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Old 11-07-2013, 06:42 PM   #1
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Question Questions about using custom plumbing in Salem Ice Cabin during the winter


First off, I should say that I'm ignorant when it comes to RVs, plus I'm dealing with a custom situation that may not be RV-standard either, but I'm hoping others may understand this type of set-up and have some good ideas on how I can use it.

We just purchased a used, 2010 Salem Ice Cabin. It is an 8x20 foot model, with the toy hauler door in the back. For those not familiar with this, it has electric jacks on each side and on the tongue, so the whole thing can be cranked down until the frame is sitting on the ground/ice. Somewhere along the line, one of the owners had some customizations done. Specifically, they added:

- Hot water heater
- Toilet
- Shower
- Sink

The person I bought this from never used these items, so he didn't know much about them. I looked at what I could see and here is what I know (or at least think I know ).

- The fresh water appears to be supplied one of two ways. 1) Hook up a pressurized water hose to the side of the RV. 2) There is a water pump under one of the seats. That water pump has a hose connected to the inlet. The hose is just coiled under the seat. It has no connector on the other end of it. I'm guessing that open end can just be placed into a water tank of some sort and the pump turned on to pressurize the lines. I don't know if the pump will shut off when the lines are pressurized or if this needs to be manually controlled?

- The toilet has a holding tank under it (not sure what size). It has a 3" valve directly underneath the holding tank, underneath the RV, facing the ground. It is almost exactly at the same level as the ground if the house is cranked down. More on that later.

- The shower does not appear to have a gray water holding tank. I poured water down the drain and it quickly backed up. I opened the port on the side of the RV and that much water came out.

- The sink does not appear to have a gray water holding tank. I poured water down the drain and it quickly backed up. I opened the port on the side of the RV (opposite side from the shower port) and that much water came out.

I think that covers how this is plumbed. Now for my questions and request for thoughts from those more knowledgeable than me.

1) Any ideas on the best way to use and empty the toilet while on the ice in the winter?

My initial thought was to install a 90 degree turn on the valve and install a macerator pump off of that, with a flexible smaller diameter hose coming off of that. This would have theoretically allowed me to dig out a trench for that smaller hose so that I could empty when I wanted (into some sort of external, portable container, which would then be dumped somewhere appropriate). Of course, even if I could do all that, having it under the bottom of the trailer, unprotected, while going down the road, could have been risky.

As it is, the built in valve is at the same level as the bottom of the trailer, so although the trailer can sit on the ground, that valve is not recessed enough to allow me to adapt anything to it and still be able to set the RV on the ground without crushing the additions.

Unless someone has another idea, I think I'm limited to cranking the RV up whenever I want to empty the black water tank.

2) If I am correct with my assumption in (1), and I need to hook up a 3" hose, macerator and smaller hose whenever I want to empty the black water tank into an portable container, how can I do this as cleanly as possible? I really don't want to have to wash out the hoses every time I do this. Are there hoses that have some sort of tightly sealed cap on each end so that any "residue" in the hoses/macerator can just stay self-contained and so that I can pack the contraption into a bag and throw it in a storage compartment?

3) If I want to use the shower and/or sink while I am away from a water hook-up (on the ice, for example), any ideas on on what to do to source my water, since I don't appear to have a fresh water holding tank?

My thought is to use a collapsible water tank(s) like this:

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I would then just adapt the open ended hose that goes into the water pump to pull water from these types of tanks. They could be stored in the shower when not in use and just set on the floor and hooked up when needed, which wouldn't be very frequently.

Another idea would be to pump lake water into the system. I don't think I'd want lake water crud in the hot water heater, but it might be okay for washing hands. It would be a darn cold shower, so it probably wouldn't be used for that.

4) Putting water into the system is one thing. Now I have to get it out of the system and I have to do so without any sort of gray water holding tanks. My thought here is to hook up hoses to the outside shower outlet and sink outlet (possibly a Y hose to combine them) and pipe the output either into the lake (if we refrain from using any sort of soap, which would be no different impact to the lake than swimming in it), or remove all restrictions, but then plumb the hoses into an external/portable holding tank.

With either approach, the external lines need to be angled such that they are always empty, and in order for the water to flow, the destination tank needs to have an open air valve.

However, if I use an external tank ("Blue Boy" or equivalent, most likely), how do I keep that from freezing, sitting on a frozen lake?

Thoughts on anti-freeze vs wrapping it in heat tape vs some other idea??

5) Do you think if I leave the furnace on low at all times (when unoccupied), will I need to worry about the internal water lines freezing? Do I need to think about heat tape on the lines?

I'm sure there are those who will just say not to use the plumbing in the winter. However, this is an fish house, first and foremost, and the idea is to use the features of the RV when ice fishing.

Thanks for any help that anyone can provide. I'd love to hear your creative ideas!


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Old 11-07-2013, 10:25 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2011
Location: Northern Minnesota
Posts: 77
Here in northern MN people who purchase Ice Cabins with those options do so with the intention that they could be used during the summer months as a travel trailer. Most just use a porta potty of some sort in the fish house. Keeping a water system operating is too troublesome for most, no access to dump stations in the winter for the black waste, too hard to keep the tanks from freezing, etc.
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plumbing, salem, winter

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