Many people camp in the summer and while this time of the year is beautiful and nice to take vacations in, the heat can sometimes get to you. If you have an air conditioning unit in your RV, your camping experience becomes that much more enjoyable. Buying and maintaining an AC unit in an RV isn’t just a task of stopping in at Walmart, screwing it in your roof, and never touching it again. There are so many things to think about when looking for an air conditioning unit that we have compiled as much information as possible to help you out on your search for cooler temperatures.
If you’re not sure about whether your current air conditioner will work, you can ask yourself these questions. If your answer to any of them is yes, then you may want to find a new model. Is your RV AC unit slow to start or blow weaker air? Does your AC unit only work when you set it to certain speeds? Has the AC unit been leaking? Is your Air conditioning unit noisy?
Keeping your RV Cool
In an RV, keeping the temperature down can be a little tricky. There are two main ways in which you can keep the temperature down, though; passive cooling and forced ventilation.
Passive ventilation is when you use tips and tricks to bring down the temperature of your rig without using an air conditioning unit. You can do this by using a reflective paint color like white, insulating the van well, providing windows/vents for air circulation, using reflective shades in the windows to avoid solar heat gain, and to park in the shade. You can also pull down your window shades to block the sun and the hot air as well as switch out your incandescent bulbs for LED lights. LED lights run on less energy, leaving more energy for your AC unit, and they run at lower temperatures, helping keep down the internal temperature of your RV. Try cooking outside as well. To keep your RV cool, don’t heat it up again! You can cook outside and then eat inside. Open your awning. By using this extra shade, you can keep the sun off of the side of your RV, keeping down heat gain. Finally, if the temperature drops for an evening, open the windows and let in some fresh air. This will give the air conditioning unit a break and help with circulation. And isn’t the sound of birdsong so much more pleasant than the sound of an air conditioner? Each of these tricks can cut the temperature down inside of your RV and help out your AC unit. Forced ventilation is when you use an AC unit to lower the temperature in your RV. The unit works to circulate the air and get the temperature down inside of your unit. With these two forms of cooling, it’s best to use both of them. This helps out the AC unit and keeps your rig cooler without as much power used and with more efficiency. Also, if your AC unit isn’t ducted throughout the entire living area, you can draw the dividing curtain closed and close any other doors to help it cool down your living room faster. Once the temperature is lower, you can open those dividing doors and cool down the rest of your rig.
Air conditioners are good in both low and high humidity and run on electrical power. If you want to be able to work your AC unit without using shore power or generators, then having a high-efficiency AC unit is important, as most models tend tot draw a lot of power. When you have a high-efficiency AC unit, you will be able to run it on batteries and solar power longer. If you use the passive cooling tricks, you can extend this even further. Also, doing regular maintenance extends the life and efficiency of the unit. To do so, check the vents to make sure they’re clean and check the inside and clean them if need be. You can use a vacuum to clean out some of the dust and if this doesn’t work, then you can use warm water and a rinse (assuming you have a washable filter).
Things to Keep in Mind When Looking for an RV AC Unit
There are a ton of things to think about when you’re looking for an air conditioning unit for your RV. From shape to cost, we’ve compiled some information to help you with the search. First, you have to think about the shape. Try looking for one with a sleek shape, helping to resist wind drag and increase fuel efficiency. Second, check how efficient it is. You only have so much energy in your rig and your air conditioner can suck up the power if you’re not careful. Third, you’ll need to think about whether you’re going to install it yourself or whether someone else is going to install it. If you’re not super confident with your ability to install it yourself, consider asking someone for help or choosing a lighter model or one that’s easier to install. You also have to think about whether you will be using one or two. This will impact whether the second unit will be high power, a roof unit, and so many other factors. The size of the unit will matter as well. While many RV air conditioners are interchangeable, they do vary in height. Smaller ones are better for fuel efficiency and cost, however, they tend to offer less power and will not be as good at cooling larger areas. Higher units will create more drag and will likely be more expensive, however, they are better for those larger spaces that need a little more power to cool.
You’ll also need to know whether you’re wanting a non-ducted or ducted AC unit. A ducted air conditioning unit includes an outdoor air compressor and an indoor air handler that is connected through copper refrigerator lines. These are more common since they are great when switching from forced-air heating systems and are more efficient in dealing with humidity. Non-ducted air conditioners have the same primary components, however, they can be single zone (single outdoor compressor tied to one indoor head that is generally in the main living area) or multi-zone (allows you to connect up to foud indoor heads to cool multiple rooms at once.
