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National Dolphin 32D

Update 5/29/2013:  The National Dolphin 32D was totaled by a hailstorm on 3/31/2013.  Read about it here.  it was replaced by a 2010 Puma 30RKSS 34′ travel trailer.

My RV is a 1993 Dolphin 32D by National RV.  I bought it in 2005 as a purely recreational vehicle and my daughter promptly christened it the Fish Bus because of the large dolphin decals.  Within a year, I was living in it full time by choice – not necessity.  It has no slides, A Cummins 5.9l diesel which is only 230hp and a six speed Allison transmission.This combination routinely gives me 10-12mpg.   It also has a Generac 6.6kw propane generator and 40 gallon tanks for fresh, gray and black water.

Soon after purchase at a Texas State Park

Soon after purchase at a Texas State Park

The original intent soon shifted direction.  My brother asked me to help him in his excavation business in the Summer of 2007.  He works all over the state of Texas and in most cases lives at the job site with varying degree of amenities.  My first job with him required us to truck all the water in and the very next one had no hookups or water whatsoever!  I got a quick lesson in hard core boondocking for 6 weeks on that job.

I have upgraded my recreational vehicle with the following features to facilitate living in remote locations for extended periods.

I have a large 40 gallon onboard propane tank.  I added two Extend a Stay tees.  One tee feeds all the onboard propane fired appliances like the hot water heater, fridge, furnace and stove.  The second tee feeds the generator.  I try to conserve the onboard tank for emergencies and usually run off  external propane tanks.

I added two large 650ah 12v batteries and I monitor the batteries with a Tri Metric 2020 system. I recommend this battery monitoring system very highly and the customer support is fantastic.

The Fish Bus has two 13,500 btu air conditioning units but only has 30amp service.  The ONLY time you can run both AC units is when the generator is running.  That is just not acceptable here in Texas with our blazing hot summers.  I added a Power Solutions Dual Power Adapter to solve this problem.  This is a rather technical installation and I would not recommend it for any one with limited skills.  This modification allows me to power the RV with two 30amp feeds and I can run both air conditioning units simultaneously.

The jobsite near Newton,TX  -- February 2009. Notice the external propane tanks.

The jobsite near Newton,TX — February 2009

I added a Fantastic Fan to one of the vents and it has been on continuously for 2 years.  One tough little machine there!  It runs in exhaust mode at all times through a Fanmate vent.  I have vent covers over all 4 roof vents in the bus.

I added DISH Network and I have become quite adept at setting up the dish.  I power the TV and the DISH box with a small 1000w Xantrex inverter which is hard mounted in the battery box.  It also powers 2 more outlets which I commonly use for my computer.

One of the biggest problems with older RVs is the woefully inadequate converter/battery charger.  I replaced the antiquated Magnatek charger with one from Progressive Dynamics.  It pairs well with the Trimetric 2020 meter.

Many times our locations have marginal power.  Sometimes the installations are older and the lines are dirty.  Being at the mercy of  an erratic power source that could possibly damage the electronic components in my recreational vehicle, I decided to get a really good surge suppressor.  After some detailed research ( these things aren’t cheap!), I got a Progressive Industries EMS HW30C Surgeguard This piece of equipment has saved me more than once from dirty power sources, plugs that were wired wrong and open grounds.  It has been well worth the price.

I mentioned earlier that one job required a 6 week stay with no hookups at all.  Many of the other jobs have required less lengthy periods without services while we installed a septic system or got the power hooked up.   I really like the Generac propane fueled generator.  It burns .7gal per hour and has been a life saver.  Propane generators have a history of burning cleaner and lasting longer than their diesel or gasoline counterparts.  I would strongly advise anyone who uses an installed generator to invest in a Gen Turi exhaust system.  This is the ONLY way to get those killer carbon monoxide  fumes up and away from the coach. The other advantage to my propane setup is I can keep it steadily fueled with the external bottles and here lately,  propane has been a whole lot cheaper than diesel!

I do not have any solar panels and the reason is twofold.  One, they are expensive and it would take me quite a while to recoup the investment.  Second, I question their usefulness in Texas.  During the heat of the summer, you have to have air conditioning to survive in the places we have been.  If I have to run the generator to provide the juice for the AC that is just the way it is.  No battery bank has enough juice to run 2 AC units.  In the winter,  I can get by week after week by only running the generator about 2 hours a day to top off the batteries.

As you can see, my setup is not fancy. It has evolved over time and has been implemented by necessity.  I think it worked out well.



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Rating: 9.6/10 (10 votes cast)
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Dolphin 32D, 9.6 out of 10 based on 10 ratings