How To Keep RV Water Hose From Freezing (Best Methods)

RVing in subfreezing temperatures presents many unique challenges.

One of those challenges is that the water lines can freeze, starting from the hose to the tank. If left unchecked, the whole system can freeze over.

To make sure this doesn’t happen to you, we highlight the most effective ways to winterize your RV water system. And, in the unfortunate event your hose does freeze over, we’ll show you how to quickly unfreeze it.

Let’s jump right in!

How Cold Does It Have To Be For RV Pipes To Freeze?

Water begins to freeze at 32oF. When the temperature reaches that point, RV water lines will slowly start to freeze. Constant cold temperatures will hasten the freezing, but it can take a while before the system is fully frozen if the temperature fluctuates.

As long as you keep the lines moving by using your water regularly and you’ve properly insulated your camper for winter use, the risk of your system freezing is reasonably low. As the weather grows colder, though, the risk heightens. By preparing for the worst, you can avoid this problem altogether.

DIY Heated RV Water Hose

The first method is to simply heat and insulate your existing water hose. The steps to properly do that are as follows.

1. Use Heat Cable

Measure the length of your hose and get enough heat cable to cover its entirety. These cables provide insulation and automatically heat up during colder temperatures.

Pipe Heating Cable With Thermostat

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Make this process easier by disconnecting the hose from the water system first. Use electrical tape to keep the sensor securely pressed to the hose. Then, place the cable on the hose in a parallel position and wrap it with tape (around every foot) to secure it in place.

Never wrap it around because too much contact might overheat the hose and potentially cause damage. When in doubt, always check the manufacturer’s instructions for maximum safety and effectiveness.

2. Insulate Both The Hose And Heat Cable

After securing the heating cable on the hose, you can cover the whole thing with either pipe wrap insulation or insulation tubing. This extra layer locks in heat and keeps the cold out.

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Pipe wrap insulation is preferred as it will easily bend with your water hose. And it’s as easy as wrapping the hose and cable in insulation with the heat cable thermostat and plug hanging out at the end.

Tip: Be sure you don’t wrap the thermostat on the heating cable with insulation as that might prevent the thermostat from switching it on when the temperature drops below a set point.

If you opt for insulation tubing, pull apart one side of the tube and insert the hose. If you bought self-adhesive tubing, you will have a much easier time securing it to the hose. If not, reconnect the areas where you made the opening and tape them together every one to two feet using duct tape.

Self-Sealing Tube Pipe Insulation

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Having trouble covering the part of the hose that attaches to your RV? You can find special foam insulation pieces with 90o angles that fit perfectly.

3. Cover The Foam With Insulation Tape 

Insulation tape has a metalized finish and a unique adhesive built for cold temperatures.

Starting on one end of your hose, wrap the tape around and overlap it by half an inch with every coil until you cover the opposite end.

4. Connect The Heat Cable To A Power Supply

The heating cable you installed runs on electricity. After fully insulating the hose, you can plug the cable to one of your RV’s outlets or any power supply nearby. Once active, the heating turns on when the sensor detects a low enough temperature.

5. Reconnect The Hose To Your RV’s Water Supply And Pump System

Connect the hose to your RV’s water tank port. Then, attach the opposite end of the port to a nearby pump system. Make sure that all connections are secure before opening the valves.

To be safe, you can fill your tank with water, then disconnect the hose to prevent it from freezing. It might take a bit more work, but at least you won’t have to worry about manually thawing out a frozen hose with a heat gun.

Camco Heated Water Hose

Not into DIY? No worries! As an alternative, you can get yourself an RV hose with built-in heating and insulation instead.

Like a heating cable, a specialized RV hose comes with a sensor that detects colder temperatures and automatically turns on the heating. If you’re going to use the hose for drinking water, be sure to get a model that comes with a drinking water-safe certification and meets NSF-61 standards.

While there are a few different brands of heated water hoses on the market, we recommend the Camco Heated Drinking Water Hose.

