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Old 01-22-2008, 01:29 AM   #1
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niteowl
Staying warm in a T-2363

We have been full-time in our 2000 Sunline T-2363 for over six months now. We are spending most of the winter in the mid-west (IL & IN) and thought someone might be interested in some of things we have done to stay warm.

It has hit six below zero and we can easily keep the trailer at 80 degrees plus. Our thin blood from spending 28 years in Africa means we like things warm.

I collected hints from wherever and from my own experiences so here is a list. I will be happy to provide more details if anyone is interested. The basic trailer is very good. (We all know that already, donít we!) So here are some of things we did.

1. Added better batteries (two Samís club golf car batteries). This enables us to run our furnace for several days, if necessary, without being plugged in. We added an 80-amp converter to keep them charged when we have power and it provides the 12-volt power for external holding tank and sewage pipe heaters. We also installed welding cable wiring to the truck and inside to an AC inverter and the DC converter to make the charging effective and 12 volt electrical system works well while traveling.

2. We bought the insulating vent cushions for the overhead vents. They work well.

3. We insulated all windows with the shrink plastic storm window stuff found at W-Mart.

4. We closed off our back door permanently for the winter and insulated it by using black plastic and aluminum foil type insulation. The front door we just used the clear stuff to cover the door window in the outside door, just like we did for all the other windows.

5. We made ďdoor blanketsĒ from a bargain quilted bedspread that was on sale. We use Velcro to hang them over the doors. The back door we leave the door blanket up all the time. The front door we just hang it at night if it is getting real cold.

6. We disconnected the small fresh water drain to the outside and used a hose clamp to seal off the small hose leading to the outside valve and left the hose inside the trailer where it is warm and wonít freeze.

7. We put a piece of aluminum insulation behind the water heater door and taped off the inside electrical switch so it wonít be used on propane by accident. The water heater will hold its heat for many hours without being plugged in, even in the coldest temperatures. Very handy when traveling.

8. I used multiple pieces of aluminum insulation and duct tape to make removable ďinsulated plugsĒ to place inside the water inlet door, AC power cable door. They work great. On the outside of the trailer I used the pink insulation behind the stove vent cover and the outside shower. Inside the trailer I disconnect the hoses to the outside shower and sealed them off.

9. I emptied the two outside storage compartments of ďour stuffĒ and used insulation behind the outside storage doors. Thus, storage compartments not usable in the winter.

10. We took time insulate the trailer as best we could. The biggest surprise I had was that Sunline did not insulate inside the trailer by the two plastic wheel well liners. We insulated both of them inside the trailer and the one by the bathroom was tough to do.

11. I installed five trouble lights by the fresh waterlines inside the trailer. Used 60-watt bulbs. (Before I installed these the lines would freeze if it went below zero because they are practically against the wheel well liner. No damage occurred when they froze, however.)

12. We installed Ultra-heat holding tank heaters on the gray water and black water tanks and all external pipes. They seem to work well except they do not keep the two waste drain valves from freezing shut. I developed a work around for thatÖ

13. I removed the inside cover from the A/C unit and stuffed pink insulation into the openings of the air conditioner. Then I covered the whole unit with the clear plastic we used on the windows and replaced the cover.

14. Inside the trailer, I installed a piece of aluminum insulation above the filter in the stove hood. I had already stuffed pink stuff from the outside

15. We dropped the inside plastic sky light cover in the shower and stuffed pink insulation between the outer plastic dome and the inside cover. Then we replaced the plastic dome liner.

16. We took off all the light fixtures and stuffed pink insulation above them.

17. We placed a de-humidifier in the trailer under the table. We let it run as much as we can.

18. I ran an extra 120-volt cable into the trailer so I could use more power without overloading the trailerís electrical system. I use it to feed only one power strip in the trailer. I use it to run one electric heater and two of the trouble lights only.





19. We did nothing to the frig compartment nor did we modify the propane furnace in any way. In our trailer the fresh water tank is under the bed and all the fresh water lines are inside the trailer. I just fill it with an outside water hose. We do not leave a hose connected to the trailer. I empty the gray and black water tanks as needed but do not leave the sewer hose connected to the trailer.

20. I bought an inside & outside thermometer. The one I have has a remote sending unit that sends a signal to the master unit via radio waves. It was cheap, under $30. Both units run on AA batteries. I used Velcro to attach the outside unit to the underside of the front window plastic awning. When we are staying in the trailer it gives me good info on outside temps and when to switch on tank heaters and the like. When we travel I move it inside the trailer and the master unit to the truck. I can then remotely monitor the inside trailer temp. When it hits about 45 degrees in the trailer, I pull over for lunch or a coffee break and run the propane furnace to reheat the trailer. I seldom have to stop more than ever two or three hours to keep the trailer temps in a very safe range. It is no hassle.

