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Old 11-11-2019, 06:04 PM   #1
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Heated tanks

2002 Itasca Spirit. I am still camping and temps will be in the 20's for the next couple of nights. My rv came with heated tanks but I have never used this feature. There is a switch for tank heater but no instructions. I have water in the fresh water tank. At what temp should this be used? Any other info will be greatly appreciated.

Tia
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Old 11-11-2019, 06:45 PM   #2
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I've got grey/black tank heaters, too. The caveat with mine is they run off the coach battery or batteries and will suck them dry of power pretty fast without also being plugged in to shore power, running your generator, or idling the chassis engine. I've never used them, btw.
The fresh tank water may be a problem if the temps get below 32F for more than a few hours overnight. Is the daytime temp above freezing? If not, you might want to winterize your fresh water system, or at least drain the fresh tank and open all the faucets and fire up your water pump to blow out the lines and/or allow the freezing water to expand. If you have a standard 6 gallon water heater, you might want to drain it, too.
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:09 AM   #3
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When I looked at the electric diagram for the tank heaters it showed 3 heaters... that should be the grey, black, and fresh. I have not verified this yet...



You must be plugged in or have gen running to use the heaters since they draw a lot of power. The tanks must have fluid in them or the heaters will melt the tanks.


Regardless, I usually keep the unit heated which warms the fresh water tank under my 24j bed because of the duct work that runs to the bath area. I have the Truma hot water heater with circulation system which must also be on to keep it from freezing. The 20's haven't been a problem for me other than I hate the cold weather


One option is to add antifreeze to the grey and black to bring their freezing temps up if you can't run the tank heaters.
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Old 11-12-2019, 09:10 AM   #4
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PS ... a light bulb or very small heater in the wet bay will keep that from freezing
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:11 AM   #5
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Nights were temps drop into the high 20's that are followed with days in the mid to upper 30's or even 40 degrees do not require that you do anything to protect your tanks.

The thermal mass of both your RV and the ground around you will be enough to keep any water in your pipes - even water on the ground - from freezing in these conditions. Plus - you're going to be running your RV heater on those cold nights. And this too will keep your RV from getting close to freezing temps.

The air temp may be 27 degrees, but it will take days... weeks of constant 27 degrees to get your RV and the ground around you to below freezing. If the forecast is for 27 degree nights and also below freezing days for 2 consecutive days - as in never going above 32 degrees in 36 or more hours - then you should take precautions against freezing.

A water hose between the spigot and the RV could develop a blockage from freezing. But probably not enough to cause it to burst. So, unhook your water hose. I like to put mine away on nights below 30 degrees, just so I don't have any issues on those cold mornings. And, it's tough to coil up a water hose that's cold if you plan on leaving in the morning.
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Old 11-12-2019, 10:30 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by NYBobbo View Post
When I looked at the electric diagram for the tank heaters it showed 3 heaters... that should be the grey, black, and fresh. I have not verified this yet...



You must be plugged in or have gen running to use the heaters since they draw a lot of power. The tanks must have fluid in them or the heaters will melt the tanks.


Regardless, I usually keep the unit heated which warms the fresh water tank under my 24j bed because of the duct work that runs to the bath area. I have the Truma hot water heater with circulation system which must also be on to keep it from freezing. The 20's haven't been a problem for me other than I hate the cold weather


One option is to add antifreeze to the grey and black to bring their freezing temps up if you can't run the tank heaters.
A 3rd heater? Hmm, my OM only mentions "Holding tank heaters".
I've seen them whilst poking around underneath ours last summer, and realizing the dealership installed them with the wires hanging loose under the coach. I added about 6 to 8 feet of plastic wiring conduit to try to give them a fighting chance of survival.
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Old 11-12-2019, 02:26 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PaulineK View Post
2002 Itasca Spirit. I am still camping and temps will be in the 20's for the next couple of nights. My rv came with heated tanks but I have never used this feature. There is a switch for tank heater but no instructions. I have water in the fresh water tank. At what temp should this be used? Any other info will be greatly appreciated.

