Winter can be a beautiful time of year for camping, but it also has its dangers. One thing that many campers struggle with is how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping in the winter.
If you are an RV owner, there are many effective ways to keep your RV’s pipes from getting cold and frozen while you’re out enjoying nature! Here are 11 tips to help prevent this issue.
Winter camping can be a fun adventure with friends and family if you know these cold weather tips for RVing. Otherwise, you can be left trying to figure out ways of thawing frozen hoses or figuring out how to mend a pipe that burst. That is the last thing you want on a fun camping trip!
Especially if you are camping with kids, you’ll want to make sure your winter RV camping trip is a success, and that everyone is safe and comfortable.
Be prepared for your next winter RV trip. By knowing these important things, you can deal with cold winter winds and very cold temperatures like a pro!
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At what temperature will my pipes freeze?
RV pipes freeze when the temperatures dip below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Any time that you are camping in temperatures this low, be sure to take extra precautions for your pipes and water lines.
If there is water in the lines, it will freeze and expand. If you have a frozen pipe when camping in cold temperatures, there is a good chance that your water line could burst while you are sleeping or away from camp which can cause extensive damage to both the inside of your RV as well as any other items outside of your RV.
If you are camping in high altitudes, be sure to keep an eye on the low temperatures throughout the night, as it can get pretty chilly in the mountains!
RV pipes freeze any time the temperature drops below 32 degrees, so be sure to follow these tips so you are prepared if planning a winter camping trip!
Why are frozen pipes in an RV dangerous?
Frozen pipes in an RV can cause a whole host of problems and costly repairs. If the pipes freeze, it can cause leaks in your RV that lead to damage and flooding. Frozen water lines can also burst while you’re away from home which will leave you with no running water at all!
If your pipes freeze and burst, you might have to replace multiple parts of your RV’s water system. The cost for this type of damage can be very high depending on the extent of the issue you are facing, so keeping them from freezing in the first place is definitely recommended!
Freezing temperatures might be good if you are trying to keep food cold while camping, but not so much if you have pipes that can freeze.
If you are planning a winter camping trip, make sure you follow these tips so you aren’t left with burst pipes and water flowing all over your camper!
How to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping in the winter
Keep the water running
One of the easiest tips to keep RV lines from freezing in freezing temperatures is to keep the water running. By doing this, you are constantly moving water through the pipes and preventing any ice from forming in the lines themselves by keeping the water flowing freely.
Water should be left on throughout the day for a long time. This can just be a trickle of water to keep things moving. Let all sinks and showers drip when they are not in use to prevent ice buildup in the pipes.
The water should be warm (but not hot water), or at or above room temperature. If you leave water in the pipes and it’s too cold, then ice can still form inside.
Prevent pipes from freezing by insulating them
The best way to prevent RV pipes from freezing is by insulating them with foam insulation! Insulate pipes using foam pipe covers or an old blanket wrapped around the lines. The combination of warm water flowing through the pipes and an insulating covering will keep ice from forming inside the pipes.
You can also use foil lined reflective insulation (the kind meant for home insulation) to cover any exposed pipes. It will act as a reflective blanket and reflect heat back into your RV, keeping it warmer in there longer. You can also find this at hardware stores.
When insulating pipes, remember that the outside of your RV will be much colder than the inside. That’s why insulation is very important on all exterior water lines, including hoses and faucets during freezing temperatures.
Use heat tape on pipes and hoses
Another great option for insulating pipes in your RV is to use heat tape. Heat tape can be cut to the size of your water lines and plugged in to an outlet in your RV. It will provide heat inside the pipes, helping them stay above freezing even when it’s very cold outside.
When using heat tape, it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s directions carefully. It is usually applied directly to hoses, then plugged into an outlet inside your RV.
If it gets too hot, it could melt something or start a fire so be sure to check the temperature rating before you plug in your heat tape and always keep an eye on things when they are plugged in.
Check for leaks in the pipes
When insulating your RV water pipes, it is a good idea to do a thorough check for any leaks in the pipes. Look for wet spots or soft areas, especially around the joints. If there is a leak in your pipe insulation it could quickly turn into a frozen block of ice that can cause big problems on your trip.
To check for leaks in pipes, apply a light soap and water solution to the outside of your pipes. If bubbles form, you have found a leak that needs immediate attention before it gets worse and causes big problems on your trip.
If there is any sign of leaks in your pipe insulation or hoses, leave them unplugged until you can get out and repair them properly. An easy way to quickly repair a pipe leak is to wrap it in plastic or scotch tape.Rescue Tape is also a good option as a temporary fix.
Install RV skirting
Another great tip for how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping in freezing temperatures is to install an RV skirt. RV skirting is a simple and effective way to create an insulating barrier between your RV exterior and the cold winter air. Skirting works by trapping warm, moist engine exhaust inside with insulation around it for more efficient heating of your RV’s interior space.
Using an RV skirt has many benefits such as protecting your exterior finish from the damaging effects of road debris like rocks, gravel, and tree limbs. It also provides protection for your RV’s windows by preventing them from accumulating frost or ice. Additionally, it protects cold air from entering your RV from the cold wind blowing underneath.
Most RV skirts are easy to install and their lightweight materials allow for easy storage when not in use.
Seal windows and doors
To keep RV plumbing and pipes from freezing, you can also seal all windows and doors. This will help prevent the cold weather air from entering the RV and causing pipes to freeze during colder months.
To seal windows in your RV, use a good quality RV window insulation kit. These kits are designed to seal windows or doors in any size, shape, or configuration.
You can also use a protective insulating film to protect windows and doors from frost buildup and cold air. Protective films are also easy to install and remove, so they’re great for those who use their RV all year-round.
