Best RV Air Conditioner and Camper AC Units: A Buyer’s Guide

No matter how careful you are to park in the shade, one hot day with too much sun can turn your RV into a solar oven if you don’t have air conditioning.

If you’ve already got a rooftop AC unit, getting a replacement can be a challenge. As air conditioning units get more efficient, they tend to get smaller. To replace your AC unit and successfully fill in the AC opening, you may be able to enjoy more BTUs in the same AC port.

With that said, here are our favorite choices for the best RV air conditioner.

Best RV Air Conditioner: Top Choices

1. Dometic Brisk II Rooftop RV Air Conditioner (B59516.Xx1J0)

The Dometic Brisk II will cover 33.5 inches by 25.6 inches and add 15 inches of height to your rig. Like a lot of Dometic products, this unit is built to withstand the peculiar challenges found in a home that rolls. For example, this unit includes a very thick gasket and foam pad inserts to reduce chatter as the vehicle vibrates.

Pros:

This unit can be retrofitted to provide not only cool air but three speeds of fan power. This unit will fit over an ordinary 14.25″ square vent.

If you don’t currently have AC, you can still get rooftop AC added to your rig as long as you have 110 power. Even better, even in this small footprint, you can enjoy 15000 BTU of cooling power.

This AC is available in both ducted and ductless format.

While it adds 15 inches of height to your rig once you’re on the road, it will greatly reduce the amount of weight you were carrying if you had an older AC unit.

Cons:

Depending on the material used on your roof, the installation of your Dometic Brisk II could be a challenge.

Unlike bigger units, it’s rather boxy and the weight is concentrated in a smaller footprint.

If you’re not comfortable working on a roof, or if your roof is fiberglass and perhaps can’t hold its shape under your weight, take this unit to an RV repair shop to make sure you get a watertight installation.

This unit doesn’t offer heat or a heater attachment.

2. Honeywell MN12CESBB Portable Multipurpose AC

The Honeywell MN12CESBB is a vented portable unit that you can keep tucked away in your rig until you need it. It has casters and a washable filter.

This 12,000 BTU unit will keep your RV cool and dry with the right hookups and power, and you can move it to the bedroom or station it in the kitchen as needed.

Pros:

This unit is 15 inches deep, 18 inches wide and just under 30 inches tall, so it should fit easily under a standard cabinet height. It can also be used as a fan, or hooked up to a drain hose and used as a dehumidifier.

Your Honeywell MN12CESBB includes a flexible vent hose with a kit to make it easy to vent out a window. The sturdy plastic window adapter kit will tolerate some cutting if you’re able to use a quality blade and go slow.

You can program the unit to turn off after a set amount of time if you’re stepping away from your rig.

Cons:

Be aware that it’s just under 75 pounds, so you’ll want to create a space in your rig where you can secure it.

Rolling loose, that’s a lot of weight, and if the unit tips you will need to leave it standing for 24 hours before turning it on so you don’t overburden the compressor.

3. Furrion FACR14SA-PS RV Rooftop Air Conditioner

The Furrion RV Rooftop AC unit offers a lot of cooling power in a very small package. This is a non-ducted unit, so it will just pull air in from the outside and push cold air down into your RV. Be aware that this AC unit is approximately 80 pounds.

Pros:

Furrion technology is designed to work well around RV challenges. The gasket is quite thick and does a great job of reducing chatter, so the unit doesn’t get terribly bounced around as you drive down the road.

Additionally, this gasket does a lot to reduce vibration noise when the air really starts moving.

Cons:

A single challenge commonly found with this unit is that some of the packaging seems to be substandard.

While those who’ve installed the AC unit are quite happy with the results, many have struggled to get a cover that wasn’t broken.

If you plan to install this yourself, make sure you open the box and confirm that the cover tabs that screw to the unit have not been damaged in shipment.

If you can buy it locally and in person, be prepared to go through the box before you leave the store.

4. Dometic Polar White Rooftop Air Conditioner B59516.XX1C0

The Dometic Polar was designed to be simple, durable, and as low-fuss as possible. This is an ideal unit for small rigs that need a quick cool down. It’s just under 13 inches high, so it shouldn’t add much to your clearance requirements. Your Dometic Polar is just under 30″ in wide and nearly 28 inches long, so if you’re covering up a vent hole, the risk of leak should be very low.

