It’s home from the last scheduled rally of 2016 and time to start acting on buttoning up for the winter. This year, we’ve already had one winter storm and there is another parade of such storms going through NW NV this weekend. Normally, concern about freezing isn’t a big deal until Thanksgiving and the kind of freeze that gets into the RV systems isn’t really that big a risk until after Christmas. This weekend’s storm might actually get some snow on the ski resorts well before Thanksgiving which should be an unusual gift for them. So precautions need to be taken.
At this time of year, I usually just depend upon an 800 watt electric heater on a very low thermostat setting or a Thermo-Cube (Amazon link) as many heater thermostats don’t work so well in the 40 degree range needed for freeze protection. The heater needs to be one with a fan and it should be placed to help circulate air in the RV as even a little bit of circulation will avoid cold spots and reduce condensation issues. You might also open up any cabinets or drawers that hide plumbing so they aren’t hidden from inside air.
The first thing to do in getting ready for winter is to open all the drains. Dump the waste tanks, drain the fresh water tank, open the drains for the water heater and the hot and cold pressure lines. Keep in mind that RV holding tanks are vented so they are bacterial colonies. Even the disinfectant used in potable water supplies fades so that storing fresh water in the RV is not really a good idea for more than a week or two.
Some winterize by using air pressure to ‘blow out’ the water in the lines. This is not a good idea. There is a risk of over pressure in the system and residual moisture in the nooks and crannies – especially in mixing faucet valves and low spots. You also need to be careful not to use an oil compressor as you need clean and dry air. The best bet is that potable pink RV antifreeze.
Before you get into the anti-freeze routine, you need to first install a water heater bypass kit (see Amazon link search results) and a diverter kit (Amazon Camco) so you can feed your water pump and pre-filter from a bottle of antifreeze rather than from the fresh water tank. You will also need to bypass or remove any water filtering and conditioning equipment you have including faucet mounted filters. If you’ve got that done, you should be able to get pink flowing in all the faucets (both hot and cold) needing only a gallon or two of antifreeze. The flow to get antifreeze in all the valves should provide enough pink into the drain so the traps are protected, too.
For the water heater, the easiest way to drain it is to pull the drain plug and flip the safety release valve to let air in. Cameco has an anode rod with a valve on it (Amazon link) for aluminum tanks for about $17 that handles both water heater needs – the anode rod to reduce corrosion and the drain valve to make it easier to drain the water heater tank.
Keep in mind that a critical part of the antifreeze routine is the spring flush. When it’s time to get ready for the next active season, make flushing the antifreeze a part of the sanitizing maintenance. Use a quarter cup of bleach to fifteen gallons of water in the fresh water tank, set the feed diverter back to the tank, and then fire up the pump to pressurize the system. At each faucet, let the water flow until the pink is gone and you can smell the bleach. Again, make sure both cold and hot get flushed. After you get the bleach smell at each faucet, let it sit for a few minutes while you drain the tank. Then put some fresh water in the tank and flush that through the system to remove any smells of bleach or antifreeze. Sometimes is takes a few drain and flush routines to clear any hint of a smell. Usually a disinfectant flush and a plain water flush gets things usable and an outing or two will finish the job.
The Amazon links provided here are affiliate links – you support this website by using them to investigate products. Another resource is Walmart online. They have most of the Camco RV line for online purchase, too.