How RV Pipes Freeze During Winter?
Once the outdoor temperature goes below the water freezing point of 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and remains like that for a while, the RV’s pipes will freeze when there is no warm water flowing in them.
Insulation can only prevent the pipes from freezing for a limited time as after long periods of winter camping, the pipes will eventually become frozen. And this comes with a ton of disturbances.
How Can Frozen Pipes Cause Damage?
With pipes frozen, there will not be water flowing freely in the RV and this makes life difficult for you and your visitors. You will be forced to use the restrooms and communal kitchen at the RV park in freezing weather, which can put you at risk of falling on the ice.
Moreover, the RV pipes can burst inside the RV wall and seriously damage your plumbing system if it takes you long to detect them. So you will end up burning a hole in your pocket to repair or replace it.
What Temperature Will The Pipes Freeze?
There is no specific temperature at which pipes freeze, but the freezing process can start to occur at 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) in sub-zero temps.
Pipes cannot freeze at a definite temperature because of different factors such as
- how well insulated the water lines are
- the quality of the pipes
- how long you keep the camper in extreme cold weather conditions
So the pipes are frozen, and you desperately want to get your water flowing again. What next?
How to Thaw Frozen RV Pipes While Camping in Winter?
Always first turn off the water and clean up any leakages on the pipes along with the floor using towels before you try to unfreeze them. It’s after doing that you should use these methods to warm up the pipes:
Turn on the RV furnace
Switch on the portable propane heater or the electric heater to heat the inside of the camper.
For the portable space heater, you can move it close to the water pipes to keep them warm since it doesn’t need electricity to heat up. But not so near if the RV pipes are ABS as they can get damaged.
Much as it’s safe to use both these space heaters inside the RV, you should keep an eye on them and turn them off when the RV is heated up.
Stick the water heater under the fresh water tank
In most cases, water tanks in RVs don’t have heaters attached to them. So you need to buy a holding tank heater that you can tape to the bottom of the tank.
Plug it into a nearby outlet and leave it on until the frozen water warms up or once the weather conditions improve. Leaving the heating pad to run for longer periods can drain your RV’s battery.
Open drawers and cabinet doors
To enable the internal plumbing system to heat up from the furnace and melt the ice stuck in the RV pipes. Usually, it’s because the doors are closed that the heat may fail to reach the RV pipes in cold weather and they end up getting frozen.
Moreover, defrosting is a tire-consuming activity as the water can take about 12 hours before it melts. So it’s better to prevent the water from refreezing.
Use the hairdryer on the RV pipes
Connect the hairdryer to a nearby power supply and adjust it to medium heat to prevent it from cracking the RV’s pipes. Pass the dryer along the frozen pipe from one end to the other until the ice inside it melts.
When the RV pipes unfreeze, water will form on the outside and start dripping. Get a towel and clean it before you move on to the next pipe.
Continue the process until the pipes you decided to use the hairdryer on are all thawed.
Thaw with warm towels
Soak the towels in hot water and keep picking one by one to wrap them around the frozen pipes.
Soak the towels in hot water and keep picking one by one to wrap them around the frozen pipes.
Remove each towel that becomes cool and reheat it before placing it back on the pipe. Do this until the pipe unfreezes.
Warm up the hose with a heat gun
You should follow these steps to thaw your water hose.
1. Defrost the hose connections
Use the heat gun to first unfreeze the hose connections before you detach them from the water supply.
Move the heat gun along the crevices on both the ports connecting the hose for around 10 minutes to the camp’s water pump and the RV’s plumbing system.
2. Uninstall the hosepipe
When the ice has completely melted, disconnect the hosepipe so that you can continue heating up within the warm confines of your RV.
Carefully carry it inside the camper to prevent it from bursting as ice is still stuck within it.
Put it in the bathroom where the thawed ice can flow down the drain and move the portable space heater near the hose and leave it to melt the ice inside the pipe.
3. Inspect the hose for damages
After all the ice has thawed, check the hose for any damages before reconnecting it as the ice could have caused tears or cracks as it expanded while freezing.
If you do not find any damages, you can go ahead and use it. But if you notice any, you should replace that hose with a spare one.
Also, inspect the remaining pipes in the storage spaces and the bathroom as well as underneath the vehicle for any rips after thawing.
Call a plumber if you find any otherwise wait until you return home to get the RV checked out if there are none.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. At what temp will pipe freeze in a camper?
RV water pipes will freeze when the temperature drops below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) for about 24 hours because they are somewhat protected from extreme outdoor temperatures.
But they can also freeze faster than that depending on the how quickly temperature keeps dropping and how protected your camper is. So you need to insulate the camper before you go winter camping to prevent the pipes from freezing.
Q2. How do I keep my RV water from freezing?
