Darren’s Seminar Outline for Winter RV Living in Comfort

I have presented this information at campgrounds for folks entering into the winter months while living in their RV. Hope there is some info you can use here.

(Note:  The outline formatting did not make the copy paste trip with the content.  I cleaned it up a bit but if you focus more on the content than the outline structure you will get through this  just fine.  Best to just have me come and present this in person where we have a lot of fun with hands on demo’s and 10 best photo’s!!!  Stay warm this winter – Darren)

  1. Seasonal Tips and Tricks – Winter Edition
    1. Identify and seal any cold drafts
      1. Use a ‘Smoke Pencil’, ‘fog stick’ or fog machine to zero in on drafts
        1. Incense
        2. Cigarette
      2. Doors – install new weather stripping
      3. Windows – drafts and weather stripping condition
      4. Refrigerator ‘box’ opening – should never have a draft – indicates improper instillation
      5. Slide Rooms – check wiper seal – may need to be replaced
      6. Furnace return air grill – should never have a draft – indicates improper instillation
      7. Cargo doors – inspect and install new weather-stripping
      8. Roof vents – foam inserts
      9. Stove and dryer Vent
      10. 120 VAC wall receptacles
    2. Windows are the front line of the winter comfort battle
      1. “R” Value of single pain glass is R 0.91
      2. For comparison: Double insulated glass, 3/4” air space, film is R 4.05
      3. Install bubble wrap with a light coat of adhesive spray
      4. Apply 3M Window Insulator Kit ($15 @ Lowes)
        1. Amazon ASIN:B00002NCJI ($19)
        2. Remove window boxes for an easier access when installing
      5. Adding tight fitting drapes and closed blinds will add R 0.29
      6. Consider thermal curtains (Amazon) – Performance is contingent on distance from window – read reviews and questions
      7. Window Quilts – business idea!
      8. Foam insulation to block out all light and increase R value considerably
    3. Heating living environment:
      1. Question: How much heat do you need?
      2. “Assumption of Consumption”
        1. How Cold?
          1. How cold outside vs. how warm inside?
        2. How well insulated?
          1. Typical RV is R-3 – R-6 (w/ double pane windows and factory insulation in underbelly)
          2. Issues not only in Winter but Summer also
        3. How Big? (Caution:  Don’t sprain your brain – Just listen to the math equation but do not try to calculate it or understand it now.  I was an engineer for 25 year so I love this stuff.  Your take away is that there is real math behind this question and it can help you to dial in your comfort level – both in temperature and in out of pocket expenses.)
          1. Assumptions:
            1. Length = 32’
            2. Width = 10’ w/slide room avg.
            3. Height = 7’ avg
            4. ΔT = 50°F
              1. 20°F outside
              2. 70°F inside
            5. Insulation = R-4
          2. Wall area equation:
            1. (Length x 2 (width + height)) + (width x height x 2)
            2. (32 x 2 (10 + 7)) + (10 x 7 x 2)
            3. Wall area = 1,228
          3. Minimum heat output:
            1. (Wall area x ΔT) / R
            2. (1,228 x 50) / 4
            3. Minimum output = 61,400 BTU/Hr
          4. Add 50% if:
            1. in and out a lot
            2. Let rig cool down during day and heat up at night
          5. Furnace output
            1. Rated by heat at propane input NOT heat output at the registers!
            2. Furnace is, at best, 60% efficient
            3. (BTU/Hr) / 0.6
            4. (61,400) / 0.6
            5. 25,583 BTU/Hr
          6. How much propane will you consume?
            1. Propane contains 22,000 BTU/lb
            2. (BTU/Hr x Hours of operation) / 22,000 BTU/lb
            3. (25,583 x 12) / 22,000
            4. 13.95 lbs of propane in 12 hours
            5. NOTE: a 20 pound cylinder can only hold 16 lbs of propane (80% full)
          7. How much battery power do you need to run your furnace?
            1. (amps DC) x (hours of operation)
            2. (10) x (12) = 120 Amp hours in 12 hours
            3. Example:  My rig = 484 Ah so I can run my furnace for 48 hours if batteries were full.
            4. 87 Ah battery (typical RV Interstate SMR-24) will last only 8.7 hours (from full charge) @ 10 amps / hour consumption
        4. Riddle:
          1. What is:
            1. Measured by the pound
            2. Purchased by the gallon
            3. Carried as liquid
            4. Used as a vapor
          2. Answer: Propane
        5. Propane vs Electricity for heating:
          1. It takes 26.8 KW to generate the same BTUs as 1 gallon of propane
            (at 100% efficiency).
          2. Furnace is 60% efficient (must de-rate) = 55,000 BTU/gallon LPG
          3. Electric heating requires roughly 16 KWH for the equivalent BTU
          4. Example:  If electricity is sold at $0.15/KWH multiply that by 16 KWH. $2.40/gallon of propane is the tipping point in this example.
          5. If propane costs less than $2.40 is will be cheaper to heat with propane (at $0.15/KWH for electricity)
          6. Number to remember is “16” .. Multiply cost of electricity/kwh X 16!
        6. Propane is a liquid petroleum gas (LPG) and its properties are directly affected by temperature.
          1. At -43°F (and below) Propane is a liquid – much like water at room temperature.  If you were in a room that was -43°F you could walk around with a coffee cup of liquid propane.  As soon as you increased the temp above this value the propane in the cup would expand to 700 times!!!  This is why Propane is such an efficient source of heat and is easy to carry (under pressure that is).
          2. At -44°F and above Propane becomes a vapor – much like steam at 212°F
          3. Propane stays a liquid, in our cylinders, because it is under high pressure.
          4. As temp drops, pressure in the container drops proportionately:
            1. Pressure-temperature law states: “The pressure of a gas of fixed mass and fixed volume is directly proportional to the gas’s absolute temperature.”
          5. Darren’s Translation:
            1. As temperature goes down and propane is consumed, it will produce less pressure in your line.  What a cruel gas law – that is when we need it the most!
          6. Furnace on LP may go into lockout, due to low gas pressure, if tanks are less than ½ full and temperature outside is below freezing
          7. An easy way to monitor the LPG pressure:
            1. Turn off the furnace
            2. Turn on the burners on the stove
            3. Run water heater on gas – make sure there is a demand on water heater so burner fires up
            4. Run frig on gas – make sure there is a demand on frig so burner fires up
            5. With all these gas demands running, turn on furnace and watch flame on stove
            6. If flame dips down significantly, or goes out, there is not enough gas pressure to run the furnace
              1. Call an RV Tech to check your LPG pressure and make any adjustments to the LPG regulator – make sure they are licensed for LP service
              2. Keep your LPG tanks over 1/2 full
              3. Wrap your tanks to keep them warm.
          8. Furnace consumes more propane than any other appliance so other appliances may function fine but furnace will not.
          9. Consider Cylinder heating blanket for prolonged cold environments.
            1. Powerblanket ($125 for 20 LB)
            2. http://www.powerblanket.com/
            3. Search for RV propane blankets
      3. Furnace
        1. Hard to regulate temp with furnace
        2. Ballpark consumption assumption: equivalent of 1 gal of LPG per 3 hour of run time – but now we know how to calculate this more accurately!
        3. Call local propane company – they may offer a tank and filling service
        4. Very inefficient heating source – 60% room heat 40% exhaust heat!
        5. Never block or restrict the heat registers or air return grill
          1. Furnaces are designed for a specified amount of air flow
          2. If you restrict the air flow it can trip the high limit sensor.
        6. ‘Cheap Heat’ solution to retrofit your gas furnace to electric
          1. Void mfg warranty!
          2. Requires 240 VAC to work – Don’t always have access to 240VAC.
          3. rvcomfortsystems.com
        7. Heating Tanks with furnace:
          1. Only when furnace is on
          2. Only supplies hot air from furnace to belly.
            1. No standard on where heat ducts are placed.
            2. Is it enough to heat tanks???
            3. Is duct aimed at valves???
            4. Tanks freeze even with this “furnace tank heat” option

