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Author Topic: Getting Ready for Winter - keeping the bus warm in the shop  (Read 3380 times)
rv_safetyman
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« on: October 27, 2011, 06:11:46 PM »

As noted in another thread, we just returned home from a good trip (41 days, 3100 miles) only to face a big snow storm (18 inches according to the weather service) and 14* last night.  Sure brings winter preparation to the top of the list.  It looks like we will not use the bus till next spring.

Our bus is almost impossible to winterize.  There are lots of water items that make it impractical to drain and/or antifreeze.  These include the dual element drinking filter, water systems in the fridge, and washing machine.  Thus I keep the bus temperature above freezing (interior and bays).  The bays are pretty easy, as the boiler keeps them pretty warm.

A couple of years ago we were gone quite a bit during the really cold months, so I just relied on the Aqua-Hot to do its job.  Last winter I got the bright idea to heat the bus with the small electric heater that we use in campgrounds or when we are on a pole. Seemed like a good idea since diesel fuel was so expensive -- until we got the first couple of bills.  WOW.  I did some calculations and I think we paid close to $60 per month in the worst months (1500 watts times an estimated 12 hours per day times $.11 per KWH times 30 days).  I am not sure about the hours, but every time I went out, the darn heater was running.  

The big issue is that the electric heater control lower temperature limit is 60 degrees.  Thus the heater tried to keep the bus at 60*.  In talking to someone they mentioned a thermostatically controlled outlet.  I did some looking and settled on the unit shown here:

http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/accessory/controls.shtml  (35*-45* heating outlet)

I plan to use a combination of the electric heater and the Aqua-Hot.  I am trying to find a lower temperature thermostat that is compatible with the Aqua-Hot (current one is 50* minimum).  Anyone have a suggestion for an Aqua-hot thermostat?

The bus is in the shop, but the shop is not heated.  On our trip it dawned on me that I need to put the window coverings on, including the foil type covering for the windshield.  How could I not have thought of that last year?

Those are my thoughts.  Any other suggestions?

Jim
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 06:27:18 PM by rv_safetyman » Logged

Jim Shepherd
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« Reply #1 on: October 27, 2011, 06:20:30 PM »

skirt;like a house trailer.  plastic /taped or just wedged in bay doors. block all vents where heat could escape.  heat rises- save it.
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 06:25:03 PM by robertglines1 » Logged

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« Reply #2 on: October 27, 2011, 06:34:29 PM »

Yep winter is on the way I had to pack my shorts, and sandals and dig out the winter clothes jeans ,socks and tennis shoes ah Arizona love it lol thinking about Jim in the Carhartts 

good luck
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« Reply #3 on: October 27, 2011, 07:28:12 PM »

Jim just come out my way, Bruce@Pismo Beach!
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« Reply #4 on: October 27, 2011, 07:31:51 PM »

 Would cost for materials but if insulating the shop is not practical you could always build an insulated framed "box" around the bus. Since the walls would not be load bearing you could stretch out spacing of vertical framing to probably 4' centers and put up rigid insulation, 10 or 12 foot ceiling joists on 4' centers over the bus with insulation. Over a period of a few years you would recoup some of the initial costs. Just a thought.

 Of course if you live in an area where the "building permit inspectors" have to inspect every nail that is driven would probably not be practical,  Also you might not want a bus sized box in the middle of the shop Smiley Hey it was just a thought.....

Rick
« Last Edit: October 27, 2011, 07:41:58 PM by Rick59-4104 » Logged

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« Reply #5 on: October 27, 2011, 09:31:20 PM »

Hello Jim.

Is there somewhere in the aquahot circuits that adding or reducing resistance would fool it into running cooler?

Long ago and far away, I was involved in the install of some new gas boilers in a church, replacing an old oil fired monster.

No doubt, there are off the shelf solutions today, but this is what we did.

In order to turn down the temp in the building for those days of the week it was unused...

The controls of the new gas boilers were set up with a rheostat in one of the temp sensing circuits to fool the controls into thinking it was warmer than it really was, thus inhibiting the boilers from running as hot as they thought they should.

