How to prepare RV windows for winter

How to Prepare RV Windows for Winter

Updated on February 13th, 2024

RV windows provide minimal insulating qualities, so prepping them for winter camping is the only way to stay cozy inside any recreational vehicle.

To help guide you through the best ways to prepare your camper’s windows for winter weather, I’ve put together all the tips and tricks from cold-weather RV camping experts.

Down below, you’ll find what products work to keep cold from seeping through RV windows and roof vents but allow you to enjoy sunlight and views when you desire.

Winter RV camping can be delightful, so come along to find out how to insulate your RV windows against the cold!

Ways To Prepare RV Windows for Winter

RV windows in winter

The best way to winterize RV windows is to use several approaches to combat frigid temperatures.

Completely blocking off windows is an easy way to insulate RV windows, but it’s not practical if you want to access them for camping trips to let in light or fresh air.

Let’s look at the options to buffer RV windows against the cold so you can choose the ones that best suit your needs.

Fit RV Windows With Bubble Insulation

The most common product RVers turn to when they want to stop cold from coming through camper windows is to use a bubble insulation product like Reflectix.

RVers love this type of insulation because it’s affordable, lightweight, easy to store, and simple to cut. In addition, the material fits snugly into any shape RV window.

The silver surface reflects the sun’s heat to create a warm barrier between the window glass and the material. In addition, the silver surface reflects heat into the RV interior on the other side of the bubble insulation, so your camper is much warmer.

The last benefit of reflective bubble insulation is that if you cut it correctly, it will fit and hold inside the window frames without the need for tape, staples, or other hardware that could damage your RV.

To learn more, check out this video to see how reflective bubble insulation works and installs on RV windows.

Winterize Your RV | Reflectix Window Covers (Video)

Seal RV Windows With Heat-Activated Window Film

Another popular choice to insulate RV windows for winter is using a heat-activated window film.

This film is clear plastic and attaches to the interior window frame using removable double-sided sticky tape. Once you cover the window, you use a hair dryer to shrink the plastic until it flattens out and becomes nearly invisible.

The window film works much like a double-pane window, creating a seal that holds air between the windowpane and the plastic, which increases insulation against the cold.

The best reason to use a shrink plastic film is that it’s clear, so you can still enjoy the exterior light and views while winter camping.

The installation process is simple, but you’ll need to ensure the metal window framing is clean before attaching the double-sided tape.

Always apply the film to the interior of the RV window. Attaching the film to the exterior window frame will not create the air gap required to be an effective insulator.

Once you wipe down the flat front edge of the window framing, you want to go over it again with rubbing alcohol to ensure the tape will remain in place for the duration of the winter season.

Start by cutting a section of the plastic film slightly bigger than the window framing. Then, run the tape that comes in the kit around the entire perimeter of the window framing.

For easier installation, please start at the top edge and stick the film to the tape, avoiding any bubbles or gaps so it lays tight to the tape and frame. The plastic is adjustable if you take care not to peel too hard.

Finish the application by attaching the film to the tape down the two sides of the window frame and then along the bottom edge. Try to keep the film as flat as possible, but don’t worry about small waves or looseness in the material.

After the film seals to the tape, bring out your hairdryer and run it over the surface of the plastic.

Keep the tip of the hairdryer a few inches away from the plastic and slowly move it across the film until it begins to contract. Once an area of the plastic is tight, move to another section until all the film is taut.

If you have a heat gun, you can use it to shrink the plastic, but you’ll need to stay farther away from the film to avoid burning and melting the plastic. A hairdryer is a much safer way to ensure you don’t damage the product during the shrinking process.

If you have pets, using window-insulating shrink film has its pros and cons. While the clear plastic is excellent for allowing pets to see what’s going on outside, if a cat or dog pushes against or claws at the film, it can tear or pop free from the tape.

Upgrade RV Window Day and Night Shades

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Many day-and-night shades that come standard in recreational vehicles are not good quality and can do little to help insulate camper windows during winter.

You can purchase and install custom RV window day and night shades with thicker fabrics to increase the insulating protection from cold weather when you close them.

Another option is to swap out the standard accordion-style day-and-night shade with a thermal RV roller shade made of high-quality insulating material that will help block cold air.

While better-insulating RV window shades will improve heat loss through windows, there will still be gaps around the edges that lead to chilly drafts.

Using one or two other thermal RV window barriers along with shades is the most effective at keeping your camper warm and cozy through the coldest weather.

Hang Thermal Insulating Curtains Over RV Windows

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Thermal insulating curtains can work alone or as an additional layer over reflective bubble insulation, shrink film, and day and night RV shades.

If you hang these curtains over a rod that sits close to the wall, it will stop cold drafts from flowing through the window panes and into your RV.

Using thermal curtains is a good choice for windows you want protection on during freezing days or nights but want to open to ventilate or bring daylight into the RV.

You can purchase thermal curtain panels in many sizes, and they are easy to cut and hem to customize if necessary.

The key to getting the most insulation from thermal curtains is to hang them flush to the wall over the window.

Hooks that hold the curtain rod should protrude an inch or so from the wall and should be sufficient to allow space for the fabric to bunch up when you open the panels. Even better is to use clip-on curtain rings that slide effortlessly over the rod and need little clearance from the wall.