21. We have two small electric heaters. The twenty-dollar kind. And the de-humidifier gives off heat. We seldom run the propane heat when we have electrical connection. If it is sub-zero we try to run propane a couple of time a night for ten minutes to put some extra heat by the inside fresh water pipes as the ducts run right by them. Even in sub zero weather the two electric heater canít be run at full on or it just gets too hot! We usually run them at half heat.

22. I thought we would need to put down carpeting over the linoleum flooring but we found we donít need it. The floor stays plenty warm right without any changes.

We are using our Sunny to travel all over to do public speaking about mission work in Africa. We have towed it about 25,000 miles in six months. We have done some other modifications and I will be happy to share about them, too. But I thought someone might be interested in using their trailer in the cold winter and is very easy to do with some basic, common sense changes and the T-2363 is easily up to the job of keeping you toasty warm and fully operational. It is a dream of a trailer. Tows perfect. Very comfortable for full time living.

All the best,

Lowell
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Old 01-22-2008, 06:38 PM   #2
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Hi Lowell,

Great ideas and suggestions. Thanks for posting them.

Hutch
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Old 01-22-2008, 09:50 PM   #3
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Hey Lowell, great to hear you both are staying warm. I'm sure many of those mods will be put to good use by others who only wish they could be camping in the cold.

Great to hear from you, and I really would like to hear more of your modifications you've done. What are you using for shore power? DO you guys have a generator and if so, what size? Or are you drawing power from the churches? I cant imagine you finding too many campgrounds open this time of year.

Where do you find dump stations? When we were in the mid-west, they were few and far between and it wasnt even winter yet?

Take care, and try and stay warm

Pat
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Old 01-22-2008, 10:13 PM   #4
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Hi Lowell

Thanks for posting. We do winter camp but not quite to the same level as you. I have picked up some ideas from your that I will expand on.

Thanks again for sharing

John

What model/make and size de-humidifier do you use?
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Old 01-23-2008, 07:08 AM   #5
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Lowell,
Lots of good ideas!
Do you have a website associated with your work that you can share?
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Old 01-24-2008, 07:17 PM   #6
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Wow, I'm impressed by your post. Maybe I'll wait for a really cold day and go out to the driveway and see how mine holds up. Your insulating tips about around the lights and wheel wells would be effective for cooling in the summer also. Thanks.
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Old 01-25-2008, 01:43 AM   #7
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niteowl
Thanks to all who replied to my post. I have been pretty busy for the past six months but glad to find the time to be back with the Sunline owners. This website provided me with many enjoyable hours of reading in Tanzania last year.

It is 7 above zero right now and very warm in the trailer. (I am turning off one of the electric heaters!). It just isnít nearly as big a problem camping in the winter and staying warm, as I had suspected it would be. It has really been no problem at all!

I will answers and interact with some questions and comments.

Yes, we do have a website about our work. www.joyintheharvest.com Everyone is welcome to visit it. My son, Luke, is the Webmaster and we are still doing some updating and expanding it.

I think shore power of some sort is almost a must if you are going to winter in a trailer for very long. We all know how electricity makes life ever so nice. Since this is really home for us for over a year, we like our microwave, flat screen TV, computer and Internet, and the goodies. However, in the winter, the primary need for shore power is to be able to run the Ultra-Heat holding tank and pipe heaters.

Our tank and pipe heater system looks like this. The tank heaters have both 12VDC and 120VAC elements and have built in thermostats. Surprisingly, their pipe heaters are only available as 12VDC and do not have thermostats of any kind. According to the manufacturer, the tank heaters wonít hurt the tanks but the pipe heaters can damage the pipes if not used correctly. I added some 120VAC(only) tank heaters in addition to what the company said is needed because those heaters looked very small to me and my tanks looked like they had a pretty big surface area. The heater system is supposed to be good to minus 12 below zero. If it goes below that, I will add anti-freeze to the tanks. I keep some on hand just in case...

If you are not going to have reliable shore power (for a few nights, say), in a pinch, start with empty holding tanks and pour anti-freeze into them first.

We have had no problem except the sliding gate valves freeze shut making it difficult to dump. Once you get them open it is all very much liquid so the pipe and tank heaters are working fine keeping everything from freezing. I am working on a solution for the frozen valves and will report back once I know it works. Anyone else find something that works for this?

During the summer and fall we stayed in a lot of W-Mart and Flying J stations overnight, as well as church parking lots, and friendís driveways. Not so much to save money but just for the convenience of being able to just pull over, get a nightís sleep, and get on the road again without losing too much time. In the winter months I plan on using campgrounds most of the time for the shore power.

