View Full Version : Full Time Cold Weather
02-17-2003, 09:17 AM
I need all the Info I can get on living in Cold weather. Heating,Water prep for pipes, storage areas for tanks and volumes, Who makes best diesel class A system set up for the winter months. All the related Ideas for a novice. I will be purchasing a Motor Home soon. We have our thoughts on a Fleetwood Discovery with slides. We would like to set it on a semi permanent site even during the winter months. We would live in it during the week days to work away from our home.. Please tell us the good and the bad from your experience. I have owned some other style trailers,but limited cold weather camping.
02-17-2003, 02:42 PM
A motor home may not be your best choice for 'semi-permanent' living. You might want to consider a trailer instead. It will be much cheaper and can be traded in for a motorhome when you decide to be less permanent. Just sitting is hard on motor vehicles...
Whatever you get should be blocked up for stability and to avoid stressing the suspension. Perhaps even remove the wheels and store them someplace protected.
As it is semi-permanent, you will want to insulate the area underneath the RV and perhaps have a safe heat source there. This may reduce the need for pipe/tank heaters underneath the unit. Unfortunately, the water supply line is designed for easy hookup, not weather resistance. Probably you'll have to build an insulated/heated channel for it going up the side of the RV. Or replumb it so the water supply comes from underneath the unit.
Perhaps get a large (external) propane tank and delivery service. It may help to augment the built in furnace with ceramic heaters in spots (in cabinets/compartments with plumbing, 'cold' areas, etc).
You probably will not want to have your black water tank valve open all the time. It may be better to have a remote electrical valve. Leaving the gray water valve open all the time may not be a problem, although when you go to close it after 'years' of being open could be an exciting time.
If you do get a diesel, keep in mind that diesel fuel does not 'play well' with cold and will need additives to keep it from gelling.
02-18-2003, 07:08 PM
Thanks John -- the motorhome will be coming and going spring thru late fall. It will set during the week for 5 days. I'm worried about the cold three to four months in the east. Likethe days we just endured. I thought of a tunnel and heat tape. Insulation such as straw around the bottom of the motorhome. I had the same Idea as you about propane. Black tank dump should also be as close to the hole as possible. I welcome any other Ideas.
Things I have learned after a winter on living in Class A in mid INdiana could fill a small novel. Feel free to ask if I have forgotten something.
Lamps with bulbs from 150 to 500 watts and a thermometer will be vital to keep water lines and onboard pump from freezing. I use daily weather and the thermometer to adjust which wattage is needed. Too much and your electric bill sucks, too little and running water doesn't happen till noon.
My RV has a cold water line running behind frig where the vent is that freezes in really cold weather. Locate and insulate.
Make covers for roof vents and A/C unit big enough to accomodate insualtion - blocks lots of heat loss that way.
An electric blanket is absolute must for nightime comfort and way cheaper than heating whole RV.
I turned my furnace down to 60 and use small heaters for heating where I am. It has saved probably 40 % of utility bills overall.
Large propane tanks and automatic crossovers are well worthwhile.
Filling the onboard water tank and using it is easier than keeping outside line from freezing.
A light/heat source is necessary to keep sewage valves from freezing shut.
A gallon of antifreeze poured into each tank when emptied will help keep the water in the discharge pipes from freezing.
There is a self-adhesive 'rope caulk' available for sealing drafty windows. It can only be installed above 40 degrees so it is useless in the middle of winter - lol
If I was going to do this again, I would beef up the draperies on each window, particularly the front to block more cold.
If you're going to be on an unserviced lot and have to haul your blue tank, let me know and I will give you winter tips for that too.
Buy warm slippers and thermal underwear.
While Beth has made some really good points, I would like to comment more directly on your situation.
If you do get the Discovery, or another recent class A motorhome you will have your waste tanks and your plumbing in enclosed, heated bays where as long as you keep the interior of the motorhome reasonably comfortable for you,it will also keep the bays above freezing. That is because those bays have a small heat duct from the furnace that dumps into them. But you will use a lot of propane and you won't want to drive the motorhome to the supply of propane. For that you need to have a connection for an external tank. There is a kit available from most RV supply stores called "Extend a Stay" that will allow you to connect an external tank to your rig above the regulator so that you will not need another regulator. You will want at least one tank of 100# or more, and you might even check on a "keep full" service from the propane suppliers. Most of them do rent tanks. Since you will be paying your own electricty, you will probably not want to use electric heat to any large degree as it will most likely cost more than the propane. There are catylitic heaters that use propane that are much more efficient at heating than the installed forced air furnaces that come in an RV.
