Winter hasn’t wasted any time settling into the northern corners, and with that comes a slew of seasonal to-do’s, especially if you consider yourself a responsible recreational vehicle owner.
Whether you’re parking your rig in the driveway over the colder months, or utilizing a storage facility, preventing RV pipe freezing should be a priority if you want to save yourself a headache and a hefty repair bill come springtime.
Don’t say we didn’t warn you…
Most recreational vehicles are not equipped to endure freezing temperatures, so it’s essential to carry out some precautionary measures before a bitter cold front sets in. As soon as the air surrounding the RV’s water system dips below freezing, at 32°F or 0°C, you’re at risk. Extended exposure to sub-zero temperatures can create ice in the pipes, resulting in a pressure backup; and, in the worst cases, cause the pipes to burst.
Let’s look at how most RV water systems work.
Your RV's water system draws from either the fresh water tank or an external source, such as a city water connection. From the fresh water tank, a pump is used to push water through the entire RV unit, which will flow cold. Higher temperature water is achieved when the pump diverts the water to the water heater — this is the water supplied to fixtures like the sinks and shower.
There are two methods to winterize your RV water system that rely on the same basic principle — you guessed it, remove the water before it freezes!
For a “Blow Out”, open all the low-point drains on your water lines and let gravity take charge. An air compressor can then be used to expel the remaining water from the plumbing system. To learn more about this method, including appropriate compressor sizes and techniques, click here.
Alternatively, apply the same drainage technique as the previous method; then identify the “bypass valve” on your water heater system. Once the valve has been adjusted to the closed position, you can add a non-toxic RV antifreeze that will fill your fresh water tank and water pipe system. RV-approved antifreeze is recyclable and can be reused year after year, so you can sleep easy knowing this method isn’t detrimental to the environment (or your wallet). Keep in mind that RV antifreeze sold in stores varies by temperature, ranging in protection from 0°C, down to -30°C. For step-by-step directions in applying this method, click here.
Consider this a basic guide intended to familiarize you with standard water system components and potential preventative measures in winterizing your RV. It’s extremely important you read your owner’s manuals for unit-specific winterizing guidelines.
If you have any questions about leveling your RV for long-term storage, check out our leveling guide.