How to Heat And Cool an Airstream Travel Trailer

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I’ve written before about how we stay warm in our Airstream travel trailer, but we did things a bit differently this year. Plus, the weather is changing– thank god– and I’ve been getting more questions about how we both heat and cool our Airstream. So, I thought it might be a good idea to do a little update on the subject.

How We Heat The Airstream Travel Trailer
To give you a little background, we live in North Carolina. North Carolina is the south, but we do have all four seasons. It usually snows at least once during the winter, but there isn’t snow on the ground all winter long.

The first year we lived in the Airstream we had an original AC unit that did not have a heating coil. Originally, our Airstream was heated with propane. We currently hook our Airstream up to electricity full-time because at the moment, we do not take our trailer on the road and we do not want to use propane.

Therefore, the first winter, we simply used two space heaters to keep our home warm. (We use two older models of this space heater.) I was never uncomfortably cold, but the situation was not ideal either. We did use heated blankets and some other methods to take the chill off. (Read more about those methods here.) This past year our original AC unit died, so we invested in a Coleman Mach III and a ceiling kit. (The ceiling kit is the bottom part of the AC unit. I was unable to find the exact unit we used online. The one I linked to is not our exact unit, but a similar one that fits with the Mach III.)

When the fall rolled around, we also invested in a heat kit for the unit. We installed everything ourselves by using the instructions the units came with and we bought the parts on Amazon. We were much warmer with the heat kit. In the morning, we still used a space heater in the bathroom to take the chill off, but the heat kit made a huge difference.

If we were going to do a lot of travelling and dry camping (or boondocking as the full-timers call it!) with our trailer in the winter, I would have considered using a wood stove from my friends at Tiny Wood Stove. They are great people and firewood is pretty easy to find on the road.

Now let’s cool it down!

How We Cool The Airstream Travel Trailer
In North Carolina, the humidity is high and summer can be consistently in the 90s. The Airstream is also basically a huge tin can. A small dog and my sanity make cooling the trailer an essential task.

Again, that first year we made do with our original air conditioning unit and a fan, but it could get uncomfortably warm. We used an extra, vintage fan at night. (Similar one here.) When our old unit kicked the bucket, we installed the Coleman Mach III that I mentioned before. And although the cost of a new unit hurt, that new unit worked so much better than the old one.

Some additional tips
With our new heating and cooling unit, the Airstream is a comfortable temperature year-round. If I had to do it all over again, I would have added a thicker insulation under our floors. We also chose a thicker fabric for our curtains that has been immensely helpful in keeping out drafts from the windows.

Any more questions? Comment below!


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16 thoughts on “How to Heat And Cool an Airstream Travel Trailer

  1. Claudia

    Hi, I’m Claudia! I just wanted to say that I love your blogg, because it makes me feel like an expert 😁. Me and my boyfriend are saving up for an airstream and put it on his grandparents land too! I was just curious about how much was your budget was when rebuilding your home? And do you think a caliche would be great to where we wanna park it (for now)??
    Again you’re an awesome blogger! (:

    1. melanie Post author

      Hi Claudia, thanks for reading! Our budget was $1,000, but we did go over the budget and spend about $1,500. I’m going to do an in-depth post about how we kept our budget relatively low soon. I think you reached out to me via email too. I’m not familiar with a caliche. Our land has a lot of roots and is fairly stable, so we simply used some concrete blocks to keep it off the ground. We did have a bit of settling when we first put the trailer on the blocks, but we haven’t had much since then and it’s been coming up on 3 years. Hope this helps!

  2. Courtney

    Great tips! My husband and I just moved into our Airstream 2 weeks ago. We’re in Tucson Arizona so while we don’t have to worry about keeping warm, keeping cool will become a priority here soon. I might look into thicker fabric when we redo our curtains (I hadn’t thought of that) and we’re planning on putting some reflectex on the worse hit windows. Not looking forward to the 110 degree days even with an AC.

    Thank you for being an inspiration of what someone who wants to live small can do. 🙂 I’ll be checking out more of your tips and tricks for sure!

    1. melanie Post author

      Courtney, the thicker fabric does help. I can imagine you’ll want to keep your shades down for at least part of the day to help keep it cool. Good luck and thanks for reading!

    2. Jillian

      Courtney, I’m looking at Arizona for grad school and am thinking of moving into an airstream for my time there. Are there good options for parking/land in Tucson? Any advice would be great. I’m still a year out, but I’m starting to get my ducks in a row.

      1. Courtney

        Hi Jillian
        Very exciting! We’re taking the easy route since we’re both still working full time and staying at the local KOA which is open year round but it is expensive. There are a lot of other parks around though, just be sure they’re not 55+ (majority are) and check on when their open since many are closed all summer. Tucson gets VERY busy in the winter with lots of RVers coming down for the warm weather so places book up! We’ve already reserved a spot thru February so we won’t have to move week to week while we’re still here.
        There is a little bit of boondocking around but I don’t know much about it. As for land, I haven’t done much research into whether there are people with land letting others boondock/camp on their property but I wouldn’t be surprised if there were. Being a year out I’d think you should be able to find something that works for you. Every season (besides summer) here is gorgeous and should be great for an airstream life 🙂 Good luck and contact me if you have more questions!

  3. Sarah

    Hi Melanie,
    Did you replace your airstream’s original fiberglass insulation? If so, with what?
    Many thanks!

  4. Anthony

    Good morning, nice information about living full time in a airstream, I’m doing a 1972 sovereign international land yacht, it’s a beast, have to replace air conditioning unit as well, I’m doing a complete restoration, really enjoy seeing and hearing others ideas. The bathroom area has been the most time consuming part as far as planning goes, have a ways to go yet ,but can’t wait to see it finished. I can relate to the weather as well, I’m in coastal NC, very humid. Thanks to all who read this, enjoy your campers.

  5. Leslie Hill

    Hey there! Cool stuff here. I am wondering about if you have a dump station on your land or how you take care of plumbing and waste issues. We have an Avion and want to do what you are doing. We have land, but it does not have improvements yet. We would like to some day build a small home, but till then, we have debt–also from buying the used Avion–like the Airstream, but they don’t make them anymore.

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