RV Air Conditioner


July 3, 2023

Are you traveling and planning to buy an AC for your RV road trip on the coming vacation days? Have your friends enticed you to get an RV for a cross-country excursion? 

Maybe you want to know more about RV AC units to make sure your trip is comfortable and cool. If that’s the case, then this article is written for you. 

When you rent or buy a camper, you may focus more on the utilities inside the vehicle and casually ask if there’s an AC. But did you know that learning your RV’s type of AC unit is also important?

You might have questions like: what are the types of AC for an RV, how much does one costs, and how to choose a suitable air conditioning unit for your RV?

This article provides a guide on choosing the right air conditioner for your RV and gives you a list of AC brands. This article also gives a rundown on how much an AC costs, and tips on maintaining your AC unit, especially during road trips and camping. 

RV camping and road trips are some of the most fulfilling and exciting vacations you can make. The United States has a lot of unique locations, and you can appreciate them more when you travel by land. 

If you need a handy destination locator to plan your next road trip, you can visit AreaGuides.net. You’ll have access to an updated online directory of vacation destinations, restaurants, hotels, and businesses that’ll make your road trip enjoyable.

Types of RV Air Conditioners

An RV or recreational vehicle is a mobile home on wheels. Just like your home, it’s good to have air conditioning units installed. The two main types of air conditioners installed in RVs are duct and ductless. 


A ducted air conditioning system uses ducts (tubes and pipes that carry moving air) to connect more than one AC unit in your RV. 

Because of the interconnecting ducts, this AC type can manage hot and cold airflow in multiple rooms. These ACs are usually installed on the vehicle’s roof and have ducts that go to different rooms inside your RV. 

The pros of using ducted air conditioners are:

  • You’ll have better air circulation
  • You can manage humidity better
  • You can have a low-profile AC system because the ducts can be hidden inside the walls or ceiling of your camper
  • The AC is good for larger RVs with multiple rooms

The cons of ducted air conditioning are:

  • You can’t have a different zone of cooling or heating 
  • The ducts can be harder to clean regularly, which can lead to dust buildup 


A ductless or non-ducted AC system doesn’t use multiple vents to cool the interior. Instead, these AC units have a condenser, compressor, and blower that push air through the vents in different locations inside the motorhome. 

Usually, ductless AC units are rooftop RV air conditioners (rooftop AC units), under-the-bench, or window AC units. 

Here are the advantages of ductless air conditioning:

  • Multiple cooling zones
  • Option to choose for energy efficiency
  • Easy installation and suitable for small RVs

Here are the disadvantages of having ductless AC:

  • Every unit must be cleaned and maintained
  • Has less air movement
  • Each unit will take space inside a camper

How to Choose an RV Air Conditioner

Choosing the air conditioner for your RV might not be an option when renting, but you can base what camper or motorhome you’ll rent on their AC unit. 

But if you’ve bought a camper, check out the following tips to help you decide what AC you’ll install. 

  • Choose whether you want a ducted or ductless air conditioning system
  • Choose the type of AC depending on the size and type of your RV, and its energy capacity
  • Choose the type of AC depending on the baseline BTU air conditioner

What Size AC Do I Need for My RV?

AC size means the cooling capacity of an air conditioning unit, not the physical size of the unit itself. An AC’s cooling capacity is important for an RV, especially during summer road trips.  

The cooling capacity of an AC is measured in British thermal units or BTUs. To calculate the approximate size of your AC unit, you can use this simple formula:

Room area in sq. ft. x 20 BTU = Approximate AC size

Note: An air conditioner needs approximately 20 BTUs for every square foot of space. If you want exact calculations, you can use online BTU calculators. 

Lightweight vs. Heavyweight AC Units

You’ll need a good AC unit when you use an RV, especially during hot weather. But any extra weight you add to your camper has additional costs for gas. 

There are two kinds of AC units today, lightweight and heavyweight. Any AC unit that’s about 100 lbs is considered heavyweight. Any AC below 100 lbs is lightweight. 

It’s efficient to have lightweight ACs in your camper to maximize gas mileage. 

Secondary Factors When Buying an RV Air Conditioner

Besides the type and weight of the AC, there are other things you should think about when choosing an air conditioner for your RV.

It’s important to know the electrical requirements of your AC unit. You’ll also need to have heating, especially when you plan to travel during the fall and winter seasons. 

How Much Does an Air Conditioner Cost for an RV?

The cost of an air conditioning unit for an RV depends on the brand. Usually, a unit will cost around $700 to $1,400. 

Aside from the AC unit, you’ll need to pay for the installation fee and labor which can cost around $200 to $600. 

The cost will also depend on the unit type, the necessary modifications in your RV to accommodate the unit, and miscellaneous fees during installation. 

Reliability: Which RV Air Conditioner Brands Are the Best?

