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Old 08-18-2013, 07:33 PM   #1
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Smile Newbie Question about Tanks, Need Expert Advice!

Evening Everyone!

This is my first post on these forums, and indeed, my first adventure into Airstreaming. I'm in the process of shopping for vintage models, and I have a question that I need an expert answer for. So, what better place than here.

I'm eying a partially restored 1962 travel trailer. Everything is in good working order, but the owner has informed me there is only a black water holding tank. My question is two fold;

1. Are there any major disadvantages to only having a black water holding tank if you're planning on spending 90% of your time with full hook ups? Any way to curb these disadvantages?

2. How practical is it to install a grey tank as well? Any ballpark ideas on how much that costs.

We love the unit and are more than willing to put the money into it. But I've read some books that say installing new tanks isn't always something you can do.

Would love any/all help! Thanks so much, and happy trails.
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:40 PM   #2
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It's no bid deal if you are hooked up at a campground. The shower and sinks would simply drain down your hose and into the campgrounds septic system. When you don't have hookups, you can purchase and use what is affectionately called a "blue boy" it is a portable grey water tank.

I do not know the cost of adding an internal grey water tank. I will be adding one to our 1970 project, but I am also taking the shell off the frame so it isn't as bid a deal as with an assembled trailer.

Just for FYI purposes, grey water tanks became standard in 1974. A few 1973 trailers had them during the transition phase.
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:42 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cookank View Post
Evening Everyone!

This is my first post on these forums, and indeed, my first adventure into Airstreaming. I'm in the process of shopping for vintage models, and I have a question that I need an expert answer for. So, what better place than here.

I'm eying a partially restored 1962 travel trailer. Everything is in good working order, but the owner has informed me there is only a black water holding tank. My question is two fold;

1. Are there any major disadvantages to only having a black water holding tank if you're planning on spending 90% of your time with full hook ups? Any way to curb these disadvantages?

2. How practical is it to install a grey tank as well? Any ballpark ideas on how much that costs.

We love the unit and are more than willing to put the money into it. But I've read some books that say installing new tanks isn't always something you can do.

Would love any/all help! Thanks so much, and happy trails.
Owners that had Airstreams did very well without gray tanks until they became available with the 1974 models.

Can a gray tank be installed? Sure can, but with very careful planning, and proper installation.

Andy
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Old 08-18-2013, 07:55 PM   #4
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I had a 1968 24' Trade Wind. I my opinion, the portable grey water tank is the way to go. The cost goes up the bigger (more gallons) the tank, I bought mine for around $150.00. It has wheels. When it gets near full you just pull it to a dump station and discharge. No big deal.

Mounting a grey water tank would be hard and expensive. You would have to drop the belly pan, re-plumb, try to find a tank that would fit, mount a discharge valve.... a big project when there is a quick and inexpensive alternative.
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Old 08-18-2013, 08:06 PM   #5
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Interesting!
So, follow up question, does all the waste water drain into the Black tank on these year models? I seem to remember hearing once that "Grey Water" would occasionally just be run out onto the ground. My plan is to almost always have hookups, so having sewer access is no problem, as far as tank capacity goes. I've read that leaving your Black tank open is a bad idea and can cause problems/clogs/etc, but with the hookups we could dump regularly.
I've seen all the Blue Boys and thought that could be an option. But considering all the long term camping we're planning I thought it would be worth asking about other options.
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Old 08-19-2013, 07:20 AM   #6
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On later models there are two separate tanks. One for grey and one for black. They each have their own discharge valves, and empty through a common orifice. The grey is plumbed into the line "above" the black so that when dumping it second in sequence the black residue in the common portion is removed.
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Old 08-19-2013, 08:38 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by cookank View Post
Interesting!
So, follow up question, does all the waste water drain into the Black tank on these year models? I seem to remember hearing once that "Grey Water" would occasionally just be run out onto the ground. My plan is to almost always have hookups, so having sewer access is no problem, as far as tank capacity goes. I've read that leaving your Black tank open is a bad idea and can cause problems/clogs/etc, but with the hookups we could dump regularly.
I've seen all the Blue Boys and thought that could be an option. But considering all the long term camping we're planning I thought it would be worth asking about other options.
Using the black water tank for the gray water, in the Airstreams prior to 1974, is a very unhealthy idea.

The bacteria, will works in way back into the gray water plumbing all the way to the "P" traps.

Then to get rid of that, is a monumental project, and a half.

