When Jeff and I shared our RV travel plans, we blithely told everyone that our goal was to “follow 70 degrees”. Although that was certainly our intent, the reality so far has been …. somewhat different.
A combination of work timing, family holiday plans, and a record-breaking cold spell of unusual duration has conspired to put us into much more frigid temperatures than we had ever envisioned. However, I’m pleased to share that our bus has performed admirably. I had the opportunity to visit the Entegra factory in Middlebury Indiana last year (before our purchase), and observed that fiberglass insulation is stuffed everywhere possible in the walls, floor and roof, giving them a respectable R-value. The windows are double-pane and well sealed. However, it is still essentially a metal box on wheels, so having an effective interior heating system is critical.
Our Entegra motorhome has three sources of heat: rooftop heat pumps, an electric fireplace, and the diesel Aquahot system. Each system has its uses.
- The three electric rooftop units serve as both AC and heating systems, at least until the temperature gets down to around 40 degrees or so. Then those units don’t operate efficiently, so an alternative heating system is required.
- When I first saw a fireplace in a motorhome, I giggled. I thought it was an affectation and completely superfluous. However, that fireplace is NICE! As a supplemental heat source, it warms up the interior quite well. It has both a thermostat and timer, so it can be set to come on automatically as needed. If you are already paying for electricity with your site fee (as is typical for us), it is also a free heat source. And the fire effects are quite homey and relaxing.
- When the temps really drop, it’s time to fire up the Aquahot diesel boiler. The Aquahot system provides continuous hot water as well as interior heat. Tubing under the floor circulates hot fluid to warm the porcelain tile, and blowers cycle warm air out through floor and ceiling registers. I have to say, that sucker really works! Even in hard freeze conditions, our interior stays comfortable. Even the floor is warm, at least, warm where the pipes are under the floor!
The only caveat to the Aquahot system is that it does burn diesel fuel (approximately 0.3 gallons/ hour of run time) so you need to watch your diesel tank level. Neither the generator nor Aquahot systems will fire up if the diesel level drops below one-quarter tank. Since we routinely top off our diesel tank before parking, that has not been an issue, but it could be if you aren’t watching or if you are parked for a prolonged period of time.
The Aquahot heating system also heats the under-bus storage space (the “basement”), keeping water pipes/tanks and stored items above freezing. However, it doesn’t keep OUTSIDE pipes and hoses from freezing. So, when we anticipate freezing conditions, we fill our 100 gallon freshwater tank and then disconnect and stow our water hose. We can operate in self-contained mode for several days with no problem and no worries about a frozen water hose. On really hard-freeze nights, we’ll leave the campground water spigot trickling, hopefully preventing it from freezing solid. Some folks who routinely camp in cold weather use heat tape and insulation to protect their water line, but I don’t plan to be in these conditions enough to have to take those measures!
Weather patterns are forecast to return to a more “normal” pattern soon. I hope so – I really like our bus, but this cold weather has kept us inside it more than expected. Here’s hoping for balmier weather ahead! In the meantime, I will put my feet up in front of the fireplace and enjoy a warm beverage.