Learning how to keep RV pipes from freezing is of paramount importance. As fall arrives it’s never too soon to ready your RV for the winter, especially the pipes. Frozen pipes can be a pain so it’s best to take preventive steps.
How to Keep RV Pipes From Freezing?
1. Wrap Exposed Water Lines in Insulating Tape
Check your vehicle for any water lines that are exposed. Put insulation tape around them. Be generous with the tape.
2. Drain Water Fresh Water Tank
Water tank draining is necessary if you’re going to store the RV for the winter. A complete tank drain prevents damage to the connecting lines and tank. Leaving water in the tank also makes it vulnerable to corrosion and rust.
3. Install a Tank Heater
The water tank needs to be full if you’re going to use the RV in the winter. Install a heater on the tank and it’ll warm the water and keep the liquid from freezing. Just stick the heater adhesive and it will do the rest.
4. Cover Holding Tanks
Put towels over the holding tanks, boosting its insulation level and keep the water in liquid form. A stack of towels isn’t enough but when combined with the other techniques it’s going to make a difference.
5. Frozen RV Pipes & RV Condensation
A lot of the problems related to RV condensation and pipes stem from lack of preparation. By readying your RV before winter comes, you’ll know what to do and won’t be caught by surprise.
6. How to Avoid Frozen RV Pipes
The water hose is susceptible to the cold, so you need to insulate it. You’ll need plastic, insulation and heat cord. You can find all three in any hardware or RV supplies store.
Here’s what you do.
Apply the heat tape cord at the top of the hose. Secure the hose and the cord with electrical tape every 12 inches.
Wrap insulation across the entire length of the hose. Apply duct tape at one end of the insulation and start wrapping in a circle. The overlap should be at least one inch If you have a 25 foot hose you will need about two rolls of 25 foot insulation.
Use plastic to cover the insulation. Make sure plastic covers the entire insulation as it is important the material does not get wet. Just wrap the plastic around the insulation the way you put the insulation on the hose.
Be certain there is sufficient connections for the water hose and that your RV’s furnace keeps running so the pipes don’t freeze. You can also open the cabinets so warm air can circulate in the vehicle better.
Now you are probably wondering about the sewer lines and what to do with them. Well you don’t really need to mess around with them as long as they correctly sloped. If you’ve never had a problem with your sewer line in the winter that means they’re already sloped. If not there supports available at your local RV supply store.
7. What to do with Frozen RV Pipes
All the steps above are supposed to keep your pipes from freezing, but what if they already are?
There are several steps you can take but it really boils down to these three.
- Find the frozen spots
- Thaw the frozen spots with a hair dryer or similar device
- Next time apply better insulation
8. RV Condensation
Condensation can occur any time during any season, and humidity is certainly one of the primary factors. Everything from showers, cooking, water loss from the human body etc can precipitate it. Left untreated condensation leads to mold and water damage.
It gets worse during the winter due to the significant differences in temperature. Condensation mostly affects the windows due to the temperature variation inside and outside your RV.
9. How can you reduce winter RV condensation?
- Use the RV hood for venting or open one of the windows while you cook.
- Get a dehumidifier. A small one needs replacing regularly but doesn’t take up a lot of space. It’s the opposite with larger models so pick the one right for you.
- During the warmest time of the day, open a window for at least 30 minutes. Doing this allows more air to circulate. Don’t open the window too long if it is too cold.
- There are electrical systems for RV designed to boost heat. Consider getting one to increase the heat level.
- Your shower water needs to be warm, not hot. Open the bathroom window after showering. You can also turn the fan on to eliminate the humidity.
10. RV Winter Skirting
Skirting involves protecting your RV’s undercarriage, which not only shields that area but also provides additional insulation. There are several ways to achieve this goal.
- RV skirting parts – these are designed specifically for RVs. This is the best option if you’re going to use your RV during winter regularly. But if it’s only for the occasional winter trip there are cheaper options available.
- DIY Skirting – you can use various materials though the most popular are Styrofoam boards. Get as many as you need but remember, winter eventually comes to an end and you have to find a place for all that stuff.
- Hay Bales – you can put hay bales below your RV but not below the propane tanks. Hay bales provide excellent insulation plus they’re inexpensive and easy to dispose of. Just make sure there is a sufficient amount to generate moisture to prevent flammability.
11. RV Insulation
You can also make windows insulation panels or add vent panels. Some of these window insulation panels are more adept at keeping heat out than in so they’re more suited during hot summer days. But you can configure them to provide additional heat.
12. RV Heating
When it comes to RV heating there are several options available. We will take a look at the more popular and effective methods below.
13. RV Furnace
Furnace duct works under the camper so it helps keep RV pipes from freezing. However, furnace runs on propane which adds water in the air and contribute to condensation. That being said, a furnace is still effective in heating RVs. The amount of propane you’ll use up depends on the temperature.
14. RV Space Heater
An electric space heater comes in handy for many reasons and occasions. They’re easy to store and take out whenever necessary. These heaters are equipped with a thermostat so you can set it up quickly and just forget about it.
15. The Sun
Oh and there’s the sun as well. When the sun comes out make sure to open the windows and blinds so sunlight can get through. When combined with your furnace it should keep your RV warm and comfortable.
16. Hardcore RV Winter Living
If you have any plans of living in your RV or spend a long time in it, you’ve gt to seriously prepare for winter. There are 4 season RVs which come complete with insulation hatch covers, heated tanks and a heated underbelly.
Additional RVing Winter Tips
Here are some more tips to help you get through the winter.
- Buy flannel sheets, shoes, clothing and whatever personal items you need during the winter.
- Inspect your RV for cracks or holes where cold air may seep in. Repair them. Do this before winter sets in.
