By Chris Dougherty
Certified RV technician
For 10 years I was a fulltimer, and spent most of each year, including most of the winter, in the Northeast U.S., and I dealt with transferring water into my heated tanks as I needed it — this usually was on a weekly basis. What I would have done for a heated hose back then! Since winter RVing is becoming more and more popular, and coaches are being designed and built with four-season use in mind, heated hoses are a great accessory if you’re going to RV when the snow falls.
There are three companies making drinking-water-safe heated hoses for the RV market now. Pirit Hose and Camco are the biggest, as well as Internet sellers like nofreezewaterhose.com. All three of these hoses will handle at least -30F, and there aren’t too many RVs that can put up with that kind of cold for very long comfortably.I must emphasize that not all heated hoses should be used with RVs! There are heated utility hoses on the market that are made of materials that are not potable or drinking water safe. So for your health and water quality, only use hoses for your RV or boat that are “drinking water safe” and are made from Food and Drug Administration-approved materials. Heated RV water hoses are made basically two ways: Either the heating apparatus is molded into the hose, or the hose is wrapped with a tape. Also, the self-regulated heating system in two of them makes for much better heating and better uniformity of heating along the surface of the hose.
These hoses require a good source of power, and when it’s that cold the power must be consistent to prevent freezing. For instance, the 12-foot Pirit hose uses 90 watts, or 1.75 amps, and their 100-foot hose requires 500 watts or 4.5 amps. The power source must be a grounded, GFCI-protected 120VAC supply. Extension cords must be used with care and must be sized larger than the hose cord itself due to continual high-amp loading. Remember, volts drop and amps go up with long cord runs, especially if the cord isn’t big enough. If you’re spending up to $250 for the hose, spend the extra $50-$100 to get the right heavy-duty extension cord you need.
Only the hose is protected from freezing, so you will need to make sure the connections on both ends are protected from freezing as well. This can be done at the spigot in a number of ways, including heat tape, etc. Your RV must be insulated and heated sufficiently to handle the cold weather! A heated hose does no good if the pipes in your RV freeze up.
Each of the manufacturers says that if the hose freezes up for some reason, plug it in and let it sit for 30 minutes to thaw, which indicates that they are somewhat resistant to freeze damage at least. What the hose is connected to isn’t, however. Each of the three hoses mentioned has some minor differences. The Camco hose is a self-regulated hose, which means it has no thermostat to fail, which is nice. Also their hose has dual female ends with a double male adaptor so you can use the hose with the plug at whichever end you want. Their hose is made in the USA and comes in 12-, 25- and 50-foot lengths, and is tested to -40F. The heating element is molded into the hose.
The Pirit hose is a thermostatically controlled hose, with the thermostat on one end of the hose. This can be a problem if the thermostat end of the hose is in a temperature controlled environment such as a building or the RV compartment. Available in 12-, 25-, 50- and 100-foot lengths, the company claims their abrasion-resistant hose is tested to -42F, which is the coldest of the three.
The nofreezewaterhose.com hose is also a self-regulated hose, and of the ones listed is the only one that’s “insulated,” according to the company. That said, it’s only tested to -30F, and the element is wrapped around a heavy-duty, 3/4-inch drinking water hose, not molded into it, which means the “insulation” is holding the element to the hose.
In the case of both the Pirit and the nofreezewaterhose.com hoses, the plug and cord are fixed at one end of the hose. The nofreezewaterhose.com can be ordered “water-in” or “water-out,” to have the cord at one end or the other, where the Pirit cord is fixed to the female end. This is where the Camco design shines, in that with the hose adaptor, your plug can be at either end. Sure, you can adapt any hose to reverse it, but with this one you need only one adaptor.
One last thing: I do not recommend using these hoses all the time because it’s not necessary and they can be expensive. Just use them when they’re needed. When the temps will stay above freezing, use a standard RV water hose.