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Old 05-19-2009, 01:47 AM   #1
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Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

Trying to get feedback from those who have. What kind of heating costs you had, what insulation you have on your bus, did your pipes freeze, etc. Living in a bus or RV during the spring or fall is easy, the summer just needs some good AC to be comfortable, but in the winter it gets alot more serious. I'm going to have to live in one during probably this next winter and i'm trying to get an idea of how much to 'budget' for heat for example busses, under example conditions whether youre burning propane or what.

Also wondering if there are pipes and tanks that amount to freeze proof, at least not being damaged by a hard freeze.
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Old 05-19-2009, 03:09 PM   #2
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

This is something you may want to ask folks who "full-time" RV, or folks on the "cheapliving.com" site. They may have more experience with the type of conditions you may experience.
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Old 05-20-2009, 05:43 PM   #3
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

cheapliving.com doesnt seem to exist. O_O And i've already talked to full time RV'ers, the problem is factory RV's are built different than custom schoolbusses or custom RV's. They make "four seasons" RV's but most still arent intended for ultracold, they make true four seasons camper shells (ie Alaskan Camper, which is meant for that and uses two inches of sprayed in urethane foam) and whatever design ideas I can pick up from those i'd probably be using in my own design. I just wonder whether anyone else has or is designing for ultra-cold or better yet has already done it.
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Old 05-20-2009, 10:14 PM   #4
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

check out lady franklin, he's up in canada and building for year round full timing
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Old 05-23-2009, 01:16 AM   #5
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

We've been in some below freezing temps.

#1. If you're going all-electric like we are, 50amp is a MUST. A 50amp hookup is always 220v, and a 30amp hookup is always 110v (talking about hookups at campsites). A 50amp 220v connection gives the same power as a 100amp 110v would (so the difference between a 30amp hookup and a 50amp hookup is actually over threefold). Another way to think about it is this. With a 30amp hookup, you can run two 110v space heaters (they just about max out a 15amp circuit). With a 50amp hookup, you can run six 110v space heaters, and still have power left over. Also, you can always convert between power connectors. Even if you're wired for 50amp, you can adapt down to a 30amp hookup (and any 110v appliances will work, but not 220v). If you're wired for 30amp you can adapt to a 50amp hookup, but can only use 30amp of it. Hope that makes some sense.

#2. Windows are a b*tch. They're drafty, and even if they're sealed 100% they still let lots of heat escape. Try some thick curtains over any windows you have. A cheaper alternative may be to hang up some comforters. Don't forget about the windshield! If you can partition the very front off from the rest of the bus, so much the better. Personally, I plan on just throwing up a large comforter to block off most of the driver's area.

#3. Run as much plumbing inside as possible. You'll want your freshwater tank inside, and all your pipes inside as well. If you run any pipes in your cabinets, make sure to open the cabinet when it's really cold (this is in case temperatures in the cabinet dip below freezing). If you're somewhere with a permanent sewer hookup, or are allowed to let your gray water drain directly on the ground, then I wouldn't worry about heating your waste tanks. Just keep the water running enough to keep it from freezing. Our bus has just one main tank, and when I'm hooked up or can dump gray water directly on the ground, I have the gray water bypass the waste tank. The only waste water that could freeze is from our toilet. We can go weeks between dumping, probably a month if we had to (pee in the shower?). For this to work you'd need to have several warm days in a row for the waste water to thaw out completely, and for the sewer bacteria to turn it to mush (if you go that route, some don't bother). If you use a composting toilet, so much the better.

As for insulation, can't really help there, sorry. Our bus was already modified to be a bookmobile, so it has pretty good insulation already (about an inch or so styrofoam in the walls, yellow fiberglass-like insulation in the roof, don't think the floor has any but there's a fake floor then a wood floor above that). With temps in the high teens to low 20s, we've had to run the equivalent of two space heaters on full blast (we had one full blast in the back, then two more on the middle setting up front). We lost a lot of heat due to a window with a bad gasket, but we fixed that and put a heavy curtain in front.

