Summer heat can make an RV interior hot and uncomfortable very quickly. Running your air conditioner constantly puts a strain on your batteries and budget. Thankfully, there are many inexpensive and effective options to cool your RV without relying as heavily on the AC. Being an avid RVer, I’ve learned how to keep my RV cool during the summer with simple upgrades (buy portable fans, install roof vent covers), smart camping techniques (relocating the RV, cooking outside), and taking advantage of physics to maximize airflow and ventilation (creating a cross breeze). Now I’m going to share my knowledge with you guys and you just need to take a few minutes and read the post till the end. So, let’s get started, shall we?
During summer, rising temperatures can make an RV feel like an oven, causing discomfort for travelers. Running your RV’s air conditioner constantly can be expensive and drain your batteries. Luckily, there are plenty of affordable ways to beat the heat in your RV without breaking the bank.
Here are some of the most cost-effective methods for cooling down your recreational vehicle based on my years of RVing experience –
Relocate Your RV
One free cooling method is to move your RV to a shadier location. Park under trees that provide afternoon shade. Morning sun helps dry condensation while tree shade prevents overheating later. Pick east-facing sites to avoid the hot western sun. Sites facing north are also cooler. In camping parks, look for sites surrounded by trees or vegetation to benefit from the shade.
Desert sites are hotter. Seek out beach, riverside, or lakeside locations that stay cooler during summer.
Create Shade Manually
Adding shade elements helps block incoming sunlight. Extend all your RV’s awnings fully to shade the sides. Use tilting awning arms to angle shade as the sun moves. Hang tarps over slide-outs, especially on the sunny side. Secure tightly and use bungees to create a slope so rain runs off. Apply adhesive foam or cardboard panels to skylight exteriors to block sunlight entering through the roof. Install blackout curtains on windows getting direct sun exposure during the day. Close these curtains to limit heat buildup inside.
Take Advantage of Natural Breeze
Proper ventilation is key for allowing hot interior air to escape. Open windows on shaded sides during the day to allow cross-breezes through your RV. Use vent fans to actively draw cooler exterior air into your RV and force out hot interior air. Run fans on high when parked. Orient your RV so the front cap catches prevailing winds. Tailwinds blow through open rear windows for better airflow. Ceiling fans and portable fans help circulate air. Use them to create a wind chill effect that makes you feel cooler.
Buy Portable Fan(s) or Air Cooler(s)
Supplementary cooling appliances allow you to directly target and cool people or pets. Portable fans are an affordable way to create a breeze. Use floor fans, desk fans, or ceiling fans for larger spaces. Evaporative air coolers, or swamp coolers, pull in hot exterior air and pass it through moist pads to cool down the air, which is then blown into your RV.
Protect Your Windows
Window treatments help reduce the heat entering your RV through the glass. Apply reflective insulation like Reflectix to window exteriors to reflect sunlight and block heat gain. Secure tightly with adhesive or tape for best results. Install vent covers over roof vents and fans to prevent hot attic air from entering your RV’s interior. Look for insulated, UV-resistant vinyl vent covers. Close all blinds and curtains during the daytime to limit heat buildup inside your RV. Open them at sunset so windows can release stored heat from the day.
Install Roof Vent Covers
Insulating roof vents prevent hot attic air from heating up your RV’s interior. Use rigid foam vent insulators or vinyl vent covers with an R-value of at least R-4. The higher the R-value, the better the heat insulation. Make sure covers are cut accurately for a tight, secure fit over vents to block air exchange.
Close Your Windows in the Morning
By closing windows early, you minimize heat entering your RV during the hottest part of the day. Close all windows by 10 am at the latest, especially on the sunny side. As the air heats up midday, convection means more hot air will enter through open windows, raising interior temperatures. Keeping windows closed prevents this. You can open windows after sunset once outside temperatures start dropping.
Apply Reflective Insulation
Reflective surfaces block and redirect heat away from your RV walls and roof. Line cabinets and interior walls with Reflectix panels secured with adhesive, screws, or velcro. Measure carefully and cut insulation to fit snugly around windows, doors, and vents to create a radiant barrier. For the roof, use white elastomeric paint or coat with Reflectix exterior duct insulation with the reflective side facing up.
Ensure Efficient Cooling System
An inefficient AC wastes power trying to cool your RV. Maximizing its efficiency means it doesn’t have to work as hard. Inspect seals around AC vents indoors to ensure cold air isn’t escaping. Seal any gaps with caulk or duct tape. Outdoor AC units should be shaded from direct sun, either by awnings or some improvised structure built over it. Clean air filters monthly and clean debris off outdoor AC coils with a hose to maximize airflow.
Cook Al Fresco (Avoid Cooking Inside)
Cooking adds heat, moisture, and odors to your RV’s interior. In order to avoid this, use an outdoor portable camp stove or grill instead of cooking inside. If camping in a park, take advantage of BBQ pits or campfire rings for cooking. Consider using an electric pressure cooker or slow cooker. They add less ambient heat than stove-top cooking.
Cover the Skylights
Skylights allow sunlight to pass through and heat up your interior. You can reduce this by applying Reflectix sheets over skylights from the exterior side. Secure tightly with adhesive, tape, or snap rings. Using blackout curtains on skylight windows to limit daytime light and heat. Open at night. Parking under trees to shade your RV’s roof and reduce direct sunlight on skylights.
Shade the RV Door
Adding shade over your door prevents sunlight from hitting it directly. Install an awning over your door if your RV doesn’t come with one. Look for small horizontal awnings designed for RVs.
