How to Prepare Your RV for Winter Living?

Is this your first year living in your RV? You’re joining a growing community of Americans taking to the RV lifestyle. Winter living in an RV is not for the faint-hearted. Sure, everything’s great when the summer is around with sunny days and warm weather.

When the mercury starts falling in the wintertime, it presents a whole new set of challenges to the RV owner living in their vehicle. If you’re living in the Southern States, you’re not going to have any issues with the wintertime temperatures. The standard insulation and weather protection in your RV are more than enough to stay warm on colder nights.

However, if you’re living in the northern or mid-western states, you’re going to get cold wintertime temperatures. The standard insulation on your RV won’t cut it, and you’re going to have to make a few upgrades.

So, how do you prepare your RV for winter living? In this post, we’ll walk you through a step-by-step guide to insulating and protecting your vehicle for the season ahead.

A large rv camper travelling in heavy snow

Can you live in an RV in the winter?

Yes, it’s entirely possible to live in your RV during the winter; thousands of Americans do it each year. However, many of them take to the sunny states of Florida, California, and the Gulf Coast for the winter season.

If you’re spending the winter in Northern California, Chicago, or Maine, you’re going to experience a much colder winter. Snowfall, freezing winds, and cold rain are all on the forecast for the winter. You need protection from the elements if you want to survive the season in your RV.

The standard insulation in your RV won’t keep the vehicle’s heat when the mercury drops below freezing (34F). If your vehicle doesn’t have the right modifications to withstand the cold, it leads to all sorts of problems with your RV.

The first issue is the cabin temperature. With thin insulation, you’re going to need plenty of blankets to stay warm during the evening. 

If you have to spend every night balled up in three blankets because it’s freezing outside, it’s going to get frustrating quickly.
With the right preparation, it’s possible to get the interior of your RV as warm as a house.

How to Prep Your RV for Your Winter Living?

Here is a step-by-step guide to preparing your RV for the winter season ahead. Ensure you don’t skip out on any of the steps and use a professional if you don’t have any tools or DIY experience.

The last thing you want to do is cause damage to your RV. Repairs and spare parts are expensive – so leave it to the professionals if you don’t know how to do the upgrades yourself.

Step 1: Water

When the air temperature falls below 32F for longer than 24-hours, it’s going to result in water freezing in your pipes and tanks. When the water freezes, it expands, and you can expect it to split your water hoses and tanks.

The last thing you need is a costly replacement bill for the plumbing in your RV. So, how do I keep my RV pipes from freezing? It’s possible to upgrade the plumbing in your RV to accommodate the drop in temperature overnight. By insulating your hoses and pipework, you ensure you don’t get any water problems.

Camco Hot Water Hybrid Heat Kit - Easily Converts Any 6-Gallon RV LP Gas Water Heater to 120V Electricity to Conserve Propane (11673)

Camco Hot Water Hybrid Heat Kit

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Start your task by using heat tape to wrap all the water hoses. If you have any exposed hoses, cover them with PVC pipe for better insulation. Ensure you get an even coverage of heat tape to prevent cold spots from forming on your hoses and pipes.

Remember to tape the sewer line as well; the last thing you need is a burst black water tank when you get up in the morning.

Step 2: Insulation & Skirting

If you’re setting up your RV for the winter, you’re going to need wind skirting. The floor of your RV is responsible for the most amount of heat loss from the vehicle’s cabin. The cold air comes from under the floor, penetrating the floorboards.

How do you keep an RV warm in the winter? To stop the warmth from leaving through the floor, you’ll have to insulate it and skirt the vehicle. Wind skirting goes around the base of your RV, stopping the wind from moving under the RV. When you have no air movement under the RV, it reduces heat loss through the floor.

There are various types of skirting available from retailers like Amazon. You have the option of going with a compact, portable solution or a fixed skirting for your RV. Vinyl material presents an affordable and removable skirting solution, and it’s removable.

