This page is devoted to the modifications on our Navion 24J 09
The significant modifications (other than factory options) that we made on our Navion include:
- wireless cloud (mobile router, aircard and exterior antenna)
- Sanicon solution, and
- “unlimited”, constant temperature hot water.
After the maiden trip, we found some irritating features that we changed. These include:
- Separating the bed from the storage
- Adding access to the under-bed storage
- Adding privacy between the cab and the coach
- Other minor but useful “stuff”
A Wireless Movable Cloud
A priority requirement for Laura and I is that both of us want to be able to sit across from each other at the dinette and be working work on our email, blogs or whatever as the mood hits us regardless of where we are with our NJ09. It is also a plus to be motoring along and just reach for the laptop and check out an attraction that was just signed along the highway. This means a couple of things: Some sort of wireless hot spot “cloud” traveling with us and good wireless broadband reception.
What we selected was a combination of a Verizon 727 USB air card, a 350 Cradlepoint travel router, and a Wilson RV/trucker external antenna. The Verizon air card was selected because it seemed to have the best coverage based on a search sources rating coverage in the US plus we already had a Verizon wireless account. The Cradlepoint 350 router is not the newest model but compact, had a 12V adapter, and had good reviews. The Wilson antenna was a sturdy, through-the-roof antenna that users seemed to like.
Considerable thought was given to also using a Wilson signal amplifier. In the end, the added $300 plus the advice of an installer to wait and add it later, suggested we wait. We did test the setup on a couple of car trips before picking up the Navion. Everything seemed to work just fine so we skipped the amplifier.
We purchased a new Navion at Lewis RV in Dayton Ohio but were living in Wisconsin. We wanted to pick up the rig and head immediately out on a 30 day trip. Therefore we decided that Lewis RV do the installation for all modifications. It was a good choice.
A fused 20 amp (10 gauge) line was run from the chassis battery to the wiring cabinet above the kitchen sink. The microwave was temporarily removed to provide access to the wiring chase so that the wire is totally buried in the wall. A switch was installed to feed to power to two 12V receptacles and the satellite 12V DirecTV receiver (another project). The antenna was mounted through the roof directly above the microwave so that the installation is totally concealed from the inside of the rig. The router was attached to the back of the cabinet with Velcro. The air card was inserted into the router and the antenna wire attached with the appropriate lead wire. The 12V power supply for the router was plugged into one of the 12V receptacles and the installation is complete.
The second 12V receptacle provides a convenient location to charge things like cell phones.
The setup was seamless. The router has security protection like any household wireless router and was setup with WEP security. Once you have activated the air card while it is inserted into a USB port of a laptop, it can be inserted into the router with not other setup. Your do need to work with Verizon to get the air card to work properly as the outgoing mail server for your email program.. It needs a Verizon user name and password. That took some time as we failed to communicated on the construct of the user name but that was sorted out on the second call.
Now for the results. We have been at some fairly remote campsites in OH, TN, and GA and the speed is amazingly fast. In fact, there have been places where we had extremely poor cellphone service (dropped calls) yet the internet access has been reasonable; a bit slower than normal but adequate.
The SaniCon Solution
Having never been in a real RV (one that is NOT sitting in a RV sales lot) until we drove our Navion off the lot at Lewis RV in Dayton, there were many things about RVs that we were completely ignorant of (and still are!). That said, we owned boats for 30 years including ones where we live aboard for weeks. So, we do have lots of experience with blackwater tanks, inverters, large diesel generators and the like. But, marine systems can be different than RV systems….and blackwater practices ARE different.
“More like a pit toilet than a marine toilet” said the salesman when asked how the toilet operated. “How do I pump the blackwater tank?” “Just attach the hose, open the blackwater tank valve, and then flush the hose with the grey water tank” replied the salesman as he pointed to a couple of valves on the show room coach. I have had enough boating blackwater episodes to know there were lots more I needed to know about handling blackwater from an RV.
