RVs are not just meant for weekend getaways and family outings during the warm months. RV owners love winter camping too. If your RV is actually your home for the many months that you will be traveling, you will obviously need to know what can be done to keep your vehicle comfortable when the cold sets in. If you’re a first-time RV owner, these tips on cold weather RVing are sure to come in handy.
Prepping your RV for heat insulation
Before you hit the road, make sure that your motorhome is prepared for the demands of winter camping. All of our RVs are built and insulated to keep you comfortable against the chilly weather. But there are still some precautions you can take to avoid any last minute inconvenience.
•Before heading out, clean your RV’s furnace with a soft brush or compressed air to remove dust.
•Heat can sometimes escape from roof vents and skylights. It would be a good idea to insulate them with RV vent cushions.
•Some areas outside the RV can also act as exit points for heat.
•Treat any opening, crevice or crack that can potentially cause heat loss with weather-stripping.
Ways of heating your RV
A propane RV furnace: Most RV furnaces have one or more special ducts running down into the underbelly to heat the tanks and basement storage. So, it makes sense to use it as your primary heat source.
Space heaters: Space heaters won’t set you back much, and they can lower heating costs when you’re using a free electric hookup. You can use one in your bedroom at night.
Propane radiant heaters: If you feel like you’re up for some cold weather boondocking with no electric hook-up in sight, propane radiant heaters are an excellent option, and can serve as your RV’s secondary source of heat.
How to prevent water pumps and valves from freezing
To protect your RV’s holding tank dump valve from freezing, first empty your gray and black water tanks before embarking on the trip, and add some RV antifreeze to each. If needed, use foam pipe insulation to insulate the pipes draining into the tanks. If you plan to camp in sub-zero temperatures, it is best to add electric pipe heaters.
To prevent ice dams from forming inside the sewer hose, wrap it in heat or insulation tape. A frozen hose can split when you disconnect it. A smart strategy is to use your sewer hose only to dump your tank, after which you can clean it and store it in a heated compartment immediately.
A heated water hose can prevent fresh water hook-up from bursting or freezing. Or you can fill your fresh water tank, disconnect your hose from the campground faucet, and allow the water to drain out.
If you will be using a generator, check if it has a winter setting. Furnaces use up a lot of battery power to cycle on and off. A quick solution would be to stick to winter camping grounds that offer a reliable source of power.
Whenever using a heater in the winter, carbon monoxide poisoning is a clear and present danger. Never use your oven or range burner as a source of heat. If a carbon monoxide detector is not installed in your motorhome, you can buy a battery-operated model designed for RVs. Before every trip, test the CO detector to make sure that it’s working properly.
Continuously running furnaces can see your propane supply deplete in a few days. To address this risk, you can rent a large propane tank with a regulator and have a fresh supply of the fuel every three weeks.
Check if there are propane refill stations in the proximity of your camping area. Quite a few campgrounds rent out propane tanks, so you may want to inquire in advance.
As diesel can freeze, fill your RV with winterized diesel available at most truck shops. In case it’s not available, you will need to purchase an additive (from a truck shop or an auto parts store) that prevents the diesel from freezing.
When camping in a location with freezing temperatures, it is advisable to install an engine block heater.
•If the temperature is between 32 and 10 degrees, turn on the block heater a minimum of four hours prior to turning on the engine.
•For temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit, leave the engine block heater on until temperatures rise above 10.
•Make sure that the block heater is turned off while the engine is running.
Some more tips
Park on wooden boards, and place a board under your stabilizing jacks (to prevent freezing to concrete or paved pads) as well. You will then be in a good position to raise the jacks, drive forward, and free the blocks with ice melt, a hammer and chisel.
You may want to carry an emergency GPS, extra propane tanks, weather band radio, an extra small generator, a blow dryer, and tire chains.
Leave drawers and cabinets open where water lines are located. This will promote heat circulation around the plumbing.
As much as possible, keep the entry door closed.
When you get to your destination, try selecting a site that will receive sun exposure throughout the day, and also have some kind of wind break. Position your RV such that its front or rear – and not its side – faces the force of the wind.
Absorbent cloths that hold loads of water can be really handy for getting rid of moisture. You can use one to wipe down the condensation on your windows or to wipe down your shower stall. If pets are coming along, use a separate absorbent cloth to dry them off. You can then wring the moisture down the drain instead of letting it back in the air inside your RV.
Plastic can become brittle and susceptible to breakage in very cold temperatures. So exercise extra care when handling it.
Most of the wattage in incandescent lights is put out as heat. This poses a problem when dry camping on RV batteries, but they can provide much needed heat when the camping ground has an electrical hookup. If your RV has LED lighting, and you’re looking for yet another solution to stay warm, you can swap the LED lights with incandescent bulbs whenever you need the extra heat.
Winter storms can sometimes appear without notice and put you in a conundrum, especially if this is your first time cold RVing. It is best to get the weather forecast for the area you’ll be camping in, from the National Weather Service.