Deciding which skoolie window options to go with is sometimes an afterthought when getting into a school bus conversion. However, the windows can make or break how comfortable a skoolie is, and then where skoolie window deletes are put in can limit the skoolie floorplan layout design options later on in the conversion.
In this skoolie window options guide, we go through:
- Types of Skoolie Windows
- School Bus Windows vs RV Windows in a Skoolie
- Making the Stock School Bus vs RV Window Decision
- How to Delete Skoolie Windows
- Ways to Insulate School Bus Windows
- How to Prevent Window Condensation
- When to Decide Your Skoolie Window Future
Our goal with this guide is to help you understand the decisions that should be made as you are doing the demo of a school bus and ways to stop skoolie window condensation, drafts, and heat transfer in a school bus conversion.
Types of Skoolie Windows
There are five main types of skoolie windows:
- Regular School Bus Windows
- RV Windows
- Windshield & Rear Windows
- Door Windows
Regular School Bus Windows
Regular school bus windows keep a skoolie looking like a school bus. The classic character of school bus windows on a school bus keeps it from looking too much like just another RV in the shape of a school bus.
However, school bus windows have their problems. They are drafty since they don’t seal the best, sometimes they don’t close all the way, and they are single pane glass so they don’t do much insulating – rather they just keep most of the wind from blowing in.
For all of these reasons mentioned, some decide to put in more work, time, and money replacing the stock school bus windows with RV windows. However, there are some important notes on RV windows we need to cover so you don’t end up with the same outcome after all that extra work, time, and money is invested.
RV windows, such as the ones you can get from RecPro and other companies here can be more efficient and better insulators than school bus windows, if you get the right ones. However, RV windows in school bus conversion can add significant cost to the build. We will dive much deeper into the pros and cons of swapping out school bus windows for RV windows in the next section, School Bus Windows vs RV Windows in a Skoolie.
Windshield & Rear Windows
The stock school bus windshield is the one window we can’t do much about besides working to cover and insulate it from allowing the extremely hot or cold from radiating off of it into the skoolie, depending on the season you are in.
The rear windows on the back of the bus, the rear emergency door, and the wheelchair door if the bus has one are the windows that are more difficult to do something new or different. They could be capped or insulated with one of the ways below, but they are different sizes than regular school bus windows and the rear windows can have an angle to them, making them unique and harder to deal with.
Most school bus doors don’t do much besides provide some security. The doors allow bugs to crawl through the cracks since most of them don’t seal well and this also is where cold or hot air can travel into the bus. Speaking of hot, school bus doors get extremely hot when baking in the summer sun.
For all of these reasons, plus the fact that they provide almost no insulation from the elements, we highly recommend working to find a normal insulated exterior house door that fits into the opening of your skoolie or building your own.
Skylights can bring more light into a skoolie, making the space feel bigger and less cramped. It is important to note that most skoolie skylights are single pane, most often a form of plexiglass. Since they are single pane, they are less efficient at preventing heat transfer. This can make the skoolie hotter in the summer and colder in the winter around this skylight. Also, condensation will most likely occur if left uncovered with some type of insulation in the winter, due to the heat rising to hit the window with cold air on the outside.
One way we prevent this is with these Camco RV vent insulators and skylight covers with built-in reflective surfaces and a thick foam insulating pad.
Here is our guide on installing skylights: How to Install Skoolie Skylights.
School Bus Windows vs RV Windows in a Skoolie
As previously mentioned, the school bus windows aren’t the best insulators, can be drafty, and will most likely condensate in cold climates or with an air conditioner on int hot weather.
These facts are well known and we have worked to figure out ways to prevent this as we will get into the Ways to Insulate School Bus Windows and How to Prevent Skoolie Window Condensation sections to come.
However, many people love the look of a skoolie with the stock school bus windows.
There are also both pros and cons to RV windows in skoolies, too. If using RV windows, most of them are single pane windows having many of the same issues as school bus windows. The main issue single pane RV windows solve is the draft issue of school bus windows not sealing properly.
Double pane RV windows would be the way to go, but they are expensive compared to other options that can be done to stock school bus windows – which we will get into later on in this article.
Making the Stock School Bus vs RV Window Decision
The only way to get the best improvement over school bus windows for the money is to invest in double pane RV windows. These double pane RV windows can be expensive and should really only be considered if the goal is full-time living in extreme weather conditions, either hot or cold.
Single pane RV windows will essentially have the same properties as the single pane stock school bus windows. The only difference will be how well the RV windows will seal. Depending on the size of the skoolie, it can take a significant amount of time and money to replace single-pane school bus windows with single-pane RV windows, just to stop the windows from having a draft.
This is why Sarah and I decided to just keep the school bus windows. We have lived 3 years going through 90° F and hotter summer weather to below 0° F winter weather for extended periods of time. As I write this, we are coming out of our 3rd winter living full-time in the skoolie with stock school bus windows.
