By Chris Dougherty
Chris Dougherty is a certified RV technician. Here is a letter he received from a reader while he was serving as RVtravel.com’s technical editor.
We’re new RVers. We just bought a 2013 Winnebago Access 25′. Our daughter is graduating from Parris Island, South Carolina, to become a Marine. We are traveling during cold temperatures and any advice for us to prevent freezing piping would be much appreciated. As of now it appears that the temperatures at night will be around 15-25 degrees. –Scott
This is a tough one, Scott, because your coach isn’t built for use in freezing weather. That said, it is possible to make it work … I did it for 10 years!
The main concern, of course, is freezing the water system. I know this sounds a bit elementary, but if you avoid using the water system and keep it winterized you’ll be fine. I know many folks who will use various facilities en route to the warmer weather, put a bunch of RV antifreeze in the holding tanks (not fresh water tank) and use bottled water, emptying the tanks frequently.
I assume, however, that you wish to use the water system, so here are a few tips:
Some RVs are equipped with heated tanks or tanks compartments. If they’re in a heated space, but there aren’t heaters on the tanks and waste piping, then it’s certainly possible that they’ll freeze if it gets cold enough.
The temperature inside the coach must be kept high, and warm air must circulate around the entire piping system. Leaving cabinet doors open helps, as does the installation of 12-volt D.C. computer fans in areas with poor circulation.
Enclosed fresh water and waste compartments can be heated using a 110-volt AC light bulb, or a carefully installed heating appliance. I have seen manufacturers install 12-volt DC “back seat heater” units to help keep those compartments warm. Please note: If the RV doesn’t come with this type of appliance, consult an RV professional for installation assistance.
Keep the water heater on at all times to keep it from freezing.
In addition to the water system, extreme cold can have other effects, like frosting walls and windows from high humidity levels in the coach, freezing of other liquids in the coach or basement, etc. Be careful to avoid a mess.
Condensation and frost can be reduced by using a dehumidifier to dry the interior air.
Hope this helps!