How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: 30 Simple Ideas

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Summer is peak camping season, but it can be difficult to keep RVs cool in high temperatures, especially when dry camping. In this article, we share 30 easy tips, tricks and hacks to more efficiently cool your RV or camper. Keep reading to learn how to keep an RV cool in summer.

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer using Shore Power

Learning how to keep an RV cool in summer is easier for campers plugged into shore power at the campground. Here are easy tips to get your RV cool using your RV rooftop’s air conditioners and other appliances.

Clean the Air Conditioner Filters

Man taking cover off RV AC filter.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Clean A.C. Filters

The easiest way to keep your RV cool is to use the built-in rooftop air conditioners. However, RV air conditioners will only work efficiently if they are properly maintained. Start RV A.C. maintenance by regularly cleaning the filters, as clogged air filters prevent proper air flow.

First, remove the cover over the air conditioner intake filter and remove the filter. Start the cleaning process by vacuuming the air filter using a low suction setting.

If the vacuum does not remove most of the debris from the filter, soak the air filter in a mixture of warm water and mild detergent. After soaking for at least 15 minutes, remove the air filter and use a gentle brush to scrap away the debris.

Maintain your Air Conditioners

Cleaning RV Air Conditioners
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: A.C. Maintenance

The filter is not the only part of the RV air conditioner that needs to be cleaned to maximize cooling power. RV owners also need to make sure the rooftop unit is inspected, cleaned and serviced at least once each year.

Read our complete guide to RV air conditioner maintenance for step-by-step instructions.

Upgrade your Air Conditioner with SoftStartRV

SoftStart RV gagdet
Increase AC Capabilities with the SoftStart RV

For RV owners who plan to use 30-amp or 20-amp connections, a SoftStart RV allows more air conditioner usage with less power. SoftStart RV is designed to connect directly to the compressor motor and reduce the power surge that occurs on startup.

The gadget gradually increases this power until the compressor is running, creating a very smooth start that reduces the peak current by 50 to 70 percent or more. 

Using the SoftStart RV, campers are able to run two air conditioners on a 30-amp hookup, run one air conditioner using only a small portable generator or run one air conditioner on a 20-amp household hookup.

Check out these travel trailers with onboard generators to help you easily run your A.C.

Keep the Air Conditioner On at Night

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Leave the A.C. On
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Leave the A.C. On

When camping in locations with cool nights, do not make the mistake of waiting until until the heat of the day to turn on the air conditioners.

Instead, set the thermostat at the desired temperature and leave the A.C. on overnight or turn it on first thing in the morning. Then, the air conditioner will run as soon as it is needed and require less time to cool your RV.

If you are having issues with your RV thermostat, see our troubleshooting guide.

Run a Dehumidifier

In humid destinations, use a dehumidifier to remove moisture from the air inside your RV. The dehumidifier will help the RV to feel cooler and more comfortable.

A portable dehumidifier, like this one from Pohl Schmitt Electric, is perfect for use in a motorhome or travel trailer.

Use a Portable Fan

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Use Fans
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Use Fans

Not every solution has to be complicated. If your camper is connected to shore power, utilize portable fans to help circulate air and cool down your RV.

Small, portable fans are ideal, so you can move them around and direct the air towards the area where you are sitting or sleeping.

Run a Portable Air Conditioner

If your rooftop air conditioners and portable fans are not doing the job, consider buying a portable air conditioner.

This 5,000 BTU model from Black and Decker is able to cool up to 150 square feet. It even has wheels, so it is easy to move around the RV. As with any appliance, make sure your RV has sufficient amp capacity before turning on the air conditioner.

Make your Air Conditioner More Efficient

Use an RV Airflow System to Improve RV Air Conditioner Performance
Use an RV Airflow System to Improve RV Air Conditioner Performance

If your rooftop RV air conditioners are struggling to keep up with the heat, consider installing an RV Airflow System to improve performance.

RV Airflow is a specially designed module that installs into the plenum, the space between the bottom of your air conditioning unit and the cover plate, and directs air smoothly into your RV’s existing duct work.

