With the summer days fading, and the fall on its way, winter is around the corner. Spending the summertime in your RV is great. It’s a freeing experience, and more Americans are gravitating to the RV lifestyle every year. Long summer days and warm evenings make RV living an attractive option.
Things are great when it’s warm and sunny, but RV living takes on a new dynamic when the weather turns. The cold temperatures in some United States regions require precautionary measures to insulate your RV before the season starts.
Most RVs don’t have enough insulation to offer protection from the cold in freezing temperatures. If you’re going to live in your RV full-time in the winter, you need proper preparations to help you deal with the challenges of the season.
In this post, we’ll unpack a step-by-step tutorial to insulating your RV for the winter.
Can You Live in an RV in the Winter?
Yes, it’s entirely possible to live in your RV through the winter, even in regions where the mercury drops below zero. However, most Class B and C motorhomes don’t have a design for a permanent living situation; they’re supposed to be recreational vehicles.
Therefore, most of them don’t plan on your traveling through cold weather conditions in your RV. As a result of market research into RV owners, manufacturers build machines that provide functional use, without going overboard with the engineering.
Since most people don’t live in their RV full-time and don’t use it during the winter, manufacturers don’t bother insulating it for these weather conditions. If they were to incorporate winter insulation in the RV, it would increase the price tag. Higher prices reduce the appeal for their vehicles.
If you’re intending on living in your RV this winter, you’re going to have to upgrade the insulation. Many of them you can do yourself with limited tools and handy experience.
How Do I Insulate My RV for Winter-Living?
If you’re wondering what is the best insulation for an RV or what pipes need upgrading to prevent them from freezing and splitting, this guide is for you.
We look at every aspect of insulating your recreational vehicle for the coming winter season. Most of the upgrades are easy enough to do yourself, provided you have a few basic tools.
If you don’t have any experience using tools, you might need to call a handy person to help with a few insulation tasks. Read through this guide and assemble your materials. Follow the instructions to insulate your RV, and you can have everything done over the weekend.
With these simple insulation tips, you get the winter protection your RV needs to get you through the winter.
Step 1: Setting Up Your Skirting
Setting up RV skirting for winter is essential if you want to stop the cold coming through the vehicle’s floor. RV skirting refers to an edge around the baser, extending from the trim on the underside to the ground. This gap under the RV allows air to move around.
In the summertime, that’s no big deal, and the warm climate means that you don’t have to worry about any heat loss through the floor. However, things are different in the wintertime. If you don’t seal the trim around your RV base with a skirt, you’re not going to hold heat inside the RV.
The wind and air movement under the vehicle drain the heat through the floor, even if you have adequate floorboard insulation. A skirt stops air moving under your RV, creating a dead zone that helps you retain heat inside the vehicle.
There are various types of RV skirting available.
Vinyl is the best skirting material choice for your RV.
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This material is flexible, impermeable, and easy to fit. When the winter ends, or if you decide to move, it’s easy to fold away vinyl skirting for compact storage.
Plywood boards – Plywood is an effective solution for wind skirting for your RV. However, it’s going to require cutting to size for a custom fit. As a result, you’ll need tools to install it to your RV. If you don’t have any handy experience, you’ll need to call a professional to help you with the fitment.
Foam Insulation Boards – These boards require the same installation as plywood. It’s important to note both foam and plywood boards are a more permanent solution for RV skirting. If you’re planning on moving around, you’re better off with vinyl skirting.
Step 2: Insulate the Windows
After insulating the skirting, it’s time to check on the windows. Windows are thin, and warmth leaks through the glass or plastic, even with the window closed. Therefore, you’ll need to insulate the window panes around your RV to keep out the cold.
There are windshield covers and window cover kits available on sites like Amazon for an affordable price.
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However, there is a cost-effective solution. Hang towels in front of the window on the inside of the RV to prevent heat loss.
Step 3: Insulate the Underbelly
How to insulate RV underbelly of my RV? The wind skirting around your RV is only part of the upgrades you need to do to the underside.
The underbelly of the RV requires insulating to prevent heat loss through the floorboards. If you don’t have the budget for this upgrade or the insulation kits, you’re going to need to line the RV’s interior floor with blankets to keep the heat inside.
Most RV owners require professional assistance with insulating the underbelly of their RV. You won’t have the tools like a lift to get at the underside of the vehicle. With a professional, you get a guaranteed installation, with a full warranty on all work.
You have two options for insulation for your RV underbelly.
Foam panels – Like the panels used for your skirting, the installer cuts them to size, fitting then to the underside of the RV.
Foam spray – This spray foam product is like the stuff they use on the load bays of pickup trucks to prevent scratching and rusting the surface. The installer sprays a thin layer of insulation on the underbelly using specialized spray equipment and materials. After the coating dries, it forms an insulated barrier against the cold.
