How to Choose the Right RV Air Conditioner
As perceived by humans, a comfortable temperature range is up to 79 degrees Fahrenheit in low humidity, and only up to 68 degrees Fahrenheit in high humidity. With average humidity, we feel most comfortable at temperatures between 64.5- and 71.5-degrees Fahrenheit. The fickle nature of human comfort makes the air conditioner one of the most important inventions of modern times.
In 1929, Frigidaire introduced a split-system room cooler that was heavy, but small and shaped like a radio cabinet, the first in-home air conditioners. General Electric improved on this design and proceeded to develop thirty-two home air conditioner models in the early 1930s, eight around the time the first RVs were made available to consumers. With the rise in popularity of recreational vehicles as traveling vacation homes, RV air conditioners became commonplace.
Is your RV air conditioner start slow? Is the air current weak or warm? Is it leaking, or does it only work well on specific speed settings? Has it gotten loud? You may need to replace your old unit. Knowing your air conditioner model is an essential first step if you are looking for a replacement.
You should only need to remove your ceiling assembly and perhaps use a flashlight to find the manufacturer’s data tag. RV air conditioners are available for ducted and non-ducted RV campers, so knowing which you have is also important.
Typically, there is a 14″ x 14″ space in the top of your coach made for an RV air conditioner. The installation will require you to unscrew your ceiling from the inside using the four mounting bolts. Remember to disconnect from your power supply before you remove an old air conditioning unit and/or install a new one.
With the top unit off the outside, proper installation will require you to align your RV air conditioning unit with the cut out using the preinstalled gasket. If your RV is ducted, you will have to line up your face place with your ductwork and connect your thermostat to your control kit.
Whether you are replacing an old-fashioned one, or whether you are looking to purchase your first RV air conditioning unit, there are several factors to consider as you’re shopping around, including BTUs, shape, and installation simplicity. You will also want a reasonably quiet one so that it doesn’t distract you when you are driving or disturb you while you are trying to sleep.
Key Features to Look For
BTUs (British Thermal Units) describes the amount of heat energy required to increase the temperature of a pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. One thousand fifty-five joules are the approximate equivalent of one BTU. BTUs will determine how effectively your RV air conditioning unit will be able to chill your space to a comfortable temperature.
Power is a crucial consideration when it comes to RV air conditioners. 13,500 BTU is typical, and higher output will give a little better performance in extreme heat. On the other hand, if you won’t be using your unit often, nor in extreme conditions, you might reasonably be tempted by the lower prices of lower BTU appliances.
Some people prefer to install more than one unit, as a large RV may take up to 18,000 BTUs to cool satisfactorily.
To some extent, this is about the weight of the unit. Especially if you plan to install the air conditioner yourself, you will do better with something compact and not too heavy, and that comes with well written, easy to interpret installation direction and a comprehensive unit manual.
If you are already experienced with RV air conditioners and have had a positive experience in the past, brand loyalty may factor in your shopping. Something else to consider is simply that if you already have replacement parts on hand, you may want to shop with brand compatibility in mind for that reason.
Shape & Size
Compact and aerodynamic are both features that make sense in an item that is going to be mounted on the roof of your moving vehicle. You want an RV air conditioner that will resist wind drag and allow your recreational vehicle as fast, stable, and fuel-efficient as possible. You will also want to factor your RV air conditioner into your vehicle’s overall clearance.
As mentioned above, the hole size for RV air conditioners is pretty standard. However, height can vary significantly. Keeping to a lower profile is often a trade-off between power and drag. That said, the more compact AC units with lower BTUs are also usually more affordable. Hence, it’s wise to think through your energy needs so that you are only compromising your aerodynamics and investing in maximum BTUs out of necessity.
Types of RV Air Conditioner Units
No matter the model, size, and age of your unit, chances are your RV came with a preinstalled rooftop air conditioning unit. The advantages of this installation placement include that it does not black windows or take up already limited floor space. This type of RV air conditioner is reliable and notably energy efficient at cooling a functional size space quickly.
The largest RVs, for instance, a 45-foot Class A diesel pusher, might benefit from a second air conditioner unit for the back bedroom, where you can close a door between that space and the main living area. A portable, ventless, indoor RV air conditioner. These are small, but they do take up floor space. On the upside, they often also include dehumidifier features, they require no mechanical skills to set up, and they are relatively affordable.
Window RV AC units (or floor units that use a window vent) are a less popular option. They are unsightly, and if they aren’t installed correctly can create dangerous fumes.
A loud fan or a noisy RV air conditioner fan motor can disrupt your sleep and make you an unpleasant campground neighbor. Starting with a quality appliance is the first tier toward preventing this problem. Secondarily, strange noises can crop up concerning basic mechanical malfunctions, for instance, something coming loose. Check your screen and vent before you assume it’s anything more technical than that.
