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Old 10-28-2016, 11:19 PM   #1
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Default 4 season Roadtrek Zion conversion

I just put the deposit down on my new Roadtrek Zion today. I did a factory tour to see incomplete units yesterday. It took a while before I bought it because I was trying to get some 4 season help from Roadtrek.

I'm keen to safely transform this new RV into a 4 season unit. I thought I'd get your thoughts to see if the direction I have in mind makes sense.

First, the Zion has a tankless water heater. That was a concern because I wouldn't want the heat exchanger to freeze. I thought of installing a high quality air pump directly into the plumbing near the pump (behind a non return and manual valve. That way, if it's really cold out, you could just turn on the air pump and walk around opening valves one at a time and blow out the lines. With a high volume low pressure air pump, I'm thinking it could push 8 feet of head in seconds. Maybe too quickly! Would have to experiment. This at least would leave the heater heat exchanger dry. Bit of a pain turning things on and off but I figure you only use water at certain times of the day. Once you're done with showers or with dinner cleanup, turn things off and blow the lines.

Second part is to cut access panels near the pump (in the Zion this would be the back of a drawer under the fridge) water heater (same panel hopefully, bathroom (actually has an existing access panel), and near the water tank (the water tank is inside and hope to use shower access panel. Once I have access, I've found various heat trace products. One that looks promising at heatline.com. They have a 12 volt self regulation heat trace product that's 3 watts a foot. You can then wrap with insulation and the product is guaranteed not to overheat I'm thinking to trace all the lines inside and out. The Zion has very few under floor pressure water lines.

I found tank heaters at ultra heat. Heatline has line heating for the 1.5 and 2 inch drains and manual valves. Those would stay on all the time in cold weather. Once I have my tank heaters on I'm thinking to spray with a closed cell foam

Heatline has been very helpful. They said if I tell them my target temp they will spec to what extent I need to heat wrap (feet of line per foot of pipe) and insulate each pipe and valve.

The factory tour helped a lot because I know exactly where all the lines and penetrations are. No investigstion holes. Took careful notes. None of the holes need to be where you would see them. They are all back of cabinets so even if my access doors aren't pretty, they won't detract from the look of the RV.

Anyone have any thoughts on the above in turns of approach or material. I'd prefer to not make a mess of this. Never tried anything like it before.
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Old 10-28-2016, 11:52 PM   #2
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I think it would be a worthwhile 'speriment to get some numbers from a std van and get temps at your various points of concern- when the cabin is heated to a comfortable level- and the outside temps are below freezing.


what i am thinking is that perhaps you water lines and pump will be warmed above freezing by the warm temps in your cabin.
and occasional use of the taps will keep water moving.

you could heat the existing fresh water tank- or what about adding an aux water tank inside the van?


leaving your only concern the waste tanks- which makes one wonder about adding something to keep from freezing/expanding- maybe salt?...salt works to keep from freezing to 10F ( I seem to recall) which is about -12C

If you are skiing for the day and at a place with block heater plugs, that could help to power your heaters and/or keep the cabin warm.

on any build access panels for the systems are good to have and know about...I found my water pump by accident while doing something else, now I know

mike
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Old 10-29-2016, 12:26 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mkguitar View Post
I think it would be a worthwhile 'speriment to get some numbers from a std van and get temps at your various points of concern- when the cabin is heated to a comfortable level- and the outside temps are below freezing.


what i am thinking is that perhaps you water lines and pump will be warmed above freezing by the warm temps in your cabin.
and occasional use of the taps will keep water moving.

you could heat the existing fresh water tank- or what about adding an aux water tank inside the van?


leaving your only concern the waste tanks- which makes one wonder about adding something to keep from freezing/expanding- maybe salt?...salt works to keep from freezing to 10F ( I seem to recall) which is about -12C

If you are skiing for the day and at a place with block heater plugs, that could help to power your heaters and/or keep the cabin warm.

on any build access panels for the systems are good to have and know about...I found my water pump by accident while doing something else, now I know

mike
Thanks for the advice.

