Insulate with RV Repair Guru
How Well Are RVs Insulated?
Common manufacturer errors
Many mistakes are made in the production of RVs due to the nature of the industry’s hands-on RV assembly methods. Such as poorly placed screws, staples, or nails. Unsealed or uninsulated openings made during manufacturing and uneven or unlevel floors, walls, cabinetry, or fixtures to name a few common mistakes. Applying insulation is just another step in the rush to produce recreational vehicles for these companies, and poorly cut holes or unsealed gaps and cracks are commonly found insulation issues. Often quietly tucked away and hidden from view during assembly, RVs have rightfully earned a reputation for being poorly insulated and it unfortunately still rings true to this day.
Which type of RV class is best insulated?
Four Seasons & All Seasons Packages
What Poor RV Insulation Looks Like
Below are examples of poor insulation provided by manufacturers. These photos will show you the shortcuts that manufacturers often take during production. This can leave an RV very poorly insulated and sky-rocket your energy costs. If you have noticed your motorhome or trailer being unable to hold indoor temperatures effectively, you may have similar hidden insulation issues as shown below in these photos.
Here you can see an RV’s shore-power cord storage area with a wide sun-lit opening to the outside. Also note the additional circular cut left in the wall, which is a perfect example of common errors made during construction.
This photo was taken underneath an RV’s shower. The manufacturer lazily cut out a large square in the floor to make room for both the hot and cold water (red and blue) lines you see. As well as to make room for the p-trap of the (black) shower drain pipe. This cutout leads to the underbelly of the RV.
In this photo, you can see the RV’s water piping coming up to the water heater through the floor. The manufacturer left this completely hollow allowing air as well as pests easy interior access to the trailer’s pantry.
Here near the RV’s furnace, you can see a plumbing drain-line going through the floor that has been left completely unsealed by the manufacturer. The gap around the pipe is nearly a quarter-inch wide. This is a common assembly practice in RVs that aren’t marketed as four-season or all-season.
RV Insulation Methods, The Ultimate Guide
RV Skirting Information
Skirting an RV is one of the most effective ways of keeping warm during the cold winter months, and slightly cooler during the hot summers. Much like skirting a normal mobile home, the goal of skirting a motorhome or trailer is to prevent air from freely transferring underneath the rig and allow the underside to easily maintain a more controlled temperature. This results in your underbelly, floor, plumbing, and tanks being protected from the harshest of the outside elements.
What is the benefit of skirting an RV?
In the winter months, your floors will retain warmth and be a lot more pleasant to the touch. In addition to protecting your RV’s water and waste storage tanks from the freezing temperatures. Skirting allows your RV to more easily retain temperatures both indoors and in the underbelly. During the summer months, the same effect takes place in reverse, keeping your RV floors slightly cooler. In a way, skirting can be thought of as insulating the entire floor and underbelly of an RV.
When should you skirt an RV?
Skirting is typically used in situations in which an RV is occupied and in use in either cold, freezing, or high temperatures as well as being in use for long durations of time. Some things to consider before deciding if your RV needs skirting include – How long will you be residing in one location in your RV? Skirting is not something you should consider for weekend trips, but rather for long-duration stays of a few weeks, months, or full-time living. What are weather conditions expected to be like where you plan to stay? Consistently frozen climates may require skirting to prevent frozen tanks and plumbing. What type of weather is your RV capable of handling? Some RVs are designed for more extreme temperatures and others are simply not well insulated at all, such as pop-up campers or RVs with cloth pop-out compartments. Is skirting worthwhile for use in hot weather? The answer to this is yes, but it is far more noticeable when used in cold or freezing temperatures.
How much does skirting an RV cost?
The cost of getting skirting installed, or the cost of the supplies to do it yourself can vary greatly between different skirting materials and methods. Ranging from a few hundred dollars worth of foam-board, plywood, or hay to thousands with professionally installed skirts. The cost entirely depends on the skirting method you choose to take. Ultimately the best skirting for your RV will vary according to your location, stay duration, RV class, and personal needs. Take all of these things into consideration upon deciding what skirting method and materials will work best for your motorhome or trailer.
Types of RV skirting materials
Skirting materials for recreational vehicles vary quite a lot, there are many options for you to choose from. You may have seen vinyl skirting used on mobile homes, and it works just as well for skirting RVs. Hard insulated plastic shells custom-fit and stylized to your RV are another solid choice. These two materials are typically installed professionally but can also be done on your own as well. The so-to-speak middle ground of RV skirts is the layered canvas style skirting, such as EZ snap direct’s RV skirting kits. These skirts are made of insulative layered cloth materials. Typically easier to install, store and transport compared to the large vinyl, plastic, or other solid skirting materials which can prove far too bulky to store for travel.
