Depending on the style of RV you own, the air conditioner could be insufficient or completely non-existent. A supplemental cooling system will put you at ease in the heat, and you don’t have to settle for a bulky roof model anymore, thanks to advances in technology. The best RV air conditioner could be a portable system with a heat pump or a streamlined rooftop unit, depending on your needs.
- The Best Air Conditioners for Recreational Vehicles
- How to Find the Best Air Conditioner for your RV
- RV Air Conditioner FAQ
The Best Air Conditioners for Recreational Vehicles
Coleman Mach 1 PowerSaver
- BTU: 11,000
- Style: Rooftop
- Size: 38”L x 26.1”W x 13.8”H
- Weight: 82 lbs.
- Warranty : 2 years
Dometic Penguin II
- BTU: 13,500
- Style: Rooftop
- Size: 11 ¼”H x 40”W x 29”D
- Weight: 90 lbs.
- Warranty : 2 years
- BTU: 9,500
- Style: Portable
- Size: 35.5”H x 19”W x 16”D
- Weight: 79 lbs.
- Warranty : 1/3 years
Vremi Air Conditioner with Heat
- BTU: 8,300
- Style: Portable
- Size: 28”H x 17”W x 14”D
- Weight: 68 lbs.
- Warranty : 1-year
- BTU: 14,500
- Style: Rooftop
- Size: 34”L x 27”W x 13”H
- Weight: 88 lbs.
- Warranty : 2 years
TOSOT 3-in-1 Air Conditioner
- BTU: 5,000
- Style: Portable
- Size: 30.4”H x 11.8”W x 15.4”D
- Weight: 65 lbs.
- Warranty : 1-year
Dometic Penguin II Air Heat Pump 15
- BTU: 15,000
- Style: Rooftop
- Size: 41.5 x 119 x 12 inches
- Weight: 119 lbs.
- Warranty : 2 years
If you’ve looked for an RV ac unit in the past decade, you may have noticed that only a few brands produce rooftop models. Today, they are generally represented by three main brands, but things open up considerably with portable systems. With that in mind, we chose a mix of air conditioners that are designed to work on a rooftop or from within your recreational vehicle.
#1 Coleman MACH 1 PowerSaver
An Energy-Efficient System from Airxcel
Airxcel is a major brand with a dozen companies under their corporate umbrella, including several that specialize in HVAC products. That includes the Coleman-Mach lineup, which has a variety of rooftop RV units like the efficient Mach 1 PowerSaver.
The Coleman-Mach 48207C966 is rated at 11,000 BTU, which puts it at the lower end of the spectrum in terms of power. That said, it’s from Airxcel’s PowerSaver lineup, so it’s designed to use less energy without compromising efficiency. That’s due in part to the high-efficiency fan motor and compressor, although the coils help in that regard as well.
This system has oversized coils and raised lance fins. It has a large amount of surface area for maximum cooling, and the copper tubing is rifled. It’s rated at 320 CFM and designed to fit standard rooftop vents. The Coleman MACH 1 tips the scales at 82 pounds and measures 38”L x 26.1”W x 13.8”H. While not in the low-profile class, the textured shroud does have an aerodynamic profile.
With well over a dozen RV air conditioners, it wasn’t hard to find a great model from Airxcel for our list. The Mach 1 PowerSaver has an attractive price point and is a well-built system ideal for consumers that value efficiency or have a small generator. This rooftop air conditioner is made in the USA and backed by a 2-year warranty.
Related Article: Coleman RV Air Conditioner Reviews and Buying Guide
#2 Dometic Penguin II Rooftop Air Conditioner
The Best Low Profile RV Air Conditioner
When you install a rooftop air conditioner, you run the risk of damaging an awning or overpass if it’s too high. A low-profile unit like the Penguin II from Dometic can alleviate those fears, and it’s designed to cut down on drag as you travel down the highways and byways across America.
The Penguin II is a rooftop air conditioner in the low-profile class with a height of around 11”. That’s a couple of inches shorter than most systems of this style, and the shroud has been improved from the previous generation. It’s aerodynamic with EPP foam housing, which is lightweight, and the base pan is rib-reinforced for additional durability.
Dometic engineered this model so that it can be used in a ducted or non-ducted installation. A control box can send air in five different directions, and a Quick Cool feature will send air where it’s needed quickly. A high-performance motor and washable HEPA-style filter round things out for the Penguin II 640315CXX1C0.