Feel free to message me around October. Planning on taking the bus to Alaska, and might have some more info on what to do in extreme cold (not brave enough to try Alaska in February, sorry!).
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Old 05-23-2009, 05:30 PM   #6
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Smitty


Not quite, you might have the same voltage, but 100 amps gives you 2X the available capacity (amperage) as opposed to a 50 amp service (hence the need for different sizing).

How can you claim a circiut (of specific amperage) will handle X amount of heaters when their amperage is unknown?

Smitty
I may not have properly explained what I meant. A lot of people think that the difference between a 30amp hookup and a 50amp hookup is simply 20amps. As far as campground hookups go, this is simply not true. A 30amp hookup at a campground is going to be 30amp 110v. A 50amp hookup at a campground is going to be 50amp 220v. An easy way to visualize this is to think of the 50amp 220 as being 100amp in 110v terms. In reality it's actually two 50amp 110v lines. It would be more correct to think of it as a single 30amp 110v connection vs two 50amp 110v connections.

Every 110v space heater I've seen is 1500watts at its max setting. That equates to about 12.5amps, and in the real world can be closer to 13amps or more. This is more than 80% of a 15amp circuit (a circuit shouldn't have a continuous load over 80% its rated capacity). In the real-world though, these space heaters are often put on 15amp circuits and work fine, unless the breaker is weak. So, if you have two standard 110v space heaters on a 30amp connection, you'll have 5amps or less left to run other things such as lights, fridge, hot water heater, television, karaoke machine, etc. A 50amp connection has two 50amp 110v lines, and each line would support three of these space heaters. Assuming a 12.5amp draw, that's 37.5amps per line, leaving 12.5amps per line available. That leaves enough for a fridge, tv, and some lights on one line, and a microwave on the other (you can run your karaoke and disco ball on the same line as the microwave, just can't run everything at the same time). Hell, if it gets bad enough you can run two more space heaters at the low setting (about 700watts or so, so two would be about the equivalent as one at max). So now we're running the equivalent of seven 110v space heaters at full power, whereas a 30amp 110v hookup we'd be maxed out at two.

Still, the main message is this. You can adapt up or down no problem. You'll run into 15amp 110v connections, 30amp 110v connections, and 50amp 220v connections. If you wire for 30amp 110v, you'll never be able to use more than 30amp 110v. If you wire for 50amp 220v and are hooked up to 50amp 220v, you'll be able to use all if it if need be.

I'll throw one more thing out there real quick. Even if you wire for 50 amp 220v, I wouldn't have anything essential run on 220v. It may be tempting to throw in some 220v heaters, but if you're on 110v service, they won't work.
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Old 07-28-2009, 12:59 PM   #7
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

Take out windows. Two years ago (in Spokane) we were getting pretty dang cold in the Bluebird. Last winter (yes, it got to -10 at my property) is was better. Two years ago the difference between "Hellishly cold" and "cold" was hanging old sleeping bags over the windows, and making a curtain that separated the back 10 feet from the rest of the bus out of another. One space heater back there kept it above freezing. This last winter (just as cold) I removed several windows in the back and replaced them with 2 inch thick foam board. I did not even skin over the outsides - just the foam. Use aluminum foil tape to seal the gaps. The same "curtain" and the same one space heater, and the back of the bus got around 50.... while the front of the bus was cold enough to freeze puppy piddle on the floor (dang dog!).

