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Old 02-05-2014, 02:35 AM   #1
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Plumbing parts breaking....

Hello. I've got a 27ft FC FB. I live in one city for 4 days and work in another for 3 days. When I'm at work I live in my AS located in West Texas. This winter has been a huge PITA with the plumbing. It's gotten below freezing several times. 3 or 4 times now I've rolled into town and fired up the AS only to find 1-3 broken plastic plumbing pieces.

Every time before I leave I make sure city water is turned off and the WH bypass is opened to bleed off any pressure. Most importantly I leave the heat pump on and set to 60 degF. I would have thought that setting the heater to 60 would prevent any freeze damage to the plumbing.

Is it a false assumption of mine that setting the heater to 60 would prevent damage? I have no doubt that when it's REALLY cold the heat pump won't keep it at 60, but figured it would at least keep it at a non-freezing temp.

Several parts have broke, the most notable being the flush valve on the Dometic toilet ($50 to replace!! done it twice so far) and a plastic elbow in the PEX cold water line behind the shower valve. Oh... and my shower head fell off too...

It just doesn't make sense to me to fully winterize my AS due to the high frequency of use (antifreeze). Heck, I'de never get any work done because I would be too busy de-winterizing and then winterizing only to come back 4 days later and do it all over again... and again. etc.

Sorry for the long-winded post. Any suggestions?
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Old 02-05-2014, 02:46 AM   #2
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Hi, I believe that you should be using your furnace instead of your heat pump to keep your plumbing from freezing.
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Old 02-05-2014, 06:38 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by holtenc View Post
It just doesn't make sense to me to fully winterize my AS due to the high frequency of use (antifreeze). Heck, I'd never get any work done because I would be too busy de-winterizing and then winterizing only to come back 4 days later and do it all over again... and again. etc.

Sorry for the long-winded post. Any suggestions?
I've rewritten this reply three or four times already, and changed my mind about what to say that many times. Basically, it all boils down to, "I fail to see the problem." Those of us who live in a climate where it's practical to camp in winter, and to winterize/de-winterize multiple times in a season should count our blessings that we can use our Airstreams in winter. If the price for that is a little extra time at the beginning and end of the trip, that's a price worth paying.

I haven't been boondocking this winter; I've gone to campgrounds that are open year-round, and hooked up to municipal water. When I explain that I have a Pirit heated hose, the camp hosts have been perfectly willing to turn on the water for me even when the water is shut off at the mains otherwise. I de-winterize when I arrive at the campground and re-winterize before leaving the campground, so the process is part of the trip and doesn't detract one blessed minute from my at-home free time.

I've been camping five times this winter, and winterized three times. Two times, the trips were on consecutive weekends, with Weather Channel online 10-day forecasts showing no freezing temps in between, so I took a risk by not rewinterizing at the end of those trips. And got away with it. Otherwise I'd have re-winterized five times, and not had one single complaint about having to do so. It sure beats not being able to use my Airstream at all!
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Old 02-05-2014, 06:58 AM   #4
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The heat pump will quit making heat with the outside temperature is below about 35 degrees. So, the water left in the plumbing is freezing and breaking fittings.

Use a small electric space heater and as you leave, open the cabinet doors to expose the pipes to the heat. All the fresh water plumbing is inside the trailer routed behind and under the cabinets.


The holding tanks are all outside the heated space, so keep them drained.

We have put off winterizing our trailer between winter trips using this method several times without problem.


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Old 02-05-2014, 07:09 AM   #5
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The heat pump will not keep the trailer from freezing, the furnace must be used! Keeping cabinet doors open will help circulate the warm air. The furnace sends ducted air to the holding tanks and will operate at any temperature. Using a space heater may defeat the furnace by not letting the thermostat get low enough to make the furnace run to keep the furnace from doing its job. Jim
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Old 02-05-2014, 08:57 AM   #6
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If the tanks are empty, there is no need to have them warm. One only needs to have the cabin above freezing.

The furnace is fine to use, but with propane at 5.00 per gallon, electric would be cheaper.


