Frequently Asked Questions about the UltraHeat Brand of Products for RV Holding Tanks and Drainage systems.
UltraHeat RV Owner's Manual Video
The Big Question, Why UltraHeat?
If you are considering using your RV in Cold weather, anything from mild to the extreme, why wouldn’t your efforts, valued time and peace-of-mind be worth the proven value and performance that UltraHeat has to offer?
For the past 30 plus years our products probably have been best known worldwide for our RV products, our exclusive “UltraHeat Technology” has also been in the forefront in many other industries and niche markets since the mid 1970’s. Well-known names like Ford Motor, Daimler Chrysler, U.S. Department of Defense, Canadian Armed Forces and Canadian Provincial and Territorial Governments have all used custom versions of our heat panels. Within the Mass Transportation Industry we are best known for our UltraHeat StepWarmer™ heat panels which are widely used throughout all of North America within buses to promote passenger safety by keeping entry steps, ADA ramps and lifts free from ice and snow.
We’ve consulted with some OEMs and Metropolitan Transit Authority project teams in designing heat panels for side and rear mounted display sign boards used on Buses, Emergency, and Road Maintenance Vehicles keeping them clear of snow and visible while in use.
We produce unique heat panels to warm IV and Blanket Boxes sold to the Manufactures of First Response Vehicles, or how about being the Standard of Use within the mobile restroom and shower Industry keeping their large volume holding tanks unfrozen.
The list of products and Industries we have supplied and shipped to worldwide can go on and on, the point is, we are a leader and sought-after consultant in what we do. While others may try to copy or follow, we lead the way. Most of all the products we produce today started out as a custom project from a customer or organization wanting to heat an uncommon requirement, all starting from a need or idea that we have cultivated the growth from there.
Our brand of products didn’t raise the standard, they are the standard everyone else tries to compete against.
The better question is, why would you use anything else other than UltraHeat?
Frequently asked questions
Before You Buy Your RV - Consider these questions!
Are Electric Holding Tank Heaters standard equipment?
Most RV Manufacturer's in North America still offer UltraHeat systems as either standard equipment or a stand-alone option. Some offer them as a part of a Four-Season package upgrade option. Many European Manufacturers of leisure vehicles also offer UltraHeat, or similarly branded as "TankBlanket™" in some Euro Markets. Before you purchase your New RV or Leisure Vehicle, ask your dealer if the holding tanks have either of these anti-icing brands as O.E.M. standard equipment or in an upgrade option.
Can I use this RV year round (summer, spring, fall & winter)?
Consider where you live, travel, and in what climates you plan on using your RV prior to buying a new or used Model.
The RV I'm looking at has an enclosed underbelly with air from the furnace blowing into the area around the holding tanks in place of Electric Heat Panels. Do I still need to use UltraHeat RV Holding Tank and Pipe Heaters?
This is commonly called “Ducted Heat”, only effective when the furnace is continuously running, and only effective down to temperatures around the mid 20's°F (-6°C). RV's that try to use forced air to heat the underbelly will typically use a 2" or 4" flexible duct directly under the furnace to heat the entire underbelly. This would be like trying to heat the bedroom of your RV with the door shut and the only heat vent located in the living room.
What needs to be protected from freezing in the RV when it is used in cold weather?
- Fresh Water Tank (potable drinking water) plus exposed water lines below floor.
Gray Water Tank(s) (kitchen and/or Bathroom sink, Galley, shower water) plus straight pipes and elbows between tank and termination valve (gate valve).
Black or Sewage Tank (bathroom waste) plus straight pipes and elbows between tank and termination valve (gate valve).
Discharge Gate Valves.
One of my panels is peeling back a little, can I get some glue to reattach, or what should I use?
The adhesives use in our products are of a proprietary formula, designed not to breakdown and even increase its adhesion properties in the ageing process. The method in which our adhesive is applied gives it a stronger molecular concentration, giving it a far superior adhesion capabilities than others used by most other look-a-like products, which frequently just dry out and release. The most common scenario in which our adhesive will start to release and have a panel peel away is when the mounting surface is not cleaned or impropriety prepared prior to installation of the heat panel. In the event a panel may start to come loose, we have tested a wide array of aftermarket adhesives, and have compiled a list of ones that can be commonly found almost anywhere that will work to reattach our UltraHeat products. Click Here to review this list.
