Winter Unity Experiences

ddoright

New member
I am seriously considering downsizing and buying a Unity TB. I am coming out of a Bigfoot 29' class C which is made for winter camping. We certainly never camp below Zero F but do winter camp where the temperatures dip into the 20's and occassionally low teens (F). I know the Unity is not really made for winter camping and am worried about freezing the holding tanks, valves and macerator.

Would Unity owners share their real life winter camping experiences, especially using the holding tanks?

I know there is a heating pad option. Does it run on 12v and would it last all night on the batteries or does it require 120v to run?

Thanks! I'm looking forward to your real life experiences.
 

Denis4x4

2013 Unity TB
We bought our '13 Unity TB in August of 2013. First big trip after a couple of shake down runs was to Steamboat Springs at the end of September. My wife was attending a quilt thingie and staying in an upscale condo at the ski slopes. The dog and I were at a great campground with a site right on the Yampa river. Woke up on the third morning to a foot of snow from a storm that shut down I-70 and I-25 into Wyoming. Even though it was in the mid-twenties, nothing froze except me as I only had boat shoes and no socks!

The TB has the tanks tucked up into the unit where the Unitys with slides have tanks that are more exposed to the elements. The heater worked like a champ and by the end of the week, I was back flyfishing in the Yampa.

While this experience only lasted about 48-72 hours, it gave me confidence that cold weather is not a problem. If this were going to be something I was going to encounter on a regular basis, I would probably install some heavier weight window coverings as the glass is single pane. Other than that, the Unity TB passed the cold test with flying colors.
 

Jeff Treiber

2015 Unity TB
We've done some camping in the cold by necessity - this winter was tough in a lot of places - and our 2015 Unity TB handled it like a champ. Handles well in snow. The heater mats for our tanks run on 13V, a bunch of amps. We were told they won't last long on battery power. We usually winterize when we're headed into cold areas. One of the best "add on" we made was buying a cheap reflective windshield protector and putting it up behind the shades at night. This helps with the TB beds being close to the windows. We also use a small liquid filled space heater, as well as a small fan to help circulate the furnace heat from up front.
 

aljimenez

'13 LTV Serenity on '12 3
We spent two days in the 20's in freezing rain in of all places Pensacola, Florida two winters ago. Since we did not expect this, we found out all the problems in our Serenity in this type of cold. Of course the outside water hose connection was frozen, in fact no water was flowing out of the water faucet. I brought the water hose into the RV and put it in the shower to thaw. I thought we'd have water from our fresh tank, but no such luck. Using hair dryer, went outside and heated up the water inlet and soon we had water from our fresh water tank. I then hair dried the faucet at the post and got it to thaw. After all this I thought I was through for awhile, at least. However I noticed the puddle in the shower from the thawing hose which meant the drain was frozen. I tried thawing it with the hair dryer, but it did not release until temps increased in a day.

After getting home, I worked under my rig to insulate the shower drain so it does not happen again. I have also added insulation cover to all the water lines under the rig. I also have insulation to place on the water inlet when I know it's going to be cold. I think I feel confident now that we can stay down to around 20 degrees OK... Al
 

Chip D

Chip D, 2013 Serenity
We spent two days in the 20's in freezing rain in of all places Pensacola, Florida two winters ago. Since we did not expect this, we found out all the problems in our Serenity in this type of cold. Of course the outside water hose connection was frozen, in fact no water was flowing out of the water faucet. I brought the water hose into the RV and put it in the shower to thaw. I thought we'd have water from our fresh tank, but no such luck. Using hair dryer, went outside and heated up the water inlet and soon we had water from our fresh water tank. I then hair dried the faucet at the post and got it to thaw. After all this I thought I was through for awhile, at least. However I noticed the puddle in the shower from the thawing hose which meant the drain was frozen. I tried thawing it with the hair dryer, but it did not release until temps increased in a day.

