Build Your Own RV SunShade

by | Jul 12, 2023 | Gear & Stuff, RV Life | 0 comments

Are you struggling to keep your RV cool in hot and humid conditions? We understand the discomfort that comes with the scorching sun on your roof, especially during those summer months. But fear not, as we have some expert tips to help you beat the heat and enjoy a comfortable journey in your RV, as well as instructions on how to build your own RV SunShade.</strong>

  1. Insulate your RV: Ensure that your RV is properly insulated to minimize the transfer of heat. Consider adding reflective insulation to your windows and investing in thermal curtains or shades to further reduce heat penetration.

  2. Shade your RV: Park your RV in shaded areas whenever possible, such as under trees or using awnings. This will help reduce direct exposure to the sun and keep the interior cooler.

  3. Ventilation is key: Maximize air circulation within your RV by using ceiling or vent fans. This will help remove hot air and bring in fresh air. Additionally, consider installing vent covers to allow for ventilation even during rainy days.

  4. Use window coverings: Invest in blackout curtains or window shades to block out the sun’s rays. This will not only keep the interior cooler but also protect furniture and upholstery from fading.

  5. Stay hydrated: Don’t forget to keep yourself hydrated by drinking plenty of water. It’s essential for staying cool and refreshed during your RV adventures.

  6. Utilize external shades: Consider using reflective covers or shades on the exterior of your RV windows. This will help repel heat and keep the interior temperature down.

  7. Manage internal heat sources: Be mindful of appliances and devices that generate heat. Turn off or minimize their use during the hottest parts of the day to reduce the overall heat level inside the RV.

  8. Stay cool with technology: Invest in portable air conditioners or evaporative coolers to create a cool oasis within your RV. These devices can provide relief during particularly hot and humid days.

When it comes to keeping cool in your RV during the summer months, a well-functioning air conditioner is crucial. While many RVs come equipped with air conditioning units that are appropriately sized for the space, there may be certain factors that can impede the cooling efficiency and effectiveness.

Before considering upgrading your RV’s air conditioner, it’s important to take a step back and evaluate the overall cooling system. There are a few steps you can take to optimize the performance of your existing AC unit and make your RV more comfortable in hot weather.

First and foremost, it’s essential to ensure that your RV is properly insulated. Insulation plays a vital role in keeping the cool air inside and preventing it from escaping. Properly insulating your RV’s walls, roof, and windows can significantly improve the overall cooling efficiency and reduce the workload on your air conditioning unit.

Additionally, pay attention to any potential air leaks in your RV. Even small gaps or cracks in windows, doors, or vents can lead to significant energy loss and hinder the cooling process. Seal any noticeable drafts or leaks with weatherstripping or caulk, as this will help maintain a consistent temperature inside your RV.

Maintaining proper airflow is another key factor in optimizing your RV’s cooling system. Regularly clean or replace air filters to ensure unrestricted airflow, as dirty filters can impede the unit’s performance and reduce cooling effectiveness. It’s also a good idea to clean the AC vents and remove any debris or obstructions that may be blocking the airflow.

In addition to these steps, you may want to consider using reflective window coverings or installing awnings to shade your RV from direct sunlight. By minimizing the amount of heat entering your RV, you can further enhance the cooling efficiency of your air conditioner.

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that if your RV is frequently subjected to extreme temperatures or you often find yourself in locations with high humidity levels, upgrading to a more powerful air conditioning unit could be a viable solution. However, it’s always advisable to consult with a professional to ensure that the upgraded unit is compatible with your RV’s electrical system and will provide the desired cooling performance.

Taking a multi-step approach to optimize your RV’s cooling system can help ensure that you and your fellow travelers stay comfortable during those hot summer adventures. By properly insulating, sealing air leaks, maintaining airflow, and considering upgrades if needed, you can greatly enhance the cooling

Some of the steps we have already taken include adding insulation sheets to our exterior surfaces, sealing the air gaps in our vents, and cleaning out the rooftop coils. But no matter what we did, the temperature rose up into the 80s and even 90s under the oppressive Southern California sun. Plus, we also knew that the UV from sun was actively damaging the roof, roof seals, and our entire paint job.

The decision to shade our RV was easy, but we had to decide the best method. With 32 feet to cover, plus some buffer for the shifting position of the sun during the day, none of the off-the-shelf carports or shade tents would do it for us. Plus, we didn’t want to have to carry around such a structure.

We found this amazing RVShade, which did exactly what we wanted. Small, self-contained, protect the roof from the sun and heat which could give the AC a chance to do its job. But, it still is a good amount of hardware to carry around and a bit on the costly side.

Brendon went searching on the Full-Time RVers Facebook groups (which typically are a cesspool of poor advice) and found this photo. Of course, the first thing we saw was how home-made it looked.

We never would consider building something like this – we like to keep the neighborhood looking classy of course. But then realized that we could put it up and down quickly, it would do the job, and pack up into a small storage container with under 30lb of total weight.

Our solution is home-made and has not been tested against winds or any other weather, unlike the commercial options on the market. It works for our use case, but you need to decide if it works for yours.

