I spent a year searching the internet for anything I could find to make our park model travel trailer warmer during the winter for full time living. It was like pulling teeth to find anyone who was not taking a winter camping trip. Very frustrating. The RV winterizing I was searching for did not include shutting off water valves and putting on a camper cover before parking our RV in a non-existent garage.
Through lots of trials and errors we are finally comfortable at 9 degrees and below. Our first year our neighbours who are a few miles away suggested hay bales for skirting. That was okay until the mice moved in. Not to mention that hay is also a fire hazard and can spontaneously combust. Hay is also heavy once spring hits and all that ice starts to melt. We used it to mulch our lawn since we couldn't haul it very far without a wheelbarrow. We had no plants around our travel trailer, just high grass, brush and the gravel plot the seller for our land made for us. Nothing at all to slow the wind down. When it blew the entire travel trailer shook, swayed and shuddered. The floors, windows and doors were extremely cold.
So what did I do to get us warm? A variety of things. The first bit of information I found when doing a search on homesteading was about permaculture of all things. When spring of 2011 came around I drove straight to Home Depot and bought plants to create a windbreak to create a mircoclimate next to our travel trailer. The wind is what sucks your heat away and out through the many crevices in the travel trailer that aren't sealed. Slow down the wind and you slow down the heat loss.
When creating a windbreak you shouldn't plant a straight hedgerow of plants. You stagger different sizes of plants. Evergreen trees, deciduous shrubs and fruiting bushes of varying heights with spaces in between for the wind to go. A straight tight line of shrubs and trees creates a wall that the wind will only go up and over to blow only harder and colder on the other side sucking heat away faster. I also put in foundation plants. I like to think of it all as outdoor travel trailer insulation.
We decided on a wood skirt for the travel trailer made from the same wood used to build sheds. It's working brilliantly at the moment. I wanted to put down some plastic sheeting in the crawl space under the travel trailer and add some foam board insulation yet that might be a project for another year. We ran out of budgeted money and time.
With the foundation plants, windbreak and skirting, now when the wind blows, it is slowed down by the windbreak, slowed down again by the foundation plants and warmed up by the heat of the travel trailer creating a micro-climate of warm air around our travel trailer. On the inside I used a few tips I received from some folks in Canada. It's colder there than here so I figured they have to know what they're talking about.
I went out and bought a few clear plastic shower curtain liners, folded them in half, cut to fit the windows with enough going beyond the window frame (and the patio door frame) then taped it to the surrounding wall with that outdoor weather tape you find at the hardware store, like Value Center. I got the styrofoam insulation panels (12 pack for $8) from Home Depot and I put those inside the cabinets, closets, the storage space in the bedroom closet and under
I bought a wool blanket from Wal-Mart for $10 and put that under the fitted sheet on our bed. It's amazing how warm the bed feels after doing that. The mattress was always cold under the fitted sheet and you'd huddle in one spot until it warmed up and dare not roll over. Now the entire bed is toasty warm. I also bought a few microfiber plush blankets from K-Mart that were on sale. Instead of the flat sheet under the blanket you put it on top of the blanket. It is like the mattress in the way that the flat sheet is always cold to your skin. A hot water bottle is a great investment, or you could put hot water into one of those metal/plastic containers you see in the supermarket now to tote your tap water in instead of using bottled water and cover it with a sock so you don't burn yourself.
I also got a few canisters of indoor/outdoor waterproof caulk. Might have been overkill, yeah. It works for me though. I caulked around our main door, the windows, the seam where the closet meets the floor in the main bedroom and used expanding foam insulation to fill the floor seam of the travel trailer pop outs. Around the pop out wall and ceiling spaces I put about six of those air conditioner foam strips. Thermal curtains are on our windows and the main door and we do heat only the space we are in with electric space heaters along with passive solar heating. We open the thermal curtains in the morning and close them as the sun goes down. Another Canadian suggested painting a few 2 litre soda bottles black, filling them with water and allowing the sun to heat them during the day as they will emit that heat into the travel trailer at night when you close the curtains.
The forced air furnace broke a month after we got here, when we were still using the gas generator waiting for the local utility to install our utility pole. We use two small room space heaters so our trailer isn't overloaded. Actually, I got a heavy duty outdoor power cord that is plugged directly into the pole so that overload never happens.
Our electric bill for december 2010 was $400. Our bills in the summer of 2011 was around $58. Our bill for December 2011 was $195, which is about half of last December's. Learning to hibernate the desktop (better yet a laptop is cheaper on your electric bill), and put the microwave on a power strip to turn on when needed, along with all the insulation saved a bundle. I believe about $20 a month from putting the microwave on a power strip alone.
I will be finishing filling out the windbreak next spring through fall 2012. This time to put in deciduous trees and shrubs to help with the cooling part of our electric bill. Oh shady tree, oh shady tree, you mean the whole wide world to me. I'll let you know how our forest garden is coming along when I've got half the tree planting done.
Edit to add: Today, Jan 3 2012, the temperature outside is 3 degrees F with a -7 windchill. Our inside temperature is around 70 degrees. I still have one sink to finish insulate yet I'm happy overall with the temperature.
Gallery from December 2012