The best insulation for an RV
Most people who use RVs usually go off-grid for some amount of time, but connect back to civilization and communities for their utilities, however, there are some people that willingly stay completely off the grid. To stay completely off-grid with an RV, some supplies and equipment are a must. Gas generators or solar panels are needed for generating electricity. When it comes to water, all RVs come with holding tanks for water and a black tank for waste collection, both of which can hold water for up to a week, depending on the model. A very important thing to consider for any RV is the insulation. RV insulation will significantly improve the quality of life in an RV and reduce extra energy costs.
RV insulation is essential for having an optimally comfortable RV experience. Many RV’s claim to have a 4-season package, but they usually need additional insulation to be full-proof for any weather condition. If you want to keep hot air in and cold air out during the winter, or cold air in and hot air out during the summer, you will need to invest in RV insulation. Other than maintaining a stable temperature, good RV insulation prevents condensation issues, so no matter the humidity level of the place you visit your comfort will be assured. If you opt for acoustic wall insulation, you will also have the added benefit of lower noise inside your RV, along with the benefits of better insulation and moisture prevention.
RV insulation types
All RV or van insulation has a specific R-value. The R-value is an official rating of thermal resistance, meaning the higher the R-value, the better insulation that material offers. When insulating your RV, you can insulate the walls, floor and roof for optimal insulation performance. Keep in mind that wall insulation, floor insulation, and roof insulation have different R-values.
Insulation used in RVs comes in two major types, both with different R-values. The two primary types of insulation for RVs are fiberglass insulation and foam insulation. Foam insulation also comes in several different types. Each of these has its pros and cons, and the one you opt for depends on the type of RV you have, and the weather conditions you expect when using the RV.
Fiberglass insulation is what you would expect to find in a traditional home. It comes in big rolls and resembles pink cotton candy. Fiberglass is the best option for single-climate RVers. It comes standard in many RVs, tucked behind the walls. The pros of fiberglass insulation are that it is cheap, easy to install or replace and has a high R-value. As for the cons, fiberglass breaks down faster than other insulation types. If you add moisture to the mix, the chance of mold and insulation breakdown is higher. Avoid Fiberglass insulation if you change climates often or visit areas with high levels of humidity.
Rigid foam is best for experienced RVers who change climates often. Rigid foam insulation has a very long lifespan and is moisture resistant by nature. Rigid foam comes in boards that are very convenient to cut to a desired shape and size. It’s more expensive than fiberglass and it can sometimes be a pain to install. However, if you visit places with extreme temperatures often, rigid foam will be worth the hassle. Another downside is that it has a mid-to-low R-value. Most RVs don’t have this kind of insulation pre-installed or aren’t even prepared for DIY installation of rigid foam.
Spray foam is best for lightweight RVs that mostly stay in one climate. Prodex total 10M is the best solution for moisture because it is impervious to moisture. It’s also low cost and lightweight. The main downside of spray foam is that you may need to pay a professional to install it, and it also has a low R-value. You should probably avoid spray foam for your RV if you spend a lot of time in places with extremely hot or cold climates.
Insulation for windows and doors
Windows and doors are the weakest spots in your RV when it comes to heat transfer. A lot of heat (or cold air) can escape from the windows and doors easily. Proper sealing and insulation here is key for the insulation in the rest of the RV to function properly. The good thing is that you can opt for diy spray foam insulation for a quick and easy window and door insulation solution.
Re-caulking your windows and doors is a good way to improve the effectiveness of RV insulation. Drafty windows and doors are a good sign that you need to re-caulk them. Replacing the caulk every two or three years will maintain the most efficient temperature control.
Weatherstripping on doors and windows is the most likely to wear out the quickest because it comes into direct contact with the window or door when opening and closing it. You should periodically replace them to prevent extra air from leaking in or out of your RV.
The type of windows you have can also contribute to the quality of insulation in your RV. Single-pane windows are the least efficient at insulating, and if you have them you should consider replacing them. They allow for air to escape during the summer or winter. Opting for double-pane windows will help in controlling the temperature inside the RV.
If replacing the windows is outside your budget, there are cheaper options that are also effective. You can get bubble-wrap-like insulation that you put up on your windows. The main downside to this is that you can’t see out your windows while this kind of insulation is installed because this type of insulation is primarily used as attic, crawl space, or metal building insulation. If you are a person that needs to have natural light during the winter, you can put up plastic film insulation. It’s pretty cheap and easy to install. All you need to do is lay down double-sided tape around the windowsill.
Best insulation for a motorhome and travel trailers
The main things to consider when searching for the best insulation option for your motorhome or trailer is money and time. Do you want to save money and go for cheaper insulation like fiberglass? Do you feel comfortable installing it yourself? Would you like to upgrade sometime later?
If you are concerned with keeping your travel trailer lightweight to save on gas, or because of tow weight, you may want to choose spray foam insulation since it’s a lighter option. Prodex Total Fast Action 5M plus or Prodex total 5M are also great options if you don’t want to add a lot of extra weight to your trailer.
Motorhome insulation options mostly depend on your goals and activities while traveling. Do you want more moisture resistance, but less thermal insulation, or the other way round? Think about if you will be traveling to a lot of different climates or mostly staying in one and if you are ready for hiring someone to install insulation or if you will do it yourself.
Tips for keeping your RV cool and warm (summer/winter)
There are a few more things you can do to your RV other than replacing or upgrading the insulation to help it stay cool in the summer or warm in the winter. The best tips for summer are:
- Add shades - window shades and especially blackout shades can cut down on the light in your RV and can keep the inside from heating up during the day
- Park in the shade - park your motorhome in shady spots whenever you can
- Get an RV awning - setting up an awning expands the shade you have and can cool the outside of your RV too
- Pack portable fans - bring portable fans with you if you want to save on energy and avoid running your entire air conditioning system
- Inspect your air conditioning - before you head out on your trip, be sure to inspect your air conditioning and make sure it runs properly
- Park headed north - parking north with an awning means it will block the sun from shining directly on your motorhome
- Cook outside - use an outside grill or kitchen at your campsite if you have one available
- Keep doors and windows closed - try to keep the doors and windows closed as much as possible to avoid the cool air from escaping outside
Tips for improving winter insulation are:
- Use an RV skirt - these are a bit tricky to install, but if you’re staying in cold weather for an extended period, a skirt may be worth it
- Insulate your underbelly - spray the underbelly of your RV with a can of aerosol foam to seal up any holes where air can escape or you can even use 24-inch Prodex Total 5M insulation.
- Check your windows and doors - make sure the weatherstripping is in good condition
- Check your storage compartments - seal the compartment doors with weatherstripping, just like the windows and doors
- Check your vents - use foam board insulation and vent covers to keep warm air from escaping your vents