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Improve your RV’s Efficiency in the Summer Heat

June 1, 2010 by Mark Polk · 10 Comments  
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Summer is a great time to go camping, but it can be taxing on some of your RV appliances. Here are a few tips on how you can help your RV work more efficiently, and make your camping trips more pleasurable in the summer heat.

RV Air Conditioner:

You can improve your RV air conditioners efficiency by keeping the A/C filters clean. In most cases you can wash the filters in warm soapy water, rinse thoroughly and allow them to dry before reinstalling. Another option is to clean the filters with a small hand held vacuum cleaner. Try to keep a spare set of A/C filters on hand in the event the old filters have seen better days.

Ask for a shady site when you check in at the campground. This will not only help cool the RV down, but your refrigerator and roof A/C will work much more efficiently.

Use your patio awning and any window awnings to assist in cooling the RV down. In addition to the awnings use your window blinds or drapes to help keep the sun out and the cooler air in.

Try to avoid, or minimize using appliances that produce heat like the range burners or oven. Cook outside rather than inside whenever possible.

Start the air conditioner early in the morning to get the RV cooled down before the midday heat comes on. This will help maintain a cooler temperature throughout the day.

RV Refrigerator:

The initial cool down process can take four to six hours. You should turn the refrigerator on the day before you plan to leave, and before you put any food in it. When you do put food in the refrigerator the food should already be cold, and the food put in the freezer should already be frozen. Putting cold food in the refrigerator, rather than adding warm food, lets the refrigerator work less to cool down. One common mistake made is to over pack the refrigerator. There has to be space between the foods to allow for air to circulate throughout the compartment. In most situations you will have access to a store where you can buy food. A three to four day supply should be enough.

To assist with air circulation you can purchase an inexpensive, battery operated refrigerator fan. Put the batteries in the fan and place it in the front of the refrigerator compartment blowing up (cold air drops and warm air rises). The fan will improve the efficiency by circulating the air and it will reduce the initial cool down time by 50%.

The heat created by the cooling process is vented behind the refrigerator. Air enters through the outside lower refrigerator vent and helps to draft the hot air out through the roof vent. Periodically inspect the back of the refrigerator and the roof vent for any obstructions like bird nests, leaves or other debris that might prevent the heat from escaping.

The outside temperature also affects the operation and efficiency of your RV refrigerator. When it’s really hot outside try parking your RV with the side the refrigerator is on in the shade. Periodically inspect and clean the refrigerator door gaskets. Check the them for a good seal. Place a dollar bill behind the seal and close the door. It should stay there and not drop. When you try to pull it out there should be some resistance felt. Do this in several different places and have any damaged seals replaced.

Try to limit opening the refrigerator or freezer doors and the length of time you leave the doors open. Every time the door is opened it loses a few degrees of cooling. On a hot summer day it won’t take long to lose much its cooling capacity.

RV Ventilation:

Another key ingredient to keeping your RV cool is proper ventilation. Proper ventilation helps prevent excess heat from building up in your RV and gives heat in the RV a way to escape from the RV.

Install Maxx Air vent covers over the roof vents to allow for ventilation. They are inexpensive, easy to install and they let the fresh air in, even when it’s raining. I use a vent cover on each end of our RV to promote cross ventilation. Watch the installation video.

Install a high powered 12-volt ventilator fan. These fans have intake and exhaust modes. The intake mode operates similar to a ceiling fan and the exhaust mode helps remove heat, odors and stale musty air. Watch a Maxx Fan installation video

Take a couple of small portable fans with you to help circulate the air. If for some reason you can’t run the A/C you’ll be glad you have them.

Happy Camping,

Mark Polk

We just launched our new Go for the RV Gold online training program. It is a self-paced 12-week long RV training program that teaches you everything you need to know about using and maintaining your RV. The training material is delivered right to your computer, so you can learn about your RV in the comfort of your own home. Check out the introduction video here.

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Comments

10 Responses to “Improve your RV’s Efficiency in the Summer Heat”

  1. TallGuy on June 1st, 2010 10:23 pm

    Mark,
    I always get something from your articles, though I’ve been RVing since ‘74. This time, I’m in agreement with all your suggestions, but want to tell you that we carry more than “a couple” portable fans in our Class A. We have a 12v rotating dash fan that clips on or mounts permanently. We clip it on.

