Matt Johnson

How Long Can You Run An RV Air Conditioner?

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: May 27, 2023Updated: Dec 13, 2023

As an avid RVer, you can relate to having a cool oasis inside your RV during those sweltering days. Let’s face it, the air conditioner is an absolute game-changer, especially during those long, hot summer road trips. But how long can you run your RV air conditioner, and what factors influence its lifespan?

The truth is, answering this question is not as simple as it may seem. Several factors come into play, which can affect how long your air conditioner will last. But that’s what we’re here for. We’ll delve into the mysterious world of RV air conditioners and reveal the secrets behind their longevity.

So, let’s get down to business. You see, RV air conditioners are far from your regular household units. They face challenges, from frequent traveling to harsh outdoor environments, making them more susceptible to damage, unlike traditional A/Cs. Therefore, it’s crucial to understand how to keep your RV’s air conditioner competition ready.

Now, you’re probably wondering: “How do I keep my RV’s A/C up and running?” Don’t you worry; that’s precisely what we’ll discuss. Here, we will explore the steps you can take to maintain your RV air conditioner and ensure it lasts for as long as possible.

So, buckle up, dear reader, because we’re about to take the ultimate road trip through the intricate world of RV air conditioners.

How does an RV air conditioner work?

An RV air conditioner (AC) is essential to keeping you cool while traveling or camping. It extracts warm air from within the RV and releases it outside while letting cool air into its interior. Most RV air conditioners have two main parts that work together: an evaporator and a compressor. The evaporator coil cools and reduces humidity from the warm air while the compressor increases pressure on the refrigerant, allowing it to discard heat outside the RV.

Once the AC’s evaporator has broken down the warm air, it disseminates much cooler air around the RV with the help of an internal fan. The fan draws the air from the inside and passes it through the refrigerant coils, releasing the new, cool breeze back into the RV. The procedure is repeated until your RV reaches the desired temperature on the thermostat.

As anyone on a camping trip can establish, electricity is scarce, and power can quickly diminish. Running an RV air conditioner can be quite demanding on your power supply. Even with a generator, the electricity required to operate an AC unit can be astronomical. Running an RV air conditioner solely on battery power is often impossible unless you have a lithium-ion phosphate battery or a portable generator. Most RV AC units use tons of power – even if they’re energy efficient.

RV air conditioners are critical for comfortable camping trips. With continuous maintenance, your AC will last very long and perform effectively when you want it the most.

How long can you run an RV air conditioner on a generator?

If you’re going on an RV trip and planning to use a generator to power your air conditioner, you must understand how long your power source will last. Most RV air conditioners consume between 13 to 15 amps of power while running, which can quickly drain most portable generators. It’s essential to have a backup plan if your generator dies mid-trip, leaving you with no air conditioning in the middle of summer.

Luckily, Lithium-ion phosphate batteries provide an excellent alternative to traditional generator units. Not only are they lighter and smaller, but they’re also rechargeable and quieter. Lithium-ion phosphate batteries can keep your RV’s air conditioner running for hours without interruptions or worries.

I recently met a young couple who took their motorhome on an extended road trip across the country. Unfortunately, they discovered their dash air conditioner wasn’t working correctly and producing enough cool air. They didn’t have the time to fix it immediately, so they connected their portable generator to their air conditioning unit. However, they unknowingly used a low-powered generator that could only last a few hours, leaving them hot and miserable during their road trip.

When planning your RV trip, choose the appropriate power source for your air conditioning unit. Lithium-ion phosphate batteries will give you peace of mind, as they’ll last longer and prevent any avoidable inconveniences. On the other hand, if you plan to use portable generators, ensure they have a high wattage output to support your air conditioner’s energy needs and keep you comfortable throughout your trip.

How to calculate the power consumption of an RV air conditioner.

When it comes to your RV air conditioner, determining its power consumption can be pretty perplexing. You need to keep two factors in mind: voltage and amperage, with most RV air conditioners operating at a voltage of 120V and a frequency of 60Hz. The conditioner’s amperage can range from 10 to 20 amps, depending on its cooling capacity.

Calculating power consumption may sound daunting, but it’s pretty simple. Use this formula: power (in watts) = voltage x amperage. So, if your RV air conditioner uses 120V and ten amps, the power consumption would be 1,200 watts. It’s important to remember that this is just an estimate, and the actual power consumption may vary based on the unit’s efficiency. Other factors, such as running other appliances simultaneously or extremely hot outside temperatures, can affect power consumption.

Understanding power consumption is vital when selecting the right power source for your RV air conditioner. Suppose you’re planning to run your air conditioning unit on a generator. In that case, you need to ensure that the generator can provide enough power to meet the demand of your RV’s air conditioner. Otherwise, you might need to consider other options like lithium-ion phosphate batteries or a reliable power supply.

By learning how to calculate the power consumption of your RV air conditioner, you’ll be in a better position to make informed decisions about how to best make use of it.

Why you shouldn’t run your RV air conditioner continuously.

