KEYWORDS: water, trailer, freezing, pipes, pipe, faucet

Have Trailer--Will Travel--Part 22: Freezing

David Berg

—By Father DavidDFO 812:2221/12/79

1. BE CAREFUL ABOUT YOUR PLUMBING & WATER SYSTEM! If it gets real cold & goes down to below freezing, it can freeze pipes & hoses solid, & you've no water & no drainage! If it's a trailer that's in storage & not lived in & not warm, it could even freeze worse & burst your toilet or your water tank & pump! So if the trailer is just in storage & not being used‚ not heated‚ then the whole water system should be completely drained.

2. WHENEVER I LEFT THE CRUISER IN STORAGE & we weren't living in it, I would completely drain the whole water system, all the pipes. Sometimes I would park it up north some place on a trailer lot in a well–guarded park & fly home for a week or so. It was often in a cold country in Winter when it was frequently freezing. Before leaving it alone & cold in that freezing country, I would open the lowest tap of all, the lowest faucet of all—a drain tap under the camper—I would open that & drain all the water completely out of everything—all water storage tanks, faucets, pipes, sewage tank, everything, so there would be no water anywhere that could burst any pipes or tanks or toilets or water fixtures of any kind. I would drain all the water out completely.

3. BUT IF YOU'RE LIVING IN IT, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ANYTHING INSIDE THE TRAILER—pipes, faucets, tanks‚ toilet & so on. The only thing you have to be concerned about is your outside pipes, with the kind of a living trailer that you have city water piped into it—either through a hose or copper tubing.—You don't have to worry much about a plastic or rubber water hose, because if it freezes, all it will do is slightly expand when the water in the hose turns to ice, but then you don't get any water!

4. BUT IF YOU ARE USING COPPER OR ALUMINUM FLEXIBLE TUBING OR ANY KIND OF METAL PIPE OR AN OUTSIDE FAUCET OR TAP, THEN YOU'VE GOT PROBLEMS! Because it can freeze & crack the pipe or the tap & burst the plumbing! If you live in a trailer that's heated‚ your plumbing inside is OK‚ but the outside plumbing, anything that's exposed to the freezing cold air outdoors, can crack & thereby spring a leak when it thaws or the ice melts.—Meanwhile you have no water!

5. YOU CAN PREVENT THIS JUST BY LEAVING A FAUCET INSIDE YOUR TRAILER OPEN & DRIPPING SLIGHTLY! Even if you are attached to an outside faucet that's not protected & not wrapped nor buried, just a tiny drip inside the trailer in sink or washbowl will keep it flowing enough to prevent freezing. In trailer parks in cold countries usually the plumbing is buried underground at least 18 inches to two feet, which generally prevents freezing & an interruption of your water supply.

6. UP IN THE COLDEST PLACES of the United States, like Wisconsin & Minnesota where it goes down to 30 degrees or 40 degrees F. below 0, they have to bury the water pipes ten feet below ground to keep them from freezing! But in places like the Southern U.S. where the water pipes seldom freeze‚ they hardly bother to bury them at all, or maybe only six inches, just to get them below the surface‚ but even that is enough to protect them from the very infrequent freezes, as it doesn't freeze very often.

7. IN ORDER TO ACTUALLY BURST A FAUCET OR A PIPE with water in it, the temperature usually has to go down to well below freezing, to about 20 degrees F. or -10 degrees below 0 Centigrade, & stay there for a night or a day or two before it actually starts to burst the plumbing. The extreme cold freezes the water to ice inside the pipes so that they break or split open. Because when water freezes to ice, it expands.

8. THEY'VE NEVER BEEN ABLE TO FIGURE OUT WHAT CAUSES IT SCIENTIFICALLY, but the same amount of water in the form of ice occupies more space than it does in the form of water, which means it expands & breaks things if it is confined to a small space like a water pipe, faucet, etc.—or even cracks in the pavement, as the Highway Department has discovered, freezing the pavement if it is not made to shed water & has little tiny cracks that will absorb water, & it will bust up the highway—in freezes—& ruins roads!

9. BUT IF YOU ARE LIVING IN A TRAILER IN MORE TEMPERATE CLIMES & the freezes are not very long or hard & rather infrequent, & you only have two or three days a year when it really goes down to zero & freezes hard at 20 degrees Fahrenheit, or 10 degrees below zero Celsius (or Centigrade as it used to be known), all you usually have to do to keep your plumbing open & to keep it from freezing is just to leave an inside faucet trickling during the freeze. Usually it happens during the night when it gets real cold.

