Driving in Cold Weather - Fiberglass RV


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Old 10-13-2019, 10:20 PM   #1
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Driving in Cold Weather

I was searching around the forum to see what people did while driving in cold weather. I found a few mentions of driving with the heat on. I am hoping a few of you could elaborate a little more or maybe someone does something a little different if they are going to be below freezing for just a day or so.

I always stop every couple of hours or so for a break while traveling. I was wondering if I extended my break time to 15 minutes and ran the heat if I could avoid leaving the heat on while driving. I could dump the tanks before leaving and put some antifreeze in so it will be in the dump valve area.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this? I have not finalized the order list on the 25B25RT that I am getting. I am going to ask if I can get a 3-way refrigerator so I can maintain the food storage better while driving. I have been loading up the freezer section in the frig of my Styrofoam box with cooler bricks and it works but I am looking for a better solution.

I noticed that Norcold makes an 8 cubic foot 3-way and I am going to ask if they can install one during the build. I am also going to ask if they can run a multi conductor wire from the AC to the thermostat area in case I want to install a digital thermostat. Is there anything else I should be thinking about before I finalize the order? Is there anything you wished your camper had? I have also been thinking of doing away with the roof rack but not the ladder though.

I will really appreciate any input on this. This will probably be the only RV I will order and I want to get it right......Tom C
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Old 10-13-2019, 10:30 PM   #2
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No need for a three-way fridge. DC is inefficient way to cool. AC and propane is all you need. AC when you have power and propane when you don't and when travelling. Your vehicle will not charge your trailer battery and run the fridge on DC, so if you travel with the fridge on DC, your trailer battery will not be charged.

Fifteen minutes of heat every couple hours won't accomplish anything. You can also drive with your furnace on, if necessary.
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Old 10-14-2019, 04:36 AM   #3
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We have gone down south in January for a break from the winter the last couple of years. We don't heat the trailer while driving and don't power the fridge. We stop somewhere with power for the night (I like the Kentucky Horse Park) and use an electric heater.

We transfer a milk crate of stuff and a gallon of water between the car and the trailer so it never freezes. We have also miscalculated and spent a night in a parking lot with temps in the teens with no heater and were plenty warm while sleeping with extra layers in the bed. I did put liquid medications in a small box then into the pocket of the hoody I was wearing when we went to bed so they wouldn't freeze.
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Old 10-14-2019, 08:12 AM   #4
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Historically Bigfoot does not make changes to their build for costumers. Unless that fridge is the exact same size as the 7 they normally put in. I would not expect them to be willing to make new cabinets just for your build.

The DC operation on fridges is just to try and maintain the temp, and have almost never worked well enough to justify the load they put on the battery. Speaking of load on the battery.

Running the furnace every two hours will not be good enough to keep the inside of the trailer above freezing. The furnace will need to run more and more the colder it gets.

Not only will the furnace need to run, the hot water heater will also have to stay on. It has very little, if any, insulation from the outside.

In other words, just run the fridge on LP and not think about it. Just make sure you turn the gass off before you pull up to a pump, especially if you are running the hot water heater as that is just an open blowtorch.
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Old 10-14-2019, 09:10 AM   #5
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With the right wiring, you can run the fridge on 12v while driving and not drain the battery. But it's still not ideal. Many, if not most people run theirs on propane while driving.

As far as cold weather traveling, it depends. Is this just to get out of town on an extended southern vacation? If so, it's far less complicated and expensive to just keep the trailer winterized until you get to someplace warm. If you're staying at real campgrounds or RV parks, they'll have water. No need to drive with it.

If the valves freeze while you drive, it won't hurt anything. And they'll thaw as soon as you get somewhere warm.

It's always good to be cautious, but the topic of freezing comes up regularly here and there's always good advice. In order for things the freeze solid, it needs be well below freezing, and well below freezing for a while. For example I've got a small metal water bottle that lives in the back of my truck for dog water. If the night temps get into the 20s but daytime temps are above freezing, that water never freezes.

