“We RV travel with pets and are always concerned while away for the day if the electricity or air conditioning failed without being aware. With the RV Whisper system, not only can we monitor the temperature inside the RV, refrigerator, and freezer, we’re alerted via text and email of a problem. We’re now at ease knowing things at the campground are fine. Tech Support was very attentive when we had some questions when installing and got us up and running. We’re very satisfied overall with their product.”
– Full-time RVer
On the road, your RV is your home. When you’ve got furry members of your family (a.k.a. pets), you want that home to be as safe for them as it is for you. While you’re around, you can adjust the temperature if it gets uncomfortable, but for some reason heater and AC units weren’t designed for paws. What happens if shore power shuts off while you are away? How will you know if the temperature is rising to dangerous levels? You need a system to let you know what’s going on, and automatically alert you, if and when trouble arises.
The vulnerability of pets in RVs
A recent national survey found over two-thirds of people have pets. Many of these pet-owning families like to take to the open road, and where the family goes, so go these pets. Bringing your pets along with you in the RV can have its challenges though, but having the right equipment can not only make things easier but often much safer for both you and your pets.
One of the biggest dangers to pet safety is temperature. We’re all too familiar with the feeling of opening a car door in the summer and having a wave of heat hit us. Things have a tendency to melt or bake in a hot vehicle. Maybe you’ve even heard the urban legend of the woman and the biscuit bullet.
The temperature inside a vehicle can be dramatically higher than outside, and it doesn’t take long. In only an hour the temperature can rise 40 degrees, from comfortable to deadly. And some animals are at higher risk than others.
Effects of high temperature, for even as short as 15 minutes, can cause heat stroke. Sustaining a body temperature of over 104 degrees can cause internal damage. In the unfortunate instance that you are worried about heat stroke for a pet, you need to know the signs. Taking your animal’s temperature is the most direct method, but there are physical signs you can look for. Red or purple gums and tongue, stumbling around, and vomiting are signs for both dogs and cats. If your cat is panting, or your dog is panting to an excessive amount (generally rapid breathing), and unresponsiveness are symptoms to be worried about. High heat can cause animals to collapse or to have seizures. If left too long, organ failure and death is possible.
Just like us, the youngest and eldest are most susceptible to heat. But age isn’t the only factor. Larger breeds, longer fur, and having a short nose all tend to make dogs more susceptible to overheating as the temperature rises. And while most wouldn’t think to leave their cat or dog in the car all day, it’s easy to over-rely on the safety of our home-away-from-home, the trusty RV.
How to keep your RV pet safe
But how can you be sure your RV is a safe place for your pet? We rely on the same things we use to keep ourselves safe. We know that factors like humidity, air movement, and direct sun exposure play into this as well. Remember to lower all shades to block sunlight from getting into the RV during the summer. On days that are just warm like in spring and fall, keeping windows open and/or having ceiling ventilation might be enough to keep a pet safe, as long as you provide plenty of fresh water.
This isn’t always enough. When we relax in the RV on hot days, often we need more than just roof vents. Most RVs have air conditioning units to keep both us and our pets comfortable when the temperature gets too high. Leaving the A/C on when you need to leave your pets behind can maintain an acceptable temperature. But what happens if the air conditioner fails or loses power?
When inside an RV, it’s obvious to us when something happens to the air conditioning. And we often have the ability to do something about it. Power outages can happen due to a number of conditions and unfortunately, are much more common in busy RV parks than a home. Sometimes a circuit breaker gets tripped, or low shore power voltage may prevent your air conditioner from starting, or an electrical surge occurs. What happens if shore power is cut off when you are not in the RV? How long will it take for you to discover the power loss? If you are inside the RV, you will know immediately. If you are around you might switch to generator power and some RVs are equipped with a generator with auto-start.
The generator auto-start is meant to kick on to give continuous power in the event that shore power cuts off and the air conditioner needs to run, but this great pet safety feature is not always completely reliable, or that feature may be turned off. Without monitoring, how can you be sure that the air conditioner keeps running or turns back on in that case? What if your generator runs low on fuel while you’re away? How would you know?
RV Whisper systems ensure pet safety
Finally, there is a way to keep track of things back at the RV. Using the internet and the latest wireless Bluetooth sensors, the RV Whisper monitor system collects data from multiple devices in the RV and alerts you when conditions change. You can get alerts by both email and text message to ensure you never miss an important change in temperature or shore power status.
There are many ways that you can keep your internet access reliable in your RV. Many RVers use cellular devices, such as MiFi and Jetpack as their mobile WiFi routers. These devices connect to the internet using cellular phone systems to provide a WiFi network in the RV for multiple devices, eliminating the need to rely on WiFi connection at the campsite. If you do rely on campground WiFi systems, you can get repeaters or boosters to help increase the signal. There are even devices, such as the WiFi Ranger, that allow for seamless, automatic switching between campsite WiFi and the cellular systems, allowing for constant monitoring regardless of the circumstances. Just remember to connect your WiFi router and monitor system to be powered by the RV House batteries so that you’re always connected regardless of shore power.