A more cost-effective option is to simply stuff the undersides of your RV with Hay Bales or carefully cut out and place Foam Board Insulation or Plywood using HVAC or aluminum tape to seal and hold your home-made skirting onto your RV. Each method has its pros and cons. Before you make a decision on your preferred RV skirting method, there are some other things you may want to take into consideration.
What type of RV skirting is right for you?
Are you planning on taking your RVs skirting along with you on your travels? If so you will have to consider a way to store and transport your skirting. Solid rigid vinyl or wood pieces will prove impractical to pack away, so you may want to consider layered cloth variants that are easier to fold, roll and store for transportation. Just what type of environment are you planning on staying in? In some places, RV skirting may not be required at all, while in others a well-planned, sealed, and effective skirting around your RV will be essential to prevent plumbing from freezing and provide liveability. Learn everything you can about the region you plan to stay in. Note any abnormal weather conditions that could occur, for example, unusual snowstorms or unusually extreme temperature swings. Will sealing your RV with plywood, or pinned-up tarp skirting be enough? Or should you install skirting with more effective insulation? Knowledge of the region’s climate you plan to stay in is absolutely essential in making a wise skirting choice for your RV.
Professional RV skirting services
Professionally installed and fitted skirting is as you may expect, the most expensive route. Though highly effective as well as visually attractive, and not to mention labor-free on your part. Pro’s typically offer RV skirting in one or two forms. Solid harder plastic or vinyl style pieces, or layered waterproof and insulated cloth materials. Cloth-based skirting systems are designed for easier removal, storage, transportation, and re-installation by the user. While vinyl or hard plastic skirting is sturdier and tends to be used for more permanent living situations as it is impractical to install, remove, transport and store.
Professional skirting services will often also include the installation of easy mounting points for cloth-style skirting options. This allows easy installation and removal of your RV’s skirting. Some professional RV skirting services are actually nationwide as well, with installers that will come directly to you and install a skirt on your RV wherever you may be. This makes it even easier to get an effective and beautiful custom RV skirting installed just about anywhere you may find yourself in your RV.
D-I-Y foam board & plywood RV skirting
D-I-Y foam board or plywood methods can be just as effective as a professionally installed RV skirt. However, these will need to be re-installed manually every time and don’t have the convenience of easy-mounting points professionals typically install. Alongside the hassle of transporting all of the rigid foam or plywood pieces, which can prove to be very impractical.
This method simply involves cutting out foam board or plywood to size and placing it alongside the edges to seal the underside of your RV. Use HVAC or aluminum tape to complete the seal between your fitted pieces and the RV itself. The HVAC tape will not leave any residue on the RV once removed, as well as remain in place throughout the entire season much better than most other tapes will. Do not use duct tape to seal your cutouts to your RV as this will leave a mess once removed. However, duct tape works great for sealing the skirting cutouts to each other where residue being left behind is not something to be concerned about.
D-I-Y haybale RV skirting
The last method, which is probably the easiest to accomplish as well as easiest on your wallet, is the hay method. Stacking and stuffing square hay bales in a manner that seals the underside of your RV actually works surprisingly well. But there are some downsides, for example, hay tends to easily absorb water when exposed to rain. If rain occurs commonly your hay may become overly wet and actually lock moisture underneath the RV. This can result in mold or water damage. Hay also tends to serve well as an easily accessible area for bugs and other critters to wait out the winter alongside the warmth of your company. This method is best used for shorter stays or in drier or consistently frozen regions.
Ultimately choosing the right skirting all boils down to just how long you plan on residing in your RV, and how often you plan to store and re-use your skirting later. As well as how much you want to spend on skirting services or materials. While these methods may be the most common ways of skirting an RV, they certainly aren’t the only way to achieve the desired results. Use your imagination and get creative while you bundle up your RVs underside!
Insulating RV Slideouts
RV Slideouts are typically not as well insulated as the rest of an RV. Constructed with thinner walls, no subflooring or underbelly, and being sealed to the rest of the RV by only thin rubber fittings. This area tends to be a common leak point in RVs and can cause major insulation issues. To improve the slideout’s insulation you can wedge measured and fitted foam board on both of the sidewalls and bottom of the RV’s slideout. Simply measure your RV slideout’s exterior dimensions and cut the foam board to size. If wedging foam boards in is impossible because of your slideouts design, you can always secure them to the slideout with aluminum HVAC tape which will leave no residue when later removed. Always be sure to remove these foam board pieces or any other skirting materials before retracting your RV’s slideouts.
Insulating an RV slideout seal
The edges of RV slideouts are not very well insulated, usually only consisting of the rubber fitting designed to only seal the slideout, not insulate. Try to wedge pool noodles or foam pipe insulation pieces into the cracks alongside the edges of the slideout where it meets the RV’s walls. This provides additional insulation to the slideout’s rubber seals and can stop strong wind drafts from blowing in through the slideout’s edges and floor.
While you’re underneath your slideout, you can also cut open one side of pipe insulation or pool noodles to make protective barriers when placed alongside the corners of your RVs slideout if it presents any sort of walking hazard. This may save you or your guests a headache or two! Check out this article for other useful ways to use pool noodles with RVs.
Insulating slideout floors
Putting down heavy cotton or thick wool rugs will help insulate your floors, and works great for slideouts in particular. This works as a method to make your RVs floors slightly more insulated and pleasant to touch while in colder climates. A more expensive and laborious option is to replace the standard flooring or subflooring with insulating materials. Though this is more of a renovation project and will prove impractical for the majority of RV owners.
Insulating RV Windows
Arguably the largest weak spot for insulation in your typical RV is the windows and doors. With the walls themselves being fairly well insulated in most models, these benefits can end up being negated by the poorly insulated windows and doors often installed in the majority of recreational vehicles. Four-season RVs however are typically better equipped in this area.
Most RVs are equipped with single-pane windows
The majority of RVs come equipped with single-pane rather than double-pane windows the latter of which are more commonly found in modern stick and brick buildings. Single-pane windows provide very poor insulation and allow a lot of heat transfer as well as condensation buildup. Some RV’s, typically four-season models, come with double-pane windows pre-installed. These models should be considered if you plan to spend a lot of time in colder climates in your RV and haven’t made your purchase as of yet.
The two panes of glass in double-pane windows create an insulative air gap inside the window itself. Greatly reducing heat transfer, and stopping condensation from occurring on the window’s interior. It is possible to upgrade an RV with double-paned windows, but this tends to be very costly with some RVs requiring custom manufactured windows.
Window shrink insulation kits
A more cost-effective solution is the tried and true method of window shrink insulation kits. An easy D-I-Y project, these kits provide another layer for your windows by placing a plastic film over the window, mounted with double-sided tape onto the window’s frame. Sealing the window further by shrinking the plastic down to size with a standard hair dryer, creating an insulative seal with your RV’s windows. The gap created by this film insulates much like the gap in a traditional double-pane window, though somewhat less effective.
Insulative or thermal window drapes work well in both the winter and summer months for insulating the windows or even doors of an RV. Installation of curtain rods will be necessary for most RVs. In addition to providing insulation, these curtains and drapes also tend to just look more pleasant than most standard RV window shades or curtains. Giving a more comfortable and homey feel in your RV.
Another effective method is covering any windows with reflective bubble foil (which works best in summer). Or foam insulation cutouts (which work best in winter). This method works fairly well on its own, and even better when paired with other window insulation methods such as window shrink kits and insulative thermal drapes as mentioned above. When done together these methods work in unison and greatly reduce heat exchange from poorly insulated single-pane windows.
Inspect and repair window seams and seals
You should routinely inspect windows and ensure they are completely sealed at their exterior and interior seams and have no signs of water leaks. Inspect the edges of where your window frame meets your RV’s walls as well as where your window frame meets the glass window itself. Repair any gaps, cracks, or holes as needed.
This is considered routine maintenance with RVs and if not performed recently you may find that you need to disassemble and completely re-seal your windows. This is something that you can do yourself if you are somewhat handy. Otherwise, there are RV repair services that can re-seal your RV windows for you.
Be aware single-paned RV windows will often have slits on the exterior window frame called weep holes. Located near the bottom of the window frame. this allows condensation buildup to drain out. Do not seal these openings as condensation is fairly common with single-pane glass windows and these openings allow condensation to drain out of the window’s frame.
Insulating RV Doors
RV doors usually have very cheap and often poorly placed, or worn weather stripping, leaving gaps and cracks in the frame of the door. This can be an easy and cheap DIY project to replace these with thicker or more efficiently placed weather stripping. Found on both your entry as well as exterior access doors, this is a very common area for insulation issues. Be sure to inspect your weather stripping on both entry and exterior access doors annually and replace it if necessary.
