Sunday, December 21, 2014

How to Live in an RV during Winter - Part 1

Today is officially the first day of winter, and it is snowing here.  :-) But, as far as we are concerned, it's been winter here in the hudson valley of NY since late October.  Chad has been really concerned about making sure I stay warm because I really don't like to be cold.  We've both done lots of research on this and have talked with other winter RVers.  So, here's a list of what we've done so far.  I'm calling this Part 1 because I'm sure we will come up with more ideas before the winter is over.
1.  Know your RV.  I think the best piece of advice that I've found was that each RV is made differently and what works for one rig may not work for another.  There are also different winter climates in different parts of the country.  So, this list is working for us.  And, we'd love to hear about what works for you. 

2.  Insulate.  To keep the RV as warm as possible, you need to prevent as much heat loss as you can.  We used bubble wrap insulation to cover the bedroom windows.  


In addition, we are using thermal curtains.

We also used plastic film insulation on the windows in the living room area.  

Many RVers also use skirting around the outside of the RV.  We plan to travel this winter, so we have not done that.  But, we would like to insulate the underside of the RV with closed cell spray foam insulation.  We also plan to coat the roof with an aluminum coating.  In addition we created a blanket fort to seal off the drafts from the front of the RV.  We also put bubble wrap insulation over the ceiling vent to keep heat from escaping.  

3. Keep the moisture out.  Once you take all these measures to keep the heat in, moisture becomes a problem from condensation.  Water was dripping down from the window that had the plastic film insulation on it.  We tried letting some cooler air in, but the most effective thing for us has been to purchase a dehumidifier.  We also make sure we use the stove vent as well whenever we are cooking.

4. Protect your water and sewer lines as well as your holding tanks.  It is generally best not to keep sewer and water lines connected in the winter.  If you do, you must wrap them with heat tape.  We connect our sewer and water hoses as needed and then make sure the liquid is drained out before we put them away so they do not freeze.  This means that the water and sewer valve are always kept closed unless we are dumping.  We looked into different ideas for our holding tanks.  The best thing we found was rock salt.  We add about 2 cups just after we empty the tanks.  We usually dissolve it with warm water before putting down the drain in the bathtub.  We also only dump our tanks when full.

Incidentally, we got lazy this week with the warmer temperatures and did not put the salt in the tanks.  And, this morning when we needed to dump, the valves were froze up.  We used a portable gas heater to thaw it out.

Our valves have been leaking a little bit anyway.  So, this just made the problem worse.  We will need to replace them soon.

5. Keep mice out.  I am so afraid of having a mouse problem.  So far, we have not noticed any evidence of these pests.  But, the best way I know to get rid of them is mouse traps.  Also, it is really important to make sure all the penetrations are sealed up really good with great stuff. 

6. Protect your refrigerator.  This may not be a problem for most RVers, but we have noticed that our freezer is icing up more than usual from the cold outside.  The refrigerator has chemicals in the cooling unit that will gel up if the outside temperature is too cold.  There needs to be a certain amount of heat in the vented compartment for it to work properly.  We have our RV parked so that the side with the refrigerator vent gets sun exposure.  But, it may be helpful to put a bat of unfaced fiberglass insulation to cover the vent holes.  Just make sure this does not create a fire hazard of any sort with any light bulbs in the compartment.  It is also important to take the insulation out when the weather warms up.  You can find more information about this here.

7. Use an electric blanket.  We absolutely love our electric blanket.   We usually turn it on about 30 minutes before we crawl into bed.  Then, we turn off the blanket.  We also use a memory foam mattress which is an insulator, so the bed usually stays really warm all night even though we turn all the heat way down before we go to bed.

8. Use thick rugs on the floor.  This not only helps to insulate the floor but also keeps your feet much warmer.   Also, invest in warm slippers.  Our floor sometimes gets wet from tracking in wet snow, so I put my slippers on immediately when I walk in.

