Choosing the Right RV Thermostat
RV thermostats can be temperamental little devices that can make you scream if you get the wrong one or install them wrong, so it’s important to know what to look for.
The easiest way to replace a broken RV thermostat is to buy the exact same thermostat you already have, but that may not always be the best option. This is especially true if you have an old RV thermostat that is outdated and/or you can’t find it on the market anymore.
Another reason for a change in RV thermostat is that you don’t like the one you have, the one you have is too complicated, or you’re changing out of want instead of necessity. No matter what your reason is, this guide will prove helpful in your search for the right RV thermostat.
Types of RV Thermostats
There are two main types of RV thermostats – mechanical and digital. Both RV thermostat types work well, but there are some advantages and disadvantages to each. We’ll be honest; mechanical thermostats have many more drawbacks than benefits. While the problems aren’t necessarily deal-breakers, you may find that it helps to swing your decision one way or the other.
Analog (Mechanical) Thermostats
Analog thermostats are a bit basic when compared to a digital thermostat. First, they don’t have any electrical components. They work through two pieces of metal that are glued together. These pieces of metal expand and contract as the temperature fluctuates, which is what causes the RV thermostat to gauge the room temperature. This might sound a bit old school (and it is), but it still works well, and there are specific scenarios where an analog thermostat is preferred. One such situation is if your heating system uses a heat pump. Digital thermostats can cause heat temperature fluctuations due to the “auto” feature. This means that at certain times, it may turn the heat pump off or cause the heat pump to cool off. Heat pumps aren’t designed to work this way, so an analog thermostat would prevent this from happening.
- Much cheaper than digital thermostats.
- No worries about power surges destroying the RV thermostat.
- Easy to operate.
- Tends to be inaccurate (up to about five degrees off in either direction).
- Can’t be controlled wirelessly.
- Looks unattractive and retro.
- Not easy to tell when something is wrong with it.
- Not popular anymore.
Digital thermostats have quickly become the more popular option for controlling the temperature in an RV. They are dynamic, interactive, and, more importantly, extremely accurate. Digital thermostats have digital sensors that can “read” the temperature of the room and are usually accurate to within one degree in either direction. While digital thermostats cost more upfront than mechanical thermostats, the savings in energy down the road make up for the price difference.
- Uses less energy.
- Smart digital thermostats can be operated from a smartphone or device.
- Digital display gives you system information.
- They look modern.
- They are very accurate.
- They are programmable.
- They cost more than mechanical thermostats.
- They can be more complicated to operate.
- They are susceptible to power surge damage.
Single- or Dual-Function
This isn’t hard to grasp. An RV thermostat will either control the heater, or it will control both the heater and the air conditioner. It just makes sense to buy a dual-function RV thermostat unless you don’t have an air conditioner in your RV, and you have no plans to buy one. Single function thermostats are cheaper than dual function thermostats, so there’s that point also.
Single-Stage or Multi-Stage
Depending on how many heat sources you have in your RV, you’ll have to choose between a single-stage or a multi-stage thermostat. Most people will use a single-stage RV thermostat because they will be using battery power. However, if you have, for example, solar panels that you want to use along with your battery, then you’ll need a multi-stage thermostat.
Thermostats are not “one size fits all.” They come in a wide variety of sizes and shapes. You will need an RV thermostat to cover the hole in the wall that it will be installed on. You don’t want to have exposed wires for aesthetic and safety reasons.
Having a good warranty is always important with any equipment/appliance/device purchase, and an RV thermostat is no exception to this rule. If you can’t find the product’s warranty or if the warranty is unclear or pure gibberish, choose a different product. Chances are you won’t need to use the warranty, but you want to have a good one just in case you’re that one in a million that does need it.
A Few Other Tips You Should Know Before Settling on a Thermostat
- Not all thermostats are compatible with all systems. Make sure you double-check that you either have a universal RV thermostat or that the one you choose works with the model you want. The best way to do this is to match the thermostat brand with your air conditioner/heat system’s brand.
- Wiring an RV thermostat can be frustrating even if you know what you’re doing. Aim for one that is easy to install, if at all possible, or be prepared to hire a professional for more complicated setups.
- Home thermostats and RV thermostats are not interchangeable. They are designed for different voltage systems/powers.