After getting home, I worked under my rig to insulate the shower drain so it does not happen again. I have also added insulation cover to all the water lines under the rig. I also have insulation to place on the water inlet when I know it's going to be cold. I think I feel confident now that we can stay down to around 20 degrees OK... Al
I have made two winter trips in my LT Serenity in the last two years. 2014 it was in January and this year in March. Both to the Pacific NorthWest from Omaha to Wyoming to Ogden to TwinFalls to Boise to Pasco to Spokane to Seattle to Portland to Medford to Sacramento and then home. In both cases the night time temps were usually below freezing. But no real problems. The first day I could not put water into the unit from the outside as the outside inlet was frozen. But I wasn't worried as I knew during the 2nd day it would be above freezing in Twin Falls. Sure enough, it had thawed and I had no problems.
Coldest was overnight on the way back in Rawlins, WY where it was 5 degrees above zero. No problem next am turning on the water for cooking or washing. I do think you want to make sure though that when you dump at the end of the trip, that the temps will be above freezing.

As long as you keep the inside above freezing - which it always is in my case- it's fine. I sleep at night with the thermo at say 60 degrees when I'm dry camping at a Walmart. But I was fine.
Chip D
 

co-kid

2014 3500, V6, Ext. Body
I know there is a heating pad option. Does it run on 12v and would it last all night on the batteries or does it require 120v to run?
FWIW: Our pads are 12v and they definitely would drain the batteries if left on overnight. I don't use the heating pads on the gray/black tanks to prevent freezing. Rather, I run the pads to thaw the tanks if necessary. We've camped in below zero temps and didn't have problems with this approach. (We predominately boondock and, if necessary, run the heating pads when we're driving.)

Regards,
Alan
 

ddoright

New member
This is all very helpful, Thanks! The more that chime in the better. It sounds like a Unity will survive the cool nights I will encounter. Has anyone frozen and damaged a macerator, and what where the circumstances?
 

Peter Tourin

2020 Unity RL, ex 2012 Unity MB
This is only a guess on the macerator question... Since it sits underneath, it's going to get cold! But if you make sure to get all the water out when you dump (run till motor sound changes, turn it off, close gate valve, then run again for a moment), there shouldn't be enough liquid left so that it gets blocked with ice. When you next run it, you'll know - if the motor spins up, you'll hear it - if you don't, you may have to wait until it thaws. The only way I could see damaging it would be to leave it running with a frozen impeller, but I'd expect a fuse would blow before you damaged the motor.

Here's a question for you winter people - suppose you lose the gamble and some part of your water system freezes - what's likely to get damaged? I'd expect that pex lines wouldn't get damaged by ice pressure, and I wouldn't expect tanks to get damaged either. Aside from the nuisance of not being able to use the system till it thaws, where are you likely to see damage? Will traps crack? - etc.... I'd be much more willing to risk lower temp trips if I knew that I'd just have to thaw out if something froze - but less willing if the freeze was going to get me into repair hassles. With a nice down quilt and the LP furnace, the RV is certainly comfortable enough when it's cold...
 

rdvan@sbcglobal.net

2017 Unity MB
I am seriously considering downsizing and buying a Unity TB. I am coming out of a Bigfoot 29' class C which is made for winter camping. We certainly never camp below Zero F but do winter camp where the temperatures dip into the 20's and occassionally low teens (F). I know the Unity is not really made for winter camping and am worried about freezing the holding tanks, valves and macerator.

Would Unity owners share their real life winter camping experiences, especially using the holding tanks?

I know there is a heating pad option. Does it run on 12v and would it last all night on the batteries or does it require 120v to run?

Thanks! I'm looking forward to your real life experiences.
Oh the irony, a motorhome built in Canada, the Unity, is not really set up for winter camping and is considered a three season coach, yet, a motorhome built in Florida, the Coach House
is safe for winter use and is considered a four season coach! Go figure. But, we have spent five days in our 2014 MB model in 18-25 degree temps with no problems. The little furnace has no problems heating the coach. The only problem was forgetting to put the murphy bed down well in advance of going to bed. The murphy bed mattress being stuck against that outside wall and partially down in an unheated hole was absolutely freezing when lowered. You learn. HAPPY TRAILS.
R. D. Vanderslice
2014 Unity MB
 

fminich

2013/2014 Unity MB
I've never been able to get all the 'water' out of the macerator simply by running it; it looks like the 'bypass' connection simply allows 'water' to recirculate.
So, after emptying the tanks, I put some RV antifreeze in the P-traps and additionally let some through to the dump valve and then to the macerator. I run the macerator till I see pink liquid in the discharge. The macerator's screw-on connection to the dump valve discharge seems to be one of the less-robust items, and I'd hate to see it crack due to freezing 'water'.
 

