Today (Tuesday 19th July 2016) is the hottest day of the year so far. Here in the east of England its been 30ºC outside and here in my garden office its 36.1ºC. HOT HOT HOT!!!
Here at home its easy to keep cool with mains power. But whilst on the road with mostly 12v DC, how can you keep cool? I have kept most of the ideas here to devices that will work on 12v.
Many modern motorhomes have cab air conditioning which runs from the engine power. You can also have air conditioning units fitted to your motorhome. These are expensive and range from £1100 upwards. But its the ultimate way to keep cool! These units normally mount on the roof and will only work on 240v mains electric.
A major consideration for this type of air con is consuming a chunk of your payload weight and also current consumption. The average Dometic air con unit for a motorhome is 30Kg and consumes 4 amps on mains power. Some camp sites only supply little more than 4 amps!
Its important to understand fans do not make air cooler but the movement of air can make the air feel cooler.
One of the cheapest options, there are numerous 12v fans available. Some with clamps, suction mounts, brackets, and stand alone types. We have tried a few different types and found the cheap ones that fit directly in the cigar socket are noisy and are not very steady.
Wish to make the air from your fan a little cooler? Place a bowl of cold water in front of the fan – or even better with with some ice – and blow the air over it.
Amazon sells a wide range of 12v fans such as these which you can see on Amazon HERE:
The old style Japanese hand fans can be very effective. Just don’t get too hot from waving the fan! The other type are the small handheld battery fans. You can buy these very cheaply on Amazon or from Pound Shops. Both these options are great as they are low cost and fully portable.
The leading 12v fan seems to be from Endless Breeze. These are made by an American company and imported to the UK. This is a large 12″ fan but not very many places sell them in the UK and cost around £90 – UPDATE: June 2018 – I understand these fans have now been discontinued but you can still find them with some retailers and online.
Second to the Endless Breeze is the RoadPro 10″ fan. Not as good but a third of the price (around £35) its a superb alternative. It runs from normal 12v cigar socket or from 8x D cell batteries. The fan will stand on its own base or you can hang it via the handle. We own one of these, its not silent but I can recommend it.
Any fans that run from 5v USB power are normally useless!
Fiamma manufacture a “Turbo Kit” fan than can be retrofitted to either an open window or a roof vent. The fan can either extract hot air or blow cool air so can be quiet versatile. You can buy then on Amazon HERE.
Fiamma also manufacture a roof vent with the fan built in so it is a permanent fixture. It is called the Turbo Vent.
Evaporation cooling fans
These cooling fans have a reservoir of water to which air is blown over. The water evaporates thus making the air cooler. Some models have vanes of fabric which the water soaks into thus creating a larger surface area thus better cooling. Some models can take ice packs which after freezing, the air is blown over thus creating much cooler air flow. One draw back is that the air coming off the cooler is slightly moist and thus could create dampness in the motorhome which can be reduced with suitable ventilation.
Amazon sells a small range of these at fairly low cost. Some are fine, some not so and have mixed reviews. You can see them on Amazon HERE.
Recently there have been a few new evaporative fans available from Transcool and AdamFresh. Transcool can be found at most of the UK motorhome shows and normally sell for around £350. The AdamFresh device has the addition on a rechargeable battery so makes it very portable and sells for around €1200. I have seen the Transcool device at the shows but not the AdamFresh.
One great cheap option is to use a garden plant sprayer. Simply spray yourself in the face, arms, legs, well anywhere you wish with cool water and it acts just like sweat in that the evaporation of the water cools the skin. Spray yourself and stand in front of a fan works even better. Keep the water bottle in the fridge works well.
Cold water baths for your feet
There are some major arteries that go through the feet and cooling the blood in the feet can cool the body. Simply find a bucket, washing up bowl or similar and fill with cold water. Add ice cubes or ice packs for better effect. This is a really good method and can also sooth tired feet.
Plunging your wrists in the cold water will also cool you down.
Straight out of the freezer and place then near to major arteries such as in the pulse points at the wrists, neck, elbows, groin, ankles, and behind the knees. Under the arm pits is also a good place to cool you down. Often a good idea to wrap in a towel to stop any frost burn. You can buy ice packs from most camping shops or from Amazon HERE.
Cold showers, or just go for a swim in a lake, river or sea
A simply way to cool down. Just have a cold shower. Last year (August 2015) we experience 44ºC in Germany and found some lovely lakes to swim in. Even if you don’t like swimming just dip your feet in. But importantly stay safe in un-known waters – there is good info on the Wild Swimming web site.
Keeping the sun and heat out of the van
One of the cheapest methods is simply to find some shade. We have sometimes turned down pitches or camp sites with no shade.