Steps We Have Already Taken To Cool The RV

In the standard 14×14 rooftop crank-vents that we don’t use often, we purchased these Camco RV Vent Insulator and Skylight Cover with Reflective Surface.

For the standard 14×14 roof vents that we use daily, we installed these retractable RV vent shades from AP Products. They took under 5 minutes to install.

We lined all the interior surfaces in the cabinets and behind shelves with this Reflectix insulated liner. It cuts with scissors and we used velcro command strips to attach it which lets us easily remove and roll for travel – although now we just leave it installed.

We scoped out our A/C vents in the ceiling using this DEPSTECH wireless endoscope camera that connects to our iPad. That’s how we were able to find all the holes in the styrofoam vents – and discovered that one of our vents wasn’t even capped at the factory so we were losing lots of cold air into the space between the ceiling and the roof.

This Great Stuff minimally-expanding insulation foam is how we sealed the holes in the styrofoam ceiling vents.

And we added a window cover to the windshield to keep the sun off of the dash.

All of these steps made a huge difference and brought down our internal temp at least 10 degrees, but we still needed a bit more help shading the roof which was acting as a huge heat radiator during the day while the sun was up.

Supplies You Need To Make Your Own RV SunShade

We were debating between 95% UV blocking and 100% UV blocking. The 95% is what you would see over greenhouses, while the 100% is the type of Sunsail you would see over the pool like at Sirenity Farms. We decided on the 95% from TANG Sunshades Depot because it was lighter and also about 1/4 of the price. The manufacturer would cut us a custom size, which we chose as 40×12 to cover our 32×9.5 roof.

To safely use the air conditioning with the sunshade installed, there needs to be plenty of air circulation between the roof and the shade. To avoid having to build a full structure, we decided to use three PVC pipe “cages” to create the space. One fit around the air conditioner, one at the front, and one at the back. Instead of ordering individual pieces, we bought this all-in-one kit which is typically meant to hold fabric on cargo carriers.

We installed grommets on the sunshade ourselves using a handheld grommet-punching device, ensuring they were placed exactly where needed to avoid any damage to the paint. This device from Preciva comes with multiple size heads and 400 grommets included, making the process easy and efficient. You can find it on Amazon here.

The final ingredient we needed to install our own RV Sunshade were these black bungees from PRETEX. If you live in an RV you probably already have a selection of bungees to choose from, but ours were all different colors and we wanted to make it sleek with all black cables as it is going to be installed all summer.

How Do I Install My New RV Sunshade?

The process of installing your own RV DIY Sunshade is straightforward and took us less than 30 minutes. By following the provided instructions carefully, you can easily complete the installation in no time.

  • To build the PVC cages, begin by securely inserting the ends of the pipe into the couplers, ensuring a tight fit.
  • Place the PVC cages in the front and back of the RV roof.
  • Place the PVC cage over the air conditioner. If it is a tight fit, disconnect the PVC and reconnect once you have placed it. If you need to leave a part disconnected, that is OK as long as you plan to secure everything else tightly
  • Roll out the Sunshade over the roof, on top of the cages.
  • Starting in opposite corners, punch a hole for the grommet and attach a bungee. Strap the bungee ideally to something that will hold it out so you have space for airflow. A fence, tree, strong bush, light pole, etc. If you can’t strap it out wide, find a way to secure it to the RV without letting the metal on the bungee rub against the paint.
  • Repeat in all four corners, then try to add additional points along the sides where you can help the sunshade maintain ventilation through and out of the area between the roof and the shade. The goal is to have a full corridor for air flow.

Conclusions About Installing Your Own Homemade DIY RV Sunshade

Installing a sunshade on your RV can be an incredibly valuable investment. Not only does it provide essential protection for your vehicle’s roof, but it also offers numerous benefits that can enhance your overall RVing experience.

By effectively blocking out 95% of harmful UV rays, a sunshade helps safeguard your RV’s paint and seals from the damaging effects of prolonged sun exposure. This protection can extend the lifespan of your vehicle’s exterior, keeping it looking newer for longer and potentially saving you costly repairs or repainting efforts down the line. Additionally, a sunshade can help maintain a cooler interior temperature by significantly reducing the amount of direct sunlight that enters the RV, providing a more comfortable living environment for you and your travel companions.

Another advantage of DIY sunshade installation is the sense of ownership and personal touch it brings to your RV. By customizing and adding your own sunshade, you can create a unique look that reflects your style and personality. Whether you opt for a simple yet practical design or decide to showcase your creativity with a more elaborate setup, the possibilities are endless.

Furthermore, the process of installing a sunshade can be a rewarding DIY project. It allows you to engage in hands-on work, fostering a deeper connection with your RV and boosting your confidence in tackling other maintenance or enhancement tasks. Plus, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing that you took proactive steps to protect and improve your beloved recreational vehicle.

In conclusion, including a sunshade in your RVing arsenal not only shields your vehicle from harmful UV rays but also adds a personal touch and enhances your overall RV experience. So why not embark on this rewarding journey of DIY sunshade installation and reap the benefits it brings? Happy RVing!

Do you have an RV sunshade you purchased or one you made? What do you think about it? How was the installation and how is it holding up? Let us know in the comments below!


What do you think? Leave a comment now.

%d bloggers like this: