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Author Topic: RVing in cold weather climates  (Read 8028 times)

Angelbunnie13182

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RVing in cold weather climates
« on: May 14, 2014, 11:09:43 PM »
I am wondering if anyone had a list of tips to do with our 5th wheel when it came to living in it during winter. Last year, living in TN, apparently according to long time residents, had the worst winter weather in like 12 yrs. Lots of snow, and too many days to count school and base were closed due to ice. How do ppl fair in an RV in this type of weather? Oh and did I mention the power outages caused by all the downed trees?
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SeilerBird

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #1 on: May 14, 2014, 11:52:00 PM »
Have you ever heard the term "snowbird"? That's what most of us are so we don't have to deal with winter weather. RVs have almost zero insulation and don't fare well in cold weather. Pipes can freeze.

Every year at least one person joins the forum because they are planning on buying an RV and living in Canada or Minnesota or some place like that for the winter. They have grand plans for wrapping the RV in something, putting on skirts, wrapping the pipes etc etc etc. Usually there are a few people who try and explain that RVs don't work well in cold weather but they are ignored. The funny thing is we never hear from these people again to tell us how wonderful their winter in an RV was :-\
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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vmyoung61

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #2 on: May 15, 2014, 12:31:18 AM »
We weren't planning on wintering in freezing weather in our fiver this winter, but plans changed and we are still in Arkansas.  We had one of the coldest winters I can remember.  Lows in single digits and we even had wind chills below 0 a few nights.  I won't lie - It was trying, but we made it. 

Double insulated the water hose and left faucets dripping at night.  Set electric heater in basement on low.  Open bathroom cabinets and strategically positioned two electric heaters inside the fiver.  Electric fireplace ran constantly, in addition to the furnace.

Filled garbage bag with straw and packed around faucet and covered with large rubbermaid tub. Filled a second smaller trash bag with straw and packed in the area where hose connected to camper.  Ran a dehumidifier to prevent condensation from forming on the inside of windows AND FREEZING.

I think that pretty much covers our winterization . . .

I can't tell you how many times I looked at hubby and said, "You know - We were supposed to leave before it got this cold."

We were actually quite comfortable in our Montana and didn't have any frozen pipes, but it took constant attention.
Steve and Gina
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Angelbunnie13182

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #3 on: May 15, 2014, 06:58:16 AM »
Well we are military so unfortunately we can't just up and move 😔
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SeilerBird

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #4 on: May 15, 2014, 07:24:07 AM »
Well we are military so unfortunately we can't just up and move 😔
Ok but you might want to consider renting an apartment instead.
I would like to apologize to anyone I have not yet offended. Please be patient and I will get to you shortly.
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John From Detroit

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #5 on: May 15, 2014, 07:40:01 AM »
Well.. I go to South Carolina myself.. Just a short day out of TN (on my way south my last night "On the road" was spent in, I thinkm, Viola, TN. less than 200 miles from Seneca, SC  200 of which about 150 was Foothills driving,, (Not the easiest, nor the hardest, roads I have ever trod).

One option is to winterize (I like the dry method) the fresh system and carry water inside the heated RV.. of course this leaves your exposed pipes at risk if you have any but they can be protected.

A 100 watt light blub or two can put out a lot of heat.. Just make sure it is the old fashion kind, not the new fangled low-power ones  Or a 150 watt Infra Red spot or flood.  But be careful with those in enclosed spaces (DO NOT USE)

You can take a coffee can, a block of wood (or metal) a porelin lamp base, a large coffee can and some flat black paint.

Paint the can inside and out
Put 75-100 watt lamp in light fixture (Actually a porcelin ceiling/wall type fixture on a box nailed to a say six inches of 2x6 might work well  or fill the base with plaster)

Makes a fairly good low wattage heater.  (But I do not cover my light-bulb-heaters.. I let the light shine on what I want heated, Works better that way)
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Bobtop46

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #6 on: May 15, 2014, 08:39:36 AM »
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Angelbunnie13182

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #7 on: May 15, 2014, 10:01:34 AM »
We weren't planning on wintering in freezing weather in our fiver this winter, but plans changed and we are still in Arkansas.  We had one of the coldest winters I can remember.  Lows in single digits and we even had wind chills below 0 a few nights.  I won't lie - It was trying, but we made it. 

Double insulated the water hose and left faucets dripping at night.  Set electric heater in basement on low.  Open bathroom cabinets and strategically positioned two electric heaters inside the fiver.  Electric fireplace ran constantly, in addition to the furnace.

Filled garbage bag with straw and packed around faucet and covered with large rubbermaid tub. Filled a second smaller trash bag with straw and packed in the area where hose connected to camper.  Ran a dehumidifier to prevent condensation from forming on the inside of windows AND FREEZING.

I think that pretty much covers our winterization . . .

