Perhaps you’re looking to make an expedition to the frigid northernmost reaches of the continent. Maybe you want to brave the hottest climates of the American southwest to explore the vast deserts. Or it could be that you’re just tired of having to run your air conditioning so much wherever you go.
Whatever the case, there may come a time when you need to step up your RV insulation game. There are several ways you can do this, ranging from cheap to expensive and from do-it-yourself to professional work. In this article, we’ll walk you through some of the ways you can insulate your RV better to prepare for all four seasons.
When it comes to insulating the walls of your RV, you have a few options, all of which are surprisingly similar to how you would insulate any regular house. The four most common types of insulation are fiberglass, rigid foam board, sprayed foam, and reflective foil insulation. Any RV may contain one of these or some combination of them, so let’s go over the pros and cons of each of these types of insulation.
Note: Insulation is rated by its R-value— a standardized measure of a material’s ability to resist changes in temperature. A higher R-value indicates a more effective insulator. The R-value depends on the type of insulation, its thickness, and its density.
Fiberglass insulation is the rolled sheets of fluff that you typically find in the walls and attics of homes.
Pros: Fiberglass insulation has a very high R-value on average, meaning it should effectively keep the inside temperature where you want it even if it is much hotter or colder outside. It is also relatively inexpensive and can be installed yourself. Just make sure to wear protective equipment when installing (gloves, long sleeves, goggles, facemask) since it is made of tiny bits of fiberglass that can cause irritation of the skin, lungs, and eyes.
Cons: As a porous material, fiberglass insulation can be easily damaged by water. If moisture gets inside your walls, it can quickly lead to mold and mildew, which can spread throughout the RV and cause health problems. Even if it isn’t damaged by water, fiberglass insulation does wear down over time so you will likely have to replace it sooner or later.
These are solid blocks of foam that have to be precisely fitted between the studs inside the walls.
Pros: Unlike fiberglass, rigid foam shouldn’t wear down over time and should last you the life of the RV. The boards are also far less susceptible to damage from moisture. They also typically have a higher R-value than sprayed foam insulation.
Cons: While higher than spray foam, the R-values of foam boards are lower than fiberglass insulation. And if they don’t come prefabricated for your specific model of RV it may take a lot of work to get them to fit properly into your vehicle.
FOR THOSE NOT-SO-SUNSHINY DAYS
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Unlike the first two methods, this method requires an on-site chemical reaction and specialized equipment to apply it to the walls of your RV.
Pros: Spray foam is very lightweight, and it requires little to no upkeep. It is also moisture resistant, so it is equally effective in all environments— even humid ones. If you have the know-how and access to the right equipment, it can also be installed at home. The cost of raw materials is also pretty low.
Cons: Spray foam offers a lower R-value than fiberglass or rigid board insulation. Additionally, if you don’t know how to install spray foam or don’t feel confident doing it, you will have to pay professionals to do so, which adds to the cost.
Reflective foil insulation is a thin sheet of metal that sits inside the wall structure of your RV. It's not the same as the foil you keep in your kitchen, but the concept isn’t too different.
Pros: Unlike the other types of insulation, reflective foil insulates radiant energy. In the summer, this means keeping the sun's heat out. In the winter, this means keeping the heated air inside the RV. Plus it is very thin, so it can be used in combination with other types of insulation.
Cons: This type of insulation should be used with another type of insulation for best results. In cold conditions, it can cool your heated air inside.
DON’T LET BUSTED PIPES RUIN YOUR RV FUN
Traveling somewhere with sub-freezing temperatures? Make sure to properly insulate your RV pipes to prevent freezing and flooding.
The walls of the RV themselves are made from a few different layers for waterproofing, windproofing, and soundproofing, and those layers have to be joined together. The classic way to do so is to take the layers, put industrial glue between them, and physically press them between two rollers. And while this method works, there is a better way nowadays: vacuum bonding. The layers are placed into a machine that sucks the air out from between them, creating the best seal possible. This improves the insulation and longevity of the walls. While you can’t do this yourself, it is something to look out for when shopping for your next RV.
Taking in the wonderful views away from home is one of the biggest reasons to buy an RV, and your RV windows allow you to see it all. But unfortunately, those windows can be a big source of heat loss if they aren’t high quality.
If you’re looking to insulate your RV better, see if there are any windows that you could replace with upgraded double-paned windows. These have a thin layer of gas between the two pieces of glass that make it harder for heat to be conducted through the windows. These can be expensive to install later, so you should try to look for this feature before you buy.
KEEP YOUR AWNING FRESH
Your RV awning allows you to bring the comforts of your RV to the outside world! Keep your awning clean and ready for the next sunny day with these tips.
While you’ll rarely take a look at it, it is important to have a good roof on top of your RV. For the best insulation, you should look for TPO rubber roofs. These are white rubber which reflect heat well to keep you cooler in hot weather and warmer in cold weather. Other materials like fiberglass, aluminum, and EDPM rubber just don’t insulate as well.
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