As winter approaches, thoughts of keeping warm spring to mind (including RV insulation). That’s especially true for those of us who are full-timers and those who enjoy occasionally camping in late fall or winter in areas where temperatures drop significantly.
What’s the insulation like in most RVs? And how can we improve on our rig’s insulation during our travels in areas where it gets cold at night – or all day and night?
Today we’re looking at RV insulation – what it’s like from the factory and how we can make it better.
It’s getting cold, so let’s get to it!
- 1) What Are the Most Common Types of RV Insulation?
How Can I Improve the Insulation of My RV?
- 2.1) Insulate RV Windows and Doors
- 2.2) Check Sealants Around Storage Compartments
- 2.3) Use Vent and Skylight Insulators
- 2.4) Use RV Skirting if Stationary
- 2.5) Upgrade your RV’s Insulation
What Are the Most Common Types of RV Insulation?
Most RVs have walls that are insulated with fiberglass or foam insulation (either rigid foam or spray foam).
The effectiveness of insulation is measured by the R-value, which is the term for the thermal resistance of any insulating material. The higher the R-value of the insulation, the greater the thermal resistance and thus the better insulated your RV walls (and ceiling and floors) are. The R-value of RV insulation varies greatly.
For example, foam board insulation is a type of insulating material found in some RVs and campers that may have an R-value as high as 20 or as low as 5.
There are motorhomes, travel trailers, and 5th wheels that are marketed as all-weather or 4-season RVs. These typically have insulation with R-values or R-1o or higher. The doors of these RVs (including insulated bay doors) often have different R-values than the side walls of the rigs.
In general, a well-insulated RV might have insulation with an R-value of 20 in the ceiling and 10 in the walls. This may sound very low to a sticks & bricks homeowner. But while those numbers may be low when compared to house insulation, it’s actually high where RVs are concerned.
But RV manufacturers tend to operate under the assumption that most RVers use their rigs in mild temperatures, so many RVs aren’t particularly well insulated.
Let’s take a quick look at the three most common types of RV insulation and the features of each, both pro and con.
Fiberglass RV Insulation
The most common type of RV insulation is fiberglass insulation, also known as glass wool. It generally has a relatively high R-value which is protective from both summer heat and winter’s cold air.
Fiberglass insulation is an affordable and effective way to maintain relatively consistent temperatures inside an RV over a wide variety of ambient conditions.
Fiberglass insulation is easy to install and usually easy to replace if necessary (if it’s accessible).
There are several advantages to fiberglass RV insulation:
- High R-value
- Low cost
- Easy to install
Fiberglass RV insulation has a few disadvantages, however:
- Easily damaged by moisture
- Lack of moisture resistance can lead to mold
- May need to be replaced more often due to the reasons just noted
- R-13 faced insulation, easy exterior/interior 2x4 wall install
- Fiberglass insulation roll helps maintain temps and control noise
Rigid Foam RV Insulation
Rigid foam insulation is far more resistant to moisture and is more durable over time due to its construction.
Rigid foam insulation resists mold growth because it doesn’t collect moisture that can build up in an RV from showering, cooking, propane heat, breathing, and traveling in humid climates.
Foam insulation comes in a variety of densities/thicknesses with different R-values, and because the panels are rigid they offer a tighter seal for better insulation. (The R-value of rigid foam used in RVs is typically anywhere between 3.5 and 6.)
The benefits of rigid foam RV insulation are:
- Available in multiple R-values
- Resistant to moisture
There are a few disadvantages of rigid foam RV insulation including the following:
- Can be more difficult to install
- This Insulation Is Moisture Resistant XPS Insulation Foam Board. It Does Not Crumble Into Small Pieces Like Styrofoam. Size of 1sqft per panel is...
- 15" by 12" by 2" Insulation Pieces R-10. Great For Covering Small Places That Need More Insulation, Such As Walls, Around Windows,, On Floors, Attics...
Spray Foam RV Insulation
Spray foam RV insulation is a very lightweight alternative that’s relatively affordable and easy to apply.
This type of RV insulation comes in a can, allowing you to apply it in tight drafty areas to create an effective seal against outside temperatures as well as moisture.
Among the benefits of spray foam insulation are:
- Provides a tight seal
- Has superior moisture resistance
- Extremely lightweight
- Can be more effective at blocking noise than other types
There are, however, a few disadvantages to spray foam insulation, including the following:
- Must be applied accurately
- Application can be tricky and messy
- Has a lower R-value than both fiberglass and rigid foam insulation
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How Can I Improve the Insulation of My RV?
There are a number of things an RV owner can do to improve insulation, helping to keep the winter cold (and summer heat) from overwhelming a camping experience.
Let’s take a look at some of the easiest things you can do to improve the insulation of your RV.
Insulate RV Windows and Doors
Add Reflective RV Window Insulation
Reflective insulation blocks UV rays from the sun but it also helps to insulate windows and doors from the cold. It’s easy to use and generally sits nicely in window casings if you cut the pieces about 1/4-1/2 inch larger than the window itself.
It’s affordable, effective, and a very popular way to insulate windows. It can also be used to insulate air conditioning openings and other areas.
