Whether you’re touring U.S. landmarks for your family vacation, traveling to visit far-off friends, heading north for the season, or living at least part time in your motorhome, there’s a chance you'll think it's just too darn hot at some point. In fact, anytime the sun is shining in, the interior of the motorhome is going to be warmer, even during winter days.
As you find yourself facing the heat of summer, especially if you are trying to keep the amount of electricity you use down or are dry-camping, you still want to take measures to keep yourself and your space cool and comfortable. Take advantage of breaks in the heat and cloudy or overcast days, and then consider using the following ten tips.
1. Park in the Shade
Whenever possible, park your RV in the shade. Choose a shady campsite under the cover of trees or even a canopy. This is one of the best ways to keep your motorhome cool in the summer.
Some RV parks don’t have any shade. Plus, when you’re boondocking in a parking lot, this isn’t likely to be an option. In that case, try not to park with your door facing west; that way, you can leave the door open to catch any breezes and increase the air circulation.
Another option is to park with the back of your RV facing west, which ensures that as little direct sunlight as possible enters the RV during the hottest hours of the afternoon.
2. Use the RV’s Awnings and Window Shades
Most RVs come equipped with awnings and shades for more than aesthetical reasons. Putting the awnings up and shades down keeps the interior much cooler than it would be otherwise.
Using your awnings has the potential to reduce the interior temperature on the side where they’re located by 10-degrees or more. It basically provides additional shade and cools the entire interior. It also creates a nice shaded space to relax or work outside, next to the rig.
Shades and Curtains
To create even more shade and lower the interior temperature, use the window shades. For additional benefit, install blackout blinds on the windows and insulated or thermal curtains between the cockpit and living space. Using them during hot, sunny days reduces the heat exponentially.
3. Reduce the Light
In addition to closing your window shades and covering the windshield, reduce the temperature by turning off the lights, as well as any unused electrical appliances. Each element has the potential of heating up your space, as is evidenced by the warmth put off by a single light bulb. Turning off appliances has the added benefit of reducing how often you need to turn on the generator or engine, so you aren’t in fact actively causing the space to heat up.
Change to LED lighting
As mentioned, traditional light bulbs produce heat. LEDs, on the other hand, are much cooler and use up to 7/8 less amps than incandescent bulbs. With this one change, you can keep your camper or trailer much cooler in the summer, especially when boondocking, since air conditioning is less of an option. Although replacing all of the lights with LED is a bit of an investment, they take less energy to run and need to be replaced less often, so it balances out in the long run.
4. Plan When to Open the Windows
When people want to avoid turning on the air conditioner, they often turn to their windows as a solution. Unfortunately, depending on when the windows are opened, they may cause more harm than good. For example, if they are opened during the heat of the day, to “let some fresh air in,” the air that enters is often hotter than the air that was already within the camper or trailer.
Instead, save energy while cooling your RV by opening the windows when the air gets cool in the evening. Leave them open until it begins to get warm in the morning and then shut them; this traps the cooler air inside and allows you to get a head start on the day.
5. Learn How to Circulate the Air
Another option is to combine opening windows with air circulation. Fans take far less energy than an air-conditioner, which is great when you are boondocking. They also provide a direct source of airflow for instantaneous relief.
With roof mounted ceiling fans, you can often set them to one position to pull air in, and another to blow air out. If you have more than one fan, set one to the “in” position and the other to “out.” This creates a forced breeze.
For motorhomes that don’t have ceiling fans, campers can create the same effect with two portable fans. Just place one in front of an open window facing in and another in front of a window facing out at the opposite end of the RV.
6. Leave the Heat
During the summer afternoons when the sun makes your camper the hottest, working or relaxing in a cooler location is a better option, whether it’s inside the home or out.
Move to a Cooler Room
Find the coolest room in the RV and spend the warmest part of the day in there. For example, in our coach, the bedroom is MUCH cooler than the remainder of the coach. This is primarily because it has fewer and smaller windows and its own air conditioner. Although we have two air-conditioners, one cools the entire livingroom/dining-kitchen area and the other only serves the bedroom and back bath. During the sunny, summer days, I sometimes relocate to the bedroom to work.
Move to a Cooler Area
Another option is to move to another, cooler spot altogether. For example, during the warmest part of the day, it might be a good time to leave the RV for a while. Sit under the awning or visit the campground’s clubhouse if it has one. Go for a swim, go sightseeing, run errands, or lie in a hammock under a tree.
7. Plan Your Work
To ensure that you don’t overheat during the day, plan your physical labor for the cooler hours in the early morning or in the evening. Be realistic about how much time each of your chores typically takes, as well as, how much effort. For example, washing dishes, doing laundry, or engaging in light dusting might not require much exertion, but cleaning out the vents, tending a mini-garden, or detailing the RV’s exterior would. Labor intense jobs should be relegated to cooler hours or a different day.
