RVers love to get out and enjoy their RV any time they can, but some are hesitant to take it out in the winter. Many are hesitant to use their RV during the winter mostly because they are concerned about freezing pipes, running out of propane, dead batteries and other potential problems that can make a trip much less fun. If you’ve wanted to go on trips in your RV during the winter but you were worried about these things happening, this article will help you understand how you can manage these problems and put your mind at ease.
Of course if your RV is buried in snow, or the roads are simply not safe enough for RV travel, that can certainly discourage winter use.
Lots of RV owners use their vehicles in the wintertime, and you can too. Whether you are taking your RV down south to warmer weather or you are staying in a colder climate, you can be confident that you can take your trip safely and have fun without problems – if you address some important things ahead of time.
Protect Water Pipes from Freezing
The biggest risk from cold weather RV use is the potential damage from freezing pipes. You can prevent your pipes from freezing by winterizing your RV, or with some RVs, you may be able to prevent freezing simply by keeping the heat turned on inside the RV while closely monitoring the temperature in the areas where your pipes might freeze. Ideally your temperature monitoring system will send email and/or text alerts if the temperature is getting too cold near the pipes so you can take action before freeze damage occurs.
RV Winterizing and De-Winterizing
It is good to know how to rapidly winterize and de-winterize your RV. This is not a super difficult process, and you will get better at it the more often you do it. With practice, you will be able to winterize/de-winterize your RV fairly quickly, which will give you more options to travel when you want to.
Another thing to know about winterizing and de-winterizing an RV is that it is not expensive to do if you do it yourself. You may be able to winterize with as little as one gallon of RV antifreeze (about $5) if you use the compressed air method – you will still need to pour about one cup of antifreeze down each drain to protect the P-Traps. If you don’t use compressed air, then you may need as little as 2 or 3 gallons of RV antifreeze (the pink stuff). Winterization can take as little as 30 minutes, especially after you have done it a few times.
Rapid RV Winterizing Tips:
Here is generally what you will need to winterize your RV if you use RV antifreeze:
- Nontoxic (pink) antifreeze to pump through the plumbing lines. In many cases, two to three gallons of antifreeze will be sufficient for each winterization.
- A water heater bypass kit – if you do not already have one installed. With a water heater bypass kit installed, the amount of RV antifreeze needed is reduced from 8 or 10 gallons to 2 or 3 gallons.
If you are using compressed air to blow the water out of your lines, you need a source of compressed air and a $10 blow-out fitting to connect the compressed air to your water input line and even less RV Antifreeze. Be careful to not use compressed air at too high a pressure to avoid damaging your water lines.
Don’t forget to winterize your ice maker and washing machine if you have either of these installed in your RV. There are plenty of tutorials and information available online about how to winterize your RV. Find a method that works for you and your RV, make a checklist and follow it.
Rapid De-Winterizing Tips:
When you are traveling with your RV and want to de-winterize it to get the full use out of it for your trip, here are some helpful tips.
- Stay at a Full Hookup RV campsite for at least one night when de-winterizing so you can run lots of fresh water through your RV plumbing.
- Remove the antifreeze from your RV system by running fresh potable water through the entire plumbing system until all of the antifreeze is removed.
- You may need to sanitize your RV water system if it has been unused for months.
Other Cold Weather Travel Tips:
- If your RV uses propane, Monitor your Propane tank levels so you don’t run out of propane on a cold night.
- Monitor the temperature near your vulnerable water lines and setup email and text alerts so you can be notified and intervene when necessary
- Monitor your RV batteries so you know they are fully charged. Propane furnaces use a lot of 12Volt battery power to run the fan and if not hooked up to shore power, the battery may need to be recharged after one night.
- Test your furnace to make sure it works.
- Check your tire pressure before heading out and make sure your tires are inflated to proper levels.