Smart Solutions 01696 Rock Solid Protective Guard - 2 Piece

Rock Solutions Protective Guard

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You line it up with the edges of the vehicle when setting up camp. When it’s time to leave, remove it, and fold it away for compact storage when you hit the road.

You’ll also need to spray the underbelly of the RV with insulation foam and insulate the floorboards. With skirting, floorboard, and underbelly insulation, your RV holds the internal temperature, with minimal heat loss.

We recommend using specialized foam insulation for the best results – skip the straw and hay bales as they are a fire hazard.

Step 3: Window Insulation Kits

The windows are another point of heat loss for your RV. Windows are thin, featuring design with polymers and safety glass; you’ll need to ensure you get window covers for your RV if you want to insulate it from the cold in the evening and early mornings.

Window insulation kits are readily available from online vendors like Amazon. They are an affordable investment in your wintertime RV living.

Camco Camper / RV Vent Insulator and Skylight Cover - Features 3 Layers to Reduce Heat Transfer & Increase A/C Efficiency - Fits Standard 14” Travel Trailer / RV Roof Vents (45192)

Camco Insulator Skylight Reflective

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Make sure you get covers for all the windows, including the windshield. Leaving the windshield unprotected is a classic newbie mistake when insulating their RV for the first winter season.

Step 4: Propane Heaters Alternatives

Most RVs come with compatibility for propane heaters and propane tanks. Propane is a clean-burning, inexpensive fuel used to power appliances around your RV, and its readily available. The water heater, space heater, stove, and oven all run off propane gas.

While propane heaters are efficient and effective at heating your RV, they are not the only choice. If you’re running a solar-powered setup on your RV, we recommend going with an electric space heater for the vehicle’s interior.

GiveBest Portable Electric Space Heater with Thermostat, 1500W/750W Safe and Quiet Ceramic Heater Fan, Heat Up 200 Square Feet for Office Room Desk Indoor Use, Silver

GiveBest Portable Electric Space Heater

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With an electric operation, space heaters feature multi-speed fans and ceramic heating elements. The result is fast heating of the RVs interior, allowing you to warm up fast after coming in from the cold.

Step 5: Safety Requirements for Your Camper

Every RV is a fire hazard. There are so many working parts on the vehicle, and it runs on flammable fuels. Some RVs come with propane tanks that also present a fire risk for your RV. Wintertime preparation is not only about insulating and heating the vehicle.

You need to prepare for any situation, and that includes emergencies. Keeping a serviced and maintained fire extinguisher in your RV is an essential part of your wintertime gear. If there’s a fire in your RV, a fire extinguisher could mean the difference between life and death in some circumstances.

First Alert EZ Fire Spray, Extinguishing Aerosol Spray, Pack of 2, AF400-2, RED

First Alert Fire Extinguisher

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Make sure you fit smoke and carbon monoxide detectors to your RVs interior. If you’re using a propane heater, and a carbon monoxide detector is a must. Link all the equipment to your RV battery for effective operation.

Kidde Smoke Detector, 10-Year Battery, LED Indicators, Replacement Alert, Test-Reset Button

Kidde Sealed Lithium Battery Detector

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If you don’t have any wiring experience, make sure you use a professional for the job. After the electrician completes the work, ask them for an installation certificate.

Step 6: Check the Vents and Seals

When prepping your RV for the winter, you need to check on the vents and seals around the RV. The vents should come with a sticky trap to prevent insects and rodents from entering the vehicle. If you’re buying a pre-owned RV, make sure you change the sticky trap.

Pest Glue Trap by Catchmaster - 36 Boards Pre-Baited, Ready to Use Indoors. Rodent Mouse Rat Insect Sticky Adhesive Simple Easy Simple Non-Toxic - Made in the USA

Catchmaster Pest Trap

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The vents and seals of the RV should all be in working order. Look for signs of perishing on the seals, and order a new seal kit if any of them look weathered.

The vents are important, and if they have perished seals, water can get inside the RV. Water entering the RV not only brings in the cold, but it increases the relative humidity inside the vehicle. As a result, you might start to encounter issues with mold.