- Newer, technologically-advanced thermostats don’t necessarily work better than older models. Most of that technology won’t make a massive difference when running your HVAC system. You can save money by opting for older models and getting a similar performance as you would from the newer models.
Shopping for a thermostat doesn’t necessarily have to be a complicated experience. Simply find the best models you like, compare, and contrast using our guide, and you’ll have the perfect thermostat for your RV.
The Best RV Thermostats – The Results
Dometic RV Heat/Cool Analog Thermostat
This Dometic RV thermostat is one of the most popular analog thermostats that Dometic offers. At first glance, it may look a bit boring and static, but the simplicity of it can be attractive to some people. It’s a little more than just a basic on/off thermostat. You have a couple of options.
First, it’s a dual-function RV thermostat so you can control both heat and air. You set the temperature with a slide tab that ranges from 40°F to 90°F. To further tailor the temperature, the thermostat has a hi or low option for the fan speed.
The thermostat a bit wider than comparable thermostats, measuring 7 x .05 x 3 inches and only weighs about 2.4 ounces. We would like for the thermostat to be a little more sturdy. It’s made of a cheap plastic material that seems like it may not hold up for the long-haul. However, it is bargain-priced and works well.
- Easy to install.
- Blends in well with most RV environments.
- Controls both heating and cooling
- The warranty information isn’t readily available.
- It feels flimsy compared to others.
Bottom-Line: If you want to save a few dollars, this RV thermostat is bargain-priced but still works well and gives you options
Coleman RV Camper Thermostat
The Best Heat & Cool Analog Thermostat
This Coleman analog thermostat is very similar to the previous Dometic analog thermostat. It has the same dual functions, but the sliders and words are on a different spot on the Coleman RV thermostat than the Dometic. The only real, meaningful difference is the brand names. Both Coleman and Dometic are known for producing quality camping products, but Coleman is more of a trusted brand. Many of Coleman’s products are made in the United States. Although the thermostat is not one of them, the fact that they have factories in the U.S. is enough to sway people to Coleman over Dometic.
What we do like about this thermostat over the Dometic RV thermostat is that it doesn’t feel as flimsy. The quality of the plastic used to make the thermostat seems as if it would last a lot longer than the Dometic thermostat. While they both perform equally, it’s nice to know that you won’t have to replace this thermostat as soon as you would have to replace the Dometic thermostat.
- Comes with a 90-day warranty.
- Durable and works wells.
- Available in black or white.
- Controls both heating and cooling
- Only adjustable down to 55°F.
- Not universal.
Bottom-Line: If you’ve determined that this thermostat can work for your needs, this is a great, top quality thermostat that isn’t outrageously expensive.
Suburban Heat-Only Wall RV Thermostat
The Best Bargain RV Thermostat
This Suburban RV thermostat is a single-function thermostat that will control your furnace. Interestingly, it has around the same temperature range as the Dometic and the Coleman thermostats. It ranges from 50°F to 90°F and measures 2.8 x 1.2 x 3.5 inches.
The Suburban is a single-stage, 24VAC RV thermostat that has the basic operations you’ll need. It has a visible temperature gauge at the bottom, but you can’t set the temperature accurately. You move the lever to the left for cooler or to the right for warmer air and hope that eventually you find the right spot for the temperature that you want.
For a bargain-priced RV thermostat, you can’t expect much more complicated operations or choices than this. It comes with a 90-day warranty and decent installation instructions. It is pretty small, which means that the writing is also tiny, so we don’t recommend this thermostat for people who have low-vision issues.
- It works with any two-wire installation system.
- It’s extremely affordable.
- Works very well for a cheap piece of equipment.
- Can’t tell what temperature you’re setting it to.
- Doesn’t last as long as comparable thermostats.
Bottom-Line: This is a cheap thermostat, and you get what you pay for, but it does what you need it to, and it works well.
Honeywell FocusPro 5000 Non-Programmable Thermostat
OVERALL WINNER: The Best RV Thermostat
The first digital RV thermostat on our list is a real gem. We named it as the best RV thermostat because it does have everything you need in a thermostat. Honeywell is also a well-trusted brand, so you can rest assured that you’re getting a top-quality product. One of the most impressive features is the super, backlit LCD. It is very bright at night when in use, but when not in use, it dims down so it won’t interrupt your sleep. The display features large numbers for easy visibility.
