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Old 10-29-2013, 05:49 PM   #1
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Winter Full-timing Questions

Hello, all. I've had a lot of success asking questions and getting answers on here so I thought I would inquire about some respecting winter full-timing.

When hooked up to shore power, which is more efficient/cost-effective in terms of heating: electricity or propane?

Should I use the propane exclusively for cooking, or also for heating my water (water heater is combination gas/electric)?

What do you recommend as far as keeping condensation down? Should I purchase a dehumidifier, or rely on those pails filled w/ absorbent material?

What is general winter protocol to keep systems in good repair? We're in the NW and don't see below freezing all the time, but occasionally...

Water--I've been unhooking at night when it dips below freezing. Anything else?

Sewage--dumping per usual and using the tank deodorizer/"bugs" as needed. I'm keeping an eye on the drain hose to make sure it is empty so it doesn't freeze, too...

Batteries--I have a good power inverter which I think will keep them in good maintenance over the winter.

Are there any other precautions I should be taking?


gquake (1998 31' Excella)

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Old 10-29-2013, 07:07 PM   #2
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Here are a few points to consider:

Which is more cost-effective propane or electric heat (and water heating) depends on who's paying for the electricity and how warm you want to keep your rig (and how much your water heater cycles). If electricity is included and not metered for you to pay, it makes sense to use electric heat and let the park pay for it. If you are metered and end up paying your own electricity bill, then you probably need to do some experimenting to see which is more cost-effective for your particular use patterns.

Mind you that if you use electric heating, you are not putting warm air to your holding tanks to prevent freezing as you would if you were using propane heat....but if it doesn't get all that cold where you are for sustained periods, that is not necessarily a problem. We use an electric heater when we are in a park with electric hookups (where electricity is included) unless it is really cold. But we actually prefer propane heat in terms of its heating efficiency.

To control humidity try leaving a vent or window slightly open even when heating. That may very well solve condensation problems. If not you can then explore other solutions.

Unhooking city water is a good idea if it drops below freezing...and store the hose inside. Or you can fill your fresh water tank periodically and use that all the time when it's cold rather than connecting and disconnecting from city water.

Your converter (not inverter) will keep your batteries charged while your rig is in use, but you still need to monitor water levels, etc (unless you have sealed batteries). In the event you shoud lose electric shore power for some reason (storms, etc) you will want your batteries to be in good condition.

Sewage dump valves, if exposed to the outside, can freeze in sustained sub-freezing weather even if nothing else does. If daytime temps rise and do not stay below freezing for long this should not be much of an issue. Otherwise you can dump as usual....

Good luck and happy winter camping!

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Old 10-29-2013, 08:40 PM   #3
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Electric heat will dissipate some of the condensation, since it is considered dry heat.
Heating with propane both the living space and water. Will require frequent tank fills and be quite expensive.
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Old 11-27-2013, 05:17 PM   #4
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As a newbie to winter camping myself.....(at TBRich) I know the pads are to protect my gray and fresh tanks, but should I add antifreeze to the gray and black tanks first to keep valves and macerator pump from freezing?
I will have shorepower available at destination....its the "there and back" that concerns me.
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Old 11-28-2013, 03:36 AM   #5
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Your profile says you're in San Antonio. Not too many hard freezes there. Roughly comparable to where I live in New Orleans; you just get the bad weather a couple of days sooner than I do as winter weather patterns tend to move west to east.

You might consider getting a heated hose, rather than disconnecting your hose for every freeze advisory. Pirit makes a decent one, available at Camping World.

What to set your water heater on will depend on how much hot water you use. Electric will work, but takes about 15 minutes to heat a full tank. On gas, it takes just over 10 minutes to heat a full tank. On both, it only takes about 7 minutes. Those numbers are off the top of my head; it has been a while since I looked at the Atwood brochure to get exact figures.

Venting to control condensation is best. Only add some sort of dehumidifier if venting isn't doing the job. I open the vent in the bathroom, with the extractor fan running, because that fan also pulls some warm air into the bathroom around the edges of the bathroom door. But anytime you have air being sucked out, you need air coming in to replace it, so I also open a window cracked open (it doesn't take much of an opening to provide the same square inches as a 4" diameter bathroom vent) at the far end from where I'm sleeping. I keep the big roof vent securely closed. Heat rises, and with that open all my hot air would go out the ceiling instead of warming me.

One thing most people forget is that blackwater and graywater don't freeze at 32F. That's only for clean water. The impurities in the wastewater drop the freezing point of the water. Can't tell you exactly how much it drops, because that's widely variable depending on how much soap you have in the graywater and how much urine you have in the blackwater. But the chances of your waste tanks freezing in a light freeze are very slim.
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Old 11-28-2013, 06:59 AM   #6
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After last winter in zero degree is my take. Heated fresh water hose is a must. Cooking is a water vapor as little as possible inside. Showers are also water vapor are wet towels and cloths..hang them outside. A dehumidifier will remove a surprising amount of water from the trailer, but not as much as you would like..cracking a vent open will be necessary and if the wind is blowing, that is a source of cold air. Condensation is a real problem with Airstreams. There will be air leaks in places that you will not believe. Skirt the trailer if you can..I used foam board and tape and it works very really kept the cost of heating the trailer down and makes a huge difference in the comfort inside.

