If you’ve got the best RV air conditioner you don’t have to put up with the sweltering heat during the summer. Whether you use an RV as your residence or your home on the road, there is no doubt an air conditioner is a must as it’s also difficult to say what the temperature will be like in the city or state you’re in.
In this guide we’re going to take a close look at the best RV AC units for your money. Having spent years living in RVs I’ve tried a whole bunch of air conditioning units, some really good and others not quite so. I’ve also included a FAQ and other information essential for a buyer.
Factors to Consider
Buying an AC for your RV isn’t as hard as it used to be, but don’t be in such a hurry you don’t take these into account.
- Size – a low profile AC is suitable if there is limited space on your RV. Compact models are also easier to install.
- Environment friendly – you should do your part in keeping the environment clean, and an eco-friendly AC is one way to do it.
- Durability – you’ll be running the AC for extended periods during the summer so heavy duty AC is required.
- Easy installation – some AC units are easy enough for any one to install, while others are so complicated you need a technician to do it for you. If you’re not sure how to install the unit, have a professional do it for you.
How I Picked the Top RV Air Conditioners?
Those are some of the major factors that you’ll need to look into. It is not enough that the unit is made for an RV. It must be made specifically for your RV specs.
I also took into consideration the brand name and what type of reputation they have. I believe this is very important as it relates to the craftsmanship you will get. This also determines what kind of warranty you’re going to get.I also made sure to strike a balance between performance and installation. No one wants to end up with an RV that is impossible to install. In the past, the more powerful AC units earned a reputation for being hard to install, but I made sure with this selection that was not going to be the case.
Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C
The Mach 15 provides excellent cooling output that is well suited for RVs and homes. With its specially designed airflow this is a unit that is optimized for ducted mechanisms. The unit is also fitted with a 15 hp fan motor. This is the largest unit that may be installed on RVs, an indication of its power.
The Mach 15 air flow delivery is at 325 CFM so it is very efficient. The compact and streamlined design helps improve performance when used in your RV. The unit is made for heavy duty use and should last a long time even if used on a regular basis.
The motor is directly installed on the bulkhead to make certain there is free turning action. This also keeps the blower wheel angle from being distorted. The motor also comes with a sealed shaft to provide utmost protection for the motor.There are also large condenser coils and an evaporator for better heat dissipation. A plastic drain pan is included as well.
- 15,000 cooling capacity
- 1/3 horsepower
- Streamline design
- 325 CFM
- Powerful airflow
Dometic B59516.XX1J0 Brisk II Black Air Conditioner
The Dometic Brisk II offers up to 15% better airflow compared to regular AC units. It weighs less than the previous version and is smaller than other rooftop AC units. Installing is easy as the Brisk II is compatible with regular RV air vents. Campers will be happy to know the Brisk II is eco-friendly too.
The shroud is more rigid compared to those on other units and its stable base is another plus. At 15,000 BTU there is plenty of power here to match the needs of various users and is compatible with Dometic Comfort Control Center II, Dometic Single Zone LCD, Dometic Return Air Grill and Dometic Universal Air distribution box (ADB) thermostats.Even if you’ve never installed an AC before this should not pose any problems since the process is intuitive. Of course it all comes down to how cool it gets and the Brisk II doesn’t disappoint. The air that comes out of it is very cold and should be more than enough to keep you cool during summer.
- Easy installation
- Low maintenance
- Powerful motor
- 15,000 BTU
- Ducted or non ducted installation
Dometic 640315CXX1J0 Penguin II
The Penguin II is a RV AC unit with a low profile, simplifying installation. These are built with versatility in mind so you ca set them up quickly. The Penguin II profile is less than 10 inches so it should install easily.
The unit comes with an R410A refrigerant for optimum heat release. It is also compatible with most RV roof openings so you don’t have to worry about any complicated installations. With a 13,500 BTU capacity the Penguin II is capable of meeting the needs of various RV users.
The Penguin II is not only easy to install but also optimized for maximum performance. The drag design also enhances mileage while reducing drag. The Penguin II built is also compatible with ducted and non-ducted configurations.Once installation is complete the Penguin II runs without a hitch. Cooling is excellent and it also dissipates heat better than the typical RV AC unit. The plug and play design also means there is no need to buy additional components.
- Low profile design
- Improved heat release
- 2 year warranty
- Compatible with regular roof openings 14 x 14 inches
- Built specifically for RVs
DOMETIC Sanitation 143002P041 Rivet Semi Tube PKG
The 143002P041 is an all around AC for use with different types of RVs. With 13,500 BTU and 15.1 amps there is sufficient power here to handle most RVing needs. A roof gasket is included so installation is even simpler.
