LAST UPDATED: May 21, 2019
Best RV Air Conditioners: Keep Your RV Cool In The Summer Heat
Cool your RV and make camping a comfortable adventure with these top RV air conditioners
The Review Team
How We Decided
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PUBLISHED ON May 21, 2019
Camping and roaming around are the two main reasons to buy or rent an RV. Summer is the ideal season for camping, although the hot temperature offers less-than-ideal conditions. To combat the heat, you’ll need a high-efficiency RV AC. The best RV air conditioner makes your adventure more comfortable and keeps the indoor air clean. What is the best RV air conditioner? You’ll find the answer below along with recommendations for the quietest RV AC and what to look for when buying your next energy-efficient RV air conditioner unit.
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All of our reviews are based on market research, expert input, or practical experience with most products we include. This way, we offer genuine, accurate guides to help you find the best picks.
Benefits of RV Air Conditioners
- Convenient camping. 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’re installed on the roof, saving you space inside the RV. Their ideal place on top of the vehicle means the brisk 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. Ducted systems are suited for large RVs, as they push the cool air to all corners of the RV. Non-ducted units are suitable for smaller RVs and cost less.
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.
Dometic was established in 1919. Such a long history gives the company an advantage in making high-quality products. With a special focus on RVs, the company’s mission is to ensure the mobile life is more comfortable. Products include DOMETIC Sanitation 143002P041 Rivet Semi Tube.
Brothers James and Seth Atwood founded this company in 1909. Over the years, it has offered the automotive world some outstanding products. Recently, it was bought over by Dometic, although it still offers products under its own brand. Some of these products include the Atwood 15026 Non-Ducted A/C Unit, and Atwood 15027 Ducted A/C Unit.
Airxcel is a holding company with products that cover many categories outside of the automotive market. Besides air conditioners, the company makes water heaters, sealants, furnaces, ventilation systems, cooking appliances, rooftop products, window coverings, Fiberglass Reinforced Plastic (FRP), and composite panels for RVs. Under this category, the company makes the Airxcel 08-0079 Mach 3 Plus.
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 typical window mounted. They also consume more energy and are on the noisy side.
- $200-$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.
- Over $600: 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.
Air with poor quality is a health hazard, especially for people prone to allergies. Not all RV air conditioners have built-in air purifying systems. Those that have them, however, do a good job of removing odors. The air purifier improves the quality of the air inside the RV and keeps it fresh and clean, regardless of the conditions outside.
- 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.
Best RV Air Conditioner Reviews & Recommendations 2020
Dometic’s Brisk B59516.XX1J0 sets itself apart from the competition with a bunch of features that make it our top pick. This RV air conditioner packs a powerful punch with a whopping 15,000 BTU power to cool recreational vehicles of all sizes. Add to that the sleek design that combines with excellent cooling powers. You don’t need to worry about power consumption, as this model is eco-friendly and doesn’t use much electricity.
It’s worth mentioning that this model was redesigned from the bottom up for power and performance. As a result, the Brisk II is now compatible with standard air vents. You get better cooling capacity since the distribution box uses central air delivery. Moreover, the unit is made from quality materials for better durability, absorbing shocks and vibrations with its stable and strong frame.
One thing to watch out for with this model is the base pan. It’s less durable than the rest of the unit. The packaging is another issue that needs to be addressed since the box doesn’t protect the unit from major damage during shipping. Finally, the starting electrical load is too high for small generators.
The Honeywell MN10CESWW is the type of portable AC that doesn’t need much fuss or experience to install. As with all portable types, it’s easy to set up. All you need to do is put it in a corner or under a shelf and turn it on. With 10,000 BTU power, it cools large areas and has a power consumption that is reasonable for portable models.
Durability is another distinguishing feature of the Honeywell. Since it’s purring safely inside the RV, as opposed to being exposed to the elements and UV rays on top of the vehicle, it will give you years of good service. Moreover, the model’s portability is its best asset; you can move it around with you inside the RV. Another attractive feature this AC has is the convenient remote control.
The downside to this portable AC is in the time it takes to cool down the area. Like all portable units, it needs a hose to avoid leakage; the hose that comes with this model is short and bulky. You also need to be wary of placing the unit close to the wall since the exit hose comes out of the rear side.
With a unique aerodynamic design, the Dometic Polar White is the ideal rooftop air conditioner for RVs. You barely get any wind drag as you drive thanks to its low profile. It’s both compact and lightweight, making it easier to handle and install. Under its shroud, the Polar White boasts of 13,500 BTU power to cool vehicles from medium to large sizes.
Digging deeper, we can see why this model is popular with RV owners. Right off the bat, it pumps 15 percent more airflow than other models. Powerful doesn’t mean noisier, however, as the dampening brackets take care of the vibration and operation noise. In addition, compatibility with both ducted and non-ducted systems makes the Polar a good choice for all types of recreational vehicles.
One major drawback of this model is its high power consumption. You’d need a big and reliable generator to get all its cooling performance. In some units, the wheel fan arrives defective and needs to be replaced. Finally, the unit doesn’t come with a thermostat or a control unit, so you’ll have to buy them separately.
- 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?
A: 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?
A: 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?
A: 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.
For our top pick, we chose the Dometic B59516.XX1J0 Brisk. The reputable brand offers reliability, durability, and good performance. The low profile unit is both compact and lightweight and has a maximized air flow and great cooling capacity.
The Honeywell MN10CESWW 10000 BTU Portable is our value pick. Besides its affordable price, this portable AC unit is easy to set up. It cools large areas efficiently and doesn’t need extra care or maintenance.