Heating while driving? - Fiberglass RV


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Old 09-23-2017, 01:24 PM   #1
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Name: Nancy
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Heating while driving?

Hi all,

I bought a Happier Camper which has no propane and no tanks. Since I have tent camped for many,many years, I figured I could certainly make do. Unfortunately my first trip was from Colorado to Rhode Island end of November to spend Thanksgiving with family. Now I live high in the Colorado Rockies and am used to the cold but OMG first night was 4 degrees and humid. With no heater my son and I froze. Of course we had to drive through an epic snowstorm, icy roads and bitter cold the whole way out and back. I gave up one night and slept in the running car with the heater on at a rest area. That was NOT why I bought a trailer by golly! So my first trip with my very first trailer was pretty much the trip from Hell, frigid Hell that is. (long story with misadventures, inexperience and plain bad luck).

I did have an electric heater (my son packed the wrong one) and shore power hook up (for when the electrical hook-ups actually work). One big problem though was when we would stop for lunch. Stepping into the trailer was like stepping into an ice box. Is there any kind of electrical heater that I could run while driving that might help yet not draw too much on the car or battery? My daughter suggested those rope lights. She said they get rather toasty and she tucks one in her bed. I have a solar panel on top of the trailer that hooks up to a battery in the trailer plus I drive a hybrid car that can also charge the battery while driving.

I did buy a Mr. Heater little buddy for nights because it looks like any decent electric heater simply draws way too much electricity for a battery to handle. But it can only run for so long before the gas canister runs out. Any recommendations other than never heading north in the winter time would be appreciated.

Nancy
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Old 09-23-2017, 02:08 PM   #2
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I just did a quick search on ebay with " 12v aux heater" and quite a few hits came up.
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Old 09-23-2017, 02:22 PM   #3
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Name: Nancy
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I did search for 12V heaters while in Rhode Island. There were several options but after reading specs and reviews I found that the only ones that would not drain my battery immediately were just not strong enough to provide any heat what so ever. I thought maybe some company made efficient ones for truck drivers for when they stop and sleep in their cab but did not find anything that would actually do the job of heating even a very small space. Maybe someone has come up with a better model since last November which is why I am asking if anyone can recommend one.
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Old 09-23-2017, 04:06 PM   #4
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Heating while driving?

Heat is one of those functions that require a lot of energy input. It cannot be done from a battery. It's either shore electric power or propane.

The Suburban furnace in my Scamp will warm it up in a hurry, and all you'd have to do to light it at a stop is turn on the propane valve and turn up the thermostat. Battery power is required to run the blower.

A lot depends on how often you plan to use this camper in sub-freezing conditions.
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Old 09-23-2017, 05:24 PM   #5
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There is no solution (I have ever heard of...after 20+yrs driving truck) using 12vdc...your best bet is one of the larger Mr Buddy or Big Buddy heaters along with a regular bar b que propane tank (or half sized one)...while I wouldn't recommend using it while traveling, it will pretty quickly heat up the camper when stopped..........
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Old 09-23-2017, 07:20 PM   #6
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The Happier Camper was designed in California, and produced in California specifically with the California Surfer crowd in mind. They don't need heat which is why there is no concept available for it.

People living in Colorado who want to camp in moths other than summer need at least a 3 season trailer, something like a Bigfoot that has extra insulation and an option for double pane windows.

It is unfortunate that you did not realize that before you purchased a trailer.

As to a good 12 volt heater that will run while you are driving. You will want to have a qualified electrical engineer take a look at your specific car and design a wiring harness for you based on the power draw and length of the wires based on a specific heater. Your car cost you a lot of money and getting it wrong could create a very expensive mistake. This is much too specialized of a situation to rely on advice from a public forum.
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Old 09-23-2017, 08:12 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by k corbin View Post
The Happier Camper was designed in California, and produced in California specifically with the California Surfer crowd in mind. They don't need heat which is why there is no concept available for it.

People living in Colorado who want to camp in moths other than summer need at least a 3 season trailer, something like a Bigfoot that has extra insulation and an option for double pane windows.

It is unfortunate that you did not realize that before you purchased a trailer.

