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Old 01-05-2006, 09:10 PM   #1
1 Rivet Member
1975 31' Sovereign
santa fe , New Mexico
Join Date: Nov 2005
Posts: 5
Exclamation full-time winter living problems, questions by college girl (freezing temps, furnace)

Hi everyone, I could certainly use some advice on full-time winter airstreaming! I started living in a mint 1975 31' Sovereign last August which I'll be doing at least until I finish college (a creative way to save money, one might say), and although summer and fall were lovely I've been having a lot of trouble this winter.
I live in santa fe which gets very cold! I go to school during the day and can't hang out to take care of the 'stream, so I have come home a few times to find that my water froze because the furnace went out. I try to keep an electric oil heater on full-blast too but by itself the water still freezes. Fortunately I am hooked up to city water (& the hose has heat tape) so I haven't had to worry about the tanks freezing.
---So my questions are:
A.) My furnace goes out a lot, & seems to do so whenever it shuts down to just the pilot light. The book says that happens because I need to adjust the thermocouple... What does that thing look like?! Has anyone had this problem before? I am using way too much propane and for a college kid that means less food.

B.) If I have heat tape around my hose outside so the incoming water isn't frozen, where is the water freezing? I can't seem to find a map anywhere for the water pipes. I called an RV place and the lady suggested I wrap heat tape around the pipes that are freezing, but I can't find the pipes...

C.) Someone suggested I invest in some hay or put a trailer skirt around the outside. Will that make enough of a difference to keep the water freezing when the temperature drops? (Please keep in mind too that I am on a budget but if such an investment would drop my heating bills I'd be into it.)

Things I think I did right:
A) I bought some silver bubble-wrap-like insulation & taped it on my windows inside to cut drafts.
B) I have an extra electric heater that I run constantly.
C) I wear wool sweaters to bed!

Things I think I should do but can't:
A) I'd like to run the furnace just enough to keep pipes from freezing and then rely on electric heat, but if I keep the furnace on low it seems to not come on enough b/c of the interior electric heat messing w/ the thermostat. When it doesn't come on the pilot light goes out (see above).

Thanks to anyone who had the heart to read through all this and help me out! I'm about to head back for another semester (yes, I did winterize the airstream before leaving it) and have about 3 more months of freezing temps.

longing for spring

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Old 01-05-2006, 09:55 PM   #2
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hello icedcacti and welcome to the forums......

the short answer is get a large lp gas tank delivered to your spot and use the central furnace as the primary heat source....with the little electric just for the cold spot (say bedroom at night or front lounge area in daytime). this will protect the tanks and all the inside plumbing. yes you'll use lp but rent a big tank and have someone fill it regularly at the trailer site.

the trailer is really designed to say warm best and avoid freeze issues by using the central heat. also virtually every electric space heater is designed for intermittent use and you really do risk fire hazards by keeping it on constantly....you should reconsider this.....really.

airstreams aren't thick walled or really well insulated so it takes some heat ($$$) to keep them from freezing....your tanks aren't freezing because they are basically inside the trailer. it really has nothing to do with the city water line.....which connects to one of the few pipes in the trailer that ISN'T kept warm...

fill water tank as needed and use it instead of keeping a hose connected.... yes you can heat tape the hose but the connecting pipe just inside the trailer wall isn't warmed so it can freeze. also, you'll still have trouble with the gray and black water lines...so just keep all the lines dis connected until filling or dumping is required. filling the water tank should only take 15-30 minutes every few days....

your foil insulation would be better just under the glass inserted from the outside. the window frames need warmth from inside.

open all the cabinet doors when it's really cold this will better circulate the room heat.

there are lots of threads here on winter living with lots of great winter tips.....people don't wanna type them again........so......stfa noob!

here is a very revealing thread on the winter hardship saga.....


of a family in the ozarks....funny and sad....like all good dramas.


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Old 01-06-2006, 01:37 PM   #3
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1973 31' Sovereign
Portland , Oregon
Join Date: May 2004
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I like the idea of getting a larger propane supply and relying only on the propane heater. It sounds like the heater needs some (hopefully) minor adjustment. Does anyone know if this sort of adjustment can be done by the propane supplier? I know that for house gas appliances that the gas company will check things out for free. I am assuming that it is not convenient to move the trailer some where for heater service? Maybe it would be a good idea to check around in your area for an RV service person that makes house calls and ask what they would charge to service your heater.

