Oxymoron Means – Keeping Cool in An RV?

We are spending the summer in Illinois, much to our surprise. We’re not surprised that we’re here, or surprised at why we have to be here this year due to family obligations, but we are shocked by the weather. We both lived in the state most of our lives, and moved to Montana just a little over 11 years ago. But somehow in that relatively short period of time we managed to forget how literally awful, horrible, and terrible (just to be sure you get my drift here) summertime is in Illinois.

Jim And Spot “Chillin” On The Bed


I’m sure that a big part of it is the fact that we live in an RV, and part of that experience is feeling exposed (see the post about winter). But even when we spend a pleasant weekend in a real house with central air conditioning and thermostats, visiting relatives, we are startled at how bad it really is here. And if you believe in climate change, it’s probable that summers here are worse than they used to be, so maybe it’s not really our fault, relatively speaking.

Our Gigantic Cow Cat “Spot” Looking Miserable


It started getting warm in March – much too warm and much too early, but it seemed like a good idea at the time. Then April came along with no real Spring, just more summer. Then May, and now it’s June and it’s hot, humid and the summer hasn’t even officially begun yet.  We have had over 90 degree temps for days, and we have to use our air conditioner most of the day, starting about 11 AM. Last night was the first time we had to leave it running all night – the low was 72 degrees and the humidity was at least 65%. To make it worse, Robin is really sensitive to humidity so energy levels are down as sinuses clog up.

So, here are some hard-earned wise-man tips from us silly fulltime RVers about keeping cool in an RV. Some of them we have learned through experience, some by misadventure and surmise, but they are all good ones.

First of all, if you have any choice, park in a spot that is shaded. Maybe you don’t like trees because they drip sap or spread leaves on your shiny newly-sealed and finished roof. It doesn’t matter – park in the shade. And figure out where the shade will be in the hottest part of the day and park accordingly – you won’t be sorry.

Next, don’t wait until the heat is unbearable to start up the AC. It will take longer to cool down and your suffering will be equally longer. Use a fan or 2 or 3 to push the cooler air where you want it. We can only use the front or the back AC in our motor home, like many older rigs. We devised the nifty idea to hang a box fan up high on the ceiling (see photo below), pointing toward the rear so that the cool air from the front AC gets redistributed. Because the air conditioning vents are up high, it works much better…we did try the fan on the ground and it didn’t do much at all. And we use a small fan in the bedroom to keep air moving – even if it’s warmer than you’d like, air in motion feels good.

Our “Brilliant” Box Fan Idea


And, speaking of fans, Robin said her mom used to use a box fan pointing out of the window in their old apartment in Chicago – to cool the place down. In the motorhome, this is perfect on nights too cool for A/C but too hot to sleep. For this to work the air temperature outside has to be cooler than the air temperature inside, you have to have a window and a way to prop the box fan up so that it is blowing out of the window without a lot of open space around it (seal the gaps with towels if you have to), and you have to close all the windows except for the ones in the room where the cool air is needed. If you have it all set up right, the fan sucks out the hot air and brings in the cooler air from outside. It actually blows our curtains in the back bedroom (of course, our dog and cat quickly migrate in protest to our bedroom, because the living room will get warm with this method).

So, we are intent on surviving the terrible summer here, hopefully without an AC unit breaking down, and being able to pay our electric bill without selling the motor home – that really would be silly. Oh yeah…there’s another tip…find a site with electricity included! We got a lovely, private 5 acre site quite cheaply by advertising our need for a place on craigslist, but power wasn’t included. Never expected to have to run the a/c like this, so it is gonna hurt financially, for sure.

Keeping cool here is not going to be easy, and summer is actually just getting started…and the 10 day forecast never seems to budge one bit – sunny, hot, ick……………………Wish us luck, oxymorons that we are.

Oh…Robin wanted to add another keeping cool suggestion, which involves me squirting her with a water bottle every five seconds and holding a small fan in front of her…yeah, great plan there….

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6 Responses to Oxymoron Means – Keeping Cool in An RV?

  1. robi says:

    Great ideas. I live in Slab City including the SUMMER. We’re talking 115 plus degree heat. I took the plastic rain cover vent off the fan vent near the dinette/frig area. My guy wired it to intake air at night as well as exhaust during the day. HUGE difference! Much more air flow. You got it…got to keep that sir flowing! I take my dogs to the nearby canal and jump in with all my clothes on. Then I am cooler as they dry out. Heck, I’ve even washed my clothes with soap and a brush while wearing them in the canal. Saves money on laundry, hehe.

    • Cheap RV Living says:

      Robi –
      Now here I was about to have a productive day…and then I looked at your blog – amazing! You are an absolute inspiration…and we are both hypnotized with all of your posts about life in Slab City. Thanks for giving such an in depth look! We never thought about an exhaust fan by the kitchen hatch…what a great idea…Also, promise not to complain about the heat, after seeing the temps you are enduring (though did get up to 105 degrees here…strange for the midwest). Stay safe and take care!

  2. No way! You also have an enormous black-and-white cat? Love that name. Ours is Tucker for short, Tuck C. Doe for long.

    Keeping cool is a dilemma, isn’t it? And, we need to keep our hind end, at minimum, in the sunshine for our solar panels. Right now we’re free to drift as necessary, and we’ve been lingering in the high country around Flagstaff where temps stay reasonable.

    A five-acre lot – nice! If you have to rent a spot, that’s a nice size.

    • Cheap RV Living says:

      I lived in Phoenix for a few years in the early 90s – Flagstaff would be a great place to be! Joey the Bounder is jealous of The Duck right now!

  3. Kerry says:

    another tip: move north, way north! It got up to 78 yesterday. seriously, I do understand the suffering.

    • Cheap RV Living says:

      Hey you guys!!
      Thanks for stopping by – it is nice to have family chiming in – we sure wish we could go up north and visit right now!
      If they need workampers where you are, sometime do a post for our blog and take pics so we can share with everyone, ok? Sounds like a lot of fun up there, in “nature’s air conditioning.” A cool summer sounds wonderful – I have never been able to take the heat – must have ancestors from the North Pole! Love you guys…