best rv ac

The 12 Best RV Air Conditioner Reviews For 2020

Chris Coleman

Planning on long vacations in your RV in the upcoming summer months? There are many upgrades and additions that you can make to your motorhome to make sure life on the road is as comfortable as possible in demanding weather. The absolute first thing you should do is to get the best RV air conditioner, because after all, nobody wants to spend their summer roaming around inside a big movable sweatbox that you can’t escape. 

To make the research and purchasing process as easy as possible for you, we have compiled everything you need to know about RV air conditioner. You will find a handpicked list of the absolute best RV air conditioner units on the current market. Each of them are sworn by seasoned RVers, and you will definitely find a unit in this list that meets your budget and needs, regardless of what your priorities are. 

In this comprehensive guide, we will also discuss AC unit types, what to look for in an RV air conditioner, frequently asked questions and pro maintenance tips.

best RV air conditioner
Experts’ reviews on top-rated RV AC

Top Rated RV AC Comparison Chart

NoBest RV ACBTUPricesOur Reviews
1Dometic B57915.XX1C0 - Best of The Best15,000$$$*****
2Airxcel Mach 15 - Editor's Choice 15,000$$$*****
3Airxcel Mach 3 - Editor's Choice 13,500$$$*****
4Dometic B59516.XX1CO15,000$$$$****
5Dometic Penguin II 640315CXX1C013,500$$$****
6Advent ACM15015,000$$$****
7Dometic Penguin HP 651816.CXX1C015,000$$$$$***
8Airxcel Mach 8 Cub9,200$$$*****
9Airxcel Mach 3+13,500$$$*****
10Atwood 1502713,500$$$****
11ASA Electronics ACM13513,500$$$***
12Atwood 1502615,000$$$$$****

Best RV Air Conditioners

High quality RV air conditioners are worthwhile to invest in because they do not only keep the indoor air cool but also dehumidify and purify them. This will keep the interior of your RV airy and fresh while helping to prevent allergies. 

Below is a list of the units that are testified and highly recommended by seasoned RVers and many RV air conditioner reviews. This list offers a variety in terms of type, price and features, so rest assured that there is something for everyone, regardless of your camping needs.

Our list will focus on rooftop units, as the category at the moment offers plenty of choices for increasingly compact, durable and reliable designs. Rooftop units are the preferred choice for RVers that require significant cooling capacity for demanding summer camping while maximizing the space inside their motorhome.

1. Dometic Brisk II Air RV AC (B57915.XX1C0)

Dometic Brisk II Air B57915.XX1C0
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 2,800W

Why This Is The Best 

Compact, aerodynamic and powerful, Dometic Brisk II Air (B57915.XX1C0) is the best RV air conditioner on the market in terms of all-around performance. As this rooftop Dometic unit possesses a modest profile, it’s the ideal choice for recreational vehicles that have limited room. Thanks to the use of lightweight materials in its construction, Brisk II Air (B57915.XX1C0) facilitates smooth installation as well as maintenance.

As this AC model from Dometic features a center discharge air delivery, its airflow and cooling efficiency prove to be superior to the average air conditioner on the market. While the unit is powerful, it remains fairly quiet in operation due to the presence of the noise-dampening brackets.

For post-purchase support, RVers would receive a 2-year Protection Plus warranty. However, keep in mind that the warranty is going to be voided if you use the unit with household thermostats.

Easy to install, works great.

Finally killed my 13,500 btu Dometic ac unit last summer (12 years old). My RV is large (35 foot travel trailer) and on hot days it would run constantly. Upgraded to the 15,000 btu unit. Really easy install, less than 30 minutes start to finish. Blows ice cold and operates properly. I thought I would be spending $1000 and busting knuckles for four hours, but no, less than $600 and 30 easy minutes. I hope I can get 12 years out of this one.

Shared by Mr. James

Pros:

  • Lightweight 
  • Cool pretty well 
  • Top-notch airflows 

Cons:

  • Customer service is unresponsive
  • Less than ideal quality control 

If you want to see how to install this unit in an RV, check out the video below. Doing it yourself will save you hundreds of dollars:

2. Airxcel Mach 15 RV AC

Airxcel Mach 15
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 120V
  • Wattage: 1,800W

Why It’s An Editor’s Choice:

Featuring a 1/3 HP fan motor, which is the largest one used in modern RV air conditioners, Airxcel Mach 15 is essentially the strongest RV roof AC unit available for purchase. With the ability to deliver cool air at an impressive rate of 320 cubic feet a minute, this model is widely rated as the best RV AC unit regarding power by countless RV air conditioner reviews. The streamlined designs of the unit further improve its cooling efficiently in conventional RV configurations.

Packing an excellent combination of all-copper tubing and gas-flux brazed joints, the Airxcel AC often maintains peak performance for a long time on the road. As the unit incorporates large evaporator/condenser coils and raised lace fins, it can dissipate heat effectively and efficiently in demanding weather conditions. Being a high output model, Mach 15 is the best RV AC unit for ducted installation but with a ceiling assembly kit, it shall perform admirably in non-ducted setups. 

Designed for the standard 14 x 14 vent opening, Airxcel Mach 15 could be adapted to most recreational vehicles so compatibility should not be an issue. As the unit can work with existing Coleman thermostats, you will save a good deal of money if you get it as a replacement AC.

