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Old 11-04-2019, 12:07 AM   #1
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Running furnace while traveling in winter to heat underbelly?

I have a question for the group. I've never really thought about this before.

Our trailer does not have heating strips on any of the tanks, but it does have a coroplast enclosed underbelly with a heat duct from the furnace into the underbelly. Technically it is a "heated underbelly", just not with heat strips on the tanks.

I know a lot of people run LP fridges while driving, but I've never thought about running the furnace at a lower setting while driving to protect the tanks and water lines from freezing in cold weather (I usually travel with some water in the fresh tank for "necessary stops" along the way). I would think there is no difference in a strong wind while stationary in a campground vs airflow from the road as far as the furnace is concerned.

Is there a reason not to run the LP furnace like that? And does anyone do this regularly while traveling in winter?

The reason I ask is like most, previously we did not camp in winter, but we have a grandson now in Nashville and we would like to take the trailer up to "driveway camp" at my daughter's house. They have a 3 bedroom house, but one is theirs, the 2nd is the grandson's, and the 3rd is her husbands office (he tele-works in IT from home a lot, especially in the winter when roads are iffy). I don't do the blow up mattress thing very well, So camping in the driveway gives us our own little sanctuary and saves on hotel fees (which are insane anywhere in Nashville, TN). This would let us travel in winter if we could run the LP furnace (it is a 2015 model with an Atwood furnace).
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Old 11-04-2019, 06:22 AM   #2
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I can honestly say that I don't know anyone that's done this before. I never have as our TT is put away for winter. A lot of others out here may have way more information for you. I personally don't think you could, but it may be possible.
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Old 11-04-2019, 09:19 AM   #3
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I have done it with our Class C when it was in the teens. I don't see why not. One thing I know is not to leave the water heater on, it over heats when on propane. Put a lighted switch inside for when propane is used to heat the water.
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Old 11-04-2019, 09:53 AM   #4
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We regularly run the furnace when traveling. We leave it on about 60ºF. Keep in mind that if you're traveling at near freezing temps you'll suck up a lot of propane, so be prepared and have some extra on hand if you're traveling for many hours. Of course it's only about a 5 hour trip for you, so one 20 lb cylinder should be plenty.

P.S. Leave the cabinet doors open where there are water lines if it's going to be below freezing when traveling.
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:09 AM   #5
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I know of several folks who do and it has been discussed here in the past.

Here is one such search...
Travelling with the furnace on
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Old 11-04-2019, 10:18 AM   #6
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We left it on in our 5th wheel one January heading to Arizona. We had a lot of items to protect from freezing and it saved them. it uses a DSI for lighting the furnace so there in no pilot light to blow out.
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Old 11-04-2019, 01:36 PM   #7
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Thanks.....

That is what I figured. I agree with just bypassing and draining the water heater while on the road. My main concern was protection of the fresh tank and water lines and retaining the ability to flush, wash hands during the travel. Other than shutting down the hot water heater, I would think the furnace is about the same as the fridge as long as there is DSI. And the fridge is a common item to leave on LP when traveling.
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Old 11-04-2019, 01:50 PM   #8
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I would think that the normal movement going down the road would keep the water from freezing unless it’s really cold.
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Old 11-04-2019, 01:59 PM   #9
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I don't see why you could not but I would suggest that you should not expect that much heat will stay in the underbelly.
After spending a lot of time this year tearing down the underbelly of my trailer to repair a leaking and poorly supported fresh water tank, I was disappointed to see how poor the so-called "Arctic Package" was at insulating the trailer. basically all that the manufacturer uses is some foil bubble reflective insulation which is going to be useless for any kind of real cold weather. It will cut down on drafts but not much more.
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Old 11-04-2019, 02:03 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by kluza2786 View Post
I would think that the normal movement going down the road would keep the water from freezing unless it’s really cold.
Once the water itself is below 32°F it doesn't matter how much its moving, its freezing. In fact moving and having air blow by the tank, increases the convection and the heat loss out of the water in the tank vs being stationary.
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Old 11-04-2019, 02:10 PM   #11
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I guess plan "B" is winterize for the trip by draining and blowing out the lines/tanks, and use gallon jugs of tap water to flush/wash if needed in route (a-la dry camping mode). Then dump, drain and blow out the lines for the return trip home. They have a sewer connection in their yard near where I would park so dumping before the return trip is not an issue. Nor is shore power when there.

It just gets pretty cold sometimes in Nashville (average January temp is 22* and min for 2019 was 16*) and at the house I like to keep the furnace set to 50 degrees even in storage and leave certain cabinet doors open to allow heat to the interior water lines "just in case". We are just south of Atlanta, and it hardly ever comes on based on the small amount of LP used in storage. It's a lot milder at the house vs Nashville though.