Can these panels be installed on a metal tank?
The standard UltraHeat heat panels are designed for use on an RV meeting the Codes and Standards of that Industry, code dictates a tank constructed of Poly, which is why these particular heaters can only be installed on Poly tanks. The good news is that we offer a variety and variations of heat panels to an array of other Industries that would include installation directly to metal. Recently we have also added the opportunely to custom order this upgrade online at any time on certain standard models for the RV Industry. (Click here) to review these models.
Why can't I just use RV Antifreeze to keep my tanks from freezing?
<h5 class="font_5">Originally Posted by Camco in their FAQ, from this PDF page:</h5> <h5 class="font_5"> </h5>
"Q. How much water should I add to your -50 RV Antifreeze to achieve a -25 burst protection?"
"A. Camco -50 RV Antifreeze should not be diluted. It is a pre-diluted solution that is designed to be used full strength. Additional water dramatically alters the expansion properties of the solution, making an adequate burst protection difficult to achieve."
RV antifreeze is designed to be used for “Winterizing Your RV”, this means setting it up for storage and non-use. Some RVer’s have claimed great success using these products while also using the amenities, but if the company that produces the products does not support using their Antifreeze in this way, why would you take the chance? What do you think the repair bill would be to replace just one split and leaking holding tank if you get it wrong and freeze-up?
How many UltraHeat Tank Heaters will be needed to protect my recreational vehicle (RV)?
One (1) UltraHeat tank heater (sized properly) per holding tank (up to a 75 gal (284 L) maximum). On larger volume holding tanks, multiple heating panels can be used in combination, wired in parallel or independently controlled. The average RV produced in North American has three holding tanks however there could be as many as five tanks and each tank that is located below the floor would require a heat panel.
Can I connect these heat panels directly to the battery bank of my RV?
We wouldn’t recommend doing so, and this is why. Pulling power directly from the battery bank will of course in time drain down the batteries, and could drain power so low to a point of permanent damage to the battery. Running the 12 Volt heat panels power through an onboard converter is much safer for your onboard electrical system. When operating off of the batteries alone, the converters today have a built-in safety function that prevents draining down the batteries to the point of damage, shutting down the 12 Volt systems prior to this point. When running off shore power or a generator, power is stepped down to the 12 volt system from 120VAC and divided up and supplied to the systems using 12 VDC, the converter just sends a smaller trickle charge to the battery bank to either maintain or recharge. This trickle charge is not enough to keep up with the amp draw of a series of heat panels, or any other items that would be drawing directly from the battery bank and would in the long run drain down the batteries, even though you have a 120 Volt supply and are charging the batteries. Like filling a swimming pool with a garden hose, and pumping the water out with a fire hose at the same time, not enough to keep up with it.
What is the lowest temperature the UltraHeat heat panels are good to?
While each RV or Leisure Vehicle is different, our overall product design benchmark and testing is -11°F (-23.9°C). This is on an RV holding tank (with the properly sized heat panel), mounted below the floor and totally exposed to the elements.
Enclosing the underbelly or just the area around the Plumbing Systems.
Adding any type of insulation around and covering the plumbing system. (This is not mandatory, as a cautionary measure and to meet the Federal Vehicle Safety Standards, if you do use insulation we recommend using a type designed for high heat applications and/or carries a Class A or Class 1 fire rating).
On extended stays, skirting the unit.
It’s OK to oversize the holding tank heater; install one rated for a maximum of 75 gal. (227L), on a 40 or 55 gal. (151.4 - 208L) capacity tanks, this allows more heat to be applied.
When should the UltraHeat RV Holding Tank Heaters be turned "ON"?
Only when fluids are present within the holding tanks and drainage pipes, and the outside temperature approaches freezing and remains below.
When do you turn "off" the Heat Panels or the entire system?
OFF - when there is NO liquid in the tanks or pipes
OFF - when the outside temperature remains above freezing.
OFF - when the black and gray holding tanks and drain pipes are being dumped.
- OFF - when the fresh water holding tanks and supply pipes are being drained for storage or empty.
OFF - when the RV is connected to city sewer and the gate valves are open (free draining is never recommended, especially in cold weather RVing) .
