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10 Ways to Stay Cool in Your RV Without A/C

10 Ways to Stay Cool in Your RV Without A/C

Published on February 24th, 2022
Updated on February 13th, 2024

Spring and summer are peak times for RV trips, but keeping cool inside on warm or hot days can be tricky if you don’t have an air conditioner or prefer not to run it.

I am not a fan of air conditioning, so I’ve learned a thing or two about how to stay cool in an RV when the temperatures rise, and I’m going to share them with you in this guide.

Camping is all about the outdoors and fresh air, and by using the tips and tricks below, you’ll be able to enjoy your experience without the need to shut all the RV windows and doors and crank on the noisy air conditioner.

With a bit of planning and a change or two in your RV interior and exterior, you’ll be on your way to staying cool inside your camper no matter how hot it is outside!

10 Tips to Stay Cool in Your RV

Here are ten great ways to cool down your RV interior without turning on the roof air conditioner.

1. Add a Heat Reflective Roof Coating

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Many RVs have aluminum, fiberglass, or rubber roofing that, over time, loses its ability to reflect sunlight and heat, which can turn your camper’s interior into a sauna.

Recoating your RV roof using a compatible RV Solar Reflective Sealant can reduce heat penetration into your RV, as well as create a waterproof layer to stop leaks.

Applying an RV roof coating is a DIY project, but do take the time to read and follow the instructions closely so you achieve the best adhesion and coverage.

The roof coating products roll on like paint, and most require two coats for the best results. Each roof material will require a specific type of coating that will tightly bond with each other for a leakproof, energy-efficient finish.

2. Add Heat Reflective Window and Roof Vent Barriers

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The tried-and-true way to quickly reduce heat inside your RV is to use a heat barrier material you cut to fit inside your RV windows and roof vents.

The material is lightweight and looks like bubble wrap with a thin foil layer on both sides. The foil reflects sunlight, while the air trapped inside the bubble wrap creates an insulating layer to enhance the heat-reducing effects further.

Most RVers cut the material slightly larger than the window frames so that you can push it into place, and it will stay without the need to use tape or pins to secure it.

The real key to keeping your RV cool using a heat-reflective barrier material is to move it about during the day to block the windows from getting hit by direct sun. You can leave other windows or vents open for refreshing air circulation by following this technique.

3. Add Black Out Insulated Window Curtains

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For optimal heat (and cold for winter camping) reduction, change out basic RV window coverings for insulated blackout curtains.

Drawing shut this type of curtain is another barrier against the heat that flows effortlessly through thin, single-pane RV windows. The trick is to hang the curtain rod as near the wall above the window as possible while letting the curtain still slide on the rod.

Placing the curtain close to the window and wall will trap heat instead of letting it move freely upwards once inside your RV. In addition, the material will have a tight weave and often have a rubbery backing to increase the insulation and light-blocking characteristics.

You can find an impressive selection of colors, patterns, and sizes of insulating curtains in retail stores or online. However, you can also use them as a liner behind any decorative curtain fabric of your choice that fits with your RV design scheme.

Using heat-insulating barrier material over the glass and pulling shut the insulating blackout curtains on top does a fantastic job keeping the interior of your RV cooler on even the hottest of days.

4. Add a Fantastic Fan and Vent Covers

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If you want significant airflow inside your RV to draw heat outside, then you’ll want to swap out a standard RV roof vent or two for a Fantastic Fan.

The Fantastic Fan can move air both ways, so you can purge hot, stale air from inside your RV or draw in cooler air from outside as the temperatures drop in the evening.

You can also use a Fantastic Fan to achieve the “wind tunnel” method of keeping your camper cool, which I detail in the next section.

Consider installing RV vent covers over them no matter what type of roof vents you have. These products help reduce heat penetration by creating shade and by allowing you to keep the vents open for fresh air, even when it’s raining.

5. Create a “Windtunnel” Inside the RV

Moving air feels wonderfully cooler on the skin, but running a bunch of fans inside an RV already lacking in space and outlets isn’t always easy.

You can create a wind tunnel of airflow inside your RV by using just two fans or one box fan and a power roof vent with a fan.

I prefer to operate my Fantastic Fan in the bathroom, setting it to exhaust the air. Simultaneously, I position a box fan on a table near an open window at the RV’s opposite end, ensuring it pulls air inside.

If possible, I prefer to have the window I am using in the shade by using one under the awning or on the side of the RV that isn’t in direct sun.

I keep all other windows and doors shut, so the combination of fans pulls in the fresh air and expels the hotter, stale interior air outside, all while maintaining a gentle breeze going inside the RV.

As a side note, do always use your awning if your RV has one, which in and of itself helps lower temperatures inside the camper as it keeps a good portion of your camper buffered from the sun.

6. Add Exterior Window Shade Cloth Covers

For more sun and heat block through your RV windows, consider snap-on shade cloth window coverings you can either have professionally made and installed or buy all the components and DIY them yourself.

I went the DIY route and made covers for all my RV windows. Not only are they great for heat control, but they also add another layer of privacy indoors during the day when you want to keep drapes and blinds open. Plus, the fabric isn’t solid, so air moves through to ventilate the RV interior if I slide open a window.

I highly suggest you purchase your material and snap sets from EZ Snap. The Encapsulated Thermo-Weave material is unlike any other shade cloth I have seen, and it’s super durable.