The best air conditioning brand revolves around reliability. An AC unit that constantly breaks down and needs continuous repairs is a nightmare. You’ll always have to spend money on reinstallations every now and then. 

The best sellers show reliability and quality. The following are some examples of AC brands with proven track records of these traits. 

Dometic RV Air Conditioner

Dometic air conditioners are popular because of their easy installation, improved airflow, and better cooling capability. This AC brand comes in ductless and ducted types. 

Airxcel RV Air Conditioner

The Airxcel AC has excellent heat pumps. The company produces low and ultra-low profiles, perfect for small RVs with limited space. 

Advent RV Air Conditioner

The Advent brand boasts a lightweight, ductless air conditioning unit. It won’t have a significant toll on your RV because it doesn’t weigh much. 

It’s also easy to install and is specifically made for recreational vehicles, campers, or trailers. 

Atwood RV Air Conditioner

Atwood air conditioners have ducted units that are quieter than the competition. Their units have digital temperature readouts, temperature control, and a wireless remote that lets you manage your AC unit from anywhere in the RV. 

Coleman RV Air Conditioner

The Coleman brand is labeled as the world’s most potent AC unit for your RVs. They are also marketed as having the highest cooling output in the market that anyone can buy. A big brand with significant promise.

Best Air Conditioners for Your RV

Knowing the big brands in RV air conditioning, here are some examples of AC unit models. 

Coleman Mach 15+

The Coleman Mach 15+ is a powerful AC unit that can cool large RVs. It has a 15,000 BTU capacity and can be used for ducted systems. This model also has an optional heater unit with 5,600 BTUs of heating output. Your trips during the cold nights will always feel cozy and warm. 

The downside to this model is that the unit doesn’t include a thermostat, is expensive compared to other models, and only comes in one color, polar white. 

Dometic Brisk II

When you want a reliable AC unit for small RVs, you can check out Dometic Brisk II. 

This brand markets itself as lightweight. But it has 13,500 BTUs of cooling power covering small RVs and campers in moderate conditions. This unit is also one of the best-selling AC models on Amazon.

The downside to this model is that it can’t effectively cool larger RVs in hot conditions. There are also reviews saying that this unit is louder compared to other models.  

Dometic Brisk II (B59516.XX1J0)

This brand is an RVers’ lightweight AC. It weighs only 74 pounds, and with 15,000 BTUs, it can keep an RV cool even during the summer heat. 

It’s an appealing unit with its affordable price, reliability, and competent performance. 

The drawback to this AC is that it isn’t designed to have a heating unit. So you can only use it during hot seasons and in warmer states. 

Coleman Mach 3+

The Coleman Mach 3+ is best when you need a reliable heating unit but don’t need high-capacity performance. It’s cheaper than other brands but can deliver 320 cubic feet of air every minute. The drawback to this unit is that it’s noisier than other unit models. 

Recpro RP-AC2801

The Recpro is a good choice if you need a low-profile AC unit for your camper. It’s 9 inches higher than your RV’s roof. It also has a remote and a timer and has a quiet profile. 

The downside to this model is that it has a 9,500 BTU, which is lower than other units on this list. 

Airxcel Mach 3 Plus

This unit is marketed as the best of the Coleman and Dometic brands. It has a 13,500 BTU, which is suitable for small RVs. You can also switch to heating during cold nights. 

Furrion Chill

The Furrion Chill unit has a 15,500 BTU capacity making it fully capable of cooling even large RVs. You won’t need to worry about the summer heat with this air conditioning unit. It has a dual fan system and weighs over 100 pounds. 

Advent Acm150

In our list of AC units, this is easily one of the cheapest you can buy. 

AC units, including installation fees, can quickly go up to $1,000 and more. But this unit costs less than $700. The drawback is that because of its affordable price, its quality and reliability may not be on par with other more expensive models in this list. 

How RV A/C Maintenance Makes Camping Better

The reliability and good performance of AC units depend on their proper maintenance. Here are some essential tips to make sure that your RV’s AC unit works properly and is reliable. 

1. Inspect the RV A/C Cover

Inspecting the AC cover is the first step in proper air conditioning maintenance. The cover and air filters should be inspected regularly to check for accumulated dust, which can clog your AC and cause lower performance.

2. Check for Leaks

Always check for refrigerant leaks in your AC unit. It’s one of the worst problems an air conditioning unit can encounter. 

There may be holes or ruptures in the hoses in your system that can lead to water seeping into the unit. Leaks can affect cool air production and cause problems in the heat strip, thermostat, and other vital components of an AC unit. 

3. Straight Fins Are the Key

Fins in your air conditioners should be straight, so the AC has optimal airflow. These fins can be accidentally bent due to debris. 

Bent fins can also collect dirt. You can clean these fins by spraying them with water mixed with mild soap. You can also use a vacuum cleaner. 

4. Recharging Isn’t Possible

There are times when air conditioning units have recharging issues. If this happens, you should ask for advice from AC technicians on what to do and their recommendations on the next step. 

