How to Keep your RV Cool in the Hot Sun!

Camping in an RV in the summer is one of the best times to travel and enjoy the outdoors. However, when it gets hot outside, your RV can feel like an oven inside. But there’s some simple ways to keep your RV cool so you and your family can relax and sleep comfortably while camping in the scorching heat and high temperatures. As an added benefit, these helpful RV cooling tips may also help improve your RV air conditioner’s and electrical performance.

So, what do RVers do to combat the heat inside our motorhomes and campers? Well, let’s see exactly how you can cool down the inside of your RV and keep your camper balmy and comfortable!

Hot Weather RV Tips - How to Keep Your RV Cool - Always On Liberty

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How to Keep Your RV Cool in the Hot Sun & Summer!

RV Cooling Tips to Beat the Heat!

I’m sure you all know by now that RVs are not built like residential houses. Motorhomes, campers, and vans lack sufficient insulation that allows consistent temperatures inside.

Just like a car sitting in a parking lot in the hot sun, an RV’s interior heats up quickly like a hot oven.

But, trying to maintain a cool temperature inside isn’t just about comfort. Your household appliances and electronic components must be kept at a comfortable room temperature to ensure proper operation. Additionally, medications and nutritional supplements need to be kept to cool temperatures as well as perishable foods left out on the counter or in the pantry.

But, with these RV cooling tips, you’ll be on the road to a more comfortable journey even in hot weather!

Drive to a cooler destination

Battling the summer heat in an RV can be a daunting experience. The easiest way to dodge the hot sun is to travel to cooler destinations. And I mean that figuratively. Snowbirds drive south to warmer climates for the winter to get out of the cold. Those same snowbirds head north when the mercury rises in the spring or early summer.

But, what if you can’t leave because you live in your RV in a stationary location or workkamping? Then, it’s advantageous to find ways to keep your RV cool inside for you and your family and pets.

Park your RV in the shade

Always On Liberty RV parked under campsite shade trees
Photo by Always On Liberty©

We all know that it’s much cooler in the shade than directly in the hot sun. Your saving grace is finding a campsite under the trees.

I you’re making a campground reservation, look at the site’s from a Google satellite view. This will give you a basic idea of trees on and around the campsite. 

If you’re calling to make a reservation, ask the campground management for a shady spot under the trees.

Also, pay attention to the orientation of your RV in relation to the sun. The afternoon sun is at its’ hottest.

So it’s wise to try to orient your RV with your door side pointing east. That way you can use your awning to shield that side of your motorhome or camper.

This will also help your air conditioner run more efficiently and not work as hard to cool your RV.

If you’re boondocking, I suggest parking your RV near a large structure that will shade your camper from the hot sun. 

Deploy your awning

Always On Liberty Fifth Wheel Parked with Deployed Awning
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Another way to keep your RV cool is to deploy your RV awning when the sun is on the passenger side of your motorhome or camper. This will help shade your RV on the awning side at least for a few hours.

For further protection from the hot sun, attach a screen shade to your awning. The shade will block almost 90% of the sun’s UV rays without blocking your view.

Simply anchor the bottom corners using tent stakes and line to keep your awning and screen shade from wind.

That said, always be cautious of deploying or leaving your awning unattended. Stepping out for just a few minutes or catching a cat nap could spell disaster. Even a small wind gust has potential of ripping your awning off your RV.

Pull your window shades down

Always On Liberty Window Valances and MCD Window Shades
Photo by Always On Liberty©

As the sun moves (actually the earth moves around the sun but you get my drift) around your RV, pull your window shades down to keep the sun from coming through the windows.

Your shades will keep your RV cool by blocking the heat from coming through the windows.

But also, window shades can help prevent UV rays from damaging your furniture or interiors.

Start your RV air conditioner early in the day

RV Thermostat for Air Conditioner and Furnace
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Start your air conditioner(s) early in the day before it starts getting hot outside. This allows you to get ahead of the heat of the day rather than trying to cool your RV when it’s already stifling outside.

And, for what it’s worth, don’t set your thermostat so low that it overtasks your air conditioner. 

✰ READ MORE   What is a Soft Start? Why Every RV Air Conditioner Needs One!

Service your RV air conditioner

Man Conducting RV Air Conditioner Ceiling Unit Maintenance

By servicing your RV air conditioner each and every year, you’ll help minimize expensive repairs down the road.

As well, regular air conditioner service, maintenance and cleaning will help minimize potential malfunctions or going out completely when you need it most to cool your RV.

If you can’t do it yourself, might I recommend hiring an RV Tech who is qualified and knowledgeable in RV HVAC systems and components.