10. SO YOU JUST LEAVE AN INSIDE SINK OR WASHBOWL FAUCET DRIPPING A LITTLE BIT‚ JUST TRICKLING OVERNIGHT ENOUGH TO KEEP THE WATER FLOWING. The temperature of the water coming from below the ground usually is above freezing, 56 to 40 degrees F. (13-5 degrees C.), & this will keep the faucets & your plumbing from freezing—your outside plumbing, faucet, hose, pipe or whatever it is.

11. BACK ON THE TSC RANCH IN TEXAS where it seldom froze what we call a "hard freeze"—a freeze that causes ice in the pipes—we would just run around & turn on all the outside faucets a little trickle overnight during the freeze‚ & that would prevent them from freezing shut or bursting. In a trailer you only need turn on one inside tap—not a steady stream but just a steady drip—two or three drops a second or about 200 a minute—just enough trickle to keep the water flowing through the pipes warm enough to keep them from freezing.

12. (MARIA: DO YOU HAVE TO DO THAT WITH YOUR HOT WATER TOO?) No, both your cold & hot water is inside the trailer, so if you're living in the trailer, you don't have to worry about that.—It's just to keep the cold water flowing through the outside pipe to keep it from freezing. But if you're not living in the trailer & it's in storage, you had better drain the whole water system completely in a freezing Winter. Detach the water hose or pipe from its connection under or near the bottom of the trailer & drain all the water out of the trailer pipes & water system. Be sure to open the inside taps first to let air in so the water will drain out below.

13. BUT IF YOU ARE LIVING IN THE TRAILER & THE TRAILER IS KEPT HEATED, YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT ANY INSIDE PLUMBING. It's only the outside pipes that you have to be concerned about. On the hard freeze night it's good idea to leave one inside faucet dribbling to keep your outside pipe from freezing.

14. THAT'S ONE GOOD REASON WHY EVERY CAMPER & TRAILERITE SHOULD ALWAYS HAVE A THERMOMETER HANDY! You need to keep one inside to control your proper room temperature inside your trailer at about 18-22 degrees C.—not too hot or cold. And you need to keep an outdoor thermometer to know exactly what the outdoor temperature is.

15. BECAUSE IF BY NIGHTFALL OR BEDTIME IT HAS ALREADY FALLEN TO NEAR FREEZING, it's possible that before morning it might fall far enough below freezing to cause a hard freeze & freeze your outside hose or pipe! So if it's down close to freezing by bedtime, you'd better leave one inside faucet trickling just a little bit.

16. WE EVEN HAD A PROBLEM WITH OUR DRAINAGE IN HARD FREEZES! That's the real tough problem, because if your drain-pipe freezes, you can't flush the toilet or let the sewage out the outside pipe or the dirty water out of the sink, because the drain pipe froze! (Maria: Oh no! What did you do about that? How do you prevent that?) Well, if we had kept a faucet flowing all night, just trickling a little bit, it would have kept that drain water flowing too! Not only the fresh warmer water is coming in through the pipes, but also the resultant trickling drain water is going out through the drain pipe, so it will keep water in both pipes going & flowing & warm, so neither will freeze!

17. BUT WE WERE PRETTY DUMB IN THOSE DAYS‚ & we didn't know that much about it & we didn't do it. So not only our incoming fresh-water pipe froze, but also the outgoing drain-pipe froze solid too! So, you've got to watch out about that. If you keep water running, it will ordinarily not freeze either. Of course, you don't want to waste too much water, but just a trickle‚ just a little trickle: Drop drop drop drop drop drop drop! (2 secs.)

18. AN OUTSIDE FAUCET WE HAD IN OKLAHOMA AT A PARK THERE WAS A BIG HUGE ICICLE BUILT UP that covered almost the whole faucet except for where the little bit of trickling water was coming out, slightly just enough to keep the pipe above freezing & kept it open. So we were still able to go down there & get our water even in a hard freeze.

19. THERE ARE OTHER METHODS, OF COURSE, which you can use to keep your drains from freezing & your incoming pipe from freezing. When you live in a real hard-freeze country where it stays hard-frozen for several days or even weeks or months during the Winter, then you've got to do something else besides just keeping water running all the time!

20. THERE IS A SPECIAL ELECTRICAL HEATING TAPE which you wrap in a spiral around your incoming water pipe & plug into the electricity to keep it warm all the time—& your drain too, if necessary. In such countries, of course, they usually have the faucets or taps buried a good deal below the surface of the ground where they don't freeze easily. But your pipe or hose to your trailer is usually not buried‚ unless you have had a lot of time to bury it, & even then you can't bury the part between ground & trailer.