I have access to a forklift at work, so getting it up on the rooftop of my 96 Gulf Stream was easy. Replaced a worn out 13,500 btu Coleman Mack with this unit. At first I thought this would be an easy direct swap, but when I got this into place I realized that not only was the bolt pattern different by about 1.5 inches on each corner, it required smaller bolts than the old unit. (1/4 vs 3/8). But after a trip to the hardware store and some creative fabrication work on the ceiling bracket I got it bolted firmly into place. The wiring plug was a perfect fit. We’ll see how well it does this summer, it does move a lot more air through the ducts than the old one. 😊
Update: This ac unit is awesome! It easily keeps my 32 foot Gulf Stream cool parked in direct sunlight on a hot day. Both my 5500 watt Onan generator and my Champion 4000 watt inverter generator easily start and run this unit. Very happy with this purchase!

Shared by Pat

Pros:

  • Superb cooling power 
  • Could serve as heater 
  • Undemanding installation 

Cons:

  • Delivery time is long 
  • Mediocre post-purchase support

3. Airxcel Mach 3 RV AC

Airxcel Mach 3
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Volt: 120V
  • Wattage: 1,075W

Why It’s An Editor’s Choice

For RVers that care about electricity bills and the environment, Airxcel Mach 3 is arguably the best RV air conditioner you will find on the current market. Boasting superb cooling capacity without eating up too much power, this Airxcel model is the most efficient RV air conditioner  as sworn by many professionals and full-time RVers. 

Similar to its cousin Mach 15, Mach 3 also possesses a 1/3 HP fan motor which provides it with a splendid flow rate of 320 cubic feet per minute. Aside from cooling the interior of the vehicle, the unit could generate heat if fitted with the optional heater assembly. Add the optional heater assembly, and you’ll have 5,600 BTUs of heat for cool-weather camping.

You can count on the Mach 3 for reliability. Thanks to the built-in shaft, this Airxcel air conditioner is relatively safe from damages caused by harsh outdoor elements. With the incorporation of the plastic drain pan, the unit skillfully prevents and eliminates corrosion. The shroud that comes along the model also features protection for condenser coil so overall resistance is truly top-notch. If necessary, it’s possible to mount Mach 3 directly to the bulkhead to address angle distortion of the blower wheel.

To speed up the setup process and reduce cost, Airxcel Mach 3 can reuse existing ceiling assembly as well as thermostats. The model still needs to settle which means you should refrain from leaving it on for too long at first. 

We bought this to replace the original rusted roof top air conditioner in our 1969 Avion T28. It was very easy to install once we got the old unit out. I lifted the unit and my husband up in the bucket of his tractor and he was able to easily maneuver it into place. The wiring snapped together and the foam seal worked great. It is a little bit loud, but I like to run a fan at night to help me sleep anyway. It cooled our 28 foot camper and definitely eliminated the humidity. We are very pleased.

Shared by Lisa

Pros:

  • Straightforward setup
  • Solid cooling capacity 
  • Comprehensive resistance 

Cons: 

  • Make a lot of noise in use 
  • Packaging is barely acceptable  

4. Dometic Brisk II Air RV AC (B59516.XX1CO)

Dometic Brisk II Air B59516.XX1CO
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 2,800W

Why We Love It:

If you like Dometic Brisk II Air (B57915.XX1C0) but want more cooling power, Dometic Brisk II Air (B59516.XX1CO) will be the best RV air conditioner for you. This unit offers a 15% air flow increase and is 19% lighter than previous models. 

Boasting a BTU rating of 15,000, this Dometic unit can satisfy the cooling needs of RVers traveling in the hottest days of summer. Like its cousin, Brisk II Air (B59516.XX1CO) features a lightweight body for easy installation.

Because of its aerodynamic design, the Dometic A/C adds negligible drag to your rig which means minimal effect on your fuel-efficient. In addition, the model uses a noise-reduction fan-motor setup that ensures silent operation. Overall, this model is truly a hassle-free and enjoyable addition to your rig.

Dometic Brisk II Air (B59516.XX1CO) is offered along with a free shipping and handling policy upon purchase. In case you want to change the unit shroud or get a bigger heater, all you have to do is to give Dometic a call.

This unit works well. Read the instructions well. They say to hook it up to electricity before you mount it on top of your trailer. This way, you can see the fans turning and inspect for any rubbing that results from jolts during shipment. This unit needs to be light weight to put on top of a camper or box trailer. Do not expect a light weight unit with a light weight frame with a compressor and fan motor mounted to it to arrive in perfect condition after UPS shipment. The frame base metal will be bent due to shipment. You will need to bend it back and make sure both fans can turn freely before mounting this on top of your camper.

Also, if you are mounting this to a unfinished box trailer with no interior, you will need to fabricate at least a 1/2″ thick sheet of plywood to facilitate getting the conduit/wiring to the unit. The control panel needs to mount to a flat surface with some small wood screws. The control panel has no openings for the wiring to enter. The control panel separates the in and out ductwork, and must be used as designed. Your camper or trailer needs to have the wiring to the 14″ by 14″ opening in such a way that there is a flat wood surface inside the camper/trailer for the control panel to mount to. Some slight fabrication will be needed to mount this to a camper / trailer where there has never been a unit before.

Shared by Huggins

Pros:

  • Powerful 
  • High durability 
  • Compact and light

Cons:

  • No adjustment
  • Quality control should be improved 

5. Dometic Penguin II RV AC (640315CXX1C0)

Dometic Penguin II 640315CXX1C0
amazon cta

Specifications

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Volt: 120V
  • Wattage: 3,000W

Why We Love It 

Working in both ducted and non-ducted setups, Dometic Penguin II (640315CXX1C0) is by all accounts one of the very best RV air conditioner models. Being a low profile RV air conditioner, the Dometic AC minimizes drag and improves your rig’s fuel efficiency. Packing a sturdy rib-reinforced base pan, the unit can withstand virtually every challenge outdoors and offer you reliable service for a long time on the road. As it uses an environmentally friendly refrigerant, Penguin II (640315CXX1C0) earns raving reviews from eco-conscious RVers. 