- Get to know the area where you’ll spend the winter. Ask the campground manager what winter is like here, the temperature, where the supplies are etc.
- Prepare your tanks before winter and check them every now and then.
- A hair dryer is good for thawing RV pipes.
17. Built for Winter
If you’ve got a modern RV chances are it is built for winter. It is probably well insulated and can handle cold weather. Even if your RV does not have all the latest gadgets it should still be able to handle the cold. But of course it won’t hurt to inspect your motorhome first. And if it is an old model you can still prep it with the tips here.
18. Ceiling Vents
Majority of RVs have skylights or roof vents where heat may leak out. Install RV vent cushions to seal them. RV vents are easily installed and just need to be pushed in place. If you don’t have these then cut foam padding and use those.
19. Holding Tank and Water Hose Winter Preparation
You should empty the gray and black water tanks prior to going on the road. Pour a quart of RV antifreeze in the tank. Use RV antifreeze, not the types used on cars as it might cause problems. Follow the label directions for its use and it will prevent the dump valves from freezing.
Use foam pipe insulation to keep the pipes from freezing. If you have plans to camp for a long stretch in sub zero temperature, install electric pipe heaters. You’ll need a generator or an electrical connection to use this. You can also install 120V AC and 12V DC holding tank heaters.
Earlier I mentioned that you need to insulate the sewer hose with heat tape. If you haven’t done so, now is the right time after preparing the holding tank. With proper application of heat tape you don’t have to worry about ice dam buildup.
Some long time RVers utilize their sewer hose for tank dumping only. After using it, the hose gets cleaned and stored in a heated area.
A couple more things to add: never empty the tanks until you’re ready to go. This keeps ice from building up. Second, don’t allow the hose to get frozen as it will likely snap when disconnected.
20. Water Pump
Consider getting a space heater if the water pump is at an exterior insulated area. Install the heater according to directions and it will take care of the rest.
21. Stabilizing Jacks
Those stabilizing jacks on an RV can freeze during the winter so you need to put wood blocks under them. This allows the jacks to be raised so you can drive and use a hammer and chisel to break the blocks free.
22. Window Seal Inspection
You can keep those pipes from freezing by re-caulking the windows as necessary. Look at the seals carefully, in particular the weather stripping. Check the access panels, the basement and the exterior windows as well. Re-caulk everything to keep the cold draft away.
Cut foam boars and use them for insulation. They’re readily available at home improvement stores. Cut them to size so they fit right between the ground and your RV frame and set them all over your RV. This set up is going to insulate the floor, water lines and tanks during the winter.
23. Additional Window Preparation
It might be possible to fit insulated RV windows provided your rig doesn’t have dual pane windows. Insulated curtains may also be added for extra warmth and don’t forget to shut them at night to keep warm air trapped.
Class A and Class C RVs have insulated curtain modes that keep the living area and the cockpit separate. This cuts down the area you have to heat up and also the cost of electricity or propane.
There are several ways to insulate RV windows, and one of the most efficient – and cost effective – is foil backed foam insulation. These cut easily and are lightweight too. There are also fasteners you can set on the insulation and window frame. This should keep them in position. You may also purchase window insulating film to prevent heat loss and minimize condensation.
24. Engine Block Heater
An engine block heater is necessary if you are going to camp at very cold areas. When it’s time to depart, turn the block heater on 3 hours before you drive off.
An electric or propane refrigerator has a refrigerant made up of sodium carbonate, distilled water, ammonia and hydrogen gas. All of these are under 200 psi pressure so if the temperature drops under 20 F, the liquid might turn to gel and damage the coils.
To prevent this, take out the refrigerator access cover and put duct tape over 2 of the 3 vent slots. This should be done on the cover’s interior so adhesive isn’t left when you take the tape off. Another option is to put a half inch round pipe insulation the upper two slots. Put the insulation from the outside.
If it gets really cold you may need to install a compact space heater inside the compartment. Set the heater to low and keep it far from flammable objects and materials.
26. Fresh Water Hose
Buy a heated water hose for your fresh water hose to prevent bursting or freeze ups. These devices have AC power and thermostat so you’ve got complete control over their functions. While you’re preparing make certain all the cables and hoses are not on the ground.
Another option is to fill up the fresh water tank, disconnect the campground faucet from your hose and allow the water to drain.
Propane isn’t going to last long if you’re going to use it to heat your RV during the cold season. Ensure there is a propane refill facility close by to where you’ll be camping. Better yet bring some extra propane tanks in case there is no backup facility nearby.
You may also call the campground and inquire if they have propane bottles. Buy several so you won’t run out of stock during the winter.
Always test the furnace prior to driving off. Use a soft brush or compressed air to get rid of insects, debris and dust around the furnace.
If your RV relies on only heat fins or heat pumps, consider adding another heat source as these don’t function well if the temperature goes under 40 F. If you don’t want to operate the furnace you can opt for an electric space heater to keep you warm. A catalytic heater will also do too provided one of the vents or windows has a slight opening. This is essential for ventilation purposes.
The catalytic heater along with your body heat and moisture can lead to condensation. If that happens you’ll need a dehumidifier to eliminate dampness and prevent mildew, mold and corrosion.
29. Ice Maker
Majority of RV manufacturers do not heat the ice maker water line or insulate it. If that is the case with your RV, put heater tape around it or drain the water line.
- First aid kit
- Solar charging panels
- Blow dryer for pipes and tanks
- Additional propane tanks
- White gas camping stove
- Drinking water, about 5 gallons
- Warm clothing
- Weather band radio
- Tire chains
A lot of RV pipes get frozen due to lack of preparation, but as we’ve demonstrated here, taking preemptive steps will make your life easier. And in the event your pipes are already frozen you can still do something about it.