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Old 11-13-2014, 04:40 PM   #1
2 Rivet Member
, North Carolina
Join Date: Mar 2014
Posts: 41
NC winter nights? Full-timing questions...

Preparing for my first winter living full-time in my 81 Excella and still have questions after reading some amazingly informative forum posts. Temps will drop down in the mid-20s overnight tomorrow and several other nights soon here in the Piedmont of North Carolina and I'd appreciate some short term (and longer term) advice...

1. If we dip down in the 20s at night then get back up in the 40s the next day do folks think my water holding tank (assume it's full) and cold and hot water lines will be fine if I am able to keep the interior heated above 40 degrees (and leave the closet door open to help warm the water pump)?

Some helpful background info: I'm currently parked at a neighbors and have access to fresh water (for the winter I will just fill up my fresh water tank versus staying hooked up and worrying about insulating the hose) and I'm plugged in to their electricity via a 10 gage extension chord. I took out the toilet (using composting one at my neighbor's house) so black tank is empty. Grey water tank empty too…dishwashing just flows out to the earth. Until I have time to caulk my shower, I will continue to use my neighbor's outdoor shower. My fridge is running on gas.

So far I've been heating mostly with an electric 1500 watt radiant heater turned up half way. Sometimes I'll turn on the furnace but the fan is so loud and my two batteries drain so fast (need to be replaced…they are car batteries that came with the trailer). I'm trying to get the small "Thermx Caravan Mark V" propane heater that's attached to the wall to work but looks like the thermo coupler needs to be replaced. If I'm in here next winter I'll definitely pursue a small wood stove. All that to say, on the nights when we've gone down in the low 30s I've been cold I've checked the thermostat in the morning and It's never gotten below 41 degrees. I think I'm going to trust that the electrical system can handle the pull of the 1500 watt heater on high (I don't have other things running at the time except maybe the computer charging).

I want to be sure I get through these upcoming cold nights without any freezing pipe/water heater/pump issues and then look down the line to when we have longer stretches of freezing nights and cold days without sun (it almost always rises above freezing during the day during the winter here). I guess I need to get used to the idea of using a lot more propane than I had imagined, buy new batteries (someone recommended Inline 6 volt) and listen to the hum of the furnace

2. Seems that as long as I keep the inside above ____ temp (please feel free to fill in a number) my water system will be okay for this region without needing to drain, etc.

Thanks for any wisdom!
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Old 11-13-2014, 05:42 PM   #2
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We have spent many nights with temperatures well below freezing a lot of them with no hookups.
First thing I would do is replace the 10 gage extension cord with the heaviest one available which I think is a 15 gage on a 20 amp circuit. You will tax the light weight extension cord running the space heater on high. When you are running the heater on high, turn it off when you are running the microwave, hair drier or any high draw appliance
Next I would check the breaker on your neighbors property on your hookup circuit. You need a 20 amp circuit with nothing else hooked up to it.
The space heater running alone keeps my 25 Safari semi comfortable down to about freezing, below that it needs help from my furnace.
I wouldn't mess around with an old catalytic heater and plan to run it at night. Either replace the heater with a new one certified to run unvented in an rv or have it checked out by an expert and get a propane, monoxide detector installed in your rig. Remember if you run an unvented heater open a window near the heater a crack.
I am 99% sure your Excella has a belly pan. Your plumbing inclunding holding tanks will stay un frozen down to at least 20 degrees if you run your furnace. The space heater alone will not heat everything enough not to freeze your plumbing.
If you are plugged in and your converter is in good condition, you do not need good batteries to run your furnace. You do need to check the water in your batteries. If they run out of water, having the converter try to charge them will create a fire hazard.
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Old 11-13-2014, 09:02 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by handn View Post
First thing I would do is replace the 10 gage extension cord with the heaviest one available which I think is a 15 gage on a 20 amp circuit.

I've never heard of a 15 gauge extension cord. Do you mean a 15 amp 12 gauge cord? BTW lower the gauge number, higher the load capacity.


Are you pulling service to your entire rig using a drop cord, or are you running a separate cord just for the heater?

Water lines in our rig do okay until we hit the mid-20's and the fresh water tank has never frozen. Just to be on the safe side keep the tank full and open up your cabinet doors to help get warmer air to your water lines. Unfortunately we've never been able to keep our rig warm enough to be comfortable using one space heater when the temps hit the sub-freezing mark. Two heaters work well for us which is a stretch with a 30 amp service, with a 20 amp service you will will not have enough service capacity for more than one space heater.

