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Author Topic: New Fulltimer  (Read 1335 times)


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New Fulltimer
« on: September 09, 2017, 09:06:07 AM »
Have a few questions that's I'm having issues finding answers to online. My hubby and I have made the decision to go full time in our 91 Wilderness (with dogs and cats). We'll be in a campground in MI for a bit, at least that's the plan. We weren't planning on moving back up here until next year but his mom went into the hospital and we need to be here. So staying in warmer climates and being told to just find an apartment (as I was told on another forum) is out of the question. Not to mention we have 3 dogs and 3 cats, finding a place to rent is near impossible with pets and a limited budget.
The major issues I'm having is trying to figure out how to keep my tanks from freezing in the winter. We have water and sewer hookups, but I don't want my tanks to freeze. Can I still winterize them or is there a fire safe way I can keep them heated? We don't want to have to replace the tanks when we trade in the camper in a year or two. Next question, our hot water heater died earlier this year. I've been looking into replacements and for the love of coffee they're expensive. I've found some tankless ones that would fit where the current one is. Has anyone used them before or should we just stick with replacing what's already there? How have others survived winters in their rv without doing costly upgrades? Has anyone bought the skirting for the bottom of their rv or have you done a more diy set up? What are some key things I should be focusing on right now to keep the rv safe and avoid costly repairs later?
Another slightly less important question then maintaining the rv... For those that have done this with pets. Have you had any issues? Have any advice? The dogs I'm not to worried about. Two are older and prefer to sleep, the husky is 5 and she generally plays with the cats. The cats are my concern. Finding a place for 2 litter boxes, figuring out how to keep them off the stove, and how to protect the screens in windows and doors from curious kitties. Any advice here is appreciated. And no, as I was also told before, giving up my animals is not an option.   
Last question! cabinet organization. How do you have your cabinets set up? I'm more concerned with kitchen and living room organization then anything. Not only will I have dog and cat food, litter, pots and pans, dishes, etc, I also have our movies and gaming console (bc what else am I going to do without tv or net lol), and figuring out what we need to have with us and what can be shoved into a storage unit. I found some organizers at Camping World that work to dual purpose the cabinets, but I don't want to fall for gimmicks and there's got to be a better way.
Well that's it! If you've gotten through the book I've written, any advice is appreciated. I don't need people to tell me to move warmer, get rid of my animals, go find a rental -> already dealt w that and the rudeness behind it. I'm stressing out enough as it is. This is a big decision and not one that was made lightly. I've secured a year round campsite and just need help to not have thousands of repairs to do in the middle of winter on our camper, when it could have been avoided from the beginning. Thanks guys!


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #1 on: September 09, 2017, 09:59:50 AM »
Welcome to the Forum.

Your in a tough spot for sure.  I'm in MI and I know how cold it can get here and our winters have been
somewhat mild (snow wise) so we may be due for more.

Generally Winter and RVing don't go together very well at all.
It can be done but in a 27 year old trailer I think your going to use a lot of energy to keep it luke warm at best.
Have lots of warm clothes to wear. 

Your going to need a water heater for sure.  Either way it won't be cheap unless you might find a used one but that's a gamble
on how long it will work if at all.  A on-demand type unit may work but I assume it draws a lot of power while on and may draw more
than what your trailer is designed for.  Check that out before you buy anything.

I would buy heat tape to put on the water line coming to the trailer for sure.
Insulate the sewer line best you can - you don't need that freezing and backing up.
I've heard of people putting a small (500watt?) heater in the wet bay if it's enclosed
just to keep the tanks from freezing or a few 40w-60w regular light bulbs.  Don't know which is better.

I'm surprised you found a year round campsite in MI as most close for the Winter.

One more thing is you need to have a plan for WHEN the power goes out as it won't take long
before it's unbearable to stay in an unheated trailer.  IF your lucky it won't go out - but still have a plan.

Good Luck.

2002 Rexhall Rose Air  Cummins 8.3  350hp
West MI Summer   Central FL Winter

Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2017, 10:14:29 AM »
A '91 Wilderness may have exposed tanks and almost surely has exposed tank drains. I would suggest pouring some RV (potable water) antifreeze in both gray and black tanks after each dump, to make sure they stay at east slushy if not actually liquid.  You probably can't keep your hose & sewer lines out on the sub-freezing days/nights either, so fill the fresh tank and use potable water antifreeze there too. Keep some bottled water for drinking if the pinkish water/antifreeze mix is too offensive!  Be sure about your park's water supply - many parks shut off the water during freezing weather to prevent damage to their pipes.

You can add skirting of most any kind and it helps a lot, especially on breezy days. The floors will definitely be warmer.  The park may have some say about what you use, or at least how neat-looking the job is. They may not approve of bales of hay around the trailer! If it snows a lot, bank snow around the bottom to keep the icy breezes from underneath.

Be prepared to use a lot of propane and an electric space heater as well. If you have metered electric, the bill is going to be shocking. RVs, especially vintage models like yours, have thin walls, mediocre insulation, and a lot of glass and skylights in proportion to wall space, so they lose heat rapidly. Plus, every wall in an RV is a chilly exterior wall, so you will feel it everywhere inside the RV.

Moisture is going to be a major problem with the rig closed up in cold weather. Not just cooking and showers - 2 people and 6 pets breathe a lot of moisture in the air. expect water condensation evereywhere.

I see little advantage to a tankless water heater in your situation and a plug-compatible tankless replacement is no cheaper than a standard rv heater. Were you thinking of an undersink model instead? They are less money, but not as well suited to Rvs. If your RV has only 30A power, an electric heater probably isn't going to be satisfactory anyway. They are major power consumers when heating.

