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Old 04-25-2007, 10:24 AM   #1
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Tank Heaters -vs- Antifreeze

My 2006 Safari includes tank heaters that keep the gray and blackwater tanks from freezing. But they consume a lot of electricity, so I'd like to avoid using them if I can.

Would my tanks be just as safe if I dumped some antifreeze and water in them when I first set up camp? Or are there good reasons to avoid the use of antifreeze in this situation?

Thanks for your comments!
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Old 04-25-2007, 11:18 AM   #2
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Titus? Are the heaters 110 volt? I'd doubt they'd be 12v due to shortcomings of the umbilical charge line. I would think your bigger freezing issue would occur while underway. Winterizing doesn't require putting antifreeze in any of the tanks -- only that they be drained/dumped; the small residual can freeze without damaging the tank. For your region and mountain travel, the coldest conditions would occur at night. I'd hardly even worry about it as long as the temperatures weren't less than 20 degrees -- and better yet if there is more waste water in the tank.

RV antifreeze is an FDA purity propylene or ethylene glycol and shouldn't be dumped on the ground or into dump station tanks. It's supposed to be recycled. A few quarts of cheapo rotgut vodka couldn't hurt but I probably wouldn't do that to the digestion in my black tank...
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Old 04-25-2007, 11:54 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TitusLivy
My 2006 Safari includes tank heaters that keep the gray and blackwater tanks from freezing. But they consume a lot of electricity...
hi tituslivy...

unless your unit was modified aftermarket or really really a special order...

there are no electric tanks heaters.

rather ducted air vents from the main furnace that go near the tanks, water pump and some plumbing.

when the main furnace is running, some heated air is directed for this usage, that's how a/s does it.

there are many threads here on winterizing and line care including the use of rv anti freeze.

Quote:
Originally Posted by CanoeStream
RV antifreeze is an FDA purity propylene or ethylene glycol....
rv 'glycol' is proplyene and NEVER ethylene....

propylene glycol is used in foods and cosmetics and meds and can be consumed in small quanities (as in a poorly rinsed freshwater tank)

ethylene glycol IS A POISON in even small amts and should never be consumed or used in an application where ingestion is remotely possible...

many dogs are killed by licking up some sweet e/g....
so too many human kidneys distroyed by ingestion of 'ethyl'...


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Old 04-25-2007, 12:30 PM   #4
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2air' -- Thanks for the propylene clarification. I've had a friend looking at 20' Safaris in the last year. Tank heaters were a mystery when he asked about them but he showed me the Airstream brochure. Of course nothing is on the Airstream website whether in the specifications or options areas. I think they have been offered on some recent models. I'm not sure if it's UltraHeat but they look about the same. I know the availability as an option has come up in at least one thread but I'm not finding it on a focused search using brand or specific topic words -- a more general search gives a huge number of false hits... I would believe some member (Titus?) or a dealer-member could tell us more.

[on edit: The UltraHeat site does discuss 12V. Most tow vehicles can provide minimum amperage through the umbilical (eg, taking 200-300 miles to recharge a battery). I'd want some answers about how effective this might be when underway -- and I've got an HD alternator with the snowplow package on my truck.]
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Old 04-25-2007, 12:50 PM   #5
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yep canoestream...

i considered 12 volt tank heaters,

even as a retrofit...

and don't like to run the furnace will rolling on the road...

so it's nice to read a/s has a toe in this water now...


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Old 04-25-2007, 01:04 PM   #6
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Probably clueless in Tempe

We were delighted when our 74 Argosy "took care of itself" during the coldest two day period in the last 16 years - 16 degrees for 3 hours in our back yard. Folks around us had their domestic piping rupture. We left the furnace on its lowest setting and it never got below 40 degrees in the vicinity of the vitals. I'm not sure how much propane it consumed but it wasn't significant.
BTW... the cautions about ethelyne glycol are excellent advice. Be VERY careful with it. Very small amounts can cause permanent and irreversable kidney damage.
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Old 04-25-2007, 03:13 PM   #7
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Thanks for your comments!

