188sqft renovated fifth wheel RV
Credit: Mandy Holesh

6 Ways to Insulate Your RV Windows (That Don’t Block the Light!)

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RV window insulation is necessary to stay warm through the winter. Most RV windows are single pane and your biggest source of heat loss.

In this article, I’ll share how to insulate RV windows to prepare for cold weather without blocking much-needed sunlight.

How Improving Your RV Window Insulation Can Benefit You

One of the biggest causes of heat loss in cold winter climates is single-pane windows. (Some four-season RVs will have double-pane windows and are best for winter camping.)

Additionally, if the RV is humid inside, condensation can form on the cold window surface, leading to mold or mildew problems. But even when a dehumidifier has lowered the humidity level inside the RV, if the windows are still cold, that means expensive heat is escaping through them. That leaves your RV drafty and your heating bill skyrocketing.

Related: How to Solve Condensation Problems in Your RV

This year I was a bit lazy about getting the windows done, and one day I was sitting on the couch and felt a bit chilly. It was around 32 degrees Fahrenheit outside, but the thermostat by our fridge read 75. I moved the thermometer to the shelf I built behind my sofa next to the window, and it read 66. Yikes! At that point, I knew I’d better get a move on with my window project.

6 Methods for Insulating RV Windows

1. Hang Heavy Curtains

Covering your windows with thick, insulated curtains can make a big difference in helping to retain heat. You can open them during the day to allow the warm sunshine to come through the glass. Closing them at night wards off the cold and can keep your RV a few degrees warmer.

2. Covering the Windows with Reflectix

Many RVers cover their RV windows with Reflectix. But sunshine is extremely important to your mood, especially during winter. Anything that blocks light isn’t a great option.

Plus, while Reflectix may help insulate, it also repels an effective free source of heat: sunlight! 

Double Bubble Reflective Thermal Aluminum Foil Radiant Heat Vapor Barrier Insulation: (16" X 25 Ft) Heavy Duty (Water Proof No Tear): Walls Windows Garages Attics Air Ducts HVAC Vehicle Etc (1)
  • Two layers of Polyethylene Industrialized Air Bubbles (Poly-Air) bonded between two layers of Highly Reflective Metalized Aluminum Polyester Film. Industrialized strength, lightweight yet durable insulation designed to hold staples without tearing. Does not compress, collapse or disintegrate. Reflects 97% of radiant heat, emits less than 3% of heat, Class 1 / Class A fire rated radiant barrier that has passed the ASTM E84 test & ASTM E2599.

Some RVers put Reflectix in their windows at night and take it out during the day to let the sun warm the RV via the greenhouse effect. Personally, I prefer an option that keeps my heat from escaping through my windows during the day as well.

3. Clear, Heat-Activated Window Film

The first year I spent winter in an RV, I decided to use shrink plastic, which I had used in homes before. If you’ve never used it before, basically you put double-sided tape (included in the kit) all the way around the window frame, then cover the window with plastic stuck to the tape, and then you blow a hair dryer on it and the plastic shrinks and all of the wrinkles smooth out and the seal around the edges traps a layer of air between the plastic and the glass. 

Sale
Duck Brand Window Insulation Kit - Winter Window Seal Kit Fits up to 10 Windows - Rolled Shrink Film Cuts to Size for Easy Indoor Installation - Window Tape Included - 62 In. by 420 In.- Clear
  • Save on energy costs during the cold weather months. This rolled window kit creates an airtight seal inside your home to block drafts and cold weather

Important: the layer of air between the glass and the window covering is actually what provides insulation against the cold. 

I’ve seen some RVers ask whether they should put the plastic on the inside or the outside of the window.  If you put it on the outside, the only barrier you’re adding between you and the cold is a thin layer of plastic. By trapping a layer of air between the plastic and the glass, this air is warmed by the sun during the day and takes longer to cool at night since the air has nowhere to escape to. 

It may not sound like it, but this is quite effective.

Tape a piece of plastic over one of your windows on the outside.  Wait a few hours, then put your hand against the glass from the inside and compare it to the temperature of an uncovered window. An insulated window shouldn’t feel cold to the touch.

I ended up leaving the shrink plastic on my hall windows all year.

In spite of my love for shrink plastic, though, it does have a few problems:

  1. Some RV owners have trouble getting the tape to stay stuck to the window frame due to condensation and have to use a sturdier type of tape. We did not have that problem (probably because we solved our condensation problem first!).
  2. Applying shrink plastic to all of the windows in an RV is a tedious, time-consuming task. It sucks to have to do it each winter.
  3. Our cat inevitably ends up tearing holes in the plastic with his claws, and by the end of the winter, my window is covered with clear tape patches.