Door snakes or door draft stoppers are a cheap and effective tool to further insulate the bottom of RV’s doors and stop that pesky draft from blowing in. You can additionally hang something like an insulative drape, thermal shade, or even a decorative tapestry over the entire door, much like a window shade. Creating yet another layer to insulate the interior, covering your RV’s doors with drapes is an effective and easy fix. Consider putting up a hook or string to easily hang your new door drape off to the side when convenient.
Most RV doors feature a single pane window in them, which should be checked for leaks and insulated in the same manner as the rest of your RV’s windows as noted above in our insulating RV windows section.
Underbelly Gaps & Cracks
Besides skirting your RV, you can also consider using a can or two of aerosol spray foam insulation to fill any gaps, cracks, and holes underneath your RV where you see pipes, tubing, or wires entering the interior. As well as any holes, gaps, and cracks to the interior that have developed along seams or were never filled by the manufacturer. These gaps and cracks are very common and not only cause leaks but also allow pests easy interior access.
Always plan ahead and be conscious about your use of spray foam insulation. You don’t want to cover bolts, screws, or other hardware you may need to service at a later date. Spray foam is extremely flammable, check out this guide for some spray foam insulation application tips before you start. Spray foam should only be used to fill gaps and cracks a couple of inches wide, consider using wedged foamboard cutouts for insulating any larger holes you may find. Always read and follow the instructions of your chosen spray foam insulation to avoid any personal injuries or property damage during application.
Exterior Storage & Compartment Insulation
An often forgotten area while insulating an RV is the passthrough, exterior, or basement storage compartments and other outdoor accessible compartments. From the access doors themselves to the interior facing walls of these outdoor compartments, these areas are often poorly insulated and can be improved upon greatly.
Insulating an RVs exterior storage compartments
Start off by inspecting the weatherstripping on your exterior access doors, and replace it if necessary. This weatherstripping is often worn or damaged, or just poorly placed allowing for large gaps. Be sure the stripping makes as good a seal as possible between the access door and RV.
The interior walls of storage compartments are sometimes pre-insulated by the manufacturer. You can check to see if yours are by simply tapping on the interior walls to see if they sound dense, or hollow. It is common to find on some RV models almost no insulation in these storage compartments. Foam board can be used here as well and can be easily wedged into place between framework or the tight walls of storage compartments.
Place foam board onto the interior facing side of the access doors to provide more protection than the thin access doors can offer. This takes some precision cutting and possibly a bit of trial and error, but will help keep your storage compartments’ temperature under control. Once done you can just leave it there forever. HVAC aluminum tape may prove useful here.
Interior water bay compartment insulation
Interior-located water connection bays are great to have during freezing temperatures. Exterior water connection ports are completely exposed, while interior water bays are enclosed. However many usually have large access holes near the bottom of the bay to allow the fresh water hose to be easily connected and disconnected from the city water connection port on the RV. This gap allows both the drinking water hose as well as air to freely transfer inside the interior of the water bay and negates the benefit of being internally located in the first place.
If your RV is missing or was never provided insulation for this opening, you can fill this gap with either pool noodles or foam pipe insulation cut to size and stuffed into place. This protects your water connection bay from freezing temperatures which could cause costly damages to your RV’s internal water systems. You can also size and place foam board insulation on the access bay door itself to further insulate the area and protect your RVs water bay.
Exterior RV shower insulation
If your RV has an exterior outdoor shower compartment you should ensure that these lines are completely drained and empty during freezing weather. These outdoor showers are typically hollow plastic shells that contain a shower head, hose, and a single or dual water knobs. Essentially a plastic shell fitted into a hole in your well insulated walls, this area needs attention. A simple trick is to stuff this area with foam cutouts or pieces to seal the internal area of the exterior shower’s plastic shell and fill the ‘hole’ in your insulation made by the exterior shower compartment with some type of insulative material easily stuffed inside.
Internally stored RV shore power cords
Some RV models are designed with storage compartments for their shore-power cord located somewhere in the interior area of the floorplan, rather than an exterior compartment. This design practice is more common in travel trailers, or fifth wheels rather than motorhomes. Double-check the area your RV’s shore power cord comes out from and is stored into. You may not be equipped with an internal shore power cord, and instead have an external shower power plug receiver setup.
Cut up a pool noodle, or foam pipe insulation and stuff it around the cord in the hole that the cord comes out of the RV from. Position the foam pieces to fill the gap and wrap around the shore power cord to provide a tight and complete seal between the walls of the RV and the cord itself.
RV Roof Vent Insulation
Roof vents are another major flaw in RV insulation. These large holes in the roof are covered by only a thin piece of plastic. Knowing the most simple law of thermodynamics, that heat rises, we can conclude this is a major problem for RVing in cold climates. Almost all RV roof vent covers provide almost no insulative properties.
