How To Choose The Right RV AC Unit For Your Needs?

What is the best size for an RV Air Conditioner unit, how much does it cost, and how do you install it? These questions are very common for people looking to purchase a powerful unit for their RV air conditioners. Consider these factors before investing in one.

What is A Good AC Unit For A Recreational Vehicle?

When choosing the best RV Air Conditioner units, you have to look at three specific factors, namely:

  1. Strong cooling power. BTU per hour measures its capacity. The RV air conditioner must be strong enough to cool down the entire vehicle, even during heatwaves. That means they need a cooling effect of at least 12,000 BTU/hr.
  2. Reliability. It would be best to look for brands that have proven themselves the most reliable- with a long and successful track record for quality performance.
  3. Weight. A typical RV air conditioner can weigh 150 pounds or more. Lightweight RV air conditioners below 100 lbs will somewhat reduce gas consumption.

Secondary Factors When Choosing The Best RV Air Conditioner

Along with BTUs, reliability, and weight, you should also consider:

  • Electrical requirements. The standard voltage for RVs is 115 V / 60 Hz.
  • Optional heating function. In addition to cooling, some RV-AC units can also provide heat. The feature is especially handy during colder summer nights or using an RV in the winter.

What Type of Powerful RV Air Conditioners Are There?

To choose the right instrument for your rig, you need to determine what parameters you should workaround. Powerful RV air conditioners fall into two categories: a ducted or ductless system. Don’t forget modern technology – portable air conditioners are becoming more popular with RVs as a viable alternative to the traditional air conditioning system. Which one you purchase depends on the size of your vehicle.


Air circulates through walls, ceilings, and floors inside an RV’s ductless air conditioner, allowing it to operate with more than one cooling system. For larger RVs, you should opt for a ducted unit.


A ductless system installs its unit, usually under a bench, inside a window, or in a wall opening. Ductless units send constant airflow through roof vents or multiple vents. Roof vents force air into small spaces and are typically directional. The vents also open and close easily. A ductless unit may also act as a heat pump due to aerodynamic casings, compressors, condensers, and blower components.

What Size of RV Air Conditioner Do I Need?

The answer depends on your lifestyle. If traveling to hot and humid areas, an RV AC unit with a higher BTU rating is better. An air conditioning unit’s BTU rating tells you how much power it needs to cool a room. However, most RV air conditioners come equipped with 13,000 BTUs, which is plenty for most 32-footer RVs. A standard air conditioner unit with 13,000 BTUs might not be adequate for larger RVs. Adding a second unit is recommended if you plan to stay in a particularly hot place.

For the great majority of RV owners, this should serve as a guideline when choosing a size of air conditioner unit:

  • 10,000 BTUs. Too weak to properly cool down an RV in the summer heat.
  • 15,000 BTUs. Just right, even for heatwaves.
  • 20,000 BTUs. Overkill; electricity and unit costs are unnecessarily high.

How Do You Install Powerful RV Air Conditioners?

The first step in installing an RV air conditioner is to remove the old unit. Pull out the shroud, which is a shield that covers the interior parts of the unit. You may need a screwdriver for this. Next, you must unbolt the unit from its mounting hardware. You must place the metal frame for ceiling assemblies and secure it with four long bolts. You should follow the installation instructions provided in the owner’s manual to go as smoothly as possible.

Firstly, unplug the existing breaker box. Ensure you have a 15-amp circuit breaker installed in the RV breaker box. Then, connect the white wire to the common bus strip. Remove the green bonding screw. Then, connect the white wire to the common bus strip. You must also ensure that the common and ground circuits connect to the shore power source. Next, install the new circuit breaker in the RV breaker box and flip it on.

How Much Is An Air Conditioner Unit For An RV Camper?

When shopping for a powerful RV air conditioner, it is important to remember that more expensive does not always mean better. An older model RV air conditioner uses less amperage and may not be as effective, but it will still provide adequate cooling. To make buying an RV AC unit easier, we have compiled a handy buyer’s guide that cuts out the confusion and offers clear straightforward information.

When shopping for an RV air conditioner unit, you should first determine how much square footage your RV has. The square footage of your RV determines how many BTUs the unit will need to operate. The higher the BTUs, the more cooling power it will have. If you’re going to use the AC unit for several hours a day, you’ll want a high-powered BTU model, as they typically consume less energy.