Featuring a straightforward control interface, this model from Dometic proves to be easy to use and simple to regulate. The high-performance motor of the model offers three blowing speeds so you can adjust the airflow as preferred. If you want to stay warm in chilly weather, Penguin II (640315CXX1C0) can deliver heat if you outfit it with a heat strip that is sold separately.

Because Dometic Penguin II (640315CXX1C0) is able to work with ducted as well as non-ducted cooling systems, it fits virtually every RV nowadays. Using the low-chloride R410 refrigerant, the AC proves to be environmentally-friendly.

This unit meets expectations for the job. Retrofit on old Airstream trailer. The low profile and low weight of the unit was a huge positive point and now that it is installed we are very pleased with the unit.

Shared by Craig

Pros:

  • Low drag 
  • Automated control
  • Streamlined construction 

Cons:

  • Somewhat noisy  
  • Inconsistent quality 

6. Advent ACM150 RV AC

Advent ACM150
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 2,800W

Why We Love It 

Engineered for demanding camping conditions, the Advent ACM150 packs thick vent opening gasket and dense foam support pads for optimum performance in all outdoor weathers.  With the rugged metal base pan, the model is well stabilized even on the move. The first class shroud that accompanies the ACM150 shields it from damages and keeps noise in operation to the bare minimum.

In terms of cooling power, the 15,000-BTU rating and three fan speed options of the model shall guarantee that your recreational vehicle stays cool in the hottest days of summer. If you wish to turn the unit into a heater, all you have to do is to outfit it with a plug-in heat strip. 

Advent ACM150 could work with standard vent opening so installation should not be an issue in most cases. In addition, as the unit packs a light weight, you would have an easy time getting it to the mounting hole.

Pros:

  • Reasonable price 
  • Responsive customer service 
  • Outstanding customer support 

Cons:

  • The delivery service requires revisions 
  • Some units arrive without compressor

7. Dometic Penguin HP 651816.CXX1C0 RV AC

Dometic Penguin HP 651816.CXX1C0
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 120V
  • Wattage: 3,500W

Why We Love It 

If you happen to be a full-time RVer that travels all year round then the Dometic Penguin HP (651816.CXX1C0) would probably be the best RV air conditioner for your money. Possessing a heat pump, this Dometic model will keep you comfortably cool in hot weather and keep the interior of your motorhome warm and toast once winter hits. 

Therefore, experienced RVers and professionals always mention Penguin HP (651816.CXX1C0) when discussing the best RV air conditioner regarding versatility and flexibility. Its price is a little steep at $1,500. Although you are paying extra, being able to travel any time of the year with optimal comfort definitely justifies the price tag.

Boasting reinforced mounting holes, heavy-duty support brackets and thick EPA foam housing, the Dometic model holds itself together well against the harsh elements. The presence of the foam collar in the construction keeps noise transfer to the minimum which results in quiet operation. Thanks to the well-engineered shroud, the unit enjoys superior drag reduction as well as ventilation.

While the unit performs admirably in a lot of setups, it’s essential that you conduct thorough research before buying Dometic Penguin HP (651816.CXX1C0). Take into account the characteristics of your recreational vehicle, current air supply layout and thermostat to get the right model.

Pros: 

  • Run quietly
  • Quick delivery 
  • Great packaging 

Cons:

  • Slightly complicated installation 
  • Instruction manual is less than ideal 

8. Airxcel Mach 8 Cub RV AC

Airxcel Mach 8 Cub
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 9,200
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 1,500W

Why We Love It 

Want a small RV air conditioner for your rig? This Airxcel Mach 8 Cub will be the best RV air conditioner you could get nowadays. Packing an ultra-low profile, the Airxcel unit is by all accounts an excellent match for small-sized recreational vehicles. It is also a worth consideration in case your rig is very tall, which requires the most compact AC unit available to allow safe height clearance, yet you do not need a unit with very powerful cooling capacity.

Using fiberglass in its construction, Mach 8 Cub possesses high endurance and is lightweight. Additionally, the AC is also highly energy efficient.

As it’s designed specifically for small RVs, the BTU rating of the model falls behind other units on the list. Nonetheless, at 9,200 BTU, the AC is still sufficient to keep the interior of your vehicle cool in most cases, and will be more than enough if you travel in moderate climate.  

Additional handy features include an ultra-quiet fan for minimal noise. If necessary, Mach 8 Cub would work as a heater once equipped with Elect-A-Heat. Using R-410A refrigerant, Airxcel Mach 8 Cub excels at dissipating heat in the interior and proves to be environmentally friendly.

Pros:

  • Energy-efficient 
  • Through instruction manual 
  • Straightforward installation 

Cons:

  • The BTU rating is somewhat limited 
  • Some parts must be strengthened 

9. Airxcel Mach 3+ RV AC

Airxcel Mach 3+
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 1,400W

Why We Love It 

Featuring large evaporator/condenser coils and raised lance fins, Airxcel Mach 3+ is capable of dissipating heat at a fast rate. With all-copper tubing and gas-flux brazed, the AC from Airxcel possesses a fairly long lifespan compared to other models on the market. 

While its BTU rating of 13,500 is not the highest on the market, Mach 3 remains a robust option if you want to keep your rig reasonably cool during summer travels. It’s also worth noting that the unit could be equipped with an optional heater assembly to serve as a heater.

To simplify installation, the Airxcel unit is relatively light and is designed to have a streamlined setup which lets you get everything operational in a blink of an eye. Still, to ensure proper fit, it’s strongly recommended that you check out the dimensions suggestion from the manufacturer before deciding.