Cutting this story short, I did find out about 3″ hoses and storage tubes and gloves and bleach that are common knowledge to the RV world. Frankly I think you are all too tolerant of this practice and I decided to stick to the approach used in the marine world. That is, grind it up into slurry and pump it out using a small, permanently attached hose with an end that seals up when done. Pump it where ever you want…uphill, downhill, sideways and never worry about cleaning the hose when done.
There are different systems that you can use. I picked a SaniCon system because it is small and has a nice stretchy hose that takes little storage but reaches 20 feet. The trick was how to shoehorn the unit into the small compartment where the blackwater/greywater valves are. To add to the difficulty, I was in WI and the rig was in OH. I got a peek at a 08 View that I assumed was the same….wrong. From that, I dreamed up a couple of possibilities, made some custom parts for each, and headed down to Lewis RV in Dayton with the parts.
Now the service guys at Lewis RV are good listeners AND magicians. They patiently listened to the options I presented, looked at the parts and then came up with a new plan that was much better that any of mine. I then disappeared for a bit and , presto, a wonderful installation of a SaniCon in a 09 Navion 24J. Here is what they did.
I gave them a SaniCon model 5800-6004 which has a bayonet twist-on connection, an attached switch, grey water bypass, and the nice little stretchy hose. I also gave them some 4″ plumbing parts and lots of other custom plumbing parts that they threw away. The first thing they did was to order a shorter T connection that leads from the greywater and blackwater valve. (Winnie in 2009 thought it would be nicer to extend the outlet further down out of the compartment, so the T was longer than the 08 View I was looking at.) The final plan was to rotate the T 90 degrees so it exited not down toward the ground but toward the center of the rig. Then, if the compartment was large enough (which it was not), the SaniCon could be just twisted on to the T. The shorter T gave us some extra space but not enough.
Now the Lewis magicians extended the compartment by simply drilling a 4.5″ hole through the plastic tub (compartment), inserted a 4″ (ID) PVC threaded collar through the hole and glued a 4″ collar on the other side (the two pressed tightly together). Then another 4″ PVC threaded collar was glued on the collar and a 4″ clean-out cap screwed in. Presto! The compartment with its new 4″ diameter extension now will take the SaniCon (see pictures). Plus I can access the back of the SaniCon motor to unjam the pump if it ever jams simply by unscrewing the cleanout plug. A Tornado was added to the blackwater tank to give an extra rinse.
Now, of course, there needs to be power brought to the SaniCon. A 10 gauge circuit was brought from the battery leads at the converter (under the refrigerator) – fused, of course – to the compartment. The switch/bracket was removed from the SaniCon, the bracket thrown away and the switch cut into the panel in the compartment right near the water pump switch. Neat!
To pump out, I simply unscrew the cap off the end of the wand, insert the “wand” into the pump-out station hole, open the blackwater valve, and turn on the pump. But wait, there is another advantage of the installation. After I pump the blackwater tank empty, I shut off the pump and open the greywater valve. Half of the contents of the greywater tank rush into the blackwater tank cleaning it. Close the greywater valve and pump the blackwater tank. Repeat this process. Then start process again the third time but this time do not pump the black water tank. I have just “precharged” it with soapy water. Pump the remaining water in the greywater tank, screw the cap back on the wand, give the wand a squirt of bleach solution (where it went into the “sewer” hole) and you are done. No hoses to wash; no messy hoses to store; you do not even need gloves!
Oh, and one more advantage. If I run out of greywater capacity (which I do before I run out of blackwater capacity), I just open both valves and the grey water flows into the blackwater tank until the levels are equal.
Now I realize that for many seasoned RVrs, developing specialized techniques for dumping the blackwater tank may be a source of pride. But, I think I will wimp out and enjoy a sip of beer or maybe even wine while I listen to the SaniCon do its job – sort of speak. Not everything in life needs to be experienced.
The Hot Water Solution
Showering on a boat or RV can be a bit of a challenge simply because the water heater is so small – 6 gallon on the Navion. It is not just that you have only 6 gallon of 140 degree water but, more importantly, the tank is so short that the temperature of the water at the outlet can change significantly after you draw out just one gallon of water.
