How To Keep RV Cool Without AC: Saving Power Without Losing Your Cool

Keep RV cool without AC: Lady standing outside RV on a sunny weather

For RVers, hot summer days are meant for enjoyable camping, but it can be a challenge too, especially if your air conditioning has broken down or you don’t own one! Not all motorhomes come with air conditioners, so it’s imperative to get creative in keeping RVs cool without AC! 

How to Cool Down your RV Without AC? Keep your RV cool sans air conditioning by limiting electronic appliance usage, using LED lights, insulating gaps or exposed RV areas like windows and doors with reflective insulation bubbles, creating shade with awning or tarps, cooking outside, parking in the shades and having proper ventilation.

This article gives my two cents on RV cooling solutions like cheap AC DIY alternatives, and higher altitude or sheltered places for cool summer breeze to save us from using too much power on warm days. 

Keeping the Heat Out

Here are clever ways to keep your RV cool without air conditioning:

Good RV Ventilation – Keep warm air out and the cool air in

Ample ventilation in your RV keeps the temp from rising, so open windows on the shady side and close on the warmer or sunny side.

When it comes to moving air around the RV, ceiling vent fans are a huge help! Makers like Maxx-air and Fan-tastic are highly recommended by most RVers.

It may also help to have an external vent on the side of the roof to remove heat given off by the refrigerator.

Use Insulation – Keep the sun out

Buy reflective insulation bubble packs like Reflectix for windows, shower skylight and sunroof.

It may sound surprising but cupboards that hold food or electronics draw quite a bit of heat as they’re near to the outside walls of the RV. 

So, during the hottest hours, keep them open and/ or attach reflective insulation to the back and top walls.

RV window tinting also keeps the sun out. It can block up to 70% of the solar heat that goes through glass windows.

Swap up to LED Lights – Much cooler than incandescent bulbs

LED lights are more pricey but offer a huge effect in keeping your RV cooler. Compared to halogen, CFLs and incandescent lights, LED lights put out less heat .

It’s not only much cooler than ordinary bulbs, but more energy efficient and lasts longer.

Park Smart in the Shades – Minimize sun penetration

Shade can reduce around 2-9 degrees in temperature according to the US EPA (Environmental Protection Agency). So, keep RV beside a shady tree as much as possible especially when boondocking. 

You can ask for a heavily shaded lot when reserving a spot at a campground. And orient your RV on the side with less windows to minimize sun penetration.

Al Fresco Cooking – Keep cooking heat outdoors

Do your culinary expertise outside to keep the heat generated from cooking off your RV. Make use of a butane stove, camp stove or barbeque, etc. instead of a hot oven. Experience the fun and thrill cooking and dining out in nature for fresh air! 

Limit Electronic Appliance Usage – Keep the heat off

Limit activities inside that generate heat like doing the laundry, charging your laptops, running a refrigerator and the likes.

Find other ways like charging in coffee shops or using a cooler instead of a ref.

Also, when staying on campgrounds or KOAs (Kampgrounds of America), use their facilities instead of the ones you have inside the RV.

Create Shades – Invest on tarps, awnings, canopy, etc.

Awnings are specifically designed for a shady extended part of your RV when the sun is shining hard and it gets really harsh inside because of roof heating. 

So, carry at least one to two awnings or tarps, and keep the heat out.

Some RVers also use portable gazebo tents and canopy that provide instant shade.

What is a Cheap RV AC Alternative?

The second best thing to AC is the fan. It may not cool the RV as much as AC does, but the fan helps circulate air. It sucks out warm air to keep you cool. 

Window fansOffer reversible airflow

RV window fans are available from the side window, roof window, to screen window. This kind is designed to provide fresh air and for ventilation. 

Window fans have reversible airflow that helps you keep fresh air in and drive out hot air. 

Air is circulated, so let it suck out warm air to keep you cool. Check out Titan in getting specific RV fans, like window fans.

Dehumidifier – Suck up all the moisture in your RV

Since RV is a small confined place, it’s a given that there’s bound to be a lot of retained moisture in the air when we do many different activities inside. 

If this is not addressed right away, it can result in mold and mildew, dry rot or worse, wreak havoc with respiratory problems. The bad smell that can be produced by all the moisture is bad especially for those with allergies.

