small rv air conditioners

The 3 Best Small RV Air Conditioners of 2019: Reviews & Buying Guide

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RV living, a once frowned-upon lifestyle, has gone mainstream in the past few years.

More and more people are pooling their lives savings and opting to live on the road in a trailer as opposed to living in pigeonhole-sized apartments or paying the mortgage through their noses.

Soaking in the vivid colors, experiencing unique cultures and delectable culinary experiences sure sounds like a fun way to live.

But the least that you can do is stay cool and comfortable as you explore the less-traveled paths.

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Editor’s Choice

Dometic Air Conditioners B59186.XX1C0 Brisk...

Dometic Air Conditioners B59186.XX1C0 Brisk...
  • Minimal vibration and noise during operation
  • Available in two BTU ratings, 13.5 and 15K

Portable Option

Shinco SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air...

Shinco SPF2 8,000 BTU Portable Air...
  • Air conditioner, 60-pint dehumidifier, and fan
  • 8000 BTU Capacity

Window Option

Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6000 BTU Window Air...

Friedrich Chill CP06G10B 6000 BTU Window Air...
  • 6000 BTU that’s perfect for rooms up to 250 sq. ft.
  • Cools in less than 15 minutes

 

Temperatures are soaring. Weather patterns are erratic. You do not want to be caught in a hot and stuffy metal box when the temperature outside touches 100+.

In other words, you need an RV air conditioner that’s powerful enough to cool your trailer.
And efficient enough to run all day during the summers without guzzling an entire oil well.

Sounds like too much to ask?

Not really.

Today, we decode RV air conditioners for you and present you with our personal favorite small RV air conditioner that’s perfect for small to medium-sized RVs.

The 3 Best Small RV Air Conditioners of 2019

Without further ado, here’s our list of the best RV air conditioners in 2019. 

Irrespective of whether you are looking for a rooftop ac for your large trailer or a portable one for your convertible trailer, we have you covered.

What to Look For In A Small RV Air Conditioner

People’s needs from an air conditioner are as unique as their travel itineraries. 

There’s no one-size-fits-all.

Some might prefer a full-sized, ducted air conditioner that cools every corner of their trailer whereas others might like a compact, portable one that only cools their favorite corner of the living room.   

To avoid shopping pig in the poke, create a checklist of the features that you seek from the air conditioner. 

The essential checklist for buying RV air conditioners

Here’s a list of some important questions that you need to ask yourself before you narrow down on an RV air conditioner. 

What is the size of the RV?

What’s the size of the RV? Do you want the entire living space to be cooled? Or are you only looking for one part of it to be covered by the air conditioner, like the bedroom or the living room? The bigger space, the more power you need. The more power you need, the larger the air conditioner (read pricier).

The BTU rating

BTU or British thermal unit is normally used as a unit of heat. However, when it comes to RV air conditioners, it is used to indicate the power or the capacity of the model. For example, the average capacity for a rooftop air conditioner is 13500 BTU. That usually suffices to cool a 40-footer in optimum weather conditions. But again, cooling is subjective. There are people who run three air conditioners to cool a 40-foot trailer and still complain about how hot it is.

If you have a small or a medium-sized trailer like a Jayco Hummingbird or a Springdale mini, then you can look for an air conditioner rated from 5000-7000 BTU. By the way, a lot of campers these days look to buy the best one that they can afford, pooh-poohing the whole BTU thing. The additional cooling capacity might just come handy on a bad day after all.   

Power consumption

Air conditioners, in general, are power-hungry appliances. So you’d want to factor the cost of running the unit for extended time periods during the hot summer months. Considering that it will be powered by a portable generator (unless you have a solar grid) whenever you aren’t around a campsite, ensure that you know the exact draw or at least a ballpark figure.

You need the continuous draw rating, as well as the startup, draw to run the math. Both these numbers will be printed on the unit itself.  For example, a 900W Yamaha inverter generator can power a 5000 BTU wall mounted air conditioner for almost 8-9 hours on less than 1-gallon of gas. A few external variables might reduce or increase that. But that’s a good ballpark figure to go by. 

What type of air conditioner do you need? 

There are four types of air conditioners that are commonly used in RVs.  

  • Rooftop models: Rooftop air conditioners are more popular than the other varieties as they save space and come in a variety of designs and configurations. You can select low-profile designs that reduce the vertical space needed for clearance while backing up into a garage or driving under a bridge. Also, rooftop models can be installed in ducted or non-ducted methods essentially providing as much coverage as you seek. While 13.5K BTU is the minimum power for these, many new manufacturers have started to offer lower power models for those who seek less power in exchange for more fuel efficiency. 
  • Portable units: These self-contained units have large casters and can be pushed to any part of the RV that needs to be cooled. No installation needed. So you won’t have to make expensive modifications to the existing design. They do need a hose though for the runoff. Also, these units work by evaporating the air rather than using the conventional method of cooling. All said and done, despite being labeled ‘portable’, most portable units are bulky and will eat up on valuable storage space. 
  • Window air conditioners: Window air conditioners are best suited for smaller trailers. These are space-saving and will mount into windows of varying sizes. They are also available in a variety of cooling capacities. 
  • Under the bench: Under the bench air conditioners are a relatively new concept, but are fast catching up with some of the other varieties. These units are discreet and tuck into the vacant space under the seats in the RV. The caveat is that designs and power configurations are limited. 

Is it quiet enough?

Many a time, people get so hung up over some of the other features of an RV air conditioner that they fail to notice how noisy it runs. Always check the noise rating for any air conditioner that you select.  Alternatively, take a look at our guide to quiet ac units.

Price

Prices range from $500-$1000 for a good rooftop air conditioner from a reputed brand like Domestic or Atwood. If you aren’t looking to spend that much, then a window-mounted unit can be bought for under $500. Anything below that price would either be too small or would be a stretch to cool an RV. 

Do you need an AC and a heater combo?

An AC and heater combo can be pretty useful if you travel around to cold places. It saves you the added expense of buying a heater separately.

These units have a reversing valve that converts the AC into a heating pump. 

The only possible downside that we can think of is that these units usually cost in excess of $600. So, if you mostly stick to warm places, it will be an unwanted feature and an added expense that can be avoided.

Be sure to take a look at our recommended products page for more options.

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