This particular variant doesn’t come with a ceiling assembly or thermostat, so you’ll need to take that into account unless it’s a replacement for a similar system. It’s available in two colors with a black or white housing, and two variants depending on your needs. We chose the standard 13,500 BTU model, but there is a high-capacity RV AC unit rated at 15,000 BTU as well.
If the Penguin II series is within your budget, there’s really no drawback to going with this system if you need a low-profile air conditioning system. The unit has been well-received by RV owners for the most part, aside from what appear to be random quality control issues. Just remember to price the accessories you’ll need for this system beforehand.
Related Article: Dometic RV Air Conditioner Reviews and Buying Guide
#3 Whynter ARC-143MX Portable Air Conditioner
The Best Portable Air Conditioner for Large RVs
Most portable air conditioners are geared towards smaller spaces, but some are designed with larger areas in mind. Whynter has an e excellent solution for large motor homes in the ARC-143MX, a high-powered system good for spaces up to 500 square feet.
This attractive RV air conditioner would look great in any room of your home but is small enough to comfortably sit inside travel trailers and recreational vehicles. It measures 35.5”H x 19”W x 16”D, so it’s taller than the TOSOT and considerably wider, but has a lot more power. By the new DOE standards, this rooftop air conditioner is rated at 9,500 BTUs.
As this is a 3-in-1 system, you can use the fan, air conditioner, or dehumidifier. There is a small set of digital controls on the front with an LCD display, but you can also adjust this system with a remote control. While this portable AC unit is incredibly easy to use, there’s no pump for the dehumidifier, so you’ll have to rely on gravity for continuous drainage when this feature is in use.
The venting on this unit is designed to fit almost any window and has dual hoses for increased efficiency. Features include a programmable 24-hour timer and an auto-drain feature that exhausts condensate while the AC is on. It also has not one but two filters with a washable pre-filter and 3M antimicrobial filter.
Whytner is known for their prowess in the appliance world, but not necessarily for air conditioning systems. They may not have the most impressive lineup of portable units, but the ARC-143MX is well worth a look. It’s a little louder than comparable models because of its size, although it’s guaranteed to keep your RV cool and doubles as a high-powered humidifier as well. That said, keep the power draw in mind with this one, or you could end up tripping a breaker.
#4 Vremi Portable Air Conditioner and Heater
The Best Portable Air Conditioner with Heat
There are dozens of rooftop air conditioners with heat pumps, but they don’t provide as much warmth as a standalone heater that’s a fraction of the price. If you need heating and cooling for smaller RVs and trailers, you’ll appreciate what this system from Vremi brings to the table.
Vremi designed this system for consumers with modern sensibilities. It has a clean style with a vent on the top and an embedded LED display on the front beneath the housing. That vent is also designed to help to mimic a natural breeze inside your RV. Handles on the sides and castor wheels on the bottom make this unit simple to move as well.
This RV air conditioner heater combo is of average size at 28”H x 17”W x 14”D and rated to areas between 500 to 600 square feet. At 8,300 BTU, it has more oomph than many systems its size with the bonus of a heat pump. Ventilation is possible through an included 5.6-foot hose that’s designed to work with sliding windows.
A small remote allows you to control this portable RV ac unit from a distance and access five different modes. While sleep mode is included, several users complained about the brightness of the display at nighttime. Other features of note include a double-layered filter that’s washable and a 24-hour programmable timer.
This portable air conditioning system provides more than enough heat to keep you cozy in an RV, and while it doesn’t have a dehumidifier like most portable models, it has a very nice price tag. Vremi guarantees this unit for 1-year, so you may want to consider an extended plan despite the budget-friendly price.
#5 Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner
The Best Budget RV Air Conditioning System
Companies like Coleman-Mach and Dometic are big brands in the world of RV air conditioners, whereas Furrion has carved a nice niche out for themselves with an array of affordable products. The Furrion CHILL is a popular system among consumers and the best option if your budget is tight.
This is another rooftop air conditioner designed to work with both ducted and ductless setups, but it has something unique under the hood. Furrion installed two fans in the Chill FACR14SA to increase the airflow but still manages to keep the noise down to reasonable levels through rubber dampeners. While suitable for standard 14” openings, you will have to consider sizing with this one.
You’ll want to proceed with caution around underpasses with this rooftop system as it's 13 5/8” tall. It’s only 88 pounds, but the roof of your motor home or trailer has to be at least 3” thick at a minimum. The cover is UV-resistant and lightweight with large vents, just not quite as streamlined as comparable models. It does come with an air distribution box, however.
