Wintering in an RV

Wintering in an RV

While visiting friends in central Alberta, Canada I found myself in snow and freezing temperatures as early as August.  I discovered things I could do to keep myself warm and my RV safe from damage.

The water pipes are beneath the floor, as are the heating ducts for the propane furnace.  My RV also has an electric fireplace, which keeps the interior very comfortable.  However, I found that using propane keeps the floor warmer and the pipes more protected.  I actually prefer propane heating, as it doesn’t dry the air like electric heat does.

My propane tank is built into the underside of my RV so I can’t just disconnect it and take it to be refilled.  I have to drive the entire RV to the propane refill station.  Recently I was able to purchase an “Extend-a-Stay” connector for my propane tank which allows me to connect an external propane tank AND a gas grill.  The connector was simple to install.

At first I purchased a 20 pound tank from Camping World.  I liked it because it had a gauge so I always knew how much propane was left in the tank.  My intention was to take that small tank to Lowes and simply exchange it, but I decided I didn’t want to trade away my tank with its gauge, so I bought a second tank from Lowes.  When I’m in a pinch I can easily exchange that one for a full tank.  When I have more time, I can take the nicer tank with the gauge to a propane refill station.  I like having the two extra tanks.  I’m never out of propane.  When I’m on the road, I put each tank in a plastic bin to keep it from rolling around and I store those in the back of my Jeep.

I recommend you use an allen wrench to tighten the hose to the tank. Otherwise it doesn’t seat right.

For the times when I use the electric fireplace, I have purchased a Honeywell cool mist humidifier for my main living area.  It has really helped prevent sinus infections, which are common for me in the winter.  It takes up some valuable counter space, because when I put it on the floor, the dogs knocked it over.  Water everywhere.  I have to admit that between the humidifier and the fireplace my RV is very comfortable and it’s a joy being in here.

On extra cold days or nights, there are more measures I can take to keep things free from damage.  I suppose it could be unnecessary, but the peace of mind is worth it.  I sleep better. 

  1. I take my small Broan heater and place in it my wet-bay.  My black water and fresh water tanks are visible in the top of the wet-bay.  If I put heater on the floor of the wet-bay and plug it into an extension cord that I brought up through the hole for the hose, it works great.  It like to sit it on a silicone hot pad from my galley because it keeps the heater from moving. The hole in my wet-bay has a sliding cover so that less cold air gets into the bay.  You can also buy a “blanket/pad” that attaches to the tank itself.  Since I can only see the underside of my tanks, I would have to find a way to fasten the heated pad to the bottom of each tank.  Perhaps Velcro would work.  Each pad runs up to about $130 for the largest size.  I decided to use my Broan heater this year and see how that works.
  • 2. The next step I took was to purchase a Freeze-Ban water hose.  It’s a heated water hose that has a power cord at one end and a temperature sensor at the other end.  I make sure that the temperature sensor cord is on the end attached to the spicket.  It turns on the heat if the temperature outside goes below 45 degrees I believe.  I use a long extension cord with three outlets on the end.  I have the Broan plugged into one outlet and I plug in the hose power to one of the other two outlets.  So now the opening in the basement floor has the heated hose and an extension cord.  The final thing going through that opening is my septic hose.  I keep it connected to the RV and in very cold weather, I keep the grey tank valve open so that there is no water in my grey tank and thus no danger to freezing.  I DO NOT keep my black tank valve open.  I never ever ever do that and don’t recommend anyone else do it.  You don’t want liquids draining out, but solids sitting in the tank, hardening into cement.
  • 3. The last step I take in very cold temperatures is to pour a bit of RV anti-freeze into my sink traps.  There is usually a small amount of water sitting in there.  A bit of anti-freeze ensures that it won’t freeze and damage the sink trap.  I pour perhaps a half a jug into the toilet to keep the black tank from freezing.  Again, this may be overkill, but I don’t mind taking the extra precautions to protect my “home”.

I haven’t done it yet, but someone gave me a great idea.  You are probably familiar with the “noodle” that you use in a swimming pool.  I was told to buy one of those and cut it so that it can slip just under the slide-out inside your RV.  My slide-out sits an inch or two off the floor.  When the slide-out is out, quite a bit of cold air comes into my RV from the edges.  I’m going to see if I can cut the noodle so that it fits into that space to see if it will prevent that cold air from entering the RV.

I’ve seen others use a silver insulation wrap on windows in their RV.  I’ve read that it isn’t real helpful.  I think mostly the silver-ness of it would reflect sun and maybe keep the RV cooler in summer.  I’m not against trying it though.

I was in freezing night temperatures off and on from August of 2018 to mid-January 2019 and all my precautions seem to have done the trick.  I’m now newly arrived in Las Vegas, Nevada.  I did spend two weeks in the Arizona desert, boondocking on BLM land during the big Quartzsite RV show until this past Sunday.

I can’t say that, knowing all this, I plan to spend winters in below freezing places.  It just wasn’t possible for me to escape it until now.  I will definitely try my hardest to stay where its warm in the winter from now on.  I found out that it costs $180 to stay on BLM land for six months.  I am hoping to do just that.  I like knowing that I can winter camp if I need to.  I also know that if I were to buy another RV, I’d be looking for one that gives me the best chance of keeping my rig safe and sound in freezing temperatures.  Until that time, I think I’ll just call myself a “snow-bird”.

Happy Trails.

For more about wintering in an RV…and staying comfortable, here are a couple of videos I found helpful (both by Bob Wells):

Staying warm on the road, part 1

Staying warm on the road, part 2

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