Your home water heater may have 4 to 5 feet of vertical separation between the inlet and outlet so there is little mixing between the cold water coming in at the bottom and the hot water leaving at the top. In other words, there is a good thermal gradient between the inlet and outlet and the water temperature changes slowly as the water is withdrawn from the tank.
Our Navion water heater has only about 8 inches between the inlet and outlet. As a result, as you start using water, the hot water temperature can change quickly as the inlet water mixes with the outlet water. What this means in the shower is that you need to be constantly readjusting the mix of cold water and hot water as you shower. Plus you must be careful not to get too much hot water at the beginning or you will burn yourself with 140 degree water. Comfortable showering can be a challenge.
Some RVers have attempted to improve the situation by installing an adjustable thermostat and set the water heater temperature to a comfortable showing temperature. That will keep you from being burned in the shower but really does not do anything to help control the water temperature coming from the heater. Soon into the shower, the water will be colder than the temperature set.
The answer is really a thermo-mixing valve. You set the outlet temperature and it takes water at whatever the temperature is coming from the water heater, adds the necessary cold water and gives you the temperature of water that you selected. Of course, the water coming from the water heater must be equal or greater than the temperature set at the mixing valve for the valve to maintain the set temperature. The output from a good mixing valve does not varying until the water from the water heater falls below the set temperature.
Now you jump into the shower, turn on the hot water and receive a steady temperature of water throughout your shower….assuming you do not totally exhaust the “hot” water in the water heater. You never waste water trying to get the right temperature. You end up having more “hot” water — mixing really hot with cold water as you shower. One of the additions to the Navion before we drove it off the lot was to add a thermo-mixing valve.
We used a Honeywell-Sparco AM101-UT-1 – 3/4″ NPT union mixing valve. The key is to get one that controls from 100-145 degrees and is threaded (NPT) so you can just screw it right into the water heater outlet and get connectors (thanks to Lewis RV!) to attach it to the Navion plastic plumbing.
After attaching it to the hot water outlet, what you do is cut in a T in the cold water line going into the water heater inlet and bring that to the cold water inlet in the valve, the mixed outlet is attached to the original hot water line. The plumbing layout on the NJ09 is perfect to do this. Oh and throw away the gaskets that come with the valve and buy some softer O-rings otherwise you will never get the connections tight.
You may want to cut the valve into the plumbing after the hot water T to the kitchen sink. Then there would be 140 water to the sink and the tempered water to the bath. I did not do that because the valve is quite heavy and did not have time to make some sort of mounting bracket to properly support the valve. Mounting on the water heater eliminates the need to have the bracket.
In addition to the mixing valve, we also added a variable speed pump. It is much quieter and eliminates much the cycling on and off that the stock pump does.
The mixing valve and the variable speed pump will vastly improve your shower experience. We do back-to-back showers and never run out of hot water….being careful of course! Plus the temperature is always constant.
Modifications After the Maiden Trip
After a maiden trip of a month, we praised the designers of the Navion 24J with a couple of exceptions. At the end of the first trip, we stripped off all our stuff from Arvie and rolled up our sleeves.
Separating the Bed From the Storage
First on the list was correcting the most ridiculous feature one could ever design: a combination bike storage/primary sleeping area. Sure. The perfect two things to combine. Take your mountain bike out on a muddy trail then throw it in with your silk sheets. Oh, and split the mattress in two and put some reinforcing rods
in one half. If that is not good enough, cut a big hole in the side of the primary sleeping area that you need to open whenever you put something into the best outside storage area. Hello, Winnebago?
The Yahoo View/Navion group had several good suggestions and I used a modified version of one of the plans. Basically, I built a frame for a plywood base under the open part underneath the bed. Then covered the side opening with boat canvas material that snaps on the inside and is held tight at the bottom between a couple parts of the wood frame. Hopefully, the picture explains what needs to be explained. I wanted to replace the split mattress with a custom made one. However, Laura had used a 1 1/2 inch thick memory foam pad over the split matress and did not want to give up a know quantity that met with her approval for an unknown one. What works for her works for me. Plus it IS her bed after all!
