Can You Live In an RV In The Winter? - The Roving Foley's
Can you live in an RV in the winter

Can You Live In an RV In The Winter?

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Yes you certainly can. Full time RV camping can offer a number of challenges for those who live in an area with frigid temperatures during the winter months. Unlike a well insulated home, keeping an RV comfortable takes more than turning on your furnace. However with a bit of planning and a few simple modifications, your RV can be a cozy home in almost any winter weather. 

Preparing RV For Winter Living

Recreational vehicles often have thin walls with minimal insulation, which can make it challenging to regulate the temperature inside the travel trailer. Furthermore, when the door of the camper is opened, the heat will be sucked from the camper, resulting in a chilly interior space. Also, since the RV sits high above the ground, cold circulating winds can cause tanks and water pipes to freeze if they are not protected.  Continue reading to learn the tips and tricks to creating a cozy, warm camper on those cold, wintry nights.

Many full time campers recommend lighting three wick candles during the days and evenings. The warmth from the fire can add a touch of warmth to your room.

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Best RV for Winter Living

The first thing you can do to keep yourself warm in winter, is to choose the right camper. Many manufacturers offer “4 Seasons” packages which include wall insulation and insulation of the underbelly. 

The Northwood Arctic Fox line of Fifth wheels and travel trailers are widely considered to be the best towable RV’s for winter camping. They are built in the mountains of Oregon where they know a thing or two about the cold. Their RVs have heated and insulated holding tank spaces, and 3 different kinds of insulation to keep you warm and cozy. Thermal pane windows are also available to hold in your heat and keep the chill out. 

Insulating Doors and Windows

Reducing heat loss in a camper is paramount to having a warm and comfortable RV throughout the winter months. The doors and windows in campers are one of the key areas where heat loss occurs (Makes sense!). Let’s look at how you can minimize heat loss and keep your RV warm during those cold months of the year.

Keep your heat inside and the cold outside by placing a thick bath sheet or beach towel in front of all exterior doors. Doing so will help reduce the amount of heat that is sucked outdoors and the amount of cold allowed inside.

Most RVs have single pane windows, which can unfortunately result in cold drafts. One of the best ways to prevent cold drafts is to insulate your camper windows using either clear plastic sheeting or Styrofoam insulation. If you will be camping in a frigid environment, you can further reduce the risk of drafts by using both Styrofoam and plastic sheeting on every window in your RV.

Finally, using thermal curtains helps to keep the heat in and the cold out of your camper. Thermal curtains block drafts and can reduce the amount of heat lost through your RV’s windows by up to 25 percent. These curtains also provide sound insulation to block exterior noise.

“Snow brings a special quality with it—the power to stop life as you know it dead in its tracks.”

RV Skirting For Winter

Skirting does more than just make your RV look good. It can help insulate your RV and protect your plumbing and tanks from freezing. Skirting reduces the amount of cold under your camper. Furthermore, it can block excess wind from getting under your RV.

Skirting reduces heat loss through your floors and makes your camper feel toasty. There are many different types of materials that can be used to skirt your camper. You can purchase insulated vinyl RV skirting, or you can make your own using an insulating foam board covered in waterproof fabric.

If you are less-permanent in your space, bales of straw sitting end to end around the perimeter of your rig can be an effective and inexpensive way to stop the wind. 

No matter the materials that are chosen, skirting is designed to add a protective layer to the underneath of your camper. It will help to retain the heat and prevent frozen pipes and holding tanks.

Keep Water Away

Water is the enemy of your RV. Winter preparations should include a complete inspection of all of your outside seals. Treat all slide and window seals and re-caulk any seams that are cracked or failing. You definitely will not want to be doing this in cold temperatures, so preparation is your best defense. 

Many people think that covering their exterior vents will make their camper feel warm; however, if the wrong type of vent insulation is used, excess moisture cannot escape, making your camper a breeding ground for mold. Using a vent cover helps keep the warmth in and allowing excess moisture to escape.