Tia
Pauline
Newby to this also but Im hearing that they are heated when the furnace is on and or when you turn the coach heat switch on when your driving (if you have one at the dash

Good way to check is crank your furnace on and give it 20 min and open the cubby holes and see if its warm in there
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Old 11-12-2019, 04:09 PM   #8
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Im hearing that they are heated when the furnace is on
A great many TT and Motorhomes are built with furnace ducting that surrounds the tanks. So, running the heater does, in fact, keep the tanks warm.

Not all RVs have this, many Class B's don't have an opportunity to be constructed this way. The chassis is all setup by the manufacturer long before an upfitter uses it to create a RV. So, there's not that opportunity to construct the frame in this fashion.
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Old 11-17-2019, 05:22 PM   #9
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Excellent advice!
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Old 11-17-2019, 05:26 PM   #10
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The advice given here is pretty good.

You'll want to be certain to have water in all three tanks, not just the fresh water tank, before you turn the heaters on. Some tank heaters generate enough heat to damage empty tanks. I usually put water in each one to get to the 1/3rd mark before turning the tank heaters on.

Some heaters have built-in thermostats and will turn the heat on when the fluid gets down to 45 degrees and then they turn off at 65 degrees. If the temps are going below freezing I'll turn the tank heaters on during the middle of the day so they have time to warm up the fluids and build up a heat reserve.

Other areas of potential concern are the area where the water pump is located as well as the wet bay, if you have one. Some heater kits put a heater pad around the wet bay drain "elbows" to keep standing water near the drain valves from freezing up. If you can see yours, do they have anything wrapped around them with wires? It's pretty small, maybe two or three inches long but it does wrap all the way around.

I do agree that it's probably not a concern until you start getting into the low 20's overnight.

Just run some hot and cold water through all faucets before you go to bed and if you get up in the middle of the night. That will replace chilled water with warmer water from the fresh water tank.
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Old 11-17-2019, 05:40 PM   #11
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I also have a Spirit, 2015, but probably very similar. The freshwater tank is above the floor and under the bed and is not likely to freeze at any reasonable outside temperature and therefore not heated in my unit.

The gray and black tanks are totally exposed outside and subject to freezing if the temp drops into the lower 20s or never gets above freezing during the day. And yes, your batteries won't last long while heating the tanks. As I've said before in other posts, these things are not designed for winter camping while wet and don't work very well dry either, as the insulation is minimal. Crank on the heat and say a few prayers for good measure on those cold nights.
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Old 11-17-2019, 07:07 PM   #12
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If anyone gets really excited about cold weather camping, I did something on my Artic Fox slide in that I thought was pretty cool. There is a drain for the hot water plumbing back near a drain for the fresh water tank. I put a tee in each line and connected them, with a valve in the middle. All the tanks are in a heated "basement" of the camper that has some warm air flow when the furnace is on, but it's not all that much.
I can turn the valve and start warm water flowing into the back side of the 60 gall freshwater tank, at the end furthest away from the pump intake. I can warm that whole tank off the hot water heater to whatever I want, pretty quickly and cheaply.
Because this is the unit I use for winter camping and snowmachining, it sees some truly cold weather. Even at 15 below, my plumbing works, including being able to shower.
The heat from the freshwater tank keeps ALL of the tanks warm without having to dump antifreeze in.

I thought about it with the motorhome, but it's such an energy hog I wouldn't take it anywhere below 20 degrees anyway, so it's not worth the effort.
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:25 AM   #13
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Old 11-18-2019, 09:07 AM   #14
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I Hate to be That guy!
But please stop saying a light bulb will keep the wet bay from freezing, it just shows your age.
Only an Incandescent light bulb, the Old ones put out heat, the new, current LEDs and Fluorescent light bulb Do Not Put Out Heat and will not keep the wet bay from freezing, use a ceramic heater they work great are small and turn off if they fall over, also a GFCI is a good safety measure too.
Sorry for being That guy but it needed to be said.
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Old 11-18-2019, 11:47 AM   #15
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These pads draw about 5 amps an hour each. That would be 10 or 15 amps. The average small RV will only have about 100 amps usable available (two group 24 or a couple of golf cart batteries). So that two heaters over 10 hours will use all of the available power. There is none left over for the furnace--which will be running at least 7 amps for a small propane furnace--in 10 hours that alone has taken 70% of the available power....

