Whether you live in an RV or you enjoy camping in the winter time one worry you will always have is water lines freezing in cooler weather. Since the water lines in an RV are more exposed than those in permanent structures, RV owners must take precautionary measures to prevent this from occurring and damaging their RV.
Generally speaking, an RV’s water lines can freeze when temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for 24 hours or more. Of course, additional exterior factors also play a role in how quickly your RV’s water lines will freeze, including wind chill, direction of the wind, and preventive measures that have been taken. The amount of insulation, presence of heat tape, and relevance of an enclosed or heated underbelly will also affect how quickly your RV’s water lines can freeze.
The key to keeping your RV’s water lines from freezing is to prepare in advance. Sometimes this simply isn’t possible, due to Mother Nature, but other times you know in advance approximately when the weather could turn cold.
Tips for Keeping Your RV’s Water Lines from Freezing
Even if you aren’t planning on spending your winter in an area where temperatures reach levels below freezing regularly, it’s better to overplan than to be caught unprepared. There are many methods you can choose from that range in cost and complexity, so everyone is sure to find a solution to prevent their RV’s water lines from freezing in cold weather.
While it’s easy to remember to insulate your internal water lines, it can be less obvious to insulate your exterior pipes. A foam pipe wrap is the easiest and cheapest way to prevent your RV’s pipes from freezing.
Heat Tape and Cords
Made for use on pipes, you can apply heat tape or cords on top of pipe insulation. If you select a heating cord, you can use an electrical tape to attach it to your RV’s exterior pipes. Heat wrapping all spigot and connection points is also recommended to prevent freezing altogether.
Heated Water Lines
Quicker and easier than using pipe insulation or heat tape, you would use heated water lines to completely replace your exterior water lines. However, you should consider this method to be an investment, as the cost is higher than other options. Some heated water lines claim to protect your RV’s water lines, even in below-freezing temperatures.
Tank Heater Use
Tank heater pads are commonly available in 12V configurations, and many trailers that are meant to be used in all seasons already incorporate tank heaters in their included features.
By keeping the area under your RV warm and preventing drafts, a heated underbelly will keep the area surrounding your pipes above freezing. A built-in furnace can also help keep your RV’s pipes from freezing, too. A furnace with more than 30,000 BTUs is recommended for wintertime camping.
Campers aren’t necessarily meant to be used frequently in the winter time. So, similar to a house, if you want extra insulation you can pay for it and install it yourself. Foam and fiberglass are common options, and all seals should be checked to ensure your insulation can do its job well.
As a method that has been used to prevent freezing pipes in mobile homes for years, a trailer skirt can reduce drafts and aide in heating your pipes and tanks. Plastic and styrofoam are common materials used in trailer skirting, but there are many options available, including some that are personalized.
The worst thing you can do for your RV’s pipes in cold weather is to let them sit with water in them. This will inevitably cause your pipes to freeze, so be sure to keep the water flowing or at least trickling when you suspect temperatures may get cold enough to freeze your RV’s water lines.
Why You Should Do Your Best to Prevent Frozen RV Water Lines
While you may think frozen water lines in your RV are no big deal, because they can just thaw, this commonplace wintertime RV problem is much more complex than that. Frozen RV water lines can not only freeze and burst, causing additional water damage to other areas of your RV, but they can also become so damaged that they will need to be replaced. These repairs are costly, time-consuming, and can be major. Preventing your RV’s water pipes from freezing is crucial to continue residing in your RV during the cold winter months.
How to Unfreeze Your RV’s Water Lines
Even if you’ve done all you can to prevent your RV’s water lines from freezing, sometimes this simply happens. When it gets too cold for these preventive measures to work, the only option you have is to react. Thawing your RV’s water lines can be time-consuming and frustrating, to say the least. You have to be careful as they expand, because they could still rupture during this process.
Once you check for leaks, you’ll want to open up all your cabinets and doors to get the heat flowing and circulating throughout your RV. If your RV’s heater isn’t working, you can use space heaters. Simply position them toward these areas where water pipes are located. You can even use a hair dryer if you are really desperate, but the entire process can take up to 12 hours or longer if the cold continues on.
As your pipes begin to thaw, you’ll want to keep an eye on them and the area underneath your RV. If the pipes have ruptured, you’ll start to see water coming out of the pipes. Make sure to check the kitchen, bathroom, and other storage areas where water lines are commonly found, too.
Take It Step by Step
When the water lines in your RV freeze or get near that point, it can be frustrating. So, stepping back and taking it step by step can help alleviate some stress and allow you to think clearly. If you’ve done all you can to prevent your RV’s water lines from freezing, there is nothing you can do but try a new method next time. If you got caught off-guard, you know better to prepare for the next cold snap appropriately.