Here In Southern England we have had record temperatures for this time of year, and I must say it has been most welcome, but, what is in store for us in the next couple of months?
According to some it looks as if we are in for a repeat of last year, but possibly worse!
Not that it worries me that much as we know we can cope well here in the caravan by taking a few simple precautions.
These steps to ensure nothing drastic happens to us in our caravan were things we learnt last year and a bit of common sense.
This is obviously key, the last thing you want is to have this frozen, so working from the outside in the first thing we do is have the aqua roll sat on a wooden plinth, just enough to get it up off the frozen ground.
Last year we lagged the aqua rolls using hot water cylinder jackets, cheap to buy from B & Q and easy to make.
We also lagged the connector pipe from the aqua roll to the caravan using pipe lagging again easy to fit and tie wrapped on, in fact we haven't taken it off, its still on now!
When it got really cold we brought the aqua rolls and pipe in and kept it in the awning, a constant check on the outside temperatures are a must.
We found that down to -5 the lagging worked ok, but below that we brought them in.
The other tip is always make sure you fill your aqua rolls up but not to the top. Two reasons for this. Firstly, with just a small amount of water in them it will freeze very easily, but how often during the summer have you switched over water and thought, I'll refill it later on. In the winter if you do this you will have a block of ice in the bottom of your roll.
The other tip is not to fill them to the brim. Even being well insulated they can still freeze at the top which could result in busting off of the cap in severe low temps and ruining the thread. Or as happened to us the cap actually froze on, making it very difficult to unscrew!
Always have a plan B for where you can get water! Now this could be a tricky one, but there is always usually a way. Last year our site water froze, including the site owners house! We were lucky that we could drive into "M"s work and fill up from her kitchen sink. We had to do this for several days at a time! A real pain, but at least we could still function.
Check under your caravan now and see how the hoses run from underneath. We found out the hard way that we had a "U" bend in the pipes, which froze solid and it was a nightmare to thaw out. We have now re-routed the pipes and we disconnect from the outlet sockets on the side of the van into a 3-way connector which then goes straight into the waste hog.
We emptied the waste hog several times a day, just to make sure it didn't freeze up, another chore but one that needs to be done.
I've heard people mention about putting anti-freeze into yr waste hog, well that's ok if you don't use alot of water, but a bit expensive when there is two of you showering daily! So just empty it!
Our cassette toilet was ok, no problems with this freezing, but we did have our awning up and the door to the cassette is inside the awning so this will of obviously helped. You could use the anti-freeze in here I guess?!
Whilst I'm talking about the loo, we buy our blue and pink in 5 litre containers, I always make sure that I have 4 of these empty containers in the front locker, great for when we do the shows and there is just a big plastic tank to empty your waste and no water. I just fill these up and take them with me so that I've got fresh water to rinse out with. In the winter these were kept filled and wrapped up in the awning as with the site water frozen, you still need to empty your cassette, and with a handy supply of 5 ltr containers filled with fresh we could still do our business etc!
Insulating Our Caravan
This is something that is being done as we speak. Last year we noticed a few cold spots in the caravan, nothing too bad, but we want to eliminate them for this year. The worst place was around the front of the caravan. The front locker not being insulated the cold just seemed to seap through, so I intend to insulate the front locker and also have noticed some gaps in the woodwork at the front, only a couple of mm's so will be working some silicon into here to plug all draughts!
Lagging all the internal pipes with grey pipe foam is another job on the list to do as well!
We also cover up the fridge vents to the side, we have checked on this and it is perfectly safe to do this when running on electric. Without this there is a heck of a draught that comes through!
All our windows are double glazed and all the latches work, the rubber seals are in good condition so we shouldn't have any problems here. The roof vents all work as they should as well. Worth a quick check around to make sure everything is as it should be though!
We use electric, running on gas is expensive and not only that but its a wet heat, what I mean by that is that it produces moisture into the air, and alot of that in your caravan is bad news, it will lead to damp and mold. Its ok for short periods, but not for a full time existence. You are better off buying a portable electric heater and plugging that in! After all you have paid for electricity! Use it!
Last year we managed to maintain an average temperature in our caravan of approx 22 degree's which was warmer than most folks houses.
Alot of the time we had to keep turning the heating down as it got too warm, especially at night!
So if this is your first winter in your caravan, then don't worry! If your cold you are doing something wrong, its not your caravan or the weathers fault!
Whilst on the subject of gas, if you haven't all ready, switch to propane, that's the red bottles here in the UK, this wont freeze. Butane (blue bottles) freeze around -1 ish! You will need to change your connectors if you want to do this, if your not qualified to do this yourself get someone who is to do it. You cant get this wrong, you could end up killing yourself!
Snow, Ice and Rain
Last year when it snowed I found myself out on a step ladder at 0400hrs clearing snow from the awning roof. Not the most enjoyable experience, but one that you have to be ready for. Your awning can only cope with so much before it will collapse. So better to be safe than sorry.
The same goes for heavy rain, its so easy for your awning roof to pool water, even when you think you have it as tight as a drum skin! Don't get caught out by being lazy and lying in bed, better to check and everything to be ok than to wake to a crash and your awning in a heap!
Being a full timer means that we have to move on a regular basis. With the freezing temperatures this is not always a good idea, so if the roads are really bad, then simply stay put, we found that the site owners were easy going enough to allow us to do this.
If you really do have to move, then just take it steady, and be over cautious when towing, so what if there is a stream of traffic behind you. Tough on them, take it steady and arrive in one piece!
Plenty of warm clothing sounds obvious, but not for inside the caravan, for when you are out enjoying the fresh air! Oh, and getting water, emptying the loo etc as well! Its not nice getting water when its chucking it down with rain or emptying the loo, but with the right clothing on it can be bearable!
I found last year that gloves were a must, I have several pairs, depending on the job, loo pair, water pair, hitching up pair, and general pair! I also have a fur lined trappers hat so when its cold and windy I can pull the flaps down over my ears!
I also found that a head torch is a must, you just need both hands to do most jobs outside in the dark! You can bet that it will be dark, raining and freezing cold and your gas will run out! Which reminds me that we have a to get a battery LED light to fit into the front locker to help with this in the darker months! Meant to do it last year but never got around to doing it!
Well, I'm sure I've forgotten things, so please feel free to share your experiences of wintering in you caravans or motor homes or even tents if there are is anyone that brave!