The FocusPro 5000 is a single-stage, dual-function thermostat. It shows you the room temperature as well as the temperature that you set it to, and it has simple-to-use buttons for changing the temperature and selecting the function.
The FocusPro 5000 performs the same tasks as the thermostats previously mentioned in the list. The only difference is that it’s digital, so it’s more accurate than the other thermostats. This means that it will save you power. It measures 4 x 6 x 1.5 inches and has a temperature range of 40°F to 90°F.
- Has a five-year warranty.
- Dual-powered (battery or hardwired)
- Controls both heating and cooling.
- Can control millivolt systems.
- Not programmable.
Bottom-Line: This is an excellent thermostat at a fair price for anyone desiring a digital thermostat.
Coleman Airxcel Digital RV Thermostat
Best Quality Thermostat
The Coleman Airxcel digital thermostat is like the tank of thermostats. It’s constructed so well that it will seem like it’s never going to break. This isn’t just hype. It is a high-quality product that functions well and lasts a long time.
The Airxcel is a single-stage, dual-function thermostat that is exceptionally accurate in cooling your RV to a exact temperature. The thermostat operates within a 1-degree window, saving you energy. It measures 8 x 1.5 x 5 inches and ranges from 33°F to 98°F. It’s slightly wider than most, but not so broad that it’s a distraction.
- High-quality construction.
- Easy to install.
- Controls both heating and cooling
- The LCD is tiny.
- No backlight for the display.
Bottom-Line: If quality is your biggest concern, you’ll be good to go with this RV thermostat because its strong, durable, and accurate.
Dometic Comfort Control Center
Best Programmable RV Thermostat
This is one of Dometic’s older programmable RV thermostats, but it is such high quality and works so well that we wanted to include it in the list. If you don’t mind a bit of an “old school” look, then you’ll save money by choosing an older model over a newer one. It’s a fair-sized control center, measuring 8 x .5 x 3 inches.
One of the most impressive features of this programmable thermostat is the fact that you can set the temperature for four different climate zones. While this may be slightly excessive for a small RV, it’s perfect for a large RV. You can make everyone comfortable in their own space during your RV living with ease.
We also like the fact that, despite all of the choices that you have, the control panel is easy to use. The buttons are clearly labeled, and the LCD screen is a great size. We do wish that the LCD screen was backlit, but we can give this up for all of the other conveniences that the control panel offers.
- Programmable thermostat that sets the exact temperature
- Smart memory remembers settings after a power outage.
- Background color of the LCD makes it easier to read display.
- It is not compatible with the four-button control center (for a replacement).
- Controls both heating and cooling
- Tedious installation.
- Must be programmed before use – programming instructions not included.
Bottom-Line: While probably not suitable for smaller RVs, this programmable RV thermostat is excellent for people who need separate temperatures in different parts of the RV.
ICM Controls SC1600L Non-Programmable Thermostat
Sometimes you just need something simple. If this is the case, then this ICM thermostat is just right for you. It is a single-function, single-stage thermostat that controls only heat. It’s so simple that it only has one switch. You can choose between “off” and “on” (on is indicated by the word heat). It doesn’t get any more fundamental than that.
The thermostat does have a very small LCD with up and down buttons to change the temperature. It has a temperature range of 45°F to 90°F and measures 4.6 x 1.2 x 3.75 inches. It’s a battery-powered thermostat. Unfortunately, it’s not designed to be hardwired, so you’ll be investing in batteries for the duration of the thermostat’s life. However, it doesn’t use much power, so the batteries should last a while.
While it doesn’t have super impressive features, you’ll be impressed with how well it works. It’s also very durable and is known to last a very long time, so you can take comfort in knowing it won’t need to be replaced any time soon.
- Millivolt compatible.
- Can be remotely controlled.
- Has a low battery indicator.
- Simple installation
- The LCD is tiny.
- No fan speed setting
Bottom-Line: Knowing the limitations of the device, as long as you don’t expect it to run your entire RV, you’ll have a great thermostat to control the heat in your RV without a whole bunch of extra features you don’t need.
Last update on 2021-05-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API