Skirting the bottom of your rig and window insulation will help minimize heat loss. Also make certain that you insulate the ceiling vents.

"One of the best lessons I've learned is that you don't worry about criticism from people you wouldn't seek advice from."

William C. Swinney

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Old 11-14-2014, 11:32 AM   #4
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, North Carolina
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Thanks Handn and Kevin!
The extension cord is plugged into a 20 amp circuit (wall outlet) in my friend's shop but i need to see if anything else is on it. It is the only chord I am running to my trailer. I'm careful that when I'm running the electric heater that nothing else major is turned on (maybe a light or computer charging…no microwave or hair dryers in my rig ). Because the batteries drain so quick, if I were to use my furnace at night I'd have to keep my convertor running which would mean no electric heater (since I imagine that's too much of a pull).

Sounds like using my one electric heater at high (full 1500 watts) is okay on a 20 amp circuit with a 10 gage drop chord? And that when we drop down to mid-20s I'll need to switch to the furnace to keep pipes from freezing? Also curious about insulating with skirt as well as windows as I've read someone measured the temp difference and it was minimal. I need to learn how to check the battery water. And keep researching new batteries so that I can overlap use of furnace and electric heater (i.e. not always run convertor when using furnace). Welcome any confirmations on above questions! Everybody stay warm
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Old 11-14-2014, 11:48 AM   #5
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be careful of advise on net

Be very careful of free advise as seen here; seems there is an abundance of ignorance on extension cords and gauges etc? Glad some one gave proper advise on gauge ! Smaller the number heavier the wire. Many folks selling good looking cords that are just heavy plastic insulation,the same holds true for battery cables. The plugs on most extension cords are way too light weight! The outlets in many locations are worn out and create poor connections as well as fire hazards.
Keep warm safely.....
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Old 11-15-2014, 02:48 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by handn View Post
... First thing I would do is replace the 10 gage extension cord with the heaviest one available which I think is a 15 gage on a 20 amp circuit...
AWG (American Wire Gauge) #10 wire is the appropriate size for a 30 amp circuit. It's larger than 12, which is larger than 14, etc. There's no such thing as 15 gauge wire.

A 1500W heater will draw about 12 amps of 120V. You should be able to run 2 heaters on a 30A circuit; two would most likely trip a 20A breaker.

As an old sailboat liveaboard, one thing I want to mention about living in a small, tight space in cold weather is condensation. Each human in the space will contribute about a pint of moisture a day, all of which will condense on the coldest inside surfaces: single pane glass and aluminum window frames. You don't shower aboard, but just boiling water for morning beverages will add even more moisture to the mix. Condensation can get bad enough over time to cause rot, just like rain leaks. Keep a close eye on interior spaces for signs of condensation. It's also a greenhouse for mold...
Like the tortoise, travelin' slow with the house on our back
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Old 11-15-2014, 11:59 PM   #7
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winter living

This is my third winter living in my trailer full time. This year I'm going to try something, at least for a while. Anytime the temperature gets below 30 I disconnect water hose, drain the water tank, open the two line drains, open grey water tank. My remaining concern being the hot water tank. It has a drain on it but I'm afraid to open it because it looks rusted and could break off. I cart water for the toilet and have jugs for drinking, etc.
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Old 11-16-2014, 04:11 AM   #8
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no frozen tanks

Two 1500 watt heaters + furnace. Sal
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Old 11-16-2014, 05:26 AM   #9
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Be sure to have warm things for your feet, as the floors tend to be cold, and keeping your feet toasty will go a long way toward keeping the rest of you warm.

We like slipper socks.

Find a need and fill it.

🏡 🚐 Cherish and appreciate those you love. This moment could be your last.🌹🐚
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Old 11-16-2014, 09:08 PM   #10
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wood stove

we purchased a wood stove from cabelas that hunters use in a wall tent. keeps us comfortable in the 20 degree weather. we also use a down blanket and have water in dispensers on the counter. You have to be tough to deal with all the extra things you have to do to keep warm. we have had 0 degree nights lately.
decided we needed to do more to keep warm. haven't figured it all out yet.
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