The fresh water tank is 37 gallons and it's inside already. I don't think I'll need to put a heater on it. It was recommended to me by other members to get the mods underway quickly while the underside is still pristine.

I will definitely put heaters and insulation on the gray and black tanks.

I agree on the experimenting but that would be a bit late as well if I didn't winter prep first. I could use the experimenting to determine when heat needs to be on and to what lines and tanks.

I know nothing about waste tanks. My only camper was a tent trailer and it didn't have a bathroom. I was thinking a little antifreeze might help. Hadn't thought about salt. Is this something others do on cold nights.

We live in Canada. It can get to -50 at night on really cold nights up in ski country. Not that we'd likely be out in that but -30 at night is not uncommon.

Our main reason for winter proofing the van is I'm going to be semi retired soon and I want to be able to go anywhere at any time I get a month or two break. Regardless of where we go in winter, we are going to encounter some freezing weather sometimes.

We picked up almost every boondocking option because we won't be plugged in most of the time. I very much prefer camping in locations that offer few if any services anyway. The van will even be heated by heated floors. I'm counting on it being pleasant to camp in cold weather.

I want to be able to still take a shower when getting up or after skiing. In general, if we go someplace both warm and cold like Northern California, I want to not have to worry at all about pipes freezing.

It amazes me that RV manufacturers in Canada don't offer 4 season options. They are more common in Europe. We only have 5 months out of the year where we don't have to worry about hard frost.
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Old 10-29-2016, 12:50 AM   #4
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Is Zion's tankless water heater a Girard unit? If so, you might be able to swap it out for Truma AquaGo which I think has built-in freeze protection via propane and electric. Maybe you can convince Roadtrek to do that during your build.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:00 AM   #5
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.

I don't know why anyone would want to shower in the RV after skiing.
I would rather have an unlimited hot shower in a chalet, then a glass of wine by the fireplace.

No matter what people tell you, the RV is not insulated enough for the Canadian cold winter. Even with the furnace running at full blast, you will feel the cold coming from the outside right through the shower wall as if there is not a wall standing there. Do you know how thick is that wall? You should have asked for the R-value while you were at the factory. You won't be impressed.

Sorry I am pouring cold water over your enthusiasm. I just want you to have a more realistic expectation.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:02 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Manx View Post
Is Zion's tankless water heater a Girard unit? If so, you might be able to swap it out for Truma AquaGo which I think has built-in freeze protection via propane and electric. Maybe you can convince Roadtrek to do that during your build.
Thanks! I'll definitely look into it. Roadtrek does use the Girard unit. I'll ask about swapping the Truma Aquago unit. Roadtrek unfortunately doesn't show much interest in deviating from their engineered and tested solutions. They are very safety oriented. I can understand but it's a little frustrating.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:20 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Cannuck View Post
It amazes me that RV manufacturers in Canada don't offer 4 season options. They are more common in Europe. We only have 5 months out of the year where we don't have to worry about hard frost.
Several years ago, most Canadian RV manufacturers marketed their products as better for having near four-season toughness.

Keep us posted on your progress!!!
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:27 AM   #8
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These people swapped out their Girard for Truma in their Pleasureway
https://drinkmoredecaf.com/2015/12/1...k-vs-tankless/

2017 Pleasureways now seem to use the Truma on all their models.

Truma manual mentions freeze protection.
https://www.truma.com/downloadcenter...llation_us.pdf

Maybe someone who has one can enlighten you better.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:29 AM   #9
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.

Regarding batteries...

in case you are not aware,


For Li-ion operations, most manufacturers recommend:

Charge temperature
0C to 45C (32F to 113F)

Discharge temperature
20C to 60C (4F to 140F)

The extreme allowable temperature for storage
40C to 50C (40C to 122F)


Tesla have built-in heater and cooler in their batteries.


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Old 10-29-2016, 02:31 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by BBQ View Post
.

I don't know why anyone would want to shower in the RV after skiing.
I would rather have an unlimited hot shower in a chalet, then a glass of wine by the fireplace.