Roof vent insulators
There are pillow-like products designed to fit in these vents which work fairly well. Simply called RV Vent Insulators. These insulative pillows work by stuffing them up into the vent’s opening, as simple as that. Easy to install, remove and store you’ll never know how you went without this extremely useful product. Most RV vent insulators come with one side covered in a reflective material, which you may find useful in hotter climates to reflect the sun’s rays right back out.
Roof vent covers
Roof vent covers, while not designed for insulation purposes, do somewhat provide another insulative air pocket above your roof vent. With the added bonus of vent usage being possible in rainy and windy conditions, these are extremely useful RV accessories you can install if not already on your model.
RVing in Freezing Temperatures
When temperatures drop below freezing for more than a couple of hours, you need to start worrying about your RVs internal plumbing freezing. This includes your waste tanks, internal waterlines, and plumbing as well as your external freshwater line. However, if temperatures are only below freezing for a single night and warming back up the next day you should be safe with just the old-school drip the faucet trick. Here are some more ways you can ensure your RV’s plumbing doesn’t freeze.
How to stop RV waterlines and tanks from freezing
In freezing temperatures, you need to be vigilant to prevent freezing of your RV’s internal plumbing. Skirting your RV will make the largest impact in the effort to make sure your RVs pipes and tanks never freeze. This prevents the frigid cold from seeping up through your RV’s underbelly. Not only does it protect your waterlines and holding tanks it also has the added benefit of making your floors warmer and more pleasant to the touch. Additionally, once skirted you can place an electric space heater underneath your RV to ensure the underbelly’s and plumbing’s temperature remains above freezing.
How to heat an RV’s freshwater line
The freshwater hose and water spigot itself should also be considered in icy temperatures to prevent damage and freezing of the exposed portions. While simply insulating the hose and spigot may be enough in some areas that only drop below freezing occasionally. In even colder climates, you can purchase a manufactured heated water hose, or electric heating cable kit to install yourself on your own drinking water hose. This allows you to keep your RV’s waterline heated and flowing in extremely cold conditions.
If you are unable to stop a freshwater line from freezing, you can always temporarily turn off the source and instead. Before doing so however, fill your onboard freshwater tank for use instead. Be sure to drain your water hose after shutting off the source. Then you can just hook your hose back up to the city water connection and wait till temperatures rise above freezing before turning the city water back on. Be sure to switch off your water pump when you do re-enable your city water feed.
When to dump your RVs tanks in freezing temperatures
Having a frozen black or grey tank can not only be a nuisance, but it can also result in cracked pipes, fittings, or tanks from ice expansion. Frankly, It could be a complete nightmare. This may lead you to think that leaving your RV’s tanks open to drain freely is a good idea during freezing temperatures. However, this is actually not the case and may result in your sewer lines freezing, leaking or bursting completely open from ice buildup. Additionally, this allows cold air to freely transfer into the tank itself through the open sewer line. A slow drip is a perfect recipe for ice buildup, so avoid leaving your waste tanks open to drain during freezing conditions.
When it’s starting to freeze outside you want to dump RV waste tanks when they are close to, or completely full. Try to prevent any water from freezing in the sewer hose itself, this means you should ensure your sewer line is completely empty of water after each dump. This will stop water from freezing in your sewer line and prevent wear and tear. Closing tanks and dumping only when mostly full is good practice with RV’s to prevent solids from building up on the bottom of the waste storage tanks. As well as allowing the waste and toilet paper more time to break down and easily drain.
You can build an insulated box housing around your sewage lines much like skirting for your RV. This is a bit more time-consuming and more of a long-term solution for plumbing insulation. It may however allow you to leave grey tanks open for ease of use and cut down on the chilly trips outside to dump your tanks. You should always be sure your sewer line is sloped correctly to drain. If you plan to seal your sewer line do not allow water to sit in the sewer line or it may have the chance to freeze. You may also consider using standard PVC plumbing instead of standard RV sewer lines.
Keeping your RVs tanks from freezing
The most effective way of keeping your RV tanks from freezing is ensuring that your RVs underbelly is well insulated. The second is skirting the RV. If you are lacking a sealed underbelly you may want to consider skirting your RV to prevent the underside from freezing. Having both a well-sealed underbelly and skirting provides the most protection for onboard water and waste storage tanks.
