Taking your RV out in subzero temperatures may not seem like the best option for some, but for avid RVers who enjoy being on the road and camping in the great outdoors all year round, it is very common to head out in all types of weather conditions.
One of the biggest challenges that people face when travelling in these conditions in an RV is freezing water lines. If these lines are left unchecked, you can end up with your entire system freezing over.
To ensure this doesn’t happen, there are several steps you should take to winterize your RV’s water system. By doing so, you help to ensure that you do not face the costly and problematic issues that come along with your RV’s water system freezing over.
The Importance of Caring for Your RV’s Water Hose
Once you decide to invest in a quality RV, you need to familiarize yourself with a lot of equipment. The water hose is a primary piece of equipment that you need to check and maintain regularly to ensure the proper function of your vehicle.
A water hose on an RV looks like a typical water hose. It connects to the water spigot at the campground to your RV and helps to provide you with water for your toilet, your shower, and your kitchen sink.
After you become familiar with what the water hose on your RV looks like, its function, and where it is located, it is essential to learn how to prevent the hose from freezing in colder climates.
Anytime you are travelling in your RV, it’s important to remember you may stay in areas where it gets frigid at night. That is especially true if you are travelling during the fall and winter months. And if you do not take the necessary steps to prevent your water hose from freezing, you will end up with some serious issues.
So how cold is too cold, and when should you be concerned about your RV’s water hose being in danger? Water starts to freeze when it reaches 32oF. Whenever the temperature outdoors reaches that point, the RV’s water lines will start to freeze slowly.
Consistent cold temperatures within this range will accelerate the freezing, but it could take a while before your system becomes utterly frozen if temperatures are fluctuating.
If you use your water regularly, allowing movement in the lines, and if you have insulated your camper for the winter months, your risk of having freezing water lines is considerably low.
However, as the winter season approaches, the risk always heightens regardless of those facts. Taking the time to prepare for the worst-case scenario is the best way to avoid future issues with frozen water hoses.
Tips for Preventing Frozen Water Hoses in your RV
Whether you are new to RVing or have owned an RV for decades, learning a few tips and tricks for preventing frozen water hoses doesn’t hurt. That is why we have put together a few suggestions that we hope will help you avoid any serious issues while on the road.
Create a DIY Heated RV Water Hose
One of the most common suggestions for preventing frozen water hoses is to add heat to your current water hose.
To do this, you will first need to purchase a heat cable. To ensure you purchase the correct size, measure the length of your RV’s water hose, and make sure you buy a cable long enough to cover it completely. These heated cables are designed to add insulation to your water hose.
They will automatically heat up when the temperature is colder outdoors.
To install, you will first need to disconnect your water hose from the RV’s water system. Use electrical tape to ensure the sensor remains securely in place, pressed to the hose. Then place your heating cable on the hose in a parallel position. Wrap the hose and cable with tape to ensure it remains in place.
You should not wrap the cable around the hose because too much contact will lead to the hose overheating and will likely cause damage to it. If you are unsure, be sure to check with the manufacturer’s instructions regarding safety measures and effectiveness.
Insulate the Water Hose and The Heating Cable
Once you have secured the heating cable to the water hose, you will need to cover everything using pipe wrap insulation or insulation tubing. The additional layer will help trap the heat and keep the cold air out.
Pipe wrap insulation is the preferred method because it will bend easily with your water hose and not restrict it from moving. It is easy to wrap the hose and cable using this method.
Just be sure that you do not wrap the thermostat on the heating cable along with the insulation. That could prevent the thermostat from turning it on whenever the temperature drops below freezing.
If you decide to use insulation tubing, be sure to separate one side of the tube from the other and then insert the hose.
This process is much easier if you purchase self-adhesive tubing, as it makes it simpler to secure the tubing to the RV’s water hose. Otherwise, you will need to reconnect the areas where you created the opening and secure them together using duct tape every one to two feet.
If you run into issues covering the part of the water hose that attaches to your RV, you can find special foam insulation pieces available in 90o angles for a more secure and precise fit.
Cover the Foam with Insulation Tape
The next step is to cover the foam using insulation tape. That is a specific type of tape that features a metalized finish and a special adhesive designed to work in frigid temperatures. You will need to begin at one end of the hose and wrap the tape around the hose.
Overlap the tape by half an inch with each coil until you cover the opposite end of the hose.
Connect Your Heat Cable to the Power Supply
Once everything is wrapped and wholly insulated, you will need to connect your heating cable to your power supply. The cable you just installed operates on electricity, and you will need to plug it into one of the outlets inside your RV.
