Wednesday, May 1, 2013

De-Winterizing and Tank Sanitizing Observations

With temperatures finally into the fifties and some days even reaching 60, and nights not dipping much below 48 degrees F it was finally time to de-winterize the Roadtrek. Of course, we needed a day that was not only warm but also dry - and that did not come that easy. Finally, with no other commitments and a decent day predicted we went outside - and we went outside to start just as it started to rain. OK, the next day was cloudy but dry and we were all ready.

The first thing that I did in preparation to de-winterize and sanitize the fresh water tanks was to print out my own article that was written after I did this process for the first time last year. It is all there step by step and while I had a fairly good memory of what I did, I wanted to have it all down in front of me to follow.

I got out the fresh water hoses, the hose-line water filter, and the tank filler nozzle. 
Water Tank Filler - Makes filling the tanks MUCH easier and less wet!
The water pressure regulator was set aside for one of the middle steps. The first thing we did was make sure the water system was in Summer Mode - which it should have been having been set that way when we winterized. Then we filled the fresh water tanks - of which there are two in the 190. I have found that it is best to only turn the water spigot on the house half way so that the water does not flow too quickly.

The tanks filled with no problem at all - which they should but as we go along you will understand why I make note of this here.

The Roadtrek tanks fill through the door frame - with the 190 and its two fresh water tanks, one fills from the driver's door frame and the other fills from the passenger side cargo door frame. Some find it easier to fill the tanks by moving the valve to fill on the city water connection and connecting the hose (with water pressure regulator) to that directly and filling. We have found it much easier to just use the gravity fill openings in the door frames.
Water going into the exterior (front) tank through the driver's door frame.

Water going into the interior (rear) tank through the cargo door frame.
Let me tell you about the tank filler. All this is is a tube connected to a screw on hose nozzle with a valve. The valve makes it very easy to control the flow of water into the tank right there - so when the tank is full and the water comes back out at you from the fill hole you can quickly turn off the water flow. The end of the tube is cut on a diagonal and the opening of the diagonal should be facing down into the tank. The tube is much smaller than the hose and fits into the fill hole much better than a hose end. This also allows air to escape from the tank as water goes in. The cost of this is about $6 or less and is cheap enough that it makes making one not worth the time. Last year when I ended the article saying that I had an idea to make the filling process easier, it was to make a device like the tank filler. I saw it in an RV supply shop during the season last year and bought it. As Harry Potter once said, "Mischief managed!"

The tanks were full and we were ready for the next step in de-winterizing - flushing the antifreeze out of the pipes. Remember that my instructions for winterizing do not have you put any antifreeze actually into the water tanks - they are kept empty all winter. The antifreeze goes directly into the plumbing. This is when you open all the faucets (I am not going into the details as you can read them in the de-winterizing article. But I took photos this time and want to share with you what you will see and can expect.

Flushing the cold water side of the sink faucet. You can see the pink antifreeze coming out of the line.

The water is kept running until it runs clear - no pink. This is repeated with the hot side.

And the toilet.

 And the inside shower - hot and cold! I find it easier to remove the shower head to do this - it just unscrews from the hose.
Don't forget the outside shower! The foam you see on the ground is the antifreeze.

 As per the directions, all of this is done with the hot water tank still in BYPASS. We don't want to flush the antifreeze into six gallons of water in the hot water tank and then have to flush all of that through.  At this point TURN OFF THE WATER PUMP! To save my batteries - I was running on coach batteries for this procedure - I turned off the battery switch at this point as no power will be need for awhile.

Now it is time to move the hot water tank valves out of BYPASS as shown below in normal operating position.

