Our guide to draining down your static caravan this winter

Winter is on its way so it’s time to take steps to protect your static caravan or lodge from the wild winter weather when you leave it unattended by draining down.

static caravan in the snow

Your static caravan or lodge can be particularly vulnerable to the elements in the winter months so it’s important to be prepare for cold and stormy weather and to also make sure your insurance cover remains valid.

Here’s our handy guide to winterising your holiday caravan so when you return to it you’re not faced with any nasty surprises.

Inside your caravan

  • If your park is closing, turn off the water at the stopcock, then drain down and winterise all equipment in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. Your park operator may offer a professional draining down service by blowing compressed air through pipes so if you want to make sure your unit is fully drained speak to a park representative. If your park is remaining open for winter months, whenever you leave your caravan unattended turn the water off at the stopcock, then turn on all taps and the shower to let all the water out. Flush toilets too, to make sure all water is drained from the cistern. Note these precautions are conditions of cover for Leisuredays policyholders between 1st November and 15th March – customers can check out further advice here.

Stopcock

  • Add a small amount of salt to the plug holes in all sinks, baths and showers.
  • Unplug any electrical devices, including large white goods.
  • Check the anti-freeze levels of sealed central heating systems (do not drain these).
  • If you have a central heating system, set it to avoid frost damage.
  • Clean the floors and the rest of the caravan.
  • Leave salt pots around the caravan to absorb moisture and prevent damp.

Salt crystals

  • Remove bedding and all food, so you’re making your static caravan unattractive vermin by not giving them somewhere warm and cosy to hibernate. We have previously published a guide on preventing vermin accessing your static caravan – click here.
  • Empty and clean the fridge and freezer and leave switched off. Remember to drain any ice or chilled water dispensers built into your fridge leave the door slightly open.

Pemberton Lancaster - Fridge

  • Prop open internal doors and cupboards, and slightly pulling out drawers to allow air to circulate.
  • Remove all valuables or hide them out of view, and make sure all windows, external doors and roof lights are locked and secure.
  • Leave curtains open so any opportunist thief can see that there are no valuables for the taking.

Outside your caravan

  • Give the outside a thorough clean and consider applying an overwintering exterior protector, which is designed to repel dirt and algae.

cleaning holiday caravan

  • Check the seams and seals on your caravan so you’re not coming back to find water has got in.
  • Make sure all external vents and guttering are clear, removing any debris, and leave them open to stop condensation building up.
  • Lag any exposed pipes.

img_1836-brightened-small

  • Check all external windows, doors and skylights are closed and locked.
  • Check the anchoring underneath your caravan is secure and that there are no signs of corrosion and that the chains are in a good state of repair.
  • Lubricate door hinges and window locks with a dab of petroleum jelly to make sure they open smoothly when you return.
  • Leave any external water drainage plugs open.

It’s also worth checking on your caravan from time to time throughout the winter months, particularly if there has been a spell of bad weather, so you can deal with any damage or other issues that might arise. Some parks even when closed for winter will let owners access their caravans during the day time.

If we do get a lot of snow then it’s a good idea to sweep any excess snow from the roof – speak to the park operator and find out how they can help. Such snow can cause roof damage or worse still it can cause a roof to collapse – flat caravan roofs are particularly vulnerable!

flood6

However, common insurance claims we’ve dealt with over the last couple of winters have been for storm damage and flooding which are largely unpreventable – highlighting the importance of specialist cover for your holiday caravan.

And hopefully our checklist will be make sure your static caravan or lodge is ready for whatever winter throws at it.

Over to you

If you’ve got any draining down or winterisation tips to share then feel free to comment in the box below.

33 comments on “Our guide to draining down your static caravan this winter

  1. If the electricity is turned off how can the central heating system be set to avoid frost damage when there is no power supply to it?
    Calcium chloride, if you can get it, is a much better desiccant than salt (sodium chloride). I am fortunate to have access to a bulk supply of it.
    I prefer to use a small quantity of vehicle antifreeze to protect sinks, WCs etc. rather than salt.

