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Freezing Rear Water Lines


GAP
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We are frequent winter camper taking my Oliver E2 to ski resorts in Northern New England.  We have a composting toilet and, to date, have run dry, without de-winterizing the water system, for all these trips to allow us to quantify the issues the trailer has in sub freezing conditions and making adjustments to rectify.  A summary of our experience with great input from others was outlined in this forum chain 3.75 Season Trailer?.  

On a trip last week, we used multiple digital bluetooth thermometers, adjusted to read temps consistent to each other,  to different parts of the belly of the trailer.  As compared to cold trips before our system tweaks to date, all previously problematic areas (= drop below freezing in areas w/water lines) worked fine when ambient dropped down to -5f.  Amazing.  The outlier was, you guessed it, the rearmost area of the garage behind the flimsy wall.  In spite of venting into and out of that area and opening the bottom door in the cabinet between the beds, the temp at those water lines dropped below freezing when the ambient temps was in the low teens.  Crazy making, especially as there is no reason for those lines to have been run through such an exposed area.  

My thoughts concerning next steps is to add cut off valves to those lines just behind where they feed past the furnace.  The following image is towards the rear.  Bottom of photo is just past the furnace.  After the elbow, the lines feed into the garage.  My questions to you knowledgable folks are 1) There are three lines, two of which are for the exterior shower.  Which two? and 2) What is the third line?  Is it the City Water feed? and 3) Considering that we will always start the season winterized, do you think it is necessary to add a cut off to all three lines if we dont use the City Water line?

Once we address this issue and successfully complete a mid winter trip with the water activated, I'll share a post on the 3.75 Season chain to share update and gory details. I am also curious to hear if those with 2023 trailers, with the improved heating system, have run their water in temps below 10 degrees.  Exotic as those conditions may seem to some, in many parts of the country, any mid winter night could be considerably colder.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I got a copy of the waterline distribution diagram and found that these lines go to both the Fresh Water and City Water feeds and then go onto feed the bathroom.  That sadly excludes the option to add cut offs to protect them from freezing.  

We just returned from our 2nd winter ski safari this season.  As with prior system testing, we did not dewinterize but did have temp/humidity sensors in the bathroom vanity, under front dinette seat, by the exterior shower outlet and in the rearmost area of the garage.  The good news: even at -5 degrees, all areas (except the garage) never dropped below the mid 40s.  All these areas had previously, before modifications, dropped below freezing when ambient outside temps were in the low 20s and internal temp was set to mid 60s.  Progress! The horrible news:  The area at the rear of the garage still dropped below freezing when ambient outside temps were in the mid teens and internal was set to mid 60s.  This is in spite of our having placed return vents in the end walls of that compartment to allow return air to be drawn through by the furnace.  These findings were constant for any night over a two week testing period when ambient temps would drop to this level.  Our sensors are all adjusted to read the same temps within 1 degree.

It is worth noting that there seems to be no adjustment made in the 2023 units to warm this problematic area.  There have been a couple of accounts of folks with new trailers camping in temps down to this range with no incidence of burst lines but without monitoring the temp in that area, who knows how close to the edge they were or if they split a pipe/fitting without knowing it.  A slow leak would drain out the belly so may go unnoticed on a short trip.  

Our next trip is in about 10 days from now and it will be at least 2 weeks so would be great to fix this problem.  I don't want to add anything requiring power as our winter trips are always boondocking so power is limited.  Fans and/or heat pads could do the trick but would certainly increase the power draw.  We'll remove the flimsy rear wall and look below the partial floor to put eyes on things.  Has anyone had success with addressing this problem?

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So someone please clarify for me, isn’t Oliver’s four season campers? I don’t winter camp but I thought four seasons campers you can utilize all systems in all temperatures including below freezing. I’m just trying to learn what four season camper actually mean? If those lines in the garage area freeze then it’s not actually a four season camper? You have to keep it winterized if below freezing, so winter camping you’d have to dry camp? Is that standard on all four season campers? 

