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All RVers who either use or store their rigs in climates where temperatures can fall to freezing or below need to winterize their RVs, one way or another. Some prefer to use RV antifreeze, while others prefer to blow out their RV water lines with compressed air. In today’s post, we’ll look at the pros & cons of winterizing by blowing out RV water lines vs antifreeze. Temps are falling as we type ❄️, so let’s not waste any time and get right to it!
Is It Better To Winterize an RV With Air or Antifreeze?
Determining which method is better is not a simple task, as there’s a fair amount of subjectivity involved. In fact, neither method is better or worse than the other in general. Each has its advantages and disadvantages.
Most RVers tend to choose one method or the other based on what works best for them, and then stick with it.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each method of winterizing, and you can let us know in the comments section at the end of this post which method is preferable from your perspective.
What Are the Advantages of Blowing Out RV Water Lines With Air?
There are several advantages to using compressed air to blow out RV water lines. These are the most impactful:
No Antifreeze Needed
Perhaps the most obvious benefit to blowing out RV water lines with compressed air is that there’s not a lot of antifreeze involved. You’ll notice that we didn’t say there’s no antifreeze involved. Your P-trap drains, toilet(s), and some appliances (washing machine, dish washer, etc) require some antifreeze, so there’s very little antifreeze involved, especially compared to using antifreeze to winterize the entire RV plumbing system.
This not only saves you money every year but also is more environmentally friendly.
De-Winterizing is Faster and Easier
When it’s time to de-winterize your RV, if you’ve blown out your water lines instead of using antifreeze, the process is much faster and easier. You literally just hook it up to city water (or refill the fresh tank) and use it like normal!
There’s no need to run the plumbing system dry of the antifreeze, no need to dump lots of antifreeze into the sewer system (or otherwise dispose of it), and no need to complete a thorough flush of the entire system.
This can be particularly handy if you occasionally use your RV during the winter season, but return it to its storage location where it might see freezing temps when not in use.
No Lingering Taste or Odor of Antifreeze
When blowing out RV water lines vs using antifreeze, because there’s no antifreeze in the fresh water lines, there’s no risk of a lingering taste or odor in your water after de-winterizing.
The little bit of antifreeze you use in the p-traps, drains, and toilet doesn’t linger in your pipes all winter and doesn’t affect your fresh water use.
Lower Annual Cost
As noted above, there’s less cost involved in blowing out RV water lines vs using antifreeze because you’re not buying antifreeze every fall, and you also don’t have to dump gallons of antifreeze at a dump station after de-winterizing.
Yes, you do need to purchase a suitable air compressor to handle the job. But, since all RVs and/or their tow/towed vehicles have tires, you need one of those anyway!
What Are the Disadvantages of Blowing Out RV Water Lines With Air?
As with anything, there are also disadvantages to blowing out RV water lines vs using antifreeze. Let’s take a look at some of the downsides.
May Not Eliminate Potential of Freeze Damage If Not Done Thoroughly
If an RV is stored (or used) in freezing or sub-freezing temperatures with any regularity at all, the system needs to be blown out properly and completely. If not, then the potential for pipes and valves to freeze remains a risk.
Low points, valve seals, and other plumbing components may be prone to retaining some amount of water if not completely & thoroughly blown out. This could be disastrous and expensive if pipes should crack or valves should fail. Especially if they’re hidden inside a wall somewhere… you won’t know the crack exists until you’re using the RV and see water dripping (or POURING) out of somewhere in your RV!
Not As Good As Using Antifreeze If Stored In Sub-Freezing Temps For Extended Periods
When a rig is stored in sub-freezing climates for an extended period, winterizing with antifreeze is the better option as it’s more protective to the entire water system. Running the antifreeze through all of the plumbing in the RV ensures that every component is protected.
Still Need to Use Some Antifreeze
As previously noted, when blowing out RV water lines, some antifreeze needs to be used, so you still need to have some on hand every year for this purpose.
Risk of Blowing Contamination Into Plumbing With Certain Compressors
Certain types of air compressors can blow oil or other contaminants into the plumbing system, so if you don’t use the appropriate type of compressor (or install an inline filter) when blowing out your RV’s water lines, you run this risk as well.
What Are the Advantages of Using RV Antifreeze to Winterize?