    1. Hi Terry, our mistake, we have removed the contradictory advice. Of course if you are leaving the central heating system on, you’ll need to power and fuel it.
      Thanks for the tip on using Calcium Chloride.

    2. As far as I know, vehicle antifreeze is toxic to septic tank bacteria. I use a dedicated antifreeze suitable for caravans. It costs £20 for 5 litres and I use about half per season in all U bends and the toilet flush tanks. My caravan dealer does not stock it, nor does Go Outdoors, so it is hard to source, but your site owner and other site users may not be too happy using a toxic substance in the drains.

  2. I am confused by your advice. Could you please explain how is it possible to
    “Set central heating system to avoid frost damage” and at the same time “Turn off the electricity and gas supply” ? If it is not which should I do ?

    1. Apologies, our mistake, we have removed the contradictory advice. Of course if you are leaving the central heating system on, you’ll need to power and fuel it.

  3. We have an oyster bay unit which has full residential insulation and is fully skirted, all water pipes are protected by trace heating.

    We are going abroad during December and January, I intend to set the heating to come on for 30 minutes each day and have been advised to turn off the water and open all taps and drain the cisterns, also it would be a good idea to put antifreeze into the toilet bowls as emptying them would allow smells from the sewage pipes to come up into the bathrooms.

    As we are only going for eight weeks, are these sufficient precautions?

    1. Hi Phil, hope you have a lovely holiday abroad.
      The winterisation conditions of your policy depend on whether your site is officially open or not.
      If your park is officially open then as long as you have turned the water off at the stop cock, turned on and left open all the taps and showers, making sure nothing is obstructing the plugholes and you have flushed all toilets and drained the water from the cistern, then full cover will remain in force. Leaving the central heating on could also help prevent any damage.
      However when your park is officially closed, the water must be turned off at the stopcock and all equipment fully drained down and winterised in accordance with the manufacturers recommendations.
      If these precautions are not taken then any damage caused by water freezing in a fixed water or heating installation or any damage by water, steam or other liquid escaping from a fixed appliance, water of heating system will not be covered.
      Hope this helps?

  4. What is the point of setting the central heating to prevent frost damage if the electricity and the gas are switched off or disconnected ?

    1. Apologies Norman, our mistake, we have removed the contradictory advice. Of course if you are leaving the central heating system on, you’ll need to power and fuel it.

  5. If we follow your tips to switch off the electricity and gas and set the central heating to frost stat, how is it expected to work when all supplies are turned to off?. I fail to grasp the logic, the boiler is gas fired, but if tuned off then how on earth can it protect the system. The plumber is going to attend to the boiler, but he cannot work the miracle.

    1. Sorry Norris, our mistake, we have removed the contradictory advice. Thanks for pointing out.

  6. One little tip
    I purchased a hot water cylinder jacket which comes in 4 segments.
    I place these segments around the boiler and the pipes below the boiler.
    Please note the boiler is turned of over the winter period, not even the frost stat is set
    to come on.
    Come March and start up, I have had no problems so far.
    It works for me.

      1. Back to my original tip re cylinder jackets.
        My hot water system is drained down and the correct amount of fernox anti freeze is added to my central heating system. I leave no power on at all.
        I have done this for over 5 years now, and no problem.

    1. Sorry Christine, our mistake, we have removed the contradictory advice. The advice is if you don’t have a central heating system to disconnect gas, but if you do obviously you’ll need the gas to fuel the system!

      1. The main breaker can be left on. All other trips can be turned off and the boiler set to off on the dial. If the temperature drops below 3-5degrees the pump will turn over and circulate the water in the central heating sealed system to help prevent freezing. No gas required. Turn gas off. No power will be at any sockets or light fitting as you turn off each trip apart from boiler breaker.
        So Craig is right!!! I have done this for 10 years on cosalt river dale never a problem. Good idea to remove mixer on shower too as not all water will be removed when blown out and tap can split at the point where grub screws are fitted.

