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Old 10-06-2017, 10:46 AM   #1
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1999 30' Excella 1000
Maryville , Tennessee
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Winter in a '99 Excella

Hello everyone!

I'm sort of a newbie-by-proxy here as my in-laws have purchased a '99 Excella 30' and neither they nor I have any experience with campers. I have towed quite a lot of trailers (though this one won't move much) and am generally very mechanically inclined.

I have a concrete pad with a roof (basically a pole barn) that has full time electricity and water available to the camper as well as close access to a septic field (within 15' of the camper). The camper isn't very well protected from the wind.

We're in East TN, so it doesn't get terribly cold here, but we can have several days below freezing in the winter and the worst I can remember in the last ten years or so was a string of several days in the 14F range.

They'd like to use the camper as sort of a tiny house when they visit (usually a weekend or two a month and a few weeks here and there) and we'll probably take it somewhere a couple of times a year in the summer.

My question is: Is it possible to use it during the winter without major risk of freezing something important? We plan to leave the heater on during the winter, at least at some minimal level.

I do notice that there are a fair amount of pex lines close to the exterior of the shell, especially around the city water input. Those worry me the most.

Would it be better in cold weather to use an insulated city water hose (with a heat wrap) or to use the freshwater tank?

How much of a concern is having the grey or black tanks freeze?

Any input/advice would be greatly appreciated. I'm a seasoned household DIYer, but I really have no experience with campers.

Thanks
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Old 10-06-2017, 10:53 AM   #2
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Hi

Freezing is a very real concern. There is no way to know what February will be like this year. If you can fiddle the schedule to take out January and February, I'd guess you will do pretty well.

Bob
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Old 10-06-2017, 10:58 AM   #3
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So it might be a better idea to just winterize it and give up a few months, eh?
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:00 AM   #4
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I have limited experience with temperatures much colder than freezing so most of this is just summarizing things I have read.

Our 2001 Safari 25 was quite comfortable in the Georgia mountains at around 30 degrees. One morning somewhere I did have my city water hose develop an ice plug. I was either taking my 25 to trade or coming back with the 30. It was in the 20s as I recall. Some sunlight and a little shaking broke it up. Common advice I have seen is to use the water tank, refilling as needed since it is alleged that the furnace blows warm air in the area of the tanks. Some have advised placing a small light bulb in the area of the tanks if it is reachable.

As for your plan to leave the heater on, if you are talking about the furnace, you will have to refill the propane tanks fairly often or hook up to a larger tank if you have one. My Safari AC unit had heat strips in it but they are not thermostatically controlled. When you put the switch in HEAT, it heats all the time.

For comfort you may need some form of additional heat such as a small electric heater.

Al
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:09 AM   #5
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This is going to show my ignorance... Is the only heat source via gas? I had guessed that there was some equivalent of electric aux heat available when connected to external power, but I haven't had time to investigate.
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Old 10-06-2017, 11:21 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by disneyd View Post
This is going to show my ignorance... Is the only heat source via gas? I had guessed that there was some equivalent of electric aux heat available when connected to external power, but I haven't had time to investigate.
There may be a heat pump on your AC. Look for a "heat" setting. This will "take the chill off" but is not designed as a primary heat source. No reason you can't use portable electric heat. You could also get a 100# propane tank or 2 and hook your propane lines up to them to avoid frequent refilling. Keep in mind an Airstream is a 3 season trailer and may get condensation on the windows and walls with temps in the 20s or lower for an extended period. A dehumidifier would help if this is a problem.








Your safest bet is to winterize and use bottled water and the facilities inside your house. It sounds a little nasty but you could also use a trash bag in the toilet bowl.
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Old 10-07-2017, 06:54 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by disneyd View Post
This is going to show my ignorance... Is the only heat source via gas? I had guessed that there was some equivalent of electric aux heat available when connected to external power, but I haven't had time to investigate.
Hi

If you have a heat pump, it will only work down to the low 40's high 30's. That isn't going to be ideal on winter nights. It's designed as a 3 season trailer. They really did not put the "stuff" in it to work in the winter.