4. Motorhome Windshield Insulation

Most Class A RV’s come with curtains that can be closed at night for privacy. These can be replaced with heavier fabric to help reduce heat loss as well. I’ve also seen RVers hang a thick blanket to separate their cab from the house of their RV. Adding this extra insulation can keep your RV a few degrees warmer (or cooler if you’re warding off summer heat).

During the day, you’ll want to open the curtains to allow the sun to come in and heat your RV via the greenhouse effect.

BougeRV RV Windshield Window Snow Cover for Class C Ford E450 1997-2024 Motorhome, Windshield Cover for Ice and Snow RV Front Window Sunshade Cover RV Accessories 4 Layers with Mirror Cutouts Silver
  • Perfect Fits: RV windshield cover for ice and snow fits Class C Ford E450 1997-2024 RV, NO for all kinds of RV. Sturdy hook & loop tape fasteners around the mirrors make them more windproof. Strong Magnets do not damage the RV door and are easy to install.

If you have a Class C RV, this insulated windshield cover seems like a great way to prevent heat from escaping through the front windshield at night. I haven’t found a product like this for Class A’s (that provides insulation instead of just blocking light), but if you know of one please leave a comment to let me know.

5. Insulating RV Windows with Bubble Wrap

After covering a few of the windows with shrink plastic last year, I became impatient with the process and decided to try another method for insulating windows against the cold: bubble wrap. 

To cover a window with bubble wrap, all you have to do is dampen the glass and stick the bubble wrap to the glass with the bubble side facing the glass. A spray bottle or a damp rag works well for moistening the window. Dish soap will stick even better. Usually, this is all it takes to keep the bubble wrap up all winter, but if it comes down you can simply dampen the glass again and stick it back up.  I also used Scotch tape in a few places to tape two pieces of bubble wrap together.

Bubble wrap used as RV window insulation
Bubble wrap used as RV window insulation

Here’s how I bubble wrapped the windows in my fifth wheel:

The bubble wrap method is very easy, but not very classy looking. And you can’t see out a bubble wrap-covered window, so I ended up only using bubble wrap on a few of my windows that I didn’t mind leaving covered. One of those windows, the one behind my husband’s desk, is actually still covered with bubble wrap that I never took down over the summer.

Office and music area in fifth wheel RV with reed roll-up shade
My husband’s office area with the shades hiding the bubble wrap

Also, I didn’t find the bubble-wrapped windows to be quite as well protected against cold as the shrink plastic windows due to the bubble wrap having perforated spots with no bubbles. But is a little easier to set up.

6. Velcro Window Covers Made from Clear Vinyl

Last year I came up with a vinyl covering method for my screen windows. I made clear vinyl covers attached to the window with Velcro. I did this so that I could remove the covers and open the windows on nice days.

This method worked pretty well, and since the vinyl was sturdy, my cat didn’t tear it up. There are a couple of drawbacks:

  1. The vinyl I used (heavy clear shower curtain liners) had creases in it that made it not look very good. If you buy clear vinyl on a roll at a fabric store, this wouldn’t be an issue.
  2. The Velcro doesn’t make an airtight seal, so it might not be ideal for extreme northern climates (but it’s fine for us in Kansas City). A magnetic strip could also be a good solution!

Even with those drawbacks, I decided to reuse this technique for the windows that I might want to open.  I’ll share some pictures of those window covers later in this post.

Combining Window Insulation Techniques

My strategy for covering my windows this year is as follows:

  • Shrink film on the hall window (leftover from last year)
  • Bubble wrap on the window behind my husband’s desk (leftover from last year)
  • Vinyl covers attached with Velcro on my screens and smaller windows.
  • And Plexiglass on my big windows.

And now for a little more detail…

Making DIY Plexiglass Storm Windows

I would just cover all my windows with plexiglass if I could afford it, but it’s expensive. Instead, I use it on three of my four big windows (the fourth being a bubble wrap window). 

I purchased three 24″x48″ sheets from Lowe’s at about $30 apiece. They cut it to size at Lowe’s for me. But, as you will see, I ended up having to cut it myself also.

My Process

After unscrewing and removing my window shades and curtains, I cleaned my windows with a microfiber rag wet with water, followed by a dry microfiber rag.

I held up the plexiglass to the window I planned to cover…and immediately realized I had forgotten to take into account the curved corners of the window. 

After watching a few YouTube videos, I learned how to cut plexiglass using a utility knife (razor blade).  You can buy a tool designed for cutting plexiglass, but I didn’t want to make another trip back to Lowe’s. The razor blade method worked just fine for my purposes.

Cutting the Plexiglass

First I used a Sharpie to mark where I needed to cut.  Then I scored the mark several times with the utility knife over an old cutting board.

Making DIY RV storm windows out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter

And finally, I grasped the corner with a pair of needle-nosed pliers and easily broke it off.

Making DIY RV storm windows out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter

I then sanded the broken edge so it wouldn’t be so sharp.