Pros:

This AC unit is designed to keep vibration, chatter and ambient noise a thing of the past.

If your experiences with RV AC have included some very loud conversations with your fellow travelers, you will be pleasantly surprised by the quiet productivity of this 15000 BTU unit. Best of all, this unit can also serve as a heat source as the day cools down.

Cons:

As noted above, this is a very simple unit. It lacks a few luxuries.

For example, there’s no remote. When you’re hot, you turn the unit on, and when you’re cool enough, you turn it off.

5. Airxcel 48203C966 08-0079 Mach 3 A/C

The Airxcel Mach 3 offers 13500 BTU of cooling power and over 5500 BTU of heat when you need it if you add the optional heater attachment. This unit is part of the Coleman line, which means it’s built from the camping perspective.

For example, this unit features a bigger footprint to allow for larger fins to exchange heat and protect the unit from damage. Additionally, the shroud includes extra protection around the condenser coil.

Pros:

Your Airxcel Mach 3 is 14 inches high, 26 inches wide and nearly 38 inches long. While this is a larger footprint than many RV ac units, this design offers many benefits.

This larger shroud allows for more heat dispersal, and the bigger base will provide more square inches of support across the length of the AC unit.

If your rig is fiberglass, this extra weight dispersion could reduce the risk of a leak down the road.

The front of the shroud is formed to allow air to move easily over the top of the AC unit and to protect the workings of the AC unit from debris in the air or picked up from trees hanging over forest roads.

Cons:

Be very careful when buying this unit to confirm whether you need a ducted or a non-ducted unit; they are not interchangeable.

In a non-ducted unit, you will be getting a lot of AC straight down into the rig. Make sure you have fans in place to move air around.

6. Dometic Penguin II 651816 AC with Heat Pump

If you want a “set it and forget about it” tool for heating and cooling your rig, the Dometic Penguin II is an ideal choice. This 15000 BTU AC unit will add less than 12 inches to the height of your rig once it’s in place.

Pros:

You can set your temperature swing tolerance and relax. This unit will start up to cool things off before bed and warm up your rig if it’s chilly in the morning.

The cover of the unit offers a wonderful aerodynamic shape. It vents out the back to protect the compressor and offers automatic blower cycling from 40 degrees Fahrenheit.

Cons:

You will need a thermostat to connect to this unit. While it will save you on propane, diesel, or whatever other forms of heating fuel you’re using, be aware that the install on this will be a little more challenging as the total weight is 123 pounds.

7. Atwood 15027 RV AC

The Atwood unit is another rooftop AC that can easily be fitted over a standard 12v vent fan hold, though you will need to need to run 110 to power up the Atwood.

This 13500 BTU roof unit is just over 14 inches high and just under 90 pounds. It’s just over 2 feet wide and over 3 feet long, so the weight will be well dispersed over the vent hole.

Pros:

This unit has a built-in digital display, so if you don’t have a thermostat, you don’t need to purchase a separate controller.

Even better, there’s no risk of knobs and control buttons getting rattled off as your rig moves down the road.

Cons:

There may be an additional gasket to purchase, or extra supports to protect the unit from chatter once it’s installed. Discuss these needs with your RV AC installer to make sure your new AC unit is properly sealed and won’t leak into your rig.

As it’s a small unit, it’s a little surprising that this unit is available in either ducted or non-ducted configuration. Be very careful when placing your order so you get the right unit for your RV configuration.

8. Dometic Blizzard NXT RV AC With Heat Pump

The Dometic Blizzard is ideally suited to give you cool air and let you enjoy the quiet of nature. This AC unit is protected with expanded polypropylene foam, or EPP foam, to reduce the risk of condensation damage and to limit chatter and vibration.

It’s just under 14 inches high, 30 inches wide and 40 inches long. The total weight of the Blizzard is 88 pounds.

Pros:

Like other Dometic AC units, this is designed both to allow plenty of airflow to the compressor and coils. The shape is also aerodynamic.