If you are still in the buying process, be sure to get the dual pane windows as that will not only help a lot in the cost of heat, but it also helps a lot with another problem of cold weather RV living, condensation. With the dual pane windows we only have to deal with condensation on the aluminum frames and the windshield. But to help to cut down on that problem, be sure to open a vent in the bathroom when showering and use the vent hood when cooking. An RV is a very small space and with just your breath and cooking it will soon have very high humidity.
If you are planning to buy a lot for the RV, put the utilities into a curb like island in the center of the pad so that you can crawl under the rig and connect, and thus when you add some type of skirting around the RV to prevent wind under the rig, it will also protect the water and sewer connections. The Discovery will have all of the valves for water and sewer inside of one heated bay so with the RV skirt installed, those will be protected. And do plan to install some type of scirting. If you are on an owned lot, make it from some weather proof material and line it with the foil wrapped foam that is used in the construction industry. You can then build some type of storage for the skirt when not in use. While straw is a good insulating material, it is also a fire hazard and it is difficult to adjust the highth of it to fit the motorhome. And you will need to block the wheel wells as well.
On the subject of wheels, keep your tires isolated from the moisture of the earth with plastic or some kind of water proof material. Tires will weather best if they are not allowed to stay damp for long periods. And they should also be protected from the sun, but skirting can do that. I keep tire covers on all of my wheels when we are parked for more than a few days.
You will probably want to have some way to insulate the windshield extra since it is the one window that you can't get with dual pane glass. We use heavy quilted drapes made by my wife with the quilting filled with Thinsulite(3M Co.) like is used in winter coats. Another way is to use the foil coated bubble material. But you will need to open it up and use an ocillating fan to dry out any moisture once a week or so.
These ideas should help you as you plan for your winter living. Hopefully there will be other posts that will cover the things that we have not yet thought of.
Just a quick note - my class A has the heat vent from the furance into the basement but the vent is nearer the sewage tanks than the fresh water lines. Even when I was using the furnace exclusively for heating it did not do a satisfactory job of keeping the water lines from freezing. My on board pump is in the far rear drivers side, the lines then run across the back of the rig, up the passenger side in the basement and only enter the coach near the water heater. Once inside the coach the lines are not a problem except for the one cold water line to the kitchen sink that kept freezing because of it's location behind the fridge in an unheated and vented to the outside compartment.
I tried using 100% propane furnace for heating but, depending on outside temperatures, found it pricey. At one point I went through a 100 lb tank of propane in less than 8 days. I can stretch that same 100 lbs to almost 3 weeks by using electric heaters for spot heating (as in the spot I'm in) and at 9.8 cents a kwh that the park charges I am still ahead of the game.
The downside of using mostly electric for heat is that the basement doesn't get the benefit of the furnace heat vent as much.
Sorry, I forgot to mention the adding of the extend-a-stay tee because I had it done years ago for convenience when I had the RV parked in Florida and well, I take it for granted.
02-21-2003, 05:42 PM
Quote from Beth:(Even when I was using the furnace exclusively for heating it did not do a satisfactory job of keeping the water lines from freezing)
I would have to agree with Beth on this. There are "some" MH's with heated bays. They tend to work when the temps are above about 20° to 25°. But not when the mercury plummets. It doesn't take much freezing to get very costly. I have known folks who mistakenly thought leaving their hot water heaters on they would not freeze. Wrong. I have repaired a few burst heaters for friends, some twice. (grin) (he is probably reading this) I would not rely on heated bays to keep things from freezing unless you are in Texas or Florida's snow bird belt. I do use supplemental heat in my "heated" bays. :) JMHO :)
04-24-2004, 07:41 PM
I have the same issues. I am looking to purchase a 5th wheel new. We found the Keystone Everest but we still don't know if winter living in it is a viable option for me. The main problem is that the winters at 10,000 feet in the Colorado Rocky Mountains are extreme. Numerous consecutive nights in the teens below zero. Sometimes much more than that. I am not going to like having frozen or busted pipes. Can this be done? If so what extras do I need to do. I know about getting the heated underbelly, extra insulation on windows, foam around pipes, but what else?
04-26-2004, 01:41 PM
We kept a 3670 Montana hot last winter. Thermopane windows are a must. Slide floors are not insulated (bet they never told you that) so you have to keep the slides shut. Plumbing froze at 30F... early enough that we were able to re route them from below the tank spaces into heated areas and install a tank temperature sensor. That enabled us to add a bit of electric heat but burn enough propane (12lb a day) to keep the tanks from freezeing.
The only practical way to use one of these in the winter would be inside a shelter ... read big machine shed.
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