As to a good 12 volt heater that will run while you are driving. You will want to have a qualified electrical engineer take a look at your specific car and design a wiring harness for you based on the power draw and length of the wires based on a specific heater. Your car cost you a lot of money and getting it wrong could create a very expensive mistake. This is much too specialized of a situation to rely on advice from a public forum.
K Corbin before making such blanketed false statements maybe you should check with the happier camper sales office and see how many trailers are sold to those that are not California beach bums as you imply and see how many trailers are sold elsewhere in North America . The HC1 has heat sources and insulation just like most other small trailers and can be camped in comfortably .i believe the op was about towing while heating which applies to just about every other trailer and is not exclusive to the HC1
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Old 09-23-2017, 09:33 PM   #8
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The good news is that the conversion of watts to BTUs in an electric heater is quite efficient. Unfortunately, the bad news is that it takes a lot of watts to produce enough heat to keep your trailer warm. A typical 1500 watt household electric heater produces around 5118.213 BTU per hour, drawing 12.5 amps @ 120V. At 12v, this would draw 125 amps.

Right now I have an electric heater that is drawing 4 amps @ 120v, or 480 watts & 1637.82816 BTUs. It is keeping my Escape 21 toasty (at 70F) with an outside temperature in the 40's. To do this at 12 volts, it would take 40 amps.

Many automotive alternators are rated at over 100 amps, but rarely are able to produce that in the real world. The combination of the voltage regulator, wiring in your vehicle, and the wiring in the trailer, connectors, etc generally are capable of producing 8 - 10 amps of charging current for your trailer battery. If you devoted all of this to an electric heater, you would have around 120 watts, or 409.45704 BTUs per hour.

In the right truck, you can add a second alternator that could be dedicated to providing current to the trailer, along with wiring & connectors heavy enough to get most of the energy to an electric heater, but as K. Corbin pointed out, the installation of a system like this would be expensive, and only possible in a vehicle that has room for the additional alternator.

This is the reason that most individuals that boondock use propane for heating (although I have seen a few fiberglass trailers with wood stoves). A typical trailer propane furnace produces 10,000 - 35,000 BTUs, far more than a typical household portable electric heater. The one that came with my trailer is a 12,000 BTU furnace.

By the way, a propane furnace can be run while the vehicle is underway. This is often done with motorized RVs, less often with trailers, but is possible.
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Old 09-23-2017, 10:08 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mikmay View Post
...The HC1 has heat sources and insulation just like most other small trailers and can be camped in comfortably...
I'm curious... what kind of heater or furnace is supplied as OEM on HC1's?
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Old 09-23-2017, 10:26 PM   #10
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I believe that indigenous Australians would suggest travelling with large dogs. The low temperatures you mention would likely warrant a "three dog night" to stay warm. Just remember that large dogs exhale a lot of moist breath!
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Old 09-23-2017, 10:26 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Jon in AZ View Post
I'm curious... what kind of heater or furnace is supplied as OEM on HC1's?
Because of the modual layout of the HC1 installing a fixed heat source has been a challenge but we have overcome that by installing the propex heat system under the floor and venting out the fixed side compartments ,works very well but is an expensive option we also have portable heat sources as well as a heat strip on those with rooftop air and contrary to what was posted above the HC1 is also pretty well insulated between the double shell.
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Old 09-23-2017, 11:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jon Vermilye View Post
The good news is that the conversion of watts to BTUs in an electric heater is quite efficient. Unfortunately, the bad news is that it takes a lot of watts to produce enough heat to keep your trailer warm. A typical 1500 watt household electric heater produces around 5118.213 BTU per hour, drawing 12.5 amps @ 120V. At 12v, this would draw 125 amps.

Right now I have an electric heater that is drawing 4 amps @ 120v, or 480 watts & 1637.82816 BTUs. It is keeping my Escape 21 toasty (at 70F) with an outside temperature in the 40's. To do this at 12 volts, it would take 40 amps.

Many automotive alternators are rated at over 100 amps, but rarely are able to produce that in the real world. The combination of the voltage regulator, wiring in your vehicle, and the wiring in the trailer, connectors, etc generally are capable of producing 8 - 10 amps of charging current for your trailer battery. If you devoted all of this to an electric heater, you would have around 120 watts, or 409.45704 BTUs per hour.

