Repairs & Modifications: Plumbing Edition

New plumbing parts

A couple issues have been bothering me since the weather turned cold and they are:

1) Running the hot to get the shower ready wastes water. It takes a couple quarts to drain the cold out of the line and get the water hot at the shower head. I’d like to recapture that water and keep it fresh

2) Once the temp drops below 10ºF the lines in the coach begin to freeze. The water lines to the bathroom run outside the heated space for a few feet and they freeze around 10º. The water pick-up from the fresh water tank is below the tank, running between the tank and the insulating skin on the bottom of the coach. That line freezes around 4ºF

My previous coach was good to -30ºF and I would like to come closer to that operating ability than I am now. One way to do that would be to remove the bottom skin and re-plumb the coach, add insulation, etc, but for now I’m going to create a plumbing circuit that will address both issues.

If there is a flow of water it has to get a lot colder before it will freeze. Running streams don’t freeze as soon as still water so I built a water return circuit to get the hot water from near the shower faucet back to the fresh water tank.

Tapped into the hot line just before the shower valve

I tapped into the hot water line near the shower with a custom made T- fitting then ran a 3/8” line to a ball valve in a place accessible from inside the coach. From the valve I ran the new water line forward through the cabinetry to the fresh water fill port. I tapped into the 1/2” vent line to the tank and connected the new water line to that.

Valve to control the flow from the hot (pressure) to the fresh tank (vent)

Now when I open the re-circulation valve the fresh water pump pushes water to the water heater, then to the shower, then at the T it flows to the valve (open position) then back to the fresh tank via the vent line.

Hot returns to the vent then into the tank

This keeps hot/warm water in the hot line all the time that the valve is open heating the pipe space and keeping the hot and cold lines from freezing. It also keeps water flowing through the fresh pick-up line (keeping it from freezing) and adds hot/warm water to the fresh water tank keeping that tank a lot warmer.

This system does required a 110V connection to keep the water pump supplied with power and to keep the water heater running on 110V. It would also work with the gas water heater system and enough 12V power to run the water pump 50% of the time.

If the re-circulation valve is opened just a tiny bit the water flows and the pump cycles on and off, running less than 50% of the time. The coach has an accumulator/ expansion tank on it to cut down on pump run-time.

When it’s not super-cold outside the re-circulation valve is only opened before I jump in the shower. It flushes the cold water out of the line and pumps it back into the fresh tank so I have hot water right away in the shower.

Since I’m in warm and sunny* California for the next few weeks I won’t have a chance to test the cold weather capabilities of the new system, but the shower pre-heat part works great!

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*. By warm and sunny I mean 50ºF and raining a fair amount. It is however so much warmer than the -2ºF I drove thru to get here

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Nevada to California

Wendover to Elko NV
Up and down the mountains across northern Nevada we went. I-80 is mostly smooth asphalt and the ride was nice – EXCEPT for the nasty rotten no good concrete section west of Wells NV. I hate concrete highways!

There is noticeably less traffic on I-80 west of Salt Lake City. Across Wyoming there were many many trucks and plenty of cars too. Once we headed west from SLC the traffic dwindled to about half the cars and trucks. It’s nice to have the road to ourselves, but it makes me wonder which way all the things that get sent in trucks are going. I’ve been watching the weather on the pass west of Reno and the roads are very snowy. Maybe the smart truckers have a secret route with no snow.

When we got to Elko we spent the afternoon at Home Depot buying parts for an upcoming Repairs and Mods project so stay tuned for that!

After our shopping spree we headed over to the Valley View RV Park and grabbed a $14.00 spot for the night. I’m usually a cheap-skate when it comes to overnight stays, but when it’s this cold out (High 27º, Low 12º) the options are to run the generator a lot or leave the truck idling. Idling the truck overnight in Wamsutter WY (low temp -2ºF) ending up costing $29 in fuel. Running the generator in Wendover only cost $9 but I didn’t run it all night.

Elko to Winnemucca NV
I saw a bald eagle trying to out-fly a crow and get her to drop the tasty morsel she had in her mouth. The smaller crow can turn much sharper than the eagle and she was using that advantage to lose the bigger bird (avian dinosaurs!). I didn’t see how it ended and I’m rooting for the crow.

Lots of mining in this part of Nevada. Lots of mountains too, but no big trees. Scrub oak, pinions, etc.

I managed to get through this section of the trip without being snowed on. The day after I made the trek west is snowed a fair amount between Elko and Winnemucca.

Winnemucca to Reno NV
I have to give NDOT two thumbs up for the smooooth asphalt roadway almost all the way to Sparks NV. It didn’t turn to rough concrete until 10 miles east of Sparks and speaking of Sparks – I didn’t like it. Not one bit. The energy there was wonky, the place is loud, and drivers are rude.

Reno to Loomis CA
We left at the crack of dawn, which for us is about 3 hours after we wake up, and headed over Donner Pass before anyone got eaten. CalTrans did a great job of cleaning up the last snow storm and we had about a 1-day window of clear sailing. Next storm was due the day after we got over the hills.

CA seems very different from Nevada. The road is lined with big trees and other plants, the highway curves and twists, the are many small hills closely spaced together. In Nevada the road only turned every twenty miles or so and the hills are spaced far apart. Crest a hill in Nevada and we can see an arrow-strait ribbon of asphalt 25 miles into the distance. In CA the view is far shorter, maybe only a mile or so.

Green. Everything is green. And the water is not frozen.

Loomis to Cotati CA
Except for that one butt-head driver who tried to cut me off the drive was nice. We came down from the hills, crossed the marsh, and headed back into the hills near Napa. Wine country plus some cows. I can see why people want to live in this area. When it is raining it looks very lush and green. I saw some wineries for sale, but I didn’t have time to stop and buy any. Maybe later.