This unit is fairly easy to install as a replacement for another AC unit; if you’re upgrading from a vent fan, you may need to take it to an RV repair shop for best fit.

Cons:

The Blizzard can be ducted or non-ducted, though you will need a return air grille for the single zone system use.

You will also need a thermostat to put this unit to work in your RV.

9. ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air 13,500 BTU Rooftop AC

If you’re putting your first AC unit in your rig or upgrading from a vent fan in one section of your RV, the ASA Advent Air is a great option.

The footprint is quite small and includes a vent fan to use when you don’t need AC. There’s a plug-in heat strip available as well, sold separately.

Pros:

The ASA Advent Air is a bit boxier than other rooftop AC units. It’s nearly 34 inches long, over 25 inches wide and 15 inches tall. Even better, it’s under 70 pounds.

However, if you’re looking for a unit that will be a fairly quick upgrade, this one comes with what you need. The metal base is well padded to reduce chatter and this unit comes with the gasket kit included.

There’s a ceiling mounted controller included with the Advent Air as well, so powering it up is quite simple once you have it installed.

Cons:

This unit is slightly taller than many other rooftop AC add-ons. If your travels take you under low canopies, under low-hanging branches or under train trestles, make sure you get a proper measurement of your total RV height before you head out.

Related: RV air conditioner troubleshooting

RV Air Conditioner Buying Guide

AC units for RVs can fit easily into several different locations in your rig. The goal when choosing your AC unit is to determine the place where you really need cooling power, the easiest place to run electric to the unit if it’s a new location, and who’s going to do the installation.

Under Bench

An under bench AC unit is an ideal choice if you already have the ventilation in place. However, you will want to have fans in place to keep air moving.

Under bench units blow cold air across the floor. As cold air sinks and hot air rises, keeping your RV comfortable will take some mixing of these two conditions. However, many under bench AC units also offer heat. With the right power hookups and a fan or two, your under bench AC could be all the heating and cooling you need.

Rooftop

Rooftop AC units are commonly installed in RVs for several reasons. First of all, they don’t require extra venting, and ductless cooling from atop your RV is fairly simple.

That being said, the roof of an RV is already under a fair bit of pressure because of the height of the walls and stress on the vehicle. If your rig didn’t have an AC unit before, consider getting your new AC installed by a professional for the best seal.

Most importantly, once your new rooftop is in place, measure your rig from tires to the top of the shroud so you know your clearance.

A new AC unit can be wonderful, but stopping by the side of the road to pick it up after it catches on an overpass is a long, sad day.

Window

Adding a window unit to an RV may work while at the campsite, but it will need to be pulled out before you can travel. As window AC units can be quite heavy and will drip as condensation forms, you will need to make sure that none of that moisture is entering your rig.

Additionally, once you pull the window unit back in the RV, you’ll want to secure it to make sure it doesn’t slide or tip in transport. One of the nice things about a window or a portable is that you only use when you really need it.

Portable

A portable AC unit that can be rolled to just the right spot in your rig may be just what you need to stay cool on the hottest days. Additionally, you don’t have to lift it onto the roof and there’s no risk or roof leak.

Venting your portable will be tricky to start. If possible, use a fine-bladed saw to do some custom cutting on window ventilation kit that comes with the portable unit.

If you need to add any panels, 1/4 o4 1/8 mahogany door skin can also be cut with a fine-bladed saw to fit in your window; you can paint this white to match the window panel kit.

The biggest worry with a portable will be moisture. Depending on the humidity where you camp, there could be a lot of moisture capture in the dehumidifying pan on your portable AC unit.

Be very careful about checking this pan, and try to locate a permanent space in your rig where you can power the AC unit, vent the hot air outside and run a hose out of the drain pan to the outside or into a bucket.

Non-ducted Vs Ducted

Your choice of a non-ducted vs a ducted AC unit will be pretty straightforward. If your rig has ducting and your original AC unit fails or is getting inefficient, you’ll need a ducted AC unit to replace it.

If your rig isn’t big enough for ducting, a non-ducted AC unit will work fine.

Generally, non-ducted units are used in smaller rigs that don’t have too much cubic space. These units can often serve multiple purposes.