I have a 1973 31' unit that is now undergoing restoration. I found that virtually all of my water lines from the supply to the holding tank were above the floor except where they actually connected into the tank and the pump area. There is an area under the floor and around the fresh water holding tank in my unit that these pipes run in. There was also a small connection from my gas heater to the under floor area to help keep this area from freezing. If you are not running the gas heater enough then this area could very well be the area that is freezing.

I hope this helps,

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Old 01-06-2006, 03:50 PM   #4
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2005 22' International CCD
Buckhorn , Ontario
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brrrrr not sure how much snow you have?

But you instead of hay bales - you could build a 2x2 spruce frame and staple 6mil plastic sort of a ridgid skirt around the trailer - then either stick a light bulb or two - or even one of those little "Buddy" Heaters from Camping World - they are safetied and have an auto shut off - you can buy the adapter and run them off a big tank rather than the little tanks.

We are using one for my brother - he has a little shelter just out side his door for the winter - keeps his boots warm and a hmmmm warm smoking area - better there than in my Bunkie!

does the trick in keeping things warm. If too much just make a frame for the back part of your trailer where the water comes in a keep it warm with a light bulb.

good Luck
Everything will be alright in the end. If it is not alright now, then it is not the end.
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Old 01-07-2006, 08:57 AM   #5
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1994 30' Excella
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Milwaukee , Wisconsin
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I agree with switching to your water tank and shutting off the outside water. Next get someone to change your thermocouple its a simple fix and a good friend who's handy can do the job. The larger tank will help your propane situation buying in bulk should lower your cost a little and you can set up a schedule with the supplier. The hay bales are not the worse idea and could be a cheap fix for you. Possibly you could borrow some until spring.
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1994 30' Excella 1000, Chummy III- Ford Excursion- 7.3 Turbo-diesel
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Old 01-07-2006, 10:13 AM   #6
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1972 31' Sovereign
High Springs , Florida
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Are you using the water heater on propane? Some of the residual heat from the hot water system can help in keeping pipes from freezing. Just having the pilot going can keep the water in the tank warm.I had problems with my pilot going out a few winters ago, as well as this winter. I have the original furnace in mine. Upgrading the furnace, (I know, you don't want to here that!) to a pizo ignition system would help. Not sure what causes the pilot to go out, but I suspect it is the wind. Make sure you have a CO detector. I had high CO levels in mine, due to some missing screws (3!) on the outside furnace vent. After all 4 screw were in, CO dropped to zero.
2003 GMC 2500HD 4X4 D/A Ext. Cab
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Old 01-07-2006, 11:23 AM   #7
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2003 25' Safari
Eden Prairie , Minnesota
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You need to find someone who can check out your furnace for you... perhaps someone on the forums might look at it?

I assume that the motivation to use as much electric heat as possible is that electricity is "free" for you (embedded in your parking space rent), correct? If so, then a couple of good electric heaters will save you a lot on the heat bill. But without the furnace running the warmed air does not circulate the through the vents, or to the water and waste tanks. Perhaps when it is very cold you could leave the furnace fan running?

Putting some kind of skirting around the trailer will help, perhaps with a small "ceramic" or "oil-filled" electric heater - all mentioned earlier.

How cold does it get there?
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Old 01-07-2006, 11:48 AM   #8
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2006 25' Safari FB SE
St. Cloud , Minnesota
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Space heaters deny the opportunity for the furnace to turn on. Furnace air is ducted to the spaces around your fresh, black & grey water tanks. This helps keep things "unthawed" (in Minnesota-speak). Space heaters may aggravate the tendency to freeze up!

Most of the water pipes are bracketed to the floor -- the coldest part of the trailer to begin with. This is compounded if no air is being circulated. An additional caution would be if your shower valve is on an outside wall; this valve is quite vulnerable to freeze damage. Get your furnace running properly, rely on it, and at the coldest times open the lower cabinet doors to let more air circulate to these areas.

If your Sovereign has copper pipe, a freeze-up could put you into an unusable situation unless the entire plumbing is replaced. Be careful out there!

... and you are getting the benefit of several years of mild winters!

