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Old 08-07-2006, 08:43 PM   #1
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Airstream in below freezing weather...

I live in Houston, TX - so I've never had to really winterize other than just draining the tanks... However I may be living in my unit for a couple of weeks this winter in Wyoming. I am told to expect a temp of around 10-24 deg, so for the first time I have to think about freeze protection.

The manual tells me how to winterize for storage in prolonged freezing temps, however nothing about staying in the unit during a freeze.

My fresh water tank is under the bed in the back, and to my knowledge there are no pipes below the floor except the drain pipes. If I pour anti-freeze into the gray and black water tanks, and keep the coach warm inside, is this enough?

I would also welcome any ideas or suggestions unrelated to this that may be good to think about living in the RV during freezing weather.
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Old 08-07-2006, 08:57 PM   #2
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Troy, several suggestions come to mind. Such as draining the fresh water tank, drinking bottled water, and using the campground washroom (if there is one). If you have drawers under the bed around the fresh water tank, you can remove them so the warm air can get into the area around the tank and keep it from freezing. In fact, you could proabably leave several cabinet doors open slightly throughout the coach to keep warmer air in the area of the water pipes.
Depending on what vents you have in the roof, you may want to cut out a 14" square piece of foam insulation to stick in the openings, this will keep more heat in.
Depending on whether you will have full hookups, a small oil-filled electric heater will help keep your furnace from burning through all your propane in a couple of days.
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Old 08-07-2006, 09:20 PM   #3
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Overlander, thanks for the tips - however I am from Houston Texas, so what is an oil filled electric heater??? I have a couple of regular wal-mart electric heaters, but there is no oil... I guess this is something I would find at colder climates - what is the benefit over a regular space heater?
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Old 08-07-2006, 09:22 PM   #4
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troy

i have used my trailer in sub freezing weather many times.

here are some tips. have plenty of propane available and know where to get more when you are half empty. run your funace if you have water in the rig. space heaters are ok for comfort but will freeze your tanks.

if you choose not to have water in the rig then use your heatstrip in the ac if you have one. it will save on propane. leave one vent cracked slightly, it will help with moisture build up.

have a backup plan for emergency winterization AND have the needed amount of rv antifreeze with you. i have had a furnace quit in the middle of a trip! trying to figure out how to do it properly once it starts getting cold is probably too late!

a little planning can go a long way to enjoying the great frozen tundra and nearly empty campgrounds!

john
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Old 08-07-2006, 09:47 PM   #5
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Hello Troy -- The furnace actually ducts heated air under the cabinets and around the water & waste tanks. Leave lower tambour or cabinet doors open for best air circulation. Any auxiliary heater used will lessen furnace running -- so don't use 'em! Have plenty of propane on hand!

Search on 'wintering' (actually living in the trailer) -- comprehensive threads by former member rubyslipper seem to set the standard on this topic.
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Old 08-07-2006, 10:05 PM   #6
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Wyoming Winters

As a Wyoming resident, I was also concerned about my Airstream and winter use. A call to the factory eased my concern when Customer Service said Airstreams are fine for four season use. So when I have liquids on board during the winter I keep the trailer on shore power and the furnace set at 50 degrees. I do disconnect city water when it's cold. I've never had a real problem. But once the black/grey water dump valve froze so I couldn't dump until the temperature warmed. But the tanks, themselves, did not freeze. I do burn a bottle of propane every 5 days when its below freezing. But the trailer has wheels. So when it gets too cold, we head south.
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Old 08-08-2006, 07:36 AM   #7
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We do a fair bit of fall camping where, in our area, night-time lows can drop well below freezing - and - with precautions - we have never had any hint of a problem.

In my view the furnace is far superior to a space heater - even though it may cost more in propane. It keeps air moving through the whole trailer. The ducting behind cabinetry, around pipes and tanks helps to avoid any "dead" air spots that may cool enough to create the conditions for freezing pipes. The advise about opening cabinet doors is good. The volume of air that the furnace will move is also far superior at minimizing condensation (but you'll find that the advice about keeping a window cracked is pretty much a mandatory rule).

