RV Air Conditioner Guide

RV Owners

An RV air conditioner is, in our opinion, absolutely essential, especially when camping during the summer months. This means you will want to make sure you purchase a quality unit, install it properly, and maintain it well. 

Lucky for you, you’ve come to the right place. Below is everything you need to know about your RV air conditioner and more. 

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Finding the Best RV Air Conditioner

First, let’s talk about finding the best RV air conditioner. There are several factors to consider to ensure you get the very best unit for your rig and camping style.


We believe power is the most important thing to look at when shopping for RV air conditioners. RV air conditioner power is measured in BTUs, or British Thermal Units. Most units are going to offer 13,500 BTUs of output.

Those who spend a large amount of time in hot places will want units with a higher output. Meanwhile, those who will rarely use their A/C may prefer something with less power at a lower price.

Dual Usage

Another thing to know when shopping for a camper air conditioner is that there are dual-usage units available. These versatile appliances include a heat pump, allowing them to function as heaters as well as air conditioners. This is great because it means you can use your propane furnace less often, saving you fuel and money.

All that said, these air conditioner units are more expensive than most. Additionally, the heat pump will not warm a space in very cold weather.

Ducted vs Non-Ducted

Motorhomes with multiple ducts in the ceiling use ducted RV air conditioners. The RV ducted air conditioner distributes cooled air throughout the rig, ensuring consistent cooling. They are generally quieter and provide a more steady overall cooling of your motorhome. However, they are also more expensive. 

Smaller RVs or campers often use a non-ducted RV air conditioner, which blows air out of the bottom part of the unit to cool a room, meaning one area is likely to be cooler than others. While it’s possible to switch from a non-ducted to a ducted air conditioning setup, the change can be expensive. 


Size is another thing to consider. While larger, traditional RV air conditioners put out a lot of cool air and are ideal for big rigs, low profile AC units also have their merits. 

A low-profile RV air conditioner works just like other RV air conditioners but has a lower profile. This gives you more space on the roof of your rig and might even be necessary for a taller motorhome or trailer. They also produce less drag, improving fuel efficiency, and tend to cost a bit less, but some find that the fuel and cost savings isn’t worth the loss of power. 

Recommended RV Air Conditioner Models

Dometic RV air conditioners are some of the most popular and highest-quality RV air conditioners. Coleman RV air conditioners also rank very highly!

RV Air Conditioner Accessories

You may need (or want!) a few additional items to help you get the most out of your RV air conditioner. 

RV Air Conditioner Cover

The RV air conditioner cover is a fabric case that ties around the rooftop shroud of the AC unit when the vehicle or the unit isn’t in use. They’re made from vinyl and reinforced with weatherproof nylon thread and a parachute drawstring at the base to keep the case tight around the air conditioner.


You may want to buy a generator if you’d like to use your RV AC when no hookups are available. There are dozens of suitable generators for sale, but you must consider your RV air conditioner amps as well as how much power it draws, in other words. 

On average, a standard 13,500 BTU unit draws 11.5 amps, which means it can run off a standard 2000 watt generator. That said, it may have trouble upon start-up and occasionally power down due to a lack of current. 

To avoid this, it is best to purchase a more powerful, 3000 watt generator (or larger) or look into a SoftStart add on. 

RV Air Conditioner SoftStart

SoftStart RV is a handy little add on that reduces the amount of power required for your RV air conditioner to run at peak amperage. This means you can run your RV AC unit when plugged into 20 amp power or when using a smaller, 2000 watt generator. 

Air Conditioner Filters

You will likely have to purchase RV air conditioner filters at some point to keep your unit running clean without issue. These stop dirt and other unwanted elements from going through your air conditioner and into your RV, but they inevitably, of course, get dirty. 

How to Install an RV Air Conditioner

Of course, purchasing an A/C for your camper and stocking up on accessories is only half the battle. The next step is the RV air conditioner installation. Luckily, it’s pretty simple to install RV air conditioner units and can be done with basic hand tools.