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Old 02-05-2014, 09:19 AM   #7
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I think that running the propane heat at at a fairly low setting is the best way to keep it from freezing water lines. You could consider blowing the water out of the lines. I made a hookup with a quick disconnect to hook my air compressor to the system. That way I can blow the air out of the lines in just a few min. I think that and the propane furnace would solve the problem. Disclaimer: I dislike heat pumps a whole lot anyway.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:41 AM   #8
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HEY! that Pirit hose would have been useful this morning..... City Hookup was all frozen this morning.. so no shower for me :-(

Thanks for all the replies guys. Good info here. Yes, the furnace would have definitely been better but I just don't know if my bottles would last 4+ days. I think I'll be checking out some space heaters this afternoon

Thankfully nothing that has broke so far has been too much of a PITA to replace myself. Nothing hard to reach anyway. I'ts just those toilet valves that cost $50 each that kill me. Maybe I'll get a small space heater just for the bathroom

cheers all.
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Old 02-05-2014, 09:52 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by jdalrymple View Post
If the tanks are empty, there is no need to have them warm. One only needs to have the cabin above freezing.

The furnace is fine to use, but with propane at 5.00 per gallon, electric would be cheaper.


Regards,

JD
Problem is, at least with my unit, empty is never really empty. There is always some liquid left in the bottom of the tanks, due to the dump valves as well as the fresh drain being a bit above the tank floor. I think you are better off with full tanks and "warm liquid mass".
As far as saving propane for heating the tanks, I designed (with help here on the forums) a variable speed controller on the furnace blower, independent of furnace firing. That way, I can use electric and keep warm airflow to the tanks.
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:19 AM   #10
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Thanks for all the replies guys. Good info here. Yes, the furnace would have definitely been better but I just don't know if my bottles would last 4+ days. I think I'll be checking out some space heaters this afternoon
I have a little bit of a different perspective since I'm skeptical that the heat directed from the furnace to the holding tank area helps much.

Whether you're using the furnace, the heat pump, or some other heat source, you have to understand two things. One is the actual temperature you achieve inside the trailer. The other is how well heat is distributed. Using an IR thermometer helps greatly with this.

The rule of thumb that I use is that the inside of the trailer has to be two degrees above freezing for every degree that the outside temperature drops below freezing. So to support an overnight low of 22 (=32-10) degrees I set the thermostat to 52. (=32+20)

A question I would have is whether the heat pump is really working and keeping the trailer at 60 degrees. It's supposed to switch automatically to the furnace -- is it doing that? Do you have the propane turned on so that the furnace will work?

If the bathroom stays cooler than the rest of the trailer, you may need to keep it even warmer to protect the toilet valve. Or open doors and use fans.
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:38 AM   #11
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Problem is, at least with my unit, empty is never really empty. There is always some liquid left in the bottom of the tanks, due to the dump valves as well as the fresh drain being a bit above the tank floor. I think you are better off with full tanks and "warm liquid mass".
As far as saving propane for heating the tanks, I designed (with help here on the forums) a variable speed controller on the furnace blower, independent of furnace firing. That way, I can use electric and keep warm airflow to the tanks.


I understand what you are saying, but the tanks are in that same condition in a completely winterized, unheated trailer.

Of those who choose to flood "pink stuff" throughout the plumbing, most do not add antifreeze to the freshwater tank.


I also agree with Jammer, if the cabin is 65 degrees, it would have to be very cold to freeze the tanks inside the underbelly.





Regards,

JD
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Old 02-05-2014, 10:47 AM   #12
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Hi, You have a 2014. Is the damper to the bathroom heater vent open if you have one? Are the tank heaters on? I small ceramic heater in the bath would keep it from freezing.
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:04 PM   #13
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Hi, You have a 2014. Is the damper to the bathroom heater vent open if you have one? Are the tank heaters on? I small ceramic heater in the bath would keep it from freezing.
That's true. That is precisely why I leave the FW valve drain valve open on my last road trip of the year....to help fully drain the FW out while rounding corners, etc. I also leave it open during winter storage so any drops in the valve won't crack it.

I also do put copious amount of AF in the black and gray tanks and the lines and traps. Kitchen water filter and lines blown out and filter/housing left off.
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Old 02-05-2014, 12:15 PM   #14
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Since you're leaving the trailer unattended in adverse conditions, you might want to consider a belt-and-suspenders approach. Electric space heater set to hold 60ish, furnace set to 50ish or its minimum setting (whichever is higher). That way, if there's a long power failure at the campsite, the furnace can tide you over until the power comes back on (hopefully... the batteries should be good for more than a day if they're only running the furnace enough to hold 50F).

As mentioned above, leaving cabinet doors open for warm-air circulation around pipes and fittings helps.
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