RV water systems are fantastic when they are functioning properly. In most cases, it’s a little too easy to forget about maintenance while the water is flowing normally but a broken pipe or other issue can really upend the convenience of having water in your home. Basic maintenance and winterization procedures however will ensure the system lasts for a very long time without requiring expensive overhauls and repairs. Maintenance is also a small time investment to ensure you have clean water that will flow through undamaged pipes. Leaking pipes, ice damage, bacteria buildup and failing pumps and water heaters are all things worth avoiding through basic maintenance and winterization procedures.
Keep it Clean through Sanitization
Sanitizing your system is important as it removes bacteria and microorganisms from your tank and water lines. Sanitizing is not something required on a very regular basis but doing a cleaning every month or so is a good idea. Sanitizing after a tank has been sitting for a long time is also prudent. Water filtration systems can also reduce the need to sanitize your tank because they clean the water on demand.
First, drain all old water from the tank to remove the old and potentially dirty water. Next, fill the tank to a half way point and add one cup of bleach for every 60 gallons. This means a 30 gallon half fill will take a half-cup of bleach.
Next, run the water system wide open. Open all faucets and let the bleached water work through the system. This sanitizes and cleans all of the lines, essentially sterilizing everything. Run until the tank is empty then refill with normal, potable water. Run the system a second time to finish sanitizing while removing the bleach. Your tank is now sanitized and ready for a refill and normal use.
Full System Cleaning
On rare occasions, actually removing your water and wastewater tanks for a full scrub is a good idea. Most RV owners forego this process but a deep cleaning means your gauges function properly and the system will experience fewer issues and function like new. Fulltime RV living places more pressure on your system and an annual cleaning can help extend the life of your tanks, lines and pumps. Washing the black tank requires only soap and water to scrub and the freshwater tank can wash out with soap and water or with a water and bleach solution followed by a thorough drying cycle.
Cold Weather Preparations and Winterization
The biggest cause of water system failures is improper draining and failure to winterize everything properly. Running the system in sub-freezing temperatures requires a specialized insulation around the pipes to prevent freezing in the lines. Otherwise, leaving water in the system and allowing it to sit during the winter is very likely to cause severe damage. The water will freeze and pipes will crack and burst. Pumps with water will also experience failure and require a new pump purchase which is expensive. The entire tank is capable of cracking as well if left full through a deep freeze. Purchasing a new tank or repairing the existing tank is also expensive and unnecessary.
Winterizing a water system begins by draining all water from the system. Simply removing water from the tanks, lines and pump is often adequate and will prevent any major damage when the cold weather hits. Make sure your hot water heater is turned off before draining. This water is under pressure and should not be drained until the heater is cooled and turned off.
Using pressurized air can help to blow out the water lines. This is not necessary for many systems but does not hurt either. If you have access to an air system, go ahead and blow everything out. This also means water is not left in the system to fester and sanitizing after the winter is much easier.
Use Your Water Regularly
Water systems left idle for long periods of time require deeper cleaning procedures and sanitizing to run. Using the system with some regularity will keep everything fresh and moving. Allowing it to sit creates a stagnant system with more gunk that can build in your lines and pump. Make a point to run water through the system every week or two to keep it turning over. If the RV will sit for a long period of time, go ahead and drain the tank and leave it empty until your next trip.