21. SO YOU BUY THESE CONTRAPTIONS AT TRAILER OR HARDWARE STORES—even household supply stores in cold climates sell them—a piece of broad tape that contains a heating element, a wire that gets warm, & you wrap it around your incoming water pipe or hose in a spiral form & plug its electrical cord into your trailer electricity. It's got an electric cord that plugs into one of your outlets inside the trailer, & of course you have to make a tiny hole in the floor of your trailer for the cord to come into the trailer to plug in.

22. YOU WRAP THIS PIECE OF HEATING-TAPE AROUND YOUR PIPE OR HOSE THAT LEADS TO YOUR OUTSIDE WATER FAUCET. You've got to wrap it around it all the way from the bottom of your trailer (where it enters the trailer) clear to the faucet or to where it enters the ground or goes below ground. If the faucet happens to be above ground, you'd better wrap it around the faucet too! You need a pretty long one, 10 or 15 feet (5 meters)‚ depending on the length of your hose or pipe between trailer & tap. You have to wrap it around the entire length from where the pipe enters the trailer to where it leaves the faucet or tap, & the faucet or tap too, if it's above ground. And you have to keep the heater-tape plugged in all the time it's freezing outside, & that keeps your outside pipe just warm enough to keep its water from freezing.

23. IF IT'S A REAL HARD-FREEZE COUNTRY WHERE IT STAYS FROZEN FOR DAYS OR WEEKS, YOU HAVE TO DO THE SAME WITH YOUR DRAIN: WRAP IT WITH HEATER–TAPE like that—or bury it several feet under!—Ha! There's another contraption that the auto stores in cold countries sell‚ which is a rod-like heating element or a "hot-rod" that car owners buy to put in the oil dipstick hole overnight. It has an electric cord on one end that you plug into some outlet, & the rod is about two or three feet long that you stick into the oil hole of your car engine overnight to keep your engine oil slightly warm to make for easier cold morning starting. It's put in where you measure the oil on your car, a small thin rod that will go right through that hole where you have the dip stick sticking into the engine oil pan. It keeps the oil warm so that you can start your car pretty easily & quickly in the morning.

24. OF COURSE IN SUCH COUNTRIES, YOU KEEP ANTIFREEZE IN YOUR CAR RADIATOR WATER‚ SO THAT IT DOESN'T FREEZE. But in real cold countries where it stays hard-frozen for weeks on end, it's good to keep the car oil-pan warm. Well, we found these little gadgets in the frozen North. This dip-stick heating-rod helped when we had trouble with our trailer waste-water drain freezing, particularly the valve on the bottom of the sewage-holding tank. Even if the water in the sewage tank did not freeze, the outdoor drain valve would get frozen under the trailer so we could not even open it!

25. SO WE GOT ONE OF THESE "HOT–RODS" & just dropped it down through the toilet hole into the water in the holding tank below, into the sewage tank right into the sewage, & plugged it into the nearest electrical outlet in the bathroom, & that kept the sewage water warm enough so that it kept the drain valve from freezing!—Ha! (Or use the toilet a lot, & that'll do it.—Ha!)

26. IN VERY COLD COUNTRIES YOU HAVE THESE PROBLEMS EVEN IN HOUSES. Even in Texas where they don't have many real hard-freezes, they don't bury the plumbing very deep‚ so you still have problems with house or yard pipes cracking sometimes. But of course in a trailer particularly, where you have exposed plumbing such as water pipes & drain pipes underneath your trailer above the surface of the ground, you have to be particularly sure they don't freeze—& those are ways of doing it.

27. BUT IF IT IS JUST A LIGHT FREEZE which is just going to last overnight, you can keep your pipes open by just letting the inside faucet trickle a little bit. But if you are living in a hard-freeze climate where it freezes every night or for several weeks at a time, you are going to have to wrap your outside faucet & pipes.

28. SOMETIMES JUST WRAPPING IT WITH RAGS OR NEWSPAPERS WITHOUT THE HEATING–TAPE WILL DO THE TRICK! Just wrap the pipe & faucet with rags, papers or some kind of insulation & tie it on with string.—Or wrap it with the heating tape first, then insulation. There's a thick fiberglass-padded insulation tape that you can wrap around the pipe & faucet to keep it all insulated, & that really does the trick!