This set-up measured inside/outside temps, as well as boiler water output and return, and mixed the firing of two boilers in sequence, so a traditional thermostat solution wasn't feasible to keep the rest of the control design's efficiency intact.

happy coaching!
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« Reply #6 on: October 27, 2011, 10:52:02 PM »

  I would rather take the time and put proper drains wherever needed, dump some RV antifreeze where I cant, and sleep at night without worrying about power and excess bills. There was an ice storm down here in 09. We wernt here yet, but weve seen the pics and heard the stories. Our Fire Chief was 23 days without power and hes about a mile from me.

  Im sure you could pour RV antifreeze in your washer and cycle it through without it harming anything. As for the fridge and other items, couldnt you blow them out, disconnect lines, etc.? I bet in less than an hour you could have it secured.
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« Reply #7 on: October 28, 2011, 03:56:10 AM »

When I want to dry a boat out with a dehumidifier I buy some rolls of builder's polythene and build a sealed bubble around the boat, with the dehumidifier's water hose led outside. If you built such a bubble, and then built a second bubble around the first (with an air gap between the two) I think the inner bubble would become quite well heat-insulated. The outdoor 'Carcoon' models use exactly this principle to keep cars warm and dry.

You'd need a lot of polythene to build a 'buscoon' but it's cheap enough to buy in the thin gauges.

Jeremy




 
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« Reply #8 on: October 28, 2011, 04:53:20 AM »

How about a stack of straw bales around the barn?

-jbn
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« Reply #9 on: October 28, 2011, 05:34:44 AM »

Wow, some interesting thoughts.

I had discussed the shop and options for working in it in the winter here:

http://www.busconversions.com/bbs/index.php?topic=20909

After that thread, I made the decision to buy used hot water solar panels and use them to put some heat into the shop hydronic floor heating.  Found several used sets for sale.  However, as usual, I ran out of time and money.

In this thread, I would like to concentrate on the bus itself.  I don't mind funding a reasonable amount to heat the bus - my goal is to do it as efficiently as possible (read lowest cost).  I think the temperature controlled outlet is a start.  I also think that finding a lower set-point thermostat for the Aqua-Hot would help a ton.

I am paranoid about trying to freeze proof the water system and then find that I did not get the job done - via a failed component in the fridge or the washing machine.  Propylene Glycol still expands a bit and I don't have any confidence that house type components have a tolerance for any expansion.

Bob, I can't tell from your post if you were suggesting fooling the boiler to control the cut off temperature, or fooling the thermostat.  I have one of my sensors mounted in the unit next to the boiler and it must be pretty well insulated.  The water is still very warm after a night of some pretty low temperature with no heat source.  I think if I could find a way to have the heat from the Aqua-Hot come on at 40* rather than 50* I would be well ahead of the game.  That would also make the electrical heater work in concert with the Aqua-Hot system (better matched set points).

Thanks everyone for all the ideas.

Jim

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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
Blog:  http://rvsafetyman.blogspot.com/
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« Reply #10 on: October 28, 2011, 05:38:43 AM »

Jim, if you have natural gas I have a new 124,000 btu Modine forced air heater I bought for the shop 5 years I'll make you a deal on still in the box it doesn't get cold enough here to warrant installing it 

PS your credit is good with me lol

good luck
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« Reply #11 on: October 28, 2011, 06:04:34 AM »

straw bales=mice
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« Reply #12 on: October 28, 2011, 06:09:35 AM »

eBay 380379170919 goes down to 20 degrees, might work for you.
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« Reply #13 on: October 28, 2011, 09:16:14 AM »

straw bales=mice

wrap the bails in window screen or other tight mesh and make sure they are well up off the ground.. maybe with plenty of traps around the floor
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« Reply #14 on: October 28, 2011, 09:40:39 AM »



I am paranoid about trying to freeze proof the water system and then find that I did not get the job done - via a failed component in the fridge or the washing machine.  Propylene Glycol still expands a bit and I don't have any confidence that house type components have a tolerance for any expansion.


