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Author Topic: Winter Freezing  (Read 1812 times)

DownbytheRiver

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Winter Freezing
« on: January 14, 2013, 10:20:08 PM »
Hello Forum!  I am a freelance traveling musician/teacher and I purchased a 1991 Mallard Sprinter Class C.  She's showing her age but I just call that my built in theft-deterrent system.   I've learned more since I bought it than I knew before buying it, but I have really enjoyed the challenge of living full time.  I've developed some handy skills in a "trial by fire" method.  I love it for my travel, and as a trombonist, it's great to always have a practice room (people don't care much for trombone in hotels).  I am towards the end of my doctorate, and I plan on writing my dissertation at the dinette. 

I am currently on a gig in Green Bay in January.  Last night temps got down to 6 degrees.  I have done quite a bit to make this vehicle winter-worthy (pipe insulation for water lines, weather stripping for all windows, foam insulation pieces for anywhere I can put them.  I have removed the seat cushion that would cover the water pump and tank, left cabinet doors open, extra curtains to cover the door, made a cover for the stove vent) 

I have not yet done anything with my lines outside the vehicle so I am concerned for my grey and black water tanks freezing.  I am boondocking (thus not emptying daily, but also not hooked up to water/sewer lines).  With last night being so cold, I just left the vehicle running figuring the exhaust would help keep the underside of my vehicle warmer.  I poured some RV anti-freeze down the drains to mix in with a small amount of waste but I realize thatís a small step.  There was a small freeze on the right side (no kitchen sink or shower for a bit, but thawed and all works fine now thankfully!).

Here are my questions (for those of you still reading- thanks!):

At what point should I feel OK that my tanks wonít freeze?  Iíve read 20 degrees seems to be a pivotal threshold, but Iíd rather not guess wrong on this and err on the side of caution.  I have researched heat tape, tank heaters, "freezeless" lines, etc.  I donít have resources to improve anything on this trip so I have to make due.  I burn a gallon of gas every 2.75 hours when I idle so itís still cheaper than a youth hostel for an evening.  I realize the environmental detriment still outweighs a cracked black water tank.  Can anyone weigh in with more insight?  Thanks in advance and safe travels!
1991 Mallard Sprinter

mnmnutswer

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #1 on: January 14, 2013, 10:33:21 PM »
Underskirting will help a lot, I used bales of straw wrapped in plastic. I also have small radiator style heaters under mine to keep from freezing. Also elect heaters inside, saves me on propane. Good luck it is 15 here in Missouri tonight.....
Terry & Kathy Weller
Direct Sales Jewelry
It goes where you are.

SeilerBird

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #2 on: January 14, 2013, 10:46:28 PM »
I would not run my engine all night long. A small exhaust leak and you could wake up dead.
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Gary RV Roamer

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #3 on: January 15, 2013, 09:29:23 AM »
It's more a matter of how long the plumbing is exposed to sub-freezing temperatures. It takes several hours to steal enough heat from the water lines to freeze them internally.  That's why leaving a faucet open to drip usually prevents freezing - the continual supply of slightly warmer water offsets the loss of heat in the line. Of course, if the low reaches 20 from a daytime high above freezing, it has probably been several hours to get there and several more to warm up again, so plenty of time to freeze.

It usually doesn't take a lot of antifreeze in the waste tank top prevent it from freezing solid (it may get slushy), but the amount varies depending on how much of the tank and lines are exposed. Use potable water antifreeze so you don't pollute septic systems when you dump later.  Wrapping the exposed ends of the tank drains with some old towels or similar can help a lot too. You could also use pipe wrap insulation, which is typically about 6" wide and comes in a roll. Either one will slow the rate of heat loss.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
2004 American Tradition
2007 GMC Acadia
Homebase: Ocala National Forest, FL

DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #4 on: January 15, 2013, 09:56:04 AM »
I appreciate the replies!  I am using a carbon monoxide detector and still not dead which is good.  Good tips all around.  I'll look into the pipe wrap insulation but was worried about it getting soaked as I travel.  If it takes on moisture and then freezes....

