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Old 07-21-2015, 02:47 PM   #1
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Can you actually survive a midwest winter in a Class A?

Ok, new kid in a 37' dolphin vintage 1998. My plan is to go full time starting in October and then go to florida for six weeks (3 weeks last of dec then 3 weeks 1st of Jan).

Here in the N. Ky area winters are usually so-so, but when I get back in January it could get pretty brutal. Can I actually survive in the MH with propane heat maybe suplimented by electric heaters? I see a problem running a hose from a faucet... would I fill my water tank when needed then unplug the hose? I really don't want to winterize unless I have no choice.

I know it would make sense to just stay in florida another month, but I'd be looking for a job if I did that.

thanks,
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Old 07-21-2015, 03:17 PM   #2
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Winter is not a big deal.

We are in a 1998, 42' class A DP with a slide. First 2 years in a 1989, 35' Class A Gasser.

Heat tape on the inbound water line. Aluminum foil wrap the hose, heat tape along, cover with foam pipe insulation and plastic over top. I ran the water and sewer (garden hose from macerator) side by side using 1 heat tape.

Make sure your furnace heats the tank bay or that you have tank heaters. An extra thermostat controlled space heater in the wet bay to keep pipes warm. Some people leave a 120v 60W light bulb burning in the bay to keep it warm. We also use space heaters inside to supplement the propane furnace. (one is a fake wood burning stove)

A heated mattress pad is a godsend.

We put "Reflectix" insulation on the windows. We cut a big piece to cover the entire front window. Take out and roll up when traveling. Rigid foam insulation in the skylight opening. Those "vent pillows" to stuff into the roof vents. Insulation is your friend!

Check out your water line runs. One set of ours runs from side to side at the bottom of the wet bay. No insulation around it. Ended up wrapping it in heat tape, also.

We have done 5 winters in the Midwest (central MO) and survived weeks on sub-zero temp and 20+" of snow twice.

Remember, it's an adventure!

Good luck.
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Old 07-21-2015, 04:01 PM   #3
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CougarKid has covered it. We too spend lots of time in sub-freezing weather and have no problems. I just took a look at the Florence temperature averages and it looks as if you are slightly above the U.S. average pertaining to winter temperatures and don't have too many days below zero. Temperatures in the teens and twenties should be not pose a problem as long as you are well insulated and take precautions. If you are in an area where you can go for days at a time when the temperatures don't rise over 32-degrees, then further precautions may be needed.

Hopefully, you have a well insulated rig but the key during below freezing weather is not to skimp on propane to heat the basement. Making sure your pipes dont' freeze solid should be your focus. Also, if in one spot during the winter, you may want to consider putting some temporary skirting around the rig if the park/campground will permit it. This can keep cold air from flowing underneath which in turn will keep the basement and floor easier to heat.

As far as the water hose goes, we've never had a problem. If we are in an extremely cold area where temperatures are commonly below freezing, we may wrap the hose with insulation or use a heat-taped hose ...and as a precaution, leave the water dripping slightly in a sink so that there's movement of water in the hose ...keep the gray tank valve open if doing this and make sure your sewer hose is configured so that water flows smoothly. If daytime temperatures are above freezing and only expecting a freeze at night, we will leave the water drip all night even if the hose isn't wrapped, this will usually prevent the hose from freezing solid. It's worked for us even when the temperatures drop at night to the 10-degree range. If expecting temperatures below 10-15 or so, sure, you can always unhook the hose and use your tank and pump.

And no, you don't want to "winterize" the rig (in the traditional sense) as that would make it so you can't really live in it as you won't be able to use the water/sewer system.

We've never spent time in below zero temperatures but is sounds as if CougarKid has with not much difference in the precautions.
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Old 07-21-2015, 04:32 PM   #4
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Exactly what CougarKid said.

In addition, do not forget to leave at least one window open and one vent exhaust fan working, at all times. If your galley stove hood is vented, it's normally much smaller than a ceiling vent, (and won't let in the cold), and it's very sufficient for this purpose.

If you don't, condensation will very quickly accumulate on all of your single-pane glass, (like your windshield). Then, it begins to form behind the cabinets and inside the walls if you stay in one spot long enough without proper ventilation and freezing temperatures.