A little water in your lines, or a little water in the water heater, even in consistently freezing weather, won't rupture things. As long as the water has room to expand. A completely full water system in temps that never get above freezing, or temps in the teens or single digits, will cause problems.

Anyway you know your situation best. Just be sure to think things through and get experienced advice before you go overcomplicating things. For a trip from the cold north to the warm south, there's no need to keep things warm. They'll warm up when you get there.
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:10 PM   #6
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My experiences driving in cold weather or camping in very cold weather.


First the propane is always off when towing. I know a lot of you It's ok to run propane appliances while driving and the odds are in your favor.


Stuff in fridge is NOT temperature sensitive. That's first rule of not needing to run the fridge.
I have my trailer set up to NOT need electrical hook-ups.
When traveling and needing to stop for the night a rest area works great. When I stop I unplug the trailer and turn on the propane. If it's cold in the trailer I turn on the furnace for about 5 minutes to warm it. up. At night the thermostat is set for around 50°F. In the morning I may have to turn the furnace on for few minutes. We a lot traveling in January and February. In the 15 years since buying the Scamp I never had any freezing problems except early on when camped in an RV resort with hookups. The hose coming to trailer froze.



Once a few years ago while in Big Bend TX the temperature dropped to 5°F The only problem was I ran out of battery at 4:am and had to plug in my ham radio battery. Not a big issue. No water freezing even though every knows that once the air temperature gets to 32°F Every thing instantly freezes.
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Old 10-14-2019, 12:39 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by ThomasC View Post
I was searching around the forum to see what people did while driving in cold weather. I found a few mentions of driving with the heat on. I am hoping a few of you could elaborate a little more or maybe someone does something a little different if they are going to be below freezing for just a day or so.

I always stop every couple of hours or so for a break while traveling. I was wondering if I extended my break time to 15 minutes and ran the heat if I could avoid leaving the heat on while driving. I could dump the tanks before leaving and put some antifreeze in so it will be in the dump valve area.

Do any of you have any thoughts on this? I have not finalized the order list on the 25B25RT that I am getting. I am going to ask if I can get a 3-way refrigerator so I can maintain the food storage better while driving. I have been loading up the freezer section in the frig of my Styrofoam box with cooler bricks and it works but I am looking for a better solution.

I noticed that Norcold makes an 8 cubic foot 3-way and I am going to ask if they can install one during the build. I am also going to ask if they can run a multi conductor wire from the AC to the thermostat area in case I want to install a digital thermostat. Is there anything else I should be thinking about before I finalize the order? Is there anything you wished your camper had? I have also been thinking of doing away with the roof rack but not the ladder though.

I will really appreciate any input on this. This will probably be the only RV I will order and I want to get it right......Tom C
Don't bother with the 3 way fridge. The 12V is pretty useless. We only use it from the campground to the gas station so we don't have to go into the trailer to turn off the fridge. Don't run the fridge or anything that has a pilot or igniter while getting fuel. After we fuel up we pull over away from the pumps and change to propane. It is not just you fueling but others around you also. Fumes travel a long way and it is the fumes that explode. If you use the fridge on 12V you won't have anything but a dead battery when you reach your destination and a warm fridge. Even if you have a wire heavy enough to run the fridge the 12V doesn't do very well. Ours was up to 50 degrees after just 3-4 hours in warm weather. We use an indoor outdoor thermometer with a remote sensor to watch the fridge temp. You could take the monitor into your tow vehicle if it will work that far. As far as cold weather driving don't put in water in the cold weather. We have put a couple of jugs in the shower while driving and they've never froze but I'd never take a chance on the pipes. Put anti-freeze down the drains and make sure the shower drain has it also. Our Casita has the shower drain under the trailer and it froze because we forgot to open the drain and put anti-freeze in it. The holding tank valve most likely won't freeze while driving since the stuff is moving around while driving plus it takes quite a while to freeze the solids in it, but it wouldn't hurt to put a little anti-freeze in the tank. Drain the grey water tank. Depending on how long you drive and how cold it is you may not need anti-freeze in the sink traps inside the trailer. It takes several hours for water to freeze inside the trailer. When we stop for lunch we run the furnace and open the cabinet doors to warm everything up since we eat in the trailer. We usually are stopped for 30-45 minutes at least.
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Old 10-14-2019, 02:12 PM   #8
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I tend to head from cold weather to warmer weather. Similar to ZachO, I leave the trailer winterized until I reach warmer weather.

