How to Keep Your RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping

Going on a winter camping trip? Here are some easy, affordable ways to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping.

Camping in the snow is an entirely different experience and a great way to enjoy typical summer destinations in a whole new way.

However, RV owners must take the necessary precautions to protect their RV from the cold weather. One of the most critical issues to be aware of is the risk of frozen pipes which can cause serious damage to your RV’s plumbing system. And don’t forget about your RV holding tanks. In severe cold, these can freeze, too.

In this article, I’ll discuss the steps you can take to keep your RV pipes from freezing while camping in cold weather.

Cold weather camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ultimate RV winter camping tips

One trip to the hardware store can get you most of the things on this list.

These tips should help protect your motorhome or trailer through the winter months. That way, you can enjoy your winter camping trip to the fullest.

1. Insulate your RV pipes

Properly insulating your RV pipes is the first step in preventing them from freezing. Insulation materials such as pipe sleeves or foam insulation can add an extra layer of protection. Or, try pipe insulation tape. These materials can be cut to fit any size pipe and can be applied to the exterior of the pipes.

Be sure to pay attention to all the pipes including those under the sinks and in the bathroom and kitchen.

2. Consider using heat tape

Another effective way to prevent your RV pipes from freezing is to use heat tape or heat cable. Heat tape is an electrical heating element that can be wrapped around pipes and plugged in to provide heat.

Make sure to choose a heat tape specifically designed for use on RV pipes and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installation and use.

3. Skirt your RV

Skirting your RV is another way to protect your pipes from freezing because it increases the ambient heat beneath your RV. Skirting is a material that surrounds the bottom or underbelly of your RV to block cold winds.

This can be a DIY project with various materials such as insulated foam, vinyl, or heavy-duty plastic. Or you can purchase pre-made skirting kits.

EZSnap Skirting and Fabricover skirting are very popular in the RVing community.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Insulate your RV storage bays

Your RV storage bays are also vulnerable to freezing temperatures. To protect the pipes in these areas, be sure to insulate them as well. This can be done with foam insulation, foam boards, or fiberglass insulation.

5. Heat your RV storage bays

In addition to insulating the storage bays, you can also heat them to keep the pipes from freezing. Electric heating pads can be placed on the bottom of the storage bay and plugged in to provide heat.

Or, you can use a portable heater like a propane or electric space heater. Just keep in mind that these portable heaters can be dangerous if not used properly. So carefully read their manuals and check them often when in use.

6. Open your cabinet doors

One simple way to keep the pipes in your RV from freezing is to open the cabinet doors under the sinks. This allows warm air to circulate around the pipes and keeps them from freezing.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. Strategically place electric space heaters

Another way to keep the pipes in your RV from freezing is to strategically place electric heaters around the RV. This can be done by placing a small electric heater under the sink or in the bathroom to keep the pipes warm.

8. Use your tanks instead of hookups

If possible, use your freshwater tank instead of using a freshwater hookup. Your fresh water tank is insulated and protected from cold temperatures (or at least it should be). Your water hose on the other hand has a higher risk of freezing.

If you need to use fresh water hookups, buy a heated water hose. This heated hose connects to your water source and RV just like other drinking hoses. It’s easy to use and is one of the best ways to keep fresh water flowing to your RV.

On that same note, do not keep your sewer hose open. You shouldn’t leave your gray water tank and black water tank valves open while camping (common newbie RV mistakes) but it’s especially bad to do it in the cold. You certainly don’t want THAT liquid freezing in your sewer hose (aka stinky slinky).

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. Choose a sunny campsite

When choosing a campsite, look for one that’s in a sunny location. This will help to keep your RV warm and can also help to prevent your pipes from freezing. It’s a simple tip, yet very effective.

If you don’t think it will make a big enough difference, think about when you’re driving up the mountains. You’ll start seeing snow patches beneath trees much sooner than on open ground. So, try to park in a campsite where you’ll have as much direct sunlight as possible.

10. Install RV holding tank heaters

Finally, consider installing RV holding tank heaters. These heaters are specially designed to keep the water in your holding tanks from freezing and can be a lifesaver in extremely cold temperatures.

Bonus tip: Keep a heat gun or compact hair dryer on hand just in case you end up with a frozen pipe. You can defrost it and add pipe insulation or one of the other above tips to prevent it from happening again.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Know the signs of frozen pipes

Even if you take all the necessary precautions, there’s still a risk that your pipes may freeze. It’s important to know the signs of frozen pipes so you can take action before they burst. Some common signs of frozen pipes include a lack of water flow, strange noises coming from the pipes, and frost on the pipes.

If you suspect that your pipes have frozen, you should first turn off the water supply to your RV. Then, open the faucets and turn on the hot water to allow any remaining water to flow through the pipes.

If the pipes are still frozen, you may need to use a hair dryer or heat lamp to thaw them. Never use an open flame such as a propane torch, to thaw pipes.

Where to find more support…

The Ultimate Guide to Cold Weather Camping

Whether you do winter RV camping by choice or by necessity, there are steps you’ll want to take to stay warm in your rig. That’s why I put together this Ultimate Guide for Cold Weather Camping. 

I want you to know exactly how to use your RV in the winter—how to shield it from Mother Nature, how to winterize and store it if you want to, and even how you can make money renting your rig to others in warmer parts of the country.

Keep reading…

Worth Pondering…

And finally Winter, with its bitin’, whinin’ wind, and all the land will be mantled with snow.

—Roy Bean

Does a Surge Protector Provide Enough Protection?

