Made in the Shade
How to reduce solar heat-soak inside a motorhome
Shade mesh, also described as shade cloth, appears in RVs in an infinite variety of uses as owners battle with hot sun streaming through windows during summer months.
The mesh blocks much or most of the sun’s rays while permitting visibility and admitting some light as well as airflow. It’s available in a variety of weaves that provide sun blockage ranging from 60 to 95 percent for just about any motorhome window. In the daytime, the mesh offers privacy, but at night it’s possible to see into a lighted interior, so curtains or blinds are still necessary. Also, with more sun blockage comes more limited airflow.
The material is PVC-coated polyester, which doesn’t necessarily have to be hemmed, as illustrated in the article on kits by EZ Snap Direct beginning on page 50, but hems may be required for other attachment methods.
The largest window challenge appears to be in motorhomes with expansive windshields. With a coach facing the sun on a hot day, the interior warms up fast. And windshields aren’t double-pane, as side windows often are, so the amount of heat that enters the interior can impact overall interior comfort. Warmth of the sun can be pleasant in winter, so mesh shades can be rolled up or packed away.
Large windows generally exacerbate the solar heating problem in a motorhome, and in extremely hot weather, tax the air-conditioning system to its maximum capacity. Motorhomes parked where direct sun enters through large windows are difficult to cool, especially if the windows have single-pane glass.
While the shade-mesh material works well in a broad variety of applications and in many colors, attachment methods vary. Many companies offer products for a variety of applications.
Among methods of attachment for windshield shades, twist-locks and snaps have been common for a number of years, usually requiring that the owner use a ladder while installing or removing. And the studs typically require screws. Fortunately, at least two companies offer mesh covers with methods that don’t require a ladder or screws:
RV Quick Shades (www.rvquickshades.com) offers a shade-mesh attachment with suction cups intended for attachment to the interior of the windshield. Ideally, the mesh blocks sun best when it’s on the outside, but the difference in sun protection is not substantial, according to the company, and installation/removal convenience is an important factor. While suction cups vary in quality, the cups used by this company hold up well and are inexpensive to replace. The company offers the same method for interior side windows and for wheel housings (tire protection).
Magne Shade (www.magneshade.com) builds mesh shades with perimeter pockets that contain magnets. Matching magnets are attached inside the windshield or window, and a telescoping wand is provided to lift a corner of the mesh into position so it will attract the appropriate magnet (no need for a ladder) after which the other magnet attachments are easy to position. Same method is used for side windows. The company also offers shades for tires.
Many other companies offer covers/shades for windshields and cockpit side windows, usually utilizing twist-locks, snaps or hook-and-loop attachments. Most of these windows are fitted on the interior with blinds and/or curtains that cannot be used on driver/passenger side windows in the cockpit while on the road. Roller shades using mesh, either motorized or manual, are the solution when in an RV park or while the motorhome is in storage.
Carefree of Colorado (www.carefreeofcolorado.com) offers motorized as well as manual roller shades for motorhome side windows along with an extensive line of patio awnings, awning drop shades, awning sideblockers and window awnings.
Awning Drop Shades and Sideblockers
Most awning rollers are fitted with utility grooves or slots into which a shade-mesh panel can be threaded, and many companies including Dometic (www.dometic.com), Carefree, Sunpro (www.sunpromfg.com), RVAwningsMart (www.rvawningsmart.com) and ShadePro (www.shadepro.net) offer mesh drop shades designed to fit those slots. Sunpro also offers a two-piece zip-off awning drop for motorized awnings that often are too high to reach. A top mesh panel is mounted in the awning groove and is rolled in or out with the awning, after which the large lower mesh panel can be zipped on.
In addition to mesh interior roller shades, Carefree markets exterior roller shades utilizing sunblocking mesh, while also offering conventional window awnings.
For do-it-yourselfers, bulk shade mesh, thread and other supplies are available from a number of companies, including Home Depot, Lowe’s, ShadeClothStore (www.shadeclothstore.com), Outdoor Fabric Store (www.outdoorfabricstore.com), Amazon (www.amazon.com), and Arizona Sun Supply (www.arizonasunsupply.com). Depending on the situation, bulk shade mesh can be cut to size and attached to awning fabric using clamps, for example, while the bottom ends can be staked to the ground using grommets in the fabric.
While a do-it-yourselfer may choose to work with unfinished bulk shade mesh, there may be a use for a hemmed tarp with grommets on all sides — a temporary awning for example. Suppliers include Canopies and Tarps (www.canopiesandtarps.com) and Tarps Plus (www.tarpsplus.com).
Use of mesh on windows and awnings can significantly improve comfort while lowering utility bills and wear and tear on the air-conditioning system.