By Nanci Dixon
Yikes! It is cold in our neck of the woods, and there is a freeze warning. It’s time to put the heated water hose on, the water filter heater blanket on, check the furnaces, and pull out the portable heaters. We have only camped in temps down to 15 degrees for short periods of time so these tips may need to be expanded on for lower temperatures or longer times.
A heated hose plugs into a 120v outlet and keeps the water in the hose fluid. It won’t keep a water filter defrosted unless the water is flowing or the water filter(s) are protected.
While we were staying near Bryce Canyon in Utah, the RV park told us, with certainty, that it would freeze that night. We confidently put on our heated hose. But the next morning… no water. We learned that we needed to connect the heated hose directly to the campground water faucet. We had put our blue water filter at the campground faucet and then connected the heated hose to the blue water filter. The water filter froze solid so no water even got to the heated hose!
Use a thermal blanket during a freeze warning
We have a two-stage exterior water filter unit and need to protect it from freezing too. Our current unit is big, housing two, ten-inch filters in a sturdy case. We found an electric thermal barrel heater that is usually used to wrap barrels to keep liquids fluid. Because this particular barrel heater does not have a thermostat to raise or lower the heater temperature, I loosely wrap our water filter unit so it doesn’t get too hot and potentially melt the water filter containers.
The barrel heater keeps the filters warm and water flowing. I cover the entire unit with a tarp to keep the faucet ends from freezing when night temps are projected to drop significantly. There may be many other options available but this one seems to work for us. Note: Not only are we seeking a cozy warm spot, but the furry and not so furry small outside critters are too. I have found a bird and a mouse or two trying to snuggle up to the heated blanket.
The water bay with all the water connections is also at risk. Ours is heated but ONLY when the rear gas furnace is run. We will run the furnace in the evening and first thing in the morning if it is not below 25 degrees. If it’s projected to be lower than that, we will set the furnace to come on at night. We are also able to fit our water softener in the bay to protect it. Another way to keep the water bay above freezing is to add an old-fashioned incandescent light bulb to the bay to keep the area warm. If choosing that method, make sure the bulb does not directly touch anything that could burn or melt.
Our tanks are insulated and sandwiched between the motorhome interior and exterior floor, so we don’t need to worry about keeping them warm. We’re lucky, though, as some people with exposed tanks will need to make this effort. Some put a floodlight with an incandescent bulb under their RV to keep their tanks warm. I have also read that electric blankets will do the trick too.
During freeze warnings, keep the gray and black water tanks closed
I have heard horror stories of people that have left the gray water tank valve open in a hard freeze and the whole sewer hose froze and needed to be heated up with a hairdryer.
Open the interior cabinets
As an extra precaution, we open the inside cabinet doors where the plumbing pipes are. That helps keep warm air circulating. I also open the dishwasher and washing machine door to add warmth to potential freeze points.
Disconnect the water
In some instances, the best thing to do is just disconnect the water at night. This year a campground in Texas got really serious. They said as we were checking in: “Disconnect your water or pay $250 when (not if) the water faucet freezes.”
Moral of the story when there’s a freeze warning? Fill your water tanks, open the cabinet doors and stay warm!
Good (and for us, timely) article, Nanci. We’re in UT, got down to 14* last 2 nights. When we park in winter weather situations, part of my set-up process is to run a trouble light w/ 75W bulb into wet bay & dump bay. I may not turn it ON until freeze warnings but it’s there all winter. Do be sure to check bulbs periodically, esp w/ freeze warnings, because they will burn out from time to time. And I have a heated hose, w/ water filter in one of the heated compartments. Only weak point is the fittings right at the faucet/hose connection – that gets foam noodles & towel or blanket w/ something to cover it, keep it dry & retain warmth. Has worked for past 11 yrs RVing.
