How to Keep Warm in Your RV during cold weather.
Older RVs and Cold Weather
The problem with RVs is the fact that they are, generally, not really designed for Cold Weather.
Oh sure, most motorhomes have had furnaces, typically propane in them for decades, but the older ones are not very efficient when the outside temperature drops very low.
Generally, this is because the older RVs were not as well insulated as some of the newer models.
So, if you want to travel into the more northern climates of the US, especially in the winter, you need to make the appropriate preparations to help your RV maintain your personal comfort.
A Single Candle is a source of light and some Heat
BTU, British Thermal Units of heat
One 4-inch kitchen match when burned completely will generate 1-BTU of heat.
Your RV air leaks and temporary fixes.
Of course, it's just not logical for everyone to go out and buy a nice, new, well-insulated, motorhome designed with the latest and best heating and cooling systems. This would be rather silly justification for the added expense of a new yet warmer RV..
The purpose of this article is to give the owner of an RV, Motorhome, or other form of Camper, some reasonable tips for them to be more comfortable in their RV when it does get cold outside.
The first thing the owner can do is take a good inventory of their RV, and perform an inspection of all the slides and windows, and door seals on their RV.
Those cracked and torn rubber seals and gaskets around your windows, doors and slides should all be maintained and lubricated regularly; and the bad ones should be either replaced or repaired if their physical condition is deteriorated.
If they are cracked and hard, then they are probably not going to give you a good seal against the elements, so replace them too.
They are probably letting air into your RV, wherever you can see that the fit is not perfect.
Once you have taken care of any and all gasket and seal problems on the outside of your RV, make a thorough check for air leaks on the inside.
If your RV feels "drafty" the leak is often something that can be fixed with a little Silicone rubber, or maybe a little strategically placed spray foam insulation, then great.
But if you have significant level of cold air coming into your RV, from wherever, you might consider finding a short-term solution.
These cloth insulator "snakes" work great against outside drafts
Insulated "Snakes" and even Painter's Tape can be a temporary solution for air leaks in Cold weather.
One of the things that we used, in our older RV was a couple of those insulated "snakes" that you will find in places like WalMart
They are long (3-4 feet) stuffed cloth tubes usually about 4-inches in diameter. They are often sold to be placed at the bottom of the door of your house, to stop the cold air from entering.
They are cheap, and work well to halt that cold air that seeps into small spaces under doors of RVs.
Another quick temporary fix is the use of painters tape.
You know the tape you can purchase at your local hardware store that is similar to the old tan masking tape but has one great advantage.
It is designed to be removed after several days, or even weeks, and the glue will not stay on the surface when the tape is removed.
If you are going to be in a campsite for several days, and you have a bad cold air draft behind a cabinet, or appliance, place some of this painters tape over the spot, and get immediate relief.
And the tape will come off later easily and without leaving any residue when you hit the road again..
Curtains, Window Shades and Rugs
Curtains and Shades:
If you have Day-Night shades, and windshield window shades, as almost all RVs do, you should keep them closed.
Even if you do not have thermal-pane windows in yourRV, by closing the shades, you trap an added layer of air between the window and the shade that aids in the overall insulation of your RV interior.
Another thing you should do is, place throw rugs in the central parts of your RV floor where you walk the most often.
These rugs placed in the heaviest traffic areas of your RV can shield your feet from the cold and often uninsulated floors, of a Camper
The RV Furnace
The Owners Manual
Keep your RV Furnace in tip-top condition.
Read your owners manual, and perform any required preventive maintenance on your furnace regularly. A furnace can waste a lot of Propane, if it is not kept in good shape.
Take the time to seal your RV well, as mentioned above, and then you should go to the furnace. It is a little silly to have a furnace that is booming heat into your RV, if the heat is immediately leaking to the outside world.
You should also be realistic with your Furnace temperature setting.
At night, just before going to bed, we set our furnace to a very low temperature of around 52-54 degrees.
Our reasoning is, that the furnace is only necessary to keep the base temperature of the RV at an acceptable level, not a comfortable level, but a very low base level.
When we get up in the morning, we immediately turn the furnace temperature up to around 63-64 degrees. The furnace will run for eight to ten minutes, and then the RV will be at an acceptable temperature for moving around and starting your morning.
This procedure not only saves us significant money on Propane costs, but it eliminates a lot of noise (propane furnaces are notoriously loud) and doesn't dry our RV and our sinuses out nearly as bad, as it would if we ran it at a high temperature all of the time.
Our RV has Heat Pump design type Air Conditioners on the roof, and we save a lot of money using them strategically. A heat pump works pretty efficiently down to about 40F, so rather than run our Propane furnace at nights, that are cool but not near or below freezing, we set it to a low temperature of 52-54F for a base temperature. This saves us a lot of money over the winter.
RV Furnace Exterior Exhaust
The proper warm clothes are the next layer of cold management you should address.
With a little forethought, you can dress warmly while in your RV, and improve your comfort level dramatically. Here are some tips we have learned when we are in a cold climate:
- Keep a pair or two of warm Sweat pants and a Sweat shirt in your RV. They are not only useful when outside, but they can also keep you nice and cozy when sitting around inside the RV.
- Wear socks when inside. Don't walk around on your cold floor barefoot. The socks will not only make your feet feel warm, but they will block most drafts from affecting your feet.
- A pair of Bedroom slippers is also good to have and wear in your RV on a cold night.
- And, of course, when you go to bed, wear some pajamas.
An electric blanket can end up being your favorite accessory in your RV on a cold night.
If you follow what I have said so far, with the furnace and space heater, you will remember that I recommended that you set your furnace down pretty low at night when you go to bed.
Well, with a good Electric Blanket on your bed, at night, you can be very comfortable, and sleep well, even when the space heater cannot keep the overall temperature very high.
The electric blanket is your third level of comfort control equipment, and once you use one a couple of times, you will never do without one again, on a cold night.
And, a good, dual control electric blanket will help you save electricity and propane on those cold nights.
Electric Space Heater
One thing I cannot stress too highly, is the purchase of a good Ceramic Space Heater.
It does not have to be an exotic or expensive piece of equipment, just a good one.
The purpose of having a space heater is to bring the RV interior temperature up a few degrees above what I mentioned for the RV furnace.
This space heater should be your second level of heating. It will be cheap to operate, and it will provide a steady heat in the section of the RV that you are using throughout the day. Place it in the Living area during the day, and in the Bedroom area during the night.
Get a space heater that meets the following requirements:
- It should have a small footprint. Storage space is always to be considered when purchasing anything for an RV.
- It should be a Ceramic design, as this type has a better safety record than some of the older open-element types.
- It should have a built-in sensor that will turn the heater off, when and if it is ever kicked over.
- It should have a multi-speed fan for adjusting the amount of heat it puts out.
- It should have a removable filter that can be easily cleaned and replaced when it becomes clogged with dust and dirt.
One of these heaters can make a big difference in a room's temperature, and it will keep the furnace from cutting on nearly as often, as it would if you did not use one.
Of course, one of these space heaters is of no use if you are rough camping without electricity, but in a campground with electrical hookup, it can be a very efficient tool for keeping your RV comfortable.
In summary, if you are going to be RVing in a cold climate, whether for only a couple of days, or for a week or more, prepare for it, and attack the cold efficiently.
And, if necessary, be prepared to use these tips for improving your RV comfort level.
You will enjoy your travels a lot more!
Common Questions on Your RV Furnace
© 2009 Don Bobbitt