RV Air Conditioning Buying Guide
Selecting the right air conditioner
The refreshing, cool air of an air conditioner can be key to your onboard comfort. This buying guide will help you to understand the different features and benefits of air conditioner models; allowing you to choose the ideal unit for you and your vehicle!
The big question: Do you own a motorhome, caravan or campervan? Size matters.
Not all vehicles are compatible with every type of air conditioner:
Insulation strengths of individual models can vary and so we recommend speaking to your authorized dealer or service centre for the best advice according to your specific vehicle.
A vehicle’s length also influences air conditioner choice; powerful units being needed for large internal spaces. In some cases, more than one unit is used.
What's the difference between rooftop and under bunk units?
Air conditioners are either designed for installation on the vehicle’s roof or inside an internal storage compartment.
Rooftop Air Conditioner
Rooftop air conditioners are positioned over the window in your vehicle’s roof. For installation, the roof must be flat and have sufficient space.
- Storage: it does not use any valuable storage space inside your vehicle. This is particularly beneficial to owners of smaller vehicles with limited internal space.
- Light: given its position over a window, rooftop units can obstruct natural light. Unless of course, you purchase a rooftop unit with an integrated window!
- Distribution: choose between an air distribution box or, for wider, more targeted distribution, a ducting system.
- Clearance: it will add to your vehicle’s height - however, a sleek, low-profile rooftop model you’ll barely notice the difference.
- Heater: since heat rises, rooftop units aren’t optimally placed to heat your vehicle.
Under bunk air conditioner
An under bunk air conditioner is located inside the vehicle – under a bunk or in a compartment. It is ideal if your vehicle’s roof is curved or crowded with other devices.
- Storage: you will lose internal storage space to accommodate the air conditioner.
- Light: windows are unaffected meaning it won’t block natural light.
- Distribution: always via a ducting system, allowing a wide distribution of cool air to multiple rooms of your choice.
- Clearance: your vehicle’s clearance height is not affected.
- Heater: its low installation position makes it more effective as a heater.
Which air conditioners cool air the quickest?
The 'cooling capacity' of an air conditioner (sometimes referred to as pull-down power) indicates the speed at which it cools air. This feature is measured in British Thermal Units per hour (BTU/h). If you want to feel a drop in temperature as quickly as possible, then choose an air conditioner with a high cooling capacity.
Are you concerned about clearance height?
Low-hanging obstacles such as bridges make the clearance height of your RV well worth considering. An obvious solution is to choose an under bench unit which will not add any extra height to your vehicle. However, an aerodynamic, low-profile rooftop unit can add as little as 25cm to your vehicle’s clearance height, making them a great option too.
Do you want to maintain natural light from the roof window?
Although rooftop units are placed over the vehicle’s roof window, there is no need to lose natural light from your RV interior. If you’re someone who values natural light, you’ll appreciate an innovative rooftop air conditioner designed with integrated window.
Where will you be travelling? Consider power and climate?
Air conditioners can do more than cool air. Depending on where you are travelling to, some additional functions may come in handy. It is also recommended that you consider the power sources of the destination you will travel to and ensure your air conditioner is suitable for use there.
Due to the fact heat rises, we recommend under bunk air conditioners for best heating results. The heat is distributed far more effectively from under the vehicle which offers the added advantage of less energy consumption.
However, be warned, an air conditioner's heater is not sufficiently powerful for use in temperatures close to freezing. For effective heating in cold climates, we advise using a specialist heater.
If you’re likely to travel to areas with low-quality, polluted air then you may be grateful to have an air purifier function on your air conditioner. It will also remove odours from storage or mishaps in the kitchen!
A select few air conditioners can do it all: cool, heat and purify. If you are likely to travel long distances in your RV and experience a range of climate conditions, then an all-in-one air conditioner ensures you will always be comfortable.
Power sources vary between countries and may require different sizes of fuse. So make sure your air conditioner is compatible with local electricity sources. If you like to lose yourself in the wilderness, far away from civilization, you’ll be needing a generator to operate your air conditioner “off grid”.
What about low power consumption?
An air conditioner that saves power: saves money and the environment too! It’s an attractive quality in any electrical device.
How many air conditioner units do you need?
This depends on the size of your vehicle. Larger RVs (over 8m) may need more than one air conditioner to cool the entire vehicle.
The position of your air conditioner and whether it is ducted or non-ducted is also influential. Ducted systems, which can be used with both rooftop and under bench air conditioners, allow cool air to be effectively distributed around the entire vehicle. However, rooftop units may also use non-ducted systems. The more limited distribution range of a non-ducted system may mean you require two separate units to provide cool coverage throughout the vehicle.
Would you like two or four air outlets?
Air distribution boxes have flexible vent number and position options, offering you air circulation control. Choose to have vents, potentially rotatable, on any side of the unit and up to two on the back side. Give some thought to when, where and why you’ll appreciate your unit’s cool refreshment most.
Do you want to use your air conditioner while driving?
For climate control while you’re on the move, a DC kit enables mobile operation from the 12 V vehicle battery.
Now you're ready to choose
We hope this guide has given you a better understanding of the type of air conditioner you want to buy.