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Winterizing Your Rig

Tips & Tricks

live more comfortably

Winterizing Your Rig

Winterizing is perhaps too strong a word, I prefer weather proofing. “Winterizing”, after all, is what we do when we are not going to be using the RV. Weather proofing on the other hand is what you do to live more comfortably while living in your RV during colder weather and what you do to protect RV systems while continuing to use them.

Ceiling/Roof

Let’s start with the ceiling/roof since as heat rises this will be an area of greatest loss.
  1. First ensure that there are no cracks, penetrations, or separations in the seams where the walls meet the ceiling.
  2. Then scan the rest of the ceiling for holes or cracks of any kind.
  3. If you find penetrations in the ceiling make sure to seal them so air (heated air) cannot escape.
    • You can use the old dependable – duct tape
    • For small seam cracks use caulk just like you would in a house.
    • You can also use decorative borders as long as they are somewhat flexible
  4. While you are looking for openings in the ceiling you may notice one or more large square holes, otherwise known as roof vents. Your largest heat loses can be the result of this design feature and therefore must be addressed. Keep at least one accessible for use, kitchen would be best, so you can crack it open when using the stove. All others are up for one of the treatments below.
    • If your roof vent is indented you can purchase a vent insulator Click Here at RV stores. It is a square, of the proper size, is fully enclosed insulation with a reflective surface and you just insert it into the opening. Make sure to face the reflective part into the living space.
    • If your roof vent is not indented but is flush and or has parts hanging below the ceiling you will have to remove 6 to 9 screws to get access to the open space above and insert the vent insulator and then replace what you removed.

Wall Openings

Ok, now that the ceiling/roof are taken care of the next greatest losses come from wall openings, i.e. windows and doors.

  1. Check the weather stripping on your doors. If it is loose or damaged fix it or replace it. The improved comfort you will experience and savings on propane will more than pay for any costs associated with this fix.
  2. Windows may not be as easily fixed and even the newer dual pain windows in RVs are somewhat less energy efficient than their larger cousins in brick and mortar buildings. However, they have the advantage that they are fundamentally the same as any home window and companies have been producing products to help weatherize windows for a long time.
    • Growing up we put plastic on the windows every year. Sometimes on the inside and the outside. The products available today are amazing compared to what we used, you can actually see through the plastic like it isn’t even there. These kits Click Here are inexpensive and easy to use. (Make sure the placement of tape etc. will not damage your coach before proceeding.)
    • Make sure your window treatments, curtains, shades, etc. are working for you and not just cute. Another thing we had when I was younger was heavy “rubber” backed drapes. The rubber provides insulation value and is heavy enough to keep the curtains in place. The same principle also works in RVs.

Cupboards & Cabinets

A very often overlooked space for weatherization in RVs is cupboards and cabinets.
  1. These conveniences enclose an airspace that is isolated from the interior of the RV. These spaces can be significantly warmer or colder than the rest of the RV interior. When cabinets and cupboards are being used the contents help moderate the temperature variance but not eliminate it. When not fully utilized they can become a significant source of heating or cooling air that runs contrary to the season. They produce hot air when it is warm and you are trying to cool and cold air when you are trying to heat. There are a couple of things you can do to mitigate this affect.
    • Combine your items into as few cabinets as possible and fill the empty ones with cloths, bedding, pillows, anything that will help insulate the space.
    • Make sure the doors fit snuggly and seal the gap between the doors on two door cabinets with painters tape so no air can pass from the living quarters to the cabinet or vice versa.
  2. Don’t forget the hidden “cabinets”. Do you have a sofa with pull away kick panel? If so this will behave in the same way as a cabinet. How about an unused or very large TV cubby? Check these out and look for other hidden spaces that can adversely affect your heating and cooling efforts. Under the bed?

Now to the outside.

  • Inspect all basement door seals and make sure they are undamaged and that they firmly adhere to the inner surface of the door. These seals are your first and last line of defense from air penetration from below. If you have missing or damaged seals it will be like leaving the basement windows open in a house.
  • The sewer line can be a challenge during cold weather. It is not easy to insulate and sometimes can have runs greater than 10 feet. My personal strategy has always been to keep the tank valve closed until the tank is ¾ full and then drain it. I also ensure that I have a steeper angle than usual. This will help drain the tank more quickly and clear the line more completely. I also do my best to make sure the grey water tank is at least half full so I can flush the line after draining the black water.
  • Finally for the all-important water line. Over the years I have developed a very specific strategy to deal with possible challenges with the waterline. When I know there is a chance of freezing weather, no matter how remote, while I am in my rig I custom make my water line for the campground I am in. Once my rig is in place I will measure from the yard hydrant to the water inlet on the rig I then add enough length so the fittings won’t be stressed and I cut a piece of potable water hose to that specific length.   I purchase a hose end from the hardware store and install it so I have a complete hose. I also purchase a heat tape a little longer than the length of the hose, and two sizes of foam rubber pipe insulation ½” and 1” or larger and some duct tape. When I get back to the park I place the heat tape on the yard hydrant and tape it in place. I then attach the hose to the hydrant and tape the remaining part of the heat tape to the hose. I then put on the smaller size of foam insulation. It has a slit along the entire length, just spread it open and place it on the pipe/hose. Then I take the larger insulation and place it over the smaller insulation ensuring I cover the slit of the smaller piece when I place larger piece over it. Then I put several pieces of tape on to hold everything in place. I have never had an arrangement like this freeze up. Having said that, I realize if it were to freeze and cause damage to the hydrant or park water system I am personally liable. The safest route is to always shut the hydrant off and disconnect your hose. This allows the water in the hydrant to drain out, down below the frost line protecting the hydrant and the park water system from freezing.

As always talk to other campers and find out their best tricks and then spread them around so we can all stay comfortable and safe while on the road.