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Old 08-17-2019, 08:05 AM   #1
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Join Date: Jun 2019
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How to keep pipes from freezing over winter while living in trailer

Hello all!

I have a 2019 Keystone Hideout 26lhs TT that we're living in while we build our house. Our house is cash-flowed so the shell will be up before the snow flies and we'll be working on electrical, plumbing, insulation, etc over the winter, which means we can't move in yet (county won't let us put insulation in until electrical and plumbing are done, and with funds the way they are I doubt we'll be done with electrical and plumbing before Christmas at least, and house likely won't be finished til spring at the earliest).

I also live in northern Kootenai County, ID 2 hours away from the Canadian border, so it gets cold and snowy, and our property and all the surrounding farms are cleared (used to be 4000 acre ranch that was subdivided into smaller parcels) so it gets windy too.

Rent is outrageous, and living with family isn't an option. Besides, we're building the house ourselves and don't want to drive 25 miles out of town (well, we are closer to a town of less than 700 and it doesn't even have a streetlight, so that doesn't count) every single day to work on the house-hence living in the rv.

So my question pertains to keeping the pipes from freezing. We can use an electric heater no problem- all our utilities save natural gas are in (that won't be done til next spring due to cost, needing shell up before installing gas meter, and the whole "trying to dig in frozen ground" thing).

But I was told by my mom, who has a TT, that an electric heater inside won't be sufficient to keep water lines and pipes from freezing and that we have to use the furnace as well to do that. Plus, our water connection to the frost-free hydrant is halfway up the back of the trailer, and we have an exterior showerhead that only has a plastic hatch to close it.

So what is the best way to keep things from freezing? Underside is insulated (we have the cold weather package on this one), and we plan on skirting it with boards with screwed-on rigid foam insulation (keeping a little door where the holding tanks empty, but will put insulation on said door too) to deal with both wind and warmth. We also have two kids, so to avoid claustrophobia this winter the slide-out will have to be out, unfortunately. We can use heat tape on hose as well, and if need be we can fill freshwater tank and use it so hoses can be drained after filling it up, rather than being hooked up to city water connection.

So I plan on:

1. Heat tape on hose
2. Rigid foam insulation screwed onto boards for skirting, with dump hatch for access
3. Space heater inside
4. Running furnace if need be (I have 100 lb propane tank plus a 20 lb plus the two 30 lb ones that came with trailer, but hoping not to have to fill too frequently, as I need to borrow a pickup to haul the 100 lb one).

Any other tips? And approximately how many gallons of propane will I go through running the furnace (with space heater during the day at least) at temps between 10-32 degrees? I'm not sure what the BTU rating of my furnace is, or how often it will kick on with slide-out out.


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Old 08-17-2019, 08:21 AM   #2
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Your biggest "heat loss" is going to be the single pane windows and the 1" thick slide walls. Second biggest is the 2" "spun fiberglass" trailer walls. Third biggest is the roof/ceiling with 3-4" of spun fiberglass and a layer of "bubble wrap" (That's your polar package)....

You can use 2" rigid foam sheets on the outside of the slide (sides, top and bottom) to help reduce heat loss. Apply the "shrink wrap window coverings" to all windows you don't need to open. You'll need to heat the space under the RV to protect the "minimally insulated basement" (another part of your wonderful polar package).

Also, plan to have a significant problem with humidity buildup inside the trailer. Showers, cooking, even humans breathing will put a tremendous amount of moisture into the air in your confined space. So, NEVER cook without the exhaust fan on and NEVER shower/bathe without the roof vent open and exhaust fan on. To make either work, you'll need "cross ventilation" which means an open window on the opposite side or opposite end of the trailer. Yes, in -10F weather, it's going to be impossible to stay warm in any "wood and tin box with R-7 walls and single pane windows"....

Essentially, what you're going to try to do is daunting with two adults expecting the worst. Bringing kids into the picture ??? What about schooling and exposure to every other kid in the neighborhood with "sniffles" ??? You'll find that living in such close quarters (essentially a hardwall tent) that you're all going to be sick most of the winter.

It's not impossible, but with 4 people in a small tin box through an Idaho winter???? It's going to be as demanding as any of the "pioneers" faced a century ago. Only difference, you'll be able to get in a car and drive to a motel for the bad days or weeks....


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Old 08-17-2019, 08:36 AM   #3
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Our kids are homeschooled, so sickies won't be as much of an issue, thankfully. The neighbor kids are also homeschooled as well.

Thanks for the tip on the foam for the slideout! And the shrinkwrap and heating the underbelly.

I will definitely vent, and if necessary get a dehumidifier for the excess moisture.

I know it's not going to be the easiest thing in the world, but there are many times in life where anything worth having is worth working hard for. And $235 a month is WAY cheaper than the $1200 per month rents in this area right now O.o We can't afford that at ALL-hence living in the TT.

Thank you so much!
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Old 08-17-2019, 09:31 AM   #4
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In addition to all of Chuck's excellent insights a few other thoughts.

If possible, orient your trailer so the tongue or the bumper is facing toward the prevailing winds. The tongue would be better as the curved front would help the wind slide over the trailer better.

Insulate the pass through from the living space. It doesn't need to be heated and your bed will stay a LOT warmer. I used rigid foam, pics attached.

Install a second carbon monoxide detector and replace the smoke detector with one designed for kitchens to minimize false alarms. And install a smoke detector in your crawl space under the camper if you have a heater down there as Chuck suggested.

You're going to want at least two 100# lp tanks, a 20 lb tank will last less than a day when your furnace is running almost constantly.

Use desiccants in all your cabinets, you can get tubs at Dollar Tree. Don't put items tight against the outside wall or ceiling of cabinets, you will get frost.

I'll share more insights later from my late fall and winter camping when I had a snowmobile here in upstate NY experience, just south of the Canadian border.Click image for larger version

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Old 09-04-2019, 06:13 PM   #5
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Can you put a wood stove in it? The roof warranty would be void, but the flashing and pipe can be capped. The dry heat would counteract humidity buildup. It's a hillbilly fix, but...
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Old 09-04-2019, 06:32 PM   #6
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How to keep pipes from freezing over winter while living in trailer

I would think a major concern with a wood stove is the depletion if oxygen in the trailer. Think about how many cubic feet of air is in a trailer vs. a stick and brick house.

I could be totally off base, but I wouldn’t do it. There are some propane fired Catalytic heaters, but then your using up your propane along with the available oxygen.

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Old 09-04-2019, 07:38 PM   #7
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tweetzone86, Howdy;

There is a thread written by a guy named Geo and how he dealt with
surviving the cold of Winter. Here it is;


Striving for a less complicated life since 1949 ...

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