Winter RVing & Waterlines

Since we are officially into Spring, I figured I’d post some thoughts about winter RVing and our issues with the waterline freezing.

Waterline-Issues-and-winter-rving

This past winter, we made it through some bitterly cold days and nights in the camper.  I have to say, it was not all that bad.  One thing we ran into multiple times was freezing waterlines.

You know how we put out the heat hose and insulated the line?  In theory, that works GREAT, just as long as the outlet on your breaker doesn’t trip.  Yes, we had a couple of nights where the heat hose wasn’t even getting juice.  Honestly, we can’t figure out why it tripped, but it did.

tripped-outlet-breaker--heat-hose-winter-rving

Another night it got around zero and the line froze again.  Not through the entire hose, just where the line attaches to the spigot.  This was in the 2013 Forest River Sandpiper.  Obviously it wouldn’t have mattered what RV it was.  The spigot gets mighty cold and it freezes.

So The Man insulated that portion of the hose with a Rubbermaid tub and placed a sandtube on top to hold it down during the 300 mph South Dakota gusts of wind.  Problem diverted.  (I’ve seen other campers put a 5 gallon bucket over the spigot)

tub-to-stop-freeze-at-spigot-point

But I will say that at the time, the freezing water was annoying.  Since we hadn’t filled up our water tank we had zero water.  It really is a trade-off…

  • We had our entire 5th wheel freeze over when we went on vacation over Christmas.  If our tank had been filled we would have likely had to replace it because it probably would have cracked.
  • But when our line froze and we had no reserve water in the tank, we got thirsty.  I’ll take thirsty any day of the week and twice on Sunday over replacing our water tank. We simply had to go get water while we waited for the line to thaw.

It’s a good thing we don’t like to be prepared.  🙂

So now we’ve weathered the storm and we feel sorta like pioneers.  This statement is likely laughable since we weathered the storm in a very comfy and heated RV.  Regardless, we like to focus on perceived positives rather than reality.

But all these waterline freezes were in the 5th Wheel.  It really wasn’t so bad looking back.

We had high hopes of no waterline freezes once we moved into the Winnie. In a slightly insane way, I’m comforted in telling you that we also dealt with frozen water in the Winnie.  We are seasoned vets at this water freezing deal.

So the problem at our Winnie was due to the fact that there is a little piece of a pipe fitting that connects through the outdoor shower hookup.

point-prone-to-freeze-in-96-winnebago-adventurer

It is not insulated and we are certain it was the culprit.  We tried wrapping the excess heat hose around that area, but it just couldn’t keep up to the freezing temps.

We wised up and bought a shop light.  $5 bought us a thawed waterline and peace of mind.  No more problems since that $5 shop light.

mechanics-light-for-winter-rving

All this to say, keeping the water flowing is NOT completely impossible.  You just have to be prepared to roll with the punches.  It’s best to save your energy and sanity and not get all worked up or upset about the problems that come with the cold weather.

Could we do another winter in the RV?  Absolutely.  Am I happy we don’t have to?  Absolutely!

The Cost of Heating the RV During the Winter

sample-costs-to-winter-rv-in-South-Dakota

RV living is affordable. Maybe. But this winter, heating the RV has not been.

When we made the change from a regular sticks and bricks house to an RV, we anticipated that our living expenses would drastically go down.

Now that the dust has settled and we’ve experienced a normal winter month without going on vacation or having to buy vinyl skirting & fix frozen pipes, we actually have time to figure out how much it’s costing us to live in the camper.

It’s ugly I tell you. Like go into a corner and suck your thumb ugly. Not ugly compared to a mortgage or all that goes along with it. But ugly in that it’s not been nearly as frugal as we expected.

To give you a snapshot, here are our expenses due to living in the RV this past January.

  • Site Rental – $170
  • Electrical Costs – $165
  • Propane – $240
  • Laundry – $65
  • RV Payment – $375
  • RV Insurance – $40
  • Total $1,055!!!

