Winter Drain down
Preparing a holiday caravan for winter is not straight forward and as caravans have become more sophisticated the job has become more complex. When I prepare a caravan for winter I do the following:
- Turn off the water tap connected to the blue underground pipe. It is important not to just turn off the grey plastic tap under the caravan as the grey plastic fittings are not designed to survive frost. If the grey tap /fitting is damaged by frost this will lead to water pouring out from the break unless the heavy duty stop tap is turned off.
- Disconnect water connection from caravan. This is to ensure that any leakage through the tap (even with the tap turned off) does not fill the caravan systems with water.
- Go inside the caravan and open all taps - hot and cold, bathroom(s) and kitchen. Inspect boiler - and where there is a drain -off plug, remove it. (Some boilers do not have a drain off plug).
- Go outside and under the caravan and open all drain off taps. Check for any low spots on the water pipe services and deal with as necessary. Check any check valve in the system and make sure water is removed from both sides of check valve. Where there is a central heating system I take care to identify the drain off taps (they are usually 22mm whilst the water systems are 15mm) I do not drain off the central heating.
- I check that a reasonable amount of water drains from each drain-off valve - at least a good cup full from each drain-off point. Most caravans have at least 4 drain off points - some have six excluding the central heating.
- I tighten all drain off taps and leave the caravan with all systems intact BUT the water turned off and disconnected from the caraavn so that in the spring the tasks to recommission the caravan are reduced to the minimum - ie make one connection and turn on tap.
- When turning the water back on I go back into the caravan and flush the new water supply through all pipework and systems in the caravan.
Other points that arise.
- Water in waste traps and toilet bowls needs to be either removed (which may allow sewer smells to enter the caravan) or have antifreeze added to prevent frost damage. Antifreeze is not helpful to our sewage treatment plant so lots of dilution is required when recommissioning the caravan I do this by flushing the toilet and allowing the taps to run for 5 - 10 minutes.
- Shower thermostat mixer taps are vulnerable to frost and expensive to replace. I remove all such mixer taps and ensure that no water remains in the the valve by blowing it through with the various settings open and shut, hot or cold.
- Central heating boilers are complex. They combine water and gas under pressure together with an electricity supply to complex electronics. They are also expensive to replace/repair so it is necessary to understand what should be done to prepare the system for winter. They have two separate systems -one to heat water for the taps and one to heat the water in the radiators. The water to the taps has been dealt with above - for radiators see below:
- Most caravan c/h systems are sealed and filled with antifreeze. So long as the anti-freeze is not diluted the boiler and radiators should survive intact. If not then there could be serious damage. Most boilers are fitted with a frost 'stat' which will activate the boiler in cold conditions so long as the electricity and gas supplies are left switched on. To avoid unnecessary waste of gas we usually leave the boiler on 'summer' settings - ie it will heat the water for the sink but not the radiators. In this mode the boiler will switch on automatically and protect itself when temperatures are low.
If you are in any doubt about what to do you should consult your user manual or speak to your friendly park manager. The best thing about all this is that if you ask us to drain down your caravan* we will do all the above - and if there is any damage from frost we will make the repairs entirely free of charge. * We do ask that you allow the work to be carried out before the winter sets in - Dates are published annually in our newsletter.