How to Keep Your RV Cool at Night
Whether you’re going on a summer road trip or living full-time in your RV or travel trailer, it’s essential to keep your vehicle cool to get a restful, deep sleep on your RV mattress. Cooler sleep environments result in many sleep benefits, as well as other physical and mental health benefits. Ensuring that your sleep space is organized, cool, and comfortable is crucial to a high-quality sleep and a better overall experience on the road.
Understanding Your RV’s HVAC System
RV HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems work much the same as any other vehicle. There are several mechanical and electrical components involved to keep the interior at your desired temperature, such as refrigerant, evaporator and condenser coils, vents, and compressors. While these components are involved in every RV’s HVAC system, you can opt for a more powerful or lower-profile A/C unit depending on your needs.
Some RVs also come equipped with an APU (Auxiliary Power Unit), which is a small engine or generator that provides auxiliary power to your vehicle without requiring the engine to run. This prevents idling, pollution, and wasting fuel and money. However, not all RVs come with APUs, as this depends upon the make, model, and manufacturer, though aftermarket models are available if your RV does not come equipped with one.
We’ve put together a list below highlighting some of the top cooling features of the major RV and travel trailer manufacturers.
Airstream travel trailers come equipped with the QuietStream™ ducted A/C system, which makes the air conditioning unit both as quiet and strong as a residential unit.
Coachmen RVs come with either a single or dual A/C system that is easily controlled with the wall-mounted thermostat. In addition, some models come with exterior windshield covers to provide extra shade during sunny days, and others feature the Even Cool Ducting System to evenly distribute air throughout the vehicle for more efficient cooling.
While all models of Thor motorcoaches feature a robust HVAC system and plenty of windows for ventilation, many larger models come with a dual air conditioning system to maintain even cooling throughout the coach.
Newmar coaches feature Total Comfort™ air conditioning, technology that is exclusive to Newmar’s central air system. The Total Comfort™ system is available in every Newmar motorhome and uses intelligent climate control through individual ducting stations to keep you cool during hot nights.
Tiffin Motorhomes’s unique air conditioning technology features residential-style return-air systems that cool the entire coach evenly. This system works by releasing cool air on the passenger-side vents and sucking in hot air through the driver-side vents. Mounted A/C units on the roof provide maximum coolness without being noisy or distracting.
Keystone is unique among RV and travel trailer manufacturers due to their exclusive Omni-Chill® air conditioning system, which allows up to three A/C units to run at the same time. In addition, their iN⋅Command system gives RV owners the option to operate all HVAC functions from one device, streamlining the cooling process.
Cruiser travel trailers have been modernized over the years, adding more features to promote ventilation, air circulation, and comfort all year round. Besides a robust HVAC system with up to three dual ducted A/C units, several Cruiser models include outdoor power jacks to plug in portable outdoor coolers or fans, multiple windows to promote cross-ventilation, and insulation to keep the heat out.
Palomino’s destination and travel trailers are designed to be both practical and luxurious. In addition to their standard HVAC system with powerful air conditioning, Palomino includes tinted safety glass, which has the added benefit of shading the driver and passengers from the sun and harmful UV rays.
The Winnebago HVAC system is set up similarly to a residential system, with an easy-access thermostat to control every aspect of the system. Many models also feature powerful fans to help with ventilation, and others come with blackout roller shades to keep the interior shaded and cool.
Fleetwood’s Class A motorhomes come with a variety of HVAC options, including dual air conditioning units with dual heat pumps or three powerful A/C units for bigger models.
Nexus offers one or two ducted roof A/Cs depending on the size of the model, and every Nexus model comes with a dash A/C for easy control and instant coolness.
In addition to a standard HVAC system, Phoenix USA RVs may be equipped with an optional roof-mounted air conditioner with heat pump that can be controlled with a conveniently located thermostat. In addition, insulated floors, walls, and roofs and multiple windows and vents allow for better retention of cool air.
Some models of Dutchmen RVs feature roof-mounted air conditioners along with a standard HVAC system, though it is possible to install a second air conditioner for those who live in warmer climates. Dutchmen offers various sizes of A/C units to fit your needs, as well as three different types of thermostats depending on your HVAC needs and the number of A/C units on your motorhome.
Why Keeping Your RV Cool Is Crucial
Not only does keeping your RV cool have many sleep benefits, it is also crucial to staying healthy and alert on the road. Heat can lead to fatigue, especially when we toss and turn during hot nights. Sleep and health are undeniably linked, so getting a good night’s rest in a cool environment can positively affect your overall health.
On the other hand, sleeping in a hot environment can cause issues such as night sweats, dehydration, and insomnia, which can pose risks on the road due to fatigue and lower levels of concentration. For your safety and the safety of everyone else on the road, a good night’s sleep in a cool and comfortable environment is crucial.
Practical Ways to Keep Your RV Cool
- Use window covers or sun shades
- Choose a portable cooler or air conditioning unit
- Invest in cooling accessories
- Maintain your RV’s HVAC system
In addition to a robust HVAC system, RVs come with multiple windows, which are essential to promote cross-ventilation when your engine is off or you just need to circulate some fresh air. You can also install inexpensive vent covers on the roof vents of your RV to let in fresh air, even on rainy days. Opening windows and skylights and using roof vents is a great way to create a cooler and more breathable environment.
Window covers and sun shades are a great investment to keep you protected from the hot rays of the sun. Sun shades are a specific type of window cover that uses reflection to block out the sun. These shades are usually silver for best results and can be placed against the windows and windshield at your choosing, such as when you are parked or stopping at a rest area. In general, window covers serve to protect you and the inside of your vehicle not only from the heat but also from harmful UV rays. You can use anything from a mesh screen to an attachable shade to a curtain to cover up your window and keep heat out. As an alternative but more costly option, you can insulate your RV or tint your windows to further minimize heat transfer.