Use these preventive measures to stop your RV water from freezing:
1. Skirt the RV
RV skirting prevents cold air from blowing undercarriage and in turn, keeps the pipes and water valves warm. You can cover the bottom part of the camper using different materials such as insulation boards, vinyl, plywood, and tarps.
But the vinyl is the best material to use when winter camping because it functions well in all kinds of environments and it’s also easier to install in addition to being long-lasting.
It’s advisable to skirt your RV before the winter season rolls in to keep the RV water from freezing.
2. Spray the underbelly
Apart from skirting, spray the water valves, cables and ports beneath the RV with aerosol to seal any openings on the water lines and their connections. By doing this, cold air will be stopped from entering the camper trailer and causing the water to freeze.
This is a fast and easy way of keeping the inside of your camper warm.
3. Use heat tape on the water pipes and hoses
Measure the different pipes and trim the tapes so that the water lines can run along their entire length. Attach the heat tape to the pipes and hoses following your RV owner’s manual before hooking the heating cable to an outlet.
The tape will detect when temperatures have dropped to freezing level and automatically heat the water lines to keep them warm. When the temperature normalizes, the heating cable will turn itself off.
4. Keep the water flowing
When water is constantly flowing through the pipes, it cannot freeze up. To ensure that the water in your tank keeps getting used, you should block off the gray water tank from the supply system.
This means that you will only be using water from the fresh water tank in the bathroom and the kitchenette.
5. Insulate the RV floor
Keep the camper’s floor warm to prevent cold air from entering all the drains by installing on it a foam board. Though you can also use carpets or heavy rugs to achieve the same result. The choice is yours.
6. Cover the vents for warm air
If the vents are left uninsulated in freezing temperatures, warm air will exit the camper through them. To stop this from happening, you should place draft shields or vent covers on them.
The covers can also prevent snow from entering the RV camper and making it cold while at the same time allowing gaseous movements of carbon monoxide as well as oxygen in and out accordingly.
7. Insulate the windows and doors
To start, use foam strips to seal windows and doors that had lost their weather stripping. This will stop cold air and frost from passing through the bays and making the inside chilly.
You should also place reflective foil on all the RV windows so that when heat tries to escape through the windows, it’s bounced back into the interior.
Install heavy drapes on the inlets to prevent freezing air from breezing through the windows and also contain warm air within the RV.
Q3. How do I protect my RV water hose from freezing?
You can keep your RV water hose from freezing during cold weather conditions by insulating it in the following steps:
1. Use heat tape
Before you use the heat tape or rather a heat cable, do first read the manufacturer’s instructions to determine how to use it. Because heat cables are used differently depending on the manufacturer.
Also, disconnect the fresh water hose from the water system. Now spiral wraps the tape around the entire hose if that’s what the manufacturer suggests, including the valves.
However, if you are advised against wrapping the heat tape around the hose, you should instead place it parallel to the water hose on the ground. Then, seal the two together using electrical tape every 30 centimeters (about 11 inches)
2. Wrap up both the hose and the heat tape
For extra protection of the water hose from freezing, place the hose with its attached heat tape in a self-sealing fiberglass foam insulation tube. These come in different diameters so choose one that will properly cover your hose.
To put the hose inside the tube, pull the pipe apart and wrap it around the hose. Once you finish, press the two sides of the opening together and then wrap the foam tube with pipe insulation tape.
3. Plug the cable into an outlet
Connect the heat tape to a power supply in your RV or one at the campsite to keep the water hose warm in freezing temperatures. The heating cable will automatically heat up the hose when it detects freezing weather conditions.
4. Reconnect the hose to the water system
Reattach one side of the freshwater hose to the water tank port on the RV and the other end to the campsite’s water pump. When you have ensured that they are firmly fitted, open the water valves so that water can flow to the freshwater tank.
Alternatively, if you have a heated hose that comes with in-built heating, you can just plug it into an RV outlet or a campsite power supply and let it warm up the hose accordingly. Its built-in sensor will detect freezing temperatures and automatically turn on the heating.
Moreover, you can also disconnect the water hose from the water supply after half-filling the water tank and drain out all the water inside it before storing it in the shower.
You can then keep reconnecting it whenever the tank is almost empty. However, this is a tiring process so if you are not up to it, you should follow the above-mentioned steps of insulating the water hose instead.
Q4. Will pipes freeze in one night?
Pipes can freeze overnight if the temperature falls below 32 degrees Fahrenheit (0 degrees Celsius) and your water pipes are unprotected or of low quality, especially the exposed outdoor ones.
RV pipes are prone to freezing during the winter. If you don’t do anything about it, this can quickly become a real problem for your RVing experience. In this article, we talked about the best ways to keep RV pipes from freezing. We also included some genius tips you can use to thaw frozen pipes on your RV.