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Cold Weather Use Recommendations


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#1 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 06:52 PM

Are there general recommendations on low temps in which you'll use your pop-up both dry and using the water system (no toilet) (Northstar TC650 SubZero package)?
 
When we're not using it, I've blown out all of the lines with an air compressor, but when we do use it, I'm looking for any recommendation for when we can use the on-board water system vs, when it's best not to use the system and just carry a separate water container. 
At night, we'd have the furnace running and I was thinking in situations where daytime temps didn't warm up beyond the 30's and we were not in the camper, I'd just keep the thermostat set to like 55 or 60 degrees.
 
Just wanted to see if there were recommendations that could be shared from your experience. 
 
Thank you!


#2 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 13 November 2018 - 09:45 PM

Greetings britdog, 
 
We recently had this discussion on the Northstar Owner's Group on Facebook.
Anyhow...
My camper (not a pop-up) is heated all winter but I still drain the fresh water tank and blow the water lines out.
I use window washer fluid in the cassette toilet... 
 
b0acd117-f940-44f0-a651-36fa5a52cd50-1-a
...and throw a couple cases of bottled water on the truck for everything else...
Poland-Spring-Bottles-16-fl-oz-24-pack.j
When I get to where I'm going and unload the camper at a park or forest I keep the furnace set to 50*F and a back-up electric heater set at 40*F while I'm gone.
 
The reason I blow out the water lines even though my TC is always heated is so that if there is a failure of the on-board furnace and the backup heater too, and I'm away from the camper overnight I dont have to worry about any freeze damage.
 
I have a truck camper trip to northeast Wisconsin this January/February. The camper will be abandoned several times during our stay. If it doesn't get stolen, shot-up by drunk hunters, or burnt to the ground by vandals, I'll let ya' know how she fared in the brutal Lake Michigan subzero wind & snow.  :fing32:
 
Regards,
-Jake-

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#3 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 17 November 2018 - 08:31 AM

Thank you for your input and sharing the Facebook group pointer. I just requested to join it. 

 

I understand that you blow your lines out, but do you use the on-board water system on your winter trips?



#4 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 18 November 2018 - 04:38 PM



 

I understand that you blow your lines out, but do you use the on-board water system on your winter trips?

The short answer: No. (but it's not that simple). I could indeed use the on-board water system in sub-freezing conditions if I chose to.
BTW, my camper is a hard-side, not a pop-up.
 
If 'you' actually live in your camper in below freezing conditions then the inside temperature is never anywhere near freezing so there is no problem using your fresh water system.
 
However,
That pesky greywater tank & drain hose...
It takes several hours but the greywater tank will freeze, and that's a problem.
I have found that if I (or the wife) takes a shower and we fill & dump the gray water in one move all is fine, but if we use water sparingly and keep the greytank drain valve open (like we do in the summer) then the greywater drain hose will indeed freeze to the point of a blockage. 
Also note that I use a 5/8" garden hose for a greywater drain line. Its much easier than dealing with a 3" stinky slinky.
 
Closing pointers. . .
* If you can 'see' all the water lines from inside your camper (as I can in my Arrow-U), and the camper's inside temperature is always 50*F or above then there is no freeze problem to worry about.
Obviously if you abandon the camper with no heat running in freezing weather then you will indeed freeze the fresh water system.
 
* The greytank and drain hose is what "I" have trouble with in brutal cold conditions. But NOTE!... You can buy a greytank heater and a heated drain hose to keep that greytank flowing. 
Well... provided you have plenty of 120 VAC power to run all those electric heat devices.  :unsure:
 
* All this free internet advice is fine but if you start using the camper in freezing weather you'll soon learn exactly what works best for you and your particular camping style.
 
Sorry for the long post.
Happy Camping!  :D
-Jake-

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#5 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 19 November 2018 - 07:27 AM

Great advice. Thank you. 

 

Yes, I keep forgetting about the gray tank. Will need to keep that in consideration. In all likelihood, we'll just camp dry more often than not in cold weather. Just not worth the risk and we don't use the water all that much, anyway. 

 

Thanks again!

-John



#6 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 20 November 2018 - 01:37 PM

How about the refrigerator. Are there any issues with running it in the cold weather?