The 143002P041 can be installed on a 5th wheel sloped roof and a 13.7 amp heat strip is available as an option. The current draw is good and at 13,500 BTU draws 2800 watts. A filter is also provided.
The durable built of the 143002P041 means it is capable of cooling a sizable RV. You can also accessorize this with a heater and cold start kit but the unit work fine as is. The cooling element is is as good as you might expect from Dometic, and it is compatible with other RV roofs.Unpacking and installing the unit takes no more than two hours at most. And since the unit is well designed it should last a long time without needing any repairs. Keep in mind the 143002P041 is for use in non ducted systems.
- Built for RVs
- Easy to set up
- 15.1 amps
- Can be installed
- 13,500 BTU
Coleman 48203C966 Mach 3+ A/C Unit
The 48203C966 is rated for 15.3 amps and rated at 13,500 BTU. Installation is straightforward and should work with most types of RVs. The hat strip assembly is not included but getting it to work won’t cause any problems.
You can also use this as a pop up provided the opening is 14 x 14, which is standard for most RVs anyway. With its 13500 BTU it is good enough to handle various types of RV driving and camping situations and environments.
The instructions are well laid out and easy to follow. One of the more notable aspects of the 48203C966 is the motor. It is set on the bulkhead so the blower wheel does not get distorted. This design also ensures the turning action is no impeded.Like the other Coleman AC unit the 48203C966 is equipped with the largest possible motor for optimum performance. The unit is a bit on the heavy side but apart from that the unit is not going to pose any problems for those with an RV.
- 1/3 HP
- Easy installation
- High quality condenser coils
- Gasket included
- Doesn’t make a lot of noise
What to Look For in Your RV AC Unit
RV AC units have the same purpose, though their features vary. There are a lot of features that I can talk about, but I’ve focused on the most vital ones. Okay so without further ado let us take a look at each of these factors.
BTU (British thermal unit) determines how much the AC can cool down your RV. Don’t settle for anything less than 13500 BTUs if you spend a lot of time in hot locations. Your AC needs to cool the entire the vehicle so high BTUs is preferable. Get an 18,000 BTU if you own a large RV.
Some features that you’ll want to at least mull over:
- Minimum 13,500 BTU. 15,000 is good for most and 18,500 if you’re going to very hot locations.
- Compact, lightweight design is ideal specially if space is at a premium in your RV.
- Good air flow
- Compatible with common thermostats
- A solid base pan
- Duct or non-duct installation
- 1 year warranty minimum
The BTU is often touted by AC units because it is the single biggest factor in determining power and efficiency. Do not settle for anything less than the BTU specs your RV needs, otherwise the unit won’t be able to keep up with demands.
Large AC units are more powerful, but they consume more energy and take up greater space. Compact units have also become more powerful than ever. Some considerations:
- If you have a large RV, plenty of space and plan to use it extensively, buy the most powerful AC unit you can afford. As I’ve mentioned these are no longer as expensive as they used to be so it’s a practical option.
- If you only use your RV during the weekends and it is in the small to medium range class, a portable AC unit will do.
- One of the advantages of portable AC systems is you can always install additional units if they’re needed.
Compact AC units have straightforward installation, while larger models require two persons and tinkering with wires. If you’re not sure how to proceed let a tech do it for you. Bottom line, get an easy to install AC to avoid problems and complications.
Avoid air conditioners that are high maintenance. No equipment is perfect and there will be some glitches from time to time. However they must be easy to fix. An AC which needs the services of a tech every time there’s a problem is a poor one.
A heat pump ensures you’ll be kept warm during the winter and remain cool during the hot summer days.
Old AC units used to make a lot of noise, but that is no longer an issue as newer models run quietly.
B. Types of RV Air Conditioner
RV AC units can be divided into the following categories.
1. Rooftop AC
Rooftop AC units are popular because they don’t take up a lot of space. Most are between 5,000 to 15,000 BTUs and may or not be ducted. The air outside cools the AC so the weather is a factor.
2. Vent-Free AC
Also known as swamp coolers, these are portable and come in various styles. Air goes through the AC and dissipates so no refrigerants are used. The AC generates dry air which cools your RV.
3. Under Bench
An under bench AC fits snugly under a compartment or bench. These are good options if your rig has limited space.