When shopping for an RV air conditioner, you may notice that there are dual-usage units on the market. The increased versatility of these units is the advantage of an alternative heater, which means that you have less need to burn propane for heat (and therefore can buy propane less often).
Dual-usage RV air conditioners include a heat pump, allowing them to function not only as air conditioners but as heat sources, too. As one might expect, RV air conditioners with this heat pump feature are generally more expensive, and a heat pump is not designed to heat your RV to toasty comfort in the freezing cold.
RV air conditioners are great and present your key to comfort on the road and at your campsite. Like any other piece of equipment, however, RV air conditioning units do need regular maintenance, and eventually, they will wear and break. An RV air conditioner cover can also be a good investment in protecting your RV AC unit, though nothing lasts forever.
With this in mind, be sure to check your camper air conditioner for simple problems and have the number of a mechanic that you trust on hand for when things get more complicated. If you are reading here because the worst has happened, and it is now necessary to completely replace your RV air conditioner, hopefully, this post will help you feel adequately armed with the knowledge you’ll need to make an excellent selection for your RV.
The Best RV Air Conditioners: The Top 9 of 2021 Reviewed
DOMETIC POLAR WHITE B59516.XX1C0 BRISK AIR II RV AC
Best RV Air Conditioner – Overall Winner
The Dometic Polar White B59516.XX1C0 Brisk Air II is the result of two years of redesign, resulting in maximal airflow and performance thanks to a smartly designed, compact RV air conditioner unit made of high-tech materials. Airflow has been increased by 15% and weight reduced by 19%. This RV AC unit boasts 15,000 BTUs.
The sleek design of the Dometic Brisk Air II manages to provide a durable, robust roof air conditioner with increased airflow at a very reasonable 74 pounds. This is still heavier than some models, but it’s not bad.
Available in a selection of white or black, this model allows you to match the colors and décor of your RV better. Another flexible feature is that it can be used with a ducted or non-ducted system. This appliance has sufficient cooling power in small to large-sized RVs, and consumers have reported it to have a long life.
Consumers also glow about how easy this RV air conditioner is to install. It’ high-speed motor and high-quality fan aren’t prone to air conditioner gremlins. Even so, Dometic offers a 2-Year protection plan, plus warranty, and promises that this redesign has also yielded a quieter appliance.
- Easy to Install
- Includes a 2-year warranty
- Can be used with ducted or non-ducted system
- Can be noisy on highest speed setting
COLEMAN MACH 15 AIRXCEL 48204C866 08-0080 MACH 15 A/C
Best Value RV Air Conditioner
The Coleman Airxcel 48204C866 08-0080 Mach 15 is an excellent choice for that line where affordability meets high functionality. It has many of the essential features of higher-priced air conditioners, with a wallet-friendly price-point. This air conditioner gets low marks for being notably loud, but it is still well-liked because it’s lightweight for a dual-usage unit, at 90 pounds, and it’s easy to install.
The ability to install a unit with ease yourself also saves you money on installation costs. Consumers found this unit to be effective in hot climates, with 320 cubic feet per minute airflow. This product is dual usage, meaning it has both cooling and heating facilities, offering 15,000 cooling capacity BTUs and an electric heat element with 5,600 BTUs.
The heating capacity comes from an electric heat element and means that you can adjust the temperature in your RV, whether the weather is a little too hot or a bit too cold.
The Coleman Airxcel 48204C866 08-0080 Mach 15 is small, with a smart, aerodynamic shape, and there is condenser coil protection for the shroud to enhance its durability. It also features all copper tubing, and gas-flux brazed couplings.
- Dual usage
DOMETIC PENGUIN II 410 AMP LOW PROFILE ROOFTOP AIR CONDITIONER
This Dometic product also comes with the company’s generous 2-year warranty. The Dometic Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile RV Rooftop Air Conditioner is well constructed to last for a long time and, consistent with the brand’s thoughtful touches for consumers, this sleek model also comes in your choice of black or white.
It’s a unit that is built to be useful to all RV owners, though, with so many remarkable features, it’s no surprise that this RV air conditioner is not a bargain item. This unit weighs in at 109 pounds. It functions with a 5-button thermostat.
The Dometic Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile RV Rooftop Air Conditioner also comes in two BTU cooling capacity options, a lower cooling capacity model with 13,500 BTUs, and a high-capacity version with 15,000 BTUs. The unit’s R410A refrigerant also releases heat more cost-effectively. Like the previous Dometics on this list, this air conditioner offers the versatility of being able to work with systems that are ducted or non-ducted systems.
- Includes a 2-year warranty
- Can be used with or without a ducted system
DYER ATWOOD 15026 NON-DUCTED AIR CONDITIONING UNIT
Best RV Air Conditioner for Dual Use
The Atwood 15026 non-ducted RV AC unit is another 90-pound dual usage option so that you can take the edge off a chilly night using the AC units heat pump rather than a fuel-burning furnace. Its manageable weight makes it relatively easy to move around and install.