The control box is manual with eight selectable settings. Slots on the ADB can be shut off if you want to divert air in a ducted system, so it’s very easy to use. It’s available in two colors and sizes with 14,500 and 15,500 BTU units, both of which have short-cycle protection and a start capacitor. The system itself is covered for 2 years, while the control box has a 1-year guarantee.
This air conditioner may not be as fancy as other systems on our list, but it’s an excellent choice for consumers that want something simple and effective for their camper. That includes folks that just want an affordable replacement system, as this model is even cheaper in a base configuration without an ADB. Common complaints for this air conditioner include poor instructions and mediocre customer support, making DIY installations difficult.
#6 TOSOT 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner
The Best Small Portable Air Conditioner
TOSOT is a brand our readers will be familiar with as they make a variety of air care products for residential use. While they don’t make traditional RV air conditioners, they have a handful of portable systems that are an excellent choice for recreational vehicles.
While the company didn’t give the TOSOT GPC05AK-A3NNA2B a slick moniker, it does have a modern sense of style. This system is compact at 30.4”H x 11.8”W x 15.4”D so that it won’t take up much room inside your RV. With a weight of around 65 pounds, it’s not quite as heavy as a lightweight rooftop system, but the design ensures it’s easy to move around.
This portable RV AC unit is listed at 5,000 BTU’s by current DOE standards with a range of around 300 square feet. It’s more than capable of cooling down an RV as needed but can also dehumidify the air by removing 55 pints of moisture each day. It has three fan speeds and X-Fan technology, which prevents mold growth by slowing the fan speed.
One of the perks of choosing a portable AC system for your RV are the features. This one doesn’t disappoint, considering it has a timer, child lock, night mode, and a remote control. The remote gives you full access to all the features and even has a tiny display for the temperature and settings. It’s also quiet enough to not disturb or distract you with a decibel rating of 49dBA.
We chose this TOSOT portable air conditioner due to the solid array of features and the design. It produces plenty of airflow for its size and is easy to vent out any vertical or horizontal window. There are cheaper alternatives if you don’t need the dehumidification feature, but this one performs as advertised and is packed full of useful features.
#7 Dometic Penguin II Air Heat Pump 15
The Best RV Air Conditioner with Heat
As one of the top manufacturers in the business, it should come as no surprise that Dometic managed to make our list twice. This model is a bit different from the previous one, however, as the Penguin II 15 can produce both cool air and heat.
This is another 120-volt unit with a low-profile and lightweight design. It works with both ducted and non-ducted installations keeping you comfortable year-round thanks to a high-performance motor and fan. The build quality is on par with the Dometic Penguin 650315CXX1C0, so you can expect a rib-reinforced base pan along with an EPP foam housing.
According to Dometic, this RV AC unit with heat weighs 101 pounds and is 40.5” wide and 11 ¼” high. It’s rated at 15,000 BTU but isn’t a full kit, so you’ll need to pick up a control box and ceiling assembly depending on your current system. Like most RV AC systems from Dometic, this unit is available in several capacities as well.
Recreational vehicles hit the roads in the summer, winter, and fall and can encounter a variety of conditions on the open road from one region to the next. A system like the Dometic Penguin II 651816CXX1J0 ensures you’ll stay comfortable no matter where the road takes you and is built to outlast similar units in this class.
How to Find the Best Air Conditioner for your RV
When you need to cool down an RV, there a number of ways you can choose to handle the heat. The most efficient way is through a rooftop air conditioner, which can be a significant investment depending on your needs. With that in mind, we’ve compiled this guide, which is full of helpful tips to help you find the right model for your recreational vehicle.
What type of recreational vehicle do you own?
The term RV refers to recreational vehicles, but those vehicles can come in a variety of sizes. There’s more than one type of RV, so it’s a good idea to consider the style of your mobile camper before choosing a type of air conditioner for it.
A motor home is essentially a house on wheels. They have more amenities than a travel trailer or pop-up camper and come in three different classes. Class A motorhomes are the largest, and can be up to 40 feet in length with plenty of space and offer more creature comforts than other models,
Class B motorhomes are on the opposite end of the spectrum. While they can come decked out with flagship features, they are categorized as the smallest type of motorhome on the road today. Class C motorhomes are in the middle of the pack and one of the more popular options with consumers due to the features offered and pricing.
