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How to keep COOL in your RV, Tips and Ideas for your comfort.

Updated on March 20, 2016
Don Bobbitt profile image

Don has been an avid traveler and motorhome owner for most of his life and he shares his knowledge of motorhomes and other RVs.

Do the little things to reduce the Heat

Keep the Air Flowing

Generally speaking, your camper or RV can get as hot as a tin can sitting in the Sun. Or, with a little planning, your Camper can be set up to maximize the cool air flow through the unit for your comfort with very little extra effort.

It really doesn't matter if you have a simple Pop-Up or a big Motor Coach loaded with your personal luxuries, you need to know what you can do to chip away at those things that are allowing your RV to get hotter than necessary.

Eventually, you will realize that you need to be smart and do everything possible to keep your camper cool when you end up in a campsite that gets really hot.

At the same time, you want do things that help you cool your camper as economically as possible.

To this end, keep reading to see a number of common sense hints that you can follow to stay cool in even the hottest weather.

A Shady Spot in Sedona Arizona


First - Understand Mother Nature

There are some things that are just basic rules of Nature and you need to recognize their existence.

Once you accept these simple facts, then you can use them to your advantage.

  1. It will be Cooler at night than during the day.
  2. The Sun will rise on the Eastern side of your RV, and it will set on the Western side of your RV.
  3. It is Cooler in the shade than in the direct Sunlight.
  4. Moving Air will Cool your Body while Still Air will seem hotter to your Body.
  5. Hot Air rises and Cold Air drops.

I know, these are simple facts that we all know, almost instinctively, but if you utilize them to your advantage you can dramatically reduce the heat in your RV.

Use available Shade, and add your own

Shade is your friend.

When you pull into a campground in the Summer, always ask the check-in people if they have what would be an ideal campsite for cool camping.

An ideal Campsite would be one with a shade tree or two to pull your RV under, while also being a site with a nice breeze, especially in the heat of the afternoon.

It may be nice camping in the Sun; say near the Beach, but it will also be significantly hotter.

And, if your camper is painted with dark colors, wow! It will absorb a lot more heat than a light colored camper. So you need to overcome these problems.

Window and Main Awnings:

When you set up your RV, open all of your window awnings.

These awnings provide a nice shade at your windows, and increases the opportunity for cooler air around your RV.

You will find that, It can be as much as five degrees cooler in the shade than in the direct Sun.

Also, try to pick a campsite that allows your largest awning to be either on the East or West of your RV, depending on whether you tend to be outdoors in the morning or the evening part of the day.

Many campers with a built-on awning will even have a sunscreen attached to the outer edger of the Main Awning. The Main Awning and these sunscreens can be lifesavers if your camper is sitting in the afternoon sun and, of course, they allow you a little more comfortable outside living area.


Don't be afraid to stretch a Tarp near or connected to your RV for added shade.

Tarps are cheap, they store in a small space, and they can provide additional cool shade at your site.

If you add a Tarp between a couple of trees, or a tree and a pole that you have planted, then you have added a shaded and thus cooler area right at your RV that you and your family can enjoy.


If you have a Beach umbrella, then, of course, you should use it!

Even if you are not at the Beach, stick your umbrella in the ground, open it up and enjoy this extra little area of shade at your campsite.

Windows and Screens and Ceiling Fans

If your AC can't handle the job, then open the windows on the shady side of your RV, while keeping the windows in the direct sun closed.

You want to maintain good air circulation in your RV, so set your RV windows up so that you are pulling in cool air not hot air with your ceiling or other fans.

Along this same line you should close the shades on the sunny side of your RV. You need to keep that direct Sunlight out of your RV.

Many people will even place a sun reflector, similar to those used on automobiles to reflect the direct sun back and out of the camper.

When the sun is coming into your RV, it is heating up everything it lands on, so shade or reflect that sunlight.

Ceiling Fans

Once your camper is set up as described above, you can utilize your ceiling fan to suck the hot air from your RV, and thus pull the cooler outside air into your RV.