Now take into consideration that we’d have to pay for our water and our internet in our normal house. Still, the numbers are shocking.

Our site rental is unbelievably cheap! Clearly we have a heating problem (and possibly a laundry one as well). For reals. Our propane and electric cost us $405 this past month! Needless to say our camper is NOT energy efficient.

We go through a 25 gallon propane cylinder every week!

Propane Breakdown

We have the camper set at 70 degrees and it’s fairly comfortable. Since we have little ones we keep the heat higher than we would if it was just Mark and I. The kids and I are home all day so we do very little adjusting to the thermostat.

I bake, but maybe only a few times a week. I don’t think it’s our big problem.

I really think the heating is the cause of our high propane usage.

Electrical Breakdown

Our electric is higher than we had hoped too, I think mostly because of 2 space heaters we run.

You see, the space heaters really cut the chill and focus the heat where we are in the camper. One is usually directed toward the living room slide area because it is draftier there.

We run the other one in the kid’s bunkroom because it still can get pretty chilly back there, especially with their bathroom not being ducted and the outside door that leads to that same bathroom. Oh and their room has 2 slides, which means more draft. Our 2 youngest still take naps through the day so leaving their room without additional heat is not an option.

Our water heater does run off of electric and it’s a 10 gallon. That contributes I’m sure but again, I think the space heaters are the main energy hogs.

Things are Looking Up

That’s all we can figure on why our heat is costing us so much. Everything else was expected when we moved. The heating was huge variable that we were unsure of and we’ve had a colder winter this year than the last for sure.

So we’re really excited to get into our new/old rig. It is a smaller space and (hopefully) better insulated but I’m not holding my breath. It only has 1 slide though and since so much air exchanges in the slide area, we’re hoping for less drafts. We will NOT be skirting it though since we’re almost through the bitter cold and also we read that it’s not as necessary in a Class A.  We shall see.

By April we should be able to update what a full month of our heating costs in the Class A. But now you have a snapshot of what it costs to live in a 41 foot 5th wheel with 4 slides during the winter.

 

Beating Humidity in the Camper ~ Revisited

Beating-Humidity-in-the-CamperI think we finally got a handle on the humidity in our camper.  I wrote about it here, but we have found that 2 things we implemented were most effective.

  1. Vented window (while cooking)
  2. Good dehumidifier

So let me just cut to the chase.

I hate our Eva-Dry dehumidifier.

eva-dry-dehumidifier-for-camper

It had been running non-stop for the past 3 months and didn’t fill up one time.  Not once.  We tried moving it to another location.  Another, smaller room.  Nada.  Sure there was a tiny bit of water it collected but as you can see above it’s not much and that is the most it ever got in there.  So either it doesn’t work or it only pulls moisture out of the air when you are at a high percentage of humidity (maybe 60 or higher).

Since our Eva-Dry failed us, we purchased a much larger dehumidifier. We have a GE 30 Pint Capacity Dehumidifier for about $160 and it’s working wonderfully.  We set the humidity level low, at 35%, and it runs as needed.

We’ve emptied it twice in the 3 weeks we’ve had it.

GE-30pt-Dehumidifier

We are still waking up to our windows looking like this…Frozen-RV-Windows-Humidity

Sometimes the windows are more iced over but we open our blinds and they clear up within an hour.

We wipe the excessive condensation off the windows as they thaw in the morning and we’re finding that the dehumidifier is keeping up with it throughout the day.

Also, you just have to open the window when you’re cooking.  There is not really a way around it.

With these 2 things, it seems like we’re actually on top of the humidity.

Note:  We chose to not plastic the windows just yet.  To not have the ability to wipe away any water was the biggest deciding factor.

The Great RV Freeze

I’m seriously considering changing our tag line to the following…

We make all the mistakes so you don’t have to.

Seriously.

We’ve not made the best decisions in this whole RVing adventure.  Meh.  I chose to chalk most of it up to the fact that we are inexperienced.  There are probably other reasons, (lack of research, laziness, impulsiveness).  I just chose to not publicize them.