One remedy is using a dehumidifier. Check for areas in your RV, usually the not easily visible ones where hanging hoses or pipes are.  Once moisture is detected, it’s the spot where you’d place your dehumidifier.

There’s no installation needed as long as you have an electric hookup. Keep the dehumidifier working and regularly inspect the collection tank for water extracted from the air.

Evaporative Cooler – Help make the air ‘feel’ cooler

This unit is not as expensive as an air conditioner, but definitely works better than a fan. Evaporative cooler uses water-soaked pads to cool the air. 

It  works because a fan sucks hot air into the unit, circulating it through a set of pads that helps vaporize the liquid into a gas which then expels cooler air than it was when it got into the unit. The effect is like wiping cold water on your skin on a hot summer day.

Evaporative cooler is a practical means of cooling yourself down on a hot, humid day because they add mist back into the air through vaporization. 

DIY Swamp Cooler – Cheap AC alternative

If the first three alternatives (window fans, dehumidifiers, evaporative cooler) are off your budget, you can make your own swamp cooler! 

A DIY swamp cooler is a cheap and easy to assemble substitute to keep the RV cool without AC. You don’t have to be a pro to be able to build your own since it’s extremely low- tech. 

All you have to do is prepare the following: large (or any size) styrofoam cooler, ice bucket/ice chest, and a standard fan. 

It’s as easy as ABC to make a swamp cooler. First, mount the fan to the styrofoam cooler or ice chest. Second, drill 3 to 4 holes in the side of the ice chest to act as vents and for the fan to blow into and for the cooled air to pass through. 

Then, fill the cooler or ice chest with ice or  consider frozen water bottles that last longer than regular ice. Finally, turn the fan on, and point the vents toward whatever direction you need or want.

Most RVers want to escape sweltering hot months. And what better way to combat heat travelling in an RV with no AC but by heading to the cooler places!

Take note of the drawback though: most RVers with no AC think like you do. Make reservations and have a contingency scheme.

Here are  cool destinations to beat the heat:

The Colorado Rockies – ‘Cool-or-ado’

Colorado is a cool summer paradise for outdoorsy RVers with campgrounds in stunning sites over a mile above sea level.

Do not drink alcohol, but drink plenty of water upon arrival to acclimatize and escape altitude nausea. Stop in lower altitude destinations first, like Durango and Salida.

For RVers who like fishing, hiking, and roaming the backcountry, three great high altitude havens with great local campgrounds await in  Silverton, Ouray, and Lake City.

The Pacific Northwest – ‘Cool-west’

If you’re like me who hates sweating, go west between June and September for the coolest temperature. 

Picture yourself donning a jacket and jeans as you explore big red trees in California Red Forests and explore desolate beaches.

Some places to check out and stay cool are Washington, Northern California, and Oregon.

Michigan’s Upper Peninsula – ‘Cool-UP’

If you fancy a cool summer breeze, MI is the place to be with an average temp of below 80 degrees

The Upper Peninsula has endless choices of scenic spots for RVers. And some of the  favorite locations are Paradise, Grand Marais, and Munising.

Find Your Own Cool Spots – From coastline to the mountains

Head to the south – Flora and fauna

The south has epic cascading waterfalls, unadulterated wildlife, scenic views of rolling hills and mountain ranges, flowing spring waters, and even 400 miles of cavern for your spelunking adventure. Whatever suits your summer RV fancy, you can check out Texas to South Carolina!

Drive to the east – Uncrowded beaches

If you’re in search of long sandy beaches with ocean views for swimming, surfing and acres of gorgeous marshes, the campgrounds in the east got you covered especially in summer. You can enjoy some secluded areas all to yourself without meeting another soul. Find what you’re looking for from Florida to Maine.

Having all the chances to visit these places, I think no RVer would be missing out on ACs anymore! 

RVers who are not bent on using AC in their motorhome have all the resources and means available to get resourceful in surviving long hot days. 

Get a hold of store-bought fans or DIY options, head to higher grounds or hidden superb coasts, and put into practice all the clever hacks to avoid sweating profusely or heating up your RV. 

Whatever works for you, surely your RV adventure will not be missing out on ACs!

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