This last winter I added a nice little quality woodstove midships. Marvelous thing - cut a hole and vented it out the roof. The pipe run is short so a lot of heat is lost in the pipe. I would recommend adding one of those heat exchanger boxes in the middle of the pipe (with a blower) and keep windows near the stove because you WILL get too warm when it is running if you don't open something (and you want air to replace what you are burning, right?). I put 1 inch foam board against the walls, sealed gaps with aluminum tape, and it really helps. Still sucks the juice on the two little heaters, though. This fall I'm re-doing a new bus... and that one gets 2 inch on the walls minimum, as well as floor and ceiling. Buy a roll of that aluminum foil tape, and if you have a leaky seal or gasket on a window (if it opens and closes - it probably leaks) and you won't be using it for the winter, think about taping it closed.

Oh, and don't put things you really care about next to the bus. Icicles form off the eyebrows over the windows, and when they break off they tend to smash things. Pretty, though. When my well pump froze and cracked a pipe, I was getting used to reaching out a window in the kitchen and breaking off a few icicles to drop into the pot on top of the woodstove. Water for the dog and a little extra moisture in the air *grin*.

The other folk who mentioned keeping your tanks inside the bus - they gave you good advice. I had so many things outside freeze - but (except for the floor by the driver's seat near the door where the dog piddled that one time) nothing inside really froze.
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Old 07-28-2009, 10:50 PM   #8
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

I spent the first half of last winter in my Thomas in SE Virginia. No, we're not exactly in the snow belt here, but we had many nights in the 20's and a few in the teens. It cold inside that bus!! My floor was not insulated, carpet & padding had not yet been installed, but I quickly got a fair amount of carpet in there to help out.

As posted above, windows are a big problem, unless you install RV windows that contain storm windows. Mine were not, and I wound up fitting styrofoam into the windows and jamming fiberglass insulation pieces into any nook or cranny that still had some cold coming through. Insualted curtains also helped tremendously.

As for heat, I did not have a furnace installed, but my site rental included a 220v / 50amp RV hook-up. When I wired my bus I included one 20amp circuit dedicated to the A/C and the heat (you only use one or the other so they were tied into the same circuit). The heater end of that circuit was fed through a simple line voltage thermostat, then onto a dedicated wall socket where I had a 600W baseboard heater in the bedroom (it was hard wired for 600w and would not run the other 900w element, and was always on), the wall thermostat controlled that particular heater. I had a second baseboard heater up front, that one was hard wired to work only on 750w, and was run through a second thermostat & a 15 amp breaker. The two heaters on this power setting only used less than 12 amps total.

Now my bus was wired for 30 amp, but I bought a 50 amp plug and built splitter box, plugging my 30amp into one side, and running some extra cords outta the other side. I had plenty of power on the 30 amp side even using 2 heaters, when it got real cold I added a 3rd 600w fan forced heater (all 3 heaters at those wattage settings use less than 17amps) which left plenty of power left for refridge, TV, Sat dish, computer & lighting etc. On the splitter side, I powered my water heater that ran at a full 1500W (12.5amp), plus a section of heat tape fixed to my fresh water hose (and wrapped with insulation). I also had more heater tape run throughout the underside of the bus on ALL of the plumbing, and all of it wrapped in foam pipe insulation too. These all worked automatically and would come on at around 35 or so. I never froze a single pipe under there!! I also had a small amount of that heat tape run under the waste tank & dump valves to prevent freezing there too.

The key is knowing how to figure the power consumption. Take total watts and divide by 120(v) and you get the amps ( +/- ) Adding a propane furnace (I have one but never installed it) would help, but that would have been an additional expense to buy propane every couple of days, the electricity was included in the site rental so I used their energy.
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Old 07-29-2009, 07:24 PM   #9
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

The only advice I have is... wood stove. A bit too rustic for some people, I imagine. However, I heat "Buscephus" with a wood stove and can maintain 80's, and even 90 degree-plus temperatures inside. Plus the fuel is free.

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Old 07-29-2009, 08:31 PM   #10
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Re: Spent REAL winters in your bus? (well below freezing)

I LOVE the look of those little stoves! And since many of the smaller units are meant to be used on boats, they are well built.

Who is the cutie-pie next to the red stove? One of yours?
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