  7. We remove our shower mixer taps and take them home, if it does freeze very hard the mixer tap mechanism inside breaks leaving you with a hefty replacement bill. We also use those vacum bags to store bedding and never have problems

  8. I cover the boiler in an old duvet and tie wrap some bubble wrap over the outside flue so cold air can’t enter it also I disconnect thermostatic bar shower control shake the water out and wrap in bubble wrap , I’ve heard that some owners have the water sucked out of the traps and toilet bowls thus leaving the static van with no seal to the sceptic tank or main sewer and the foul smell that comes from them the water seal is there to stop this happening so I would only use an adequate antifreeze in the water seal , don’t forget to take the bubble wrap off the outside flue when your ready to use your van again

  9. Hi I’m still confused what is a standard boiler drain down and a central heating boiler drain down. Can anyone explain the difference? Also every publication I read says do not drain the boiler.
    I have been informed if you have a drain down the boiler must be turned off which means you can’t have any heating in van even on frost setting as there is no water to heat and if boiler is left on it can damage boiler and is very dangerous. Is this true? Any information much appreciated.

    1. Hi Victoria, we asked the technical guys at Swift leisure and they said if the holiday Home is fitted with a combination boiler, i.e. fitted with central heating there are four drain valves fitted under the floor and directly below the boiler, two for central heating, flow and return and two for the water system hot and cold.
      If youy peel the back the insulation leading to the drain valves you will discover two are white, one red and one blue. Do not drain the valves with the white piping as these are for the central heating. Drain the valves with the red and blue piping as these are the hot and cold water.
      Hope this helps?

  10. Hi I have a gas boiler inside static caravan when the site do the drain down do they go inside caravan??if they are supposed to this will be the second time I have had a leak under the sink lots of water and I feel they are not doing there job right with the draindown could you please advice
    Many thanks Linda

    1. Hi Linda, we don’t know what individual park practice is when it comes to draining down, it’s something you’ll have to speak to your park owner about, but they will have to go inside your caravan to open all the taps. If damage has been caused and you wish to register a claim then please call our 24 hour claims helpline on 01422 501 085.

  11. Find other ways to cool your home
    Your AC may be an indispensable part of your home’s cooling, but it shouldn’t be working alone. Instead, take other steps to boost your energy efficiency and reduce your air conditioner’s workload. Here’s just a few ideas on how you can get cooling relief for less:

    Keep the sun out: As we all know, sunlight is a major source of heat. One of the best ways to keep your home cool is to use sun-blocking curtains and blinds to reduce the amount of sunshine streaming into your home. When no one’s home, you might as well reduce the temperature by keeping your home dark.
    Use fans strategically: Contrary to what most people think, fans don’t actually cool the surrounding air. Instead, they make you feel cooler by pushing air past you. This means that fans can provide amazing summertime relief, but that leaving them on in rooms no one is in doesn’t do much but waste energy.
    Watch your appliance use: Your home’s oven or stove top can be a major source of heat in your home that your air conditioner has to accommodate for. Don’t change your dinner plans completely, but consider making a few dinners each week that don’t require heating. A fresh salad or brilliant bruschetta may be the fresh dish you and your family have been looking for.

  12. Can anyone tell me how to check if antifreeze as been added to our caravans boiler its a 2005 willerby aspen. This will be the first year for us with a static van .
    Many thanks in advance

    1. Hi Ian, Willerby would need your static caravan serial number to be able to answer your question. I have emailed you, so if you could reply please and I will forward on to Willerby.

  13. how do you trace your cold and water drainage pipes for a drain down and not touch the central heating system please my van is a Atlas Sapphire Super. Thanx

    1. Check your manufacturer’s handbook David or see if they have labelled the drainage pipes underneath your caravan. Many label the central heating valves to stop you from draining these down. Alternatively contact Atlas direct on Tel: 01482 562101 or by emailing enquiries@atlaslh.co.uk

  14. We seem to have an anti return check valve fitted about 600mm past our stop cock (on the caravan side) is this normal / needed as it stops any water in the pipes from back draining when it comes to drain down time, is it legislation that the caravan should have an anti return valve fitted at that point to stop cross contamination ??

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