21 Best Tips for Living in an RV in the Winter Comfortably


Living in an RV is exciting, adventurous, and liberating. However, depending on where you are, winter can be harsh, especially if you’re not prepared for it. So here are 21 best tips for living in an RV in the winter:

1. How Cold Is Too Cold for an RV?

Temperatures between -19 °F and -25 °F are dangerously cold for an RV. When you’re living in an RV, extremely low temperatures are hard to navigate. In fact, there is a chance of frostbite to occur in just a few minutes if there is no insulation. The RV pipes can also freeze, making it almost impossible to turn on the engine.

Thankfully, you can easily take measures against the cold wind of winter. Simply getting a portable or small space heater could make a huge difference.

2. Showering in an RV in the Winter

Showering can be tricky, especially during the cold months. You can’t shower outside at all, thanks to the cold air and possibly, snow. You will need heated water or a heated hose when you want to keep yourself clean.

Having a propane heater warm the water system can be a great way to negate freezing temperatures. Make sure you have extra propane tanks to properly heat up the water before usage. Some RVs also have electric heaters, but you can always bring your own mini space heater. They use very little amperage.

Also, make sure you have a tank warmer for your propane tanks.

3. Winterize While Still Living in It

Winterizing an RV while you’re still living in it is possible. Of course, it can be a bit tedious to move around stuff, even more so if you have kids living with you. However, with a bit of finesse and a healthy dose of duct tape, it is possible to make your RV winter-ready. Here are a few things you should do:

  • Get proper heavy coats for the winter and other winter clothing.
  • Heavy-duty winter shoes as well as boots
  • Get terminal curtains installed on the RV vendors
  • Get freeze proof and possibly heated water hose
  • An ice scraper is a necessary tool
  • Get RV antifreeze as well as engine antifreeze
  • Interest in indoor space heaters, electric and propane kind
  • Wrap your pipes in heat tape
  • Have a couple of extra sleeping bags
  • Also, carry a big foam board in case you need to pat something up in an emergency
  • Don’t forget to bring your favorite blankets and hats

I also recommend opening the cabinets and closet doors when you are actively using the space heater. This will heat up the pipes running around the RV and make water flow easier.

4. Keeping the Pipes from Freezing

Water supply can be tricky during the winter. Many RVers simply drain their freshwater tanks and have bottled water for brushing teeth as well as doing the dishes. The main area that must be always above freezing temperatures is the bay. It’s where all your water tanks are. Invest in a space heater and place it near it.

Use RV antifreeze in all of your plumbing, as well as black and gray tanks. Simply flush antifreeze down the toilets and let it pour down the drains.

But remember: Do not put RV antifreeze in your freshwater tank or water heater.

Use a PVC pipe for your sewer hose, as it’ll have a lesser chance of freezing than a regular one. Try not to open the tank and only do so when it needs to be drained. Ensure there are no kinks in the hoses as there will be less chance of water freezing. If you’re going to use water hookups, make sure you use heat tape and insulate the pipes. Insulate the connections as well as any exposed piping.

If you are camping in an RV Park that has city sewer connections, make sure your outlet ports are closed. Don’t enter your holding tanks until they are full to avoid any disgusting and freezing incidents.

5. Added Heating Costs – Heat Pump vs. Furnace

A heat pump simply moves heat from the outside to the inside and vice versa. That’s all there is to it, it is not generating any heat itself, so it is a cost-effective alternative to heaters.

A furnace uses fuel, often natural gas or propane, to generate heat. So if you’re in extremely cold weather, a furnace is what you would need.

Sure, you can have both installed and use the heat pump when the temperature isn’t low enough and save money. But when it’s snowing outside, you’ll need to go with the more expensive option and get the furnace running.

6. How to Insulate Windows

There are several ways you can insulate your RV Windows, and most of them are easy to do yourself.

Replace Your Windows with Double Pane Ones – Some windows only come with a single pane glass. Single pane glass is easier and inexpensive to create and install. However, they’re not so great at insulating your RV. A double-pane window, on the other hand, has vacuum space between the panes. That vacuum is an excellent insulator, and therefore any heat inside the RV will stay inside.

Insulated Curtains – Curtains are necessary not only for privacy but also for better window insulation. Curtains trap cold air between the window and your living space.

Tinted Windows – Tinted windows are great for summer as they keep your RV cooler, but they can adversely affect the overall temperature during the winter. Make sure you don’t have tinted windows on your RV.

Get Plexiglass Covers – Plexiglass covers basically trap another layer of cold air between the cover and the glass.

7. Tire Covers

RV tire covers are great at preventing ultraviolet rays from damaging the tire and making it crack well before its time.

But they are also great at preventing snow and rain from interacting with the wheels.

This, in turn, lowers the chances of corrosion and rust on the rims and wheels. If you want to know more benefits of RV tire covers, here’s a recent article that goes a bit deeper.

8. RV Skirt

RVs are raised above the ground because of wheels.

This means cold air can flow underneath them and drop the overall temperature of the RV. RV skirts are there to prevent that. If you don’t plan on moving around during the winter, RV skirts are a great addition. They also protect you from rain and snow in addition to cold air.

9. Should You Drip Faucets?

Running water through the pipes helps in preventing freezing. However, if the water is in limited supply, even a slight drip can add up over the course of the whole day.

I recommend dripping faucets during freezing weather to avoid freezing the pipes. Some pipes may even burst when frozen, so it’s better to just let the water drip just a trickle to avoid that.

10. Are Space Heaters Safe?

I recommend using electric space heaters as they are a safer choice for indoor usage.