#7 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 20 November 2018 - 10:28 PM


How about the refrigerator. Are there any issues with running it in the cold weather?

I've never had any issues with the refrigerator (or anything else) in cold weather, but keep in mind that this is only my second winter.
 
I will say that a heavy snow storm will cover the solar panels, gray tank vent, and refrigerator vent, but I've never had any ill effects. Besides, within 24 hours I'm usually on the rear ladder with a broom clearing the solar. 
 
Solar (to recharge the batteries) is crucial when winter boondocking. Look at it this way... If the batteries go below about 11.8 volts there is NO heat, NO refrigerator, and eventually NO lights!
 
For solar emergencies I carry a 2000 watt generator and a 40 Amp AGM charger. I can bring my two AGM's up from dead to a full charge in a little over 3 hours. 
However.... The generator runs on propane and between the furnace and the reefer and the generator I would soon be out of gas (literally), so I rather just keep the solar panel clear and not have to deal with an energy crisis.
 
And before you ask the million dollar question, let me say; "I do not know how long I can winter boondock on a 20 pound cylinder of propane".
In general terms the fridge uses very little propane and the furnace and generator use quite a bit. I'd say that being the energy slobs that my DW and I are we probably consume about 8 pounds per day when winter camping. 
 
Note: Trying to guess propane usage is like trying to accurately 'guess' the fuel mileage of an automobile.
 
The Closer...
No matter where you go or how nasty the weather, if you can get access to a 20 amp 120 volt outlet all your problems are solved.
Since I winter camp in the northeast and 98% of all campsites are closed for the season, I typically use state parks and forests because about 40% are open to campers year round. 
They usually have pit toilets (so I can dump the cassette) and 120 volt power available. I carry a small ceramic electric heater that has two settings: Hi (12 amps) & Low (7 amps). Even on the Low setting it greatly reduces furnace run time and keeps the cab-over area toasty warm at night.
When the camper is plugged into a standard 20 amp AC outlet the fridge will switch over to AC and the power converter will charge the batteries and run the house DC load. Plus I can easily run the electric heater on low. All of that load is only about 16 amps!
 
Sorry for another ridiculously long post. I kinda' got carried away. 
Happy blizzard camping!  :)
Regards,
-Jake-

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#8 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 21 November 2018 - 06:46 AM

Great info, Jake. Appreciate you taking the time to share it all. Your setup is much more advanced than mine, as I have no solar, generator or electric heater (great if you'd share the model you have) and we've yet to camp in a site with AC plug-in service, or water, for that matter. 

 

FYI, I called Dometic yesterday and asked them about the low temp fridge use and they said as long is it's above 0F things should be fine. Below 0F, the refrigerant will "gel-up" and then it unit needs to be in 74F or above for 3-4 days to rectify that issue. I currently have no intention of camping below 0F anyway, but good to know that guideline. 

 

Thanks again!

-John



#9 OFFLINE   Optimistic Paranoid

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Posted 21 November 2018 - 07:35 AM

How about the refrigerator. Are there any issues with running it in the cold weather?

 

From an article from this site: http://rvlife.com/ho...ems-in-your-rv/

5. Getting your fridge to run properly

Who would think keeping food cold would be a problem when winter camping?

Two problems can possibly crop up. The first is the mixture of chemicals and fluids in the refrigerator’s cooling unit can start turning into a gel below 20° F. This slows down the recirculating and cooling process.

Another potential problem is the refrigerator thermostat sensor may sense cold air coming through the exterior refrigerator vents, rather than the cold air in the food box. This may cause the refrigerator to cycle-off.

So, to avoid these winter camping problems, block the first two or three top vent slots of the exterior refrigerator access door. This will keep cold air from the back of the refrigerator.

Don’t forget to remove the obstructions after your campout. For your refrigerator’s thermostat sensor, use a nonflammable material in the event it might come loose and contact the refrigerator burner or electric heating element.


Regards

John

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#10 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 21 November 2018 - 08:48 AM

Here's a few items for the thread. . .
 
1.) Thank you britdog and O.P. for the information on the refrigerator use in extreme cold. 
I did not know that!
 
