Summer camping in your RV means family vacation fun, but keeping your camper cool as temperatures start to soar can be a real struggle. Air Conditioning units in your RV are a must but they can be really energy hogs and sometimes they aren’t even enough to match the boiling temperatures of the South. We’ve compiled the best tips from experienced full-time RVers on how to keep your RV cool in the hot summer months. Have we missed any good ideas? Share in the comments!
Orientation of Your RV
Choose a campsite that allows your RV to park where the afternoon sun is orientated to the left and front side of the RV. This allows for the door and patio area to be on the shady side of the vehicle.
Using your oven and stovetop can dramatically increase the indoor temperature of your camper. On hot or humid days, opt for BBQ outside or unheated meals such as salads and sandwiches.
Have Your AC Serviced Annually
Having your AC unit maintained properly will help prevent expensive repairs (or replacements) in the future. Hire an experienced RV tech who is familiar with your brand of AC. Have them inspect the intake and vents to make sure everything is correctly connected and sealed.
Replace All Light Bulbs with LED
The traditional incandescent and halogen bulbs that came standard with your RV put out a lot of heat when lit. Switching out all your bulbs with LED will help keep things much cooler in the camper. LED bulbs have the same screw-in bases as regular bulbs and you can find all sizes online or at a home improvement store.
Park Under Trees for Shade
Choosing a campsite in the shade will dramatically reduce the strain on the AC to keep the camper cool. When you book in advance, many campgrounds have campsite maps that have photos of each numbered campsite – you can use these photos to help choose the best shady spot for your RV. If you show up to a campground without a reservation, don’t forget to simply ask if there are shady spots available – if you don’t ask, you won’t get!
Add a Window AC
If you will be in a spot that has little to no shade or is on pavement (which reflects heat), or in the desert – you may want to add a portable Window AC to your RV. It will take up an entire window (you’ll have to seal off any opening) – but the extra cooling power will help combat the elements.
Cover All Windows
Use Reflectix – reflective bubble insulation – on the exterior of each window. You can tape it up or use Velcro to install it as a removable feature. You can buy Reflectix at home improvement stores in large rolls that you can cut to size for your windows.
Clean Your AC Vents Monthly
Every month make it a priority to clean each of your AC vents and intake. Make sure there is no debris or anything blocking them. Dirty/blocked AC vents are a major factor in AC malfunctions and you can save time, money, and frustration just by a quick clean up every 30 days.
Close Window Shades and Add Black-Out Curtains
If you aren’t planning on covering windows with reflective insulation, make sure that all window blinds are closed during the day and add black-out curtains to further block sun from hitting the windows and heating the interior of the RV.
Use a Dehumidifier if Camping in Humid Locations
If you plan to park anywhere with high humidity, running a dehumidifier will make the interior of your RV significantly cooler and more comfortable.
Turn Lights Off During the Day
If your RV has incandescent or halogen bulbs in the lights, keep them off during the day. These types of bulbs emit heat and will raise temperatures of small, enclosed spaces like your RV. Better yet – switch all bulbs to LED – over the long term it saves money by keeping things cooler and they don’t need to be replaced as often.
Add a Rooftop Shading System
If parking in a shady spot isn’t an option, try installing a product which provides permanent shade for your RV like Shade RV. It protects your RV roof and blocks 95% of UV rays.
Insulate Every Gap Around Doors, Windows, and Vents
Carefully inspect all your windows, the vents, and the doors for gaps and then add insulation.
Put Reflectix on the Top of Sliders
Reflectix is a flexible insulation product (looks like silver bubble wrap) that you can buy in large rolls to cut to custom sizes. Measure out the roof-size of your RV sliders and cut a piece of reflective insulation to fit on the top. Secure with Velco tape(the kind that you can stick onto surfaces). You’ll have to re-attach this roof insulation each time you open your sliders – but it will help keep the sun’s heat out of your camper.
Add an RV Airflow System
Cool air naturally settles to the ground while hot air rises to the ceiling of your RV. Using an airflow system such as RV Airflow will circulate your RV air and keep the camper cool.
Cover the Skylights
Secure Reflectix to the interior of you skylights using Velcro tape to prevent sun from shining in through these windows.
Pre-Cool Your RV
If you know its going to be a scorcher of a day, start your AC early, before it really starts heating up. You’ll cool the walls and floors of the camper and help prevent things from overheating. Its takes less energy to keep the RV at a constant coolness than to wait until its super hot and try to cool it down from there.
The main goal of good ventilation is to pump warm air out and bring fresh air in. You can install vent covers over your existing roof vents that will help increase ventilation in your RV – they let fresh air in even when its raining. Close all windows facing the sun and open the windows on the shady side – this lets the warm air out.
Install a Ventilation Fan to the Refrigerator Vent
Your RV refrigerator gives off a lot of heat when it is running (which should be 24/7). Your RV should have a vent near the refrigerator or on the ceiling directly above the refrigerator. Buy a small ventilation fan that fits on this vent to help move the hot air from the refrigerator out. Also, make a special effort to include this vent on your monthly vent-cleaning as any debris blocking it will impact the interior temperatures of the RV.
Have a few small fans to position around the RV to help keep air circulating and cooler. Even the tiny USB-powered fans are really useful for keeping air from getting stagnate.
Use Vent Covers When Running the AC
Securely cover all vents when running your AC to keep your RV sealed and minimize any outside air from heating up your interior AC air. In the bathroom, use Velcro tape to secure the vent cover so that it can be removed for showers (you want to have a vent open to release steam and water vapor).
“Close That Door! We Aren’t Air Conditioning the Whole World!”
Dad was right, keep that door shut as much as possible so that you keep your AC air in and the hot, humid air out.
Inspect Your AC Duct System
Its a terrible reality, but not everything on your RV may have been installed correctly at manufacture. Inspect your AC ducts and make sure all the areas between the supply and return are sealed correctly. You can lose a lot of cold air right back to the return if they aren’t sealed properly.
Be Cautious About Long Stays Near Salt Water
Salt in the air can wreak havoc on your AC unit over long periods of time. If you plan to set up camp near the ocean, remember that it is especially important to have your AC professional maintained yearly to minimize salt impact and its cooling ability.
Large rigs may have more trouble keeping cool with their installed AC unit. Portable ACs are great because they can be positioned to wherever they are needed most in the RV.
Bring Tarps, Bungie Cords, and Rope
If there are trees around your campsite you can hang tarps up to create more shade for both your RV and the outside patio area.
Use Your Ceiling Fan
Adjust your ceiling fan so that it directs the cool air downwards from the AC vents in the ceiling. This keeps air circulating and helps the cool air get around the interior.
Close Off Rooms You Aren’t Using
If you have a toy-hauler, their garages are notoriously less-insulated than the living sections. If you don’t need access to that area, seal it off to keep the cool air in the main part of your RV.
Extend Your Awning Whenever Possible
If you weren’t able to snag a spot with afternoon sun on the left side of your RV, extend your awning (weather condition permitting, of course) to add shade to the right side of the rig. Note: Don’t leave your awning out unattended.
Jennifer Hillberg is the Founder and Creator of Mountain Mat, LLC, the USA’s first 100% recycled plastic, reversible, outdoor recreation mat. As an avid outdoor recreationalist, Jennifer has hiked and camped in some of the world’s most remote places alongside her husband and three children. Learn more about The Mountain Mat Story.