Gas heaters are also good, but they emit carbon monoxide or other pollutants. Carbon monoxide build-up inside a closed cabin is highly dangerous and, therefore, not worth the trouble.

Gas space heaters need proper ventilation, which kind of defeats the purpose of the heater during cold months. So yes, electric space heaters are safe in an RV.

You should also have a carbon monoxide detector inside the RV at all times, regardless of what kind of space heater you are using.

11. How Cold Will It Get inside the RV?

Without proper heating or insulation, an RV can get freezing cold depending on the climate outside.

Sure, the enclosed space can benefit from multiple people being inside. However, that isn’t enough to combat the extreme cold. It also depends on where you are camping and what time of year it is. If you’re camping in Alaska or perhaps up in the mountains, it’s going to get chilly.

12. Use a Dehumidifier to Minimize Condensation Issues

Here’s a myth: a dehumidifier can completely stop condensation. It actually can’t.

Sure, it can reduce it, but it also needs good indoor ventilation and air exchange with the outdoors to work efficiently. However, having one can minimize the condensation issues significantly inside the RV. Just don’t expect it to miraculously kill any condensation though.

13. Keep the RV Warm All the Time

It is better to keep the RV warm all the time instead of reheating after intervals.

When you have to start from zero, you may need to push the heating system to its limit to achieve a warmer temperature. This, in turn, uses up more fuel/energy. Think of it as a bicycle ride, it’s easier to continue riding than having to stop and start again.

It is also cheaper to maintain the temperature when the heat is running full time.

14. Make Sure Coach Batteries Are Designed for Cold Weather

Regular RV batteries can stop working in the extreme cold.

That’s just chemistry. So make sure your coach batteries are specifically designed to be used in cold weather. Thankfully, cold weather compatible batteries are labeled accordingly, so all you need to do is take a peek.

15. Check Propane Tank Levels Every Few Days

Checking the propane tank is generally a good idea as they are essential for your winter season survival. They can be used for propane furnaces, propane heaters for the water system, and even for cooking.

I recommend carrying extra propane tanks during your winter RV camping and winter RV trips. Also, keep a mental note of where the hardware store is, so you can keep them topped off during the whole winter season.

16. Get a Heated RV Water Hose

Heated RV water hoses are insulated and also come with an electric element to heat up the hose during freezing temperatures.

Most of them are rated for drinking water and great to use inside RVs.

I’d say it is one of the most essential pieces of equipment you need to carry. There are several great heated RV water hoses available online. Make sure you get one that has an electrical element inside that actively heats up the water and prevents any freezing.

It might be a bit more expensive but is well worth it in the long run.

17. Keep the Black/Gray Water Drain Hose Free of Kinks

Gray water tank holds any water that’s from the drains.

Similarly, the black water tank is the septic tank. Any bends in the black or gray water drain hoses increase the chance of ice buildup. If applicable, use PVC pipes instead of drain hoses during the winter, but if it isn’t possible, keep an eye for any bends.

18. Wrap All Exposed Pipes and Hoses with Heat Tape

Heat tape is amazing when you need to insulate exposed pipes and hoses. It’s relatively inexpensive and can help protect pipes from bursting during freezing temperatures.

Generally, you should carry extra heat tape with you if you are living in the RV full-time. Also, make sure to wrap any joints and connections in the pipes and hoses with heat tape.

19. Use Throw Rugs

Throw rugs not only provide another layer of customization and personalization, but they are also great insulators.

They are easy to simply roll out on the floor, they can be moved around whenever necessary, and best of all, they are washable. So, even if they don’t get dirty, you just need to wash them once a season, and you’re good to go.

I recommend going with the thicker kind as they will provide better cushion and somewhat better insulation. Of course, that all depends on your personal preferences as well. A regular cut-out carpet can also do the job but would be a bit harder to clean.

20. Cover the Roof Vents with an Insulated Cover

Warmer air is lighter, so it rises to the ceiling. And if your roof vents are not insulated, the heat will simply escape out, and your RV will get colder.

An insulated cover ensures that you lose a very little amount of heat through the vents and roof. That’s it. It is as simple as it sounds, so you might as well install insulated covers during winter weather.

Specifically designed vent covers are also necessary.

You don’t want to completely block off the vents because that would increase condensation and also make it hard to breathe. There are great quality vent covers that are designed to be used in cold weather. They are not expensive and are super easy to take off.

21. Use Your Freshwater Tank Instead of the Campground Water Supply

Using the freshwater tank will keep water running throughout the plumbing inside the RV. This means it will have a lesser chance of freezing the whole tank. But make sure you refill the freshwater tank during the day as needed.

WINTER RV CAMPING: THE ULTIMATE (HOW TO) GUIDE

Conclusion

These are the 21 top tips for living in an RV during winter comfortably.

You need to properly insulate the windows, doors, and vents, have extra propane tanks or butane gas for cooking, some good quality thermal sleeping bags, and thermal curtains. Most importantly, try not to open the door too much, as it lets cold air inside.

Similarly, if you want to winterproof your 5th Wheel, here’s a recent article that makes it a lot easier.

Living in an RV during the winter comfortably shouldn’t be hard. Once you get the hang of how you can preserve heat inside the cabin, it becomes extremely easy to maintain the overall temperature throughout the season. Hopefully, these tips can serve as a guide towards a toastier and more relaxing winter.


Photo that requires attribution:
Colorado Winter RV Park by vicki watkins is licensed under CC2.0 and was cropped, edited, and had a text overlay added.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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