Holds a Master’s degree in Engineering and is keen on her own home’s climate. Sometimes we think that Carolina owns every single product she writes about – that’s how profound and insightful her reviews always are.
For 8 years, Richard had been working as an HVAC specialist and AC unit installer since his student years. Now, he’s our main consultant on every technical aspect that may arise during our tests and research.
Last updated: July 24, 2021
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Despite boasting a great reputation for being luxurious vehicles that offer a lot of comfort, recreational vehicles can be rather uncomfortable sometimes, especially when you live or travel in hot regions. To make your RV as convenient as possible when you’re vacationing in hot conditions, you need to install the best RV air conditioner. There’s hardly anything better than vacationing in your RV during the summer, but an RV air conditioner can make it even better.
However, while an RV Air conditioner can improve your general RV experience, that’s only if you choose the right one. To help you choose the right one, after reviewing over 20 models, we have gathered the top eight RV air conditioners on the market, including the Advent RV AC Air Conditioner, which we consider as the best one out of the bunch. Of course, the other models we included are also capable of great things, but the Advent model just edges them all, thanks to its powerful operation, incredible lightweight design, and overall performance.
That said, we must also inform you that we considered a couple of important variables, which helped us shape our selections. The first of those variables is the BTU, which determines the power of the AC. We also considered the types of installation and dimensions, both of which determine the overall ease of use of the unit. Meanwhile, we adopted the usual structure, which includes a comparison table, a review section, and a buying guide.
The Advent RV AC Air Conditioner is our Editor’s Pick, and it completely deserves all the raves it’s getting, we must say. While the manufacturer may not be as popular as some other companies on this list, it’s the best model by a country mile, being ideal for motorhomes, campers, and recreational vehicles. While it comes at a quite steep price, of course, it packs enough power to match the price tag, as you might have expected. In terms of BTU, it has a 13,500-BTU capacity, which is really suitable for motorhomes and recreational vehicles.
In addition to that, the unit comes with a white or black shroud, which is of guaranteed high quality. Such a feature helps to protect the air conditioner from harsh external elements. Also, it helps to reduce the noise generated by the AC when in operation. The AC also has a reputation for simplicity, with its compact, simple, and lightweight design. With all these, its installation is as simple as ABC. Setting it up doesn’t require you to learn many complicated things. Besides, the unit features a non-ducted kit, which guarantees that you’re able to instantly set it up.
Another reason why many people love the Advent RV AC Air Conditioner is its incredible cooling efficiency, which guarantees the unit’s ability to keep your recreational vehicle cool when you’re out camping or on the road. In conclusion, this AC is an exceptional unit that is almost impossible to fault. If we must mention a drawback, the only thing we can mention is its quite high price, which is well justified by the way.
If you are a full-time RVer who is always on the road all-year-round, then the Dometic Penguin II Air Conditioner is a product you need to check. Even though it comes with a powerful 15,000-BTU capacity, this unit has a low profile, which is really incredible considering that a lot of compact models usually don’t pack much power. Apart from having a low-profile, the unit is also sleek and contemporary in design. And coming with a heat pump, the air conditioner is capable of maintaining a cool atmosphere in hot conditions and keeping you warm when the temperatures are low.
In truth, the Dometic Penguin II Air Conditioner is always one of the first names that come to mind when experts and experienced RVers are looking for a unit that is both flexible and versatile. The unit also boasts reinforced mounting holes, thick EPA foam housing, and heavy-duty support brackets, which allow it to hold itself together most times. It’s also worth adding that noise generation is kept to the barest minimum because of the included foam collar. And because of the perfectly-engineered shroud, the machine enjoys superior ventilation as well as drag.
For its installation, the unit supports both ducted and non-ducted cooling systems, which further highlights its much-talked-about flexibility. However, the Dometic Comfort Control with which ducted and non-ducted models are controlled isn’t included in this purchase, so you’d need to buy separately. In our opinion, this should be the only downside you’ll find on this model. Lest we forget, it comes with a two-year warranty to support buyers post-purchase.
