Friday, January 9, 2015

Lessons Learned - Frozen Pipes etc

I am guessing it is or has cold where you are if you are in the upper half of the country.
And it has been cold here too in Virginia Beach.  Here's my account going back and forth between thinking about things and what I did in our most recent episode.

Since we are here, I want to learn how to do this cold-weather-camping smartly.  I want to learn to adapt and live in the cold weather if we have to.  We will be here for at least a couple more months through the coldest part of the winter.

Here is what I am learning about living in our motorhome in freezing weather.
- First thing we want to do is get our mind right.  Think through it for a minute.
-- It helps to have a good attitude.  Complaining, whining and all that doesn't help things.
-- I need to remember, this is camping.  Camping is inconvenient at times.
-- The rewards outweigh the hassles.  (It does for us and just adds to the adventure...if that's the right word to use.)

- I take the position that we have a lot to learn and I will probably make some mistakes.  Despite our best efforts, some things may not work.
- Even I try to do the right thing, I may not quite get it right.

My mistake(s) from a few weeks ago?

I have two mechanic lights in the wet bay, but when I pulled out the tray with the ladder in it. In the process the electrical extension cord came loose.  It was plugged into my inverter outlet in the front bay and threaded through stuff to the wet bay.  But I did not think to go back to the wet bay and ensure that both lights were on.  When I looked at things after it became evident that things were frozen, I saw my mistake.  My extension cord was unplugged.

Other things I try to tell myself:
-When I think of something else that can be done - do it ASAP
Pam suggested I take one of our small ceramic heaters and put it in the wet bay.  I did that in the darkness of the morning shortly about 6 AM.  The sooner I get heat blasting onto the water pump, the plastic pipes and the area, the better.
-Since I inadvertently disconnected the extension cord that was threaded underneath through the bays I found another solution.
I decided to use the 30 amp circuit on the pedestal for the extension cord.
I needed a 110 adapter and then made sure the heater and lights in the wet bay were on.

- We also looked at the water pipe and faucet coming out of the ground and with the help of the Camp Host, we wrapped it up with a heated cover, plus a blanket, along with a small tarp.
That seemed to work pretty good.
- I picked up some home building blue insulation a few weeks back and decided to try to tape it around the wet bay pan.
It is not pretty, but seems to do the job.

One thing I find useful is thinking through things and taking it to the logical conclusion.  I ask myself, 'What's the worst that could happen?"  Frozen pipes.  Frozen tank.  Repairs.  $$$.

- Not sure what we'd do with frozen pipes but that can be fixed.  We'd figure it out.  We'd find out where the leaks are and see if we could replace them ourself.  If not, we'd find a motorhome repair shop and take in.
- Same thing with a cracked or broken water tank.
- Or a cracked shut off valve from the clear water tank.

Yikes!  That is exactly what we ended up with -- A cracked shutoff valve.

Once I determined we had no water coming from the hose, we traced the issue back to a frozen pipe near the reel.  I thought some how it would help things to get water flowing through the clear water tank think some of it might flow into the pipes and maybe melt some of the ice.  So I tried to drain the clear water tank a bit.  Instead, though I thought I was turning it very easy, I somehow managed to break/crack it.

When I put the knob back into the shut position it still trickled out and I knew I had a problem.  I shut it back off and used duct tape to hold it in place before it completely broke.  And it water wasn't surging out of there at the moment.
Next, I did some research on shut off valves for RVs.  After a few phone calls to Tiffin, a local dealer and visiting Home Depot, I learned I could replace the ball shutoff valve with a standard one from Home Depot.

I also learned:
- Use PVC not CPVC for the extension of pipe going from the bottom of the shutoff valve through the floor of the Wet Bay pan.
- Get PVC not CPVC glue.  The purple cleaner/prep is the same but you want to use the correct glue.
- Pay attention to the outside temperature.  It was 38 degrees when I was making my repair and the glue (the wrong CPVC kind I had, wasn't going on too well.)
But I was committed at that point and used it anyway.
- If mostly worked.  A 95% solution. I had a very very slight amount of water drops coming out.  I used 'Rescue Tape' for that and wrapped it up tightly.  No water leaks.
When it gets warmer I will probably re-do the glue and pipe extension.

For now it doesn't leak and we are in good.  We filled up the water tank again and have plenty if it gets really cold again and we need to shutoff the outside faucet.  I don't envision that happening again since we have the heated hose wrap working well and the faucet covered up.

Another series of lessons learned and no leaks.  In cold weather.


  1. It’s great that you’ve learned a lot of stuff while living in your motorhome, including some plumbing that would come in handy at times. Anyway, it’s great that you’ve managed to fix the problem with the pipes. I hope it won’t have other problems anytime soon. Thanks for sharing this wit us, Randy. Have a great day!

    Lovella Cushman @ Perfection Plumbing

  2. Wow! Your skills in plumbing are overflowing. They even match your perfect communication skills, as you're discussing what happened and what you did to fix that broken valve. I just hope that you won't encounter anymore problems with regard to that. Thanks for sharing that, Randy! All the best to you!

    Evon Brow @ Athens Plumbing