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Old 01-13-2017, 02:41 PM   #1
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Water stopped working 16 degree temps, potentially frozen lines in 2015 Classic

Hello,

I am actually out of town from my airstream. My buddy is staying in it while I am away. Last night, Portland got down to 16 degrees, which is the coldest its been. He woke up today with the water not flowing.

Here's my setup.

Faucet coming out of the ground. Wrapped in insulation. With electric heater attached.
Electric heated hose connected to fresh water.
Running furnace with some augmented space heater.

Furnace was running all night. Turning on and off actively. Pushing air down there.

Had my friend check to make sure water was flowing through the hose, and it is moving just fine. But when attached to the airstream the water doesn't flow.

My thought is that a pipe probably froze in the underbelly? Thoughts on potential steps forward? How should I approach this? Worst case scenario/best case scenario?

Thanks!

Brandon
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Old 01-13-2017, 02:49 PM   #2
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Actually, local news reported an all time low of 12 degrees for this date.

Good luck.

Mike
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Old 01-13-2017, 02:54 PM   #3
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Also, I told my buddy to turn off all space heaters and crank up the furnace to try to push as much heat into the underbelly as possible.
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Old 01-13-2017, 03:37 PM   #4
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Anytime we have temps around 23 degrees or lower overnight I turn off the water supply, disconnect the hose, and open the low point drains. Then use the furnace for heat, doors and drawers with plumbing behind them pulled open to allow some heat in.
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Old 01-13-2017, 04:57 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dkottum View Post
Anytime we have temps around 23 degrees or lower overnight I turn off the water supply, disconnect the hose, and open the low point drains. Then use the furnace for heat, doors and drawers with plumbing behind them pulled open to allow some heat in.
How do you open the low point drains? First winter with the airstream, thanks for replying.
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Old 01-13-2017, 05:07 PM   #6
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Look for two handles in behind tires and rotate....open hot and cold taps inside..Water should drain out. Of course, your Classic may be different from my 26U.

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Old 01-13-2017, 05:54 PM   #7
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This is from Airstream.com FAQ

Are Airstream travel trailers suitable for living in the cold winter months?

Any exterior water or sewer lines will freeze if they have fluids in them. Keep them dry. Interior tanks and plumbing will be okay as long as you keep the unit heated.

You will need to use your furnace for heat. Air conditioners with heat strips and heat pumps do not work at low temperatures (below 38 degrees). The furnace will help keep the trailerís internal water lines from freezing. Heat ducts or heating pads also assist with the lines and tanks. Running your furnace will quickly deplete your batteries if you are not connected to electricity, though. A catalytic heater may be an option as they do not use electricity.

You can put a gallon of RV antifreeze into your gray and black tanks as this will settle down to the drain pipes and helps prevent the pipes from freezing up. A trick for the exterior is to buy a spare sewer outlet cap, then drill and mount a lamp socket to it. Wire up the socket and use a low wattage bulb such as a Christmas light. It will keep the outlet area warm as well as the adjoining pipes.

Take in your city water line at night and use your internal fresh water tank overnight. Use your fresh water & sewer hoses as needed but take them up and drain them well until you need them again. Be sure to winterize the city water inlet.

Traveling on icy roadways is definitely more dangerous as traveling during the summer.

Use silver roll insulation between the windows & the curtains as well as the skylight and fan locations. This will help retain heat when extremely cold.

Keep your electrical cords, cable & phone lines off the ground, as they may become stuck to snow & ice.

A blow dryer is a safe way to thaw pipes.

Be sure to install fresh batteries in your smoke alarm before traveling.

Do not use your cooktop and/or oven to heat your unit. These are for cooking only.
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Old 01-14-2017, 11:21 AM   #8
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You've taken every precaution except for one. Galley faucet on @ 1/8" trickle stream 24/7.

Use hair dryer to thaw plumbing. Work your way inboard. Thaw water supply hydrant first. Then thaw hose. You may need a different hose before you can proceed further. Compared to plumbing, hoses are insulated. They are difficult to thaw, even on a good day.

Connect hose to hydrant and Airstream. Turn on outside water and galley faucet. Watch for cracked plumbing. When water starts to drip @ faucet, let it drip 'til you get a full stream. Turn off galley faucet. Then proceed to bathroom: faucet, shower, toilet. Don't forget to thaw fresh water drain valves.

Bottom line: You want liquid water flowing thru all plumbing. You're not finished 'til it does.

Tom
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Old 01-14-2017, 11:56 AM   #9
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It is possible that the freeze-up is only at the water connection on the trailer. No matter what, that spot, although it is part of the trailer, is outside of any internal heat.