Heaters must be turned "off" when there is NO liquid present (empty), or when ambient temperatures rise and remain above freezing. Only the Holding Tank Models have built-in sensors designed to monitor the temperature of the liquid within the holding tank when powered “on”, it will power cycle the heat panel "on/off" to maintain the tank fluid contents between 44°F and 64°F (6.6°C - 17.8°C) and conserve power consumption. Pipe and Elbow heat panels are either "on" or "off" based on the manual switching position. The built-in sensors of tank models are not used to monitor the air in empty tanks, nor are the heat panels designed to operate in warmer temperatures. For this reason all UltraHeat® heat panels must be turned "off" when the holding tank systems have been vacated of fluids, or ambient temperatures rise and remain above freezing. We recommend each tank system (I.E. Black, Grey and Fresh) has a separate switch to control power independently, and suggest the integration of our Ambient Temperature Master Power control kit (info, click here) to restrict use to colder weather conditions. If you have vacated a tank in temperatures below freezing, turn 'off" the controling switch and only turn back 'on' when some fluid has been replenished.
Notice: Failure to observe criterias stated for when to power "on" or "off", could result in damage to the anti-icing system or tanks.
Is there any maintenance on these heaters?
Inspect your unit periodically for damage, loose wires, etc.. UltraHeat heat panels are designed to function and have a proven track record of 12 plus years of operation and use.
I have something else I’d like to apply heat to, I think that one of your panels may do the job; can I use your panels for something else besides an RV?
The UltraHeat brand of RV Heat Panels we talk about on this site are designed just for use in Recreational or Leisure Vehicles, intended for a particular usage and to meet the codes and standards of this Industry. However, these are not the only types of heat panels we produce, or the only Industry we service. If you have a unique application, a question or just want to talk about what you are trying to do, send us an e-mail or give us a call. As the Manufacture, we know that we’ll have a possible solution for you. (Contact Us)
Dive in Deeper
How can I test our Tank Heater to see if it’s working?
This is the most common and easiest way to test the operation of a UltraHeat RV tank heater, you must have direct access to the heat panel itself due to a built-in sensor that controls the panel based on the fluid temperature of the contents within the tank itself. Once power is applied, this sensor basically switches ‘on’ the heat panel when tank fluid temperatures drop below approximately 44°F (6.6°C), and ‘off’ once tank fluid temperatures rise above approximately 64°F (17.8°C). In order to test the operation, you have to fool the sensor into thinking the fluid temperature is below the 44°F (6.6°C) threshold, thus completing the circuit and allowing electricity to flow through the panel to heat.
How do the Gate Valve Heaters work, and when should they be turned on?
When we talk about gate valve heaters, we ask you to think about the “Spare Tire for your car or truck”. You don’t use it all the time, however when you need it, you’re glad you have it! Gate Valve Heaters are thought of in much the same way, rarely ever used except when the valve is frozen closed and you’re trying to vacate your systems.
How does the Model 3600 (dual voltage) Tank Heater work?
The Model 3600 Tank Heater is actually two separate tank heaters in one, a 12 Volt (13.5 VDC) heating element and an isolated 120 Volt (AC) heating element. Each heating element operates independent of the other. Both are rated for holding tank volumes of 40 gal maximum (151 L).The advantage the Model 3600 Tank Heater over a single voltage heater is when you are parked, the 120v (AC) side of the heater can be used eliminating any undo stress to be placed on the 12v converter. When traveling or "dry camping", the Tank Heater can utilize the 12v (DC) power from the alternator and/or cabin batteries of the vehicle allowing you to maintain liquidity in the tanks.
After I've installed the UltraHeat panel, can I put some insulation over it, and in direct contact with the panel?
Yes, insulation will only improve the performance of our heat panels. It’s like dressing yourself in cold weather, the warmer you dress, the less body heat you lose. Reducing how fast the tanks and drain pipes loose heat, decreases the need for the sensor in the tank heaters to activate themselves "on", and conserves energy consumption. It also will aid you in achieving use of your Unit in much lower temperatures.
My holding tank is sitting on a plate or platform, can I sandwich the heat panel between the tank and the plywood platform?
