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If you're going to be camping in your RV in cold weather, you've really got three options when it comes to filling and emptying your tanks:
- Fill and dump your tanks every few days, disconnecting the hoses between each use and relying on your water pump / holding tank capacity;
- Leave your hoses connected as normal and risk dealing with a frozen poopsicle in the middle of a snowstorm;
- Find a way to insulate and / or heat your hoses so they don't freeze.
As we were preparing for RV camping in Vermont this winter, options 1 and 2 didn't seem very appealing, which led me to option 3 - I needed a way to protect our hoses.
Heated Hoses: DIY vs Buy
While there are heated hoses available on Amazon, reviews of these were really split - some people were saying the hoses worked for them, while others were saying they had broken easily. I wasn't comfortable taking that risk.
The alternative seemed to be to DIY my own. I love making things, so part of me wanted to go down that route, but I opted not to for two big reasons:
- Safety - we're dealing with electricity, water and heat so there's a real danger of fire if you get it wrong, and I didn't feel confident in designing and building something safely.
- Effectiveness - the flip side of the above is what happens if the hose I made didn't get hot enough and it froze anyway?! Not a situation I wanted to find myself in this winter.
Honestly, I was torn - buy a heated hose with mixed reviews, or DIY my own, which I'd have to do for the waste hose anyway. Neither seemed like a good choice.
That's when I came across NoFreezeWaterHose. Based in Columbus, OH, their hoses seemed like a cut above the rest. I found a few online reviews which all seemed positive, but nothing super in depth. Then, speaking with some RVer friends a few days later, they mentioned that a friend had recommended NoFreezeWaterHose to them too.
NoFreezeWaterHose make not just a heated fresh water hose, but also a heated waste hose. While not cheap, they looked really durable and well thought-out. I phoned the company and asked them some questions - they were super helpful and really knew their stuff!
I was sold. The next day, after confirming the hose lengths we needed, we placed our order.
At the time of placing the order for our hoses we had no affiliation with NoFreezeWaterHose, and we paid full retail price for our order. Since then they have invited us to their affiliate program and given us a special discount code for our readers - use code ADVENTUROUSWAY for an extra 5% off your order.
We've not been asked to write this article, nor are we being compensated for it by NoFreezeWaterHose. All opinions expressed here are our own and we're writing it so you can make an informed decision about whether a NoFreezeWaterHose may be right for you.
In addition to our blog post, check out our YouTube video of our installation:
The first thing you should know about the NoFreezeWaterHose is that they mean business. Each hose is hand assembled from a high-quality, durable hose, wrapped with heat trace, insulation and a protective mesh outer layer, then the ends sealed with heat shrink.
The hoses came in a box that was almost 2ft in each dimension - it only just fit in the truck bed under my tonneau cover. We ordered it a few weeks prior to to arriving in Vermont as each one is built-to-order and as they point out on their website, they get a little busy this time of year!
Inside the box were our two hoses (fresh and waste) and some fittings.
Fresh Water Hose
The fresh water hose is pretty straightforward. It comes with standard threaded fittings at each end and while both ends are male, they supply a female-female brass adapter so you can choose which end to put it. Since the power plug is hardwired to one end of the hose, this lets you choose whether you want the plug at the RV end or spigot end.
When we ordered the hose, we also requested the optional pigtails at both ends. The pigtails are 12" lengths of the heat trace that stick out past the end of the hose so you can wrap it around the connections and help stop those freezing too.
Installing the fresh water hose
Installing the fresh water hose was incredibly straightforward - it's exactly like a normal fresh water hose! We did do a couple of things differently though.
First, we used PTFE tape on every connection. We wouldn't ordinarily bother with this, but since we're going to be in this RV park for several months, I figured it was worth the extra effort to ensure we didn't get a leak.
Second, while we'd ordinarily attach our inline water filter at the RV end, I was reluctant to do this in case it froze - even if I used the heat trace on it. At first I was going to skip it altogether, but I didn't like the idea of not using a filter all winter.
Instead, I bought a 4ft length of hose and used it to attach the filter at the spigot end. I did this because the spigot is well protected in an insulated, buried container where I was confident it wouldn't freeze.
Last, after wrapping the heat trace around the brass elbow fitting we use to reduce the strain on our city water inlet, we wrapped foil tape around it to hold it in place, then added some pink insulation and yet more tape!
I'll talk more about how we powered the hoses in a little bit....
The waste hose was slightly more complex, but mainly because we made a mistake!
Unlike the typical 4-pin bayonet fitting that's used almost universally for RV waste connections, the NoFreezeWaterHose waste hose instead uses a Camlock system. This type of connection is common in many other industries, but the only other example I'm aware of in the RV industry is the Lippert Waste Master System.
This means that the waste hose isn't compatible with our existing waste connection, so we'd either need to cut it off and glue on a new one, or use an adapter. Originally we planned to cut it off and glue on a new one, but we changed our mind and opted to use the adapter instead - we can always switch later on, but this way we can still use our old hose next spring.
That takes care of the RV-end, but what about the dump station end. I looked at what was in the box and couldn't work it out. I couldn't see how to connect the hose to the RV park waste pipe!
