Winter RV camping is a fun experience, especially if you’re a professional ski bum. It allows you to explore great places when they are less crowded and gives you a different perspective. However, you’ll have to deal with some challenges, such as keeping your water tanks and pipes from freezing.
So, will my RV pipes freeze at low temperatures?
The short answer is yes. Frozen freshwater pipes while camping is an annoyance. It can generate substantial damage to the water system and create other problems.
The good news is that you can keep RV water lines from freezing using some simple methods. Our guide on how to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping consists of three main parts:
- Preparing the RV for cold weather
- Preventing frozen pipes at the campsite
- What to do if your water pipes freeze
So, without wasting much time, let’s get into the details!
Winterizing the RV for Cold Weather
Winterizing the RV is the first line of defense against frozen tanks and pipes. So whether you plan to winter your RV camping multiple times during the winter or store it in the garage for the entire winter, it’s wise to winterize your RV.
Here are simple steps to properly winterize your recreational vehicle to avoid freezing the pipes.
Step 1: Prepare the Necessary Things
Before winterizing your camper, you need to prepare the following:
- Non-toxic antifreeze for RV (ranges from 2 to 3 gallons)
- Water pump converter kit
- Water heater bypass kit
- Black tank cleaner
If you plan to live in your RV full-time during the winter, this section is not necessary for you.
After getting what you need, it’s essential to consult your RV owner’s manual to determine if there are any model-specific instructions for winterizing. Otherwise, you can winterize your vehicle by sticking to the following steps.
Step 2: Bypass, Removal, Or Replace Your Water Filter
Let’s start by removing and bypassing all in-line water filters inside your vehicle. It is necessary to prevent your winterization chemicals from damaging the water filter. Plus, you can take this opportunity to replace the filter if it’s contaminated or has not been changed for more than three months.
Step 3: Drain Your Black And Gray Water Tanks
Before storing recreational vehicles, it is wise to drain all sewage as well as clean the black and gray water tanks. This effort not only prevents the water from freezing, but also prevents bacteria growth inside the water tank as well as other hygiene problems.
You’ll need to drain the black water tank first, then drain the gray water tank. Next, utilize a backwasher or built-in rinser and your special black tank cleaner to clean your black tank.
Step 4: Draining Water Heater And Lines
You need to switch the water heater off and allow it to cool down before draining it. After that, remove the drain plug and open the pressure relief valve. Remember not to empty the water heater if it is still hot or if the water pressure is still high.
Next, drain your water lines by opening the low-point drain lines for the hot and cold water.
Step 5: Bypass Your Water Heater
It would be best to bypass your water heater to avoid antifreeze from flowing into it. Your camper may already have a bypass. Otherwise, it is possible to install a new one or plan an installation at the local service facility.
Step 6: Use Antifreeze
Start by disconnecting the pump’s inlet, then put it inside your antifreeze bottle. An alternative is to install a water pump converter kit. Next, close all of your faucets and turn on the water pump to add your non-toxic antifreeze to the RV’s water system.
Then, turn on each faucet until your antifreeze flows out. Once antifreeze has spread throughout the water system, switch off your water pump.
Pour your antifreeze down all of your RV drains. After that, pour some antifreeze into the toilet to keep the remaining water from freezing.
How to Prevent Frozen RV Water Pipes
1. Insulating The Water Pipes
The parts that are most likely to freeze quickly on your RV are the water lines that link the sinks and storage tank, as well as other plumbing parts inside your vehicle. The RV waterlines freeze even faster if they are exposed underneath the vehicle.
Hence, if you’re preparing for cold weather RV camping, insulating the RV’s pipes is wise.
We recommend getting help from a skilled contractor for closed-cell spray foam insulation if you regularly camp during winter. It refers to covering the entire lower part of the RV with a durable insulation layer. Besides, it is alright to temporarily install RV skirting around your RV exterior (once it is parked up) to get the same results.
There are several material options for winter skirting, including:
- Vinyl material
- Insulation boards
Insulating your RV underbelly not only helps keep the floor warm but also keeps the wind from dropping the temperatures below your RV. This increases thermal efficiency, allowing your RV oven to use less propane to keep a comfortable inner temperature.
