Preparing Your RV for the Colder Months Ahead

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September 4, 2009

As summer winds down, it’s time to prepare your RV for the cooler weather ahead. Fall and winter are really great times to take in the changing seasons on the open road. But when it’s time to turn in for the evening, the overnight temperatures can plummet, especially at higher altitudes, resulting in increased propane usage, interior condensation, and other plumbing-related issues.  And then there is that freak snow storm you wake up to that while beautiful, can catch you off-guard, leaving you unprepared to deal with freezing temperatures.  If you plan to camp well in to the colder months, here are some ways you can make your cold weather RVing ventures less of a chilling experience.

1. Examine your RV’s plumbing to determine what measures may be needed to prevent damage from freezing temperatures. Some RV’s have plumbing exposed to the outside elements. In this case, you should wrap the exposed plumbing with heat tape and foam pipe insulation.

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2. Part of the plumbing system includes the holding tanks. Some RV’s have enclosed holding tanks that are heated by the RV’s furnace through heater ducting to the holding tank areas. As long as the furnace runs occasionally, the tanks won’t freeze unless it’s very cold (below 20F).

For those tanks that are not heated and/or enclosed, tank heating pads can be affixed to the bottoms of the tanks. These are very easy to install, thermostatically-controlled, and come in both 12-volt DC and 110-volt AC.

3. Yet another part of the RV plumbing system is the holding tank piping and dump valves. Some higher end RVs have these pipes and valves enclosed and heated from the factory. For most RVs though, they are exposed to the elements. As with the plumbing pipes, these pipes and valves can be protected by wrapping them with heat tape too.

4. You should keep your gray and black water valves closed until you are ready to dump your holding tanks. If gray water constantly allowed to drain, it will eventually form an ice dam in your sewer hose. As an alternative, you could also try insulating and wrapping heat tape around your sewer hose if you want to leave the gray water valve open. In any case, be absolutely certain that your sewer hose is at a steep angle where liquids drain rapidly and are not allowed to stand. Using a sewer hose support will help with this.

5. Another area subject to freezing is the fresh water supply hose. You can use a heated water hose to prevent freezing. This is a good option if you are in a campground with full hookups. They run on either 12 volts DC or 110 volts AC.

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6. To reduce drafts and heating requirements, you can insulate the your RV’s windows against the cold with heavy drapes or curtains. You can create an insulating dead air space inside of the windows by covering them with clear, heavy vinyl. You can even cover the interior of the windows with sheets of Styrofoam or poster board but these are a little hard to see.

7. The roof vents are an area where heat can escape. There are foam type pillows specifically made to be placed in the vent openings. These fit snugly and greatly reduce heat loss in these areas. And they have the added benefit of reducing sunlight during those bright mornings.

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8. If you have a motorhome, hang a heavy blanket or privacy curtain between the driver’s compartment and the rest of the motorhome which will block the cold radiated by a motorhome’s windshield. This works very well whether you have a Class A, B, or C type motorhome as they all have large windshields.

9. Any compartments that open into the inside of the RV need to have good weather seals. Adding some inexpensive foam tape or weather stripping to the compartment opening and doors will really help seal those air leaks.

10. Now that the RV is sealed tight from air leaks, we have the problem of condensation to deal with. Moisture from cooking, washing and just our breathing raises the humidity inside the RV. As it gets colder, this moisture condenses out on cooler inside surfaces like window frames and doors. This can lead to mold and mildew, water stains or even worse. The best way to prevent condensation is to avoid introducing excessive moisture into the air. A good practice is to always use the range hood vent when cooking and the bathroom vent when showering. This will draw most of that moisture out of the rig. It may be necessary to keep a roof vent open slightly to provide some ventilation and keep condensation in check. Insulating exposed surfaces that tend to collect moisture will also help. A small dehumidifier or some of those little tubs of desiccant crystals may be necessary, depending on the RV and how many are staying in it.

11. Finally, we need to consider how the RV is going to be heated. Portable electric heaters are a great supplement to the propane furnace. This method of heating doesn’t add condensation to the air and allows the propane furnace to run considerably less, saving a lot of propane. Catalytic heaters are another popular way to provide assistance to the propane furnace but require fresh air ventilation to avoid oxygen depletion in the RV.

There are many more mods you can make to help protect your RV from the cooler weather ahead. Head on over to ModMyRV.com and have a look at the heating category for some more ideas:

http://www.modmyrv.com/category/heating

Happy modding!

Leave a Reply

391 comments

  1. Pingback: Cold Weather RV’ing | Triangle RV Blog

  2. Drew

    Great post Mark- a lot of good ideas to consider. Thanks.

  3. charles cox

    I have poured rv antifreeze into the grey & black waer tanks for times when I thought it might freeze. my thought is that the antifreeze would keep the water from freezing solid- just get slushy. is this a good idea or not? thanks.

  4. Thanks Drew. I appreciate it.

    Charles, you’re on the right track. But how much RV antifreeze you need will depend on how much water is in your tanks. A few gallons should work with 30 to 40 gallons and should keep the mixture slushy in all but the coldest temperatures. The colder it is the more antifreeze you will need.

  5. I was told by an RV dealer that just adding a couple of cups of salt would keep the holding tanks from freezing. Is there any truth to this?

  6. The freezing point of water can be lowered by increasing it’s salinity. So yes, adding salt to your tanks will help. But it will take a lot of salt. Ocean water freezes at around 28F and it has quite of bit of salt in it. Even if you added more than a few cups, your freezing point wouldn’t go down much so if it gets much colder than say 25F for an extended period of time, your tanks would likely freeze.

  7. larry gianakis

    Hi folks

    I need some winterizing help, we bought a jayco ;it weight exp 17′, we went camping at the ocean this week and had a ba;ll, except when we were folding up canvas beds we notice the bar that holds the tenting up was wet,and dripping water, we never had any rain,it was cold at night though,and we had the heat on. can anyone tell me what to do?thanks Larry

  8. Lary, what you are experiencing is common with a hybrid TT. It is condensation created by the high temperature differences between the outside of the tenting and the inside. A simple way to help improve this situation is to leave one of the tent panels unzipped about 4-6 inches. The opening allows dryer outside air to mix with wetter inside air (and vice versa). You won’t lose any additional heat in doing so either.

    When I had a hybrid (Bantam Flyer), I experienced this as well. Since the DW gets cold easily, I slept on the end of the bunk and it’s also where I kept the zippered panel open a few inches. Sleeping temps were great for me and the DW was happy to be closer to the heater.

  9. larry gianakis

    Mark

    Thanks for info, i was hoping there be a solution like adding pipe insulation to the tubing but i’ll try your idea first thanks again larry

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