29. IN TEXAS WE USED TO HAVE QUITE A FEW TAPS STICKING OUT OF THE GROUND OUTSIDE in the cold freezing wind in several different places for cattle & horses. So we'd just get a bunch of old rags or newspapers & wrap them around the pipes & use wire to wind around the outside of the rags & papers to keep'm on the pipes, & that usually kept them from freezing. Anything that will protect the pipe & tap & keep the cold air from hitting it or blowing on it will help.

30. OFTEN THE FREEZE WILL FREEZE MORE QUICKLY IF THERE IS A COLD WIND BLOWING‚ so if it's freezing & a wind blowing too, then it will freeze quickly & you'd better be prepared! Just wrap up the pipe or hose & tap with old papers, rags or anything‚ so there's about one or two inches of insulating thickness between the pipe & the outside air, then wrap tape or wire or string or anything around your insulation to tie the stuff on. Even such rags or papers around the pipes can protect them from freezing if it is not too long & too hard a freeze. But if it's real long hard-freeze country‚ you'd better wrap a heating element around your pipes that are outside first, & then wrap them in that special fiberglass-padded insulation, if you want to have running water & drainage all Winter!

31. OF COURSE THESE NEW LIGHTER-WEIGHT TRAVEL TRAILERS DON'T HAVE ANY OUTSIDE PLUMBING, SO THAT SOLVES THAT PROBLEM! You don't hook up to water or have much drain. You carry your water & you keep it in small tanks or jerrycans inside the trailer, & the whole water system is completely self-contained within the trailer, so you don't have such problems, which is good!—And if you just have a little drain pipe that goes outside into a bucket, you don't have a drainage problem either!—Except dumping the ice!—Ha!

32. BUT IF YOU'RE IN A FAIRLY STABLE SEMI-PERMANENT SITUATION where you've connected to running water & you have a long drain pipe, you may have freezing problems if you have a long hard freeze. But these are ways we used to prevent our plumbing from freezing.

33. OF COURSE, IF YOU ONLY HAVE A CAMP TRAILER IN WHICH ALL YOUR PLUMBING IS SELF-CONTAINED INSIDE THE TRAILER‚ no running water connecting to an outside faucet & no long drains, you don't have to worry, because your tanks & plumbing & pipes & faucets & all are protected by being inside the heated trailer. But that is pretty important information that you need to learn if you are going to be in a very cold country with a running-water trailer—if you want it to stay running!

34. WE WENT THROUGH QUITE A FEW SAD EXPERIENCES ALONG THAT LINE, SO WE LIVED & LEARNED! Because we didn't know any better, we let the plumbing freeze & the drain freeze & toilet bust & a few things like that, because we didn't protect the trailer! If you are living in it & it's heated in cold weather, you don't have to worry about anything inside!—It's just your outside pipes you must protect. If it's only an occasional light freeze‚ you don't have to worry at all, even with outdoor pipes. But if you think it might turn into a hard overnight freeze that might actually ice the pipes, then you might have to leave a faucet dripping.

35. EVEN INSIDE THE ARK, A COUPLE OF PIPES NEAR THE FLOOR USED TO FREEZE inside of cupboards which didn't get much heat, & once or twice when it was real cold long hard-freezing weather, it froze hard enough that though it didn't bust the pipes it caused ice in the pipes so we didn't get any water even from our inside self-contained water system!—So watch out for that too! Of course, it's pretty important when you are living in a trailer, because water's the most important thing you have!

36. I REMEMBER ONCE WHEN MOM GOT STUCK IN A TRAILER PARK IN KENTUCKY WHEN I WAS GONE, & THE PIPES FROZE outside the trailer & she couldn't get any running water—but that wasn't so bad!—She could carry it from the washroom. But she also couldn't flush the toilet, & that was bad! With four little kids there's a lot of sewage‚ & it can stack up if you can't even open the valve & flush the toilet because the drain's frozen!—Then you're in trouble!

37. SO IF YOU'RE GOING TO LIVE IN A COLD FREEZING COUNTRY WHERE PIPES FREEZE & DRAINS FREEZE, YOU'D BETTER LEARN HOW TO PROTECT THEM FROM THE COLD! Of course as far as I'm concerned, the smartest thing to do is don't live in such a country in a trailer if you can help it! Ha! After that one experience, I decided I wasn't going to go way up North & stay long with any trailer anymore—I'd stay out of that cold hard-freeze country! It had too many problems! It was too hard to stay warm‚ & there were too many complications!

