RVs, motorhomes, travel trailers, campers, and fifth-wheels are tried-and-true vehicles for traveling around and seeing all that the country has to offer. They offer a place to eat, sleep, work, and spend time with family and pets. RVs essentially act as a mobile base for your sightseeing and outdoor adventures—a home away from home, if you will. Although they offer many of the same amenities as real homes, these trailers and motorhomes are designed to be lightweight and easy to transport, unlike an entire home. RVs tend to be hot in the summer and cold in the winter months due to lower insulation levels. One of the main culprits? Windows.
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RVs: Price and Weight Considerations
First, let’s take a look at why RVs are constructed the way that they are. One of the top considerations when purchasing an RV is weight. If you’re towing a travel trailer, you’ll need to make sure the trailer is light enough to be towed by your vehicle. Suppose the trailer is heavier than your vehicle’s rating says it can hold. In that case, it can be dangerous and even illegal to tow. Besides, heavier trailers will take more power to pull, and ultimately, more gas, sapping your precious miles per gallon (MPG) rating.
Typically, the larger the RV, the more it will weigh. Many campers want to keep their RVs as small and light as possible for handling and maneuvering purposes. It’s great to have lots of living space, but it could make you less likely to take trips if the RV is overwhelming to drive.
The other factor at the top of most RV buyer’s lists is cost. For these reasons, manufacturers want to keep costs down for buyers. If RVs were constructed like houses, they would cost nearly as much. To keep the entry barrier low so that many people can enjoy the RV life, many manufacturers use construction methods and materials that will keep costs minimal.
Many RVers travel only during the summer months or only to temperate climates during the winter months. This allows most RVers to get by with minimal insulation to keep the indoor temperature normalized. However, RVs can typically be purchased with a special cold-weather package, which may add insulating features.
The majority of RVs are manufactured with single-pane windows. A single-pane window is what it sounds like—one pane of glass. The level of insulation provided by just a single pane of glass is minimal. However, single-pane windows help to keep the cost and weight of the RV down.
Glass can be an excellent insulator, but it must be engineered correctly. The windows used in most modern homes in the United States are double-pane windows. These windows used two sheets of glass, with a sealed air space in the middle. This air gap is the critical ingredient to ensuring the window provides insulating properties. Some homes even feature triple-pane windows. These windows use three layers of glass to produce two air spaces for even greater insulating properties. Double and triple-pane windows work to keep the heat out of a home or RV during hot weather and keep heat inside during cold weather.
Benefits of Insulated RV Windows
Why do well-insulated windows matter? The main reason is comfort. Suppose your windows allow a lot of warm air to escape in the wintertime or let in a lot of warm air in the summertime. In that case, you won’t be as comfortable as possible. Maintaining a constant temperature inside your RV has numerous effects.
- Less strain on your heating and cooling equipment
HVAC systems have a finite lifespan. They’re meant to be used regularly, but heavy use could put a strain on the systems. If your heating or cooling equipment is running long and hard to keep up with your RV’s needs, it could shorten the lifespan. Keeping your RV’s interior temperature constant will help keep the HVAC system from running as often or as hard.
- Lower electricity consumption
Running heating and cooling systems more often means consuming more electricity, or sometimes gas or propane. It might not be an issue if you’re at a campground connected to a constant electricity supply. However, if you’re boondocking (camping off the grid) every kilowatt-hour counts. Using the least amount of electricity possible not only promotes sustainability but also keeps costs down.
- Less wear and tear on interior finishes
Severe heat or severe cold could lead to the deterioration of your RV’s interior finishes. Ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun are typically the primary culprit in prematurely discoloring furniture, carpeting, counters, and other materials. Blocking the sun’s rays and heat can help prevent this from happening to your RV.
Purchasing an RV with Insulated Windows
If you’re in the process of purchasing an RV and you know that you’ll be using it in either scorching hot or freezing cold climates, ask your RV dealer what options are available. The manufacturer might offer add-on packages for specific environments. These additional options could even feature double-pane windows. Different manufacturers have different offerings, so be sure to shop around.
Your dealer may be able to offer additional aftermarket accessories such as shades and window coverings. Be sure to ask what options are available for your RV.
Adding Insulation to Your RV Windows
If you already own an RV that was manufactured with single-pane windows, you can take steps to help insulate them. Combine one or more of the ideas below in order to help keep your RV as insulated as possible.
- Add blinds or curtains
Adding just about anything as a barrier between your RVs windows and your RV interior can help increase insulation. Blinds will help reduce the amount of UV light that enters the cabin, for cooler temperatures in the summertime. Heavy curtains can even help hold in heat during the winter months.
- Add reflective window treatments
Reflective window treatments are especially helpful in the summer months. When we say “reflective window treatments,” we are talking about the type of reflective sunshade panels people put behind their windshield to keep the sun out of their cars. This reflective paneling doesn’t only come in accordion-folding panels specific to windshield sizes; it can also be purchased in bulk-sized rolls. These rolls will allow you to cut the reflective material to custom-sized for each window in your RV.
- Add window covers
Window treatments don’t always have to be applied from the inside—sometimes, it can help use them on the exterior too. The treatment you’ll see most often is clear adhesive panels. These transparent sheets of plastic extend a few inches beyond the window on every side. The adhesive backing bonds it to the RV’s exterior paneling. Exterior treatments serve a few purposes. First, it helps keep your windows clean, which can be great for long-term storage. Next, it adds a protective layer between the glass and outside debris, which might help prevent damage. Lastly, it should create an air-tight seal around the window. This will help keep air from transferring into and out of the motorhome.
- Add a layer of plexiglass
If your RV is equipped with single-pane windows, it will be an expensive job to upgrade them to double pane. Many RVers, working within a budget, custom-cut pieces of plexiglass to mount inside each of their windows. The plexiglass helps create a makeshift double-pane window. Mounting a sheet of plexiglass on top of the window’s frame will help make the air gap that double pane windows use to insulate.
It likely won’t be as air-tight as a proper double-pane window, and therefore not as efficient. However, many RVers have reported vast insulation performance improvements by using this method. It’s not without drawbacks. Plexiglass is not as optically clear as real glass, so it could distort views. You also won’t be able to open and close the operable windows any longer.
- Have tinted window film applied to the windows
Window film, or tint as it’s commonly referred to, is a film applied to a windows’ interior side. The film can range from clear to very dark and will help block ultra-violet (UV) rays from the sun. Blocking this light can help lower interior temperatures during warm, sunny months. It can also help protect your interior finishes from sun fade.
- Replace single-pane windows with double-pane windows
This is the most obvious and also the most expensive option for increasing the insulating properties of your RV’s windows. It’s the most aesthetically pleasing and function option, too, as it will retain a factory-installed appearance. You’ll also see through your windows clearly and can open and close them when needed. It’s not always possible to add double pane windows and will depend on your RV’s construction. Contact a qualified replacement specialist to see if this is an option for your RV.
Is Your RV in Need of New Windows?
If your RV is in need of replacement windows, Glass.com provides nationwide service. We can handle the replacement, no matter where you are in your travels. Submit your RV details to us, and we’ll reach out to provide you with a quote. Whether you’re looking to replace a broken window or curious to know if there are upgrade options available, we can help.
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