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Old 09-04-2008, 11:55 AM   #21
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1993 25' Excella
Craftsbury Common , Vermont
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 17
Wow, thanks for your interest and thoughtful responses!
We're used to lots of snow and cold, and we have a snow shovel for when that pesky stuff gets in the way. We're also used to 4:30 PM sunsets and weeks of cloudy weather, both of which have been taken into account in the sizing of the PV array and battery bank. We are mostly using the batteries for lights and music and the occasional laptop movie... and the propane furnace's blower fan if desperately needed.
Electricity conservation is the key... we know how much we're making every day because I'll have a tri-metric battery monitor and this sweet Outback MX60 charge controller that logs its output for 2 months at a time, so we can use no more electricity than we're making. I've been living in the trailer all spring and summer with no electricity or running water. The electricity, however much we have, will feel like a luxury. At least till it gets really cold.

There is a ground-fed spring 30 feet away that is accessible all year round.

We probably aren't going to do the straw insulation under the trailer, though it would probably help. There is not much local straw as very few farmers grow grain here... plus it just seems like it would make a mess. We are going to skirt the trailer with plywood. We're also planning on insulating the north- and west-facing windows, and duct-taping plastic to all the window wells on the inside. It'll be dark most of the time we're in the trailer anyway. I'm sure we will change some things in the winterizing process next year... maybe we will decide that some extra insulation would be a good idea.
I'll send a picture soon.

We are building a mudroom/airlock/storage area which will be up against the door. The battery bank will be housed in a box in there. I've taken into account the low temperature of the batteries in sizing the system.

We're already peeing in a bucket and pooing in our neighbors' composting toilet. And sneaking in the dorms late at night for showers....hehe.

I'm hoping that the Sardine will do wonders for drawing moisture out of the trailer and avoiding condensation buildup? any thoughts on this?
It's definitely not an airtight structure, so we are assuming the stove will suck air in from the outside constantly. And the stove is designed especially for this kind of application, so I guess we're trusting the stovemaker's experience on that question.
We're going to send the chimney right through the roof, we already have the insulated pipe and other parts for that.

We're getting a battery-operated CO monitor and we already have one that plugs into our small inverter, we could use that at night..
We will obviously be extremely careful when we start using the stove to see if it works the way we think it will.

Do we really need to fill the water lines with antifreeze, or can we just blow the water out and leave them empty all winter?

Thanks for your help, I'll send a picture soon.

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Old 09-04-2008, 12:34 PM   #22
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Originally Posted by cmell View Post
...Do we really need to fill the water lines with antifreeze, or can we just blow the water out and leave them empty all winter?
hi chester

no it's not essential, many folks just blow the lines and leave it at that.

others feel that the lines and JOINTS expand/contract more when empty,

and that the dryness makes leaking more likely when water is eventually in the lines.

also the small amount of water left in the tanks can mess up the drain seals with lots of freeze/thaw cycles.

all the lines, drains and tanks can be pinked for 5$, which is cheap insurance.

covering windows/frames from the inside is an issue.

moisture collects and freezes ON the glass and metal frames INSIDE whenever this approach is used..

and the ice inside causes many problems.

IF you really wanna insulate the windows do it from outside primarily.

along with the co detecter you need a LOW O2 detector there will be a risk of depleting available oxygen...

the fan blower can render useless 1 typical rv deep cycle battery EVERY night it's active, so plan accordingly.

heat loss (and cold gain) through the bottom is minor

compared to heat loss from windows, doors, the ceiling vents and so on...

but a barrier skirting the unit is a good thing.

the wood stove is unlikely to solve the condensation issues,

but IF the cold winter air is dry enough, condensation may not be much of a problem

best o' luck

all of the true things that i am about to tell you are shameless lies. l.b.j.

we are here on earth to fart around. don't let anybody tell you any different. k.v.
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Old 09-04-2008, 12:48 PM   #23
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Austin , Texas
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Forum member Carlos Ferguson has installed a wood-burning stove in his rig, and spent some winter time in it.

Here's a link to his full restoration thread:

The posts about installing the stove start around page 4.

Good luck!
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Old 09-04-2008, 06:44 PM   #24
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Condensation was a party killer for several forum members who posted on their full-time wintering in the time I've been reading posts here - think candle wax drips of ice coming off the aluminum window frames, ice trapped inside the plastic sheeting when any inside air finds its way between the air gap, etc. and even ice forming on the door frame-seals...

Two people over twelve hours exude quarts of moisture that inexorably finds its way to cold metal - mopping up the liquid and chipping the ice will most likely be a daily chore for a bunch of weeks, you are just too near the Ocean to count on super-dry artic air (like Minnesota). One suggestion I can make is air the bedding out outside when you get up in the morning, nice snugly bed linens soak up a lot of water vapor overnight and in the worse case you'll notice damp bedding the next use, as well as having the clothes hamper in the battery room air-lock area...

What I'd like to recommend (haven't tried it yet) is using horse-mexican type blankets as wall hangings - even some indoor/outdoor carpet runner on the ceilings to keep the cold-soak of aluminum from getting painful. But alas I note that they can suffer from condensation also, it would be an experiment.

I would also invest in some thin 4x8 sheets of foam to put on the floor and cover with carpets - TheCatsandI (I think) had extra insulation added at Jackson Center after living with a too-cold floor...
The days are short and the night is long and the stars go tumbling by.. . ~Airstream~
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Old 09-04-2008, 07:15 PM   #25
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Condensation is a big issue -

We camp every winter over Christmas in New Mexico, Colorado, Utah and such. That being said, we commonly encounter temperatures near zero at night and many times not rising above freezing during the day. In the beginning we would wake up to find that we could not see out the windows as they were covered in ice on the inside and the interior walls of the CCD had many areas of accumulated ice. The solution was simple - crack one of the fantastic vents about two inches. Once we did that, the ice was not a problem and we didn't notice any significant change in the interior temperatures.
Paul Mayeux
A&P Vintage Trailer Works, Inc.
AirForums #1565
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Old 09-09-2008, 12:13 PM   #26
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1993 25' Excella
Craftsbury Common , Vermont
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Hi again,
just wondering if anyone with a woodstove installed in their airstream has been able to find a company willing to insure it.
because we keep getting rejected.

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Old 09-09-2008, 12:39 PM   #27
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Riverhead , New York
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How on earth would they know?

No one asked me if I had a wood stove when I got insurance, did you volunteer the info
'77 Sovereign Intl 31' CB
WBCCI R2 Rep VAC 11411 Metro NY VP

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Old 09-09-2008, 02:56 PM   #28
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You might consider these heaters. They look to be compact and have options of solid fuels. - Marine Heaters, Stoves and Barbeques

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Old 09-09-2008, 05:05 PM   #29
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Smiths Grove , Kentucky
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The Po of our Airstream lived in it full time for 12 years in northern Missouri. He used 2 propane heaters and probably another half dozen electric heaters just to make it through the winters. He also taped tarps around the outside as a skirt and stacked bails of straw over the tarp to keep out the winter cold. I would think a Missouri winter would be bad but a Vermont winter would have to be terrible. Take every precaution, lives are at stake. Best of luck.

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Old 09-20-2008, 04:16 PM   #30
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1972 31' Sovereign
Dalhousie Junction , Canada
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Wow, my girlfriend and I are also preparing to live in our Airstream year round. It's nice to know were not alone. We'll be living on the Gaspe Coast in Quebec so it will be an experience. Winters are hard here and it will be an adventure for sure.What we save on rent will go into our trailer.Good luck and keep us posted during the winter.
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Old 10-17-2008, 09:25 AM   #31
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1993 25' Excella
Craftsbury Common , Vermont
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solar system up and running

Hi everybody! thanks for your great feedback. it's been a beautiful fall, and we've been hard at work. I'll send some pictures soon.