Andy
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Old 08-19-2013, 09:50 AM   #8
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The main limit, if you are always going to be hooked up, is when you are on the road and want to run any water in the kitchen or bathroom sink, it will either run out the 3" hook up outlet and make an mess outside if you have no cap in place. If you have a cap in place it will back up into the pipes and flood the shower pan. So, no use while traveling, unless you want a mess.
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Old 08-19-2013, 10:17 AM   #9
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It is not impractical to install gray water tanks in your trailer. People do it all the time, though usually as part of a restoration where everything is torn apart (or at least the bell-pan is removed). As to cost, it depends on whether you intend to do the work yourself or hire it out. It also depends on how many tanks (how much capacity) you want, and whether you want them hidden within the frame rails, or if you don't care that they hang down. You will spend around $200 for a grey tank (or twice that if you want multiple tanks that stay inside your frame), and if you aren't going to do the work yourself, then there will be the labor and misc costs that go with it. There are several folks on the forums that do professional restorations and repairs who could probably give you an estimate of the cost of just a tank installation.

I installed two VTS grey tanks on my trailer during my ongoing total rebuild. Total cost of tanks and hardware was probably around $500. My time is worth nothing (as I am lead to believe everyday at work), so I'll call that the total cost.

There are a lot of State and National parks that do not have full hook-ups. There are also parks that require that your RV/trailer be completely "self-contained," meaning no "blue-boy" portable tanks. A "blue boy" may be a cheap alternative to a grey tank, but you won't wheel that 50 gallons of grey water to a dump station very many times before you start thinking seriously about that grey tank retro-fit, and you also have to do something with that tank when on the road (ie. store it in your trailer, or in your tow vehicle). Another advantage to having the grey tank on board is that if you are dumping your black tank (full hook-ups or not), you can dump the black first, then the grey, and rinse your stinky slinky with grey water this way.
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Old 08-19-2013, 10:31 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cookank View Post
Interesting!
So, follow up question, does all the waste water drain into the Black tank on these year models? I seem to remember hearing once that "Grey Water" would occasionally just be run out onto the ground. My plan is to almost always have hookups, so having sewer access is no problem, as far as tank capacity goes. I've read that leaving your Black tank open is a bad idea and can cause problems/clogs/etc, but with the hookups we could dump regularly.
I've seen all the Blue Boys and thought that could be an option. But considering all the long term camping we're planning I thought it would be worth asking about other options.
It looks like no one directly answered your question, though you may have surmised that the short answer is "no" from Andy's post.

As originally plumbed, graywater empties into the outlet tube downstream of the dump valve for the black tank. So, only what goes into the toilet goes into the black tank, and you have a short section of pipe that would capture a very small amount of graywater if you ran water into a shower or sink with the sewer cap on, and would run out as soon as you opened the sewer cap because it's not behind a valve.

If you have full hookups, you just connect the hose to the sewer hookup and as you use the sinks and the shower, that water flows out immediately, but the black tank valve should remain closed until you're ready to dump the black tank, so there's enough liquid in the black tank to flush out the solids.
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Old 08-19-2013, 01:48 PM   #11
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Quote:
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1. Are there any major disadvantages to only having a black water holding tank if you're planning on spending 90% of your time with full hook ups? Any way to curb these disadvantages?
There are two problems:

1) Incidental water use when not at a campground. Stops while traveling, cleaning up the trailer before or after a trip, etc.

2) The other 10% of the time, when you don't have full hookups.

The thing to understand is that in the era before greywater tanks (pre-1973 or so) it was widely considered to be perfectly acceptable to run a little greywater out on the ground or into the storm sewer, which is what people did. When you take that away, you really do need a greywater tank, even if you only have room for a small one.

Quote:
2. How practical is it to install a grey tank as well? Any ballpark ideas on how much that costs.
I added one to my Cayo C-11. Materials were around $300. I did the work. The addition of the greywater tank, in and of itself, was maybe 4 hours, but there were a large number of other wastewater problems I took care of at the same time that made it more time consuming overall. It was worth it.

Quote:
Originally Posted by cookank View Post
Interesting!
So, follow up question, does all the waste water drain into the Black tank on these year models?
No, there's no tank or valve and so it just goes out the sewer pipe, unless you have a tight-fitting cap in place, in which case it accumulates in the pipe for a while before starting to back up into the shower. Some people just add a valve at the outlet which allows for a little bit of handwashing and incidental water use before the pipes fill up, just like a cap would, but avoids having the water all run out when you take the cap off.

Quote:
I've seen all the Blue Boys and thought that could be an option. But considering all the long term camping we're planning I thought it would be worth asking about other options.
The two main things with blue boys are that:

1) they are heavy when full and you have to figure out a way to move them or lift them, especially the larger ones

2) You have to find a place to put them when traveling.
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Old 12-03-2013, 02:50 PM   #12
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If you add a grey tank: 1)Where would be the best place to vent? (Tie into the black vent upstream?) 2) Would it be ridiculous to install a grey tank without a valve for it, & just rely on the end cap for emptying?
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Old 12-03-2013, 06:22 PM   #13
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In the old days camp grounds had drain hookups, or you used the camp showers and bathrooms.

If you were camping out in the woods or the desert, or beside the road someplace, the thing to do was dig a "gopher hole" with a shovel. Just a hole in the ground you ran the gray water into. When you leave, shovel the dirt back in the hole and pat the sod divot down and no one is the wiser.
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