While running, Airxcel Mach 3 Plus is fairly quiet so you should be able to indulge yourself in the cool atmosphere without being disturbed in most cases. The model also offers multiple fan speeds so you can easily regulate air flow to your preference.

Pros:

  • Cool pretty well
  • Undemanding setup 
  • Longevity is top-notch  

Cons:

  • Packaging is mediocre 
  • Quality control needs to be improved 

10. Atwood 15027 RV AC

Atwood 15027
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 1,200W

Why We Love It

Built to deliver cool air while withstanding harsh elements found in outdoor travels, the non-ducted Atwood 15027 is reliable as well as dependable. Packing a flow rate of 360 cubic feet per minute, the Atwood  AC could keep the interior of your rig reasonably cool in most weather conditions. 

Because cold air would be delivered out of the sides instead of straight down, the unit possesses superb circulation. A high plus is that since the 15027 is a low-draw model, it’s capable of working alongside other appliances without straining the power system.

This Atwood AC unit can be controlled through the digital thermostat as well as the IR remote. Because the dual-motor of the A/C runs the condenser fan and blower fan separately, the noise level is minimal in most cases. 

Last but not least, Atwood 15027 boasts an aerodynamic front profile which minimizes the drag of your rig for optimal fuel efficiency.

Pros:

  • Lightweight
  • Minimal drag
  • Quiet operation 

Cons:

  • Complex installation 
  • Some units have incorrect labels 

11. ASA Electronics ACM135 RV AC

ASA Electronics ACM135
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 3,000W

Why We Love It 

ASA Electronics ACM135 is your best RV air conditioner if you want a straightforward, reliable, no-nonsense addition for worry-free traveling. Once properly mounted, the ASA Electronics model would work after you plug in the control unit, no wiring is required. Boasting a sturdy metal frame, the unit is capable of withstanding tough conditions in the outdoors. 

In addition, the model uses an environmentally-friendly coolant and foam pads for minimal noise in operation. Thanks to the premium, thick, watertight vent opening gasket, leakage is not a worry in most cases.  With special attention to overload protection, ACM135 possesses a long lifespan compared to the average models on the market.

Regarding installation, ASA Electronics ACM135 comes with everything you need. The bottom fan bolts from the inside and requires no duct which saves a lot of hassles.

Have only used it once, for an 8 day stay, and it worked great. It gets 5 stars so far. It is for the dressing room of a horse trailer, but it actually cooled the whole trailer, front end and back where the stalls are. The entire trailer is insulated, but I was not expecting it to be powerful enough to cool the whole trailer.

Shared by Jill W

Pros:

  • Washable filters
  • Overload protection
  • Eco-friendly refrigerant

Cons:

  • Slightly inconsistent field performance 
  • Shipping service is barely acceptable 

12. Atwood 15026 RV AC

Atwood 15026
amazon cta

Specifications:

  • BTU: 15,000
  • Volt: 110V
  • Wattage: 2,000W

Why We Love It 

Made to withstand harsh elements in the outdoors with the use of high-quality materials, Atwood 15026 is the best RV air conditioner when it comes to weather resistance. You won’t need to worry about fuel economy, thanks to its aerodynamic design which allows for insignificant drag on your rig. The 15026 comes with a digital thermostat for easy control.

Packing a BTU rating of 15,000, this Atwood model should be more than sufficient to keep you comfortably cool even in the hottest hours of blazing summer days. The unit also features a heat pump which proves handy for winter outings. In addition to such versatility, you will also appreciate the unit’s reasonable power draw of the A/C; no need to worry about a hefty utility bill at the end of the month. Considering the fact that 15026 has separate motors for the blower fan and the condenser fan, it keeps noises at a minimum.

For installation, Atwood 15026 requires a standard 14 x 14 opening so setup should not be demanding. Once the unit is in place, connect it to the bolt brackets, do the wiring, plug in the diffuser and drive away in your cool rig.

Affordable, easy to install and performs beautifully, just like your home’s heat pump! Definitely the best value out there for reliable RV AC and heat. I simply removed an existing RV skylight, 14″x14″, set the unit over the hole, connected it with 4 bolt bracket (comes with diffuser), and connected the 120v ground, neutral, and hot wires, finally plugging in the diffuser and snapping the diffuser in place. Wasn’t clear in product details or previous reviews, but the gaskets do come pre mounted on the unit. Been using for 2 months, both AC and heat, and its effectiveness and blower power is impressive.

Shared by Robert Snider

Pros:

  • Energy efficient 
  • Great cooling output 
  • Dependable and reliable 

Cons:

  • Horrible delivery 
  • Inconsistent performance between units  

Types of RV Air Conditioner

Window 

These air-conditioners are installed outside of the windows of your RV, thus does not take up interior space. They are one of the simplest forms of AC. A downside is they obstruct the windows and reduce the amount of natural light inside the rig.

Nowadays, you can find mini window air conditioners as small as 14 inches that open horizontally instead of vertically. These compact window units are in increasing demand as they are easy to store away. The current smallest model is the 5,200 BTU model by Friedrich. It fits windows starting at 22 inches wide and openings 12 inches tall.

Under Bench 

Under bench units are stored away nicely under your seats in the RV to free up limited interior space and keep the AC hidden for aesthetic purposes.

As hot air rises and stays on top of the interior of your motorhome, these under-bench units are very effective as a heating device compared to rooftop units, which will be discussed below. If you want to use your air conditioner to combat both hot and cold weathers, an under-bench RV unit will be your best option.

Compared to window units and rooftop units, the skylight or the windows are not obstructed or modified, so you can enjoy a lot of natural light. On the other hand, a downside is that you will lose some space in your floor plan.

