The summer is here, and if you live in a particularly arid and hot area of the country, then you need to have an air conditioner in your RV that can dispel a bit of the heat.
RVs can definitely get really hot, and the fans that many models have can work great in milder situations but will totally fail at cooling when the temperatures get over 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
I’ve been in a hot RV where the AC has failed, and it’s not a picnic. Most RVs come with an air conditioning unit, but what do you do when it needs to be replaced?
In this guide, we are going to cover the best RV air conditioner units that you can purchase aftermarket.
Types Of RV Air Conditioners
Air conditioners for an RV can come in several different varieties. These include:
- Ducted: Under bench ACs actually are always ducted. Ducted air conditioners are piped to the different areas of the RV so that you can have an even level of coolness throughout the vehicle. Ducted ACs can pipe through the floors, ceiling, or walls of the RV.
- Non-Ducted: These consist of a compressor, condenser, and blower and are more centralized than ducted models. The outputted air is blown directly from the device, which means that the cooling is more on a room-by-room basis.
- Under Bench: As the name indicates, an under-bench air conditioner fits neatly under a bench or in a compartment inside your RV. These are great for vehicles that park in tight spaces that preclude a rooftop unit. These are also great if your RV has a lot of other devices attached. The chief drawback of this type is that you might lose a bit of storage space when you have this type installed.
- Rooftop: These are positioned over the window of your RV’s roof. The chief issue with these is that larger units can add additional height to your RV, but many like this type because it doesn’t take up extra storage space in your RV. This type can be ducted or non-ducted.
- Portable: Portable AC units are pretty useful and are relatively versatile as well. These can have vents or be completely vent-free. In most cases, these appliances convert water into cool air through the process of evaporation, but if the climate is moist, the effect can be significantly reduced. These are useful when you just want to have a local level of cool since you can usually roll them to where you need them. Additionally, these are also fairly budget-friendly as well.
What To Look For In An RV Air Conditioner?
BTUs (Also known as British Thermal Units) on your RV air conditioner is very important to your overall cooling experience. The number of BTUs on your air conditioner dictates exactly how much it can cool the cabin of your RV, so for larger RVs like Class A models, you may need a higher amount of BTUs and even multiple air conditioners to fully cool the inside of the cabin.
Most factory-installed air conditioners have a tendency to come at 13,500 BTU, and many of the ones that you can buy aftermarket have the same amount of power. That being said, if you want a more consistently cool experience, I’d suggest considering a higher BTU, especially if you frequent warmer areas.
2. Height Clearance
When you have a larger camper like a Class A, it’s a good idea to know how much height an air conditioner can add to your camper.
This is especially important to know because, if you store your RV in a garage, you need to consider how much clearance you have because installing an AC that is too large can lead to structural damage to your garage and your RV.
3. Aerodynamics And Drag Prevention
We’ve all heard the story: adding drag to your vehicle reduces fuel efficiency and this same principle applies to your RV as well.
Larger RV air conditioners will definitely add some drag to your vehicle, which means that over time, you’ll definitely spend much more on an air conditioner that is larger and has less aerodynamics in its design.
Unfortunately, bigger does typically mean more BTUs, so if you need more power, you may have to stomach the additional loss in fuel efficiency that one of these air conditioners can cause.
4. Air Conditioners With A Heat Pump
You won’t always be traveling in the summer, and even if you live in a warmer area, sometimes, you might just want to visit the great white north. When this happens, it’s very useful to have an air conditioner that includes a heat pump; these work well to keep you cool in the summer but also provide plenty of warmth in the cabin in the winter as well.
5. Ease Of Installation
Unless you hire a professional, you’ll most likely be handling your air conditioner replacement yourself. This is probably the most daunting thing when your pre-installed RV air conditioner won’t turn on. Fortunately, most manufacturers will provide plenty of documentation so that you can quickly install your new AC unit.
That being said, some products require more components and accessories, which if possible, you should avoid; you don’t want to make the replacement too complex.
5 Best RV Air Conditioners Reviews
The first product in my RV air conditioner reviews is a product from Dometic. You’ll see that this brand appears a lot in this guide; this is because they really are known as one of the better air conditioner brands for RV living. The Dometic B59516.XX1C0 Brisk II Polar White is a relatively powerful unit; it has a 15,000 BTU operation and is very easy to install on the roof of most RVs.
Insofar as construction, this is a very impressive AC unit. First, it uses some very high-tech materials; in fact, Dometic used EPP, which is expanded polypropylene. This makes the air conditioner much lighter and better insulated for a higher level of performance. This lighter material doesn’t falter when it comes to overall durability either; it even can greatly reduce any excess noise and vibration that can occur during operation.
Additionally, Dometic used several features that will help this air conditioner perform better and last longer. These features include screw holes that are actually reinforced, support brackets for the motor that are incredibly strong, and foam housings that are very strong.
I also really liked how aerodynamic this air conditioner is. It really will help reduce drag while you’re moving, which will increase your fuel efficiency.
- It’s easy to install.
- This air conditioner is very well made.
- It actively reduces vibration through fan motor sound dampening brackets.
- It is very well insulated, which can save you money.
- It can be either duct or non-duct.
- This AC provides 15,000 BTU of performance.
- Despite being easy to install, it comes with poor instructions.
- It has reduced vibration but has a tendency to be a bit loud.
- You will need a ceiling kit as well.