Adding Access to the Under-Bed Storage
The next irritating issue was the access to the best inside storage which is under the primary bed. To get to it you
need to lift up the mattress. So you just spent 30 minutes and two skinned knuckles getting the bed made and you realized that you used the last of the paper towels. The replacement rolls are stored you know where. Also I must admit that I tweaked my back while holding up the matress/cover with my head while digging through the storage. Again a creative guy (Eric) on the Yahoo group provided the solution. This time I copied it exactly. You order some replacement doors/hardware for the cabinet over the sink and cut them into the curved front of the storage. Perfect! Looks like it came from the factory.
Adding Privacy Between the Cab and the Coach
The next mod is all mine. I knew there would be a privacy issue with everyone being able to look through the cab into the coach area. Before even picking up the Navion, I ordered the outside canvas offered by the Sprinter Store in Oregon. However when I went to take delivery of the Navion and do the initial modifications, I found out that Winnebago provided a privacy curtain for over the cab (OC) bed and a privacy curtain between the cab and the coach. They are cumbersome to use; each having four snaps/hooks which fit in hard to reach places. Plus you have to find places to store them when not in use.
I took a different approach. Basically you either want to cover the mess in the over area or it is night and you want to block the view in through the cab so you can practice your comb-over or whatever. The immediate answer was a 7′ piece of 1/2″ half round which threads through the cloth loops of the OC privacy curtain. Leave the two middle hooks fully functional to attach to the two middle metal loops. Then add two pieces of cord one to each of to the two middle hooks and the two OUTSIDE metal loops with the cord running through the middle loops. Now when you release the two hooks from the middle loops, the curtain drops down to just below where the ladder attaches (assume that the cord length is proper). Presto. You have a privacy curtain between the cab and the coach. So either the curtain is hiding all your (actually my) junk in the OC…no need to make the bed…or it is night and time for some privacy from the outside gawkers.
After some use, the 1/2″ half round turned out to be too droopy so I backed it up the a 1″ x 1/4″ trim piece. Screw the two pieces together with the frabric loops between them (and the whole curtain properly spaced) and the curtain will stay properly spaced along the rod. Once the rod is no longer droopy, you will have to put an extension on the metal loops where the two metal hooks attach when in the raised position. I used another snap hook with a swivel eye. Check out the picture and this may all make some sense.
Oh, also notice the “mechanism” in the OC….that inclined thing. I snore. That is the reason for his/her sleeping areas which used to be in separate wings of the house. Tried lots of remedies including LAUP …. laser surgery. Finally found out that if I sleep inclined, I do not snore. So I have various types of “mechanisms” to create an incline to accomodate all types of sleeping arrangements. Laura and I now can sleep in the same hotel room and in the same Navion. For you snorers out there, try it. It might work for you too.
Other Minor But Useful “Stuff”
Here is another simple thing that Laura came up with: a polished nickle towel holder from Lowes that matches the interior of the Navion. Mounted by the door, it is convenient both inside and outside of the Navion. Incredibly handy.
The blocks I cut for the maiden trip split by the end of the trip. This time I glued/screwed 1/4″ plywood to the
bottom. Also now store them in their own carrying bag (from Target for $10).
Also built a small shelf in the cabinet above the sink to hold the DirecTV receiver. We use a TrakVision unit with a 12V DirecTV receiver. Using a 12V system means that you do not need an inverter or a 110V source to watch Fox News. Also, an in-motion unit means that you can
watch it while you drive….well, while someone else drives. If I did the Navion over again, I probably would skip the satellite TV. The satellite radio is more than enough to bring in the news.
Then, if I did it over again I would also skip the heat pump on the AC (a good portable electric heater is better), the in-line water filter (I filter all the water coming into the coach) and even the LP generator (I have not used it yet….which reminds me I need to exercise it for an hour just to keep it alive…plus I am toting all that weight around for nothing….I paid $3K for what???)
Finally A Real Bed
Laura was using a 1 1/2″ thick memory foam custom-cut pad over the split mattress. However, it was not cutting it. So FoamByMail got a call and now there is a real 6″ medium-firm foam mattress with cover in place of the two 1/2 mattresses. It did require reinforcing the 1/8″ plywood but a simple fix.