Then I will winterize before I head back. Last year I winterized three times. It really wasn’t a big deal except you need to have your winterization stuff with you.
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Old 10-14-2019, 06:30 PM   #9
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Thanks for all of the responses. The first week of January this year I left for Florida. My camper was winterized and the fresh tank empty. I had jugs of water in the shower to flush the toilet. The water heater had been drained.

I will do the same thing with the Bigfoot. Two days of driving south and you are out of the freezing weather. On the way home in March I had one night in the low thirties so I was just ok.

As far as the refrigerator I read one good article about driving with propane. Basically it said if all the roads are flat and level everything is fine but driving up or down inclines for any length of time will damage the frig and shorten its lifespan. By how much I have no idea. This one article made sense to me from a mechanic's point of view. The electric heater doesn't have this problem whether AC or DC.

I want the frig to work on electricity while driving so I don't have to do anything special to keep it cold. I have been reading the specs of 8 cubic foot 2-way Dometic and Norcold units. It seems they draw around 4-500 watts AC or about 2.5 amps. My 600 watt inverter can handle that. The Bigfoot has room for four batteries. So the new plan is batteries, solar, and inverter to run the frig while driving. I will also improve the wiring on the truck if need be. Someone also left a nice link https://sterling-power.com/ for a battery to battery charger if I need to get more out of the truck.

Hopefully next year I can try a trip cross country trip and keep ice cubes in the freezer. Now there is a 1st world problem for you......Tom C
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Old 10-14-2019, 06:57 PM   #10
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You plan to run the fridge on AC while driving? Sounds like you've done your homework and I have no experience on that one so I can't say anything about it except that it's the first time I've heard of that approach.

What fridge article did you read? Everything I've found says that because of the rocking motion you get while driving, the fridge coils will be able to move liquid even at inclines. It's only being off level when stationary that you need to worry about. I'd be interested to see the article, since I always run my fridge when driving and it's hard to go far without hitting a long mountain pass around here.
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Old 10-14-2019, 10:40 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by ThomasC View Post
As far as the refrigerator I read one good article about driving with propane. Basically it said if all the roads are flat and level everything is fine but driving up or down inclines for any length of time will damage the frig and shorten its lifespan.

That is nonsense. If you park it on an incline and leave it for weeks, that may cause damage to a very old fridge. The new ones are quite comfortable if you are comfortable. If you roll off the bed, you should probably find another parking spot.


Thousand upon thousands of RVs drive with the fridge running on propane, with no issue. Running a fridge on DC is inefficient and costly if you try to make it work.
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Old 10-15-2019, 07:24 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by ThomasC View Post
Thanks for all of the responses. The first week of January this year I left for Florida. My camper was winterized and the fresh tank empty. I had jugs of water in the shower to flush the toilet. The water heater had been drained.

I will do the same thing with the Bigfoot. Two days of driving south and you are out of the freezing weather. On the way home in March I had one night in the low thirties so I was just ok.

As far as the refrigerator I read one good article about driving with propane. Basically it said if all the roads are flat and level everything is fine but driving up or down inclines for any length of time will damage the frig and shorten its lifespan. By how much I have no idea. This one article made sense to me from a mechanic's point of view. The electric heater doesn't have this problem whether AC or DC.