I can't tell you how many times I looked at hubby and said, "You know - We were supposed to leave before it got this cold."

We were actually quite comfortable in our Montana and didn't have any frozen pipes, but it took constant attention.


Thank you very much. I appreciate the help and advice!
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Angelbunnie13182

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #8 on: May 15, 2014, 10:02:18 AM »
Well.. I go to South Carolina myself.. Just a short day out of TN (on my way south my last night "On the road" was spent in, I thinkm, Viola, TN. less than 200 miles from Seneca, SC  200 of which about 150 was Foothills driving,, (Not the easiest, nor the hardest, roads I have ever trod).

One option is to winterize (I like the dry method) the fresh system and carry water inside the heated RV.. of course this leaves your exposed pipes at risk if you have any but they can be protected.

A 100 watt light blub or two can put out a lot of heat.. Just make sure it is the old fashion kind, not the new fangled low-power ones  Or a 150 watt Infra Red spot or flood.  But be careful with those in enclosed spaces (DO NOT USE)

You can take a coffee can, a block of wood (or metal) a porelin lamp base, a large coffee can and some flat black paint.

Paint the can inside and out
Put 75-100 watt lamp in light fixture (Actually a porcelin ceiling/wall type fixture on a box nailed to a say six inches of 2x6 might work well  or fill the base with plaster)

Makes a fairly good low wattage heater.  (But I do not cover my light-bulb-heaters.. I let the light shine on what I want heated, Works better that way)

Very interesting idea John! 😊
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Angelbunnie13182

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #9 on: May 15, 2014, 10:10:20 AM »
http://www.rvforum.net/SMF_forum/index.php?topic=58114.msg534542#msg534542

Review this thread it might give you some ideas.


Wow! Yes it sure did. I missed this link somehow. Thank you!
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Marsha/CA

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #10 on: May 15, 2014, 11:02:33 AM »
There is an article in the library that addresses camping in colder weather.  You can find it here:  http://www.rvforum.net/joomla/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=443:wintercamtips&catid=14&Itemid=132

Marsha~
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Angelbunnie13182

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #11 on: May 15, 2014, 03:26:02 PM »
Another question.....What does it mean when you tell the dealership to put something like a "polar package" on your RV? I was told at a dealership in Nashville that meant they were ready for yr round living.

Never mind if found the answer in the article above lol Thx Marsha! 😀
« Last Edit: May 15, 2014, 03:27:49 PM by Angelbunnie13182 »
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Jammer

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #12 on: May 15, 2014, 04:56:46 PM »
Heh..polar...

There's winter and then there's winter in Minnesota.  Spent one night in my trailer at -10 but had the water off and everything drained.

Even in truly cold weather it can be done but not much fun and you will go through propane like you can't believe.
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Bob.n.Carolyn

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #13 on: May 15, 2014, 05:11:17 PM »
Spent some nights in a KOA at the west entrance of Yellowstone one November, in a 28' Terry Trailer.  Got down to around 5 or10 degrees above at night.

The trailer had two built in RV propane heaters - one in the bedroom and one in the front end.  I also had a plug-in 1500 watt portable heater working.  As long as all three heaters were on, it was fairly comfortable.  As soon as any one of them cycled off, though it was INSTANTLY cold in the trailer.  I don't mean like within a couple of minutes, I mean instantly.  If the electricity would have failed, or the propane had gone out, I think we would have been in a lot of trouble. 

Should I expect my Monaco to be much different?
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kjansen

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #14 on: May 15, 2014, 08:51:44 PM »
The Artic or  Polar package real means you can get 3 seasons of use.  Winter is still out unless you do other things like skirting, extra heaters, window coverings, etc.
Keven Jansen
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Alexandria, Mn

Jim Godward

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #15 on: May 15, 2014, 08:59:45 PM »
Spent some nights in a KOA at the west entrance of Yellowstone one November, in a 28' Terry Trailer.  Got down to around 5 or10 degrees above at night.

Should I expect my Monaco to be much different?

No, but check your Monaco water compartment as some have had no insulation on the bottom, just a thin sheet of plastic.  Country Coach had the same issue on some models. 

Check all outside surfaces to be sure of what you have.  Also the vent pillows help a lot.
Jim
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Bob.n.Carolyn

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #16 on: May 15, 2014, 09:42:41 PM »
Will do Jim  Thanks
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Tom

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #17 on: May 15, 2014, 09:52:14 PM »
Bob, your Monaco Windsor will likely have styrofoam sprayed on the outside (underside) of the wet bay. It will also likely have a built-in heater in the bay, with controls labeled 'Systems heat' in the cab area (ours is above the entry door). Of course, the heater will only work if you have shore power.
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Bob.n.Carolyn

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #18 on: May 16, 2014, 05:29:49 AM »
It is as you described, Tom.   This topic has just made me wonder how well the heating system works inside the coach.  I've never had either of my Monaco's in anything like cold weather.

