Should I Leave My RV Plugged in all Winter?

When winter is fast approaching, you may ask, “Should I leave my RV plugged in all winter?” It’s a valid question asked by new RVers and experienced ones alike.

There are some positives and negatives relating to winter.

While you may be planning to winterize your RV and store it, you may be considering living in it before heading out next year.

Leaving any motorhome, camper or trailer plugged in during other seasons for long periods is not usually recommended. It can negatively affect battery life. However, not heating the internal living space can create problems later with dampness. Therefore, keeping the RV unplugged all winter is not the best idea!

Read Also: Should I Leave My RV Refrigerator On all the Time?

In this article, we’ll explain what the best approach is along with the risks of your being RV plugged in all winter and if it’s not plugged in at all. Subsequently, you can make the best choice for you.

Reasons to Leave Your RV Plugged in all Winter?

Here are some valid reasons to keep the RV powered over the winter season:

Batteries Stay Charged

The deep cycle batteries and the starter battery can be topped off. It prevents batteries from gradually draining down with disuse.

Batteries may be irreparably damaged if allowed to drain below a certain level (usually 50-60% depending on the manufacturer’s recommendation).

It also allows you to drive off or make small, unexpected journeys in the RV with no notice because the batteries are kept topped up.

Some devices have a parasitic load where they use power even when the RV is motionless and unused. Detectors, clocks, and other unnoticed devices plugged into 12-volt power can fall under this category.

It’s possible to activate a battery disconnect switch present in most RVs to stop these devices from draining the battery.

If you live in a part of the country where temperatures drop to near freezing, then charging batteries at this temperature level can be problematic. This is covered more in the next section.

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Refrigerator Stays Powered On

If turning the refrigerator off, then it can require a few hours to become usable again. This applies when turning it off and then going on a trip where you want to do self-catering.

Keeping your refrigerator powered up ensures it’s ready to use at any moment.

It is often used by homeowners as overflow cold storage during the winter too, especially for either Thanksgiving or Christmas time.

Alternatively, keeping the refrigerator or fridge stocked makes it easier to hit the road without having to stop off at the supermarket on the way.

Heating the RV

Some states enjoy warm enough weather that it’s possible to go RV camping during the wintertime. In which case, it makes sense that the RV be ready to go.

Also, it’s advisable to use the best RV antifreeze like the SPLASH 619526 RV/Marine Antifreeze to protect the plumbing lines in your motorhome or trailer. It keeps the water lines warmer to prevent the pipes from freezing and cracking.

Splash 619526 RV/Marine Antifreeze – Pink (6 gallons)

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Leaving the heater turned on everywhere or just near where the water lines certainly help to prevent a pipe from bursting and leaking water inside the RV.

This is assuming you haven’t already drained the water and added RV antifreeze to prevent the water pipes from freezing.

Having the heating turned on low for the mornings may also help reduce or eradicate condensation on the windows and elsewhere too.

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Leaving the AC on for Cooling

It’s possible that if your RV is sat in a hotter climate like one down in Florida, then heat can create potential issues due to added humidity in the air, etc.

In which case, leaving the AC set on a program to run a certain number of hours per day is one option to reduce the worst of it.

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Winter Accommodation

Whether for yourself or family members who’ve come to town, the RV could be used as extra accommodation during winter.

Because of this, the motorhome or camper may be only partly winterized and kept plugged into shore power to keep the main systems operational.

With shore power or RV hookups, the RV has a working refrigerator. The space can be either heated or AC cooled (depending on whether situated in a southerly location or weathering a colder climate). It then provides a comfortable place to sleep.

Should I leave my RV plugged in all winter

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Is It Bad to Leave Your RV Plugged in all Winter?

Should I leave my RV plugged in when not in use, especially throughout winter? It can be bad to leave your RV plugged in all winter. Here are some of the reasons to question whether you need to do so:

Battery Reliability

Batteries perform poorly (or less well) when they are always plugged into a charger. It reduces the electrolyte levels in each battery which badly affects performance.

Usually, batteries need a draw to be present and typically over 50% to prevent cell damage.

