Yikes! There’s a freeze warning – Tips to keep the water flowing

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By Nanci Dixon
Yikes! It is starting to get colder in our neck of the woods, and just north of us there is a freeze warning. We are full-timers and don’t leave the rapidly cooling north until mid-October, well past the first freeze and the first snow shower. 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.

Heated hose

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!

Thermal blanket

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.

Thermal heated barrel warmer

Water bay

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.

Water softener in water bay

Holding tanks

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.

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? Fill your water tanks, open the cabinet doors and stay warm!

##RVT965

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Paul S Goldberg
18 days ago

We have traveled and camped in plenty of freezing weather being from Rochester NY originally. FW tank is always topped off when temps are above freezing and hose stowed. Sewer is never connected unless we are emptying the tank (we did freeze that once in our early years, not fun) Current coach directs enough heat from rear furnace to keep utility bay above 32 into the teens (I used to have a remote thermometer located there). Don’t claim running water won’t freeze, check out Niagara Falls in February! it freezes. If the deep freeze is only for a couple of hours overnight and you get into the 40’s and some sun during the day there is nothing to really worry about.

MrDisaster
18 days ago

There is an alternative for the heated hose. Buy some pipe insulation form your local hardware store (or pool noodles from a dollar store for a more colorful hose). Use a couple of pieces to cover the water filter and short pieces to cover the connections (you might need to use some string to tie some of the covers). Add an old rug to cover the whole set-up and then cover with a large black garbage bag so it looks a little neater. From experience this will work to 20-25 degrees or so.

Egroeg
19 days ago

I’ve looked and looked but can’t seem to find the dishwasher or washing machine in my RV. : )

Good points though on removing…and draining…your water supply hose when temps are predicted to drop below freezing. Keep in mind too what direction the “utility” side of the trailer is facing. South and West will get sunshine while North and East only seem to stay cold.

That washing machine joke still gets me….thanks Nanci.