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Old 12-20-2009, 04:04 AM   #1
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Newmar Owners Club
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Newbie question on using RV during Winter weather

Just got 1st motorhome, and plan to travel in Northern states during Dec-Jan. It may sit idle for a few days at a time. Any advice on precautions to keep pipes from freezing in sub-freezing temperatures?

We have an Onan generator--can we run it to keep internal temperature above freezing? Can we safely run it even when we're not there?

Also, do we need to keep entire coach above a certain temperature (maybe 40F?), or would it be sufficient to keep storage areas with water tanks warm?

Would appreciate any recommendations soonest!


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Old 12-20-2009, 05:34 AM   #2
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I know you will get some good advice, but IMHO go south young man in the winter or use motels up north.
How I handle winter is tie a snow shovel on the front of the MH and when someone wants to know what it is, I know I'm far enough south

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Old 12-20-2009, 05:56 AM   #3
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What MH do you have? Year?
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Old 12-20-2009, 06:49 AM   #4
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Buy several gallons of Pink Potable RV AntiFreeze (NOT the type for your engine) .. it's only about $5 a gallon. Drain your water heater and turn on the by-pass for it. Put the antifreeze in your fresh water tank and fill with water. Open each faucet and run it untill the water turns pink and flush the toilet several times so you get antifreeze into the black holding tank. Now, bring drinking water with you, you can't use the shower, but you can use the toilet. DO NOT HOOK UP TO FRESH WATER IN A RV PARK. If your water runs low, add directly to the fresh water tank and add more antifreeze. At the end of winter flush the system, turn the bypass for the water heater off and be sure to fill the water heater BEFORE you turn it on.

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Old 12-20-2009, 07:43 AM   #5
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First we need to know what brand and model of MH you have. And how far north you plan to go. Upstate New York, Vermont, Northern PA.....Can get down right cold . Some lower end brands your going to have to winterize and not use any water or drain lines. Sounds like your going to be traveling around visiting relatives and friends, where you said it will sit for a few days at a time.
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Old 12-20-2009, 10:57 AM   #6
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Thanks for all the help! While heading south and winterizing the RV are good ideas, does anyone have recommendations for how to safely use the RV during the cold weather? For instance, are there best practices for insulating water pipes, or heating the basement, rules of thumb for lowest safe temperature for pipes, or running electric heat while not in the RV, etc.?

We'll be in a 43' 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire, traveling through Northern VA, OH, IN & IL, maybe up to WI or down to MO. Let me know if you know any available indoor storage in those areas, just in case!

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Old 12-20-2009, 11:23 AM   #7
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Welcome littlec to irv2.
Does your coach have a LP furnace or Aqua Hot system? Which ever you have just make sure you have enough fuel to operate you heating system. The heater will supply heat to you holding tank bays and keep water lings from freezing. If you have a gas furnace on your water bay panel you may have a switch to put on for furnace that will operate a fan cycling with furnace when on that will force heated air also into bay areas.
I'll be traveling to Newmar Jan 1st and will fill water tank day before put on furnace and just have a problem free trip as far as the MH goes and you should have one also, just don't count on the weather.
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Old 12-20-2009, 03:27 PM   #8
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Rv during the Winter

When Rving in cold weather first make sure your RV has heated compartments. If they do then all you have to do is to make sure you have a full propane tank and your batteries are in good shape.
If you don't have heated compartments then you have to winterize the unit with the RV antifreeze. I just attach the gallon to my intake hose and flip a few switches to bypass water heater. I then turn on the water pump and open each individual faucet until they run pink. When that is all done I usually put 2 cups of Antifreeze in the sink and shower drains to fill the traps. I put some in the commode. Then while I'm in winter weather I use windshield washer fluid to flush the toilet. At that point you will not have any water on board and will have to use campground facilities.
If you have heated compartments then fill up your tanks and turn on the furnace and you are good to go. Please keep an eye on your propane level and battery voltage.

One final point make sure you know how to handle RV in snow conditions as it will handle much different than an auto. When stopping use the gears to slow you down and remember it is a heavy vehicle.