BTW: What's a vent pillow? 
« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 05:31:35 AM by Bob.n.Carolyn »
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kjansen

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #19 on: May 16, 2014, 06:20:47 AM »


BTW: What's a vent pillow? 

It's a piece of covered foam that you put in your roof vents from the inside to help blocked heat loss.  Costs about $13-15.
Keven Jansen
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Alexandria, Mn

Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #20 on: May 16, 2014, 08:06:40 AM »
We had very cold weather last nite, and my propane heat ran out. This morning, no water would come out of my faucets and toilet. I got the propane tank filled and turned the heat on. Now, a little water runs out if faucets. Should I just keep the heater on and hope everything thaws ? Is there something else I should do? What about the water heater?- should I turn it on? Will it help thaw the water? Or leave it off in case it is frozen also? Help!

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #21 on: May 16, 2014, 08:58:58 AM »
I was scratching my head over what vent pillows were until Keven explained. Folks stuff them anywhere there's one of those acrylic vent covers or skylights (e.g. we have a large skylight above the shower). They effectively provide insulation in those areas, although we've never used them.
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Bob.n.Carolyn

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #22 on: May 16, 2014, 11:17:42 AM »
Thanks Tom

« Last Edit: May 16, 2014, 11:24:33 AM by Bob.n.Carolyn »
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Jim Godward

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #23 on: May 16, 2014, 11:29:27 AM »
Also the vent pillows help a lot.

Sorry for not explaining what they are but most everyone here in MT knows well what they are.  Just never thought about it!
Jim
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MikeSW214

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #24 on: May 26, 2014, 08:47:30 PM »
Well I full time/part time in Elko NV. Teach in the diesel program here at GBC .Pretty cold here, got down to -12 in Nov. I survived. My camper is (was) an older HR with 6' thick roof and well insulated floor. Did not skirt. I have a heat strip in my A/C with my furnace. I could keep 70 deg per the wall unit no issues at the coldest. I also have a hot rod in my water heater. Did not use half of my propane all winter. RV type is going to be a factor. All the RV's i have had, nothing is built like the older HR's aluminum frame and outer walls, build like a tank..... a warm tank. Next yr will be in my DP will see how that goes. But for me T minus 3 days till my traveling summer starts! so no more cold talk.... ::)

Mike and Paula

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #25 on: June 27, 2014, 03:42:41 AM »
This thread brings back lots of memories...some not so great.

I chased heavy construction, going from one boom job to another. Rather than be separated most of the year, my wife and kids opted to travel with us...so we lived in travel trailers for many years.
We spent one winter in Pocatello, Idaho at -35, and two winters in Big Piney, Wyoming...which got down to about -50 at night for a couple of weeks. It got hella cold in the RV...things would frost in closets if the doors were left closed, the door would ice over and you had to use a hair dryer to thaw it out in the morning.  :o And you usually left just a trickle of water running to keep the water lines in the trailer from freezing.

BUT, we survived all that and more.

You definitely want to skirt the RV well with sturdy material. Also, GOOD heat tape for your water supply lines, your sewer drain line, and even your holding tanks if they're exposed. I used "heat trace tape" from one of the pipeline jobs. IIRC, 5 watts/foot, self regulating...You adjusted how "hot" it got by the number of wraps per foot you used.
For a fifth wheel, not only do you want to skirt the body of the trailer, you have to skirt the gooseneck portion as well. Since that's often used as storage, be sure to leave a sturdy door in it that you can close and even lock.
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Billp47

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #26 on: June 27, 2014, 07:48:15 PM »
Skirting is absolutely the best thing you can do. I use heavy plastic and wrap the bottom first and then use that shiny insulation board from homedep. with the tinfoil tape. Then you can put a halogen light down there to cut it down a bit temperature wise. I really makes a huge difference.

Billp47

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #27 on: June 27, 2014, 07:49:54 PM »
Oh and tape your windows with plastic. Get the heaviest plastic.

gralson

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #28 on: August 12, 2014, 11:25:38 PM »
Have you ever heard the term "snowbird"? That's what most of us are so we don't have to deal with winter weather. RVs have almost zero insulation and don't fare well in cold weather. Pipes can freeze.

Every year at least one person joins the forum because they are planning on buying an RV and living in Canada or Minnesota or some place like that for the winter. They have grand plans for wrapping the RV in something, putting on skirts, wrapping the pipes etc etc etc. Usually there are a few people who try and explain that RVs don't work well in cold weather but they are ignored. The funny thing is we never hear from these people again to tell us how wonderful their winter in an RV was :-\
Been doing it for five years I wouldn't say it's been all roses through the Canadian winters, but people have been doing it for years. you don't see many of them on the forums much as most of us are working in the oil, gas, mining, and timber industries. This usually means we are working 12+ hours a day.  I myself am in the transportation industry. Twenty years ago I stepped onto my first oil site and was amazed to walk into a camper in the middle of winter. The temperature that day was around  - 40 with enough wind to shut a drilling rig down. most of us heat trace our lines or throw in a webasto engine heater/ prewarmer to keep the water and pipes from freezing. It has the added benefit of a 40 to 100 gal radiant heater as well.
 
