By Mark Polk, RV Education 101
Take a minute to think about the water system on your RV. First, consider you use water from a different source every time you take the RV camping. Second, consider some water remains in the RV water lines and the fresh water holding tank, even after you drain it. This water could sit for several months at a time between RV trips and during storage.
These two points alone should convince you that filtering your RV water makes sense. I always recommend you sanitize the RV water system every spring when you take the RV out of storage, and any time you detect an odor in the plumbing system. I will save sanitizing the RV water system for another post, so we can concentrate on water filtration today.
After making the decision to filter the water, there are different ways you can do it. One option is to filter all the water coming into the RV. There are water filtration systems you can install directly into the RV’s plumbing system. And there are other filters you connect in-line using the RV drinking hose.
To go a step further, there are water filtration systems that have a single filter and others that use two filters, typically a sediment filter and a carbon filter.
There are numerous brands of water filtration systems to choose from, and many are designed specifically for RVs. Water filters are not difficult to install. You can do it yourself, or take the RV to your local RV dealer and have the installation done. Either way, I personally think filtering the water is a smart decision. It gives you peace of mind that it is safe to drink, cook and shower with.
RV water system maintenance after a trip
When you return from a trip and are not planning to use the RV for a while, I recommend draining the entire water system to prevent it from getting stale and musty. Start by draining the water heater. If the water heater has an electric mode, make sure it is in the “off” position before you drain the water heater tank. It’s a good idea to turn the breaker for the water heater off, so the switch doesn’t accidentally get turned on with no water in the tank. Now go to the outside compartment where the water heater is located. The drain plug, or petcock, is normally located in the bottom left corner or bottom center. Remove the plug and open the pressure relief valve on top of the water heater to assist in draining.
Caution: Never drain the water heater when it is hot and/or under pressure. Turn off any water going to the RV, including the water pump, and open a hot and cold faucet to relieve water pressure. Allow sufficient time for the water in the tank to cool before draining. Draining a tank that is hot and/or under pressure can result in serious injury.
Differences in water heaters and their maintenance
If you have a Suburban water heater, you need to remove the anode rod with a 1 -1/16 inch socket to drain the tank. The anode rod is designed to help prevent corrosion and protect the tank’s steel lining. Corrosive elements in the water attack the rod rather than the tank. Inspect the anode rod every time you remove it to drain the tank, and replace it when 3/4 of the rod is consumed. Atwood water tanks do not require an anode rod and use a nylon drain plug because the tank is made of aluminum.
Next, locate the low point water line drains. There is one for the hot and one for the cold water lines. This is the lowest point in the water system. Open the drains and let the water drain out. Now locate the drain for the fresh water holding tank and drain all of the water from it.
At this point, you can turn the water pump on for a moment to force any remaining water out of the plumbing system. Do not let the pump continue to run after the water stops draining. Close all the drains. Do not make the mistake of thinking this is how you winterize the RV water system. If you do, it can be a costly mistake next spring. All we have accomplished so far was to evacuate the majority of water from the system.
If by accident you forget to drain the water system and you get that notorious stale odor, all is not lost. You just need to sanitize the water system.