The 1/3 HP fan motor used for the Airxcel Mach 15 Air Conditioner is the largest motor used in RV air conditioners in modern times, and that should tell you something about the quality of this “modern” air conditioner from Airxcel. It’s probably the strongest RV AC unit you will find on the market. With its capability to produce cool air at a remarkable rate of 320 cubic feet per minute, this model is widely referred to as the best RV air conditioner. In truth, the unit has a streamlined design, which further enhances its cooling efficiency.
Packing a superb combination of gas-flux brazed joints and all-copper tubing, Airxcel AC usually maintains top performance for long. Since the unit features raised lace fins and large evaporator, it is able to double as a heater and effectively and efficiently dissipate heat in challenging conditions. It’s also important to note that this unit is the best for ducted installation, but it also performs superbly in non-ducted systems too with a ceiling assembly kit. Besides, it’s built for the standard vent opening, so it could be adapted to most RVs, so you don’t have to worry about compatibility.
With the high-quality materials from which this unit is produced, it’s durable enough to serve you for many years. However, there is never a 100-percent guarantee with these products, so the manufacturer has included a two-year limited warranty in the purchase. This should give the buyers some rest of mind in case the unexpected happens. The only real problem you may find with this AC unit is its fairly high noise level, which although can be disturbing, should be nothing unmanageable.
Like the other Dometic model on our list, the Dometic Brisk Air II Air Conditioner also comes with a BTU rating of 15,000, which is really impressive. Unlike its sibling, however, this one only supports non-ducted installation type, which takes away some of its bragging points when compared to some other models in its class. Not to mention that the unit is compact, lightweight, and environmental-friendly. It sports an innovative design, which improves its overall performance. In fact, it comes with an entirely new base that’s engineered for superior durability and stability.
Furthermore, the Dometic Brisk Air II features a high-performance motor, along with a high-performance fan that helps ensure that there is utmost comfort in the RV at all times. Of course, the motor and the fan are the most important components of any air conditioner, and fortunately, both of them are of the highest quality in this unit. Apart from supporting ducted and non-ducted systems, this unit also operates on a single-phase power source, which makes installation easy. Besides, the unit supports most standard air vents, thanks to the fact that it’s been engineered to perfection to improve performance.
For the construction, the shroud of the unit is produced using high-impact polystyrene and includes a reusable filter, which helps keep the interior of your RV feeling fresh. Generally, the materials used for its production are fairly durable, so you don’t need to worry about it getting damaged easily. And even if does get damaged, it comes with a two-year limited warranty, which can come to your rescue. Overall, this is an excellent choice that should be ideal for your RV. The only issue you may encounter is its rather noisy operation.
Powerful, aerodynamic, and compact, the Dometic Polar B57915.XX1C0 Air Conditioner is one of the best models when it comes to all-around performance. Sporting a fairly modest profile, this unit is an excellent match for recreational vehicles with limited space. Apart from that, this unit is easy to install and maintain in most cases, which is down to the use of light materials in its manufacturing. But even though it’s lightweight in construction, the unit is still durable, which is an indication of an incredible workmanship. Its easy installation can be also attributed to the fact that it supports both ducted and non-ducted installation types, which is impressive to be honest.
Furthermore, it’s worth noting that the unit comes with a center discharge air delivery, which means its cooling and airflow efficiency are better than what you will find on average units. Also, as we previously subtly mentioned, this unit has a fairly powerful operation, with its ability to discharge 13,500 BTUs per hour. However, despite the built-in noise-dampening brackets, this air conditioner from Dometic is a still a bit loud in operation. Subsequently, users may be disturbed by the noisy operation of their air conditioner.
But to support users even after purchase, the company has backed the Dometic Polar B57915.XX1C0 Air Conditioner with a two-year Protection Plus warranty, which is a very nice gesture. However, we would like to encourage you to bear in mind that the accompanying warranty will be voided if the unit is used with household thermostats. The only real gripes we found with this unit is that the control unit is sold separately, which can delay the installation.
The Serenelife Portable Electric Air Conditioner is an excellent option for people that want good performance without breaking the bank. This model is simple to use and it can be moved around easily with the built-in wheels. This unit scores well in energy consumption tests which will help you to keep your energy bills under control. One of the most important characteristics of a portable AC unit is the noise levels. This AC unit is a little noisier than some models but it does provide plenty of cooling if you don’t mind the noise too much.