This is especially important if you are cooking inside your RV. You want to get that heated air outside immediately.

Your Air Conditioner

Using your AC

Most RVs and Campers, today, have at least one roof AC unit.

When used with a little forethought, you can maximize the AC units effectiveness while minimizing the Electricity used.

Usually, the first thing in the morning, the AC is not going to be necessary, if you use your awnings, windows screens and ceiling fans as described.

Often, you can easily get through the mid-morning timeframe before you need to turn on your AC.

Once your inside temperature approacjes 75F or so, turn the AC on, close all of the windows, but leave your ceiling fan on, running at a low speed. This will allow the fan to pull out the hot air near the ceiling, and reduce the load on the AC unit somewhat.

Remember it is trying to cool your inside air, and specifically it is trying to cool that air right at the ceiling.

Once your inside temperature has reached 85F or higher and your Ac unit/s are running wide open you should consider turning them off and opening your RV up for more air flow inside.

Set your AC to run into the early evening timeframe.

At some point, before dusk, you will notice that 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 AC, and open ALL of YOUR WINDOWS, turn the ceiling fan on high, and get that cool outside air flowing into the RV.

Once your inside temperature has dropped enough, then you can turn your AC back on and get that RV cooler for the night.

Using this process will really minimize your electricity usage.

Cooking Smart

Cooking Outside

If you plan properly, you can do a lot of your cooking outside of your RV, thus reducing the indoor heat during the day Here are a few tips:

  1. Cook most of your food outside of the RV. Either on a Grill, or in electric frying pans, electric broilers, Crock Pots, etc.
  2. Plan your groceries for meals that can be prepared outside, and you will really reduce the heat in your RV.
  3. And, of course, the cook will be a lot more comfortable than if they were cooking inside a small kitchen inside a RV.
  4. Make cooking an outdoor social event where everyone participates, and it will be a lot more fun for everyone.

Cook Extra

Another hint, that is a great time saver, and an electricity saver is to cook enough for significant leftovers.

It takes a lot less work and electricity to warm up leftovers than to cook just enough for one meal at a time.

Eat Cool Foods

One thing that you can do to keep Cool is to add fresh vegetables and fruits into dishes that everyone will enjoy.

When you serve these dishes, you are saving on the energy it would take to prepare a Hot dish and face it, people usually prefer a nice cool dish as a part of a meal when it is hot, anyway.

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Plan your day to stay away

What most people call "the heat of the day" is usually considered to be from around 11AM until an hour or so, just before Sunset.

Plan your day so that you are busy during this period of the day.

If you need to shop for groceries, or go see the sites, or Fish, or go Boating, plan these outside activities for the heat of the day, and stay away from that hot RV.

Plan your day to spend your outside time socializing, or just sitting around your campsite with a cool drink for the time starting just before dark, when the outside temperature is starting to cool down.

Follow these hints and your time spent camping in the Summer will be more enjoyable for everyone and certainly Cooler.

Follow these tips and you will soon notice that you are enjoying your camping experience much more and everyone is having a better time together.

operating an RV Awning

How to Maintain your RV Air Conditioner

How to restring an RV Pleated Shade

© 2010 Don Bobbitt


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    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 6 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Tammy - Remember the basic rule that; Cool Air cannot get into a home if the Hot Air cannot get out. Use this basic fact to plan which doors and windows to open.


    • profile image

      Tammy 6 months ago

      Have u ever known anyone to board up all windows other than the kitchen ones. The person I no thinks it will stay cooler. Is that true if u only open the top 3 squares and door

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 8 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Lauren in South Texas - Wow! 100-pounds!

      OK, I'm no expert, but here's what I would do;

      1- Buy that screen room. a nice large one (12x12 or larger?).

      2- Place it where it will be in any air flow you can find, do not place it right up next to your camper.

      3- Make sure the "sunny side" and roof have shade without impeding the air flow.

      4- make sure there is a large water supply there every day for your dog. One that cannot be turned over.