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10 minutes ago, Katjo said:

So someone please clarify for me, isn’t Oliver’s four season campers? I don’t winter camp but I thought four seasons campers you can utilize all systems in all temperatures including below freezing. I’m just trying to learn what four season camper actually mean?

I believe that the answer you seek will be determined by the source from whom you seek it.

In a recent video on YouTube( 

 by "KYD - Keep Your Daydream" they stated that when the term "Four Season" is used relative to RV's it means that the RV has heat directed to the areas containing the water and sewer tanks and the water lines.  Obviously, that in and of itself does not necessarily mean that these lines and tank will never freeze.

In any case - there are some good hints, practices, etc. in this video if you intend to camp during cold weather.

Bill

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16 minutes ago, topgun2 said:

I believe that the answer you seek will be determined by the source from whom you seek it.

In a recent video on YouTube( 

 by "KYD - Keep Your Daydream" they stated that when the term "Four Season" is used relative to RV's it means that the RV has heat directed to the areas containing the water and sewer tanks and the water lines.  Obviously, that in and of itself does not necessarily mean that these lines and tank will never freeze.

In any case - there are some good hints, practices, etc. in this video if you intend to camp during cold weather.

Bill

I love KYD! Been following them for years. 
So technically Oliver’s are not four season campers? 

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Hi Gap,

We are also 20 degrees F at the moment, unwinterized and without the vent mod, and have the forward dinette panel slightly open to allow airflow back to the furnace fan.  It seems to help a little.  I've seen 18 F the last couple of nights and upper 20's daytime.  We also monitor the area around the furnace and water heater via a sensor.  If I turn the water heater on a couple times a day and the furnace set to 70, it seems to keep that one monitored area above 38.  As for the basement area, I'm unable to monitor at this time.  I guess this long dissertation begs the question...is it helpful to put a vent under the dinette seat and how big of a vent did you make?

John

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1 hour ago, Katjo said:

So technically Oliver’s are not four season campers? 

No - that is not what KYD said.  Since Olivers have an enclosed "belly" and there is heat in that area, according to KYD the Oliver IS a four season camper.

For me, living in the mountains of western North Carolina, the Oliver is certainly a four season camper.  However, a person living in Fairbanks, Alaska probably would not consider ANY RV a four season camper.  As I said above the answer to your question will at least partly depend on the person you ask.

Bill

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2 hours ago, Katjo said:

So technically Oliver’s are not four season campers? 

What is your definition of four season camper?

We have camped many times with night time temperatures in the 20s and teens with no freeze ups.  I don’t winterize.  We had a week of single digit temps a few years ago, I wasn’t winterized.  I had my trailer in the driveway and turned on the furnace and had an electric space heater going (hatches open) and had no issues.

Is the Oliver an extreme cold weather camper?  Probably not.  Normal cold, 20s and high teens, yes.  Very few people like to camp in single digit or below zero weather.  Some, like us, will camp in cold weather but we don’t seek it out.  Our Oliver has served us well in cold weather.  Mike

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12 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

What is your definition of four season camper?

We have camped many times with night time temperatures in the 20s and teens with no freeze ups.  I don’t winterize.  We had a week of single digit temps a few years ago, I wasn’t winterized.  I had my trailer in the driveway and turned on the furnace and had an electric space heater going (hatches open) and had no issues.

Is the Oliver an extreme cold weather camper?  Probably not.  Normal cold, 20s and high teens, yes.  Very few people like to camp in single digit or below zero weather.  Some, like us, will camp in cold weather but we don’t seek it out.  Our Oliver has served us well in cold weather.  Mike

I'd second the comments quoted above.  I've found with a month worth of below freezing camping that the trailers in their stock configuration is safe to run de-winterized until the mid 20s.  Below that the garage (the area behind the skimpy wall at the very rear of the trailer belly) drops below freezing posing a threat to the pex lines and connectors in that area.  In pre 2023 models, the belly areas below the front dinette and by the exterior shower can also freeze when temps dip into the low 20s.  With mods currently in 2023 models and/or mods outlined in the discussion titled 3.75 Season Trailer, all belly areas except the rear of the garage, have stayed above freezing down to -5 which is the coldest I've been able to test, so far, since making the modifications.

