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Old 11-23-2009, 10:56 AM   #1
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Question BLACK TANK: "can we" or "can we not" leave the black tank open in an RV park??

I'm confused. We are parked permanently for awhile in an RV park in Utah. EVERYONE in this park has their black tank open.

Yet I read on forums that we shouldn't; that it causes a build up of waste in the tank, etc etc.

So where's the truth?? Because we closed it again, and it's partly frozen now from sitting there, because the light we had plugged in under there blew a circuit a week ago. UGH.

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Old 11-23-2009, 11:05 AM   #2
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I left the black tank valve open when I a TT and had no problems, but do not with my current MH.

The mess of dealing with a black tank clog more than offsets the periodic dumping of the black tank, but if freezing is an issue, then leaving it open may work best.

Dumping some hot water down the toilet and some heat should free it up.

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Old 11-23-2009, 11:20 AM   #3
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Hi doodlebug52.
With the weather you are camping in, there will be additional work no matter that you do.

Leaving the valve open will surely allow for a build up of solids in the tank. The solids will need to be thoroughly cleaned out on a regular basis.

If closing the valve allows the contents to freeze, there is a danger of cracking the tank. In addition you'll need to clean out the frozen contents to continue to use the toilet.

If it was me, I'd leave the valve closed. I'd minimize the threat of the tank contents freezing by any means locally available to you. The light you mentioned is a good start. Bales of hay (if allowed) protecting the underside of the RV is something else you could try. There are other methods and after market devices you can try.

Cold weather camping does bring additional challenges. Good luck.
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Old 11-23-2009, 11:32 AM   #4
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If you remember the old "Get Smart" TV series, they always used the "Cone of Silence". If you leave a black tank valve open you form a cone of waste in the tank just below the toilet.

Imagine a cross section of your toilet drain and the tank below. As the solid from the toilet falls with the liquid, the solids just sits below the toilet (paper and poop) and the liquid (flush water and pee) run off and down the waste drain (if it's left open). Now, before the next use, that solid waste that stuck, starts to harden. After several of these cycles, you start to form a cone or reverse volcano if you will. Eventually that cone reaches the top of that tank and the bottom of the toilet drain, when that happens, the liquids nor solids have anywhere to go but up.

This is bad in both winter and summer, in the winter the cone tends to freeze and in the summer the cone hardens faster. If you ever form the "Cone of Silence", it's kind of like a silent passing of gas; silent but deadly. Leave the black tank valve closed at all times until full and ready to dump, then let her rip!

A solution in the winter; after dumping of the black tank and closing the drain valve, add some RV storage antifreeze down the toilet. This will keep the contents from freezing until dumped again.

Be sure to close the gray valve before dumping the black, if you get the waste from the black flowing into the gray at the same time it's going down the sewer hose, the gray will start to smell as well and the oder can come back through the traps in the sink and shower.
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Old 11-23-2009, 11:40 AM   #5
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When we had a TT permanently parked in a CG years ago for weekend and vacation use, we left our black tank valve open. However, we (as did all the regulars) had plumbed the valve outlet to the sewer drain with 3" rigid PVC pipe. Also, I installed an internal tank flushing nozzle and did a thorough tank flush every Sunday before we left for home (or after any 3 or 4 day stay).

While that worked for us for 5 years, I am not sure I would try that again. I believe the best solution is to leave the valve closed until the tank is at least 3/4 full, then empty and flush thoroughly.
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Old 11-23-2009, 12:20 PM   #6
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This is the advice given to me when I bought my MH:

The black water drain valve should be left colsed until the tank is two thirds or more full. This helps avoid the solids building up right under the toilet and assists flushing everything out. If the tank is not 2/3rds full when it is time to break camp, add water through the toilet. After the black water tank is drained and flushed close the valve and add enough water to cover the bottom of the tank and then add the tank chemical.
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Old 11-28-2009, 05:00 PM   #7
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Very helpful advice! I'm retiring to a TT in January up here on Vancouver Island in BC where freezing doesn't happen often or at least for very long. Any other advice is most welcome in living year round in my TT
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Old 11-28-2009, 06:50 PM   #8
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As Jim stated.

Also, most new rigs have a back flush connection that may or may not do a complete job of "cleaning." After I have back flushed thoroughly I'll ask DW to fill the bowl twice and flush after each filling. Watching the clear elbow I have just before the "slinky" I will notice more "brown liquid" being forced out. Nothing is perfect.

Gee! This is a "crappy" subject.
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Old 11-28-2009, 10:32 PM   #9
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rsy, we are living full time in ours right now, and I've learned this: keep everything in good repair, because you can use a lot of everything in such a small space.
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Old 11-28-2009, 11:15 PM   #10
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I agree with everyone, leave the black valve closed until the tank is nearly full, then empty it and flush to be safe. If you are the gambling type and feel lucky, leaving it open is the other option.
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Old 11-29-2009, 07:36 AM   #11
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Also keep in mind that any odors in the CG pipe system will enter your holding tank and when the toilet is flushedm this odor can enter the camper.
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Old 12-01-2009, 03:26 PM   #12
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Having camped in up to -8 with an open bottom camper, and -15 with an enclosed "polar package" camper, I can say that the potential risk of building the dreaded cone really outweighs the frozen valve issue. For one, if you are in freezing temps, every time you dump, put in two gallons of RV antifreeze into your empty tank.
My usual trick was to then wait until the warmest day of the month (I live by myself, so I really only dump once a month) and then open my valve. Sometimes, just a little bit would come out, meaning I had a nice big pile of brown ice in my tank (this only happened when it was -15 out). I solved this issue with my tank backflush sprayers. It took a while, but it broke down the frozen stuff and moved it out.
As for the valve, they make many RV specific gagdets for 'cold weather' but I find that heat tape for residential pipes has worked best for me. I wrap my hose it in and anything else I'm worried about freezing. It's not powerful, but that little heater plus a little insulation go a long way.

Well, best of luck, let me know if you have any other questions, because I've probably been there and done that as far as winter camping goes!
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Old 12-01-2009, 10:30 PM   #13
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Thanks everyone for the great replies. Our valve has been closed since the first reply. lol.

A totally different question: why do BOTH of our sky lights/ceiling vents--one above our bed and other in bathroom--drip everyone morning?? The seals look tight and we had redone the seal on the bedroom vent. Yet...both drip once the sun is up every morning for, let's say, an hour. There's no snow up there, even though it's cold outside.
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Old 12-01-2009, 10:37 PM   #14
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Condensation, difference between outside and inside temperatures, just like your house in the winter without insulated glass. The heat in the trailer rises even more and faster.

You also probably take a shower in the morning and the moist warm air rises and when it hits the cold plastic on the vent it condenses again drips until the suns heat equalizes the temperature.

You can put something in the hole to insulated them, they actually sell little pillows that fit the holes at camping stores or look at a Camping World (online if not close).

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