The next thing that is done is to connect the Roadtrek to city water. You are now going to fill the hot water tank - six gallons of water will go in. I do this with a city water connection because the tanks fills much more quickly this way. All that is done is take the tank filler nozzle off the fresh water hose still connected to your house - leave it connected to your house through the whole de-winterizing and tank sanitizing process as you are going to need it several times in the process. Put your water pressure regulator on the hose - I put mine in the middle of two hose connections or at the house spigot as it is easier than connecting the pressure regulator directly to the city water fill connection. It is actually recommended by several reliable RV sources that it should always go at the beginning of the water line at the start of the hoses to prevent water pressure buildup in the hose behind the regulator. Connect the hose now to the City Water Connector inlet as shown below:

You cannot see it in the photo but the city water valve is NOT set to FILL. It should be straight up and down. This is either a red or black handle valve right above the outside shower faucet.

Now the water at the house is turned on and "city" water will start to flow into the Roadtrek's plumbing and into the hot water tank. With city water it takes just a couple of minutes to fill the hot water tank.  LEAVE THE HOT WATER SWITCH OFF. There is no need to wait for the water to get hot - you can keep your propane off too - there is no need for it. Go inside the Roadtrek and turn on the hot water faucet handle on the sink. And you will get a burst of air coming from faucet as the air that was in the empty hot water tank comes rushing out. The faucet will then sputter with some water and then water should come running out of the hot water side of the faucet. It will not be hot - the hot water heater switch is off.  I go around to the other faucets and turn on the hot side also - just to make sure it is all flowing - it should be anyway, but for the three minutes it takes to turn on the inside shower and the outside shower, why not? At this point we finished de-winterizing, but we still had to sanitize the fresh water tanks.

When the tanks are empty for so long mold can start to grow in them so it is a good idea at this point to sanitize the fresh water tank(s). It is a simple process and it is also detailed in the original de-winterizing article. It is good to keep in mind that this process is a long process because it involves a four hour wait in the middle. I knew this but we started late and decided to keep on going not paying much attention to the time. We added the bleach mixture to each tank (some water still remained in the front tank) as per the directions in the original article (one half cup of bleach - Chlorox or whatever you have - into each of the two tanks - if you have only one tank, add a cup of bleach to the single tank) and then filled each tank - through the door fill holes with fresh water. Filling the tanks now through the door fill holes now is important as you want to flush the bleach that you just poured down the fill holes into the tanks.

This shows the funnel and tube that we made to put the bleach into each fresh water tank fill hole on our 190. I made the tube this long to give it some flexibility. A shorter tube was stiff and kinked. You will see in the lower right corner the top of a step ladder that I stood on to get up to the funnel with the measuring cup with bleach. Just pour the bleach into the funnel and it travels down and into the tank. This is pure bleach which will cause permanent spots on your clothes if you splash. Can blind you if you get it in your eyes and will burn your skin if it gets on you and you don't flush with water right away. Just be careful with the bleach. Now, this is no different than doing your laundry but it pays to be cautious.

I then went inside the Roadtrek, turned the battery switch back on, turned on the water pump, and turned on each faucet hot and cold and smelled for bleach. The odor was distinct. By doing this I was putting the bleach and water mixture into the the plumbing and the hot water heater. I also flushed the toilet but did not get down close enough to sniff - we know the bleach is in the water as we could smell it coming through the shower hose and the faucet. With the bleach in the tanks of fresh water and pipes, now you wait for four hours. We just then looked at the clock and it was 4:00 pm. Four hours brought us to 8:00 pm and at this time of the year it is still dark at that time. We decided that we would go out anyway to flush the bleach out of the system. We have read that bleach will break down in water after a time and turn to just water and that should mean that leaving this all in the tanks until the next day is not a problem, but it was simpler to just get it done as there were things to do the next day that had nothing to do with the Roadtrek. And to my thinking the less time the mixture is in the tanks after the four hours, the less odor there will be to flush away later.

The four hours passed and we went outside and drained the tanks - by opening the low point drain on the front fresh water tank. This is under the Roadtrek below the right corner of the driver's door. On some models and years this drain is an actual valve to turn. On my Roadtrek this is just a screw on cap. The tanks drain in about ten or fifteen minutes. Remember that bleach water will come splashing down out of the drain as you reach under and remove the drain cap. The tanks are in Summer Mode so the back tank flows into the front tank and the water then all drains out as the tanks empty.

