A Guide to Cooling and Heating Your RV

Gabe putting window insulation on the hood of his RV

Regardless if you’re a full-timer or a weekend warrior, one of the biggest concerns for all RVers is climate control. How much power does my RV’s air conditioner use? How can I quickly heat my RV in the winter? Can I run my RV air conditioner on battery power? These are all common questions that RVers may ask themselves. Using a climate control system in your RV can be simple, but there are a few important things to know when you’re trying to cool down or heat up an RV.

RV Climate Control Considerations

If you’re at a campsite with full hook-ups or if you have a large generator or large propane tanks, then powering heavy-duty appliances like air conditioners and furnaces shouldn’t be a problem. However, if you’re boondocking or dry camping with minimal or no hook-ups, then you’ll want to either limit your climate control usage or invest in more batteries and solar panels. Climate control systems require a lot of power—including a lot of propane for your furnace—and it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to run these systems on battery or solar power alone.

Another consideration is if you travel with pets. There are instances where you may have to leave your pet inside the RV for extended periods of time. And if that’s the case, then you’ll want to ensure that the climate doesn’t get too hot or too cold. Some RVs come equipped with built-in climate control monitors that will auto-adjust if the interior temperature gets too hot or too cold. You can also purchase a remote temperature sensor that will monitor the temperature and humidity levels inside your RV, and then send updates directly to your phone.

The last thing to consider is gas—most RV furnaces run on propane, not electricity, and it may be hard to find extra propane if you’re in a remote location. Keep in mind that even though an RV furnace runs off propane, it still needs electricity. Things like vent fans and ignition require electricity to function. 

Easy Hacks For Better Climate Control

If you do a lot of boondocking or are just looking for ways to limit how much you use your air conditioner and heater, here are some tips for better controlling the climate inside your RV.

Rocio applying insulation to the window of her RV

Add insulation to your window shades and coverings to keep cold air out and warm air in.

Gabe covering the window of the hood of his RV in insulation

Add reflective insulation to your windows to help prevent heat from entering your RV.  

Rocio shutting a curtain inside of her RV

Add a thermal curtain to your main living space or bedroom to keep warm air contained in one space.

Gabe and Rocio bundled in a blanket

Pack extra blankets if you are traveling somewhere with colder weather.

Gabe fanning himself with a small battery powered fan

Bring small battery-powered fans if you are traveling somewhere with warm, humid weather.

How to Keep Your RV Warm

The easiest way to warm your RV is to use the thermostat. Set your desired temperature and the furnace will turn on until the set temperature is reached—it’s as simple as that. However, if you’re looking for a more economical way to stay warm inside your RV, without having to turn on the thermostat, then try layering. This can include additional layers of clothes and blankets, as well as extra insulation on your window shades. You can also use electric blankets or body warmers. Electric blankets need electricity to work, but they don’t draw a ton of power and can likely be used with your RV’s house batteries or a small generator. Body warmers, or bed warmers, are great and come in a variety of different options and sizes. Some utilize hot water or chemical reactions to produce heat, while others can be charged using a standard outlet. Regardless of how you heat your RV, always try to keep the temperature above 32 degrees to avoid freezing your pipes and tanks. And always be sure to understand the weather conditions for your destination, your RV’s unique heat capabilities and its insulation.

How to Keep Your RV Cool

Your RV’s air conditioner works just like an air conditioner in a house—it doesn’t create cool air but rather removes the heat from the existing air and puts it outside. In order to keep your RV’s air conditioner in good, working order, always make sure you are connected to an adequate power source whenever you turn on the air conditioning. Trying to turn on the air conditioner without enough power can damage the system. You should also regularly clean your interior filters and exterior air exchangers.

If you want to be less reliant on your air conditioner but still keep your RV cool, here are a few additional things you can do:

  1. Try to park your RV in the shade and keep your awning out to help block the sun.
  2. Invest in some battery-powered fans and use them in front of open windows to draw air into the RV. Opening two windows across from each other can also create a nice cross-breeze.
  3. Pack clothing that is made with breathable material (cotton, linen or rayon). You can even bring cooling towels if the weather is really hot.

Temperatures can fluctuate greatly when you’re on the road, especially if you travel during the spring and fall shoulder seasons. But with the right equipment and a good understanding of your climate control systems, keeping your RV safe and comfortable is easy to do.

Class B Camper Vans

Class B motorhomes are small, streamlined and ready to roll. Nimble and more fuel efficient than Class C motorhomes, Class B motorhomes offer living space best suited for small groups. Most Class B motorhomes do not offer slide outs yet still offer luxurious amenities like galley kitchens, beds and restrooms.

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