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Old 09-18-2012, 12:51 AM   #1
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Using rubbing alcohol to winterize RV?

Quick question regarding winterizing my water system with a 1 part rubbing alcohol and 30 parts of water.

I will be leaving Ontario Canada around late October or early November and taking 2 weeks to head to Florida and am undecided whether to leave my water system operational without any "freezing protection".

I could winterize my water system with pink antifreeze, but would spend the next week traveling south without being able to shower, or have my plumbing system active.

My buddy mentioned to me that maybe I could fill my 30 gallon fresh water tank and throw in a gallon of rubbing alcohol to reduce the potential for freezing. This way I could actually use the sink, toilet, shower etc.... I just could not drink the water (I would have a few gallons of potable drinking water on board.)

The reason I ask is because in the northern US states or lower Canada, the night time temps can easily get below freezing and my RV doesn't have the "winter package". Night time temps could be anywhere between 25 - 35 degrees F. I imagine day time temps would be @ 35-50 degrees F.

Has anyone heard of this, or does it sound feasible?
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Old 09-18-2012, 12:55 AM   #2
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Rubbing alcohol is poisonous!! Do you really want poison in your fresh water system?
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:14 AM   #3
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Rubbing alcohol is poisonous!! Do you really want poison in your fresh water system?
Hmmmm... didn't really look at that aspect of it.... No I really don't want something poisonous in my tank, even if it is just 30/1 mixture. Naturally I would not be drinking it, but would use it to flush the toilet, wash dishes, and shower. I would have a jug of clean drinkable water on board to brush teeth and make coffee etc...

In regards to winterizing, I had a good look at my water lines etc... and I see that even if I insulated the water pump/lines area near my tank, the water lines pass behind the rear bed and follow the end cap going toward the rear shower, and this area doesn't have any real insulation (and isn't accessible to add some) :(

I usually add some Pink Antifreeze to my grey and black tanks to prevent any issues.

However I have no idea if I am parked overnight in 25 deg temps, and the indoor temp is kept at 60 degrees while I sleep, will I risk freezing some water lines?
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:35 AM   #4
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Don't do it! In fact, don't worry about your water & holding tanks freezing-up in moderate freezing temps. The volume of liquid in the tanks & the tanks themselves will provide enough protection for the few hours each night the temps drop below freezing. Your bigger concern will be the small PVC plumbing pipes, your water filter & hoses and your water pump.

Head down to your local home improvement store and purchase a couple of packages of fiberglass insulation and some foam pipe insulation. Pack the area around your water pump and exposed tanks in your wet bay area with the fiberglass insulation and protect all the PVC plumbing pipes &'hose connections with the foam pipe insulation.

Next...head down to Cdn. Tire and purchase a three prong (ground protected) shop light & a 75/100 watt old style light bulb. These build heat-up very nicely and throw off a good amount of heat, particularly when this heat can be focused by the metal reflector of the shop light. The shop light will also have a "male hook" for hanging it so you'll need to rig a "loop" style female hook in your wet bay area as close as possible to your water pump...and...voila....you have now winterized your RV for travel during those moderately cold early winter months. ( we also leave our wet bay light on for a little added heat)

I also carry several extra (approx 15') of the foam pipe insulation to wrap my water hose. Many CG's keep their water flowing with electric heat wraps....so you can still use CG water & avoid the use of your water pump as long as you protect your hose until it enters your now heated wet bay. Obviously, you cannot use the CG water if the temps are dropping well below freezing for extended periods of time. If this is the case close-up your wet bay and let the shop light keep everything toasty. I installed a big cheap thermometer in my wet bay and this shop light system adds about 15 degrees of heat. We have successfully survived temps in the mid-teens without damage to our pipes, water filter, hoses or pump.
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:50 AM   #5
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Don't do it! In fact, don't worry about your water & holding tanks freezing-up in moderate freezing temps. The volume of liquid in the tanks & the tanks themselves will provide enough protection for the few hours each night the temps drop below freezing. Your bigger concern will be the small PVC plumbing pipes, your water filter & hoses and your water pump.

Head down to your local home improvement store and purchase a couple of packages of fiberglass insulation and some foam pipe insulation. Pack the area around your water pump and exposed tanks in your wet bay area with the fiberglass insulation and protect all the PVC plumbing pipes &'hose connections with the foam pipe insulation.

Next...head down to Cdn. Tire and purchase a three prong (ground protected) shop light & a 75/100 watt old style light bulb. These build heat-up very nicely and throw off a good amount of heat, particularly when this heat can be focused by the metal reflector of the shop light. The shop light will also have a "male hook" for hanging it so you'll need to rig a "loop" style female hook in your wet bay area as close as possible to your water pump...and...voila....you have now winterized your RV for travel during those moderately cold early winter months. ( we also leave our wet bay light on for a little added heat)

I also carry several extra (approx 15') of the foam pipe insulation to wrap my water hose. Many CG's keep their water flowing with electric heat wraps....so you can still use CG water & avoid the use of your water pump as long as you protect your hose until it enters your now heated wet bay. Obviously, you cannot use the CG water if the temps are dropping well below freezing for extended periods of time. If this is the case close-up your wet bay and let the shop light keep everything toasty. I installed a big cheap thermometer in my wet bay and this shop light system adds about 15 degrees of heat. We have successfully survived temps in the mid-teens without damage to our pipes, water filter, hoses or pump.

Thats the problem, even if I was to insulate the wet bay area, the small grey PVC water pipes pass in areas in the free space near the rear end cap/shower that I have no access to.