While the use of a surge protector does have merit, it protects your equipment from only one of a wide variety of possible electrical problems

An electrical surge—at least in terms of what a surge protector will protect against—is a sudden and large (generally huge) increase in voltage, oftentimes of only a very short duration—maybe only milliseconds.

It’s the type of surge caused most often by lightning hitting electrical equipment or by certain failures—or faults—within the electrical system itself.

A surge protector may or may not protect against any particular surge. Different surge protection devices have different ratings. Having a surge protector in place is better than having nothing at all. But, does a surge protector alone provide adequate protection?

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are a variety of other electrical malfunctions that can be identified with a simple outlet tester.

An EMS (Electrical Management System) device can protect against additional damaging conditions that a surge protector will not protect against and that an outlet tester will not detect.

Let’s start first with the very basics of 120V AC power, the type found at home and in your RV. There is a hot wire (the source of the electricity), a neutral wire (the return path to the source of the electricity, thus making a complete circuit), and a ground wire which is provided as a safety measure and will route the power in the circuit to ground (literally into the Earth) in the event of a wiring failure.

A tester will test an outlet and indicate if there are wiring problems present among any of the three wires mentioned above and their associated connections:

  • Open (disconnected) ground wire
  • Open neutral wire
  • Open hot wire
  • Hot and neutral reversed
  • Hot and ground reversed
  • Proper and normal connection
Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

More surge protector abnormalities

Additional abnormal conditions can be present and are not necessarily unsafe for the occupants of the home or the RV but over time can be very bad for the equipment particularly for refrigerator and air conditioning compressor motors.

The following abnormal conditions must be protected against: High or low voltage and high or low frequency.

Most EMS models will protect against abnormal voltage conditions and some also protect against abnormal frequency conditions. A surge protector will not protect against any of these four conditions.

It seems obvious that high voltage is a bad thing. Just as high water pressure will rupture a water hose, high voltage will damage electrical equipment.

But why is low voltage a bad thing?

Electrical components run on power (watts) which is a combination of both voltage (volts) and current (amperes or amps). At proper voltage, an electrical device especially a motor will draw enough current to operate properly.

As the motor is being asked to do more work, it will draw more current. If it becomes overloaded, it will draw too much current and the circuit breaker will trip, thus protecting both the motor and the wiring.

Some more advanced motors will even have internal protection devices that trip and reset automatically.

Let’s say the voltage at the campground is low. The motor will start to draw enough current to still do the work it is being asked to do. As the voltage drops, the motor will draw more and more current.

Current is what causes the motor to heat up. If the motor runs for an extended period at low voltage and high current—but not high enough to trip the breaker—it will heat too much and damage itself.

However, this damage may not occur right away. Repeated conditions of low voltage will cause the motor to damage itself little by little until it eventually fails.

An EMS device senses this low voltage condition and will trip the power at a preset voltage to prevent motors from damaging themselves.

What about frequency?

The standard electrical power utilized throughout most of the world is alternating current.

In the U.S. and Canada, power is delivered to the home at 120 V ac and 60 Hz (the abbreviation for Hertz which stands for cycles).

In Europe, the standard is 240 V ac and 50 Hz.

The frequency is simply a reference to how many times per second the voltage alternates, hence the term alternating current. (The voltage and the current both alternate.)

Many devices depend upon that 60 Hz as a timing reference to properly do whatever they do.

Electric wall clocks, electric light timers, traffic signal timers, telephone company switching equipment, radio receivers, etc., all depend on a very steady and accurate 60 Hz as a reference so they can, in turn, remain accurate. (More modern Equipment tends to utilize internal timers or reference signals from the GPS satellite system for high-accuracy timing.)

The fact that so many devices need reliable 60 Hz power is the reason the non-inverter type generators have to run at 3600 rpm (revolutions per minute) regardless of how much load is on them. If they only ran at 3000 rpm, the frequency would only be 50 Hz.

Electric Management System © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What about high or low frequency?

A high or low frequency condition might not be damaging to the particular device but it could cause the device to act improperly or it could damage the equipment that the device is controlling.

To summarize, yes a surge protector is good, an EMS is better and an EMS that also protects against abnormal frequency conditions is better still.

Regarding that circuit tester mentioned above, once it is known that the RV is plugged into properly wired shore power as determined by an EMS device, it is an excellent idea to go around and check all the outlets in the rig periodically.

Unlike a home, the wiring in the rig is subjected to all the vibrations and temperature variations that come along with the RV lifestyle.

Insulation on wires can rub through and expose bare wires, connections can become loose, and any of the dangerous conditions already mentioned can develop over time, conditions that may be harmful or even fatal, and must be avoided by taking the proper precautions.

And if you have electric heaters plugged in, you might want to review this post again and get it organized.

Here are a few links that may help you prepare for your next RV trip:

Worth Pondering…

I am not a product of my circumstances. I am a product of my decisions.

—Stephen Covey

Top 3 Winter RV Camping Must-Haves

Staying comfy starts with these three winter RV camping must-haves

After a long, hot summer, the first cold front of the season recently arrived. These three winter RV camping must-haves will help you be ready for the drop in temperature.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated RV water hose

A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. These hoses cost over $100 depending mostly on length but will save you a lot in frozen pipes and related issues.

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. Made with food-grade materials, a heated RV water hose comes in several lengths. Rated for use in temperatures down to -40 degrees Fahrenheit just plug it into a 110-volt outlet at the utility pedestal. It stays on to prevent a frozen water hose.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The material remains flexible down to -20 degrees which makes it easy to coil and store. A 25-foot hose typically uses about 2.5 kWh of electricity a day and will cost about 25¢ a day to keep water flowing to your RV in the coldest of temperatures.

