8 Best Rv Air Conditioner Reviews for summer campers


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Staying cool in your RV can be a challenge during the hottest months of the year. It’s even harder if you don’t have the right technology to keep the space cool when outside temperatures soar. 

Whether you need to replace your existing RV AC or you’re simply looking to upgrade, you’ll need to start your search with the best RV AC options on the market today.

But how the heck are you going to canvas the entire market to narrow down your choices? 

Well, fortunately for you, you’ve come to the right place today. You’ve performed the first essential step of a targeted Google search and you’ve landed here.

And we’ve already done all the research for you so that you can significantly decrease the time you spend searching for a new RV AC. 

And the best part is that you won’t have to go into an outlet store or showroom and ask a salesperson all of these questions.

We’ve put everything together in this guide to the best RV AC so that you can choose the right model for your rig and your circumstances today. 

So here we go!

The 8 Best RV ac for motorhomes Reviews & buying guide 2020

Our choices for the best RV AC provide options for RVs, travel trailers, 5th wheels, and even camper vans.

But you’ll want to pay close attention to what we liked and didn’t like about each of these models so you can start narrowing down your choices!

Don’t let your RV feel like a massive sweatbox, Here are our top 8 picks for the best rv AC for you:

Best Overall RV AC

1: Dometic Brisk II (B59516.XX1J0) Rooftop AC

We’ve chosen the Dometic Brisk II Rooftop AC as the best overall RV AC because it can be installed on either ducted or non-ducted RV AC systems and it offers a 15,000 BTU rating for cooling RVs with up to 750 square feet of interior space. 

This unit features a high-performance motor and fan and it has an electrical rating for 115-volt AC power.

This is a full-height rooftop AC unit that offers quiet operation and it also comes with a heat pump so that you can use it for heating or cooling. 

The Dometic Brisk II is designed to be installed in RVs with single-zone thermostats.

So this simply means that it won’t work for large rigs with multi-zone thermostats. 

But it does offer quieter operation than some other AC units because the motor, compressor, and evaporator are all bracketed together to reduce vibrations when it’s running. 

And one more thing I really like about this AC unit is the fact that it features an all-new base pan that reduces its overall weight so that it doesn’t add a bunch of unnecessary drag to your RV.

Other re-engineered features on this AC unit help to make it 19% lighter than previous models and capable of producing 15% higher airflow.

Things We Like
  • BTU Rating: With a 15,000 BTU rating, this AC unit can efficiently cool up to 750 square feet of space.
  • Heat Pump Included: Allows you to use this unit for heating and cooling.
  • Versatile Installation: It can be installed on ducted or non-ducted vent systems.
  • Quiet Operation: The design of the internal components of this AC unit helps to reduce vibrations when it’s running.
Things We Don't Like
  • Single-Zone Use: This particular AC unit won’t work well with RVs that have multi-zone thermostats.
  • Price: You get what you pay for, but this isn’t the most affordable AC unit on our list.

Best Vibration Resistant AC

2: Furrion FACR14SA-PS RV rooftop AC

If reducing noise output is your biggest priority, you should check out the Furrion Chill FACR14SA-BL RV Rooftop AC, which is our choice for the best vibration resistant AC. 

This is one of the few RV AC units out there with VibrationSmart Technology.

This technology protects the AC unit’s internal components from damage caused by excessive vibrations.

But it also reduces the overall noise output of the unit when it’s operating because it minimizes vibrations overall. 

This AC unit also includes Furrion’s patented ClimateSmart Technology, which allows it to operate efficiently in more extreme climates.

And it’s also 40% more energy efficient than other leading single-fan models. 

The Furrion Chill has a 14,500 BTU rating, which means it’s designed to sufficiently cool spaces up to 725 square feet.

And this is a full-height rooftop AC unit, which is another reason why it produces less than 80 decibels of noise output.

Things We Like
  • Vibration Resistance: The vibration-resistant design of this unit minimizes noise output and protects its internal components.
  • ClimateSmart Technology: This unit is also designed to function effectively in more extreme climates.
  • Energy Efficiency: The ‘Chill’ is up to 40% more energy efficient than other leading single-fan AC models.
  • BTU Rating: This unit’s 14,500 BTU rating makes it capable of cooling spaces up to 725 square feet.
Things We Don't Like
  • Energy Needs: This unit may consume a lot of electricity, as it’s rated to require 1,650 running watts and 3,450 starting watts.

