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Old 09-21-2010, 10:16 PM   #1
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Cold Weather Full Time

OK all you Alpine geniuses. We need to prep the MH for living in cold weather. I imagine that I should drain the ice maker. We can expect 20's to -10's. Hopefully no lower.

1 What about adding tank heaters? I am not sure I could get a heating element on the bottom of the tanks. Is it possible? I'm not at the MH right now.

2. I've read about trouble lights placed in the tank bays.

3. What about the sanitation bay?

4. Sewer hose?

5. An electric heater in the basement? We do have a fire and smoke detector installed on the basement ceiling.

We will fill the fresh water tank and unhook the water hose when not in use.

I hope I don't need more than 2 of the expensive part that EM sometimes uses...BSWoM

Thanks for all of your expert inputs.
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Old 09-21-2010, 11:12 PM   #2
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Tom:

Based on my 2003, which I've camped in down to 5 degrees, there might not be a lot to do really.

The heating system (propane) keeps the sanitation/tank bay warm. They are the same on mine (thought they were on all). I moved my outdoor temperature sensor to that bay and programmed it to alert me to temps below 45. If you use auxiliary electric heat (space heater or your heat pumps) be sure to monitor the tank bay temperature. I set the propane at 60, the space heaters for the difference, and monitor the tank bay.

I started with the water tank full and was good for most of the week. I waited until a warmer day before pouring hot (microwaved) water over the spigot to refill. If I camped in the cold all the time, I'd buy one of those hoses with the heat-tape wrap. You can also buy just the heat tape.

Same thing with the dumping. Waited for a warmer day, dumped, cleaned the hose and put everything back.

During the daytime, I cracked a window and drew out air through the ceiling vent (under power for a while), to reduce moisture on the windows.

Cold weather camping was part of the design of these coaches.

Boy, the Grand Canyon is beautiful for the Holidays, even with a blizzard.
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Old 09-21-2010, 11:57 PM   #3
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Hello Tom & Patty,
I guess it depends on what type of heating system you have.

If it's Hydro/Aqua Hot, zone 2 needs to be on, the diesel burner needs to be on, and then the basement thermostat will turn on the air handler unit in the tank bay and keep those tanks warm once temps get down to around 40F. If you have the standard RV furnace, then every time it cycles, one of the air ducts is in the tank bay and it will keep that area warm that way. So I would not leave on any portable electric heater which keeps the MH furnace from running at night.

I would close the gray & sewer drain valves so gray water does not freeze in the hose at night, you have enough capacity in the tanks to not worry about it then at night. Come the morning, open the gray tank and drain out the accumulated gray water generated over the evening and night.

Fresh water supply - One company makes a fresh water hose with a heat strip built in for those cold nights. What I did when camping in cold weather was take a spare fresh water hose, wrap it with electric heat cabling, tape that on the hose, then take pipe insulation and wrap that around the hose and tape that insulation to the hose. Usually near the water supply is a 20A standard outlet, just plug the heat wire into that, its thermostatically controlled and won't come on unless the temp is 38F or so outside. That will keep the hose from freezing. Or if you cheap like me, just fill up the fresh water tank and use the pump in the night time, storing the hose until the daytime.

Some other thoughts.
I would pump up the tires to the max inflation pressure, in case you had to leave in a hurry, that chore is done.
I would make sure the engine coolant is tested for low temps, and again, top off the reservoir to have that done.
I would make sure all my fluid levels are up to the top, oil, tyranny, hydraulic and HWH reservoir just to be safe. Remember all the jacks/slides need to be in for the HWH tank measurement.
I would clean the front windshield with Windex real good, then take some water and mix in a little Lemon JOY dishwashing liquid and again wash the windshield, just wipe this off real good, don't rinse. This will keep the glass from fogging up, and gets all the road scum off.
I would store the jacks and slides in the travel position, start up the main engine and let the air bags pump up and the compressor fill up and then release at least once, then re-level (jacks down) coach and then put slides out again. Just so you have gotten any water off the toppers, and out of the air system.
Don't forget the toad, check fluids, antifreeze protection, air pressure, etc.