Sorry you think that the rent an apartment advice is rude, but it is the smartest thing to do. People with experience at this sort of thing are simply telling you what others have learned the hard way: an RV makes poor winter quarters in very cold climates.
Gary Brinck
Summers: Black Mountain, NC
Home: Ocala National Forest, FL


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #3 on: September 09, 2017, 10:26:58 AM »
Get a large propane tank set up on site because you are going to blow through propane like crazy. I was in winter temps that hit 7 degrees at nigh and was burning a 30 pound tank every day plus I was running an electric heater. I used black celotex fiber board from Home Depot to box in the area under the tanks and ran another electric heater under there on the coldest nights.  I didn't run a fresh water hose, I just kept putting water in the tank and used the water pump.  I also had reflexit on the inside of the windows and raped a blanket over the entrance door at night. 

I also had RV antifreeze on hand in case the furnace conked out so I could winterize it quickly and not damage any plumbing. I do have to say that the suburban furnace in our old rig is one heck of an appliance. As far as water heaters the best I have found is about $350 on E bay. It would be a pain but the other way you could use the RV is to keep it dry. Use a bucket with bags i it as a toilet along with sawdust or something. People who live in vans etc often use that method.  You would then use a 5 gallon jug of water instead of your water tank. You could heat water and use a hanging bag of warm water for showers. You then also need to then keep the gray tank drained.  Dont leave the rig unoccupied for long in case the furnace quits and it freezes everything.  Some use buddy style heaters but they give of a good amount of moisture. Even when just using your furnace you will notice that any bedding etc that is against the walls will become wet. I used one in a different TT for one night in Michigan and vented by opening a few windows a little bit but come morning there were puddles of water on the floor that had run off the windows. Our buddy heater also caused our sinus to plug up and I sold it on ebay.

Do not be surprised to use $500 a month in energy and if you come back and say it was $700 I would not be shocked.  I know you cant go to warmer weather but I'd rather live in my car than go through Michigan winter in an RV. If you make it through a winter up there you will be a pretty well seasoned RV'er. Good luck to you.


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #4 on: September 09, 2017, 10:46:32 AM »
The more I think about it if I was going to do it I would do it dry. Dishes could be washed in a dish pan and water poured in a 5 gallon jug and disposed of. The shower is the biggest hassle but as long as the gray tank is dumped right away it could work.  That way if the power did go out as redandsilver says you wont freeze it up. If it freezes you will have a heck of a time getting thawed and repaired. You could pop lines that are buried in the rig. It might be a good idea to have a small quiet generator on hand. 2000 watts or so.


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #5 on: September 09, 2017, 02:03:34 PM »
Thanks guys. To answer the apartment one, I've tried prior to deciding on the camper to find a rental. With animals and him having no work history established up here, it's been a real struggle. The two I did find were way out of our price range. It's not that I'm against it, I tried desperately to find a house and couldn't find one. We were planning on buying a house in two years up here and just renting our buddy's trailer for a few months. However, because we're moving up here a lot sooner, the trailer isn't available and my options were wiped out.
I've already checked with the campground. This one doesn't have the propane tanks you can lease. The others had them but had no vacancies because of the pipe liners moving in. I've already been warned my electric will be high, but it's lower then what I've been paying on my house in NC.  OZ, you are using a Surburban appliance? I found them at camping world and with our goodsam discount, I've been wondering if they're any good and how long it would last.
The park requires us to get some special hoses to connect to the water and sewer, they're made for negative degree temps. The hookups are year round but they are adamant on the hoses. I'm not too worried about that part and I've been pricing heat tape and insulation.
Gary, you mentioned the skirting. I've found some DIY videos on using thick insulation boards. Do you think that's a good way to go? I'm just trying to get thru the winter. We're not going to be able to drop close to 800 for the actual skirting.
Redandsilver, surprisingly I've found 5 in our area without going more then an hour from where the family lives. Sadly, the ones closer are full bc of the pipe line workers, I'm on their waiting lists but I'm going to take the one about an hour away. I've been scouring over forums, goodsam, and hiker websites to find them.
The camper is older and that is concerning on keeping it warm and only having a 30amp hookup. We're going to really have to watch our wattages and I know using the space heaters will eat a chunk of it. The furnace is propane and we have 2 30-tanks, tempted to upgrade to the 40. Any suggestions on further insulating the inside of the camper? I'm trying not to make it a complete fire hazard but I'm running out of time and savings.
Thanks guys for answering. I appreciate it.


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #6 on: September 09, 2017, 03:00:32 PM »
Camping World is one of the most expensive places. I was saying my furnace performed well when needing to run all the time. You will probably get the best price for a water heater on Ebay or Amazon.  When I bought one it was $650 at CW and $350 on ebay. Maybe start a new thread on your water heater or tell us what it is doing or not doing and the guys on here can help you.  It may be an easy fix or might need at $30 or $100 part but may be repairable.


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #7 on: September 09, 2017, 08:01:10 PM »
So hubby just took off the water heater tonight. The tank itself has a nice split in it. So we might get away with just replacing the tank


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Re: New Fulltimer
« Reply #8 on: September 10, 2017, 06:25:18 PM »
One way to keep heat inside is to put "plugs" in the overhead vents.  They're insulating vent cushions.  See picture at http://www.campingworld.com/shopping/item/vent-cushion-with-strap/106744.  We don't have straps on ours but they keep heat inside in the winter and the opposite in summer.  Also get some blackout curtain fabric (JoAnne Fabrics carries it).  It's primarily to keep it dark for sleeping but works remarkably well to keep heat inside when it's cold.

With anything you do outside, make sure your exhaust tubes are clear and can vent without sending fumes inside.  I'm thinking in case you need to run your generator if the power goes down.  Make sure your CO detectors work too.


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