The module is a non-electrical, non-mechanical device. The system increases air flow by an average of 40% improving performance, speeding cooling time and reducing noise.

Install a Ceiling Fan

Ceiling fan blurred in motion.
12 Volt Ceiling Fans are a Great Option

Did you know it was possible to install a ceiling fan in an RV? Well, it is. In fact, there are a few companies that make 12 volt ceiling fans specifically designed for use in an RV.

Consider swapping out your living room light fixture for a ceiling fan to help keep your RV cool during summer.

Check out our list of the best 12 volt RV ceiling fans to pick your new fixture.

Switch to LED Lights

Globe-style LED light fixtures in RV.
LED Light Fixtures and Bulbs are Cooler Than Incandescent Bulbs

If your RV does not already have LED lighting, consider replacing your bulbs or light fixtures. LED light bulbs give off a fraction of the heat of regular bulbs.

Switching to LEDs is not only more energy efficient, but it is an easy way to help keep your RV cool in the summer. If you want to add some style to your RV, check out our list of the most stylish 12 volt LED light fixtures.

Close Off Unused Rooms and Vents

Hallway with one open and one closed door in RV camper.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Shut Doors and Vents

Another simple way to control to temperature in your RV is to keep unused rooms closed off. If your RV has a bunkroom that is not being utilized during your trip, close all the A.C. vents in that room and leave the door shut.

If you are focused on getting your bedroom cool for sleeping, close the door, open all the vents in the bedroom and close the vents in other rooms.

Turn Off the Electronics

TV with sports content on inside RV camper.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Turn the TV Off

Electronics can put off a significant amount of heat and counteract your efforts to cool your RV. Limit use of the TV and other electronics during the daytime, and make sure electronics are turned off when not in use.

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer without Shore Power

Learning how to keep an RV cool in summer is more time-consuming for dry campers. These tips to keep an RV cool in summer do not require require being plugged into shore power. Therefore, these tips are relevant for boondocking and drying camping.

Cover the Windows

When running the air conditioning is not possible, one the most effective way to keep an RV cool is to cover the windows.

Covering the windows with reflective insulation prevents the sun shining through the window. The insulated material is more effective than regular curtains or shades at keeping the heat out.

Cover the Skylights

While you are covering the windows with reflective insulation, go ahead and cover any skylights as well.

Many RVs have skylights in the shower that let in light, but also heat up the bathroom. LATCH.IT makes a ready-to-go skylight insulator that fits perfectly into many RV skylights.

Cover the Windshield

Owners of drivable RVs also need to cover their front windshield to keep the sun’s heat out of the RV. LATCH.IT also makes windshield covers designed to create total privacy and keep your RV cooler. Their 4-layer windshield cover is easily set-up without any hooks or snaps.

Turn the Lights Off

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Turn the Lights Off
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Turn the Lights Off

Another simple way to keep your RV cool during summer is to keep the lights off during the day.

Turning off lights will help keep your RV cool regardless of your bulb type, but is especially important if your RV still has incandescent bulbs. If you are boondocking, keeping the lights off will also help you conserve battery power.

Park in the Shade

How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Park Under Shade Trees
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Park Under Shade Trees

It may be obvious, but if you have the option, parking your RV in the shade will significantly reduce the temperature in your RV.

Always look for boondocking spots with trees or other shade sources, but don’t forget to sweep the leaves off of your slide outs when packing up the campsite.

Park to Avoid the Sun

Woman sitting in shade beside RV on sunny day.
For optimal shade and sun exposure, consider the direction before parking your RV

If shade is not available, consider the direction of the sun when parking your RV. Avoid having the windshield and other large windows facing west where they would be exposed to full afternoon sun.

Parking with your entry door facing east will allow you to have afternoon shade on that side of the RV.