      5- Talk to one of your fellow long term campers and ask them to drop by during the "heat of the day" and checks on your dog and refills the water supply if necessary. Many fellow campers, especially other dog owners might be willing to do this for you.

      I don't know of what else you can do, other than maybe placing a temperature gauge inside the tent and make sure the daytime temp is not at a dangerous level.

      Good Luck,


    • profile image

      Lauren 8 months ago

      Hi :)

      I loved your article, but I was hoping I could pick your brain. I live by a river in South Texas- hot, humid, and muggy. I'm graduating college in December and to help save up I'm planning to live in a pop-up from when my lease expires in may- until December when I move back to my hometown. That on its own seems crazy, but it gets crazier. I will have a job, an internship, and be in school that entire summer and fall. Thats the easy part, hard part is I have a 100 pound dog. He is extremely well behaved but spoiled rotten (as the best ones are). I want to be sure to do everything possible to keep my Popup in comfy temps for when it's just him. I am planning to stay at one park, not move around. I was thinking of investing in a canopy and installing one of those four wall tent screens as a cooking/entry/kennel area. Do you have any suggestions? I already know im crazy, my mom (3/4 year RVer) tells me so. I just want to make sure my pup has the best of the best.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 16 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Colleen - Good trick with the foil on the windows. I see a lot of people doing this in some of the campsites I visit.

      As to your black fiver? Is the roof black also? If so, keeping it clean and a reflective as possible will help the interior temps a little cooler. The more reflective the surfaces of your RV, the less solar is absorbed.

      Also, your RV has ceiling vents. If you open them just a little, this will let some of the heated air escape without forcing your RV AC units to cool ALL of that hot air inside.

      Good Luck, DON

    • profile image

      Colleen 16 months ago

      We have a very dark fifthwheel, black, oh my does it absorb heat!!! So this summer I've gone and bought silver foil insulation that comes in a roll at your local hardware store, and cut it to fit inside all my Trailer Windows, and then roll down all the shades over them. What a big difference it made, the AC didn't have to work as hard and it cooled our trailer down much quicker.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 16 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      David - 70F in 110F temps? WOW!

      Honestly, the only way I know of to come close to this is to use the geo-thermal temperatures under your feet. But, I am assuming you are talking about the RV world where you and your RV are traveling every few days. So this makes geothermal cooling impossible.

      The next, most effective way to cool your RV is to utilize shade. You can camp under a shade tree, of course to get a nit-unusual 10-degree differential, or come up with some kind of tent-like device to provide shade.

      Good Luck with your quest.


    • profile image

      David 16 months ago

      Thanks, as I care very little (not at all) about using electricity. What I would like is for the inside of the camper to be 70 F when it is 110 F outside.

      The culprit seems to be the sun shining on the windows. Solar shades help a lot but something else is needed. It's too windy for awnings sometimes.

      I was thinking about plexiglass on the inside attached with magnetic strips with solar shade material on the outside.

      What do you think? I don't really want to add another air conditioner.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 17 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Brandon, Well, honestly, people today are so used to being sealed in their air-conditioned cocoons that the thought of sitting in the shade and enjoying a breeze is literally unacceptable.

      Personally, running your RV roof AC unit, but set at a higher temperature such as 75-78 will not only save you money on your electrical costs, but when you transition from this temperature inside and an even warmer temperature outside is much less of a shock.

      Thanks for the comment,


    • profile image

      Brandon Prazak 17 months ago

      Hi. I was wondering if it is cheaper to cool your rv using the head unit or portably? Thanks

    • profile image

      Keyaan 2 years ago

      Good to find an expert who knows what he's taniklg about!

    • freecampingaussie profile image

      freecampingaussie 3 years ago from Southern Spain

      Some great advice. We always try camp under a tree for shade. Up the top of Australia in 45 deg heat we had the air conditioner + 2 fans on to keep cool. We cooked outside 7 also spent a lot of time in the pool !

    • velzipmur profile image

      Shelly Wyatt 3 years ago from Maryland

      great advice!