Best RV Air Conditioners: Efficient And Affordable Cooling Solutions For Your Camper
Cool your RV and make camping a comfortable adventure with these top RV air conditioners.
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BY Lisa Conant / LAST UPDATED ON July 17, 2021
For the avid RVer, frequent camper, or full-time liveaboards, there are few things worse than trying to sleep or relax inside a sweltering living space. Since most people prefer RVing in warmer climates, investing in a high-quality RV air conditioner makes sense. Staying cool can really improve your enjoyment of the experience—not just for you, but for your family, friends, and guests as well.
When it comes to selecting a high-performance air conditioner, there are no shortage of options on the market. To help eliminate some of the confusion and stress, we’ve taken the liberty of researching the top options on the market right now. We’ve compiled a list of our faves along with an in-depth buying guide that will teach you how to separate the good from the bad when browsing for your perfect RV cooling solution.
This eco-friendly AC is our top pick because of the great performance and maximized air flow. It’s smaller and lighter than the competitors with improved air cooling capacity and reduced power consumption.
- Tough design withstands shocks and vibrations
- Compact structure works in any RV
- Limited power consumption
- Comes with a high price tag
- Base pan is less durable than rest of AC unit
This compact air conditioner is an extremely affordable and portable air conditioning fan that is ideal for small RVs and trailers.
- Fits easily on a table or countertop
- Runs on rechargeable batteries, so it won’t drain power from your RV batteries
- Compact enough to go from RV to home or office easily
- Not specifically for use in RVs, so it's one more thing for campers to tote and store.
- Not powerful enough to cool a large RV
- 50 percent greater cooling capacity and 40 percent better energy efficiency compared to other models
- Sleek, modern appearance
- Requires substantial power to operate
- Self-installation can be a difficult process
Why Trust Us
Our reviews are driven by a combination of hands-on testing, expert input, “wisdom of the crowd” assessments from actual buyers, and our own expertise. We always aim to offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of RV Air Conditioners
- Customizable comfort level. When the temperature outside becomes unbearable, you’ll appreciate the cool air inside your RV. Whether you’re camping or on the road, an efficient RV air conditioner is a necessity. It makes the difference between a comfortable experience and one you’d rather forget.
- Get the most out of your RV. Sightseeing aboard the RV is a pleasure in itself. With AC units for travel trailers, you can maximize the time you spend on your RV. The AC improves the quality of your sleep and makes the RV feel like home.
- Clean indoor air. The air quality inside the RV gets better with an AC unit installed. No more dust or allergies; fresh and moving air is less likely to breed germs or impact the health of those living on board.
Types of RV Air Conditioners
Rooftop air conditioner units are popular since they save space inside the RV. Their ideal placement on top of the vehicle means the air outside cools the RV AC unit. Low-profile units consume less energy and have a lower risk of damage when passing under bridges. Rooftop AC systems come in two options: ducted and non-ducted. Similar to home central a/c units, ducted systems are suited for large RVs, as they feed vents in each room and push the cool air to all corners of the RV. Non-ducted units are fine for smaller RVs, and cost less.
The under-bench RV air conditioner is located inside the vehicle, typically under a seating bench or inside a cabinet. So while it does take up valuable storage space inside your RV, it’s a perfect option if you have an RV with a curved or already overcrowded roof. It allows you to keep your windows free and unaffected by ductwork. Other benefits include the fact that it doesn’t affect your RV’s overall height clearance, and its low position makes it an efficient heating option.
Portable units have a smaller size and a better design. You can move them around, and they don’t require installation. They take up space inside the RV and need extra care for handling. The units are energy efficient but require a hose to avoid water leakage. Instead of the usual refrigeration process, the unit evaporates the air and releases a cold air stream to cool the area. Portable systems work best in dry heat as opposed to humid environments.
Window units are similar to those used in homes. They save up space and have a good cooling capacity. Ease of installation is another perk of this type. They come in small sizes for better handling and power efficiency and mount into most windows with little effort. Obviously, they're not ideal for RVers on the go, and more suited for long-term parked RVs.
A Swedish company opening its doors in 2001, Dometic manufactures a wide range of products, designed for recreational vehicles. With a global distribution network dealing in over 100 countries. Its product line continues to evolve, including everything from camping gear to power systems for RVs and boats.