Ensure your Tech also inspects the intake and AC vents inside your RV when servicing your air conditioner units.

✰ RELATED  RV Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips and Cleaning

Manipulate your RV AC vents

RV Ceiling Vent Covers for Air Conditioner Unit
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Like closing off rooms in your RV, you can also do the same with your air conditioning ceiling output vents.

This will help your RV’s AC unit force the cold air only into the spaces or rooms you want it. This can make a huge difference on really hot summer days because it concentrates the cooler air where you’re spending the most time in.

You can even control airflow by simply twisting the vent towards the direction you want the cooler air to go and open the vent flaps accordingly.

Clean Your AC vent covers

RV Air Conditioner Vent Covers and Filters
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Speaking of AC vents, did you know that dirty air conditioner filters hinders proper flow of air inside your RV? If you don’t commit to a regular cleaning schedule, your RV air conditioner’s performance will degrade significantly.

You should clean your air conditioner vents at least monthly. If you have pets or are camping in high dust areas, you may need to do it more often to allow your air conditioner to run more efficiently to cool your RV.

And, make sure nothing blocks the air flow through the vents. Hence, why regular maintenance checks are important.

Get a Portable Air Conditioner

Now, being totally honest here, we’ve never used portable air conditioners. However, we know several RVers who do; especially van lifers, small RVs (like ours!) and truck campers as well as even tent campers.

So, we looked up a few to see which ones could work in your motorhome, camper or small space.

Portable air conditioner cooling options when your RV is hooked up to electric

Rechargeable Evaporative Portable Air Conditioner Fan – Cordless 3-speed, cordless personal air cooler can be used for 4-5 hours. Cold air will expel continuously for several hours to keep  small spaces in your RV cool at night for a good sleep. 

3-in-1 Dehumidifying Air Conditioner– For rooms or RVs up to 200 square feet. Comes with a remote control and operates at 8000 BTU to help cool your RV.

Compact Floor Air Conditioner – Indoor cooler conditioning unit features a simple electric plug in operation. It has a 3-mode operation: cooling, dehumidifier and fan. It also features automatic swing mode with moving wind vent for maximum air circulation to help cool your RV. You can choose between 8000 BTU, 10,000 BTU, or 12,000 BTU with or without heat or WiFi features.

3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner – This is an evaporative air cooler with cooling and humidifier. It offers a 3-speed fan with 65° oscillation, a 12 hour timer and remote. It can cool your RV or small space up to 170 square feet. 

Insulate your RV door window

RV Door Window Reflectix

Most RVs today have both, shades on the door windows and tinted windows. However, while dark window tint offers awesome daytime privacy (nobody can see inside), the black tint absorbs heat from the hot sun.

So, a great solution to alleviating this problem is to install a privacy shade kit to your camper door to block out the hot sun. In turn, it helps to keep your RV cool inside.

They also darken your interior space; making it great for that cool afternoon nap or to watch a movie in your air conditioned RV.

But, if you just need a quick and cheap fix, just throw up a temporary insulated door shade to help keep your RV cool inside.

It adds an insulating barrier to shield your interior from the sun’s heat from coming through the window.

Insulate your RV windows

Reflectix Insulation on RV Windows - How to Keep Your RV Cool in the Summer

As mentioned above, while tinted windows are great for daytime privacy, they are known to absorb heat from the sun.

A good solution to keep the hot sun from beaming it’s way into your RV, simply insulate your windows using Reflectix.

You can adhere to your windows if you’re going to be in hot temperatures for lengthy periods of time. To keep it in place, you can use their prescribed tape to insure proper placement and effective adhesion.

However, use extra caution in using these with acrylic windows as they can trap the heat between the window and the Reflectix. This could cause the acrylic window to spider or warp.

A good way to still utilize this type of insulation, especially on acrylic windows, is to adhere it to the outside of your windows to block the heat. 

Realize though, windows will be covered all of the time and make the inside of your RV dark and cave-like. But hey, caves are cool and comfy. So, why not create your own? It’s a good option to keep your RV cool inside, but also offers added much needed privacy! (If you get my drift!)

Now, if you really don’t want to cover your windows permanently, a temporary solution to beating the heat is to install tension curtain rods inside your box-like window valances. Then, hang insulated curtains to help block the sun’s rays and keep your RV cool during the day.

Then, in the evening hours, you can slide them open if you’d like or just leave the curtains closed for aesthetics.

Insulate your fantastic fan and skylight

RV Fantastic Fan Insulation Cushion with Reflectix

You can insulate your RV’s fantastic fan or skylight three ways. Either installing a fantastic fan insulator or a ready-made insulating fan cover.