Regardless, we sure do get to share a whole chunk of information because we screw up. Frequently.

Our Latest Misadventure

We had planned on sticking around the local area for Christmas.  4 days before, we finally gave up our resolve and decided on a last minute trip up to North Dakota to see my side of the family.

Preparations and packing for the trip was pretty standard.

As far as the camper, we have a 24 gallon propane tank and it was fairly full.  So we decided to set our thermostat to 60 degrees and keep everything heated rather than mess with winterizing.

Psch…winterizing is for sissies.

We planned to be gone 3 nights.  A quick trip.  Winterizing would have been overkill.

Little did we know, we’d get below zero nights here.  Remember how I talked about the Banana Belt?  The weather gives you a false sense of how cold it can get because it fluctuates and is generally so mild.

My family up in Canada North Dakota had -20 degree weather.  Yes.  That is a negative number.  Below zero.  It got COLD up there.  And by golly gee, it got COLD here!  It was actually below zero here in South Dakota.

We arrived back at our camper the day after Christmas to find that our camper was frozen solid.  Solid.  Inside, the thermometer registered 17 degrees!!!  Oh what’s the big deal you may be asking.

Well we had water IN our pipes, intake filter, & faucet lines.   Our black water had not been flushed clean and our grey water was frozen open.  Our sewer line was plugged and frozen solid as well.

Completely NOT winterized.

You know what happens to water or liquids when they freeze. Uh huh.

Expansion.

It took several hours to get the camper up to 50 degrees.  No water and lots of uncertainty followed for the next day.

Two days of thawing the underbelly with space heaters.  Replacing p-traps, faucets, sewer hose, and the water filter.

Today, we’re counting our blessings.  This “experience” cost us just over $200.  But I’m so thankful that we didn’t fill our water tank (like we said we would).  I’m also thrilled that we had our water heater running off electric or else we’d be looking to replace that too when the propane ran out.  This whole deal could have cost us a whole lot more!

Also this caused us to figure out our camper.  We now know that the underbelly is NOT insulated, at all.  It is enclosed – yes.  And our floor IS insulated.  But the only thing between our underbelly and the pavement is a thin sheet of heavy duty plastic.  Oh and we’ve got ideas on how to improve on our insulation for the summer or even next winter.

We also found out where our shower’s p-trap was.  It was a complete mystery and we couldn’t find it.  At one point we gave up and figured it must not exist.  Mark ended up talking to the RV supplier we were buying all our replacements parts from.  Come to find out that you have to remove the storage compartment wall.  3 screws removed the wood panel.  P-trap….whaaa laa.

Our main water supply has to pass through this fancy filter.

RV-water-filterOh the amazing features of our spiffy camper.  Well the filter company will not sell a private owner a replacement filter.  You have to go through a Forest River dealer and wouldn’t you know, there is not one in the area.

We searched all over online to find who could get us the filter.  And fast.  Ours was smashed from the expansion and looked like someone had used it for target practice. That supplier that Mark found locally, happened to have JUST started stocking the filter and housing.  Music to our ears.

So that is the latest and greatest.  We have one more minor leak in the kitchen that we’re stumped about but we’re getting to be veterans.

Our conclusion?  We made some stupid mistakes.  Friends could have checked on the camper for us to make sure the propane hadn’t run out.  We could have very easily winterized.  Or we could have stayed home.

But all’s well that ends well.

RV Vinyl Skirting Update – Pipe Clamp System

Once again, we’re revisiting the skirting.

EZ-Snap-Clamp-System

You’ll remember we were having some issues, but today’s post is a very positive one.

I’ll admit, after I got the email back from EZ Snap Direct I was skeptical.  The recommendations they made didn’t seem like they’d make THAT big of a difference.

Still, we decided to do everything they suggested since we needed to figure it out and didn’t want to waste any more money.