This portable AC unit can also act as a dehumidifier or a simple fan which gives you more functionality for the modest price. This model is rated for a room up to 350 sq ft or more with 10,000 BTUs of cooling available. This can perform to a good standard with a temperature drop of around 11ºF during the first hour and almost 9ºF within the first 20 minutes.
In terms of portability, this is an excellent option but you won’t be lifting the unit up or down stairs. After all, this AC unit weighs over 50 lbs and homes with an upper floor may need a pair of units to move around on separate floors. The wheels traverse smoothly from room to room with only a slight vibration that is barely noticeable. In summary, this is a good portable AC system for the money, it may be a little on the noisy side but it’s an energy efficient option.
What do we love it for?
Easy to move around if you’re staying on the same floor.
This AC unit can also act as a fan and a dehumidifier.
The Midea MAP08R1CWT is a portable compact AC unit, humidifier and fan combo at an affordable price. This unit has an output of 8,000 BTUs which makes it one of the most powerful portable air conditioner models on the market. This is a portable unit because it only weighs 60 lbs and it has built-in wheels to easily move it between rooms. The air filtration unit can be washed which makes it less expensive than a unit that uses replaceable filters.
This portable AC system can cool a room up to 250 sq ft efficiently but it is effective up to 350 sq ft with partial performance that may be sufficient for some people. This is a great option for smaller studios or apartments with dimensions of 17”H x28”W x13”L. A remote control unit is supplied which can operate the system from anywhere inside the same room. This is an easy to use control system and any changes you want to make are instantly implemented.
Many portable AC systems use a filtration system that requires expensive replacements. As we mentioned earlier the Midea MAP08R1CWT uses reusable air filters. These are easy to remove and they can be washed and dried to remove the contaminants trapped on the surface. The filter mesh can be cleaned under the tap and the filters are a good option to improve your indoor air quality (IAQ).
What makes it special?
One happy user said “ it was way easy to set up and blows super cold air”.
This AC system is portable and easy to move.
The reusable air filters will save you a lot of money.
What cons did we find?
One user noticed a “chemical smell” when the unit was operating.
This is a heavier unit at 60 lbs which may be too heavy to move on stairs for some people.
With its commitment to manufacturing high-quality and environmental-friendly products, Shinco is definitely a company you can trust, and by extension, the Shinco SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner is a product you can rely on. It is a compact portable AC unit that’s best suited for small spaces like RVs, living rooms, or bedrooms. Remarkably, it is a three-in-one unit, that apart from being an air conditioner, could also be used as a fan or a dehumidifier. For seamless operation, the unit comes with digital controls and a remote control, which allows you to adjust your settings from across the room.
Moving forward, the unit has multiple fan speeds, a number of cooling settings, and several airflow directions, making it as flexible as you can get. The manufacturers obviously had mobility and ease of use in mind during manufacturing, and that explains why this unit comes with caster wheels that help users to roll it around more conveniently. The machine is extremely easy to maintain, especially since it comes with a washable and removable filter. With its full-featured remote, LED display, 24-hour timer, and intuitive control panel, your nights in your recreational vehicle are certain to be more enjoyable.
For its dehumidifying function, the unit removes 60 pints per day, which makes it a powerful dehumidifier. It will help stop the development of mold and bacteria in a hot and humid space, keeping your recreational vehicle cool and dry. However, the 8,000—BTU capacity of this unit means it’s only suitable for small spaces, but its budget-friendly price should make up for that. We must also note that the machine has a loud operation, giving users a hard time finding sleep sometimes.
Our product reviews are always detailed, but sometimes, you may need more information about a particular product category to make your decision. Since we perfectly understand this, we have put together this comprehensive buying guide to help walk you as you seek a decision.
Why you should install an AC into your RV
Camping out in your RV when the temperature is too hot can be a really terrible experience. It can cause you a lot of discomfort that you didn’t bargain for, and unfortunately, this commonly happens during the hot summer. However, the summer is also the most ideal period for camping and a lot of outdoor activities, and you shouldn’t allow a hot temperature to inhibit you from enjoying this amazing period with your loved ones.
Nowadays, this is no longer a problem since you can get a premium-quality AC for your RV. These RV AC units usually come with an excellent cooling capability, thereby ensuring that the interior of your RV is always cool. Without one of these units, you wouldn’t be able to imagine the amount of discomfort that your friends and family will suffer from, which could negatively affect your summer plans. Fortunately, the best air conditioners for RVs are also designed specially to withstand vibrations and shocks in the rig.
