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RV Resources in the Winter

Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
January 21, 2022

TL;DR: Winter RVing requires strategic heating and water maintenance to stay warm and prevent freezing. Use efficient heating methods like electric or portable propane heaters, and protect your water sources with heated hoses, insulation, or heat tape. Techniques like skirting, insulating bays, and adding heaters can keep your RV's water system functional in cold weather. Follow these experienced tips for a cozy and trouble-free winter camping experience.

RV Resources in the Winter

As winter sweeps across North America, many RVers are either flocking to warmer climates or researching ways to stay warm in the cold, all while still maintaining resources. Ensuring your RV stays warm and that you still have running water can be a major challenge, especially in colder climates! Through this article, Harvest Hosts will go over a variety of winter RVing information. Here, we’ve compiled some tips and tricks from experienced winter RVers to keep you nice and warm during the colder months of the year. Learn:

  • The best ways to heat your RV
  • How to maintain running water in the winter

Heat

Most RVs come equipped with both electric and propane heat. Unfortunately, propane can be quite costly, and many RV furnace heaters do not perform as well in below-freezing temperatures. If you have electrical hookups, space heaters can be a great, efficient way to warm your home on wheels. With so many types of space heaters on the market, it can be overwhelming to choose the best one(s). Here, we’ve put together a list of all types of portable heaters, along with a pros and cons list for each one.

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Portable Propane Heaters

The on-board propane heaters in an RV can burn through large amounts of propane very quickly. After all, these heaters burn fuel to warm up cold air from outside and force it through the ducts. Even setting the thermostat to low can still allow you to blow through tons of propane keeping your RV warm. In some cases, a portable propane heater can safely be used in an RV. For safety reasons, always read all the instructions, and do your research to ensure that this is a safe method of heating for your RV.

Pros

  • Most are safe for indoor use.
  • They don’t use electricity, which is perfect for boondocking or an overnight stay at a Harvest Hosts location.
  • They come in a variety of sizes, models, and price points.
  • Propane is a clean-burning fuel with no harmful environmental emissions.

Cons

  • Only the small 1# propane canisters are safe to use indoors, and these run out fairly quickly and aren’t cost-effective in the long run.
  • Propane burns oxygen, so all propane heaters come with a built-in shutoff when oxygen levels deplete. For safety reasons, sometimes it’s necessary to vent a window to prevent this from happening, which can let in some cold air.

Electric Space Heaters

There are so many different types of electric space heaters! Read on for a comprehensive list of the types and the ways that they work, as well as pros and cons of each type of heater.

Infrared

An infrared heater works by emitting electromagnetic waves into the air. This radiation heats up objects, instead of heating the air. Furniture, walls, carpeting, and even bodies become warmed by the radiation, which brings up the overall temperature of the space. This process is similar to the way in which the earth is warmed up by radiation from the sun.

Pros
  • Infrared heaters with a thermostat can be more energy efficient.
  • They can be used to heat large areas.
  • Most have a fireplace or wooden design to blend in with furniture.
  • They will still radiate heat after being turned off.
Cons
  • Infrared heaters can be more expensive.
  • Models without a fan will take longer to heat up.
  • Fewer objects in the room means that it will take longer to heat the space.
  • They can be heavy and bulky, which isn’t ideal for RVing.
  • The heat is one-directional.

Ceramic

Ceramic heaters utilize ceramic plates that are attached to metal coils. As the metal heats up, the ceramic plates absorb the heat and radiate it out. These heaters heat up very quickly and typically have a fan to rapidly force the warm air out into the space.

Pros
  • They are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for RV traveling.
  • They instantly begin heating up the space.
  • The coils and plates take time to cool off, meaning that it will still produce heat even after being turned off or unplugged.
  • Ones with a thermostat can be more energy efficient.
Cons
  • These heaters are best for very small spaces, such as a single small room. If you are trying to heat a large living area, then more than one heater may be required.
  • They may need to run constantly, making them potentially costly with an electric bill.

Oil or Radiator

Oil heaters have a metal body that’s filled with a diathermic oil. When turned on, the oil slowly begins to heat and circulate through the fins. Then, the surface temperature of the metal heats up and distributes the heat into the surrounding air.

