RV Tech Talk

Further advice for the snowy time of year

More tips for winter RVing


When living in an RV during cooler temperatures, one area of importance is the propane system. As stated in a previous article, propane pressure will fluctuate depending on how much fuel is in the container, the ambient temperature and atmospheric pressure.

If temperatures drop down quite low and the tank starts to become empty, the pressure will also drop and the BTU (British thermal units) output may not be sufficient enough to properly supply the LP appliance loads. The furnace or water heater may work erratically or may lock-out. It may be feasible to have a larger propane tank installed at your site to increase the volume of propane needed in colder climates.

Another component of the propane system that can be a problem is the regulator. If there is water in the propane tanks and it makes its way to the regulator, the unit may freeze up. When this occurs, the flow of propane will be either be greatly restricted or can stop altogether. If you suspect this situation, you can confirm it by applying heat from a hot water bottle directly to the regulator. If flow is restored then you should have the tanks serviced by a qualified technician to remove the water.

Other potential issues

The slide-out seals are an area that may require some attention, especially during cold weather, in that they can be a source of drafts and water leaks. Check to ensure the wiper seals are properly placed with the upper or horizontal seal overlapping the side or vertical seals at the corners.

The bottom corners can be drafty—placing some insulation in that area may help. The installation of a slide-out topper may be beneficial to prevent leaks and keep rain of the roof.

The interior of your RV can be upgraded or improved for cold weather accommodation in some very attainable and economical ways, but there are some many problems associated with winter living in your RV.

The condensation created when inside the RV can affect the windows, walls and ceiling. It can be very visible when cooking or showering and will require some improved ventilation and air circulation upgrades such as a dehumidifier. Try and run the stove fan when cooking, or the bathroom fan when showering. If you install some moisture crystals like those found in a Dry-Z-Air kit this may help to remove the extra moisture.

Appliance and heating innovations

Your RV fridge can be affected by extreme cold temperatures, in that the back of the fridge is exposed to the elements at the lower vent or access area. Some folks will add a trouble light to the rear of the fridge compartment, but there is an element of danger and I would not advise this method.

If the temperature outside drops so low that the fridge fails to keep the contents cold, then a small household fridge may be the back-up you need. It will no doubt be a hassle, but will do until the temperature rises back to normal and the RV fridge starts to function properly again.

For some RVers the addition of an auxiliary heat source may be desired and a catalytic heater comes to mind. These very efficient heaters mix the propane and air in a silica wool pad with platinum integrated into it. The platinum allows the combustion to take place without a flame. The warmth they produce is radiant in that it heats objects and occupants, not the air, and best of all they require no electricity. Even though they are efficient and considered practical, they produce condensation and consume oxygen.

These heaters require important attention to ventilation in the living area. In some locations, for instance the province of British Columbia, they are not permitted to be installed in any RV unless it is canvas-walled like in the case of a tent trailer. If you purchase a used RV with one of these units and are determined to use it, then it will be advisable to check that it has an oxygen depletion sensor and follow the manual to the letter in regards to proper ventilation requirements. To further protect you and your family install a carbon monoxide detector whether you have one of these units or not.

You should consider a small electric ceramic heater if you would like some extra warmth and comfort, but make sure you’re not overloading the electrical system and ensure the product is UL or CSA approved. This type of heater will not increase condensation, either.

Consider this

To prevent drafts from the roof vent area, you can install vent pillows to insulate from both cold and hot temperatures, as well as sound. They also make a great seat cushion while watching an outdoor or stadium event.

You can also improve on draft prevention and heat retention by adding foil insulation wrap to the main or rear entrance doors—adhering the foil with Velcro strips.

In the unfortunate event of an extended power failure, do not use the stove or oven for comfort heat. You should have an adequate generator readily available as a power back-up, and remember there is also an element of danger with carbon monoxide when operating these units in close proximity to your RV. This is another reason to have a carbon monoxide detector inside.

Depending on your situation, you may have to consider staying with friends, family or other accommodations in the case of extended extreme cold temperatures.

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