RVs equipped with an RV-C network are likely to feature at least one multi-purpose control panel. This panel – and there may be more than one – will provide the RV owner with a central place to monitor and control all the elements of the system. Thus it may combine the tank level monitor, generator control, inverter panel, and perhaps much more. There may be more than one such panel – perhaps a smaller control in the bedroom, perhaps a combination house and engine monitor in the dash.
Although a simple panel with just a few functions may be available off-the-shelf, the main control panel for almost any RV needs to be customizable. At a bare minimum it must be configurable for the specific components in the network – for example, different generators may support somewhat different features. Ideally it should also be customizable to provide features that are coach-specific.
But there is no single “ideal form” for a control panel. Notepad computers offer a model for a high-end panel – a large color display, perhaps using a touchscreen, with rich graphics. Another concept being pursued by one RV manufacturer is integrating the panel into the ordinary televisions, controlling it with a small joystick. More builders are working with custom-built medium-sized graphic units, typically about 6” to 9” in size. These units are easier to install, and if well designed are simpler to operate.
But some manufacturers will surely opt for even smaller, cheaper units, which can offer the same raw functionality as the most expensive, albeit with less “flash” and a little more effort from the user. And while the main panel needs to have a display with enough flexibility to serve its many functions, there may be one or more special-purpose panels that could be as simple as a set of LEDs. Such simple devices may serve as a tank and power indicator in the service bay, or to control the generator from the bedroom.
Regardless of the type of display, the control panel is crucial to the success of the RV-C implementation. Customers will base their opinion of the entire network on the quality of this single component. Therefore RV designers should pay particular attention to this component, and select a vendor with a quality reputation and known responsiveness.