Many of today’s trailers and RVs are built with the holding tanks, water tanks and plumbing inside the heated part of the coach, making them capable for winter recreation. But if you don’t have that kind of unit, you can make yours just as winter-ready by making a few, and sometimes low-cost, modifications.
Most heat tapes have a built-in thermostat
There are two basic concerns when using your RV as a winter retreat. The first is your plumbing system, the second is cabin comfort. So let’s start with the plumbing. Fresh water pipes that run underneath the coach or along the floor inside are very susceptible to freezing. By using a thermostatically controlled heat tape and some foam pipe insulation, you can keep the water flowing freely in the lines and keep the coach from suffering freeze damage. Lines that run behind the cabinets can avoid freezing by keeping the cabinet doors open slightly and the furnace on. These tapes are available in both 120 volt (house current) and 12 volt (battery-powered). Simply follow the manufacturers recommendations on installation then find a power source to supply power. If you are using a 12 volt system, you should wire it so that there is an internal switch so that you do not run the house battery completely down. If proper use allows, apply foam pipe insulation after the tape is in place to further protect the heat.
In addition there are special heating elements that fit on holding tank elbows and valves to keep them from freezing or building ice dams. On the subject of drain valves. it is best not to leave your holding tank valve open to let gray water run into the sewer line as you use it. When water trickles it tends to build up ice dams and can keep the valves from closing at all. Best off to drain a full tank all at once so that ice build up is at a minimum.
To keep your holding tanks from freezing you can purchase self adhesive heating pads that stick to the bottom of a clean holding tank and keep it from freezing. As is the case with heat tape it comes in both 120v or 12v. If you are going to be at an RV park, you might want to invest in a heated hose for your fresh water intake. You can as an option just fill the on board tank and run off of that for a while.
Use a Infrared Thermometer to pinpoint heat lose.
Now that we have covered the plumbing, what to do about the cabin heat. There are two fronts in this battle, providing more heat, and reducing heat loss. First, start with reducing the loss of the heat that you are able to make. If you do not know where you are losing heat, think about purchasing one of the new cordless Infrared Thermometers that are now for sale by Dewalt/Black & Decker. You can pinpoint heat loss with one of these new products very easily. One of the first places to look for heat lose would be your roof, we all know hot air rises. While the roof may be insulated, the vents aren’t. You can purchase pillows or pads that will fit inside the vent well and keep the cold air from getting in. Install heavy curtains or drapes over the side windows and then check the weather-stripping around all the doors, including the outside storage doors.
If this doesn’t increase your furnace capacity to keep the coach or trailer warm, then you can look at purchasing an auxiliary electric heater. They are portable and easy to move around. If you are concerned about electricity use, then you might want to consider a catalytic heater. It burns fuel but is extremely efficient. You must however make sure you crack a window to allow air to vent in the coach, otherwise the catalytic will burn up all of the usable air. I also recommend that you install a CO detector as well, if your coach does not have one already. Finally, if you are going to make catalytic heat, remember that it creates moisture and you might want to employ a de-humidifier to keep the air at a reasonable humidity.
All of these tricks are easy to do on your own if you are relatively handy. When making any type of modification to your existing unit, please keep safety in mind. And you may also want to consult your manufacturer in case any alterations void your warranty. If you would like a quote on having your Central PA RV Dealer make the conversion for you, just drop a line, or make a service request and we can give you a quote.
Safe Travels and Happy RVing!