Most in-floor ducted propane furnaces present in RVs are designed to heat the underbelly and keep these tanks and other plumbing above freezing temperatures. If your RV does not have a heated underbelly you may need to skirt your RV to prevent onboard plumbing from freezing. If you are lacking a sealed and heated underbelly, or skirting and cannot prevent your RVs plumbing from freezing, you should empty and disconnect water tanks and sources to prevent damage.
Aftermarket solutions include RV tank heating pads which can either be purchased pre-installed on an RV or installed afterwards. This may be impractical to install but should be a consideration if you are purchasing new, or plan to spend a lot of time in below-freezing temperatures in your RV.
If you are using a space heater inside your RV be sure the RV furnace’s thermostat is set slightly above the space heaters’ heat settings capabilities to allow the propane furnace to also turn on occasionally and warm your RVs underbelly and tanks. Or in other words, set your space heater to 68 degrees and your RV’s furnace to 70 degrees. This may take a while for you to fine-tune, and can sometimes fall out of sync, so to speak. Always crack a vent or window when using a propane furnace or any propane-powered accessory inside of an RV.
What temperatures will your RVs waterlines begin to freeze at?
A general rule of thumb is, 30 to 32 degrees Fahrenheit for 6-8 hours is usually fairly safe, Anything more and you may want to consider insulating or heating your lines or at the very least keeping a faucet dripping or turning off and draining water lines and tanks completely until warmer weather arrives.
As you may know, outside temperatures dropping below freezing will not cause water to freeze instantly. You should be generally safe if the temperature is only dropping 1-3 degrees below freezing for the nightly low and then rising back above freezing the next morning. You are fairly safe around 1-3 degrees below freezing for about 4 to 6 hours. At lower temperatures your lines can freeze within 6 hours or less depending on weather conditions.
Run the RV’s furnace & drip a faucet
When temperatures are dropping below freezing be sure that you run your RV’s furnace to keep the underbelly, tanks, and plumbing of your RV above freezing. You can also drip a faucet to keep water moving, a bit old-school, but effective when temperatures hover just below freezing for a few hours at a time. When dripping a faucet be sure the grey tank it is draining into is empty before starting to prevent any accidental flooding.
RV Propane Appliance Safety
An RVs furnace is by-far the most effective heat production appliance available for your rig. Other propane powered heaters can also be used and offer high BTU outputs over electrical space heaters. However with use of propane powered devices, especially in small RV’s, comes ventilation and fire safety requirements.
When running any propane device inside your RV be sure to leave either a window or roof vent cracked open to ventilate moisture and dangerous carbon monoxide gases. This includes your RVs furnace as well as your oven and stovetop, propane-powered heaters, or any other propane-powered devices.
Propane appliances produce Carbon Monoxide. Ventilation is REQUIRED to safely operate these appliances inside an RV.
Be sure your RV is equipped with a functional carbon monoxide detector and test it on a regular basis according to your RV owner’s manual or as other proper specifications state. RVs are very flammable, so use extreme care when operating any type of furnace or heating appliance inside of an RV.
RV Condensation and Air Ventilation
Humidity and the resulting condensation issues are a constant battle for RVers. Boiling water, using onboard propane appliances such as your furnace, stove, or oven, taking showers, or just simply breathing all produce humidity inside your RV. Moisture inside of an RV can cause water damage or mold issues amongst other problems. This can result in serious and costly damages if left unchecked. Luckily it is fairly easy to manage humidity in an RV, the key is proper ventilation alongside other dehumidifying accessories in wetter climates.
Onboard ventilation equipment
Your RV comes equipped with multiple means to provide ventilation. The roof vents, stove vents, windows, and screen doors are all very common ways RV manufacturers provide ventilation for an RV. Roof vents in bathrooms are typically equipped with a powered fan for exhausting any steam created during showers. There are also aftermarket roof vent fans. For example, Maxxfan and Fantastic Fan are both great aftermarket accessories that can be installed to provide additional ventilation.
It is recommended to have one or more oscillating room fans, or air fresheners operating to provide internal air circulation inside the RV and prevent stagnant air pockets. Nearly all humidity-related damages that occur to RVs is caused by a lack of air circulation and ventilation inside the RV and particular storage compartments that lack ventilation.
Minimize the amount of humidity created inside
There are two common and highly effective ways to remove humidity from an RV. The first is simply ventilating it outside with roof vents, stove vents, or opening windows and doors. This however can prove problematic when it’s either too hot or cold outside. The second is your RVs air conditioner which actually removes humidity alongside heat from the air to produce cooler air. This is why air conditioners start to drip water after continued use.