What Is The Lifespan Of An RV Air Conditioner?

Luckily, you can take a few easy steps to help it last longer. The first is shutting off the power. That means disconnecting your RV from the campsite electrical hookup and turning off the breaker to your air conditioner. This way, there is no power going to your air conditioner unit. However, if you leave your RV in the sun, the interior will become hotter.

Second, remember that the average lifespan of an RV air conditioner is between three and five years. Its lifespan depends on the unit’s brand, quality, and how often you use it. The best RV air conditioner can last up to 10 years, but that depends on the unit type and how you maintain it. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations and choose the correct size unit for the vehicle.

Should Powerful RV Air Conditioners Be Set To High Or Low?

The answer depends on the size and model of your RV. Larger RVs require a large air conditioner, while smaller campers only need a small RV air conditioner. Many RV owners alternate between two different types of AC units to ensure energy efficiency. Some use high and low air conditioning levels, and some use a combination of both.

Check your owner’s manual to discover which setting is best for your RV. You can read the easy installation steps from the manual. First, remove the old AC unit and RV roof vent. Then, strip away old caulking and sealant. Be sure the new unit fits tightly, and you match the existing wiring to your AC. If you start from scratch, you’ll need to install new wiring.

Second, make sure your air conditioner is strong enough to cool your RV. It should have a cooling capacity of at least 12,000 BTU/hr. Look for a brand with a good reputation. Also, make sure to check the weight of the unit. Lighter units have higher fuel efficiency. As a general rule, keep the air conditioning unit on high to keep it cool.

How To Maintain My Air Conditioning Unit?

Before working on an air conditioning unit, you should consult your RV service plans and warranty. The warranty center will advise you on what steps to take to get help with your air conditioner if your unit is under warranty. For information on maintaining your RV-AC, consult your manual. Remember to take proper precautions whenever you are working with anything electric. 

Periodic maintenance

Here are ways to ensure your AC Units stay up to date:

Filter Changes

  • Maintaining RV air conditioners in good working order begins with changing the air filter, which is the most straightforward of all the tasks. The process is as easy as removing a piece of the ceiling assembly, pulling out the dirty filter, cleaning it, or replacing it with a new one.
  • It will help if you do this at least once a month while the air conditioner runs before and after every camping trip.

Checking the Coils

  • It is possible to peek into the unit when it is filtered out. Make sure the area is free of dirt or dust by shining a flashlight. Clean up any debris with a stiff bristle brush attachment on your vacuum if you see any.

Cleaning the Exterior

  • As a final step, make sure you clean the outside of your air conditioning unit once every year. After removing the shroud, clean the condenser coils by blowing out the debris with compressed air.

How To Troubleshoot Your RV Air Conditioner?

Here are two issues that are common to RV air conditioners:


  • Keep in mind the 20-degree difference in temperature. RV air conditioners cannot cool an interior temperature higher than 20 degrees below the outdoors.
  • Verify that the thermostat settings are correct and there are no obstructions to the temperature sensors.
  • Use a digital thermometer to check the air temperature coming from the RV roof vents. If the air registers are hot or are not cooling as expected, there might be a slow coolant leak or a faulty component. Record the RV-AC temperature after it operates for about 15 minutes on high. The best thing is to hire a technician to repair the cooling system, but give professional details such as temperature ratings. 

Power Issues

  • Check the breaker box for tripped breakers. Switch the breakers back on if they have been off.
  • Check and replace blown fuses.
  • Check your shore power source (connection and breakers). Test the voltage at the inlet of your RV using a multimeter.

No one can predict unexpected RV problems or unplanned repairs. However, the manufacturer’s suggestions will help keep your systems running smoothly for longer.

Is Portable RV Air Conditioner A Better Option?

Consider these four options.

1. Rooftop Air Conditioner

It is a popular choice. Because it resides on the RV roof, this air conditioner doesn’t take up extra space in the RV. Rooftop air conditioners typically produce a BTU capacity between 5,000 and 15,000 per hour. It is a modest number considering that more than 30% of energy passes through vents. A rooftop air conditioner unit can cool a space 10 feet by 50 feet.

