There are several additions you might make to your RV to make it more comfortable. One such addition is an air conditioning unit. Having a source of fresh cool air can make a huge difference after a long drive, particularly in warmer climates or through the summer months. However, with so many different makes and models of RV air conditioners, it can be difficult to know where to start looking for the best one for your RV. Our panel RV experts are here to help; they have created a list of the best RV air conditioners to point you in the right direction.
The Best RV Air Conditioner
If you are looking for a small, light RV air conditioner unit, then the Domestic Brisk II Air Conditioner could be just what you are looking for. The environmentally friendly 15000BTU RV air conditioner unit is created with improved materials, tighter specifications, and a smarter design to provide better performance and maximized air flow. The Brisk II is 19% lighter and provides an airflow increase of 15% compared to previous models. The unit offers improved cooling capacity and increased airflow with its center discharge air delivery.
It fits standard 14×14 air vents, has a more stable and stronger base pan, and a more rigid shroud that improved durability. To maximize its usability the unit is compatible with Domestic accessories including; Universal Air Distribution box, Return Air Grill, Single Zone LCD thermostat, and Comfort Control Center II thermostat.
Nominal capacity 15,000 BTU/Hour
Ducted or non-ducted installation
Center discharge air delivery for improved cooling capacity
Fits standard 14×14 air vents
Requires either an ADB or a thermostat to work
Electrical rating – 115V AC, 60 Hz, 1 Phase
- Weight74 lbs
If you are looking for an RV AC unit that is ideal for ducted systems, then the Coleman Mach 15 A/C Unit might be just what you are looking for. The unit contains a 1/3 hp fan motor which delivers 325 cubic feet per minute of cool air. The fan motor is mounted directly to the bulkhead. This fixes the angle of the blower wheel, ensuring that it turns freely with no interference. The unit also contains oversized coils with raised lance fins. The larger surface area improves the heat transfer capacity of the coils. The tubing is 100% copper and includes a rifled interior wall. This creates turbulence in the coolant flow, expediating the removal of heat from the air.
Capacity 15,000 BTU/Hour
Ideal for ducted installation
Includes 1/3 hp fan, oversized coils, and rifled copper tubing
Electrical rating – 115V AC, 60Hz, 1 Phase
- Weight90 lbs
If you are looking for an air conditioning unit that won’t look out of place on the roof of your RV, then the Dometic Penguin II Rooftop Air Conditioner might be just what you need. It combines a low profile with excellent performance. The contemporary shroud design improves mileage by reducing drag, while the redesigned base pan with ribs provides a base that is stronger than those found on many other RV rooftop air conditioner units. The non-ducted model is compatible with several Domestic accessories including its Air Distribution Kit and Control Kit.
Nominal capacity 13,500 BTU/Hour
Fits standard 14×14 roof openings
Uses R410A refrigerant to release heat more efficiently
Electrical rating – 120V AC, 60 Hz, 1 Phase
- Weight99 lbs
The Coleman Mach 3+ A/C Unit contains a 1/3 hp fan motor which delivers 320 cubic feet per minute of cool air. The shaft is sealed to provide protection from the elements. The fan motor is mounted directly to the bulkhead. This fixes the angle of the blower wheel, ensuring that it turns freely with no interference. The RC rooftop AC unit also contains oversized evaporator and coils with raised lance fins. The larger surface area improves the heat transfer capacity of the coils. The shroud is secured with stainless steel truss head screws that are corrosion resistant. Further corrosion is eliminated using a plastic drain pan.
Capacity 13,500 BTU/Hour
Includes 1/3 hp fan, an oversized evaporator, and oversized coils with raised lance fins
Electrical rating – 115V AC, 60Hz, 1 Phase
- Weight90 lbs
The Atwood 15026 Non-Ducted A/C Unit delivers 360 cubic feet of air per minute and comes with a digital thermostat and remote control as standard. The camper air conditioner unit has an aerodynamic front profile that helps make it one of the lightest air conditioning units in its class.
Nominal capacity 15,000 BTU/Hour
Electrical rating 115V, 60Hz
- Weight150 lbs
The Advent ACM 150 Rooftop Air Conditioner has a base pan made from a rigid, metal construction. It also has a thick, watertight vent opening gasket that includes six dense foam support pads. The three fan speeds ensure you get the airspeed and cooling effect that you want.
Capacity 15,000 BTUs
Three fan speeds
14.25” x 14.25” vent opening
Electrical rating 115V, AC
- Modelacm150sp & acdb
- Weight85 lbs
If you are looking for an air conditioner with a low profile, then the Coleman 47201A876 RV Air Conditions might be just what you are looking for. The Coleman RV air conditioner unit is just under 8 inches tall, meaning it creates less drag and improves fuel efficiency. It incorporates two motors, allowing it to deliver the same BTUs of cooling regardless of whether it is being operated at high or low speed. The unit runs very quietly on low speed and has one of the highest levels of airflow delivery when operated at high speed. Its durability and lightweight construction are aided by a molded one-piece base pan made from fiberglass.
