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Old 12-16-2019, 12:51 PM   #1
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Need solution for frozen drains

We boondock in the snow a lot and when the temp dips down into the 20's the grey water drains to my external portable grey tank freeze up.

I insulated the pipes but it didn't help much. Home Depot has got some "Heat Tape" but it's 110V AC. I could make it work with the inverter and/or generator, but has anyone found 12V heat tape or a better solution?

Thanks,
--Jason
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Old 12-16-2019, 02:27 PM   #2
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Well..... not many options if you are restricted to 12v.
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Old 12-16-2019, 02:34 PM   #3
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Ummmm.. salt will raise the freeze temp
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Old 12-16-2019, 02:52 PM   #4
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A more detailed explanation of your setup might help generate better answers IMO.

I am guessing that your trailer does not have its own internal grey tank?

If your grey waste water is warm enough, it won't freeze until it reaches your external tank, which then is in danger of freezing and cracking. Do you empty this tank very often?

Maybe pour a gallon of RV antifreeze down a drain first, to pre-condition the pipe with something that can't freeze?

Hard to picture boondocking in 20 degree weather, without knowing more. I guess you use propane to heat the inside of the trailer enough to keep the supply water tank and pipes from freezing? What about the water heater? And toilet and black water tank?

Again, if you could give us a better picture of the entire plumbing and heat situation, you might get more helpful suggestions. No shore power? Battery sizes and solar setup?

Tanks for any further details!

Good luck,

Peter
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Old 12-16-2019, 06:15 PM   #5
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Ultraheat (https://www.ultraheat.com/) makes tank, drain pipe, and valve heaters. They are 12 V and work (we have had them installed for years), but take a long time to unfreeze something that is already frozen and draw quite a few amps. Because of the power draw, we use ours only when hooked to shore power.

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Old 12-16-2019, 06:21 PM   #6
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X2 on the Ultraheat
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Old 12-17-2019, 08:25 AM   #7
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Sweet...totally why I love this forum. The Ultra Heat Smart Cable is exactly what I was looking for...they need a better web tech cause they did not come up in any of my searches for "12V heat tape". I can work with a 6 amp draw. I'll tuck it in the insulation so that I don't think I'll have to have it on that much.

Thanks!

Peter, to your q's.

Everything is internal and stays warm with the propane heater except the portable grey tank and the drain lines. The grey water in the tank freezes but the opening doesn't. We go for 2-4 night stints and bring it back down to thaw and empty. 2 100W solar panels and a 300 Amp hr AGM battery and a 200W gen if I want to run the microwave or it's dumping so hard I can't keep the panels swept. I've got an on demand propane water heater but I tend not to bother with it.

Good call on the RV antifreeze prep...will try that!

--Jason
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Old 12-17-2019, 08:54 AM   #8
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I like that tank heating solution. I have added that to my list should I ever find time to winter camp again. Particularly the exposed elbow bits, I think I may just order those up right now anyway!
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Old 12-17-2019, 09:57 AM   #9
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The YouTube "All About RVs" heating pads availabe at eTrailer $25.00US

https://youtu.be/roVCfnjlI70
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Old 12-17-2019, 10:03 AM   #10
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Why not let the gray water run out of the ground if you are boondocking? Have you tried hot water.



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Old 12-18-2019, 08:05 AM   #11
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The tank is not the problem, it's the drain pipes, mainly at the end where it narrows to a 1/4" elbow that freezes up.

We are boon docking in places that still require you to be self contained, e.g. ski resort parking lots.
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Old 12-19-2019, 03:29 PM   #12
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Tanks for the details in Post #7. Why not up-size the drain pipe so that that 1/4" elbow is not the problem. With bits and pieces of 3/4" garden hose and fittings, could you make it work? Pour small amounts of hot water or RV AF down the drain more frequently?
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Old 12-19-2019, 04:32 PM   #13
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Sounds like a problem for older AS’s. We camped a few years ago and it got into the 20’s in Indiana and had no problem with our 2017. Good idea on the 12V heat system. I think if I was going to camp a lot in the Winter I’d get a Lance 4 season trailer.
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Old 12-19-2019, 09:52 PM   #14
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We winterize for cold weather, then put anti-freeze down the drain. Using windshield washer fluid as a chaser after waste water was recommended by our salesman at Can-Am in Ontario, Canada. We've not had a problem with this system.

On the other hand, it may not be necessary to put grey water down the drain. You have to shower elsewhere, but ordinary sink water can be captured in plastic wash basins and then dumped in a suitable location outside or in a utility sink where available.
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Old 12-20-2019, 07:40 AM   #15
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OTRA15, up-sizing would help but would be pretty involved and may still freeze up when it gets really cold but I will consider it.

Len, I will experiment with the RV AF more, after I bought some I got the impression it was just for filling your lines when you winterize an RV for storage.

Curious, what is the point of the windshield washer fluid chaser?
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Old 12-20-2019, 10:14 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Airwave503 View Post
. . .
Curious, what is the point of the windshield washer fluid chaser?
Guessing he meant it is thinner below 32 F than the RV AF, which turns to slush when cold. It won't freeze or expand, but it may become a dam, of sorts, in your 1/4" elbow. Cheap vodka might be less expensive!



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Old 12-21-2019, 03:58 PM   #17
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At least in snow country, windshield washer fluid has antifreeze in it, so it inhibits the waste water from freezing. I think you could also use regular RV antifreeze down your toilet and drains, but probably wouldn't need so much.

Although vodka should work, we prefer ours in a proper martini glass with a tad of white vermouth, straight up, with an olive. If it's cold enough to require winterizing and special drain treatment, hopefully you can just chill your cocktail shaker & its contents in a snow bank.

Cheers, everybody.
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Old 12-25-2019, 11:46 AM   #18
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Ryobi Rechargeable Heat Gun

We love winter glampimg because campgrounds are slow, and the towns they are in are super laid back and happy for our business.

Anyway, we winterize after every trip with a reasonably priced air compressor and hit the p traps and waste tanks with about a gallon and a half of RV anti-freeze. Takes about 30 minutes but I do most of it while I am dumping and putting camp away anyway.

However, on our last trip to Prosser, WA, three weeks ago, we noticed our dump valves got frozen. Makes sense, as they are pretty darn exposed. Anyway, we used hot water and just poured it over the valves until they thawed.

But next time I will be prepared! The Ryobi heat gun (link below) is easy to store and a relatively inexpensive off grid solution. Don't need additional power and we can gingerly moderate the heat we apply. No doubt we will be getting our waste valves to comply without damage on our next cold trip to a winter wonderland yet to be decided.

https://www.homedepot.com/p/RYOBI-18...3150/306925921
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Old 12-26-2019, 09:46 AM   #19
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I have no experience with winter boondocking but having owned boats forever and now an airstream too, I have done plenty of winterizing of various systems.

I would suggest a cheap/easy solution would be to keep a jug of cheap Rv antifreeze handy and just “chase the lines” occasionally when it’s cold. You might want to try to set up the line to the portable tank to eliminate any dips where water would collect and sit too.
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Old 01-05-2020, 03:34 PM   #20
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UPDATE:

I actually think I found a really easy low tech solution that seemed to hold up down into the teens the last couple weekends. I just took an old folded wool blanket and sandwiched it between my grey tank and where the sink drain comes out. The I packed snow over it all.

The first weekend I trickled RV antifreeze down the sink occasionally but last weekend I didn't bother and the drain still stayed clear. We got down to mid teens overnight.

I'll update how this solution holds up as I get through this winter.
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