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Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ice Storm - Winter RV-ing

We had a solid ice storm here last night, and temps dipped near 20.

Makes living in an RV interesting. Here are some tips I've picked up, mostly from neighbors who know more about this than I do. Sometimes you just walk around the RV park and pick up ideas.

Most RVs, including mine, are built for vacations, between May and October. I really haven't seen that the full timer market has affected the ability to insulate an RV effectively. Mobile Suites makes a very well insulated unit. The Cameo by Carriage has an Astro-Foil insulation option. They have a test-scenario on their web site of winter camping where they claim the unit held 65-degrees all night with 2 people in it during zero-degree weather. Non-Cameo dealers I've spoken to discount it. Regardless, that's why I'm looking into the foam and other insulation options. While it would require a massive rennovation, something inside tells me with a lot of work you probably could make an RV very energy efficient.

So here are a few considerations below 32:

External "Shower" - First of all, this is a joke anyway. My unit has a feature listed as "external shower". What it really is: A cheesy 22" sprayer hose. But there's more! Where the hole connects to the faucet on the side of the trailer, it's not a normal hose connection. And the water flow hole is barely big enough to poke a ball-point-pen through. Now, take the temp below 30 degrees. Yep, first place to freeze.

On my first freeze in the RV, this created a huge mess, backflowed into the storage area. It was really moment #1 of when I thought I might be certifiably crazy for thinking I could do this.

Solution: Disconnected the hose. Today it lies beneath piles of trash in a landfill near you!

Water Hose: Most people wrap their hose with the typical sponge-foam that you can buy at Lowe's, Home Depot or Wal Mart. I also added an electrical heater to it from the point of connection to land, so I can plug it in without an extension cord. I'm going to keep working on this a bit. The electrical wrap goes about 12'. My hose is about 30'. I haven't needed 30' anywhere yet, so I'm either going to cut it off and shorten it myself, which is doubtful. I'll probably just plunk down the money and buy a more appropriately-sized hose. If 15' would work in most cases, then my hose, wrap, and electrical heater will all work nicely together. The only challenge with this is the hose is so bulky. I just wrap it up best I can and throw it in the back of the pick-up when I'm towing. There's no way it could store on-board with all that foam.

Hose Connection - My unit has a side panel where the water hose connects. All the water and sewer valves come to that one spot. Problem: No insulation; either in front or behind. Modification: I removed a flimsy false wall behind this panel, thus opening up the rear of my storage compartment anyway. Then, weight issues aside, I packed in a load of R-25 fiberglass insulation behind this panel, where many of the open water lines are most directly exposed. I also cut a piece to fit inside the panel, so where the hose connects, I wrap insulation around that also.

Land Connection - Finally, some insulation around the faucet on land is good to carry with you. Many parks make any breakage of the faucet your responsibility.

Sewer Line - Let me give you the most valuable piece of information anyone could ever tell you about an RV. When the sewer hose is frozen, DO NOT touch it until it thaws! That's right. Do you remember that commercial for a pick up truck that aired many years ago. Two "bubbas" were sitting in the truck. They were stuck in a mud field. One says to the other..."you know, if we wait unil spring, I bet we can drive right outta here". That's about the way it is with the sewer hose. A frozen sewer line is as brittle as anything you could possibly imagine. You can't drain it, because it just keeps breaking. So if you just can't resist, at least have a 30-gallon Heavy trash bag in hand, and wear rubber gloves. OK. Lesson learned, and no, dammit, I don't have any pictures, but thank you very much for asking.

Underbelly - Mine has the heater vents running through the underbelly. Most units I think advertise this as a feature. Theoretically, if you run the propane furnace, it's supposed to provide enough warmth to keep the water and drain lines in the underbelly from freezing. I haven't dipped down to zero, and would wonder what might happen. I'm suspicious. What I did last night was run the furnace set at about 60. I supplement with electric heaters inside. When it thaws, we'll see if my plan worked. I also left the cabinet doors open under the kitchen and bath faucets, and dripped the kitchen.

Tanks - they make tank heating pads. Some units come with them already installed. They cost about $100 each. You tie them into your electric system. Some are AC/DC. They have built in thermostats where they start warming the tanks when the temp drops into the upper 30s. Haven't installed these yet. I may ultimately, if we have time, for prepping for mountain escapes.

Inside, I have 3 electric heaters. This works on the grid, but would suck the life out of my 440 amps off the grid. When TSHTF, if the grid goes down, as the Bible says, pray it's not winter. I have 3 down coats and heavy fleece on-board, so once the propane ran out, it would be tough going, sub-freezing.

Finally, an electric blanket makes for toasty sleeping.

Hope that spawns some thought. Stay away from frozen sewer lines!


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