Planning Our Secret Weapon For Winter RVing

TheRVgeeks Electrical, Winter RVing 43 Comments

When we’ve wintered in cold climates in the past, some people have asked “Why?” We’ll not only talk about why even us full-timers don’t always snowbird, but explain how we’re planning to make a cool mod to our rig to keep us warmer than ever RVing in cold weather.

We’ll be spending this entire winter in a cold climate, but on a 30-amp site, and with propane not readily available. We’ve mapped out a new secret weapon for winter RVing, allowing us to heat only with electric power, even on a 30-amp campsite.

After this explanatory video explains the “Why” of winter RVing, our follow-up video will provide a step-by-step tutorial of “How” we’re doing it. Stay tuned for that detailed DIY where we complete our mod, coming up in our next video.


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Comments 43

  1. Great advice guys, love your videos. A word to the wise, I was trying to leave home this week with my 40 ft Diesel pusher. It has been minus 30 C (-22 F) and lower for the last week or so and when I tried to retract my leveling jacks it blew my hydraulic motor. Apparently below – 20 F you shouldn’t operate your jacks unless you have extreme cold weather fluid in your system (now I know). They can still be retracted manually by releasing the hydraulic locks in the generator compartment (it took me a a few hours to find this tidbit by searching HWHs site). BTW the trans fluid isn’t happy either at those temps, all of mine is now on my driveway as it blew out through the core of the trans cooler. HAPPY DAYS!!! Still waiting for mobile repair before I can start my journey south.

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      Holy crap, Rob! As you started mentioning temperature in C, can we assume that you’re a fellow Canuck? Another clue is that we can’t imagine temps that low anywhere other than northern Manitoba! Sorry to hear about your ordeal. We think you might have to adjust your schedule a bit (September maybe?) ;-) Hope your repair and escape go off without another hitch.

      1. Yep, spend my summers in Winnipeg, MB. We normally leave late Oct. or early Nov but we went to Yellowstone this year in Sept and my wife wanted to hang around home for Christmas. It’s much better today, only – 17 with a slight wind, yesterday when I was messing with the manual retraction of the jacks the wind chill was – 40 (no conversion required for our American friends, its the same on both scales at that value). I can assure you we won’t be leaving this late again. Just heading out to try and remove the the grill and unmount the trans cooler core, wish me luck.

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  2. Hey guys,

    Super stoked I found your site!! We’re new to the winter RV life and are travelling around BC, Canada skiing. We have winterized the motorhome and its going very well. The only issue we have is that the rear tyre’s do not like to spin when we first start her up. Even with idling and warming up the engine. Reversing is fine, its when we put her into drive the back tyres drag and don’t spin. I feel like its only the back left tyre which is close to where the exhaust pipe blows out. We have been lucky enough to get it working after some persistence and luck (being parked on big flat locations where we can reverse and eventually kick in.

    Is there something we are doing wrong? Is this common? Or does it more so sound like a mechanical issue to you?

    I would really appreciate any comments/advice!!!

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      Hi Lauren! Sounds like you’re having a great skiing winter so far. I was on top of Grouse Mountain on Saturday (for lunch with my Mom, not to ski), and am actually looking directly at the mountain while typing this from a high-rise AirBnB apartment overlooking Vancouver Harbour. :)

      If we could get a little more information/clarification, it might be helpful. First, can we assume that when you say the “rear” tyres drag / don’t like to spin, that you are referring to tag axle tyres and not the drive axle? And when you back up, do they roll freely, but then immediately drag again when you try to drive forward? And does this only happen at very low temperatures, or after being parked in one spot for an extended period, or when driving on slick surfaces? Also, what’s the year, make, model and length of your motorhome? The more detail we have the better chance we have of sleuthing this out.

      Cheers,
      Peter & John

  3. Hi guys. Look forward to your next video. Adding a “good” 20 amp circuit is sound thinking.

    I think we have all added the extension cord circuit in cold climate.

    We used to have a 30′ 5th wheel in which I melted the electrical plug on a “heavy duty” 20 amp extension cord while in Zion doing just what you did/do. Now we have a 50 amp rig with radiant floors that are great for cold weather. Now you video makes me take pause as I had not factored in a 30 amp service limitation. But this is also why I carry heavy duty extension cords and a cheap Wally World space heater that is pet safe.

    The drop light in the basement is typical as is a water supply host with a built in heater. Although in real bad weather we just depend on holding tank water.

