Effective RV Window Shades – Tips and Tricks


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Shortly after getting our EKKO, Number One, we realized we didn’t totally love the shades that were in there.  They worked, but they could be improved.  This started us down a long road of trying different window shade designs, and going back and forth with a manufacturer until I finally gave up bought a good sewing machine and made some myself.  I learned a lot on that journey, and I share it in this video:

 

Hopefully, this is helpful to people who want better performance from their window shades.  The 46 degree difference you see in the introduction is a real number, but I didn’t spend a lot of time on designing a proper experiment.  The RV was just parked out in the driveway in the sun.  I wondered what the temperature difference was, and I measured it.  I never even bothered to turn on the air conditioner to cool it off inside.  It’s possible that I’d get better or worse results if I changed the test conditions.

But don’t let my lack of a controlled experiment dampen your enthusiasm for proper window coverings.  These things really do work!  Mine turned out fairly complex, but you could use these same ideas to come up with something that works just as well and was far simpler to make.

Want Stuff?  Here’s the Links

Here are some of the tools and supplies you might want to consider, if you want to make some for yourself.

If I’ve left something out that you’re interested, hit me up down in the comments, and I’ll add it to the list.  Just don’t ask me where to get the rope magnets… I haven’t found a good source yet.

If you want to just purchase something ready made, VanMade Gear is a company we’ve had a long relationship with, and we can vouch that they make good quality stuff.  We have a set of their cab window shades up in our EKKO as I type this.

If you do decide to make some on your own, using these ideas, do come back by and let us know about it.  We love it when our stuff inspires others!

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    23 thoughts on “Effective RV Window Shades – Tips and Tricks

    1. Lorene Adachi

      Hi James – another great post. Thank you.

      I would love to replace the shades/screens in the Ekko. My main complaint is that they don’t appear to be cleanable if you splatter food on them while cooking.

      We have used commercial adhesive velcro on RV windows. Unfortunately it all got hot enough (temperature unknown) that the glue melted, oozed down the glass, and the velcro detached and of course no longer held things as we wanted. Is there any chance of that happening on the area surrounding the windows in the Ekko? This is the area you recommend using 2″ adhesive velcro.

      Lorene

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Our home base is just about 2 hours north of Las Vegas. It gets incredibly hot here.
        In spite of that, we’re going on two years or more with velcro on the walls. It’s not fallen off or done as you describe. Maybe we’re just lucky? Who knows.
        The worst we’ve seen is a small amount of what I’ll call “creep”. Where the velcro has moved about a quarter inch or so where it was under tension.

        Reply
    2. Joanne New Hampshire

      Thank you James. Great tips.
      I noted the white subway tile backsplash in the galley area. What a great decorative and functional touch. Is that adhesive tile? Any tips on that mod?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Yeah. It’s just peel and stick tile sheets.
        No tricks for applying it. Just take your time, measure well, that sort of thing.
        Clean the walls first with denatured alcohol before sticking them down.

        Reply
    3. Jason Ludwig

      James thanks for sharing you insights on your project and your design process. Im a big fan of Sailright and have a Fabricator. I ended up with three sewing machines during this set of projects for making shades and waterproof RV Bags for hoses.

      We have a sportsmobile sprinter and started building different versions of the rip stop shades after some of the online vendors were too lightweight to keep the heat out in summer in Florida.

      I ended up with 5 big shades and two for the back door. recently made a cold weather curtain that kept the drafts out

      I ended up with 1.5″ thick shades with 2 layers of thinsulate, a layer of iron quick (to hold round magnets) and two layers of ripstop.

      Tip for magnets and attachment points
      To hang the shades behind a valance I used simpson strong strap tie painted black and taped to inside of the valence. This provided a good metal surface for the magnets to attach to. In your case the 1/16th bar would add weight to your shade and then snap to the magnet side.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        I haven’t actually tried to sew anything waterproof yet, so congrats on the waterproof bags!
        We originally had valences, but they were part of our cassette blinds, so we removed them pretty early.

        Reply
        1. Brian Nystrom

          James, one good alternative for waterproof bags is heat-seal Nylon. It’s Nylon material with a waterproof coating on one side, that when placed against itself can be heated with a clothes iron to bond the pieces together. I’ve used it to make dry bags with roll closures and it works great. I wouldn’t trust the bond in a high-stress application, but for many uses, it’s strong enough.

          This tutorial is great, as I need to make better window covers than we have now. Currently, I have simple Reflectix panels that pop into our windows behind the pleaded shades. They actually work pretty well, but I found that one substantial source of heat is the black aluminum window frames, which are very effective at capturing solar heat and conducting it into the RV. Did you run into this as well?