Camco TASTEPure Heated Drinking Water Hose with Energy Saving Thermostat

Camco TASTEPure Heated Drinking Water Hose with Energy Saving Thermostat

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This particular hose is an NSF-61 certified drinking water hose that is BPA and lead-free! It’s available in 12ft, 25ft, and 50ft lengths. And comes in either a -20 degree protection or -40 degree protection.

Store RV Water Hose When Not In Use

While the above methods are great if you leave your hose connected to a water supply around the clock, keep in mind you can always simply disconnect your hose when not in use.

In other words, hook your hose up to the city water supply and fill up your fresh water tank so it’s nearly full. Then disconnect the hose and store it inside your camper. This will ensure your hose and connections never freeze over.

The one downside to this method is if you use a lot of water you will have to continually get your hose out, hook it up, fill up your tanks, disconnect the hose, and store it. Still arguably better than dealing with a frozen hose!

How To Unfreeze An RV Water Hose

If you stay in extremely cold weather for too long, a frozen RV water hose might be inevitable. For a quick fix, here is what you need to do:

1. Use A Heat Gun

You will need to detach the hose and bring it inside your RV to let it thaw. Some of its connections, however, might be too frozen to unscrew. Use a heat gun on all of these areas to avoid damaging the hose when you disconnect it.

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If you have a hairdryer handy that should work too.

2. Detach The Hose

Unscrew your hose from every port and make sure that every valve is completely shut. Start loosening the hose by rotating the ends counterclockwise, then pull it away gently. This process requires a little extra care because your hose is more susceptible to damage when frozen, so don’t apply too much force.

If you’re having difficulty disconnecting a part of the hose, thaw it some more with a heat gun.

3. Bring The Hose In Your RV

After unscrewing your hose, bring it inside to thaw. You can speed up the process with your heat gun or by turning up your RV’s heating. Be sure to put it in an area where the melted water won’t make a mess (bathroom, kitchen sink, etc.)

4. Check For Damage

Check your hose for damage before reconnecting it. As water freezes, it expands and creates a constant force inside the hose that can cause stretching, cracks, and splits. If the hose is damage-free, you may attach it back to the water lines.

We don’t advise reconnecting a compromised hose, especially for drinking water. For this reason, we always recommend keeping a spare water hose in your RV.

Camco Premium Drinking Water Hose

Camco Premium Drinking Water Hose

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How Do I Winterize My RV Water System?

While your water hose is the most prone to freezing, keeping your RV pipes from freezing as well as the tanks and other plumbing is not a bad idea. Especially, if you frequently travel in the cold. Oh, and don’t forget to keep your RV sewer hose from freezing (trust us, not a fun one to dethaw and clean).

Use An Insulated Skirt

The exterior valves and waterlines underneath your RV are susceptible to the elements. Not to mention the cold air underneath your camper can flow inside through the flooring.

To remedy this you can install an insulated skirt around your RV. To do this you have several options:

  • Cover the perimeter with insulating foam boards, vinyl siding, or even hay bales (hay bales are not recommended though as they can attract mice and other rodents).
  • Check your vehicle manufacturer to see if they have a skirt made for your model.
  • Install universal RV skirting around your camper.
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Run A Space Heater

Most RVs have their water valves inside exterior compartments. These valves are less prone to heating because the chambers receive residual heat whenever you turn on your RV. They can, however, freeze if the weather becomes too cold.

Installing a heat lamp or space heater in the wet bay can keep the interior warm enough. To save on energy, only turn on the heater when needed.

Important: Do not leave the RV unattended while a space heater is running!

Install A Holding Tank Heater

Holding tank heaters are attachable pads that prevent your tanks from freezing. When the temperatures reach below 32oF, plug in the heater, and attach it to your water holding tanks.

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As a general rule, keep your water tank nearly full as often as possible. For your black and grey tanks, keep the valves closed and only dump them when they are nearly full to reduce the risk of freezing. A nearly empty tank is more prone to freezing and might even plug the hose and valves with ice.

If you’re winterizing your RV for the season to store it, you still need to make sure your hoses, pipes, and other plumbing components don’t freeze. Check out our guide on how to winterize a camper for all the details!

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