of costs, guarantees, and replacement dates. This documentation can be beneficial at resale time or when making a warranty claim.
RV window coverings take a beating every day. They are frequently opened and closed; subjected to highway motions; and bleached by harsh sun. If your motorhome is ready for new shades, how high on the upgrade ladder should you go?
Most jobs begin with removing the existing window coverings, so costs may kick in even before the new installation begins. At best, there may be screw holes to fill. If there are valances to replace or lambrequins to re-cover, the price rises. When wiring must be added to accommodate motorized shades, and professionals must be used to run electrical lines or perform carpentry work, a seemingly simple upgrade may be more than you bargained for.
The convenience of motorized shades is obvious. Remote control is an additional convenience, and for the ultimate luxury, you can control shades from afar using a smartphone. The same motorized shade features also are available for the cockpit, an upgrade to consider if your motorhome still has manual windshield shades.
The price goes up when you add better fabrics and linings, but the payback is in improved insulation and better UV ray protection for carpeting and furniture. At additional cost, you can have window fixtures that display either day shades or night shades at the touch of a button.
Vanessa Runs is an avid runner, consultant, and author of The Summit Seeker (www.vanessaruns.com). She and her boyfriend travel full-time in their 22-foot Winnebago Rialta while creating articles, blog posts, and podcasts about their adventures on some of North America’s most scenic and challenging trails.
For their lean, solar-enabled life, they removed a TV, video player, and microwave oven in favor of more storage space. They added a “kitty cupboard,” a definite bonus for any RV owner who has a small cat or dog. They also replaced the carpeting with hardwood floors, giving them an immediate payback in cleaning ease and durability.
According to Money magazine, one of the biggest turnoffs for potential buyers of stationary homes is the small, single-rod closet. Even if you can’t expand the total cubic footage of the motorhome’s closets or cupboards, an investment in additional rods and other organizational aids pays back in space efficiency.
Check out the options available at www.thehardwarehut.com or talk with folks at home improvement stores.
According to DIYnetwork.com, hot new bathroom trends for homeowners include some improvements that also make sense for a motorhome. They include multiple showerheads, radiant heat (in-floor heating, heated towel rack), and aforementioned items such as designer lighting and increased storage space.
Motorhome owners have many options for improving the living space inside their home on wheels. You’ll just need to weigh the costs against the potential benefits in enhanced livability and maybe even resale value.