Foam spray is the better option, and it’s the more affordable choice for your RV underbelly.
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Step 4: Insulate the Floor
The floor of your RV is another significant contributor to heat loss inside the vehicle. Insulating the underbelly of your RV provides partial protection from the cold. However, if you’re living in areas that experience snowfall and freezing temperatures, you’ll need extra protection from the elements.
After insulating the underbelly of the RV, the next task is to protect the flooring inside the vehicle. Depending on RV you own, you might need professional assistance if you want an eye-pleasing aesthetic for your RV.
To insulate the flooring, you’ll either have to pull it up and re-fit it or fit a new floor over the existing one. Given the thickness of your insulation, installing a new floor on top of the old one might not be a viable option.
A professional installation ensures you get a floor with no soft spots and the correct amount of insulation to provide thermal comfort in the winter. It might cost you some money, but it’s a worthwhile upgrade, especially in colder areas.
Step 5: Insulate Your Water Tanks
We all know what happens if you don’t bleed your pipes and flush your tanks in the winter. Uninsulated tanks end up freezing and splitting, causing enormous property damage. It’s the same for your RV. Manufacturers don’t go to the extra expense of insulating water tanks or weatherproofing water lines for winter.
Therefore, you’ll have to take these precautions yourself and insulate the tanks. Fortunately, it’s possible to do this task yourself with a few tools. Wrap the water tanks in a thermal insulating blanket to keep hot water warm for the shower and the sink.
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Step 6: Change Your Water Hoses
The water hoses around your RV need upgrading to survive the winter. Any hoses left uninsulated run the risk of freezing if they have water in them when the temperature drops. Installing a heated water hose makes sure that you never have to deal with frozen lines in your RV.
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How cold does it have to be for RV pipes to freeze in your RV? That’s a common question we receive from RV enthusiasts all the time. Typically, the cabin’s internal temperature must drop below the freezing point (32 F) for around 24-hours to freeze your RV pipes.
How do you keep RV pipes from freezing? There are a few options for retail and DIY upgrades. For a DIY fix, add a PVC pipe around the hose to insulate it. Some retailers sell winter RV hose to upgrade your lines and stop them from freezing in cold weather conditions.
Step 7: Install a Space Heater
After insulating your RV, it’s time to look at other options for warming up your RV winter lifestyle. A space heater is a wonderful solution for warming things up on cold evenings and mornings in your RV. A space heater works fast, heating the air in your RV in minutes.
RVs don’t have a furnace set up, and there’s nowhere to run a boiler system. Instead, you’ll have to rely on electric heating solutions, like space heaters.
Space heaters are affordable, and you can pick them up at various price points, depending on your needs. A space heater provides a fast heating solution for when you come in out of the cold, or you’re returning to the RV after being away for the day.
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Space heaters don’t take up much space. They come in compact designs for easy setup anywhere in your RV. Look for models with adjustable fan speeds and fast heating action.
Some RV space heaters use propane instead of electricity to power the device. Propane is affordable and useful for powering other appliances in the vehicle. However, if you have a space heater and a solar battery station, you’ll save money on your wintertime heating costs.
Step 8: Check Seals on Vents and Windows
It’s no good going to all the trouble of insulating your RV if the window seals don’t work. Window seals around your RV feature design and construction with rubber and other polymers like EPDM.
These polymer materials perish after a few years of use. As a result, it reduces the efficacy of the door and window seals around the vehicle.
If you’re buying a pre-owned RV that’s older than 5-years, we recommend checking the seals on the windows and doors for signs of perishing. You’ll need to replace any worn seals, or the heat inside your RV will dissipate fast.
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Most RVs require you to purchase a seal replacement kit from the manufacturer. However, some RV models have aftermarket seal kits available. Check Amazon for the best range and prices on aftermarket replacement seal kits for your RV.
Step 9: General Insulation Tasks for Your RV
If you complete all the steps on this list, your RV will be toasty this winter. However, you can do a few other smaller tasks to check on the insulation of your vehicle and prevent moisture buildup inside the RV.
An RV dehumidifier is an essential piece of equipment for wintertime living inside your RV.
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When asleep, you breathe out the moisture inside the RV. This buildup increases the humidity inside the RV, dropping the temperature while increasing freezing risk to pipes and tanks.
A dehumidifier ensures the air inside the RV stays at the optimal relative humidity for winter living. Dehumidifiers also prevent moist conditions that spread mold spores inside the RV.
Adding rugs to the floor of the RV helps to improve the floor insulation, and heated mattress pads will keep you as snug as a bug in a rug on cold winter nights.
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