The cold weather can wreak havoc on your RV plumbing. Sometimes pipes freeze sometimes hoses burst and water leaks into the floorboards.
Here are a few tips to help keep your pipes from freezing while camping in the winter.
How to Keep Your RV Water Pipes from Freezing while Winter
The best way to keep an RV water tank from freezing during winter would be to install an insulating blanket around the pipe.
When temperatures drop, preventing heat loss, can cause a sinkhole in the gravel and result in ice blockages.
To prevent this, when cold weather rolls around, a sheet of polyisocyanurate or polystyrene insulation should be installed very loosely along the outside of any pipe that is going to be exposed to freeze-thaw, or those pipes that will be near ground level.
Once the insulating blanket is installed tight against the RV pipe, you may install a trampoline around it which keeps liquids inside of your tank from freezing during cold weather hours.
There are many different types and brands of insulation available. Some can even stop noise in residential use while others are also made for commercial use with thicker foams and higher levels of insulation.
Polystyrene sheets melt at a low temperature, making reducing or stopping the pressure of escaping water extremely easy.
Insulation can be purchased online, in scrap yards, and even store-bought plastic wrap if you are determined to find your way there sooner rather than later.
The best thing about polyisocyanurate is it comes in rolls so it is much easier to cut into various sizes for different pipes associated with an RV dé cor.
I recommend wrapping the pipe only in one direction at a time and then staying near, if not on it, to make sure no air or wrinkles form between rolls of plastic throughout the day while you are working with it all by yourself (something that can become dangerous very quickly).
The best method to use polyisocyanurate is in addition to gravel roofing boards that have been nailed down using aluminum nails.
To maximize insulation from freezing, strip some of the covering off and wrap gravel with a pretty thick layer (1-2 layers) of insulation as well.
This method also works rather well for keeping cool air from escaping from underneath your RV in springtime when it is necessary to ventilate water out through the roof gutters, but not enough room inside to put up exterior ventilation louvers on your RV until after summertime has passed.
Keep Your RV Water Pipes from Freezing while Camping
Keeping your RV water pipes from freezing while camping can be tricky, but it’s possible with the following tips.
First and most importantly, you should add a few drops of bleach to the inlets each day after doing dishes or before going to bed at night.
Cleaning up any food spills will also help prevent buildup, which will freeze more quickly.
If your water won’t stay cold for longer than an hour, try adding some air pressure to the water lines, in particular to those on your windshield and at all drains.
This can be accomplished by manually bleeding air into a compressed line using an adjustable ball-valve pump or more commonly with a pressure regulator and barbed fitting attached to one end of the hose nipple etc…
And that’s really it! If plumbers run out near you during camping time when they are doing other jobs elsewhere, then that would just mean there is the workable water pressure in other areas too, and you should take a look at that.
RV Sewage Treatment Systems
If you added pressure to an RV sewer system, it’s because of the non-routine use of water in it. If your sewer is the same as the residential mains, then you should be fine with proper maintenance and no venting after the adjustment that I mentioned above.
However, if this isn’t exactly like how municipal systems work (however not really recommended) or if you did add an emergency outflow/venting line to a system neither at ground level nor near it so your waste or toilet tank didn’t completely drain into this line (know which is which) then you must treat the contents of that system with something like this product here or a store-bought deodorizer such as Simple Green to get rid of gas and other odors coming out.
If there are noticeable leaks into the sewer, especially if they go all right through your RV covering anything but sewage water itself dragging any trash/gunk in on its way or releasing it without transferring it first, then you need to treat that system.
If this is the case and you don’t have a sewer in your RV such as having planned for it from before buying or “just added one without knowing” then consider water filtering equipment like this.
Though some sources say septic systems do not store odors, there is no reason why these products wouldn’t work as needed if/when necessary by preventing them from entering into your home with other trash mixing in with it to absorb odors et al.
