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Old 09-03-2008, 01:08 PM   #1
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1993 25' Excella
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Winter Living off grid in Vermont with woodstove

Hi everyone,
These forums have been a great resource for us as we prepare to live in our 25' Excella year round in northern Vermont. Now I turn to you for any advice you may have that is specific to our situation. My girlfriend and I are full-time students at a very small college, and we think we're ready to make the lifestyle changes necessary to live off the grid with a smallish PV array and a woodstove (the Sardine from Navigator Stoveworks) for heat.

Our woodstove will provide heat when we are in the trailer and the propane furnace will serve as a backup for especially cold spells. We will not be using the plumbing in the trailer so we think it is not a huge issue if the trailer freezes while we are away during the day.

I anticipate many concerns from the seasoned veterans of airstream living and I thank you in advance for any advice you have for us. Keep in mind that we know many will think we are crazy people, but we have done extensive research and have been encouraged by experienced people in the area. We are committed to making this happen and excited about what we will learn in the process.

Our pressing issue right now is installing the chimney for the woodstove, so that when the woodstove arrives we can get it up and running right away. We have a pipe boot from www.pipebootexpress.com to weatherproof the seal and we plan on using Pro-Seal 34 clear caulk, both on recommendation by the stovemaker.

How do you suggest we go about cutting the 4-inch hole in the roof, while making sure we don't hit any electrical wiring or other important components? And is there any way for us to know where the studs are before we start cutting?
I'd be happy to answer any questions anyone has.

Thanks for any help,
Chester and Sarah
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Old 09-03-2008, 01:59 PM   #2
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welcome to the forums cmell...

you kids keep warm!

not using the plumbing will reduce the the frozen pipe issue.

still, consider using rv antifreeze in the tanks and water lines and traps and drains.

there are several threads with great pics of wood stove or pellet stove installs.

since u r students, i'll let ya find them.

no studs in the 'stream (other than chester) but there are ribs...

the ribs encircle the stream, well like ribs.

vertical rows of rivets run along the rib lines.

most of the wiring is along the top/center, but there are exceptions.

once a chimney location is selected, use snips and just remove the inner skin.

grope around in the pink insulation and trim out a wad, no wires, go for it!.

best of luck with winter and please post some pictures...

blue lips, goosebumps and other warm views!

cheers
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:53 PM   #3
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Wow! Winter in Vermont in an Airstream. Exciting. I've installed a number of stoves over the years (never in an Airstream) and can only share my opinions and observations with you. These are mostly cautionary. I always use triple wall insulated stack pipe from somewhere above the stove thru the roof and up to the pipe cap. A few times I've used double-wall, but these stoves can get pretty hot, especially with a low ceiling penetration point. I love the boot product, and suggest using the silicone- again because of the heat concerns. It's good over 450 degrees F- but the outside of the flue pipe should NEVER get that hot. As far as your concerns about rib spacing, do a search here and you may find a number of pictures posted that show interiors under rehab - hopefully you'll get a good view of an area your considering going thru.

Follow the stove installation directions in regards to non-combustible materials (spacing and covering requirements/codes) to the letter. I'm sure you already have a smoke detector, but also it's smart to install a CO detector. A fire extinguisher is a must-have in any unit whether you have a fireplace or not.

You should be fine - plenty warm, especially if you're going to drain and prep the plumbing.

Best of luck and enjoy - post interior and exterior pictures as the winter progresses - is it snowing yet so we can all celebrate your conquering the elements!
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Old 09-03-2008, 02:55 PM   #4
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first install the proper safety devices such as smoke and CO alarms and fire extinguishers. (can extinguishers freeze?) second, verify that your emergency escape works and have a back-up exit available such as brick-through-window. safety first!
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Old 09-03-2008, 03:05 PM   #5
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I would go thru one of the windows, remove one put in some sheet metal.

Then you can remove it in the spring.
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Old 09-03-2008, 03:22 PM   #6
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To be young again. Do I understand you will not have an electrical hookup. Gets dark alot up there in the winter. Rivet lines tell you where the ribs are located in the trailer walls. The trick will be cutting a round hole in a bent surface. The flatter the area the better. I like the window swap idea as it gives you the spring time option. If you remove the window find out what the trick is for your particular year. Cann't imagine needing an additional source of heat with a woodstove going in a trailer. You are likly to end up with a sweat lodge and have to sit around with little clothing on.
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Old 09-03-2008, 03:38 PM   #7
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I've had over 30 years experience with wood burning heaters, boilers and stoves, when I lived up in the snow belt in northeastern Ohio. Dad panicked and put in a wood burning boiler when home heating oil went up over 19 cents a gallon! The first thing I did in our house when we first got married was put in a small wood burning stove in our house. It more than paid for itself.