To locate campgrounds we do a couple of things. We signed up for Passport America to save 50% and it is great. They give you a book listing their campgrounds. We also have the Woodallís Campground Guide and it came with a CD for computer searches which is great for us. The computer CD has one search function will allow you to search with xx miles of a place and select only for campgrounds that are open year round. I then cross-reference the two reference sources to find the open Passport America campgrounds. I usually call ahead to the campground to make sure they are really open. Very few people are camping in these campgrounds and the peace and beauty of these places after a fresh snowfall is wonderful. A couple of times I had to put the truck into four wheel drive to pull the trailer out of the snow drifts, but it came right out.

The open campgrounds will always have shore power, most will have sewer connection, but very few have water at the campsite. I solved that problem by purchasing four 6-gallon water jugs at W-Mart and just filling my trailerís fresh water tank with them. Just takes a few minutes every few days.

I am the kind of guy who likes to have backup plans and redundancy for safety. In our truck we have a portable generator full of fuel and ready to go with an extra 5 gallons of gasoline in the safest gas can money can buy. From recommendations of other Sunline owners on this website, I did not purchase the Honda EU2000i but went with the slightly larger Yamaha EF2400iS. It is an ultra-quite type but has more power than the Honda EU2000i. I can handle moving it myself and have used it a few hours and am happy with it so far. I think it is perfectly sized for most RV applications.

I also had a special 16-foot high-pressure hose made with a propane tank male fitting at one end and a female fitting at the other end. I carry an extra 20 pound and 30 pound tank in the truck and can connect either tank to my trailer system in seconds without moving them from the truck or removing tanks from the trailer. But I have found I donít really use much propane at all, but I have a big supply in case a winter storm knocks out shore power.

I also carry a Mr. Heater propane heater unit as my doomsday backup. It is the type that screws on the top of a 20-pound tank. I could use it to keep the trailer warm, as a last ditch effort, to save my fresh water system, but because of carbon monoxide, I would NEVER be inside the trailer with it running. (I experienced carbon monoxide poisoning many years ago and know how quickly it will kill you dead!) You will find me in a motel. I seriously doubt it will ever come to needing it but it only weighs a few ounces to have along.

Dump Stations havenít been a big issue. We joined the Flying J RV club thing (a penny or more per gallon off their gasoline price, thank you very much!) and they give you a directory of all the Flying J gas stations. Most of them have RV dumps. The open campgrounds have dumps. Some rest stops have dumps. Really, not much problem to dump if you can get the valves to open!

The de-humidifier I consider essential for long term winter camping. Ours is a LG (I paid a few bucks more and got one with the better control panel) and it is a 40 pint one. I looked at the little ones but was unimpressed. It is amazing how many gallons of water this thing produces. Our trailer stays dry inside without much frost or dripping. Canít imagine what it would be like without the de-humidifier, however. We just empty it before towing the trailer and when the tank is full. It has auto shutdown when its tank is full. We found a spot for it under our table and it is out of the way, give off heat to help heat the trailer, and its only drawback is that it is a bit heavy. But we really donít move it very much.

Iíll get to the other mods another time. Thanks to everyone who replied to my post. It is nice to be in touch with folks who know a good trailer when they see one! Best wishes to all!

Lowell
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Foreground: My year 2000 T-2363 and Nissan Titan truck. Background: my old 1984 T-1950 with Lincoln Towncar. Gave it as a wedding present to my daughter and new son-in-law.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2154/...9be17d28da.jpg
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Old 01-25-2008, 05:12 PM   #8
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Hey Lowell,

Think you need to change your signature line - as it sure seems like you are definately using your T2363 to it fullest extent!
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Old 02-01-2008, 01:59 AM   #9
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SUN #148
niteowl
You are right. Done. I figured out how to put a picture in it too! I love this trailer!

Lowell
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Foreground: My year 2000 T-2363 and Nissan Titan truck. Background: my old 1984 T-1950 with Lincoln Towncar. Gave it as a wedding present to my daughter and new son-in-law.
http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2154/...9be17d28da.jpg
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Old 02-01-2008, 03:22 PM   #10
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niteowl
One of the problems that I have dealt with is that of frozen dump valves on my exposed holding tanks. The Ultra-heat heaters seem to work fine to keep the black and gray water from freezing in the tanks and pipes, but did not keep the dump valves from freezing shut and becoming non-operational.

I called the Ultra-heat tech support. They feel the problem is frozen water in the gate valve groove. Even though the liquid on the other side of the valve is above freezing and remains liquid, on the air side of the valve the cold temperature will cause the water in the groove to freeze making the valve non-operational.

Ultra-heat suggests installing one of their elbow heaters on the non-liquid side of the valve to keep it warmed up. According to them, their 3 inch elbow heater draws about 25 watts at 12 VDC and the 1.5 inch elbow heater draws about 12 watts at 12 VDC.

