Whether you intend to travel or be in place during the winter, it’s possible that you’ll be driving your RV when it gets a bit cold out. While you can put a coat, boots, a hat and gloves in to keep yourself warm, you may want to think about what your RV needs to stay warm.
Pipes freezing in your RV can lead to a potential problem of bursts, leaks, and a lack of flow. Many RV pipe systems were not designed to handle cold weather, but thankfully getting ready to combat the cold is easy to do.
Keeping your RV pipes from freezing while driving can be done in a few ways, often at the same time. We’ll talk about a range of options from letting water gently flow, to wrapping your pipes with insulation and using heaters.
Letting water run – the most basic
Flowing water freezes more slowly. Have you seen a waterfall freeze? It looks cool, and you wouldn’t want it to happen in your pipes – but it takes a lot more time to freeze a waterfall than it does a river.
To keep the water running and prevent from freezing, do this:
- Open the faucets and shower just a bit. Let them drip so you don’t actively waste water. The purpose isn’t to run your fresh water tank totally dry, it’s to get to someplace warmer or buy time.
- Close the faucet when you arrive at your location or find a different way to keep them warm.
Letting your water run is a very easy, basic way to keep the water from freezing. Running your water is also rather temporary and should really only be used when trying to put together plans to keep your pipes from freezing right away.
Insulate your pipes to keep water from freezing
There are a couple ways to insulate the pipes – especially those leading to the outside: Insulation, heat tape, and both at the same time.
Let’s start with heat tape, and it might not be what you think it is. Heat tape is an electric wire that you can wrap around exposed pipes with the potential to freeze.
Heat tape requires careful installation to be good, safe insulation. Wrap the heat tape around the pipe so that the wire never touches itself, but gives a good, even spread across the potentially affected pipe.
Heat tape is most often plugged in. Keep in mind these come in two forms: with thermostat and without. A heat tape without a thermostat gives you a constant heat, which is good, but potentially unnecessary. A heat tape with a thermostat only turns on when it’s cold enough outside – you could keep it on year round.
While heat tape with a thermostat might be enough to keep your pipes safe and your mind off those problems, you can insulate too.
Insulating is a bit more simple. You can find pipe insulation at a hardware store and wrap it around the pipe, then tape it shut. If you aren’t going to be around cold weather especially frequently, or it won’t be that cold, this is a good start. Just keep in mind that installing heat tape first is easier and won’t require back tracking.
Note that insulating and heat tape are a perfect option whether you are driving or not.
Small space heater
If you don’t want to waste heater, and are OK potentially using a bit more electricity in a small space -use a space heater. A space heater can provide temporary warmth for a small area and are often sized well to fit near where your pipes meet the outside.
A space heater also heats up relatively quickly. The only downsides to a space heater is that you shouldn’t apply it directly to the pipes, and they can take up a bit of battery or gas depending on how you are powered at the moment.
The small space heater is great if you are going to drive for a few hours and want to make sure the pipes stay warm.
Drain and turn off the water
Water can’t freeze if it’s not in the pipes. This method only really works if you are experiencing an unexpected cold snap and have some place to go to get water if needed.
You can drain your tanks, flush out your water system by either running out your fresh tank or draining it, and turn your water off.
If you don’t want to go through the effort of insulating your pipes, don’t want to leave water running while driving, and don’t have a space heater, it works. You should just plan to fill up on more water once you are some place warmer.
While this is not specific to driving, it certainly can be done right before driving through an area that’s cold enough to freeze your pipes.
You can add RV antifreeze to your fresh water tanks. Be sure it says “Safe for RV septic” too, and isn’t automotive engine antifreeze – these couldn’t be more opposite in their effect on you.
Antifreeze has a much lower freezing temperature than water and will keep your water from freezing on the go. It’s also safe to drink when diluted by the water in your RV water system.
This is especially handy, and cheap, if you don’t go to cold places often, you might not even have to put more antifreeze in until you use all your fresh water.
We’ve presented a few ways to keep your RV pipes safe while you drive through the cold. Some methods like a space heater or anti freeze are basically temporary but effective. Heat tape and insulation work well if you’ll be cold for longer, but might not be necessary for everyone.
Consider the weather forecast and your own needs and do the amount of work you are comfortable with the keep those pipes flowing with water.