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RV Winter Heating Strategies

Among the reasons I was anxious to return to my recreational vehicle after the holiday break was the upcoming frigid weather.  We are expecting temps  in the low teens the next few nights here just north of Newton,TX.

A frosty January morning in East Texas

Back in the day, I drove an 18 wheeler for many years.  Never was there a more naive country boy, let me tell ya!  One of the things I learned was the difference in the weather up North.  Being from the Southern United States, winter weather was something I had never dealt with previously.   Somewhere around 1982, I had all 10 fingers get frost bitten in Storm Lake, IA.  That was a real wake up call for a southern boy.  I had to learn how to deal with the frigid temps first hand and those experiences have stayed with me.

Southern folks are just pretty ignorant when it comes to dealing with truly cold weather.  Most pipes that are not exposed directly to outside air are not going to freeze until the temps stay below freezing around the clock for days on end.  Typically below Interstate 20, we may see the temps dip low at night but they generally rebound above freezing during the day.

So how do I prepare my recreational vehicle for low temperatures? Obviously since I am living in it, winterization with RV anti freeze is not an option.

A water hose connected to your city water supply is going to freeze up quickly, especially if it is laying on the ground. Some people use heat tapes to protect the hose but I feel that is unnecessary this far south. I just make sure my onboard tank has water available and I use that.

All compartments should be closed tightly. Keeping the cold air out is half the battle.

A 40 watt bulb on a drop light in the compartments where plumbing resides will prevent frozen pipes in our area most of the time. If we were expecting 3 or more days of temperatures below freezing night AND day, I would use 2 drop lights; one in each compartment where my water pipes are run.

For the next few days, my heating plan involves 2 electric heaters, my Mr Heater Buddy heater and the Suburban furnace. I detailed many recreational vehicle heating options in a previous post so if you want additional details, check there.

The electric heaters are both 1500w heaters with a low setting at 750w. The oscillating ceramic tower heater is placed near the front of the Old Girl and is connected to a dedicated line that runs to an available 20 amp power source. That allows me to use it a the full 1500w setting without tripping a breaker. Remember, my old Fish Bus only has 30 amp service. The cube heater is more portable and I keep it closer to where I am setting or put it in the bathroom when I want to take a shower. I have to run it on 750w to prevent tripping a breaker.

Mr Heater Little Buddy Propane Heater

The Mr Heater Buddy Heater is the real workhorse in this plan. I trekked in to Jasper yesterday to fill my propane bottles. I have 3 40 lb external bottles available for use as we speak. 2 of them are being utilized at this time and one is in reserve. One is connected to my Extend A Stay and powers up all the RV appliances including the Suburban furnace. The second bottle is connected to the Buddy Heater directly via a 12 foot hose. I have the Mr Heater Buddy heater that has a built in regulator and allows you to connect directly to a propane fuel source. In emergency reserve is my onboard 40 gallon propane tank which is used only as a last resort.

If I do the math on propane usage – furnace vs. Buddy heater I come up with these estimated figures. My furnace is going to use about 4-5 gallons of propane per day. My Buddy heater might use 1.5 gallons if I run it around the clock. My furnace puts out alot more heat –around 35000 btu’s if I remember. It is also noisy as hell and exhausts quite a bit of usable heat outside the motor home. I much prefer the Buddy Heater.

Many folks worry about using the Little Buddy Heater inside of a recreational vehicle. I always make sure it is placed away from anything flammable and I leave a vent cracked for sufficient fresh air. I do not run it at night when I am sleeping.
During the next few days, I will set the Suburban furnace on 55 degrees or so to supplement the other heat sources. I would expect it to run infrequently during the night.

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