Largest Fan Motor

3: Airxcel 08-0080 Arctic 15.0 Rooftop AC

If the size of your AC unit’s fan motor is your highest priority, we recommend looking further into the Airxcel 08-0080 Mach 15 AC unit.

The ⅓-horsepower fan motor on this unit is one of the industry’s largest, which helps to circulate air through your RV more evenly and efficiently. 

This unit has a 15,000 BTU rating, which means it can sufficiently cool spaces up to 750 square feet in size.

This AC unit also has heating capability using its internal electric heating element with a 5,600 BTU capacity. 

This particular unit is best suited for RVs with ducted heating and cooling systems.

It’s capable of producing a maximum airflow of 325 cubic feet per minute and it also requires a 115-volt AC power connection. 

It’s also worth noting that this AC unit will draw just under 15 amps when cooling on its high setting.

The running wattage for this unit also varies depending on where you’re using it.

For instance, while it requires 1,560 standard running watts, it may need up to 2,025 running watts when being used in a desert environment.

Things We Like
  • Fan Motor Size: The ⅓-horsepower fan motor on this unit is one of the industry’s largest.
  • Heating and Cooling Capability: This AC unit also includes an electrical heating element that allows you to use it to keep your RV warm in the cooler months.
  • Airflow: This unit can produce an airflow rate of 325 cubic feet per minute.
  • BTU Rating: Like many of these other AC units on our list, this one offers one of the highest BTU ratings on the market.
Things We Don't Like
  • Compatibility: Just keep in mind that this RV AC unit is specifically designed for use with a ducted AC system.

Best Low Profile Rooftop AC

4: Dometic Penguin II 20 Amp Low Profile Rooftop AC

If you’re looking for a low profile rooftop AC unit, look no further than the Dometic 640315CXX1J0 Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop AC.

This AC unit offers a streamlined design with a height of fewer than 10 inches. That height minimizes drag and improves your RV’s fuel economy. 

It also offers a 13,500 BTU rating that makes it capable of sufficiently cooling RVs with up to 675 square feet of internal space.

It’s also made to be installed on ducted or non-ducted AC systems. For the latter, it has easy-to-reach controls on the ceiling component. 

These controls allow you to adjust the temperature at which the AC unit will turn on and also the speed of the internal fan motor.

But if you do want to install it on a ducted AC system, it will wire directly into your wall thermostat so that you can program your ideal fan and temperature settings. 

It also comes with a pre-installed module board and heat strip that makes it easier to install in thin RV ceilings.

And it offers a maximum airflow of 320 cubic feet per minute on the highest fan setting.

Things We Like
  • Low Profile Design: The height of fewer than 10 inches is the lowest in the industry.
  • Versatility: This rooftop AC unit can be installed on ducted or non-ducted RV systems.
  • Easy Installation on Thin Ceilings: It comes with a pre-installed module board and heat strip for easier application on thin ceilings.
  • BTU Rating: This unit’s 13,500 BTU rating means it will sufficiently cool spaces up to 675 square feet.
Things We Don't Like
  • Low Profile: While it’s better for fuel economy, low profile AC units tend to be louder than full-height models.
  • Price: While you’re paying for a high-quality AC unit, this isn’t quite the most affordable model on our list.

Best Low Profile Rooftop AC Runner Up

5: Airxcel 472038876 Mach 8 Plus AC

If you’re not quite sold on the Dometic Low Profile AC we reviewed above, our runner up for the best low profile rooftop AC is the Airxcel 08-0214 Mach 8 Plus AC unit.

This model provides a maximum airflow of 300 cubic feet per minute on its highest fan setting. 

It also has a maximum rating of 13,500 BTUs, which is enough cooling capacity for RVs up to 675 square feet in size.

The Mach 8 Plus is also a very lightweight AC unit at under 55 pounds and it has compact dimensions measuring 45” x 32” x 14” (length x width x height). 

