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Do RVs Have Air Conditioning?


Many people’s travel bucket list includes planning a getaway in an RV road trip. It’s an excellent way to visit new locations and their local hubs.

First-time travelers might feel intimidated to go on a road trip using an RV because they don’t want to feel sweaty and uncomfortably hot in their interior space when traveling. So the question is, do RVs have air conditioning?

In this article, we will discuss whether RVs have an air conditioner and how it can perform efficiently on the road, so you can stay cool and save funds for your other travel needs.

Is It Possible to Have an Air Conditioning Unit in an RV?

Yes, it is possible since most RVs already have air conditioners. In some RVs, they have one ceiling AC unit installed. Others have dash AC units as well. It’s uncommon to come across a truck camper without an AC unit. RV air conditioners are often quiet, well-integrated, and energy-efficient.

These AC units are generally reliable for your RV adventures. Regardless, if an RV doesn’t have a built-in AC system, there are many ways to install an AC unit yourself.

How Does Air Conditioning Work in an RV?

An RV air conditioner works in the same way that a home or car air conditioner does. A compressor circulates a refrigerant through a circuit of tubes called a vapor compression refrigeration circuit. First, the compressor circulates, heats, and then compresses refrigerant vapors inside the air conditioner. When the vapors are under high enough pressure, they emit heat into the condenser.

The condenser removes heat from the air and pushes it out of the RV. The refrigerant vapors are cooled down and turned back into a liquid inside the condenser.

This cool liquid makes its way to the evaporator, which is absorbing heat from the warm air inside the RV. The temperature of the air reduces when the hot air gets washed over the cool coils of the evaporator. This cool air is blasted back to the RV through the vents.

As the refrigerant liquid absorbs heat in the evaporator, it condenses into a vapor and returns to the compressor to recycle through the system.

What Size Do You Need for Your RV Air Conditioner?

This basic explanation describes why the refrigeration process within an AC unit requires so much energy. It takes a lot of energy to convert a refrigerant gas to a liquid, then back to gas.

The BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is the value that measures the energy used in RV air conditioners. The higher the number of British thermal units, the more power an RV AC unit uses. The most typical RV air conditioning sizes are between 11,000 BTUs and 15,000 BTUs, yet smaller models are available.

If your RV is longer than 32 feet, you should consider installing a second air conditioning unit. But if you own a larger RV, you will probably want a third air conditioner.

Toy haulers frequently struggle to keep their garage portion cold because they have larger capacity sizes, though it is possible if they install two AC units or a larger unit.

Different Types of RV Air Conditioners

Now, let’s take a look at the different types of RV air conditioners you can use for your future trips in this vehicle:


Most RV air conditioners commonly have a roof-mounted unit. These units come in different sizes. Usually, most RVs have one to three. Many taller RVs may install low-profile roof-mounted RV air conditioners to avoid adding height to their RV.

A duct system transports the cool air produced by the roof-mounted air conditioner into the living space. On the other hand, ductless models include a dump feature that blows cool air into the living area.

Roof mount units are generally noisy both inside and outside. However, some manufacturers attempt to quiet an AC unit down by ducting the interior air. The ductless air conditioners can be extremely loud. These AC units are also less energy efficient because of their small compact condensers and evaporators.

In other regions, if they want to keep their RVs warm quickly and effectively, they need to install a heat pump that runs on electricity and is part of the rooftop AC unit.


The under-bench air conditioner can be installed inside your RV, either under the seating or in a storage space compartment. This might be the best solution if your RV has a curved roof or other equipment such as solar panels. Under bench storage also guarantees that natural light from the roof window is not lost. 


Many premium motorcoaches have an air conditioning system installed in the basement. This creates a more pleasant environment in the living space. It is an excellent alternative for someone driving a larger motorhome and doesn’t want to listen to the noise of an air conditioner.

Many RV users appreciate not having to climb on their RV’s rooftop to maintain their AC system. Some people, however, worry about heat loss from pumping air into the RV because cool air sinks. Basement air conditioning is generally more efficient than rooftop air conditioning, although it is significantly more expensive.

Split Unit

A split unit, or a mini split air conditioner, is a high-efficiency air conditioning system growing popular nowadays. This type of AC unit is usually seen on high-end coaches and custom builds. RV travelers who value low noise and high efficiency should consider this. You can install this type of AC unit and enjoy the cool air, but it is a challenging and expensive upgrade.

It is relatively simple to retrofit a split unit into your RV. These AC units can be installed to the frame of an RV to help minimize the amount of interior noise produced by a bulky roof-mounted air conditioning unit.

12V DC Air Conditioner

DC power is becoming more popular in RV air conditioners, which means the RV AC units could run off batteries and solar power more effectively and efficiently.

Many full-time RV travelers have invested significantly in solar panels, an inverter, and extra batteries and have discovered ways to power their RV AC units on solar energy.

