RVs have come a long way since the first concept models were introduced about a hundred years ago. Modern RVs come equipped with all sorts of amenities that make them as comfortable as home. They come with great safety features that reduce the risk of accidents. And of course, they have become more reliable as parts and technology have improved. But there is still one major area of concern with almost every RV: the plumbing.
RV plumbing systems are not as robust as their stick-and-brick counterparts. They can’t be. RV plumbing systems need to be somewhat flexible. They also need to be lighter. For designers, it is a matter of coming up with a fairly strong system that still works well in a mobile environment.
If you are new to the RV scene, take it from experienced RV owners and maintain your plumbing. Do everything you can to avoid the two major plumbing problems described below.
1. Black Water Tank Overflow
Motorhomes, travel trailers, and fifth wheels generally have two water disposal tanks. The first is for gray water. This is water that flows out of the bathroom and kitchen sinks, as well as the shower. The second is for black water – the water and waste that flows from your toilet.
You absolutely want to avoid allowing that black water tank to overflow. If it does, you are going to have a huge mess to clean up. And cleaning up will not be easy. You might have to completely disassemble the black water system to do the job right.
Some of the more modern RVs have a built-in overflow tank, just in case. If yours does, don’t rely on it as the only means of preventing overflow. Still make the effort to check your tank levels regularly. Make the effort to empty the tanks whenever you have the opportunity.
Avoiding Tank Overflow
The simplest and easiest way to avoid black water tank overflow is to plan ahead. Know where you are going before you leave home. Plan to make appropriate stops along the way at facilities with emptying stations. And when staying at campgrounds with sewer hookups, do not leave until your tanks are empty.
Watching for symptoms of a full tank also helps. For example, your toilet making a gurgling sound every time you flush suggests that the vent is covered. If that is the case, overflow is imminent. Empty the tank right away.
2. Frozen Pipes and Tanks
The other major plumbing problem you want to avoid is frozen pipes and tanks. Remember that the underside of your RV doesn’t offer a lot of protection against cold temperatures. Even if your plumbing system is not directly exposed to the elements, it is highly unlikely that your RV has a built-in heating system unless you specifically requested one from the factory.
You can prevent freezing by using RV skirting during cold weather. According to Connecticut-based AirSkirts, a company that manufactures an inflatable skirting product, skirts help keep plumbing warm by blocking the wind. This prevents air circulation and allows any heat radiating from the floor to keep the pipes and tanks from freezing.
What happens if they do freeze? They can burst. Just like burst plumbing at home, burst RV plumbing is a hassle. It is time-consuming and expensive to fix, and a typical RV insurance policy will not cover it.
Remember that RV plumbing requires a bit more care than the plumbing in your home. Take care of it and you shouldn’t have any problems. Ignore it and you could end up with issues like the two described in this post.