Chip D

Chip D, 2013 Serenity
This is only a guess on the macerator question... Since it sits underneath, it's going to get cold! But if you make sure to get all the water out when you dump (run till motor sound changes, turn it off, close gate valve, then run again for a moment), there shouldn't be enough liquid left so that it gets blocked with ice. When you next run it, you'll know - if the motor spins up, you'll hear it - if you don't, you may have to wait until it thaws. The only way I could see damaging it would be to leave it running with a frozen impeller, but I'd expect a fuse would blow before you damaged the motor.

Here's a question for you winter people - suppose you lose the gamble and some part of your water system freezes - what's likely to get damaged? I'd expect that pex lines wouldn't get damaged by ice pressure, and I wouldn't expect tanks to get damaged either. Aside from the nuisance of not being able to use the system till it thaws, where are you likely to see damage? Will traps crack? - etc.... I'd be much more willing to risk lower temp trips if I knew that I'd just have to thaw out if something froze - but less willing if the freeze was going to get me into repair hassles. With a nice down quilt and the LP furnace, the RV is certainly comfortable enough when it's cold...
I have lost the gamble, and I didn't winterize for a short period. What happened was the kitchen sink inner plastic piece froze and burst. I could still use the sink tap, but it was a pain as water leaked out of the handle that is tethered. So I called the people that make that handle and they sent the new plastic piece under warranty. It was my fault, but they sent it to me. That and as I mentioned, the outside water inlet will freeze. I think the new Unity's have a way of filling the fresh water tank from inside of the Unity.
Chip D.
 

Peter Tourin

2020 Unity RL, ex 2012 Unity MB
When Jean was living in the RV near Baltimore, we bought an electrically heated water hose - this is for a shore power setup, of course <g>... It did allow her to go below freezing - the site had their spigots down below grade, surrounded by a concrete pipe with a cover, so that end worked. The RV end of the hose never froze, though she never tested it with really low temps. This got her through several cold snaps.
 

OREGONRV

New member
Oh the irony, a motorhome built in Canada, the Unity, is not really set up for winter camping and is considered a three season coach, yet, a motorhome built in Florida, the Coach House
is safe for winter use and is considered a four season coach! Go figure. But, we have spent five days in our 2014 MB model in 18-25 degree temps with no problems. The little furnace has no problems heating the coach. The only problem was forgetting to put the murphy bed down well in advance of going to bed. The murphy bed mattress being stuck against that outside wall and partially down in an unheated hole was absolutely freezing when lowered. You learn. HAPPY TRAILS.
R. D. Vanderslice
2014 Unity MB
Thank you for posting your winter experience with the MB model! From other comments, it sounds like the TB is weathering :)laughing:) pretty well with their higher placed holding tanks.I sure would appreciate hearing from more MB owners about their winters, especially any experiencing even lower temps. Can the MB possibly handle 0-8 degrees without heating pads?
I wish I could order the heating pads but my coach is in production :clapping:where no further changes are allowed:frown:
 

alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
I have a TB and just spent most of the month of April out on the high deserts of the Colorado Plateau with quite a number of nights in the 20's. Almost everywhere I stayed had signs out warning campers to detach at night to avoid a hard freeze. One night in Cedar City with 27 as a low I turned off the city water line and unthreaded the ends and sure enough the hose was solid the next morning. Since it was detached I was able to stuff it into the shower to thaw out during the day. I did turn on the tank blankets most nights when it was going to be below freezing and had no problems with internal water. I did not experience frozen gate valves on the gray/black tanks but I also made a point of not challenging the weather either. Mother nature always wins whenever I do.

I did get a little cocky one night at Bryce Canyon and left my city water connected with 29 as the projected low. It actually got colder and sure enough no water at the kitchen tap in the morning. I did get a very slow drip so I left the valve open in the shower while I made a cup of coffee and by the time I was done water had started flowing so that was not a hard freeze at all.