Get a doormat with a built-in shade flap. The flap covers the gap below the door to block light and heat entering. Improvise with a small tarp or fabric shade hung above the door using ropes or poles.
The more you ventilate, the more hot air can escape from your RV. Keep windows open on opposite sides of your RV to maximize crossflow. Use a box fan in one window to actively exhaust interior air to the outside. Run your vent fans at full speed when parked in hot conditions. Install additional 12-volt DC-powered vent fans if your RV lacks enough ventilation fans.
Clean Fridge Vents Frequently
Dust buildup on the back of your refrigerator reduces ventilation and makes the fridge work harder to expel heat. Use a vacuum crevice tool to clean dust from the thin fins behind your RV fridge every 2-3 months. Wipe down the fridge coils with a cloth dampened with a cleaning spray or a 50/50 vinegar-water solution.
Install LED Lights
LEDs produce much less heat than incandescent bulbs, reducing heat given off from lighting. Replace existing light bulbs with LED equivalents. Choose warm white colors under 3000K to reduce blue light emission. Swap out halogen puck lights for LED versions. Retrofit kits are available. For best heat reduction, also minimize the use of lights during the day. Rely on natural light instead.
Keep Electronics Powered Off
Laptops, TVs, and other devices produce localized heat when powered on. That’s why you should turn electronics completely off when not in use rather than leaving in standby mode.
Charging devices outdoors or in storage bays rather than inside the living space. Adding small 12V fans near electronics to dissipate heat buildup and draw hot air away from you.
Keep the Door Shut
Leaving the door open lets in blasts of hot exterior air. Therefore, keep the door closed fully whenever you are inside, only opening briefly to enter/exit. Installing a screen door so you get ventilation when the main door is open without as much heat transfer. Use your window as a pass-through for handing items in/out instead of fully opening the door for long periods.
Use a Swamp Cooler
Swamp coolers provide inexpensive evaporative cooling. They work best in low-humidity climates. Position the swamp cooler to blow cool air where you need it most, like your dining or sleeping area. Maintain the water reservoir and change pads regularly so the cooler operates efficiently. Use a ratio of one 5000 BTU swamp cooler per 150 square feet of RV space to calculate the required capacity.
Are these Cheap Ways Efficient Enough to Cool your RV?
The inexpensive cooling methods listed can make a significant impact in cooling your RV. However, their effectiveness depends on the climate, weather conditions, and your RV’s construction. Basically,
- Well-insulated RVs with tinted windows hold heat less than older, single-pane models.
- Dry heat tents are more manageable than humid heat using venting/shade.
- Above 100°F, supplemental AC may still be needed, but these measures can reduce AC runtime.
- Using multiple cooling methods together offers the best results.
In extreme heat, running your AC may be unavoidable. But combining these cheap cooling techniques can allow you to run your air conditioner less frequently or on lower settings – saving you money on energy costs. Parking in the shade and ventilating at night may allow you to avoid using your AC altogether on cooler days.
Experiment to see which solutions work best for your RV. No single method offers a complete solution, so utilize a combination of multiple cooling techniques for the best results.
Best Cool Camping Sites Across the USA
To maximize natural cooling, aim for higher elevation, lakeside, beachfront, or shaded campsites. Here are some great cool camping spots across America –
Riverside Campground, Olympic National Park, WA
Shady sites nestled beside the Sol Duc River deep in the Hoh Rainforest keep temperatures down. One of the coolest campgrounds with daytime highs from 75-85°F.
Lake Mead RV Village, Boulder City, NV
A desert oasis, this RV park has sites with shade awnings along Lake Mead. Enjoy cooler breezes off the water along with swimming and water sports.
Half Moon Campground, Leadville CO
At 9,600 feet elevation, this alpine campground provides a refreshing escape from the summer heat. Explore the stunning scenery and trails around nearby Mt. Elbert.
Loon Lake Campground, Idaho
Surrounded by Payette National Forest, this lakefront campground stays cooler thanks to the large body of water and plentiful shade from tall pines.
Cape Lookout State Park, Oregon
This park on the scenic Oregon coast usually hovers around 60-70°F summertime. Listen to the ocean waves while enjoying the mild weather.
Big Pine Key Fishing Lodge, FL
Island campsites with ocean breeze and shady palms help this Keys campground stay relatively comfortable even in summer. Sites have water/electricity.
Fort Stevens State Park, OR
Large shady sites are a stone’s throw from the Pacific Ocean, keeping the park cooler than inland areas during summer.
Check forecast temperatures and aim for cooler regions during hot summer trips. The optimal times to visit southern campgrounds are spring and fall.
How much can reflective insulation lower interior temperatures?
Reflective surfaces can reduce heat gain by around 30-50%. Actual temperature reduction depends on insulation R-value and proper installation of sealing edges.
Should I crack windows open at night?
Yes, cracking open windows at night allows cooler exterior air to enter and hot interior air to escape. This temperature exchange can lower your interior temperature, reducing the AC workload the next day.
Which roof vent covers are most effective?
Look for vent covers with an R-value of at least R-4. Vinyl covers with insulation tend to perform better than basic foam covers. Installing tight-fitting covers is also essential for optimum performance.
Beating the heat on summer camping trips doesn’t have to mean racking up huge AC bills. Employing smart passive cooling techniques can keep your RV cool while freeing up energy for powering other essentials. Seek out shaded sites, ventilate in the evenings, use fans or swamp coolers, and manage sunlight properly. Combine solutions like insulation, window coverings, and ventilation for the best effect. With a little preparation, you can stay cool on the road this summer without breaking the bank!