Double Air Conditioners
There are many sizes and types of RV AC units, just like there are several types of RVs. Some RVs even need a few air conditioning units. If you’re not sure about whether your rig needs more than one unit, you can ask yourself these questions.
What is the height and length of your RV? If your ride is longer than 32 feet, then a second AC unit is highly recommended to keep you cool. With this second AC unit, you’ll keep the space cooler and it will take less time to lower the temperature. These larger RVs also tend to have multiple sections, which can make natural airflow more difficult.
Where are you going to be located? Your location is important because it determines the climate and temperature you will be parked in. In warmer locations, you will need more help in keeping the temperature down and in cooler locations, you might not need as much help in doing so. What is the color of your RV? This might sound like a weird question, but the paint on the outside of your rig can play a large part in how cool it is. The darker the color, the more heat is absorbed. With these darker colors, you might want to think about getting a second AC unit to help keep the temperature down inside, especially if you’re planning on camping in open areas in the summer.
If you’ve decided that a second air conditioner is needed, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, you’ll need to know where to put that second AC unit. While some people decide to place it in the living room in place of a vent, you should not replace the vent in the kitchen or bathroom. These places are high in humidity and they need those vents to let the humidity out. You can also place them on the roof of your RV. You should only do this, though, if the first unit is not on the roof. If your rig did not come with two air conditioners, then it is likely not wired for a second unit on the roof. Your RV might also not be balanced for a second unit on your roof. IF it isn’t then it can throw off the weight and balance of your rig. Distributing the weight on your rig is important because it’s necessary for safe driving, whether you’re in a motorhome or towing a trailer. Having proper weight distribution can help your rig to stay stable and steady, not swinging out of control or causing too much strain on the front or rear axles. Both of these could become costly problems. To further ensure proper weight distribution, you may want to include your passengers, gear, fluids, and other things when you weight your vehicle.
Second, having a second AC unit drains the power more quickly. If you are connected to shore power, then this doesn’t matter as much. If you are running on battery power, however, this means you’ll have to keep a close eye on your battery. Even if you are using shore power, many people have found that this source is sometimes not enough to run two AC units because shower power can be capped. You could run your generators to help with the power cost, however, this will mean more noise and effort. Another way of watching your power is to turn off the microwave, lights, battery charger, and other appliances. This is not very effective for daily life, however, and is not as effective for daily use.
RV Air Conditioner Installation and Replacement
**Make sure to check your owner’s manual before making any adjustments to your RV. This is for general knowledge and assistance. If you have any questions or are unsure about installing your air conditioning unit, contact a certified RV mechanic**
Once you have your new air conditioner, you’ll need to do a few things before you can enjoy it. First, you’ll have to remove the old air conditioner. Turn off the air conditioner and unplug your RV from all power sources. Placing blankets around the roof surrounding the AC unit may also help to protect the roof. Carefully climb up to the air conditioning unit, remove the screws on the shroud, and pull it away. Use a putty knife to remove any sealant. Next, step inside of your RV to remove the ceiling assembly from your ceiling. Remove the bolts and then let down the metal retaining flange. Then, disconnect the wiring and loosen the ducting from the AC unit. Go back to the roof and remove the old unit from the roof. Lift the old unit carefully out of the duct hole and clean up the area, using a putty knife if necessary to scrape off any sealant.
To install the new unit, processes may vary. For general installations, remove the shroud and place the AC unit over the empty duct hole, wich the gaskets lining up with the holes. Then go inside and wire up the AC unit to the RV as well as the ducting. Place the metal flange on the unit, making sure it is facing the correct way before bolting it back on. Install the ceiling assembly and replace the shroud.
Again, these are general installation instructions, as each unit is slightly different. If you are unsure about installing your unit, please contact a certified RV mechanic.
RV Air Conditioner Maintenance
One of the best ways to keep your AC unit working its best and keep your space cool is to maintain it. So how do you do it? There are a few simple ways to maintain your RV air conditioning unit. The most important thing you can do is to change the filter. Simple remove a piece of the ceiling assemble, pull out the dirty filter and clean or replace it. Do this once a month while the unit is being used and at the end of the camping season. Many of the problems with air conditioning units has to do with the filter, so this step is very important. You should also check the coils. While you have the filter out, you should be able to see into the unit. Look up there and check for any dirt or dust buildup. If you do see some, vacuum it out or use a stiff bristle attachment to clean it up. You can also clean up the exterior of the unit. Once a year, head up onto the roof and remove the should. Use compressed air to blow out any dirt or debris from the condenser coils and then replace the shroud. If you keep your unit in good condition, it can last for several years and in many cases, it can last for a decade or more.