Travel Trailers & Campers
While a travel trailer is still part of the RV world, they are pulled behind a vehicle instead of driven like a large motorhome. They also come in different sizes and styles, including fifth-wheel campers, which have a large 5th wheel hitch. They are distinctive, just like pop-up campers. These travel trailers may not be suitable for a large rooftop system, but an under-bench or portable AC unit is ideal.
Sport-utility RV’s are a specialty type of trailer used to haul gear or motorcycles and off-road vehicles. Tiny trailers are incredibly popular and easy to haul but limited in terms of size. There are also a variety of hybrid pull-behind trailers in this class. The important thing to remember with travel trailers is the roof, its height, and how much weight it can hold.
Ducted vs. Non-Ducted RV Air Conditioners
Deciding whether to choose an RV air conditioner that’s ducted or non-ducted can be challenging if you’re a new RV owner that’s never dealt with these types of systems. Well, the answer is actually quite simple if your motorhome already or travel trailer already has built-in air ducts.
As the name implies, a ducted RV air conditioning system uses ducts that can send cool air to any part of your RV. It’s the best choice for larger motorhomes with multiple rooms and large areas to cool. Because of the design, they can be harder to install and require an air distribution box. They also tend to be more expensive than similarly sized units that don’t require ducts.
With a non-ducted RV air conditioner, air blows out from the bottom of the unit into your RV through a vent. They are easier to install for this reason but don’t do a good job of distributing air throughout large motorhomes. Portable air conditioners and window-based units fall into this category as well.
Types of RV Air Conditioning Systems
When most consumers think of an air conditioning system on an RV, they think of a factory-installed indoor system or a boxy unit that sits on the roof. Well, there are a few more varieties to consider, including portable systems, which are ideal when space is tight, or you don’t have roof access.
Rooftop Air Conditioners
This is the most common type of air conditioner for traditional motorhomes and large pull-behind campers. They are also the most powerful, so you can find units that range anywhere from 8,000 to 15,500 BTU. They are available in both vented and non-vented styles. While they have multiple speeds and can cool you off quickly, they can also weigh between 70 to 100 pounds.
Given the weight and the fact these systems are installed on a roof, they are the hardest type of AC unit to install yourself. You will need to cut a hole through the top of your RV if using there isn’t a window in the top. There are systems that have an integrated window, however, which will still allow natural light into your RV.
Consider the height this type of RV air conditioner can add to your caravan as well. There are a number of low-profile alternatives, but a rooftop model will add drag. This will decrease your overall mileage, so the design and aerodynamics of these air conditioners are critical.
Under-bench Air Conditioners
If you have a smaller recreational vehicle, pop-up camper, or tiny tow-behind mobile home, an under-bench air conditioner is often the best solution. They are designed to fit into snug spaces like storage compartments and beneath benches inside your RV.
An obvious advantage of these units is that they don’t go on the roof, so installation is a breeze, and overhangs will never be a concern. They aren’t as powerful or as prevalent as other alternatives, but still capable of cooling small to medium-sized motorhomes.
Portable Air Conditioners
Portable air conditioners are a great choice for indoor areas that need supplemental cooling, and they are suitable for use in RV’s as well. These systems aren’t tricky to install as they simply require power. There’s no shortage of options when it comes to sizes or styles, but you will need somewhere to store these units when they aren’t in use. Another drawback to portable air conditioners is drainage and noise. How that’s handled varies from one system to the next, but it is something to definitely keep in mind.
Window Air Conditioners
The last type of air conditioner we want to discuss is a unique alternative to cooling down the interior of a recreational vehicle or motor home. Window air conditioners engineered for use in these vehicles aren’t as heavy or powerful as ones used in residential homes. They are designed to sit in narrow windows and won’t take up any floor space but isn’t the best choice if you’re concerned about drag, security, or storage.
RV Air Conditioner Cooling Capacity
Do you have an RV the size of a small city or a tiny trailer? Size matters when you’re searching for the best RV air conditioner, and it’s the first feature you’ll need to consider after settling on a style. In some cases, manufacturers will rate their AC units by trailer or motorhome length. Usually, cooling capacity for these systems is measured in BTUs, however, otherwise known as British Thermal Units.
