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The temps here have been getting to freezing at night, so we took some precautions so that we (and our water pipes) don’t freeze, too. However, we didn’t want to spend a fortune to do it. Here are our money saving tips for winter RV travel.
We’re staying in Lake Isabella, California this month. We expected the temperatures to go down as low as 40 degrees. We’ve experienced that before, and it was not really a problem. But when the forecast started showing 32 degrees or lower for overnight temps, we decided to take some precautions..
1. Money Saving Tip #1: Prevent energy loss in the cab area
The cab with its huge windshield is a huge area for potential heat loss (or gain). The RV came with curtains to cover the windshield when parked, but they were old, dingy and very thin. They barely kept out any light. Since we’ve been mostly in hotter climates, we noticed that the front of the motorhome was always much hotter than the rest of it. It is also the furthest away from the front air conditioning unit.
I found some blackout curtains that also have thermal insulation properties. Since we have a grey cat who sits against those curtains all the time, I chose grey.
Here’s a picture of them installed:
Of course they were not the right size for the windshield, but it was quite simple to modify them. I sewed 2 panels together for each side of the windshield so they would meet in the middle. I cut and hemmed them to fit the length of the window. Then I applied velcro to keep them closed. I also bought some curtain clips to attach them to the existing track.
While we were working up front, we knew the flooring up there needed a major overhaul. Someone at Fleetwood thought it would be a good idea to put residential-style carpet throughout the whole coach, including where the driver and passenger seats are. Just for fun they applied this carpet to the doghouse, which is the cover for the engine in gas motorhomes. The previous owners replaced with a wood-like flooring through most of the RV, but they left that area carpet. So it was up to us.
When we removed the carpet, we discovered that there was just plywood underneath it. In some areas, it was just bare metal–and you could see through to the ground in the gaps! So after some research, I found a heat shield product with and adhesive backing. It also was supposed to insulate sound from the engine. I applied it to the underside of the doghouse and Ryan attached it to the floor and some of the firewall.
There were also some smaller spots that it was harder to cover with the thick heat shield. For those areas we used a heat shield tape.
Ryan then covered the area with a rubberized flooring. It’s water-resistant (unlike carpeting–duh!!), non-skid and easy to clean. He also attached to small L-brackets in front of the doghouse, as it had a tendency to slip around. Now it is quieter while we drive and we don’t feel heat from the engine as much. And of course, when we’re parked there isn’t heat or cold wafting through the floor and windshield.
Money Saving Tip #2: Insulate windows and cabinets
Just like the windshield, any windows in the RV are a potential place for heat loss (or gain). I was able to find a pre-cut piece of window insulation for one of our windows. For the others and inside some of the cabinets, I used a product called Reflectix. I bought a huge roll of it and cut the pieces to size where needed. Now all of our windows are covered with Reflectix except for one in the bedroom, which we open frequently.
Money Saving Tip #3: Reduce humidity inside the RV
Our RV is our home, but it’s still a vehicle. When you sit in a car with all the windows rolled up, condensation will build up. In an RV that can lead to mold, which is the last thing we want.
To keep the moisture levels down inside the RV, we always turn on the vent hood over the stove when cooking and also open the ceiling vent. In the bathroom, we keep the ceiling vent cracked open 24/7. But the rest of the RV windows stay closed most of the time, especially at these temperatures.
We used to use these little crystal packets in containers to soak up moisture. I think they contained silica. The crystals would dissolve as they attracted water and the water would collect in the container. Then you had to dump out the water and replace the crystals. This got really annoying because sometimes the containers fell over. Once you spilled that water, it was nearly impossible to clean it up. On carpet it would leave stains of perpetual moisture collection, and on solid surfaces it would leave a slick film.
Then I found these neat little self-contained dehumidfiers. They’re non-toxic because you don’t have to touch any crystals or refill it. They come with hooks so we have them hanging from cabinet handles throughout the RV. They don’t leak any water. And they can last for up to ten years. They cost a little bit more up-front but it has been soooo much nicer using them.
Money Saving Tip #4: Keep your water supply from freezing
When we lived in Arizona it was common to have freezing temperatures during the winter. We bought heat tape for our fresh water hose and wrapped it around the line, and it worked just fine. I don’t remember where we got it or how much it cost, but we don’t have it anymore, and have not needed it since until now.
When I tried to find a replacement set-up, I discovered that there are now water hoses with a built-in heating system. They run from $120 to $200! Um, no thanks! But the heat tape I found was also at least $60, and said it was not recommended for an “garden hose” application, and the manufacturer also wanted a foam insulation surrounding the heat tape. At that point we’re up to over $100 again, for something that we might use 1 month out of the year (or never again).
So I went on the RV forums, and ran across a guy who said he lives in an area where the temperatures get down into the 20s. He wraps rope lights around his hose, and has never had a problem with frozen lines. Plus, they look kinda pretty.
This sounded like a great idea to me. Rope lights are typically LED, but LED is not completely without heat. It seemed like a very logical setup: just enough heat to keep ice from forming in the water and not so much heat that the hose would burn or melt. So we went down to the local hardware store and bought two 18-foot lengths of rope lights for our 25-foot water hose. Here is the result:
The rope lights are on every night. For the past week or so it’s gotten to freezing temperatures every night and we have not had any problems. Also, we have a whole-house heater but don’t like using it because it’s so noisy (it needs maintenance and that’s on our to-do list). So we just use two little space heaters when it gets cold, and that has been working just fine. It saves us from guzzling down propane, too.
So there you go. If you check the links, all of these products are inexpensive (most are under $50). They have definitely made a difference in both our comfort levels and our utility bills.