Safe travels to all!
1991 Mallard Sprinter

Gary RV Roamer

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #5 on: January 15, 2013, 10:50:24 AM »
It's probably not going to stay on while you travel anyway, unless you do a heck of a job duct-taping it or whatever. Personally, I would just consider the wrapping to be temporary. That's why I suggest some old towels - just swath them when you stop and remove when you unhook. Should only take a couple minutes if it is a temporary job.
Gary
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Gary Brinck
2004 American Tradition
2007 GMC Acadia
Homebase: Ocala National Forest, FL

DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #6 on: January 15, 2013, 04:03:02 PM »
Gary,
   Heat tape was recommended to me by an RV repair specialist, but heat tape packages warn again using it on drain lines, only supply lines.  When they say "drain" I am not sure if they mean connections to dump sites, or (for example) the PVC pipe that carries my grey waste over to the dump spout.

My thought was I could use aluminum foil, then heat tape, then all-weather-performance duct tape to really get it secure.  I could plug in the heat tape line on on extremely cold evenings etc. as to prevent the less-likely freezing of that pipe.

The old towels is brilliant for ends of connections etc. but with the busy travel schedule I think its less practical for me to consider doing it on a daily basis, as long as the heat tape will work.  Thoughts?

1991 Mallard Sprinter

BillB3857

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #7 on: January 15, 2013, 04:46:25 PM »
Look for a product called EasyHeat.  It is a heat tape that self regulates.  It can even be tied in knots, crossed over itself, etc.  I put it on the lines leading from my holding tanks to their valves, over-wrapped with fiberglass, then vinyl tape.  I bought a 400W inverter and an inline thermostat to run them.  Works great!  The only time we had a freeze problem was when driving in 15 degree weather.  (our unit has an open underbelly)
2004 Silverado LB7 D/A CC LB DRW 4x4, Firestone Ride-Rites, Air Lift Compressor, Line-X Bed Liner, Retrax Bed Cover, Backup Cam, Pullrite Super 5th Hitch,  AstroStart 2205A Remote Start
2004 Keystone Sprinter 282FWRLS 5th Wheel
Trail-Air Pin Box, Rear View Cam on Trailer,

DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #8 on: January 21, 2013, 01:04:00 PM »
Bill,

 thanks for suggestion.  Found EasyHeat at www.emersonindustrial.com  they have many different products listed.  Which one did you specifically find success with?

Thanks!
1991 Mallard Sprinter

Wigpro

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #9 on: January 21, 2013, 01:48:52 PM »
Seems I have been in the wrong place almost all winter and dealing with freezing pipes and waste tanks all winter, until this week.

Here are a couple solutions I have found to work - at least for me.

  • Interior pipes and fresh water tank. Initially I open panels, opened cabinet doors and removed the cushion and wood access cover for the fresh water tank and pump.
  • The more permanent solution was to install small fans in all the access panels which access where the plumbing it. I chose 12V "computer type" cooling fans. They are virtually silent and move enough warm air from the cabin to keep things from freezing. I put them all on one line on a switch so I only need to run it when very cold.
  • Suggestion - don't ever leave your sewage drain hose hooked up during freezing weather...yes I did and had a frozen solid lump of 10 feet of plastic flexible (not really) which ended up thawing out in the shower, fortunately for me it was filled with grey water and not black.
  • Waste Tanks - I surrounded the rear of my unit with some hay bales and put a small 750 watt heater under there and my tanks were thawed within about three hours and stayed thawed throughout the remainder of the cold spell. Reminder - make sure you include the waste tank valves in the area you are protecting and heating...yes I didn't and the valves were frozen solid and there was a ice block in the pipe that had to be thawed before the tanks could be emptied. My next project is to install tank heaters and when it gets warmer that will get done...it is now not as high on my priority list since my work a rounds are working pretty well.
  • One other suggestion - after the tanks are thawed and emptied, immediately pour in some waste tank anti-freeze before anything else as this will travel down to the end by the waste tank valves and help prevent them from freezing, especially when the unit is stationary.
Good luck, hope some of this helps...
Jim
Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