Undercharging can cause a sulfation build-up which stops the electrical/chemical interaction required for batteries to function properly. A three-stage converter is usually best to avoid this possibility.

Some of the batteries fitted to RVs – especially older ones – have a wet cell. These are higher maintenance battery types that require a check on fluid levels and may require topping up.

Subsequently, the state of the batteries and their fluid levels needs a monthly review if using them.

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Appliances & Devices Get Extra Usage

The batteries, heaters, plumbing systems, air conditioners, electrical systems, and a whole lot more accumulate more use over winter.

If dealing with colder temperatures, this can put additional demands on systems that must work hard to stay functional through a range of temperature levels.

Subsequently, more parts will wear out and need replacing, and additional checks and maintenance will no doubt be needed, etc.

Also, the refrigerator will definitely require defrosting in the New Year. It will be even more frosted up than usual, especially if it’s an RV refrigerator model that’s already showing its age.

Higher Running Costs

High running costs are almost inevitable when keeping some power on, the AC running (for hotter climates), diesel or propane gas heaters (for colder ones), and topping up the batteries too.

Even if you have solar panels fitted that may add a charge to the batteries, the amount of solar captured during winter is minimal unless you like somewhere like the Sunshine State!

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What’s Our Recommendation?

Our recommendation is different depending on the climate:

Cold Climates – In colder places where you’re not likely to use the RV over the winter, we’d suggest removing the batteries to trickle charge them. This avoids their being damaged over the cold season. Add some RV antifreeze to the plumbing system and fully winterize it too.

Warm Climates – For warmer places, it’s probably best to keep the RV charged up on shore power. Monitor it regularly for any surprise issues.

Splash 619526 RV/Marine Antifreeze – Pink (6 gallons)

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In both cases, don’t ignore your RV or trailer. It will need checking to verify nothing has failed or broken because of the changes in the season.

Also, what should RV batteries be pulled out of the RV? It usually only applies to colder climates, but our answer for this is below.

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Should RV Batteries Be Removed in Winter?

Another option is to remove the batteries from the RV to get them out of the cold.

If your RV doesn’t have a three-stage converter, then it’s highly recommended to take out the batteries to store them in a warmer place. A heated basement or a garage that won’t get cold is ideal.

How Do I Keep My RV battery over Winter?

Don’t leave them without being charged for months at a time. This will either cause them to fail completely, not reliably take a charge thereafter, or to only accept a certain charge level well below their full capacity.

Instead, store the batteries on a wooden platform to get them off the cold ground.

Use a trickle charger or battery maintainer like the CTEK 40-206 MXS 5.0-12 Volt Battery Charger [affiliate link] to keep them topped up. As a side note, don’t use chargers with a float mode to avoid accidental overcharging.

CTEK – 40-206 MXS 5.0 Fully Automatic 4.3 amp Battery Charger and Maintainer 12v

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Read Also: Will RV Antifreeze Thaw Frozen Pipes?

Related Questions

Is it bad to leave your RV plugged in all the time?

It’s not great to leave your RV plugged in continually. Batteries can overcharge and perform poorly in the future.

It’s much better to let 30-40% drain out of them during regular use and then charge them back up compared to always keeping them topped up.

This does partly depend on the type of battery, but all other things being equal, it’s usually best to vary the extent of the charge (as long as it’s above 50% at all times).

The refrigerator will need periodic de-icing otherwise its motor will get overworked and could become damaged.

Also, the other systems in the RV need bits of maintenance here and there too. Just leaving an RV with onshore power, not attended to, and not seeing any issues addressed leads to larger, more expensive problems later.

Am I likely to use my RV during winter?

Only you can answer that.

It’s unusual that people do it unless it’s their only vehicle to get around or they live in a temperate climate.

If it’s icy or snowing underfoot, then likely the RV or camper is staying right where it is!

Should I Use an RV Cover during Winter?

Yes, it’s always a good idea to use a cover.

It will prevent the cold from causing problems for the tires, latches, and exterior of the RV, camper, or trailer.

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