Have fun and enjoy the winter weather. BTW one more thing take a ceramic heater for emergencies and if you loose heat in your compartments then winterize right away.
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Old 12-21-2009, 11:15 AM   #9
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I'm also wondering about littlec's question about the temperature to set the furnace on if the compartments are heated. Is 40 degrees F. sufficient enough to set the thermostat? What do you all think ...is 40 ok to set the furnace in an unattended coach and to keep the pipes from freezing?

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Old 12-21-2009, 12:11 PM   #10
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If you are parked and snow is in the forecast try to have the slides in. If you have the slides out during a snow make sure you clear the top of the slides Before you try to bring them back in, especially if there is any ice from melting and re-freezing. Slides IN will also reduce the square footage for heating.
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Old 12-21-2009, 08:59 PM   #11
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I have camped in -26 celcius with my previous MH which was a Triple E designed and made in Canada for cold weather. It is virtually impossible to use the water system when the temp gets below freezing. I don't use the toilet, sink or shower with the onboard systems. No place to empty the tanks in the frozen wonderland. Pretty much all RV sewer discharge sites are closed. I use 5 gallon water containers to cook and wash with and a porti-potti for the "other stuff". Porti-potti can be dumped at home into the toilet. And it fits nicely in the shower stall. Keeping the MH warm can be a bit difficult once the temp drops below -18 C. I had 2 furnaces and still had to supplement with electric heater to stay comfortable. You will go through a lot of propane when using the furnace(s). Plan on filling your propane tank every 3 or 4 days.
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Old 12-22-2009, 01:49 PM   #12
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I lived in my Discovery motor home through the worst winter Cincinnati had ever seen a few years back and never had a problem with anything freezing up on me. Here are the lessons I've learned over a dozen years of fulltiming:
  • Never fill the fresh water tank to the brim during winter
  • Have one good potable water hose wrapped with pipe wrap with a thermostat-controlled heat strip going the length of the hose under the wrap and quality duct tape covering the whole thing
  • Keep a mechanic's trouble light burning in the fresh water bay if your furnace has no outlet there
  • Keep inside temp at 60-degrees F or above all the time
  • Plan black tank dump with weather in mind. In other words, if you know a hard freeze is coming in a couple of days and your black tank is more than 3/4 full, go ahead and dump before the valves, hose, and/or connecting point freezes
  • Keep gray tank valve open until a few days before dumping black tank. Use gray to rinse black and follow the previous point
Of course, these suggestions are just the way I do it and are for full-timing. All of the other suggestions a good ones.

By the way, I've been in sub-zero temps with the above points in place and never had frozen water. Your results may differ and I offer no guarantee with these ideas.
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Old 12-24-2009, 09:27 AM   #13
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Looks like my "Edit" button took off for the holidays so I'll just add this little extra reply regarding the "below zero" comment above. My mind was thinking "C" and not "F" when I wrote that. I was below 32-degrees F for more than ten days and never froze up. Sorry if I caused any confusion.

By the way, as others have suggested, now I never, NEVER, spend winter north of Interstate 20. Best solution for winter living.
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Old 12-24-2009, 01:31 PM   #14
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So, Volunteer, if you were to leave the coach for a few days, what precautions would you take?

I don't know about the OP (littlec) but I'm not in an extremely cold climate where it will stay below freezing for more than 10 days. In fact, I'm in a climate where it may get into the low 20's or high teens early in the morning but will typically be sunny and about 50ish during the day.

I'm thinking of leaving the coach for a few days and don't want to completely winterize ...as it sounds as if the OP (littlec) is asking too.

So I'm thinking that I'll unhook the city water hose, give the backflow valve a couple of pushes, open all the faucets, open the low-point valves, run the water pump for a few seconds, and then leave the thermostat for the propane furnace at about 40 degrees F. (assuming heated basement compartments).

I'm going to leave the hot water tank alone and leave the sewer valves closed. I'm thinking that littlec should drain his hot water tank if he expects the coach will be in below freezing temperatures for several days. I'm not going to drain my tank because my coach will "probably" encounter below freezing temperatures for a few hours each day before the daytime temperature goes up into the 50s F.

Does this sound right for me and for littlec? ...as littlec has asked, does 40 degrees F. sound acceptable to keep pipes from breaking?

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cold, heating, pipes, winter

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