Making DIY RV storm windows out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter

To adhere the plexiglass to the window frame, I used my favorite invention ever, clear acrylic mounting tape. This stuff is super strong, yet very easy to remove if needed. 

It also works when it’s wet, as I learned when I used it for a project in my shower, so it should work even for people who have a window condensation problem. 

Using acrylic mounting tape to attach DIY RV storm windows made out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter
Adding the acrylic tape before removing the red plastic backing
Making DIY RV storm windows out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter
I had to cut small pieces of tape to go around the curved edges.

Unfortunately the plexiglass didn’t come in a size that was tall enough for my window, so I ended up with a two-inch gap at the top.  I covered this gap with a strip of clear shower curtain vinyl adhered with the mounting tape.

Making DIY RV storm windows out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter
After the red backing has been removed

It doesn’t matter, though, because that part is always covered with my pull-down shades.

DIY RV storm windows made out of plexiglass and clear vinyl screen covers to insulate windows for cold weather in winter

Here is how the plexiglass storm window looks on one of my other windows:

DIY RV storm windows made out of plexiglass to insulate windows for cold weather in winter

I really love how the plexiglass storm windows turned out. They look like they came that way. I may get plexiglass for a few more windows next year.

Difference With and Without the Plexiglass Storm Windows

Look at the photo below. The window on the left was uninsulated while the one on the right was covered in plexiglass.

Prevent heat loss an condensation on RV windows with DIY plexiglass storm windows.

Look at the difference it makes! That condensation means our expensive heat is escaping through the window. But the plexiglass isn’t cold enough for condensation to form—meaning the air between the window and the plexiglass is still warm and acting as an insulative barrier. Definitely a success in my book!

Read Next: 6 Tips on How to Stay Warm in a Cold Camper

Video of my Plexiglass RV Storm Windows

I did a little video follow-up about my plexiglass windows where you can see a little more detail:

Making DIY Velcro Vinyl Window Covers

Where we live in our RV, you get cold days mixed with the occasional sunny day. I love opening our windows on those days, but moving plexiglass would be impossible. So I came up with a movable solution.

I made clear vinyl covers adhered with Velcro for the screen parts of the windows.

DIY removable clear vinyl screen covers attached with Velcro to insulate RV windows for cold weather or winter camping and living
A shower curtain is a great inexpensive way to keep your heat in your RV!

My Process for Making Velcro Window Covers

To make the covers, first I cut 1″ Velcro with scissors so that it was 1/2″ wide. I stuck it to the window frames.

DIY removable clear vinyl screen covers attached with Velcro to insulate RV windows for cold weather or winter camping and living

Then I cut a piece of vinyl a little bigger than the space I needed to cover and stuck it carefully to the Velcro. I stretched it as taut as possible to avoid creases along the Velcro.

Making velcro vinyl window covers to insulate my RV windows

Finally I trimmed the edges with a utility knife.

DIY removable clear vinyl screen covers attached with Velcro to insulate RV windows for cold weather or winter camping and living

For this smaller window, I decided to cut the vinyl big enough to cover the entire frame. On my windows where only the inner frame is covered, the black outer frame still gets pretty cold. It doesn’t look pretty, but the shades and curtains hide most of it.

DIY removable clear vinyl screen covers attached with Velcro to insulate RV windows for cold weather or winter camping and living

After I made these, I found out that there’s actually a similar product for sale on Amazon. 

SHIJINHAO Tarpaulin,Window Transparent Film Seal Windproof Noise Reduction Dust-Proof Cold Protection Reusable, 17 Sizes (Color : Clear, Size : 1.5x2.4m)
  • - Window insulation film: installed indoors to prevent outdoor cold air from entering the room and increasing indoor temperature

So that’s how I made RV window insulation to prepare my RV for cold weather. Overall, plexiglass worked the best, but it is your most expensive option. Vinyl covering combined with stylish curtains makes a significant difference too.

Read Next: 6 Tips on How to Stay Warm in a Cold Camper

Should You Insulate the Outside of RV Windows?

If you live in an extremely cold climate, in addition to insulating your windows from the inside, you could also cover them with plastic from the outside. The main benefit here is to further seal the windows from drafts. There would be very little space between the plastic and the glass to trap the air needed to create insulation.

Most RV owners who do this cover their windows on the outside with clear vinyl, plastic, or plexiglass taped on with foil HVAC tape. Foil HVAC tap can be used at any temperature and comes off cleanly when removed.  I think clear vinyl would work best for this purpose, since it’s sturdier and wouldn’t be likely to tear in the wind. 

Just be aware if you do this that some RV windows have “weep holes” in the sill to allow condensation to drain, so you may want to leave the bottom unsealed. Here’s a picture of what I’m talking about; I wasn’t aware that these existed until writing this!

Here’s a picture of an RV with plastic covering the exterior of the windows.