The best practice for keeping humidity levels under control in an RV is to always turn on roof vents for showers and stove vents while cooking. When using a propane furnace it is advised to leave either a window or roof vent cracked to allow ventilation without allowing too much heat to escape. Because of this most people tend to use space heaters instead which provide heat with no humidity production. This allows you to keep your RV sealed up while heating the interior, which is great for extremely cold days.
Electric and ehemical dehumidifers
Electric dehumidifiers are another option for controlling the humidity inside of an RV. These devices use very little power and can run 24/7 to pull excess humidity out of the air. They do need to be occasionally emptied of water and are highly effective at removing excess moisture. Be sure to purchase a model that will sufficiently cover the square footage of your RV’s interior.
There are chemical-based moisture absorbers as well, commonly sold in RV stores or camping sections of large retailers. These products are effective at keeping humidity under control but are mostly used for unoccupied RVs in storage, or frequent condensation problem spots. Chemically based dehumidifers tend to remove humidity slower compared to electric dehumidifiers. These chemical-based dehumidifiers prove useful if you find a specific cabinet or area that has consistent condensation occurring due to lack of air circulation, coming in a variety of sizes you can stash these just about anywhere.
Interior air circulation
Circulating the air inside an RV is needed for more than just personal comfort and fresh air. Proper air circulation will allow humidity to be venitlated and evaporated which will stop the majority of condensation, mold, and other humidity-based water damage issues from occurring. The RVs climate is better regulated with conditioned air being distributed evenly. Using air purifiers instead of normal room fans, odors and impurities are removed quickly and the air quality inside can be improved while being circulated simultaenously.
Air circulation can be provided by either oscillating fans, air purifiers, or your RVs furnace or air conditioner. Most air conditioners on RVs have a fan-only option to provide air circulation, though this can be very noisy in comparison to standard room fans. If an oscillating room fan is too large for an area you can use clip-on personal desk fans to provide circulation in tighter regions of an RV, such as the bedroom or bathroom.
Preventing stagnant air pockets and condensation in cabinents and corners
Even with all your fans blowing, dehumidifiers, and thoughtful ventilation of excess moisture you may still find yourself dealing with issues in areas that create stagnant pockets of air. Common problem areas include corners, cabinets or storage compartments, or even under your mattress! These condensation problems are fairly common and can easily be resolved in most cases.
Leaving cabinet doors cracked open allows for more air circulation and stops condensation from forming. You can also stick moisture absorbers in areas that suffer from stagnant air pockets that create condensation issues. These come in a variety of shapes and sizes, such as small boxes, large boxes, and even a clothes hanger style for a closet. You can fit them nearly anywhere on an RV.
If you’ve noticed a wet spot forming under your mattress there are products such as HyPUR-Flo’s Mattress Elevator you can buy, designed to elevate your mattress to allow air circulation on the underside. Or you can use something like layered cardboard to insulate and lift the mattress. Anything that allows air transfer underneath the mattress will work. Be sure your mattress is not flush with any exterior walls to prevent condensation buildup on the sides.
In general, avoid placing objects inside directly against cold exterior walls to prevent condensation buildup. Ensure you have good air circulation in all areas, and always use proper ventilation techniques to remove excess humidity from inside the RV.
Electric Space Heaters and RVs
An alternative way of heating your RV is with electrically powered space heaters. These can save you the cost of propane and unlike propane-powered heating appliances produce no humidity while operating. While capable of being used in RVs, Space heaters do require attention and care to be used safely. Ensure your space heater has overheating protection and tip-over protection if you have children or pets inside.
Space heaters demand a lot of your RVs amps
Most space heaters pull about 1500 watts or roughly 15 amps on high-temperature settings. This alone can be more than half of a 30 amp RV’s power capabilities. This means that the use of other high amperage electrical devices may leave you in the dark, or right at the edge of your RV’s electrical capabilities. Try to avoid prolonged power usage near the maximum of an RVs amperage rating.
It is fairly common to find a melted RV shore power plug due to prolonged electrical usage near the max of an RV’s power capabilities. As the plug is generally the area of most electrical resistance it is actually capable of melting itself without throwing any breakers in the process. The cause of this is often space heaters, or air conditioners used in sync with other high amperage equipment, (i.e. an electric water heater, or microwave) over prolonged periods of time. This should be avoided if possible. Consider getting a high quality RV surge protector that offers low voltage protection to avoid damage to appliances.
Seek out space heaters with both low and high temperature settings. On average these space heaters pull 12 – 15 amps on high and 6 – 9 amps on low settings. The reduced power usage on low levels will allow you more breathing room with your RV’s electrical usage while still keeping the heat on during those chilly days.
