Winterisation, Tips & Advice
Winterisation that works!
When people discuss winterisation they are generally referring to a vehicle’s preparation for winter storage; we define it as a motorhome fitted with a water system that does not freeze and therefore can be used throughout the year.
A good starting point in creating that ultimate winterised vehicle is to own one accredited with Grade 3. You will then have assurance that the insulation and heating system will cope with freezing conditions. If your vehicle is not Grade 3 accredited then you start from a weaker position, but, by nature of their construction method, monocoque and coachbuilt / Styrofoam models possess good insulation levels; it is panel van conversions that struggle, due to their steel body shell.
|The water tank heater|
Both Frostats and TankBlanket are thermostatically controlled and require an LED switched 12V dc fused power supply. A single Frostat has a capacity to protect up to 45 Litres of water while a TankBlanket can protect up to 121 Litres and is available in two sizes depending on the surface area of your tank.
Frostat is an in-tank probe similar to an immersion heater. The installation of Frostat involves drilling a hole in the tank, while TankBlanket is a water tank heater that you just simply peel & stick, as it is applied to the outside of the tank and with no holes to be drilled, is guaranteed to be leak proof. In addition the adhesive that bonds TankBlanket becomes more aggressive with age and units installed in the USA during 1991 are still in use today.
|The water tank heater|
Several retailers market an insulation wrap and as a standalone insulator they offer some protection against frost but are not a robust solution. Using an insulation wrap in conjunction with Frostat or TankBlanket will improve the efficiency of both products as it keeps heat in rather than cold out! The TankJacket insulator is an element of The TankBlanket System and is recommended more to improve the energy efficiency of TankBlanket rather than as frost protection.
Typical fresh and waste water tanks are 100 and 60 litres respectively. Therefore, to protect both the fresh and waste water tanks two Frostats per tank are required compared to one TankBlanket. We recommend, based on ease of installation, robustness, cost and energy efficiency, fitting a TankBlanket in conjunction with a TankJacket to your fresh and waste water tanks.
With your fresh and waste water tanks protected the next issue to tackle is the externally exposed pipework. The solutions available are trace heaters, PipeBlankets and pipe insulator. Trace heaters are widely available in the domestic market, while, PipeBlanket, an element of the TankBlanket System, was specifically designed for leisure vehicles. Similar to TankBlanket, PipeBlanket requires a fused 12V dc power circuit controlled by an LED switch although they are not thermostatically controlled; trials have shown there is no need. Trace heaters wrap or spiral around the pipe to be protected while PipeBlanket is applied to the bottom of the pipe which is where they gain an edge over trace heaters. By being applied to the bottom of the pipe the heat generated from PipeBlanket is applied where it is needed as the pipework on leisure vehicles may not be full. Because Trace heaters are wrapped around the pipe they need the pipe being protected to be full of water. Applying heat to an empty plastic pipe could result in damage as the pipe may become distorted. Fitting pipe insulation should in most cases provide a satisfactory solution, as long as the insulation is good quality. PipeJacket, an element of The TankBlanket System is a high quality closed cell insulator.
TankBlanket and PipeBlanket require their own 12V dc power circuit controlled by an LED switch. This allows you to isolate a particular tank or pipe and leave it switched off in cold conditions if there is no water in the tank or pipe.
When switched 'On', TankBlanket automatically activates when the contents of the water tank drops to 7 °C and deactivates when the contents reach 18 °C. This keeps the tank contents just outside the freeze zone and because TankBlanket cycles ‘on’ and ‘off’ automatically, energy consumption is minimised. PipeBlanket is not thermostatically controlled; tests have shown that for this application, due to the volume of water involved, it is not required. Each Tank and Pipe Blanket has their own switch but to eliminate the stress of remembering when to switch them ‘on’ and ‘off’ the TankBlanket System has an intelligent iController, which monitors the ambient temperature and automatically switches the selected Tank and PipeBlanket on and off.
With the external tanks and pipework protected attention now turns to the habitation area. Our previous blog concerning cold chamber testing details some unforeseen ‘nuggets of wisdom’ concerning blown air heating, drafts, cold spots, dump valves, and airflow.
An interesting point which was highlighted during cold chamber testing was how cold the internal surfaces of the wheel arches were. To combat this, a quilted WheelarchBlanket was developed and fitted with excellent results. WheelarchBlanket is part of The TankBlanket System, which is rapidly becoming The choice water tank heater.
The Achilles heel of Leisure vehicle winterisation, especially during a Grade 3 cold chamber test, is the abundance of hidden water pipes, located in places that are difficult to access but loved by Jack Frost!
So, does this mean that creating that Ultimate Winterised Vehicle is unattainable?
Well, we believe that Grade 3 test conditions are harsh; a vehicle is soaked for a minimum of ten hours at -15°C with no heating switched on. After this the heating system is then allowed four hours to raise the habitation area to an even 20 °C throughout. These criteria are not representative of typical winter motorhoming. We believe that a motorhome used under normal ambient conditions, winterised, in line with the above recommendations, should be more than capable of coping with freezing conditions. If the interior of the vehicle is kept above 10 °C your internal pipes should remain frost free while The TankBlanket system will deliver free flowing water.
But, we do know that several major manufacturers have a desire to design, manufacture and market a leisure vehicle that can pass the grade 3 cold chamber test with a fully charged water system. So, the battle is on!
Which manufacturer is going to be the first to market such a beast?
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