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Old 01-24-2017, 02:16 AM   #1
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Staying through the winter in Taos, NM without winterizing

Hi Everybody!

I wanted to share my experiences with the community while my wife and I live through the winter in Taos, NM in our 2016 FC 27 FB.

We are about to get some gnarly cold weather coming in this week, with temps going down to -2F Thursday night, many days in a row where it won't go above freezing, and snow. Normally it doesnít get this cold here in Taos.

We aren't planning on taking any special measures to winterize. We are not skirting, we aren't using any mechanisms to heat or insulate the tanks or underbelly other than using our furnace, and we have made no modifications whatsoever to our Airstream. It is exactly as it came from the factory.

We also arenít planning on changing any of our normal daily routine. We are showering, washing dishes, cooking, and living as we normally do.

If we can get through this week without mishap, I'm confident that we'll make it all the way through the winter.

You might ask why are we doing this.

We are using our airstream as a mobile ski cabin. Both my wife and I are avid skiers, and we plan to ski almost every day for the rest of the season. The Taos ski area is amazing - my favorite place to ski period. It is a challenging and very steep mountain. And during the week it is not crowded at all and it feels like you have the mountain to yourself, with almost nobody else on the lifts or slopes.

We expect the airstream to be able to function as a ďmobile ski cabinĒ.

The reason we arenít taking any measures to winterize the airstream is simple. Iíve always followed the motto of not trying to solve problems that donít exist.

Iíve carefully analyzed a large number of threads where folks talk about running into various problems in cold weather in their airstreams, including some very serious problems. Iíve also carefully analyzed many threads and posts where people talk about their opinion that airstreams are only three season campers, and are simply not suitable for very cold environments.

Iíve determined that it doesnít seem likely that any of these problems will happen in our circumstances and with our particular year and model of airstream. I can go into details as to why Iíve come to this conclusion if folks are interested - let me know. Iím just trying to keep this initial post as short as possible so that it is readable and not bogged down in too much detail.

Iím not saying that this would be possible or a good idea at all if you have a different year or model. This is especially true for shorter rigs, and strangely it also might be true for the IS or other more expensive models. So, please DO NOT TRY AND DO THIS YOURSELF unless you are sure that your particular airstream has the correct features and was designed in a way so that there wonít be problems.

Weíve already been here for about 5 days, and we already weathered out a night where it went down to 16F, with temps barely going above freezing during the day. No problems so far. And quite toasty in our little house!

While we are not winterizing the rig, there are some basic protocols that we are following. Many or even all of these might seem obvious, but Iím listing them here just in case. To be honest, Iím not sure if other people are following all of these. Obviously most people follow at least some of them:

- Keep an accurate outdoor radio thermometer and pay attention to it to know whether we need to follow these protocols.
- Always run the furnace set to at least 55F when it is expected to stay below freezing for more than a few consecutive hours, and I pay attention to the actual temperature that Iím reading from my thermometer and donít only rely on temperatures from weather sites, etc. This is important.
- Have a buffer of spare propane tanks on hand at all times, and an additional ďemergencyĒ tank that we normally never touch, which would get us through the night in the case of some terrible brain fart where we failed to refill our propane tanks and didnít realize we had used our spares up. Also, Iíd rather go less frequently to fill a bunch of tanks at once, then have to fill the two tanks every week - or possibly more frequently. More efficient. Iíd like to install something like a 100 gallon tank outside the rig, but this isnít possible or practical where we are currently camping.
- Being prepared to do an ďemergency winterizationĒ at any time RV antifreeze, and always having a couple of gallons of antifreeze on hand.
- Not using a heated water hose, and disconnect the hose when it drops below freezing if we arenít actively using water. Even if below freezing, I sometimes connect it when we are showering, washing dishes, etc - just for convenience so that we donít have to keep refilling the fresh water tank or have the hassle of it running out in the middle of a shower, etc.
- Donít keep the grey water valve open if it is below freezing, but let the tank fill and dump it when it is full. This is because ice can theoretically build up in the sewer hose from small trickles of water that result from quick hand washings, etc. However, I donít worry about this unless it is expected to stay well below freezing for many days in a row. I also open it before we shower, wash dishes, etc - in these cases there is a larger and more extended flow of water, often warm water, and if anything this might melt any ice that had built up. I might not keep it open if it is below about 15F except for dumping the entire grey tank.
- Donít use any heat source other than the furnace when it is below freezing.
- Have multiple hygrometers in different locations in the rig, and I check them regularly. I have a dehumidifier ready to go if there is any serious problem with humidity levels. I pay close attention to the amount of condensation on windows and other areas, to make sure it isnít out of control. We make sure to run the shower fan even if it means we are losing some heat, to combat condensation. Obviously, running the stove vent fan when cooking is critical - and this is something that should always be done regardless of the weather.

