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How to Keep Your RV Holding Tanks From Freezing

December 18, 2019

How to keep your RV holding tanks from freezing image. Snowflake on blue background


Key Points:

  1. If you want to use your RV in colder temperatures, you have two options to prevent your holding tanks from freezing: 1) skirting your RV or 2) installing an aftermarket heating system. 
  2. Skirting can provide an effective solution to freezing holding tanks. Skirting material is normally made of vinyl, plywood, insulation boards, foam boards, straw or hay bales, or tarps. 
  3. To prevent freezing holding tanks, the other option is to install an aftermarket heating system, such as a heating blanket on the interior of your holding tanks. Additionally, you may choose to install a heating system on the outside of your holding tanks or pipes. 
  4. RV skirting and aftermarket heating systems do not have to be used separately! In fact, if you desire an additional level of freeze-protection, you may choose to skirt your RV and also install an aftermarket heating system.  

If you're new to RVing and are wondering if you can RV in colder temperatures, we're here to give you some tips and tricks! If you're an experienced RVer, and you've ever been RVing during those colder months, you know that the temperature can drop significantly at any time! This poses a difficulty for people who enjoy winter camping or must stay at a campground during colder months: how do you keep your RV holding tanks from freezing? Well, in this article, we’re going to break down the two effective options you have to prevent your holding tanks from freezing. 

To begin, if you are RV camping in colder environments, we encourage you to pursue at least one of these methods. If you allow your RV holding tanks to freeze, the tank or plumbing itself may crack, causing a host of complications and costly repairs! 

For the purposes of this article, we’re going to assume that you already have a source of heat to protect the interior plumbing of your camper from freezing (such as a built-in furnace, electric heater, or portable space heater). As long as the interior of your RV remains above 32 degrees Fahrenheit, it's unlikely that you will have problems with freezing faucets or drains. 

In the same way, the placement of your holding tanks will greatly influence their susceptibility to freezing. If your tanks are above the floor level (often the case in Class B motor-homes or conversion vans), they likely will not freeze, because the heat from the interior of your RV will keep them thawed. However, if your tanks are on the outside of your RV (normally the case in Class A's, Class C's, Travel Trailers, and Fifth Wheels) or are closer to the ground, they will be more susceptible to freezing. So, when deciding which of the following options to take, it is important to consider the location of your holding tanks.

To learn more about RV types and the basics about RVing, check out this article!

There are two basic options you can adopt to prevent your holding tanks from freezing while still using the rig:

  1. Installing an RV skirt.
  2. Purchasing an aftermarket heating system. 

Skirting Your RV

The first option you have for preventing your holding tanks from freezing is to fully skirt your RV. RV skirting (also called windskirting) works best if you are staying for an extended period of time at a campground. Skirting an RV involves installing semi-permanent material around the entire base of your RV. 

Mobile home skirting provides a barrier to wind and cold temperatures. Additionally, it prevents heat from escaping through the bottom of your RV. In this way, if a skirt is installed, the ambient heat from the interior of your RV can actually help to warm the air under your RV, thus keeping your holding tanks thawed. 

In terms of the material you may use to skirt your RV, there are several options: 

  1. Vinyl
  2. Plywood
  3. Insulation boards
  4. Foam boards
  5. Straw or hay bales
  6. Tarps

As many sources state, vinyl skirting is easier to work with than plywood or insulation boards. Moreover, many companies will professionally install vinyl skirting or sell vinyl skirting kits. Vinyl is also easier to remove and reinstall if you are frequently relocating your RV. 

While plywood and insulation boards do provide an effective solution, they are ultimately hard to move and cut. Additionally, although tarps are easier to remove and reinstall, they can rip easily and tend to not provide as much protection. 

There are also certain DIY options for RV skirting that you might pursue. For example, many individuals choose to use straw or hay bales to skirt their mobile homes. However, hay bales can tend to attract mice and other critters. Similarly, some people use foam boards to skirt their RV. 

To attach skirting to the sides of your RV, some of the most common methods are the following:

  1. A channel system. This is a channel (normally made of aluminum) that adheres to the side of your RV. Skirting can be inserted into this channel. 
  2. Buttons and t-snaps. These can be installed on the sides of your mobile home. Skirting attaches directly to these buttons. 
  3. Suction cups. For a more DIY skirting option, some RVers use suction cups to attach skirting to their RV. However, this is often a less secure connection. 

In totality, RV skirting for your mobile home can provide an extremely effective solution to freezing holding tanks. 

Aftermarket Heating Systems

The second option you may choose to keep your RV holding tanks from freezing is to purchase an aftermarket heating system. For example, one of the best options to prevent freezing in your holding tanks is to use a holding tank heater blanket.

A holding tank heater blanket is simply a large electric blanket that can be installed on your black or gray water tanks. Depending on which blanket you choose, you can connect it to a 120-volt outlet or run it off the DC current. Additionally, certain aftermarket heating products can be installed on the outside of your holding tanks or pipes, preventing the tanks or pipes from freezing. 

An aftermarket heating system can provide an easy, all-encompassing solution to freezing holding tanks. Once installed, you will not have to worry about your tanks freezing, and you will be able to pick up and move your RV whenever you desire. 

Furthermore, if you choose to use RV skirting, an aftermarket heating system can still be useful. In fact, RV skirting and aftermarket heating systems can work well together! In other words, if you decide to skirt your RV, you can also choose to add an additional level of freeze-protection by installing an aftermarket heating system. 

Final Thoughts

We hope that this article has been helpful as you determine the best option to keep your holding tanks from freezing! Again, if you are camping in a colder environment, we highly recommend that you employ one of the options above. A frozen holding tank is not only a hassle to thaw, but it may cause damage and ultimately lead to costly repairs. Luckily, skirting and aftermarket heating systems provide a relatively cheap and easy solution to RV holding tank freezing issues. 

Beyond keeping your tanks from freezing, you also must make sure you're using the right products and following the right procedures for best results. The Unique Method is our comprehensive guide to treating RV wastewater systems, helping to prevent all clogs, odors, and misreading sensors. The Unique Method takes the hassle out of RVing!

If you have any further questions or concerns about the topic of freezing holding tanks, please don’t hesitate to contact us. We would love to help you resolve any issues you might encounter!

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