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DianneOK

Donnelly, ID

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Posted: 07/08/10 05:54pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Winter RV camping:

This information on winter RVing is provided courtesy of Tiger Run Resort, Breckenridge, CO.

DianneOK, moderator

--------------------------------------------------------------------

Skiing and cold weather RVing can make for a fun vacation but, if you don’t set up properly, a fun vacation can become a nightmare. Over the years I’ve watched a number of people forget some simple steps. The following guide may save you some grief.

1) The first thing is to follow that old IBM motto“THINK”. Not every motor home is constructed the same. What may work perfectly fine on one RV may need to be modified to work on yours. THINK about what you are doing. THINK about what can go wrong.

2) SEWER: If you let your sewer line permanently connected make sure it has a continuous slope. This may be accomplished with a four inch plastic pipe or a half round pipe. If water has a place to collect it will freeze and when you flex the sewer line it will break. Wrapping the hose with insulation will slow the rate of freezing.

Many people keep the sewer line in a warm compartment and only hook it up when they want to dump the tanks. If you do this, return the hose to the compartment immediately after use.

Some RV’s and especially fifth wheels have exposed holding tanks and/or dump valves or the holding tank compartments are not heated. Adding antifreeze to holding tanks can help. If the compartment is insulated, but not heated, adding a small space heater to the compartment may be enough.

Some people skirt or bank snow around the base of their RV. If you do this you will need to run breather tubes for the generator and heaters. Think carefully when you skirt, no two RV’s are constructed the same. Many people believe that skirting traps moisture under the RV and accelerates corrosion.

Heat will escape anywhere it can. Placing refrigerator thermometers in compartments can give you an indication of potential problems. Using remotely read thermometers can make the job easier.

3) Water Hose: An unprotected water hose will rapidly freeze, even on relatively warm nights. There are two common ways of protecting your water line.

A) Fill your fresh water holding tank. Then disconnect the hose from at least the dog house, and drain it. Disconnecting at the dog house is important because the water must drain from the dog house faucet. Refill the fresh water tank when ever necessary.

B) At the office you can purchase an insulated, heated hose. Connect the male end of the hose to your inlet water connection. If your connection is on the outside of the coach, wrap the tail of the heater tape around the connection and cover with insulation.

Connect the female end of the heated hose to the dog house faucet. After you verify that there are no leaks in the connections, wrap the tail of the heater tape around the hose and the faucet and cover with insulation. Plug the heater tape into the GFCI protected duplex outlet in the electrical connection panel.

NOTE: Do not turn off or trip the GFCI circuit. This circuit is used to heat the potable water riser. If the GFCI is turned off freezing and expensive damage can result.


4) Jacks: Put blocks of wood under the leveling jacks. Jacks can and frequently do freeze to the concrete. They are almost impossible to free up when this happens. If you use wood, you can raise the jacks, drive forward, and then free up the wood with ice melt, hammer and chisels.

5) Gas Refrigerator: The refrigerant in a propane/electric refrigerator is a mixture of distilled water, ammonia, sodium carbonate and hydrogen gas, all at 200 psi pressure. When the temperature drops below 20 degrees this liquid can turn to a gel and may permanently plug the coils of the refrigeration system.

To help prevent this from happening, remove the outside refrigerator access cover and use duct tape to cover the top two (out of three) vent slots. Applying the tape to the inside of the cover will prevent leaving marks when removing the tape. Alternately, and easier to do, is to use round half inch pipe insulation to plug the top two slots from the outside.

It is also necessary to put a 100 watt light bulb behind the access cover near the base of the coils. Don’t lean the bulb on any flammable material.

These tricks have helped me avoid the $1000+ repair bill required to replace the heat exchanger.

Many manufacturers do not insulate or heat the ice maker water supply. If your coach is one if these, either drain the water line or insulate and wrap it with heater tape on all exposed copper feed pipes.

6) Heat:

Hydro-Hot: Many new RV’s are equipped with Hydro-Hot diesel fuel heating systems. At 10,000 ft there is 30% less oxygen and the fuel burns rich. The resulting soot can clog the combustion chamber and the fuel nozzle. If you are going to be here for more than a short period (a couple of days) it is necessary to adjust the air inlet port. On many RV’s this is not a simple job, and unless you have previously performed a cleaning maintenance and/or nozzle replacement I don’t recommend making your first attempt in the cold.