None of this requires much work or thought, and it isnít really much extra overhead to regular daily life at all. IMHO the biggest hassle is having to drive to refill propane tanks frequently, and Iím working on a solution to have propane delivered to where we are - but not sure if that is possible where we are camping. The second biggest hassle is refilling the fresh water tank when it runs out, but that doesnít take very long. Having very high quality insulated waterproof gloves helps with this.

Iíll keep everyone posted. Feel free to ask me anything. There are many more details that I can go into.

Cheers,
YB
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Old 01-24-2017, 03:01 AM   #2
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Just for fun this is us right now. Some moderate snow - maybe 2 inches has come down so far. At our elevation not likely more than 5 inches tonight - but maybe a little more.

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Old 01-24-2017, 03:35 AM   #3
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To clarify - I just mean that the time it takes to drive to the propane filling station is a hassle and takes time. The folks at the station here are awesome and have been great to talk to and super helpful in every way.
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Old 01-24-2017, 04:10 AM   #4
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We part time in our 22FB. We experienced a several days below freezing spell that had a couple of 15 degrees F mornings a few weeks back without winterizing. We set the furnace to 60 and pointed the electric heater directly under our bed to heat the space under it and not influence the furnace thermostat. The only issue we had was frozen black and grey tank valves. I had to get out the hair dryer to free them up. The 27FB is a model we are considering as our next unit as we move to a full time status. I will be curious how your experiment turns out.


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Old 01-24-2017, 07:40 AM   #5
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Following. I love Taos, especially at Christmas. Walking around the village with all the luminarias lighting up the night is magical. A zillion or so years back, when I used to ski, we booked ski weeks every year at The St Bernard with Jean Mayer. The food, the location, and the Mountain.

Mike
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Old 01-24-2017, 07:54 AM   #6
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Good luck!
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Old 01-24-2017, 11:45 AM   #7
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Thumbs up

Subscribed. good luck.
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Old 01-24-2017, 12:05 PM   #8
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YB,
Thanks for the posting, I will be leaving Virginia and driving the AS to the Salt Lake area - Alta in mid March to get some spiring skiing in, my plan is to stop in Taos on the way to get a couple of days of skiing. Plan on taking a southern route across the country that will bring me close to Taos.
I am also an avid skier, just got back from Jackson Hole and headed to Telluride in 2 weeks (not in the AS).
I have a Mountain Collective Pass and can ski 2 days free at Taos (have never skied there).
Would love to get some info from you on where I can park the AS for a couple of days. And info would be greatly appreciated.....Also like to meet you guys.
Andy
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Old 01-24-2017, 12:23 PM   #9
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Thanks for sharing your adventure/experiment. I love Taos but never considered camping during ski season. How close is your campsite to the ski village?
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Old 01-24-2017, 12:27 PM   #10
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Following. Thanks. Good Luck.

Mark
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Old 01-24-2017, 12:33 PM   #11
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If it ain't broke don't fix it ... enjoy Kachina basin, Al's run, and the other bowls, should be some good powder coming in this week ...
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Old 01-24-2017, 12:36 PM   #12
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Thanks for posting this. I am following as well. This thread is of particular interest to me as the FC 27FB would be my choice as well. Being from AZ with NM ties, camping is second nature. With that, I find myself in Chicago for work so I have put my purchase plans on hold. I will say the only thing keeping me from moving forward with a purchase and full time living in it is this winter thing. The Chicago area seems sparse for places to full time (if it's not let me know) but if the winter code cannot be cracked - it really doesn't matter. We have sustained temps much like your Taos experiment.