This unit requires a 115-volt AC power supply and it is available with or without a condensate pump for more humid environments.

The AC’s unique fiberglass base pan also provides excellent strength and durability while reducing the unit’s overall weight.

Things We Like
  • Lightweight: The AC’s unique fiberglass base pan help keep its total weight under 55 pounds.
  • BTU Rating: The unit’s 13,500 BTU rating allows it to efficiently cool RVs up to 675 square feet in size.
  • Compact Dimensions: This unit’s compact dimensions make it ideal for smaller RVs or camper vans.
  • Condensate Pump Compatible: This unit is available with or without a condensate pump.
Things We Don't Like
  • Amperage Draw: This unit draws more than 15 amps when cooling on its high setting.

Best Portable AC

6: Honeywell MN12CESBB Portable Multipurpose AC

If you have a smaller RV or camper van, you might just want a smaller option like the Honeywell MN12CESBB Portable AC.

This AC unit can also be a great supplement for using in an RV that already has a rooftop AC unit. 

What I like about a portable AC unit is that you can take it out of your RV and use it in your garage or home office when you’re not traveling in your RV.

And with a 12,000 BTU rating, this AC unit can efficiently cool spaces up to 550 square feet in size. 

The unit’s dimensions measure 15.2” x 18.1” x 29.3” (length x width x height) and it weighs just over 69 pounds.

It comes with its own window venting kit with an adjustable window bracket that can be customized to widths from 19.9” to 47.25” across. 

This AC unit is also ideal for hot and humid climates. It includes a dehumidifier that can remove up to 66 pints of water from the air in your RV every 24 hours.

And it also includes a fan setting for air circulation on mild days.

Things We Like
  • Portability: This AC unit can be used in your home when you don’t have it in your RV.
  • Window Venting Kit: Allows you to vent the AC unit out one of your RV windows for better performance.
  • Adjustable Window Bracket: Makes it easier to install the venting kit on windows from 19.9 to 47.25 inches wide.
  • Dehumidifier: The included dehumidifier on this AC unit can remove up to 66 pints of water per day from the air inside your RV.
Things We Don't Like
  • Storage Needs: You’ll need enough space in your RV to safely store this AC unit when you’re driving.
  • Weight: At almost 70 pounds, this unit isn’t exactly the lightest “portable” option out there.

Best For Multizone Use

7: Dometic H551816AXX1C0 Blizzard Nxt RV AC

If you have an RV with a multizone thermostat system, we recommend the Dometic Blizzard-NXT Multizone AC unit.

This AC unit is actually extremely versatile. It be installed with single-zone or multizone thermostats and it also works best for RVs, travel trailers, or 5th wheels with ducted ventilation systems. 

The Blizzard offers a 15,000 BTU rating and the ability to cool up to 750 square feet of RV space.

It can also produce an airflow between 330 and 350 cubic feet per minute using its high-powered fan motor. 

The construction of this RV AC unit also includes EPP foam, which provides superior insulation and also reduces the overall weight of the unit.

And the entire unit is protected by an impact-resistant shroud that also minimizes the effects of UV rays on the AC’s internal components.

Things We Like
  • BTU Rating: Its 15,000 BTU rating makes it capable of cooling large RVs, travel trailers, and 5th wheels.
  • Versatility: It can be installed with either single-zone or multizone thermostats.
  • Airflow: This unit can produce an airflow of up to 350 cubic feet per minute.
  • Impact-Resistant Shroud: Protect the entire AC unit from damage and the effects of UV radiation.
Things We Don't Like
  • Price: While we do trust Dometic very highly when it comes to all RV products, this is definitely one of the more pricey RV AC units on our list.
  • Add-Ons: With certain ducted systems, you may have to purchase a return-air grille separately in order to ensure this unit’s compatibility.

Best For Dual Use

8: Dometic Penguin II 651816 AC with Heat Pump

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If you are absolutely set on an RV AC unit that offers dual-use, then check out the Dometic Penguin II AC with Heat Pump.

In my opinion, this is the best RV AC on our list for full-time RVers because it offers plenty of heating and cooling capacity. 

The Penguin II competes with the best in the industry with its 15,000 BTU rating.