Heated water hoses have long heat strips that run along their length. These prevent water from freezing when it travels through the tube. These hoses need to be plugged into electrical outlets to function and they have a variety of sizes and energy requirements.

Heated RV water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated water hoses are an essential piece of gear for anyone who plans to use their RV in cold areas. You always need to be sure that your sinks, showers, and toilets are working when you’re living in an RV.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heater

Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room.

When shopping for a portable electric space heater for an RV, consider the safety features of each model. When using high heat to warm small spaces it is paramount to use a heater that has safety features. Also, be aware of the amount of space the heater will cover. There is no use buying a heater that does not have enough power to warm your rig. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

These little units are powerful and can easily warm up a small room. However, they’re also a fire hazard because they produce heat. Therefore, it’s important for every RVer to know some small space heater safety tips.

Never leave a space heater unattended. If things unexpectedly malfunction you won’t be there to deal with the situation. It may be tempting to turn on the heater and do some chores while it warms up. This is a dangerous thing to do.

In addition, you are wasting electricity if you run a space heater in an empty room. When you plan to leave the room, turn off the heater, unplug it, and store it somewhere where it will be out of the way. 

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Dehumidifier

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. Insulated RVs can quickly fill with moisture and humidity especially when frequently showering and cooking inside. The moisture and condensation can cause damage and promote mold and mildew growth.

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas). Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

Dehumidifier © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

10 RV Fire Dangers and How to Avoid Them

In this article, I cover the most common reasons that RVs catch fire and what you can do to prevent it

Modern campers are designed to be quite safe but RV fire dangers still exist. Something can always go wrong. For example, if the wrong piece breaks or you don’t take the necessary precautions, a fire can start inside your RV. This is dangerous to you, your possessions, and the vehicle itself. RV fire dangers should be prevented at all costs. 

In order to decrease the chance of explosive situations, it’s best to plan ahead. For instance, you can purchase and install smoke detectors throughout your RV. This will give the earliest possible warning if something goes wrong. Additionally, you can study your RV appliance manuals.

Learn how to safely install them and avoid dangerous setups that might start an RV fire. 

As long as you’re careful and follow a good RV maintenance schedule, you should be able to minimize RV fire dangers. At the very least, you’ll be better equipped to deal with a fire. Use common sense as well and keep flammable objects away from hot items and unplug electrical devices when you’re not using them. 

Smoke alarm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV propane leaks

One of the biggest fire dangers in an RV is the propane system. Most RVs have a heating system that’s powered by propane plus additional appliances that use this type of fuel. Although using propane is usually quite safe, a leak can be disastrous. A single spark can send the entire vehicle up in flames.

>> Related article: Safety Dance

To prevent propane leaks, make sure you have a propane/LP gas detector installed in your RV. Sometimes you might be able to smell the leak but by this point the damage is usually done. It’s better to have an advance warning system so you can get to safety.

Additionally, you should have your propane tanks inspected at least once per year. Keep them well-sealed when they’re not in use. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Unattended electric space heaters

Lots of RVers supplement their heating system with an electric space heater or two. These heaters can keep your vehicle warm when the temperature drops. However, it is an extra heat source and it’s definitely one of the top RV fire dangers you will face. 

There are numerous space heaters to choose between and some are safer than others. Most models come with safety features so they will automatically turn off if they get too hot or are knocked over. Do not use outdated models without these features.

In addition, be careful where you set up a heater within your RV. Make sure it’s not close to any curtains, paper, or other flammable materials. 

RV refrigerator and microwave © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Loose items near the RV stove/oven

Speaking of heat sources, take a close look at your kitchen setup. RV kitchens tend to be a bit small and crowded. You only have a limited amount of space for all your appliances, ingredients, and utensils. 

Unfortunately, a crowded, small RV kitchen can lead to disaster. Do everything you can to keep your stove top clear. These surfaces can easily start a blaze if a loose towel or cord touches them. Unplug and store all your electrical appliances when they’re not in use. Try to keep the cords tucked away. 

>> Related article: 9 RV Fire Hazards and How to Avoid Them

Of course, you should also practice safe kitchen practices. Don’t leave the stove unattended. Keep the surfaces as clean and uncluttered as possible. 

Be aware of fire risks outside the RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. RV grills and campfires

Fire dangers often come from inside the RV but sometimes the bigger risk comes from the outside. RV grills and campfires aren’t usually a problem especially if you’re careful. But they can create a fire hazard. 

Keep campfires at least 25 feet away from your vehicle. Sparks and embers might still fly up but they usually won’t cause a problem from that distance. Keep your gas cap firmly closed. Protect your propane tanks and any spare gasoline you might have on hand. 

The same precautions apply to portable camping grills. It might be tempting to cook underneath your RV awning but the smoke, grease, and heat can create dangerous conditions. 

Check the undercarriage for potential problems © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Loose undercarriage wires

There are numerous fire dangers that are clearly visible but sometimes danger lurks below. RV undercarriages can sometimes become damaged without us realizing it especially if we travel on particularly rough roads. An underbelly that been scraped or otherwise damaged presents an increased fire risk.

Loose wires and fuel lines might come into contact with heated engine parts and begin to melt. This is incredibly dangerous because you may not even be unaware of the problem. 

To address this issue, crawl under your RV and check for any loose wires, mechanical parts, or fuel lines that may be damaged. Secure anything that’s hanging down and check for any mysterious leaks or smells. Keep a fire extinguisher in the RV just in case a spark flares up.

