It’s the bane of cold weather RVers everywhere, frozen plumbing. Winterized, a RV can sit outside during the harshest winters and come out next spring unscathed as long as proper care is taken to prepare it, they are really quite tough. When you’re living in it though, the water system is definitely the weak point. While not having running water for a day or two can be a problem, especially if the campground you’re staying at doesn’t have facilities, the worst case scenario everyone fears when their lines freeze up is burst pipes which can cause a lot of damage and be very costly to fix.
Yesterday night parts of my water line froze up for the second time this season as Coffeyville experiences the coldest weather seen in three years.
Last Friday when the low got down to 8 it was bathroom sink that stopped, it took me over 24 hours to thaw out. When I woke up yesterday afternoon I could only get a drip out of the cold water line in the kitchen sink – I had the stronger heater sitting in the bathroom to try to keep that area clear. When I checked at 4 am before going to bed both were working, but the weather app on my phone said it was down to 7 outside so I wasn’t real surprised to wake up to a problem again.
So what do you do if you should happen to experience an issue with frozen plumbing? I’m not expert, but here’s what I did.
Put localized heat on the area where the freeze is. If you don’t have a chart in your owner’s manual showing you where the plumbing runs in your RV, locate one online. That should give you a general idea of where the problem is.
I learned by looking at mine that as far as less expensive three season trailers are concerned, I’m actually at a bit of an advantage over others staying here at Big Chief who’ve had more generalized line freezing and more difficulties thawing out. See my Casita for the most part is not double walled, the water lines run along the floor inside my lower cabinets and are easily visible from the inside, so getting heat to them is as easy as keeping the cabinet doors open. There’s one five foot or so section where the line for the bathroom sink runs behind between the outer wall and the bathroom wall, and that’s where I had my one freeze up the first night – where the heat did not reach as well. I learned from that first night and now I keep one heater in the bathroom pointed at that wall when I go to work, and I haven’t had problems with it since.
Also, ask other owners with the same or similar to RV as you if they have any tricks. For my first freeze up I got on the Casita forums and got some advice to point my other heater into the hole where the water lines enter between the wall to try to get heat in from that direction.
Part of what makes frozen lines so frustrating is that once it’s happened, there’s usually no quick fix to undo it. It’s a lot of waiting and hoping once you’ve got as much heat on it as you can get. The waiting is the worse, wondering if it’ll come unstuck, worrying about what will happen if it doesn’t.
If it makes you feel any better, the plastic used to make RV pluming improved considerably about 20 years ago or so and it’s really quite strong and resists a lot of pressure. The newer pipe is white, and if I remember correctly from conversations I’ve had, the older pipe that use to be used is gray (correct me if I’m wrong) so it’s pretty easy to tell which you have – if your RV is newer than the early 90’s, you should have white pipes. Since this newer plastic is less likely to break, the joints where pipes come together are where problems are most likely to develop, that’s where to keep an eye out for leaks. I’ve talked to several people working here at Amazon who’ve had problems with their indoor plumbing freezing up this season, and yet no one has reported leaks or bursts so that’s encouraging.
Of course, even though it seems modern RV plumbing can withstand being frozen at least for a while, it’s best to avoid the chance of something happening by not let things get to that point to begin with. I’ve talked about skirting the RV, letting the water drip from a faucet, ways to keep the outdoor water hose from freezing, using materials over windows and vents to keep heat pumped inside from escaping so easily, and of course, driving south until it gets above freezing (can I mention the high today in Gainesville, FL is 72? Less than a month and I’ll be there!). Preventative measures are key, and I hope none of you ever get to find out exactly what temperature causes your plumbing to start freezing.
Image courtesy of Anthony Quintano
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