This makes it ideal for cooling larger RVs, travel trailers, and 5th wheels with up to 750 square feet of internal space. 

It also offers easy installation if you’re replacing an old AC unit because it fits all standard 14-inch RV AC vent openings.

And while it works best with ducted ventilation systems, it can also adapt to non-ducted installations as well.

While you will have the purchase the ceiling assembly and controls separately to complete the installation of this unit, it does include a pre-installed multizone control board.

This board makes it compatible with multizone thermostats, which are common amongst many of the newers RVs on the market these days.

Things We Like
  • Dual Use: With plenty of heating and cooling capacity, this is a great AC unit for full-time RVers.
  • Standard Fit: This unit fits all standard 14-inch RV roof vent openings.
  • BTU Rating: It offers a highly competitive 15,000 BTU rating for cooling larger rigs.
  • Versatile Application: This unit works with ducted or non-ducted RV ventilation systems.
Things We Don't Like
  • Not A Standalone Solution: You’ll need to purchase the ceiling assembly and control panel separately to complete the installation of this RV AC unit.
  • Price: At its price point, it’s pretty disappointing that this unit doesn’t come with everything you need to install it out-of-the-box.

Buying Guide of rV AC in 2020

Now that you’ve scrolled through our reviews of the best RV AC models on the market today, it’s time to find the one that checks all of your boxes.

So let’s get into the features and specifications of these AC models and say a little bit more about how to prioritize each. 

AC Types

Let’s start this section by defining several different AC types and discussing the advantages or disadvantages of each type. 

Window Units

The main benefit of window AC units is that they don’t require much interior space inside your RV.

They are designed to be installed outside one of the windows in your rig to pull hot air out of your rig and push it outside. 

The issue with these units can be finding the right size. Because of how they are meant to be installed, you’ll need to find a unit that perfectly matches the dimensions of the window you intend to put it in.

Additionally, these units can sometimes obstruct your view and reduce the amount of natural sunlight that can flow into your living space. 

Rooftop Units

Rooftop units are the most common type of ACs for RV use. These types of units often boast the largest cooling capacity of any AC type on the market. And they also don’t require any space inside your RV. 

These designs either include a ceiling-mounted control panel or wire directly to the thermostat inside your RV.

The latter control method can be easier if you like to set-and-forget the ideal temperature at which you want the AC unit to come on. 

But having a ceiling unit with a control panel that you need to adjust manually allows you to only turn on the AC when you absolutely need it.

And over the life of your unit, this can save energy and increase the overall lifespan of your rooftop AC unit. 

Portable Units

The name of these units automatically suggests their largest benefit. You won’t need to embark on a complex installation process and you can always remove the AC unit and use it in other vehicles if you so desire. 

Portable AC units can be a standalone solution for smaller RVs, but they can also be purchased to supplement the cooling capacity of your existing rooftop or window AC unit in a larger rig. 

Under Bench Units

These units are another efficient alternative to rooftop and window AC units because they don’t obstruct window views or reduce natural light from skylights.

But because hot air rises, they often require more power to pull the heat down and push it out of your RV. 

They do, however, have the benefit of being pretty minimal so that they take up very little space inside your rig.

And because they are designed to be installed underneath a bench seat or RV sofa bed, you’ll hardly notice they are there once you have yours installed. 

That being said, some RV owners don’t prefer this type of AC unit because they want to keep the space under the bench clear for storage.

And once you install an AC unit in that space, you’ll have to keep the area clear so that the unit can do its job with maximum efficiency. 

Non-Ducted Units

Non-ducted AC units are more common for smaller RVs, cab-over campers, or camper vans.

This type of unit doesn’t really allow you to target the distribution of cool air throughout your rig, which is essential for larger RVs, travel trailers, and 5th wheels. 

These units work by blowing air out of the unit itself, rather than through a ducted system.

The air then passes through vents that you can manually alter to direct the air to your desired part of your RV’s cabin.

Because these units are typically installed towards the center of your RV, they aren’t always the best at distributing air completely to the most forward and backward spaces in your rig. 

They do, however, come with a more affordable price tag and some of the nicer models allow you to make remote-controlled thermostat adjustments.

