Matt Johnson

How Many Amps Does a RV Air Conditioner Use?

Author: Matt JohnsonPhotos/Graphics: Mike HawthornePublished: Jan 19, 2023Updated: Dec 11, 2023

Keeping cool in your RV during hot summer days can be challenging, but with the right setup and knowledge, it’s possible to enjoy a comfortable temperature without breaking the bank.

Knowing how many amps your RV uses for air conditioning is essential, as well as understanding the importance of conserving energy and keeping your AC running at peak performance.

In this article, we will explore these topics so that you can hit the road and stay cool!

Different sizes of RV air conditioners.

When determining the power requirements of your RV air conditioner, you need to consider the size of your RV. More importantly, you need to consider the size of your air conditioner.

Air conditioners come in several different sizes, but the most common sizes are 13,500 and 15,000 BTUs.

Of course, there are some other sizes ranging from 5,000 to 20,000 BTUs, but they’re not as common as these two AC units.

BTUs are British Thermal Units, which is a measure of how much energy the air conditioner needs to operate. Keep that in mind because we’ll refer to them throughout this article.

How many BTUs for your camper?

RVs require two to three times more BTUs per square foot than residential air conditioners. This is due to the poor insulation and larger number of windows, which necessitate a greater need for AC power in the same size area.

A good rule of thumb is 60-70 BTUs per square foot of space in your travel trailer.

For example, if you have 210 square foot RV, which is typical for most RVs between 28 and 30 feet long, you generally need a single RV AC unit that pushes 13,500 BTUs.

Of course, this depends on your climate, the number of windows in your RV, and other factors.

So, if you live somewhere really hot, like Texas, you might need two 13,500 BTU AC units or a single 15,000 BTU AC unit. However, in Colorado, you might be good with a single 13,500 BTU AC unit.

Convert BTUs to wattage.

Now that you have an idea of how big of an AC unit you need for your RV, it’s time to figure out the power requirements.

Since we know the BTUs of the AC unit, we can easily convert this to wattage. This is important because the wattage will ultimately determine how many amps your AC unit pulls from your RV’s electrical service.

To convert the BTUs to the wattage, you need to use the following formula—

BTUs / 3.41 = Wattage

With that, let’s say you got a new air conditioner, and it’s a standard 13,500 BTU AC unit.

13500 / 3.41 = 3958 watts

Let’s just call it 4,000 watts. That, for the most part, is what a 13,500 BTU air conditioner uses. There are other factors that can affect the wattage, such as electrical wiring, energy efficiency, and more, but this gives you a good ballpark figure. Keep in mind that there is an initial surge of power when you first turn on the RV’s air conditioner.

Convert wattage to amperage.

Now that we have the unit’s wattage, we need to convert it to amperage, which is what most RV power systems are set up for.

To determine the amperage a particular air conditioner needs, you have to use this formula—

Watts / Voltage = Amps

For our example above, we’ll need to assume we’re in the US and running on the standard 110V.

4000 / 110 = 36 Amps

So that’s how much power your 13,500 BTU air conditioner needs — 36 amps.

Keep in mind that this is the maximum amount of amperage the AC unit will pull when it initially turns on. Once the compressor kicks in and starts to cool down your RV, the amperage draw should drop a bit. Also, if you have a second air conditioner your overall draw will be even more.

The exact amperage will generally differ from model to model and brand to brand. Just like their cooling capacity differs. So you might have the Dometic Brisk Air unit but it pulls a slightly different amperage than an Advent Air AC unit.

Does an RV air conditioning unit use 110v or 220v?

Unless you’re camping elsewhere in the world, your camper will likely be running on 110v power. This is the standard in both Canada and the US, where you will commonly be using your RV.

In other countries, there are places that use 220v power instead. If this is the case, then some of your AC units might need to be specifically designed for use with 220v electricity.

Remember, the amperage, whether 30 amp or 50 amp, is different from than voltage. But here in the US, both 30 amp and 50 amp services are all 110v.

How Long Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner?