Be ware of tire safety © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

6. RV dryer lint

Not every RV has a washer and dryer on board but those that do are at a greater risk of catching fire. RV dryers in particular are dangerous because of the heat they produce. If you aren’t diligent about cleaning the lint trap and the various vents, shedding fabric can catch fire. 

>> Related article: Electric Space Heater Safety Tips for RVers

Make sure you always empty the lint trap of your dryer before you start a new load even if you don’t feel like there’s much buildup. Also pay attention to the temperature of the dryer once a load finishes. If it feels unusually warm or has a burning smell, call a tech to check it out. 

A place for everything © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

7. RV electrical system problems

There are a variety of reasons why an RV electrical system might develop issues. If things start to go wrong with the wiring, it’s easy for a stray spark to start a fire. 

Be proactive and don’t use a ton of different appliances at the same time. Crowding outlets can lead to trouble. Unplug appliances as soon as you’re finished using them and avoid using extension cords. 

Inspect your RV walls and wiring for signs of rodent damage. If these little critters start nibbling on the wires, the whole system could go down. Rodents are also one of the top fire dangers for RVs. 

Finally, check your RV’s 12-volt connections/hookups. Loose connections can lead to a spark which can cause a fire. 

8. RV refrigerator malfunction

It seems a bit strange that an RV refrigerator could cause a fire but it does happen. Check to see if your model has been recalled.

Clean your RV vents on a regular basis to prevent dust buildup. If air movement becomes blocked the refrigerator can become overheated. In addition, keep your refrigerator as level as possible especially if you have an RV absorption refrigerator. These have boilers that can easily overheat if they’re tilted to the wrong angle. 

Don’t overlook the RV tires, wheels, and breaks © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

9. RV wheels and brakes

Don’t overlook the mechanical parts of your RV as well. When you’re traveling at high speeds with a heavy vehicle, things can heat up very quickly. RV brakes and wheels take on a lot of the stress. They need to be kept in great condition.

Follow an RV maintenance schedule to rotate your wheels and repair/replace the brakes as needed. 

Careless use of space heaters is a major cause of RV fires © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

10. Deep-cell batteries

Finally, make sure you maintain and replace your RV batteries on a regular basis. If the battery acid boils away, it can overheat and catch fire. Batteries have even been known to explode. Check the fluid level of all deep-cell batteries monthly and add distilled water as required.

>> Related article: 16 Must-Have RV Accessories

In conclusion

Although we hope it never happens, we should always be prepared for the worst. By being diligent, properly maintaining our RVs, and practicing cooking safety, we can reduce the risk. Since we can’t completely eliminate it, planning ahead and practicing evacuation can ensure the whole family stays safe.

Worth Pondering…

Speed was high

Weather was hot

Tires were thin

X marks the spot

—Burma Shave sign

Electric Space Heater Safety Tips for RVers

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a space heater.

It could be a freak cold snap, the necessity of traveling through cold northern states to get to warmer states, camping at high elevations where the nights are almost always cold, living in your RV while working in a cold climate, camping in the spring and fall when temperatures go up and down—or maybe you just like to spend time in colder places.

When winter temperatures start plummeting, some RVers outfit their rig for winter RV camping and others prepare to put their RV in storage. If you’re going to brave the winter chill, however, it pays to know about the different types of space heaters for RVs. Even if you don’t plan on RVing during the winter months, a space heater will help you keep things toasty on cool days.

Exploring the world in your RV can take you to magical places. But those magical places can come with cold weather especially in the winter months. That means you will want a quality space heater to keep your rig warm.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to look for in electric heaters for RVs

When shopping for a portable electric space heater for an RV, consider the safety features of each model. When using high heat to warm small spaces it is paramount to use a heater that has safety features. Also be aware of the amount of space the heater will cover. There is no use buying a heater that does not have enough power to warm your rig. 

These little units are powerful and can easily warm up a small room. However, they’re also a fire hazard because they produce heat. Therefore, it’s important for every RVer to know some small space heater safety tips.

Most of these tips are just common sense because it should be obvious that any heater could lead to a fire if you’re not careful. Just treat every space heater as if it was a tiny campfire and you’ll be able to prevent most accidents and problems. 

Follow along with the small space heater safety tips below to keep your RV warm but also safe. Don’t be afraid to use space heaters if you take the appropriate safety measures. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep flammable items three feet away

Be sure to keep flammable objects out of range. Again, this is pretty obvious but it’s especially important within the limited space of an RV. Sometimes that three-foot radius can be hard to maintain but you should always be aware of the items that are near your heater. 

Papers, curtains, rugs, and other flammable items need to be kept away from any heat source. In addition, some items may not burst into flames but they could still be damaged if they’re exposed to high temperatures. For instance, a plastic garbage can might melt and warp a bit if it’s too close to a heat source.

Do not use extension cords

Another good rule for RVers is to avoid the use of extension cords. These cords can be useful but they also create a fire hazard. Exposed plugs and cords are easy to accidentally damage. If the plug connection is loosened, it could create sparks. In addition, extension cords are easy to trip over. Since this is dangerous for you and your electrical system alike try to avoid them if at all possible. Most small space heaters have an adequate cord length that allows you to position them wherever you want. Since space is limited in an RV, so you shouldn’t need to rely on extension cords anyway.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tuck power cords out of the way

Speaking of power cords, let’s talk about how to store them safely. A small space heater will usually sit on the floor so the cord may lie across the floor as well. This is a tripping hazard especially if you have pets or young children. 