There is an important distinction here in temperatures:
  • 10 - 24 degrees as a night-time low is quite doable (been there, done that - many times)
  • 10 - 24 degrees as a day-time high over a period of weeks is not the same (never been there, nor done that).
In an extended period of below freezing weather, I think I would be more concerned about the exposed outside drain lines than the enclosed piping in a well-heated unit.

Bye the way - if an airstream can be considered "4-Season" - then that title only applies to the geography of more southerly climates. The only winter use our trailer would ever get is when it is being dragged down to the southern U.S. - and it wouldn't be de-winterized till we got there.

Good Luck,


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Old 08-08-2006, 08:18 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by RangerJay
...

10 - 24 degrees as a night-time low is quite doable (been there, done that - many times)
10 - 24 degrees as a day-time high over a period of weeks is not the same (never been there, nor done that).
Agree completely. It's not hard to keep things going it you get a high of 45 degrees each day--you don't even need the main heater. The problem with the heater is that the fan will kill the battery a lot sooner than you'll run out of propane. As a boondocking type, I'd have to say that 36 or more hours below 32 and I worry about any water in the tanks or pipes. But there's a lot of country out there where the winter highs are moderate, even if it's below freezing at night.
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Old 08-08-2006, 11:46 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by tx-lawman
what is an oil filled electric heater??? - what is the benefit over a regular space heater?
The oil-filled electric space heater looks like an old-fashioned radiator style heater in your home. Its benefits are it gives more even heat, and if it tips over, there is less likelyhood of it causing a fire. But like everyone else has said, if you are planning to keep water in your tanks, you should plan to use the furnace, for the reasons stated.
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Old 08-08-2006, 02:06 PM   #10
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Just a suggestion: use the forum search tool found in the menu at the top of this page, using the key word "Rubyslipper" to find a thread that has lots of discussion of an Airstream that was used for a winter for fulltime living-freezing conditions. Lots of tips and ideas to consider are in this thread. ~G
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Old 08-08-2006, 05:24 PM   #11
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We full-time in our RV and during winter we use heat tape on the water hose and insulation and bubble wrap around connection of gray/black tank.We also have an extra large propane tank with a quick connect so we don't have to fill tanks as often. We use only propane.
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Old 08-30-2006, 05:44 PM   #12
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Thanks for all the great advice and ideas!

I found out that the 10-24 deg I was given was the HIGH temp, and that didn't include the windchill factor that would bring it down to -10 to -20.

Perhaps driving my truck and staying in a hotel for the few weeks I will be there will be a better choice.
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Old 08-30-2006, 07:11 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by tx-lawman
Thanks for all the great advice and ideas!

I found out that the 10-24 deg I was given was the HIGH temp, and that didn't include the windchill factor that would bring it down to -10 to -20.

Perhaps driving my truck and staying in a hotel for the few weeks I will be there will be a better choice.
Those figures put a different spin on things. I THOUGHT 10-24 was a tad warm for that area, but since I live as far South as you can, I just thought I was biased.
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Old 08-30-2006, 07:43 PM   #14
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Here in Angel Fire (8,400 feet in elevation), we have lots of winter guests, here for skiing. It gives us loads of experience with what we call "winterworthiness" (which is not the same as "winterized"). I had also assumed that because our Airstream is winterworthy, all were. Not so.

Our 67 has the fresh water tank in the cabin; it has a heated black/gray tank, and the waste valve is also in a heated area. However, we had a smaller AS (17 ft?) here on the park a couple of weeks ago, and I was somewhat amazed to see that the waste valves were exposed, hence subject to freezing. Fairweather only for that rig!

So, then, on your rig, check to see that the fresh water tank is inside the cabin (=heated); that the gray and black tanks are insulated and heated; and that your waste tank values are insulated and heated. (You can generally assume that if you can't see the valves themselves, they're probably enclosed and heated.)

If they aren't all winterworthy in this way, then you are headed for trouble down the road. You'll have to do some significant retrofitting to make it winterworthy.

Oh, one last note. If your rig is already winterworthy, be sure to use only your on-board propane system for heat (and use it 24-hours per day). We've experienced it on a number of occasions that folks use a small electric heater for some extra cabin heat. But there's a problem: The extra heat from the electric heater causes your thermostat to shut the propane heat down, which in turn causes your heat to the black/gray tanks to stop. The result: A warm cabin, and frozen tanks. It ain't pretty.


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