Cold Weather RV Camping vs Traveling to Warmer Weather
The decision on when to de-winterize your RV during winter travel depends largely on what type of RV you have and where you are planning to take it. For example, motorhomes tend to be more winter-friendly than trailers because you are keeping the vehicle warm while you are driving. Some RVs also have better protection from the outside elements than others, so this may be a factor as well.
If you are taking out your RV to go ice fishing, cross-country skiing, or camping in a colder climate, you may want to keep it winterized while traveling – especially if you have a trailer. Otherwise, the pipes can freeze when you are driving in areas with really cold outside temperatures. You can de-winterize once you get to your location and you are ready to start using it.
Now let’s say you are taking your RV down to Florida to spend a week at Disneyworld. With a trip like this, you can leave your RV winterized for a while as you are driving and just keep bottled water for drinking. Then when you get far enough south and the temperatures are warm enough, you can de-winterize it and enjoy your vacation. Once you get back to cold weather on your way home, you should winterize your RV again to prevent the pipes from freezing.
RV Monitoring During Cold Weather Travel
One of the major keys to traveling in your RV safely and without mishaps during the wintertime is to have a comprehensive monitoring solution. There are a number of different things that you will want to keep an eye on – both when your RV is de-winterized and when you winterize it again. These include:
When you are camping in cold weather in your RV, the last thing you want to happen is to run out of propane at an inopportune time. For example, your propane runs out at 2 in the morning while you are sleeping, and you wake up wondering why you are freezing your butt off. Worse yet, temps can drop enough so your pipes may freeze up as well.
With a monitoring system like RV whisper, you will have historical data that shows how much propane you used the prior day, for example, and what times of the day the propane burns faster (usually at night when the temperatures drop). This will allow you to accurately predict how much propane you will need to get through your cold weather trip, so you can budget your use properly. Even when your RV is winterized, you may still need to monitor your propane levels.
The propane furnace in an RV consumes a lot of battery power, and you will need your batteries to work in order to run the propane. For this reason, you will need to keep a close eye on your battery charge when you are camping in cold weather. Incidentally, if you do not have access to shore power during your trip, you may need to arrange to have an alternative charging source such as a generator or solar power.
If you are doing winter RVing without an electric hookup, the historical monitoring data provided by RV Whisper will allow you to know in advance how often you need to recharge your batteries and how to budget your battery use. And as with propane monitoring, the batteries in your RV should be monitored when the vehicle is winterized as well.
We all know that tires tend to lose air during cold weather. And if you are not closely monitoring your tire pressure, one or more of your tires could blow out while you are on route to your destination – which will delay your travels and could even cause a serious RV accident. With RV Whisper monitoring, not only can you see the current pressure in your tires, but you can also see how quickly they are losing air and what conditions are causing this to happen. Information like this helps you make important decisions like whether you just need to put air in the tires or if they need to be replaced.
Temperature of Plumbing System
Water pumps are susceptible to freezing in cold weather, which can become a major disaster. You should also watch the temperature in your wet bay (if you have one) where the water hose is hooked up to fill the fresh water and valves as this needs to stay above freezing. With RV Whisper’s temperature monitoring, you can keep an eye on these and other temperature levels, such as your refrigerator, freezer, and the temp inside the vehicle.
In freezing weather, it is generally best to fill your fresh water tank during the day and immediately remove and drain your fresh water hose so it does not freeze solid. This assumes your RV is set up to keep your fresh tank from freezing when you are using it.
With the risk of pipes freezing during cold weather RV travel, there is the potential for water leakage. This, of course, is something you never want to happen no matter what time of the year you take your RV out. The RV Whisper monitoring system again provides both current and historical data on water leak sensors in the RV along with the ability to create email and text alerts if a water leak is detected.
Take Your Cold Weather RV Trips with Confidence
As you can see, winterizing and de-winterizing your RV are not extremely difficult tasks, and they are not all that costly either. When you can winterize and de-winterize quickly and you are able to fully monitor the critical areas of your RV, you can take your cold-weather RV adventures with confidence knowing that you are on top of everything and ready to address any potential issues that may come up along the way.