Alternative Heating Solutions for your RV:

  • Camco Wave catalytic propane heater ($280 – $380)
    1. Propane heating 100%
    2. No battery or electric usage
    3. Necessary for Certified RV Tech to tap LPG line for quick connect fitting
    4. 1,600 – 8,000 BTU depending on model
    5. Must provide fresh air since byproduct of their combustion is carbon monoxide and water vapor.
    6. Make sure you have a functioning CO² alarm.  RV’s come equipped with an LPG alarm and smoke alarm but may not have a CO² alarm by default.  These are mandatory if there is a generator installed.
  • Electric Portable Oil filled radiator heaters work great , heat in silence and are safe
    1. Be aware of amp draw and wire size
      1. ‘Low’ will consume 6 amps
      2. ‘High’ will consume 12 – 15 amps
      3. Wire used in RV may only be 14 AWG which is only rated for 15 amps – so on high you are at the limit of the wire rating!
    2. Run a dedicated 12 AWG (or larger) from the radiator heater through a window or slide room to the pedestal 20 Amp circuit. Use a cord no longer than needed to prevent too much voltage drop.
    3. Place a fan in a strategic location to help move the warm air around
    4. Big sales at end of season!!!
    5. This has been my favorite go-to heating solution for keeping my living area warm for years!
  • Heat Pump in A/C