Change Single Pane RV Windows to Double Pane

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Single-pane RV windows do very little to control heat loss. In the summer, the thin windows cause the opposite issue by letting in intense sunlight that can overtax your RV’s air conditioner.

The solution to increasing winter insulation in your recreational vehicle is to switch out all your single-pane windows with double-pane RV windows.

You can find replacement RV windows to fit most standard sizes or pay for custom fitting but do expect this upgrade to be expensive.

However, the investment could very well be worth it if you are a full-time RVer or camp throughout the year, even during cold winter months. Being able to open and shut your windows without the fuss of moving window coverings during winter will reduce camping stress.

Make Plexiglass RV Window Covers

Making a second window pane out of plexiglass is another way RVers with winter camping experience prepare windows for cold climates.

The benefits of using plexiglass to insulate RV windows for winter are that it’s clear and allows you to take in campsite views, and it’s rigid, so pets or accidental bumps won’t break the panel free.

The thicker material is also better than a thin plastic film in creating a barrier between the warm RV interior and the cold window glass.

Plexiglass is available in large sheets from home improvement stores or online retailers, enabling you to custom-fit a panel for each RV window.

You can measure and cut plexiglass panels using a utility knife, but you must take care to sand down any rough edges before installation to avoid injury.

Making plexiglass window coverings won’t be cheap, and it will prevent you from opening the window, so consider these pitfalls if you want to go this route.

The best way to install the panels so you can remove them during warmer RV camping trips is to use acrylic clear mounting tape.

You apply the removable tape around the perimeter of the window frame and push the plexiglass panel against it to form an air-tight seal. When it’s time to remove the panels, you can gently pry them free using a flathead screwdriver.

For permanent installation, which many RVers find a great choice on windows that don’t open, run a bead of clear silicone adhesive caulk around the window frame and install the plexiglass panels with short screws.

Install Motorhome Windshield Insulation

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For motorhome owners, the cab area side windows and windshield can cause massive amounts of heat loss during winter RV camping adventures.

Luckily, many companies make insulated window coverings you install outside your motorhome to help keep the interior warmer.

You can find Class C insulated windshield covers, as well as thermal covers for Class A motorcoaches or Class B campervans.

If you can’t find the correct size or shape RV windshield cover from retail stores, you can DIY or hire someone to sew one using a thermal fabric like Insul-Shine.

You can attach the cover using screw-on snaps or magnets (for steel RV siding) around the exterior of the motorhome windshield.

Before attaching any type of insulating cover over the exterior of any RV window, check with the manufacturer about possible problems it may cause.

For example, some window exteriors may incur damage if the heat generated between the insulating fabric and the window gets too hot.

Another way to add a heat protection layer for motorhome windshields is to install an interior insulated curtain that closes across the dashboard and curves around to cover the side windows.

Many motorhomes already come with this curtain, and you can upgrade it to a thicker material if necessary. If your motorhome doesn’t come with a curtain and track in place, you can retrofit one using a flexible RV curtain track with hooks.

Closing off the windshield and door windows using a curtain will create an air gap that will aid in insulating the motorhome interior from the cold windows, so everyone inside stays more comfortable.

Don’t Forget RV Ceiling Vents and Skylights

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Lastly, don’t skip over protecting your RV skylights or vents against the cold. With hot air rising, you’ll quickly lose heat inside your camper through these openings.

The fastest, most affordable, and least damaging solution is to pop in RV vents or skylight covers.

The covers look like thick, flat pillows that fit inside the vent framing using only pressure, which means there is no need to use tape or staples to hold it in place.

The covers are easy to take in and out if you want to open the vent to air out your camper.

How to Avoid RV Window Condensation During Winter

Window condensation is a real problem for RVers during winter.

Propane heating systems generate humidity, as well as the accumulation of moisture from the breath of RV occupants when the windows and doors are shut.

Once this moisture hits a cold surface, it will condense, pool up, and begin to drip, creating a wet mess inside your camper.

To stop condensation from becoming a problem, you must be ready with an RV dehumidifier to prevent moisture from being trapped behind the material.

Before installing any sealed RV window coverings, run a dehumidifier for several days to ensure the interior is as dry as possible. In addition, rub an absorbent cloth over glass panes before putting up the material to draw up any bits of moisture.

For other types of RV winter insulation for windows, such as reflective bubble sheeting, you may need to remove the material occasionally to wipe condensation off the window glass.

Running a dehumidifier all winter is the best way to avoid condensation problems, but electric space heaters for RVs often have a drying effect, which can be helpful in keeping moisture issues at bay.

Final Thoughts

Preparing RV windows for winter is just another aspect of recreational vehicle ownership that will allow you to expand your camping trips through the coldest of weather.

All of the methods in this guide on how to insulate RV windows work to stop heat loss through thin window panes, but when you combine one or more, you’ll gain the most benefit.

There is no reason to suffer through cold winter nights in your RV because you’re losing heat through the windows. The window insulating solutions above will go a long way to keep your RV interior warm and inviting so you can winter camp with confidence!

Window Insulation Reflectix – How to Stay Warm in Winter (Video)

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