Once the air hits 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it's cold enough to freeze the water in your pipes. This is a bad enough predicament at home but in an RV it can be even more detrimental.
Even if your pipes don't burst, your water flow will be cut off, preventing you from doing things as basic as flushing the toilet or washing your hands. If your pipes do burst, you can't very well call a plumber--you're in an RV exploring the great wilds!
Don't let the threat of frozen pipes keep you from enjoying your winter camping. You just need a little know-how.
Read on to learn how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping with 7 easy methods.
How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping
Of course, in order to protect your RV's plumbing in the winter, you need to know what all of the components are and how to access them. If you're not doing any winter RV camping, you need to empty all holding tanks of water and pump your plumbing with antifreeze. If you do intend to go camping during the winter, follow these steps to make sure you still have access to water without freezing your pipes.
1. Insulate External Plumbing
Use foam insulation and heat tape on external plumbing. This includes your sewer hose and water hose as well as any valves and connecting pieces that are at risk of freezing. You can also use foam insulation wrapped in rubberized sheeting to insulate any exposed tanks.
For longer trips in which you are staying parked in the same place, consider attaching skirting around the lower portion of the RV. This will help protect the undercarriage of the vehicle, although foam, heat tape, and rubberized sheeting should still be applied to all external plumbing.
2. Warm Internal Plumbing
There are a few easy ways to warm your internal plumbing. For starters, open the cabinets under any sinks. That way, the heating your RV already provides will help to keep the pipes and connectors under your sinks warm.
Turn on your hot water faucets in the sinks and showers from time to time. This will get a flow of warm water running through the pipes to heat the pipes from the inside and break up any ice that may be forming.
3. Use Heated Hoses
Want a better way to ensure that your freshwater and wastewater won't freeze on the way in or out of your RV than heating tape? Invest in heated water hoses and waste hoses that are designed to transfer liquids in below-freezing temperatures.
The NoFreeze Drinking Water Hose stays warm with its self-limiting heater, which means you don't have to monitor the temperature. Simply attach it to your freshwater tank on one end and the filling station's spicket on the other and you're good to go! It won't warm your drinking water, nor will it alter the water's taste.
The NoFreeze Waste Hose is designed to empty your black and grey water tanks with the same technology used in the Drinking Water Hose. It should be noted that the Drinking Water Hose should only be used for freshwater. If you want a heated hose for your waste tanks, you will need to purchase the Waste Hose separately.
4. Rely on Your Internal Fresh Water Tank
Even with your heated hoses, it's best to rely on your internal freshwater tank as much as possible during the colder months. The less often you have to expose your plumbing and connectors to the cold, the safer they will be. If you know there are going to be a few warmer hours, go ahead and fill your freshwater tank then.
5. Turn On the Space Heater
If you're not sure that your RV's heating system is strong enough to keep the pipes warm, consider using an additional space heater or heating lamp. Most space heaters are designed to blow warm air from one or two sides, giving you the ability to direct that heat towards your at-risk plumbing.
However, space heaters and heat lamps need to be monitored. It is also important that you purchase heating devices that have been made for RV-use, as some space heaters can cause fuses to blow if left on for too long. Always make sure heating devices are an appropriate distance from the plumbing and practice safety precautions.
6. Add Antifreeze to Black and Grey Water Tanks
This particular step is only advisable in extremely low temperatures and needs to be done with great care. If antifreeze gets into your drinking water, you will be forced to flush out the entire system. Antifreeze is toxic to ingest, and the symptoms caused by consuming antifreeze can be difficult to spot right away.
In the event that insulation and other preventative measures might not be enough, add a small amount of antifreeze to your black and grey water tanks. You can keep the rest of your plumbing circulating by leaving taps dripping and periodically running warm water, but wastewater is more stagnant and may be more likely to freeze.
7. Dump Tanks Responsibly
When water freezes, it expands. Try to empty your wastewater tanks before they get too full to protect the tanks and the rest of your RV from any mishaps that come with frozen water.
Of course, one concern is that if the tank is full when the water inside freezes, there won't be enough room for the water to expand and instead it will crack your tank. Another concern is that the water will thaw from the top down, and the thawed wastewater may get pushed up through the pipes and come out of your faucets and toilet. No one wants to deal with that!
If you're dedicated enough to the camping lifestyle that you're willing to brave the winter in your RV, you're probably an experienced camper. Any experienced camper knows that they're only as strong as their equipment!
One of the best ways we know how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping in the winter is to use our NoFreeze hoses. If you don't already have them, make an account with us and make the investment that will make your winter camping that much smoother!