Present Airstream water inlets are much better at avoiding freezing than our 2002 which has an external pipe up against the steel I-beam of the frame. It has taken a long time for me to figure out how to keep that thing from freezing!

Tim
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Old 01-14-2017, 12:14 PM   #10
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Thanks for responses everyone! So I am guessing that the water connection on the outside is froZen and nothing else is (hopefully no damage).

After reading a bunch on the subject, looks like the best method to prevent this is to disconnect fresh water hose and fill up the fresh water tank. Use that while temps are significantly below freezing. Then reconnect fresh water when temps get above freezing.

The main thing I think should look for is any dripping/leaking once everything has thawed. If there is, I will probably need to replace cracked pipes, etc. Would taking the airstream to a dealer be the best option in that case?
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Old 01-14-2017, 12:32 PM   #11
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Forget the hair dryer right now. I have to assume you have electricity.

Take a 200 watt flood lamp and place it in the compartment where the water pump is located. Have it where you do not melt any plastic hoses. Open all cabinets where there is plumbing with water. You will feel the cold air trapped from the exterior. Take the hair dryer to blow the flood lamp heat where you see any water lines. DO NOT RUN THE WATER PUMP UNLESS YOU ARE SURE THE ICE IS MELTING. Do a quick ON and then OFF if the pump is frozen.

If you had the Water Pump... ON... check the fuse. That could be your current issue, and not iced up water lines.

If the pump runs... but the water lines are still frozen... that is at least good news. Since you are drawing water from the City Water source, disconnect the hose. It could also be the hose that is frozen.

If the weather gets back into the 50's, all will be well, shortly. If the temperatures are going back into the lower 20's... flood lamp the pump area. Just be careful as the flood lamp is hot.
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Old 01-14-2017, 02:09 PM   #12
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Unless there was no water in the tank and you buddy wasn't running the heater as much as he says you shouldn't have a problem at 12 degrees over night. I agree with others to disconnect the water hose. i would use water from the onboard tank.

That being said I got stuck in Raton, NM the first weekend of Dec. Light dusting of snow turned into 6-8 inches. Overnight temps dropped to -15. Didn't have an issue. Kept furnace set to 55. Burned through some propane over the next couple of days but nothing froze.
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Old 01-14-2017, 08:48 PM   #13
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My experience with frozen water lines is that they always freeze at the connection into the trailer or close to it. I have had pretty good luck with using a hair dryer to thaw it out as long as it hasn't frozen very long. The longer it is frozen, the harder it is to thaw it out and the more chance of broken lines. Once you get it thawed, open up your grey water dump and keep the inside sink faucet on a steady stream of water during the cold temps. I also use both the electric and propane heater on the hot water heater and keep the sink cabinet doors open along with the kitchen sink doors open. I have heat tape from the sorce to the trailer and pack the area where it enters the trailer with fiber glass insulation. I wrap the heat tape with foam insulation strips and use zip ties to hold them. Do not cross the heat tape across itself or it will melt it and short out.

I have been living in my Classic all winter here in Boise, Idaho and I froze once for a short time, but since then have encountered below zero OK and a ton of snow. Not fun, but am making it.
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Old 01-14-2017, 10:08 PM   #14
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It appears this isn't the source of your problem, but make sure that your "basement" furnace ducts were properly installed at the factory. On my 2015 Classic, one of the 2" ducts was just lying loose under the wardrobe cabinet and not attached/directed through the appropriate hole in the floor.
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Old 01-15-2017, 07:06 AM   #15
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Don't Panic

We don't take any special precautions when we do cold weather camping and so far, nothing bad has happened other than the inconvenience of having to wait until what has frozen melts.

Here's what we do when we know the temperature is going below 32 degrees:

We unhook the hose from the external water source, empty residual water from the hose, and bring the water filter inside. We also fill our internal water tank. This takes care of the most common scenario where we lose access to the external water supply and have to wait until temperatures get above freezing and things melt. We can easily go two or three days with our internal water tank with no problem.

On very rare occasions, everything freezes and we lose access to both our internal and external water supply. When we think there is a possibility for that happening, we fill our cooking pans with water the night before so we at least have enough water to make coffee and cook. We also stock up on bottled water if we think we are in for a prolonged multi-day cold snap in the mid teens or below.

There are many other precautions you can take as outlined in numerous winter camping posts. Ours is a minimalist approach that has worked well for us 95% of the time. When the other 5% happens, prepare as best you can and don't panic. Things will eventually melt and most likely, there will be no permanent damage - at least that has been our experience while winter camping the last three years.

Good luck!
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