Staying in an RV is usually a summer thing or for the snowbirds, right? WRONG! No matter if you stay at an RV park or your own property building a cabin, you can RV all year. You just have to be prepared.
Living in our RV over the winter in Alaska taught us two things.
1. That you CAN do it and
2. You need to know how, have a ton of patience and be willing to adapt.
Honestly, we learned the hard way so we can pass on these tips to you.
Moisture was our biggest nemesis, and one of the biggest reasons we are in full remodel mode. It was EVERYWHERE, but we learned how to avoid this issue in the meantime.
Depending on the type of RV you have this may not be as big of an issue; however, from our experience in the winter months where cold weather is involved moisture happens.
Think of the interior of your RV like the outside of a glass of ice water in the summer, when the glass cools the condensation builds up and eventually creates a pool of water on the outside of your glass, ruining your wood furniture if you’re not careful.
This is happening inside, so prior to the winter season our first recommendation is use a mold inhibitor you can find these at home depot or any hardware store. Spray it in all the areas you anticipate condensation build up. We found condensation in our cupboards hooked to our slide out and behind the couch were areas we had to soak up condensation frequently. Also the window sills on the inside accumulated water quickly. Using a moisture wicking product like DampRid in the closets will help keep your clothes fresh and reduce the moisture in there.
Most RV parks that stay open over the winter require you to pay for the electricity you use, and when compared to the propane heat systems in the RV, an electric heater will help reduce moisture rather than add to it. If you are off grid and using your generator, keep in mind if it is cold enough out, the heat from the engine will build condensate in the fuel tank. Keep a bottle of Heat handy and only add it about a quarter of a bottle at a time. This will keep the engine running smoothly and help keep your gen from loping and spiking your power.
If you decide to go without an electric heater, and have access to power using an RV Dehumidifier will also reduce the moisture.
The RV Forced Air ducts usually follow or at least come in contact with the water lines so you should run your forced air heater periodically to keep the water lines from freezing.
Planning ahead never hurts. Building yourself a Foam board skirt will help hold in the heat immensely, saving you money on heating costs! To build a skirt all you need is the Foam board, some 2”x2”s and a way to fasten the skirt to your rig. We found some custom insulated skirts that attach with snaps! Great idea, and feasible in most situations.
If you’re in a semi-permanent or permanent situation the foam works great! If you plan on being on the move a lot, which is a total adventure in the blizzardy snow and icy roads, the snap system may be a better option.
In addition to under the rig, pay attention to sky vents, we bought premade vent insulators. Also cover your AC’s.
Our RV has heating pads for the grey and black tanks, and if you run the foam insulation skirting, your dump system should stay thawed. Additionally, some higher end RV’s have pump driven waste systems. If you have one of those, adding a little heater to the compartment will keep it in working order. If you’re traveling and the temps are freezing, you just might end up like us, in November in Fairbanks Alaska!
We had the heaters running on the tanks and figured we would stop right quick to dump the tanks before continuing our adventure. WRONG! The dump valves were FROZEN SHUT! I found myself laying on a piece of foam with our MAPP-gas (acetylene torch) carefully thawing the valves, praying I didn’t melt them, or worse melt a hole through the pipe and have a nasty mess! It took me 30 minutes to get them open and it was COLD! I was frozen after that grand adventure.
Avoid our mistake and wrap some heat tape around your valves, and throw some insulation around it. We grabbed some pool noodles sliced it down the middle stuck it on there and taped it up.
While some of the water lines run parallel with the ducting, not all of them will be so lucky. For us, we had been out working during the day and I forget to open the faucet valves after shutting down the pump. I froze our kitchen sink faucet and busted a hole right out the bottom! Came home, turned the pump on and BAM water EVERYWHERE! Not a good thing but found it easy to replace.
After this incident, we were more vigilant about our precious water lines. Opening the cupboards allowing heat to circulate through, opening the faucets to drain any remaining water, (making room in case of a freeze), running the heater more often, and insulating the lines we could get to.
Some RV parks don’t allow you to hook up to water in the off season, so be prepared and bring a couple gallons, fill your water tank, or call ahead. If the RV Park does, you should have some heat tape for your hose and of course another pool noodle, or some actual pipe insulation for your hose. You can pick this up at most hardware stores.
Before the winter season hits, test your batteries to ensure they are above the minimum charged voltage. We use two deep cycle 6v wired in series, if they drop below 4v the possibility of freezing increases, the plastic casing breaks, acid water leaks everywhere and you void your warrantee. While checking the voltage check to be sure they are full with deionized/distilled water. We also purchased battery boxes to keep the ice from building up on the connectors and depending on your RV they could be stowed in a warm safe place. If not adding a case is recommended.
Depending on the year of your RV/propane tanks, the propane tanks may need to be recertified, usually every 10 years (some states vary). You can do this in freezing weather, we did but it really sucks! Run your tanks out of propane and get them recertified. Besides if it gets twenty below Fahrenheit, propane starts to gel up and most suppliers won’t certify or pump propane.
Snow and Ice
You will get snow and ice buildup on your slide out roofs. If you have it you should add jack stands under the slide out to prevent damage to the runners. Also, knock all snow and ice off the roof before trying to bring in your slide outs, being careful not to tear the membrane.
Overall, our experience living in our RV over the winter has many memories, and a lot of OMG I can’t believe we did that but we did and we survived! You should get out there and rock it! doIToutside!