Prevent Your RV Pipes From Freezing This Winter
No one wants to be unable to use their water systems or have to thaw them out when arriving at their destination. You can do several things to keep your RV pipes from freezing.
Let’s take a look at some solutions and investigate when you might need to worry about your RV pipes freezing.
Use insulation or heat tape
Be sure and drip water from your faucets while driving your RV in freezing weather. Water that is flowing is less likely to freeze.
You can wrap and insulate any exposed pipes or add a small heater to the plumbing area. Use foam or rubber pipe insulation around pipes that are exposed to freezing temperatures. Heat tape can also be a simple solution.
In a motorcoach, you can keep the heat on inside the RV while you are driving if you have an onboard generator to power it.
You can also drain your holding tanks and freshwater tanks and flush the lines. Just connect to the campground water supply when you get to your destination, and don’t fill up your freshwater tank if you expect low temperatures to continue.
If you are at a campground, often the hosts will provide a barrel, tub, or plastic container that will keep the pipes at the water source protected. Utilizing a light under the barrel will help as well. A light in your nautilus area will also be an added deterrent to freezing pipes.
At What Temperature Will Pipes Freeze?
In general, pipes could freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees F. Often it needs to have a sustained drop below 30 degrees for most RV pipes to freeze. The water inside the pipes does not freeze automatically.
Will the Motion of the RV keep the pipes from freezing?
The motion of the RV can keep the water in the tanks from freezing, but if there is water present in the plumbing and that area is exposed to temperatures well below freezing, they could still freeze, even with movement.
How long does it have to be below freezing for the pipes to freeze?
In general, it will only take about 24 hours of below-freezing temperatures for the pipes to freeze in your RV. If you have heated tanks, good insulation, or a four-season rig, that will help keep pipes from freezing.
You can also use a non-toxic antifreeze that is made for RVs. It is usually pink, rather than bright green. Empty your black tank and close the valve. Pour two quarts of this antifreeze down the toilet. You can add more, depending on the size of your tank. Once you are parked, you will also need to add more as the tank fills up with waste since the antifreeze will be diluted. You can do the same with the gray tank.
For your freshwater tank, you use heating pads. These require a 120V outlet but can be attached to the tank in the underbelly of your RV. You can also winterize your freshwater tank and use another source of water for your trip.
How Cold is too Cold to Live in your RV?
RVs can be used all year long, particularly if you have a four-season rig. If the temperatures where you live are consistently in the subzero range, you probably need to consider living somewhere warmer, or at least not in your RV. Remember, you will use a lot of propane to keep yourself and your RV warm. Make sure you make ready for the cold temperatures with heated tanks, heated hoses, RV skirting, and extra insulation.
Your own comfort is important as well, so make sure you have plenty of extra bedding, clothing, and soup for the season.
What Do I Do If My Pipes Freeze in My RV?
First, if you are on the road, check your weather for afternoon temperatures or for weather where you plan to stay. If you will be quickly moving to warmer temperatures, you might just do nothing until you arrive.
You can use other facilities and other sources of water. Of course, you don’t want your lines to break, so here are a few steps to loosen up frozen pipes.
Ways to Thaw Your Pipes
First, allow trapped air to escape from your pipes by opening all the faucets. Make sure you supervise any use of space heaters or propane heaters.
Heat tape is a safe way to unfreeze your pipes. Although it is called heat tape, it does not have any adhesive. It is a wire that is wrapped around the pipe and then plugged into the outlet. The wire is warm, which then warms the pipe and thaws the frozen area.
Heat tape that has an automatic thermostat is good for plastic or PVC pipe, so it will not damage the pipes. Make sure you don’t cross the wires. You could cause it to short out.
A simple hair dryer moved slowly back and forth over the pipe is also an option. Do not use this in wet conditions.
Using a heat gun will also work but take care when using on plastic or PVC pipes. You don’t want to get it too close and melt or damage the pipe. A plumber’s torch is ideal for steel or copper pipes.
While staying out of sub-zero weather is a great way to avoid freezing your RV pipes, whether you are driving or parked, it’s not always an option. We were work camping in Port Aransas, Texas almost two years ago when the Texas ice storm hit. If you were there, you probably won’t soon forget it.
The electricity was out, and the temperatures dipped well below freezing. I decided living in an RV was the best option when these things happen if you have propane and good batteries. Lucky for us, we had plenty of propane. There were a lot of people in our park that did not, and it wasn’t readily available.
We were able to keep the lights on by hooking up the trailer to our truck. Our batteries would not hold a charge in the cold weather. Our furnace stayed on because our propane lasted until the cold temperatures were done and our heated tanks did the job they were supposed to do. After that, we bought a generator.
Related article: A New Source Of Emergency Power
Be prepared for just about anything in RV life. Keeping an eye on the weather is just another task an RVer needs to do. Follow some of the advice above, and when cold weather hits, you will be ready.
Track your RV maintenance
Now you know how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping. Make sure you keep track of all your RV maintenance and repairs with an online tool such as RV LIFE Maintenance. Not only can you keep all of your documents in one place, but you’ll also receive timely reminders when maintenance is due to help you avoid costly repairs and potentially serious accidents.