November 13, 2014

Cold temperature living

We are currently staying in Sutton, Ontario, which is about 40 miles north of Toronto. The average night time low temperature here in November is 30degF (-1degC), but we are experiencing a cold snap for the next few days, with night temperatures down to 18F (-8C).

When temperatures go that low, we need to take certain measures to ensure that we remain comfortable with a working water supply. We ordered our Pinnacle from Jayco with double-pane windows, and this is the biggest factor that makes the unit comfortable. Heat loss through the windows is greatly reduced, and condensation on the inside is almost completely eliminated. The fifthwheel is quite well insulated, but the walls, which are 2 inches thick, are the least insulated part. The roof and floor are very well insulated. The propane furnace, rated at 40,000 btu/hr, is able to keep us warm and cozy inside, and warm air is distributed through the entire length of our unit by underfloor ducts. The cargo bay and utility area is also kept warm by the furnace. We carry an additional 30lb propane tank in the vented front compartment, in addition to the two on-board 30lb tanks. There is an electric fireplace in the living room, which adds a warm ambience when relaxing.

Our biggest challenge is the water supply, which takes some planning to keep operational when it gets really cold. We keep the onboard 82 gallon water tank full, and that will last for about three days of normal use, without trying to conserve water. We make sure that we always have an unfrozen water hose in the heated cargo bay, that we can use to refill the water tank from a faucet. The gray water valves must be kept closed, except when actually dumping gray water, so that the exposed portion of the waste plumbing does not freeze. The black and gray water tanks and dump valves, along with the fresh water tank, are in a heated and insulated area under the floor.

Because we leave for the Southwest in December, we have encountered temperatures down to 0F (-18C), and for the first two days of our trip, it is usually below freezing. It is essential that we run the furnace while traveling, to prevent frozen plumbing. Our first two nights are usually spent at Walmart or Flying J, as there are no campgrounds open in December north of Kentucky. It is necessary to run our generator overnight to prevent the batteries from discharging, and in fact we run it 24 hours a day for those two days. With the generator located in the truck bed, noise or carbon monoxide are not concerns. We leave in December with a full water tank to last us until our first overnight camping stop.

We have found that, like most things with the fulltiming lifestyle, some pre-planning makes things run much smoother, and although it is more work when temperatures drop really low, we are still warm, dry and comfortable.


  1. Prob dumb question but do you mean that you keep the furnace running in the trailer while you are driving? How does your furnace get power?

  2. We set the thermostat to 15C when on the road in the cold weather. Furnace runs with propane, and uses 10amps at 12volts when blower is running. If it is really cold, I'll run the truck mounted generator continuously. If the furnace only runs occasionally, the charger line from the truck is sufficient to keep the batteries up.