The first winter was brutal as we didn’t treat the raw school bus windows at all and we didn’t have our skoolie heat systems nailed down. The second winter we added insulated curtains and Reflectix, which helped.
Going into this third year, we remodeled our bedroom, installed insulated shutters over the bedroom windows, and installed a DIY second pane over some of the windows at the front of the bus. The school bus windows don’t even phase us anymore with this system in place now and all of these improvements cost less than 2 RV windows would have cost us.
Skoolie Roof Raise + RV Windows
If the time and money are going to go into a skoolie roof raise, the decision to upgrade to RV windows is almost a no-brainer. Since all of the windows need to be removed and new sheet metal is wrapped around the entire bus, it would be wise to invest the money into RV windows in this scenario – even if just going with single pane RV windows.
In this situation, RV windows would most likely be easier to cut in and install into the new sheet metal. The improved sealing even in just single-pane RV windows would help with efficiently heating the increased amount of interior space created by the roof raise. Also, the size and placement of the windows can be improved and adjusted to better suit the floor plan.
How to Delete Skoolie Windows
There are a few ways to delete skoolie windows. We detailed our method in this guide: How To Cap Windows On A School Bus Conversion
Ways to Insulate School Bus Windows
If you plan to stick with the stock school bus windows, there are four main ways to insulate them in the summer or winter to prevent the heat from the sun or cold from the winter climate from significantly impacting the temperature inside the skoolie. These four ways are:
- Reflectix or Other Reflective Material
- Insulated Curtains
- Double Pane with Plexiglass
- Insulated Window Shutters
Reflectix or Other Reflective Material
Reflectix or reflective window material is the most common and easiest way people in skoolies, vans, and even RVs insulate windows. This shiny, metallic-looking thick bubble wrap type of material really does wonders in blocking the radiating heat or cold from windows. Although reflective material doesn’t fully prevent the drafts that may come from school bus windows, we highly recommend every skoolie has a roll of reflective window material or a piece of Reflectix specifically cut and ready for each window.
Insulated curtains are a good method to add an additional layer over the Reflectix. This will cover the Reflectix with a more homey feeling, while also providing another layer of insulation to block some of the drafts.
Keep in mind that if used alone, these curtains may collect condensation from the windows, potentially causing the cloth material to absorb the moisture. This happened to ours and cause stains, so we highly recommend having Reflectix against the windows then the insulated curtains covering the Reflectix.
Check out our guide to making custom insulated curtains: How To Make Insulated Skoolie Window Curtains
Double Pane with Plexiglass
Our favorite method to insulate school bus windows is adding a second pane to them with plexiglass. This not only will completely stop the draft of school bus windows, but it allow all of the daylight to still shine through. Honestly, you can’t even tell there is plexiglass covering our windows with this method.
The best part is we made this modification after our build was complete, so this can be implemented as long as you can add some trim around your windows or mount the plexiglass to existing trim you might already have installed if your skoolie is already finished.
The plexiglass will still have a warm or cool feeling when touching it if you are in extreme temperature climates, so we recommend using Reflectix or even some light curtains on those extremely cold or hot days as needed. However, most of the time we put up Reflectix over our double-pane school bus windows at night for privacy.
How-to Guide: DIY Double-Pane School Bus Windows for Skoolies
Insulated Window Shutters
One of the warmest and most private ways to insulate school bus windows in a skoolie is with insulated window shutters. These window shutters in our bedroom area completely block the drafts from the windows, any cold or heat from transferring, and do the best job at insulating. They also have the added benefit of working to block out any sunlight if you want to sleep in while being able to slide down during the day to let light in or even still be able to open the window.
How-to Guide: DIY School Bus Window Shutter for Skoolies
How to Prevent Skoolie Window Condensation
Skoolie window condensation when in staying colder weather is almost inevitable. However, we have found that the double-pane plexiglass method is the best way to cover school bus windows when in cold climates and have no condensation. The second best method is the window shutter method, which will only condensate if there is not a good seal behind the sliding shutter to the bottom panel blocking the bottom of the window.
When to Decide Your Skoolie Window Future
It is almost impossible to change out windows when interior construction around them is already underway. Not impossible, but changing paths can definitely cause setbacks, increased costs, and obstacles to overcome.
With that said, we would highly recommend making a decision on the skoolie window options you are going to go with by the time you are into the demo process. The ideal timing is when other build planning items are being considered like what size school bus to buy and if you will do a skoolie roof raise or not, or at least when beginning to design a skoolie floor plan.
If we had to do it all over again, we would choose to install the double-pane plexiglass method or shutter method during the build process and not after the build was complete. This way we could ensure these are built to seal and operate even better than what we were able to do with having everything built out around the windows already.
Would we do RV windows in a skoolie build? Potentially. It would depend on how we would use the skoolie and if we had the extra cash to buy double pane RV windows. Otherwise, we would stick to the double-pane plexiglass and insulated window shutter options to save time, save money, and keep the classic school bus look.