You want to protect your RV as much as possible. If you check the weather and see freezing temperatures in the forecast, it might cause you to panic. Some RVs can handle the cold weather better than others. Can your camper survive freezing temps? Let’s see!
Can You Live in a Camper in the Winter?
Yes, plenty of people spend 365 days a year living in their RV. Some will travel with the weather in the winter months, but some brave RVers battle Old Man Winter in their RVs.
Like Aesop’s short story of the ant and the grasshopper, preparation is vital when it comes to living in your RV during the winter. If you wait until the temperatures start dropping to prepare, it’s going to be too late. There are several things you can do in the months, weeks, and days before freezing temperatures that can drastically improve your winter RVing experience.
At What Temperature Will Camper Pipes Freeze?
There’s not a one-temperature-fits-all answer to this question. RVs are all very unique and the materials used during construction matter. Some can withstand temperatures in the single digits for extended periods with minor issues. However, others experience freezing pipes when the temperatures dip into the 20s.
Typically, the temperature needs to drop below 32 degrees Fahrenheit for more than 24 straight hours before it becomes a problem. The further and longer below freezing the temperatures remain, the greater chances you have of your pipes freezing.
How Cold Can It Get Before I Have to Winterize My Camper?
If you’re putting your camper in storage for the winter, it’s best to winterize it immediately after your final trip of the season. You don’t want your unwinterized RV to sit in storage, and a cold front moves through while you’re out of town. If you’re noticing temperatures regularly dropping below 30 degrees at night, it’s a good idea to winterize it as soon as possible.
Preparing Your Camper for Freezing Temps
If there are freezing temperatures in the forecast where you’re RVing, you’ll want to prepare your camper. You can do several things for you and your RV to survive the freezing temperatures.
Winterize Your Camper When Possible
If you’re not living in your camper, winterize it. You don’t want to take any chances of any water that remains in your plumbing system freezing. Water expands when it freezes and is the reason why we see so many RVs discover broken water lines, leaking fittings, and damage to their water heater and pumps in the spring.
How you’ll winterize your camper will vary depending on your RV. However, many RVers use RV antifreeze or an air compressor to get all of the water out of their lines. If you cannot do this yourself, you can pay an RV service department to winterize it for you.
Fill Up on Propane
Your RV furnace is one of the most efficient ways to heat your camper in colder temperatures but typically requires propane. Depending on the temperatures, your propane furnace may run a majority of the night.
This means you’ll typically use the most propane at night and have the greatest risk of running out of propane. A major problem with this is that most places that sell propane aren’t open in the middle of the night. So it’s best always to have a spare tank of propane available.
RVers with multiple propane tanks will typically only open one tank at a time. This lets them know when a tank is empty, and they can take it to get filled. It eliminates any chances of running out of propane in the middle of the night and freezing in your camper.
Keep Your Furnace in Tip-Top Shape
Your RV furnace should be maintained regularly. If your furnace stops working while camping, you can do some RV furnace troubleshooting to try to quickly figure out the problem before having to call and RV tech or cancel your trip.
Buy a Heated Water Hose
Many campgrounds require campers to disconnect their water hoses from the campsite’s water source unless they use a heated water hose. Water freezing in the water spigot can damage the water connection. The campground doesn’t want to replace each water spigot when they experience freezing temperatures.
If you don’t have a heated water hose, you’ll need to fill up your freshwater tank. You’ll then want to disconnect your water hose and store it somewhere it won’t freeze. Your RV’s shower is a great spot. Manage your water usage until the temperatures warm up enough for you to reconnect your water hose.
Install RV Skirt if Stationary
An RV skirt is an excellent option for stationary RVers. Because RVs sit up off the ground, the cold wind can surround them. This can turn your beautiful RV into an expensive cooler in no time.
RV skirting blocks the wind from blowing under your RV and provides a bit more protection for your plumbing and other critical components. However, setting up an RV skirt is no easy task. You’re likely not going to go through the effort of carrying around the materials and the labor-intensive process of setting it up if you’re regularly moving from one spot to the next.
Empty Your Tanks
Before the cold arrives, dump your tanks completely. If your sewer drain valves freeze, emptying your tanks will be more difficult. You want to have as much space as possible available in your black and gray tanks as possible. The more space you have available, the longer you can withstand the freezing temperatures and frozen sewer drains.
When you finish emptying your tanks, it’s a good idea to make sure all of the water is out of your sewer hoses and any attachments. Any water left in them can freeze, which will make it a hassle to empty your tanks later.
Use a Dehumidifier to Avoid Mold
Propane creates moisture when it burns. Your RV furnace is most likely using it as its fuel source. Many RVers who use their campers during the winter months discover condensation in obvious places like their RV walls.
Condensation also commonly appears in closets, cabinets, and under mattresses. It’s likely to occur anywhere there is a lack of air movement and large amounts of moisture in the air. If left untreated, this moisture can turn into mold and ruin plywood, mattresses, and other materials.
Using a dehumidifier, you can combat the moisture created from running your propane furnace. The size unit you’ll need will depend on the size of your RV, but they all serve the same purpose. They suck the moisture out of the air and lower the humidity level in your RV. Having one large unit or several smaller units spread throughout your RV is a great idea. It might surprise you how much moisture these units can collect in just a day or two.
Do You Need a 4 Season RV?
Four-season RVs typically have insulated and heated underbellies, thicker insulation, and are usually easier to manage the interior climate. If you’re planning to spend winter in colder climates regularly, it’s worth the investment to purchase an RV that has a four-season rating. However, many RVers don’t and can make it work. If staying warm and comfortable inside your RV during winter is important, we recommend getting an RV capable of handling winter.
When In Doubt, Head South
Many RVers, whether they own RVs with four-season ratings or not, spend winter in the southern regions of the country. They’ll set up camp in Florida, Texas, Arizona, and Southern California to avoid the cold weather. You don’t have to worry about freezing temperatures as much when the sun is shining and you’re near the beach. Instead of preparing for freezing temperatures, you can go on an adventure or kick your feet up and scroll through pictures of your friends and family digging out of the latest snowstorm up north.
Have you ever had to survive a winter in an RV?
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