Contrary to popular believe Hydor-Hots are fuel guzzlers. The amount of diesel fuel used can be greatly reduced by turning on the Hydro-Hot 1650 watt electric heating element in addition to the diesel burner, and using a couple of small space heaters in the RV.

Propane: If you use propane heat, the propane on board your RV will likely only last a few days (less than a week).

Tiger Run has a limited number of 100 pound propane bottles available to rent on a first come basis. Your RV will need an Extend-a-Stay and connecting hose. Extend-a-Stays are available at the Tiger Run office. Install the Extend-a-Stay between the propane shut off valve on your RV and the pressure regulator. Be certain to shut off the RV propane valve when installing the Extend-a-Stay or when using the 100-lb bottle. Be certain to check for leaks with a soapy spray solution. If you are the least bit uncomfortable with this procedure, get a professional to help.

Heat Pumps: Heat pumps are not effective below 40 degrees F.

7) Entry Holes: Make sure that all entry holes around pipes and cables are packed with insulation.

8) Water Pump: A susceptible component is the water pump. This is often bolted to the basement floor and, because it is usually full of water it may need special attention. If the coach manufacturer does not supply sufficient heat, a small space heater placed in this location is usually sufficient.

9) Cables and Hoses: Keeping all cables and hoses off the ground and out of the snow may prevent damage, particularly when you get ready to leave.

10) Fuel: Use winter blend diesel fuel and/or add anti gel to your fuel before arriving at the RV park.

Preparing to Leave:

You do everything similar to a normal warm weather departure, but there are a few things to watch for:

11) Engine Block Heater: Turn on your engine block heater at least three hours before you start your engine. I generally run the block heater over night.

12) Slides:

Snow and Ice accumulates on the slide awnings. The slide awning generally will not properly roll up with snow or ice on it. Clean the snow, ice and frost off the awning.

Many slide awnings have a small anti-unravel arm attached to them. Even a light frost on the awning can upset the timing of this arm as it rotates. If the arm hits the side of the RV it can do serious damage to the awning or the coach itself. If the timing is affected, it may be necessary to brush the snow or frost from the edge of the awning as it rolls up.

Water and snow can accumulate on slide gaskets. This may prevent the slide from retracting. Sometimes pushing on the slide is just enough to assist the slide drive motor. If you know where the gasket is frozen, spraying RV antifreeze on the affected area may help.

Retracting the slide the night before you leave can save a lot of grief on a cold Colorado morning.

13) Hoses and Cables: Remember that after being in the cold for an extended period of time, hoses and cables are now stiff and some may be brittle. Use caution when removing and coiling hoses and cables.


Caveats:

Remember your situation is unique. THINK! Think about how the guide lines can be applied to your situation. I’ve been setting up in cold weather for ten years, and I still have a problems from time to time. Recently, it was 20 below and the water froze in my new RV. I needed to make a modification

Tiger run employees do not have the time and may not have the expertise to assist you with your set up problems. There are professional RV service personnel who will visit Breckenridge once or twice a week. You can get a list of these people at the office.

If you have a problem or need advice, contacting your coach manufacturer can be beneficial. If nothing else they may consider cold weather in future designs.

If this is your first time setting up in cold weather, observe how your neighbors are set up. This may give you some clues as to what to do, but bear in mind they may not know any more than you do.


Dianne (and Terry) (Fulltimed for 9 years)
Donnelly, ID
HAM WB6N (Terry)
2012 Ford F350, diesel, 4x4 SRW, crew cab, longbed
2009 Lance 971 Truck Camper, loaded


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pianotuna

Regina, SK, Canada

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Posted: 07/08/10 07:47pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi Diane,

That's a great write up--I learned a couple of new things.

Here are some recommendations that I follow in the frozen north!

As Polonious said: Know thyself. For an RV'er this means they need to know what type of equipment they have before venturing out in bad weather in the winter (i.e. Size of the battery-bank; type and amp-hour rating of their converter/charger; and the current state of charge of the battery-bank). To do otherwise may be foolhardy.

Some of these suggestions only work for motorized units.

If the grey and black water tanks are enclosed and heated then the RV is a big step towards being able to be used in harsh winter weather. If the waste tank area is not heated consider adding a thermostatically controlled heater. I use a 500 watt interior car warmer with a mechanical thermostat. There are also specialized tank heaters some of which work on both shore power and twelve volt power.

It is prudent to know how low the temperature may be. Check the weather history for a year ago for the week in the location you may be heading to. It won't be perfect but at least you may have some idea of what to expect.

