Keeping your RV cool in hot summer heat

Keeping your RV cool in hot summer heat

By Russ and Tiña De Maris

While the best place to be when summer’s heat turns the landscape to “broil” is someplace cool, it’s not always possible. Sometimes you’re just stuck making out as best you’re able. Once temperatures hit the triple digits, it can be tough to keep “a little tin box” cool. But there are some things that can make it easier.

shady sideFirst, wherever possible, park your rig in shade. Wide open spaces can be frightfully hot. Iowa-based non-profit Trees Forever found an average difference between shady spots and open areas of 27.5 degrees.

No shade to park under? Make your own! Unless high winds threaten, put out your RV awning and angle it to get the most available shade on the side of the RV. Parking orientation is important too; try and expose the least area of the RV to the sun. This usually means parking with the front or rear of the unit to the south.

It’s possible to shade both of the long sides of the RV if you’re a bit creative. We bought a roll of shade cloth and found an outfit willing to seam it for us. With the addition of brass grommets, the new awning was ready for hanging. Up at roof level, right along the edge of the roof, we mounted small cleats to tie off the upper edge of the cloth. A few stakes pounded into the ground gave us tie-offs for the bottom edge.

Inside the rig, keep the blinds closed, and if you have curtains, close the over the top of the blinds. We’ve found that reflective bubble insulation will really keep heat out. The stuff comes on a roll and is basically a sandwich of thin plastic “bubble wrap” between layers of aluminum foil. Cut it to fit the windows tightly. We use a marking pen and write which window the piece belongs to so when we need it next time, it’s an easy fit.

We also do our best to seal off the roof vents. If you’re running your air conditioning unit, you won’t want them open anyway. You can cut the reflective insulation and stick covers over the vents from inside; we did it by using double stick Velcro tape. Others have cut 2″ or so foam rubber blocks to shove up into the vent holes.

From the mechanical standpoint, if your rig is equipped with two air conditioners, you’ll need 50 amp electrical service. If you have but one air conditioner and it doesn’t seem to be cutting the heat, it’s decision time.

If you and the RV will be stuck where you are for a while, you might consider adding a small window air conditioner unit. Once when locked up in Arizona for a few months, we popped a small window out of our fifth wheel, cut a piece of plywood to fit over the hole, then cut a hole in the center of the plywood for the a/c unit. Don’t plug the a/c unit into the RV, but into a separate circuit. If you’re in an RV park, you’ll need to check with management to see if this is permissible.

Fans can make a huge difference in how well you’ll be able to tolerate the heat. Moving air with the wind chill effect can make things far more tolerable than without.

What else can help? If the days are plenty hot, don’t shut off your air conditioning at night; keeping the RV inside cool gives you a bit of a jump on the next day’s heat. When going in and out of the rig, keep the door open for as short a time as possible. Pump plenty of fluids and look forward to the coming of fall!

photo: R&T De Maris

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