posted on November 16, 2011
Winter RV camping isn't for everyone. If you’re going to be adventuresome and brave the cold, exercise caution, educate yourself and be prepared for any emergency.
The single biggest factor in accidental deaths during the cold, in both homes and RVs, is carbon monoxide (CO) poisoning. Every year people die because they attempted to use something for warmth that is not meant to be used in an enclosed space.
Most RVs are equipped with smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, circuit breakers and fuses but they are not fail proof and can put your life in jeopardy. Are you willing to bet your life on those safety devices? Make sure the batteries are good.
Check Appliances and Systems
Inspect your water heater, refrigerator and furnace vents to make sure they are operating properly and not obstructed. Keep in mind that a sudden snow storm can block the vents and that could raise the CO level inside quickly. Follow any manufacturer recommendations concerning ventilation of your appliances and electrical circuit loads. Make sure that your appliances are maintained according to the recommended schedule. And, most importantly, make sure you have filled the propane and fuel tanks for those gas powered appliances you will be depending on for heat and cooking.
Portable electric generators can fill a RV with CO under the right conditions. You must also make sure that you do not place a generator close to a neighboring vehicles slide outs. It’s been reported that deaths have occurred when a generator was placed too close and the exhaust from the generator entered the RV.
Do not run your vehicles engine for heat. If the exhaust system is blocked by dirt or snow it can cause CO to back up into the space.
NEVER use a charcoal grill inside to keep warm! You would think that this is basic common sense but every year you hear stories of people who have attempted to use a charcoal grill to heat a home or vehicle, including recreational vehicles.
Propane Appliances and Ventless Heaters
Do not use your propane powered oven or cook top to warm the space. This is extremely dangerous because the oxygen is being used for combustion and CO is being emitted at the same time. Just a couple of hours of heating with an oven can create a toxic level of CO in a small area like a RV.
A type of ventless propane heater is available and according to the manufacturers are safe to use in enclosed areas such as a RV. If you are considering buying one of these types of heaters, make sure that it is rated for a RV, not just “indoor” use. There’s a big difference!
Any propane operated appliance will emit CO and other toxic chemicals and use the available oxygen. Adequate ventilation must be provided and even then, low levels of CO will occur. The best practice would be to use them sparingly.
Tell Someone Where You're Going
The final steps in making your winter RV adventure safer us to make sure someone knows where you are going. You can’t rely on cell phones for contact in an emergency because a power outage can happen from a bad storm and kill service over a wide area. Carry a shovel and tire chains at the very least and if you cannot get out NEVER leave your vehicle.
These are just a few safety precautions you should take when traveling in a RV in the winter. Learning some basic winter survival techniques would be good idea too.