- Reflective insulation for use in a crawl space, attic, wall, metal buildings and post and frame structures
- Fiber free, environmentally safe, easy to install and lightweight
Repair or Replace Caulking
Caulking around doors and windows can shrink or crack and fail to seal well after a while.
Check the caulk around your doors, windows, skylights, air conditioners, and vents for cracks, fraying, peeling, and loss of a good seal. Re-caulking as needed can go a long way toward keeping the cold (and heat) out of your RV.
For use around windows and doors:
- Flash Point: 93.0 Degrees_Celsius
- Excellent Adhesion To Many Surfaces, Even When Damp
For use around skylights:
- Flexible butyl rubber sealant
- For sealing rv skylights
For use around vent fans and other rooftop items:
- Creates a secure, secondary seal along the roof’s edges, air vents, vent pipes and screw heads
- Adheres firmly to aluminum, mortar, wood, vinyl, galvanized metal, fiberglass and concrete
Replace Worn or Damaged Weather Stripping
Any weather stripping around doors can become damaged or wear out over time.
Look closely at the weather stripping throughout your RV and replace any that isn’t up to the job. Sealing up those gaps will go a long way toward better insulating your RV against the cold.
This includes doors, windows, and even slide-outs.
Take care to note the type of weather stripping you need to replace. Here are some common options:
- SEAL AND KEEP OUT UNWANTED WIND, WATER, LIGHT AND SOUND! - The simple use of the draught excluder around a door or window frame can drastically help...
- EPDM MATERIAL! This sealing strip is made of VITAM AMO's specially formulated EPDM rubber, which has excellent performance in low temperature...
- Material:The door seal strip is filled with high density PU foam with high resilience. It has compressive resistance, can rebound quickly, and remains...
- Multiple Functions:The door weather stripping has a sound insulation and anti-collision function, which can effectively reduce annoying crashes when...
- 【Foam Insulation Tape】— The foam tape is made from environmental protection material, CR foam, Neoprene, which has excellent sealing and...
- 【High Density Foam Tape】— Provides a perfect air-tight seal, sound proof, heat insulation, weather proof, oil resistance, resistant to...
- ☆The ultimate slide out seal system
- ☆Easy installation, Contains UV inhibitors for longer life
Upgrade Doors and/or Windows
After a long time spent traveling along highways and bumpy terrain, there comes a time when some RV doors and windows may need to be replaced.
Single-pane windows in particular are very ineffective at blocking the cold (and heat). Double-pane RV windows offer insulation that’s far superior to single-pane and may be worth considering, especially if you travel in areas of deep cold or high heat.
RV window replacement can be a DIY project, or you could opt for professional installation.
If you’re considering replacing one or more windows in your RV for any reason, check out our window replacement video to see if you think you’d like to tackle a similar project yourself:
Use a Door Snake
Putting a door snake at the bottom of any door where you feel a draft tends to be helpful. Door snakes are generally inexpensive and can even be self-crafted if you’re handy.
Measure the bottom of the door to make sure you get a snake that’ll cover the entire drafty area.
- ALL SEASON PROTECTION - The durable sound proof bottom door weather stripping keeps your room warmer in winter and cooler in summer. The wind proof...
- MULTI-FUNCTION DOOR SNAKE BLOCKER-The door snake blocker is dust proof, windproof, has good sound insulation effect, can stop the hot and cold air...
In addition to insulating doors and windows, there are a number of other ways to improve the insulation of your RV.
Check Sealants Around Storage Compartments
If the caulk or weather stripping around your storage compartments is worn out or damaged, replacing it will improve the insulation in those areas.
Use Vent and Skylight Insulators
Blocking the cold (or heat) from entering your RV through skylights and vents can really make a difference.
Skylight and vent insulators are affordable and very easy to insert into openings that will otherwise allow cold and heat to penetrate your RV.
Sizes are fairly standard, but be sure to measure the opening of the area you want to cover prior to choosing the insulator that’s right for your rig.
- RV VENT REFLECTIVE INSULATION: Camco’s vent insulator blocks the sun's damaging rays. It helps keep your RV cooler in the summer and warmer in the...
- SAVES ENERGY: This product reduces heat transfer and increases A/C efficiency.
- Keeping the heat out of the rv with the reflective side, blocks out the sun, keep heat out or cold out, helps to save on your electric bill.
- Full 2.8 inch of foam to help stop heat/light transfer.
Use RV Skirting if Stationary
If you’re living in your RV during the winter months in an area that gets very cold, RV skirting for winter could offer the underbelly of your rig some decent insulation. It can make a major difference!
Upgrade your RV’s Insulation
And finally, it may be necessary to upgrade the insulation behind your RV’s walls.
If you’ve got an older RV in particular, the insulation may have little R-value or may need to be replaced for other reasons. Or maybe it wasn’t built to be an all-season RV, but you’d like to modify it to allow more comfortable winter camping.
As noted earlier in this post, you can replace your fiberglass insulation, install rigid foam insulation panels, or use spray foam insulation to improve the insulation in your RV (as long as you can access the areas that need upgrading).
If you’re in conditions that require insulating your rig from the cold, you’ll almost certainly need to protect your water hose from freezing, too. We use the best one on the market — NoFreezeWaterHose. You can get a discount on one for your own rig with the link and discount code here:
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