Good luck. Cant wait to see how this works for you.
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Old 01-24-2017, 05:26 PM   #13
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I keep my grey dump valve from freeze up By flooding it with antifreeze.
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Old 01-24-2017, 05:44 PM   #14
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Please keep us advised and good luck! As you mentioned, the end of this week looks challenging:

http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/tao...weather/334572

The line graphs at the bottom of this monthly view show possible low temps in the -5 F range.

It will be instructive for all if you can track not only your temps, but also the wind speed and direction, in relation to the trailer. In particular the exterior shower valves, and the elbows supplying them, seem like possible weak links in the chain IMO. A -2 F strong wind hitting these exterior valves would freeze them probably, no matter what the interior temp of the trailer. The user Vitaver indicated a problem here, in his FC27 also BTW, in a recent thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Vitaver View Post
Today one of my propane bottles emptied, after a month of use. I did experience freezing on the black tank valve and on the shower elbow, so I added 2 lamps under the rig with some wood boards around the tanks to keep more of the heat. One space heater on high, one on low (1.5KW and 750 W), and the thermostat on the wall set at 69.
Fortunately the forecast for Thursday calls for only 5-10 MPH winds from the NE:

http://www.accuweather.com/en/us/tao...t/334572?day=3

By any chance is your exterior shower facing the NE?

Good luck!

Peter

PS -- What are you doing about the black water waste? Will you be able to move the trailer a little, to agitate the contents, before you dump?
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Old 01-24-2017, 05:50 PM   #15
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Following. Haven't camped in freezing temps yet.
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Old 01-24-2017, 07:19 PM   #16
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good luck!

I froze 3 lines in 18-20 degree weather last month in TX. I was traveling and not home, but I had an oil heater on at 45 degrees. AS service reminded me that AS is not a 4 season trailer, and that lines can freeze even when heat is on inside if it is cold enough outside with winds. All cracks occurred at the joint of the line connections, but it took me a few hours to identify and repair...not fun. Hope your luck holds out! Be interesting to see your progress to spring...
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Old 01-24-2017, 07:26 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gypsydad View Post
I froze 3 lines in 18-20 degree weather last month in TX. I was traveling and not home, but I had an oil heater on at 45 degrees. AS service reminded me that AS is not a 4 season trailer, and that lines can freeze even when heat is on inside if it is cold enough outside with winds. All cracks occurred at the joint of the line connections, but it took me a few hours to identify and repair...not fun. Hope your luck holds out! Be interesting to see your progress to spring...
The only chance of having an AS survive extreme sub-freezing cold weather is to use the furnace, so that the trailer's heat ducts get the heat to the tanks, assuming the model has such a feature (and tank heaters if so equipped).

Supplemental electric/oil heaters only ensure that the furnace will NOT come on as much, thereby robbing the hidden tanks/pipes of crucial heat.

The OP's first post recognizes this IMO, as well as the fact that shorter trailers, without ducted heat, may not have the same capabilities to withstand extreme cold. A case in point is our FC20, in which the entire rear compartment's pipes would freeze solid in most freezing weather, especially if the wind was coming from that direction.
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Old 01-24-2017, 07:44 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by OTRA15 View Post
The only chance of having an AS survive extreme sub-freezing cold weather is to use the furnace, so that the trailer's heat ducts get the heat to the tanks, assuming the model has such a feature (and tank heaters if so equipped).

Supplemental electric/oil heaters only ensure that the furnace will NOT come on as much, thereby robbing the hidden tanks/pipes of crucial heat.

The OP's first post recognizes this IMO, as well as the fact that shorter trailers, without ducted heat, may not have the same capabilities to withstand extreme cold. A case in point is our FC20, in which the entire rear compartment's pipes would freeze solid in most freezing weather, especially if the wind was coming from that direction.
Good points.
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Old 01-24-2017, 08:12 PM   #19
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Following-
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Old 01-24-2017, 10:11 PM   #20
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I have a 27FB IS and will be interested to see how this works out. also curious as to way you think the Internationals might not far as well as the FC the floor plan and plumbing all looks the same only the overheads and finishes are different.
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