That being said, from my experience, I would recommend NOT putting a wood burning stove or heater in an Airstream. Many reasons, space required for installation among the first. Clearance from other objects in the trailer. (3' is recommended) My biggest concern is regulating the heat output. I would think that in such a small space you would blast yourself out of there with too much heat. It was not uncommon for us to have the living room at 95*F during the winter, when it was not extremely cold. I can just imagine how hot it could get in a 25' coach. Think this thing out a little more before making cuts in your Airstream. Yeah, I know propane is getting expensive these days.
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Old 09-03-2008, 04:16 PM   #8
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Hello and I might add be carefull with the chimney. 90 deegree turns are sometimes a problem. Around here there were a rash of garage fires and that was determined to be the factor. State Farm said, they would cancel my policy if I went thru the wall in either my trailer, Garage or house. FYI.
Make sure you have proper clearances, and there is a rule for chimney heights for Ideal draft. Also consider, When you do the chimney exterior plan on a joint close to the roof,(within 6 inches or so) the reason? If you decide to travel/ move the unit you dont have alot to dismantel, and you can cap it. Good luck.
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Old 09-03-2008, 05:39 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pick View Post
I've had over 30 years experience with wood burning heaters, boilers and stoves, when I lived up in the snow belt in northeastern Ohio. Dad panicked and put in a wood burning boiler when home heating oil went up over 19 cents a gallon! The first thing I did in our house when we first got married was put in a small wood burning stove in our house. It more than paid for itself.

That being said, from my experience, I would recommend NOT putting a wood burning stove or heater in an Airstream. Many reasons, space required for installation among the first. Clearance from other objects in the trailer. (3' is recommended) My biggest concern is regulating the heat output. I would think that in such a small space you would blast yourself out of there with too much heat. It was not uncommon for us to have the living room at 95*F during the winter, when it was not extremely cold. I can just imagine how hot it could get in a 25' coach. Think this thing out a little more before making cuts in your Airstream. Yeah, I know propane is getting expensive these days.


These stoves are made for even smalle spaces than Airstreams. Take a look at www.marinestove.com
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Old 09-03-2008, 06:31 PM   #10
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You have already received a lot of sound "sage" advice about wood stoves from many knowledgeable Airforums members.

I would suggest that before you commit to spending a winter up north with out dependable power, water, and indoor plumbing, try living that life style now...during the summer/fall months.

There is one special consideration that weighs heavily on my mind. Wood stoves need oxygen to burn. If your trailer is tight, and you do not have an outside source of 02 directly to the wood stove, you will be burning the oxygen inside the trailer to fuel the fire.

In a confined space during a long cold night the 02 level in the Airstream could be depleted to the point of extreme danger to you and your girlfriend.

Please ask several wood burning stove manufacturer engineers if placing a stove in an Airstream is practical.
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Old 09-03-2008, 06:32 PM   #11
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craftsman, looked at that website. Those little stoves are pretty neat! Dang, you would have to cut your firewood in tiny pieces to fit in them.
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Old 09-03-2008, 06:57 PM   #12
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Wow - that's all balls, I like it. KeithC brings up a valid concern re: the oxygen depletion and a great suggestion as far as trying it out. That said when you go out the door to use the restroom in the middle of the night you will get a large amount of fresh air and AS trailers are not so tightly sealed. Other preparations like skirting, insulated window coverings, etc. . . will be hugely helpful.
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Old 09-03-2008, 07:29 PM   #13
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OK...yer gonna haul water, store it where?,go out to the pit when necessary, can you just dig a hole or are there codes to worry about, Lights, batterys,emergency supplies,food,someone be there all day to tend the stove, no..everything freezes. Start now, see how it goes or save the Airstream and build a log cabin.

Just my 2sense
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:17 PM   #14
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Wow....Going Green

Great to read your post. You are both braver souls than I. I wish you great success this year.

