How to Keep Your Caravan Warm for Winter Touring

How to insulate a caravan in winter

If you plan on using your caravan in winter, it’s important to prepare for the potential problems that cold weather can inflict on it. Without the proper precautions, freezing weather, rain and rapid drops in temperature can leave your caravan prone to cracked taps, split pipes and even damage to the water systems. The best way to avoid this sort of damage is by keeping the caravan warm and well-insulated throughout winter.

All the heat within a caravan is pointless unless the caravan is insulated well. The best insulated caravans are those that keep as much warmth as possible inside the caravan. You can easily achieve caravan insulation with some small investments, smart thinking and even from things you have lying around:

External water carriers

External water carriers can be vulnerable to freezing in winter weather. Investing in an insulation bag may help to prevent the contents from freezing. If you don't have time to purchase one of these you can try using bubble wrap, old duvets or quilted coats. It’s also a good idea to keep a small container of freshwater inside, too. This way if you get desperate, you’ll have an emergency supply until you can get more/the larger container unfreezes.

Switch from butane to propane

Butane gas won’t work in temperatures lower than five degrees Celsius, so during winter, you'll need to switch from butane to propane cylinders as propane operates at a higher pressure and you can still use them even if temperatures plummet. Don't forget to change the regulator too as it won't be interchangeable between the two cylinders.

Insulate pipes

Wastewater is also at risk of freezing in harsh conditions. To avoid this, you can softly insulate the pipes using padding, add salt to the wastewater container or use a glycol-free antifreeze.

Switch from single-glazed to double-glazed windows

Switching from single-glazed to double-glazed windows add an extra barrier to the cold outside, reducing the amount of heat being transferred. Double glazing locks in the heat, which is great for winter but might make the caravan stuffier in summer, so it’s worth weighing up whether it’s worth it.

If double-glazed windows are too much of a budget stretch, a layer or two of plastic sheeting can be stuck onto single-glazed windows to add extra protection from the cold.

Install curtains or thermal blinds

Speaking of windows, you can also lock in the heat by installing curtains or using thermal blinds. These deflect some of the cold trying to get in and adds a few more layers to keep all the precious heat in.

A caravan can lose a lot of heat through wheel arches and the gaps in the caravan door; you can minimise this by adding padded insulation like carpet, polystyrene, pillows or a draught excluder.

Install awning

Placing a porch awning over the entrance of your caravan can stop some of the heat that can escape when you open the door. 

Remember never to block the air vents, no matter how draughty they get as this is a fire hazard.

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How to keep a caravan warm in winter

With insulation in place, it’s time to heat things up in your caravan so you can most the most of it all year round. If your caravan doesn’t have heating, these tips include a few different installation types that you could potentially purchase.

Monitor your heating

Make sure to leave the mains heating on at night when the temperature drops to ensure the pipes don't freeze. If you can afford to, it might be worth investing in a heating system that runs off a timer. The heating can then be on before you arrive and as you wake up, which is great if you don’t want the heating on all night but also don’t want the pipes to freeze.

If you’re planning on leaving for the whole day, put the heating on very low to keep the temperature inside the caravan above freezing. Warning: if you have gas or diesel heating, make sure that the duct can’t be blocked by snow or clogged with debris that’s blown into the flue.

Whether you have a caravan central heating system or you don’t, a portable heater should boost the temperature a bit more to help to keep your caravan warm at night and on particularly cold days.

Consider dry underfloor heating

Touring caravans are better suited to dry underfloor heating systems than wet, as they take up less space and only need an electric source to run. Very thin electrical cables or mats are laid in the floor of the caravan, providing a gentle heat that rises up within the caravan. Before you install underfloor heating, consider if the structure is robust enough to withstand it; you can do this by carrying out a heat loss calculation.

Consider a heated blanket

Attaching a heated blanket to your bedding will only use a small source of electricity that’s targeted straight to your body as you sleep. While this will keep you cosy throughout the night and may heat your caravan slightly, this option isn’t the most ideal for extremely wintry conditions like sub-zero temperatures that may freeze your pipes.

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What are the best caravan heaters?

If you’re unsure how to keep your caravan warm at night, a caravan heater is one of the easiest and most affordable fixes.

There many different types of portable caravan heater available on the market. Each one presents its own pros and cons that can only be assessed by the type of caravan you have; how much you want to spend and the safety risk you’re willing to take. In this case, each caravan radiator should be considered carefully so you can choose the best heater for your caravan.

Electric heaters

Electric heaters for caravans are probably the easiest option for heating your touring vehicle. Of course, they require a socket and a source of energy, but once you’re hooked up, they can quickly heat up the space as and when you please.

Other heating options

Ceramic heaters and fan heaters are the best options for instant warmth. A fan heater blows out warm air, which can be a bit noisy, while a ceramic heater is quieter and slightly safer as they pivot around the room, meaning they don’t overheat in smaller spaces.

Plug-socket heaters are the best space-saving option. These little heaters plug straight into a socket; however, their compact size means they don’t blast as much heat.

Carbon heaters are like halogen heaters in that they use a lamp bulb, but the filament is carbon, which is safer. The infrared is also better for warming the skin.

Oil-filled heaters are a safer option as there’s no risk of heating up the wires too much and there’s no naked flames. Despite this, oil-filled heaters don’t heat up as quickly as a fan heater, however they contain heat more efficiently.

Oil-free heaters are the safest electric heater option for caravans, as not only is there no risk of oil leaking, but they are heated through aluminium, not oil. Moreover, they are silent, which is an added bonus when keeping them on at night.

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Protecting your caravan after returning or when it isn’t in use

It’s important to keep safeguarding your caravan from the cold even after you return from your winter road trip as the weather can still affect it, especially if it’s just sat on the driveway or put into storage. While these are tips you can do as soon as you get home, it’s worth remembering to keep checking on your caravan when it’s not in use. If you notice any cracking or freezing, try heating the caravan up for a few hours.

Drain down water systems

Drain down all the water systems, including the toilet flush reservoir, water heater and the toilet cassette. This can help to eliminate the risk of frost damage to the pipes that can happen in sub-zero temperatures.

Adjust taps

Return the taps to the central 'open' position so they can release any built-up pressure caused by changes in temperature.

Drain the water heater

Consult the manual relating to your specific make and model of water heater to locate the drain-down valve and drain every last bit of water out.

Once you’ve done these steps, use some antifreeze on the taps and plug holes to prevent water clogging in crevices and U-bends that could potentially freeze.

Limit mould growth

To avoid mould building up from condensation, place a few bowls of salt throughout the caravan. These act as dehumidifiers for the air, preventing damp penetrating the soft furnishings and carpets.

Another way to avoid damp is to increase the air circulation. This can be done by opening the internal doors, cupboards and drawers as well as cleaning out the fridge and freezer and leaving these open, too.

Additionally, don't forget to update your caravan insurance if your caravan storage arrangements change.