    All these heat producing devices are great, but our rig still leaks air around the slide-outs, so I carry wide blue painters tape which I apply inside at the drafty slide-out locations. As an FYI, our Tiffin leaks lots of air around the windshield and front dash. Always cold in this area unless I stuff blankets (or blue tape) against the dash to windshield seams. Tiffin uses the corner front windshield channels for wiring. In our rig, I can see that someone at the factory sprayed some foam in these channels, but he/she must have been smoking something good as their aim was off and they insulated the front headlights instead.

    re, mike

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  4. Great suggestions. A job well done!
    I have one for you in regards to winter RV’ing.
    This is something that I will experiment next winter , this winter we are in Europe, but I still would like your opinion.
    I have a 2008 Winnebago 38j Voyage and honestly I don’t know if the basement would be heated when using the gas heater.
    This made me think that to prevent all the water lines to freeze, I will skirt the entire rig all the way around including the engine bay with heavy duty waxed tarps, and then fit , either an electric heater ( catalytic, IR) or a Mister buddy gas heater connected to a separate propane bottle, under the unit, it would keep the entire bottom at a reasonable temp to avoid freezing and also………it could help to the inside heat.
    Again, it is a long shoot hope but trying wouldn’t hurt and that’s why I like to have your , or anyone else, opinion/suggestions , pros and cons, on which heater would be best in consideration of …..safety and secondly, consumption.
    I think that a gas/electric blower heater ( mister buddy like) would be the best because of the blowing feature BUT, I am not so sure about the production of carbon mono under the rig if would be dispersed enough and not enter inside.
    In reality there will be enough gaps around the skirt to feed fresh air and to expel CO.
    Any thoughts!
    Thank you and Merry Xmas and Happy new year from Europe

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      Hi Nick! The best thing you can do is determine whether you have basement / water bay heat or not. We’d suggest contacting Winnebago if you’re not sure. Since skirting isn’t insulated, it only goes so far, especially in very cold weather. It certainly helps with keeping the wind from blowing under a rig, but as far as actual temperature goes, it won’t be as useful. And we’d think that trying to heat the area under the skirting is just a slight step away from heating the outdoors itself. If you’re planning to be in extremely cold climates, we’d think that an RV with better built-in insulation would be best. Barring that, we’d consider taking steps to increase the insulation on the RV itself if possible. We’ve got a pretty well-insulated rig, and have never spent an entire winter in truly harsh winter conditions (BC’s Lower Mainland is hardly arctic)! Sorry we’re not more help on this one. Maybe a comment/question posted on the iRV2 user forums would find someone with more hard-core winter RVing experience who’s modified their rig with better winter insulation would be a good source of info. Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you, too!

      1. Thank you guys, appreciate your comments but what I mean for hating the underside is just elevating the temp enough to avoid freezing, also the skirt is not just simple tarp or cloth, but water proof waxed tarp (outside layer) and insulated construction tarp (inside layer).
        Will see how it goes!
        Cheers Nick

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      Why that’s sand… yeah… that’s the ticket… we’re on the beach dontcha know. :-P Air conditioning in December…. yeah, go ahead and rub it in. We know we deserve it. LOL Hope you two are keeping COOL enough!

  5. Hi Geek Guys! We enjoy your videos and product tips. Are you plugging a waterline heat tape into the other 110v receptacle? That will take a few amps too!

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      We sure are, Ray. It’s actually perfect, with about 12.5 amps being used for our heater, there’s plenty of juice left for the heat tape with some left over for safety. Great question!

  6. Since I’m guessing you’ve done it before, I’m wondering how effective a single incandescent bulb is in the basement. Do you also run your tank heaters? Do you run a remote thermometer to watch the temperature in the bay? (From the comfort of your warm living room.)

    1. I have been watching you guys for years and have enjoyed your vid’s. On the heating issue. I’m an electrician with a masters license. Why haven’t you looked into INFRA RED heating. Less power and heats 1000 SQ FT.

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        Hi James! We looked at all the options for space heaters, but didn’t land on infrared. When our current one wears out (seems like we go through about one every year or two) we’ll look into giving that a shot. Thanks!

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      Hi Dave! The 60-watt incandescent bulb in the water bay generally does a great job by itself, but if it drops into the teens or below, we flip on the tank heat pads, too, just to add some additional heat down there. We do indeed put the remote for our indoor outdoor thermometer in the water bay as well (I think we mentioned that in our first video about how to RV in the winter). Great tip… thanks for mentioning it!

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  7. The device you describe at 4:30 as a “cheater box” is advertised as a 45 amp adapter (on Amazon and elsewhere, Camco 55025), based on connection to both a 30 and a 15 amp outlet. Why would this not be correct and wouldn’t those who use such a device be complaining that they had been misled if, in fact, it only provides up to 30 amps? It would seem it either works as claimed or it doesn’t.

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      Great questions, Terry! We apologize if we weren’t clear that it’s our EMS that won’t allow that device to pass any more than 30-amps through to our rig. RVs without an EMS system can certainly benefit from them. Camco is correctly advertising these as 45-amp adapters, but the biggest misnomer (and inaccurate claim) is that they are 50-amp power sources. Some of that comes from the fact that other manufacturers claim it, and some comes from the fact that they have a 50-amp plug on them. The thing that’s most misunderstood about “50-amp service” is that the reason it’s so powerful (and can’t be replicated by one of these devices) is because it actually comes from 100-amps. True 50-amp service has two 50-amp legs (hence the 100-amp requirement) a neutral and a ground. This can never be replicated by combining 30+15 or 30+20 outlets, which is what we meant when we said the true 50-amp service can’t be “cheated” using this type of adapter. By the way, you will notice that many of the negative reviews on Amazon talk about problems with 15/20-amp GFCI outlets. That’s because most 15/20-amp outlets on RV park power pedestals ARE GFCI and the cheater boxes won’t work with GFCI, making them useless at a high percentage of RV parks.