I raised the issue of their pipe heaters damaging pipes without liquid in them, according to their website. He said while they might soften the plastic, he doesnít know of any pipes that were actually damaged from their heaters. The real problem is odors in the coach if you leave the heaters on without liquid in the tanks and pipes.

I think installing the elbow heater would probably work. There were a few issues. You only need to open the valves to dump. To keep the valve area warm at other times is a waste of power. You could put that elbow heater on a separate switch to solve that issue. Some folks might be short on enough DC power in their installations, too.

Also, it needs to be warm outside to install their heaters. As I am living in the winter cold right now and I needed a solution that would work now to get my valves open. I tried using a hair dryer on them and it worked one time I tried it but did not work the second time. I needed a simple and cheap solution.

Here is what I came up with. I had an extra end cap for the drain pipe. I simply drilled a hole in the spare end-cap and installed a light socket. I used epoxy to glue it into place. By adjusting the size of the bulb you can adjust the amount of heat. If you get the receptacle mounted in the center of the cap and make sure it is straight, and choose the correct bulb size for your installation, the bulb wonít touch the plastic drain pipe or gate valves.







With my valves frozen shut and the outside temperature at about +28 degrees F, I used a 7.5 watt bulb. I installed it, connected an extension cord and went away for an hour. When I checked back the valves were operational.

I bought several different size bulbs. In the photo, the bulb on the left is 40 watts. The two center bulbs are 25 watts. The bulb on the right is a 7.5 watt bulb.



There is a story on the internet about a guy who shoved a 75 watt bulb up the drain pipe to try to unfreeze his valves and he melted his pipe - requiring replacement. It sounded like the bulb was touching the plastic, too.

I suggest you start with low wattage bulbs and move up carefully based on how fast you want things to thaw and outside temps. When you put this gizmo on it really creates an air chamber that is sealed and the air will heat up pretty fast as cold air is not able to get in. As the Ultra-heat elbow heater is 25 watts, I would think that a 25 watt bulb would be enough for just about any situation, but I havenít tried it in sub-zero weather yet. Even this size bulb would require careful monitoring.

I didnít insulate the area around outside of the valves, but you could wrap an old towel or blanket around them to help insulate the area while you are trying to thaw it.

I used bulbs that were for 120 VAC power. I donít know why you couldnít set it up to use 12 VDC voltage bulbs just as easy. You could do this several different ways, including changing the style of the bulb receptacle or using 12VDC bulbs that fit the standard AC receptacle.

Happy Dumping!

Lowell
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Old 02-01-2008, 08:19 PM   #11
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Lowell

Hímm, neat. Thanks for posting.

You have sparked an idea for me. Our camper has an extended season feature of enclosed tanks and dump valves. I have not yet found anyone that has used this feature and can report on how cold they can get with it. Right now a heat duct runs thru this enclosed space to give off radiant heat. However the furnace has to run to create the heat.

I have already bought (not yet installed) a 12 volt ambient air temp sensor and read out to put the sensor in the compartment so I can read what is going and figure this how cold I can go.

Now your idea has sparked the light bulb. I can install one on a dimmer switch and dial in a temp as needed. We are normally always on shore power in the winter and use portable electric heaters. But the enclosed tank setup forced us to run the propane, until now.

This spring I will take the cover down and see exactly what they have up in there.

Thanks

John
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Old 03-09-2008, 05:46 PM   #12
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Re: Staying warm in a T-2363

regarding your #7 - "taping off the hot water heater electrical switch" -- do you mean that you secured the switch in the "off" position so that it could not be used in electric mode by accident?

Thanks for all the good tips!
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Old 03-18-2008, 12:31 AM   #13
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Sorry for not replying sooner. I place a piece of aluminum foil covered insulation inside the hot water heater door found on the outside of the trailer. You can't use anything too thick or the door won't close. With the all the hot water heater vents blocked off by the insulation, you need to make sure that the gas function of the hot water heater does not get used. I used red electrical tape on the switch located inside the trailer by the sink to make sure that the hot water heater does not get used on propane gas. You basically can only run the hot water heater on electricity which does not need venting. The water in the tank, once heated, will stay warm for a long time, even in very cold weather. It is like a thermos bottle.

A few times, when traveling and being without shore power, I felt I needed to make sure the water in the hot water tank did not freeze. I just removed the piece of insulation from inside the h/w heater outside door, started the h/w heater up propane and let it heat up, and then turned off the propane again and put the insulation back in place.

Bottom line: If you block off the venting on the hot water tank with insulation, make very sure that it doesn't get run on propane! I did this by taping the switch inside the trailer by the sink so it can't be used on propane.
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http://farm3.static.flickr.com/2154/...9be17d28da.jpg
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