In winter we have some excellent thermal windscreen blinds that wrap around the outside of the motorhome. These can be just as good for keeping the heat of the sun out of the front of the van and stop the seats and steering wheel from scorching your hands and legs! External screens are much better than internal.
Also keeping the roller blinds or shutters down will reduce the heat.
Rolling out the awning canopy can often cast shade over the side of the motorhome.
Many motorhome accessory shops sell off-the-shelf thermal covers or you can have them custom made as we did for your Frankia van. Or you can buy them from Amazon HERE.
Some extra tips collated from across the web
- Put your bed clothes and sheets in the freezer before bed. It won’t cool you all night but will be a good start.
- Wear cotton clothes – they are lighter and allow better ventilation
- Change bulbs from the energy hungry hot running halogen light bulbs to cool running low energy LED’s
- Lay on the floor – its cooler down there
- Sleep outside in a hammock, but watch out for the mozzies
- Aloe Vera has very good cooling properties for the skin as well as soothing sun burn
- Eating spicy food will make you sweat more thus cooling you down
- If you take small bottles of water out with you in a rucksack or similar, then freeze bottles of water and then take them out when you leave. They will quickly defrost but give you lovely ice cold water to drink for a few hours
Important safety Info…
Keep hydrated in the hot weather
Symptoms of dehydration include: dry or sticky mouth, sleepiness or tiredness, dry skin, and headache.
Any drinks that contain the following will cause dehydration:
- Alcohol – beer, wine, spirits, etc
- Fizzy drinks – often have high levels of salt and sugar
- Energy drinks – often have a high level of caffeine and salt
- Tea and coffee – typical black tea and coffee with caffeine will cause dehydration – many fruit and herbal teas are OK
- Milk and dairy – the Whey in milk can cause dehydration
So that’s all the fun drink off the list! But what can I drink:
- alkaline drinks
- fruit juice from water melon, grapefruit, and celery
- coconut water
Always remember that when out in the sun to use a good quality sun screen or sun block lotion. You can buy them in many shops or online on Amazon. Also wearing a hat will help keep the hot sun off your head.
Heat-related health problems can start at even fairly moderate temperatures often because most people in the UK are not acclimatised to very hot weather, meaning we are at higher risk of suffering from heat related issues.
Those most at risk of heatstroke are older adults and young children, people with long-term health conditions and those who are overweight. But it can also be dangerous for fit and healthy people, especially if they are doing strenuous exercise in high temperatures.
There are various stages which people are likely to go through before they reach the critical stage of heat stroke, and it’s vital to be aware of these warning signs.
First, you might spot symptoms of heat exhaustion which can include:-
- Heavy sweating
- Rapid breathing
- Fast, weak pulse
- Feeling of fatigue
- Heat cramps
Heat exhaustion can normally be treated simply by getting out of the sun and rehydrating.
If you start to experience the signs of heat exhaustion, don’t ignore them: seek shade, drink some fluids and have a rest.
One of the keys to allowing our bodies to cool down is evaporation. In order to offload heat we must allow sweat to evaporate. So if someone is showing the signs of heat exhaustion you can help them cool down by removing any unnecessary clothing to expose as much of their skin as possible – whilst keeping them in the shade.
One useful tip if you need to cool down quickly is to immerse your hands in cold water. Putting ice packs in areas where there are major blood vessels such as the armpits will also help rapid cooling.
Heat exhaustion is not normally a life-threatening condition in itself, but it can be a precursor to heat stroke, which is far more serious, if action isn’t taken.
This is when the body is no longer able to cool itself and body temperature becomes dangerously high. It is much more dangerous than merely feeling hot and bothered and can be fatal in as little as 30 minutes so it’s vital to recognise the warning signs and take action when necessary. As well as displaying the symptoms of heat exhaustion, someone who is succumbing to heatstroke could show symptoms of:
- Hot dry skin
People with heatstroke generally look unwell and might have difficulty breathing. They may also be confused and irritable, so if you’re with a group, look out for each other, particularly the elderly and young children, and those doing physical exercise on a hot day.
Give the person fluids to drink, if possible cool their skin by placing wet clothing on it, and move them somewhere cool and out of the sun. Heat stroke is a serious, life-threatening emergency, so if you suspect someone is displaying the symptoms you should call 999 in the UK or 112 across Europe as soon as possible.
With rapid cooling and sufficient rehydration most people do survive heatstroke but prevention is key. If you’re travelling abroad to a hot country, be particularly careful for the first few days, until you get used to the temperature. You should also heed heatwave warnings, by staying out of the midday sun and wearing a hat and cool cotton clothing.