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Winter Travel - Driving with Furnace Running

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When traveling in the winter with the high temperature in the teens to twenties, do you drive with the furnace running? We plan to head straight south from Michigan towards Memphis and will then decide if we need to go further south or can start west towards Phoenix. If you do leave the heat on, can you put water in the fresh tank? This is our first winter trip, so we have a lot to learn.

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We travel from Georgia to New York, New Jersey area sometime during the winter and stay in the MH for periods of several weeks with temps in the low 20"s at times. our MH is very well insulated, so it is comfortable inside. Our water tank is insulated inside a steel container and our black water and grey are similarly the coach. Have not had to do anything about either of them. The water pump and related equipment are in the basement so I run a small ceramic heater in this compartment at night. Hoses to the water spicket freeze so i just fill the tanks and do not leave it out. It is important to keep your water heater on, or if not on, drained and bypassed. The cabin heat must be left on the entire time so as to maintain temps in the living quarters. I know that you may have heard that there is some controversy about running the furnace as you go down the road, we do it all the time. Does not seem to hurt anything. Without it, everything would freeze.

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Furnace on, yes - and dash heat as well! We've never had a problem with using the furnace while on the road. At the temperatures you cite, teens and low 20's I would travel without water in the lines and tanks until you get to warmer weather. Many people travel this way on the journey south this time of year. Carry the needed drinking water with you in jugs. When the temperature goes below the mid 20's I worry about frozen pipes. Pipes against outside walls are especially vulnerable and the lines from your water tank and water pump are in unheated space below the living area which will leave them vulnerable to freezing. Our coach has special winterizing, insulated tanks, a built-in heater for the waste tanks and I still worry. The financial costs of damage from broken pipes can be really high as the pipes are difficult to access in many places in an RV. With cool temperatures, you can minimize the need for bathing. Heat water on the stove and bathe in the sink or a dishpan.

Heading west from Memphis you will still encounter some cold temperatures so you may want to continue your travel without water on-board until you get out of the mountains near Phoenix. It is 14 degrees in Flagstaff this morning! Phoenix is 40 and sunny! Our temperature this morning is 78 degrees with sun and a 20 MPH wind from the south. Monday we'll be in the 40's in the morning!

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I would do as Tom say's, but I would take I-30 out of Little Rock, then I-20/I-10 to Arizona. Less chance of deep freezing temps!

Carl

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When traveling in the winter with high temp in the teens to twenties do you drive with the furnace running? We plan to head straight south from Michigan towards Memphis and will then decide if we need to go further south or can start west towards Phoenix. If you do leave the heat on can you put water in the fresh tank? This is our first winter trip so a lot to learn.

Roland,

There is no reason not to run your furnace in fact run both of them. I would top off the propane tank before you leave. I don't see a problem with filling your fresh water tank with enough water to use on the trip in between camp grounds. I don't travel in colder weather much but I have been caught a couple of times. I was at the top of Raton pass camping early in the spring and had the temperature drop from 65 to 5 over night. I recommend running the block heater overnight when you stop if it is below freezing.

I recommend you run the hot water heater all the time and the refrigerator. Not so much to keep things cold but there is a heater on the icemaker solenoid that only works if the refrigerator is on also your wife will appreciate the hot water to wash her hands when you stop. One more tip if you stop some place where it is going to be below freezing over night don't leave your fresh water hose or sewer hose connected overnight. Dump fill and disconnect and put the hoses up. I would fill my fresh water tank before leaving just incase where you stop doesn't have water on.

I just have to ask, if you are going to Phoenix why are you going by way of Memphis? Are you stopping to visit someone? Where in Michigan are you leaving from?

Bill

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We live in Fenton and I thought going towards Memphis instead of St. Louis might give us better weather. I will make final decision when we leave, towards the end of January.

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If you have basement heat and pads on your tanks you should be ok. One years my coach basement heat failed in Idaho at 8 degrees and froze the cold water lines. Once south to warmer weather all was fine. I now have a new basement heater, repaired the old one and another backup. Easy to buy 120 volt ceramic heater but not the 12 volt one.