Sometimes it’s tempting to place cords underneath rugs or carpets but this is a bad idea. The cord will still be stepped on even if you can’t see it. This can lead to damage and could potentially expose the wires and start a fire. It’s better to keep the cord close to the wall if possible. Secure it in place so it won’t create a dangerous situation for anyone who is walking nearby. 

Only use heaters when you’re in the room

Never leave a space heater unattended. If things unexpectedly malfunction you won’t be there to deal with the situation. It may be tempting to turn on the heater and do some chores while it warms up. This is a dangerous thing to do!

In addition, you are wasting electricity if you run a space heater in an empty room. When you plan to leave the room, turn off the heater, unplug it, and store it somewhere where it will be out of the way. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep it in a low-traffic area

As I’ve already mentioned, a small space heater is easy to trip over. That’s why it’s important to keep them in a low-traffic area where they won’t be in the way. You also need to ensure that they aren’t near a doorway/blocking an exit. 

Use models with built-in safety features

Sometimes accidents happen and a space heater is knocked over or left unattended in a room. In these cases, it’s good to have some backup from built-in safety features. 

Many modern space heaters are equipped with fail-safes that will activate if the model is knocked over. For instance, my space heaters will automatically turn off if knocked over. This prevents the floor or surrounding items from catching fire. 

Some heaters have temperature control options that enable you to set limits for how hot it can get. Once it heats the room to the ideal temperature, the heater will automatically turn off. 

Sometimes you can also set timers. If you tend to forget to turn heaters off when you leave the room, set a timer so it will shut off by itself. You don’t need to have a super high-tech heater to be happy, but safety features can give you some peace of mind. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ensure you have functioning smoke alarms

One of the key elements of space heater safety is setting up an advanced warning system. Again, space heaters can create fire and smoke. If this occurs it’s important for you to have early warning. If you have a heads up, you can put out the fire or at least save yourself and your passengers from getting burned. 

Smoke alarms will let you know if a heater has gone out of control. Maintain the smoke and carbon monoxide alarms in your RV. Check the batteries and test their effectiveness regularly. Make sure everyone in your RV knows what to do when the alarm goes off, so nobody is caught unprepared. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keep the heater away from kids and pets

Finally, it’s easier to abide by space heater safety tips if you don’t have kids or pets. They can knock over your heater and burn themselves by accident. 

If you do have these passengers as part of your crew, take extra safety measures to protect everyone. Set up a radius around your heater and keep it out of reach (if possible). For kids, teach them that the heater is dangerous and off-limits. For pets, use scented deterrents to convince them to stay away from the cords. As long as you follow the space heater safety tips above you should be able to keep everyone safe, warm, and happy!

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV space heater safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, always follow these safety tips when you purchase and run your space heater.

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic
  • Never block an exit
  • Keep children away from the space heater
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed
Smoke alarm © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

Winter RV Camping: What You Need to Know

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures

Winter RV camping is more accessible than ever with improvements in RV technology. That’s why more people are seeking out winter destinations for RV getaways and living in RVs full-time during all four seasons. 

If you camp in the cold you’ll need to prepare for it. If you plan on camping in cold temperatures this winter here’s what you need to know to keep your RV and yourself healthy and happy.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Getting water for winter RV camping

Maintaining the health of your RV’s water system is arguably the most important factor of winter RV camping. When outside temperatures drop below freezing, water can freeze in your pipes and your freshwater hose. Frozen water expands and that alone can cause your pipes to burst. Even if your pipes don’t freeze over a frozen section of pipe can increase water pressure enough to stress pipes joints to the point of bursting.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hooking up to city water

If you’re hooking up to city water you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your campsite pedestal. A heated hose keeps water from freezing at the source and while it’s flowing into your RV. Some people add additional insulation to their heated hoses if they expect extreme temperatures. This can be done by wrapping the entire length of the hose in foil wrap insulation tape. Be sure to check the recommendations and read through the entire manual that came with your heated hose before attempting to add additional insulation. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Filling your freshwater tank

If you don’t have a heated hose you can also fill your freshwater tank instead of connecting to city water. Most modern RVs designed for winter camping feature heated holding tank compartments to prevent water from freezing in the tanks. As a rule of thumb only connect your water hose when you need to fill your freshwater tank. Disconnect it when you’re finished and drain all water out of the hose before storing it. This will prolong the life of the hose while preventing potential freezing.

Heated water hose and faucet protector© Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeping you (and your RV) warm

Winter RV camping should be enjoyable but we all know that’s tough if you are perpetually cold. The following tips will help you keep your living space warm and cozy throughout the winter. 

Insulating the Floor

The laws of thermodynamics state that warm air rises and cold air sinks which means that your floor will often feel extra chilly, especially first thing in the morning. There are several ways to insulate under your feet including area rugs and runners.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Windows and doors

The next two obvious places for heat loss are your RV windows and doors. An RV with dual-pane windows is the best for winter camping but there are numerous ways you can insulate single-pane windows. Whether your RV has single or dual-pane windows you can add foil insulation to select windows and doors to reduce heat loss. If you don’t like the appearance of foil insulation, you can also upgrade to thicker window shades. 

If you’re unable to find window and door covers and a front window reflective sunshade that fit the exact dimensions you may need to cut an insulation roll to the desired dimensions for each application. You don’t want to cover ALL of the RV windows so that you can still get some natural light and heat from the sun throughout the winter. 

In addition to adding insulation check the weather stripping around your RV doors. If it’s partially detached or missing altogether, replace it to keep cold and moisture out of your rig. 

