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Old 12-01-2018, 07:31 AM   #1
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: BC
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Default Tank Heater Question (winter)

Those of you that have tank heaters installed for cold weather camping;

Are your tank heaters 12 volts or 110 volt? Do you have them on your water tank only or also on your grey and black tanks too? What temperature have you used them in? Do you use or recommend adding them or would you recommend dry camping instead?

Thanks in advance for your opinions.

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Old 12-01-2018, 03:10 PM   #2
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Join Date: Oct 2018
Location: MN
Posts: 232

I don't have experience with tank heaters, but I do have experience camping in a trailer in as cold as -10f weather.

On my trailer, I moved all the plumbing inside, which gives me the ability to leave the trailer wet in situations where it's just a bit below freezing. If it's too cold though, I still end up dry camping. The risk of frozen PEX, pumps and toilets is too high for me.

When it's just a bit below freezing, I keep the grey/black waste from freezing by keeping a balance between RV antifreeze and waste. If it's down closer to zero F, I dump my dish water in the snow and use the campground outhouses. At that temp, no fly's, no smell.

On my shiny new 'B', I'm not sure what I'll do. The fresh tank is inside and the van is somewhat insulated, but I'm not confident that the deeply hidden fresh water plumbing buried behind the cabinets and bath is going to stay warm enough on really cold nights.

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Old 12-01-2018, 03:27 PM   #3
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I have 12VDC heaters. Makes more sense than 120VAC, since the most important time to run them is while under way.

That said, tank heaters are probably the LEAST important part of a 4-season setup. Tanks are slow to freeze, tend not to be damaged if they do, and as @Michael says, are easily dealt with using antifreeze. Upfitters offer tank heaters because they are cheap and easy to install, and add another important-looking switch to the control panel.

I did a real 4-season setup. It involved insulating all tanks and outdoor pipes, extending my Espar hydronic heating loops to parallel all piping (bundled with insulation) and tanks, and putting heat tape in the remaining vulnerable places. It is a medium-big job. Just adding tank heaters is mostly a feel-good thing, IMO.
Formerly: 2005 Airstream Interstate (Sprinter 2500 T1N)
Now!: 2014 Great West Vans Legend SE (Sprinter 3500 NCV3 I4)
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freeze, tank heater, winter camping, winterize

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