I want the frig to work on electricity while driving so I don't have to do anything special to keep it cold. I have been reading the specs of 8 cubic foot 2-way Dometic and Norcold units. It seems they draw around 4-500 watts AC or about 2.5 amps. My 600 watt inverter can handle that. The Bigfoot has room for four batteries. So the new plan is batteries, solar, and inverter to run the frig while driving. I will also improve the wiring on the truck if need be. Someone also left a nice link https://sterling-power.com/ for a battery to battery charger if I need to get more out of the truck.

Hopefully next year I can try a trip cross country trip and keep ice cubes in the freezer. Now there is a 1st world problem for you......Tom C
It’s not a question of is it possible , it’s more a question of why ?
You can rewire your vehicle , rewire your trailer , add an inverter , add 500 lbs of batteries ,and 2000 watts of solar , just to run your refrigerator on electricity or you can run your refrigerator as designed /intended on propane.
Maybe it’s just me but over complicating the system by adding a bunch of cost ,equipment , weight and maintenance to achieve the same end results ( Cold Beer) doesn’t compute .

Our trailer came with dual solar panels , EMS , 1500 watt inverter and dual batteries . In almost 2 years we have never used any of it .
All we do is drag it around hoping someday it might become useful ,until then it’s just more junk waiting to go bad and cause problems !!
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Old 10-15-2019, 07:41 AM   #13
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I'm with Steve on this one. Not only complicated, but cost. To avoid the propane that is already on most trailers, you are going to spend a lot. Go ahead, but I won't. Solar is outstanding for recharging battery(ies) for lighter use: say ceiling fan and LED lighting.

I did meet a guy that was 100% solar. He had 500 watts of portable, and another 700 watts on his trailer. Then he had to buy a compressor refrigerator, big inverter, and quite a bit of wiring.
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Old 10-19-2019, 11:10 AM   #14
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We travel with our fridge off. Haven’t run into problems with thing unfreezing or getting too hot. Especially not a concern fir the first few days heading south when we tend to put in many hours but in cold weather. Even in 100 degree fringe stays cold withno problem for 4-5 hrs. We do turn it on when we stop for lunch eg 30 minutes or more.
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Old 10-19-2019, 12:17 PM   #15
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...

As far as the refrigerator I read one good article about driving with propane. Basically it said if all the roads are flat and level everything is fine but driving up or down inclines for any length of time will damage the frig and shorten its lifespan....
Sorry, but that was one bad article.

In fact as I understand it, not only does an absorption fridge work fine on the road while moving, it actually can preform better because the movement and jostling aids in the refrigerant flow and also moves more air over the exterior coils than when stationary. Propane or electric makes no difference as long as the energy source is sufficient*. The only difference is the source of the heat needed to cause the absorption cooling cycle to work, but the absorption cooling cycle itself works fine on the road, even on very long stretches of incline.
------------
* It is true that the 12 volts setting is often not effective but this has nothing to do with being unlevel at times on the road.
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Old 10-19-2019, 01:10 PM   #16
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As far as the refrigerator I read one good article about driving with propane. Basically it said if all the roads are flat and level everything is fine but driving up or down inclines for any length of time will damage the frig and shorten its lifespan. By how much I have no idea. This one article made sense to me from a mechanic's point of view. The electric heater doesn't have this problem whether AC or DC.

I want the frig to work on electricity while driving so I don't have to do anything special to keep it cold. I have been reading the specs of 8 cubic foot 2-way Dometic and Norcold units. It seems they draw around 4-500 watts AC or about 2.5 amps. My 600 watt inverter can handle that. The Bigfoot has room for four batteries. So the new plan is batteries, solar, and inverter to run the frig while driving. I will also improve the wiring on the truck if need be. Someone also left a nice link https://sterling-power.com/ for a battery to battery charger if I need to get more out of the truck.
I wonder how many people took that article to heart and had to change their habits for no good reason?

