Just Jeff's RV Page

"Going to the woods is going home, for I suppose
we came from the woods originally."

- John Muir

Winter RVing Mods and Tips

Living in Colorado, not being able to use the RV below freezing would limit us to about 3 months of use each year...clearly no fun. So I went searching for some simple modifications and tips that would let me be relatively comfortable in it down to about 0F. This is a little bit complicated because I didn't get an arctic package when I bought it...but we went down to single digits on our first trip and did ok, so I'm sure it's fixable.

This page will list the mods I made, the behaviors we changed (like using a 5-gallon water container with a spigot at the sink instead of the freshwater system), and anything else I find useful for winter RVing.

Email me with any tips and tricks you've found useful, tweaks to what I've done here, etc.!

The Simple Things
Bottled Water Instead of Plumbing
When it's really cold, using the freshwater plumbing system can be risky because the lines can freeze. (Don't ask how I know...) It's much safer to just drink bottled water and get a five gallon collapsible water container with a spigot on it to set next to the sink. The sink is still usable because of the spigot but the water lines remain winterized.
Humidity and Condensation
One of the keys for winter RVing is dealing with humidity and condensation. When it was 5F at Trinidad Lake State Park, we woke up with condensation frozen in a sheet across the big windows over the dinette and sofa. So...we bought an electric dehumidifier.

We chose the Eva-Dry Edv-2200 Mid-Size Dehumidifier from Amazonwith a capacity larger than needed for the area because it needs to dehumidify quickly during the night. We also insulated the windows as you'll see below.

Don't forget how much moisture cooking releases into the air! If your range vent vents to the outside, it'll help manage humidity and condensation inside...but then you lose some heat, and the flap outside can make some noise when it's windy. Water vapor is actually a byproduct of burning propane, so using the range or oven produces humidity, as do propane heating appliances that aren't vented outside. It may be good to put the dehumidifier near the stove if you have room.

Electric Heaters
Another easy behavior change for winter RVing is to use small electric heaters when you're on shore power. On our Greyhawk, the electric furnace isn't much good below 30F or so. The propane furnace is much warmer but propane is expensive! So we bought two of these electric heaters to make up the difference. We're already paying the campground for electricity, so we might as well use their electricity instead of our propane! (Some RV parks apparently charge extra if you're using electric heat, but we haven't been to one of those yet.)

These ceramic heaters are more expensive than many, but according to reviews they also last a lot longer. Most small electric heaters are designed for occasional use rather than all-night use on a regular basis.

Open Indoor Utility Cabinets
It's also a good idea to open the cabinets that house your inside water lines, the water pump, etc. Many of these are along the poorly-insulated floor and it can get very cold inside the cabinet. Opening the cabinet doors during the night might take away some of your heat, but it may also keep your lines or pump from freezing. (Assuming you didnt' leave it winterized.) Some folks even point their electric heaters to blow inside the cabinet to keep the water system even warmer; just be careful about putting the heater too close to anything flammable.
Stop the Cab from Stealing Your Heat!
The cab area sucks a lot of heat out of the RV, and one common sense reason is because of all the glass up there. That's where one of these thick insulators will come in handy! This is a stock photo...we can't order it right now because it's out of stock! But we'll get it from CampingWorld.com when it's back. This model sticks on with magnets but also has anti-theft tabs that go inside the door frame.

Another reason the cab loses heat is through the vents. You have to turn the cab heater off before you turn off the engine to make sure it closes the vent to the outside.

Hanging a blanket from the cab-over bunk to block off the cab helps, too. It was about 15deg cooler in the cab area when we had the blanket hung up there.

Insulating Windows - Reflectix and Pillows
We wanted to insulate the windows to prevent heat loss and condensation, so we looked at different options. Some folks put up velcro to attach Reflectix or foam, but we didn't want to use velcro and we wanted something with more insulation. We considered putting thick foam between the window and valance, which would have worked ok. The valances are 3.5" from the walls, and JoAnn's has large sheets of 4" thick open-celled foam that would have worked. It was an ugly green color and would have cost about $200 (even on sale 40% off) to cover the three bedroom windows and the two large windows in the living area.

We ended up with a simple, inexpensive plan.

Here's what it looks like installed. I just took the pillowcases out of the packaging so the wrinkles will relax with time. They look about the same from outside.

Not bad for a $2 pillowcase and some extra supplies!

Jennifer found a plain pillowcase at Walmart that complemented the interior, and I simply put a layer of Reflectix, a standard pillow, and a piece of thick cardboard inside it. The cardboard gives it enough structure so the valance holds the whole setup tightly against the window, stopping drafts and providing a lot of insulation.

Insulating Windows - Shrinkwrap
I wanted to insulate the windows but also didn't want to cover up the big dinette and sofa windows with foam that would block the light and views. These shrink-wrap window kits got good reviews from RVers online so I decided to give it a shot. It should keep the condensation off the windows, stop most of the drafts, and create some dead air space for insulation value.

They're a little finicky to install on RV windows because of the curved frames and small area under the valances to work in.

I'll update with how well it works once we get some experience with it on cold nights.

The first attempt to install these was pretty frustrating. First, my valances are fabric-covered wood and there's only about 3.5" of space to work with, so I couldn't get my hands up near the top of the window. Then, I wiped the frame down with the alcohol pad but the sun had heated the frame to the point where the two-sided tape wouldn't stick...and it took me a while to figure out that's why it wouldn't stick. Last, the tape might work great for square window frames but it's clearly not made for curved corners!

After sleeping on it for a night, I figured out a pretty simple solution that worked everywhere I put the wrap. I just cut about a 6" piece for each corner and put it at a 45-degree angle on the corner, then adjusted the tape along each side until it looked like this. Working with smaller pieces of tape instead of trying to tape the frame with one continuous piece was MUCH easier. Then I just taped the long pieces...still not easy along the top because of the valances, but doable.

Here's the dinette window...it's pretty clear.
And the sofa window - you can see where the sun is shining through the window onto the shrinkwrap.
One problem I had with the wrap is that the top pulled away over the first night. I'm pretty sure it's because the top section of the wrap includes a stiff tape to make installation easier...but it's a weak point for this application and it pulled away from the dinette and sofa windows overnight. This probably works well for normal windows with square frames, but not so well on the rounded corners in this RV. I'd recommend getting a style without the attached tape along the top, or just cutting off the top section and using the included two-sided tape instead. This is what I did on the bathroom window and it seems to be working better.

I also put this over the shower skylight - there's no vent in the skylight so it should create more dead air space and keep some heat in.

I just used packing tape to repair the dinette and sofa windows instead of redoing the whole thing. It seems to have worked well enough, and the tape is underneath the valance so the repair isn't obvious unless we look for it and nobody can see it from outside.

Ultra-Heat Elbow Heaters on Tank Elbows
My Greyhawk came with tank heaters on the fresh, gray and black tanks, but one time I tried to dump and the drain pipes were frozen! I had used windshield washer fluid in the gray tank and formaldehyde in the black tank, and the heaters were on, but it was cold enough to freeze in the pipes anyway. So I bought Ultra-Heat Elbow Heaters from Amazon to add some heat.

I might also wrap the tanks in Reflectix and find a way to put a compartment around the drain pipes. This is where an arctic package would have helped!

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