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How to Keep Warm in Your RV during cold weather.

Updated on October 18, 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.

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

The flame of a single camdle can not only provide light but also a certain amount of Light. In fact a typical RV Furnace uses a single flame to provide your whole RV with warmth.
The flame of a single camdle can not only provide light but also a certain amount of Light. In fact a typical RV Furnace uses a single flame to provide your whole RV with warmth. | Source

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.

Exterior Seals:

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.

Interior Drafts:

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.

Insulated "Snakes" and even Painter's Tape can be a temporary solution for air leaks in Cold weather.

Insulated "Snakes":

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.

Painters Tape:

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.

Heat Pumps:

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

A Standard design exterior exhaust for the propane furnace of an RV.
A Standard design exterior exhaust for the propane furnace of an RV. | Source

Warm Clothes

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.

Electric Blanket

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

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


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    • profile image

      Annie Andrews Fairfax VA 11 months ago

      I bought a roll of silver insulation from home depot (silver on both sides) and cut my own window shades to fit even for my large front Class A windshield, and side windows. The roll was fairly cheap and it works great in the winter. I also found I needed sections in the knee holes to block cold air, which helps.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 20 months ago from Ruskin Florida

      Dee106 - Great system you have there.

      It's amazing what you can come up with when you get a little chill in your camper around 1 or 2 in the morning.

      Thanks for the read and comment.


    • profile image

      dee106 20 months ago

      i use the window insulating kit, to keep the drafts out, put the two way tape on, put the clear wrap on, and hit with the hair dry to shrink the wrap tight. no more drafts, we leave one window uncovered for ventilation , and use the roof vent covers and foam blocks to keep the heat in . and cover the a/c unit on the roof.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Patti and Ryan - There are some RV's that are designed for extreme weather that have the holding tanks and all of the lines inside of a compartment that is heated. I had a Camelot that had this system and the compartments heat turned on when its temp dropped below 40F.

      Barring this, and if you have a cheaper priced RV, it is pretty standard for these holding tanks to be exposed on the underside of the RV.

      I have read of people who have wintered in Alaska and N.Dakota and other cold places who went under their RV and used electrical heater tape and layers of insulation to prevent freezing.

      But, from what I read, you had better plan well because it only takes a small unheated area to freeze up and pop a hose or crack a tank when you are dealing with sub-zero temps outside for days on end.

      Good luck,


    • profile image

      Patti and ryan 2 years ago

      What about extreme cold conditions and insulating the tanks and pipes under the motor home?

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Lbrown- I am glad that you like my article. I tried to put all of the common-sense things that can keep a camper warmer for the user.

      If you have other ideas, I welcome them.


    • profile image

      Lbrown 2 years ago

      When I was young I ended up having a tiny 8X10 camper with no heat source as a bedroom. My mom bought me an electric blanket because, well, she's a mom and a cold child is just a no go. Once I got said blanket I was able to sleep even when temperatures reached for below zero. I wish I had thought to put insulation or skirting around the bottom too. Now that my husband and I have found ourselves once again in a camper for the winter I intend to use some of these tips!

    • profile image

      Starwish246 2 years ago

      Don Bobbitt, I just use "Super Glue" for my window shade projects, because tape (of any type) just heats up, and curls up, or "walks away" on it's own. No sewing involved


    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Starwish248- What a great idea.

      I might try this one myself for those longer stays at campgrounds. But, I really Suck at Sewing, so I hope I can just staple or 2-sided tape it to fit?

      Thanks again,


    • profile image

      Starwish246 2 years ago

      I found a way to help keep some of the cold outside, where it belongs. I bought at the "dollar store", a simple tablecloth with the felt backing. I measured the windshield, and cut the tablecloth to fit. (You may need 2 cloths.) I used velcro to attach the cloth to the top rim of the windshield WITH THE FELT SIDE TOWARDS THE ROOM, NOT TOWARDS THE GLASS. The glass side gets wet from fog, breathing, and rain, and the felt would get all wet, if hung towards the glass side. The soft, fuzzy side of the velcro should be placed on the top rim of the windshield, and the "grippy" side on the tablecloth. These tablecloths are light weight, and fold up when not needed. They can also help to keep the summer sun out - I bought a white one just for that, and I have the felt side FACING the glass (the reverse of the winter use). This is another layer in our battle to keep comfortable throughout the seasons.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Joel- Thanks for the compliments. And I have to say, Winter Camping in a tent is for the most staunch camper. And I am definitely impressed. As to using the electric blanket, I have heard of these battery powered units and people do brag on them. Sounds like you have a plan that works for you. LOL!

      Thanks for the comment,


    • Joel Diffendarfer profile image

      Joel Diffendarfer 2 years ago from Ft Collins, Colorado

      Hi Don, love reading your articles...(and yes, your books on Kindle/Amazon are great resources...) thing I found in my many "off the grid" adventures (I love to camp during Winter in a tent)...regardless of cold conditions, I survived with an electric blanket...even on the coldest days, I would wrap myself in an electric blanket, and work at my comfort...

