How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing while Camping

keeping RV pipes from freezing while camping

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While most people are only too happy to park their RV for the winter season and take a hiatus from all the adventure activities, others enjoy the beauty and unpredictability of winter camping. If you fall into the latter category, then you need to learn how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping.

Camping in cold weather is completely different from doing so during the warm summer months. There’s a whole new host of factors to consider such as plummeting temperature conditions, and unpredictable weather in the form of rain, wind, snow, and sleet, to name but a few.

The good news is that there are measures you can take to keep your RV pipes from freezing, especially when stealth camping, no matter how cold the weather is outside.

How to Protect RV Plumbing from Freezing When Winter Camping

If you’re looking to learn how to keep RV pipes from freezing, you’ve come to the right place.

In the following section, we will cover the most effective ways to make sure your RV tanks and pipes work well into the winter while car camping without freezing or malfunctioning.

1. Make Sure the Temperature Inside the RV Doesn’t Drop Below Zero

If you plan on taking your RV on the road or actually living on it during the winter, then you’ll want to keep it as warm as possible. Extremely low temperatures can cause the rig to become frigid and it’s obviously not good for your health.

Pipes typically start to freeze when temperatures hit 20 degrees Fahrenheit. To keep them from getting to this temperature level set your thermostat furnace to 45 degrees or more during the night so temperatures don’t drop to freezing levels. Sink cabinet doors should remain open so that the warm air can flow around the pipes.

One of the first things you’ll notice when opening the doors of your RV in the morning is that there’s a hole on the pipe exit. It’s important to fill those in using a sealant to keep out critters and rodents.

2. Avoid Frozen Tanks by Emptying Them Regularly

It may be difficult to avoid a frozen tank if the power goes out in the particular area where you’re in. If this happens while you’re in a spot with freezing temperatures, then you should consider the following recourse measures.

First of all, it’s important to understand that when water freezes, it expands. A full or nearly full holding tank can increase the pressure and lead to cracks. The next worst scenario would be for the tank to thaw out incrementally, starting with the top.

This leads to push-back from the thawing liquid and backs up the pipes in your RV. The result are malfunctions in your sink drain, shower, and interior toilet. Your RV might even get flooded with wastewater!

The best way to prevent this from happening is to empty the waste tank before they get full. Preferably empty them at half-full.

3. Pour Antifreeze into the Tanks

Antifreeze is a common method of keeping RV pipes from freezing. But, it’s important to note that not all antifreeze is made equal.

What you want in this scenario is antifreeze that’s designed for use on an RV. It’s usually non-toxic and has a unique pink color which is in stark contrast to the usual green color of traditional antifreeze.

To apply this method, start by draining all of the holding tanks that contain gray water and black water. This is an important part of your camping planning. Now, pour some non-toxic antifreeze into the tanks.

The antifreeze should contain information on the amount you should add but it also depends on your holding tank size. Whatever you do, make sure you’re adding the correct amount for best results.

4. Close the Valves

Whenever you look for tips on how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping, you’ll get people advising you to open the valves, if only partially. This isn’t such a great idea because it can cause flooding. It’s better to close your valves instead.

When water freezes within your RVs holding tanks some of the water gets pushed out through the hoses. Open valves make it easier for the water to escape and cause flooding. The best way to prevent this is to close the valves if you’re going to operate your van in cold weather conditions.

5. Put Some Heat Tape on the RV Pipes

Another way to keep your RV pipes and hoses warm is to apply direct heat onto them. This is an easy, straightforward and inexpensive solution that works really well.

Most hardware stores carry heat tape which it’s designed to detect temperature changes quickly and will automatically increase the temperature when it gets too cold.

To get the most out of your heat tapes, you need to fasten the heat tape securely along the hose length using an electrical tap. Make sure to fasten the tape on every 1 foot of the hose for the best results.

6. Use a Space Heater to Heat Cold Areas in the RV

No-one knows your RV better than you do, and you know just which areas are susceptible to freezing. Be sure to incorporate additional heating elements to cater to these areas.

For instance, since your RV’s water compartment is located on the outside of your vehicle and contains a lot of the valuable water valves, it’s important to show it some extra TLC.

All you need is a portable space heater. This is usually enough to keep the water compartment from freezing but it’s important to pick a heater that’s easy to handle in small spaces.

7. Protect the Hose from Freezing

If it’s freezing out, then you should avoid connecting your RV to any park utilities. But, if you have no other choice then you should do what it takes to protect your hose from freezing over.

There are various ways to do this including the application of heat tape, or you could get a heated hose instead. You can also use some foam tubes to insulate the hose or park your RV in a way that makes sure that you maintain a downward slope to the drain.

The best way to achieve the latter is to hang your sewer hose supports high.

8. Skirt Your RV

Skirting is another effective method of keeping your RVs plumbing safe from freezing effects. But, it must be done right. First, you need to install the RV skirt tightly to prevent any possibility of heat escaping through accidental openings.

This requires you to choose appropriate skirts and park your RV on a flat surface area without any bumps that can cause RV skirt openings. This is important if you’re located in a pull through camping site. You may also cover the skirting with some insulation board just to be on the safe side.

What to Do If My RV Plumbing Has Frozen Already?

Frozen tanks and pipes can cause an abrupt interruption in your freshwater supply. Thankfully, there are certain steps you can take if this happens to prevent any further damage to your van and even thaw the pipes. Keep in mind that the thawing will result in a rush of water to be released, so you probably shouldn’t turn the faucets all the way up.

The first thing you need to do is determine where the freezing is. Then, start the thawing process from the sewer drain and work your way towards the sewer outlet. A hair dryer or heat tape should be sufficient to thaw out the hose and you should keep at it until you see the water flowing. If the problem is with your holding tanks, then you can warm them up with space heaters placed directly underneath.

Next, see if the freshwater hose is frozen and if it is, turn off the spigot and detach it from the RV. Now, defrost the hose using a hairdryer or heat tape, and follow this up by heating the utility bay connection.

Next, inspect the inside of each water source. Be sure to re-connect the hoses before you proceed with this step because you’re basically checking how they work.

This makes it easier for you to determine which pipes require your attention more so you can warm them from the rig exterior. While you’re at it, make sure your furnace is turned up and that your cabinet doors are open.

Avoid using hot water to rinse your pies as this can open cracks. Rather be patient and wait for them to thaw out while keeping an eye on the situation. Monitor the situation for water backups that might have happened as a result of the thawing process.

When you’re sure that your faucets and toilets are working properly again, inspect the exterior and interior of the van for possible leaks. If there’s any evidence of cracks or dripping, completely eliminate any water from your tanks and switch off the rig to repair the leaks.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, this wasn’t your average guide on how to keep camping RV pipes from freezing. You now have a variety of tricks at your disposal that you can use to keep the water flowing and make sure your water supply doesn’t get interrupted as you explore the great outdoors.


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