above: a completed 2018 Phaeton 40 IH waiting for final inspection
In case you missed it, we’re upgrading to a new motorhome! In our last two blog posts we discussed what we’re doing and why, and how our new diesel chassis differs from Rover’s gas chassis. In this post we’ll talk about some of the ways our new house (the box we live in, sitting on top of the chassis) differs.
Probably the biggest difference in our new house will be more space inside. While we’re pretty comfortable in Rover, a little more breathing room will go a long way. Our new Phaeton will be four feet longer (41′ 4″ instead of 37′ 6″), but more importantly will have slide-out rooms on both sides, making the inside a couple feet wider. It may not sound like much, but when your house is eight feet wide, an extra two feet makes a big difference! Below are the floor plans for our new 40 IH Phaeton (top) and our current 36 LA Allegro (bottom):
While those two slide-outs on the passenger side will cut into our outdoor campsite space, they provide some great indoor space. We also like some of the floor plan changes, such as having our dinette on the passenger side so we can see our campsite (rather than our neighbor’s campsite) while eating, and a more unified living room area in the front (which includes the swiveling front seats).
The extra space, and the ability to carry lots of additional weight, also translates into quite a few extra “luxury” amenities. While none are really necessary, we have to admit we’re looking forward to quite a few of them! We’ll soon have a king size bed (Opie takes up a lot of space), a dishwasher, separate clothes washer and dryer, a big kitchen pantry, a larger wardrobe, a pull-out kitchen counter extension, induction cooktop, and more.
We’ve learned over the years that in the summer an RV is basically a big solar oven that’s difficult to keep cool (though Yuma in July was probably an unfair test), and in the winter it can be drafty inside, with a very cold floor due to being up off the ground with cold air flowing underneath us. We’ll now have three air conditioners with three heat pumps (vs. two and one in Rover), a diesel-fired AquaHot hydronic heat system that also provides unlimited instant hot water (no more involuntary cold showers), and double-pane flush-mounted windows. Oh, and heated floors! Yep, now we’re really roughing it!
If you know me well, you know I have a thing for home automation. In our old “sticks and bricks” house we could control all our lights, thermostats, and music from a web page or iPhone. This is one area where RV technology has lagged far behind. Our thermostat in Rover is a bit of a dinosaur, and because RV HVAC systems work differently than normal homes, it’s not been possible to replace it with a Nest or similar “smart/programmable” thermostat. That’s why I’m really excited that the 2018 Phaetons have a new in-wall touch screen system that can control practically everything in the coach! Here’s a look at our current thermostat (top) and the Phaeton’s new HVAC controls (bottom):
The touchscreen can control the lights (which are now dimmable), fans, water pump, generator, slide-outs, electrical system, and more. Best of all, some clever Tiffin owners have built a small device called CoachProxy to tap into this control system and provide WiFi access, remote access via cell phone, and programmability. I can’t wait to get my hands on it to start automating! Here’s a look at the touch screen showing the Phaeton’s electrical system monitoring and management:
All this extra technology does come at a cost – increased electrical consumption. Fortunately, the Phaeton’s house battery bank is much heftier than Rover’s: 900 amp-hours (Ah) of AGM batteries, vs. 400 Ah of flooded batteries in Rover. In real-world usage that’s three times the capacity, since we can safely draw the AGM batteries down further than the flooded batteries, which we try to never draw below 50%. We also ordered an upgraded solar pre-wire package from Tiffin so we’ll have nice heavy solar wiring from the roof to the battery compartment for when we decide to add solar panels again.
Of course, one of the most important (and toughest) decisions is always what color to get! Typically each model RV only comes in eight or so different color schemes, where each scheme comprises four different colors arranged in swirls and swoops. When we ordered Rover in 2013 we got a tip that there was a secret “unpublished” color scheme called “NASA” which was monochrome. Since nearly every motorhome we had seen was a combination of brown and gold, we opted for NASA. Fast forward to 2018 and NASA is an official color scheme and we see monochrome motorhomes everywhere now!
For the 2018 Phaeton, there were two color schemes that we liked: Maroon Coral and White Mahogany, which is pictured at the top of this blog post. But while we were visiting the Tiffin paint factory we spotted an Allegro Bus (a higher-end motorhome than the Phaeton) with a beautiful deep blue stripe across it. We haven’t really seen any blue in motorhomes before, with reds, browns, and golds still being in almost every scheme, so it really caught our eye.
None of the Phaeton color schemes have any blue in them, but we spent some time at the paint shop office and they helped us design a custom color scheme for our rig (for a fee, of course) using white, silver, blue, and grey. Unfortunately, their printouts really look nothing like the final product (there’s only so much a color laser printer can do), so we expect our new rig to look quite a bit better than the printout from the paint shop, below:
To try and get a better feel for it, I took a Phaeton render from the Tiffin web site and tried to “photoshop” our two color changes onto it (below). I think it’s a bit closer to reality, but we won’t know how it will really look until it’s done. We’re taking a bit of a risk, but hoping it works out for the best! Either way, we’ll have a unique color scheme and will never “pass ourselves” going down the highway…
We’re really looking forward to watching our build in September! When we watched Rover’s build in early 2014 we often had no idea what we were looking at or what to pay attention to, being new to RVs and motorhomes. This time around with all our experience living, driving, customizing, and repairing Rover, we think we’ll get a lot more out of the build process. Plus, instead of only having three days in Alabama we’ll be there for three weeks and will see far more of the process, including the chassis, painting, and final inspections and quality checks.
Check back in with us in early September for progress on our build. Hopefully by then we’ll also have chosen a name for our new traveling companion!
Note: “Roughing it… smoothly” is Tiffin’s corporate motto.