This piece will explain BTU’s in-depth, but if you want to keep things simple, just remember these tips. The most popular styles are only sold in a few sizes, which are 13,500 and 15,500 BTU’s. There are a few that go above and beyond that range, but a 15,500 unit is ideal for large motorhomes. For average-sized or smaller RVs, a 13,500 BTU air conditioner should suffice.
RV Air Conditioner Features
While you can find fans and other indoor cooling solutions decked out with a variety of features, the same can’t be said for traditional RV air conditioning units. You won’t find as many options on rooftop-based systems as you will portable AC units, but there are a number of features to keep an eye out for regardless of the design.
The biggest and most expensive feature for this type of air conditioner is a heat pump. It’s a convenient feature to have in the colder months, but it won’t be nearly as efficient as a dedicated heater. Air purification is a close second, and something still only found on a handful of premium systems at this time.
A few of the more common features for RV air conditioners include electronic controls, air distribution boxes, and remotes. You can find many of these as add-on accessories, while others are included in the price of the package. Needless to say, you’ll want to pay close attention to what’s included in the box with any type of air conditioner built for recreational vehicles.
If you choose a portable air conditioner, there are more options, although most systems have a similar set of features. You can expect several speeds and modes, including ones that idle systems down while you sleep. Washable filters, dehumidifiers, and remote control are common features as well, along with units that have a heat pump.
RV AC Unit Installation
Considering the number of different types of RV air conditioners, it’s not feasible for us to thoroughly cover every type of installation method. That said, we are going to tell you what to expect if you plan to install a rooftop air conditioner system.
If you are purchasing a new air conditioner to replace one that’s already in place on the roof, the installation process will be fairly straightforward as long as you have a standard 14” x 14” opening to work with.
You basically need to remove the old unit and replace it with the new one following the guidelines specified by the manufacturer. Everything should be properly sealed to prevent leaks, and you’ll want to be sure any drainage slots are clear.
For new installations, how you need to proceed depends on the roof. If you need to cut a new hole for the AC unit, we recommend watching the video below beforehand. While Bart makes installing the Brisk II look relatively simple, cutting a hole directly through the roof of a vehicle is not for everyone.
Keep in mind, installing the unit itself is just one part of the process. If you intend to go the DIY route, you will need to deal with venting, control boxes, thermostats, and other accessories as well.
RV Air Conditioner Warranties
A good warranty is something we stress with any product we cover, and that’s especially true for HVAC equipment like air conditioners. Unfortunately, most manufacturers only provide a warranty of around 1 to 3 years with systems geared towards recreational vehicles. That includes both rooftop models and portable AC units.
If you’re concerned about the length of the warranty provided by a company, the first thing you should do is consider an extended guarantee if available. Scouting to see which brands carry replacement parts is a good idea with rooftop models but retentively pointless with small AC units or portable systems.
Whether you are searching for your first AC unit for an older camper or simply need to replace a failing system on a new RV, choosing the right model is critical. A hot motorhome can ruin your trip, but it never has to again if you have the best RV air conditioner installed on your caravan or RV.
RV Air Conditioner FAQ
Q: Can you refill the Freon on an RV air conditioning system?
A: These systems are enclosed and not designed to be refilled by a consumer. If you believe your system has a leak, have it inspected by a qualified technician.
Q: How do I clean the condenser coil on a rooftop air conditioner?
A: You’ll want to blow out and remove any debris from around the coils and make sure they are free and clear of any obstructions. You can rinse the coils or use a cleaner as directed by the manufacturer, but you should never use a pressure washer. It’s also a good time to inspect your systems for bent fins and check your shroud for damage.
Q: Are RV air conditioners noisy?
A: It all depends on the brand and style. In our experience, we found most high-quality portable systems to be quieter indoors, but there are premium rooftop models with decibel ratings under 60dbA as well.
Q: Which type of rooftop RV air conditioner is easiest to install?
A: A non-ducted ac system. They don’t require any connections to ducts inside your RV and are easier to manage overall than air conditioners designed for multiple vents.
Q: Is it safe to install a rooftop air conditioner on any type of travel trailer or camper?
A: While we’ve seen rooftop systems of all sizes atop of caravans and motorhomes, the main limiting factor besides height is the strength and thickness of your roof. There are some kits that can help in that regard, but you need to check the specifications beforehand.
Q: How often should I change the filters in my air conditioner?
A: Unless otherwise specified by the manufacturer, we recommend changing or cleaning the air filters at least once every few months. If you are in your RV more than your home, you may need to check and maintain them more frequently.