If you need a replacement window seal kit, you’re probably going to have to source one from your RV manufacturer. A few aftermarket kits are available for certain RV models, but they are not a universal solution.

Step 7: Heating Your Camper in the Winter

There are plenty of options for heating your RV in the winter. We already covered the benefits of adding a space heater to your living space to improve the cabin temperature. However, there are plenty of other heating options to keep your RV warm.

Installing a heater lamp on the underside of the RV helps to prevent heat loss through the floor.

ProCom Heating PCC80V 360-Degree Convection Propane Portable Heater with 2 Heat Settings, 40000 BTU - 80000 BTU, Heats Up to 1900 Square Feet

ProCom Protable Single Convection Heater

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The device also provides a similar effect to under-floor heating. Running heater wire under the floorboards creates the same effect and is beneficial in very cold climates.

Remember to keep some spare winter gear on hand, including blankets for those super-cold nights where the mercury drops below freezing.

Step 8: Preparing the Toilet for RV Living

Can I use my RV toilet in the winter? Yes, of course, you can use the toilet in your RV during the winter. There’s no need to pull into rest stops or use public facilities in campgrounds when you have an RV. However, the blackwater tank holds the sewage from your toilet, and it’s prone to freezing if you don’t insulate it properly before the winter arrives.

Wrap your blackwater tank in an insulation blanket. You can use the same type of blanket you use for the heated water tanks. Make sure you wrap heat tape around all the water lines and the sewage pipe to prevent the blackwater from freezing.

Some manufacturers offer a natural composting toilet specifically designed for RV use.

Nature's Head Self Contained Composting Toilet with Close Quarters Spider Handle Design

Nature’s Head Composting Toilet

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These composting toilets are an environmentally way to process and dispose of your waste. Most composting toilets feature a contained design, meaning your RV doesn’t need a plumbing system to use it.

The system lasts for years and requires little maintenance. You run the toilet through an electrical connection, and vent the let through your standard RV toilet vent.

Also Related: Why won’t my toilet hold water?

Step 9: Moisture Control

Moisture causes problems with humidity levels inside the RV. If you want to get the RH back to sustainable levels, you’re going to need to run a dehumidifier overnight. A dehumidifier removes the moisture from the air while cleaning it of airborne particles like dust and pathogens.

Dehumidifiers are affordable and compact, allowing you to set them up and run them off your RV battery. When you breathe at night, our breathing might increase humidity levels inside the vehicle, especially if a family lives inside the RV.

Pro Breeze Dehumidifiers for Home,215sqft Small Dehumidifiers for Room,16oz Tank Portable Closet Dehumidifier Removes Humidity Mini Small Dehumidifier for Bathroom Dehumidifier for Bedroom RV Basement

Pro Breeze Portable Dehumidifier

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A dehumidifier removes the excess moisture from the air while scrubbing it clean. Most dehumidifiers come with an ionizing function. The ionizer kills airborne pathogens before recirculating the air into the cabin.

A dehumidifier is an essential piece of gear for RV winter living. You need to keep the RH inside the vehicle at optimal levels, and that’s only possible with a dehumidifier.

Step 10: Separate Areas in Your RV

After insulating and sealing your RV, you’re still going to feel the cold when it’s snowing outside. Keep things warm inside your vehicle by blocking off the RV areas you don’t use at night. Using a blanket to block the driver cab is a great way to reduce your living space’s air volume.

The less air you have inside the living quarters, the easier it is to heat and maintain the space. Hudson Bay blankets are a great choice for this task. These blankets are thick, easy to hang and keep out the cold.

Hudson's Bay Company 90 by 100-Inch Queen Size 6 Point Blanket, Scarlet/Black Stripe

Hudson Bay Company 100-inch Blankets

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By separating areas in the RV, you’ll find it’s easy to regulate the temperature inside the vehicle’s living space.

Enjoyed this post, also check out 14 tips for RVing with kids!

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