No matter what you use to power your RV’s amenities when it’s parked, it always a bit more hassle than you’d to deal with in your downtime. Generators can be noisy. Even if you’re on a camping ground that allows their usage (unlike a persnickety suburb when you’re visiting family), that noise can earn you the ire of your neighbors or interrupt your sleep. Electrical connections aren’t always available, and your refrigerator is already a constant draw on your battery. Even solar panels aren’t a perfect fit for every climate or road trip. That means it’s important to have passive temperature control in your RV. One of the best, and the simplest, methods is with reflective insulation window covers.
Why should you cover your windows?
An RV gives you access to a lot of great views. But when you aren’t looking out the windows, covering them has a lot of advantages. The glass has poor insulative value. Just like old single-pane windows in a house, they’ll let your heat radiate away in the summer and let too much heat in during the summer.
Simply blocking out the direct sunlight can do a lot to lower the temperature in your RV. Good insulative material can do even more because it keeps your temperature-controlled air locked inside the vehicle. Solar curtains can help add this protection and give your RV a roomy feel. Unfortunately, they can also be bulky and make you feel like you’re in too close of quarters. Because air can circulate around the curtains they also don’t provide a good seal.
That’s why more and more RVers recommend getting close-cut insulation barriers that fit right up against the glass. This ensures the best coverage and doesn’t use up as much space. Because insulation is solid or opaque it also gives the interior of your RV more privacy when you’re settling in for the night.
Blocking off your southern-facing windows is the most effective way to lower the temperature inside your RV. If you want passive temperature control but you also don’t want to lose a great view, you can leave your north-facing windows open for the best of both worlds.
Just like with any DIY solution, it’s important to choose the right material. For RVers and van dwellers, that material is something like Reflectix.
What is Reflectix?
Reflectix is a thin, flexible reflective insulation. Any similar material can work, but it’s important to look for something with these characteristics:
Any insulation material that has a single layer isn’t going to have an effective R-value. One of the most effective ways to insulate a space is with layered material because it can better disrupt heat conduction. This is even more important when you need to lay insulation against a solid flat plane, like a window.
When you think about insulation, you might think about the pink rolls of insulation batting made from fiberglass. Those fibers are both dangerous to the touch and dangerous to breathe in. Look for solid materials such as foil or even insulation board that won’t dissolve or break apart.
Built to Disrupt Ambient Heat Transfer and Heat from Sunlight
Your windows can make your RV uncomfortable without the constant presence of your AC unit in two different ways:
- Local heat transfer from the air outside your windows and inside your windows. This is bad news both in the summer and in the winter because the air’s temperature is trying to reach equilibrium. Insulation needs to stop that flow of heat.
- Sunlight. No matter what the temperature is outside, sunlight brings warmth in through the windows.
The layers in your preferred insulation material need to resist both problems. That means they need layers that reflect sunlight and that break up the energy flow.
Easy to Cut and Store
Reflective insulation material usually comes in rolls. You can also find pre-made window covers everywhere from RV stores to the car department in big box stores. If you want to try making your own window covers, look for a foil-based material that you can easily cut to size. It’s also important to use a material that can be folded or rolled away when you don’t need the window covers. Space is at a premium in every RV, and bulky window covers can be a hassle.
Other tips for staying cool (or warm) on your next road trip:
If you’re traveling during the summer or winter, window covers might not be enough to keep your RV pleasantly cool or warm. If your RV is too hot, that can be due to lack of air circulation and too much humidity rather than too many degrees. As long as the real temperature is within a safe range for your health. use a fan or vent instead of turning on your air conditioner. To really push hot air out of the vehicle, you need both an inlet vent and an exhaust vent. If there’s a breeze outside, you might not even need a fan to keep the air moving.
If you love DIY projects and you’ve already made several improvements to your RV, you can also try adding reflective insulation materials in the walls or under the subfloor. Depending on the make and model of your RV, there may be little to no insulation material in place. Bulking up the metal or fiberglass walls with a third of an inch of material gives you even more control of the temperature.
Like we discussed earlier, the direction you’re facing (and where you park) can have a dramatic effect on the temperature of your home. Try to park with the majority of your bare windows facing to the north, and park under shady trees when you can. Extending your RV’s exterior shade can also cool down the side of your RV if it’s facing the sun.
Usually, the multiple backup systems for power inside your RV can keep you comfortable season after season. But it’s always best to have a backup plan ready and passive climate control tools that don’t need power. Browse our blog at Avalon RV Center for more RV tips and DIY guides.