Now, for our Winnebago View, we installed a Maxxair Maxxshade that blocks out sunlight and UV rays simply by sliding the sunshade closed during hot, sunny days.

But, if you just want to take the cheap way out, you could cut and tape up Reflectix to fit any openings in your ceiling to keep your cool air from escaping.

As well, any of those will keep the sun from beating down into your interior spaces below which will make your RV feel cool inside.

Just remember, do not tape off or permanently cover your AC vents or your air intake vents. Those are specifically designed to allow the cool air to circulate inside your RV.

Turn on your ceiling fan

RV Ceiling Fan in Operation
Photo by Always On Liberty©

A lot of newer model motorhomes and fifth wheels now come with residential ceiling fans. Ceiling fans can be instrumental in controlling air flow throughout your coach. Thus, helping to keep your RV cool inside in conjunction with using your air conditioner.

Hunter Douglas recommends changing your ceiling fan direction seasonally as a simple way to save year round. The ceiling fan direction in summer should be counterclockwise to help create a downdraft, which creates that direct, cooling breeze affect. 

Use portable fans

Strategically placing portable battery-operated fans throughout your RV can help to keep cool air from your AC circulating to a comfortable level.

So, I suggest clipping or hanging one or more of our favorite rechargeable fans from higher locations inside your RV and point them downwards. Also, by doing that will help lessen cooling loss through the ceilings.

For example, while our RV’s air conditioner is running, we place two small rechargeable fans on opposite ends of our motorhome to circulate the air.

Just a quick tip if you’re leaving your pets alone in your RV, set a couple fans on the floor to circulate the air.

Just in case the AC goes out or your coach loses power during your absence, the fans will at least help keep your pets cool in your RV in the summer heat.

✰ RELATED  10 Best Battery Powered Fans for RVs and Camping.

Close off rooms you’re not using

Just like in your house, closing off rooms you’re not using helps to conserve and channel cool airflow to the area that you want it most.

For example, during the daytime hours, close your RV bedroom and bathroom doors. As well, close the AC vents in the ceiling to help direct that cool air to spaces you’re using.

After sunset, open your bedroom vents and keep your bedroom door closed to contain the cooler air while you’re sleeping.

Now, if your RV has more than one AC unit, you may want to turn off the AC unit in the living area during sleeping hours to give that particular AC a rest.

Turn off the lights

Lamp and Picture Frames on RV cabinet console
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Another tip in keeping you RV cool in the summer is to turn off lights you’re not using.

Especially incandescent and halogen lights that emit tons of heat while they’re turned on. And by turning off unnecessary lights and appliances, you’re giving your electrical system a much needed break.

Another tip, for older RVs that have halogen lighting, hire an RV tech (or DIY) to install new LED ceiling lights instead.

Turn off the TV and unplug electronics

Televisions and electronic devices (ie. computers, etc.) get very warm when they’re in use. They also are taxing on your RV electrical system as well as the electric grid in the area you’re camping in.

This allows more energy to go directly to your RV air conditioner system without overtaxing your electrical system.

As well, leaving unused electronics and small appliances plugged in creates parasitic draws that could adversely affect your RV air conditioner’s performance.

Cook outside!

Steaks Kabobs Corn and Meat Cooking on Outdoor Grill

Cooking inside your RV puts out lot a lot of heat. Plus, it adds moisture inside your RV, making your AC actually work harder because it’s dehumidification process.

So, during those hot summer days, resort to eating cold foods, salads and sandwiches. We typically will stock lots of hummus, dip mixes, raw veggies and crackers to snack on or serve as a side to a cold sandwich.

Or, if you’re not into that, you could just save those hot days for eating out or takeout meals.

Those warm summer months are a great time to utilize your outdoor kitchen anyway! Not only does cooking outdoors keep your RV cool inside but doesn’t the food just tastes better anyway?

Some great portable outdoor cooking suggestions:

✰ RELATED  Ultimate Grilling and Campfire Cooking Gear

Stop opening your RV door

Remember when our mothers always scolded us to close the damn door!? Well, it all makes sense now; especially when camping in the summer heat. By minimizing constant door openings helps contain the cool air inside your RV while the hot air stays out.

✰ PRO TIP   A great way to stay cool outside your RV is to place a few rechargeable fans pointed at you and your other campers. Not only are they good for circulating air, but they’re also great for keeping the mosquitos and flies away! 

Traveling by RV this Summer?

Summer is the season for RVing and camping! Getting your RV to your destination is just part of the equation to a fun-filled adventure.

