Keep Your RV Cool This Summer: 20 Easy And Affordable Tricks!
(Camp Addict does NOT accept payment from any company to review or endorse their products.)
By Kelly Beasley
No, ma'am, this isn't your run-of-the-mill article about how to keep a camper cool in summer that only spouts obvious remedies.
Here you get actual, tangible, actionable steps to get cooler in the extreme heat of summer temperatures.
Some of these tips are more affordable than others, but they are all within reason.
Without further ado, let's dive into how to keep an RV cool in the daytime heat!
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Use Reflectix In Your Windows And Cabinets
Let's start with the most well-known solution. Reflectix for your windows!
Reflectix might be the cheapest way to cool an RV in the summer.
Cut the reflective insulation to fit and place it in all RV windows that get direct sunlight. Putting some in the back and tops of your upper cabinets can also be helpful.
You can also tape the Reflectix to the outside of your windows, but I've never gone that far.
Reflectix is easy to cut, easy to store, and easy to apply.
It's a very cheap fix for beating the summer heat! You can find rolls of reflective insulation in big-box hardware stores. They also sell on Amazon.
Shade Keeps Your RV Cool
I hope you just rolled your eyes. As in, I hope you thought this one up on your own.
This is the #1 best way to keep your camper cool in a hot climate besides chasing elevation. Chasing elevation costs more in gas money and time.
If you can park at a campsite where it's shady for even half of the day, that's better than nothing.
Smart Window Orientation
If you have a huge RV window in your camper or many on one side, try to avoid parking where it/they face south or southeast. And use window covers like Reflectix on the side facing the sun.
But there are other helpful ways to orient your RV, depending on your situation and how hot it is outside.
See the next tip:
Using Your RV For Shade
First, decide if you want to spend time sitting outside of your RV.
If you do, park your 'porch' side, so it faces north to northeast.
Because that's naturally the side you'll sit on. By the door. Parking this way shades that side of the camper during the hottest part of the day.
So really, the time of day you want to sit out should determine how you position your camper.
The bad news is that if you face your door to the northeast, your awning won't be of any help in providing shade from the afternoon sun.
So, this scenario is best when it's so hot out that you can't be inside the RV in the afternoon, no matter what kind of shading you have.
(Like when it's so hot out that even if you're parked so your awning shades afternoon sun, it's still in the '90s in your RV.)
Awning Facing South/Southeast
This scenario is best if it's not extremely hot, not above the mid-80s. You can partially shade your RV from the brutal afternoon heat this way.
Then use your vent fans and interior fans to keep the air moving.
Of course, if you're in a campground and can't pick your campsite, you may have zero orientation options to keep your RV cool at all.
Also, remember that you may not ALWAYS be able to use your awning. If it's windy, it must come in. Then it does you no good whatsoever.
No Awning? Use A Tarp Or Portable Awning
If you don't have an awning, portable awnings are available on the market, like the Moonshade Awning.
Or, you can hack it- make up your own awning using a tarp or similar.
Attach a large tarp to the top of the south side of your RV and secure it down at the ground using stakes or another attachment method.
If you create air space between the RV and the tarp, that's even better.
If you choose to park with your door facing north, this is your best option to help shade the sunny side of your RV without using the awning (assuming you have an awning on the side getting the southern sun).
Or, use the portable one on the south side for maximum RV cooling.
Shade Your Roof With Shade RV
Shade RV is a product that covers your roof to create shade when you can't park under any. This might be the most expensive option on the list, but it's also one of the most effective. Using Shade RV is an excellent solution if you don't move much or are in full sun in extreme heat somewhere such as Arizona.
Maximize Vent Fan Effectiveness
What if you can't use your AC? In that case, your vent fan is your next best friend in keeping your RV cool.
When it's not excessively hot out, and you only have one vent fan and a small RV, I'd advise you only to open one window.
Because if you hang out between the open window and the fan, you'll get an airflow with the cross breeze.
If you have TWO fans, set one to pull air in and the other to push hot air out. This will also help with the cross breeze.
If you have a stock fan that is NOT a Fantastic Fan or a MaxxAir fan, replacing it with one would do you a world of good.
Typically the stock fans have a teeny-tiny fan that barely pulls warm air in or out. Very lame.
Insulators For RV Vent Fan And Skylight
If you use your AC, close the cover and insert a foam insulator into your vent fan area to help keep the heat out.
If your vent fan is flush with your ceiling or you have a skylight, you can buy a vent cover that insulates or a skylight shade.
Some RVers put a bit of Reflectix up there, too. I find the foam does an adequate job- no heat gets through mine sans Reflectix.
They are super cheap yet effective.
Find these in any camping store, on Amazon, or even at Walmart. Or, make your own.
Most RVs come with blinds, but if yours doesn't, this is a no-brainer.
Add insulated ones such as honeycomb cellular window shades or any insulating material if you can.
Insulated curtains are also helpful.
Minimize Your Stove Usage
Stoves are hot when on, duh. The less you use yours in high temperatures, the better.
Try using a microwave instead. Or cook outside using an outdoor grill, sun oven, or fire pit.
However, if you must use your stove, once finished, put the pot or skillet outside right away.