No matter what people tell you, the RV is not insulated enough for the Canadian cold winter. Even with the furnace running at full blast, you will feel the cold coming from the outside right through the shower wall as if there is not a wall standing there. Do you know how thick is that wall? You should have asked for the R-value while you were at the factory. You won't be impressed.

Sorry I am pouring cold water over your enthusiasm. I just want you to have a more realistic expectation.
Thanks for the feedback. The winter skiing gig is something I really haven't given a ton of thought to. A nice to have.

I assumed the heating could keep ahead of the cold. Even our tent trailer could keep warm on very cold nights. Its something I will definitely investigate further.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:41 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BBQ View Post
.

Regarding batteries...

in case you are not aware,


For Li-ion operations, most manufacturers recommend:

Charge temperature
0C to 45C (32F to 113F)

Discharge temperature
20C to 60C (4F to 140F)

The extreme allowable temperature for storage
40C to 50C (40C to 122F)


Tesla have built-in heater and cooler in their batteries.


Ecotrek claim to support charge and discharge to -40C. I don't have a lot of info beyond the fact that they apparently have augmented their modules to handle temperature extremes. Something similar to the heating and cooling you mentioned. I'll try to find out more info on the subject before I come to rely on it.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:42 AM   #12
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I don't know your plumbing so I don't know if my approach will work for you. I call it an "Active RV antifreeze system".

You take the end of the hot water line and plumb it back through a 12 volt valve to the input of the water pump. A thermostat located in the coldest spot triggers the valve.

With my plumbing this circulates hot water through all the lines. The hot pipes heat the spaces they go through.
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Old 10-29-2016, 02:58 AM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ClassB4Me View Post
Several years ago, most Canadian RV manufacturers marketed their products as better for having near four-season toughness.

Keep us posted on your progress!!!
Thanks! Thr engineer in me appreciates the challenging responses to this post. It's best to be realistic and question things. The Roadtrek Zion has a fresh water tank above floor. Very little plumbing is below floor. But some is. It will be interesting what influence players like Hymer bring. While I didn't like the Activ layout, it is apparently a true 4 season camper. Hymer has integrated many of Roadtrek's toys in the Activ. I expect Roadtrek will take advantage of Hymer's experience in 4 season RVs.
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Old 10-29-2016, 03:27 AM   #14
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I don't know your plumbing so I don't know if my approach will work for you. I call it an "Active RV antifreeze system".

You take the end of the hot water line and plumb it back through a 12 volt valve to the input of the water pump. A thermostat located in the coldest spot triggers the valve.

With my plumbing this circulates hot water through all the lines. The hot pipes heat the spaces they go through.
Thanks for the ideas. I made this post to gather ideas. I wasn't aware how the Hymer system worked. The Roadtrek uses a tankless water heater. I'm not sure how that would work with a circulation system. Having the suggested Truma Aquago that has freezing protection would be a good step in the right direction.

I'm curious about the fail safe solution. If you run out of propane, or your batteries cut out, your water heater cuts out, engine fails to start etc; your in a tough position. If you blow the lines out, the effect will be nothing I'm assuming at least. If you isolate certain lines that you aren't using, it's simplified.

I've heard tankless heaters cannot tolerate air in the lines. The circulation approach doesn't introduce that problem.
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Old 10-29-2016, 03:49 AM   #15
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I suggested salt- as any anti-freeze i can think of cannot be simply "dumped"- it would be a hazard.

salt, as we see on the roads- can be dumped



i know your temps...that's why I live in phx!

I dunno- I've been in the 20's here in AZ ( we have areas which are at elevation) and my van isn;t fantastically insulated against the cold- the furnace ran just about constantly over night.

but there is a huge diff between an overnight low and sustained temps far below 0F

Mike
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:23 AM   #16
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.

The Roadtrek Sprinter might be a better candidate for 4 season conversion.

Here's their Alde radiant heating system

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Old 10-29-2016, 04:34 AM   #17
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I read with a grin when users talk about winter camping and it's -10. I then think to myself, "Come to Winnipeg for a week in February and we'll see if you like camping in winter".

Most people cannot grasp the idea of sustained -40 weather for days on end. They think the world stops, and yet we all get up and go to work as if it was any other day.