Removing the Old Air Conditioner

  • Begin by turning off the air conditioner and unplugging your RV from all power sources. 
  • Put down blankets to protect the roof surrounding the A/C. 
  • Carefully climb onto the roof, remove the screws around the shroud of your old unit, and pull the shroud away. 
  • Using a putty knife, carefully scrape away any old adhesive.
  • Head back inside and remove the ceiling assembly from the ceiling. 
  • Remove the four long bolts that hold the A/C in place, and the metal retaining flange should drop down. 
  • At this point, you should be able to disconnect the A/C wiring and unscrew or loosen the ducting from the unit.
  • Go back onto the roof and separate the old unit from the roof using the putty knife if necessary. 
  • Carefully lift the old unit out of the duct hole and clean the area well, making sure no adhesive or putty is left behind.

RV Air Conditioner Installation

  • To install the new unit, remove the shroud and place the unit over the duct hole, making sure the rubber gasket lines up with the hole perfectly.
  • Head back inside and connect the wiring and ducting. 
  • Install the metal flange, ensuring it is turned the correct way before placing and tightening the four long bolts that hold the unit in place. 
  • Finish by installing the ceiling assembly and replacing the shroud.

Be sure to check the manufacturer’s instructions before installing your new unit, because each unit is slightly different.

How Do You Maintain an RV Air Conditioner?

Of course, you’ll want to keep your new unit up and running for as long as possible. So how do you maintain an RV air conditioner? Well, it’s pretty simple. However, before doing any maintenance on your air conditioner, be sure to shut off the power to the unit.

Filter Changes

The most important (and easiest) part of RV air conditioner maintenance is changing the air filter. This is as easy as removing a piece of the ceiling assembly, pulling out the dirty filter, and cleaning it or replacing it with a new one.

You should do this at least once a month while the air conditioner is in use, and at the beginning and end of each camping season.

Checking the Coils

While the filter is out, you should be able to see up into the unit. Shine a flashlight up there and check for any dirt or dust buildup. If you see any, pull out your vacuum and use a stiff bristle brush attachment to clean up that debris.

Cleaning the Exterior

Finally, you will want to head out onto the roof once each year to clean the exterior of your A/C unit. Remove the shroud and use compressed air to blow out any debris that may have built up in the condenser coils.

Manage Your Thermostat Settings

While the whole idea of an RV air conditioner is to keep the air cool, make sure you don’t overload the capacity of your RV. Instead of setting it at a low temperature, try simply turning the fan to “on.” This way it will adjust the temperature when it gets to the desired heat/cold and distribute the cool air in your RV. 

The advantage of keeping your temperature at a moderate setting is that your AC unit will perform better and have a longer life.

Open The Roof Vent

If you’re spending time outside and don’t need the air conditioner to be running, open up a roof vent and let the moisture evaporate. This simple trick can prevent damage to your AC unit.

Oil the Fan

The fan inside the AC unit works hard to keep the air circulating. To keep it in good working order be sure to keep it well-oiled.

Cover the AC unit in the off-season

Prevent costly repairs by purchasing an inexpensive cover for when your RV is not being used.

Tips for Common AC Problems

Need some RV AC troubleshooting tips? We’ve shared a couple of key ones below. 

AC Won’t Turn On

Begin by checking the power supply to the RV by plugging something into a 110v outlet. All good? Okay, how about checking the breaker? Chances are good you tripped the breaker. Invest in a multi-meter and test the voltage coming into the RV. 

Blowing Less Cool Air

There are several potential causes for the AC not keeping the air cool in your RV.

  • The AC unit could be old. It’s not unusual for RV AC units to not cool as well after a few years of use.
  • It could simply be too hot outside for your AC to keep up. Depending on the size of your RV, you may need to install an additional unit to keep up on hot days.
  • The air filters, fins, and coils are dirty!  A build-up of grime can dramatically decrease the efficiency of your AC unit.

Not Blowing Air

Often when an RV air conditioner stops blowing air altogether it is because the unit has frozen up. Fortunately, it’s easy enough to thaw a frozen AC unit by running it on fan mode until the ice child up has melted. That said, if it freezes again, you will want to make sure you figure out why the unit is freezing up, so you can address the issue. 

An RV AC freezing up can be due to any of the following:

  • High humidity
  • Dirty air filter
  • Dirty coils
  • Bad flow divider
  • Broken thermostat
  • Low refrigerant

As you can see, there is a lot to know about RV air conditioners. Hopefully, this guide has taught you all of the most important bits and pieces, so you can stay cool this camping season!