The downside of these units is that their operation tends to produce more noise than others.  

Ducted Units

Ducted units are the preferred type for longer rigs because they have the ability to more evenly distribute cool air over the enter length of your RV, travel trailer, or 5th wheel.

They also allow you to more effectively target the distribution of cool air to different areas of your RV, depending on the time of day and personal preference. 

Ducted units function by passing air through the existing ducting system in your RV.

Depending on the specific design of your rig, that ducting system may be located in the ceiling, floor, walls, or even some combination of those three locations. 

These units are designed to be wired directly into your RV, whereas non-ducted systems are not.

They are also the best choice if you want to integrate your new AC unit with your RV’s thermostat.

And this will give you the ability to set the desired temperature at which your AC unit will turn on automatically. 

The additional benefit of a ducted unit is that you can install multiple to be used in conjunction with one another.

This can be really important for longer rigs because a single AC unit just might not be powerful enough to cool the entire space.

And having a second unit also allows you to customize the temperature in different areas of your RV, rather than having to settle for a single set of conditions throughout. 

Low Profile Vs Full Height Design

Another choice that you’ll need to make when considering difference RV AC units is whether you need a low profile or a full-height design.

As you might imagine, low profile designs are slimmer and more aerodynamic.

So if you drive your rig frequently and fuel economy is a major priority for you, a low profile AC unit is the way to go. 

Low profile units also lighter and more compact than full height units. So they reduce drag when you’re driving and can also require a smaller cut-out in the roof of your RV during the installation process. 

Having a low profile unit also adds less height to the overall height of your RV, which can give you more clearance and reduce the risk of making contact with low bridges or underpasses.

So a low profile unit is a must-have if your rig is already on the taller end of things. 

All of that being said, low profile RV AC units (in general) tend to be noisier than their full height counterparts.

So if you have a shorter rig and you’re more concerned about bugging your RV park neighbors than optimizing your fuel economy, then we’d recommend choosing a full-height RC AC unit. 

Power Consumption

Finding a more energy-efficient AC unit will save you money in the long-term because it won’t consume as many watts when it’s running.

This can also improve the lifespan of your RV’s batteries and generator. In some cases, it may also allow you to use other appliances at the same time. 

The problem with AC units that consume a high wattage is that you’ll probably need to run your generator to power them.

And most RV generators burn some type of gas in order to supply your AC unit with the requisite power it needs to operate. 

Gas costs money, so it stands to reason that an RV AC unit that requires a lower wattage will also require your generator to burn through less fuel in order to power it.

At the same time, it may also allow you to turn on other RV appliances while your AC is running without worrying about blowing a fuse or popping a breaker. 

These are all the reasons why an energy-efficient RV AC unit makes sense. But how do you tell how much power a given AC unit will consume before buying it? 

The good news is that most RV AC manufacturers will advertise the starting wattage and running wattage required for their products.

But, we’ll also give you some average figures to work with here:

  • A 7,000 BTU AC requires about 1,700 starting watts and 600 running watts. 
  • A 10,000 BTU AC requires about 2,000 starting watts and 700 running watts
  • A 13,500 BTU AC requires about 2,750 starting watts and 1,250 running watts
  • A 15,000 BTU AC requires about 3,500 starting watts and 1,500 running watts

Cooling Capacity (BTUs)

When some folks talk about the size of an RV AC unit, they’re really referring to its cooling capacity. And an AC’s cooling capacity is typically measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs). 

An AC unit’s BTU rating will tell you if it offers enough cooling capacity for the amount of square footage inside your RV.

To get an estimate of your RV’s square footage, simply multiply your rig’s length by its width and you’ll have a great starting point. 

From there, you’ll need to know how BTU rating translates to cooling capacity over given square footage.

But I’m sure you can already imagine that a higher BTU rating translates to higher cooling capacity. 

Generally speaking, most AC units with a BTU rating between 5,000 and 7,000 will be able to sufficiently cool a 100 to 300 square foot RV.

You can expect units with BTU ratings between 8,000 and 12,000 to adequately cool a 300 to 550 square foot RV.