4. Portable AC
These are very similar to the portable air conditioners used in homes. Ventilation is provided by hoses and have frames that keep the hoses in place. These are the least expensive type but do take up the most space. The compressor also generates some noise and it isn’t as energy efficient as other AC units.
5. Window AC
These units don’t take up a lot of space and provide good cooling capacity. They are easy to install and do not make a lot of noise. These are good for most RVs including the large ones.
5. Non Ducted
A non-ducted AC blows cold air into your rig. These units are installed in an opening on the RV roof or through an opening you make. Most non-ducted units are compatible with RV vents so installation is straightforward.
Ducted AC units are popular with a lot of folks because they don’t take up a lot of space. There is no large controller you need to find a room for as cool air is piped in the duct which goes into the ceiling, floor and walls.You can install several ducted AC systems in your rig and create zones with different temperatures. Using a single control panel you’ll have full control over each zone.
Best Non Ducted RV Air Conditioner
If you want a non-duct RV AC you’ll want one that has at least 13,500 BTU. A compact design is ideal and must be quick to install. A heat strip would be welcome as well.
Low Profile Designed Rooftop Air Conditioner
A low profile rooftop AC is a good option for a lot of RVers. It is fuel efficient and available in varying BTU ranges. The low profile design means they units are also suited for campers, homes and small motor homes. Low profile AC units vary in price, amperage and design. Look for those with a heat pump and high BTU.
RV Air Conditioner with Cub Design
These AC units usually have a low to medium BTU range, and they’re notable for a compact design. A low profile makes installation simple and most have a slim body to boot.
Power Saver Rooftop Air Conditioner
As you might expect these are power saving AC units set atop your rig. Many of these AC units have at least 13,500 BTUs. They’re built to operate in hot environments but provide cooling. These units usually have multiple fan options, connectors and gaskets for easy installation.
RV Air Conditioner with Heat Pump
These AC units are notable for their heating power and high BTU. Heat pump equipped AC units provide excellent cooling. They’re also strong enough to be used throughout winter. If you spend winter in your RV then this is the type of AC you need.
Analog Control Rooftop Air Conditioner
Their analog controls are easy to use and complements the compact design. These units don’t take up a lot of room but can cool a large RV. Analog control RV AC units come with multiple blowers and built for regular use.These units have excellent airflow, cool and clean. The air filters are low maintenance and compatible with the typical openings on RVs.
Ducted RV Rooftop Air Conditioner
There is no shortage of ducted RV rooftop AC units so you’ll have several options. A compact built is preferable provided it can still cool your RV. Just like the other units you’ll want one with at least 13,500 BTUs.
Where to Buy These Products
These RV AC units are available in all the major retail outlets, but you’ll be better off purchasing one online. Buying on the Internet allows you to get in touch with the manufacturer and buy from them. You also have the option to buy from various vendors at affordable prices.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q – What type of maintenance does an RV AC need?A – Some units may need lubrication but others don’t. Do clean the condenser at least once a year. You can wash the coil with water if it’s really dirty, but don’t use a pressure washer.
Q- Is it necessary to add a refrigerant to an AC unit?A – This is not required if the AC is sealed and closed.
Q – Where can I find the BTU rating for my AC?A - This information is in the owner’s manual and the product specs on the manufacturer website.
Q – What is the correct voltage for an RV AC?A – The proper voltage is 115 VAC/60Hz. US RV air conditioners can run between 104 to 125 volts.
Q – How much power does an RV AC consume?A - Power consumption depends on how the product is supposed to operate. The amps and watts information may be found in the user manual.
Q – What is the most important thing to look for in an air conditioner?A – The BTU – British thermal unit – is the single most important element as it tells you how much cooling power the unit has.
Q – Why are low profile AC units popular?A- Low profile AC units are easy to install and don’t take up much space. Low profile AC units also reduce the drag on your RV and enhance cooling efficiency.
Q – Why isn’t my AC cooling my RV anymore?A- It could be dirty and in need of cleaning. Look for cracks and other signs of wear.
Q – My rooftop AC isn’t working the way it used to. What could be wrong?A – Make sure your AC is well secure on the roof. Check for signs of wear and tear as the UV rays of the sun can damage the unit.
Q – What type of portable generator does an RV AC need?A – Any portable generator with at least 3000 watts will suffice.
Living in an RV is fun but it is not without challenges. One of the ways to make your motor home more comfortable is to invest in a quality air condition unit. Selecting the right AC like those in the reviews will reduce the amount of maintenance needed, plus you’ll remain cool and fresh in spite of the heat.