We now have a cute 8x8 shed attached to the airstream, a huge 250 lb. propane tank out back, a wood crib full of free scrap firewood cut to the size of our future stove's 9" firebox, and we now finally have electricity courtesy of a 240 W solar array and a 660 Amphour 12V battery bank.

The shed is totally sweet, built all from scrap materials plus $5 for hinges. It will act as a mud-room/vestibule/storage/electricity control room. I found the floor pre-made, as well as a nice door with a window. Roofing metal, sawmill slabs, electrical wire, and tools were contributed by generous community members.

The one thing we're missing at this point is the woodstove. We were told in July that it would be here "before it gets cold" but the stovemaker STILL doesn't have the cast iron he needs to make our stove... it's been a huge headache. The people making our stainless steel heat shield have also been pretty incompetent and we have to go into town this afternoon to slap them around. We've had quite a few frosts at this point, but so far we've been cozy under the covers, just a little chilly in the morning before we leave for school. And now that we have the solar, we can run the propane furnace if we really want to.

It took me three months to get everything I needed to install the solar, and eight hours to actually do the wiring. talk about satisfaction!
The batteries are buried a foot deep in two rubbermaid containers under the trailer's fold-up stairs, in order to insulate them from extreme cold.
The two 12 V solar panels are wired in series to make them operate at 24 V because they are located about 90 feet from the trailer, in a spot with all-day sun exposure. I have 6 gauge copper wire going from the array to the charge controller in the shed, so there should be a maximum wire loss of about 2.5%.
I have an Outback MX60 charge controller that converts the array's 24V output into 12V to charge the batteries. I also have an IOTA charger that allows me to charge the batteries with an 1800 watt generator.
We're planning on using up to 500 Watt*hours per day, which means we have 5-8 days of reserve electricity (depending on battery temp.) until the batteries are 50% discharged. And we can be conscious and use less when we think we might not have sun for a while. In the doldrums of winter here it averages about 2 hours of cloudless sunlight per day, but even then we should get close to 500W*h per day. I'm optimistic about hardly ever needing to use the generator. Unless of course our woodstove never comes and we have to use the propane furnace as our main heat source for a while.
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Old 10-17-2008, 12:11 PM   #32
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~ Pictures would be great ~
The days are short and the night is long and the stars go tumbling by.. . ~Airstream~
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Old 10-17-2008, 01:07 PM   #33
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You guys are going to have an exciting winter and I'm really looking forward to your updates throughout the season. Keep us informed on the good and the bad when you have time away from your studies. Hope that wood burner comes soon.

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Old 10-17-2008, 01:50 PM   #34
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I have friends living off the grid in VT also in a beautiful modest 2 story 2 room home. They have done it for about 6 years now. The hardest thing they have encountered was a two week period were they were snowed in. They keep food stashed for a month supply.

Your going to need that wood stove just in case nobody can get to you to fill that propane tank in the dead of winter if it should go empty on you. That would be my priority #1. Lack of sunlight is another very important thing to think about. They have monitors and alarms that let them know when the are using to much juice in their everyday living.

I think it's great you guys are going for it. It's an awsome thing to be free of the everyday things we so much depend on living in this material world. Good luck!
Ann & Eric
WBCCI 6274
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Old 10-17-2008, 04:44 PM   #35
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Winter in Vermont gives COLD a whole new definition I am familiar with because it was my old stomping ground. Most of these flatlanders here have never had the experience of your nose hair instantly freezing all crinkly as soon as you step out the door, or 3" snotsicles on yur mustachio.

