Antifreeze vs blowing out water lines with compressed air: which is better when winterizing your RV?…
The most important part of winterizing your RV is ensuring your water lines won't freeze. You don't have to worry about this if you store your RV inside a temperature-controlled unit or in a temperate location that never drops before freezing.
However, even southern regions in the U.S. often experience freezing temperatures at some point in the winter. And even a few hours of freezing temps is enough to wreak havoc on your RV water lines.
So, it's important to know how to winterize your RV water lines. There are two main methods, and some controversy over which is better. We'll discuss both methods and answer other common winterizing questions.
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The Broad Definition of Winterizing Your RV
First, we must clarify that “winterizing” is often used as a broad term in the RV community. In its simplest form, winterizing is preparing your RV for colder months but is often used to describe getting an RV ready for storage in the off-season.
So, “winterizing” can include anything and everything from emptying your RV pantry to removing your battery to post-season cleaning to protecting your RV from severe weather.
However, the most accurate definition of winterizing is preparing your RV for extreme cold, especially freezing temperatures. That is the definition we're using, as this article focuses specifically on winterizing your RV water lines so they don't freeze.
If your RV water lines freeze or liquid freezes in your tanks, they can crack or burst from the pressure. When they unfreeze, you'll be left with an instant big water damage problem or a slow leak that will gradually wreak havoc on your RV. Either way, water damage is something you want to avoid at all costs!
When Do You Need to Winterize Your RV?
If your RV will be exposed to freezing temperatures for more than a few hours, you need to winterize your water lines. You may get away with several hours of freezing temperatures since water lines can take a while to freeze through; however, it's always better to be safe than sorry.
So, if you live or are storing your RV in cold regions, winterizing is a must every autumn before freezing temperatures hit. If you live or store your RV in temperate regions, you must keep a steady eye on the weather and act immediately if freezing is in the forecast.
Do I Need to Winterize MY RV If I'm Using It in the Winter?
If you RV full-time or travel often throughout the winter, “winterizing” will look different for you. If your RV is kept at “living condition” temperatures, then you won't need to winterize. Basically, if it's warm enough for you in the RV, it should be warm enough for your RV systems.
HOWEVER, that's only a rule of thumb, and anytime your RV is exposed to below-freezing temperatures, you should take serious precautions to prevent your water lines from freezing. In those cases, you should follow these 10 Tips to Keep Your RV Pipes From Freezing While Camping.
If you camp during the winter but store it at any point in freezing weather, it needs to be winterized between camping trips. For you, the best option may be to “winterize” it by keeping it plugged into shore power (or propane power) to keep the heat on full-time at your thermostat's lowest setting.
Winterizing with Antifreeze vs Blowing Out Water Lines
There are two main methods for winterizing your RV water lines. The first is running non-toxic antifreeze throughout your water system. The second is using compressed air to blow all the water out of your water lines.
Let's start with the compressed air option and then move on to the more popular antifreeze option.
Blowing Out RV Water Lines with Compressed Air
Blowing out RV water lines is a logical solution for winterizing your RV. After all, water lines can't freeze if there isn't any water in them! You can watch the above short video by Keystone RV Company to see how it's done.
This method uses compressed air to push all the water out of your RV water systems. In most cases, RVers open all their faucets and connect an air compressor to their water line. They blast air through the system, flush toilets, etc., until no more water comes out.
Use Low PSI
Compressed air works well in many cases, but there are some important considerations. First is the potential damage an air compressor can cause. Too much air pressure can cause the same cracks and breakage you're trying to prevent in the first place.
Be sure to set the air pressure to around 30-50 psi, depending on the system you're blowing out. Otherwise, you risk damaging your system.
Please note that some owner's manuals for certain appliances or your RV as a whole state that you should not use compressed air. So, checking ALL of your owner's manuals before winterizing with compressed air is important.
Be Wary of Leftover Water
The second big concern is how effective blowing out the water is. Some appliances and water lines are coiled or don't run in straight lines. That means some water will likely settle into these troughs, even after blowing them out.
This remaining water can be negligible, but it's impossible to tell how much is really left in there. You may be tempted to blast it with more air, but remember, too much air pressure can damage your plumbing system.
Those two concerns are why many RVers opt for antifreeze instead of compressed air…
Using Non-Toxic Anti-Freeze
The second and arguably more popular winterizing method is running non-toxic antifreeze through your water system. This “pink stuff” (or “Orange Stuff” for the non-toxic version) is specially designed to protect your RV water lines down to -50 degrees F and is safe to use in potable water systems.
You run undiluted antifreeze through your water system by connecting to your RV's water inlet port or wet bay. You then open faucets and run water through all of the lines until pink/orange stuff starts coming out.
The challenge is to not forget about any water lines! Methodically ensure the pink/orange stuff comes out of every water line (i.e., ice maker, washer, dishwasher,etc!) and/or drain the water from certain appliances (i.e., the ice maker!).
You can learn more about how to do this by reading this podcast transcript or watching the following video.
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Don't Forget to Drain Your Holding Tanks!
Water lines aren't the only things that can freeze! The liquids in your holding tanks can freeze in severe cold, too.
So, it's important to drain all your holding tanks, including the black water tank. Here are some helpful resources:
- Can I Legally Dump Gray Water on the Ground While RV Camping?
- RV Black Tank Accessories: 7 Must-Haves for Dumping & Odors
- How to Easily Find RV Dump Stations
- How to Dump RV Tanks at Home (Options & Answers)
Just Remember: Keep Your Water Lines From Freezing While Camping
We love winter camping! It's freezing cold… but so much fun! It's an entirely different experience and a great way to enjoy typical summer destinations in a whole new way.
However, RV owners must take the necessary precautions to protect their RV from the cold weather. Don't risk frozen pipes, which can cause serious damage to your RV's plumbing system!
What method do we use to winterize our RVs?
We've used both. Last year, when our fifth wheel was kept in Tennessee during November and December, we chose to blow out the pipes with compressed air. Tennessee gets cold but not as cold as it does in northern states.
When we headed to Florida in January, all we had to do was hook up a hose, fill the freshwater tanks and hook up to city water and we were “dewinterized.”
This year, when the RV will be stored on our Michigan property, we will blow out the lines and also winterize it with antifreeze. We'll still head to Florida and a warmer climate in January, but because temperatures in Michigan can easily get below zero Fahrenheit, we feel the antifreeze will give us better protection.
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Last update on 2023-11-28 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API