RV AC units are usually designed for that purpose, so they are produced using heavy-duty materials. Rooftop units especially are capable of dealing with the external elements and also the UV rays due to their UV protected parts. When you have the RV AC unit, you can sleep peacefully knowing that apart from keeping your rig cool at all times, your AC unit is also not likely to get damaged from excessive vibrations as they have been engineered differently from the home units.
Additionally, if you would buy an RV AC unit, you can be sure that the air in your in your RV will remain clean, and that is important, especially if one of your loved ones is suffering from allergies and asthma. In summary, there are numerous advantages that come with buying an RV air conditioner but the biggest of them all is that they will keep your rig cool during the summer for the comfort of everyone aboard your vehicle. To get the best model available for RVs, we encourage you to keep reading our buying guide as we have included a lot of useful information therein.
Features to consider when choosing an RV air conditioner
Different RV owners encounter different problems, so people usually have conflicting opinions when it comes to choosing the best RV air conditioner available on the market. Nevertheless, everybody agrees it is important to focus on some qualities if you’re really keen on getting your money’s worth.
You should bear in mind that RV air conditioners have technical specs that include specifics about British Thermal Unit, otherwise called BTU. Standard AC units like the Advent RV AC Air Conditioner are usually outfitted with a 13,500-BTU capacity. If you are only intending to use the unit to cool down your RV during the summer, this is a quite massive amount of power.
However, if you are the sort of person that likes visiting regions with high humidity in the high season, it would make more sense to find a unit with more than the regular BTU power. This is particularly important if the regions you intend visiting have extreme temperatures. Another reason why you may need more than the standard 13,500-BTU capacity is if your recreational vehicle is really large. In that case, you can go for a product like the Airxcel Mach 15 Air Conditioner.
In the world of RV AC units, there are two primary types of installation – ducted and non-ducted. Expectedly, there are situations where each of these types is better than the other. Therefore, your task is choosing which one is the most ideal for your recreational vehicle. For instance, if you own a larger RV, you will need a ducted type since these units enable you to have control over the temperatures in more than one rooms in your RV. These ducted types operate by passing air via a duct system, which often pipes in the ceiling, walls, and floor of your RV.
However, if you own a smaller RV, you don’t have any reason to worry about temperature controls in multiple rooms, which makes non-ducted systems ideal for you. These models, in fact, rather than working with the piping, blow out air through the unit’s bottom. Thus, this explains why these units would be more suited for smaller spaces. Logically and financially, it wouldn’t make sense to purchase a ducted system for a smaller motorhome. Eventually, everything is about being practical about your needs and hinging your search on those requirements.
Another important factor you need to consider when in search of an AC for your RV is the required amount of power for operation. To be honest, some units have a higher power consumption than others. If you have a portable generator, this can be an issue as higher power would mean more expenses. Therefore, find a unit that is engineered to consume a low amount of power without compromising its ability to cool. Check the unit’s wattage to have an idea of the amount of power it consumes. Besides, if you intend to take your RV out of the country, you should make sure you buy a unit that is compatible with power sources in various countries.
Nowadays, nearly every AC unit produces some noise when in operation, but we must admit that there are some models that are quieter than others. If you want to fully enjoy your outdoor experience, then you should choose a model that operates quietly.
In general, it’s somewhat useless when the interior of your RV is cool but you can’t sleep due to the operational noise of your AC. Therefore, keep the noise level in mind before getting any AC unit for your RV.
If there’s also a heat mode/dehumidifier
You have to keep in mind that there’re four seasons and not all of them are hot. Thus, it is important to buy an AC unit with a heat pump, as it is necessary to have a heat source during the cold weather. While the heat pump can always be bought separately, the best thing is to get an AC unit that comes with a heat pump built-in, as it wouldn’t make sense to be shelling extra dollars on accessories. You could also look for a model that can double as a dehumidifier. This will be very useful when the interior of your rig is being affected by excessive humidity. The SereneLife 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner and the Shinco SPF2 Air Conditioner are some examples of models that double as a dehumidifier when necessary.
