Traveling in your RV during the winter presents special challenges, especially if you are planning for an extended outing. The following tips are partially excerpted from advice offered by our friends over at By Example and RVers Corner. This advice is intended to provide you some general guidelines for winterizing your RV. Please conduct your own research into best practices for winterizing and adapt to suit your specific RV. Lazy R Campground assumes no responsibility for damage to your RV due to winter conditions.
You might consider changing out your regular water supply line for a heated hose like this one from Pirit. Alternatively, you can install a heat tape on your regular hose by taping it to the hose, barbershop-pole fashion. The heat tape instructions usually say to put the thermostat on the coldest part of the hose, but since that part is not heated it is more likely to freeze. A better solution is typically to leave the thermostat just hanging out in the air. Cover the hose and the heat tape with insulating foam pipe tubes and tape securely. Where the water supply enters the trailer, wrap some fiberglass batting around the hose, cover with plastic and tape to hold it on.
It is necessary to support the hose and provide a continuous slope from the RV sewer connection to the park sewer hookup. That way, water will drain from the hose and not create an ice plug at the low point. Alternately, you can use a straight section of thin-wall PVC sewer pipe and the necessary fittings to complete your sewer hookup. The PVC will stand up to cold temperatures better than your plastic hose and is fairly inexpensive. Buy 3″ PVC solid sewer pipe that has one flared end, cut a 1-foot length of your plastic hose leaving the trailer connection in place and insert the other end into the flared end of the pipe and tape securely. Cut the pipe with a hacksaw to the correct length to reach the sewer dump and then install an elbow fitting on that end. Insulate the whole thing with fiberglass batting (15″ wide will wrap around the pipe nicely) and cover this with poly sheeting neatly taped in place.
Fresh Water and Holding Tanks
You may purchase heating panels that you can attach to the tanks that are electrically powered (120v or 12v). Many campers use fiberglass batting to build a “cave” surrounding the tanks and including the dump valves. A small 40-watt light bulb typically supplies enough heat to keep things flowing.
Dump Valves – ALWAYS keep your blackwater valve closed and only dump when full. If left open the liquids will drain off leaving only the solids (they become very solid after a short period of time). In cold weather, close both valves and dump when full as a trickle of gray water can freeze and build up a dam in the sewer line totally blocking the flow.
Lazy R is in a residential area and we try to be respectful of our residential neighbors, which means keeping the RV park tidy and uniform in appearance. For that reason, skirting must visually integrate with your RV. If you use foamboard or similar, it needs to be a solid, neutral color and not have manufacturer’s labeling showing. Many campers have used white Styrofoam in 4 X 8 sheets, cut to fit between the ground and the trailer, screwing them to a 2″ X 2″ strip that is hung on brackets fastened below the trailer walls.
Here’s a great tutorial showing how to skirt in a trailer with plywood.
A better long-term solution is quilted vinyl material colored to match and cut to fit your rig, with snaps to fasten to the RV sides. In the spring you simply unsnap, roll up and store until next year.
During extremely cold weather, water vapor will collect and freeze on the cold metal skin directly above your overhead lights where the insulation has been cut away at the factory. When you turn on the lights, the heat generated melts this condensation, causing more grey hairs to appear on your head. Pull off every overhead fixture and stuff the hole in the ceiling panel with insulation. The aluminum frames of the windows and doors also collects moisture.
Consider making a box 18″ X 18″ X 12″ high to place over every roof vent. Drill three 1″ holes in both sides of the box to allow for air circulation. Leave your roof vents open about 1″ at all times to vent excess moisture. The box helps to keep cold air from cascading down through the vent. Alternatively, you can buy the maxi-vent style of vent cover that is permanently mounted top the roof vent to do the same thing. Try this – it works.
Consider sheets of plexiglass cut to fit each window that install on the inside with plastic L-brackets every foot or so. Foam tape supplies a seal to the window frame. Plastic storm windows that heat shrink into place work well, too, although the tape used can be messy to remove.
Most RV doors have little or no insulation in them and are a prime heat loss area. The aluminum frame also conducts the cold into the unit, whereupon the moist inside air condenses to form frosty strips down the wall. You might consider a door blanket, made of a nylon quilted material similar to a sleeping bag, that snaps on over the opening at night.
Inside plumbing pipes are often routed through the most inaccessible parts of the RV. Insulating foam tubes are fairly inexpensive and will help here.
Take care to check your coach battery regularly in the winter months – you are using your 12v lights, furnace, etc. more than usual, and your converter may or may not be keeping up to peak demands. Your battery fills in on those occasions, then gets recharged. That means more water loss and more wear and tear on this often-neglected device. A discharged battery will freeze easily and at a higher temperature than a fully charged one.