By Dave Helgeson
There are many items to consider when purchasing an RV. Type, length, floor plan, color scheme, number of beds, tank capacity, etc. However, few people ever take into consideration the type of heat register the RV is equipped with and some later regret their decision. Typically, manufacturers will use either wall registers or floor registers. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of each.
Heat ducts with wall registers are run within the living space of the RV, which takes away from the usable space of the RV, especially storage space. Just open a cabinet or two near the floor line of a RV you’re considering purchasing and you will see the downside of this system. Much of the storage space is impacted by the duct work, and most likely exposed freshwater lines too. When looking at the ducts, notice they are made of accordion-like material, much like the dryer hose in your home. The inside of this duct work is not smooth and thus not very efficient in allowing hot air to travel from the furnace to the register.
Conversely, the duct work connected to floor registers is built into the floor of the RV, which does not impact cabinet storage. Typically, manufacturers that use floor ducting also run the freshwater lines in the floor along the heat ducts, freeing up more storage space under the cabinets. In addition, floor ducts are made of smooth sheet metal much like the duct work in homes, allowing for more efficient delivery of hot air to the registers.
Based on the above, you might think that floor registers hold a clear advantage over wall registers, but that is not the case, as floor registers have their disadvantages, too. Many of those enjoying the RV lifestyle travel with a dog. If that dog happens to be a breed that sheds hair, floor registers may not be the best choice for you. Dog hair readily finds its way into the duct work. Needless to say, removing the hair can be a constant hindrance to enjoying your RV and pet.
As mentioned above, freshwater lines are typically located in the floor next to the ducts to protect them from freezing in cold weather. This is great as long as you run the furnace in the RV when the outdoor temperature is below freezing. However, if you are like many RVers, you carry an electric heater to save propane when your RV is hooked up to shore power. Unlike under-cabinet freshwater lines that are within the confines of the insulated body of the RV, lines in the floor are much less protected from freezing temperatures and will freeze if the furnace is not in operation. While the plastic pipes and fittings are unlikely to burst, the flow of freshwater in the RV will cease until they thaw out.
While the type of heat register won’t be on the top of your list when deciding which RV to purchase, it should be taken into consideration if you are a dog owner, want to maximize storage, or use your RV during freezing weather.
If you do settle on floor registers, make yourself an adapter (heat a section of plastic pipe and flatten it to the appropriate size) for your vacuum, as pictured, to get into the ducts without their removal. By not removing them as frequently for cleaning, you lessen the chance of stripping out the screws and creating yet another problem.