The water system may be quite robust and usable so long as there is sufficient propane available to keep it thawed. I have used my RV at -37 C (-34 F). I've also boondocked for 5 days where the daily high was -24 C and in blizzard conditions so my solar panels may not have contributed much electrical charging. Do leave the cupboard doors open to allow warm are to circulate. I have another thermostatically controlled electric heater beside my water pump.

If there is access to “shore power” then adding a radiant heater (or two) may lighten the load on the propane furnace. Do keep the heaters further away from the thermostat at night. Do not add so much electric heat that the furnace doesn't run at all. That is an invitation to freeze the fresh water pipes.

If no shore power is available then a generator system may be needed. Most of the systems in an RV need reliable 12 volt power for their control systems—no power translates into no heat from the furnace. When running the generator, use as many electrical heaters as you can. I suggest 3 hours in the evening before bed, and 2 hours in the morning. Don't forget to have enough capacity to run the engine block heater, too.

I have a load divider which allows me to run a heater as well as the block heater at the same time. It alternates between the two. Some folks use one timer on a heater—and another on the block heater so as to not overload the electrical outlets the RV is plugged into.

Some folks have an additional outlet added through the wall of their RV. This is powered by a #12 cord plugged into a 15 or 20 amp outlet on the power pedestal. They then plug in a 1500 watt heater to help keep the RV warm. This is particularly useful to those of us who have only a 30 amp service in our RV's.

On a temporary basis (say 30 minutes), while you are awake, it is possible to use the stove top as a blue flame heater. Do not run them full blast, and never leave them unattended. DO NOT SLEEP WITH THEM ON. This may lessen the load on the batteries.

Be aware that battery capacity drops as temperatures become lower. Some enterprising folks do have heated battery compartments. These heaters operate from the generator or from shore power. Running such heaters via an inverter is a zero sum proposition at best and at worst will decrease the total run time of the system.

If the RV will be used often in harsh conditions I suggest considering a vented catalytic heater such as the Platinum Cat. ( http://www.ventedcatheater.com/ )

If there are not dual pane windows, or if the RV will be used in extreme cold it may be prudent to have blankets that can be placed over them at night.

Moisture build up can be a problem. This may seem counter intuitive—but open a roof vent and a window. Not all the way, but enough to let hot moist air rise up and out of the RV. Try to pick a window where no one will be in the “breeze”. It may be wise to place an electric heater next to that window to try to warm the air up.

Consider adding a “mud flap” in front of the part of the sewer connection that extends from the bottom of you RV. This will help prevent ice build up from slush on the roadway.

I also block off the cab area of my Class C with a thick woolen blanket. This reduces the heated area and reduces propane consumption.

I have another blanket that I hang over the entry door.

Park with the nose of the RV into the wind. Wind direction may change direction overnight—but at least start out that way.

If the floors are linoleum purchase some carpet “runners” to keep your feet warmer. Don't block off the floor heating vents.

The RV stores often sell vent pillows that help to keep the heat in (and in summer time keep the heat out).

Twelve volt mattress pads and heating blankets are a lovely addition to cold weather camping and allow the furnace to be set back to a lower temperature in the evening. They usually draw about 7 amps each.

Always carry enough RV antifreeze, and the necessary tools, to rewinterize should something prevent use of the furnace. It is far better to have an ounce of prevention than a pound of cure.

Keep the fuel tank nearly full—the dash heater can be used as a temporary back up to the furnace should the propane supply fail.

I find that my dash heater works best for heating the rear of my RV if I set it on defrost while I trundle down the road.

I do not have a slide on my RV. If possible I'd recommend not putting the slide out. It will go out fine—but the next day it may be difficult to retract it.

I'm sure others may have additional suggestions.


Regards, Don
Full Time in a Kustom Koach Class C 28'5", 256 watts Unisolar, 875 amp hours in two battery banks 12 volt batteries, Magnum 3000 watt PSW inverter.

FX21QB

Utah

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Posted: 07/09/10 09:03am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Although I'm not a fulltimer, I intend to winter camp quite a bit so I will be watching this thread closely. Thank you for the sticky.





hotrod4x5

Southern Calif

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Posted: 07/09/10 10:36am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I made my own heated water hose, here's how I did it: Take an ordinary white water hose. Buy heat tape from the local hardware store. This is not "tape" but rather a strip of wiring that heats up in cold weather. I got a 30 ft heat tape for my 25 foot hose.

