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September 17, 2011 8:38 PM   Subscribe

Explain to me a bit how RV hookups work and how you could hook up in someone's back yard.

So I've been reading about RVs and camping trailers and also I love the idea of Tumbleweed Tiny Houses.

While it's likely just a pipe dream, let's say I get a Tiny House or an RV and wanted to hook up rather permanently in a relative or friend's back yard and pay them rent/utilities. (For the sake of this question, let's assume this is permitted in their locale or I get the proper permits.) I have Googled "how RV hookups work" but I'm not really getting it. I read how to dump a greywayer/blackwater tank but nothing about electricity and water. Is it like a single post you hook into with hoses and cords?

I know the three hookups you generally need are water, electricity, and sewer. (I'll assume heat is just a matter of hooking up a propane tank.) Water = hose, simple enough, I suppose, but wouldn't their pump be running all the time? I know our pump ran a lot when we used to have a swimming pool and would run the hose into it for top-offs. (Note: I have only ever lived in homes with well water so I don't really know about hooking up to city water supplies.)

Electricity... someone mentioned a really long utility extension cord, but would having one of those overload their circuits? I mean if I were hypothetically running a few appliances (TV, microwave, small A/C?) would it blow their fuses because it was running on only one of their outlets? Would they need to install some new circuits or fortify their wiring?

Also, how would I tap into their sewer system? Assuming I want a flush toilet and not a composting one, would they essentially have to build an RV "dumping station" in their back yard for me to use? Would I leave it permanently connected to that? Would I be able to just leave the graywater and blackwater tanks open in that case?

If they did build the equivalent of an RV park's "full hookup" system, what would that sort of thing cost? Again, I'm not exactly clear on how RV full hookups work... I've never stayed in an RV or at a campground that had RV hookups. I'm just interested in how everything works, not why this is a terrible idea.
posted by IndigoRain to Home & Garden (4 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
 
Water: You have it right, but you want a reinforced, UV-resistant hose. A regular rubber-ish garden hose will either crack, or eventually balloon out and burst, if you keep it under pressure 24/7/365 (and speaking of 365, have you considered that water freezes in the winter?)

Electric: Most(? The ones I've seen, anyway) RVs have two hookups, one basically amounts to an extension cord connection, the other taps 240V. The 110 connection won't cause any damage to the house, but you'll blow the breaker on a pretty frequent basis. Go for the 240V if you can, but you'll probably need to have that installed by an electrician.

For sewer, you end up in a world of environmental and building code regulations. Suffice it to say, in most places, you have no way to legally hook up a sewer connection. In theory, you could install an actual septic tank and connect into that, but even then you'd end up with something at best a barely-legal hack-job.

FWIW, an RV will cost you more than a small modular home. For the same money, you could have a "real" house without worrying about any of the issues you bring up.
posted by pla at 9:06 PM on September 17, 2011


and speaking of 365, have you considered that water freezes in the winter?

My cousin lives in a trailer park. There's an electrically heated "tape" you buy to heat the hookup from the ground to your trailer/rv/whatever. Very much like an electric blanket for your water pipe.
posted by sbutler at 9:24 PM on September 17, 2011


sbutler writes "My cousin lives in a trailer park. There's an electrically heated 'tape' you buy to heat the hookup from the ground to your trailer/rv/whatever. Very much like an electric blanket for your water pipe."

Also you'll want to skirt your trailer.

"wouldn't their pump be running all the time?"

Only if you were running the water. If all your taps are off then you aren't using any water and their well pump won't run. Same with city water.

"I mean if I were hypothetically running a few appliances (TV, microwave, small A/C?) would it blow their fuses because it was running on only one of their outlets?"

Most RVs have a 30-50A 240 volt hook up but the RV will run most of it's loads on a single 15A 120V circuit with the exception of electric heat and air conditioning. Ideally in a long term setup your hosts would get an external plug wired to their panel. Short term a decent solution depending on your electrical usage is to run the cord from your RV to their dryer hookup though you'll need to make a cheater cord to adapt the RV plug to the dryer outlet.

Installing an outside receptacle like this will be a few hundred dollars plus the cost of the wire to run from the panel to the outlet.

"would they essentially have to build an RV 'dumping station' in their back yard for me to use?"

This is the tricky part. You'd want to have a permanent hook up rather than a dumping station. I've created this setup a few times, and if you have a conveniently located sewer pipe it is fairly easy. All you need is T off the pipe, bring it to the surface, install a fitting to adapt to the RV's black water system, and then extend the pipe vertically about 10' depending on your local code for venting. If the sewer pipe isn't close to your parking location then you'd need to run a pipe underground to hook into the sewer system. With septic systems where the tank is right up against the house that'll mean bringing the pipe into the house otherwise you can tap into the pipe running from the house to the tank.

All this stuff is easiest if you are parking right next to the house. If you have to park away from the house a good solution is to run everything under ground to your parking location. If your electrical supply and water and sewer hook ups end up under your trailer then they will be within your skirting thereby staying warm in the winter.
posted by Mitheral at 9:40 PM on September 17, 2011 [1 favorite]


From what I understand, you don't ever leave your black and gray water tanks open, even in RV parks. You need the blackwater tank to fill up at least 3/4 full before you dump it. Hate to be gross, but if you just leave it open, you are going to get some nasty buildup in your tank that will be near impossible to remove. You need the force of gravity to totally flush your tanks.
posted by Vaike at 12:05 PM on September 18, 2011


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