As the newsletter editor for the New England Unit (of WBCCI), I would love to hear from you over the winter. Let us know how you are making out with being "off the grid".

I just started a new column in our newsletter, "green airstream", which I hope to continue in each edition with ideas and tips on being "green" as Airstreamers. Please send along any ideas you might like to share with our members.

Good luck.
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Old 09-03-2008, 08:40 PM   #15
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I would consider heat tape for the water lines. I kinda like the grizzly adams life style. I hunted with 2 batteried for 7 days during deer season it got real cold that year 20s at night didnt use the furnace much. Kept trl at 50. Batteries dead by thursday. We stayed till saturday anyways. My kids still talk about it. I wished I had a wood burner then. Crack a window for Air but those thing are air tight anyways.
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:35 AM   #16
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As a resident of the great white North, a former Vermonter, I must second (third) the advice concerning the provision of outside combustion air... it is not only a good idea, it is mandatory to avoid carbon monoxide poisoning. Word to the wise.

See if you can't find a glass carboy (5 gallon bottle) to store sufficient drinking water in back of the wood stove to outlast a week of bad weather. Understand that you'll want to get some straw bales at the farm down the road (note - that is straw, not hay) to totally surround the perimeter of the trailer at ground level for banking -- the floor is a heck of a heat loss area due to wide metal surface. Most folks use polyethylene film over the bales of straw to reduce the air infiltration to a minimum. Give some very serious consideration to building an "airlock" entry of a size sufficient to hold about a week's worth of fuel wood and spare LP bottles. Winter in Vermont is bloody cold. Subzero temps are a daily expectation in Jan., Feb. and much of March. The Airstream doors usually leak air like sieves -- hence the airlock recommendation. Plus, it'll give you someplace to knock the snow off your boots and clothing, a safe place to store your snowshoes where the porcupines and dogs can't get to them to gnaw on (the woods pigs are notorious gnawers upon tires, too). If you want to preserve the tires for your trailer, use them as the anchors to hold the tarp over the A/C and support the trailer with concrete blocks. To make sure your tires are protected from UV exposure enclose them with heavy contractor trash bags - they should last the winter.

Seriously, Aladdin-style kerosene or LP gas mantle lamps will be needed to maintain sanity if you are trying to read without benefit of the full 12VDC system. Realize that there may be periods as long as five days at a stretch with insufficient sunlight to recharge any solar setups. While you'll have access to warmth and light at the college, as well as showers and other sanitary facilities, many nights resulted in all-night cram sessions just to keep up with everything required. Much easier to do when snuggled in a big, puffy, polyfill sleeping bag (less hassle with moisture soaking fibers than down) and adequate light than squinting at that book illuminated weakly by flashlight while huddled under a tattered wool blanket...

Speaking of sannitary facilities, a covered 5 gallon pail will handle the waste generated by two students during the school week and over a weekend, assuming maximum utilization of the school's facilities. Another good reason for that woodshed /airlock.

While I envy you your youth and stamina, there's no way I want to spend a winter in New England in an Airstream. I've paid my dues in frostbite and bad backs from hauling wood, water and shoveling snow, pushing vehicles out of snowbanks and chopping holes in the lake for water. Better you than me. Still, if this economy goes to hell much more, I may have to do just that. Here's hoping I make it back down South before the snow flies with any seriousness.

Good luck!
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:22 AM   #17
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speaking of snow......

don't forget that if it gets deeper than the bottom of the door, you won't be able to get out.
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Old 09-04-2008, 07:02 AM   #18
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Alot of folks have a lot to say about living in an AS in winter - it can be done and done comfortably. Doing it off the grid without a generator is pretty severe though. Don't worry about level of snow - it works well to insulate your AS. If you do decide to skirt or use hay bales to insulate beneath your trailer - you may also consider a simple duct from your heat source to underneath the trailer which will provide some form of ventilation inside and re-use some decent heat that would otherwise be wasted. Also, give some consideration to leaving your trailer cold during the day - the stove will not heat it very fast and will make coming home a less than appetizing idea - and no matter where you live that feeling sucks. You can do this, but you have to plan well and prepare.
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Old 09-04-2008, 07:34 AM   #19
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What do mobile home owners do??
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Old 09-04-2008, 08:11 AM   #20
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Mobile homes are designed for 4 season use. They only have to worry about tornados.
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