The snap sets you to get with the kit installed around the perimeter of your windows and adhere through a sticky tape or by screwing them on. As I repainted my Class C motorhome exterior, I went with the screw-on version as I was unsure if the sticky tape would hold.

I spaced the snap base about every five inches around each window and then cut a piece of the shade material about an inch wider than the snaps. I then held up the material again and used a white colored pencil to mark where I needed to attach the other snap component of the set on the fabric.

Once you attach the snap heads, you can install the cover over your window. It’s an easy project, but take your time to ensure a good fit that doesn’t wrinkle or droop.

Please use the included tool to unsnap the covers when you travel. Unfortunately, I got lazy and started yanking the covers off, and many of the snaps began to fail after a few months. I replaced the broken ones and haven’t had an issue since.

To give you an idea of longevity, I am currently using the same set I made in 2015. The snaps are fine, and the material is holding firm, but it has faded somewhat.

The covers will darken the RV interior slightly, which you may find bothersome if you like bright daylight, but you can still see out and enjoy the view. Unfortunately, if you have any lighting on inside the RV at night, anyone outside can see it fairly easily, so keep that in mind.

7. Change Light Bulbs to LED

A decorated window for Christmas

If you have an older RV, it’s highly likely the bulbs inside your light fixtures are incandescent, which emit heat when they are on.

Swapping your bulbs over to LED will cut down on the warmth inside your RV and reduce energy consumption.

Incandescent bulbs generate infrared radiation, which sends up to 15 times the amount of heat into your RV, versus an LED light bulb that produces no infrared radiation. Trying to touch an incandescent light bulb after it’s been on even a short time can burn your fingers because it generates that much heat.

Although the LED emits no radiation, they do warm up, but never enough to burn you if you touch it after it’s been on for hours.

Thankfully, you can find LED bulbs to fit any RV light fixture, from push-and-twist bases with tabs to those with threads. Look for comparable wattage or light output ratings on the package so you can purchase a similar brightness to what you’re used to currently.

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Lastly, consider the tone of the light the LED bulb emits. You can purchase cool white, daylight, or soft white bulbs, and all look very different, and each falls differently on the Kelvin scale.

Cool white has an intense, almost blue cast to the light, while soft white is more gentle on the eyes and emits a yellow or golden undertone. Daylight LED bulbs exude a more pure white light with a very crisp appearance because they offer the most contrast between color shades. This light is helpful when reading, working, or as an accent light on your decor.

I suggest using the daylight LED whenever you can find them, as they do brighten the camper interior nicely when you’re trying to block natural sunlight so you can stay cool in your RV.

8. Park In or Create Shade at the Campsite

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Obviously, you can help cool down your RV interior by parking in a shady campsite, but this isn’t always possible.

Suppose you have a small recreational vehicle, such as a teardrop or tiny travel trailer. In that case, you can often install a pop-up canopy over the top for an instant shade that can drop the temperature inside your camper quite a bit.

I have seen RVers also use trees or extendable poles to string up shade cloth sails over their camper in brutally hot weather.

One clever couple had cement-filled 5-gallon buckets with holes in the center just large enough to fit the poles so they were strong enough to support the shade sail. They kept the buckets in the back of their truck and used the combination at campgrounds and the beach and parks for instant shade.

9. Cook Outside

Nothing will heat an RV interior quicker than turning on the oven or sauteing up some chicken and veggies in a pan.

Even making coffee will add heat and humidity to your living space. So, the only solution is to move your cooking outdoors whenever possible, which will only add to the camping experience.

It’s not difficult to transition to outdoor meal making, whether you master cooking over a campfire or on the grill. I should know; I removed everything but the pantry from my RV kitchen and now only cook outside.

Sometimes, it’s over an open flame, while other times, I plug in my skillet or crockpot on a table under my awning. It’s not an issue, even on rainy days, so give it a try even if you don’t need to stay cool inside your RV.

10. Use an Air Conditioner Alternative

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If your RV doesn’t have an air conditioner, or you want to avoid turning it on just to cool down your RV interior enough to be comfortable, you may want to consider AC alternatives like portable ones.

The unit doubles as an ice chest, which perfectly fits the camping theme. It blows out cool air by using the cold water at the bottom to chill the air.

Since portable conditioners don’t use freon or produce any exhaust heat like a traditional air conditioner, you can safely use it inside your RV when you feel too warm to be comfortable. In addition, it doesn’t require much power to run, and it operates quietly.

You can even buy the optional 12-volt rechargeable battery that will last over five hours on the lowest fan setting. However, do note that you’ll need to replenish the ice inside to keep the unit blowing cold air, with about three bags of ice lasting around four hours of continual use.

Final Thoughts

Staying cool in your RV is possible without a 10,000+ BTU air conditioner. The trick is to use some or all of the tips in this guide to dramatically lower the hot temperatures inside your camper to make the interior comfortable on camping trips.

I use seven of the tips in this guide to keep me cool inside my RV in spring and summer when temperatures are at their highest.

When you find the ideal combination of RV cooling methods that fit your camping style, you’ll be amazed at how far into the warm seasons you can go before you ever need to turn on your big RV air conditioner. I hope you give them a try and see for yourself how well they work!

How to Stay Cool in an RV without Air Conditioning (Video)

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