The average RV air conditioner can typically run non-stop for days on end. In fact, we’ve done just that several times throughout the hot summer days.

Sure, that uses a lot of electrical power, but as long as your air conditioning unit is not exceeding the amperage of the shore power supply pole, then you’re good to go.

That’s not to say you can’t overload the electrical system with other appliances like a coffee maker, camping fridge, or microwave. All of those will increase the amperage requirements of your RV. It’s good practice to know how much amperage each of your appliances use.

Will a 3500-watt Generator Run an RV Air Conditioner?

Thinking about dry camping or camping off-grid with a generator? You can if you have the right size generator.

If you have a 13,500 BTU air conditioning unit, then you can usually get away with running that and a couple of LED lights with a 3,500-watt portable generator. You probably won’t get much more power out of it than that.

When you first crank up your RV’s air conditioner, you’ll encounter a surge of power, and if it exceeds what your generator can pump out then you’ll pop a circuit breaker.

So make sure you size your generator according to the total wattage draw of all appliances you’re running at once. That way, you can stay cool and enjoy your RV in peace.

Can I run an RV AC with solar?

Unfortunately, you can’t run an RV AC with just solar power. A standard 13,500 BTU air conditioner draws at least 4,000 watts of electricity when it’s running, and that means you’ll need to have more than 4 kilowatts of solar panels plus battery storage to support its massive draw.

Most modern larger solar panels on residential electrical systems produce around 400 watts of electricity in optimal conditions. So you’d need a lot of solar panels to run the average air conditioner in your RV.

Additionally, you would need to convert your battery power into alternating current because the solar system would most likely produce direct current power, which your battery bank will provide.

You can get power inverters that will convert the battery power to alternating current to supply power to your RV air conditioner, but it’s just another consideration.

Can I run two air conditioners on 30 amp power?

Typically, you can’t run two air conditioners on a 30-amp power supply. Sometimes you can, but it will depend on the wattage of each unit and whether the rest of the electrical system is in an overloaded state.

In most cases, two 13,500 BTU air conditioners will draw more than 30 amps when both are running at full capacity—so it’s usually not a good idea. If you were to try it, you’d probably pop the circuit breaker.

It’s best to run two air conditioners on a 50 amp power supply instead, as that will give you more than enough wattage to support both units and any other appliances you may be running.

Tips for keeping your air conditioning units running.

You probably have a good idea of how many amps and watts your RV air conditioner uses, but now it’s time to consider how to conserve energy and keep your air conditioners running at peak performance.

Close up your RV.

Minimize the heat from outside by closing windows, curtains, or blinds during the day when you’re not using them. This will help keep the inside temperature cooler and reduce strain on your air conditioning unit.

Clean your RV air conditioning filter.

You should clean your filter every month or two to keep it running smoothly. This will help the air conditioner run more efficiently and also reduce dust, pollen, and other particles from getting into your living space. The harder your RV air conditioner needs to work to pull air through a dirty filter, the more power it will use.

Check your vents.

Ensure all your air conditioning unit’s vents are open and unobstructed by furniture or other items. This will help ensure that cool air is evenly distributed throughout the RV and reduce strain on the air conditioning unit.

Install an RV air conditioner cover.

An air conditioner cover is a great way to keep dirt and debris out of your unit, which can help it run more efficiently and last longer. Most AC units come with them installed.

Clean the air conditioner’s condenser.

At least once a year, hop on top of your RV and clean the outside of your AC unit’s condenser. This will help keep cool air flowing inside your RV and ensure its components are working properly. There are sprays that will help to remove dirt, dust, and debris from the condenser fins.

RV Air Conditioner Condenser Cleaner Spray

Hit the road and stay cool with your RV air conditioner.

Running an air conditioner in your RV can be challenging, but with the right setup, you’ll have no problems keeping cool on hot summer days.

Now that you know how many amps your RV uses to run air conditioning, how to conserve energy and a few tips for keeping your AC running at peak performance, you’re ready to hit the road and stay cool.


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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