Preparing for Winter Comfort

You will want to review these tips to optimize your comfort for RV living in freezing temperatures.  Not only will you save money on energy costs and stay warmer, but you could also avoid water damage that can run into the thousands of dollars.

WATER LINES

When temperatures hit freezing, you have 2 options; fill your tanks and disconnect the hose or insulate and heat your hose.

Option 1 – Fill tank and disconnect

It’s the easiest option.  Make sure that there is no water left in the hose or you may need to thaw it to use it.

Option 2 – Insulate and possibly heat your hose.

The connect point on the RV is a bit vulnerable You might eventually develop a leak there, but it’s generally easy to replace that part.  I’d access that before choosing to hook up in freezing temps.  Some newer RVs have the hose connect in an interior compartment which helps, but almost all older RVs connect on an exterior wall.

If you don’t thaw out during the day, then you will need a heated hose.  This video explains the process.   Here’s a possible solution you could buy

If you thaw out, then plain insulation might work. Remember to duct tape the seams!  Here’s a link for 1/2 inch hose insulation.

IMPORTANT TIP: If you chose to connect a hose directly to your RV instead of using the tanks, it is very important to use a pressure regulator.  This will help you avoid over pressurizing your plumbing and blowing your connections.

WASTE WATER DRAIN

When temperatures hit freezing, you have 2 options; only release your grey and black water as necessary or insulate your waste water drain.

Option 1 – Release waste water when necessary. 

This is the easiest option but requires you to periodically do a manual release

Option 2 – Insulate your waste water drain. 

If you chose to insulate under your RV (which is very highly recommended), then you might as well insulate your drain if it’s reasonable to do so.  If there is no skirting, I wouldn’t bother because it would be a waste of effort.

IMPORTANT TIP:  Do not ever under any condition leave your black water valve gate open.  If you do, you will eventually have a buildup of sludge that will require a plumber to fix.

INSULATE UNDER RV

Want to make your RV feel pretty? Put a skirt on it!

Just kidding, the real question is, do you want your RV to stay warm?  Besides insulating the windows, this is one of the best ways to save on energy costs and stay comfortable.  It can also provide a bit more assurance of avoiding pipe damage from water that expands in the pipes when it freezes.

This author does a great job of explaining the step to insulate the bottom of your RV as well as some extra touches for a more pleasing aesthetic and durable solution.  I plan on doing this over the holidays and using her instructions.

If you have slide outs, you will really want to insulate them.  The cold winds can be easily felt on the interior.  Use  rigid foam board and then use Reflectix double sided mylar and Reflectix tape in the harder to seal areas.

If you plan on traveling in the snow, it would be worthwhile to invest in something like Idaho Canvas Products has a huge selection of skirts that are customizable to the inch of your RV.  These skirts can range be as much as $400, but well worth the investment during the winter.

If you are concerned that any part of your RV compartments are at risk of freezing you can get a heat monitor and remote to monitor it.  I highly recommend getting this temperature clock because it comes with a remote you can place anywhere and you will use it all year.

Some people use a light bulb to heat a cold space.  There are small portable space heaters are good for underbelly spaces that could freeze in extreme temperatures.

IMPORTANT TIP: If you use tape on the exterior of your RV, Goof-off will probably work.  But sometimes you could be left with  a permanent mark, so proceed with caution.

INSULATE WINDOWS AND DOORS

Insulating the windows and doors is the single most important thing you can do to keep the interior warm.  There are several ways to insulate them: foam insulation boards, Reflectix, shrink wrap and blankets or towels.

You will also want to insulate your skylights.  Heat rises and this will result in major heat loss if you don’t.  For standard square skylights you can use vent cushions.  For odd sizes, taping up some Reflectix will help alot.

If you have an RV that is a C or A class, in otherwords, it has a drivers compartment, you will want to make insulting this area a high priority.

First step is to cover windshield with Reflectix.  Then use blankets to seal the area between the living space and driving cab.  This RVer illustrates the blanket technique which I don’t see recommended very often, but I promise it is valuable to keep warm.  (I don’t agree however with using indoor propane heaters)

To insulate your windows there are many options.  My preference is a combination of Reflectix and Rigid Foam Board which I also use in the summer.

I will create a webpage specifically on how to do this.  Please check back again later. (I haven’t seen anyone else use the technique I came up with.)

You can also use shrink wrap or kits like this if you want to maximize the amount of light coming in.  However keep in mind that with this type of insulation in place you will not be able to open and close windows.

INSULATE FLOORING

Cold floors in the morning mean cold feet and that’s a bit of a buzz kill to get your day rolling.  I just discovered these floor foam tiles as a solution and I love it.  These tiles interlock, they are easy to clean and store.

If you are really struggling with keeping warm there are several locations where outside air can sneak in such as around doors, windows, vent fans, and slide-outs. You use blankets to cover your slide-out gaps on the floor and the stairwell by your entry door.

LEAVING FOR AN EXTENDED PERIOD OF TIME

When temperatures hit freezing, you have 2 options, one is to leave your heater on at least 50 degrees or if you chose not to heat it, you will need to COMPLETELY drain your water tanks.

To drain your tanks you can run it thru your waste system or dump it all on the ground.  To dump it on the ground will be inevitable for the bottom of your tanks.  Look for the drain valve located at the lowest point in the RV which is typically close to your fresh water.

Remember to open all the faucets till air comes out and make sure your hot water tank is empty.

HEATING INTERIOR

Propane heat is a requirement because part of what the heater is designed to do is keep your plumbing warm.  (They typically share the same spot.)  If you want to minimize use of propane set the thermostat to 50 degrees and supplement with other sources of heat.

You will want to get a propane extend a stay attached to your propane tank, unless your tanks are removable.  It’s a good idea on the non-removable tanks to always keep some propane on reserve in case you run out in the middle of the night, which does happen.

Never use a portable propane heater inside an RV because you can get gas build up and using small propane bottles can be expensive and time consuming anyhow.

There are lots of space heaters you can buy and I’m not using any personally, so don’t have specific recommendations other than this one that is used by a couple that tried several.  It is a Lasko 6405C.  It  is an oscillating ceramic heater which has a thermostat and a timer for automatic shut-off.  Electric heaters are a “dry heat” and propane is a “wet heat” so this heater will help with condensation.

Excessive moisture in RVs in the winter is a common problem and can lead to mold.  Every time you cook or shower, you must turn on the ventilation fans and pull that moisture out.  I use a dehumidifier and as a bonus it also throws out alot of heat.  If you are regularly hitting zero then you will find frost in hard to reach interior area.  Open them up as much as possible and run a fan to circulate the air.

Anytime you use a dehumidifier or electric heater, it will consume a significant amount of energy.  If you run those at the same time as your microwave you could blow a fuse, so keep that in mind.  You really don’t want any appliance running over 2000 watts if you are on a 15 amp or 110 V connection.  Most people will be on 30amp or 220 V and so that isn’t as great a risk, but you will certainly have higher power bills.

If lowering power bills is really important to you, consider using an electric blanket and mattress warmer at night.  These are extremely energy efficient.  You will still need minimal space heating to avoid freezing pipes.

IMPORTANT TIP:  Propane detector is an ABSOLUTE must.  Test and make sure it works and replace it if necessary. Propane gas always gathers at the lowest point which is why the propane detectors are placed near the point of use on the floor.  Whereas smoke detectors are always placed on the ceiling or within 18 inches of it because those fumes rise.

FURTHER RESOURCES

You are welcome to post your questions below and I or someone in the community might have some answers for you.  We also enjoy your suggestions to improve upon these ideas.

Emergency housing guidance