5. Filters Can (and Should) Be Washed

Never forget to clean your AC unit’s filters. Dust and other contaminants get lodged in those filters, and it can directly affect the flow of air in your RVs. 

You should thoroughly clean your AC unit’s filter every six months. But, if you use the unit regularly, then a monthly filter cleaning day would be very helpful. 

Maintenance and Troubleshooting Tips

You don’t know when an emergency or a problem with your AC might happen. It can happen today or tomorrow. 

So, you should know how to prevent it from happening or quickly resolve it. You should know how to do maintenance and troubleshooting to make the most out of your RV experience. 

You don’t want to spend hundreds or thousands of dollars for repairs because you didn’t know how to clean filters or didn’t recognize serious issues. 

Before you troubleshoot your RV, you should also put into consideration the following:

  • Is the RV insured? What part of the vehicle is insured?
  • What are the problems encountered? How can these issues affect vehicle handling and performance?
  • Do you still have the RVs instruction manual?

Periodic Maintenance

This type of maintenance is done on a periodic basis, which can be monthly, or every two or three months. You should remember that RVs with AC units are vehicles that need constant care. 

During your periodic maintenance, you should:

  • Always inspect the interior and exterior for any damages
  • Check out for leaks
  • Always make sure that no dirt and grime get lodged in the drainage systems of the AC
  • Check other AC parts, like your capacitor, air distribution box, and other essential areas in the cockpit
  • Always check filters, and understand the vehicle’s warranty

Troubleshooting Your RV Air Conditioner

You’ll focus mainly on two areas when troubleshooting your RV’s air conditioning unit. The cooling area and the power area. 


  • Always remember the 20-degree difference between indoor and outdoor temperatures. An AC won’t cool an interior to more than 20 degrees compared to the temperature outside. 
  • To confirm that the proper temperature is achieved, you should always inspect your thermostat. 
  • You can use gadgets like a digital thermostat to check the temperature levels inside your RV. 

Power Issues

  • Check your electrical wiring, fuses, and breakers.
  • Make sure that your AC is properly connected to the power lines inside your RV.
  • Make sure that your breakers are in working order. 

Other RV Air Conditioner Tips

Here are other RV air conditioner tips that you’ll find useful every day. It’s best if you remember these tips, which also came from experts who have shared their experiences online. 

Make Sure That You Have Enough Power

Air conditioners rely on sufficient power to work properly and efficiently. If an RV doesn’t have the necessary power, then it can create problems with your AC. These problems can lead to bigger issues if not handled immediately.  

Use a Soft Starter

You can use a soft starter to make sure your AC unit starts up properly without problems. With the soft starter, you’ll minimize the damage caused by underpowered units. 

Track Your Maintenance

Always have a record of the maintenance you’ve done on your RVs and your AC units. By recording this information, you can notice patterns, or you might get an idea of the lingering problems of your vehicle and its AC unit. 

You’ll also have enough time to prepare for these problems and prevent them from happening often.

Stay Cool This Summer

Air conditioners are made specifically to make those hot summer days cool, especially during road trips, where you’re constantly exposed to the sun’s hot rays while on the road. 

You’ll definitely feel comfortable when you’re driving in your RV or camper in hot climates, supplied by your AC unit that’s well-maintained and inspected by you. 


  1. How do I power the A/C unit?

You can use a soft starter to power your AC unit without exposing it to problems due to low energy or current inside your vehicle. 

You should always check your power before you start your air conditioner or before you plan your road trip. 

  1. Can I install the A/C unit myself?

Yes, you can if you have the skill or tools to do it. But if you don’t have both, it’s best to get the help of professionals in this business. Remember that AC units are important add-ons to any vehicle, and proper installation is needed for efficiency and safety. 

  1. Can an air conditioning unit be used to heat my RV?

Yes, you can. There are AC units that have heaters built into their systems. 

You can just switch from cold to hot whenever you need it. But some AC units don’t have a built-in heating unit, so you’ll need to install a separate one if needed. 

  1. Can you use a portable A/C in an RV?

Yes, you can if you have the energy to run a portable AC unit in your RV. 

You’ll need to have a suitable generator to make your AC work. Also, the additional weight of portable AC units must be considered, as any extra weight means extra fuel costs. 

  1. What is a good AC unit for RV?

A good AC unit for an RV is one that’s reliable, durable, and efficient. These requirements depend on the AC unit’s capacity and the type of RV you have. 

The AC unit must be fit for the size of an RV to make sure that it’s effective, reliable, and durable. 

  1. Does RV AC use a lot of electricity?

Power consumption depends on the type of AC you have, the frequency of use, and the length of each use. 

In most cases, AC units consume the most energy in an RV. You’re expected to spend 700 watts to 1.5 kilowatts of energy. 

Now that you’ve understood the basics of air conditioners for RVs, you can choose one and start your journey. 

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