This writeup deals with the winterization process of the fresh water plumbing system only. There are other systems that need attention when preparing for long term storage. Since we park ours no more than a month at a time during the winter, and a lot less in warmer months, I don’t need to do the long term storage prep, but just protect against freezing weather.
And yes, another one of those topics….. Ask 10 RV owners, get 12 opinions. And they will defend their point of view vehemently. So, since you asked….
People are in two basic camps with some degree of hybrids to boot. Pink or Air. Pink being the RV (non poisonous and allegedly tasteless) anti freeze which is introduced into the water system to displace the water in there, air being compressed air used to blow water out of the system. In case you don’t know why…..water expands when it freezes and if “constrained” by plumbing will exert enough force to damage these systems. This is bad.
I’m a pink guy, 100%. If I run pink through the entire system I KNOW that there is no water left in there. I can SEE it coming out of faucets and going into holding tanks. With air you are trusting the assumption that since there is no more coming out there is none left, and that none will settle back down in low spots. Also, you cannot get the water out of the drainage system with air. Traps freeze, water sits against dump valves and freezes. The latter probably won’t hurt anything but I don’t like “probably”. Discovering that you have to replace plastic parts when it gets warmer is a more than royal PITA. So even the “air” people have to add some pink to the drainage system. There are people that blow out the water with air and THEN do the pink, says it decreases the chance of dilution. I think it’s overkill, but it’s not wrong.
Enough about the “Why”, here’s the “How”. Efficiency is everything. We make several trips a year in and out of the cold weather and I sometimes have to do it in a rest area or campground…..
First, I drain as much as I can. Water tank drain open, use the levelers to tilt the bus to the passenger side. (That’s the side our drain is on). Then open the drains at the manifolds and the faucets upstairs. Draining the tank takes a while, depending on how full it is. I plan accordingly. When it’s all done I close all faucets, and branches at the manifolds.
Secondly, I made a modification. In the “out” line from the pump I put a 3-way valve which either goes to the house as normal, or back into the tank through one of the vents that I “borrowed” for this purpose. When you move the valve the pump takes water from the tank, and sends it back into the tank…… No point in that of course. But now you can stick the winterization hose (the one with the red extension on it) into a bucket of pink, flip the intake three way valve and viola, pump some pink out of the bucket into the tank.
And here you will also find strong opinions “out there”. Some will say it is not recommended to put pink in the tank, not sure why but I’m not going to argue. Like them, “I’ve been doing it like this for years and never had a problem”. And I can tell you there’s no other way to winterize a boat. Let’s just say I want pink EVERYWHERE and that starts in the tank. You do what you want to do. 😉
So, I use about 5 gallons of “pink”….. Wallymart, again, hast the best prices, in fall on sale around $2.55/g. Undiluted it’s good to -50ºF…… Thats cold. I don’t expect to see temps less than -25ºF so I dilute 50/50. So 10 gallons of mix.
First thing I do is position the valves so I get about a half gallon in the tank. I want to see pink sitting up against in intake and the drain valve. Remember I tilted the bus to the right, quite a bit, so it doesn’t take much. Then I level the bus and reposition the valves to feed the system. From the buckets with pink. Then I start flushing. First to the cold overboard drain at the manifold. Now the tank, pump, everything in between and the supply to the cold manifold as well as the manifold itself are protected. Now I open all manifold valves except the hot water heater and washer supply, and upstairs, one by one, open all cold faucets until they run steady pink. (Don’t forget the outside shower.) This includes the toilets. Don’t be stingy. Now I know all cold lines (except water heating and washer) are protected, as well as all sink/shower drains, and toilets. (Can’t confirm, but wouldn’t be surprised if there’s water sitting in the macerator toilet pump. This procedure protects that part too.) I also know there’s pink in the black and grey water tanks protecting the dump valves.
Now it gets a little tricky for I have the in-line electric water heater as described on the hot water heater modification page, and at this point I bypass it. Of course if you didn’t do that mod you ignore this step. I now open the cold supply to the Atwood and purge the hot manifold with the drain, and then the hot side faucets one at a time but not the washer, yet.
Then I run the washer, at least a partial hot cycle and a rinse and drain. The supply hoses are visible in the cabinet under the sink so when I see pink in BOTH of them (not just in the washer itself) I know hot AND cold have been purged.
Our ice maker is not in use. The first time I winterized I ran it until pink came out, then I shut it off under the sink. There is pink trapped in the line.
Then I blow the water out of the electric hot water heater through the “in” hose. The book says you’re supposed to be able to siphon it off, but if I put air on it afterwards there’s still air, so I just blow it out. After that is all done I put the electric water heater back in-line and run the hot supply (I control it with the cold water shutoff to the Atwood water heater) for about a minute to get some pink inside it. Once again unless you did the mod like I did and added the electric water heater this does not apply to you.
So, this is my winterization procedure. Ignoring the electric hot water heater about 30 minutes, after the tank has drained.