If you need an AC unit that has a lot of versatility, then the Dometic B59516.XX1C0 Brisk II Polar White may be the product for you. It has a sturdy build, has a strong performance, and is also pretty easy to install. Add to this the fact that it can be used in ducted or non-ducted RVs, and you’ve got a great AC for most RVers.
Another 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit, the Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ is a product that will keep most campers cool. Coleman stands by its assertion that the Coleman Mach 15 is the world’s most powerful RV air conditioner, and to be honest, their claim isn’t far from the truth.
That being said, this air conditioner is a bit of a power hog, but that’s because it has great output. In use, you should stay nice and cool with this unit, even if you have a longer Class A vehicle.
Overall, this really is a great air conditioner for ducted systems; each area of your RV will feel nice and cool, even when it’s sweltering outside. The motor on this unit is also very impressive. It uses a 1/3 horsepower fan that can deliver cooled air at 325 cubic feet per minute (CFM).
In addition to its cooling function, this product can also include a 5,600 BTU heater assembly that will help your cabin warm to a very comfortable temperature when it gets cold and damp outside.
- You can use an adapter to convert this unit so that it functions as a ductless model.
- It’s very powerful; it’ll completely cool your cabin.
- It’s designed to be easily started when the heat is high and the air is extra humid.
- You have the option of purchasing a heater assembly that’ll provide warmth.
- The motor is the largest in the industry.
- It has a tendency to draw a lot of power.
- This is a very loud air conditioning unit.
- It has a tendency to not mount as well as it should, so you may have to modify it during installation.
For those campers that want power, the Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15 is a great option. This unit will easily cool your entire RV, especially if you are using ducted cooling. While it is a little large, it’s fairly aerodynamic, which means that you shouldn’t see too much of a loss in fuel efficiency during your trips.
The next air conditioner that we will be reviewing is another great Dometic product. The Brisk Air II is a great ductless air conditioner that has a lot of power despite its fairly standard 13,500 BTU operation.
When you’re out in particularly hot and humid locations, it’s hard to get an air conditioner that can manage the extra moisture and heat, especially if you’re using a unit with a small profile. The reason this Brisk Air II shines is that it really is able to put out ice-cold air regardless of the temperature conditions outside.
Like many of the air conditioners coming from Dometic, this product is made of aircraft-grade materials. Polypropylene is the primary material used, and this material makes the Brisk Air II lighter, better insulated, and also much stronger than many of the products out there.
This versatile material is also really good for providing aerodynamic shaping as well; in fact, this is one of the most drug-resistant ACs of the products that I’ve covered in this guide.
Additionally, Dometic utilized technology that significantly reduces vibrations, which means that this is a fairly quiet-running air conditioning unit for your RV.
- This is a nice and sturdy unit.
- It runs under 110V of voltage.
- It can be installed on the sloped roof of a fifth-wheel camper.
- This air conditioner can cool a cabin at just about any external temperature.
- It’s very aerodynamic.
- You may need to add some additional wire length to this AC unit.
- The evaporator coils of some selected products have proven to be faulty.
This Dometic air conditioner has a very strong level of performance, especially considering its BTUs. If you’re looking for a good model that can quickly cool your cabin when it is bedtime, then this will be a great model for you.
Our final air conditioner is also the smallest of the ones that I’ve reviewed here. This relatively flat unit will provide a decent 13,500 BTU performance and is also low enough to be usable, even if you don’t have a whole lot of vertical clearance. This low-profile design is very useful for tight spaces, and it also significantly will reduce the drag on your vehicle, which is excellent for your fuel efficiency.
It’ll fit most standard RV 14″ x 14″ roof openings, and it’s fairly efficient because it will cool your cabin by using the R410A refrigerant.
In my experience, some 13,500 BTU units take a long time to really cool the cabin, and sometimes, they have a tendency to only cool certain areas. With the unique R410A refrigerant that this product uses, there’s a fairly efficient diffusion of the cool air so that everyone can be relatively comfortable. It’s even more impressive due to the fact that this is a ductless model of AC. This process is also very eco-friendly in its heat-release process.
In addition to providing some excellent cooling during warmer months, this unit also warms in colder months as well. While you will need to also purchase the CCC II wall thermostat, this feature is particularly useful for those RVers that like to visit the colder states from time to time.
- The comfort control on this product is very user-friendly.
- The housing uses EPP foam, which means this is a lightweight AC.
- It’s very low profile and sleek.
- Dometic used ribbing for this product to ensure that it’s durable.
- It can also be used to warm your cabin.
- You may need to make additional purchases before installation like a distribution box.
- The air that it releases is cooler than cold, which some RVers may not prefer.
- It has a tendency to be a bit loud.
I’ve stored my RV in places without a lot of upper headroom, so having a low-profile AC like this one can be advantageous to some people. It definitely has the capability of cooling most RVs, is lightweight, and is easy to install.
Keeping your RV cool is definitely very crucial, especially when you’re going through a heatwave. The products that I covered in this guide each have a good amount of value for any size RV, so pick the one that best suits your needs.
Out of all of the products that I covered, I think that if I were to pick a personal favorite, it’d be the Dometic B59516.XX1C0 Brisk II Polar White. This unit has a lot of BTUs and can be ducted or non-ducted, which provides a bit of versatility. Add to this the fact that it’s relatively inexpensive, and you’ve got a very good air conditioning unit for an RV.