Using electrical tape, attach the heat tape the hose. You have to decide which end of the water hose you want the plug for the heat tape. Some people put it on the female end, because when you connect to the spigot, there is usually an outlet right there at most FHU sites.

After you tape the heat tape to the hose, wrap the hole thing in foam pipe insulation, also available at hardware stores. Then, finally, wrap the entire thing in duct tape. It will be stiff and somewhat harder to store than your normal hose, but it won't freeze.

Hopefully your RV park has their spigots insulated and heat tape wrapped as well.


Rodney 2005 Laredo 29GS 2002 F250 V-10 Yamaha EF3000iSEB (and NOT a GS Member)


smkettner

Southern California

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Posted: 07/09/10 11:20pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

I added heat tape to my exposed drain pipes but did not have time to wrap with insulation. The long pipe froze solid in 15F overnight temps even though I had also used some antifreeze. Luckily no harm done. The short pipes had enough heat from the tank heater to enable dumping. Anyway heat tape may not work alone without insulation.

I think I am ready now for next season.


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louiskathy

Oregon (presently)

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Posted: 07/10/10 01:14am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

There is a temperature sensor (sorry but you'll have to bear with my terminology)that looks like a three way electrical adaptor that turns on at 35 deg and stays on until it senses a rise in temperature to 45 deg.

We would plug our electric heat tape into it and it turns on power to the heat tape when the air temperature drops to 35 deg. We wanted to know when that heat tape was "on" and when it was "off" so we plugged a cord into the other side of this gadget that had a blue light bulb and put the light bulb where we could see it from the front door.

Seems to us it had the word "cube" in the name of it. Weather cube? It was very handy whatever it was called. That and indoor/outdoor thermometers which can tell you the temperature in various storage compartments without us going outside to read them.


Kathy

hotrod4x5

Southern Calif

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Posted: 07/10/10 09:45am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Kathy, the heat tape I bought has a built in temperature sensor, turns itself on and off as you describe. I think most are made this way.

pianotuna

Regina, SK, Canada

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Posted: 07/10/10 11:07am Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

Hi Kathy,

Nice idea with the light!

Yes there are external thermostatically controlled "cubes" that one can buy. They are sometimes used on block heaters and, if memory serves, are available in two different temperature ranges. The temperature is not adjustable on them which is why I prefer mechanical thermostats.

louiskathy wrote:

Seems to us it had the word "cube" in the name of it. Weather cube? It was very handy whatever it was called. That and indoor/outdoor thermometers which can tell you the temperature in various storage compartments without us going outside to read them.


camperpaul

Wherever I park my travel trailer

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Posted: 07/10/10 12:04pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

A lot of people will cover their windows with clear plastic film leaving an air space of about 1 - 1½ inches. This gives a little insulation... That air space is too big; it allows air to circulate reducing the insulating effect of the plastic film.

I go a step further. Instead of using the plastic film, I use 1/4 inch "bubble wrap" - two layers with the bubble sides facing each other. This gives a lot better insulation than the plastic film and gives a degree of privacy. It lets light in but you can't see through it.

The skylight in the bathroom gets covered even though it is already double pane.

I also cover the screens in the screen door to eliminate the draft caused by the air current on the door.

Closing the vents on the A/C helps...

For heat, I use electric oil filled radiators with a small fan behind each one to circulate the warm air throughout the trailer. I have made a couple of humidifiers that mount on the radiators to keep the air from getting too dry. The furnace is set to 55° and it only comes on if there is a shore power failure.

Last winter I was able to maintain an almost constant temperature inside the trailer of 73° - 75° when the outside temperature was below +10°. It did get down to 68° inside one night but the outside temp was -15°.


Paul
Extra Class Ham Radio operator - K9ERG (since 1956)
Retired Electronics Engineer and Antenna Designer
Was a campground host at IBSP (2006-2010) - now retired.
Single - Full-timer
2005 Four Winds 29Q
2011 2500HD 6.0L GMC Denali (Gasser)


smkettner

Southern California

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Posted: 07/11/10 07:26pm Link  |  Quote  |  Print  |  Notify Moderator

louiskathy wrote:

There is a temperature sensor (sorry but you'll have to bear with my terminology)that looks like a three way electrical adaptor that turns on at 35 deg and stays on until it senses a rise in temperature to 45 deg.




http://www.morelectricheating.com item 18800



http://www.morelectricheating.com Item EH38

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