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Keeping Cool in this HEAT | Portable Air Conditioners

As I write this post in mid-January, Australia is sweltering through one of the worst heat waves on record. Fans and portable air conditioners are flying off the shelves at Bunnings and Mitre10, and everyone’s staying cool in their air conditioned homes and businesses, or heading to the water to get some reprieve.

For those of us that are in caravans, the pace is on for making the most of every heat reducing tactic we can think of.

In this post we’ll look at some of those common sense tips for keeping your caravan as cool as possible, as well as looking at some portable air conditioning options for those of us that don’t have air con already installed in the caravan.

First up, what can we do to keep the caravan as cool as possible?

Heads up: there’s nothing new in this list, they’re all pretty common sense stuff. But when you’re planning your trip from the comfort of your warm home, sitting in front of the fireplace in the middle of winter… you might not think of some of these things.

Give it a day or two in the the high 30’s and you’ll quickly do all you can to keep your caravan cool.

Here we go:

1. Park in the shade

I know we don’t always get a choice about where we park, but if you do, try and make the most of any available shade. The afternoon sun is the hottest so if you are able to get shade at that time of the day, you’re on to a winner!

Where we are currently camped, we only get shade in the morning and at about 1pm it becomes too hot. But we totally enjoy our shady spot for those morning hours.

2. Put out an awning and/or shade cloth

Of course an awning allows you a shaded spot beside your caravan, but it also helps to keep the sun off that side of the caravan, preventing the wall from heating up in the sunlight. You’ll see many caravans and motorhomes with the shade cloth on the other side of the caravan too. Often it’s shielding the whole wall from the sun, but sometimes it’s just to protect the fridge from being warmed up by the sunlight.

3. Add window coverings

You’ll discover very quickly that the sun belting through the window will heat up a caravan in record time. So making sure that you have good window coverings is your first step. Curtains or shades that are solar or thermal backed will help in both summer and winter.

If you’re keeping your windows closed (like when you’re using the air conditioner),  you could use reflectix (foil windscreen covers) to cover your windows as these do a great job of reflecting the sun’s rays so that they don’t heat up your caravan.

4. Hose down the outside of the caravan

I’ve had one caravan park caretaker suggest that we hose down the outside of the caravan. While it does a good job to cool down the caravan a bit, it does seem totally wasteful and especially distressing when half the country is in severe drought. (?!)

5. Open upper vents to let the hot air escape

If you’re not using an air conditioner, you’ll get value out of keeping the air moving in your caravan. Not just recirculating the hot air with a fan, but allow the hot air to escape through windows or vents. If you have a pop-top caravan, then opening up the vents in the caravans pop-top is good, or turning on the roof top fan to extract the hot air out.

6. Cook outside – or eat cold meats and salad

Cooking in the caravan certainly helps to heat it up, especially if you’re using a gas cooker. You can immediately feel how much heat the open flame throws out, so going electric will help reduce the heat generated, but sometimes it’s just easier to cook outside on the BBQ. Or even better, forgo cooking altogether! We’ve been having salads, antipasto platters, crackers with different toppings, or even cereal! Oh, and takeaways. :-O

7. Fans

Fans help. A LOT. We got our trusty desktop fan from Bunnings (of course) and we’ve found a few little tips that might be obvious, but here they are anyway:

  • These things get so dusty!  Give it a clean and you’d be surprised how much better they work.
  • Get a spray bottle and fill with cold water, spray yourself every now and then and that will enhance the fan experience!
  • At night, point the fan above where you’re sleeping (not directly on to you), this will keep the air moving around and that is often enough to get a comfortable sleep.

If you’re free camping / off-grid then you’ll want to consider 12V fans (unless you plan on running your generator all night?). Here’s some options:

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Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 Inch

Don’t sweat it with the Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 Inch! This rechargeable fan is perfect for those sticky hot days and nights. The unit has both high and low settings depending on your needs, and also includes LED lights that operate together or independently from the fan. The Coleman Rechargeable Table Fan – 8 inch can be operated directly from 240V or 12V adaptors (included)!

Outdoor Connection Breezeway 12v Camping Fan

The Outdoor Connection Breezeway 12v Camping Fan is a powerful unit to use on your next trip. This portable unit is perfect for camping, carvanning or other outdoor adventures where 12V power is available to you! This high volume airflow unit provides a comfortable cool breeze on any of the three speeds and produces low noise! The 3m powercord allows you to set up where you need. The fan has a low power cut out and a low power supply warning!

Companion Aerobreeze 30cm Lithium Rechargeable Fan

The Companion Aerobreeze provides a brilliant long-lasting performance to ensure you stay cool in the heat. With a 2-speed fan with oscillating function, and a lithium-ion battery you’ll be set on your outdoor adventure. The Companion Aerobreeze has flexible cooling options to suit your requirements and has a handy built-in 30 lumen LED light so you can read or use it as a night light!

8. Portable Air Conditioners

There are two types of cooling systems that often fall under the umbrella of portable air conditioners. Just so you know what you’re getting into, here are the differences (in ‘Michelle-speak’, so hopefully it’s simple yet understandable):

Evaporative Cooler

An evaporative cooler just uses water and a fan to cool the air. Water soaks cooling pads in the machine and then the fan sucks the warm air in the room over the cooling pads. The water evaporates and it’s that process of evaporation that cools the air.

Since evaporation is involved, this process adds moisture to the air, so is only really effective in places with a dry climate (at least less than 50% humidity).

And in extremely dry climates, evaporative cooling of air has the added benefit of conditioning the air with more moisture for the comfort of occupants.

One benefit of the evaporative cooling system for a caravan, is that it doesn’t require a vent hose to the outside.

Companion Rechargeable Evaporative Cooler System

Portable Air Conditioner

An air conditioner works a bit differently in that it removes hot air from your caravan and replaces it with drier, cooler air. It does this by using a chemical refrigerant that absorbs the heat from the indoor air, and pumps that heat out through the vent to the outside. As part of the process of removing the heat from the air, the air conditioner also removes moisture from the air.

As you would know, with a portable air conditioner you need to keep all the windows and doors shut so that more hot and humid air doesn’t enter the room.

The size of the portable air conditioner you should buy, is dependant on the size of your caravan, and how well insulated it is.

Arlec 7000BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Timer and Remote

We bought this Arlec model from Bunnings, and use it to cool our 14ft 1979 pop-top caravan. Our caravan is old and there are gaps everywhere where the canvas pop-top has come away from the caravan, so it’s far from well insulated.

This portable air conditioner copes until the weather app tells us it’s about 34 degrees and we’re sitting in full sun. If we’re still in the shade at that temp (or it’s overcast) we can go a couple of degrees more before it becomes too hot.

And when that happens, we…

9. Head to somewhere cool during the hottest part of the day

Okay, so sometimes we just haven’t been able to keep the caravan cool. Once it hits about 34 degrees AND we’re in full sunlight, our portable air conditioner can’t keep up. The only way to stay cool is to be sitting in front of it.

So we head out.

As we’re doing online work we go straight to library to work until they close. Now, in the height of summer, we can generally go back to the caravan from 7-7.30pm because the sun is getting low enough that the air con can keep up. Other options include going to the food court at the mall or the club.

On a non-work day, we’ve been heading straight to the beach for some lovely sea breezes and salty air.

We’re managing to stay cool, but as I said earlier, we have to escape our campsite during the hottest hours of the day.

Do you have any other hints or tricks for keeping our caravan cool, to share with us?

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Read our tips on keeping cool in your caravan (RV) during these hot summer months. #PortableAirConditioners