Let’s take a brief look at the most prominent advantages of using antifreeze to winterize your RV vs blowing out the water lines with an air compressor.
Most Sure-Fire Way to Protect Plumbing From Freezing in Cold Climates
No matter how you slice it, the most sure-fire way to protect your rig’s plumbing system from freezing is to use RV antifreeze. This is especially true if you’ll be storing (or using) your rig in (extended) sub-freezing temperatures for the winter.
This may be a good time to note that some RVers use their campers all winter long for short trips. They use antifreeze to winterize the rig, AND to flush the toilet while they’re winter camping. They bring along their drinking and bathing water, which they heat on the propane stove.
So, antifreeze is not only used for storing an RV in cold winter climates, but also for using it.
RV Plumbing Antifreeze Is Readily Available
Fortunately, RV antifreeze is readily available and not difficult to obtain. Most big box stores carry it as well as auto parts stores and hardware stores.
What Are the Disadvantages of Using RV Antifreeze to Winterize?
By now the disadvantages of using RV antifreeze to winterize may be obvious, but let’s run through them just briefly.
Must Purchase RV Plumbing Antifreeze Annually
Foremost, you have to buy antifreeze every year. This is an additional expense for the RVer. You also need to properly dispose of the antifreeze, so a trip to a dump station (or full hook-up campsite) in the spring could be another expense.
More Work to De-Winterize
It’s more work to de-winterize an RV that’s been winterized with RV antifreeze. In addition to running all of the antifreeze from the lines into the holding tanks and dumping the tanks, it’s important to flush the lines (sometimes more than once) and sanitize them.
While RV antifreeze is non-toxic, nobody wants to drink it, cook with it, or wash with it on purpose. Proper flushing and sanitizing as part of the de-winterizing process takes time and energy.
Taste/Odor May Linger After De-Winterizing
Despite flushing, the taste and odor of RV antifreeze can sometimes linger following the de-winterizing process. Again, this isn’t dangerous, but it can be unpleasant, and it will require additional flushing and sanitizing of the system.
Environmental Issues Associated With Antifreeze
Despite the fact that RV antifreeze is non-toxic to humans, it’s not good for the environment in general, including nearby plant life or animals who are attracted to its sweet taste, not to mention the millions of plastic antifreeze containers heading for the landfill each year.
How Do The RVgeeks Winterize Their RV?
We prefer blowing out our RV water lines vs using antifreeze to winterize our rig, but as we mentioned at the beginning of this post, this preference is based on how we use our rig in the winter. We aren’t people who store our RV for the winter in a cold climate (heck, we’re full-time snowbirds, so our RV is usually treated to a warm & sunny winter).
We live full-time in our RV and we only store it when we travel by air for a brief period. We also don’t tend to winter camp or store our rig outside in freezing temperatures. We have spent time camping in cold temperatures, and we’ve got the receipts to prove it.
But we generally don’t store our motorhome outside in freezing temperatures for an extended period of time. So, it’s important to consider all of this information when you hear us saying that we prefer to winterize by blowing out our RV’s water lines.
With all of that said, we use our Viair 400P-RV to blow out the water lines in our rig.
- 12 VOLT - 150PSI Max Working Pressure, engine must be running during use. Dimensions- 10.87 L x 5.83 W x 7.48 H inches
- 2.3CFM Free Flow @ 0 PSI, Power Cord: 8' Air Hose: 60' 12-Volt
This has worked very well for us and we couldn’t be happier with the 400P-RV as both an air compressor for inflating our RV & towed car tires and as a winterization tool.
Viair even has this winterization kit available to make it easy to winterize your RV using your 400P-RV.
- This kit is to be used with Viair 400P-RV or 450P-RV models only.
- 1/4” Quick Connect Coupler And Stud (M, NPT)
If you’d like to watch the entire process as we blow out our RV water lines using our Viair compressor (and a little RV antifreeze!), we’ll leave this right here for you:
Should I Blow Out My RV Water Lines or Use Antifreeze?
As always, this depends on where you’re using or storing your rig, for how long, and what you’re comfortable with. For optimal security in sub-freezing temperatures, using RV antifreeze is the way to go.
But those of you who neither store nor use your RV in cold climates can choose the method that works best for you, all things considered.
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Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.