How to survive winter or summer while on the road in your class B campervan, motorhome or RV
Traveling or living out of a class B motorhome is a non-traditional lifestyle that can turn away some who prefer certain luxuries to the freedom of the open road. But for those who enjoy vanlife, they wouldn’t have it any other way.
That said, one of the biggest challenges that we hear about from motorhome owners is that of cooling and heating. If you’re travelling to all corners of the country within the span of a few weeks, then you will more than likely encounter a variety of climates — from the chill of Maine or Minnesota, to the scorching heat of Arizona and Florida.
While one of the best things about vanlife is your ability to simply drive to where the climate is more agreeable, sometimes you may be determined to travel to a destination that is hotter or colder than you might prefer.
In such scenarios, it might benefit you to look into some of the best heating and cooling options for your motorhome, campervan or RV. Fortunately, we’ve created a list right here:
- Propane Furnace
- Gas Heaters
- Diesel Heaters
- Proper Insulation
- Portable Heaters
- Evaporation Cooling
- Traditional Air Conditioners
- Ventilated Cooling
- Passive Cooling
- Solar Cooling
Continue reading to learn more about each of these A/C and heat options, including the pros and cons.
Motorhome Heating Systems
This type of heating source delivers instant warmth to a motorhome for relatively low priced fuel. You’re able to refill the propane tank each time it gets used up. A propane furnace can even be integrated into your motorhome so that it takes up little to no additional space. Although this may be a larger investment than other heating sources, it will be well worth the comfort provided.
It usually makes the most sense to utilize a gas heater if your appliances, such as a stove, also run on gas. This way, you’re able to buy more gas in bulk and pay a lower price overall. Gas heaters are portable and can be used indoors on cold winter nights or outdoors if it gets a little too chilly and you don’t have a campfire.
Diesel heaters tend to make the most sense when your RV or motorhome also runs on diesel. This means that each time you go to fuel up, you can also top off your heating source so that you always have it on hand in the case of an emergency or just to warm the place up on a chilly night. Although diesel tends to be more expensive than regular fuel per gallon, it’s a long lasting, quality heat source that’s sure to keep you and your family comfortable and cozy, even in the coldest winter nights.
The advantage of portable heaters is that they come in such a variety of shapes, sizes, and types, so you can almost always find one to match your budget and needs. If heating is one of your top priorities, you can elect to spring for a higher quality — albeit more expensive — model. If heating is less of an issue for you and you’d prefer to save some money, consider a small electric portable heater.
Motorhome Air Conditioning Systems
This type of cooling system should only be used in areas where the average relative humidity is quite low. It operates by evaporating water which then pulls heat out of the air. It’s estimated that this type of cooling system can pull down the internal temperature of a motorhome by up to thirty degrees.
Traditional Air Conditioners
As long as you will regularly have an electrical connection, mounting a small air conditioner in one of the windows of your motorhome is a perfectly viable option. This may be best for those who are staying at a campground for an extended period of time as long as the site offers all the necessary hookups to do so. The only downfall to this technique is that when it the A/C unit isn’t in use the rest of the year, it takes up storage space.
Some motorhomes have a vent in the ceiling that contains a fan. The job of the fan is to take the warmer air and replace it with cooler air. This is a great way to regulate the temperature without having to constantly buy fuel. Also, in times of emergency, the vent can serve as an emergency exit.
Passive cooling involves taking certain steps to naturally cool the temperature inside your motorhome or campervan. This includes things like choosing light-colored furniture if possible. Light colors reflect more light than darker colors. Darker colors tend to absorb heat much more, making it feel far hotter in the summer months.
Other techniques include parking your motorhome in shade or a particular direction depending on the season. When it’s warmer, park the side with most of the windows facing north, away from the sun. In the winter months, park the RV with the windows facing south so that more sunlight can be let in through the windows. Install and use blinds or curtains to keep out sunlight when it’s hot out, or open window coverings to let sunshine in.
These common sense tips are effective and cost virtually nothing.
Some RV’s or motorhomes can be equipped with a single solar panel or a few small solar panels which can directly feed into an air conditioner. This is great for those who often stay in locations void of any electricity. These units may be a bit more expensive, but the comfort you receive is unmatched and you’ll never be forced to stay at a camp site that offers an electrical hookup if you don’t want to. Plus, there’s something to be said about generating your own power that gives motorhome owners a sense of unmatched independence and pride.
Importance of Proper Insulation
Aside from heating and cooling sources that consume fuel and energy, it’s amazing how much of an impact proper insulation in a motorhome can make. Insulation helps keep heat in during the colder months, and keep the cool in during the warmer months. Insulation acts as a sort of barrier between the inside and outside, which regulates the temperature better than any heating or cooling source can do on its own.
If you need to stay warm during a winter RV trip, read our Guide to Winter Campervan Trips.