It's tough to say what "4 Season" means but, to me, any place that occasionally sees temps to 32 could easily fall to the low 20s so, the short answer as far as I'm concerned and have seen in my testing is Not Really, these are not currently outfitted for true 4 season usage.  Others may draw different conclusions or even have different experiences.  For what it's worth, at the end of the winter, I'll share a full breakdown of my mods and results.

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1 hour ago, johnwen said:

Hi Gap,

We are also 20 degrees F at the moment, unwinterized and without the vent mod, and have the forward dinette panel slightly open to allow airflow back to the furnace fan.  It seems to help a little.  I've seen 18 F the last couple of nights and upper 20's daytime.  We also monitor the area around the furnace and water heater via a sensor.  If I turn the water heater on a couple times a day and the furnace set to 70, it seems to keep that one monitored area above 38.  As for the basement area, I'm unable to monitor at this time.  I guess this long dissertation begs the question...is it helpful to put a vent under the dinette seat and how big of a vent did you make?

John

Last winter I put a 4" vent through from the base of the toilet to the area under the dinette.  It's an eyebrow style vent so shower water can't splash into the belly.  I also removed the exterior shower head, brought that hose inside and re-attached the head.  Also removed the hot and cold water knobs.  Used closed cell foam to insulate the space behind the tiny door and two layers of reflectix to insulate the outer door.  All super easy and very productive.  Those belly areas were measurably warmer as was the temp in the bathroom as air now flowed through there where it had been a dead end.

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4 hours ago, Katjo said:

So someone please clarify for me, isn’t Oliver’s four season campers? I don’t winter camp but I thought four seasons campers you can utilize all systems in all temperatures including below freezing. I’m just trying to learn what four season camper actually mean? If those lines in the garage area freeze then it’s not actually a four season camper? You have to keep it winterized if below freezing, so winter camping you’d have to dry camp? Is that standard on all four season campers? 

I have concluded that Olivers, as built, are four-season trailers in the South where they are made, but not in colder areas of the country.

With the addition of return air vents, particularly one on the aisle side of the front dinette seat, the freeze protection when the furnace is running full time can be expanded, perhaps down to as low as 0 F. 

See this thread:

But, what about below-freezing temps during the day when it is arguably unsafe to leave the propane furnace running if on the road?  The Truma AquaGo with the antifreeze kit protects the water heater from freezing, but what about the balance of the plumbing system, and the tanks, when the furnace is not operating?

IMHO, it is a 4-season trailer in the Southern United States, where overnight lows can get into the teens but daytime highs are above freezing.  It is not a 4-season trailer for use "un-winterized" in the colder northern states.

 

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5 minutes ago, Rivernerd said:

I have concluded that Olivers, as built, are four-season trailers in the South where they are made, but not in colder areas of the country.

With the addition of return air vents, particularly one on the aisle side of the front dinette seat, the freeze protection when the furnace is running full time can be expanded, perhaps down to as low as 0 F. 

See this thread:

But, what about below-freezing temps during the day when it is arguably unsafe to leave the propane furnace running if  on the road?  The Truma AquaGo with the antifreeze kit protects the water heater from freezing, but what about the balance of the plumbing system, and the tanks, when the furnace is not operating?

IMHO, it is a 4-season trailer in the Southern United States, where overnight lows can get into the teens but daytime highs are above freezing.  It is not a 4-season trailer for use "un-winterized" in the colder northern states.

 

Completely agree! 

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Down to zero seems pretty good to me.

