Winterizing: Using your RV in winter

Be sure to read the previous post(s) in this series so you’re all caught up on terms and things.

So we talked about what Winterizing means, why we do it, and HOW we do it. Now let’s talk about how to balance winterizing with using your RV in cold weather.

You should recall that the entire point of winterizing our RV is to prevent water from freezing, expanding, and breaking the part it’s in, such as the water SUPPLY pipes, or the holding tanks. Well, if we’re using the RV in the cold, all we need to do is make sure water cannot freeze and expand enough to break anything. Simple, right? (I bet some of y’all want to smack me by now :P)

Here’s what we do to make sure nothing breaks:

  1. Leave plenty of room for expansion!
    For me, this means having tanks that are no more than 2/3 full at any time. I keep my fresh water tank 2/3 or less, and dump my waste tanks (Gray and Black) at no more than 2/3 full. I like to keep all my stuff at 1/2 or less, but 2/3 gives you more room to store if you need it.
  2. Let it drain!
    I like to leave my sewer hose connected as long as i’m at one site, and just open/close the valves as needed. In this case, I leave my gray tank valves open so the gray tank drains as soon as liquid gets in there; no chance of sitting water freezing if there’s no water sitting in those tanks!
    DO NOT do this with your black tank.
  3. Flush it down
    In freezing conditions, I drain my black tank at 1/2 full. (Another post on how to drain your black tank effectively).
  4. Keep the belly warm, too.
    Running the on board furnace is a good way to keep the underbelly area warm, which means your tanks and pipes won’t freeze. It’s also a good way to use a lot of propane quickly. I find that an oil-filled heater inside the RV does a great job at keeping the whole place warm, including the underbelly, even from inside the RV. (More on heaters here).
  5. When it’s above freezing during the day, and freezing at night, i’ll wait until after my shower, and any other heavy water use things (washing dishes, laundry if you have that option) are done, and then i’ll disconnect my fresh water supply hose. Once i’m disconnected, i’ll open all the faucets, and leave them open. By doing this, i’ve relived the water pressure in the lines, so they’re not quite full anymore. Then, i’ve left an opening for water to escape the lines as it expands, IF the water in my pipes starts to freeze.
    The big key here is that if i’m in the RV, it should be warm enough for me to sleep comfortably, which means 52 degrees or above (Below 52 I tend to get a little cranky when I sleep without my arctic sleeping gear).

    So there you have it, the secret to keeping your RV pipes in good shape while camping in the cold!


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