To let me sleep at night I was able to put heat tape and insulate every foot of hot and cold piping in my motorhome (wasn’t easy). While doing so I also found some areas that were not insulated as well as I thought they would be with the largest area being behind the TV area that is also next to the kitchen sink. The other area was above and around the rear bathroom that is directly over the engine. Now insulated with a combination of foam board and batt insulation. For the wet bay and the water tank/pump area I use stainless steel 100 watt,120 volt fish tank heaters (bought on Amazon for about $15.00 several years ago). They come with suction cups but I had to modify it because it was melting the plastic holders, my water filters fit inside however my pressure regulator is out, so I just wrap the end of the heated hose pigtail around it cover it with a towel and plastic bag. Everything plugs into the pedestal with a cord that passes through the hose opening.
Great advice, thank you! Our strategy in near-freezing or freezing weather is to fill our fresh water tank to a desired level (using an in-line filter) and then disconnect and store the hose in the heated wet bay. We then use the pump rather than city water. We also keep the sewer hose inside the wet bay unless we are dumping the tanks. Thereby only the power cord is actually outside the RV and subject to cold temperatures. If our slide toppers get wet and freezing temperatures are forecast we retract our slides before bed if we are leaving the following day. We failed to do this once and the topper fabric froze and would not store until the sun was high enough and the temperature rose enough to melt the ice. We almost were late for an appointment that day.
After a day of driving from Amargosa, NV to Hawthorne, NV yesterday, all in temps that never exceeded 25 degrees (along with a scary 30 mile stretch of pure ice), we found the only water we can access in our trailer is the cold from the kitchen faucet. No hot OR cold anywhere else. It’s 14 degrees right now (7:15am) and promises to reach a scorching 38 degrees sometime today. Our 2012 Arctic Fox 25Y “Four seasons” coach seems to be lacking one season – winter.
We’re ‘holing up’ here in Hawthorne to give Carson City (our destination) another day
to get up to the promised 40 degrees tomorrow. Right now Carson City is clocking in at 0 degrees!
Anyone else experience tribulations like this?
I’m not sure why folks feel the need to remained hooked up when there is a freeze happening. Just unhook and use your internal tanks. If more water is needed or the tanks are full, hook up, fill and/or dump, unhook.
Pretty simple and no need to purchase a bunch of extra stuff that takes up precious space.
It depends on the temperatures. If it’s above 20 that’s exactly what I do, but with the minimal “insulation” on my “heated enclosed” underbelly my tank will freeze below 20 (I’m planning on adding tank heaters over the summer to fix this.)
If I use my heated hose then I don’t have to hold water in the fresh tank and can simply dump the grey tanks as I use them before they freeze. The black tank gets a bit of RV antifreeze to help keep it from freezing and I also installed an additional heat duct to the area around it to keep it warmer.
If someone isn’t camping in terribly cold weather or has heated or better insulated tanks then the heated hose is probably unnecessary like you said. All depends on the camper and the conditions.
(I’ve even seen a heated sewer hose for people who don’t want to have to close the grey tank valves, though I’m just sticking with hooking up, dumping, and putting it away. Maybe if I lived somewhere very cold and was permanently there instead of moving, but it’s a lot of money just to not have to spend a few minutes hooking up and putting away the hose.)
We come from the far north and are snowbirds As I write this we below freezing and freezing rain has shut down most of the region. The biggest mistake I see people make is not recognizing that EVERY inch of their water supply above ground is at risk. I put our regulator at the spigot, do a 90 down for the filter, attach the heated hose, run the hose first up the park’s above ground tap, over the top of the spigot and regulator. And then I cover the entire assembly with a rug and bucket to use the heat from my hose to keep it all above freezing. I also insulate the connection point into the RV. I have figured out that a common reason for internal line freeze are the low point drains. I shortened them for less exposure, added ball valves for easier use and insulated the shorter pipes with pipe insulation. Only the valve handle is exposed.
FYI- no thermostat for your blanket heater? Look in farming supplies for a Plug-In Freeze Protection Thermostat
Great advice! We recently experienced freezing temperatures and one of our fellow workkampers opened their grey tank and let water drip in the shower overnight. Unfortunately they woke up to a flooded RV! The sewer hose had froze and the water eventually backed up and overflowed out of the shower. It’s was a mess!