Guide to Making the ULTIMATE DIY Smart RV

Making the ultimate DIY smart RV is somewhat of a passion project. I love technology and how it can make our lives easier. That being said, if not done correctly it can cause headaches after headaches. That being said, it brings me to the rules I will TRY and follow with this project.

  1. It should just work
  2. It should be easy to implement
  3. It should allow all existing controls to work like normal when it can
  4. It should work locally if it can

The first rule is because I hate having to jump through hoops for my technology. If it loses power, when it receives power again it should just work. No manual intervention needed.

The second rule is because I am a novice at electrical and electronics. My background is in cybersecurity and have in-depth knowledge about lots of various technologies but am still googling everything with this.

The third rule is because Rae would kill me if suddenly the light switch didn’t work and she had to use an app to turn on a light. This will also allow us to use the RV as normal if something goes wrong.

The fourth rule is to try and keep data costs down and keep usability up when we are places where there is no internet service.

WARNING: This guide is a work in progress and will be updated frequently.

Join the DIY Smart RV Group on Facebook for additional discussion around home automation and the nuances of implementing it in an RV.

The HUB / Brain

The “Brain” of the DIY Smart RV will be Home Assistant. Home Assistant is an open-source home automation platform that integrates with many different IoT platforms. It is extensible and highly customizable. It has a great base of developers and supporters which means there are more hands to help get issues figured out. It also allows for a single-pane-of-glass experience. No looking through multiple different apps or programs.

  • How to install Home Assistant on a $35 Raspberry Pi and run it off 12v DC.
  • How to update your “home” location in Home Assistant automatically.

Safety and Security

One of the biggest reasons for implementing smart technologies in your RV is to increase your safety or your pets. This was where we started with our smart enhancements so we could ensure our dog Carmen was safe while we were out adventuring. The safety of our dog is paramount for my wife so I was able to get the ever-important spousal buy-in for my beginning projects.

  • How to remotely monitor for Smoke or C02 in your RV with Nest
  • How to remotely monitor for Smoke or C02 in your RV (DIY)
  • Remotely monitor your RV inside and out with the Arlo Pro2
  • Monitor the temperature inside your RV (DIY)
  • How to remotely detect a fire in your RV.
  • Turn on lights automatically
  • How to Automatically Lock Your Front Door Every Night
  • How to get notified when someone opens your Front or Storage Doors

Power monitoring

  • Monitor Solar Array
  • Detect if Shore Power was disconnected
  • Monitor specific DC & AC Loads

Water Monitoring

  • Monitor the exact amount of freshwater when filling the freshwater tank
  • Monitor your freshwater usage when dry camping
  • Detect a water leak in your RV

Sewer Monitoring

  • Monitor your exact tank level
  • Open your sewer valves remotely

Propane Monitoring

  • Remotely monitor the level of propane tanks

Convenience and Fun

Raise/lower TV

Turn on/off fireplace

Raise/Lower roller shades

Dim the lights

Automation

While monitoring all these systems is nice, automation makes your life easier. Monitoring will tell you the exact level of your sewer tank but if you don’t remember to look it doesn’t matter. You will still backup greywater into your shower. Automation will allow you to have your computer monitor the grey level and TELL YOU that it is 80% full.

That is my first goal with automation. I want to be notified before something is a problem and I don’t want to worry about it until I’m notified.

My second goal of automation is to have the system try and fix the problem without my intervention. This would be something like automatically turning on the humidifier if the inside is to humidity. This could also be something like unlocking the door if fire or smoke is detected. The sky is the limit.

I will post the automation that I have created below but it is a very personal part of the setup. Use them to create an automation that fits your lifestyle.

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6 comments
  1. Hi Jason…saw your recent video on automation and most intrigued with how you got your furnace to turn on in the morning. I’ve been trying to figure this out for like forever.

  2. Hi Jason! I’m really excited about what you are doing to home automate your rv. My wife and I in prep for retirement lived in a 09 Montana 3400rl for 5 years. It was a bit early as both of us were still working full time. I took a work transfer to Co and sold the Montana. We just bought a 2020 Reflection 295rl and will be moving in this August. I am planning on retiring this Dec 31st! I have just started learning to code and my plan is to automate my 5th wheel also. I am learning the Rasp Pi . I have a 3 and a 4. I am working on Python! I can’t wait to get moved in! We subscribed to your channel about a year ago! Keep up the good work! Hopefully we might get together!

  3. So I’m getting started fulltiming in a 25′ Flying Cloud really soon and have been thinking about a LOT of this stuff lately. Can you post your tech updates?

  4. Nice article, but really of no help. How about actually making a video/write up on how to put your tank sensors and propane tank levels and other items in Home Assistance and make them smart. Maybe something like what devices/hacks you used and how it gets put into Home Assistance.

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