When looking for the best air conditioner for your RV, you must not forget to consider size/dimensions. For rooftop models, the unit’s size will affect overall drag and clearance height. For portable units, the unit’s size determines the amount of space it takes in your RV. Plus, it is widely recommended that you consider the unit’s weight as the weight usually affect installation and maintenance. Again, we advise you to consider the layout and profile of your vehicle to make the best choice.
AC units are prone to damage, just like any other electrical appliance. Therefore, it is important to consider the warranty terms when choosing the best RV air conditioner as this will always act as some kind of security for you, just in case anything goes wrong. Look for a model that is covered for two years at the very least to avoid regrets.
What’s included in the kit
Checking the accessories included in your purchase will save a lot of your time and prevent you from making the wrong choice. For instance, you might discover that the AC unit you’re looking at does not come with the wiring or the shroud. In that case, you won’t have the right accessories for installation. Another thing we advise you to check is if a thermostat is included as this will help you to control the temperatures in your RV.
Tips for maintaining your RV air conditioners
It can be really frustrating when your RV AC unit suddenly stops working in the middle of your trip. Depending on your location, you could be totally stuck if it’s something serious. To prevent this from happening or reduce the risk of occurrence, it is recommended to test the unit before leaving and carry out regular maintenance. Speaking of maintenance, the following are some important maintenance tips you may need to adhere to.
Wipe the Coils – For cleaning the evaporator coils, the first thing you have to do is to remove the metal covers. Afterward, remove the control board and then take out the freeze sensor probe. While you can utilize regular household cleaners, you’re likely to get better outcomes with a cleaner that’s designed primarily for this. A cleaner like this is also likely to come with step-by-step instructions.
Straighten the Fins – AC units with bent fins are likely to have restricted flow of air, rendering them less efficient. Thus, every now and then, ensure you use a specialized coil fin comb to straighten your AC unit’s fins.
Oil the Motor – Any maintenance you carry out on your RV AC unit must include you oiling the motor. If the motor has normal bearings, then you will find oiling ports at the motor’s each end. If you, in the process of accessing the coils, have removed the metal sheeting already, then you should be able to easily access these ports. If none, then this could mean your motor has sleeves instead of bearings. In that case, oil the shaft where the fan motor’s housing is met by the sleeves.
Covering your RV – While constant maintenance and checks are important, there are many issues you can prevent by simply putting a cover on your vehicle when not in use. With this, dust, dirt, and other debris will be prevented from entering your AC unit. Also, such a cover protects the AC from insects, moisture, and severe weather conditions.
Regular Inspection – You should inspect many parts of the AC from time to time. Check the upper plastic shroud for exterior deterioration and cracks and check the electric plug for pitting, swelling, and discoloration.
If you’re a hands-on kind of person with elementary tool skills, you should be able to install a rooftop RV AC by yourself. The entire installation procedure does not take a long time, particularly if you have a friend that is willing to help. The most challenging part is getting the unit on the roof. Note that you don’t need any special tools for the task – just regular hand tools. However, if you don’t have basic knowledge of household electric wiring, then we advise you to give the job to a professional.
Depending on the accessories that come with your package, you may need to purchase some accessories after purchasing your RV AC. Some accessories you may need to buy include a water hose, water pressure regulator, RV water filter, shore power cord, sewer hose, chocks, and levelers.
Yes, all the rooftop models should fit into a standard 14 x 14” roof vent, in most cases at least. Besides, rooftop models are interchangeable when it comes to the size of vent they need in the roof, but keep in mind that they usually vary in height.
Whenever we are looking to buy any electronic appliance, we look for three primary things – high-performance, ease of use, and durability. Remarkably, the Advent RV AC Air Conditioner boasts the three attributes, which is why it’s the best RV air conditioner in the market today. Apart from guaranteeing a cool atmosphere inside your RV in the summer, we also assure you that this unit is certain to last for many years. Not many models can offer both.
Having said that, our second and third picks are the premium-quality Dometic Penguin II Air Conditioner and the Airxcel Mach 15 Air Conditioner respectively. In truth, both models share a lot of similarities, some of which include powerful motors, high BTUs, and durability. Since they pack a lot of power, they would be ideal for any RV owner. In fact, you will be hard-pressed to find any model that’s better than these two apart from our Editor’s Choice.