Furnace is an Atwood AFDM25 25,000 btu unit. Specs say 90 watts at 12vDC, so that's 7.5 amps. Fridge is 6cu ft Dometic 2652 and control board fuse is 3 amps so in theory 10.5 amps total if both are running. My truck has a live charge line to the trailer and a HD alternator so in theory there should be power to spare and still run the furnace as that and the usual phantom loads (CO and LP detector, etc...) are the only loads that would be on. Plus the trailer battery will have been fully charged before trip up and back, 5 to 6 hour trip depending on stops made.

But in retrospect, I'm thinking the gallon jugs of water for occasional flush en-route may be simpler (and winterize/blow out before travel either way).
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Old 11-04-2019, 02:44 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dward51 View Post
I guess plan "B" is winterize for the trip by draining and blowing out the lines/tanks, and use gallon jugs of tap water to flush/wash if needed in route (a-la dry camping mode). Then dump, drain and blow out the lines for the return trip home. They have a sewer connection in their yard near where I would park so dumping before the return trip is not an issue. Nor is shore power when there.
That sure is a lot of work for a 5 hour trip. I have traveled in below freezing weather. My 5th wheel is heated before I leave. I turn off my propane and heat. When I arrive at my destination the only problem I had was the water line to my residential refrigerator icemaker froze. However, it is actually outside, and only about 5" of hose. Did not damage the hose.
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:03 PM   #13
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That sure is a lot of work for a 5 hour trip. I have traveled in below freezing weather. My 5th wheel is heated before I leave. I turn off my propane and heat. When I arrive at my destination the only problem I had was the water line to my residential refrigerator icemaker froze. However, it is actually outside, and only about 5" of hose. Did not damage the hose.
X2 - Plan B looks better all the time. Lots of folks travel with propane on, but I just don't like doing it if I can avoid it....Plan B lets you avoid it.
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:14 PM   #14
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I would not. Lots of pictures on forums etc. where furnace vent can burn paint near outlet, also a few fires documented, not worth it in my opinion.

We travel south around January and run into freezing temps a lot on our 4-5 day journey. I take windshield washer antifreeze and dilute it half and half for flushing toilet and pour some down sink after doing dishes. We take large jugs of water with us and they never freeze while traveling as they take on enough heat while stopped and camped with heat on. We do sponge baths unless stopped at site with showers.

With a little practice it should only take 15-30 minutes to winterize again.
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Old 11-04-2019, 03:16 PM   #15
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We do it often. Started out from storage, (heated hangar) last January on a 5* morning and never hit
32* until well after lunch. (6-7 hrs later) Set temp to 50* inside the 5th wheel with no problems.
We have the same setup as you. I have spent some time and energy sealing things under the trailer up, including the slide out tubes. Installed rubber gaskets on those. Taped the seams and used foam on everything else.
Put a thermometer inside the trailer and keep the receiver in the cab with you and you can monitor it.
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Old 11-04-2019, 04:31 PM   #16
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I guess I could put a good electric heater in the trailer and warm it to about 85* before I left. If I left the furnace off but the fan "on" it should circulate that warm air into the underbelly prior to leaving as well.

I guess the only way to know how fast it will drop is to test the theory on a trip. I like the idea of a remote thermometer in the trailer and receiver in the cab. I have some multiple probe RF thermometers from my BBQ that have about a 100' range through walls at the house so that should work fine. I could snake one into the underbelly as well (beside the LP line for the furnace which is easy to access under the dinette).
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Old 11-04-2019, 04:37 PM   #17
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We drove with the furnace on in our class c on our last trip to Florida. Although the Moho was winterized the cabin heater wasn’t sufficient for Northern Ontario. We drove the first stint in cozy comfort.
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Old 11-04-2019, 05:45 PM   #18
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It takes me three days to drive to Southern Texas from Northern Wisconsin. When I replaced my 2005 35 ft Montana with our 2018 42 ft. I knew all about cold weather and what I needed. First I pulled that fake insulation and built 3 inches of high density foam under all the water tanks. Then with the bottom off, we sprayed three inches of foam on all the bottom and then replaced the outer plastic. Now when I drive, I set the thermostat at 65 making sure all the propane is full. I leave the water heater on propane. and the refrigerator running. While still in Illinois there are many State Parks open that have 50 amp. I am a lot more concerned about highway driving conditions like Ice or snow then I have ever been about the fifth wheel. So Here are my recommendations. Set your thermostat at 55. Have all your fresh water tanks full and warm when you start. Leave the furnace and water heater running . It's pretty simple to pull the plastic bottom and have it sprayed with expanding foam insulation. The RV manufacturing industry believes that the Arctic starts some where in Southern California. Thats how they can call it an Arctic package.
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Old 11-04-2019, 06:28 PM   #19
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You must not have a Suburban water heater because if I leave mine on it over heats and sets off the CD alarm! That's why I changed the switch to one that lights when on.
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Old 11-04-2019, 11:45 PM   #20
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Left Ephrata PA this morning when it was below freezing and kept furnace on most of the rest of today's 10 hour trip. We do in regularly in the winter.
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