Air circulation is the number one best way to avoid moisture buildup and mold inside the rig. We ALWAYS keep windows and roof vents cracked during cold weather to ensure air movement,  especially in slides where the walls are less insulated, and bunk spaces which get a lot of hot moist air from sleeping people. 

If you notice excess moisture or mold in your camper, purchase a dehumidifier. Dehumidifiers lower humidity levels in your RV, which help decrease the risk of mold. Dehumidifiers help freshen and clean interior air for a healthier camper.

rv park in the winter

Insulate Your Plumbing

The pipes, water heater, and tanks in your RV can freeze if they are not adequately insulated. Applying pipe insulation can decrease the risk of frozen pipes. Wrap your holding tanks and water heater in insulation to help protect against freezing.

If your RV has insulated skirting, you can place a small space heater under the camper. The heater will help keep the temperatures underneath your RV above freezing. When placing a space heater under a camper, always make sure that the space heater is plugged into a GFCI outlet.

Using heat tape around your pipes can prevent frozen pipes. This specialized plumbing tape can be purchased at a home improvement or hardware store. The tape is wrapped around the pipe and then plugged into an electrical outlet. The tape keeps your pipes warm and helps prevent frozen pipes.

You can protect your black water tank and keep it from freezing by adding half of a gallon of windshield cleaner to your black water tank every time you empty it. The windshield fluid not only prevents freezing but also makes purging easier.

Inspect the underside of your rig for any openings that need spray foam insulation. Close up any openings. This will not only help keep it warmer, but will deter any rodents looking for a warm winter home. 

Put a Space Heater in the Basement

Even though there is a circulation vent in the stairs that allows indoor air to circulate down to the utility “basement” I always keep a small space heater under there to keep the utility area warm on the coldest nights. I only use it if there is a threat of freezing pipes, but it does really well to keep things warm down there. 

Position Your Camper to Increased Warmth

Many new campers are surprised to learn that the orientation of an RV can impact the warmth of your RV. Position your camper so that the majority of the sunlight hits the side of your camper that has the most windows. If you have used plastic sheeting to reduce drafts, open your curtains during the day to allow the sunlight to warm your interior spaces.

You can reduce the impact of icy winds by ensuring the majority of the wind hits the rear of the RV rather than the front or the side of your camper. Seek out a windbreak like a row of shrubs or trees or a tall fence to help your camper stay toasty warm.

The first thing you can do to keep yourself warm in winter, is to choose the right camper. Many manufacturers offer "4 Seasons" packages which include wall insulation and insulation of the underbelly.

Solar Panels Can Help

Solar panels work as well in the wintertime as they do in the summertime. The sun’s UV rays supply power for your space heaters. Before purchasing solar panels, think of how you will use your camper. If you will be staying in an RV park that offers full electrical hookups, you will not need solar panels. If, on the other hand, you will be boondocking in the wilderness, solar panels can slow down how fast you use your propane.

So, can you live in an RV in the winter? Yes, as long as you know how to winterize your RV to help keep your camper warm. Use the tips in this article to stay warm during the winter months in your camper.

Staying Warm In the RV in Winter

Once you have the RV prepared for winter, you can sit back and enjoy the experience. As long as you keep your propane tanks filled, you should not have too many problems. However there are a few more things you can do inside to help keep you cozy in the coldest weather. 

How to Make Your Floors Feel Warm

Your RV’s floor can feel cold during the winter months. You can help your feet feel warm and provide some insulating protection against the cold with rugs or carpeting. For maximum protection, purchase carpet remnants and cut them to the size of each room.

In addition to reducing drafts, rugs and carpet remnants will protect your RV floors. In the summer months, the carpet remnants can be removed and stored out of the way. Removing rugs and carpets in the warmer months will help your camper feeling nice and cool.

“To appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.”

How to Keep Warm on Blustery Days

Using an infrared space heater can help conserve your propane levels and increase the warmth of your camper. Placing a space heater in your main living area can keep you toasty throughout the day. During cold weather we typically run a space heater during the day and night, only running the propane heat in the morning when we get up and as needed during the day. 