I don't like camping below freezing, but it happens to us sometimes.  

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12 minutes ago, SeaDawg said:

Down to zero seems pretty good to me.

 

Remember, that's "down to zero" overnight with the furnace running, and with the addition of the return air vents referenced in the "More Airflow in Bathroom" thread.  It is not "down to zero" when on the road, with the furnace shut off.

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6 minutes ago, Rivernerd said:

Remember, that's "down to zero" overnight with the furnace running, and with the addition of the return air vents referenced in the "More Airflow in Bathroom" thread.  It is not "down to zero" when on the road, with the furnace shut off.

Yes, I understood that. 

I was actually pretty excited to see you were good at zero. We've never camped in those temps. Actually, probably wouldn't enjoy it, either. 

 

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4 minutes ago, Mike and Carol said:

We’ve traveled in below freezing weather with the furnace running just like we travel with the fridge running.

"With the fridge running" on propane? 

 

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29 minutes ago, Rivernerd said:

"With the fridge running" on propane? 

Yes, both the furnace and the fridge running on propane.  Running the furnace while driving is rare, running the fridge on propane while driving is 100% of the time….except for a couple of times we had tunnels that required no propane and had a pull over area to turn it off.  Mike

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12 hours ago, Rivernerd said:

It is not "down to zero" when on the road, with the furnace shut off.

Neither is my home - guess I better start looking for a true 4 season house.😁

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13 hours ago, Rivernerd said:

Remember, that's "down to zero" overnight with the furnace running, and with the addition of the return air vents referenced in the "More Airflow in Bathroom" thread.  It is not "down to zero" when on the road, with the furnace shut off.

I think it's super important for winter campers to remember that there is a substantial part of the water system that is, as far as has been discussed on the forums, still vulnerable to freezing even after the 2023 model year improvements.  The area where the lines running through my garage in rear of the belly has consistently dropped below freezing when outside temps are still in the mid teens.  This is even though I made all the same alterations on return ducts that Oliver has plus the mod to heat feeds coming from the furnace as described in "More Airflow In Bathroom".  As previously shared in this chain, while camping, the rest of the belly remained comfortably above freezing when outside temps dropped to -5 but that rearward compartment ended up with plumbing exposed temps in the mid 20s.  

The reason I started this thread was to share what I found about this vulnerability and to ask if anybody has found a workaround.  Circling back to that question here.  Any insight would be much appreciated.  

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13 hours ago, Mike and Carol said:

Yes, both the furnace and the fridge running on propane.  Running the furnace while driving is rare, running the fridge on propane while driving is 100% of the time….except for a couple of times we had tunnels that required no propane and had a pull over area to turn it off.

So, you pull into gas stations with propane-burning appliances, like the absorption fridge and the furnace, running?

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5 hours ago, Rivernerd said:

So, you pull into gas stations with propane-burning appliances, like the absorption fridge and the furnace, running?

Yes.

EDIT:  I need to add some context to my quick, one word answer this morning.  I don’t want to give the impression that I have a cavalier attitude toward my safety and the safety of those around me.  I do pull into fuel stations with my fridge on propane.  Normally, my trailer is not next to a pump, it is behind the truck which is next to the pump.  We travel a lot in the west where it is usually windy.  On those occasions where the station is very busy and I need to use a forward interior pump I will turn off my propane.  I always check inside the trailer when stopped, so when I turn off the propane I will go inside and turn off the fridge while I’m checking so that the fridge is not on batteries.  As far as the furnace goes, over the last 7 years I’ve only traveled with it on a few times so I don’t remember fueling with it on.  The same situational awareness would have applied.

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1 minute ago, GAP said:

We do the same but we shut off the propane while at the pump.

I have shut off the propane at gas pumps.  Most of the time my trailer is well away from pumps, if not I shut the propane off.  When I do I leave it off, the fridge stays cold for hours while off.  Mike

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