I would winterize after Christmas and un-do the process towards the end of February. Keep it heated for the random overnight cold snaps that happen outside that range.

Bob
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Old 10-08-2017, 01:20 AM   #8
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Interesting.... I had a 73 30 AS back in ILL at the AirBase... and it really got cold and windy...

The trailer did just fine... but a few things I learned.... from the adventure...

Indeed heat tape wrap the input water line... and instead of using a plastic or rubber hose.. I would consider using 1/2 in copper tubing... to the hose fitting on the trailer... (we had more problems with the hose bib than the tubing to trailer...) In which case we had to have a small water bleed to keep the park supply plumbing from freezing (-18 deg with wind chill made it almost -30)

The PEX tubing is good to go in cold weather.. and can take freezing temps... if exposed to it... without rupture... but, with the water input heated... you will find that the warm water in the copper tubing heated by the heat tape and wrapped... will be almost enough to keep the rest from freezing...

The second issue is the water heater... here if you have a electric element in it... you are good to go... as it will maintain the temp within the tank to keep it from freezing too... Otherwise.. set it on low and leave it to keep it from having problems... of course your going to have to provide propane... but its cheaper than a new water heater... but, also be sure the water system is pressurized... so as not to get a bubble in the heater and un-even ness...

The third thing I will say is keep a small elect space heater in the trailer going down by the floor... so it can blow the length of the trailer... Actually you can run two of them at the same time.. and I found that with two of them... the gas furnace hardly ever came on... One will keep things other than water lines from having probems... so to speak

elect blankets for the eco people... to sleep...

I would also get a 100 lb pig or 50 gal propane tank set by the propane supplier... and hook it up to the trailers system by going through one of the input hoses from a tank... mounted on the trailer... in that way you can be more assured that you won't run out of propane as often... and not have to haul tanks back and forth... the propane company will come out and service it when you call 'em... and its cheaper too...

Make sure you have a good source of electrical power... that doesn't fail... etc...

As to the sewer line... you can wrap that with the insulating and tape... or just replace it with normal black sewer line... while you have it in under the shead... a small flex hose from the black sewer line to the inlet /outlets... will work...

As to the holding tanks... keep 'em empty.. and not worry about freezing... same with the fresh water tank... if it does freeze.. nothing inside to expand and do damage... etc... they are pretty tough tanks... and with the top side of the trailers floor prevented from freezing... should not... ... keep the gates closed.. and drain during the heat of the day.. kinda thing...

One other thing... AS trailers are made out of ALU... which has a healthy expansion and contraction rate... to which you want to put at lease a 2/6 block of wood under the stab jacks... AND the hitch jack post to ground... That way when it gets cold.. the outside will contract and actually shrink the top side of the trailer... (do not go out and re adjust the bal jacks... which will appear loose... when the trailer heats back up you can put too much pressure on the frame.. and dimple the skin of the trailer... all while the inside... stays warm... and will pillow a little bit... and a few pop rivets may come off.. but easy to put back when the wx normalizes... most have enough play to stay put...

Changing the window screens to plastic storm windows... is good because the old trailers only had single pane windows... and you could feel the cold coming off of them.. some actually had ice on the inside... Don't take showers at night before bed... as this puts a whole lot of moisture into the trailer... Take them when things warm up... if possible...

... and finally.. put a spray of silicone around the main door seal... so as to keep it from freezing... also leave a little vent open so as to get rid of the moisture that we all exhale inside...
.... add a CO detector alarm... just in case... and don't use the stove or oven to try and heat the trailer... bad JU JU...

that is about all the major things that I can think of... otherwise the trailer is a great temp house... just a little cold in the morning.. but hey that is what hot coffee is for... made on the stove... (grin)

Have fun... the adventure contenues...
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Old 10-08-2017, 06:44 AM   #9
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I also live in East Tennessee. It certainly gets cold enough to freeze an Airstream. The trailers in that era were designed to work in fairly cold weather. The furnace heat ducts also circulate around many of the water lines and runs across the top of the tanks. So if you can keep the furnace on through out the cold weather you should be okay I would drain the water hose and just use the tank in cold weather. Be better not to have city water flowing if it does break a line. The danger of using a supplemental electric heater is that it will keep the furnace from coming on when it is needed. So I would go with just the furnace.