All of these argue for being plugged in to power, or running a generator in very cold weather.
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Old 11-18-2019, 12:23 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pobstlmo View Post
I Hate to be That guy!
But please stop saying a light bulb will keep the wet bay from freezing, it just shows your age.
Only an Incandescent light bulb, the Old ones put out heat, the new, current LEDs and Fluorescent light bulb Do Not Put Out Heat and will not keep the wet bay from freezing, use a ceramic heater they work great are small and turn off if they fall over, also a GFCI is a good safety measure too.
Sorry for being That guy but it needed to be said.

LOL apparently you don't hate to be "that guy" so much...


a light bulb is just that a light bulb - to me indicating it is incandescent


btw LED also give off a considerable amount of heat but probably not enough to do the job in a wet bay.


I have used both heater and light bulb in work lite housing in the wet bay... they both work.


I have no problem with my age... it just indicates that I have wisdom that comes with it.
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Old 11-18-2019, 05:42 PM   #17
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heated tanks - furnace duct?

on a slight variation - we have a 2018 Micro Minnie. the tanks are heated by furnace ducts into the insulated belly of the trailer. No electric tank heaters; nothing exposed underneath. BUT to keep everything liquid, the furnace has to be running. I have never be able to get any data regards temps or conditions below which tanks heated using this construction and heating method might freeze. Does anyone have any experience/thoughts with this method vs heating tape or in-tank heating devices. Anyone ever had this type of tank freeze?
thanks
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Old 11-18-2019, 07:09 PM   #18
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I think you would have to have some sort of remote temperature gauge (it could be a weather station with remote sensors....some let you have several) and you'd have to keep an eye on it. The thermostat is in the living area. If that stays warm because you're cooking or running something else, the basement area will get cold.
A second alternative is to cut holes in out of the way places and blow air from the living space into the storage area using 12v fans like are used on computer towers. They don't draw much but move a bit of air.
But the bottom line is, most of these coaches are not insulated very well at all. In any sustained cold, they're problematic, and the larger ones are the worst, unless they specifically have an arctic package. Not many do.
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Old 11-19-2019, 10:50 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by PaulineK View Post
2002 Itasca Spirit. I am still camping and temps will be in the 20's for the next couple of nights. My rv came with heated tanks but I have never used this feature. There is a switch for tank heater but no instructions. I have water in the fresh water tank. At what temp should this be used? Any other info will be greatly appreciated.

Tia
Pauline
Tia, I believe your holding tank heaters are the Ultra Heat brand; anyway, that's the brand that WBGO used on my 2007 rig (extra cost option.) You will find a LOT of info (FAQ) on their website: https://manuals.heartlandowners.org/...eat%20FAQs.pdf It would be worth your time to read it.... how the built-in thermostats work, liquid requirements, limitations/cautions, etc.

Due to some road damage, I recently replaced mine. I found that the light which illuminates on the ON/OFF switch in the coach only verifies that the switch is on .... nothing else (a good thing because the sw should be in the off position except in cold weather conditions.) The website above tells how to verify that the heaters are working by touching them at the "bump" on the pad. I have 3 heaters: 1 for the grey tank; 1 for the black tank; and 1 very small one for an exposed elbow. The combination draws about 13 amps and I can measure that with my "clamp on" DC ammeter [at the coach battery location] as a way of verifying that the heaters are drawing current. (Incidentally, you will find the [15 amp] fuse for the heater ckt on the fuse/ckt brkr panel inside your coach ..... mine was labeled.)

https://www.amazon.com/s?k=clamp+on+...b_sb_ss_i_1_11

Good times, and safe travels.
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Old 11-19-2019, 02:51 PM   #20
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We just stayed in some cool temps. 25 low or less and 40s during the day. The propane heat warms the basement, I can feel it when I put my hands near the storage tanks. I did not put my water line out on that cold night, we just used our fresh water from the tank. Make sure to run your water heater as well, that will help that area. Our motorhome is a 2001 so I'm sure there are some differences. We had no problems at all, make sure all the storage and utility bay doors are closed up tight as well.
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