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 2 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Starwish246- Great example of ingenuity tackling a problem. Using these "snakes" at doorways works well in an RV and at home. So much so that you can purchase several brands on the web and there is even one listed on Camping World.

      Thanks for sharing your idea,


    • profile image

      StarWish246 2 years ago

      I hate the cold draft that came out under my couch (because of the slide-out). The slide-out only has a piece of vinyl to cover the separation. I decided to make a "Draft Snake" to help to keep out the draft.

      So, I bought several pairs of knee high (long) stockings at the thrift store. I made sure that they were tight-woven, not open weave.

      Then, I doubled up on them, by putting one sock inside another, to make a double layer. I then stitched the open (top) end 1/2 way closed, using several layers of thread, to make a thick, strong stitch.

      I got an empty plastic bottle/container, and cut the top off to use as a funnel. This funnel, I put into the still open 1/2 of the sock top, and used it to pour dried beans into the socks. I prefer the dried beans, as they are easier to deal with, than the tiny rice (which can be used, also). DON'T fill it too much, it needs to be flexible. When I had finished filling moderately with the dried beans, I stitched the top closed the rest of the way. Then, I attached some Velcro strips (one "fuzzy, and one "grippy") near the top, end (where I had sewn it closed. Then, I attached the 2 snake/stockings together with the Velcro, and pressed them up against the slide opening under the couch.

      This does help a lot, and I plan to make the same snakes for the whole circumference of the slide areas. After all, every little bit helps.

      Just don't forget to remove them, if you ever close the slides for travel, or such. (P. S. They are easy to open, empty, and wash when you want to.)

    • profile image

      StarWish246 2 years ago

      Thanks Don. I didn't mention, that in the summer, I use the sunshades to actually screen the sun in the daytime. I put them on the "SUNNY" side of my RV. And as the sun moves in the afternoon, I transfer them to the opposite side. This way, I have sun protection, help the AC keep the cool air going, and also still have the light of day (from the side without the sun). When it is 105 degrees, or hotter, I use the whole works on all windows to keep the AC cool inside. But, I always try to crack my roof vent just a bit, as warm air rises.......

      P. S. I'm a Fulltimer

    • profile image

      StarWish246 2 years ago

      I bought several foil, insulated automobile windshield sunshades. I bought both the shades, and the velcro, which I used, if needed, to attach the shades, at the dollar store. I put them in the windows at night. I cut any to fit, if needed, and tape the cut "raw" edge with duct tape. I placed a piece of velcro on the window sill, if I had trouble keeping it in the window (put the "fuzzy" side on the window, and the "grippy" side on the shade). On one window, I cut the fitted shade in half, so that I could remove 1/2 easily to have access to looking out that window (while the other 1/2 remained up). This also has the added bonus of reflecting more light from your lights, so the room is brighter (which is nice in those dark, winter months) and also means that you can use less lights, which may save you on the electric bill or generator usage.

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 3 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      blueheron- Great Comment. The feet are the next most important part of the body to keep warm after the head.

      As to thermal underwear here in Florida; I suspect that some do exist. These native Floridians start wrapping themselves up if the temperature drops below 70. I don't know if it is a genetic defect or just too many Margaritas that causes this strange phenomenon.

      Something I should investigate at the local Tiki Bar, I guess.



    • blueheron profile image

      Sharon Vile 3 years ago from Odessa, MO

      Your point about keeping your feet warm is spot on, as is your point about uninsulated floors. If you can keep your feet warm, the rest of your body will manage okay. Thermal underwear is also great. Do Floridans even own thermal underwear? Or does anyone in their right mind ever take their RV to places that are that cold?

    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      Trudi- Yes a ceramic heater isa great idea, and I do suggest that it have an adjustable temperature. This will save you some electricity in the long run, as well as keeping the temp under control for safety's sake.

      Thanks for the comment.

    • Trudi Goodwin profile image

      Trudi Goodwin 5 years ago from Texas

      We also keep a ceramic heater in the basement of our 5er which has a two-fold purpose. It keeps our plumbing running through the basement from freezing and our bedroom floor is nice and toasty.

    • melbelle profile image

      melbelle 5 years ago from Southern United States

      very good information for RVers.

    • myjesus49 profile image

      myjesus49 5 years ago


    • Don Bobbitt profile image

      Don Bobbitt 5 years ago from Ruskin Florida

      myjesus49- Thanks for the comment and I hope all goes well for you and your husband. Good Luck!

    • myjesus49 profile image

      myjesus49 5 years ago

      Thank you so much for all these helpful tips. We are new to rv's and now we are living in one part time due to my husband having to work out of town. God Bless