Pros and Cons of Installing an RV Air Conditioning Unit

Consider these things if you plan to install an RV air conditioner:


  • An RV air conditioner unit can remove heat and keep the inside of your RV cool.
  • RV air conditioners can reduce humidity levels and temperature inside your RV.
  • An RV air conditioner allows people to sleep better at night and enjoy their daytime activities more.
  • Those who suffer from allergies or asthma can feel instant relief if air conditioning units are available in an RV.


  • RV air conditioner installation, purchase, and operating costs are all pricey. When operating, an AC unit demands a larger power supply and consumes more energy.
  • The power source of different campsite pitches differs.

How Many Watts Do You Need to Run Your RV Air Conditioners?

RVs typically have built-in air conditioners, yet they won’t be able to run your AC on engine power alone. RVs need to be powered by a generator since they consume lots of energy.

Air conditioners work on a generator feature called AC power. It has a power supply from 120-volt plug-in sources such as residential electricity and portable generators. Air conditioners can run on gas generators, though they are expensive to refill regularly.

As stated, a powerful generator is required to power RV air conditioners. The air conditioning system consumes the most energy of any device in your vehicle. If you need air conditioning but don’t have access to electricity, you should invest smartly in a generator that can meet your desired cooling capacity.

We recommend getting a mid-size generator with 3000 watts as a starting point for powering one air conditioning unit. Another option is to buy two smaller, cooling power 2000-watt generators to supply electricity to one AC unit.

How Long Can You Run an AC in an RV?

An RV air conditioner can operate for as long as it’s connected to a power source. If you connect your RV to residential shore power or an RV park power hookup, your RV’s air conditioner will operate all day and night.

The same is true if your power source is a generator, and as long as there is enough fuel to keep the generator going, your RV air conditioner will continue to run.

However, it consumes a ridiculous amount of energy. Depending on the cost of electricity, running numerous air conditioners can be costly. If you intend to use multiple air conditioners, be prepared to pay the electric bill.

How to Make Your RV AC Run More Efficiently

Here are some quick tips to help you run your RV air conditioner efficiently and generally keep your RV with cooler air while you conserve energy:

Make Sure Your AC Air Filters Are Clean

Proper airflow is essential in keeping your air conditioners operating efficiently, while dirty filters will slow that process down. Leaving your air filters dirty increases the wear and tear on the compressor and other delicate parts like the evaporator coils.

Filters can quickly accumulate dust while driving, so inspect your cold air return and filters every two months.

Keep the Exterior Air Exchanger Clean

The outside air exchanger on RV air conditioners should be capable of rejecting heat outside. It’s a set of cooling fins outside that a fan blows air through. If these get clogged with trash or bugs, the air conditioner may lose efficiency and can freeze up.

We recommend doing RV maintenance and inspecting the outside exchangers once a year or if an AC unit has been running for a long time.

Use Fans to Circulate Cool Air

An RV air conditioner tends to cool up the air directly in front of the vent, creating a pocket of cool air. Using ceiling fans for RVs can help disperse cool air across the room and lower the temperature faster.

Park in the Shade Whenever Feasible

Use the canopy to provide more shade around your RV. The more you can keep the inside of the RV from heating up, the less your air conditioning units will have to work to remove the extra heat.

Close the Doors to the Areas of the RV You Aren’t Using

Close the vents in bedrooms that are not occupied during the day so that air coming from an AC unit can push all of the air into the room. It forces the cool air to circulate throughout the RV rather than escaping through the vents, causing the air conditioner to recycle more hot air from the vehicle.

Avoid Adding Extra Heat Into the Air

Cooking or using a microwave, stove, or hot water in the RV will add extra heat to your interior space. If these devices operate, then an AC unit’s emitted cool air drops. While running the air conditioner, use your outdoor kitchen or grill to cook food outside the RV.

Install LED Lights in Your RV

Consider putting up LED lights. These are not only far less expensive to maintain than other types of electric lighting, but they also emit significantly less heat.

Insulate Your RV

Consider tinted or double pane windows for your RV to effectively insulate it against hot temperatures. Close the shades and make tight seals in areas where heat can enter your RV.

Install an RV Thermostat for Your Air Conditioners

Most RVs control each room’s temperature with a sectioned thermostat. A thermostat is typically equipped with temperature sensors that gauge the deficits in temperature between different rooms. These thermostats are especially beneficial if you use a propane-powered generator since they allow you to monitor and control how much gas you use.

Final Thoughts

Installing an AC unit in your RV is a wise investment. After all, this can benefit you in various ways. If you already have one, keep your filters clean and follow our energy-saving guidelines to keep your RV AC system running well, so you can stay cool at all times.

JP Reyes

JP has been in the aircon industry for almost as long as he has been alive. As a child JP would help his tatay fix aircon units at their junk shop in Cavite. After graduating UP in the early 2000's, JP then started his own Aircon servicing business and within 5 years had 10 shops in 8 different cities. Fast forward to today and JP brings all his experience and expertise online to give readers trustworthy advice and reviews about Air-conditioning buying, servicing, cleaning and repair in the Philippines.

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