With the drain cap back in place, now we went to refill the tanks with fresh water only. Reading the first article you will see that we had a problem last year at this point last year. I had thought to try filling the rear tank first - but in summer mode that just flows the water right into the front tank. I had not thought at this point to turn to winter mode and fill the rear tank. Perhaps I should have, because we had exactly the same problem that we had last year. With the front tank full, I went to fill the rear tank and the water came splashing right back out of the fill hole at me.  After mopping up the cargo door and in the area just into the under bed storage, I tried again - with the water on very slow. It seemed to be going in but it then just splashed back out again. There was air in the tank - I assume and the water was not going in. Why air now and not any time of regular filling the rear tank?We have filled the tanks like this for two years now without the splash and inability to get water to go down the fill hole. We speculate but do not really know that it may have something to do with the chlorine bleach that was just in the tank. Bleach does turn to gas when exposed to air. Was the tank full of chlorine water mixture formed a gas mixed with air? I have no idea. The front tank did not have this problem but the rear tank is much smaller in size. We tried everything that we tried last year and had no luck. We tried putting the system in winter mode - it did not fix the problem. I went in and ran the front tank out through the sink until only air came out and then tried filling the back - that did not help. At best I could get the rear tank 1/3 full. With that I tried running the back tank out of the little water in there through the sink to the point that only air came out. No good. We were about to give up for the night. I refilled the front tank as usual and then went to do the back again with the water on at almost a trickle. The water was not splashing back. All of this is now happening in the dark and with a flashlight I watched the fill hole to see if the trickle going in was trickling back out. It wasn't. I turned the water up just a little higher and the tank started to fill. It finally did fill. Something - perhaps running the air out through the sink with only the rear water tank on the line got the gas/air out which was the last thing we tried.  I have to remember next year to do this before trying to refill the rear tank.

Once the water was in the tanks, I went inside and ran the water through the faucets and toilet to flush the bleach out. With all of the running of water that we did to get the back tank finally filled the water was pretty much clear of any bleach smell. At that point we left it all as it was - fresh water in the tanks and plumbing and closed up for the night.

I did flush the tanks one more time - drained the the tanks, refilled - this time with no problem - and ran the faucets and smelled for bleach. There is a very, very slight odor still remaining. On our first trip we will bring bottled water to drink and after that trip, from our last year's experience, there should no longer be any bleach odor at all and the water from the tanks will be fine to drink!

Knowing what we were doing this time, it all went much faster than last year. It takes more time to get the hoses out, connect them to the house and bring them around to the Roadtrek and then roll them up when done than it takes for the actual de-winterizing. The sanitizing would have been much simpler and quicker had it not been for the same rear tank fill problem.  

With all the water that we put down the sink, we did decide two days later to dump the waste tanks so that they will be empty for our up coming trip. Because the trip is a little while away, we also drained the fresh tanks again - just so that we can put fresh water in when we leave - it may even be drinkable that way.

Now that it is done, the weather report for the weekend is talking about near freezing temperatures at night... With the days near 60 we will be fine!


  1. Well done! May you take to the road soon after this long, long winter.

    1. Thank you! We are just back from five days out. Articles coming soon!

  2. Thanks for that! Wow, you are so thorough, I'm impressed every time at how good you are with all the details.... Can't wait to hear about your 5-day trip!

  3. Robert, I got a little bogged down in "everyday" stuff and am just getting around to this... sorry. Anyway, here is an interesting article on bleach; well, food for thought anyway.

  4. EPA Says Natural Disinfectant as Effective as Bleach; What Does Your Childcare Facility Use?

    1. When I was working the recommended formula for AIDS/HIV prevention included bleach. Meryl did speak to the Clorox people about their bleach when mixed in water and they told her that after four hours the mixture breaks down to just about all water. We had asked because we use bleach and water in a spray bottle to disinfect the campground spigot before connecting a hose to it, and wanted to pre-mix the solution and just keep it in the spray bottle when we travel. They said to not do that and mix it fresh every time it will be used. This was what they said.