Purchase an insulating sleeping bag to keep you warm while you sleep. Choose an insulating sleeping bag that is rated for a lower temperature than is expected. For example, if the night time temperatures are expected to drop below freezing, choosing a sleeping bag that has a temperature rating of 25 degrees will ensure you stay toasty warm. Another option is to use electric blankets on your beds or sofas.

This may sound funny but baking a casserole is a great way to get warm. The heat from the stove acts as supplemental heating. Once the casserole is baked and you have turned the stove off, open the door on the oven and enjoy the residual heat that radiates into your camper. Warm meals like casseroles help heat your core, making you feel much warmer.

Many full time campers recommend lighting three wick candles during the days and evenings. The warmth from the fire can add a touch of warmth to your room. Never leave a candle unattended and ensure that it is kept away from any materials that can catch fire.

Smaller RVs are Easier to Heat

A smaller RV has less interior space, which allows the camper to heat quickly. If you plan to camp during the winter, you may want to purchase a smaller RV to help you stay warm. Furthermore, a smaller RV requires less electricity and propane to keep warm, which can save you a lot of money.

So with a little preparation and some common sense, you can live comfortably through the cold winter months in your RV.   We tend to head to Florida when the temperatures drop!

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4 thoughts on “Can You Live In an RV In The Winter?”

  1. Thank you very much for the ideas. This will be my first winter living in my RV for work and have been searching the webs for any information that will make my life easier this winter. Here are some more ideas I came across in my research. (1) Another option to carpet remnants are foam interlocking floor tiles. They are easy to fit and clean. Plus if you have a spill or pets, you only have to clean the affected tile(s) with a rag and cleaner instead of a wet vacuum. (2) If you don’t want to put plastic on the outside, you can put Reflectix on the inside in between the curtain and windows. Rolls are cheap and available at your local hardware store. This may significantly darken your RV but since I use my RV for work, I spend most of my daylight hours at work. It also works great at keeping temperatures down during the summer. (3) If your master bedroom is over any external storage bins, you can coat the inside of the storage with foam board. This will also create a sacrificial space. Sacrificial spaces often insulate better than insulation itself. (4) Speaking of sacrificial spaces, I have a bunk house RV. The back room where my kids normally sleep becomes storage when I’m away at work. There is no reason to keep that room heated. Same thing goes for my bedroom during the day. Close as many doors as possible to keep your heat kept in the core of the RV. If you don’t have a door, it would be cheaper to put up a curtain than the cost of the energy wasted to heat that space for one winter. (5) Change your floor registers. My RV came with cheap plastic registers that don’t open or close. Changing out your registers for open/closing ones will give you more control of where your heat goes. (6) Keep your water heater on. Many people, including me only turn on their water heater 20 minutes before their shower. This prevents overloading the circuit with the AC running during the summer months and frankly it’s all that is really needed during the summer. Keeping your water heater on helps maintain the heat not only in your water but also in your water heater compartment and decreases the initial heat-up strain on your system. (7) Finally but maybe most important of all, Insulation. I didn’t see it mentioned in your article but foam pillows for the roof vents work great. Another addition, I plan to do is spray foaming inside my cabinets and compartments. If you don’t want the spray foam to stick to your RV, you can put plastic wrap on the surface you want to protect first and then spray over that. This will make the spray foam removeable and you’ll also be able to shave it down if needed. Please also keep in mind that while you’re sealing up your RV, you’re also keeping in moister. Moister to an RV is like rust to steel. During the summer your AC unit acts as a dehumidifier. Since you’re not going to be running your AC, a small dehumidifier unit is highly suggested. You can find small ones online for under $70. Hope these additions help and happy camping!!

  2. Thanks for the tips! Super helpful. We are expecting cold weather in Manila, UT and trying to winterize. Do you insulate your sewer pipe?

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