In the right truck, you can add a second alternator that could be dedicated to providing current to the trailer, along with wiring & connectors heavy enough to get most of the energy to an electric heater, but as K. Corbin pointed out, the installation of a system like this would be expensive, and only possible in a vehicle that has room for the additional alternator.

This is the reason that most individuals that boondock use propane for heating (although I have seen a few fiberglass trailers with wood stoves). A typical trailer propane furnace produces 10,000 - 35,000 BTUs, far more than a typical household portable electric heater. The one that came with my trailer is a 12,000 BTU furnace.

By the way, a propane furnace can be run while the vehicle is underway. This is often done with motorized RVs, less often with trailers, but is possible.
This is the right answer explained with real world physics. About 1500 watts of power would be needed to heat the trailer under the said conditions. While driving, it might be more. Watts is an indirect way of measuring the heat required, but it's a practical measurement because it is related to house electrical circuitry of 120 volts. Normal household heaters are about 1500 watts. Getting 1500 watts from the alternator to the trailer is another matter. Doable? Yes. Practical? No. Then once you stop and shut off the TV, the heat immediately stops. 12 volt resistance heating, powered by a TV, is not a viable option. Propane heat is.

Sometimes, the way that so many trailers have been designed over the years, actually makes sense. It's why almost every trailer has propane bottles and a propane heater. It works. Day or night, driving or not, just click the thermostat and get warm.

But you could run a 2000 watt Honda generator and a 1500 watt electric heater instead. Just leave the Honda racing away all night and powering the heater. And/or leave the Honda running as you drive and running the heater so the trailer is warm when you stop. It just doesn't seem practical.

Either way, 12 volt resistance heating is not just impractical, is ridiculous.
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Old 09-24-2017, 07:43 AM   #13
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If travel in sub-freezing conditions is something you plan to do often, I really think KC is right- there are other trailers better suited. If it's an occasional thing, or if you otherwise really like this trailer, you have several options.

(1) A 120V electric space heater, and camp with electric hook-ups. It's the simplest and cheapest option, but it won't solve the cold stops in transit, and it won't allow you to stay in a rest area/parking lot in cold weather (unless you carry a generator). I like the ceramic cube type because they are quieter and have lower surface temperatures.

(2) A portable propane heater. You'll go through quite a few canisters*, and there are safety issues that require very careful adherence to the manufacturer's instructions. It does solve the need for heat during pit stops and parking lot overnights. No battery power is required. *Some portable units can be connected to a large LP tank mounted outside the cabin with a quick-connect fitting on the gas line.

(3) A permanently-mounted propane catalytic heater. This allows you to run off a permanent LP tank on the tongue. You'll have to find a place to mount it within the modular configuration. You'll have to install a tank and propane lines. There are safety issues similar to the portable units. No battery power is needed.

(4) A traditional cabinet-mounted Atwood or Suburban RV furnace. Because they're vented, safety issues are significantly reduced. But you'll have to modify the trailer to create a deep enough cabinet. And you'll need to cut a hole in the shell for the vent, as well as installing a LP tank and lines. Battery power runs the blower, but your vehicle's charging line should keep up on a road trip.

(5) An under-floor Propex heater like Happier Camper uses. Expensive, but it avoids messing with the modular interior and cutting through the shell. Needs an LP tank and lines (none inside the trailer) and 12V power.

I wish there were easy and inexpensive answers, but there aren't. Most small trailers are meant for 3-season use down to around 35F. Adding an electric or propane heater- or winter sleeping bags, or the 3-dog solution - allows you to to weather short spells below that, but limited insulation, single pane windows, and exposed plumbing makes it impractical to spend extended periods in sub-freezing weather. For that, they make four-season trailers with more insulation, thermal windows, and enclosed/heated plumbing.
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Old 09-24-2017, 08:08 AM   #14
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Yep, unfortunately trailers just aren't built with winter travel in mind. Some companies make them for occasional cold weather use, but they are built mostly for 3-season travel. People do it, they just have to be willing to suffer a bit. The best option for traveling during the winter in comfort is a motorhome, since the vehicles heating system can more or less heat the entire coach while you're driving.

Otherwise, propane heat is the way to go, since it'll heat up a small space really quickly (like during a lunch break).

Otherwise you just have to expect to be cold. Someday there will be a solution, but right now there's not really a good one. Campers aren't for winter travel.
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