Saturday, November 10, 2012

Winterizing (a long overdue post about a process that took way too long!)

(I’m writing this post on May 27 – I should have written it back in November so I’m going to post date it!)


One of the many tasks of RV ownership is winterizing when the weather turns cold.  In my RV in particular all the water pipes are exposed under the coach and highly susceptible to freezing. 

Since this was my first time going through the winterizing process, I wanted my dad to help me so I headed down there over Columbus Day weekend in mid-October.  This felt a little early to winterize as some years we don’t get our first freeze until well into December, but I was ultimately glad I started this simple process sooner rather than later.

There are several ways to winterize your RV and I’d decided that the best way for me was to pump RV anti-freeze (not toxic like automotive anit-freeze) into all the lines, traps and tanks and by-pass & drain the hot water heater.   This way would enable me to re-winterize on my own, should I decide to undo the winterizing to camp (if it got warm) and Dad had an extra 2 gallons of RV anti-freeze he wasn’t going to need (he drives his RV to southern FL to winterize it).

I’d use the water pump on in the RV to get the anti-freeze into the lines but I needed a special joint to attach a hose to the input on the water pump, luckily Dad had a extra that he gave me.  Our 1st step though was to get a section of plastic tubing that we could put the joint on.  A quick trip to Lowe’s, with the joint to test it, and $2.00 later we were ready to go. 

We got back home and the 1st step was to by-pass and drain the hot water heater.  I unscrewed the panel, turned the valves and we were ready to go out and unscrew the anode rod to drain it.  When we got out there we discovered that in order to unscrew the anode rod we needed a 1 3/4 inch socket.  Dad had every other socket imaginable, but not that one.  He thought maybe he had it in the socket set at his RV, so we got in the car and drove the 3 miles over there and looked, but nope, he didn’t have it.  We even checked Home Depot, but they didn’t have it.

So, we decided that we’d just pump colored water through the system to practice and then I’d do it for real once I was able to drain the hot water heater.  We made some colored water and pumped it though the system, it was very easy and straight forward.  It’s definitely helpful that I can open all the faucets without leaving the bathroom!  I had to hold the hose in the bottle of water to keep it from floating to the top.

The next weekend I went to Lowe’s to try and find the socket that I needed to remove the anode rod.  I walked in and quickly found the socket that I needed – and it was available all by itself, not part of a set of other sockets that I probably don’t need!  Then I of course need a drive and and a drive extender.  I ended up buying more tool than I needed, but the good news is that now I have a weapon should I need one.   After Lowe’s I stopped by the RV storage lot to try and get the anode rod out.  After spending a long time trying to figure out the ratchet feature of the drive and making sure I was turning it in the right direction, I realized that I the rod was screwed in too tight for me loosen on my own.  I was going to have to find someone to help me.

The next weekend, it ended up that my parents needed to bring  me something and we decided to meet at Wegman’s in Fredericksburg.   I could drive Roxy and then Dad could loosen the rod!  Perfect!  When my parents arrived I handed Dad my ginormous drive and socket and he proceed to unscrew the anode rod – it was quite easy for him and within seconds the rod was loosened to the point that water came shooting out like geyser, covering him with water and bits of calcium deposit!  Luckily it wasn’t hot!  Next time I need to remember to run some water inside 1st to release some of the pressure!  We replaced the anode rod but I tightened it down so I could remove it again when I was ready. 

By the next weekend it was really getting to be time to get serious about winterizing, October was almost over and November would certainly bring colder temps.  I’d hoped to get in some more camping, but that didn’t happen.  I was planning to finish off the winterizing job when they started predicting that Hurricane Sandy would hit my area.  Everyday the weather prediction got more and more dire.  I’d been through Hurricane Isabel and I wasn’t too worried – usually the weather forecasts around here are overdone and they send everyone into a panic over what usually turns out to be nothing.  Still, I was in a bit of a quandary over what to do – I knew that if I winterized we’d probably lose power and water and I’d be forced to live in my RV and I wouldn’t have the resources I needed, but if I didn’t winterize, we’d get a basic rain storm.  The complicating factor was that it was supposed to get really cold right after the storm – if I left it un-winterized I wouldn’t have much time to winterize it later. 

I’d decided that I would just winterize and hope for the best.  I drained the fresh tank, drained the hot water heater, ran the water out of the lines and started to pump anti-freeze into the lines.  It was here that I discovered that the water pump needs be primed after it has run dry and somehow the RV anti-freeze wasn’t doing the trick.  (to be honest I didn’t know that this was the issue at the time – I just knew that the pump wasn’t pumping the anti-freeze but it had been pumping the water.  I had a different theory at the time, but it was wrong!) I decided I needed water in the tanks to make the pump work so I drove the RV home and put a few gallons of water in.  The pump then worked just fine and I was able to put antifreeze in all the lines.  While I was home however, I decided that I’d really kick myself if Hurricane Sandy hit and I *could* have had 30 gallons of fresh water, but didn’t have it, so I turned the hose on and filled her up. 

So, I once again had attempted to winterize the RV and returned it to the storage lot un-winterized.  This was getting comical. 

Hurricane Sandy scored us 2 days off from school and a lot of wind and rain but no serious damage or disruptions.  We were lucky.  A few hundred miles north and it was a different story.  I was glad I’d taken the over-prepared route!

By now it was absolutely time to get the coach winterized. I ended up having to go over after school one day to drain the fresh tank and make sure all the lines and traps and tanks had anti-freeze in them.  It only took  few minutes and it was finally done!

Just two days after I finally got the RV winterized we had our first freeze of the season!  Perfect timing. 

(Since I’m writing this in May and have now un-winterized, I can say that I did it perfectly – it was a cold winter, whole weeks of below freezing temps, but nothing burst!)

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