You can partially winterize or fully winterize during the coldest months. I put antifreeze in mine. But people have reported success with just blowing out the water lines with an air hose. You can get a fitting that screws onto the water inlet and use a compressor set on about 40 psi.
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Old 10-08-2017, 08:21 AM   #10
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.

I would also get a 100 lb pig or 50 gal propane tank set by the propane supplier... and hook it up to the trailers system by going through one of the input hoses from a tank... mounted on the trailer... in that way you can be more assured that you won't run out of propane as often... and not have to haul tanks back and forth... the propane company will come out and service it when you call 'em... and its cheaper too...

the old trailers only had single pane windows... and you could feel the cold coming off of them.. some actually had ice on the inside...
.
In my neck of the woods you would have to buy 100# tanks and the smallest tanks propane company would come out to your site and fill is 250#.

I know early 70s Airstreams were double pane. Didn't work out too well so they switched to single pane. You can cut down on condensation with a dehumidifier.
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Old 10-10-2017, 05:37 AM   #11
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Thanks for all the great info everyone!
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Old 10-10-2017, 11:07 PM   #12
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It can be done. Great advise above. Some folks place square hay bales around bottom... and it works to keeep heat underneath.. obviously a benefit... only problem is potential nesting area for mice....

We got a fresh water hose, taped heat tape along hose length every foot or so. Get some AC line split insulation and wrap around hose. Tape like before. Keep plugged in.

Also, packed the water drawer with insulation. Ensure there is no hose left exposed. You can cover the water pipe/bib same as you do your other home stuff.

We flushed and left tanks open. If you decided to drip water, the tank will fill. There are solutions to this too.

Ideally, drain water or pump in RV non poisonous antifreeze. Pour same into all drains... enough to get to the waste tank. Any untreated water will freeze.. don't forget the shower drain! Leave some antifreeze in the toilet...after operating to treat the flush valve.

The other option is to blow all the lines, drain WH and waste tanks.. mix up a batch of the antifreeze and get into the drained waste tanks. (You do not want a waste valve to freeze....) of course the hay bales will help protect.

We had a week of freezing weather last year.. prepped the water hose, insulated the water closet.. kept the PROPANE heater running... all cabinet and closet doors open. No problem.
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Old 10-10-2017, 11:43 PM   #13
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The main issue is ... hard freezing... and how long in time you expose to under 30 deg weather... Most of the time.. if it drops to freezing... only for a couple of hours.. you need not worry... but anything over 5 hours below 30 deg...you need to take action or get set up to keep things from freezing...

.... and while it seems like its a lot of work... it gives a whole new meaning to the word... camping...
Some people actually like it in the snow and freezing temps... because they get the whole place almost to themselves... and makes it a seasonal kinda thing...

.... I am kinda conserned about the new AS... and that they are calling them a 3 season camper.. now... I guess they just are not building the way they used too... and what fun is it when you have to worry about the coach having damage... when you got the thing to go out into the elements... go figure...

I have several friends that changed from AS to BOX trailers... and they seem to think that they are better equipped to take on the 4 seasons... It would not be good if AS is not as good... as the box ones that have new technology built into them to keep the occupants inside enviromentally safe...
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Old 10-11-2017, 02:39 PM   #14
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Some folks place square hay bales around bottom... and it works to keeep heat underneath.. obviously a benefit... only problem is potential nesting area for mice....
Use straw bales instead of hay. Straw does not have grain heads and will attract less visitors. Also a lot cheaper, but might be a bit harder to find.
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