Now to be safe, have extra blankets or comforters handy in case you lose heat, so you and the better half don't freeze. Happy Camping!!!!

It's been our experience, that the fan in the charger/inverter puts out enough heat to keep that area around 40f on those cold nights, but it never hurts to do the above with zone 2 if you have HH/AH system.

Hope this helps.
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Old 09-22-2010, 09:58 PM   #4
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My interest is in not running the propane furnace all the time. But we will be subjected to days when the temp will not get above 20 degrees. If I rely on the furnace only for heating the bays, we will be using lots of propane.
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Old 09-22-2010, 11:58 PM   #5
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Tom, are you on sabbatical from Fresno? The Valley doesn't get that cold.
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Old 09-23-2010, 12:22 AM   #6
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Tom:

If you are using space heaters, just run the fan-only option to circulate the heat to the tank bay.

If it's REALLY cold, the propane heat kicks on when it gets down to 60-65 degrees (set to heat of course), but the space heaters string out the timing and reduce the propane use. During the day, the heat gain from the sun is enough that the space heaters work fine. That's when you'll need to circulate heat to the tank bay without propane.

Either way, stick that weather station probe into the bay and set the alarm. I now have two weather stations, one for the front, one by the bed. I can move either remote to the tank bay for cold weather. They cost $19.99 at CW.
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Old 09-23-2010, 01:30 PM   #7
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Tom, takepride has a good suggestion. You could also put a 15-25W light bulb in the tank bay, but my concern would be a fire. You could also talk to a heater outlet, and see if you can pick up a 15w strip heater, I have one in my gun safe, it keeps the moisture out and warm enough I don't have to worry about them rusting.

And a year or so ago, there was a discussion on storing RV's and keeping them warm enough so humidity was not a problem, you might search on that, we purchased a small fan operated heater to leave in the RV when not using it so mold & mildew would not start. It would work for the tank bay area. I think it drew 40 watts or some such as that. We got it a boater’s world or west marine. I cannot remember which, we still have it but keep it in the closet because we are usually in the rig in the winter now.
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Old 09-23-2010, 03:49 PM   #8
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Here is the thing I was talking about. It might or might not work.

WEST MARINE Air Dryer Dehumidifier at West Marine
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Old 09-23-2010, 05:47 PM   #9
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Just a couple of suggestions learned the hard way one winter in Denver when temp dropped to -19 degrees. Problem: dump valves froze or actually fluid in tank at valve. (Electric valves, not manual) Fix: Sidewalk salt directly in toilet bowl and washed down sink for grey tank. Within 30 minutes all was well. Problem: water line to icemaker burst from freezing and much water leaking at access panel. Fix: Shut of water at valve under kitchen sink. Problem: Water line pushed off fitting in bay I think from possible freezing. Fix: Two ceramic heaters to supplement heat from propane furnace. As no thermostat in bay, had no negative effect on living area temp. Used extension cords from shore power post so no additional load on coach. Also had remote temp in bay to monitor from living area. Very helpful with great peace of mind. Had heat tape and installation on water hose but park had heated faucet so no need to fill tanks but fuller they are, less chance of freezing because of sheer volume. And don't forget the diesel treatment. This was a Carriage 5th wheel with F550. Nothing sadder than seeing your new truck being hauled off from the campground because stupid forgot the treatment. My only defense was that the temp was record setting and so were the problems for a while. Good luck.
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Old 09-23-2010, 06:42 PM   #10
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Yep - Old age is heck, I forgot about the fuel treatment. But then when I know my rig is going to sit longer than 14 days and not be moved, I put it in right before I fill up the tank. Then it's done for 90 days if it takes me that long to move again. I do start up the thing for a few minutes and let the fluids circulate about every month of so if it does not move. And my first day of travel or the second morning, I fill up the tank and again add treatment so it's covered. If i'm going into cold weather, I do it every fuel stop based on how much I purchase.