9. Supplement your furnace with electric heaters.  It is cheaper for us to use our electric heaters throughout the day when we are at home.  We generally only use the propane furnace to warm up the RV quickly when we wake up in the morning or after we have been away all day.  The ceramic heaters are safe to use and will not create additional moisture inside the RV.  Avoid using your propane stove or oven for heat.  This could lead to asphyxiation.
Comfort Zone Multi Purpose Ceramic Heater CZ442WM

So far, we have no complaints about living in the RV during the winter.  We have been staying warm and cozy.  It is also helpful to have nice plush blankets to snuggle up with to stay warm as well.  Although, the coldest days are yet to come, I am sure.  Will see how that goes...

Would love to hear any further suggestions you all have for us.


  1. Wow, you've all set for the winter, with your thermal curtains, and other means of heating. This is a timely post as well, since we are only a few months away from the cold season. This post of yours should also serve as a checklist, for you to find out that you still have all the stuff that you need, much as a functioning heater is the most crucial of them all.

    Randall Rogers @ R.J. Mechanical

    1. Yes, very true. We fired up our furnace only to find out that it's not working now. :-( Fortunately, it's still under warranty.
      Thanks for commenting!

  2. Typical major problems of leakages of RV can be handled. Moisture causes the decay of roof covering materials and for substantially Roof Leak only coating which works with quality and strength under flashing, around fixtures, as well as in roof shingles. Leakages have to be fixed instantly to stop further damage.

  3. Thanks for the pointers. We have been collecting ideas for next year, when we plan to go full time for a while. You might check with the manufacturers of your foam mattress. Ours had a safety warning about using with an electric blanket. Since you only do it for initial heat, it may not be a big deal. Although, checking out the date, I assume all has been fine. :)

    1. Thanks for commenting! That's a really good point about the mattress. Totally didn't think of that. :-) We haven't had a problem. But, you're right, it would be important to check with the manufacturers first. Thank you!

    2. WHAT is the problem with electric blanket and foam mattress?

  4. We full time in our motorhome in the mountains of Idaho. We have skirting and we have the water supply hose and sewer hose heat taped and insulated. We also keep a small heater in the tank compartment. It's been -4° this evening and we still have running water and the temperature in the tank compartment is 68°. If you are going to remain parked, skirting is a must.

  5. Be sheltered in every season and month. keep on doing inspection and then apply Roof Leaks Repair Kit where ever it’s needed.

  6. I have never heard about salt in the tanks. Do you use in both, grey and black? What about corrosion from the salt, is there any metal in the tanks?

    1. That's a great question. Yes, we did use salt in both tanks, but our tanks are completely made of plastic with no metal. It would probably not be a good idea to use salt in metal tanks.

    2. One more ?, My tanks are plastic also, but I was thinking about any connections, fittings, valves??? I take it you haven't had any "chemical reactions" from the contents of the black water tank? This is great info. and solves my problem in a simple way. I live in Northeast Texas so we don't have horrific winters but still get freezing temp for short periods. I am considering heated water hoses and tank heaters for the worst of it, but this for short term is great. Thanks for the quick replies also.

  7. We live full time in a 37 foot Class A Bus.. on an Island in Western Canada. It goes to about 10 degrees below 0 here in winter and we froze the first year.. Then we discovered bubble wrap .. each year we cover more and more space with it.. finally this year the open walls in the dining room and all the windows because they are very drafty with all the wind we get here..we are also closing off the front where the big widow is. There is so much draft from up there and from under the dash.. we also decided to put carpet on the floors.. as for heat.. we don't use propane at all.. too much moisture.. We use a convection heater in the bedroom and a fan heater in the living area.. both working all day and night when needed.. keeps us toasty and warm and no need for an electric blanket.. Thick socks and slippers and housecoats needed.. We have been living like this for almost 5 years now and the only thing I can say is get rid of the metal steps... dangerous in cold weather.. and buy a California room.. or Add a room for those that know what it is.. That is the best thing we ever did.. We put our portable washer and dryer and freezer out there all year round. No room in here.. Its our home now.. Wish we could travel but due to health we have to stay put.. If there is one thing I learned in all this it was that " This is my home.. so I will do what I have to to keep it warm and dry all year round.. oh ya PS.. cover with tarp in winter.. so much better than trying to fix a leaky roof or slide.. cheaper also.. enjoy everyone...