You can also choose to plug it into any power supply that is located nearby. Once connected, the heat will turn on anytime the built-in sensor detects that the temperature is dangerously low, and freezing is possible.
Reconnect Your Water Hose to the RV’s Water Supply
The final step is to reconnect your water hose to the water supply and pump system. Connect your hose to your RV’s water tank and then attach the opposite end of the tank’s port to a nearby pump system.
Be sure that all connections are secure before you begin to turn on the valves. As a safety measure, you should fill your tank with water and then disconnect the hose. That will prevent it from freezing.
That will take a little extra work, but you will not have to worry about manually thawing a frozen hose using a heat gun in the future.
Use a Camco Heated Water Hose
If you are not interested in taking on a DIY project but still want to make sure your water hose doesn’t freeze, you can purchase a Camco Heated Water Hose as an alternative.
The Camco water hose is a specialized hose that includes a sensor that will detect cooler temperatures and automatically activate heating. It is easy to install and involves less work than the DIY method.
Just keep in mind if you plan to use this hose with drinking water, make sure you purchase the model that has the drinking water-safe certification and that it meets all NSF-61 standards.
There are several different brands of heated water hoses on the market. However, we believe that Camco is the highest quality and one of the most trusted brands available.
How Do I Unfreeze a Frozen RV Water Hose?
If you are camping in frigid temperatures, issues with a frozen water hose may be unavoidable, especially if you are not prepared. Here are a few quick fixes that can help you thaw out your RV’s water system.
Use a Heat Gun
First, you will need to detach your water hose and bring it inside the RV, where it is warm.
There you can allow it to thaw. Some of the connections on your water hose may be too frozen to unscrew successfully. To complete this step, you will need to use a heat gun on all these connections so that you avoid damaging your hose while attempting to disconnect it.
You can purchase a heat gun that has multiple temperature settings from most major retailers, or you can also use a hairdryer if you have one available.
Detach The Water Hose
Detach your water hose by unscrewing it from each port, and ensure that every valve within the system is shut. Then start loosening the hose by rotating the ends in a counterclockwise motion and pull it away gently.
This part of the process requires extra care since the hose is more susceptible to damage when frozen. Therefore, you should not apply a lot of force when attempting to disconnect it. If you have difficulty disconnecting or unscrewing from any port, you should allow the hose to thaw some more.
Bring the Hose Inside the RV
Once the hose is unscrewed and completely disconnected, you should bring it inside the RV to thaw more. You can help speed the process up by using a heat gun, a hairdryer, or by turning up your RV’s heat.
Be sure to place the hose in a location where the melted water will not make a huge mess, such as in the bathroom inside the tub or shower or by placing it inside the kitchen sink.
Check the Hose for Damage
Do a visual inspection and check the hose for any damage before you reconnect it.
It is very common for RV water hoses to become damaged when they are frozen. That is because as water freezes, it expands and creates a constant force inside the hose that can lead to stretching, cracking, and splitting. You don’t want to endure a leak after you think you have resolved your issue with frozen pipes.
If, after your inspection, you see that the hose is not damaged, you can attach it back to your water lines. However, it is not recommended that you reattach a compromised hose, especially if you use it for drinking water.
That is why it is highly recommended that you always keep a new, spare water hose with you on your RV so that you can replace your damaged hose without worry.
How Do I Winterize My RV Water System?
If you are wondering how you can successfully winterize your RV water system, here are a few tips.
Use an Insulated Skirt
The water lines and exterior valves found under your RV are susceptible to outdoor elements, including cold temperatures. Also, the cold air from outside and underneath the camper can make its way inside through your RV’s flooring.
To resolve this issue, you should install an insulated skirt all around your RV. To do this, you will need to cover the perimeter with insulating foam boards or vinyl siding.
There’s also universal RV insulated skirt material that you can purchase for this purpose. Alternatively, you can also check with your RV’s manufacturer to determine if they have a skirt designed especially for your make and model.
Use a Space Heater
Most RV’s will have water valves located inside their exterior compartments. When you turn on your RV, these valves receive residual heat, but they are still susceptible to freezing if the temperature outside becomes too cold. Using a space heater or installing a heat lamp can help keep your RV’s interior warm enough. Just keep in mind that you should not leave the RV unattended while the space heater is running.
No one wants to deal with issues like a frozen water hose while they are on vacation. These costly and time-consuming repairs can put a damper on your entire trip. But by taking the correct steps toward preventing frozen water lines and hoses, you can be assured that it will not ruin your winter camping trip due to drastic temperature changes. After reading this, we hope you have a better understanding of how important it is to maintain your RV’s water system and that you will do what you can before your trip to avoid an incident.