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Old 10-04-2012, 10:15 AM   #1
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Cold Weather Questions

It wasn't our original intent, but we ended up with some pretty cold weather {19* F is cold for us Floridians anyway} here in Custer, SD.

First, we got in pretty late last night and instead of disconnecting the water and draining the lines I opted for what I thought would work . I simply opened the gray tank valves from the galley & bath and let some warm water "trickle" in both the kitchen & bathroom sinks. I kept the black water drain valve closed. Early this morning I woke to my DW yelling because the toilet turned into a fountain when she went to flush ! The bathroom sink was just about to overflow before she turned off the water in that sink. The kitchen sink didn't get full though she turned that off as well. The gray tanks were empty, nothing seemed frozen {still had the water flow from the faucets, but the black water tank indicator lights said full. I opened the black water drain valve and it did seem that it was pretty full. I didn't think the gray/black tanks were in any way connected. Any ideas {other than my stupidity } on why this would happen?

Second, I noticed the cabinets at the top of the dining area slide out were much colder than the ceiling of the coach. The living/bedroom slide out didn't seem to be as cold, but I didn't get actual temperatures. I thought I noticed the cabinets pretty warm during the summer, but didn't' pay much mind to it. Should I be checking for gasket leaks or are these just not insulated as well?

We're supposed to have another few cold days here and we won't be headed for warmer weather that soon.

Any ideas as to what would cause the toilet fountain, bathroom sink to stop draining when that drain valve was open and do we have poor insulation or a some kind of air leakage...

Thanks in advance for any input!
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Old 10-04-2012, 10:35 AM   #2
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Some bathroom sinks drian into the black tank. It you left that bathroom sink dribbling, that may have filled your black tank over night
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:04 PM   #3
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The black water tank should have a vent through the roof so pressure can't build up inside the tank. It may be blocked, or the pipe pushed too far down into the tank.

OR, on reading your post properly it could just be that the bathroom sink drains into the black tank (commonly done) and the water was right to the top of the sink which is higher than the toilet - so when the toilet valve opened, water pushed down from the sink and up the toilet
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:13 PM   #4
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make sure you run the furnace and not using electric heaters. your furnace should keep your tanks from freezing.
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:29 PM   #5
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Thanks for the input so far. We do have separate grey water tanks for the kitchen & bath/shower and those are the two I left open. I realized that I apparently did not have the black water tank valve fully closed. My guess is that because of the way the drains manifold together before the external sewer hose connection coupled with the fact that the external sewer tube had a decent trap, the sewer tube froze and the bath/shower tank drained back up into the black water tank. Again this is just a guess because if that was the case; why was only the bath sink backed up and not the kitchen sink too?
I did have the two stage heat pumps as first stage heat, but the furnace ran often due to the defrost controls. So if helps keep the pipes from freezing it should have run enough to accomplish that.
It seems odd that all the piping in the "water bay" aren't insulated or why isn't that bay an insulated bay?
In any case, I plan to disconnect water tonight and drain water lines.
Please, any more input on this "mystery to me" would be appreciated.
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Old 10-04-2012, 06:59 PM   #6
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not sure about your mystery, but if you are sleeping in the rv and have to keep the furnace on to keep you warm the pipes should be fine unless it gets a lot colder. if you are concerned about the water bay you can put a light bulb in there. and yes if it is 19 degrees you have to disconnect and drain your outside water hose.
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Old 10-04-2012, 07:19 PM   #7
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Don't worry about the water lines if you use your furnace. Opening your dump valves should keep the valve area from freezing and breaking. I keep mine closed and pour about a 1/2 gallon of RV antifreeze in the holding tank and a cup or so with each flush. The Canadians use windshield washer anti-freeze fluid and say it works well. It is a lot less expensive. We have use out 1999 Winnebago Brave down to 10 below zero with out problems. I do keep a trouble light in the water bay with the pump. In our 2003 Adventurer where the pump is next to the water heater, the water heater keeps the pump bay warm enough. I also leave the lower cabinet doors open in very cold weather.
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Old 10-04-2012, 07:42 PM   #8
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DH is thinking that it looks as if your bathroom sink is connected to and suppose to be draining into your black tank. It appears you have a separate gray tank for the kitchen/galley sink and another gray tank for your shower and washer/dryer.

If you left your bathroom sink dripping, then that would explain why your black tank filled up. Under your theory, even if you had left your blank tank valve partially open, there just wouldn't be enough pressure to fill your blank tank from just letting the faucets drip overnight.

Don't ask us how we know*, but if your blank tank overfills, as Tony Lee mentioned, it will back up through the vent and was probably trickling out your vent onto the roof. Since it was just dripping, the vent on the roof was just dripping. When you went to flush the toilet, the pressure build up would could have made a temporary fountain until the build up in the vent pipe unpressurized itself.

That's our theory.

*for those curious, we were flushing the blank tank after dumping and rinsing. We had the hose connected to the flush valve. DH got distracted and temporarily forgot the hose was connect to the flush valve and water started overflowing out the vent on the roof. At the same time, stupid me, because the toilet was making a funny sound, I put my foot on the flush pedal and started to push. As the toilet valve started to open, the pressure in the blank tank made a geyser shoot out of the toilet covering me and everything in the toilet room with water.