And the most powerful units with BTU ratings between 14,000 and 18,000 can provide optimal performance for spaces between 550 and 1,000 square feet. 

Now, keep in mind that there can be such a thing as overkill when it comes to an AC unit’s BTU rating.

As these ratings increase, so too (usually) does the unit’s energy consumption. And you can always get two smaller AC units to sufficiently cool a larger RV.

Overall, this can actually wind up being more energy-efficient than purchasing a unit with a super high BTU rating in some cases. 

Ease of Installation

The ease with which you’ll be able to install your new RV AC unit should also be considered before finalizing your purchase.

And what you’re comfortable will ultimately depend on your skills and personal experience level. 

As you might imagine, portable AC units offer the easiest installation process. Simply choose the spot you want to set it and make sure there’s an appropriate power outlet nearby.

Perhaps the biggest concern about this type of AC unit is where you’ll store it safely while your RV is in motion. 

Window AC units are also relatively easy to install because most come with all of the necessary hardware to mount them safely and securely in whichever window of your RV you desire.

But you’ll never be able to drive with one of these units sticking out of your RV window, so you may have to go through the installation process several times if you choose this type of RV AC. 

Under bench units require a little bit of a more complex installation because of their location.

They also must be vented to the exterior of your RV and installing this type of AC unit can be exacerbated by the fact that you’ll constantly be lying, kneeling, or sitting down to work in the space where you’re installing your AC unit. 

The award for the most time-intensive installation process goes to the rooftop AC unit.

These units usually come in two separate parts that are installed on your roof on the interior ceiling of your RV, respectively. 

These parts are then connected at the last minute before you wire the entire unit to your RV’s electrical system. 

And because these units are often made to tie into the thermostat in your RV, they can also require a bit more wiring work that other types of RV AC units.

That being said, the installation process for rooftop AC units should be a one-time process if you do everything right. 

So you won’t have to worry about moving it around, storing it when your RV is in motion, or re-installing it when you get to a new location like you would with some other types of RV AC units. 

Noise Output

To be honest, it’s going to be hard to find an RV AC unit that produces absolutely zero noise output.

But certain models are clearly quieter than others. So if you’re sensitive to the noise of your AC or you’re worried about it being too loud for your RV park neighbors, then you’ll want to find the quietest AC unit possible. 

In general, AC units can produce a wide range of noise outputs. Most units will fall somewhere in the 37 to 82-decibel range, but that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.

Consider, however, that a normal conversation between two adults typically falls in the 40 to 60-decibel range. 

If minimizing the noise output of your AC unit is a higher priority than its overall cooling capacity, then you should look for a unit with a noise output between 40 and 60 decibels. 

But the good news is that there are several things you can do to minimize the noise output of your AC unit after you buy it, such as placing noise-reducing materials like rubber around the unit once it’s installed.

So you’ll be able to prioritize cooling capacity or power consumption and then worry about noise output on the back end. 

Additional Abilities

In addition to being able to cool your RV, some AC units have additional abilities. For example, some come with condensate pumps, heat pumps, and air filtration systems. 

These kinds of features allow an otherwise single purpose AC unit to serve more than one function for your RV space.

An AC unit with an integrated heat pump, for example, will help you weather year-round conditions in your RV by also helping you heat the space when temperatures get colder. 

Some RV AC units also include some type of air filtration system. These units improve the air quality inside your RV by filtering out smoke, dust, CFCs, and other harmful elements that can be floating around in the air.

So if breathing clean air is a high priority for you (and if you ask us, it should be!), then we’d suggest getting an AC unit with some sort of built-in air filtration system. 

And finally, certain RV AC units come with a built-in condensate pump. This pump is designed to remove excess water from the AC unit itself and can also help to reduce the humidity level inside your RV.

For rooftop AC units, having this type of pump is essential unless you want to constantly climb your RV ladder to remove excess water that builds up in your AC unit. 

Price

When we’re discussing the price tiers for RV AC units, we can basically separate them into three categories: under $200, between $200 and $600, and over $600. Here’s a little more on each category: 

Most of the RV AC units that are priced under $200 are portable or window-mounted units.

While affordable, these units don’t usually offer the most durable design and they tend to be noisier than their more well-designed counterparts.