  I been paranoid about freezing since I grew up in Duluth where -50F isnt completely unheard of, my Dad recalled -54F up at the Air Base one cold morning. Ive pesonally observed 50/50 ethylene glycol freeze on several occasions, once up on Lake Mil Lacs,.... it only protects to -34F. Below that it gels, or turns into a kind of slush. My understanding is if a 50/50 solution goes colder than -34F, it wont break anything. Even so, the last 30 some years I always protected my vehicles with 60/40 to 70/30 antifreeze just so I knew they wouldnt bust, because I was paranoid.

  I cannot tell you how many inboard boats ive come across up in Minnesota with cracked blocks, noobs dont think to drain them and drunks forget. Same with RV's, lots of broken lines and expanded/ruptured water heaters each spring.

  Ive never broke anything (yet) and ive never kept anything heated or in a heated area, it just wasnt ever practical unless your making money in a shop, the fuel bills up there are amazing. I pull all the drains, then blow it out besides, keep blowing until there is no more vapor or mist, just air. Worked on the irrigation system in the lawn too, and you know theres going to be some low spots there. Just let it blow and blow. Never broke anything in the lawn in over 10 years we lived in that house, and we had almost two acres of lawn irrigation and dozens of heads.

 The Bounder I was real anal about the first couple winters, but everyone told me it was self draining. Pull the plugs, open all the faucets, pour some orange down the traps, and walk away. Been 5 years I been doin that and its been working fine. I did repace the plug in the water heater with a Teethough , no tools needed now, just flip it and let her go.

  On your fridge, which you obviously have good reason to worry about, I would read the manuals, call the manufacture and ask them their ideas, call a couple appliance guys, as well as get your nose into some kind of scematic, open it up and have a looksee, etc.. Either there is a simple way to drain it, or it could be modified/adapted to accomplish that goal. I just always like to think worst case scenario, whats the worst that could happen that could harm me or my stuff. And I dont want to be stuck with junk when the power grid fails.
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« Reply #15 on: October 28, 2011, 10:29:29 AM »

Here are a couple of electric heater options.  There's a Marley radiant heater panel designed to keep your feet warm under your desk.  It won't heat an entire bus but should keep the interior above dew point.  They run about $200 and at only 170 watts are easy on the electric bill. 

At the transit museum where I volunteer we have 3 vintage coaches that we have to store outside.  In the winter we put a Granger Global Dual Heater in each coach.  There are 3 settings for wattage 600/900/1500.  We dial it down to 600 watts and set the thermostat just above dew point.   This heater is only about $75.

If this link works, here are both heaters in the Acklands catalogue:      https://www.acklandsgrainger.com/AGIPortalWeb/agi/_/N-/No-12/Ntt-heater+space+heater+radiant+heater+?Ntk=All&Ntx=mode%2BmatchallPartial&Nty=1

Just a caution reminder.... check on your electric heater once in a while and use a heavy duty extension cord.  Feel the extension cord now and then to make sure it isn't overheating.  We once tried to put a timer on a 1500 watt heater and not only did it not work very well, it caused a fire that luckily tripped the breaker.

Bryan
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« Reply #16 on: October 28, 2011, 12:31:05 PM »

Again, more good ideas. 

It is my hope that this thread will benefit others and it is not intended to be selfish  Grin

Clifford, I do have natural gas to the shop and use a very large torpedo heater when I work out there in the winter.  Last year is was way below zero and I got the shop all the way up to 32*. Not fun working in those conditions.  I could not afford to keep the shop warm - with the exception of solar.  Thanks for the offer.  BTW, I was told you are a good judge of character.  I guess you have proven that not to be the case by being willing to extend me credit Grin Grin Grin

Also Clifford, I sure wish we could find a way to travel down your way and just avoid the whole issue.  A couple of years ago we spent a couple of months with Ed and Stevi Hackenbruch on their lot in Yuma and it was magical!!