If you want more DC power to the trailer while driving, add a set of heavy wires from the battery up to the tongue. Then terminate them in an Anderson plug. Then do the same on your tow vehicle, with the wires terminating at the back. Then plug the the trailer and the tow together while driving. With this you get lots of amperage to the battery.

If you insist on running your fridge from a DC source, get a compressor model and run it only on DC. They work fine. Problem is, you'll probably get tired of keeping the battery charged.

I'm thrilled that we have wonderful fridges that will work so well on propane! I start mine before we leave and shut it off after we get back.
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Old 10-20-2019, 01:23 AM   #17
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I ordered a 3-way fridge on my Escape, and it's definitely marginally useful at best. I have a decent amount of solar (360W), but it's still not always enough to keep up. On cooler overcast days it'll drain the batteries down, and on hot sunny days it won't quite keep up with cooling.
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Old 10-20-2019, 04:22 AM   #18
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I just typed a long reply and lost it because this stupid forum logs me out once in a while for no apparent reason. Oh well
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Old 10-20-2019, 05:47 AM   #19
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It did it again!!! but I copied my post first so here it is.

QUOTE=ThomasC;758498]I just typed a long reply and lost it because this stupid forum logs me out once in a while for no apparent reason. Oh well[/QUOTE]

I hesitated to ask this question because I didn't want a storm of answerers. Don't get me wrong, I appreciate all of the replies. I just need to get south far enough to not worry about freezing things. I guess I should just winterize the RV.

The other day was cold and raw and raining. When I went out on an errand I thought "What am I doing here." Everyone asks me "when are you leaving" and I reply "after Thanksgiving". Maybe it should be before Thanksgiving. So one solution to this problem is leave now.

I found over on the Norcold site that their 3-way draws a little less than 20 amps at 12 volts DC and about the same wattage if on AC. That info would lead one to believe that AC and DC performance should be similar. It is easy to see that the propane works better on my old 2-way. I have been driving with my frig off and a few times the inside of my frig in my old camper got wet from the frost melting in the freezer section even though I load it with frozen cooler blocks. I don't like that.

I should be able to get 20 amps through the 7 pin trailer plug. I need to buy an OEM electrical manual for my 2019 F-150 anyway because I also need to figure out how to run the Wi-Fi hot spot with the ignition off and the truck locked up. I have always felt that the more options that you have to do something the better. So I am going to ask for a 3-way frig. If I can get it fine but if I can't it won't bother me.

I did a lot more reading about driving with propane on and it comes down to a safety issue. If you want to be 100% sure you are doing ALL you can to be safe while driving you will have the propane off. Right now I don't turn it off in my Styrofoam box because it is a bit of a pain getting to the tanks. In the new Bigfoot however I will not take a .000001% chance of a problem especially the way insurance companies are about looking for anyway to deny a claim.
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Old 10-20-2019, 08:06 AM   #20
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A storm of answers is what internet forums are all about. Some people are ok with it and some people are annoyed by it, but you can always send a private message to someone if you think they have informed answers, not just the answers you want to hear, and take the conversation "off line".

Do what you want, is the easiest. You'll learn from your own personal experience then you'll know. While you're researching the Norcold, why don't you look to see what the performance is meant to be on 12v? You can look at all the power draw figures you want and make assumptions, but people here with experience are saying that they don't cool adequately on 12v. You will not get similar performance to AC when using DC, unless something has changed with new 3-way fridges. DC is fine for driving, if you're getting enough charge to your battery. It just won't do it while camping in warmer weather. It's a bandaid, to be used while traveling. The typical understanding of these 3-way absorption fridges based on decades of experience is: AC is for use when you're plugged in. DC is for use while driving only to keep a small level of cooling until you get to the campsite. Propane is for use when camping when electricity isn't available.

Unless temps don't get above freezing during the day, and are in the teens or lower at night, you really don't have anything to worry about with your water system.

Careful calling the forum stupid. It'll hear you and be even more quirky. Most problems with the forum have more to do with something on your end, like your browser or operating system, than the forum itself.
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