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We live in Fenton and I thought going towards Memphis instead of St. Louis might give us better weather. I will make final decision when we leave, towards the end of January.

The main thing is to watch the weather reports. I would just sit tight if a big storm is coming in from the west.

I don't know how far you drive in a day but I seldom do over 300-400 miles. Springfield IL would be 6.5 hours or about 450 miles.

Then to Memphis, TN on 55 Then to Fort Worth. Then just take 20 west.

Bill

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In reference to supplemental heater such as a small ceramic heater. Are they safe to use in water pump bin when parked? My water tank gets heat from furnace. I typically drive 62-65 mph for around 6-7 hrs but for first 2-3 days will drive longer to avoid weather.

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I have one and run it if it is going to be very cold -0- range otherwise I haven't had a problem. I don't store the sewer hose in the compartment to prevent damage or possible fire danger. Look at my signature-- I have a 38N so I have some relevant experience.

I would review my previous post it will get you south fairly rapidly.

Brett (Wolfe10) listed a good site to keep tabs on the weather.

Bill

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Weather on I-20 is unpredictable. Abilene is expecting a blizzard this weekend. Even El Paso is getting snow. I'm lucky as I can take I-10 across but then there is still that possibility of bad weather. Even NM is having bad weather and it is snowing in Deming NM right now. I'm sitting here in Texas City, TX with 74˚ temperatures but in a few days it will be going down to the high 50's and low 60's. Amarillo for the next week it is gong to be below freezing so as suggested - keep you eye on the weather at the end of January and make a wise decision on where and when to go.

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Sure, run with the heat on. If really cold, buy a couple of Lasko tower heaters and turn on the generator. I would not attempt I 40 through ABQ, Gallup and Flagstaff at this time of year. You may be fine, then again you may be snowed/iced in. Gallup is 6,500', no telling what you'll run into there.

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Be careful about what running both furnaces and what temperature you set them at. We were Camp Ground Host for Tiffin Motorhomes for 2 1/2 years and every winter we would have customers who came from up North and Canada who would say their furnace broke. My first question would be do you have propane. The answer was always "Yes, I filled up before leaving." Every time we got them into the shop it turned out they were out of propane. They had set the thermostat at 70 or even higher and ran out in 3 days or less.

My suggestion is keep whichever furnace on that heats the basement (probably the rear one), and set the thermostat at 50 to 55 degrees while driving. Top off the propane whenever the gauge on the tank shows half full at a fuel stop such as Flying J or Pilot. Whenever, you stop to eat or rest you can turn both on, but at night I would consider setting them at 60 or 65 degrees max.

I would really consider mounting a small ceramic heater in the wet bay that can run off the generator, especially when the temperature is likely to be in the low 20's or lower. Heaters have tip over switches and many have GFCI plugs. Do make sure you check it at least twice a day. Usually in the morning & at night before going to bed as a safety switch may have kicked in from rough roads or some other reason. If you have a plastic pan in the wet bay you might consider putting a piece of Styrofoam in the bottom of it to help insulate.

We have mounted a curtain rod behind the cockpit area with heavy curtains hung from it to keep the dash heat upfront when driving. It also keeps the dash air-conditioning up front in warm weather.

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Be careful about what running both furnaces and what temperature you set them at. We were Camp Ground Host for Tiffin Motorhomes for 2 1/2 years and every winter we would have customers who came from up North and Canada who would say their furnace broke. My first question would be do you have propane. The answer was always "Yes, I filled up before leaving." Every time we got them into the shop it turned out they were out of propane. They had set the thermostat at 70 or even higher and ran out in 3 days or less.

My suggestion is keep whichever furnace on that heats the basement (probably the rear one), and set the thermostat at 50 to 55 degrees while driving. Top off the propane whenever the gauge on the tank shows half full at a fuel stop such as Flying J or Pilot. Whenever, you stop to eat or rest you can turn both on, but at night I would consider setting them at 60 or 65 degrees max.