Jim
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Jim Shepherd
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« Reply #17 on: October 28, 2011, 12:45:16 PM »

Jim,

We're in LA visiting our daughter and it is supposed to get down to 40* tonight so all these folks are bundling up!!
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« Reply #18 on: October 28, 2011, 01:00:09 PM »

With all the fellow Minnesquitoes here, I am surprised that no one mentioned piling cow manure around the outside to generate heat. Don't laugh, this actually works as it decomposes and generates quite a bit of heat-up to 180*F at the core if it's a good batch.
My 2 cents Worth, Will  Grin
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« Reply #19 on: October 28, 2011, 01:01:52 PM »

It was 60 degrees with a breeze from the north yesterday morning when i went for a bicycle ride.  I had to put on a light jacket. Grin
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« Reply #20 on: October 28, 2011, 01:03:40 PM »

Of course the cow manure will cause a steel building to rust out in a couple of years, but what the heck. Grin
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« Reply #21 on: October 28, 2011, 01:05:14 PM »

Jim, space is still available. Grin
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« Reply #22 on: October 28, 2011, 01:33:07 PM »

  There was a story about a frozen little bird whose wings iced up while flying in a winter storm, who fell out of the sky and landed on the ground nearly dead. A Farmer passing by, noticed the half frozen little bird, and pressed him down into a fresh cow pie. At first he was sad for being in cow crap, but soon the warmth melted the ice, and he soon was so warm all over, he was so happy he started to sing. A cat wandering nearby heard the singing little bird, and ate him.

 
The morals of this story:

Every now and then you may find yourself in a world of crap, but the one who put you there is not necessarily an enemy, and the one who takes you out is not necessarily a friend.

When you are up to your nose in crap, it's a real good time to keep your mouth shut
 
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Bill B /bus
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« Reply #23 on: October 28, 2011, 05:48:43 PM »

For the heating system buy a commercial thermostat designed for -20 to 100F. Cost about $45 four years ago.
I found round thermostats for the heat zones in the house portion at one of the big box stores that go down to <50F. Real number 46-47F. I'm happy with that temperature in the house portion. The bay thermostats are set to about 40F. As long as there is temp above 32F I don't care. As a safety feature wire a thermostat to turn on the heat system at, pick your temperature, which bypasses the power on switch.

I keep our bus heated at the low temperature setting until we leave after Christmas and that will cost 75 to 100 gallons of diesel.  My temps are not as cold as yours here in central Maine.

The skirting with plastic is a great idea. What about a plastic cover over the entire bus with an air gap. Seems that would help slow the heat bleed. I was thinking some scrap lumber ripped into 1x3 for a frame with the poly draped over and onto the floor. Make sure the Webasto exhaust goes outside the cover.

Bill
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« Reply #24 on: October 29, 2011, 08:17:56 AM »

Jim the idea Bill has works for me on my bus .a thermostat is only a switch so to install in the power line of the boiler works great                              temp hear today is 27 f and light snow       dave
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« Reply #25 on: October 29, 2011, 05:06:08 PM »

Drain your fresh water tank and water heater.  Run DC water pump to clear it. Drain water filters.  Hook up shop air through a regulator to your city water inlet.    Blow until every line is clear.  Don't forget the head.  Turn on the washer to warm fill position to open both hot and cold valves. Turn off the ice maker for a few hours so it is ready to cycle and turn on to blow clear.  Then drain holding tanks.  Save the pink stuff for the P-traps.

When you are ready to go all you have to do is fill the tank and leave.  Works for RVs and boats.

Don 4107
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« Reply #26 on: October 29, 2011, 08:13:58 PM »

Jim,

Here's what I have done using my aquahot. Bear in mind that I winterize my bus, so this is only for when I need to hold off on winterizing for a bit, or can't get it winterized for some reason, or just have not gotten to it (like this morning).

I have a heater in the water bay which is a heater core with electric fan which is set up to run when the upstairs heat turns on. This was the easiest way to do it, since I didn't want to install a separate pump just for the bays. I put a switch on the circuit which can be used to prevent the fan from coming on. There's also a ball valve which I can use to turn off the flow of coolant to the exchanger. I generally leave the valve on.

