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Old 01-06-2018, 10:26 AM   #1
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1st sub-freezing winter experience

We have been full timing now for about 8 months.

We are in NC and going on close to 2 weeks of (unexpected) below freezing temps with just a few inches of snow on ground. Nights in the mid-teens and days in mid-30's. I thought I'd pass along what we've learned:

- The factory propane furnace keeps things nice and warm. No tank freezing problems.
- Propane water heater keeps up OK.
- We turn the thermostat all the way down when we leave in the morning and use the furnace and stove to heat things up when we return. So far, we are using a little over 30lbs of propane a week.
- A small electric space heater helps take the chill off where we are sitting or sleeping and seems to help reduce condensation on the windows and aluminum interior panels.
- We use a SewerSolution which drains grey water constantly through a 1" hose. My previous solution for occasional freezing temps was to wrap the water supply hose and the SewerSoution hoses together with a 16' piece of flexible electric pipe heater wrap and foam pipe insulation. That could not handle these temps - both the supply hose and the complete SewerSolution setup froze. So I bought a separate electrically heated water supply hose, and dedicated the piece of electric pipe wrap to the SewerSolution hose with a few wraps around the Airstream's drain pipe - covering it with two overlapping pieces of black foam pipe insulation.
- A heat gun is good to have on board but a hair dryer may suffice. When it dropped to 8 degrees, the new electrically heated supply hose did not keep the below-ground campground spigot, nor the supply connector on the outside of the Airstream, from freezing. The heat gun got us going again quickly. The campground owner added a small heat coil to the spigot and I put a piece of 1" pipe insulation on the Airstream water connector. 6 degrees last night with no problems.
- Heat strip in Dometic AC puts out good heat but small space heater is enough for auxiliary heat and not so noisy.
- I check the propane tank levels twice a day and keep a 15lb tank nearby just in case.
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Old 01-06-2018, 10:31 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wayward View Post
...I thought I'd pass along what we've learned:
... use the furnace and stove to heat things up when we return. So far, we are using a little over 30lbs of propane a week.
...
It is generally not a good idea to use your stove as a heat source. The byproducts of combustion (water vapour, carbon monoxide etc.) are not good for you or the trailer.
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Old 01-06-2018, 10:45 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Adventure.AS View Post
It is generally not a good idea to use your stove as a heat source. The byproducts of combustion (water vapour, carbon monoxide etc.) are not good for you or the trailer.
Duly noted. Only used briefly - less time than cooking up bacon and eggs.

hmmmm.... come to think of it my bourbon bottle has a similar warning label.
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:04 PM   #4
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Thanks for posting this information. I am currently finishing up a build and getting ready to start a second, and all builds going forward will be four season. Previously I had been opposed to running radiant (liquid) heat, but the new builds will be utilizing radiant heat. In combination with an insulated belly pan, it should serve to keeping all the tanks and I mechanicals happy in sub freezing temps. As far as the hookups outside the trailer (city water and sewage) we are working on some devices that will be fairly universal and will work with whatever gets thrown at us, though external heated devices will likely be limited to electric power (which is fine, since external water supply almost always comes with external power). Thanks again for posting your experiences with cold temps!
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Old 01-06-2018, 12:12 PM   #5
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Forgot to add... I make it a practice to actually use the trailers while I build (to gain experience and knowledge and make improvements), and I did a couple trips in sub freezing temperatures before the heat (or water) was installed. Rather than use the range for heat, I opted to purchase a "Mr. Heater Big Buddy" propane heater ($139), and it has served us quite well. I know space is always a premium, but if you can spare a 17"x9" footprint, I highly recommend it. The unit can run on an LP line or two camping stove tanks (which is great for moving it outside of the trailer), and we were warm in our 25' Landyacht in 8 degree temps while boondocking. It's a great *non-electric* option for portable heat.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:13 AM   #6
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the new builds will be utilizing radiant heat. In combination with an insulated belly pan, it should serve to keeping all the tanks and I mechanicals happy in sub freezing temps.
Sounds like a good design. See my update post down below......we had one interior hot water line freeze up last night (4 degrees most of the night). It took all morning for me to figure it out. My theory is that a hot water line is touching a cold exterior metal part somewhere underneath. So even though they run in conditioned space, the hot supply lines should be carefully secured away from cold-points and/or insulated. In your radiant design, perhaps your could wrap hot and cold supply lines together and circulate the hot water to keep them from freezing. .