8. Plan Your Meals
For many people, part of every day is spent preparing meals for themselves and/or their family. In fact, for those traveling as part of their vacation, cooking may be one of the aspects they enjoy about RVing. Plus, for full-timers, being able to make their own food is almost a necessity.
Although preparing meals can be done the night before to reduce heating the kitchen during the daytime, very little, heats up an RV faster than cooking. There are several things that can be done to minimize this issue.
One of the best ways to prepare a hot meal without heating up the kitchen — and the entire motorhome — is to do your cooking outside. There are a ton of different types of meals you can cook either over a fire or on a grille.
For example, in addition to the traditional burgers and kabobs, you can also make “silver dollars.” By folding a meat source and variety of vegetables into a square of aluminum foil and setting it over a fire, you can make single serving, “one dish” meals.
Consider “Cold” Meals
Another easy option is to just plan cold meals, and often on a hot day, those actually sound best. These can be as easy as preparing a veggie tray and a sandwich tray with a variety of toppings and garnishments. You could also make a gourmet-tasting salad with relative ease.
If you truly don’t feel like cooking or even assembling anything, then perhaps it’s time to go to a restaurant or diner. This covers two aspects: it gets everyone fed and gets everyone into a cooler environment outside of the rig. Even if you are staying at a relatively remote campground, you may have access to a general store that sells premade sandwiches or ice cream treats to cool everyone off.
9. Stay Hydrated
Most people realize the importance of water and that it makes up about 60-70-percent of the human body. Having adequate access to water can mean the difference between relative discomfort and a trip to the emergency room. In short, you should aim to have at least one gallon of drinking water per person, especially on hot days.
Increase Your Fluid Intake
When it’s hot, having sufficient water promotes sweating, which is the body’s way of cooling itself. On hot days, the body can lose a considerable amount of water through perspiration. When a person is dehydrated, the body holds onto every ounce of water, which curbs its ability to sweat. This increases the risk of heat stroke.
To avoid dehydration, it is necessary to replace fluids at the same rate in which they’re being lost. By drinking water throughout the day, you retain your body’s ability to sweat and cool itself optimally. If you aren’t a fan of water, drink juices or water flavored with lemon or cucumber. You can even improve your hydration by eating fruit or juicy vegetables. Avoid, however, alcoholic and caffeinated beverages during the hottest part of the day, as they have a dehydrating effect.
Note: Not all water available at campgrounds is “potable” or, in other words, safe for consumption. So, it’s a good idea to either invest in a high-quality purifier or get used to bringing plenty of bottled water.
Cool Off With Water
You can further cool off by spritzing yourself with water. You can also take cool showers or take the opportunity to go for a swim. Similar to the effects obtained by sweating, wetting your skin with water makes it feel cooler as the moisture evaporates.
10. Take Care of Vulnerable Campers
When it gets hot, it is especially important to take care of the campers of your party who are less capable of caring for themselves. Pets aren’t able to convey how they’re feeling and children may not even realize when they’re overheating until it’s too late. Make sure to adopt firm policies to ensure the safety and comfort of all.
Children and Elderly Campers
Children often seem oblivious to the temperatures and will continue to run and play even during the hottest days. Try to plan “quiet” activities, such as reading or playing board games during the warmest hours. Consider making that “family time” and take in the sights.
Older campers are often unaware they are overheating and may forget to hydrate. Encourage them to sit in a shady area with a cool beverage. Make sure to check on them frequently.
Regularly remind everyone to drink water. Better yet, frequently present them with fresh fruit and beverages. Frozen juice pops are a great way to increase the fluid intake, while cooling them off.
Keep your pets with you, as much as possible. Although it may seem to be common sense, it is good to be reminded to avoid leaving your furry friends alone in a vehicle. Only allow them outside if there is plenty of shade and cool areas for them to retreat to. Make sure to provide them with ample water and check periodically to make sure they haven’t spilled it or run out.
Signs of overheating can include the following:
If left untreated, an animal that has overheated or become dehydrated can experience organ failure leading to death. If you suspect your pet may be overheating, move them to a cooler location, wet them with water, give them water to drink, and then call a vet for further advice. Be prepared to take them to a clinic if necessary.
There are several ways you can improve the temperature of the interior of your motorhome or trailer and your comfort level. Knowing when to open your windows and use fans or shut the shades and trap in the cooler air is often situational. For example, when the sun is out, shut the shades. On hot, overcast days, consider circulating the air using fans. Make sure everyone drinks plenty of water, takes it easy, and when necessary relocates to a more comfortable space. Summertime heat is nothing to play around with. Please share on a social media site like Facebook to help educate others. You may be saving a life.