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Old 12-04-2014, 11:08 PM   #1
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R19 Insulation and Heat Pads for Underbelly

I have a 2013 Jayco White Hawk 30DSRE which has an enclosed underbelly but was not advertised as all weather or climate shield.

I plan to add R19 vapor barrier insulation to the entire bottom of the trailer (except where the slide bars might catch the insulation) and I am also adding holding tank heat pads to the fresh, grey, and black tanks. I will be encapsulating any water lines I see in R3 pipe insulation.

Has anyone else done this and if so what can I realistically expect?

I have already done a bit of camping in 20 degree weather and haven't had any issues so far. The floor gets cold but the pipes didn't freeze. I am wondering if these modifications might allow me to handle sustained temperatures in the 10-20 degree range.

Also, in the summer, will the added insulation to the floor make any difference in being able to retain more of the cold air from the A/C? I have the 15K unit and it does a pretty good job. It only struggles when the outside temperature is about 95 or above and the trailer is not in any shade. Then, it can barely get to 72 degrees inside the trailer and takes a long time to recover if someone opens the exterior door. Could I expect that this might improve a little with the added floor insulation?

I'm just anxious to get this done and in the meantime am hoping to hear other people's experience with this sort of modification.
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Old 12-05-2014, 12:48 AM   #2
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I haven't done that, but that's how our Cedar Creek was. Heat pads on all 5 tanks and a frame width blanket of 6" insulation from front to rear. I'm sure it can't hurt to give it a shot. All it can do is help. On the heat pads, location of your dump valves makes a difference too. If you have exterior dump valves, then you're likely going to have freezing waste pipes regardless of the heat pads since water will stay in those lines. They do make products for the pipes as well. On our CC, the tank valves were right at the tank in the belly, so no problem with freezing drain lines. I'm sure you've researched, but the only way heat pads work is by maintaining some water in all of the tanks that have them. Just food for thought.

On the AC, the biggest issue we've ever faced with heat gain is the windows. I don't care if they're dual pane or not, radiant heat makes it in. Insulation in the belly won't help too much with keeping cool, but won't hurt either. In that case, we've always taken the foil backed bubble insulation (about 1/4" thick), and cut to fit each window. We'd cover all but the windows under the awning. We'd also paint and insulate the skylights, as that is a major heat source in the summer. Painted the inside of the outer dome, inside of the inner dome, and filled the gap between the domes with batten insulation. We hated the skylights anyway. Of course also add the pillows in the vents. Yes, it gets darker inside, but stays very cool and works very well. We've also insulated our AC return air box on the roof, inside and out to improve efficiency of the cold air return. On most units, all you have between the 100° temp and your return air is the thin sheet metal and outer cover, so imagine the heat transfer. We full timed for a while, so you tend to learn what works and what doesn't over time to maintain comfort. With all of the above done, we had no problem maintaining cool temps in the summer.

I think you're heading in the right direction with your ideas. Please post any pictures of the progress if you can.
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Old 12-05-2014, 01:13 AM   #3
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Thank you for your reply and comments.

Yes, I figured and found it to be true that some water will need to be in the tanks for the heat pads to be effective. I just don't plan to let the tanks fill up to the max capacity. I do have the exterior dump valves and yes I have had those to slightly freeze up when everything else was fine. I found that running some hot water into the tanks thawed the drain lines enough but yes, I do want to come up with a better / safer solution for that area. I assume it needs to be wrapped in some way but I am not sure with what just yet and how to make it a permanent fix. Heat tape with some sort of large diameter pipe insulation perhaps? I need to look into it further but figured that might be the last area I tackle.

For the cooling issue, the windows definitely have proven to be the biggest issue. I have some of that reflective bubble insulation and have used it on the windows facing the sun and that helps. I have also used one of those vent/fan pillow things to insulate that area in the bathroom as well. All in all, I was surprised at how well my A/C was able to keep up given the lack of good insulation in my RV. Since I was able to maintain... barely... 72 degrees inside when it was 95 degrees outside and blazing sun then all I am looking for is just a few more degrees of capability and I will be in pretty good shape for hot weather camping. Most of the time its fine already... just not so much in the extreme heat and extreme sun. I am very glad I got the 15K option rather than the 13.5K A/C. Otherwise, I don't think we would be able to be comfortable in hot weather.