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BillB3857

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #10 on: January 21, 2013, 08:05:56 PM »
@DownByTheRiver    I used this.....  http://www.emersonindustrial.com/en-us/documentcenter/EGSElectricalGroup/products_documents/heating_cables/commercial_heating_cables/commercial_pipe_tracing/psr_comm_pipe_trace_heating_cables/40926_001_r6_PSR_ss_web.pdf

Before I installed it, I picked up a roll of aluminum adhesive tape (like they use on metal duct work) and ran a strip of it along the bottom of each drain line to help distribute the heat.  I then snaked the heat cable from the dump valve to the tank and back, then to the next tank and back and then the third tank and back. (I have two gray and one black)  I then wrapped each pipe with Frost King fiberglass insulation overwrapped with vinyl tape.  If doing it over, I would use the split foam insulation instead of the fiberglass.  Power is supplied by a Black& Decker 400W portable inverter feeding one of these.......   http://www.lowes.com/pd_21563-72436-EH-38_0__?productId=1060249&Ntt=heat+tape&pl=1&currentURL=%3FNtt%3Dheat%2Btape&facetInfo=

 
2004 Silverado LB7 D/A CC LB DRW 4x4, Firestone Ride-Rites, Air Lift Compressor, Line-X Bed Liner, Retrax Bed Cover, Backup Cam, Pullrite Super 5th Hitch,  AstroStart 2205A Remote Start
2004 Keystone Sprinter 282FWRLS 5th Wheel
Trail-Air Pin Box, Rear View Cam on Trailer,

jw of 4 corners

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #11 on: January 22, 2013, 11:33:26 AM »
I think my solution is probably the best and least stressful. I leave for Florida before it is cold enough to freeze :) :)
F-350 7.3 PSD
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John From Detroit

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #12 on: January 22, 2013, 03:53:00 PM »
I think my solution is probably the best and least stressful. I leave for Florida before it is cold enough to freeze :) :)

I stop in South Carolina, IT does not often get cold enough to cause a problem here, it is supposed to freeeze, My barbar was scraping ice off his windshield before breakfast yesterday, but ... I only take minor precaustions (Rope lights taped to hose, Run furnace, and lights in wet bays).
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DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #13 on: January 22, 2013, 11:23:57 PM »
I am afraid work keep me in cold places for now.  No Florida or South Carolina for me for a bit!

I ended up going with heat tape for the water lines that run through my storage bay.  First I covered them with aluminum foil, then ran the heat tape in between the two lines and bundled the two lines together using pipe insulation.  I did two layers of insulation and they seem to be fine now.  I only experienced two moments where water was running on driver's side but not passenger side, but in both instances, as things warmed up, everything worked out i.e no leaks or bursts.  The heat tape should just help make sure it never gets to that point again.

The tanks are a different story.  I had used RV antifreeze in both, and when I went to empty them, blank tank was fine.  Grey water tank was stopped, most likely due to freezing (in hindsight I should have added a greater proportion of antifreeze to grey tank as it is more "water" thus will freeze sooner).  I have since wrapped the pvc pipe that runs from the grey tank to the drain with aluminum foil, run a line of heat tape, covered it with metal "cold weather" aluminum adhesive tape, then a few layers of extreme weather-rated duct tape.  This may not be enough to thaw the already-existing problem, however if the PCV pipe did not burst, then hopefully this will prevent future freezes from happening.  I also fastened a retractable covering for the pipe made up of fleece fused to a tarp with the fleece on the inside to warm, and the tarp material to protect from the elements.  The whole piece rolls up onto a cylinder attached in between the cross-members. 

I'm not sure if my new additions will thaw the grey tank, but hopefully I will not have a river under my vehicle...  any suggestions on what to do if it is frozen solid?