In freezing weather, the intuitive response is to seal up the motorhome airtight. However, your exhaled breath needs to go somewhere. You don't want it to collect inside the motorhome.
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Old 07-21-2015, 06:22 PM   #5
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I moved to the Upper Peninsula of MI in late March in my 2002 Windsor. During the month of April we got +24" of snow and most of the nights temps dipped into the teen's. I did not have water or sewer hooked up.

I only had access to 2 20 amp plugs, I plugged the coach into 1 and then ran an extension cord to a space heater in the basement. I bought a thermostatically controlled plug that I used in the basement. I monitored the temp in the basement with a remote sensor and display in the bedroom.

I ran a radiant type heater in the LR of the coach which kept the coach above freezing "barely". I did not put the slides out unless it was warmer outside. Sometimes when I woke up in the AM the temp in the BR would be ~30. I would run the gas furnace when I was going to be in the coach and extended time.

My coach does have the dual pane windows. I had an extra set of window shades for the front that helped with the heat. The basement of my coach is petty well insulated but it still got cold.

FYI, I grew up in Northern Wisconsin so I am a little cold blooded anyway.


Good Luck
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Old 07-21-2015, 06:24 PM   #6
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Yes. If you store it under cover and don't drive it. Salt is a rig killer
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Old 07-21-2015, 06:34 PM   #7
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I also am in agreement with CougarKid. We have not done below zero but have spent two winters in oklahoma with temps in the single digits. Here is what i have found necessary.

1. Smallest electric manual switch thermostat electric heater walmart sells. These are less than 20 dollars. I hit the thermostat once when moving it and the next thing i Know it was over 100 degrees in my wet bay area when it was 30 outside. I set the thermostat as low as possible and it stays 45 degrees in the wet bay area. Use the manual thermostat versus digital thermostat. If the power goes on you have to repower on and reset the digital verson. The manual one if power goes off when power comes back on so does the heater.

2. Indoor outdoor thermometer with the sending unit in the wet bay. I can know exactly how cold it is where my pipes and tanks are.

3 RV propane extend a stay T. Most Class A have the propane tank permanently mounted and you have to move the rig to get propane. The extend a stay will go to an external bottle ( we used a 100 gallon) When you need propane just go tell the campground and most of them will come down pick the bottle up and refill it. You do not have to get your unit ready to travel unhook drive to get propane then come back. It makes it a lot easier. The extend a stay takes about fifteen minutes to install. I took mine off for summer and i am going to modify it before i use it next year. The company that builds them have obviously never used them. Adding a valve to the HOse that goes to your extended tank would allow you to turn off that tank remove the tank and still use your built in propane. The way the company builds them you cannot do that now.

4 Definitely the insulation in the windows starting with front window. In single digit temps I put a piece of rigid foam insulation over the step area. That area seems to have no insulation on the sides.

5. Heated fresh water hose. Although I have seen a lot of people use heat tape on their fresh water hose the package on the heat tape specifically warns against doing that. I do not know why. They make a water line for RV's that has the heat tape built in I bought one of those and have used it for two winters with no problems.


I have heat pumps that is good to about 35 degrees. Lower than 35 I use electric heaters. Find receptacles that do not go through the inverter to hook up electric heaters. In my coach there are exactly three of those receptacles.

In single digits I use the propane furnace to back up the electric heater
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Old 07-22-2015, 04:42 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gemini5362 View Post
1. Smallest electric manual switch thermostat electric heater walmart sells. These are less than 20 dollars. I hit the thermostat once when moving it and the next thing i Know it was over 100 degrees in my wet bay area when it was 30 outside. I set the thermostat as low as possible and it stays 45 degrees in the wet bay area. Use the manual thermostat versus digital thermostat. If the power goes on you have to repower on and reset the digital verson. The manual one if power goes off when power comes back on so does the heater.
Something like this can allow you to use any heater (or a light bulb) without your thermostat concerns:


Thermo-Cube thermostatically controlled outlet


Plug the heater or light into that, and put the device in the coldest part of the bay. That one comes on at 35 degrees and shuts off at 45. I'd probably be happier with one that came on at 40, to give a little more margin, but I'm not finding one at the moment.