      1. Thanks for the detailed response. I’m not clear why you would have a 30 amp EMS on a 50 amp rig, but even if the 15/20 amp and 30 amp pedestals feed the two legs of the 50 amp plug, you would only have a max of 15/20 amps or 30 amps on either leg, not the “normal” 50 amps on each leg. The 45 or 50 amp claim is apparently based on the total load being properly split between the two legs, which may or may not work.I doubt if most users understand that.

        As you indicated, it seems GFCI is the real “killer” for this device. Another great video. Thanks again.

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          Hi Terry. We do have a 50-amp EMS. Sorry if we weren’t clear about that. Since 50-amp service has two 50-amp legs that are out of phase with each other, it always knows when we’re not on true 50-amp service (since it doesn’t see both legs), and when that happens, it knows we’re on 30-amps and limits us to that much.

  8. Where are you staying this year? I saw in your older winter videos, it looked like you had stayed at Tiger Run in Breck. We have stayed there numerous times and really liked it. I little pricy, but great location and facilities.

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      Never been to Breck, but we assume we won’t have nearly as harsh a winter as that here in BC’s Lower Mainland. It’s like Seattle here… but a little scolder and snowier.

  9. I assume you use some sort of power protection device for the RV like progressive industries PT50. Do you plan to use a separate one for the 20 amp dedicated circuit?

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      Hi Mike! We do have a whole house surge protector, along with the protection provided by our autoformer, so our entire rig is well covered. But since the new dedicated circuit we’re installing is exclusively for a single heater, we’re not adding in any additional protection. It’s partly because we’re not worried about an inexpensive heater, and the unlikelihood of a surge or spike damaging it, but also because in nearly 15 years on the road, we’ve never experienced a spike or surge, so we don’t think it’s worth the effort and expense to protect a single item from such a rare occurrence.

  10. Now that is a great Idea. Why that is right up there with getting a new mattress for your RV.
    Merry Christmas guys have a blessed one

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  11. Good timing – with the snow in your area this week heat is good.
    I’m sure to be impressed with the next video but I’ll be VERY impressed if you can show your new heating system working well enough to melt the snow on the roof. (Or at least the front windows?)

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  12. Excellent. Great timing, can’t wait. We are at a warm AZ location at day but cold at night with only 30Amps. It’s a constant two person coordinated effort to turn the space heaters off when using the Microwave, washer/dryer etc. looking forward your upgrade video.

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  13. Hey guys,

    Thanks for another great video. Do the RV parks actually provide separate lines to the 20 and 30 amp receptacles or does the 20 amp side feed from the 30 amp line with a breaker limiting the max draw to 20 amps? It’s hard to believe that the 20 amp side is not scavenging from the 30 amp side.

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      Hey Dennis. We’re not electricians, and don’t know about variations in local code requirements, but as we understand it, each receptacle at the park pedestal should be powered by its own circuit… otherwise, there’d be the potential that you could overload the 30-amp line without even realizing why. Now… that doesn’t mean that there aren’t places out there that have cut corners and done just what you suggest. But we’d expect that to be the exception, not the rule. And, so far, we’ve had no problem using power off of both circuits simultaneously. If we’re wrong about this… maybe an electrician can chime in on this thread and explain?

  14. Wow, thats a great idea! We’re new to full time RV life, but have already run into a few situations at 30 amp sites where having an additional outlet on a separate circuit would have been a great help. I never even thought about adding a dedicated 20 amp line into the RV. I’ll be waiting with anticipation for your video!

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      Glad to hear you think this solution will be helpful to you Perry! Look for the second half of the video to go live the first week of the new year! Hope you have very Happy Holidays and a wishing you a healthy New Year!

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      Hi Dan. We’re sorry to hear that you’re having a problem with your slides leaking, but we’re going to have to knock on wood here… because, so far at least, we haven’t had any issue with any leaks in ours (thank you, Newmar!). Have you had any luck getting an RV shop to take a look at your slide out alignment and/or the slide seals? It’s possible one or the other could be required in order to stop the leaks. Best of luck!

  15. Best wishes for staying warm! Are you sure you don’t want to reconsider the option mentioned in the video to just drive south until the heater isn’t needed? Merry Christmas!

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      LOL! We do indeed want to reconsider, Allan… but, alas, we have commitments that are keeping us north, so we’re just going to have to grin and bear it! On the bright side… NEXT winter will feel especially warm! LOL! Hope you have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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