    1. Effective only to 40°F outside.  Below that and there is not enough ‘heat’ in the outside air to change into heat on the inside of your coach.  Many of these units will not function in heat pump mode below 40°F outside and will automatically change to furnace mode even though you have the switch on heat pump.  Display  may flash to let you know of this.
    2. A heat strip installed in the A/C will function in low outside temperatures since it is only using the fan mode of the A/C.
  • Hydronic heating solutions (add-on):
    1. Aqua-Hot 400LP for 5th wheel, Travel Trailers
      1. Propane-fueled AND AC electric heating
      2. Domestic Hot Water – 90 Gal/hour
      3. Interior heating – 65,600 BTU
      4. List price $5,400 plus instillation parts and labor
    2. ITR – Oasis – Zephyr
      1. Diesel Burner – 0.28 gal/hr
      2. Hot Water – temp rise of 50° F at 1 gpm
      3. Interior Heating – 33,000 BTU
      4. 10” x 14” x 19” 48 lbs.
  • Heat Strip
    1. Many A/C’s it is an optional ‘add on’
    2. May heat below 40°F – mileage will vary
  • Install heating pads on tanks, valves and drain pipes
    1. UltraHeat – recommend 120 VAC (My RV Works is a dealer/installer)
    2. Prices on their website ultraheat.com (Buy through My RV Works!)
    3. Example: 60 Gal heat pad $150/pad
    4. Heat gate valves as well.
    5. My RV Works will install and run wires through floor and up walls to switch plate ensuring a safe environment for these devices.
    6. UltraHeat now offers an ambient sensor to turn the system on/off with temp triggers.
  • Radiant Flooring
    1. goldheat.com
    2. Gold Heat for ceramic and stone
    3. Black Gold for laminate and carpet – a great time to upgrade your flooring in your coach.  My RV Works can offer our best practices on what flooring works in RV’s and which to avoid.
  • Install insulation under floor
    1. Remove underbelly and assess the feasibility
    2. Tip: Install tank heaters and insulate water lines and drain lines while you are under there.
    3. Not 16” on center
    4. R-19 made a huge difference in our rig
  • Ceiling fan in reverse
  • Throw rugs will help insulate the floor
  • Wind block for under coach:
    • Attach an awning rail around entire side of coach around tire level
    • Slide ‘side topper’ vinyl in channel & anchor to ground
    • Keeps drafts from channeling under floor
    • Business idea for someone – print patters on the vinyl and slide them into the rail.
      1. Grass look
      2. Wood look
      3. Stone look
      4. Minions holding up RV!


  1. Keeping fluids from freezing:
    1. Create a wrap for your city water hose
      1. Wrap with aluminum foil
      2. Tape ‘Easy-Heat Freeze Free’ cable to hose on outside of aluminum foil wrap (‘Easy-Heat Freeze Free’ cable can be crossed over itself – other heating cables cannot be crossed) ($2/foot – bulk discount available)
      3. Leave several feet extending out the hydrant end to wrap around hydrant
      4. Leave some excess on RV side to wrap around hose bib and connect to ‘Easy Heat Freeze Free’ junction box ($20)
      5. Wrap hose assembly with black A/C pipe insulation
      6. Shrink Wrap entire assembly
    2. Insulate hydrant:
      1. Wrap hydrant with ‘Easy Heat Freeze Free’ cable from hose assembly
      2. Wrap hydrant with attic insulation ($10-12)
      3. Cover with black leaf n’ lawn bag
      4. Wrap entire assembly with shrink wrap
    3. Heat water manifolds on coach
      1. Remove walls in basement to ensure heat gets to pipes
      2. Oscillating ceramic heater has worked well for us.
      3. Connect ‘Easy-Heat Freeze Free’ cable to junction box. Keep junction box dry but still exposed to ambient temperature.
    4. If water pipes are run under coach, and not insulated/heated, than install ‘Easy Heat Freeze Free’ cable along all exposed water lines and wrap with A/C insulation
    5. Pour RV Antifreeze down toilet to prevent black tank from freezing – How much is a function of how cold, how full and how large. A little every couple flushes should suffice.
    6. Pour RV Antifreeze down shower drain to prevent valve from freezing.
    7. When outside temperatures approach freezing close all tank valves and drain all plumbing lines to prevent from freezing.
    8. Keep fresh water tank full
      1. If campground has to shut off water you have enough for a few days
      2. If Hydrant or city water freeze you can still operate your coach
      3. Install an additional run of ‘Easy-Heat Freeze Free’ cable on the bottom of your drain pipes.
        1. Wrap your drain pipes with foam-backed aluminum pipe insulating tape.
        2. Wrap assembly with underbelly tape for permanent solution.
      4. Leave sink cabinets open so warm air can circulate to pipes.
  2. Batteries
    1. Never let a battery freeze
      1. Case will crack
      2. Sulphuric acid will spill out on everything
    2. Keep the electrolyte filled with distilled water
    3. Keep all terminals clean and protected from corrosion (Petroleum jelly)
    4. Ensure they are being charged using a multi-meter to read voltage and clamp on meter to read current.
    5. Furnace motor operates on 12 VDC –Battery (up to 10 amps) Remember the math formula
  3. Managing humidity:
    1. DampRid® in strategic locations around coach
    2. Electric Dehumidifier
    3. Use Stove top vent when cooking
    4. Crack bathroom vent when showering – heat rises

For more tips and tricks send us a message and we will continue to post our best practices…

Stay warm this winter – Darren