Quote:
3 RV propane extend a stay T. Most Class A have the propane tank permanently mounted and you have to move the rig to get propane.
Good advice, a nice way to handle it. Regardless of the extra insulation, you will probably go through propane fast. We can easily go through 20 gallons of propane on a 5 day stay in near freezing temperatures. Needing to fill a smaller on-board tank every few days in the middle of winter will get old fast!

Quote:
I have heat pumps that is good to about 35 degrees.
You're doing pretty good. My heat pumps will shut down and automatically switch to the propane furnaces around 40 degrees. And of course, their heat output tends to drop off before reaching that point.

___________

While insulation was mentioned, I didn't notice anyone talking about the bottom of the rig. Lots of trailers around here put skirting around the bottom to help prevent cold air from blowing under the rig, and I hear it can help a lot. But with the basement compartments on a Class A, they might already serve to prevent a lot of heat loss through the floors. Anyone have experience with skirting around a motorhome? (We push the spring and fall and often have 5 day weekends in freezing weather, but we don't stay in t all winter.)
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Old 07-22-2015, 05:25 PM   #9
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Will try again.. Depends on if you mean MIDWEST like Michigan
Or .. Well Alabama is south of Michigan so it would technically be Mid West as well.

Seriously.. I have a number of friends wo do it (Camp all winter) not 20 miles from Flint, MI. They do not charge the fresh water system is all. they use "Bottled" water and dump every evening (The bottle is often a six gallon container that they fill up at the winterized re-fill station).
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Old 07-22-2015, 05:57 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShapeShifter View Post
While insulation was mentioned, I didn't notice anyone talking about the bottom of the rig. Lots of trailers around here put skirting around the bottom to help prevent cold air from blowing under the rig, and I hear it can help a lot. But with the basement compartments on a Class A, they might already serve to prevent a lot of heat loss through the floors. Anyone have experience with skirting around a motorhome? (We push the spring and fall and often have 5 day weekends in freezing weather, but we don't stay in t all winter.)
I did quickly gloss over the suggested use of skirting in my post above. But as you say, it's not as important in a motorhome as it would be on a trailer.

A few years back, we had to spend a winter in Idaho so we had someone we knew who fabricated tents make us some skirting that attached via velcro. We had a straight-rail chassis so before we installed the skirting, we could feel the cold floor when it was below freezing and the wind was blowing even though the ambient temperature inside the motorhome was nice and toasty.

Once we put the skirting on, the floor no longer "felt" cold under those conditions and I definitely noticed we were using less propane. We had a problem with it staying connected under one of the slides but I spent some time jury-rigging it so it would stay put. It wasn't that attractive but at least it stayed in place.

I think we still have the skirting in storage as we haven't used it in years and don't even know if it will fit our current rig. The guy who made it for us went out of business long ago but it was similar to the one made by these guys: click

I'm not sure how much of a benefit it would be if not in sub-freezing temperatures where the wind blows a lot, especially if the motorhome has pass-through storage in the basement. Probably not much but the OP in this thread may not have pass-throughs so it may be beneficial for them if they are staying for an extended period in the winter where the wind blows a lot.
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Old 07-22-2015, 06:06 PM   #11
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Do a search, there is a lot of information on this site that will be beneficial, in addition to the great feedback you already have received. I have spent many a nights in below zero (-15to -23) weather and have had no major issues.
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Old 07-23-2015, 10:17 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ShapeShifter View Post
Something like this can allow you to use any heater (or a light bulb) without your thermostat concerns:


Thermo-Cube thermostatically controlled outlet


Plug the heater or light into that, and put the device in the coldest part of the bay. That one comes on at 35 degrees and shuts off at 45. I'd probably be happier with one that came on at 40, to give a little more margin, but I'm not finding one at the moment.


Good advice, a nice way to handle it. Regardless of the extra insulation, you will probably go through propane fast. We can easily go through 20 gallons of propane on a 5 day stay in near freezing temperatures. Needing to fill a smaller on-board tank every few days in the middle of winter will get old fast!