Portable units

For additional comfort alongside your existing RV air conditioner, you can also buy a portable air conditioner that can be kept in the cabin. As the name implies, these compact units are easy to move around, so no climbing on the RV rooftop is required during installation. When you are not traveling, you can use them in your garage or office as well.

If you are considering a portable system, then the main considerations are the overall size, or how powerful the AC unit is. This will depend on whether you have an existing air system in your RV and the RV’s overall size.  

The most powerful units of this category will have 14,000 BTU, with BTU denoting cooling capacity. 14,000 BTU is recommended for an area of 500 square feet and above. A 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner is the average, which can typically cool a space of 10 by 50 feet or less.

Rooftop units

If a portable unit cannot meet your cooling demand, especially when you travel in the hottest weeks of summer, you will need an RV rooftop air conditioner instead. RV rooftop air conditioner units, as their name suggests sit on the roof of your RV. The main benefits of this type are superior cooling capacity and that it does not take up any space within your RV. 

However, unless you choose one with an integrated window, it can reduce the amount of natural light within your motorhome. Another downside with rooftop units is that they are not ideal for heating RVs in cold weather. This is because the warm air tends to concentrate at the top of the space and stay there, as warm air is lighter than cool air.

Low profile vs Full height Rooftop units

Within the rooftop category, there are low profile RV air conditioner units and full height or regular profile units. 

The low profile units are more compact, more streamlined, aerodynamic and lighter. Therefore, they reduce drag and the RV’s total weight, thus can increase fuel efficiency compared to full height units. They also reduce the risk of damage to the unit when passing under low bridges or other overhanging obstacles. 

This type of RV roof air conditioner is necessary for a motorhome that is tall. As RV’s get taller and closer to bridge height limits, the low profile units are more in demand. The downside to these low profile designs is that they tend to be a lot noisier.

If you are considering getting a low profile design, take a look at the Dometic Penguin II. It costs $853 and has the lowest design on the current market.

A further choice with both portable and rooftop conditioners is whether to choose a ducted or ductless system. 

Non-Ducted Units

Non-ducted units are the simplest type of RV air conditioner. They are more suitable for smaller RVs or those without air systems. Opt for these if you own a small RV and if you do not require targeted distribution inside your rig. 

They are cheaper but noisier. A non-ducted system may use a remote for temperature adjustments. 

They can be installed through a hole cut in the RV’s roof, but often designed to fit into pre-existing roof vents. These units consist of a compressor, condenser, and blower that are all packaged together in an aerodynamic body that sits on the roof of the RV.

These function by having air blow out of the unit itself. Then, the air usually gets sent through vents that either opened or closed. These vents will direct the air to where it’s needed, whether it’d be forward or backward, within the RV.

If you have a smaller camper that doesn’t need to distribute air over long spaces and if you don’t mind a somewhat noisy AC unit, you should consider the non-ducted units. 

Ducted Units

Ducted units tend to be better suited to larger RVs as they integrate with the existing air flow system and push air around the entire space. Ducted units are the perfect choice if you need highly targeted distribution inside your large motorhome.

A ducted style air conditioner wires directly into your RV, while a non-ducted system does not. A ducted air conditioner uses a thermostat on the wall, much like your heating and cooling unit at home. Ducted units have the same part that bolts onto the roof as the non-ducted versions. 

However, they don’t have the control unit on the inside of the RV. Instead, these air conditioners control the temperature by passing air through a duct system that usually pipes through the ceiling, floor, or walls. In doing so, these systems allow you to control the temperature in multiple rooms at once with a centralized control panel.

An important note is that you can have several of these air conditioners installed throughout your RV. 

Many RVers who travel in summer install 2 ducted AC units for the front and back of their long RV to make sure the whole interior is sufficiently cool during the hottest hours of the day, that is from around 11AM to 4PM.

Best RV Air Conditioner: Buyer’s Guide

Cooling capacity

The cooling capacity of an air conditioner unit is commonly referred to as its size. To determine if a particular air conditioner is strong enough to keep everything cool, all you have to do is to check its BTU rating. The higher the BTU rating, the stronger the cooling power. 

Take the space inside the interior of your recreational vehicle into account to decide just how much BTU you need. The following estimates can serve as general references. 

  • From 100 to 300 square feet: Between 5,000 and 7,000 BTUs
  • From 300 to 550 square feet: Between 8,000 and 12,000 BTUs
  • From 550 to 1,000 square feet: Between 14,000 and 18,000 BTUs

Feel free to go for higher BTU ratings or even opt for two units in case where you’re traveling to is especially unbearable. Installing two units for the front and back is a decision by many full-time RVers who own an RV that is particularly long.   

Dual Use with Heat Pump

This factor is an important buying factor for full-time RVers who like traveling all year round in varying weather conditions. A heat pump is an essential element in an air conditioning unit if you want it to be able to heat as well as cool the air within the RV. 

A heat pump is a mechanical-compression cycle refrigeration system that can be reversed to provide either warm or cool areas within the RV.

If your RV air conditioner unit has an integrated heat pump, then it is possible to heat your RV with your air conditioner. However, if you are using a rooftop air conditioner, you may find that the heat pump is not the most effective way to heat your RV. This is because heat is lighter and thus rises, so the warmer air will stay at the top of your interior.

If you are likely to need regular heat, then an under-bench unit may be more ideal. In colder climates where the temperature is likely to be close to freezing, then a specialist heater instead of a single AC unit is recommended for the best results.

Noise Level 

Virtually every air conditioner these kinds of days produce noise in use but some prove to be quieter than others. Browsing for the best RV air conditioner that runs silently will significantly improve your camping experience. 

To minimize the chance of having many sleepless nights in the long run, check the decibels that your AC unit makes, which is the measurement of sound. Different units will admit different noise levels and generally over time the situation could get worse as the unit age and deteriorate. 