Capacity 9,000 BTU
Two motors for either quiet running or increased air delivery
Low profile for less drag and improved fuel efficiency
Molded one-piece fiberglass base pan
Electrical rating 115V AC, 60Hz
- Weight95 lbs
Best RV Air Conditioner Buying Guide & FAQ
Having a list of the best RV air conditioners is only part of the answer when it comes to choosing the best unit for your RV. It is also important to understand what features you need to look for, the different types of air conditioners that are available, and how best to maintain the unit you buy. In this section of the buying guide, we look at each of these aspects in more detail, as well as exploring the benefits of using a camper air conditioner and answering some of the most frequently asked questions about air conditioning units for RVs.
Features to Look for in an RV Air Conditioner
Air conditioners for RVs vary greatly in how they work, how powerful they are, and the additional features that they have. The features you need for your RV depend primarily on the type of vehicle you have, the places you intend to visit or stay, and your personal preferences in terms of clearance and unit positioning. Here are some of the most important features you need to consider.
- Power compatibility – if you travel internationally, then you need to ensure that your electricity hooks up for your unit is compatible with the local electricity source. An alternative to this is to ensure that you have a suitable generator. This is also beneficial if you tend to travel to more isolated destinations.
- Power consumption – Units that offer lower power consumption are more cost effective over the long term and are more environmentally friendly.
- Vent position and number – The position and number of vents that are present in the air conditioner unit effect the airflow that you experience. Where events are situated on different sides of the unit, you experience a freer flow of air around the space.
- Insulation strength – Insulation strengths of RV air conditioner units vary widely and the strength you need depends mainly on the size of vehicle you have. You should always refer to either your dealer or an authorized service center before making a final choice. In some cases, more than one unit may be required. Ensure you know the insulation strength of any unit you are considering.
- Cooling capacity – The cooling capacity or pull-down power of an air conditioner relates to the speed at which it cools the air inside the RV. Cooling capacity is measured in BTU/h (British Thermal Units per hour). The higher the BTU/h the quicker the air will be cooled.
- Clearance height – If you are adding a rooftop air conditioner unit, then clearance height is something that you need to consider. The taller the unit, the greater the risk of damage when trying to navigate low bridges and overhanging obstacles. A low-profile unit can add as little as 25cms to the clearance height of your vehicle. Not only does this increase your traveling scope but it also reduces drag and improves the aerodynamics of your vehicle compared to using a taller unit.
- Integrated window – while not essential, choosing an air conditioner unit with an integrated window allows you to benefit from the cooler air without losing the natural light that you get from a roof window.
- Integrated heater – Most air conditioner units come with an integrated heater function. However, it should be noted that heat rises. So, if you have a rooftop unit the benefits of the heater may be limited. If you are likely to need regular heat, then an under-bench unit may be more beneficial. In colder climates where the temperature is likely to be close to freezing, then a specialist heater is recommended for the best results.
- 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.
Benefits of Using a Camper Air Conditioner
The main benefit of investing in a camper air conditioner is increased comfort. An air conditioner allows you to control the flow of air around your camper, cooling it when the outside temperature is too high. If you invest in a unit that also has a heat pump, then it can also raise the interior temperature if you are traveling to colder climates or traveling in cooler seasons.
An air conditioning unit therefore also allows you to make greater use of your RV, increasing the places you can travel to in comfort and the increasing the number of months that you can safely and comfortably travel in. It also improves your quality to sleep by helping you maintain the right environment for sleeping so you are not sticky and drenched in sweat or shivering all night.
In addition to your comfort, you can also benefit from improved air quality with an air conditioner unit. Most high-quality units include an air purifying system that improves air quality. And even those that don't help improve the air by keeping it moving and reducing stagnation.
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Types of RV Air Conditioners
There are two main types of RV air conditioners; rooftop and portable. Within these two main categories, there are different options to consider.
Rooftop air conditioner units, as their name suggests sit on the roof of your RV. One of the main benefits of this type of unit is that it does not take up any space within the RV. However, unless you choose one with an integrated window, it can reduce the amount of natural light within the RV.
Another potential issue with rooftop units is that that they are not ideal for heating RVs in colder climates. This is because the warm air tends to stay at the top of the space.
Within the rooftop category, there are low profile air conditioner units. These reduce drag and have better energy efficiency than full height units. They also reduce the risk of damage to the unit when passing under low bridges or other overhanging obstacles.