Here is the link to the thread that I started (with Photos) last year in the Grand Canyon. Wintering in an Airstream is challenging..but that is what full timing is all about!

Have fun.
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Old 12-05-2013, 07:49 AM   #7
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If you are staying put for several months in the Winter has anyone bought some of the partable garages that Hurbor Freight and the like sell and put it up over the AS???
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Old 12-05-2013, 08:17 AM   #8
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If your electricity is included in your campsite fee, use electric heat- you have to pay for more propane when you run out- but the propane furnace keeps the trailer warmer in sub-freezing temperatures (the electric heat pumps will not work anyway) and the propane furnace is quieter.
I use both- heat pumps above freezing and propane below freezing.
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Old 12-13-2013, 07:01 AM   #9
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We try to use free showers in state parks or CGs when we can. Saves our propane on water heat, and reduces water vapor in trlr. Increase heat setpt right before shower, if using our shower. Warm air can hold moisture better, cold surfaces create condensing water. Always run shower exhaust fan while showering, with a window cracked open at other end of trlr. We always run stove exhaust fan when cooking sauce or boiling water, to reduce vapor in trlr.

This year we added a "Salem vent" or ram vent by the trlr door. We can leave it slightly open all the time when we're parked, and leave roof vent open 1" at trlr's other end. Keeps a little bit of air moving all the time, helps reduce condensing moisture in the trlr.
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Old 12-13-2013, 08:01 PM   #10
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House sale in Chicago closed exactly a month ago and figured we'd just flee to south of the freeze line for the winter but we've been doing some winter camping in spite of our best intentions. Seems that temps to the mid-20s is not too challenging (with lots of propane), but I'm wondering how cold it gets before more than cranking propane is needed... at some temperature point, does emergency winterizing make sense? other measures?
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Old 12-13-2013, 11:17 PM   #11
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We have unexpectedly encountered some extremely cold temperatures--it finally got above freezing today where we are in Oregon. It has been well below freezing for almost two weeks. It went as low as 11 degrees over night, scarcely doubling that during the day.

Initial precautions were simple, including many of the things mentioned in this thread. The inlet for city water did freeze, and I'm still not sure about it (I plan to test tomorrow), so in the meantime we have been filling the tank and using the water pump for all of our water needs. No leaks or frozen pipes in the trailer itself. Yet.

Once I realized how cold the weather was getting (and how cold it was going to get), I worked furiously one whole day in extremely cold weather but was able to skirt the whole trailer with foil backed foam board and foil backed tape. It looks decent (I'll post photos)--this was all per recommendation of user deauxrite.

I used a temporary foil bubble wrap sheet flap for the A-frame area because it was getting late and was too dark to see, but it held and worked well to hold in heat under the trailer. There is a permanent foil bubble wrap sheet flap where the electric, water hookup, and sewage dumps are, so I can get in relatively easy if I need to for dumping purposes etc. All in all it seems to have worked... I threw in a little heat lamp, which has thawed things out down below (one night I couldn't dump because the valves were frozen shut).

What a learning process!

Anyway, that's what I've been up to. Not too many problems with condensation yet, but it has been so dry despite being so cold that the air still seemed to take a lot of our cooking/showering moisture right up.

During the days it was really cold the propane furnace was going (usually use a catalytic heater that is super efficient supplemented by the electric AC), and that seemed to take a lot of propane (duh!)--I went to fill a 6 gallon tank every three days or so, but that didn't last and it was worth it (extra propane costs or fixing frozen pipes etc., I gladly paid out for propane).

No we are back to 40 degree temps and the furnace has yet to come on, so we are sitting well as far as that goes. Pleased and relieved we made it through the worst, so far!

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Old 12-14-2013, 11:06 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by beetlebob View Post
If you are staying put for several months in the Winter has anyone bought some of the partable garages that Hurbor Freight and the like sell and put it up over the AS???
They can collapse with 6" of wet snow, so if you use one you need to make sure to clean the snow off in time.
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Old 12-15-2013, 08:00 AM   #13
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Hi Gquake,
Hoping to never go there, but your on-the-fly fix sounds like a good hole card for a bad hand dealt. Looking forward to seeing the photos.
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Old 12-15-2013, 03:24 PM   #14
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Parked in driveway, hooked to electric and on propane furnace, temps here to 27 at nite. No frozen pipes . The water was cold... Left water heater on electric for heat there. No problems. Kept doors open on cabinets for god measure.

We live in city, still, somewhat breezy, not like the prairie.

If I had to tow in sub freezing I would drain system.

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