For a quick comparison, an average conversation can fall between 40-60 decibels. So when you are comparing it to 37-82 decibels that a particular AC model might make, you can see whether such a unit will be a pleasant addition to your RV in the long run. 

The good news is there are upgrades that you can do to help reduce the noise. For instance, use noise-absorbing material around the unit like rubber to greatly reduce the noise output of the AC unit.

Power compatibility 

If you travel across countries, then you need to ensure that your electricity hookups for your unit are compatible with the local electricity source. 

An alternative to this is to ensure that you have a suitable generator, which is also handy if you tend to travel off the beaten path.

Power consumption 

Units that offer lower power consumption are more cost effective over the long term and are more environmentally friendly. If you often travel in demanding weather conditions, your air conditioner will eat up more electricity and faster than you would expect. In the long term, this will add up to a considerable expense in your camping budget. Therefore, when shopping for the best RV air conditioner, make sure to look for an energy efficient unit.  

On average, a 7,000-BTU rooftop AC unit consumes 1,700 watts of electricity for startup and with an average wattage once running of 600. The respective figures for a 10,000-BTU unit are 2,000 and 700 watts, while those for a 13,500-BTU unit are 2,750 and 1,250 watts. The most heavy-duty units with 15,000 BTU consumes 3,500 watts for startup and 1,500 for running.

Vent position and number 

The position and number of vents of your air conditioner unit affects the airflow: if the vents are situated on different sides of the unit, you will enjoy a freer flow of air around the interior space of your rig.

Air purification 

While not an essential, it can improve your comfort if you travel regularly in airs with poor air quality. An RV air conditioner with a built-in air purifier can also help to remove the odors that can be present after your RV has been in storage, as well as improve the general smell of its interior.

Integrated window 

An air conditioner unit with an integrated window will allow you to enjoy the natural light that you get from a roof window.

Size And Weight 

For models mounted on the rooftop, the size of the unit is going to affect clearance height and overall drag. For portable models, the size of the unit determines how much space it occupies in the interior of the vehicle. 

Most AC units will fit straight into the skylight section of the camper van with very little cutting needed. The average size of an RV AC unit is 14×14 inches, however it is imperative that you check the measurements of the AC unit as well as the space available in your RV before purchasing. It can save you time having to measure and make big adjustments in your RV.

In addition, it’s widely advised that you consider the weight of the unit as that often influences installation and maintenance.  Once again, think about the profile and layout of your RV to make wise investments. 

Clearance height 

If you are adding a rooftop air conditioner unit, then clearance height is an important factor that you need to consider. The taller the unit, the greater the risk of damage when trying to navigate low bridges and overhanging obstacles. 

In case your rig is already tall, a low-profile unit will be a safe choice. These streamlined units can add as little as 25cms to the clearance height of your vehicle. 

For full-time or frequent campers, note that more compact AC units not only will allow you to roam freely and safely but it also reduces drag and improves the aerodynamics plus fuel economy of your vehicle compared to a regular full-size unit. 

Insulation strength 

Another buying factor to get the best RV air conditioner is to ensure that you know the insulation strength of any unit you are considering. You should always refer to either your dealer or an authorized service center before making a final choice. 

Insulation provides a barrier that slows the heat exchange. It keeps the heat from coming in on a warm day and from going out on a cold day. Insulation strengths of RV air conditioner units vary widely and the optimal strength for your RV depends mainly on the vehicle’s size. 

Another way to ensure proper insulation is to equip your AC unit with easy-to-install foam seals  to close the gaps between the window A/C unit and window frame.

Ease Of Installation 

Of course, you could always drop by an RV workshop and hire professionals to take care of the installation for you. Still, it’s possible to install all by yourself by strictly following the manuals and prioritizing products that have straightforward installation. To ensure that the installation proceeds smoothly, it’s essential that you get all the parts from the same manufacturer.

The 12 Best RV Air Conditioner Reviews For 2020 1

Maintaining RV Air Conditioners: Pro Tips And Tricks

Having the best RV air conditioner is indeed nice but if you want to get the most out of it, you must look after it. The last thing you want to find when you reach your first stop on your trip is that your RV air conditioner unit isn’t working. 

Depending on where you are, at this point, you could be completely stuck if it is anything serious. The best way to avoid this, or at least reduce the risk of it happening, is to test it before you leave and undertake regular maintenance.

Except for age and damage, corrosion and dirt are the main problems that are likely to lead to an underperforming RV AC unit or one that won’t work at all. Before undertaking any maintenance on your RV air conditioner unit, ensure the power is turned off and disconnected. Wear gloves as well, as some parts inside the unit may be sharp.

It is also a good idea to refer to the manufacturer’s handbook or online guide before you disassemble your unit.

  • Wipe The Coils: To access the evaporator coils, you need to remove the metal cover, unplug the control board and take out the freeze sensor. Normal household cleaners should be adequate but for maximum effect, consider using purpose design products.  
  • Straighten The Fins: Air conditioners that have bent fins tend to have restricted airflows which make them become less efficient.  So every now and then, grab a specialized coil fin comb and proceed to straighten the fins of your AC.
  • Oil The Fan Motor: If your AC features bearings, it would have oiling ports so all you have to do is to refill the ports. On the other hand, in the case your air conditioner uses sleeves, you have to oil the shaft in between the sleeves and the housing. 
  • Covering your RV: While regular checks and maintenance are vital, you can reduce many issues by covering your RV when it is not in use. This prevents dirt, dust, and other debris from entering the AC unit. Such a cover also protects the unit from moisture, insects, and extreme weather conditions.