When the sun is raging, and you’re stuck in your RV, keeping the air conditioning running continuously can be tempting. However, it might not be the best idea. Here’s why:

Firstly, running your RV’s air conditioner non-stop can damage the unit. Overheating can cause long-term damage to the motor, compressor, and other unit parts. That’s why letting the components rest and cool down is essential. Trust me; I’ve seen many AC units run to the ground because of this.

If you have an energy-guzzling RV air conditioner, running it continuously can quickly drain your battery power. This can leave you without power for other appliances, like lights and radio, which is not ideal. Nobody wants to be stranded without any means of entertainment.

Finally, running the AC non-stop could also lead to remarkably high energy bills, not to mention a hefty carbon footprint. Air conditioners need a lot of energy to work, so leaving them on all day can add up to a big sum on your bill.

To avoid these headaches and expensive repairs down the road, try turning off the air conditioning when you’re not inside your RV or use a programmable thermostat to turn it on and off automatically. Your battery life, power bills, and the environment will thank you.

While continuous air conditioning might seem like the perfect solution to cool down on a hot day, limiting your usage is best so you don’t cause any damage, drain your battery life, or hurt your wallet. Be smart with your air conditioning to enjoy your road trip without complications.

How to maintain your RV air conditioner.

You need to perform regular maintenance to keep your RV air conditioner running at its best. A well-maintained RV air conditioner runs smoothly for years to come. Plus, it helps you save power supply, especially if you’re running on battery or a portable generator. Here are some simple steps that you can follow to maintain your RV air conditioner and get the most out of it.

First, clean or replace the air filter every month or two. A dirty filter can block airflow, making the air conditioner work harder. If you don’t clean it regularly, it will eventually get clogged, reducing airflow and unit efficiency. You don’t want that, do you? So, set a reminder and clean the filter to keep your RV air conditioner running smoothly.

Another critical step is keeping the coils clean. Coils are responsible for cooling hot air that passes through them. Over time, they collect dirt and debris that reduce their efficiency. You know what that means – more energy consumption and less cooling. Cleaning the coils is easy, but you must remove the shroud or cover on the rooftop air conditioner. Once you remove it, gently clean the coils with a soft brush, and you’re ready.

Lastly, schedule an annual inspection by a professional. An experienced mechanic can detect and repair any potential issues before they become significant problems. They’ll also clean the area around the air conditioner to prevent debris from entering and affecting its performance. An annual inspection is worth the investment; your RV air conditioner will thank you.

Following these simple steps will help you keep your RV air conditioner working at its best. Remember, taking care of your RV air conditioner means it will take care of you!

When to replace your RV air conditioner.

One clear sign you need to replace your RV air conditioner is when it stops blowing cold air. Being an RV mechanic, I’ve encountered RV ACs that do not produce cool air for different reasons. Sometimes, it’s caused by a refrigerant leak or an issue with the compressor. At other times, it’s because the AC has served its purpose and is now at the end of its lifespan.

You might also know it’s time to replace your RV AC when it makes strange noises. While all air conditioners produce some noise level, rattling, clanking, or banging excess noise could indicate a more significant issue. From my experience, such noise could be due to a loose part or motor problem, or it might signify that it’s time to replace the old unit with a new one.

If you have to replace a motor, sometimes it’s just worth it to get a new roof air conditioner altogether.

If your RV air conditioner is over ten years old, consider replacing it with a more energy-efficient alternative. The newer models come with advanced technology that requires less power while giving out higher cooling output. Further, if you frequently have to fork over cash on repair for your RV air conditioner, it might be more cost-effective to go ahead and replace rather than keep repairing. Investing in a new RV air conditioner could help you save money on repairs and energy bills.

So how long will your RV air conditioner run?

It’s crucial to understand how long your RV’s air conditioner can run before being put to use. A basic understanding of how your charging system functions can give you insight into how much time your air conditioner requires to consume battery power or power supply.

It’s essential to guarantee that you use a lithium-ion battery or a reliable power source before switching on your RV’s air conditioner. You wouldn’t want to end up with a warm and damp RV or entirely drain your RV batteries.

Although running an RV air conditioner for an extended period is possible, it’s preferable to use a portable generator as a backup instead. To avoid increasing the wear and tear of your AC unit, remember to maintain your RV’s air conditioner regularly and avoid operating it continuously for extended periods.

If you closely monitor your RV’s air conditioning system, you can ensure it lasts a long time.

How long you can run an RV air conditioner hinges on many variables, such as the outside temperature, the condition of your battery, and even the condition of your RV’s insulation. Following the tips outlined above can help you maximize the effectiveness of your RV’s air conditioner, making your camping experience much more enjoyable.

So, bear these factors in mind, and you’ll make the most of your RV’s air conditioning system.


Matt Johnson

Senior Content Writer

Matt is an experienced camper and glamping enthusiast with a Master's degree in Wildlife Science from Texas A&M University. Authoring posts for GlamperGear, he shares his wealth of knowledge on picturesque campsites, luxurious accommodations, and the best gear for outdoor adventures. His passion for nature and knack for comfort in the wilderness make him an expert guide for your next camping endeavor.

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