Plastic covering the outside of RV windows attached with HVAC tape by Deenise Thorsen
by Deenise Thorsen

She can still see clearly out her windows and she’s protected from the cold.

Insulating RV Skylights

I really enjoy having a skylight in my RV shower because the sunshine helps me wake up in the morning. But during the winter. the skylight is one more place for heat to escape.

AirSkirts, a company that sells inflatable RV skirting, designed the perfect solution to this problem. It’s an inflatable skylight insulator that sticks to the glass with suction cups and is made from clear vinyl that lets sunlight through. During the day, the sun warms the air inside, and this provides a buffer between the cold air outside and the warm air in your RV.

AirLight inflatable skylight insulator – See it here

You can read more about the AirLight Skylight Insulator on the AirSkirts website.

For more winter RV tips, check out my Winter RVing Resource Page!

Ideas for insulating RV windows to prevent heat loss and reduce condensation in cold winter weather

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43 Comments

  1. Of coarse I understand Kansas and the ice cold temperatures due to being stationed at Ft Riley KS. However now we live in sunny California at the base of the mountains. Summer in the triple digit temps and winter lows get around 30* deg on and off for a few weeks out of the year. We live in a 36 1/2 ft. 4 slide out 5th wheel. What has worked for us year round on our windows has been these blackout drapes we cut down to cover 7 of our windows. They are also designed as insulation (and are proven by us) do to windows having vent holes designed into there frames, those holes also let the cold air in. One night last year we had our two 6×6 heaters going and the temp was perfect inside. I was laying on the sofa surrounded by 3 windows and heard something outside that got my attention, so I pulled back a drape to see and found the freezing window on the other side. (The noise was just a neighbor). At this point there was about a 10 deg. Difference between the glass and the other side of the drapes. We got these drapes at a clearance at lowes however I have seen them online. We initially got them for sleeping during the day do to having a night job. However they have come to be a great investment. They are drapes, awesome privacy ( can’t see any light in at night, looking from the outside – in) (or visa- versa). Helps maintain a comfortable temp inside year round. Professional appearance, can be easily opened or closed, makes it feel more like a home instead of the RV look of the blinds by them self. We mounted ares in the window box over the blinds, Comfy feeling. Our RV is also a four season RV. we rarely use the fireplace (due to it being upstairs it burns you out of the living room. I will exercise the propane furnace once a year just to be sure it still works. We use one 6×6 electric heater in the downstairs bedroom and the other in the kitchen / dining room area. Other things we have done permanently for year round comfort are; we use vent pillows, insulated our permanently closed hallway window with blinds and blackout drapes, insulation buffer under the hardwood floors I installed. For now this is working great, however i still look for new ideas every day. I do like you plexi glass idea. Now you got me brain storming, how can I permanently mount them on the outside of the window with hinges and latches? The trick is to make them look factory, and being a true storm window protecting your windows from outside damage and temps. I am thinking smoked lexan…… not cheap but a permanent solution. I am thinking piano hinged at the bottom 2 or 3 latches at the top and seal with automotive foam rubber seal with one side being self adhesive. Just an idea….. this could protect your windows from any storm damage, be clear to look thru, removable (fold open and close), work as a double pain window, be able to drive down the road with them attached, no need to store them and they are light weight. It could work on most windows. Side, slide out windows would be the exception. Time for me to start a new project……. thanks for your info, it has inlitened me to new ideas. Now I am thinking hinge at the top and having the option of propping them open. Like the rock guards on older RV front windows. Anyway, blackout drapes was my input.

    1. Blackout drapes is a good idea to add maybe even in addition to all these other methods for those who live in the really cold areas. Glad I got your wheels turning! If you end up doing the hinged plexiglass covers I would love to see a photo!

  2. I was just going to put my pennyworth in when i read the last comment about blackout drapes. Why have you not got heavier curtains? I would even put an old blanket (buy at a charity shop) between the fabric and the lining for extra warmth. Pulled across at night, they provide extra warmth.

    1. I know they can definitely make a difference! I just personally prefer curtains that still let light through even when closed, so I choose to insulate in other ways. 🙂

  3. Great ideas, we very rarely are in cold weather areas but when it happens I freeze when setting on our couch as the windows allow in so much cold. I bought insulated drapes but it made me feel like I was living in a cave. I will give this a try and see how the double sided tape works for me. Thanks for all the great ideas!

  4. When you mount your plexiglass do you mount it to the inside frame or the outside frame? This is a great idea that I will employ this coming winter when we are living in Cleveland. So many great ideas!

    1. The plexiglass is on the inside. This creates a thick layer of air between the two glass layers, which is what creates the insulation.

    1. To be honest, I can’t remember…it was just the one that was cheapest at Lowe’s. The thickness of the glass doesn’t make much difference, as the insulation comes from the layer of trapped air.

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