You can put them in place to cover a 14 inch vent fan hole, and many non-ducted RV AC units have a three speed fan included. Until it gets terribly warm, a fan may be all that you need.

Energy Efficiency

AC units are not terribly energy efficient by their nature. You will probably not be able to run your AC off of solar unless you have a lot of solar and a huge battery bank.

Worse, running AC off of solar means that your batteries and solar panels can really struggle to power anything else in your rig.

However, you can run AC if you have a generator. Be aware that every AC unit is different and may have a different power draw. If your generator is on the small side, be ready to use it only to power the AC.

Let the refrigerator run off propane and use other power sources for lights, 12v outlets, and other power draws. If you have a large generator and no neighbors, AC will not be a problem.

Your best move toward energy efficient use of your RV air conditioning unit is avoidance. Let your rig be a little chilly in the morning.

If you love to bake, fire up the oven in the morning and make muffins for the family so you don’t need to power up the furnace, then let the rig cool down again to extend the time before you have to turn on the AC.

Use venting fans to keep the humidity down. The simple act of exhalation overnight in your rig will raise the humidity level, so if you’re traveling with family and pets, things are going to get humid. As the day warms up, try to use shade, including awnings and tree canopy cover, to reduce heat build-up in your rig.

Cook outside if you know it will get warm. Know your top temperature tolerance and turn on the AC when the inside temp gets close. Once the AC is on, seal up the rig as best you can.

Ease of Installation

Many RVers are a bit older, and even those that aren’t may not be in good enough shape to lug an 80 pound AC unit up to the roof of their rig.

Remember, if something goes wrong you may have to catch your new AC unit with your body. Depending on the rig construction, there may be enough weight tolerance for the AC unit but not for you.

Getting the seal right is one of the most critical steps when putting your AC unit in place. If the installer weight, or the AC unit weight, or the combination, causes any flexing you may find that your roof leaks because the AC unit didn’t seal effectively during the installation.

One little leak can turn into a huge RV problem, so if you’re not completely confident in your ability to manage this install, hire it out.

How many BTUs do I need?

The more BTUs your AC offers, the more power it will draw. If your rig is very small, a large AC unit won’t cool it off any faster. It will just take more power. However, a small unit will chug along, never doing the job fully because it just doesn’t have the juice.

Your BTU needs will be determined by several factors. The first one to consider is square footage. As RVs are generally smaller than the average home, anything more than 15000 BTU for AC coverage will likely be a waste of your power use.

Additionally, you will need to consider the climate where you plan to camp. If you’re headed for sunny California beach camping, things are going to get warm in the rig. Should you choose to head north and inland to stay at a few wineries, your AC needs will drop.

Humidity will have a huge impact on your AC needs. The warmer the air is in any space, the more water it will hold. If you notice your skin and hair drying out in the wintertime, part of this is caused by the fact that the air is inherently dryer; it simply can’t maintain the same moisture level it does when the air is warmer.

Florida hot is much more uncomfortable than Arizona hot.

The number of people in your rig will impact how many BTUs your AC should be. Humans are radiators, and if you’ve ever slept beside a child who turns into a tiny oven at night, you will understand why body count will matter in your AC choice.

Finally, the activities you choose to do inside the rig will have a big impact on your BTU requirements. Do you plan to cook indoors? A convection microwave is a wonderful tool when you want to bake, but they throw a lot of heat.

If you can put together an outdoor kitchen on the hottest days, you can reduce your BTU need.

Check out this useful BTU calculator for more info.

Conclusion

If the rig is just a bedroom and you plan to use a solar shower, relax, hike, and cook outdoors, you may not need an AC unit at all depending on where you camp.

However, if you’re a digital nomad and need a computer with multiple screens, phone, and other electronics to be powered up as you spend the day in your RV, you will likely need more consistent air conditioning.

Your RV AC choice may be made for you. If your rig is fiberglass, or if you have an old roof leak that has been repaired, treat yourself to a portable and build a spot to strap it to the wall before you drive away. Adding 75 pounds to the floor of your rig is not a leak risk.

However, if the old unit was 100 pounds and the new one will only be 80, you’ve actually lightened the load. With the right unit, you might get heat as well as AC.

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