85 winnebago cheiftan w honda gen & solar array off grid full timing year round (except the 8 days a month at the sticks and bricks) western canada Ab,Sk,Mb. yes I do it in - 40!

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Re: RVing in cold weather climates
« Reply #29 on: December 27, 2014, 04:07:23 PM »
I hope that no one minds me reviving this thread, I know it has been idle for a few months.  I thought since we are once again in the cold months it would be ok rather than starting a new thread.

I just wanted to put in my two cents and let it be known that with the right choice of RV and a couple common sense modifications, living through the winter can be done relatively easily without breaking the bank, and certainly without wasting thousands of dollars on renting an apartment.  I live in the Texas Panhandle, which to those not familiar with the area may seem like a reason to dismiss my argument, but with our close proximity to the Rockies and significant elevation (nearly 4,000 feet) it gets quite cold.  We started getting snow this year in October and it will remain cold until about March.  The high for one day next week is 14F with a low of 4F.  Obviously there are colder parts of the country, and of course northern destinations such as Canada can be colder as well.  I have never had any desire to visit Canada but I have been all over the US including during the winter and haven't encountered any temperature low enough that my furnace and plumbing couldn't keep up with. Lowest temperature that I am aware of was about -8F sustained thereabouts for about 18 hours before it started rising enough to mention, and even then never got above about 6-8F for about three days while we were there, plenty cold enough to freeze water in a short amount of time.  My trailer is a 2003 Hitchhiker Fifth-Wheel, we live in it full time.

The "modifications" I have done are as follows:

1. Plastic on all windows.  This is the kind with the double sided tape around the perimeter of the window, with plastic stretched tight via a hairdryer over the window.  Incredibly effective at stopping cold drafts and taking the strain off your furnace.  Also prevents windows from fogging up and condensating when it's cold outside and warm inside and does not affect visibility at all, it's crystal clear if you take the time to install it correctly.  I went one step farther and used the leftover plastic and tape to cover my AC vents in the ceilng as well as the exhaust/intake vents we all (most of us) have.  Heat rises and this prevents the warm air inside the cabin from escaping through the vent openings.

2. I removed the two rock-guards on the bottom of my trailer and covered all surfaces I could reasonably get to in 1" thick fiberglass insulation, as well as the inside of the panels themselves.  This includes the sides and bottoms of the holding tanks.  I then of course re-attached the panels.

3.  I purchased a heated water hose.  Not really a "mod" so much as an add-on but definitely worth mentioning.  They are a tad expensive but a 12' section can be had for less than $100.  Much less than the cost and inconvenience of repairing busted plumbing and the subsequent water damage.  I prefer the heated hose over heat tape because it requires no more effort to integrate than attaching a standard hose anytime you hook up your rig, and it takes care of the entire length of the hose all the way to the hydrant.  I am lucky enough to have my water hydrant at my permanent spot below ground and covered, so I coiled up the excess hose inside the hole around the faucet which prevents the hydrant itself from freezing.  If your hydrant is above ground you may have to go one step farther and either heat tape or otherwise insulate the hydrant itself.

4. Clean out your heating ducts before you need them.  If you don't clean them, you would be surprised at the amount of dust and debris that collects there in a single summer while they're not being used.  Brushes designed to be snaked through the ducts and sweep them out are available all over the place.  Just be careful not to accidently poke holes in your ducts, but if you do just be aware of it and repair the leak with real duct tape, not the brand with the little yellow duck as it's logo.  If you can't or don't want to do that, then a little compressed air can do a lot.  Clearing the obstructions from your ducts will allow proper flow of warm air, extend the life of your furnace and save you money on propane.  Excessive buildup in the ducts can also cause a fire.

I have never, not even once, had my water hose or any interior plumbing including the holding tanks, freeze.  I have had consistent flowing water at all times.  Once while at a site away from home I did have an above ground hydrant freeze, but this of course did not have any affect on my hose or plumbing.  I just heated the hydrant with a hair dryer until water started flowing a little and then let it run until it was thawed.  Not a big deal.  I also have absolutely no problem maintaining an interior temperature of 73F (this is not the maximum, just where I like it) and the furnace does not need to run continuously to keep it that way.

I do have heated holding tanks as the Hitchhiker is an all-season RV but I do not have heated floors or anything like that.  Propane usage is about 2 gallons per day in the cold.  I refill a 25 gallon (100#) cylinder approximately every ten days.

 

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