38. WHEN WE LIVED TEMPORARILY IN A COLD CLIMATE where it froze overnight only once in awhile, it wasn't so bad. If we only had an occasional overnight freeze it was OK. But where our outside plumbing would freeze & where we would have had problems if we had been connected to running water, it was a bit difficult.—But we weren't, remember?

39. IN THE ARK WE CARRIED OUR WATER & ALL OF OUR PLUMBING INDOORS, & we didn't have running water & we didn't have much drainage either! (Maria: Is that why we did it?) No, we didn't have any running water because there wasn't any!—Ha! There was no faucet nearby where we were, & they wouldn't let us hook up anyway because the water faucet had to be left free for everybody else to use. So we just carried our water in jugs. In a cold, hard-freeze country, that's just about the safest way to do it if you're camping out!

40. THE CAMPER IS SAFER IN A HARD FREEZE THAN IN A PERMANENT RESIDENT WITH OUTSIDE PLUMBING, because a camper carries his water, & all of his plumbing's inside! Whereas the permanent resident has outside pipes & drains to worry about!—So, that's the story of Trailer life in freezing weather with freezing pipes, & how to prevent them! Just camp out or travel in a camper or travel trailer with no outside plumbing, & you'll have none of these problems!—And you'll never have to read this again!—Ha!—Happy anti-freezing!

41. P.S. JUST BECAUSE IT'S SUNNY DOESN'T NECESSARILY MEAN IT'S WARM!—Especially if there's a cold wind blowing! (Maria: So what did you say about trailers?) I said that the big disadvantage is that every time you open the door, in comes the cold & out goes the heat! In the campers & trailers we lived in all those years, that was one of the banes of my existence &

42. THAT'S ONE OF MY PET PEEVES!: PEOPLE EITHER GOING SLOWLY IN & OUT THE DOOR IN COLD WEATHER, OR COMING TO OUR DOOR & STANDING THERE WITH THE DOOR OPEN WHILE THEY HAD A WHOLE CONVERSATION! In just a moment all the heat's gone out of the trailer! It just used to make me furious, so I just laid down the law in my family!: In cold weather they had to jump in & out that door—I mean jump in & out!!—And if they dilly-dallied the least little bit & held that door open too long, I just ranted & raved at them! I used to tell visitors who would come to the door to talk to Mom & when she'd get to yak-yak-yakking with them through the open door, I would say,

43. "FOR GOD'S SAKE, EITHER GET IN OR GET OUT!—BUT PLEASE DON'T LEAVE THE DOOR HANGING OPEN!"—You get all that flood of ice cold air around your feet while your head's hot‚ & pretty soon all the warm air is gone! It only takes a few moments when you leave a trailer door open. So you've got to learn to keep the door shut, & to jump in & out when it's cold, & not leave that door hanging open like that!—Or try talking to temporary callers through a cracked-open window!

44. (MARIA: ISN'T IT BETTER THAT CHILDREN PLAY OR WORK at the other end where the door isn't, if possible, & it stays warmer?) Yes! Absolutely! That's where the air doesn't change as rapidly & you don't get a flood of cold air around your ankles suddenly every time anybody opens the door! Just cut down on the number of door openings to an absolutely essential minimum!

45. THESE NEW SPLIT-DOORS ARE GREAT FOR TRAILERS, BECAUSE THEY HELP TO KEEP THE COLD AIR OUT! You only open the top half of the door when you have a caller who comes to the outside that you don't necessarily want to invite in immediately, but you've got to talk to them. One thing you can do is‚ you can jump out there & talk to them outside longer than you expected without a wrap & catch pneumonia! So if you just have to speak to them a moment, at least you only have to open the top half of a split door. So these new split trailer doors are a very good idea‚ excellent for trailer doors! You don't lose so much heat & let in a flood of cold air around your feet every time the door's opened.

46. YOU'VE JUST GOT TO LEARN NOT TO HOLD YOUR TRAILER DOOR OPEN!—Jump in & out as fast as you can, & cut down on the number of exits & entrances to the absolutely necessary minimum in cold weather! In hot weather we found it was about the same thing because of bugs!: Mosquitoes & flies & moths & gnats & whatnot! (Maria: But it's so hot, you need a little breeze!) You don't have to open your door to get the breeze! You've got oodles of windows & you can open them where you've got screens &/or mesh curtains—unless you have a screen-door, like we had on our Cruiser. We had a screen attached to the back of the main door & we could open the solid main door & let in the breeze through the screen.—Try it! You'll like it!—GBY!—HAPPY WINTER WONDERLAND! You can have fun wherever you go!—But I'll take the sun, you take the snow!—Love, Dad