Will My RV Pipes Freeze?

When the weather starts to turn cold it is normal to wonder whether your RV pipes will freeze and what you can do to prevent it. The truth of the matter is that the insulation in your RV is not as effective as the one normally found in a house. This means that in cold weather your RV pipes can freeze, causing damage to your RVs plumbing.

If you have wondered “will my RV pipes freeze?”, here is everything you need to know about protecting your RV from this problem.

How To Keep Your RV Pipes from Freezing

Winter months can be cold. If you live in your RV full time or are using it during the cold months, keeping your pipes flowing is vital. Frozen pipes can cause major plumbing damage and turn your camping trip or RV living into a nightmare. Unfortunately, when ice starts to expand in your RVs pipes, it can cause your pipes to crack or burst.

So how do you keep your RV pipes from freezing? By performing the following measures, you can keep your pipes flowing and avoid the dreaded freeze-up.

1. Wrap your pipes with heat tape

Heat tape will keep the pipes warm and prevent them from freezing. When the cold weather approaches, prepare your RV by wrapping your pipes with heat tape. You will also need to wrap your sewer hose since it is also susceptible to freezing in low temperatures. Adding a layer of foam insulation beneath the heat tape will also boost the insulation of your pipes.

2. Keep the RVs interior well heated

If you usually turn off your furnace overnight, this can cause the temperatures to drop to near freezing and increase the risk of your pipes freezing. Keep your furnace on your thermostat set to at least 45 degrees overnight to ensure the interior stays warm.

Additionally, leaving your bathroom and kitchen cabinets open will allow the trailer’s heating to keep your pipes warm and prevent freezing. Leave these cabinets open during the winter months so that the warm air in the RVs cabin can keep them from freezing.

3. Use a tank heating pad

A tank heating pad will keep your tank from freezing. Tank heating pads have thermostats that turn on when your tank is too cold and off when the temperature is warm. Tank heating pads are a convenient and easy option to use since they can run off your RV’s batteries while you are on the move and conserve power when you are plugged in.

4. Use the RVs internal tank

When you connect your RV to an external water source, the risk of your pipes freezing is higher due to the exposure to the cold temperatures outside your RV. Fill in the internal freshwater tank in preparation for the cold weather and use it as your main source of water.

5. Add RV Antifreeze in your holding tanks

As an additional measure, you can also add a little antifreeze in the holding tanks to protect the valves from freezing. Always ensure that the antifreeze does not get into your hot water tank or potable drinking water.

Most RVers find that propylene-glycol-based RV antifreeze helps to lubricate the seals in the faucets and toilets, making it the best type for RVs.

6. Get a heated RV water hose

A heated water hose comes in handy if you need to connect to an outside water source. It is specifically designed to withstand cold temperatures and to avoid freezing. Invest in one for the colder months to ensure you do not have to continuously fret over whether your RV pipes will freeze.

7. Empty your RVs tanks frequently

When water freezes it expands. If your tank is too full when this happens,  your tank can start to crack. To avoid this, empty your tanks regularly to avoid wastewater backing up in your RV due to frozen pipes. If you can, empty your waste tanks as soon as they are half-full.

What to Do if Your RV Plumbing Freezes

If you were caught unprepared and you are now faced with dry faucets as a result of frozen pipes, you need to take steps to prevent further damage and get your pipes flowing again.

a) Establish where the freeze-up is occuring

The waste water tank is the first thing you should check when you suspect your pipes are frozen. The last thing you want is a burst waste water tank. Check your sewer hose and examine it, starting from the sewer drain to your RVs sewer outlet. If it is frozen, begin thawing it from the sewer drain as you move back to the RVs sewer outlet. Once it starts to flow, you can then reconnect it to the RV.

You can use a hairdryer or heat tape to thaw the sewer hose. Run it along the length of the sewer hose until it starts to drain out. Once you have checked the sewer hose, also check your holding tanks. If they are frozen, consider placing a space heater below the holding tanks to thaw them and warm them up.

b) Determine if your freshwater hose is frozen

If your freshwater hose has frozen, turn off the spigot and disconnect it from the RV. Once it is disconnected use a hairdryer or a heat tape to thaw it, until the water inside the house defrosts and starts to flow. Once it is fixed, you can reconnect it to the RV.

c) Check your water sources

Once both your sewer pipe and the freshwater hose have been repaired and are reconnected to the RV, you are free to check the inside of the RV. Check to see if all your water sources are now working. Check your toilet and shower for melting water backups that can occur once the pipes begin to thaw.

Open up your cabinets so that the heat from the furnace can warm up your pipes. Resist the urge to flush your pipes with hot water as the difference in temperature from cold to hot can lead to cracking.

Once you have running water in your faucets and the toilet, check for any leaks as leaking water can cause serious damage to your RV.

Tips for Cold Weather RV Living

The cold weather comes with its fair share of challenges for RVers. Whether or not your pipes will freeze is only part of what you need to be prepared for. Here are some useful tips for cold weather RVing that you can use to survive during the winter months.

The main concern in cold weather is keeping your RV properly insulated. The following measures will help:

  • Seal the windows and doors – prevent cold air from getting into your RV by ensuring your seals are intact.
  • Use window film and reflective foil to insulate your RV windows.
  • Thick fabric drapes will help to prevent any cold drafts around windows and keep warm air in the RV.
  • Insulate the RV floor. You can use heavy rugs, carpets or even board flooring to do this.
  • RV skirting around the base of the RV will stop cold winds from freezing water tanks and chilling the interior of your camper.
  • Always check your RV furnace to confirm that it is functioning properly before the cold weather sets in. Part of proper maintenance of your RV’s furnace is cleaning it. You can clean your RV’s furnace using a soft brush or compressed air to remove any debris.
  • Also, ensure that the furnace will function optimally by confirming that the vents of your furnace are not blocked or obstructed.

Summary

Frozen pipes can be a real headache for RV owners, especially in cold months when temperatures can drop to below freezing. With some preparation and preventative measures, you can stop asking yourself whether your pipes will freeze and enjoy RV living even in the coldest winter months.