Mostly though I am looking for added cold weather protection since I like to continue camping in the winter. I am constantly winterizing / de-winterizing... which is fine. I just worry that while camping I could end up with some water line / tank damage due to freezing and I want to do what I can to prevent it. I am very curious to see what all is inside that underbelly once I remove the covering. I hope that the slide tracks are not going to be a big problem for getting insulation in there without interfering with the slides. I am guessing I will end up with some insulation gaps due to having to leave a clear path for the slide tracks. Until I see in there for the first time I am not sure what I will need to do in order to secure the insulation such that it doesn't shift and get hung up in those tracks. Hopefully, I will look in there and see a simple solution for that issue.

Being in the Nashville, TN area, it certainly reaches down to the 20s but not much lower and not for any sustained amount of time. A low of 10 degrees for periods of a few hours and 20-25 degrees for a duration of 2-3 days is about as extreme as I will likely ever experience in the RV. If I can get the trailer insulated enough to handle that without damaging it then my primary objective will have been accomplished.
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Old 12-05-2014, 03:14 AM   #4
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I don't think you'll have an issue with the slide tracks if it's the typical lippert twin rail type. I haven't pulled our underbelly down yet, but need to get it down just to satisfy my curiosity, and rearrange the fresh water tank plumbing.
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Old 12-05-2014, 07:46 AM   #5
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I do not know if you have had this experience, but when we "cold camped" late last month (not by choice, we were heading South for the Winter) and the temps were consistently freezing or below, our Norcold fridge would not cool, either on propane or AC. I think it just cannot overcome that cold in order to heat the ammonia fluid.

It worked fine once we got to warmer climes.
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Old 12-05-2014, 08:02 AM   #6
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I have heard people say this about the fridge. I haven't had it happen to me so far and I also have the Norcold fridge. I have heard that there is some sort of add-on thing for making the fridge functional in the extreme cold. I assume finding a way to get some heat behind the fridge would work but how to do so safely... I'm unsure.
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Old 12-08-2014, 01:32 PM   #7
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Ive got the Norcold fridge too... although I can't speak to the non-cooling in cold temps issue... I've got something as food for thought:

Our unit has a pantry cupboard immediately adjacent to the fridge. When I stick my head into the pantry and look up into the ceiling of the pantry... I see daylight!

Apparently, the pantry cupboard paneling is the EXTERIOR paneling which makes up the fridge compartment. When I am looking up at the corner of the pantry wall/ceiling, I am seeing daylight from the fridge vent cap.

This means that the fridge vent cap in my unit allows the pantry paneling to be exposed to "atmospheric" conditions.

This doesn't exactly sit well with me, but my only option is to:
a) complain to the dealer that I don't like this
or
b) pull down the paneling and have a look-see to see if any rain/snow can get into the walls through the fridge vent.

Why do I bring this up in this thread? Well - you might have a similar situation, and be able to mod your pantry to send some heat to the rear of your fridge.
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Old 12-08-2014, 09:05 PM   #8
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Has anyone tried to make a Swift SLX Baja all weather? We live in Colorado and would love to continue to camp into the cold weather months. Even in fall and spring, the nights can dip below freezing in the mountains, so we would like to look into the option to modify the camper to make it more like the thermal package. I know that we could move up in model, but we want to stick with the ultra light camper. Any advice would be appreciated!
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Old 12-09-2014, 04:38 AM   #9
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ctbailey, we've noticed that in a majority of our rigs. Foam board, small framing and a new panel on top (Making an insulated sandwich), plus seal at the top of at panel. Not always possible, but we've achieved blocking that bit of air flow most of the time.
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Old 12-09-2014, 05:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigJohnD View Post
ctbailey, we've noticed that in a majority of our rigs. Foam board, small framing and a new panel on top (Making an insulated sandwich), plus seal at the top of at panel. Not always possible, but we've achieved blocking that bit of air flow most of the time.
That sounds like it would work. Basically you're making the walls and inch and a half thicker, right?
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