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Originally Posted by kidjedi View Post
As far as the hookups outside the trailer (city water and sewage) we are working on some devices that will be fairly universal and will work with whatever gets thrown at us, though external heated devices will likely be limited to electric power (which is fine, since external water supply almost always comes with external power). .
I think the large black/grey water dump pipe on the Airstream froze because the SewerSolution restricts it down to a 1" opening. The constant low flow gradually iced over the exit hole which caused the dump pipe to fill and freeze too. 3 wraps of heat tape took care of it. Without electricity I would have to let the gray tank fill and dump it all at once like I do the black tank, being careful to empty all water from the 1" drain line when finished.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:17 AM   #7
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UPDATE- a frozen hot water line this morning

I thought I had all the cold weather fixes in, but this morning after all night in the 4-6 degree range, the shower would not work – just a dribble of cold water. Assuming the hot water line would not freeze before the cold water line, I figured it was a bad valve and took the single handle shower valve cartridge apart. All was well in there but I noticed it is a pressure balancing valve (Moen Posi-Temp). There must be pressure on both the hot and cold lines for these type of valves to flow water. A quick test showed cold water, but no hot water pressure at the valve.

(NOTE: This was a bit confusing to troubleshoot because in a situation like this, the Pressure Balancing valve back-feeds cold water pressure to the unpressured hot line.)

I traced the hot water supply line from the galley sink (which was working), underneath across the floor, along the fender well to the inside shower, and then up to the outside shower valve. There was no hot water on the outside shower valve either. Not knowing where it was frozen, I disconnected the heating duct that ran nearby and let it heat the area under the closet, fridge and side bunk. After about 30 minutes, the downstream outside shower started flowing hot water. I rechecked the inside shower and all is working now.

I am thinking that the hot water line running under the floor or along the outside wall is touching a cold exterior metal part or maybe exposed to outside air. Airstream should insulate such lines I think.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:45 AM   #8
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Rather than use the range for heat, I opted to purchase a "Mr. Heater Big Buddy" propane heater ($139), It's a great *non-electric* option for portable heat.
Thanks for the tip. I am planning to run a high pressure line for the grill as soon as the weather gets warm. I can add an interior tap too and run one of these off the main tank.
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Old 01-07-2018, 09:49 AM   #9
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Thanks for the valuable info you have provided. We have always winterized our AS and never have been brave enough to use her in the real cold temperatures (other than dry camping) but with some planning and extra work I now see it's possible if necessary.
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:20 AM   #10
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...we had one interior hot water line freeze up last night (4 degrees most of the night). It took all morning for me to figure it out. My theory is that a hot water line is touching a cold exterior metal part somewhere underneath. So even though they run in conditioned space, the hot supply lines should be carefully secured away from cold-points and/or insulated. In your radiant design, perhaps your could wrap hot and cold supply lines together and circulate the hot water to keep them from freezing.
Yeah. I wrap each line separately in foam and keep runs as short as possible, inside the living space, with the supply and heater as close to the shower/sink/dishwasher as I can (usually in the kitchen cabinet). There is usually only one crossover line in the belly (to things on the other side from the water heater), and that runs between the clean and gray tanks and will come into contact with the radiant system.

Thanks again for posting information and updates!
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Old 01-07-2018, 11:53 AM   #11
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We had a few sub freezing nights in our last Airstream trip. The wife unit was not the least bit amused. I can't say as I particularly enjoyed it. We're going to bemaking the same east coast to west coast and back trip, leaving in about a week, in our new (to us) Arctic Fox. Function over form, as it is. I loved towing the 'stream but it comes up short on all the rest, except groovie-ness I suppose. The quick 5,000 mile trip will do a lot for me as far as is the sacrifice worth it.
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Old 01-07-2018, 12:05 PM   #12
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... leaving in about a week, in our new (to us) Arctic Fox. Function over form, as it is. I loved towing the 'stream but it comes up short on all the rest, except groovie-ness I suppose. The quick 5,000 mile trip will do a lot for me as far as is the sacrifice worth it.
Your AS just wasn't built-out to the extremes it could be!

Eventually I hope to get them impervious to all weather, and maybe even floating on water.
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Old 01-07-2018, 04:06 PM   #13
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Just a note to everyone: Using a propane space heater is NOT a good thing inside ANY confined space. These heaters do not meet the CO production limits required for confined spaces. If you choose to use the propane heater DO NOT fall asleep. You may not wake up.

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Old 01-07-2018, 06:29 PM   #14
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Just a note to everyone: Using a propane space heater is NOT a good thing inside ANY confined space. These heaters do not meet the CO production limits required for confined spaces. If you choose to use the propane heater DO NOT fall asleep. You may not wake up.

Happy Streaming...
Gary
#1 If you don't have a propane and CO alarm, you are being irresponsible.

#2 People use these things in tents. I'm not too worried about using one in my 25' trailer (not to mention they are made for confined spaces --but you should always leave a vent or window cracked to let out the moisture).
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