You're doing pretty good. My heat pumps will shut down and automatically switch to the propane furnaces around 40 degrees. And of course, their heat output tends to drop off before reaching that point.

___________

While insulation was mentioned, I didn't notice anyone talking about the bottom of the rig. Lots of trailers around here put skirting around the bottom to help prevent cold air from blowing under the rig, and I hear it can help a lot. But with the basement compartments on a Class A, they might already serve to prevent a lot of heat loss through the floors. Anyone have experience with skirting around a motorhome? (We push the spring and fall and often have 5 day weekends in freezing weather, but we don't stay in t all winter.)
The Thermo Cube you mentioned is a good device and I have seen people mention it before. I do not use it because to be honest the smallest heater that walmart sells is only about 4 or 5 dollars more than the thermocube and gives you some temp control. It has a mechanical on off switch and a mechanical thermostat. The heater is nice and small and can fit in a fairly small space. It has kept my wet bay at the 45 degrees I set it in down to -7 degrees.

We had a fairly mild winter last winter and I believe that we had our 100 pound propane bottle filled three times during the winter. We never let it get empty before filling usually if I was going to be gone during the week I would have it filled before I left to make sure it was full while me wife was here alone. The winter before last we were farther north in OK and I think we had the 38 gallon bottle on the unit filled 4 times. not sure how the 100 pound bottle relates to gallons. I know that when i had to take slides in secure everything for moving and then drive 10 min to get propane then reset up camp I made sure to get the extend a stay. It was a lot easier to disconnect it and have the park service guy just come get it and bring it back full.


I agree with you on the heat pump. I expected it to only work to about 38 degrees. To be honest i have not got a clue how it makes the cutover decision. I have seen it still be in heat pump mode when it was 25 degrees outside and it still had a very small amount of heat coming out of it. I did not think that was possible but that is what read the outside temps of my two outside thermometers. ( I have one on each side of the coach because of the sun heating up the sensor) I have also had the heat pump cut over to the furnace when it was 38 degrees outside. Usually it seems to cut over about 33 to 35 degrees and like you said the heat output has dropped significantly. Above about 40 degrees the heat pump heats the MH well. From 20 to 40 degrees I use heat pump/ electric space heaters. Below 20 propane. The propane has kept it warm everywhere we have been but I have only been below zero a couple of times. I think twice in Northern OK winter below last it got down below zero for a couple of days. The lowest I remember was -7 and that was only for one day. It warmed back up to the single digit above zero for about a week.
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Old 07-23-2015, 02:36 PM   #13
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You're doing quite well if a 100 pound bottle only needed to be filled three times over the winter, I'm impressed. Bottles can only be filled to 80%, and propane weighs about 4.2 pounds per gallon. So your 100 pound bottle is about 19 gallons. We can use that much on a long cold weekend! A big part of it could be that I've accused DW of being part cold-blooded lizard, and she is constantly turning up the thermostat. I also suspect you're using a lot of electric heat? Those long cold weekends for us are dry camping, so no electric heaters involved. Still, quite impressive that your usage is that low!
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Old 07-23-2015, 02:52 PM   #14
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I was also surprised we only used so little. But like you said we are at a campground and the propane is only a supplement. We have two heat pumps on the roof. We used two 1500 watt electric heaters. One in the living room one in the bedroom. We shut the bedroom door at bedtime and turn the living room thermostat down to low 60's. ( we turn off the electric living room heater when we go to bed and both electric heaters when we leave the camper) We also had a fairly mild winter.

The Point I was trying to make for the OP was in can be done and this is our second winter of doing it. I put the 1/4 inch silver sided insulation in all the windows. It is very livable. NOT as comfortable as going to our stick and brick house with the wood stove in the living room and a pellet stove fireplace in the bedroom but it is livable.

If there was any way to be practical and do it I would love to have a pellet stove fireplace in the camper. That would heat your camper up in very cold weather I suspect. Unfortunately the space it would take up and having to run the stove pipe out of the camper and storing the pellets would be too many problems for me to deal with but it would make for a really cozy camper.
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