Beating the Heat in an RV

RV in the Desert

On a recent camping trip in Central Texas we endured excruciating heat, some days easily exceeding 100 degrees. This would deter most weekend warriors, but not us. We were determined to have a good time, and we did, but not without some innovation.

Most RV air conditioning units can bring the temperature of the RV down about 20 degrees from what the temperature is outside, as a rule of thumb. This is generally suitable when the temperature is 90 degrees or less, bringing you down to the 70s inside, but when the outside temperature is 100+ degrees, a single air conditioner does not do the job. Some assistance may be in order to get the temperature down.  These tips will hopefully help you achieve the comfort you’re looking for on the hottest of days.

RV Window Insulation

RV Window Insulation

One of the primary sources of heat in your RV is the windows. Sure you can close them as well as the blinds/curtains but try touching them and you will feel the heat radiating from them. One quick, easy, and cheap way to prevent your windows from turning your camper into a toaster oven is to tack up reflective insulation over your windows with Velcro tape. This technique is great because it is relatively inexpensive, easy to do, and you can easily remove the insulation when you want to allow sunlight in during the earlier or later parts of the day. While you’re at it, don’t forget to insulate your roof vents as those let in a tremendous amount of heat. The RV ceiling vents allow so much heat in, you may want to go as far as adding dedicated padded vent insulators to really keep the heat from entering.

Cooling the Shell

You’ve touched the windows to feel the heat radiating, but did you by any chance touch the walls? Chances are they’re heating up as well. Covering the entire inside of your camper with reflective insulation is an option, but it would be costly and relatively tacky – I’m even sure if it would be effective. However, one option you have is to bring the outside shell of the camper down a few degrees by hosing down the outside of the camper with cool water from a hose. Simply spray down your camper for a few minutes as if you were washing it and you will notice the shell cools to the touch relatively quickly. If your camper is connected to the water source already, consider getting two-way hose splitter which will allow you to use an auxiliary hose while your camper is still connected.

Increase Air Conditioner Flow

RV Air Conditioner

Up to this point, you’ve done just about everything you can from keeping the heat out and/or keeping the cooler air in your RV, but now we have to try to get the temperature down.  One of the many ways to get the temperature down is to check and clean the air conditioner intake filter. Generally, this vent is located on the bottom of the air conditioner unit and simply clips into place. You can take the filter out, wash and rinse it well, and let it dry before replacing it in the air conditioner. This will decrease strain on your unit and increase air flow throughout your camper.

Another method to increasing air flow, a method that has worked for us at least, is removing the directional vent covers and allowing the air to flow freely from the air conditioner. We found that our vent louvers hindered air flow opposed to assisting air flow. While this may be effective for increasing air flow, there are often some areas you want to decrease air flow to increase air flow in others. For example, our bathroom has a dedicated air conditioning vent. It usually feels amazing in the bathroom, but nowhere else during the heat of the day, but we don’t spend too much time in there. So, we covered part of the bathroom vent to redirect some of that air to other rooms.

Circulate the Cool Air

You have increased air flow throughout your RV but lost your directional louvers for your air conditioning vents. It is time we circulate the cool, refreshing air throughout your rig. This is where a small 16-18 inch oscillating fan comes relatively handy. Depending on the layout of your camper you may consider placing the fan in one of a few configurations. First, try placing the fan in a corner and having it blow the length of your RV. The effect you’re hoping to achieve is a circular motion that will maximize your cool air throughout; however, as mentioned, this is dependent upon the layout of your camper.  Another method is simply oscillating the fan to disperse the cool air multi-directional.

Bonus tip: A misting fan can serve you both outside and inside (without the misting of course) on hot summer days!

Upgrade or Add an Air Conditioner

RV Air Conditioner Installation

This is the part of cooling your RV down that nobody enjoys discussing as it is the most expensive method. Up to this point, you tried stopping the heat from penetrating your RV; you’ve tried cooling the inside better with a few tricks to manipulate the air flow, but the temperature is still unbearable. Unfortunately, it is probably time to either relocate to the northern latitudes or upgrade your RV air conditioning system. Upgrading your RV air conditioner system to a 15,000 BTU system will definitely help out and will set you back around $1,000 for the unit and installation. One option some owners tend to go for is adding an additional air conditioner to the system in another room such as the master bedroom. If you are lucky, your bedroom ceiling vent may be pre-wired to easily install a secondary air conditioning unit. Keep in mind that upgrading your air conditioning system may have differing power requirements and should be installed by a professional.

These are just a few methods that can potentially effect the temperature in your RV. Combining any number of them can keep your RV cooler and your summer more enjoyable. If you have additional tips we would love to hear about them! Don’t forget to keep the camper door closed as well!