Tips and Tools for Staying Cool in Your RV
RV Misters, Window Shades, and AC units Help You Stay Comfortable While Camping
Harsh winters may have us pining for warmer days. But Summer — especially Summer spent in an RV — can quickly remind us that cold air may not be such a bad thing after all.
Fortunately, there are a number of strategies and products you can employ to keep the sun at bay. For organizational purposes, we’ll divide these into two major categories: passive methods, which largely include products that deflect heat without imposing an energy burden (think window shades and tints) and active methods, like fans and air-conditioning units. Find the right balance between the two, and it will be possible to reach, at the very least, a truce with even the hottest summer days.
At the most basic level, some of the most effective tactics you can employ for staying cool require no hardware or cash expenditures. For example, when planning an RV trip and contacting RV parks and campsites along your route, ask if a shaded or partially shaded spot is available and try to keep the refrigerator side of your rig out of the sun if possible. Waterfront spots, either along a river, lake or the ocean, also provide their own natural cooling benefits.
When the sun is beating down on your rig, you may need to sacrifice your view of the outside world in order to enjoy cooler comforts, particularly if your RV’s air-conditioning system is underpowered for the size of your trailer.
Window Shades & Tints
If your trailer doesn’t already have blackout shades, off-market brands sell them in a variety of sizes to fit virtually any RV window. They are pretty effective at keeping out light and heat, plus the darkness they provide will help you sleep better at night.
It’s not hard to find businesses that will install permanent window tints, and these will go a long way toward cutting interior temps. But there are times you may prefer a clearer view or even want that extra warmth through the glass. To have it both ways, you can install portable tints that can be quickly cut to fit. KwikShade makes just such a portable tint that is sold in bulk rolls or by the yard. It adheres to the glass by static electricity and can be put on, taken down, reused or even washed.
Insulate Roof Vents
Every RV has roof vents — and when it’s warm outside, most of us like to keep them open. But when it’s really hot, these vents create a point of entry for the sun’s rays — so covering them with vent cushions, or even Styrofoam or folded towels, can help the air-conditioning system work more effectively. Small and inexpensive solar vent covers can also be installed to deflect heat.
Patio Shade & Awnings
Once you’ve sunproofed the interior, you’ll want to extend the shade to the outside of the RV. Most RVs already have patio awnings, but these can be enhanced with sidescreens that encase the patio area in shade. Carefree of Colorado and Dometic make screens that can be used on the front or sides of an awning, allowing cross breezes through while blocking the sun’s rays.
Add Cool Mist
Blocking sunlight is the first step, but sometimes you need to be more proactive if you want to stay cool on sultry days. Misters, once an exotic luxury, are now available in a variety of portable and affordable configurations. Soleus Air’s HumidiBreeze misting fan is a portable mister than can be placed anywhere you have access to a 120-volt AC outlet. This compact mister holds a gallon of water, and the company says it can lower temperatures up to 20 degrees Fahrenheit. The MistyMate Cool Camper 6 portable misting system comes with 10 feet of lead line and 6 feet of mist line, and is easy to attach to popular awnings.
Extend the mist over larger outdoor areas with a misting system designed for use with awnings and canopies. MistyMate’s Cool Camper 6 mister includes a portable two-gallon tank plus 10 feet of lead line and 6 feet of mist line. It uses clip-on attachments to secure the line to the awning. The system requires no electrical power; it’s pressurized using a pump handle on the tank.
You can also find misting systems that are designed for a more permanent installation. The Mist-er-Comfort RV misting system works using a city water hookup or by tapping into an RV’s water-filtration system, exterior shower or washer/dryer water supply. The company’s kit comes with three misting heads, but more can be ordered individually for larger applications. Use filtered or soft water only.
Circulate the Air
Perhaps the most time-honored method of keeping cool is to circulate the air around you. There are easy and inexpensive methods for doing this, starting with rounding up the old box fans cluttering your garage and strategically placing them around the RV.
But the motorhome and trailer markets are served by a variety of manufacturers that offer specialized fans designed to work specifically within the tight confines of a recreational vehicle.
One such product is the Vornado V103 Under Cabinet Circulator fan. This compact fan pivots 360 degrees and folds up out of the way for storage. It comes with a two-speed control, and Vornado says the V103 fan will push air 25 feet.
Another solution is to install a fan in a ceiling vent. Fan-Tastic Vent makes ceiling vent fans with thermostat control, which will shut the fan off or turn it on once the specified temperature is reached. These three-speed, 12-volt DC fans fit standard 14-by-14-inch openings and have a reversible airflow switch. The top model even comes with a remote and offers 14 speeds.
Keep Food Cool
It’s also useful to focus on cooling specific areas of your RV. A common irritation in many RVs is the refrigerator that struggles to keep food and drink sufficiently cold. An evaporator fins fan mounted in the refrigerator is an inexpensive fix that will keep temperatures much colder and more evenly distributed. RV Cooling Unit Warehouse sells new and remanufactured cooling units for refrigerators and offers evaporator fans that can be easily installed to boost refrigerator performance. The evaporator fans improve cooling to the point that the refrigerator’s thermostat does not have to be set to the coldest settings.
Air Conditioning Units
Then, of course, there’s the big gun when it comes to cooling — air conditioning. Most modern RVs are fitted with a roof air conditioner from the factory. People don’t usually go to the trouble of piloting an RV around the great outdoors just to sit around in air conditioning all day, but there are times when nothing else will do. If you already have an RV with air conditioning, make sure that the filter stays clean, since this can affect the unit’s performance. You may also want to examine some of the newer roof air-conditioner offerings, as many of them are more energy-efficient and quieter than older models. If you’re installing an air conditioner in an older trailer, there are several roof-mounted variations available from Coleman, Dometic, Gree and others.
New AC’s generally run in the $600 to $800 range, although it’s not hard to spend more, especially if you add a heat pump to the package. Installation is usually straightforward, as they are designed to fit in the openings of standard roof vents. You’ll want to spend the time to plan out all the variables when it comes to adding air conditioning. Most roof-mounted air-conditioning units will add at least 90 to 100 pounds to your RV, and you’ll have to consider power-generation capabilities. Taking along a new generator (or generators) to power the air conditioner will exact its own weight and space penalties. Still, for those August days in a desert campsite, you probably won’t be too stressed about the power requirements for that new air-conditioning system.
And, hey, if all of these don’t get the job done, never underestimate the awesome cooling power of a kiddie pool you can splash around in.