There are specific portable coolers and A/C units designed for RVs, and these are built to withstand long hours on the road with low power usage so you don’t use as much energy and fuel as your RV’s HVAC system. Some portable coolers and A/Cs are battery operated, while others must be plugged in. While portable A/C units for RVs work much the same as their residential counterparts, portable coolers come in varied types. The evaporative or “swamp” cooler, for example, takes moisture and heat from the air, effectively cooling our bodies whether we’re in a hot RV or enjoying some downtime outside the coach.
To avoid idling your engine and to add an extra layer of coolness, consider investing in personal cooling accessories such as fans and cooling seat cushions. We recommend choosing fans that are either battery operated or can be plugged in, depending on the availability of outlets in your RV.
It’s a great idea to check up on the components of your RV’s HVAC system on a regular basis and to pay attention to factors like humidity and temperature inside your RV to determine if your HVAC is working properly. Because there are many moving parts and complex pieces that make up an HVAC system, we always recommend consulting your RV’s owner’s manual before inspecting anything and seeking professional expertise if needed. Consider scheduling an annual checkup to ensure your HVAC is working well and to take care of more complex problems such as low refrigerant levels. However, there are many things you can do on your own to keep the wear and tear on your HVAC system minimal and to catch problems before they worsen. Consider inspecting:
- For any wear, damage, frayed wires, or leaks
- The air filters to see if they need cleaning or replacing due to pollen, dust, or debris
- The condenser and evaporator coils to check if they require cleaning
- The refrigerant levels to ensure there are no leaks
- Moving parts, such as belts and pulleys, that may need lubricating
Tips for Parking at Rest Stops for Maximum Coolness
Whether you’re looking to make a quick pit stop or park somewhere overnight, where you position your RV can significantly affect the interior temperature. Choose an area with plenty of shaded spots and, if there is a breeze, position your RV so that any cross-ventilation will catch the wind and promote air circulation. You can check the local weather to help you position your RV to best catch the wind. If there are no shaded areas, create shade using your awning or tarps.
If you’re looking for some of the most amenable rest stops across the country—many of which offer air conditioned welcome centers, shaded walking paths and picnic areas, and water refill stations—check out our state-by-state guides to the best rest stops.
Choosing the Right Bedding
Did you know that your bedding and mattress can significantly affect your body temperature? By choosing RV mattresses, sheets, and mattress pads made with cooling technology, you can help your body stay cool throughout the night and get a better quality of sleep.
- Cooling RV mattresses
- Pillows infused with cooling materials
- Breathable sheets and other bedding
While some mattress materials may naturally be more cooling than others, a mattress’s temperature really comes down to its construction. Mattresses made with cooling, breathable materials don’t trap heat and help your body stay cool. The good news is that nearly any type of mattress can be cooling—from memory foam to latex to innerspring—so you can choose your preferred material without sacrificing coolness. Many mattress manufacturers use special cooling technology to make their mattresses feel cool to the touch and prevent them from retaining heat. As an example, most SleepDog® truck and RV mattresses include a layer of CoolRest® gel memory foam that both supports your body and keeps you cool during warm nights. SleepDog®’s Azul® RV Mattress is specifically designed for sleepers who tend to sleep a bit warmer with CoolRest® Gel memory foam and an UltraCool® soft knit cover.
In addition to your mattress, opting for cooling pillows can further help you sleep through warm nights uninterrupted. Pillows infused with gel memory foam or other cooling technologies are engineered to prevent heat retention. At SleepDog®, our Glaciertex cooling pillow uses thermoregulation technology called “double ice” to help you remain cool throughout the night while offering maximum head and neck support.
For sheets, mattress pads, protectors, and other bedding, choose ones made of synthetic materials, polyester, or silk-like fabrics rather than heavier materials like flannel or linen. Other fabrics known for their cooling and moisture-wicking properties include lyocell, viscose, and modal, which are types of rayon, a synthetic fiber often mistakenly referred to as “bamboo” fabric. If you’re looking for something even cooler, some sheets are also made with specific cooling technologies that store and release heat throughout the night to help maintain an even body temperature.
Additional Tips for Staying Cool at Night
- Dress in cool clothes
- Follow a pre-sleep routine that works well for you
It’s no secret that staying hydrated is key to feeling healthier and more refreshed throughout the day, especially during high temperatures. Drinking plenty of water during the day can help regulate your body temperature so that you sleep better at night. On the other hand, certain beverages, like coffee, can be dehydrating and leave you feeling hot at night.
Pajamas made of moisture-wicking, light materials are a great choice to help you stay cool during the night. Avoid fabrics like flannel, wool, and cotton and choose silk, polyester, or synthetic blends to prevent night sweats and to help maintain an even body temperature.
While everyone may have their own pre-sleep routines to help them relax before bed, there are some actions you can add to your own routine to help you stay cool during warm nights. Hydrating and taking cold showers before bed can help you cool down from a long day and better regulate your body temperature. Conversely, eating large meals or exercising intensely before bed will make it harder to fall asleep and will increase your body temperature.
During the warmer months, it is crucial to keep your RV cool to get a high-quality, deep sleep that leaves you rejuvenated and ready for every adventure. With all the sleep and health benefits that come with sleeping in a cool environment, keeping your RV cool at night is a no-brainer. Creating a comfortable sleep space by using your RV’s HVAC system, windows with covers or shades, cooling accessories such as fans, and cooling bedding and clothes is the best way to ensure you reap all the benefits of a restful sleep. For the best journey in your RV or travel trailer, follow these tips to create a cooler and more comfortable RV sleep environment.