A further choice with rooftop conditioners is whether to choose a duct or duct-less system. 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. Duct-less systems are more suitable for smaller RVs or those without air systems. They tend to be less expensive but do have a tendency to be noisier.
If you are considering a portable system, then the main considerations are the overall size and whether to choose ducted or ductless. This will depend on whether you have an existing air system in your RV and its overall size. You need to be able to move around the unit safely or positioning safely under a shelf, while also getting the airflow that you require.
For additional comfort alongside your RV Conditioner, you can also buy a portable air conditioner that can be kept in the cabin. Gear Hungry has done a great round up of some of the most popular brands on the market at the moment.
RV Air Conditioner Maintenance Tips
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 take your unit apart. Remember that all units are slightly different and that this is just a general guide.
The coils – to clean the evaporator coils, start by removing the metal covers, unplug the control board, and remove the freeze sensor probe from the coil. It is possible to use normal household cleaners, but you are likely to get better results with a purpose designed cleaner. Such a cleaner will also have step by step instructions for the amounts to use and the best way to apply the cleaner.
Straightening fins – Bent fins can reduce airflow and make your unit less efficient. A coil fin comb is the best way to straighten your fins without damaging them.
Fan motor – any maintenance you undertake should include the fan motor. The motor needs to be oiled. If it has regular bearings, then there should be oiling ports at both ends of the motor. If you have already removed the metal sheeting to access the coils, then these ports should be easily accessible. If none or evident, then this means your motor does not have bearings, rather it has sleeves instead. If this is the case, then oil the shaft where the sleeves meet the housing of the fan motor.
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.
Best RV Air Conditioner FAQ:
Q: How do I install an RV air conditioner?
A: It is important to refer to the manufacturer’s guides or handbook when installing a new air conditioner unit. How you achieve this will depend on the type of unit you are installing and whether you are replacing an existing unit or installing one in an RV that has never had an air conditioner installed before. However, the basic principles are detailed below:
- Ensure that all power is turned off. If you are replacing an existing unit, then ensure that this is disconnected from its power source and is ready to remove.
- Choose the location for your unit. The location needs to be able to support the weight of the unit and it should be free of obstructions. It is generally recommended that you leave at least 8 inches between the edge of your roof and the air conditioner.
- If you are installing a unit in an RV that does not currently have a unit, or you are placing it in a new spot, you need to cut a square out of the roof that fits the connections between the internal unit and the external portion of the unit. Measure this section precisely. If it is too big, then it could affect the mounting bolts, too small and the connections may not work correctly.
- Now you are ready to mount the two sections with the mounting bolts. Ensure you secure the two sections in the correct positions.
- Use a sealant to add additional stability to the roof section and reduce the risk of water and debris entering the unit.
- When you are ready, wire up the electrics, plug in the unit, and turn the power supply back on. Turn on the air conditioner and check that it is working as expected.
Q: Can I also heat up my RV with an air conditioner?
A: 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 rises, so the warmer air will be created at roof level and will stay there.
You also need to be aware of the heat pumps working restrictions, including the temperature range at which it is effective. If you are traveling in areas where the temperature is regularly around freezing, then your air conditioner heat pump is unlikely to be effective at all. A secondary heat source is always a good idea.
Q: What does BTU indicate?
A: BTU stands for British thermal unit. It is a traditional unit of heat that defines the amount of heat that is needed to raise the temperature of one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit, One BTU is equivalent to roughly 1055 joules. In relation to air conditioning units, the measurement is used to express the amount of heat that can be added or removed from the surrounding air.
Generally, the higher the BTU the quicker the air can be cooled or heated, however, when choosing an RV air conditioner, it is important to weigh this against the size of the area you need to cool or heat. If the unit is too powerful it could cool the area too quickly and leave you either freezing or constantly adjusting your thermostat and temperature controls.
Q: What is a heat pump?
A: 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 area within the RV.
When you want to cool the RV, the pump removed warm air from inside and replaces it with cool air. However, in the colder months, the process can be reversed and cool air from inside is pumped into the system and pumped out as warmer air.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick for a small, light RV air conditioning unit, is the Domestic Brisk II Air Conditioner. The environmentally friendly unit is created with improved materials, tighter specifications, and a smarter design to provide better performance and maximized air flow. The Brisk II is 19% lighter and provides an airflow increase of 15% compared to previous models. The air conditioning unit offers improved cooling capacity and increased airflow with its center discharge air delivery. It fits standard 14x14 air vents, has a more stable and stronger base pan, and a more rigid shroud that improved durability. To maximize its usability the unit is compatible with Domestic accessories including; Universal Air Distribution box, Return Air Grill, Single Zone LCD thermostat, and Comfort Control Center II thermostat.