This is why it’s super important to plan ahead so your RV experience will be less stressful. As we’ve experienced ourselves, some roads aren’t made for RVs due to low overheads, bridges or narrow roads.

But, as full-time RVers, we’ve seen it all and experienced it all! To help alleviate on-the-road frustrations, we use RV LIFE Trip Wizard as our #1 RV trip planner. The app helps get us to our favorite camping spots and campgrounds by utilizing RV-friendly routes specific to our RV’s size and travel preferences. Want to try before you buy? That’s easy! You can learn more by signing up for their FREE 7-Day Trial.

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Final thoughts on how to keep your RV cool in the summer

Always On Liberty Class A Winnebago View Boondocking in Desert with Awning
Photo by Always On Liberty©

Summer is the best time to enjoy your RV family vacation! Don’t let those hot temperatures kill your camping vibe. Even when the mercury rises, you can still stay cool in your RV!

These RV cooling tips will help you and your family beat the heat during those hot summer months as well as help prevent overtaxing your air conditioner. 

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36 Replies to “How to Keep your RV Cool in the Hot Sun!”

  1. Use velco on the reflexic so you can still use the vent in your bathrm r if you need to see our a window ect

    1. Great idea, Shelley! Thanks for sharing your tip! Stay cool out there! It’s a hot one!! -Dan & Lisa

  2. You’ve got some great RV tips for staying cool. We want to take ours on some trips this summer, but man it gets hot in there! I’ll have to look into getting some insulation for the windows, like you said.

    1. Ridley, We’re glad you enjoyed those tips. Please pass our blog info onto some of your clients. Oh, and you’re so right about it getting HOT (or already has!) Look at cooler places to go enjoy. Being near a lake or place where you can take a dip is always a plus.

      BTW, we will be in Elkhart the first week of September if you’d like to do a meet and greet! We’d love to meet our Liberty Crew followers!

      Stay cool! -Dan & Lisa

  3. I took the inside covers off our units and sealed all areas between supply and return. Huge difference. The manufacturer spends no time sealing these areas which shud be seperate. Major loss of cold air right back to the return. Now we have good flow to the bunk house thru the duct work.

    1. Travis, thanks for taking time to read our tips. We agree, every RV owner should inspect their air duct system and if they find discrepancy, they should consult a professional or research how to fix the issue. Good for you knowing how to do it. Safe travels! -Dan & Lisa

    1. Paprika, we’re so glad that our information is helping you along the way. We hope you keep reading; lots more good info to come! -Dan & Lisa

  4. Except for having a clean filter inside & making sure there’s no debris on outside AC unit & its able to drain properly. These units are NOT serviceable. They either work or they don’t. Learn your unit & “service” it yourself every year.

    1. Hi Kim, Great note! We service our own AC’s often. As we all should know, if we take care of our equipment, it will take care of us. This is one of the reasons we avoid long stays at the beach or salty air. We’ve seen first hand on another RVers’ AC roof units what salt air can do. Totally destroyed the components inside and of course, the efficiency depleted significantly. -Dan

    2. Not true. Remove the a/c cover armed with a soft bristle brush and some 409 (ie) and spray the fins of the a/c unit and let it sit 30 seconds. Lightly scrub up and down ( don’t bend the fins ). Rinse the fins and replace the cover. BE SURE ALL POWER IS OFF. Do this once a year if used heavily.

      Most roofs are white (ish). Clean the food to deflect more heat.

  5. any energy saving ideas id love to know. its 100 degrees here in dickinson an im a new rv owner for the first time.

    1. Hi Theresa, those tips should help conserve energy as well because they help the AC work more efficiently. Thanks for asking! -Lisa & Dan

  6. Good tips! We just picked up one of those little fans. Might have to get another.

    This might seem obvious but we found if you keep an RV in a shady spot it makes a huge difference in temperature.

    1. Hi Scott! Thanks for reading! Yes, shade makes it nice. Well, unless we’re boondocking and needing the solar. But hey, did you see those new batteries we have now? Can store energy for days!! Yay! Those little USB fans work awesome. We even take them outside with us when we’re sitting around. They chase the bugs off at the same time, keep us a little cooler. In fact, we need to order two more; thanks for the reminder.

      Hope to see you soon. We miss you cool kids! Safe travels! -Dan & Lisa

      1. Hi Gloria, thank you for visiting and following our blog and our travels. Have you gotten up on your roof and opened up your AC unit? It may need a good cleaning. Smelling musty may mean you have mold or moisture up in your unit or vents. We recommend reading our blog RV Maintenance Tip #2 – Air Conditioning Vents and Filters. If you’re not able to do the maintenance yourselves, we suggest finding a reputable RV Tech to do it for you. – Dan & Lisa

  7. I never really think about the A/c unit itself or the filters. My awning has had it’s better days and I swear it is always windy when I want to extend it . The wind sensor causes issues. So I leave it in most of the time. I’m still learning how to adjust but I guess summer time is a bad time to learn. I did install the reflective shades in all the windows and it makes a HUGE difference.