I guess I dont plan on cold weather camping since it's hard on mine & the BH's old bones, so I just don't think about it much. Supposed we could get caught in some, but then we listen to our alert weather radio every morning, and if we have satellite, then the weather channel. We add in the zip code where we are, and planned stops to the receiver so we can scan projected weather issues. Between the alerts and WC we have not been caught but once, but we scrambled out of that place and missed the snow, had pleanty of wind though.
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Old 09-24-2010, 01:03 AM   #11
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Raymond, we are back and forth to Indianapolis to visit the little guy on our avatar. The coach is sitting out there as a second home. We will be eventually too.

Takepride, I have a remote temp sensor in the sanitation bay, I just don't want to freeze anything, or burn tons of propane,

The fuel tank is plum full. I will buy a heated hose for fresh fill, and insulate the floor of the sanitation bay when we are not dumping tanks.

We have a low profile Maxxi Vent that we leave open to eliminate the moisture build up.

Monty, I'll look at the Air Dryer for the basement.

Thanks for all of the help and tips. Wish we didn't have to plan on cold weather camping.

We will miss CA weather. Even in the winter we were out 3 weekends a month.
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Old 09-24-2010, 01:53 AM   #12
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T & P - in thinking over the air dryer it kept the coach front half at about 45 and the back have at about 35-38. It's chief design is to keep air moving and put out a tad bit of heat. I keep it in the MH in case we are doing what you are doing. Good luck with you little co-pilot. And if things get real bad, you can just head out for a week or so and then come back when it is a little better. Which is the beauty of having an RV.
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Old 10-21-2010, 11:34 AM   #13
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We have been spending winters in our Alpine 38' coach in Park City, UT for the past 7 years. Our coaches seem to be pretty well setup for cold weather use, but we do take a few extra steps:
1. We heat the living area primarily with propane, but have used electric space heaters when its really cold (<10-). The bottom line is that heating with electricity still costs more than propane. We rent a large aux. propane tank, which attaches through an Extend-a-Stay valve. We have had a couple of furnace failures, replacing the control board once and the entire furnace once. These units don't really seem to be built for continual use.
2. We put a 100W light in the exterior refrigerator compartment and turn off and drain the ice maker line. (I had to install a valve where this line comes off the cold water pipe for the kitchen in order to turn it off. With the normal design, the fill switch is destined to freeze if you don't do this).
3. We hook up the sewer drain with rigid ABS 3" pipe using a flexi adapter on the coach end that I made up from a regular 90deg sewer fitting (coach end) with a very short piece of sewer hose clamped to a 3"X3" rubber adapter. We normally leave the gray dump valve open and the black valve closed. When we're nearing time to dump the black tank, we close the gray valve for a day to accumulate a load to flush the line after dumping the black tank.
4. In order to address the black/grey valves freezing (which they will), I ran a permanent heat tape around the accessible parts of the sewer pipes and valves behind the service panel. I put foam insulation over the heat tape and this keeps the valves from freezing.
5. We have a regular fresh water hose which has heat tape (run straight, not wrapped) taped to it and rubber insulation over that. I leave enough heat tape at the ends to extend over the hydrant bib and onto the hookup on the coach. Everything gets insulation over the heat tape. We leave the water connected and 'on' for the duration. We also keep the fresh water tank full, just in case of a freeze-up.
6. I have a small space heater in the bay with the fresh water tank just as a fall-back in case of furnace failure. It doesn't normally run unless I have the bay door open for a while.
7. I try to keep the roof and slide-toppers clear of snow. I have been placing lengths of 4" sewer pipe under the slide-toppers to aid shedding snow/melt water. This season I will be using inflatable air mattresses to see if that works better.
8. We run the main engine and generator about every 30 days, up to full temps just to make sure everything is kept in working order.
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Old 10-21-2010, 07:30 PM   #14
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No RV was designed to be lived in full time, the appliances are not of high enough quality to run full time like a home has. Poeple do it because they love the lifestyle, the operating costs of an RV is higher than a house based on the SQFT of the RV versus the house. If you calculate how much fuel you use to get from point a to point b; the other costs are about a wash, as you will eat and keep warm at home. When it rains for days on end, 400 sqft is a little tight unless you really like the other person in the rig. You must figure in the campground fees, and the electric fees you pay to stay there as well. It's more fun in the RV, but we spend more money I think. We don't gamble much as a rule, but it seems to cost more.
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