Extreme cold can be mitigated, but in a class B with little insulation it's difficult. Your worst culprit is going to be the single pane, low R value windows. I suggest Reflectix cut for each window to keep heat in and cold out.

Your floor needs help. Cold radiating up is going to make you feel like there's no heat. Install radiant heating in the floor or add R value, or both.

Cupboards and cabinets will get cold due to the lack of heat and the insulating value of the wood cabinet doors so consider what you will put inside them.

Roof vents or AC units need to be insulated and covered. As you know a roof vent is just a piece of plastic, perhaps an R value of 0.5. And since heat rises you're going to lose a lot through a vent.

Other vents will need to be insulated like your fridge vents. The fridge can't be blocked off, but you can pack insulation around it to prevent drafts.

Do your upgrades and then borrow, rent or buy a thermal imaging device like the FLIR One or SEEK or a standalone device. Then check your van for hot spots and see where you're losing heat. It will be a challenge. Good luck to you.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:40 AM   #18
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Is Zion's tankless water heater a Girard unit? If so, you might be able to swap it out for Truma AquaGo which I think has built-in freeze protection via propane and electric. Maybe you can convince Roadtrek to do that during your build.
I did read up on the girard unit. In one section it claims you must winterize it for freezing weather. In another it says you can use it for freezing weather. It will burn propane to stay above freezing. I guess the difference is the Truma unit runs on electricity as welll. In other words the Girard unit would have to be winterized for travel in cold weather, but it can run and keep itself warm when stopped.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:45 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by BBQ View Post
.

The Roadtrek Sprinter might be a better candidate for 4 season conversion.

Here's their Alde radiant heating system

Thanks!
I was able to order the alde heating system for the Zion. That's why I thought it would have the capacity to stay warm. Insulation may not be great but the space is quite small in a 21 foot van.
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Old 10-29-2016, 04:57 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Bruceper View Post
I read with a grin when users talk about winter camping and it's -10. I then think to myself, "Come to Winnipeg for a week in February and we'll see if you like camping in winter".

Most people cannot grasp the idea of sustained -40 weather for days on end. They think the world stops, and yet we all get up and go to work as if it was any other day.

Extreme cold can be mitigated, but in a class B with little insulation it's difficult. Your worst culprit is going to be the single pane, low R value windows. I suggest Reflectix cut for each window to keep heat in and cold out.

Your floor needs help. Cold radiating up is going to make you feel like there's no heat. Install radiant heating in the floor or add R value, or both.

Cupboards and cabinets will get cold due to the lack of heat and the insulating value of the wood cabinet doors so consider what you will put inside them.

Roof vents or AC units need to be insulated and covered. As you know a roof vent is just a piece of plastic, perhaps an R value of 0.5. And since heat rises you're going to lose a lot through a vent.

Other vents will need to be insulated like your fridge vents. The fridge can't be blocked off, but you can pack insulation around it to prevent drafts.

Do your upgrades and then borrow, rent or buy a thermal imaging device like the FLIR One or SEEK or a standalone device. Then check your van for hot spots and see where you're losing heat. It will be a challenge. Good luck to you.
Thanks. All excellent feedback! I ordered the heated floor for comfort and the basic idea that even if it isn't terribly warm having the lower part of your body warm from the radiant heat will feel warm and comfortable. Agreed on the window coverings and plugging up vents with temp insulation. The Zion has a D.C. only fridge so there are no vents. I got some ideas from the fit RV site and they did this thermal imaging.

My parents have a cottage in northern Ontario. Huntsville area if that means anything to you. We used to go up in winter when we were kids. It was ne'er watching the temp fall to -50 at night. Hear the crunch of snow and your nose freeze when you stepped outside.

We love to ski. As one poster said, just get a hotel. We very well may. My primary reason for winterproofing is I don't want to shy away from cold weather and having to pump gallons of antifreeze through the piping every time we might encounter a hard frost. Taking it skiing would be an ideal. It might prove impractical but I'm thinking I might as well include it in my design target so it's an option.
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