Ever winter-camped in your RV? With below-freezing temperatures, not too many RVs on the market today prove particularly comfortable. Now an industry player is offering RV manufacturers the ability to certify just how good their rigs are for winter use. Call it the RV winterization test, and it’s now available. A kind of “Field of Dreams” question is, since they built it, will they come?
How the test works
How does the winterization test work? Imagine pulling just about any size RV into a thermal chamber. A team of professionals swarms the chamber—and the RV. The rig is examined inside and out, and all systems are evaluated for “Go”. A network of 22 temperature sensors are scattered throughout the RV. The team scrambles out of the chamber and the switch is flipped. Air chillers pump cold air into the chamber, inundating the test subject with at least 10 hours of a frigid blast, ensuring the RV inside temperature matches that of the thermal chamber.
Now, as they say, “the heat is on.” The RV subject to the winterization test has its heating system fired up. At least four hours tick by on the clock, allowing the rig to warm up to a given test standard. Here’s the trick: Some units will start at 5 degrees Fahrenheit, others at 32. The question is, is the “desired” temperature reached within those four hours—or does it take more?
The goal point to be reached to meet certification standards in four hours or less is 63 degrees Fahrenheit. In this winterization test, the top tier winner starts at a bone-chilling 5 degrees and hits 63 in four hours or less. Reaching those standards earns a “Gold Standard” award. Those that start at 32 degrees and hit the mark within four hours are in for a “Silver Standard” award.
Factoring into the evaluation is a test of the RV’s heat vents. Is heat being distributed evenly throughout the rig, or will you broil in some areas, while freezing in others? Graphs of heat distribution, and other high-tech stuff like thermal imaging, are used to evaluate the rig’s heating (and heat-retaining) efficiency. All the data is passed back to the rig manufacturer.
Will they come?
This winterization test idea is the brainchild of Truma, an Indiana manufacturer of RV combination furnace/water heaters. The company has been around a while, having built the first portable heaters for RVs in Europe back in 1961. With their headquarters in Elkhart, they’re at the RV manufacturing capital of the U.S., and that would make it easy for RV manufacturers to send rigs in for testing and certification.
Since they built it, will they come? Will RV manufacturers embrace the idea of a winterization test? We weren’t able to find out what the typical cost to have a unit tested by Truma would be. But considering the complexity of the matter, it’s not likely cheap. One could easily imagine that entire classes of motorhomes and trailers, typically “entry level” and designed for weekender use, would probably never see the chill of the thermal chamber.
On the other hand, with campgrounds bursting at the seams in summer, and even into the “shoulder season,” winter camping may become more attractive. Imagine a “winter holiday” trip, firing up the rig, and spending a week or so in a northern state RV park. Few crowds, icicles festooning the trees. It does conjure up a somewhat desirable image.
Could there be hesitation for manufacturers—and park owners?
But, hang on. If too many RVs receive the “Gold” standard of winterization, might there be that much more attraction to turn an RV into a full-time home? The RV industry skates a thin line, urging customers to spend more time in their RVs. At the same time, they’re careful to maintain the public line that RVs are designed only for temporary use, not full-time occupancy. That “temporary use” caveat keeps manufacturers away from having to conform to the much-higher standards of design and construction that are visited on “manufactured homes.”
If winter RVing took off in a big way, it might—or might not—be a boon for RV park owners. Those who now shut down come Labor Day due to cold nights, might be able to extend their seasons, perhaps making them year-round. But that, too, will come with additional costs.
Instead of simply shutting off the campground water supply and draining the system, new plumbing would be in order. The colder the winter, the deeper the frost line. One could imagine having to dig up the supply lines, planting them deeper, and adding freeze-proof hydrants. Then consider the additional costs of keeping park roads plowed, the labor for de-icing walkways, etc. One can only imagine the number-crunching that may already be going on.
More to consider
Provided your RV received a winterization test and passed with flying colors, there are still some things to consider. It’s one thing to be snuggled up tight with a glass of your favorite hot beverage in a toasty RV. But it’s another thing to get the RV to the RV park. How confident are you about driving a motorhome—or towing a trailer—through snow, maybe even ice?
And even if yours is a certified “Gold” model, will that prevent a buildup of snow and ice on your rig roof? Not only can damage be done to your rig if a significant amount piles up on your roof, there are other hazards. Roll down the highway and dislodge that stuff onto a following motorist can make you liable for damages in some jurisdictions.
How about you?
How about you? Does your RV lifestyle yearn for a winterization-test-certified rig—which might cost you more? Fill in the form below to respond, and include “winterization test” on the subject line.