Winterize on the Go

Floe 636 installed in fifth-wheel front compartment.
For easy access, we mounted the main unit adjacent to the plumbing on the back wall of the storage compartment, so both the valve and switch were easily accessible. Photos by Chris Dougherty and Lippert Components Inc.

Lippert’s Floë 636 simplifies the task of winterizing your RV

SpecsAs colder weather approaches, many of us are faced with the task of preparing our RVs for cold-weather storage, which primarily involves protecting the water system from freezing.

The procedure for this involves draining down the entire system, including the water heater and tanks, blowing out the plumbing with low-pressure compressed air or emptying via the low-point drain fittings, and then using RV antifreeze to further protect the freshwater system and the P-traps in the waste system. This process, while not overly burdensome, requires some resources and equipment, and many people shy away from doing it themselves for fear of doing it wrong and causing untoward damage to their RV.

Floe Diagram
The main Floë unit, above, is installed in a spot close to the water system and electrical supply. Cutting the PEX pipe and installing the push-to-connect fittings is tool-free and easy.

Enter the Floë 636 automatic 12-volt RV winterizing system, distributed in the USA by Lippert Components. The Floë, by Northern Ireland’s APT Innovations Ltd., has been in use in Europe to winterize caravans and motorhomes. The Floë is a permanently installed 12-volt compressor system that makes blowing out and protecting the water system on the go convenient. It’s as simple as flipping a switch and a valve, and going through the water system as you would while winterizing.

Unlike a standard compressor, the Floë unit runs off 12-volt DC power and is designed to provide the optimal air pressure to blow out the system without risking damage. It also eliminates having to carry yet another bunch of tools and equipment. It turns winterizing into a simple affair — no more having to run cords, attach an air chock to the freshwater inlet, stretch out the air hose and so on. 

TURN ON THE POWER
Just a Click
The main unit is installed in a position where the valve and switch can be reached. A remote inline switch is included in the kit if the built in switch isn’t reachable, or it can be wired to a wall switch of your choosing.

The real beauty in this system is, for those of us who travel in winter, to not only have the convenience of being able to winterize at a stopover on the way back north from a southern vacation, but if we’re out in below-freezing conditions and the heat goes out, we are able to protect the system from freeze damage.

We, of course, were curious about what this system could do, and if the claims of needing absolutely no mechanical knowledge to install it was true. We received the unit and did the install during an RV testing trip to Florida, which ended in an abrupt departure back north at the start of the coronavirus pandemic. As it turned out, that was an excellent opportunity to test the system.

 

Getting Started

Opening the box, we found all the pieces needed to install the Floë 636, and there are detailed videos online to walk you through the process. The tubing and fittings, including those that attach to the PEX plumbing, are all push-to-connect-style fittings. You will need a pipe cutter for the PEX and a screwdriver or drill to install the unit, and if you plan on using a 12-volt DC receptacle for power, then there’s nothing else you need. If, like us, you want a more permanent, finished installation, then you’ll need to wire it into an appropriately fused circuit in the RV. There’s a power switch on the top of the unit, but a snap-on remote switch is included for the power cord, or a permanent switch can be purchased and installed as needed. A marker, tape measure and a selection of hand tools is helpful.

Fifth Wheel Utility Compartment
The Floë 636 is plumbed into the city-water inlet pipe of the RV, so finding the hose connection and the pipe behind it is essential.

The installation will vary by RV, so we won’t go into the details here, but you will need access to the back of the city-water inlet and a spot to mount the Floë unit. In our case, we installed the unit in a fifth-wheel, so we removed the front compartment wall panel by the water utility where we could easily reach everything, and installed the Floë unit on the wall where it and the shut-off valve are accessible.

Cutting into PEX plumbing to insert T fitting.
We had to remove the short city-water pipe behind the panel and cut it exactly to fit into the fitting and still connect at both ends. Be certain of which pipe you’re attaching to, but if you mess up, don’t worry, more push-to-connect fittings are available at most home-improvement centers.

 

While the plumbing cut-in should be very easy on most RVs, some, like ours, have short pipe connections behind the utility panel, which required removing the city-water line altogether and cutting it precisely to fit back in. Just an extra step, but quite straightforward.

Operation

The concept is pretty simple. The Floë takes the place of an external air source, hose and fitting screwed into the city-water inlet. This is an easy process: drain and bypass the water heater, turn on the Floë unit and let it build pressure, then go through and open one outlet at a time, both hot and cold. Let the Floë unit build pressure between releases. Once every outlet is done, the water is removed.

There are a few critical points to keep in mind. First, remember that every pipe and fitting that has water in it will need to have the water removed. Ice-maker lines, black-tank flushers, freshwater fill lines (valve activated, not gravity), washing machines, dishwashers … you get the point. Every RV will have low-point drains that go through the floor. Those also must be blown out. Make sure that water appliances like those just mentioned have been properly winterized. In many cases, that may require the use of antifreeze to completely protect all the interior components like valves and pumps.

Those RVs that have tankless water heaters may not be able to winterize with the Floë or any compressed air system to prevent damage to the water-flow sensor, so, in that case, RV antifreeze should be considered. The tankless water heater, such as a Truma, also may have its own winterizing process that should be used.

The Floë system worked as promised, and we were able to winterize at a Flying J in Virginia, dumping tanks and blowing everything out, before our last leg to New England. Having done plenty of cold-weather RVing, I’ve had to panic winterize once, and it would’ve been much easier had I had something like this. And now, I’m even able to take our truck camper out for a weekend during the chilly weather and easily winterize at the end of our mini vacation — what a convenience!

Lippert Components Inc., www.lci1.com

 

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