After some emails and phone calls with NoFreezeWaterHose, we figured it out - I needed to order another part. To save you making the same mistake I did, here's what you'll need to order to install the waste hose:
- NoFreezeWaterHose Waste Hose (choose your length)
- Waste Conversion Kit Option 1 (adapter) OR Waste Conversion Kit Option 2 (permanent)
- Dump Adapter
- Camco RhinoFLEX 39736 Bayonet Elbow
- Oatey All Purpose Cement (required for permanent waste conversion kit installation)
We called NoFreezeWaterHose to get the extra dump adapter that we needed, then ordered the Camco part online.
A few days later when the new parts arrived, we got everything installed. With all the parts in hand, the installation was really straightforward - just connecting together each part by hand. Some of the Camlock fittings were quite tight, but they went together with a little persuasion. It only took a few minutes.
We didn't do the permanent install so I can't speak to that from experience, but the general idea is to cut off the bayonets from your existing waste connection, sand it down until it's smooth, then use the All Purpose Cement to secure the new Camlock fitting in place.
One thing to bear in mind is that unlike the RhinoFLEX hoses, the NoFreezeWaterhose waste hose isn't stretchy at all. For example, if you order the 10ft hose (like we did), then it's 10ft long - it doesn't extend out to 10ft. Since our RV was only about 4-5ft from the RV park's waste pipe, we had to loop the waste hose around, supporting it on blocks and a little foam board shelf to ensure it had a gradual slope.
As with the fresh hose, I wrapped the heat trace pigtails around the connectors at each end and then wrapped all the connections with more foil tape to keep everything tight and secure.
We have a separate blog post all about how (and why) we skirted our RV, but we made little flaps to give us access to the dumping valves during the winter.
Powering the Hoses
The fresh hose and sewer hose are reversible - i.e. the connections are the same at both ends - so you can decide which end you want the hardwired power plug to be.
We chose to install both hoses with the plugs at the RV end, so we could put the connectors under the RV. To power them, we used a 50A to 30A + 20A splitter so that they were powered directly from the RV park pedestal (and hence not eating into the 30A we have in the RV), then used an inline GFCI power block from Home Depot to plug each hose into - here's a similar one on Amazon.
They do say not to use an extension cord, but we did - sorry! To ensure there was no voltage sag and no risk of too much current being pulled, we used a heavy duty 12ga 25ft extension cord.
But, we wanted to go a step further, so we plugged each hose into a Sonoff S31 smart plug with power monitoring, hooked into our home automation system. This means we can track the power consumption of those hoses throughout the winter!
Why is that so important? Well, most heated hoses work one of two ways.
Some heated hoses, like the one our neighbor has, are always on when they're plugged in. That means that during warmer weather (like we've had recently), the heated hoses are using lots of electricity unnecessarily. Some people use a device like a Thermo-Cube which can turn an outlet on or off depending on the temperature.
A common alternative is to use a thermostatically controlled hose. This has a temperature sensor somewhere in the hose that will turn on or off depending on the temperature.
The problem with these approaches is that if the thermostat isn't in the coldest spot, then it may not turn on in time before the hose freezes.
NoFreezeWaterHose take a different approach - they use self-regulating heat trace, which, without getting too technical, pulls more power (and hence generates more heat) as it gets colder. But it does this along the entire length of the hose, not just in one spot.
In practice, that means that the hose will use more electricity when it's colder outside, and less electricity when it's warmer outside. I wanted to see that in action!
The chart above shows the data we collected a few days ago - on the left axis is the outside temperature (blue line) while the right axis shows the power consumption of the fresh hose (green line) and waste hose (yellow line).
From this, we can see that the fresh hose was using roughly 80-100W and the waste hose was using roughly 50-65W - each one using a little less power when the outside temperature rose, and more power when it fell again.
The smaller spikes in the green line are particularly interesting - each of these correlates to when we're using water in the RV (e.g.a shower) and hence cold water is flowing through the hose so it draws more power.
For clarity, we have the 25ft fresh hose and 10ft sewer hose, so this equates to ~3-4W per foot for the fresh hose, and ~5-6W for the waste hose (the waste hose has a larger diameter so there is more heat trace per foot).
We'll be collecting data throughout the winter to see how these hoses performed, so stay tuned!
We've noticed that far too many products designed for RVs are cheap, low quality, and not built to last. That certainly doesn't seem to be the case with NoFreezeWaterHose.
So far, I've been really impressed with these hoses. They are really well built and sturdy, and once I figured out which parts I needed, the installation was very straightforward.
NoFreezeWaterHose are a small business, based here in the US and their customer support has been fantastic in answering my questions and helping me get set up.
NoFreezeWaterHose say their hoses are proven down to -40°F in Alaska, and we're spending this winter in USDA Hardiness Zone 4b where temperatures could fall as low as -20°F, so we're definitely going to be putting these hoses through their paces. Thanks to the monitoring we have set up, we'll be able to see exactly how these hoses perform.
If you're looking for a cheap heated hose, then you might want to check out Camco's heated hose and hope you're one of the lucky ones. Alternatively, if you're confident, then making your own DIY hose is definitely an option.
But if, like us, you want high quality hoses that just work, then I'm happy to recommend NoFreezeWaterHose. And remember, use the code ADVENTUROUSWAY for 5% off your order!