Roof vents

You can also lose considerable heat through the RV roof vents. You can insulate your roof vent openings with vent cushions to reduce heat loss. Vent cushions can also be used during the warmer months to trap the cool air from your AC inside your RV. The good news about these cushions is that they can be installed or removed in seconds. 

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat sources

As for an actual heat source, there are five heater options to consider.

Furnace: The first is your RV propane furnace. Before your winter camping trip take the time to make sure your furnace is in good working order and check to see if it’s time to replace your furnace filter (if applicable). Use compressed air and a soft brush to remove any dirt, dust, and debris from the furnace. Make sure all vents are clean and unblocked.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Hydronic heat: As an alternative to the propane furnace, hydronic heat comes standard in many luxury coaches and is offered as an upgrade in several others. These systems use a boiler to circulate hot antifreeze through a series of heat exchangers found throughout the motorhome. The advanced technology nearly eliminates the fumes normally associated with propane or diesel use and is quiet, as well. The system evenly heats your coach’s interior with multiple heat zones. As the temperature of a zone drops below your thermostat setting, a heat exchanger begins circulating heat not only from the floor to the ceiling, but also side to side. Plus, it acts as the hot water heater as well. In fact, water pumped through the boiler is instantly heated meaning that you won’t run out of hot water until you actually run out of water.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Electric space heater: Your second option is a portable electric space heater. Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room.

Infrared radiant heater: Infrared radiant heaters produce mild consistent heat to maintain the temperature of a room. They are designed to heat the objects around them (including you) rather than heating the air. Infrared radiant heaters are optimal in areas where you are sitting close to them rather than moving around the room. They are also best used to maintain the temperature of a room rather than providing a quick blast of heat.

Propane space heaters: Portable space heaters that run on propane are great for those situations when you don’t have access to electric power. If you enjoy boondocking or dry camping but still want a source of heat this is the perfect solution. Just check to make sure the unit is safe for indoor use and stock up on extra propane tanks if you want this to be a reliable heat source for winter camping. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Protect your RV exterior

Winter camping also takes a toll on the exterior of your RV. From getting snow off the roof to ensuring your stabilizing jacks don’t freeze to the ground there are some important steps you’ll need to take to protect your RV’s exterior on winter adventures. 

Underneath your RV

Since I just mentioned stabilizing jacks, let’s start there. To keep them from freezing to the ground use stabilizing jack pads beneath them. If you store any recreation items underneath your RV place them on a tarp or in a sealed bin to avoid water damage. 

Using an RV skirt is another way to keep cold air from getting underneath your RV. An added benefit of skirting around the base of your RV is protected exterior storage. If you have kayaks or bikes that don’t have anywhere else to go you can slide them under your RV before skirting to keep them out of the elements and protected from critters seeking a warm winter home. 

Exterior steps © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Exterior steps

Exterior steps can quickly turn into a slippery hazard when you encounter freezing and snowy conditions. You can add grip to your RV steps by installing a wrap-around step rug. You can also consider installing an external step with a handrail if you’re looking for something with a little more safety and stability for winter RV camping. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roof, AC, slideouts, and awnings

If you have slides, you may need to clear snow and ice regularly. Avoid snow and ice accumulation on top of your RV. If possible push the snow off after each storm. Use care not to damage your roof or awnings. Climbing up your RV ladder can be the most dangerous part of this effort. Shoes with soft rubber soles are best for handling slippery surfaces. It’s also a good idea to apply sprayable antifreeze to slide components if you plan on moving them in and out throughout the winter.

It is best to leave your RV awning closed when winter RV camping. Weight from snow and ice as well as the potential for high winds makes the risk for awning damage high in the winter. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Camping in the winter can be an exciting adventure and allow you the chance to enjoy all the fun that snowy destinations have to offer. If you take the time to prepare as you should, you and your RV should have no trouble weathering those frosty winter storms.

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

Winter RV Camping Must-Have: Portable Space Heater

The winter camping season is upon us and it’s time to get prepared for the freezing cold temperatures. One of the best things you can invest in for winter camping adventures is a portable space heater.

The cold hard fact is that RVs and winter weather are not ideal companions. With little insulation and plenty of opportunities for chilly air to leak in, it can be difficult to keep an RV comfortably warm when the temperatures drop. That’s where portable electric space heaters come in handy.

No matter how many times you vow to follow the warm weather while RVing, the truth is that you’re going to run into cold weather eventually.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Downsides of the RV furnace

Whatever the reason, chances are good that if you spend any time traveling by RV you’re eventually going to need a source of heat. The first line of defense against cold is the built-in RV furnace. A typical RV furnace uses propane to create hot air and electric power to blow the air through a series of vents distributed around the RV.

There are a few problems with the RV furnace. First of all, they are gigantic energy hogs that use a tremendous amount of both propane and electricity. Second, the electric fan blowers can be very loud. Since they only come on when the thermostat dips below the set temperature if you’re having a cold night the blower could drive you crazy as it cycles on and off.

Finally, not every RV has a built-in furnace. Many older motorhomes, small trailers, and van conversions don’t have a furnace which leaves owners either out in the cold or searching for an alternate solution.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Portable space heaters to the rescue

This is when portable space heaters save the day. These small, efficient heaters are a safe, quiet method for keeping your RV cozy and warm. There are three different types, each with its own strengths and uses. Let’s start with the most popular.

Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Ceramic convection heaters

Ceramic convection heaters are the most popular type of portable space heaters for good reason. Not only are they affordable (you can get a good one for under $50) but they are also efficient and quickly take the chill out of the air. Ceramic heaters work by heating the air and circulating it around the room. Some of the benefits of ceramic heaters are:

  • Warms up small spaces very fast
  • Considered a safe source of heat as they don’t contain hot coils or emit dangerous gasses
  • Small, lightweight, and easy to move around the RV
  • No smells
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Infrared radiant heaters

Infrared radiant heaters produce mild consistent heat to maintain the temperature of a room. They are designed to heat the objects around them (including you) rather than heating the air.

Infrared radiant heaters are optimal in areas where you are sitting close to them rather than moving around the room. They are also best used to maintain the temperature of a room rather than providing a quick blast of heat. A few of their best features include:

  • Stays cool to the touch making them safe in a small space
  • Emits no noise
  • Unlike heaters that blow hot air around, the infrared radiant heater warms the room temperature without drying the air
  • Provides even, consistent heat
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Propane space heaters

Portable space heaters that run on propane are great for those situations when you don’t have access to electric power. If you enjoy boondocking or dry camping but still want a source of heat this is the perfect solution.

  • Newer models are safe for indoor or outdoor use
  • Emits no noise or odors
  • Doesn’t require electricity
  • Quickly warms up small spaces
Electric space heater © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

RV space heater safety

According to the National Fire Protection Association, always follow these safety tips when you purchase and run your space heater:

  • Purchase a heater with the seal of a qualified testing laboratory
  • Keep the heater at least 3 feet away from anything that can burn, including people
  • Choose a heater with a thermostat and overheat protection
  • Place the heater on a solid, flat surface
  • Make sure your heater has an auto shut-off to turn the heater off if it tips over
  • Keep space heaters out of the way of foot traffic
  • Never block an exit
  • Keep children away from the space heater
  • Plug the heater directly into the wall outlet. Never use an extension cord.
  • Space heaters should be turned off and unplugged when you leave the room or go to bed

Other articles you may want to read:

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron

The Ultimate Guide for Winter Camping

How to RV in the winter without freezing to death

‘Tis the season for snowbirding in your RV. For winter RVing. For RV hibernation. All these are true, depending on individual RV owners’ circumstances.

Whether you are actively RVing—in warm or cold climates—or just dreaming about or planning for trips you want to take in 2022, read on.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter RV camping

While most RVers prefer camping in the warmer months, it is still possible to venture out when the temperatures plummet. RV winter living is all about one thing: preparation.

Make sure you have a checklist before you head out in the cold and read Handling Cold Weather in your RV. Even if your RV was built for the four seasons, it needs additional tweaks to be ready for cold-weather camping. 
A spare-filled propane tank, heated RV water hose, electric space heaters, and extra insulation are your RV’s best friends while cold-weather camping.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Consider skirting for your RV to keep battery bays, plumbing, and other important components warm while parked in the cold. If you don’t have a skirt, you can even pack snow around the RV bays. Just be sure not to cover generator or hydronic heating exhaust outlets.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the cold this winter season!

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What you need to know

Winter RV camping is more accessible than ever with improvements in RV technology. That’s why more people are seeking out winter destinations for RV getaways and living in RVs full-time during all four seasons. 

Related: Winter is Here: What to Do with Your RV?

If you camp in the cold, you’ll need to prepare for it. Here’s what you need to know to keep your RV and yourself, healthy and happy.

Connected to city water © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connecting to City Water

Maintaining the health of your RV water system is a key factor in winter RV camping. When outside temperatures drop below freezing, water can freeze in your pipes and in your freshwater hose. Repairing your RV plumbing system comes with a hefty bill. Avoid the expense by being prepared. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

To connect to city water, you’ll need a heated hose that plugs into an AC outlet at your RV pedestal electric box. A heated RV water hose will give you safe drinking water even when temperatures dip below freezing. It keeps water from freezing at the source and while it’s flowing into your RV. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A heated water hose has a heat strip along the side of the hose that heats up when plugged into a 110-volt electrical connection. There are many designs out there and some will come with insulated sleeves that slide over the hose fittings at the inlet and outlet. Some brands are rated to keep water flowing at minus 20 degrees or colder. These hoses can cost $100 or more depending on length.

For extra protection, you can add additional insulation to the heated hose. This can be done by wrapping the entire length of the hose in foil wrap insulation tape. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Using your freshwater tank

You can fill your freshwater tank instead of being permanently connected to city water. Most modern RVs designed for winter camping feature heated holding tank compartments to prevent water from freezing in the tanks. Check your owner’s manual to determine if there’s a switch to activate this feature.

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Connect your water hose when you need to fill your fresh water tank. Disconnect it when you’re finished and drain all water out of the hose before storing it. This will prolong the life of the hose while preventing potential freezing.

For older RVs, you can add insulation to the holding tank compartments or place a drop light in the compartment. The heat produced by the light will keep the water in your tank from freezing unless you encounter extremely cold temperatures. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Keeping you (and your RV) warm

Winter RV camping should be enjoyable, but we all know that’s tough if you are perpetually cold. Fortunately, there are numerous options to consider that will help to keep your living space warm and cozy throughout the winter. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Insulating the Floor

The laws of thermodynamics state that hot air rises and cold air sinks, which means your floor will often feel extra chilly especially in the early mornings.  

Related: Methods of Heating Your RV

To insulate under your feet use area rugs, runners, and even self-adhesive carpet tiles. You may also want to add an indoor doormat with a raised lip to avoid tracking moisture into your RV. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heated floors

When you wake up on a frosty morning, wouldn’t it be great if the RV floor was nice and toasty, making it easier to get out of bed and start the day? The development of low-voltage electric radiant floor under-floor heating mats means that RVs can have the comfort and efficiency of radiant floor heating in small spaces.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Windows and Doors

Working our way up, the next two obvious places for heat loss are your RV windows and doors. An RV with dual-pane windows is best for winter camping but there are numerous ways you can insulate single-pane windows.