To seal doors in your RV, you can use insulating foam strips or gasket-type weather stripping. You’ll need to cut these types of materials into the right size and shape for your RV doors, then stick them on using a strong adhesive.
Close all outside vents and open interior ones
Be sure to close all outside vents and open interior ones. RV pipes can freeze when they do not have warm air around them. This will allow warm air inside to circulate, prevent cold air from entering inside, and keep the pipes from freezing.
By closing outside vents, you’re preventing the cold weather air from coming into the camper. Keeping inside vents open allows the warm air to circulate and keep the inside of your camper warmer.
You can also cover outside vents with an insulated blanket to further protect the pipes from freezing.
Don’t let the thermostat drop below 45 degrees
Even when winter RV camping in freezing temperatures, never let the interior of your RV drop below 45 degrees or you risk freezing your water lines. Use the RV furnace if you have an electrical hookup and you’re able to keep the furnace running without draining your battery.
If you cannot use the RV furnace, consider using an electric heater or space heater to keep your RV warm inside. When using electric heaters, make sure to keep them away from flammable objects and make sure they are turned off before you leave the camper.
The best place to put space heaters in your RV is near windows and doors where the cold air is coming in. Your electric heater can also be placed in the bathroom or near the kitchen area where there are pipes that could potentially freeze.
If you are experiencing especially freezing temperatures, you can even use an electric blanket or heating pad to keep your water pipes from freezing. Wrap it around the pipes under a sink and plug it into an outlet. Be sure to keep an eye on the blanket though because it may get too hot.
If you are camping with dogs, be sure to monitor them when using space heaters to prevent them from knocking them over or getting hurt!
Open cabinet doors underneath sinks for better heat circulation
Another tip to prevent freezing pipes in your RV is to open cabinet doors underneath sinks. This helps heat from the furnace or space heater to circulate around the pipes and prevent them from freezing.
Additionally, keep internal doors open to help the heat flow better around your RV.
Only dump water tanks when they are full
To keep RV pipes from freezing during a cold weather camping trip, be sure to dump tanks wisely. It is best to only dump water tanks when they are full. If you wait until the tank is almost empty, there will be less wastewater in the tank and therefore less heat produced by your water pump. This could potentially freeze pipes while camping in cold weather.
If possible, avoid emptying your black water or gray water tanks during winter trips because these tanks tend to freeze more easily. Only empty the freshwater tank, which is typically easier to keep from freezing because of the water pump running inside it.
If you do have to dump a frozen tank during winter camping, be sure not to open any valves or flush toilets until your RV has been moving for at least 30 minutes and the frozen wastewater has melted.
If your RV is parked in a garage, make sure it is heated and insulated
If you are storing your RV in a garage for the winter season, make sure the garage is heated and insulated. If possible, install a heater and insulation kit in the garage.
If that is not possible, use an outdoor RV cover with venting to prevent moisture accumulation and pipe freezing. Do not forget the exhaust fan!
In addition, be sure there are no leaks or cracks in your RV’s exterior which could lead to condensation forming inside it and cause pipes to freeze.
Whenever possible, do not park your RV where it will be exposed to the wind and cold temperatures for a long period of time during the winter months.
If you are forced to keep your vehicle parked outside or if there is no other option but to leave it out overnight during winter camping, be sure to follow all the tips in this guide until the warm weather returns!
Drain pipes of any remaining water
If you don’t plan on RV camping for the rest of the winter season, be sure to drain the pipes of any remaining water. This will help prevent the pipes from freezing and cracking.
There are two different ways that we recommend draining your RV’s plumbing system: using a water hose or with a pump-out station.
A water hose will require you to connect a hose from your water spigot/faucet and the sewer connection. Be sure that it is placed in an area where there won’t be any additional moisture or leaks, such as near the dump valves.
If using a pump-out station, we recommend checking with your local RV park for rules and regulations. Sometimes using a pump-out station isn’t allowed due to sanitary reasons.
If you have RV holding tanks, be sure to dump that too before closing up for winter! You can do this by opening the drain valves and letting them run for a few minutes. This will prevent any solids from sticking around and freezing in place later down the road.
Be sure to dump your freshwater tank as well if you don’t plan to use it for the rest of winter to prevent freezing.
Add antifreeze to the water tank
Another easy option to keep the RV’s pipes from freezing in extremely cold temperatures is to use antifreeze! Only use RV antifreeze in all the drains that lead to your RV’s gray and black water tanks.
Before using antifreeze, make sure all the water is drained from your RV’s pipes. If you miss this step, you could freeze and burst your pipes when the water starts flowing again!
Choose an antifreeze that is suitable for your RV. Not all products are safe to use with septic tanks, so make sure you double-check before pouring it in!
Do not pour antifreeze into the toilet or sinks as this can cause a huge mess and damage the inner workings of your plumbing system over time (that’s why we recommend using drain plugs).
Turn off the water supply to your RV
Lastly, be sure to turn off all the RV water lines and water system. This is a very important step that many people miss when trying to keep their pipes from freezing. If you don’t turn off the RV’s water system, it can cause your pipes to freeze and burst even if you’ve drained them!
Once the temperatures drop this winter, make sure your RV pipes don’t freeze by following these simple tips. Preventing frozen pipe damage is an easy task that just requires a little bit of planning and preparation before you head out on the open road this winter.
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Monday 8th of November 2021
Thank you for sharing this useful information, it is very helpful for me. I'll take note it for the next winter camping trip.
Monday 29th of November 2021
@Glen Taylor, We had a camping trip recently and it was perfect, we had everything prepared in case something went wrong but there was no problem. Anyway, your article also gives us a lot of information and is very helpful. Thank you for writing this post.