Cook Outside

Woman cooking on grill.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Cook Outside

Using the RV stovetop or oven will always heat up the kitchen in your RV. If you are trying to keep an RV cool, especially without air conditioning, these appliances should be left off. Use an outdoor grill to keep the heat outside or eat cold meals that don’t require heat.

Check our favorite RV camping food for some easy meal ideas.

Take a Cold Shower

RV interior with bathroom door open showing shower.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Take Cold Showers

Hot showers are another everyday activity that produce a lot of heat in the RV. Save power and keep the RV cool by leaving the RV water heater off and taking cold showers. Icy showers will also help cool your body temperature down.

Extend the Awning

Airstream RV with orange awning extended.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Keep the Awning Out

Use built-in RV awnings to create shade over the side of your RV. The awning doesn’t just provide shade for campers sitting outside, it also shades the side of the RV and prevents the sun from heating up the RV.

If your RV does not have a built-in awning, check out these simple RV awning alternatives.

Add an a Shade Cloth to your Awning

To make you RV awning even more effective at blocking the sun, add a shade cloth to your awning. Awning shades, like this one from LATCH.IT, attach to the awning roller to extend the awning all the way to the ground.

Using an awning shade will significantly extend the time each day when your RV is shaded from the sun.

Use Cooling Bed Sheets

While sheets cannot reduce the temperature in your RV, they can impact how hot or cool you feel sleeping at night.

Equip your RV or camper with lightweight, cooling bed sheets, like this set made by Mellanni, to improve your sleep on hot summer nights.

Install RV Vent Covers

Install vent covers over your RV vents and fans to maximize their efficiency.

When air conditioning is not available, but there is a breeze, open the covered roof vents and the windows on the shady side of your RV to create maximum ventilation and let the hot air out. Keep windows on the sunny side of the RV closed and covered.

Install an RV Roof Canopy

RV with roof cover on top.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Install a Shade RV

To protect your RV roof and help keep the heat away, install a Shade RV on top of your RV.

The lightweight but durable fabric cover blocks 95% of UV rays and helps to keep your RV cool in direct sunlight. The Shade RV also provides protection from rain and hail.

Have your Windows Tinted

RV with large window parked in shade.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Tint Windows

Having your RV windows tinted is another way to keep your RV cool in summer. Having your RV windows tinted can block up to 70 percent of the infrared heat that comes through the glass. Tinting your windows also has the added benefit of improved privacy in your RV.

Utilize Cross Breezes

Dog looking out open RV window.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Use the Cross-Breeze

Pay attention to the wind direction and utilize cross-breezes to bring cool air into your RV. Open windows directly across from each other to allow the wind to blow through and create a fan-like effect in your RV. Also, open roof vents to allow warm air to rise out of the RV.

Clean your RV Refrigerator Vent

Clean refrigerator vents on RV exterior.
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Clean Fridge Vents

One significant sources of heat in any RV is the refrigerator. This heat can radiate from the fridge and out into other areas of your RV, raising the temperature.

To prevent heat from the fridge from spreading out into the RV, keep your RV fridge vent as clean as possible to allow the heat to effectively travel outside. Be super careful when cleaning. Wipe out dirt and debris, but do not to allow any water to get inside the vent.

Keep the Door Shut

Couple sitting by fire in front of RV on a road trip
How to Keep an RV Cool in Summer: Stay Outside & Keep the Door Closed

Once the RV is cool, you want to keep it cool. Keep the entry door closed as much as possible to avoid letting the cold air out, and the heat in. Plan your activities and meals, so you do not need to enter and exit the RV multiple times.

Head to Elevation

Class A RV driving in the mountains.
How to Keep an RV Cool in the Summer: Head to Elevation

The easiest way to beat the heat is to take your camper to cooler temperatures. You will not have to worry so much about keeping the RV cool if you are camping somewhere with mild weather. Head to higher elevations to find cooler temperatures.

Thanks for reading our guide on how to keep an RV cool in the summer. We hope you found some valuable tips to help you beat the heat on your summer trip.

If you are still planning your summer road trip, check out our helpful destination guides:

Happy Camping!

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