Preventing both water tanks and RV water lines from freezing during the winter can be challenging. If you must live in your RV during freezing weather, there are a few things you can do to keep your water from freezing.
Keeping Your RV Water Tanks from Freezing
One thing you can do is to add insulation around your tanks. Fortunately, many RVs keep the freshwater tank inside, sometimes hidden under the dinette. If your fresh water tank is inside, it should be fine, as long as the temperature inside remains above freezing. However, to further protect your indoor RV freshwater tank, add a layer of insulation between the outer wall and the tank.
If the fresh water tank is inside an exterior compartment, it will be at a higher risk of freezing. If that is the case, you can get a heating pad designed for RV holding tanks. To further protect it from freezing, insulate the tank with Reflectix or foam.
RV Water Holding Tank Heater Pad
You can find RV water tank heating pads that run on either AC or DC and they come with a thermostat. A heating pad can be invaluable when camping in freezing temperatures. The heating pads come in several sizes, and a 12” x 18” heating pad should keep a tank up to 50 gallons from freezing.
However, it’s a good idea to keep your RV plugged into shore power during freezing weather, for a number of reasons; for one thing, your batteries will drain much more quickly during cold weather. For another thing, heating appliances can take a lot of electricity, and staying plugged in assures a constant flow.
The Black and Gray Holding Tanks
The waste tanks are generally hidden under the RV. A waste tank that’s frozen means you won’t be able to dump your waste. Furthermore, that means you won’t be able to use the toilet or shower. Obviously, preventing your waste tanks from freezing is something you need to do.
One very effective way to not only insulate the waste tanks, but also keep the RV interior warmer, is to skirt it. This will prevent the cold air from blowing underneath the RV. Keep in mind, no amount of insulation will prevent the tanks from freezing if the freezing temperatures are prolonged.
To prevent the waste tanks from freezing, install a heating pad on both the black and gray tanks before you add any more insulation. Installing these may be more of a challenge, since you may have to crawl under your RV, pull off the underbelly, place the heating pads and then reseal it.
Remember, insulation can only hold heat in, insulation does not create heat. In order for insulation to work, the tank needs to be warm enough to not freeze in the first place.
Heating Your RV Water Hose
Water hoses will freeze solid when you’re hooked up to the water spigot in the winter. If you must stay in a very cold place over the winter, insulating and heating your water hose helps to keep it from freezing.
Let’s look at how you can use heat cable (also called heat tape) to prevent your RV’s water hose from freezing. The first thing you need to know is the length of your hose, in order to determine how much heat cable to get.
Buying the Heat Cable
The heating cable is electrical, with a sensor to detect when the temperature dips to freezing. It then kicks on, heating up the hose when it gets too cold.
You can get this in the plumbing department at a hardware store. You can also buy heat cable or a pre-made heated water hose online. Get enough heat cable for the length of your freshwater hose.
While you’re getting the heat cable, also buy foam pipe insulation to cover your hose. This will also be in the plumbing department. It’s made of black or gray closed-cell foam, and usually comes in 8-foot lengths. Finally, have a roll of duck tape and electrical tape handy.
Wrapping the Fresh Water Hose
Secure the heat cable’s sensor with electrical tape to the end of the hose closest to where you will plug it in. Next, press the heat cable against the hose, running it along the length of the hose. However, don’t coil the heat cable around the hose, only run it straight down the length of the hose. Secure the heating cable every 12” with electrical tape to hold it in place.
Insulating the Water Hose
After you’ve secured the heat cable along the full length of the hose, place the foam pipe insulation around it. You can pull the sides of the foam insulation apart to place the hose inside and secure it with the self-stick sides to hold the hose is in. If your pipe insulation doesn’t have self-adhesive tape along the sides, secure it with some duck tape.
Plug in the Heat Cable
Plug the heat cable into an AC power outlet; you can either plug it into an outlet on the outside of your RV or the campsite’s power pedestal. Once the hose is plugged in, the sensor will turn on the heat when the hose gets too cold.
Finally, connect the heated hose to the campground water supply and to your rig. Congratulations! Your freshwater hose should be good until spring.