2.) My truck (was) equipped with an AC/DC powered electric compressor type ARB refrigerator/freezer but I removed it last summer since I have become very reliant on the camper's absorption refrigerator and needed the extra storage space in my truck.
 
ARB-50qt-cooler-0001.jpg
 
Since I have now learned that camping in extreme cold can indeed affect the proper function of my campers absorption type refer, I may consider re-installing the ARB unit in my truck for my trip to Wisconsin in January.
 
3.) britdog you asked about what TC I currently have...
It is a 2017 built Northstar Arrow-U, my truck is a 2016 RAM Longhorn 3500, 4x4, powered by a Cummins/AISIN.
Note that my location and camper info is listed under my avatar at the left side of every post.
 
Camper-Off-Truck.jpg
 
Truck-Camper-Snow-0001.jpg
 
I prefer to use campgrounds that have full hook-ups, but since here in the Northeast they are all closed from October to May I have learned how to winter-camp in state forests with (almost) nothing available.
The one thing I will always need is a place to dump the cassette daily.
 
Thanks again for the refrigerator information. It may save my bacon!
As I mentioned earlier; I'm still a rookie at this truck camper stuff. :)
Best regards,
-Jake-

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#11 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 21 November 2018 - 02:24 PM

Hi Jake - Beautiful rig you have! 

 

Was looking for the model of your electric heater. Seems a lot of people use them in addition to their built-in propane furnace.



#12 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 21 November 2018 - 08:09 PM

The majority of household heaters are limited to 1500 watts maximum energy consumption which will place a 12.5 amp load on a 120 volt AC line.
On low heat they typically will draw 7.5 amps.
 
The ceramic, forced air unit I use comes in multiple flavors...
You can get it in black, yellow, or gray as a Lasko 675919, Stanley Pro-Ceramic, an Air King 8900, and various Chinese knock-offs.
Amazon.com sells several variety's. Prices range from $39 to $79.
 
I do not know what the differences are (other than color) but I currently have the Stanley Pro yellow version. It has been in use for many years without any problems.
It is quiet, almost impossible to tip over, adjustable blow angle, comes apart very easily for cleaning, and has proven itself to be very durable. About the only down side is that its rather ugly. 
 
My old Stanley unit runs 24/7 all winter long in my camper. I have it set at 52*F and regardless of the outside temperature it is always 52 inside my camper.
 
Stanley unit. . .
 
Stanly-Heater.jpg
.
.
Air King 8900. . .
Air-King-8900.png
.
.
Lasko unit. . .
Lasko-heater.jpg
 
 
Hope that answers the question.
Happy camping,  :fing32:
-Jake-

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#13 OFFLINE   britdog

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 11:16 AM

Fantastic. Thank you!!



#14 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 27 November 2018 - 06:22 PM

Stay warm. :fing32:


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#15 OFFLINE   Norske

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Posted 11 December 2018 - 09:58 AM

My 2012 Lance 1050 serves as my deer hunting cabin.  I hunt in ND and November can be cold.  The lowest temperature I've been in was -15F, the most troublesome was -10f with a wind.  Back when I did this in a 3-season TC, I didn't use the water system, but used 3 and 5 gallon jugs with spigots for a water supply.  I used a Porta Potty instead of the black water tank.  I didn't wash my paper dishes.  

Since buying a 4-season TC, I use the water/waste systems.  I have 120V power so I use a small space heater to lower propane use.  It's important that my furnace runs sometimes to keep the FW and waste tanks in my TC basement from freezing.  I've had to set the fan function for my furnace to high to get enough warm air flow to the basement tanks.  If the dump valve for my gray tank freezes, I use a trouble light with 60W bulb to thaw it or wait for a day that gets above freezing.  Only once did my fridge stall, and that happened when a strong wind was hitting that side of the TC.  I used a pizza tin inside the fridge compartment to block the wind, and all was well.

The trick is to monitor everything often, then invent a treatment for any problems.


Edited by Norske, 11 December 2018 - 09:59 AM.


#16 OFFLINE   Electrojake

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Posted 13 December 2018 - 11:32 PM

^^^ Good info! ^^^

Thanks,
-Ej-

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