Our Fixes

Additional Snaps.  Mark attached the additional snaps we ordered to make sure they were spaced closer.  We allowed them to cure for a few days (much longer than recommended by the manufacturer).

5th Wheel Enclosure.  We removed this area of the skirting and ran some more vinyl to keep the main living area skirted. It’s been relatively warm up in that room, even on days when it was near zero.

PVC Pipe Clamp System.  When we ordered our additional snaps, we also purchased PVC pipe clamps.  Mark bought the PVC pipes from Menards and cut them in lengths to follow the skirting.  The skirting is attached to the PVC pipes by wrapping the bottom side of the vinyl around the pipe and using the clamps we purchased from EZ Snap Direct to clamp the vinyl to the pipe.

You do have an option of using corner connectors to keep the skirting even more neat and tidy, but we have not done that as of this posting.

Our workout weights and sand bags are laying just behind the PVC pipes on the inside. This setup is to cut down on any excessive flapping and to keep the skirting from moving too much.

How Has it Worked?

Since the changes were implimented, we’ve had some days that were pretty windy.

The skirting not only stayed up, but was also much quieter in the camper.  And YES, there wasn’t any flapping.  It is a whole new world I’m telling you!

Are we happy with the update?  You bet we are!  It’s so much better and fuss-free since using the PVC and pipe clamps, which I think was the most significant thing that we did.

Next, we’ll let you know how you can save money on skirting and what we’d have done from the start if we could have a do over.

 

Condensation and Humidity in the Camper

It is funny all the differences to be found in living in a camper versus living in a normal home.

Up here in South Dakota, we bought humidifiers the first year we were here and living in our sticks and bricks home.  Near-constant heating of the dry winter air made it a necessity.

In the camper, it’s SO much different.  Here we have humidity and too much of it.  I guess all these humans breathing, the moisture from cooking, and the heat going in such a small space completely changes the dynamics.  Dramatically.

This is an excellent post about the importance of reducing the humidity in a RV.  And I mean excellent!  It’ll open your eyes to the importance and I’m not going to regurgitate what was written.

As we enter our first winter in the camper, we’re faced with trying to reduce the humidity in our space.

Window Design.  I’m thinking this is a newer design on the windows for RVs but our big windows in our living/dining/kitchen area have little itty bitty holes for the condensation to drip out of.  Not all of the windows have these holes so we have to be sure to wipe any water out of the “trough”, where it collects.  Also the water can freeze so that’s something to watch out for too.

Venting.  

Cooking Fan.  When I cook, I make sure the vent is on. (important to do anyway because of the propane)

Windows.  Sometimes we need to crack the windows because the condensation just isn’t letting it up.  The camper heats up quickly, but it also cools down quickly.

Bathroom & Ceiling Vent.  Not as easily accessable (at least our bathroom one is) but this also helps and is an option.

Dehumidifiers.  I read the reviews on Amazon, and we purchased an Eva Dry small humidifier.  It doesn’t seem to be able to keep up with the humidity but at least it is doing something.  The jury is still out on whether we like this one or not.  We may need to try another location and see if it draws out the moisture better.

Moisture Absorbing Beads.  We have NOT tried this but we have read about people using a product such as DampRid to absorb the moisture.  With our little ones, we’re leaning away from doing this just yet.  Seriously, it’s hard enough keeping the dog food and water in their respective bowls.

Plastic Window Insulation.  We have NOT done this one either, but reportedly plasticing the windows helps with insulating the warm indoor air from the cold window (thus reducing the condensation).  Since the temperature fluctuates so much here, we want to be able to open the windows so we’ve been dragging our feet on this one.

Dry Towel.  Oh yeah!  We’re high-tech and use a towel to wipe the condensation off.  It collects again, but at least it wipes up excess.

So those are the ways we’ve found to reduce the condensation on the windows.  It’s not a horrible issue, just one more thing we deal with differently in the camper.

Any experienced RVers or smart ones out there have more ideas, I’d love to hear them!