This air conditioner has been built to stand up to harsh exterior conditions and is notably quiet. It is noted as reliable, durable, and heavy-duty, and its cooling capacity is high, meaning it works well without drawing too much power. As the name implies, this is a non-ducted model.
It has an ample, 15,000 BTU cooling capacity and an impressive 360 CFM air delivery output. The digital thermostat features a well-designed remote control so that you can operate your air conditioner without fiddling with the appliance itself.
- Dual usage
- Can withstand harsh environments
- Frequent cycles can cause a shaking effect
COLEMAN AIRXCEL 48203C966 08-0079 MACH 3 AIR CONDITIONING UNIT
The Coleman Airxcel 48203C966 08-0079 Mach 3 features all-copper tubing gas-flux brazed couplings, so it’s built for longevity and durability. With 320 CFM of airflow, it can offer you a cool environment within minutes, making it a standout among competitive non-Airxcel models, even with just 13,500 BTUs. It weighs only 79.5 pounds and is available in your selection of black or white.
This RV air conditioner is another that can also perform as a heater, but it’s up to you and depends whether you value a heat feature based on how you use your RV. It’s an optional heater assembly, sold separately. It might be a worthwhile addition investment to consider if electricity is an available resource. In that case, this model’s optional heat feature is extremely convenient because it’s electric.
Also note that the heat strip consumes 1800 running watts, compared to the energy required when cooling, which is only 1400 watts. This unit has a lot to offer, though some consumers found it noisy.
- Dual usage
- Could be quieter
ASA ELECTRONICS ACM135 ADVENT AIR AIR CONDITIONING UNIT
The ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air uniquely features a plug-in electric heat strip, making it dual usage and, therefore, a useful piece of equipment for a broader range of climates. It pulls 115 volts and provides 13,500 BTU, putting it in the standard range.
Three different fan speeds give you more control over how your air blows. At a mere 50 pounds, it is quite lightweight, especially for a unit that also offers heating capacity. This makes it easy to maneuver and install. It also has an optional plug-in heat strip available.
It comes in either black or white, to better coordinate with your RV. Despite this and the above mentioned other highly appealing features, this unit loses some bragging rights because several consumers have reported an unfavorable experience with ASA Electronics’ customer support.
- Dual usage
- Multiple fan speeds
- Questionable customer support
DYER ATWOOD 15028 DUCTED AIR CONDITIONING UNIT
Best RV AC for Quiet Performance
The Atwood 15028 Ducted RV air conditioning unit is made for a ducted system and comes with a heat pump that can lend you warmth in chillier weather, or at colder times of the day. It’s built to withstand the weather.
It’s rated at a generous 15,000 BTUs/hour and is said by Atwood to be able to go as high as 18,000 BTUs “equivalent performance.” Despite this stand out power, it’s relatively light. Consumers have also complemented Dyer on their customer service.
It is also reasonably streamlined with a profile just over 13.5″ and an aerodynamic shape. The digital thermostat has a remote control so that you can tweak temperature, fan speed, and enable the sleep timer from anywhere in the coach. It also offers 360 CFM, making it an airflow leader in its class. It’s also quiet, thanks to its Superior V-FLOW™ efficient air transition.
- Dual usage
- High CFM
DOMETIC 13500 BTU DUO THERM BRISK AIR II B57915.XX1C0 AIR CONDITIONING UNIT
Best AC Unit for Your RV on a Budget
The Dometic Duo Therm Brisk Air II is compact and weighs a reasonable 72 pounds. It offers the fairly standard 13500 BTUs, and it recommended for small to medium-sized RVs. It is for non-ducted ceiling installation only and installs using semi-tubular rivets. There is an optional non-ducted heat strip for those looking for a dual usage appliance.
Consumers noted that the instruction manual is well written and easy to understand and that installation was straightforward and took about two hours with merely a screwdriver and a 3/8″ wrench. Once installed, the blower has three speeds, at your fingertips in the Duo-Therm Comfort Control Center. Its carbon steel components have demonstrated their resilience, standing up to vibration tests lasting for 30+ hours.
It is quality built with copper tubing and dual rubber bushings, a carbon steel base, and wrap-around shroud that protect and add strength and lasting power to your appliance. It also has air openings that are larger than average to improve the flow of air and overall cooling efficiency.
It’s an affordable option at its performance level and highly portable, even though it’s made of durable materials. It’s simple to operate and maintain, and it’s compatible with both ducted and non-ducted systems. Some consumers are dissatisfied with the noise level, even though the unit includes dampening brackets designed to aid in the reduction of shaking and noise.
- Dual usage
- Small size
- Could be quieter
- Spare parts are sometimes hard to find
Last update on 2021-02-26 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API