When the season’s change and the overnight lows start getting to be in the 40s, you might want to start thinking about how to prepare your RV for winter. Preparing your RV for winter generally means getting water and heat ready to be used on a regular basis. Lots of small things can help you either use your RV mid winter or prep it to be as easy as possible to use in the spring.
Yes, heat tape can work in mild-moderate cold, but is not the best way to keep your hose from freezing. For extreme cold and true peace of mind, you should get a heated water hose to best protect your hose from freezing.
Your RV water hose is also critical to your RV as it carries water from the fresh tank into your RV, and in some cases, can bring water from city lines to your RV. Either way, you’ll want fresh water and most people don’t like using large containers to keep their water supply fresh.
Heat tape is used to provide some heat relief to your water hose. Warming your water hose can definitely help prevent the presence of ice in your hose or water pipe. We will discuss in detail how and why to use heat tape below.
What does heat tape do?
Heat tape is meant to keep things warm. It’s primarily used on the edges of roofs to prevent ice dams (those huge icycles sticking down on your roof that can damage both your roof and your body if they fall on you) and to keep pipes warm if exposed to cold.
Heat tape is completely different from electrical tape. Electrical tape is meant to stop conductivity and shield surfaces from electrical, though it can be an insulator.
Heat tape is actually electrically powered. Heat cape offers a conductive wire that gets warm when needed and helps warm pipes.
How do I use heat tape on a RV water hose?
We are going to start with a word of precaution here: Heat tape isn’t literally tape. It’s not sticky, and may require the use of actual tape, like electrical tape, to make it stick to your pipe.
The first thing you’ll want to do is ensure you have space to get to the water hose. Taking your water hose off would actually be quite helpful just to have space.
Installing heat tape on the RV water hose
You’ll want to wrap the heat tape around the water hose like a snake, with every bit of the hose covered with contact by the heat tape on one side. This means that no, you won’t want to install the heat tape in a straight line.
Make sure of a couple of things
- The heat tape should make constant contact with the water hose. Any breaks in connection can cause part of the water in the hose to start freezing, especially in very cold temperatures.
- Do not let any part of the heat tape itself overlap or touch itself. This is important because the conductive wire can’t touch itself – this is a potential fire hazard.
- Use electrical tape, tightly wound around the heat tape and hose, to secure the connection. Use electrical tape in various spots to make sure the heat tape is tight.
What kinds of heat type are there?
Heat types comes in a couple types: self-regulating and consistent voltage.
The difference? Self-regulating has a thermostat built in that raise and lowers the temperature based on the temperature of the water hose. These can save on electricity and basically turn off when not needed.
Consistent heating applies heat constantly. Constant heat is OK especially if you live in a year round cold climate. Consistent heat also prevents potential breakdowns in the thermostat of a self regulating heat tape.
You may have heard about potential fire hazards with heat tape. These are generally true, but apply more to issues with roofs and installation. Heat tape is known to get hot enough to cause a spark and set foam insulation on fire. With this said, it’s generally not a good idea to have anything electrical or hot to touch foam insulation, so these are more of misguided installs than an issue with the heat tape itself.
The underside of your RV also likely won’t have foam. You should certainly check to see if anything combustible is down there, but it’s not likely.
If you are nervous about potential fire hazards, check to make sure the heat tape is not touching itself, don’t put it near foam insulation, and turn it off if you don’t need it on.
Where do I find heat tape?
You can usually find heat tape in a hardware store or RV supply center. They generally run $50 or less depending on the length and abilities. You should also grab some electrical tape while you are there.
Should I ever take heat tape off?
You don’t need to remove heat tape, but you could. A better bet than physically removing heat tape every season is just unplugging it. If the heat tape stops working for whatever reason, then you’ll certainly want to remove and replace it. Heat tape is a pretty simple electrical device that doesn’t wear out especially easily.
The good news about self regulating heat tape is that if it’s hot out, it just doesn’t turn on or do anything because your hose won’t need warming.
They have about the same durability as an extension cord, and those things can last forever when treated right.
Is there any maintenance for heat tape?
We suggest you look at the heat tape every once in a while to ensure that it remains wrapped correctly. Also, make sure the electrical tape remains tight. Otherwise, heat tape doesn’t ask for much.
Heat tape can be your RV water hose’s friend. It’s easy to install, fairly inexpensive, and helps prevent water issues during the winter. By comparison, icy water in your pipes and hose can cause long term damage to the water system in your RV.
We suggest reading the instructions thoroughly and keeping it away from potential fire hazards, which are unlikely to be under your RV anyway.