I suppose if I were in a more officious mood, I would have gone with Overwintering in an RV for a title, but one must take humor where one can find it. And the above is a phrase we hear fairly frequently.
As most likely know, we live in a 32′ fifth-wheel RV. (That’s really our RV in the photo. You can see the roof of the little cabin behind it. ) I did a lot of research concerning how it would be possible to tough it out in the camper over the Winter. I read for months, I read everything, and I have to say, we’re doing pretty well. In fact, I honestly don’t feel like I am “toughing it out.” Yes, there are a few extra chores that a lot of people would not put up with, and sometimes they are tough.
But we’re comfortable, and we are totally fine. Everyone said it couldn’t be done. We’d freeze. We wouldn’t be able to use the plumbing. Hasn’t happened that way. And it has already been 27 below zero. We’re fine, and we are indeed over-wintering in an RV. In the spirit of passing on information, below are a few tips and fixes.
We bought a fifth-wheel type RV, because 5ths (larger RVs that hang over a pickup truck) and Motorhomes (the kind you drive) are more substantial than Travel Trailers (the kind you two behind a car). Okey-doke. On to the issues …
Problem – Water Line to the RV is Frozen
Solution – Don’t use the hose to a pressurized faucet. It will freeze. We fill our tank each day, or ever other. This way, water doesn’t stay in the hose. In our specific situation, I take the hose out, connect it to the well pump, and fill the tank. When I’m done, I bring the hose in, so it’s warm. If you have a galley drain from a hose, or any need of hoses outside – no uphill stretches, only downhill.
Problem – Front Door is Frozen Shut
Solution – Hairdryer, on the latch, from inside. It’s not that the door is frozen shut, so much as the warmth from inside collides with the cold from outside, and the little pokey latch thing freezes. Sixty seconds and a hairdryer will fix it. If it continues to stick, use your deadbolt and key to open and close the door, rather than the latch. I have to tell you, this happens a lot. Warm inside vs. cold outside. Ice builds up at the bottom of the door – I’m always either hairdrying or ice-whacking.
Problem – Ice on the Inside of the Windows
Solution – Chances are, that shrink-wrap window stuff would take care of this, although we have not gotten to that. Propane gas (for your furnace and stove) releases a bit of water vapor, as does cooking. A little bit of ventilation goes a long way. During the day – Hatches open a little bit, heat cranking. At night, close the hatches. Haven’t had ice since we instituted this system.We keep a fan running in the bathroom.
Problem – Tanks Underneath the Coach, Open to Freezing
Solution – Buy yourself some of that one-inch foam insulation board, and start cutting. Skirted in tightly with that stuff, and with the seams sealed with metal tape and/or spray foam, you’re good. I also banked plenty of snow up against the insulation. We haven’t had a problem. We don’t even have a heater or a lightbulb under there.
Problem – Potential Freezing of Interior Plumbing
Solution – I had originally planned to put a small ceramic heater in the hatch near the pump and interior water lines. But I forgot. Ah, well. Down to -27F, we’ve just kept the furnace running at our normal 65/70F. It has heated the hatch and the interior plumbing enough that we’ve been fine. In fact, just the furnace seems to heat the hatches and skirted underneath enough that most mornings, the snow bank has pulled away from the skirting a hair. Now, to be clear, you must keep your heat on. And, we were very careful to buy an RV that has the plumbing and pump essentially on the inside. The hot air lines from the furnace are in the same compartment as our pump. If your pump is through a single hatch on the exterior, you’re going to have to take more precautions.
Problem – Filling Onboard Propane Tanks is a Pain
Solution – Call a bulk supplier. Same places that supply homes. Call around – prices vary wildly. I found that every place I called could come out and hook up a 100 gallon tank for us, hooked directly to the RV propane line. We’re using about 70 gallons per month. Not bad.
Problem – What to Do with Black Water
Solution – Hook a four-inch septic pipe to your dump valve, and run it right to the septic tank. Ours worked out nicely – It runs under the extended slide, inside the insulated underneath of the RV. I simply dug to find where to hook in, and went directly to the septic tank. Because the whole works is enclosed under the skirted RV, we have no problems. Do not leave the valve open. You still have to pull the valve and dump the tank. If you leave it open, you’re going to have a total PVC Poopsicle.
And on that savory note, I’m outa here. You have a great day too!