Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Prepping an RV for Winter Living

Before we started living in our RV full-time, my husband just drained the tanks and water lines, added antifreeze, plugged in a dehumidifier, covered it and parked it over the winter.  We tried using it a couple of times on camping trips in the colder months and from those experiences knew our RV wasn't well-insulated for living in it year round. 

Winterized water line in the RV Park
To keep the water lines from freezing we followed the suggestions of the RV park staff.  The hydrant and waterlines were wrapped with roof de-icing cable and then covered with foam pipe insulation.

The roof and gutter de-icing cables were recommended over the heating tape and cables that are usually used by home-owners for metal plumbing pipes

Foam pipe insulation on the RV water line 
To give the hydrant a little extra protection from the cold, a plastic 5-gallon bucket was placed on top upside down.

Since the Pacific Northwest usually has fairly mild winters, the temperature doesn't often go below much below freezing for more than a day or two.  So we kept an eye on the weather forecast and only turned on the heating cables when the temperature was predicted to be below freezing because we didn't really like how warm it kept the cold water coming from the tap.  That worked fine until we went away to visit relatives for 5 days over Thanksgiving.   We checked the forecast before we left and the low temperatures at night were predicted to be in the mid 30s and daytime highs in the 40s. The Seattle area is notorious for having inaccurate weather forecasts, so we should have known better.  We did take the precaution of shutting off our water heater and the water at the hydrant.  A couple of days after we left the temperatures dropped lower than we expected and we came home to our 5th wheel to find an icicle hanging from our kitchen faucet - darn- didn't get a photo!  We were able to unthaw the pipes quickly and fortunately there was no damage.

Thermostat for the roof de-icing cable
We did some research and bought a fairly inexpensive little thermostat that is made for use with the de-icing cable.  We plug the de-icing cable into the thermostat unit and it turns on the cable automatically when the temperature drops below 50 degrees.  So far it has worked fine and now our cold water isn't warm all of the time.  Unfortunately it looks like this product is no longer available which is too bad because it worked great.

We knew our vents were also a source of heat loss, so we bought some vent pillows to insulate them better.   We did notice that they need to be removed periodically to prevent condensation and  mold growth.  

Insulation for RV vents
We just wait for a fairly sunny day every 3-4 weeks to remove the pillow, wipe away any moisture and let the pillow and vent dry for a few hours.

The windows in our RV are single pane so we knew they were causing a huge heat loss and were also forming a lot of condensation.   We bought about 4 of these inexpensive window film insulation kits on sale.  We used my hair blow-drier to heat the film to shrink it.  The window film made a huge difference both in reducing the amount of cold drafts and the amount of condensation on the windows for very little cost.

Film window insulation

We did need to buy an additional roll of the adhesive tape that is used to attach the edges of the film to the windows.

The film wasn't that difficult to install and is virtually invisible on the windows.  I took this close-up of the only window where I could find a little visible wrinkle. 

Film insulation on the inside of an RV window
These few items really helped to make our 5th wheel more warm and comfortable over the winter months.