Vinyl RV Skirting Issues at Our Windy Location

There are developments in the vinyl skirting that we put up.  Not good either.

Our order just came in for replacement snaps and pipe clams.  Sounds like bad news and it sorta is.

We’ve had some wind since we’ve had the skirting up.  Some of our snaps have broken or popped off and caused the skirting to fall.  Our 5th wheel enclosure seems intent on coming down.

Ah….the joys of figuring this all out.

The 5th Wheel Enclosure

We were pretty adamant about having the 5th wheel portion skirted.

We could make it work still, I’m sure.  But of the 20-some RVs that are parked here for the winter, only a few are fully skirted.  So we’re going to admit defeat as far as that portion goes.

We could have saved $200 by NOT ordering the enclosure and we’re regretting that money spent.  We’re keeping the enclosure vinyl and may put it up again depending on how cold it gets in our room and what our heating costs are this next month.

The Problems

From what we can figure, this is what we’ve come up with…

  • The 5th wheel end takes the brunt of the wind force.
  • Snaps were placed at 10 inches but needed to be spaced even closer because of the wind.
  • Our skirting was weighted down with sandbags but that may have been too tightly wedged, causing extra pull on the snaps.
  • Because of the tightness, there is even more pressure on the skirting when the wind gets to blowing.  So much pressure, in fact, that the skirting ended up looking like this.

  • It is highly possible we rushed putting the skirting up.  Um, actually we did for sure and ignored the recommended wait time.  After attaching the 3M base, it’s important to wait on putting the vinyl up, which ensures the maximum bond strength of the 3m snap base.
  • We needed to distribute the pressure evenly on the snaps, which would have been possible with a pipe clamp system rather than sandbags.

Lots of lessons learned on this one!

I contacted EZ Snap Direct to see their thoughts on where we went wrong or if there was some sort of faulty materials involved.  They were very helpful and quick to respond to our questions and suggested some of the fixes below

Our Fixes

  • More snaps, quite a few more.  Since we are in a high-wind area the snaps need to be closer than 10 inches.  From EZ Snap,

For extra windy locations, we recommend placing the studs more like every 8″ to 6″ apart. If you use this spacing you will need to order extra fastener sets with your order.

  • The snaps need to be allowed to cure.  We are leaving them on for a week, even though that length of time isn’t necessary.  Call us paranoid but we want to make sure they are really stuck on this time.
  • We put the new snaps on when we had a warm day and it was near 60 degrees. We’re hoping it’s close enough to the recommended temperature to be effective.
  • We are going to move the sandbags back and use them to stop the skirting from moving too much.  This will allow some movement though, rather than wedging them allowing pressure to build up.
  • PVC pipe clamps were ordered with the extra snaps.  We’ll use them to clamp the skirting down to PVC pipes and more evenly distribute the weight and pressure.  The sandbags will stop any flapping.
  • Our contact at EZ Snap Direct recommended we superglue any snaps that separated (leaving the adhesive back on the camper)

Conclusion

Oh, to do this again!  We didn’t do our homework as well as we had thought.  Most certainly, we made mistakes.  Overall, I think we would have been better off skirting our RV with Option #1.

As far as the vinyl skirting is concerned, here are our conclusions.

Pipe Clamp System.  We should have read about and used the pipe clamp system especially given our windy location.

Snap Spacing.  If we had paid attention to the windy area tips, it would not have cost us so much in the long run in added shipping.

Snap Curing Time.  We rushed it.  Plain and simple, we didn’t wait the recommended time.

5th Wheel Enclosure.  As it looks right now, it’s not necessary and is really an added cost.  We have our electric and propane costs for November.  Of course, weather changes and fluctuates but we’ll see how our bill changes for the month of December without the 5th wheel enclosed.

EZ Snap was great to work with and their product does seem to be high quality.  I just wonder if this type of skirting is not the best for windy locations.

We’ll update on how our modifications work after the next blustery day.