That being said many adventurous souls who have wintered over in an AS had the primary complaint of excessive condensation on the inside skin. When I was really, really crazy I would go "winter camping" in tents. We used cloth "frostliners" suspended fon the inside of the tent from the tent fabric. It helps considerably. I have not heard of anyone rigging one up in an AS, but it might be worth a try.
Sail on silver girl. Sail on by. Your time has come to shine.
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Old 10-20-2008, 09:26 AM   #36
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1993 25' Excella
Craftsbury Common , Vermont
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hi there,
here are some pictures of our solar panels which we just got mounted on an adjustable stand to keep them out of the snow. And also a picture of the shed that is almost complete, and the charge controller showing 87 watts of charge right after the frost started to melt off the panels this morning.

don't judge us too heavily based on the stereotypical condition of our front yard... we're still in the construction process and all that junk will soon be cleaned up.

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Old 10-20-2008, 01:22 PM   #37
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Please tell us how you had previously dug two six-inch wide fence post holes three or four feet deep into the ground, added a bag or two of concrete in bottom of holes that hardened around some steel cable, stamped fence post, rebar or angle iron thus making two "deadman" anchors to which you've cleverly bolted the wood frame to, keeping the solar array from sailing (tumbling) across the meadow? If you need to keep it semi-mobile a couple of good sized tree trunks dragged in and laid across/through it will do nearly the same thing,

I've seen a few heart-breaker episodes of wooden rack flutter that found internal weak points and ruined panels without leaving a mark, Also be wary of wood warp that stresses and wracks the glass so normal sun heating expansion pops it;- I'd also invest heavily in three or four inch deck screws at every joint so if it loosens up over the winter there will be no/low freedom of movement AND hang the actual PV panels on steel so when spring thaw happens one of those boards deciding to curl will have that to fight against steel, not the aluminum panel frame...

All in all looks like a good start (until her parents sees it? )
The days are short and the night is long and the stars go tumbling by.. . ~Airstream~
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Old 10-20-2008, 02:12 PM   #38
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ooh, can't say I did the whole deadman anchor thing.

but we were planning on sand-bagging (or tree-trunking is good too, probably easier) to weigh the frame down. it's used as a hay field in the summer so it does have to be semi-mobile. I have a hard time believing that sailing away across the field would be a big concern with such a small array, though. that frame has gotta be 300 pounds by itself.

your concern about warping, though, kinda freaks me out. that would be too sad. I'll think about putting up a steel strip between the wood and the panels.

all our folks are super pumped about the fact that we finally have electricity... and they've all witnessed our trashy yard and peed in our bucket before, so we can really only get better from here.
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Old 10-20-2008, 03:23 PM   #39
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Hopeful here as to not cramp this wonderful web log post with minutia - but I worry about turbulence, the odd gust that blasts down and about which we rarely see except for the damage it leaves behind...

My 123 watt panels are 26x59", so times-two plus the frame surface are is about 28 square feet of 'sail'. From Rohn antenna tower catalog; they state the pressure of 100 mph wind is about 40 pounds per square foot (0.004 lb/ft2/mph2) so that lone gust sweeping through (at just the right angle of course) yields an instant 1120 pounds of lateral force... then figure in the nice leverage the panel rack height advantageously provides and you've got the potion of motion effect happening on your beloved inanimate object!

Wind Load Charts - National Wind Protection - Alutech <--- winds chart (duh)

And yes, I know trailers would be flying like from the Wizard of OZ in sustained winds of those speeds, just talking about the brief 1 to 3 second pulse of turbulence that the great mass of the trailer readily shrugs off...
The days are short and the night is long and the stars go tumbling by.. . ~Airstream~
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Old 10-20-2008, 04:43 PM   #40
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cmell, this is very cool thing you guys are doing. It sounds like you have put some thought into it and are well planned. I'm really looking forward to your posts this winter.

I have never camped in a trailer during winter, but I have backpacked in very cold weather. If you can get your hands on a couple -20F down sleeping bags, you would be able to stay warn even if you have technical snafus with your heating equipment.

Just a thought. Enjoy, and please keep us posted.
"Only dull people are brilliant at breakfast" - Oscar Wilde

2500HD DMax............30' Classic
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