The ability to keep monitoring systems running, regardless of shore power, is important for pet safety. Powering your monitoring system with USB power adapters wired to the 12 volt system of your RV allows the monitoring system to continue functioning even if other environmental systems fail. This way, you’re alerted when issues arise while you are away from the RV.
What features are important to ensure your pet’s safety?
Key safety features to look for
For pet safety you should be looking for:
- Temperature sensors
- Battery Voltage sensors
- Shore Power sensors
- Email and text message alerting
- Remote checking of current and historical temperature data
- Door open/close sensors if you rely on “dog walkers” when you are away from the RV
As mentioned before, temperature monitoring is a must. But where do you need the sensors? Having multiple temperature sensors is great for peace of mind. You can know the temperature inside your RV and, with additional sensors, you can keep track of what’s going on immediately outside your trailer or motorhome. These various sensors give you the knowledge to determine whether or not action must be taken to ensure your pet’s safety.
Additionally, this can provide extra protection for you and your family by monitoring the temperature inside your refrigerator and freezer. Traditional RV fridges often struggle during hot weather. Who hasn’t had an instance of a fridge door not fully closed or popping open during the drive, or a mechanical failure that causes a temperature drop? You can be alerted before a drop causes you to lose precious food or medication. Anything above 40 degrees is considered in the “Danger Zone” by the USDA. Monitoring the temperature of your food storage keeps your family safer from foodborne illnesses.
Just knowing what the sensors are reporting is great, but it is critical to know when the temperature measurement was taken. RV Whisper Monitoring records temperature sensor data every 5 minutes, and stores it with a timestamp. The timestamp allows you to easily see with simple graphs, the temperature from the last hour to the last week (and more!). Without the context of historical data with timestamps, you can be missing something important and putting your pets at risk. Knowing the last reading was 75 degrees doesn’t help if you can’t tell if that is a new measurement or two hours old. A lot can happen in a short amount of time.
RV Whisper’s Monitoring System has an interactive web app that allows users to set up alerts. It will also display data from any of your connected sensors, which for the temperature sensors is actually a combination of temperature, humidity, and battery level.
Don’t be kept limited by just temperature!
The RV Whisper Monitoring Station comes with a sensor to monitor the voltage of your RV’s batteries. Due to how the electrical system works, you can monitor any loss of shore power in different ways. When the batteries go from charging (when plugged into shore power or generator running) to having a load placed on them, the voltage will drop below 13.0 volts. Using this monitoring method, users get immediate alerts if battery voltage drops below 13.0 Volts which means their shore power is cut off for any reason. With the monitoring system powered by the RV batteries, you won’t lose any data and can get an early warning in the case your air conditioning is draining the batteries or shuts off due to the lack of 120V AC.
Shore power surge suppressor monitoring by RV Whisper. You can also monitor the shore power status directly if you have an appropriate “surge suppressor” device that is supported by RV Whisper. The Hughes Autoformers Power Watchdog devices monitor shore power and are fully integrated with the RV Whisper Monitor Station (Version 3.0 and above of RV Whisper software). Wireless Bluetooth is used to collect data from the Power Watchdog devices so the park power voltage problems and park wiring problems and more are monitored and alerted by the RV Whisper monitor station.
Also available is a battery power monitor, allowing you to track the amps flowing in and out of the RV batteries as well as the batteries’ State of Charge (% full). This has the added benefit of allowing you to monitor how quickly your battery is discharging (or charging) at any given time. This is great for determining how long you can stay “off the grid” at times, or how effective your solar cells are at keeping your batteries fully-charged over the course of a day. The ability to monitor the battery level, as well as store historical data, allows for greater confidence when on the road. Never again be caught unaware of low battery power.
Door open/close sensors are available with Version 3.0 and above of the RV Whisper application. If you rely on someone to walk your dog when you are away from the RV, you can know when each of your doors is opened and closed. You can even be alerted when the door is opened or closed.
Remember that monitoring the temperature and battery level aren’t enough if you aren’t alerted to the issue. The ability to customize your alerts so you get them how you need them is essential to the monitoring process. The RV Whisper Monitoring System gives you the ability to set up the alerts your way, so you can be sure to get them.
Other systems rely on being plugged into a wall socket, but that leaves the system vulnerable to power outages. RV Whisper’s Monitoring System can be connected to the battery system of your RV, allowing it continuous power, regardless of shore-power loss. Always check out how a monitoring system is powered. An unpowered system doesn’t do you any good.
RV Whisper only needs an internet connection
One final element to be aware of is monitoring system communication back to you. Some systems rely on a cellular connection, which requires a regular contract. RV Whisper’s Monitoring System just needs an internet connection. This allows you the freedom to connect it with just the local WiFi or a cellular system, or through the use of WiFiRanger-type routers that allow switching between both. If you are the type to always have access to WiFi for whatever reason, you can forgo that monthly cellular bill.
By using a system to monitor your RV you gain the peace of mind that your pets are well taken care of and are safe inside while you’re away. We always want our pets with us, but they can’t go everywhere. For all those times they can’t be with you, you can keep them safe with the RV Whisper Monitoring Station.