Sometimes they also consume more energy than energy-efficient alternatives. 

AC units with price tags between $200 and $600 are usually of the portable type. These give you the ability to move them around to your desired location in your rig.

They also tend to be more energy-efficient and are best suited for small to medium-sized RVs. 

If you need to replace the rooftop AC in your unit, you’re most likely going to be looking at models over $600.

These units have heftier price tags because they offer more durable, long-lasting designs. They also tend to offer a higher cooling capacity and quieter operation.

So, Which Is Best For You?

We’ve chosen the Dometic Brisk II Rooftop AC as the best overall RV AC because it offers one of the industry’s highest BTU ratings, which makes it more than capable of cooling even the largest of RV, travel trailers, or 5th wheels.

And it’s also versatile enough to be installed on RVs with ducted or non-ducted ventilation systems. 

But those of you in search of a portable option for smaller rigs, or for supplementing your existing rooftop AC unit, should check out the Honeywell MN12CESBB Portable AC unit.

This is the only unit on our list that can be moved around to your preferred location inside your RV and it’s also small enough to work well in camper vans or cab-over campers. 

Frequently Asked Questions

In order to complete the process of incorporating a new RV AC into your rig, you’ll need to know how to remove the old AC, install the new one, and connect it to power.

We’ll answer these topics (and a few more!) in our frequently asked questions about the RV AC units section. 

How does an RV AC work?

RV AC units pretty much all run on alternating current, which is usually supplied by your RV’s generator or shore power (i.e. when you’re plugged into a power stand at a campground).

Because they can pull quite a bit of power, most of these AV units can’t be powered by your RV battery or solar panels. 

In terms of the specifics of how they work, it really depends on the type of AC unit you’re looking at.

But all RV AC units actually pull heat out of your rig and push it outside. This might be contrary to what you feel when your AC unit is running. 

Sometimes it feels like your AC unit is blowing cool air into your unit. But it’s much easier to remove hot air from space to cool it down than to cool air from outside and push it in.

This is especially true in hot climates and this is the basic essence of how RV AC units work. 

How to maintain an RV AC?

The best way to maintain an RV AC is to use it sparingly and make sure to thoroughly clean it every other season.

In between those cleanings, another important maintenance tip is to be mindful of rainstorms, hail, UV rays, and other falling debris that could damage your AC unit. 

If you’re going to be leaving your AC unit unmonitored for several weeks or months at a time, it’s always a good idea to invest in an RV AC cover to protect your unit from being damaged while you’re not around. 

Putting an RV AC cover on your unit also eliminates the possibility of leaks or intrusions that can cause more damage to your RV’s interior or ceiling.

Again, this is especially important if you’re away from your rig for long stretches and can’t be there to immediately remedy any leaks or intrusions that do occur. 

How long does an RV AC last?

This answer will obviously depend on how much you use your RV AC and how well you take care of it.

In short, however, most of the best RV AC units will last somewhere between five and 10 years. Some may last even longer if seldom used or maintained diligently. 

The major factors that will dictate an RV AC unit’s lifespan are frequency of use, the outside air temperatures when the AC is in use, and the initial construction quality of the AC unit you purchase. 

What size RV AC do I need?

When we talk about the “size” of an RV AC unit, we’re usually referring to its cooling capacity or the amount of energy an air conditioner uses per hour.

This energy consumption is usually measured in British Thermal Units (BTUs), which we covered in greater detail in our Buying Guide. 

That being said, the quickest way to determine the right size RV AC for you is to measure the square footage of your RV.

And here’s a quick breakdown of the BTUs you should look for depending on the size of your RV:

  • 100 to 300 square feet calls for an AC between 5,000 and 7,000 BTUs
  • 300 to 550 square feet calls for an AC between 8,000 and 12,000 BTUs
  • 550 to 1,000 square feet calls for an AC between 14,000 and 18,000 BTUs

How to install an RV AC?

This process obviously changes depending on the type of RV AC unit you’re talking about.

But portable AC units don’t require much installation (other than being plugged in) and window units simply install in the right size window at your preferred location. 

