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How to Stay Cool in Your RV, Camper, or Motorhome

Don is a retired engineer and long-time motorhome owner who enjoys helping readers deal with the increasingly complex technology of RVs.

Sudden Weather Changes Can Make Even the Best RV Uncomfortable

An RV can become very uncomfortable if it becomes too hot, like this RV sitting somewhere in an overnight campsite.

An RV can become very uncomfortable if it becomes too hot, like this RV sitting somewhere in an overnight campsite.

Simple Tips for Keeping your RV interior a Little Cooler

A motorhome is designed with the basic comfort systems everyone expects, but even these systems cannot operate at their best, if you haven't taken the many little precautions necessary to keep your RV comfortable in HOT weather.

During the summertime, your camper can get as hot as a tin can sitting in the sun alongside a hot tropical road.

But with a little planning, you can implement some things in your camper and campsite to maximize the cool air flow and thus keeping the temperature inside the cabin comfortable.

It really doesn't matter whether you have a simple pop-up camper or a massive motorhome loaded with personal luxuries, because with the right tools and tips, you can prevent your living space from getting hotter than necessary.

In this article, I'll outline a number of these common-sense tips to help you stay cooler in the hottest of weather.

The Basics of Nature

When you think of improving your camper's comfort level you should think about these basic rules of nature which you need to recognize before attempting to keep cool in your motorhome.

Once you familiarize yourself with these simple facts, you can use them to your advantage:

  1. It will be cooler at night than during the day.
  2. The sun always rises in the east and sets in the west.
  3. It is cooler in the shade than in direct sunlight.
  4. Moving air will cool your body, while still air will seem hot and sticky.
  5. Hot air rises. Cold air drops.

Utilize Shade to Offset Sun Exposure

Often, the temperature in the shade can be five or more degrees cooler than in direct sunlight. When you pull into a campground in the summer, always ask the check-in staff if they have a shady campsite available.

An ideal campsite will often have a shady tree or two you can pull your vehicle under.

And understand that if your camper is a dark color, it will absorb a lot more heat, so pay special attention to finding shady locations.

Below are some other ways to create shade so you can stay cool.

Windows and Main Awnings

When you set up your motorhome, open all of your window awnings. These awnings provide a blanket of shade over your windows, cooling the air around the exterior of the vehicle.

Also, try to pick a campsite that allows your largest awning to be either on the east or west side of your motorhome, depending on when you plan to spend the most time outside.

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If you intend to be outside more in the mornings, situate your motorhome with the awning facing east and likewise, if you intend to be mostly outside in the evening, situate your motorhome with the awning facing west.

Sunscreens

Many campers with built-in awnings have sunscreens attached to the outer edges. These sunscreens can be lifesavers if your camper is sitting in the afternoon sun. Be sure to utilize them.

Tarps

Don't be afraid to stretch a tarp over your campground for added shade. Tarps are cheap, easy to store, and can cool down your campsite dramatically.

Umbrellas

If you have a big beach umbrella, use it! Even if you're not near the beach, stick your umbrella in the ground, open it up, and enjoy the extra little area of shade it provides.

A Campground With a Cool Stream is Your Ideal Summer Campground

This is a shady spot in Sedona, Arizona where my RV just fit, but it was a great two days there.

This is a shady spot in Sedona, Arizona where my RV just fit, but it was a great two days there.

Keep the Air Circulating

If your A/C can't handle the job of cooling your motorhome, open the windows on the shady side of the vehicle and keep the windows in the direct sunlight closed. This will create natural air circulation.

Another way to maintain good air circulation is to set up the vehicle in a position where your ceiling fans are pulling in cool air and not hot air. One common mistake motorhome owners make is situating their van in a hot place and then funneling hot air into the cabin by turning on the fans.

Also, be sure to close the shades on the sunny side of your RV to keep sunlight out. Many people will even place a sun reflector in the windows which are receiving the most sunlight.

Ceiling Fans

Once your camper is set up as described above, you can utilize your ceiling fan to suck the hot air out of your RV and pull cooler air in. This is especially important if you are cooking inside your RV. You want to get that hot air outside immediately.

Use Your Air Conditioning Effectively

Most motorhomes today have at least one roof A/C unit. When used with a little forethought, you can maximize its effectiveness while minimizing power consumption.

For the most part, the A/C should be unnecessary, provided you are utilizing shade, window screens, and awnings as described above. Sometimes, though, these power-saving tricks aren't enough to cool the cabin of the vehicle.

Once the temperature inside the motorhome approaches 75° F or so, turn the A/C on, close all of the windows, and leave your ceiling fan on. This will allow the fan to pull out the hot air near the ceiling, and reduce the load on the A/C unit somewhat.

If the temperature inside the motorhome has reached 85° F or higher and your A/C is not bringing the temperature down, you should consider turning it off and opening your motorhome up for more air circulation.

Save Energy by Turning Off Your A/C During the Early Evening

Before dusk, you will notice the outside air temperature is dropping. It may still be hot, but it will be noticeably cooler than it was during the midday hours.

At this point, turn off your A/C, open all of your windows, turn the ceiling fan on high, and get that cool evening air flowing into the cabin.

Once your inside temperature has dropped enough, you can turn your A/C back on if needed. This process will minimize your electricity usage.

Cook Outside When You Can

If you plan properly, you can do a lot of your cooking outside, thus reducing the temperature inside the cabin. Here are a few tips:

  1. Use a grill, electric frying pan, electric broiler, crock pot, or something similar.
  2. Plan your meals and buy groceries accordingly. You should be able to prepare everything outside.
  3. Make cooking an outdoor social event by setting up chairs and tables nearby.

Make Leftovers

Another great time and electricity saver is to cook enough for the next day(s). It takes a lot less time and energy to warm up leftovers than to cook one meal at a time.

Eat Chilled Foods

Save energy and stay cool by adding fresh vegetables and fruits to the menu. Your family or guests will love a dish of refreshing foods on a blistering hot day.

You can make fantastic meals by Cooking on a Grill

Cook meals outside to keep the interior of the RV cooler and enjoy great foods.

Cook meals outside to keep the interior of the RV cooler and enjoy great foods.

Plan to Be Outside During the Heat of the Day

What most people call the heat of the day is usually from 11am to one hour before sunset. One smart way to stay cool is to plan your day so that you are out of the motorhome during these hours. For example, you could:

  • Shop for groceries
  • See the sights
  • Go fishing
  • Go boating
  • Go swimming
  • Go on a hike

The main point is to stay out of your camper during these extremely hot hours. This shouldn't be too difficult, though. Just enjoy the outdoors!

How to Operate an RV Awning (Video)

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

Questions & Answers

Question: Which is the best way to run your ceiling fan? Push air down or pull the air up towards the ceiling?

Answer: Most people will use the fans direction to distribute the air they want spread around the room the fan is in.

First remember that basic physics states that hot air will rise and cold air will drop, just due to the different densities.

Using this knowledge a fan would normally be used to pull hot air down in cold weather, and the reverse in hot weather.

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