I don't even want to think if we had the hose connected and hadn't dumped the tank before as water wouldn't have been what I would have been covered with!!!!



p.s. We've let our bathroom and kitchen sink drip overnight with the gray tank valve open and the furnace running normally throughout the night in temperatures as low as 15 without any problems. The only problem we had was one cold night, the water going through the sewer hose froze and came off of the supports we had it on because of the weight but that wasn't really a big deal. If temperatures are predicted to be colder than that, then yes, we would pull the hoses off and close all valves.
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Old 10-04-2012, 11:16 PM   #9
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The shower and washer-dryer drain into the bath tank and the kitchen (dish washer, sink) drain into the galley tank. The bathroom sink and toilet drain into the black tank.
The slides (cabinets) are not insulated much and will be warm in summer and cold in winter. I've had snow load up on the slide covers and melt to blocks of ice and slush. These are not 4 season motorhomes! Feel in the basement storage when in the summer and they will be cooler inside from the air conditioner air leaking down into the storage area. Also there are hoses from the 2 gas furnaces going into the basement area.
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Old 10-05-2012, 09:50 AM   #10
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Thanks Amanda & Jerry.

The plumbing diagram Amanda sent showed what Jerry said. That answers the question of what happened. Because I didn't realize the bathroom sink drained into the black water tank and I had only (mistakenly) had it partially open it filled up. That's why the DW saw the bathroom sink almost full and shut the spigot off. Unfortunately, she tried to flush the toilet !
Last night I disconnected the fresh water supply and drained the lines by opening the hot/cold on the outdoor shower. We filled up a couple of gallon water bottles to help flush the toilet. Nothing seemed to be frozen this morning of course with the cold temps the furnace ran most of the night. Smart idea of using a little anti-freeze in the tanks, but I hope we're out of this cold weather before it stays that cold long enough.

I do read the manuals and have read about winterizing, just not living in the coach in winter weather; we never planned on that ...
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Old 10-05-2012, 10:26 AM   #11
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Your Winnie has enclosed tanks and dump valves. Those areas do receive some heat from the lip furnace(s) as indicated above, and also some passive airflow from air-ways/wire-ways under cabinets. You should have no need to worry about anything freezing when you are using the coach and the lp furnace in sub-freezing weather. We have been in below zero weather (-5 to -15) for as long as a week at a time with no problems other than frozen bare feet (and instant wake-up) when we stepped on the tile floor inside!

I got a wireless thermometer with 3 remote senders to monitor key areas. If I get concerned about a water bay, etc I just put an auto trouble light or spotlight in that area and the lone bulb will keep that area in the 50's or higher.

If concerned about plumbing under a counter top (my galley is in a slide), I just open those cabinet doors to let the air flow better.

And as you found, if you overfill the black tank it will overflow the bath sink (not the roof vent). I got some personal experience with that when I "forgot" I was flushing the black tank while having a conversation with visitors ...when the sink overflows and water comes down the outside of the cabinet it will fill each drawer with water starting from the top down! Neat!! ---well, maybe not the right word exactly, but it was an "interesting" sequence! Winnie drains the bath sink to the black tank to help ensure you get sufficient liquid/water in the tank.
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Old 10-05-2012, 11:41 AM   #12
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Yep, you're absolutely right, Paul.

We were thinking about our set up. Our bathroom sink doesn't drain into the blank tank ...only the toilet drains into the black tank so if our black tank overflows, it will in fact come out the roof vent (assuming the toilet bowl valve remains closed). I guess the only condition that would occur, however, is when the blank tank flush is connected and stupidly somebody leave the valve to the tank closed and doesn't pay attention.

Harv's will obviously overflow through the bathroom sink.

We are in fact dumber than we look. Sorry about that.



ETA: ditto what Paul said about living in your rig in the winter. It sounds as if you're making it more difficult on yourself. These rigs are designed to be lived in. Although we haven't been in sub-zero conditions, we've lived in our rig when it dropped into the single digits at night.
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Old 12-09-2012, 03:48 PM   #13
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My wife and I are full-timing in our Allegro Bay motorhome while new home is being build. For the time being we are located Everett, WA, but will be relocating to Sandpoint, ID in January. I understand the basics of cold weather RVing, heated water hose, running the furnace, etc. However, I have no experience with RVing in snow country. My concern is the snow load on the roof and slides. Does anyone have any experience and/or advice?
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Old 12-09-2012, 04:49 PM   #14
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Only problems I have had with snow/ice on roof and slides was snow piled up on the rooftop sat tv dish blocking the signal, and slide toppers not retracting with the slide due to ice sheet frozen on top of them. I wouldn't worry about the "load", but it would be relatively easy to use a ladder to push snow off the slides if you wanted to be cautious. I sure would not even think about trying to get on a snowy/icy RV roof! (I cleared the dish by stowing and restarting it before the snow froze in place.)
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Old 12-15-2012, 04:30 PM   #15
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winter camping

We are going camping the week of Christmas, the MH is winterized, not gonna use the water( we use bottled water)--are going to use the toilet, but add a small amt. of antifreeze at each flush --then dump black water before leaving. This will be around Asheville( Rutledge Lake)---temps may be around 25-29 during night--anybody see any problems?---Vince
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Old 12-15-2012, 05:56 PM   #16
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I wouldn't worry about adding rv antifreeze when flushing unless your black tank is totally exposed ...which I doubt. We have camped like that and kept gallon jugs of water in the "throne room" for commode use. Run the lp furnace so you have a bit of basement area heat, and dump on departure ...should be no problem.
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Old 12-15-2012, 09:22 PM   #17
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I agree with AFCHAP, you really don't need to use any antifreeze at those temperatures.
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Old 12-15-2012, 11:37 PM   #18
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I lived in a 88 Itasca Windcruiser one winter and had no problems. I listened to other RVers and did what they told me. I put a little rock salt in the holding tanks which kept everything in a slush form and I used heat tape and insulation foam around my drinking hose.
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