As you might imagine, under bench units are also relatively easy to install, so we’re going to focus our answer to this question on the most difficult type of AC unit to install: the rooftop AC unit. 

To start, make sure you turn off the power to your existing AC unit. This means both unplugging the power supply to the unit and flipping the corresponding switch on your RV’s breaker box. 

If you’re going to simply replace your existing AC unit with a new model, you won’t need to worry about selecting the location for your new unit.

But if you’re installing a new unit entirely, you’ll have to choose your location and then cut a hole in your RV’s roof. 

While I don’t recommend doing this unless you have some construction experience, my biggest recommendation for this step is to make sure the location for your new unit is at least eight inches from the edges of your RV’s roof.

You’ll also need to make sure the hole you cut is large enough to give you room for the connections between the roof part of the unit and the ceiling part. 

But, again, I’d recommend seeking professional assistance before cutting a hole in the roof of your RV.

So if you’re simply replacing an old unit with a new one, you’ll want to proceed by unsrewing and removing the roof shroud and then unscrewing the larger bolts that are holding the AC unit in place. 

From there, you can separate the ceiling and roof parts of your old AC unit from one another and remove them from your RV.

Then you can start by mounting the roof part of your RV unit over the hole in the roof. Screw the unit in using its mounting bolts and then head back down inside your RV. 

Once inside, you can install the ceiling part of the AC unit and secure it in place using the second set of mounting bolts.

Now you should actually climb back onto your roof and add sealant around the areas where the mounting bolts come in contact with your roof material.

This will help to weatherproof these mounting locations and also provide more stability to the entire AC unit. 

Finally, you’ll have to head back inside and wire the ceiling unit properly depending on the wire color.

Then, plug the ceiling unit into the roof unit and turn the power supply back on to test that everything is wired properly.

And, again, if you don’t have much experience working with electrical connections, we’d recommend seeking professional assistance with this step. 

How to recharge an RV AC?

Some RV rooftop AC units need to be charged before they can work efficiently. And older AC units sometimes need to be recharged to continue serving their desired purpose.

That’s because these units typically utilize some sort of refrigerant that must be filled to a certain level if the AC unit is going to work to its maximum efficiency. 

When the refrigerant level drops below its recommended capacity, it’s to time recharge your unit.

To do that, you need to begin by lowering the power supply to your AC unit by accessing the electrical breaker in your RV’s circuit panel box. 

From there, you’ll need to find the refrigerant you bought (and hope you bought the right one!).

To make sure you choose the right refrigerant for your AC unit, make sure you consult the unit’s instruction manual. 

With the right refrigerant in hand, head up onto the roof with a socket wrench. You might need several wrenches of different sizes to complete the job, so bring more than you think you need so that you can avoid going up and down your RV ladder several times. 

Once you’re on the roof, remove the shroud screws around the lid of your AC unit and remove the lid carefully.

Try to lift the lid as straight up as possible to ensure that you don’t damage it during the process. 

Set the lid aside and then check the refrigerant gauge. This will let you know about how much refrigerant you need to add to recharge your AC unit.

Then you can unscrew the port and add the prescribed amount of RV refrigerant. 

You should be careful to add your refrigerant slowly because you’ll want to note the difference between the air temperatures within the unit and inside your RV several times during this process. 

When you’re finished adding refrigerant to the desired level, the difference between the temperature inside your RV and the temperature in the AC unit should be roughly 20 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Before putting the lid back onto your AC unit and securing it down, restore the unit’s power supply and monitor the temperature inside your RV for several minutes to ensure that your unit has been recharged effectively. 

Conclusion

If you’re a full-time RVer, there’s no way you can go year-round in your rig without a functioning AC unit.

But even if you only travel in your rig part-time, the ability to cool the air inside your RV is going to make your travels much more comfortable. 

While not all homes have both central heat and air conditioning (depending on their location), these amenities are vital to RVs because they are designed to help you live in multiple different climates throughout the course of a single calendar year. 

So we hope you’ve found our reviews of the best RV AC units useful. We have also aimed to provide helpful insights on the best way to choose a new RV AC in our Buying Guide section, so we wish you the best of luck replacing or upgrading your RV AC unit!