Yes, the tank heaters were already installed when we bought the trailer from our dealer. Since we have almost no options beyond the LS Package, they're either included with it or they're now a standard feature. There are separate switches for each tank (gray & black), and they're located above the bathroom sink. When shorepower is disconnected, they run off the batteries. They're manufactured by UltraHeat, but I'll have to consult the owner's manual (which isn't handy right now) for more info. I do remember that if the switches are on, then the heaters begin to operate when the temperature in the tank reaches 41-degrees, and they turn off when the temp rises to 64.

I'd rather not use these heaters, because they place yet another load on the batteries, but since I'm a newbie, I'm afraid not to use them.

Tell me, what do you do when you're camping and a sudden snowstorm hits (as it did with us at the Grand Canyon recently)? Do you take special precautions to make sure your tanks don't freeze?
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Old 04-25-2007, 03:37 PM   #8
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The 22' CCD has 12 VDC tank heaters for the potable water and the grey/black tanks. The two heater switches are on the wet bath bulkhead above the desk. I don't know which would draw down the battery most while Boondocking, the tank heaters or the forced air furnace fan.
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Old 04-25-2007, 06:09 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by rseagle
I don't know which would draw down the battery most while Boondocking, the tank heaters or the forced air furnace fan.
Definitely the tank heaters. Resistance heaters draw a lot of amp-hours right now! It doesn't make much sense to run them on 12V to me. Let us know the current draw when you get to your manual. The UltraHeat website might say more if I had the time.

I don't want to draw my lead-acid batteries much below 50% and I've never had a problem running my furnace while boondocking overnight.
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Old 04-25-2007, 06:15 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TitusLivy
Tell me, what do you do when you're camping and a sudden snowstorm hits (as it did with us at the Grand Canyon recently)? Do you take special precautions to make sure your tanks don't freeze?
well the 12v tank warmers is a neat new feature!

the tanks however are the last thing i worry about freezing, given the volume and room for expansion.

a greater concern is the actual water lines and fixtures and valves and external connections..

for fresh water, sewer and wash water.

-so in freezing weather while camping use the central furnace.
-disconnect outside ports and store the hoses
-keep the fresh tank near full
-add rv antifreeze or salt or other reasonable things to the waste holding tanks IF needed
-don't rely on a space heater or the heat pump. neither will warm the structure or pipes much
-watch the coach batteries, since their potential declines when cold. this is less significant for the agm batteries.

build a snowman and enjoy cold weather camping!

for long term storage see the many WINTERIZING threads...

cheers
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Old 04-25-2007, 07:59 PM   #11
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I remember an urgent thread from a coastal Californian who went up to about 7-8000' in the Rockies in October '05. He found a computer connection but could do nothing about the fact that it was going to dive down to about 10 degrees that night. Shoulder season at altitude can be risking it. Full LP cylinders and an electric hookup will go a long way toward easing your worries. As is being said, you could freeze up solid if anything except the Airstream's forced air furnace is operating. I've used something close to half a 30# tank in one night in the low teens.

It doesn't hurt to bring a couple gallons of RV antifreeze along. Then find a computer connection to AirForums and a garage with an air compressor... or as 2air' sez, study john hd's thread and winterize on the spot. You'll want to insert a winterizing valve on the fresh water tank side of your water pump before you leave home -- simple job for a slow afternoon. Or, same as for mountain sickness, descend, descend, descend and find warmer air.
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Old 04-26-2007, 08:57 AM   #12
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I got a PM back from our member at the Airstream of Arkansas dealership:
Quote:
Originally Posted by gmorris
The 12 Volt tank heaters are standard on the 20' and 23' Safari's only...they are not an option on anything else...the rest of the line up has forced air tank heaters.
At least they would work through the Parallax converter when plugged in to shore power!
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Old 04-26-2007, 09:36 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CanoeStream
I got a PM back from our member at the Airstream of Arkansas dealership:At least they would work through the Parallax converter when plugged in to shore power!
This is on the new 2007 units...the older 22'CCD also had tank heaters.

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Old 04-26-2007, 10:13 AM   #14
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We have a 2002 22' CCD.... first year for the CCD line.... no tank heaters at all. Seems they were added in subsequent years, but I'm not sure in which year they were first added.
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