I would really consider mounting a small ceramic heater in the wet bay that can run off the generator, especially when the temperature is likely to be in the low 20's or lower. Heaters have tip over switches and many have GFCI plugs. Do make sure you check it at least twice a day. Usually in the morning & at night before going to bed as a safety switch may have kicked in from rough roads or some other reason. If you have a plastic pan in the wet bay you might consider putting a piece of Styrofoam in the bottom of it to help insulate.

We have mounted a curtain rod behind the cockpit area with heavy curtains hung from it to keep the dash heat upfront when driving. It also keeps the dash air-conditioning up front in warm weather.

Happy New Year and welcome to the forum. They must have extra small propane tanks. I have a 25 gal tank and can easily go 10 days running both furnace's the hot water heater and the refrigerator. I agree it is smart to keep an eye on your tank level till you have a history of how long it will last. I have a small ceramic cube I keep in the wet bay as added insurance when stopped and hooked up to shore power. I have never had a problem with anything freezing on the road but the coldest we have seen was -5. Also turn on your block heater over night so you don't have to wait to start. If it is realey cold clearing the windshield (inside) is chore and having the engine up to temp quicker is a help.

Bill

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It's a good point though. I'd still run both furnaces if you really needed them. Just keep a close watch on your propane level. It's available in many locations and only takes a short while to refill. We have a 55 gallon tank which at 80% holds 44 gallons. We also do our best to stay out of cold weather! If we aren't way up north in the summer, we'll fill the tank once in the spring and again in the fall. I still keep an eye on it, DW gets real upset without heat and hot water! :o

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We have taken many trips in late March from our home in Colorado to other parts of the country. Always have the furnace running while driving for comfort. Never have had any problems with freezing, even in 20 degree temps. Only problem one time we woke up to a frozen water pump. I would recommend running a light bulb in the water pump area for additional heat.

1989 southwind 32'

Chris g.

f3508s

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Personally I would never run with the propane tanks on, which you probably need to run the furnace. Have you ever seen a motor home burning on the highway, not a pretty sight. If you ever have an accident, especially on the front end, there is a high probably you will have a propane line burst creating an inferno. If you need heat while driving, run the gen set (assuming this runs on another type fuel) and plug in a space heater. Ray

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Ray,

Welcome to the FMCA Forum.

I would be surprised if a broken propane line would do much but cause the access flow valve on the propane tank to cease all flow. Been many years since a motorhome was not equipped with one.

Totally agree there is some (minor) risk in driving with propane on/propane appliances on, but same can be said for gasoline! Most would find the risk within acceptable limits, but understand everyone's risk tolerance is different.

And, if using a space heater, make absolutely sure that it turns off if not sitting upright. Can see a real fire hazard from a tipped over (and still on) space heater.

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I think people seem to forget that there are thousands of vehicles running up and down the highway powered by propane.

I wouldn't worry about propane during a accident if you are carrying 80 to 250 gallons of fuel underneath you.

I was a crew member on C-5 cargo aircraft for 30 years and it always tickled me when someone would worry about a vehicle in the cargo compartment with 1/2 a tank of fuel when the aircraft had over 200,000 pounds of fuel in the wings.

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We traveled from Tampa, FL in January 2011 going to Texas, Arizona and Washington, Utah. It was below freezing. We used our propane furnace and turned the engine block heater on and the basement is heated. We also used the furnace while traveling. We did not experience any problems. I put fresh water in the tank and un-hooked the water hose at night. We have a 2001 38' Dutch Star by Newmar with a 330hp Cummins Diesel Engine.

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We came to Michigan from Maine last winter with 10 degree weather and had no problems with our 07 DSDP. We do carry a remote temperature unit with senders in the water compartment and refrig so we can keep a lookout. Cheap insurance. Heading South this weekend and like others, going to Phoenix. It appears that the weather is clearing up a bit but will be watching it closely!

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Would it be better to use the generator or propane for the water heater and refrigerator while driving? Right now the advanced weather forecast seems to be in our favor from Memphis on to Phoenix. As we get closer to leaving I will study the radar intently.

Thanks for all he help and advice.

Roland

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