    We have a 120v tower floor mounted rotating fan and a 120v multi-speed counter mounted fan. We also have a fan that works on 120v, 12v, or six D-cells. We’ve used them all, and they are especially handy when we just pull into a site during a hot day, as we pull into a site and plug in the shore power. One or two of them help with the cool-down, and the different power selections have been life savers when there was no shore power or generator.

  2. Marlan at RV52 on June 2nd, 2010 11:55 am

    Just in time for the Texas weather. I’ll have to read this a couple of times. Our park charges something like 14 cents/kilowatt hour and I think those prices are probably never going to go lower.

    Something I’ve noticed and I’m curious if other people have ran across this. In the smaller confines of the RV, even if the temperature is comfortable inside, if the air is ’still’ it has an oddly different feel to it compared to a 2500 square foot home. Is that all in my head, or have other people experienced that too? Regardless, fans seem absolutely a key part of the RV.

    Thanks Mark.

  3. Carl Stark on June 2nd, 2010 4:11 pm

    Some good suggestions. Having traveled all over the West during the summer last year, we found that two small fans were great. We mounted them to a slab of granite cut to fit into the dash well. We super glued the base plate of each fan to the granite. Our 2-auxillary power plug in was located adjacent to the fans. Each fan had adjustments to either remain stationary or rotate. Until noon we enjoyed driving with the fans, never needed interior A/C. Whenever we stopped to have lunch or pick up items at Walmart, we left the fans on to keep our 2-large dogs cool. Walmart sold me the fans for about $10 each. Just a thought. Carl.

  4. Ardis on June 3rd, 2010 8:00 am

    ” In the smaller confines of the RV, even if the temperature is comfortable inside, if the air is ’still’ it has an oddly different feel to it compared to a 2500 square foot home. Is that all in my head, or have other people experienced that too?”

    What you are experiencing is radiant heat off the walls, ceiling, and floors. They get quite hot from the sun and being thin, can’t have much insulation. Even though the air is a comfortable temperature, this radiant heat is going directly from the outside surfaces to your body. A house has much thicker walls and insulation, so you don’t get this effect at home, except near large windows.

    We deal with serious heat issues when tailgating in a parking lot in College Station, TX, in September for Texas A&M football. The only RV parking I have ever experienced that was hotter was in the Big Bend Park in Texas.

  5. DebbieT in Alabama on July 26th, 2010 3:36 pm

    A boondocking trip to a country concert here in south Alabama showed me the huge benefits of having multiple fans in our RV….. at least a couple for inside, and a couple BIG ones to keep the air moving under the awning. That moving air helps keeps the gnats and mosquitoes at bay…. and one in the bedroom at night provides a white noise to help us drift off to sleep. That moving air feels cooler than still air to us. GREAT article, thanks for the reminder!!

  6. Denise from ARk on July 26th, 2010 5:10 pm

    Thanks for pointing out the thing about the radiant heating. I never thought of that, but since you said it, it seems obvious. We always have shore power, and I, too, keep several fans going nearly all of the time. It makes a tremendous difference. Otherwise, it’s always either too cold when the a/c is running, or gets too hot before it kicks back on. I keep one small desktop fan behind the recliners and one on the steps up to the bedroom. That one gets turned toward the bedroom at night, although it faces the living area in the daytime. We also have a 12″ tabletop fan and a high-volume floor fan to use under the awning – even when it’s not too warm, they really do help with the bugs. Last summer in the desert we could be comfortable under the awning with the fans and a pole mister running even up to 100 degrees outside.

  7. William Fincher on February 15th, 2011 11:40 pm

    One proceedure that has helped out camping in the warmer desert areas, is have the refrigerator outside area out of the sun. Furthermore, we remove the outside plastic cover durind the day time hours, helping cooling the coils.At home prior to leaving home, GENTLY clean the outside coils from dust and spider webs.Also, while the r.v. is not being used, we turn the refer. off and lite the pilot for a few minutes once a month.Same with the hot water, and furnace,and gen. set. Let them run for a few minutes each,spiders and critters will find elcewhere to reside.

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