Pros
  • They will still radiate heat after being turned off.
  • The oil can only get so hot, meaning that it will not continuously run once it reaches a certain temperature.
  • They’re always on wheels, so they can be easily moved around.
Cons
  • They can be heavy and bulky, which isn’t ideal for RVing.
  • They are very hot to the touch.
  • These heaters are best for very small spaces like a single small room. If you’re trying to heat a large living area, then more than one heater may be required.

Fan

A fan heater operates by heating metal coils, which then allow a m fan to blow the air over the coils and into the room.

Pros
  • They are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for RV traveling.
  • These models are usually very affordable.
  • Most have an oscillating feature to help distribute the warm air more evenly into the room.
  • Ones with a thermostat can be more energy efficient.
  • They produce warm air almost immediately.
Cons
  • These heaters are best for very small spaces, like a single small room. If you’re trying to heat a large living area, then more than one heater may be required.
  • As soon as they’re turned off, they are no longer producing heat.
  • Without a thermostat, they tend to need to run almost constantly.

Panel

Panel heaters have gained popularity in recent years because of their efficiency and sleek design. Using convection, air above the heater is warmed, which makes it rise further into an air current, warming the room.

Pros
  • They are lightweight and compact, making them ideal for RV travel.
  • They instantly begin heating up the space.
  • Panel heaters can be mounted or used with a stand.
  • They are thin and don’t take up a lot of floor space.
Cons
  • These heaters are best for very small spaces, such as a single small room. If you’re trying to heat a large living area, then more than one heater may be required.
  • They may need to run constantly, making them potentially costly with an electric bill.
  • As soon as they’re turned off, they are no longer producing heat.

Water

Maintaining running water can also be a real challenge in the cold winter months. After all, as soon as the temperature dips below thirty-two degrees, water can begin freezing. Pipes, hoses, and spigots are all at risk of freezing and bursting, and some RV parks may even turn off their water access in the winter. However, with some careful planning, you can ensure your RV will have running water this winter.

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Spigot Protection

Ensuring your spigot is protected from freezing is the first step. After all, that’s the source of your water at an RV park or any other location with water hookups. However, some RV parks will already be equipped with protected spigots, while some long-term campgrounds will ask each tenant to provide their own protection.

The most common way to protect a spigot is by wrapping it. This can be with foam, an insulated faucet sock, insulation, etc. Another solution is to install a Y splitter and to allow a small amount of water to continuously drip. However, this can be messy and wasteful. A recent invention called the Freeze Miser can help keep your outdoor spigot to stay safe from freezing (I use this product with my RV!).

Hose

Protecting a water hose can be accomplished in a few different ways. Your regular RV water hose can be replaced with a heated hose, or you’ll need to wrap your hose. Both methods are tried and true, however a heated hose can be more costly. The RV Geeks have a wonderful tutorial on how to wrap and protect your water hose using heat tape and foam piping to keep your water running freely this winter.

Pipes

In the freezing temperatures, even water pipes in a home can become vulnerable to freezing, let alone exposed RV water pipes. Best practices for keeping your RV’s water pipes from freezing include the installation of skirting around your RV, insulating your bays, heat taping your pipes, or utilizing outdoor space heaters. It can also help to open your interior cabinets to help circulate the interior heat to your piping. The method you choose can depend greatly on what type of RV you have and how easily your pipes can be accessed.

Water Pump, Hot Water Heater, Water Tank, etc.

The best way to keep your water pump and water tank(s) from freezing is to ensure they stay heated. This can look like adding a heater to the bay with your water pump or using heating devices for your tanks (similar to heating pads). If your water heater is on and running, then it will not freeze. In addition, your grey and black tanks can be protected by adding RV antifreeze into them.

Keeping warm and maintaining running water in the winter can be a challenge in an RV. By following these tips and tricks, it doesn’t have to be too stressful. Before RV camping in below-freezing temperatures, follow these tips along with the suggestions listed in our article on living in an RV in the winter.

About Harvest Hosts
Harvest Hosts is a unique RV camping membership that offers self-contained RVers unlimited overnight stays at over 5,640 small businesses across North America with no camping fees. Boondock at farms, wineries, breweries, attractions, and other one-of-a-kind destinations throughout North America, and you’ll get peace of mind knowing that a safe place to stay is always nearby!
Sam Leash-profile-image
Sam Leash
Sam is a seasoned traveler and RVer of 4+ years. She loves adventures of all kinds and spends as much time on the road as she can. When not exploring in her RV or writing about her travels, you can find her reading a good book, cooking a delicious meal, caring for her plants, or hiking with her dogs.