In fact, if you don’t have a septic tank or are worried about how likely something is to make its way down your disposal pipe into an RV sewer vent the best course of action may be installing one anyway!
Insulate or Heat Your Drinking Water Hose
You can wrap the drinking water hose in bubble wrap and then cover it with fabric. If you have a dishwasher, you can use a mesquite spoon for insulation.
One of the most common complaints with RVs is that they don’t get hot water while using them at all.
While this can be due to dirt, salt build-up, and overloading/clogging or plugged heaters, etc. based on what we are told by those who sell RV stuff there isn’t a brand name.
Use RV Skirting
RV skirting is something that many RV owners use to protect their motor homes and travel trailers.
While some may not always put the fabric between the full-length side rails due to lack of storage space, it can also help keep small objects from rolling onto the drive shaft as well as prevent rain and snow from getting under the unit and into the motor home when parked outside.
It also makes a nice visual freshen up of the motor home or flanks it gives off and helps protect the carpeting.
Use baby proof locks on stairs/moving parts (optional)
For example – Some nightlight plugs used in RV bathrooms should be blocked to prevent accidental turning on, or replaced with baby-proof plugs that might unscrew at some point if water gets inside of them when being filled for an extended period (like fishing kayaks “or any other watercraft”).
Other windows/doors that should be locked include the sliding glass doors of the bathrooms (for the same reason as baby-proof locks on tanks) – or if using a shower curtain, open those curtains out so small children can’t push them into things at night.
If not opening this window in your RV is an inconvenience then look for one with screens down and make sure to use child safety features to ensure they are secure and/or longer-lasting.
Don’t be dated it up with a non-functioning lock or outdated one that doesn’t actually work, even if the latch is there…..even older mobile homes do not have locks on any window due to liability issues(in hard of hearing areas).
How to Prevent RV Water Pipes Freezing while Driving
Losing control of your water tank causing it to burst under the pressure is a potentially dangerous and costly accident.
To help prevent this, you can install a low-pressure relay that allows the pressurization of the cab even when the engine is off.
A low-pressure outlet would also be necessary.
This is necessary when you are in a ground-powered electric motorhome using chemical water softeners, as the process can cause pipes to freeze and burst.
How cold does it have to be for RV pipes to freeze?
The truth about cold temperatures for RV pipes can be tough to find because it varies depending on the type of rig, the oil used, and outdoor temperature.
For example, some diesel rigs that have a deep-well hot water heater require a minimum temperature in the 40-50°F range below which the water inlet valve could be stuck open.
The best advice is to stay tuned into your rig’s owner manual and watch out for low oil temps.
Colder temps could leave the water inlet valve frozen shut or it may freeze internally and not release water from the tank if you do have a deep-well hot water heater.
If there is some mild frost on your rig at night, that would definitely affect things as well. We just want to prevent any issues when traveling across state lines (or country), especially after hours of driving through very remote areas where helping support firemen can prove to be very expensive!
What to Do if Your Water Pipes Freeze
If your pipes freeze, the first thing to do is shut off the water at the main and open the faucet it usually is nearest.
If it involves a basement, you will want to look for a valve near if not on the pipe – some houses have sprinkler systems that are activated when there is no flow of water; this is also true for street-level faucets. Wait thirty minutes before attempting anything else.
If it freezes again and you do happen to have a shower that does not require hot water the next time you are traveling, bring along lots of extra supplies so you can fix any leaks which could leave freezing pipes exposed.
Now that winter is coming, it’s time to start thinking about keeping your RV pipes from freezing while camping. The best way to do this is by using a pipe wrap or some other kind of insulation for the pipes.
I`m a current Law Enforcement Officer working within the Counterterrorism Bureau in New York State. I have been Camping for over 20 years. My styles of camping include tent, car, truck, van, and RV travel trailer. I have a YouTube channel where I teach all types of camping with an entertaining method: https://youtube.com/@TheSmallsRVAdventures