Plug space heaters into your RV’s GFCI power sockets
If you plan on using a space heater in your RV be aware of your power draw with other electrical appliances and devices. Be sure you only plug in space heaters into a GFCI electrical socket that has a 20 amp rating. These sockets are usually located in either the kitchen, bathroom, or garage (typically external plugs on RVs).
GFCI sockets will sometimes be equipped with a test and reset switch on the socket face itself. GFCI sockets are usually labeled and are typically located in areas where higher amp devices and appliances tend to be used. Most standard power sockets are 15 amp sockets, and a space heater can, and eventually will overdraw and flip a breaker on a standard 15 amp socket.
Space heaters can trick an RV furnace’s thermostat
Be aware of the fact that an electrical heater will not warm up your RV’s underbelly, plumbing, or holding tanks. You will need your RV’s propane furnace to operate to prevent your underbelly from freezing up. If your space heater is keeping the interior temperature above the current RV furances temperature setting your RV’s propane furnace may never turn on, and your underbelly’s plumbing may begin to freeze. Try to set the RV’s thermostat’s temperature slightly higher than what your space heater can maintain so your furnace only occasionally flips on.
RV Insulation – Summer Tips and Tricks
While many of the tips and methods listed here are focused on RVing in colder and freezing climates, insulation works both ways and nearly all of these methods will work to keep your RV’s interior cool during the hot summer months. Below are some more summer-oriented insulation tips to help keep you cool all summer long.
Make use of the shade
Shade, seek it out, park in it, use it. Analyze where it will be throughout the day and position yourself to make the most out of any protection offered from the sun’s sizzling rays. While parking your RV seeking shade might seem obvious, but keep in mind that having your RV facing north will ensure the awning provides shade during the afternoon and evening hours for your outdoor seating area. It also provides your RV itself shade in the morning as the sun rises, saving your air conditioner that extra work during the early hours and letting you sleep in just a bit longer before awakening to the air conditioner roaring to life.
Maintain good airflow and clean the air conditioner
Cleaning your RV air conditioner’s filters and radiator grill will allow air to easily traverse the unit. This can greatly increase efficiency. If you are able to, check if your RVs Air Conditioner is functioning properly before you head out. This can save you some blood, sweat, and tears of your own later on down the road.
Don’t just insulate, reflect the suns rays back out
Consider reflective insulation materials for both the windows and roof vents of your RV. This will increase an RV’s insulative properties on hot summer days by reflecting the sun’s rays right back out. There are Roof Vent Insulators that come with reflective material on one or both sides and prove just as useful in the cold as they do in the heat.
Keep the doors shut, and blinds closed
Avoid entering or exiting your RV more than necessary, and keep your window shades down and closed. It may be dark, but if the goal is to cool down, sunlight will create a fair amount of heat when freely allowed in through windows or roof vents.
Cook outside in the summer
Cook your meals outside to avoid adding excess heat and moisture into the interior of the RV. This is where outdoor grill setups really shine on RVs. So if you have one, now is the time to make use of it! If not, consider purchasing a barbeque or flat-top to haul along with you for some outdoor cooking.
Shower during the cooler part of the day
Try to time showers in the late evening or early morning hours to avoid excess heat, humidity, and ventilation of conditioned air. When you turn any powered roof or stove vent on it creates a negative pressure which will begin to draw in air from the outdoors through any opening or crack in the RV in order to equalize the indoor and outdoor air pressures. So try to only shower and ventilate your RV in the cooler hours of the day.
Elevate and shade your drinking hose
In extreme temperatures, you can elevate and shade your drinking water hose to keep incoming freshwater from absorbing excess heat from the sizzling hot ground and sun. If you’re seeking a cold drink try running the water for 30 seconds or more before use so the cooler water can travel up to the faucet from the in-ground water lines.
Our Insulation Services
We offer the following services with our Insulation Package.
Underbelly Inspection & Sealing
Interior Inspections & Insulation
Seam Inspection & Repairs
Weather Strip Inspections & Repairs
Contact us today and get your RV’s climate under control.
We offer a guaranteed 60-day warranty on all of our services and repairs. This warranty will cover any repairs, assembly, and configurations performed by RV Repair Guru. Any hardware installed through RV Repair Guru will fall under their manufacturer’s or vendor’s standard warranty. We will provide troubleshooting and diagnostic services for said hardware during our warranty time frame. This warranty only covers repairs, assembly, and configurations RV Repair Guru has performed and does not cover any defects, issues, or problems that do not relate to the original service RV Repair Guru has provided.