This was the last day of eight strait days on the road and I’m glad to not have to drive for awhile. The trip started out sunny and warm, switched to sunny and super cold, then changed to cloudy, cool, and wet. Now it’s time to help friends fix up their place and go for bike rides. Plus trips to the ocean and the redwood forest. Stay tuned!

Salt Lake to Wendover UT/ NV

Wet lake bed

After we got west of the rough-ass concrete mess UDOT calls I-80 and onto the smooth silky asphalt the trip to Wendover was nice and flat. Flat like a lake. Because it is a mostly dry lake. Since it snowed recently the area is more mud flats than dry-lake-bed though.

We stopped at the salt-flats over look and saw mostly water. I’m guessing when it drys out it will be salt flats again. I never really thought about it before, but I suspect that when snow falls on salt flats it just turns to water and pools up. I do wonder how cold it would have to get for the water on the salt flats to freeze AND I don’t want to be there if it ever happens!

dMovie plane from “Con Air”

We stopped off at the Wendover airport because it looked interesting on Google maps and we were not disappointed. Turns out Wendover is where the B-29 crews that carried atomic bombs to Japan were trained. There is a museum, the officers club has been restored, and the “Enola Gay” hanger has been mostly restored. We parked on 7th street, which currently is a dirt two-track in the middle of what use to be barracks, and the boys got to go romp around for awhile.

Restored Enola Gay Hanger

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Boyd Lake to Wamsutter WY to Salt Lake City UT

Uphill and into the wind

After a day’s delay due to the freezing-ass weather over new years we lit off for parts west. I had to drain the tanks of my “four-season” RV because the water was freezing in the pipes. I think four-seasons means winter too and in Colorado winter means -30ºF. Apparently it never gets that cold in the Oregon Mountains where my coach was built. I woke up Wednesday morning to 1ºF and the red RV anti-freeze in the back of the truck was a slushy!

First westbound stop was at the Love’s travel stop in Wamsutter WY where the blue windshield washer fluid was frozen solid! The high temp was 9 and the overnight low was -2ºF. Brrrr

The trip across Wyoming was mostly uphill and into the wind but on the plus side it was well below freezing all day so none of that pesky road grim was able to splash up and get on the coach. We made it to Salt Lake City by noon and after three days the temperature was finally above freezing! YaY running water!

I have friends who are now in New Orleans and Mexico. Why am I not smart enough to go south for winter?

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Wheat Ridge to Boyd Lake (again)

Crazy-ice fisher peeps

We made the hour-long trip north again so we could be closer to a New Years Eve gathering of friends. I think this is the second time we’ve visited the lake in winter and this time it has a coat of ice on it. There are some crazy-ice-fisher-peeps out on the lake catching fish without a boat. I will never understand the point of ice fishing. It’s 5* out there and the wind is blowing 30 mph = Brrrr!

New Years Day we start our westward journey to California. Gotta cross Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada before we get to the warm tropical paradise of Northern California. Tropical you say? Yup. It’s minus-8*f in Wyoming so 50* on the coast will be shorts-weather.

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Repairs & Mods: Propane Edition


The last time I changed a gas bottle, which happens about every 5-days now, I noticed the hose was leaking gas at one of the crimps. I checked the other hose and it was leaking too.

Old set-up with kinked hoses

The way the pig-tail hoses are arranged between the tank and the regulator seems a bit chintzy. There is a 45-degree turn in the hose right at the regulator followed by a tight 140-degree turn to get lined up with the valve on the tank. This puts a lot of strain on the hose-crimps. The hoses started leaking at the hose-crimp on the tank end of the set-up and it was made worse if the hose was side-loaded.

I emailed my contact at Outdoors RV and explained the situation. Within a few hours arrangements had been made for me to get new hoses and they showed up on my doorstep a few days later (turns out it was still covered by warranty). Outdoors RV has been great to work with when things come up with my travel trailer. I gotta say they are about 10,000 times more responsive than the dealer (a division of camping whirled).

The first thing I did with my new parts was to run to Home Depot and get more parts. I bought a couple of elbows and some nipples to make a hard-pipe connection that turns the first 90-degree bend. Then the hose only needs to make a sweeping 180 to reach the tank. All of the hose in the pig-tail is available to make the 180-turn so the radius is bigger and kinking is reduced. Even though the loops are bigger they still fit under the tank cover just fine.

New set-up with broad sweeping turns in the hoses. Tight turns in brass fittings

I leak-checked the hoses and fittings a couple times and they hold gas pressure. I’ll check them again on a warmer day because the pressure will be higher than on the cold, gray, windy day I did the repair.

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RV-ing means getting to work on your coach in exciting new locals!

Fruita to Denver


I had planned to make the eastbound trip the day after Gravy-day, but a big storm blowing in from the north prompted me to leave two days early. The forecast was for several inches of snow and a 35 mph headwind. As it turned out my wednesday departure provided us with little wind and dry roads.

We hit a wall of traffic at the Edwards exit and did the I-70 bumper-to-bumper shuffle the rest of the way to town. Typical front range traffic and one of the reasons I left. I also noticed that the closer I got to Denver the more I could smell stink in the air. A sort of burnt plastic smell mixed with car exhaust and brake dust permeates the atmosphere. And then there is that whole light-turns-green-nobody-goes thing around here. I don’t know if it’s like that where you live, but no one in Denver looks up from their phone. Can’t see the light change if you’re not looking at it! HONK!

I came back here to attend some holiday festivities and put new counter tops in my sister’s kitchen. I wont burden you with the minutia but if something grand happens I’ll serve it up.

Enjoy!

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