June 24, 2024

Top 10 Ways to Master Winter Without Winterizing Your RV

Is it necessary to winterize your RV? There is certainly a case to be made for NOT winterizing providing you don’t live in an area with extreme winters.

Winterizing is recommended if storing your RV outside during extended sub-freezing conditions, but what about occasional below freezing weather? Why go through the winterizing and de-winterizing process unless it is absolutely necessary? 

We have not needed to winterize in fifteen years, but we have taken these precautions to  prepare for freezing weather. Winter temperatures in our area average in the mid to upper 30s. Low temperatures periodically drop below 20 degrees fahrenheit for short periods of time. Most of the time though, it’s above freezing. 

If this sounds like your winters, then these tips will help you get through the winter without winterizing. I’ve also added a couple bonus tips at the end if you own a motorhome. 

Video: How to Survive Winter Without Winterizing Your RV
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#1 Monitor weather conditions so you know when below-freezing temperatures are coming

This is important. If below-freezing temperatures are expected to last a day or more, then you’ll need to take action. Slight overnight dips below freezing probably won’t cause you trouble unless you have a water hose sitting outside. It doesn’t hurt to take necessary precautions just in case though. 

#2 Locate and Insulate Exterior Water Lines

Exposed water lines under your RV or inside storage bays will be the first to freeze when cold weather hits. Wrapping those lines with foam pipe insulation works well. You can also fill in areas and openings with inexpensive fiberglass insulation. The major home improvement stores have small rolls of insulation that work great for this purpose. 

#3 Keep Water Pump Above Freezing

If water inside your water pump freezes, the expansion could destroy your water heater. I’ve seen it happen on a friend’s trailer. Locate your water pump and keep the temperature around it above freezing. 

There are a couple of ways to do this. 

  • Adding insulation around the water pump and nearby water lines during the winter should do the trick. Be sure to remove the insulation during normal operation to allow the water pump to cool down.
  • Use a low-wattage incandescent light bulb near the pump. The bulb puts out just enough heat to keep a small space from getting below freezing. This is what I do. 

#4 Use an electric space heater to maintain an above freezing temperature

Set a heater in a central location or near plumbing equipment. For larger RVs use two space heaters for better coverage. Turn the thermostat way down to minimize power consumption. The goal here is to simply keep the inside temperature above freezing

Open the cabinet under the kitchen sink and bathroom vanity. Warmer air from the heater will also circulate through those areas where water lines are located. 

Monitor the temperature inside your RV. Place one or more battery powered temperature monitors in areas that you want to monitor (like around your Water Pump). 

If your RV has access to WiFi, consider installing a smart temperature monitor. We use a Govee Smart Temperature Sensor. They are excellent for monitoring conditions inside your RV from anywhere.

#5 Insulate Windows and Vents

Single pane windows are notorious for letting cold air in. So adding extra insulation to windows and plugging ceiling vents helps maintain the temperature inside. 

Insulating windows requires a little more work. Window coverings provide some insulation, but adding another insulation layer makes a big difference. Here are two solutions that work well. 

  • Cutting pieces of Reflectix insulation to fit inside the window frame is the easiest and least expensive way to add some quick insulation to your windows. Place the Reflectix between your window and window shade.  
  • I’ve also cut pieces of polycarbonate panels (used for greenhouses) for each window. They insulate well and also allow light to get through. 

With the insulation in place, simply close the window blind and it should hold it in place.

If you’re looking for a fun project, consider creating some window coverings with insulation built in. This approach worked great in our Class C. We’ve also done something similar in our Class A. 

Video: How to make a low-profile insulated window shade

Ceiling vents have only a thin plastic lid between you and the outdoors. Install roof vent covers and plug the vent openings with a piece of foam insulation. You can 14×14 inch foam inserts specifically designed for this purpose or you can easily make your own. 

#6 Close off spaces that don’t need to be heated

Do not waste energy to heat spaces that don’t need it. Consider closing off areas of your RV that don’t have plumbing. Your space heater will use less energy heating a smaller space. 

Does your sleeping area have a door? Consider keeping that door closed if there’s no plumbing in that area. Also keep RV slide-outs retracted during the winter.

When we had our Class C Motorhome, I closed off the entire cab area with a large blanket. The blanket was anchored under a cushion in the overhead bunk area and hung over the entire opening. It did the trick and I could still get in and out of the cab. This technique also worked well for cold weather camping. 

#7 Turn On Your Water Heater

Simply turning on your water heater before freezing weather hits is an easy solution to protect your water heater. RV water heaters are very well insulated and can hold in heat for a long time. 

#8 Fill your fresh water tank

A full water tank is less likely to freeze than a slightly empty water tank. So make sure your water tank has a lot of water in it before freezing weather hits.  

#9 Pour RV antifreeze into waste tanks

The lowest point of your waste tanks is where the valves are located. The valves are typically in an exposed area in order to simplify dumping. Any fluid in the lower part of the tank can freeze up causing the valves to freeze in place. There’s an easy solution. 

Flush your waste tanks well, then buy two jugs of RV Antifreeze. With the tanks mostly empty, pour one jug of antifreeze into the gray tank (through your sink or shower drain). Pour the second jug into the black tank. 

The antifreeze will settle into the low point of the tank and prevent any freezing around the valve. 

#10 Keep the RV Undercover

This is an obvious one, but protecting your RV from Mother Nature also adds an extra layer of insulation. If you don’t have a large covered area or RV garage, then consider getting an RV cover. 

We kept our Class C motorhome covered each winter and have tried several RV covers. I have found that thicker covers are more durable and last longer. Large RV covers can be difficult to handle. 

Here’s a video demonstrating several tips I’ve developed over the years to simplify the process of handling your RV cover.

RV Cover Tips to Make It Easier

You can find an assortment of RV Covers on Amazon based on the type and length of your RV. 

BONUS TIPS: For Motorhome Owners

These bonus motorhome tips have nothing to do with freezing, but they are important when parking your RV through the winter.

Fill your fuel tank

If your RV sits for a long time during the winter, cold temperatures may cause condensation build up in the air gap of your tank. Topping off your fuel before parking your RV will prevent this from happening. 

Start your engine and run through the gears

Every couple weeks start the engine and let it get up to temperature. While you’re at it, let the heater run. Before shutting down the engine, run through all of your gears to lubricate your transmission. 
Do this periodically to circulate the oil in your engine and keep your chassis battery fully charged. You’ll also scare away any rodents that are hiding out.

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