I don't know how long it takes to freeze those PVC water pipes in areas where there is limited insulation? Does it take 8 hours, or if it dips to 25-30 degrees during the night can I get away with it.

PS: I usually stop overnight while traveling south at Truck Stops or Walmarts, so I just run the propane furnace on low to keep the interior at 55-60 degrees while I sleep (in order not to kill my two house batteries)
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Old 09-18-2012, 01:55 AM   #6
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If the pipes are to the inside of the insulation, they wont freeze if you are in the coach and warm.. If you really wanted, small holes and expandable foam works. From the inside, of course
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Old 09-18-2012, 05:38 AM   #7
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Rubbing alcohol is not only poisonous, but it is only 60 or 70% alcohol. If you dilute it at all, it will freeze. Diluting it 30:1 would do absolutely no good.

As has been stated, the fresh water system will not likely freeze if the inside of the coach is kept warm. Depending on how cold it is when you leave and how far north you live, you may only have to go a day or two without water, if at all. Get a 5 gal jug to use for drinking, washing, and flushing if it is extremely cold and you have to have to leave the system winterized for a day or two as you travel south. And if you have to winterize, use the pink stuff - forget the rubbing alcohol.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:02 AM   #8
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You could try Gin and then you could drink the water?

If your rig has spent it's life in your neck of the woods then I would believe it handles cold pretty well, or as well as any. None are sufficiently insulated to ward off really cold weather. But sure,take some extra water in containers for sanitary chores, sprint to warmer climates then unwinterize and relax.

Big truck stops have shower facilities, a quick stop to refresh would do the trick I suppose.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:35 AM   #9
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Problem is that heat rises and anything below floor level or even inside cupboards and under beds is going to get down to outside ambient temperature pretty fast without some additional source of heat down low. Lagging pipes will delay freezing but will never stop it unless there is a heat source under the lagging. A few degrees of frost for two or three hours might not matter but below freezing all night and into the morning will cause problems.

One way some stop the problem is to eliminate it by properly winterising the whole MH and "rough it" while travelling to warmer climates. Take lots of bottled water and just use that for everything including flushing. Adding RV antifreeze to the black and grey tanks will stop them freezing anyway. Stop at campgrounds if necessary and use their showers.

Once you are well and truly free of majorly-cold weather - probably only a few days anyway - you can fill up and proceed as normal.
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Old 09-18-2012, 07:57 AM   #10
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We leave from close by you in central NY for sunny Florida about the same time frame, end of October. I never worry about the fresh water tank since due to it's size and sloshing around it is unlikely to freeze unless there are sustained below freezing temps. When we used to leave in February I would leave the lines full of pink RV antifreeze (your absolute best bet) and still fill the fresh water holding tank with water.

We always planned the first and second travel day to be the longest to get as far south as possible. Then we could run the pink stuff out and be able to shower on the way. Bottled water for coffee etc.

An alternative can be blowing the lines out. If you have a compressor or some kind of air pump there is an adapter you can use to connect it to your supply connection and blow the water out of your plumbing.
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Old 09-18-2012, 09:23 AM   #11
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Everyone posted great information here.

Since I will likely be spending a week in the northern part of the US in late Oct/early Nov, the night time temps can occasionally drop to 25-30 degrees. I usually spend time without hookups, so I tend to turn down my propane furnace to keep the interior of the RV at 55 degrees while sleeping. (in order to not kill my two Gr27 12v batteries)

Since my grey water lines pass in unaccessible areas where there is no insulation (behind the shower and next to the rear end cap), I am concerned about these lines freezing.

The safest would be to pump Pink Anti through out, yet it would be great to have a fully functional water system.

Anyone have a similar RV with actual experience with those night time temps?
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:01 AM   #12
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Ian, I have a 24' Class C that I do exactly what you're talking about regularly, that is run it south well after freeze / winterize season up here.

I don't use plumbing antifreeze of any sort, I blow all the lines empty after all the low point drains have stopped running by gravity alone.

I have a $3 fitting that goes into the city water port and an adapter with regulator that allows me to put 40 psi into the system to blow it clear. I also have fittings to allow me to blow the part of the water system that the city water doesn't get to clear also.

The day or two before I leave I put the heat on and get the coach up to 65+ deg. and then the morning I leave I put 1/2 a tank of warm water (I have a hose I can run out from laundry area) into the holding tank.

From the Toronto area I can easily make it far enough south to be beyond any risk of freezing on the first day unless there's some really nasty weather.

I overnighted once like this and the temp was down to 20 deg. over night, with the coach warm from driving and the furnace on at 60 deg. We had stopped at 10pm and at 6am the water was still not even really cold.

IF you're really concerned about it an auxiliary heater (commonly called a 'bus heater') plumbed into the coach's engine coolant wouldn't cost much ($150?) and you could have the wet bay really warm from engine heat as you drive.
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:04 AM   #13
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I drove down to SC in November for many years. Never winterize on the way down. You need constant temperatures below freezing for the lines to freeze, not just a few hours, and it has to be substantially below freezing. Generally at that time of year it will go below freezing between 4 am and 7 am and then go above up the high teens or low 20's. I would carry some RV Antifreeze with me and if it were going to drop to - 5 or below for a day or two would add the antifreeze. Would not worry about the tanks.
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Old 09-18-2012, 10:13 AM   #14
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If you want to add something, use VODKA, Gin, Rum or any of many different spirets! Then you can really enjoy showering and it will add a new demension to bushing your teeth. Unless you are traveling or staying in sub zero locations you should be fine for 2 weeks. ps.... JUST DON'T DRIVE, after bathing and brushing. ed
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