FAQs About RV Air Conditioner

How long does an RV air conditioner last?

How long an RV air conditioner lasts is dependent upon three major factors: how often it is used, how hot the weather is when the A/C is in use, and how durable the unit your purchase is. However, when maintained correctly, your RV air conditioner should last for several years, and in many cases will last for a decade or more.

What size RV AC unit do I need?

When talking about RV air conditioners, “size” means cooling capacity or or British Thermal Units.

The BTU or British Thermal Units refer to the amount of energy your RV air conditioner uses per hour. Therefore, it’s essential you know exactly how much BTU your RV requires to keep it nice and cool.

After all, you don’t want to buy an RV air conditioner that is either too weak or too powerful. Instead, you want a product that is just right for your RV. Standard RV air conditioners are going to be around 13,500 BTU and this a perfect place to start calculating how much BTU your particular RV needs.

For instance, if you’re going to be vacationing in hotter climates, you should look for an RV air conditioner with a higher BTU than 13,500. On the other hand, if you’re going to be vacationing in cold climates or plan on using the AC sparingly, you should look for something with a lower BTU.

Another factor to consider is the size of your recreational vehicle. The following estimates can serve as general references. 

  • From 100 to 300 square feet: Between 5,000 and 7,000 BTUs
  • From 300 to 550 square feet: Between 8,000 and 12,000 BTUs
  • From 550 to 1,000 square feet: Between 14,000 and 18,000 BTUs

How to recharge an RV air conditioner?

RV air conditioner units run on refrigerant, which maximizes the efficiency of the unit. The refrigerant can be filled to a necessary level. In case it does run out entirely, you’ll need to recharge the air conditioner. Below are the steps to recharge an RV air conditioner:

  1. Lower the power supply to the AC unit by accessing the electrical breaker in the panel box.
  2. Make sure you bought the right refrigerant. Refer to the instructions about which refrigerant to obtain on the side of the RV air conditioner unit.
  3. Lift the lid of the air conditioner. You should use a socket to remove the shroud screws around the lid to ensure this process goes as smoothly as possible. Then, lift the lid straight up to make sure you don’t damage any parts inside the unit.
  4. Once you’ve lifted the lid, you should check the refrigerant gauge. Then, unscrew the port with a wrench and begin to add in the necessary amount of refrigerant.
  5. It is vital that you add in the refrigerant slowly. As you’re adding refrigerant, make sure you make a note of the difference in temperature between the air within the unit and the RV several times.
  6. After adding the necessary amount of refrigerant, the temperature difference between the air in the AC unit and the RV should be about 20 degrees Fahrenheit different.
  7. Restore the power to the air conditioner and monitor the temperature in your RV to ensure the air conditioner has been charged effectively.

How to install an RV AC?

  1. Safety first. Turn off the power by unplugging the unit from the power source and then flip the corresponding switch on the breaker box. 
  2. Determine where the best installation spot for your new air conditioner is. You’ll need to pick a place that will be strong enough to reasonably support the unit. Also, it’s important to make sure there are at least 8 inches between that spot and the edge of the roof.
  3. Next, cut a hole in your roof. This will be the most challenging part of this whole process, so be careful and measure precisely. You must also make sure the hole is big enough to fit the connections between the ceiling part of the air conditioner and the roof part of the air conditioner. Next, mark locations of where the bolts will go in as well.
  4. Mount the roof part of the air conditioner over the hole. Then, screw the unit in with the mounting bolts at the locations you’ve marked. Next, inside the RV, install the bolts that will hold the ceiling part of the air conditioner in place. Finally, mount and secure the ceiling portion.
  5. Add sealant to the points on the roof where the air conditioner comes in contact with metal for extra stability.
  6. Wire the ceiling unit to the proper locations that will be determined by each wire’s color. In other words, match the wires to their corresponding wires that share the same color.
  7. Plug the ceiling unit into the roof unit. Turn the power supply back on, and your air conditioner should be ready to run and cool your RV.

How to quiet an RV air conditioner?

  1. Install an RV AC Silencer Unit: An RV AC silencer can help if the system does not have any problem but is still making a loud sound. You will find several models from a few brands and the installation does not take more than 15 minutes.
    A unit can lower the AC’s sound by 8 to 10 decibels that can create a huge difference in restoring silence and serenity inside the RV. These silencers use thick cotton lining inside the duct system to make sure that the noise is muffled right there.
  2. A loose component: A loose nut, bolt, or screw can displace a component and make it create an unusually loud sound. The easy way to fix that is to check the system physically and tighten the loose hardware.
  3. Worn out rubber cushion: Every air conditioning system has rubber cushions for absorbing the vibration of various parts. When these cushions wear out or become hard over time, they cannot take in as much vibration as they were used to. For this reason, the air conditioner starts making noises.
  4. Old units: Older air conditioners are not going to get fixed unless you replace them. One last thing that you can do is check the bushings to see if they are loose.
  5. Dirty fan blades: Dirty or off-balance fan blades could be the culprits too. Clean them and the system will start making less sound.
  6. Fan speed: Another solution to the how to quiet RV AC problem is to lower the fan’s speed from high to low. This is one of the simplest fixes for AC noise reduction.
  7. Greasy ducts: Greasy ducts can be another reason for AC’s unusual sound. Cleaning or changing them will solve this problem.
  8. Air vent: Sometimes, restricted airflow makes the AC’s fan create loud noises. In that case, make sure that the registers of the air vent are open.
  9. Maintenance: As with everything else, regular maintenance is necessary to make sure the AC works properly. If the commotion does not stop after performing regular maintenance, you need to replace either a component or the whole unit.

How to clean an RV AC?