1991 Mallard Sprinter

DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #14 on: January 23, 2013, 11:22:52 PM »
UPDATE:

Heat tape on water lines works like a charm.  Heat tape on grey water drainage line worked as well, and I was able to drain some water out of my grey tank.  There is a back up in my shower that still persisted after I drained some water out of the tank.  I poured RV anti-freeze into my sink, and most of it ended up in my shower so the stoppage is after the lines meet the grey tank.  I might have a fair amount of frozen liquid in my tank- not the PVC pipe to the hook-ups.  Anyone ever dealt with this?  Should I boil water and pour it into the drain to try to heat things up from this end?  Temps are going to stay below freezing for a few days here, so not sure if I can get the entire tank up above freezing.  Any insight would be of great help.  Thanks all!



1991 Mallard Sprinter

driftless shifter

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #15 on: January 24, 2013, 06:37:23 AM »
the same but different ;) had an aircooled classic vw, modified engine w/dual carbs. rained hard 1 christmas day, car was outside. temps plummeted overnight and apparently rain foun its way through my cheap airfilters and filled at least 1 cylinder with water. went to use car next day, engine turned a wee bit and clunk, that was it starter would engage no turnover. the engine was internally ice bound. put s wrench on it and couldn't get a full revolution bacwards.

i used a 500 watt halogen work light in single digit temps, thawed it out in a couple hours, no harm. use caution in placement, might melt plastic if to close.
Bill & Nan
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93 bounder 34, chevy chassis
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Wigpro

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    • Capt Jim Lucas
Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #16 on: January 24, 2013, 07:52:46 AM »
I am afraid work keep me in cold places for now.  No Florida or South Carolina for me for a bit!

I ended up going with heat tape for the water lines that run through my storage bay.  First I covered them with aluminum foil, then ran the heat tape in between the two lines and bundled the two lines together using pipe insulation.  I did two layers of insulation and they seem to be fine now.  I only experienced two moments where water was running on driver's side but not passenger side, but in both instances, as things warmed up, everything worked out i.e no leaks or bursts.  The heat tape should just help make sure it never gets to that point again.

The tanks are a different story.  I had used RV antifreeze in both, and when I went to empty them, blank tank was fine.  Grey water tank was stopped, most likely due to freezing (in hindsight I should have added a greater proportion of antifreeze to grey tank as it is more "water" thus will freeze sooner).  I have since wrapped the pvc pipe that runs from the grey tank to the drain with aluminum foil, run a line of heat tape, covered it with metal "cold weather" aluminum adhesive tape, then a few layers of extreme weather-rated duct tape.  This may not be enough to thaw the already-existing problem, however if the PCV pipe did not burst, then hopefully this will prevent future freezes from happening.  I also fastened a retractable covering for the pipe made up of fleece fused to a tarp with the fleece on the inside to warm, and the tarp material to protect from the elements.  The whole piece rolls up onto a cylinder attached in between the cross-members. 

I'm not sure if my new additions will thaw the grey tank, but hopefully I will not have a river under my vehicle...  any suggestions on what to do if it is frozen solid?




The shower is the lowest drain in the system and it is where grey water goes when the tank is full or in this case frozen. Keep heat on the tank and pipe and it will thaw so you can empty it. Then as soon as it is empty put in the anit-freeze.

I used a heating pad wrapped around the tank and drain pipes and it worked well...

Good Luck.
Full time traveler, fishing guide and photographer!

Travel Blog: http://captjimtravelblog.blogspot.com

Website: www.captainjimlucas.com

Photo Site: http://captjim.smugmug.com/

DownbytheRiver

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Re: Winter Freezing
« Reply #17 on: January 27, 2013, 10:01:54 PM »
Thanks Wigpro,

Heating pad helped.  Then I had a friend offer to help me skirt the vehicle and blow his torpedo heater underneath.  We made sure it didn't get too hot, but after a few reps, the shower drained and I was able to empty my grey water tank.  I poured 2 gallons of antifreeze into the grey side and the weather is back up for the time being so I am out of the woods for now.  Seems to be no damage (can't find any leaks or cracks) so all is well. 

Learning a great deal here.  Thanks everyone for your help!
1991 Mallard Sprinter