Yes, pressure applied to the heat panel itself will not damage the panel. There are some precautions that do have to be made: The built-in sensor may be affected by the pressure, we do require that were the sensor is located against the platform, a valley is carved or a hold drilled out in the platform to relieve the pressure against the sensor when the tank is full. The sensor is easy to find on the tank heater panel, were the power leads entering the heat panel you’ll feel a hard lump approx. 0.25” X 0.75” (6.35mm X 19.05mm), that’s the sensor.
My holding tank has a metal strap holding it up, right where I would place the tank heater, can is install the holding tank heater over the metal strap?
Our heat panels designed for RV, Caravan or Leisure Vehicle use are not designed for direct installation to an electrically conductive surface, so the answer is NO, this would most likely short out the heating element and cause the heat panel not to work.
Do UltraHeat Pipe and Pipe Elbow Heaters work with sensors?
Pipe and Pipe Elbow Heaters do not have a built-in sensor to control when they activate and deactivate once powered “on” like the tank heater models. They are either “on” or “off” all the time.
Are 120 Volt (AC) UltraHeat Pipe and Pipe Elbow Heaters available?
All UltraHeat Pipe and Pipe Elbow Heaters are only powered with 13.5 VDC (12 Volt). Frankly we haven't found much of a sales market for 120 or 240 VAC pipe and Pipe elbow heat panels in the RV Industry.
What does the Ambient Temperature Master Power Control Kit do, and do we need it?
This kit was developed by us to basically take the guess work out of when to power "on" and "off" the UltraHeat heat panels. It uses an electronic sensor to monitor the air temperature either outside the RV or can be mounted within an enclosed underbelly.
Is the Ambient Temperature Master Power Control Kit only for 12 VDC systems, or can it be used with the 120 VAC models?
The way we’ve designed this control kit it can work with either voltage or both at the same time. The electronic sensor itself only operates on 12 VDC, however it controls one or more power relays, the built-in contact switches of the relays are each rated for 30 Amps at 120/277 VAC or 20 Amps at 12 VDC. Each relay has two independent set of contacts, one can be used for 12 VDC and the other for 120 VAC, both for 12 VDC or both for 120 VAC. You can add another relay (or more if needed) by wiring the relay coils in parallel and add more sets of switched contacts to wire in any combination.
Why do the 12 Volt Heaters draw so many amps?
We work within two scientific areas of rules that can't change, Ohm’s Law (basic laws of Electricity) and General Physics. In Physical Science it takes ‘X’ amount of heat to heat ‘X’ amount of water to a temperature so it won’t freeze. In order to produce this amount of heat needed to realize this down to our sustainable intercompany benchmark of -11°F (-23.9°C) and lower, it takes ‘X’ amount of energy or in our case, electricity and amperes .
First, reduce the rate of heat lost by enclosing and insulating your plumbing systems after installing and testing the UltraHeat system.
Wait to vacate your waste holding tanks until they are almost full, larger volumes of fluid take longer to change in temperature than lower volumes do.
Then you’re sure the ambient temperature will remain above freezing, power “off” the system as soon as you can. (We suggest you look at our ambient master power control kit to automate this function)
With extended stays in one location, consider skirting your unit in some way, this will reduce the wind blowing under your unit. This will reduce heat lost to both your plumbing and the Cabin floor, also greatly diminish temperature cycling within your units living interior space. Talk to a local awing or boat cover producer about making something custom for your unit that can easily snap or turnbuckle on and in place when stationary. You and others will like the look; the cost offset is either in energy savings or added value when it comes time to re-sell the unit. You may find yourself using it more than just in cold weather, as many we’ve talked to have.
I want to retrofit my RV with your products, but my 12 volt power converter doesn’t have enough unused fuses.
You would have a couple of options,
You could use the M3600 tank heaters, discussed in more detail within this FAQ page.
You can add a 12 Volt subpanel, 'piggy backed' off of your converter to increase the amount of fused circuits available. For more information on this please refer to our ‘ video tips’ page for a how to video.
Will the UltraHeat Heaters damage the holding tank if no liquid is in the tank when the Tank Heater is "ON"?
If the holding tank or heated drainage pipes are completely empty and the heat panels are powered ‘on’, there is a possibility that damage could occur, especially if the ambient temperature is above freezing.