AC units need regular cleanings to ensure they operate at peak performance. However, it isn’t enough to only clean the filter. A lot more is required for your RV air conditioner to keep working at an efficient and acceptable rate.

For instance, a good thorough every other season cleaning of your RV air conditioner’s condenser and evaporator will go a long way towards making sure it stays working for a long time. Follow these steps to keep your AC strong and running:

  1. Unplug the AC from the power source by either disconnecting your RV from the shore power or turning off the breaker.
  2. Once you’ve turned off the power source, it’s time to get up on that roof. If your RV’s roof isn’t meant to be walked on, make sure you put down some plywood that you can safely walk on. After you’re safely walking around the roof, remove the nuts and bolts keeping the AC shroud in place.
  3. Cover all the electrical connections with plastic bags to help protect them from moisture. Then, apply your chosen cleaner to coils and let it soak for a good 15 to 20 minutes. Regular household cleaners would get the job done.
  4. After letting it soak, use a garden hose to flush out any loose debris. Depending on how bad you let your coils get, this may take several attempts to get rid of all the dust and other debris.
  5. Let the coils dry out for a few hours. You can even use a vacuum or fan to help speed up the process, but make sure the coils are completely dry before putting the AC shroud back on and turning on the power source.

Why is my RV air conditioner not blowing cold air?

If your AC unit stops blowing cold air, follow these diagnosis steps to identify and fix the problem:

  1. Clogged condenser fins: One reason for an RV air conditioner not blowing cold is clogged condenser fins and external leaks.  Dirt, leaves, and spiderwebs can collect in the condenser coils, so first make sure the fins are clean.  Also, you can use the foil tape to seal the blower box from the outside.
  2. Inside filter: With an RV air conditioner not blowing cold, every little bit contributes to the AC cooling.  On the inside of the intake grate, there is a foam filter that can get filled. You can clean it with soap and water or if yours is a couple of years old, just buy a new one.
  3. Evaporator and blower motor fins: Next step is to clean the evaporator and blower motor fins.  We need to get all the dust and grime out of the grate so that air can flow freely.
  4. Check cooling capacity: Now that we know the air conditioner is getting good airflow, we can check for sure if the AC unit is working.  An RV air conditioner will produce about a 20-degree difference between the intake and exhaust air. The easiest way to check this is if you have a meat thermometer.  Check the ambient temperature of your RV. Then start up your RV air conditioner and let it run for about 15 minutes. Measure the air coming out of the exhaust vent of the air conditioner.  If the difference between the ambient temperature and the exhaust AC temperature is at least 20 degrees Fahrenheit it means the AC unit is working! This is a good sign that the RV air conditioner not blowing cold is not caused by low refrigerant levels but can be caused elsewhere.
  5. Intake and exhaust leaks:
    Hot air leaking into the intake of the AC: On each side of the AC intake, there are wires poking through the duct.  This might not look like a big deal, but the air being sucked in through these holes comes straight from the roof space of the RV.  It’s like blowing a small stream from a hair dryer into the intake of your air conditioner. Use the foil tape to cover up these holes.  
    Cool air leaking out of the exhaust before getting into your RV: Check if the factory foil tape that was used to seal the ducts had fallen off causing gaps between the duct and the roof.  If this is the case, the cool air was blowing around the duct and straight into the hot roof cavity.  
    Intake and exhaust air mixing: Between the intake and exhaust of the air conditioner is a small foam insert.  The splitter has a foam ring that is supposed to seal the two sides from mixing air.  After years of vibration and natural deterioration, the foam causes leaks between the intake and exhaust of the air conditioner.  These leaks cause the cold air that the AC produces to be sucked back into the intake. The air conditioner is working, but the air is just circulating around between the intake and exhaust and never makes it into the RV interior.  To check for splitter leaks, put a flashlight behind the edges and look for light seeping through. Just like with the exhaust leaks, use the weather seal foam and foil tape to seal up any openings. 

How cold should an RV air conditioner blow?

The general rule of thumb for RV air conditioners is that they will keep the RV 20 degrees Fahrenheit cooler than the outside air temperature at 50% humidity. In high humidity conditions, your AC will need to work harder.

In addition, if the RV is in direct sunlight on a hot day the AC unit will have a hard time keeping up. A shaded RV campsite will help improve the cooling efficiency of the air conditioner.

Is it possible to run air conditioners on battery alone? 

Technically, you could run your AC using solely battery power but you must carry out quite a few preparations. Namely, you need solar panels, generators, additional batteries and so on to make it work. Unless you happen to be a full-time RVer, it’s often unnecessary to set up your rig like that.

So all AC models should fit all recreational vehicles? 

In most of the cases, air conditioners for RV on the market could fit the average vehicles without requiring modifications. All in all, just check the size of the AC vent opening, calculate the ideal BTU rating and get the unit that suits you.

The air conditioner in my rig is working fine. Do I have to upgrade it? 

If you feel that your current AC is sufficient to keep the interior cool then feel free to keep it for the time being. Still, if your air conditioner is an outdated, box-like model then it would be wise to look for replacements. Air conditioners like that create a lot of drag on the road which worsens the fuel efficiency of your vehicle.

What are the best brands of AC for RV?  

If you know for certain that a particular AC model is of good quality then you don’t have to care about its brand. But if you want to play it safe and get your air conditioner from reputable manufacturers then keep an eye out for units from Dometic, Coleman, Atwood and so on.

Conclusion

Also in RV Appliances, we’re providing thorough reviews and buying guides which help RV campers have peace of minds choosing the best RV microwave convection ovens, best RV vacuums, best RV dehumidifiers on the market today.

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7 Comments

  1. Avatar Jeff October 18, 2019
    • Chris Coleman Chris Coleman October 18, 2019
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