November 18, 2019 (by Jimmy) – It snowed last week, and that got me thinking about passing some information on to those of you who may not have stayed in a residential vehicle on a cold winter night.
First, let’s discuss the RV itself. If you are going to spend time in an extremely cold area, you should have an RV with an arctic package. What that means is that when the heat blows through the enclosed underneath to heat the RV, the pipes in that area are also heated. Without this, you will have frozen pipes below 32, and there’s not much you can do about it short of winterizing. Let’s assume you have the arctic package; how do you know you have it? Read the side of your RV. it is a big selling point and will usually be printed on the rig.
There are three items that hook into your RV: electric, water, and sewer. Electric doesn’t freeze, so we can ignore that. The other two must be addressed (yes even sewer, you’ll see what I mean soon).
First, let’s look at water. Most RV parks that are open in the winter in an area where the temps can get below freezing normally insulate the pipes coming out of the ground, so they won’t freeze. Getting the water from the faucet into the camper without freezing is the next step. I address this based on the level of cold. What do I mean by that? There are three types of cold. There’s cold which is below 40 but above 27. Then there’s real cold, which is below 27 but above 14. Finally, there’s frozen, which is below 14. Each level is dealt with in a different manner by us.
For the cold level, we have a heated water hose. It’s like a regular water hose only it has a heating wire that plugs in to an outlet, warming the hose, and it keeps the water from freezing. This works well, but if it gets into the mid-20s, it can still freeze at the filter or connections. For the really cold level, the best thing to do is to fill up the freshwater tank and use the water pump to provide water. This way the water is in the RV already, and because of the arctic package, this allows you access water at a lower temperature outside. You need to be aware that this will only last while there is water in your fresh-water tank. I can usually go 3-4 days using only the fresh-water tank. Then there’s the frozen level. I have never been able to keep the water flowing at 14 degrees and under. At this point, you need to have water jugs in the RV. We do this in two ways. We fill gallon jugs that we use for drinking and others that we use for washing dishes and flushing the toilet. We also have a seven-gallon tank in case the frozen cold lasts for more than a day or two. At whatever cold level, do not let your water run or drip, you only have a limited tank size.
The main thing to remember is watch the weather. If the weather forecast indicates it’s going to be a low of 20 but tomorrow will have a high of 50, fill up your fresh-water tank and turn off the hose and drain it before it starts to freeze. If it says it will be below zero for a week, move south and write it off as that little experiment that was a good idea at one time, but failed miserably.
Okay, how can the sewer be a problem. Some parks have their drains raised a bit off the ground. If you don’t have a poop sloop or even if you do and the drain is slightly elevated at the end to get into the pipe, once you dump the black, galley (if you have a 3rd tank), and grey tanks, you will have some residual water in the pipe. If that residual water fills the pipe in any one area, you will have a solid pipe if it freezes. (Read about our experiences here) his means that until there is a thaw, you will not be able to dump your tanks. The best way to deal with this is to unhook your hose and walk the water down into the drain prior to the temperature going below 32. That way the hose will be empty, and you will be able to dump your tanks when they get full (the tanks will be heated as part of the arctic package).
Finally, a few words about propane. Make sure you have enough. My RV has a set-up where it uses two tanks. I keep one on and the other off. Once the one that is on is empty, I turn the other on and go have the first one filled. We also have a smaller tank that we can use in the emergency situation that I forgot to have the empty one filled. Believe me, this has saved me on several weekends.