I only spent a few nights dry camping during my trip and only in places with above freezing temps. I had an electric blanket along but the first night dry camping discovered that a large portion of the current electric blanket market will fail with modified sine wave inverted power and the one I was using promptly fried part of it's controller board as soon as I turned it on. A quick google search confirmed that this was far more common than I had imagined. :wtf: Isn't hindsight wonderful? Once the blanket had failed I was stuck with needing the furnace more than my batteries will withstand overnight so I stayed near shore power most nights.
 

avanti

2014 GWV Legend 3500 I4
I'm not an LTV owner, so I hope you don't mind my interloping, but I am planning a summer project to attempt to convert my 3-season GWV Legend to a 4-season van, so I am interested in this topic.

Our van has tank heater pads, so that is a start. Advanced RV has this trick in which they run the return lines from the Espar hydronic heater along the under-carriage pipes and tanks. Since the Legend comes with an Espar heater, I am going to try to replicate this technique. I am going to put a diverter valve in the system and only turn it on during cold weather. I have some 12V heat strips that I got on eBay which I plan to use around the macerator and dump valves. This, combined with insulating the tanks ought to go a long way. The thing I am most worried about is the outside shower fixture, which is hard to protect and is likely to get damaged in a hard freeze. I found this freeze-proof self-draining hot/cold fixture:

3192.jpg

https://www.plumbersstock.com/woodford-22cp-12-mh-12in-hotcold-frostfree-faucet.html

Replacing my current RV fixture with one of these might solve the problem.

I am not going to worry about the city water hookup, since I typically use a gravity fill, and that pipe is self-draining. Not sure about the drain traps. Can't decide whether to try to heat them or to just remember to keep antifreeze in them when winter camping.

Thanks to all for sharing your experiences. Any thoughts on my project would be gratefully received.
 

alichty

2014 LTV Unity TB
I like the idea of heat strips around the macerator and dump valves. I would sleep a little better on a hard freeze night knowing I had at least some defenses in place. Most of us in this specific forum are always trying to figure out how to live with what was delivered in our RVs so its nice to consider the other possible solutions for coping with what we want to do with these things :bounce:

I run into frequent references to the Espar system on other parts of the Sprinter Forum but it doesn't sound like something that can be retrofitted to the 3500 cab chassis. Too bad - sounds like a cheap source of more heat.
 

jostalli

New member
For my conversion I just ordered 66 feet of 12V heat trace cable, which I will run along all plumbing in my van. It's 10W/Meter. I'm also adding an inline thermostat that turns on/off at set temps. This along with 12V tank heating pads should allow for 4 season use. I specced the tank heaters low so I can run all plumbing heating continuously without draining batteries.

I bought these but not from this retailer. I went direct to China:

http://www.oemheaters.com/p-6110-12v-dc-heat-cable-35-wattsfoot.aspx
and
http://www.oemheaters.com/p-6133-solistat-2-10-thermostat-for-dc-max-10-amps-24v.aspx
 
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avanti

2014 GWV Legend 3500 I4
I like the idea of heat strips around the macerator and dump valves. I would sleep a little better on a hard freeze night knowing I had at least some defenses in place. Most of us in this specific forum are always trying to figure out how to live with what was delivered in our RVs so its nice to consider the other possible solutions for coping with what we want to do with these things
This is the heat strip I got:
$_57.JPG

http://www.ebay.com/itm/171545846989

Less that $8 each, so not a big investment. You need to be careful with them, though, because I am not sure they are thermostatically controlled.

I run into frequent references to the Espar system on other parts of the Sprinter Forum but it doesn't sound like something that can be retrofitted to the 3500 cab chassis. Too bad - sounds like a cheap source of more heat.
Well, there are two different things being discussed. MB uses Espar heaters as optional engine heaters. But that is not what I have. There are also aftermarket sellers of Espar-based coach heaters. Rixens is one such system, and is the one that both GWV and ARV uses. This is the main furnace in our van and also the hot water heater. It works very well and it's great to have diesel-powered heat. We love ours. Retrofitting such a system would be a bit of a job, but by no means impossible. It would most likely replace your current furnace entirely.
 

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