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Old 10-22-2012, 08:35 AM   #1
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AC and heater question (newbie alert)

We bought our '95 Sovereign (21ft) last week.

We are total newbies when it comes to travel trailers / Airstreams, so here it goes:

1) Can the AC run only when the AS is plugged into a 20 / 30 AMP electrical outlet?
The Sovereign has the 110,000 BTU AC installed.

2) We are considering taking the AS camping this winter, which means cold temperatures. I've been reading in the manual about the danger of freezing pipes and the recommendation to leave the heater on.
What I wonder about is whether the heater (and the AC for that matter) will run continuously (and so use propane / electric continuously), or once the desired temperature is reached, does it turn off automatically?
I know it has a thermostat, but especially when you visit older motels/hotels with old AC units, they seem to run without stopping.


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Old 10-22-2012, 10:42 AM   #2
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Oh, Grasshopper, you have so much to learn (and will have so much fun learning it). You will get a lot of help here.

First, I think you got an extra 0 in your numbers. Your AC unit is probably an 11,000 btuh unit not 110,000. That would cool a couple of houses or more.

Anyway, the AC will only work when plugged into grid power, and usually you will want a 30 amp outlet so you can use some other things in the trailer at the same time. A 20 amp outlet may run your smaller AC if nothing else is on.

The thermostat will cycle the furnace which operates on propane. The sequence is this: Thermostat says "heat me", and the furnace blower and burner turn on. When the thermostat says "enough" the burner shuts off and the fan runs for a minute or two to cool the furnace down, then it shuts off. In cold weather, if you are not plugged into grid power, the battery will not last too long running the fan in the furnace, maybe two days max. If plugged in, the converter/charger will keep the battery charged and the lights on with no battery drain.

The AC fan will run all the time when the unit is turned on. The moving air in the summer is nice running constantly. The thermostat will only control the compressor to provide cooling as necessary but, like your old motel example, the fan will run all the time.

That is today's lesson grasshopper, thanks for asking Yoda (or did I get my movies mixed up... I am so old....) Grin.

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Old 10-22-2012, 05:38 PM   #3
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We've found, from our cold weather camping, that the furnace is the way to go, and it will cycle on and off as idroba said. Note it takes ~15 seconds or so to start when you first hit the switch (and the thermostat calls for warm air), so don't let that bother you, then it'll run for another minute or so before it actually lights and starts throwing out heat.

We do use the heat strip in the A/C during the day to help save propane. But at night, with worrying about freezing more, I use the furnace exclusively. The furnace has ducting that supposedly helps heat the tanks, but I can't imagine it does THAT much good. On the other hand, it takes more than just 32 degrees (0 Celsius) to freeze water under pressure, and there's enough heat loss from the cabin to help with that.

Originally Posted by idroba View Post
The AC fan will run all the time when the unit is turned on. The moving air in the summer is nice running constantly. The thermostat will only control the compressor to provide cooling as necessary but, like your old motel example, the fan will run all the time.
Actually, in our '95, the Penguin A/C has four settings - low, medium, high, and auto. In auto it will cycle the fan on and off. I can't decide which way I like more - it's noisy, but having the noise level change so much every few minutes is more annoying than the noise alone, I think. I only mention this because he also has a '95, so his might be similar. Or it could be a completely different model - ours is a 13,500 BTU A/C.
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:00 PM   #4
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There are other supplemental heat methods as well. Many of them. I I always do with Dyson products....bought a Hot cold heater/fan. It was $$$$$$$y. But, although it is 1500 watts like everything else, it evenly heats ALL of the 30' of my AS down to at least 45*, did I say evenly? It is amazing. That's the coldest weather I'ved used it in so far, and it still shuts off once in awhile.

So, it is possible to do other things than run your furnace or heat pump. I also use an electric mattress pad on the bed, allowing a turn down of other heat methods during the night. Timers can be used to turn on other methods prior to wake up time.

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Old 10-22-2012, 06:04 PM   #5
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Well, how cold?

The furnace will indeed heat the tank(s) so long as your propane holds out and the battery has enough juice to keep the furnace blower running. As noted, you likely won't get more than one night out of a battery without recharging it somehow. But note that some things (such as your dump valves) are not in heated areas, and so will freeze sooner because of this. I don't know what a frozen / cracked dump valve would be like / act like when it thawed, and I don't want to learn!

I've slept in my coach down to 5 degrees F. in comfort and style, but I did not use the water / waste system at all at those temps - stayed in a state park campground and used their (nicely heated) facilities. They had electric shore power available, so my batteries did fine. (I had solar panels also, but we got about 5 inches of snow, so they weren't doing any good even in full sun.) And once at the Mother Ship, got my incoming water line frozen solid at just about 30 degrees overnight, when I thought it'd be o.k. to keep the coach hooked up to shore water. Had to use a propane torch just to get the line off so the coach could leave! Fortunately, no damage.

Lots of folks I know up here in the "north land" will take their trailers and MoHos to Florida, Mexico, etc. in the winter. And when they go, they mostly keep their rigs winterized while going south, at least until they get far enough south to feel safe. On the way, they rely on campgrounds and their facilities or gas stations or a few gallons of water kept inside the coach, and for waste - buckets with tight fitting lids.

So, short message is: be careful, expect surprises, and if it's gonna get below freezing where you're going (and of course, we ALWAYS know that the weather man is ALWAYS right with his predictions, eh?) - then do some advance planning. Which it sounds as if you're doing. Good luck.
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Old 10-22-2012, 06:52 PM   #6
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Airstreams are really a three season vehicle. You can sleep in them when the temperature gets down in the teens but it can be costly for repairs if you depend on the furnace to keep the tanks from freezing when it gets that low. It is better to winterize the tanks if temperatures get into the low 20's at night. The dump valves, drain and water hoses also have a tendency to freeze when it gets down in the mid 20's at night. It is easier to not carry water in the tanks and use the campground facilities when it gets in the 20's. I have thrown away drain hoses a couple times and been without water in the morning when I failed to disconnect the water supply in the evening. Luckily, I have never cracked a valve housing.
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Old 01-05-2013, 11:27 AM   #7
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I am using my Sovereign as a home on my farm until the house is built. I use radiant heaters and electric blankets. I do not have the water hooked up; I use a spigot close to the AS. It stays quite toasty! I am hooked up to electricity. I would like to put in a new inverter myself and new fuse box. Is it possible to do this myself?
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Old 01-05-2013, 10:53 PM   #8
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I believe you need to replace the CONVERTER, not the INVERTER. If you could post some pics of what you have, there is plenty of help here on the forum to walk you thru it.
It is best if you have the basic knowledge of tools and know how to use a meter. But if you are willing to learn. We can help.
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Old 01-06-2013, 11:57 AM   #9
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Fort Collins , Colorado
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Recently learned: like the fridge, you can run the furnace while on the road as long as electric igniter is in good working order. Just returned from a trip to El Paso, temps in low teens. It sure was nice having the trailer unfroze when we stopped at night. Carried water jugs, left fresh water system winterized, antifreeze in black and gray tanks. I'm waiting for 40+ degrees to dump, but so far all seems OK.

Next time when we make a trip like this we'll add an electric heater as well. The furnace kept the place adequately warm at those temps, but not toasty. Still running on 2 X 40lb propane tanks last filled in spring 2011; they must be getting low.

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