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Old 11-12-2011, 08:02 PM   #1
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Freezing up while traveling in cold climates

I have been trying to come up with ways to keep the trailer warm while going down the road. Short of rerouting some of the plumbing. Or running dry, no water.
Thought of installing a second furnace that is ducted specifically to keep the plumbing warm. My first thought is. Would it stay lit going down the road. Second; Is it OK to run it when moving? Legal, I mean.
Second thought would be to have a generator in the back of the TV. I could provide AC power to the trailer and thereby use electric heat to keep the plumbing warm. This would require a conduit under the trailer for the wiring of the shore power cable from the generator in the back of the TV. There would be an outlet mounted in the rear compartment of the trailer to plug the shore power cable into. There would also be a 120 volt AC umbilical cord that would go to the generator in the TV.
Your thoughts and any ideas are welcome.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:12 PM   #2
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Catalytic heater?
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:34 PM   #3
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Hello TG Twinkie. If you accept the hazards of going down the road with your propane valves open, here are a few thoughts.

I felt I had to do this once in 16-degree temperatures. The main furnace may be useful because the ducts closely accompany the plumbing under gauchos, cabinets, etc. Early in my Airstream ownership, I set the thermostat for 65 and traveled about 350 miles. That alone caused an entire 30# LP cylinder to be used up on this one trip leg. Wind chill & air movement must have made the furnace be on a significant portion of this trip. This experience was not based on any empiric evidence and I certainly erred in this approach.

How I'd do it different? Yes, maybe I'd use the furnace if it was cold enough to warrant. Maybe 30 outside temps won't freeze up your trailer. Will 25? How do you know the break point in such general statements? You know by putting a thermometer down on the floor under your cabinets where the plumbing runs. Be careful -- stop at several points when underway and go back and check the actual temperature. And then operate the furnace if you need to. I'd probably start with a thermostat set point of maybe 50 and then reevaluate by way of my thermometer further on down the road.

A catalytic heater will disperse warm air so generally that I do not feel that it would introduce any warmth under the cabinets down by the floor.

Caution: copper pipes have a greater catastrophe potential than PEX
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:39 PM   #4
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I have replaced all the copper with PEX. The propane line is charged so the refer will continue to work.
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Old 11-12-2011, 08:53 PM   #5
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I've given thought of routing the cold water pipe from the holding tank (located across the front of the trailer) thru the upper storage cabinets. Since it would be a straight run with no joints or connections, the chance of a leak would be minimal, especially with PEX. All of the remaining plumbing is located in the bath cabinetry, except the hot and cold lines going to the galley sink. It would be relatively easy to heat the space in the bath and just slightly more difficult for the piping to the galley. The most vulnerable place right now is where the cold water line crosses behind the refer. The refer vent intake is open to the outside air. I think relocating the line would be easier than trying to keep the aforementioned line from freezing.
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Old 11-12-2011, 09:23 PM   #6
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I vote for running dry - few worries there. I carry a portapottie when needed. If that freezes up it's only a $50 loss.
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Old 11-13-2011, 07:12 AM   #7
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As JamieEllis says "Run Dry" we have done this w/porta pottie in AS and SOB. Easy and NO worries. I think of it as an camping in an Aluminum Tent. I like to keep it simple.
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Old 11-13-2011, 07:29 AM   #8
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I have run with the furnace on and all the cabinet doors open in the 69 ambassador. When the temps dipped to near zero the lines froze to the point there was no water flow but nothing broke.
My current policy when heading south is to just carry a few jugs of water and fill the tanks when far enough south. I also carry a couple gallons of pink stuff in case I have to do an "emergency roadside winterization" on the trip north.
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Old 11-13-2011, 09:21 AM   #9
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for reasonably short trips we just run winterized. Carry gallon bottles of water in the shower. Use a mix of rv fluid and bottled water to flush. no hot water and no shower though. generally my only cold weather camping is when I am caught it it trying to get to some place warm.
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Old 11-13-2011, 11:51 AM   #10
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When we head to Alaska in the early spring, we winterize and porta john from the midwest, through Canada until we get to our RV spot. Then, even though the temperatures at night are in the low 20s, we clean it all up and use the furnace and a little electric heat if needed.
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Old 11-13-2011, 12:04 PM   #11
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Newer thermostats can be set at 40˚ for travel. We've never used the furnace while moving, but we've never had temps lower than about 18˚ in the early morning. By the time we get going it was in the 20's and the trailer will hold some heat for a while, but not all that long.

The water sloshing around in the tanks is unlikely to freeze as long as you keep moving, but that pipe behind the fridge sounds like the weak spot. Is there a way to put valves on each end of it to drain that one section? I suppose you could let a faucet drip and leave the pump on just like people sometimes do at home.

(Jerry, how are you? I don't think I ever sent you the photos we took a couple of years ago. I'll get to it.)