You can easily find pipe insulation, duct tape, and zip ties from your local hardware store.
Installing it can be a challenge for the inexperienced, but it is well worth the time and effort. It can keep your freshwater lines from freezing even if the temperature drops under 32 degrees Fahrenheit for a few hours.
2. Keeping The RV Internal Temperature Warm
If your freshwater line runs through the floor or the RV’s body instead of the underbelly, it’s essential to keep the RV inside warm.
This can create a hot environment inside the RV, causing you to sweat and lose sleep. How hot you need to maintain it will depend on where the lines are located and how well the RV floors are insulated.
3. Running Water Overnight
According to basic physics, flowing water is more difficult to freeze. That’s why many households in the northern states leave their sink running in the basement to keep the frozen ground from freezing their water pipes during harsh winters.
However, the trick is only used in times of desperation for RVs, where you are working with limited supplies in a freshwater tank, and water lines you need to keep from freezing between 0 and 32 degrees F are about as thick as a pencil.
Instead, this solution will come in handy if you plan to stay at a four-season RV park, which allows you to access a resupply of freshwater.
4. Add Tank Heating Pads
Basically, tank heating pads are small electrical resistors that create a slight amount of heat. You can use them to keep your freshwater lines and water tank from freezing. They are a good choice if you plan to stay in a location with cold weather, where temperatures can drop under 32 degrees at night. By combining this with RV skirting, you can keep ambient heat and reduce the effects of cold winds.
5. Empty Water Tanks And Freshwater Lines
If you’re at an RV park or campsite where low temperatures are worrying you, you may want to empty your tank and lines. This effort will prevent the water inside them from freezing, leading to broken fittings, damaged tanks, and split pipes.
6. Run Propane Heater Underneath Your Recreational Vehicle
This method only works well if you use insulation to keep the warm air underneath your camper. The propane heater will not work well if you do not have RV insulation to block cold wind and retain heat.
In addition, this method requires you to have specific knowledge of ventilation and fire safety; even the safest propane heater produces fumes and carbon monoxide.
You need to provide some form of ventilation to your heaters to keep propane gases from getting inside your vehicle.
Last but not least, you need to get rid of any combustible or flammable stuff near your propane heaters.
What to Do if the RV Water Pipes Freeze
If something terrible happens and you find your water pipes freeze, don’t worry! There are several ways to get the water flowing again.
The simplest way is to take your dryer to your pipe’s connections and frozen sections. Bear in mind that drying utilizes many currents, so you’ll want to be plugged into shore power.
Also, it is possible to place a propane heater near the area to be treated. But, of course, it is essential to keep an eye on your heater for safety. Furthermore, it will be less mobile if RV owners have to deal with large stretches of pipe or hose that have been frozen.
Finally, it is alright to use a heat cable or heat tape pressed against the pipe to thaw it.
Check out this video for more information:
How Cold Does It Have to Be for My RV Pipes to Freeze?
“At what temperature do RV water lines freeze?” The water will freeze at 0 degrees C (32 degrees Fahrenheit) without any RV insulation. Yet, the water in RV pipes will usually not freeze until the temperature drops to -6.7 degrees Celsius (20 degrees Fahrenheit).
When the temperature drops to 20 degrees Fahrenheit, the water can stay that cold for about six hours before your RV pipes freeze. If the temperature is about 32 degrees, it will take about 24 hours.
In general, take precautions anytime temperatures are forecast to be under 32 degrees Fahrenheit.
Also, here is a guide to winterizing your travel trailer without antifreeze if you needed.
The Bottom Line
There is no denying that prevention is definitely your best friend when it comes to keeping your RV pipes from freezing. As long as you have a prevention plan for each area of your RV’s water system, you will be able to sleep easy knowing your pipes are still good.
Thank you for taking the time to read the article on how to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping! Please share it with other RV owners.
Welcome to a new journey! I am Rober Clark, also a full-time RV-er and currently exploring the US with Dane. I have four years of working as a contractor, so building a home inside the RV is an extremely rewarding task for me. I find new challenges and new limits to break every day.