          I’ve considered making external reflective covers that are larger than the frames, but that creates a host of other problems to solve (mounting, wind, rain, etc.), so I think I’ll give your method a shot. Thanks for the inspiration and for doing much of the trial and error!

        2. James - Post author

          On our windows, the black parts of the window are underneath the velcro-ed on shades. So we don’t get any transmission of heat from them into the living space.
          Externally mounted shades will always perform better, but the pain in the butt factor of having to go outside in your pajamas to apply them rules them out for us!

    4. Scott Ellsworth

      Great video as usual. In case I don’t want to buy a sewing machine, and a heated cutting tool, etc., can you suggest a manufacturer or two that I can look at that make a similar custom product?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Vanmade Gear make quality stuff that we’ve used in our RV. They may or may not incorporate some or all of these features in their products.

        Reply
    5. Steve Hanson

      Great video, I’m in the middle of that design process right now for my rig so very timely.

      RE: magnets, you might look at magnetic labeling by the roll (available from Amazon or Uline). Its both flexible and continuous, comes 1″ and 2″ wide. I’m guessing (and hoping) that it will have enough attachment to hold curtains in place. Also, magnets will stick to just plain steel- I’m not being a smart aleck-but you could use a continuous piece of steel across the bottom of the screens.

      RE: sewing machines- while I would love a true walking foot machine I have done “recreational outdoor gear” sewing of heavy fabrics with my wife’s 35 year old Singer for years (just so you know, she doesn’t use it anymore now that he kids are gown). For those heavy corner overlaps I started using rivets at the corners and don’t even try to sew them anymore.

      I was hoping to see you in Denver but it doesn’t look like I’ll make it down there, hope you have a good time at the show.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Right on. I hope this helps you.
        If you’re using a 35 year old sewing machine, I’m guessing it’s largely mechanical. For this kind of work, that’s a very good thing! I started off with a newer machine that was a lot of plastic, even though it was sold as a “Heavy Duty” machine. Wound up selling that one. I didn’t need 13 different stitches. I needed one that would sew through wood. The Sailrite is all mechanical: there’s nothing on this machine I can’t see, oil, or adjust myself. Been loving it.

        Reply
        1. Brian Nystrom

          For regular sewing, my most reliable machine is Singer 201 that was made in 1941 and cost me ten bucks at a yard sale. I probably have another $10 in small replacement rubber parts and a couple of hours time to clean it up and lube it. It’s built like a tank, beautiful, and will certainly outlive me.

          For heavy-duty work, I have a Thompson Mini-Walker, which is the machine that the Sailrite models are based on. I’ve added some Sailrite upgrades to it and as you know, it will sew anything you can fit under the presser foot. Great machines!

    6. John

      James
      Not sure why you added screens to the window shades. Were there not screens already installed on the windows by Winnebago?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The Winnebago-supplied screens were part of the cassette blinds. When we took down the old blinds, the screens went with them.

        Reply
        1. Brian Nystrom

          If you don’t need screens, another option would be light-filtering fabric that provides some privacy, but lets light in.

    7. Adam Shinbrot

      I couldn’t understand the readings on your thermometer–thought it was in Kelvin? But of course you’re in Arizona and I’m in Minnesota. Never seen 157 degrees here! 🙂

      You’ve done such a great job sealing up your RV, do you think you might need some kind of air makeup system to prevent CO2 and other gas buildup inside at some point?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Down here, it’s a thing in the summer that elderly people fall, and get life threatening burns from the hot pavement if they can’t get up quickly enough. Surfaces in the sun can get hotter than the surrounding air. The highest air temp we’ve seen at home was 117.

        I’ve thought about an air exchange system on and off, but I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s enough air intrusion that I’m not too worried about it.
        Might be an interesting test though…

        Reply
    8. John

      I like your design, especially the screen zipper on the bottom! Maybe you can get VanMade Gear to modify their design to include that. My 2-cents

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks, John. Now that I’ve thrown the idea out there, I wouldn’t be surprised if someone includes it in their product going forward.

        Reply
    9. DR_S

      Excellent video! I wish I had the time and patience to do what you did – WOW! Thank you for sharing.

      Do your window coverings eliminate condensation? If not, what do you use to address this problem?

      Again, thank you for sharing your iterative process and outcome.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        The window coverings do reduce condensation, but I wouldn’t say they eliminate it.
        The reflective material is also water resistant. I think that’s mainly responsible for the reduction.
        On our door window, we do get some condensation there on really cold nights. But that one only seals up with magnets, so it doesn’t seal as tightly as the ones with velcro.
        We’re not getting any condensation on our dual-pane acrylic windows with these shades… but I wouldn’t say we couldn’t.

        Reply

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