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Old 11-20-2011, 11:18 AM   #12
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Just came across some small windshield defrosters (150 watts or so) with a fan. They are 12 volts and are designed to fit on a sun visor to defrost the windshield or window.
I am considering installing 1 or 2 of these in strategic locations to prevent the pipes from freezing while on the move. They draw about 12 amps each, so I would think the charge line from the TV could keep up with them while the engine is running.
It looks like they would fit in small spaces like the areas where the water lines run without causing a fire hazard.
A reasonably sized inverter could power these units while on shore power along with other 12 volt requirements.
Any thoughts?
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Old 11-20-2011, 11:30 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TG Twinkie
Just came across some small windshield defrosters (150 watts or so) with a fan. They are 12 volts and are designed to fit on a sun visor to defrost the windshield or window.
I am considering installing 1 or 2 of these in strategic locations to prevent the pipes from freezing while on the move. They draw about 12 amps each, so I would think the charge line from the TV could keep up with them while the engine is running.
It looks like they would fit in small spaces like the areas where the water lines run without causing a fire hazard.
A reasonably sized inverter could power these units while on shore power along with other 12 volt requirements.
Any thoughts?
With two of them you're talking about 20 - 25 amps draw. That's, arguably more or most of the supply from your TV. Your batts may slowly drain. Not a big deal, just keep it in mind.......
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Old 11-20-2011, 11:37 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TG Twinkie View Post
Just came across some small windshield defrosters (150 watts or so) with a fan. They are 12 volts and are designed to fit on a sun visor to defrost the windshield or window.
I am considering installing 1 or 2 of these in strategic locations to prevent the pipes from freezing while on the move. They draw about 12 amps each, so I would think the charge line from the TV could keep up with them while the engine is running.
It looks like they would fit in small spaces like the areas where the water lines run without causing a fire hazard.
A reasonably sized inverter could power these units while on shore power along with other 12 volt requirements.
Any thoughts?
If you have some areas of pipe which need protection, just use regular 120 volt heat tape with insulation on the pipes, and run the tape from an inverter. I am sure it would take less power and provide better heating protection than those little defroster heaters, which are much more of a joke than a heater anyway.
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Old 11-20-2011, 12:44 PM   #15
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Isn't there some way to wrap the pipes with something like an electric blanket and just run it on electricity?
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Old 11-20-2011, 01:13 PM   #16
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All electric resistance heaters consume a lot of power. That's why the all electric home was not a good idea and many were converted to other forms of heating.

Using 120 v. heat tape and an inverter adds to the inefficiency. Same with a 120 v. electric blanket which because of its size would dissipate heat far from the pipe unless they make them for babies. Our trailer has a few 12 v. receptacles, so if I were trying to heat pipes, I would hope to find one close by.

You could try one of the little defrosters and check batteries with a voltmeter before and after an hour or more to see if you are discharging or not. The TV charge line does not provide all that many amps. When I had a 1959 VW I would have loved a defroster since I was afraid to breath on a cold morning because the windshield would fog up, but the VW was 6 v. and the heater would have been 12. I got the VW about 1980 from a client who couldn't pay me, drove it for a while, and sold it to a collector for a profit. It sure was cold in the winter. But I later got a VW bus I used for camping sometimes that actually had a fan to defrost the windows. I used a catalytic heater in that, but had to keep windows opens to prevent fumes from overwhelming us.

The suggestion of using a catalytic heater has some merit if you can ensure it will never fall over, never get too close to something the heat can damage, nit put out dangerous fumes and that it has a working switch to turn it off if it does tip over.

Or, just drive south.

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Old 11-20-2011, 01:51 PM   #17
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It's not trying to keep the pipes warm while in an RV park or campground with power. It's keeping them from freezing while going down the road. Short of running dry, I am trying to come up with other methods.
I don't think contact type heat tapes will work for PEX. Also would think the heat tapes would be a fire hazard since most of the piping is in contact with the wood floor.
The area of piping that is most susceptible to freezing is the water line that runs from the front of the trailer to the back on the street side along with that 4 runs to the galley sink on the curb side. The curb side does have the furnace duct work running in the same space as the hot and cold for the galley sink, with a little work I could locate the lines on top of the heat duct to keep them warm when the furnace is running.
I am still seriously considering rerouting the curb side line thru the upper cabinets since there are no joints or connections the risk of a leak causing any damage would be minimal. Also still considering running a generator while going down the road on those below 26 degree trips.
If I were to reroute the pipes to heated spaces and run a generator, I could run a couple of ceramic heaters as I said before. 2500 watts of electric heat is about 9000 BTU of heat. That should be more than sufficient to keep things from freezing.
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Old 11-20-2011, 02:09 PM   #18
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Running the generator would give me an excuse to buy a Honda 3000. LOL. The 4 in the previous post is a typo. Typing on this iPod is like using a baseball bat for a stylus on a keyboard with my fat fingers.
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Old 11-20-2011, 02:14 PM   #19
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How about those packs that create heat for injuries? They might be an expensive way to do this though. I doubt Pex is very conductive of heat as TG suggests and heat applied in one place may not get far.

At what temp will Pex break? It is reported to be more forgiving than other pipes.

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Old 11-20-2011, 02:48 PM   #20
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There are heat tapes specifically made for PEX; Frostex is one. If you put closed cell insulation over the heat tape and follow the installation directions, this should work. Power consumption is a function for temperature; a quick eyeball estimate looks like 12W/foot of pipe should handle matters down to 0F. Since the tape is internally thermostatically controlled along its length, colder areas will get more power, warmer less.

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