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Old 09-09-2005, 09:39 AM   #1
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Post New poster (and Airstream owner!) questions


Just registered here, looking at a '60's Overlander as temporary winter housing while we finish our new house. I've laid out my driveway so I'll have a permanent gravel pad with septic connection right behind the house - figured that eventually a trailer would be reasonably inexpensive and private guest housing, and not taxable as real estate square footage either!

My kids are grown, just my wife and I and a new smaller house I've been working on for 5 years here on our old 80 acre farm in southern Maine. Looks like our old house (and current living quarters!) might sell quite quickly and leave us out in the cold till I can finish enough of the interior on the new house to obtain an occupancy permit. I don't want to rent, have lusted after a classic Airstream for years (to go along with my '60's Dodge Power Wagons and John Deeres), and I think now is the time.

Town codes permit a trailer being parked alongside the house as long as I keep current motor vehicle tags on it, also 6 mos. use as primary living quarters while we finish up, and it looks like a viable solution for the coming winter ... or does it? I've restored/rebuilt a 1/2 dozen early JD's, prewar Fords and my Dodge Power Wagons, converted a 32' trailer (NOT AIRSTREAM!) to a shop building, have done much of the construction on my new house, ran my own machine shop for years ... not afraid of buying an older Airstream in good basic repair and cleaning up and winterizing it, and after the house is completed, doing a good amateur restoration to use it alongside the house or down at the new pond when it gets dug! Any thoughts or experience on winterizing and maintaining for fixed winter use would be greatly appreciated.

Thanks, Joe

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Old 09-09-2005, 09:45 AM   #2
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Hi and welcome to the forums. Great job planning ahead for storage. We use our tiny trailer as a guest rooom with some regularity.

Use the search tool on the blue tool bar and search for winterize or winter storage and see what you find. There have been a couple of discussions about this issue in the past couple of years.

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Old 09-09-2005, 09:46 AM   #3
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Welcome to the forum

There are some threads on living in a trailer during the winter months.
I think the bottom line was that it the fluids going in and out will freeze.
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Old 09-09-2005, 09:50 AM   #4
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Welcome to the forums Joe. There are a lot of postings on winterizing so use the search feature to look at the variety of posts. The biggest issue regarding using a unit in the winter is keeping the plumbing thawed, along with fresh water. I don't know if units in your vintage had forced heat into the sewage and other plumbing areas like the new ones do. When you use electric space heaters you will end up with some cold spots because of the lack of air movement into the lower extremes.

You may need to get a minimum 100 lb. propane tank to take care of winter heating requirements. Your typical 20lb. tanks will exhaust very quickly in the cold Maine temperatures. Mositure builds up quickly and you will find that the windows will sweat and any other metal components not having some type of thermal barrier will do the same.

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Old 09-09-2005, 09:57 AM   #5
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keeping the pipes from freezing will be a trick around here. You'll go through a whole bunch of propane keeping it warm...they're really not meant for winter living. in a pinch, you can de-winterize an airstream up here, and work your way south, using only onboard water. "weekend hunting trips in late fall"...couple of days on the road heading to warmer climates...that's about all that is really practical. long-term living in sub-freezing (WAY subfreezing up your way) temps? probably not.

my vote is that you fix up the airstream, get in it, head south, and pay some other sucker to finish your house over the winter.
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Old 09-10-2005, 07:43 AM   #6
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I'm not one to give much practical advice on this since I live in Dixie and do NO winterizing. However, I used to live in the hills north of Atlanta in an Argosy 28 and do have a little experience with cold weather camping of a sorts. (I've seen the trailer covered in sleet with the ribs showing through as warm spots.)

Your winters are much rougher than I've experienced, but I used a thermal wrap around the water pedestal and two 100-watt clamp-on lamps. I put one shining on the fresh water hose and removed the sheet metal in front of the rear bumper and pointed the other one at J-pipe under the bath tub. With the heater's flex tubing heating the tanks, I rode out the winters that way.

Now's the time to make sure that the trailer's furnace is up to snuff, and you might consider getting a catalytic for the living area. They're nice for some spot heat.

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Old 09-10-2005, 07:57 AM   #7
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hobby guy

all of the above is good advice. newer trailers will survive temps into the low teens without problems. i have used mine for deer hunting several times without problems.

make sure your furnace is in tip top condition, perhaps just get a new one!

be prepared to winterize your trailer in a moments notice, power outages, running out of lp or other mechanical failures should be planned for. have the supplies on hand and a air compressor for blowing out lines.

buy lots of propane, my trailer uses on average ten pounds per day in 20 degree temps. a propane tank set for your new house and temporarly plumbed to your trailer may not be a bad idea.

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Old 09-11-2005, 04:25 PM   #8
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I have never winterized A/s, but have winterized trailers of other sorts for field use in Colorado Mountains. We, (construction team) alwasy insulated both waste and supply lines with some sort of insulation....after setting down we put skirting and mounded dirt of approximately 4-6 inches thickness up to 12 inches around skirting. I have seen both halogen and other hi-discharge lighting used sporadically under skirting to provide heat. Caution there is those turkeys can heat and melt plastics.....All trailers we lived or worked out of in mountains had heat tape over supply lines from ground to skin at least. Usually left power on, (generators or town supply), and sometimes had forced air heaters, (salamanders) when sporadic use meant heat systems was not used all the time. It can be done, but is a bit of work and if something fails you have broken water pipes to replace. Even in House trailers in mountain communities here there is heat tape installed while manufactured. If you can get some on pipes behind cabinetry in A/s you woulld be miles ahead....Good luck.
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Old 09-11-2005, 04:47 PM   #9
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Early trailers had single pane windows and will ice up, if the temperature gets down and you are breathing inside them. The insulation is minimum but adequete for occasional travel. Door frames and locks might also get condensation freeze. You would likely be allright in more temperate climate but Maine is pretty cold for a long time. We did have a member who weathered out a Michigan winter while he was building a permenant "cabin". He built a garage and parked the Airstream inside it and then put some extra heat in the garage to decrease the load on the Airstream heating system. Minimum requirements would be to pile straw bales around all sides and then put some heat under the unit as well as heater tapes on all water in and out. One of those $200 plastic tents from Walmart or similar over the whole thing would also cut down the wind factor and provide dead air space which might help.

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