Whether your RV has single or dual-pane windows, you can add foil insulation to select windows and doors to reduce heat loss. If you don’t like the appearance of foil insulation, you can also upgrade to thicker window shades. You don’t want to cover ALL of your RV windows so that you can still get some natural light and heat from the sun throughout the winter. 

In addition to adding insulation, check the weather stripping around your RV doors. If it’s partially detached or missing altogether, replace it to keep cold and moisture out of your rig. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Roof Vents

You can also lose a lot of heat through RV roof vents. Because you won’t necessarily need these vents for air circulation during the winter, you can install vent cushions to further reduce heat loss.  

Related: Handling Cold Weather While RVing

Vent cushions can also be used during the warmer months to trap the cool air from your AC inside your RV. The good news about these cushions is that they can be installed or removed in seconds. 

Heated water hose © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Heat Sources

When there’s a chill in the air, it’s great to be able to crank up the heat inside your RV. Sometimes just a few degrees are all it takes to go from misery to comfort. As for an actual heat source, there are three main heater options to consider.

A heat pump is one option for heating an RV. It’s not a perfect solution in every situation but it is good to have on board. A heat pump uses electricity to warm up the interior of the RV. As the name suggests, it uses a pump to move warmth from one place to another. In this case, it absorbs heat from outside the RV and pushes it inside through the ventilation system.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There are limits to what a heat pump can do. They’re great when it’s chilly but not when it’s freezing cold. This is because they draw warmth from the outside air. The critical point varies from manufacturer to manufacturer but from our experience about 34 degrees Fahrenheit is the point at which an RV heat pump stops working. There’s just not enough heat in the outside air for it to extract.

A furnace generally heats from the floor up while vents from a heat pump are typically in the ceiling. Because heat rises, furnace heat may be more efficient from this perspective as well. And, if you have basement storage, the furnace heat can be routed there to keep your plumbing and tanks from freezing.

With a furnace, however, once the propane is gone, so is the heat!

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

A third option is a portable electric space heater. If you’re plugged into a reliable power source electric heaters are a great supplement to your RV furnace. They help to save propane and lower your energy bill depending on the electric costs in your location. 

Related: What’s in Your RV Emergency Kit?

Cold and wet is bad. Not just for you, but for your RV, too. All that heat in one confined space can lead to humidity and condensation which can cause mold in your walls.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

When winter camping it’s advisable to use several dehumidifiers in the RV (bathroom and kitchen are particular problem areas)

Moisture absorbers such as DampRid will help reduce damaging condensation. Applications for RVs include disposable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), refillable absorbers (10.5-ounce tub), hi-capacity absorbers (4-pound tub), and hanging absorbers (14-ounce hanging bag).

DampRid’s crystals absorb excess moisture in the air to create and maintain the optimal humidity level in your RV.

Winter camping

Protecting the Outside of Your RV

Winter camping also takes a toll on your RV exterior. From getting snow off the roof to ensuring your stabilizing jacks don’t freeze to the ground, there are some important steps you’ll need to take to protect your RV’s exterior on winter adventures. 

Winter Camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Since we just mentioned stabilizing jacks, let’s start there. To keep them from freezing to the ground, use stabilizing jack pads beneath them. I recommend plastic pads rather than wood since the latter is a conductor of electricity. If you store any recreation items underneath your RV, place them on a tarp or in a sealed bin to avoid water damage. 

Using an RV skirt is another way to keep cold air from getting underneath your RV. An added benefit of skirting around the base of your RV is protected exterior storage. If you have kayaks or bikes that don’t have anywhere else to go, you can slide them under your RV before skirting to keep them out of the elements and protected from critters seeking a warm winter home. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What was once a very convenient RV step can quickly turn into a slippery hazard when you encounter snow and freezing conditions. One way to add grip to your RV steps is to install a wrap-around step rug. You can also consider installing an external step with a handrail for a greater level of safety and stability for winter RV camping. 

Related: There Is No Winter like a Desert Winter in the Valley of the Sun

It is best to leave your main RV awning closed when winter RV camping. Weight from snow and ice as well as the potential for high winds makes the risk for awning damage especially high in winter. 

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Driving Tips for Winter RV Camping

If you plan to winter camp in several locations, you may encounter wet, icy, and snowy road conditions when traveling between destinations. So here are a few quick tips for safe RV driving in the winter: 

  • Check the weather early and often, especially when navigating mountain passes
  • Accelerate and decelerate slower than normal
  • Avoid quick lane changes and turns which are frankly always bad ideas in an RV
  • If chain restrictions are in place, don’t go
  • Consider investing in traction boards to help you self-rescue if you get stuck
  • If you feel uncomfortable with the weather conditions–stay put
  • Slow and steady wins the race

Note: Some states and provinces require the use of winter tires and/or carry chains during certain winter months.

Winter camping © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Conclusion

Camping in the winter can be an exciting adventure and allow you the chance to enjoy all the fun that snowy destinations have to offer. If you take the time to prepare as you should, you and your rig should have no trouble weathering those frosty winter storms.

Worth Pondering…

My parents live in the part of the United States that is Canada. It is so far north that Minnesota lies in the same direction as Miami. They have four distinct seasons: Winter, More Winter, Still More Winter, and That One Day of Summer.

—W. Bruce Cameron