Growing up in North Eastern Washington State the Winters are always gloomy; it would be rare for the sun to break through the fog or snow clouds during the 4-months. However, the beauty of the white flocked trees, and the sea of sparkling white everywhere you look is breathtaking.
So where did we decide to spend our first Winter in our 5th wheel named Bailey? You guess it, Eastern Washington. In January, the low temps will be 0*F for a week, putting a high demand on electric and propane usage. Because of the significantly few sunny days during the Winter, solar panels would be of little use.
Why – Just WHY
We decided to spend the Winter holidays with family or driving South would be ideal. It was our decision, and so we would need to do some extensive preparations over the Summer. Bailey did come with an “All Seasons” package. However, those packages are only keep a slight chill off the RV.
In Mid-March (2018) we arrived in WA State after picking up our 5th wheel. This gave us family time and enable us to get acquainted with our new 5th wheel living full-time lifestyle. We also required time to diagnose the dreaded check engine light that came on when getting Bailey here.
Will The Propane Furnace Work
March (2018) became much more than what we had planned to be doing. As our luck would have it, one week into getting settled in, the forecast was showing freezing temps for a week. All we knew was that we needed to prevent the water line on the underside of Bailey from freezing. But how?
We did not have a skirt for the 5th wheel, so trying to put a heater on the driveway would be like setting your hard earned money on fire and watching it burn. Our only option was to use the furnace for the 2nd time. The 1st time we used the furnace, it was for a few minutes when we spent our first night, on the road. So we set it for 58*F (14C) before we went to bed, come morning we had burned through one 20# tank of propane overnight.
Digging Out The Electric Space Heaters
The next night was just as cold, so instead of burning through a ton of propane, we decided to utilize our two 6-year-old Bionaire BH3699 Flat-Panel radiant space heaters. One worked well in keeping the chill off a large living room in our former home that had single pane windows, which was probably the same square footage as Bailey. So two heaters should work well, and they did.
2-Weeks Of Heat Cost WHAT
What we were not expecting was the heating cost for those two weeks. We spent $200 on electric by running the 2 space heaters, plus propane for the furnace. That would be okay if we were basking in 80*F inside wearing shorts and flip-flops. But no, the living temperature was a chilly 62*F in the day and 58*F at night. Bundled up inside our eyes were wide open, not only from the cold but the shock of heating costs! Our former 3,000 square foot home that was set at 68*F was not as expensive to heat as our 300 square feet 5th wheel.
Time For Modifications
After those few weeks of awful cold temperatures, Spring came with warmer weather, the birds were out, and we began working on projects. It was at this point we decided to spend the Winter holidays with the family. So we dove into researching what modifications we need to keep us warm this Winter, keep the heating bill down and not freeze our plumbing.
Don replaced the old heat duct that had holes in it, with an insulated version and put what I call ‘pool noodles’ over the water line to protect them. We went a step further by installing heat pads for all the tanks and upgraded to a tank monitoring system that has the ability (with an adapter) to view propane levels. Don placed our outdoor temperature sensor in the underbelly before he sealed it up, which enables us to monitor the temp near the water line without having to go outside.
Designing Bailey A Skirt
As the cold temps and high winds came in early October so did our thoughts on trying to put a skirt around Bailey. We looked at the different options available and decided we did not want to install ‘snaps’ onto the exterior of the 5th wheel. There were no other styles available, so we would be making our own skirting structure.
We are fully capable of building, especially after years of home remodeling under our belts. What we didn’t want to do is spend a ton of money if this structure was only going to serve us for this Winter. It would also be nice if the end design could be put away compactly if we decided to stay in the North one more Winter. More importantly, we would have to survive our first Winter before we thought about the next!
After non-scientific online research looking into what other people have done, we decided to walk around a home building store to see what sparked our interest. A few ideas spawned from different materials we saw and took pictures of them to keep the products straight in our heads. Back home we got the old graph paper, and tape measures out to doodle the dimensions of the skirt we would need around Bailey.
It took a while, but we finally settled on using 1-inch R-TECH that is a foam board with a silver coating on one side. The process is simple, yet
What To Do For Water In The Winter
The next issue to problem solve was how to get water. Currently, we have 150 feet of drinking water grade hose
Winter Cold Comes Early – Are We Ready
By now we were feeling confident with all the modifications and forethought we had put into the Winter prep that we would be fine. Then the month of October came with cold temps along with the wind. Thankfully the skirting we made endured the 30-mph winds. Don use of landscaping bricks to keep the foam tight against the side of the 5th wheel helped too. Our skirting was a success, and the heat was staying under Bailey as we wanted.
Fixing The Cold Drafts Inside
What we didn’t expect was the breeze down our necks when sitting on the couch watching TV. To block the draft, we put up the Reflectix from our Summer projected which kept the heat out. It worked, however, the air was now flowing out the bottom of the window, like a jet stream because of the solid ‘bubble wrap’ surface.
Our next thought moved onto using the window ‘shrink wrap’ as I call it. We had used this on our single pane windows in our former home, and it worked well. We got some and tried it. It was not an epic fail, but it didn’t go that well since the product acts differently when applied to RV windows. Check out our blog on it if you want to know more. The last resort in trying to stop the radiating cold would be to hang up blankets over the window treatments. Despite the lack of eye appeal, the heavy blankets have helped tremendously to get us from October through the New Year.
True Test – 50mph Wind Gusts With Below Freezing Temps
As February 2019 rolled in so did the 0*F and sub-zero (with the wind chill) temperatures we had hoped we would not see, since Spring is not too far away. We watched our cargo bay drop into the low 40*F mark when it was still in the high 30s outside. All we could do was get a space heater, plug it in and hope for the best to keep our water pump and some of the water lines warm.
Running the furnace helps warm the underside as well. For now, we are using a mix of space heaters and the propane furnace to keep the chill off of us, as well as the plumbing. It will not be a fun heat bill, that’s for sure. But if you choose to winter in the North, in the cold, you do what you have to. Sometimes it is worth it to be near family that you have not seen in several years.
As of this posting, the forecast shows single digits for our lows over the next 2-weeks along with high winds (50 mph gusts). We will update you on how it went and if we survived our first winter of living full-time in a 5th wheel.
We will see you on our next Adventure!
FEB 2019 brought a two-week cold front with 0*F at night with highs in the teens. Then the winds kicked up, moving at a constant 20 mph and gusts in the 50s, for close to 30 consecutive hours. All I can say is it feels as if you are on a boat, but with quivering stabilizing jacks under you. But all I could imagine was our foam skirting blowing away in the wind. Luckily it held up well, and we thank the snow/ice layer for keeping the foam secure.
The 5-inches of fresh snow quickly acquired an ice layer with the cold air blowing over it. So much so, a strong wind gust would blow a chunk of it off the roof. Some would roll down the slide-out covers we had installed over the Summer, making me fear I would find holes or rips in the fabric this Spring. But one thing is for sure, the foam inserts between the slide out and the fabric awning has sure helped shed the water off as well as the snow. Of course, we have to keep vigilant they are up there so, we do not attempt to close our slide outs before removing the foam.
For the rest of February and into the first two weeks of March, the snow kept coming. We had stacks of it a good 4 feet tall in places. And of course, it was our first Winter of full-time 5th wheel living, to experience it.
Thank you for reading our post – We will see you on our next Adventure!
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