No sense in letting it cool off inside your RV, warming your camper or motorhome even further.
Finally, you can opt to eat food that doesn't require cooking, such as salads, sandwiches, and granola.
Use An RV Awning Shade
Once the sun gets low enough, your awning won't provide much shade. So here is another effective hack.
Put up a shade cloth that hangs from the end of your awning. It serves two purposes:
- Create a more private (and cooler) outdoor space
- Keep more shade on the side of your camper
You can buy them pre-made, or you can rig up one yourself.
Remember, just like the awning, this shade won't fare well in windy conditions.
Switch From Incandescent To LED Lights
But more importantly, they put out way less heat than incandescent lights do.
This solution doesn't seem to make much difference, but it does. It also saves battery power when you're boondocking.
Use Stand-Alone Fans
It seems like a no-brainer, but sometimes relying only on ceiling vent fans (or just ceiling fans, such as in fifth-wheels) is not enough.
The truth is, the more air movement you have, the better.
So, buy yourself some stand-alone fans.
You can do either 120-volt or 12-volt fans, depending on how often you are off-grid and if you have an inverter.
120-volt will likely be more powerful. But 12-volt fans will also help give you some cooler, fresh air.
Use A Dehumidifier
If you are on the east coast and in high humidity, taking the moisture out of the air helps to make your environment more comfortable.
Make Your AC Vents More Efficient
OK, so it's hot enough that you're using your AC?
AC is usually adequate, but when it's so hot that your AC can hardly keep up, try these three tips:
Chase High Elevation
The hotter it gets (and the more you love mountains), the higher you'll want to be in elevation. That's where the cold air is!
Of course, this only applies if you are location-independent and are willing to move.
No, it's not the most cost-effective solution.
But chasing elevation is one of the most effective (and adventurous!) solutions to the heat when living in an RV full-time.
For every 1000 feet you climb, it gets about 3.5 degrees cooler. It will cool even more if it's not humid or raining/snowing.
Where's Your Water Hose?
OK, this doesn't do anything to keep your motorhome or travel trailer cool in the summer, but it will make your hot days a little better.
If your water hose sits in the sun, the water inside gets hot. (Yuck!)
Get your hose shaded if possible. Don't let it be sitting outside on the hot pavement.
If you keep it under your RV or cover it, your rig's water won't be sickeningly warm.
Build Or Buy A Swamp Cooler
These can be somewhat effective, but ONLY in low-humidity environments. A homemade swamp cooler is VERY cost-effective!
You can buy a pre-made one, or you can build one yourself for pennies on the dollar.
Pre-Made Swamp Cooler To Keep Your RV Cool
These exist, and they have ready-made ones that fit the hole in your ceiling for your vent fan (TurboKool).
You can install a TurboKool in your RV, but it will set you back a good chunk of change.
This makes it the easiest swamp cooler to use of all. It's up high, easy to use, and out of the way.
It runs $599 on their website.
There are also 120-volt stand-alone swamp coolers you can use if you can access 120-volt power.
Homemade Swamp Cooler To Keep Your RV Cool
Search on the Internet for 'homemade swamp cooler,' and you'll find many ways to build one.
They are simple, easy to make, and all have the same premise.
The unit cools the air using a fan to move air over either falling water or ice. The evaporation of the water or the ice cools the air.
Homemade versions are often made out of a cooler or a bucket. Minimal parts are needed.
Parts are a fan, a water pump, a container, a little tubing, and water. Cheap and easy!
For maximum cooling effectiveness, the homemade swamp cooler should remain outside of your RV (or vent to the outside).
Close Interior Doors!
If you have rooms you aren't using during the day, such as a bedroom in a fifth wheel, shut that room off and close the vents. No use wasting precious cooled air in that room- vent it into the living space of your RV for maximum effectiveness.
Conclusion On Keeping Your RV Cool
There are many ways you can keep your RV cool on your adventures, with or without AC.
However, even with the best of these ideas, unless you're using your air conditioning, it may be pretty miserable if you are in temps above about 85 degrees and you aren't in the shade.
You might even benefit from lining your RV's underside (like skirting) as some people do in the winter.
Skirting also helps to keep the RV cooler in the summer.
To recap, your best lines of defense are:
Good luck out there. There might be days that you cannot keep your RV in a comfortable temperature zone, boondocking or not, ESPECIALLY if you can't run the AC.
But you can do many of these things to keep it a little cooler than it would be otherwise.
Do you have a suggestion for how to keep RV cool in summer that is not listed here?
Please tell us how to keep your RV cool in summer in the comments!
Author: Kelly Beasley
I dedicated myself to living the full-time RV life for over 6.5 years, immersing myself in the unique quirks and joys of the boondocking lifestyle and gaining a wealth of knowledge and experience along the way. In December 2020, my business partner and I made the transition to part-time RVing, but in January 2023, we hit the road once again, this time in our trusty vans. My mission is to help others embrace the RVing lifestyle with confidence and excitement, armed with the knowledge and resources needed to make the most of their adventures. I believe that the more you know, the more you can truly appreciate and enjoy the freedom and flexibility of the open road.