My Father-In-Law gave me a thermostatically controlled switch which is used to active heat trace. It consists of a sensing bulb and switch unit. These are very high quality commercial units. I attached the bulb to my distribution manifold in the water bay and connected the switch portion to a 120v relay which I use to control power to the Aquahot electric element. I also connected this switch to the main pump relay in the Aquahot. I adjusted the thermostat on the switch unit to about 35*. Now, when the sensing bulb says the temperature has dropped to 35*, it activates the switch, which turns on the relay controlling the 120v to the coil, which starts applying heat, and also turns on the circulation pump and bay heat exchanger fan. Because the temperature is dropping, in theory, the temperature of the coolant in the Aquahot will be greater than 35*, so just turning on the circuit will probably be enough to keep things from freezing, but turning on the electric element just ensures that some heat will be applied and thereby keep the temperature of the water bay above freezing.

Again, this is not something I would use for a long time, but I have used it for up to a month last winter when the dump station at Cabelas was covered with ice and snow to the point I could not dig it out or even find the manhole cover.

It would also be possible to connect this same switch up to the diesel burner on the Aquahot to activate it instead of the electric element. I'd do this if I was real serious about keeping things from freezing in very cold temps.

craig



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« Reply #27 on: October 29, 2011, 08:40:38 PM »

are you dealing with copper or pex pipe ?
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« Reply #28 on: January 04, 2012, 04:32:49 PM »

OK folks, I thought I should update this thread and tell you where I am with this project.

First, I have plugged a standard electric radiant heater into this thermostatic plug:

http://www.littlegreenhouse.com/accessory/controls.shtml

This is an thermostatically controlled outlet that you plug into a standard wall outlet.  It turns on at 35* and off at 45*.  I have been testing this outlet for about a month and it works like a charm.  We have not had super cold weather (about zero has been the worst so far) and the heater keeps the bus at above 35 degrees.  The bus is in my shop (unheated), windows are covered (including windshield) and is somewhat marginal on insulation (roof is standard bus, walls are foam board and side windows are double pane).

However, I wanted a backup and additional heat for when we hit the really cold weather.  The obvious answer is the Aqua-Hot.  However, they come with a cheesy thermostat that only goes down to 50* and I don't want to keep the bus at 50*.  

Based on some previous comments and my own thoughts, I searched for a good thermostat that had low temperature setting capabilities.  My search found a few possible candidates (using search = "garage thermostat").  I wanted a digital thermostat and that narrowed the field.  I looked at user comments and settled on this unit:

http://www.amazon.com/Pro1IAQ-Model-T771-Heat-Thermostat/dp/B004Z84PW2

I replaced the thermostat for the main living area with this unit and I am very impressed!  For the first test, I set it at 35* and turned off the radiant electric heater for a few nights.  Most of the nights got down into the teens or low 20s.  With just the Aqua-Hot electric element, the system maintained the bus at 35*

Part of the testing has involved using one of my system temperature sensors snaked down the outside of the boiler so that I get a good reading on the boiler temperature (heat sources shut off at 190*).  That allows me to keep track on the impact of heating the coach with the Aqua-Hot only using only the electrical element.  A few mornings when I only used the Aqua-Hot on electric element only, the boiler was at 140*, but the bus was at 35*  That suggests that I can keep the bus above freezing in 20* weather with the Aqua-Hot on electric only.

So, I now have two systems (radiant electric unit and Aqua-Hot) that will work together.  I will set the Aqua-hot thermostat at 34*.  That will allow the radiant heater to do most of the work.  When we get the really cold weather, I will turn on the diesel part of the Aqua-Hot and I am sure that I will be covered.

BTW, I have some bay heat with the boiler and one heat exchanger that has a special low temperature Aqua-hot thermostat.


Jim

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Jim Shepherd
Evergreen, CO
85 Eagle 10/Series 60/Eaton AutoShift 10 speed transmission
Somewhere between a tin tent and a finished product
Bus Project details: http://beltguy.com/Bus_Project/busproject.htm
Blog:  http://rvsafetyman.blogspot.com/
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