The unit operates by the outside air and runs through your RV. Since it uses a lot of power, it’s a poor choice if you’re conserving energy or would like to camp off the grid. They are also expensive to repair. Air conditioners on roofs are usually exposed to moist air, leading to rust and possible bacterial growth.

Moreover, they are difficult to install for the average person. Installing some of these items requires a team of two or more people because they can weigh up to 100 pounds. Besides the wires and vents, it has a lot of other components you have to connect correctly. One shouldn’t do this unless they have proper qualifications.

2. A Vent Free Portable Air Conditioner

This unit resembles a portable air conditioner, but it’s smaller. Its design is also quite appealing. A vent-free air conditioner is also known as a “swamp cooler” because of its unique ventilation system. No refrigeration process is necessary to cool the air. The air conditioner uses evaporated water released from the dry air, quickly chilling the room.

On the plus side, it doesn’t consume much electricity since it only uses the vent and doesn’t occupy many areas. You will need to improvise a hose on the negative side since sometimes the water is not completely evaporated. That can cause water to leak through the device and all over the floor.

One problem is that the unit can only work in relatively dry climates. If the weather is humid, it will neutralize the cooling effects. Combined with the dry atmosphere, the evaporation process of the air conditioner produces a chill effect.

3. The Portable RV Air Conditioner

Several holes allow hot air to escape between the machine and the outside. Under the window are adjustable frames that secure the hoses in place. Using a single hose air conditioner can be dangerous because you might let hot air into your room due to improper ventilation.

Although they are inexpensive, the space they take up is a huge issue for portable RV air conditioners. Many customers point out that these units are not very efficient and can sometimes be extremely costly. Also, the conditioner’s compressor is inside the room, so you will have to tolerate an annoying cooling sound for the duration of your RV road trip.

4. The RV Window Air Conditioner

It might be the best option among portable RV air conditioners. It offers the highest cooling output and is compact.

It doesn’t take up space (since it fits nicely outside the window) and is easy to maintain. The smallest window air conditioners that open horizontally instead of vertically are available as small as 14 inches. Furthermore, it isolates all the cooling components (compressors, vents, etc.) into one box, so noise pollution would not be a concern.

What Are Some Best RV Air Conditioners?

You will also want to consider the brand when deciding what to buy. Certain people have particular brand loyalty because of past experiences. Others want a brand that will have replacement parts readily available whenever needed.

Best RV air conditioners vary in price, and each brand has differing price points. Price varies depending on your space and intended usage. What might be a perfect travel trailer air conditioner might not be the best choice for a Class A motorhome or a truck camper. 

Top models available today include:

  • Dometic RV Air Conditioner Penguin II: Low profile; powerful cooling
  • Dometic RV Air Conditioner Cool Cat: Super small RV air conditioner; perfect for vans
  • Dometic RV AC Brisk II- Polar White: relatively lightweight, easy to install, and incredibly robust RV appliances
  • Dometic RV air conditioner Blizzard NXT: high-performance motor ducted RV
  • Airxcel RV AC Units Mach 15: Highly popular; high profile; moderate power and price tag
  • Airxcel RV AC Coleman-Mach 06-0705: Heating and Cooling Design with Wall Mount and Plugs ducted RV
  • Airxcel 81-0980 ADB: High Quality and Performance
  • Airxcel 08-0051 Mach 13.5: Low profile;Designed to Use Less Power
  • Advent Air ACM150: Lightweight, available at a very low price point for a rooftop air conditioner, and has foam support for vibration reduction.
  • Advent Air ASAACM135: easy to install and operate, and it offers a non-ozone depleting refrigerant
  • Atwood Air Command Ducted 15,000 BTU A/C Unit with Heat Pump — The ultimate Rooftop AC unit
  • Coleman RV Air Conditioner Echelon AC21: long-term performance and energy efficiency
  • Coleman LX CC7: environmentally friendly refrigerant, durable and compact
  • Coleman RV Air Conditioner TCJF: energy-efficient and affordable
  • Furrion Chill: Aerodynamically designed and powerful air conditioner increases cooling efficiency and lowers operating noise.


Driving a recreational vehicle should be a pleasurable experience. And that includes having a good air conditioning system to keep the interior cool and comfy on hotter days. Without air conditioners during your travels, you would not be able to keep yourself and your passengers comfortable.