    1. Bloggin Brandi, thank you for taking the time to read our blog. I’m glad that you found relief with our recommendation of the reflective shades. I wish they were a little more stylish on the inside portion. When you make reservations at a campground or RV park, check the orientation of the sun. We do better when the afternoon sun is on the left and front side of the RV if possible. That allows shade on the door side. Just another idea to give you some relief. Happy Trails! -Dan & Lisa

  8. Such an informative article you had shared. All the information you had posted is beneficial. Thanks for sharing this article. Your tips will help me to keep my RV cool in the summer. Keep posting this type of helpful post. Good wishes… 🙂

    1. Hey Travis, thanks for taking the time to read our blog post. We hope you’ve read others that will help make your RV travel a little more fun and stress free because we’ve taken the guess work out of it. Travel safe and stay the cool guy you are! -Lisa & Dan

  9. We were in Florida last August (silly is) in our 5th Wheel. We are from Calif. Our rig has ACs in two locations. We tried all those tricks you mentioned but kept getting condensation inside and no relief from the heat . We hired a certified RV tech. He said we needed to use the high fan at all times and not the auto setting. Simple! It worked. Finally we had relief in a very humid climate

  10. About 30 minutes before arriving at a hot sunny site, I start the genset in our motorhome, and turn the a/c unit(s) on. Then after registering, parking and leveling, things are nice an cool when it’s time to plug in.

    1. Hi Denny, sounds like you have a great solution. Nothing like having a comfortable RV to settle in after a long trip. Thanks for reading our blog! Safe travels!

  11. Hello I have a 2006 Keystone Sydney edition 5th wheel and I just replaced my ac with a new unit and it’s 100 plus degrees in Phoenix Az right now and my unit is hot as ever!! The ac unit when on in this extreme heat is blowing hot air and I hear the compressor kicking off and on about every 10 minutes or so and it will blow a little cool air then kick back off blowing hot! I’m so depressed and disappointed right now cause I spent $850 on this unit plus $200 labor and I’m getting the run around from the installer telling me it’s my house not the unit. We he installed it only blew air out of bedroom ducts but not kitchen or bunk room and I told him they worked before with the other unit even if it was just fan air. I don’t know what to do I’m on a fixed income and I’m full time in my Rv and it’s horrible that this has happened to me especially in a time like this during this virus time. I called a few places to come do a service check to get another opinion and most are closed during virus I guess not an essential business. I need desperate help please can someone point me in the right direction. I’m disabled do limited ability to do things on my own.

    1. Hi Brendie, we’re so sorry to hear of your AC issues and totally understand. Our only recommendation is to contact your local RV Mobile Tech. They may be able to schedule you in to come look at your AC. Do realize, you will at least have to pay a service call for them to come look at it. We are not RV techs, so we can’t give you any other suggestions than that. Sorry. Hope you get relief soon.

  12. It made sense when you said that covering the door windows on RVs can go a long way in keeping out the sun. According to my knowledge, it would also be smart to get a cover for the RV’s windshield, since that’s a large area that could potentially let in a lot of sun as well. Thanks for sharing this helpful info for anyone planning on RVing this summer!

    1. Yes, Rebecca, there are covers for motorhome windshields but they can be pricy and are custom but do they do work as well. Thank you for that addition.

  13. I live in a box truck with a window unit sticking out the side through a hole i cut for it. It gets real hot in here during the day no shade anywhere. Any suggestions? I almost feel like i need to build some sort of shade over the roof out of plywood to make shade. Its a 22 foot box truck.

    1. It sounds like you have a hybrid-type setup. Your AC is more of a residential type so I would follow your manufacturer’s instructions. There are great suggestions in this particular blog you may want to revisit and check out. Stay cool out there!

  14. We are thinking of buying a camper and are completely new at this. We do not like the heat. Is the ‘Arctic Package’ a good option that will make a big difference inside? Thanks for your input!

    1. Hi Amy, those Arctic Packages are more for winter camping such as heated holding tanks, better insulation, etc. The thing to look for in RVs is double pane windows, tinted windows, ample air conditioning units, white or light colored slide ends, lighter exteriors, etc. There are things you can do inside your RV to stay cool. Here’s some tips we shared earlier.

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