how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping

How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping

Scott Rivers

If you enjoy RV adventure during an unpredictable climate, winter camping is your best bet. However, before going out in the wilderness in freezing winter, you should learn how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping.

If the vehicle stays in subzero temperature for a long time, the water lines could freeze and damage the entire plumbing system. So, your plan should also include how to keep RV water lines from freezing during cold weather.

How to Keep RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping

The frozen plumbing pipes during the coldest days are the most significant challenge camp dwellers face during their stay in the RV. How quick the water lines, storage tanks, or connecting hoses freeze depends on the temperature and the duration of exposure to harsh climate.

At what temperature do RV water lines freeze? Well, if the RV exterior temperature drops below 32°F for about 24 hours, the water lines will freeze. Frozen water inside the plumbing system ruptures valves, taps, pipes, and other essential fixtures. Therefore, you must take preventive steps to protect the water system.

at what temperature do rv water lines freeze
A frozen RV pipe. Credit: RVing Zone

Most campers wonder how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping. These days, manufacturers include advanced design features to minimize the winter effect on the motorhome plumbing system. So, the overall freezing of water will depend on many factors, such as the heated vehicle underbelly, temperature-resistant enclosed underbelly, rigid insulation, heat tape, and other protective measures.

There are many methods to protect your precious camping vehicle from winter, and those are:

1. Insulating Water Valves from Harsh Weather Exposure

Skirting travel trailers usually protects the exterior water pipes from the harsh effects of cold weather. However, veteran RVers also plan on covering the plumbing joints and valves using non-conducting materials like thermal blankets or Styrofoam. After wrapping up the target zones a couple of times, seal the ends of wrappers using duct tape.

Water pressure in the water lines is also a vital parameter to prevent frosting inside the plumbing system. Always try to keep the freshwater tank filled at or over 25% of its capacity.

2. Protect the External Water Connecting Hose from Freezing

When you think about how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping, one of the best ways is to disconnect the RV water hose from the campsite water source. When not in use, remove the hose, drain properly, and put it inside the underbelly of the vehicle or the camping car.

At times, it becomes necessary to connect the hose pipe with the water source. Keep the hose pipe above from freezing ground or snow. Also, use space heaters to heat the hose and water supply connection valve.

A camper also needs to protect the sewer connecting pipe from freezing. In winter, keep the sewer hose on a support system, so it stays above the ground.

3. Wrap up the RV Water Plumbing System with Heat Tapes

An effortless way of keeping the water system from freezing in a trailer is applying direct heat. Many RV aftermarket retailers or hardware stores sell heat tapes for RV water lines.

Heat tapes can detect temperature changes on their surface. When the temperature drops below a particular rating, the tapes activate the heating system. The tape’s surface makes water pipes warm, and this is how to keep RV pipes from freezing.

For better results, cover the exposed piping system and hose line with heat tapes as much as possible and then seal using electrical tape. Fasten heat tapes with the piping system using duct tapes at every 1 foot for efficient sealing.

4. Utilize Space Heaters to Protect the Plumbing System

Go through the RV manual to know the exact locations of exterior plumbing, hose pipes, dump pipes, and water storage tanks. The use of additional heating elements at regular intervals could keep the water lines functional.

There are many portable space heaters available in the market. Purchase one that is compact and highly mobile. Keep it beside the plumbing systems. Make sure to take proper fire prevention measures as space heaters are a raw source of heat.

5. Always Keep the Interior RV Temperature Above 20°F

Camping vehicles for long-term winter living or boondocking should have a good heat source, preferably a furnace. If you are thinking how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping, switch the heater on during the night and set it to 45°F. Keep the kitchen and sink cabinet doors open.

When the hot furnace starts to circulate warm air throughout the vehicle, the internal plumbing system will also stay warm. Usually, water inside pipes tends to freeze at 20°F or lower.

keep rv water lines from freezing
Keep RV temperature high. Credit: Garage Kitchen of Science

6. Use Antifreeze for Black and Gray Water Reservoirs

Most new RV owners wonder how to keep RV holding tanks from freezing. Nontoxic antifreeze is a good option to prevent black and gray water tanks along with wastewater plumbing systems from freezing.

When purchasing any antifreeze, make sure that you research well to determine which one is the most suitable for your trailer. These antifreeze chemicals also differ in colors depending on their applicability although RV antifreeze is mostly available in pink color.

Before applying antifreeze, empty the wastewater tanks. Then use the exact amount of the chemical as suggested by the antifreeze manufacturer. It’s noteworthy that as the wastewater plumbing system delivers more water into these tanks, antifreeze’s concentration will decrease. Therefore, carefully follow antifreeze application instructions to prevent water line freezing.

Some Class A RVs offer a heating system for water tanks along with a thermostat that shows reservoir temperature. Campers can switch on the heating pads of holding tanks if the temperature drops below the lower limit.

Conclusion

While expecting that RV water lines, hose pipes, or even holding tanks could freeze due to harsh winter, implement the preventive steps to keep the plumbing system safe.

If you know how to keep RV pipes from freezing while camping in winter, you can save money by avoiding repairs.

Last Updated on February 28, 2021

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