This brand falls under the Dometic manufacturing umbrella. An Illinois-based company, it dates back to 1909, continuing to innovate tech in the RV industry. It was successfully bought out due to its high-grade products spanning from heating systems to windows and doors. You’re likely to find an Atwood product in just about every modern RV. One of its helpful products when setting up an RV air conditioner is the Atwood Ducted Ceiling Assembly.
Furrion is a company that’s dedicated to melding modern luxury with sustainability. The founding partners met as engineers on a megayacht crew, so they understand what luxury mobile living means on a personal level. Using that knowledge and passion, the company has expanded its reach globally over the years by creating and manufacturing innovative products like the Furrion Arctic 12V Built-in Refrigerator.
A Fortune 500 company, this publicly-traded brand operates on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker name EMR. With a hand in several industries, including industrial automation, network power, and climate tech, it manufactures a wide range of air conditioners. Many of its selections are compatible with use in an RV, including the Emerson EARC6RE1 Quiet Kool 6,000 BTU 115V Window Air Conditioner, a quality option for more compact rec vehicles.
RV Air Conditioner Pricing
- Under $200: Air conditioners in this low price range are not designed specifically for recreational vehicles. These cheap RV air conditioning units are typically window mounted. They also consume more energy and are on the noisy side.
- $200 to $500: In this price range, you can get a good portable AC for the RV. They have good performance, with reduced power consumption, and are suited for small- to medium-sized recreational vehicles.
- $600 and up: This level of investment can get you a top-notch air conditioner. Options here are generally compatible with all types of RVs. They tend to offer high performance, a great cooling capacity, and quiet operation.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It’s a technical specification that can help you decide which AC suits your RV based on its size and average local weather conditions. The average AC unit has 13,500 BTU power. This is enough power to cool down a large RV. Humid weather conditions demand more BTU power in your AC. If you visit areas with high humidity or extreme temperatures, you’ll need to invest in a unit with more BTU power.
Air conditioning units consume a lot of energy. That can be a problem for an RV that uses a portable generator. Choosing a unit that consumes less power saves you money in the long run. These units are also environmentally friendly. If you travel across the border on your RV, make sure the unit is compatible with various power sources in different countries.
Not all RV air conditioners have built-in air purifying systems. Those that have them, however, do a good job of removing odors, improving the quality of the air inside the RV, and keeping it fresh and clean, regardless of the conditions outside.
Not all RV air conditioners are manufactured to the same size specifications. Be sure to measure your existing unit or the hole for the AC unit prior to purchasing. This is true for rooftop units, under-bench models, and window units. Most rooftop openings measure 14 x 14 inches, but some can be smaller or larger.
- Noise. All air conditioning units make noise; some are quieter than others. A quiet AC means better sleep at night since the little noise it makes blends into the background.
- Heat Pump. An AC unit with a heat pump means you can use it to keep you warm when the temperature drops. This is useful if you travel around during different seasons. The best RV heat pumps will keep you cozy even in the cold winter.
- Frequency of use. If you’re a frequent user of your RV, or if you primarily use it in very warm climates, you may want to purchase a more expensive, more powerful model than if you are only using your RV occasionally or in more temperate climates or cooler climates.
Best RV Air Conditioners Reviews & Recommendations 2021
- Make sure to clean and change the filters regularly. Without proper maintenance, they get clogged, reducing the airflow.
- Use a spray or foaming cleaner when cleaning the compressor. Then, with a vacuum hose, pull out the loosened debris and dirt.
- Ducted units need servicing too. Use a vacuum hose to clean the air vents.
Q: Can I heat my RV with the air conditioning unit as well?
You cannot use the unit to heat the RV in cold weather unless it comes with a heat pump. If your AC doesn’t have a heat pump, you can buy heat strips or a heater assembly kit.
Q: How often should I maintain my RV air conditioner?
Every two months. Check for cracks in the plastic. Clean the filters and air vents and check for wear and tear marks on the unit.
Q: Can I run my RV air conditioner on battery power?
Yes you can. You’ll need extra batteries for that and a source of power to recharge them. Solar panels are also a good source of electricity that can run the AC in the absence of a powerful generator.
Now that you know what to look for in a top-quality, high-performance RV air conditioner, it’s probably easy to see why we chose the Dometic B59516.XX1J0 Brisk as our top pick. It’s a well-revered and trusted brand that offers powerful and efficient performance in a compact, lightweight, and low-profile unit.
For a more budget-friendly option, we like the Aivant Portable Air Conditioner. It’s a super portable and inexpensive personal cooling unit that can go anywhere and runs on rechargeable batteries, saving you money on your energy bill.