Frozen Filter?

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Freezing weather creates special problems for RV water systems. Some campers have enclosed bay areas for water hookups. Some of those bay areas are even heated. I have neither heat nor enclosed bay. All of my water hookups hang right off the side of my camper. Exposed to all the elements. It’s a winter wonderland nightmare.

Last year we stayed in the southern part of the country, put pipe insulation on the filter, and prayed for the best. It worked well for what it was, but it absolutely would not work this year for a few reasons.

First, we’re wintering in Washington this year. The state, not the capitol. It is going to be significantly colder for longer periods of time than anything we have experienced so far.

Second, we replaced our cylindrical water filter for a stand filter that has a much higher capacity. Unfortunately it’s a wee bit too big for mere pipe insulation to cover. It’s a problem that I wrestled with for weeks, but I think I have a solution.

And that’s why it took me so long to write this post. I wanted to make sure it worked. We’ve been below or at freezing at night for a few weeks now, and I’m happy to report that the water is still flowing.

So what did we do? We built it a nest. Seriously, who doesn’t like to be tucked in and snuggy warm on winter nights?

Here’s what you need:

  • A five gallon bucket and lid (hardware stores normally have these inexpensively)
  • A roll of sheet insulation (similar to this but closer to 16 inches than 3 inches)
  • Pipe insulation
  • Heat tape (from your heated hose)
  • Gorilla tape (or any tough, waterproof tape)
  • A drill and a jigsaw (or any tool that you happen to own capable of making large, circular holes)
  • A permanent marker

Gathering the materials is seriously the hardest part.

The first thing you want to do is place your filter inside the bucket and Mark where the hose needs to come through the side to make the connection to your filter. Mark holes large enough for the hose AND the pipe insulation to come through.

Now remove the filter and cut your holes. I used a drill to make a pilot hole, and then used my jigsaw to cut out the remainder of the circle. Dry fit some pipe insulation and your filter to make sure your circles are the appropriate size. Mine were a bit tight so I grabbed the saw and widened them.

When you are happy with your holes, take everything back out and line your bucket with the rolled insulation. You want nice, fuzzy, warm walls. Now drop your filter in the bucket so it stays nice and cozy while you finish up. I gorilla taped a ceiling over the wall insulation and around the filter stand. I wanted zero chances of the insulation getting wet if the filter connections started leaking. Then I put a small cut off pipe insulation over the heat tape going through the bucket. I wasn’t sure how it would react with the filter itself or the gorilla tape.

I hope you left some heat tape when you made your heated hose because this is where the extra goes. Leading with the extra heat tape, pull your hose through the hole and attach it to your filter. On the opposite side of your filter, pull your lead hose through and attach it to the filter as well. Here’s the fun part. Feed the heat tape through the hole and begin attaching it to your lead hose. You’ll want to finish insulating the lead hose just like you did your primary hose. If you measured everything correctly, you should have enough heat tape to cover the lead hose and the pressure regulator. That’s where ours stops. Let the thermostat and plug hang off un-insulated.

After giving it a wet test to check for leaks, the lid went on. I may go back and add insulation on the bottom of the lid as well but so far it hasn’t been necessary. I avoided insulation on the lid for two reasons. One, I couldn’t figure out how to make it watertight while maintaining a nice seal, and two, my pressure release valve sticks up on the top of my filter. I didn’t want anything touching that button because it shoots water straight up.

Once you have everything the way you want it, go back and insulate your holes. I just used extra bits of pipe insulation and gorilla tape.

And that’s it! We move the filter and hose as a single unit, storing it in the bed of the truck while we travel. It has held up to freezing temperatures and frequent moves. I hope this gives you some ideas how to keep your own filter from freezing. Now get out and enjoy some cold weather!

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