5 meter Langford Nahanni

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Old 01-09-2006, 02:14 AM   #9
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The next best things--

1. Pray for global warming...

2. Move further south...

3. Take heart, I'm trying to get mine able to withstand the winters up here in AK eventually...

BTW, what year of college are you in? This may determine how much you'd want to spend based upon your number of years that you'll be forced to face this situation...
"Few things are impossible to diligence and skill" -Samuel Johnson
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Old 01-22-2006, 11:45 AM   #10
1977 31' Sovereign
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Kalispell , Montana
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Hi from Montana, I live in a 1977 31' rear bath Airstream Land Yacht that I bought from a lady in Duluth MN In April of 05, and pulled it to Kalispell MT in June of 05. I do missions work for a christian group known as YWAM ( Youth With a Mission) here in Kalispell & on the Flathead Indian Reservation. I live at a RV Park in Kalispell MT, I have trailers on both sides of my site one is a new 06 Coachman and the other is a 04 Jayco that have had there tanks and traps frozen up, the Coachman also had a main water line break inside. We had a very cold streach here for awhile the coldest was -20, I have had no troubles with my Aistream at all. Befor I bought My Airstream I did many HRS of research on what to buy. I chose to buy Airstream because of there qaulity in workmanship and there resell value far excedes any other travel trailer on the market. I am very Proud of my vintage Airstream it was very well taken care of, and also have had many comments on how nice it looks for its age. Have safe trips and happy roads to you all this summer and if you are planing a trip to Montana and you get up to Kalispell look me up I am staying at Rocky Mountain Hi RV Park its a nice park to stay at. Keep polishing those vintage Airstreams and GOD BLESS..
1977 31' landyacht Sovereign
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Old 01-22-2006, 11:48 AM   #11
1977 31' Sovereign
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Kalispell , Montana
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Yes I have the water line heat taped and insulated also took 1" styrofoam and skirted the trailer. I leave the grey tank valve open and the black closed,I also have a small electric heater under the table that helps to keep the chill out in the living room. I have not had any problems with humidity, the trailer I bought has Heated tanks and also dual pane windows. I'm Up in the northwest corner of MT westside of Glacier National Park.
1977 31' landyaght Sovereign
1977 31' landyacht Sovereign
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Old 01-22-2006, 11:50 AM   #12
1977 31' Sovereign
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Kalispell , Montana
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Posts: 276
The airstream that I bought came with a winter package, it has forced air to all three tanks fresh grey & black, all water lines from the back to the gally run next to the heat ducts, when you turn on the cold water at the gally sink it is hot enough to pull your hand away, I also have had no moisture problems at all. Be safe and have fun this summer GOD BLESS..
1977 31' landyacht Sovereign
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Old 01-22-2006, 11:52 AM   #13
1977 31' Sovereign
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Kalispell , Montana
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Posts: 276
Yes I have the water line heat taped and insulated also took 1" styrofoam and skirted the trailer. I leave the grey tank valve open and the black closed,I also have a small electric heater under the table that helps to keep the chill out in the living room. I have not had any problems with humidity, the trailer I bought has Heated tanks and also dual pane windows. I'm Up in the northwest corner of MT westside of Glacier National Park.
1977 31' landyacht Sovereign
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Old 01-22-2006, 12:45 PM   #14
1977 31' Sovereign
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Kalispell , Montana
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Posts: 276
If your water line is freezing up it is more than likely where your hose hooks to your fresh water connection on your trailer. If you look at that connection you will see that your water pipe on the trailer has a 90 degree elbow that gose up into the trailer so from the hose coupler to where it gose into the trailer is more than likely the spot were it is freezing. The way to thaw this spot out is to get a small propane torch remove your water service hose from coupler and heat at the 90 degree elbow this will thaw out that short section of exposed pipe, but be carefull not to get it to hot that you melt your hose gasket inside of the coupler, but if you do, you can buy them for a $1.50 for a dozzen at the local hardware store. Another thing that you can do is leave your water run at a slow pace,this way your water line will not freeze because of the constant moveing water. But make sure that your sewer hose dose not have any big dips in it from trailer to to sewer hook up, other wise the low spot will hold water and then you will freeze your sewer hose up. I let my water trickle when the temps drop to ten degrees and lower for the same reason I explained about. You can also tape styrofoam around the section of open pipe back to where your heat tape ends on you water hose this will also help tremendusly. Also skirt your trailer with 1" thick styrofoam it will take about four and a half 4 by 8 sheets of styrofoam. By doing this it will help to keep your floor much warmer and you will use less propane. At each seem of styro on your skiting use duct tape to hol it together messure 8' leangth's messure from bottom of trailer to the ground cut styro leangth wise to your messure ments and just wege the piece between trailr and ground dose not half to be super tight fit just so it is snug enough to help hold the piece in place. do this all the way around your trailer and you will notice the diffeance in comfort and also $$$$$$ savings in propane I have done all this and have delt with -20 temps with no problems..

1977 31' landyacht Sovereign
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