Stay Cool On The Road With A Good Rooftop RV Air Conditioner

An RV is often used for permanent living, travel, vacations  and for camping activities. Many people use RV’s to travel to destinations with extremely varied and fluctuating temperatures such as mountains, deserts and the beach. During the summer when it is extremely hot or when traveling to very warm locations, keeping your RV windows open and using fans only results in the circulation of stifling hot air. Open windows can also allow insects to enter the RV and is a security risk especially in isolated rural areas.

For these and many other reasons it is important to understand the benefits of an AC system for your RV and to be aware of what to look for when selecting the AC system best suited for the size of your RV. These parameters include: Ensuring an adequate BTU cooling capacity, determining if a ducted or non-ducted air conditioning system is best for you, finding the most aerodynamic design of Rooftop RV Air Conditioner, looking for a top electrical rating, making sure the roof opening is adequate for your new Rooftop AC unit and finding a unit with the best warranty and spare parts availability to protect this important asset.

If you’re in a hurry, then you can check out our list of the top rooftop RV air conditioners on the market right now. Or, read our guide that covers what you need to know before shopping for one of these units. We also have some product reviews of our editor’s favorite models RV ACs at the end of this article.

Best Rooftop RV Air Conditioners for the Money (2018)

Last update on 2019-07-21 at 18:38 / Affiliate disclosure / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

Benefits of an AC Unit for Your RV

  • An AC unit for your RV like an AC unit for your home is essential for your comfort and health especially when driving to or visiting hot places.
  •  If the RV’s AC unit does not cool quickly or suddenly turns off, the temperature in your RV can rise quickly just like it would in a smaller vehicle.
  • This can seriously affect you, your entire family and even your pets.
  • The major difference between a home and RV AC system is that the RV system must cool the entire RV space instead of just large individual rooms.
  • This requires extra cooling power.
  • Since an RV is also usually constructed of a metal shell it tends to retain a significant amount of heat which makes it more difficult to cool.
  • Lack of shade and driving on hot asphalt adds to the need for a powerful and efficient RV AC unit.

What to Look for & Consider

#1 – Make Sure the AC Unit has an Adequate BTU Level

  • To cool a large RV it usually requires an AC unit with a capacity of at least 15,000 to 18,000 BTU’s per hour.
  • BTU stands for British Thermal Units which indicates cooling efficiency or how well an air conditioner can cool a space.
  •  Anything greater than 13,500 BTU’s is usually the minimal level for adequate cooling of a small RV in hot destinations.

#2 – Choose Either a Ducted or Non-Ducted Rooftop RV AC System

  • A non-ducted Rooftop AC unit for a RV blows cold air down directly down from the bottom of the AC ceiling unit.
  • A ducted Rooftop AC unit for a RV is very similar to a ducted unit in your home.
  • Typically there are 2 ducts used each having individual thermostats for each area or ac “zone” of the RV.
  • This individualizes the level of AC usage in each AC zone but can result in areas where cold and hot air mix decreasing overall cooling levels.

#3 – Aerodynamics – Find the Best Size and Shape of a Rooftop AC Unit for Your RV

  • Ideally a Rooftop RV AC unit should be sleek and with a low profile with minimal air resistance and reduced wind drag.
  • Low wind drag and reduced air resistance helps maintain speed and velocity and helps overall fuel economy.

#4 – Look for a Top Electrical Rating

  • Electrical rating refers to the voltage at which an electrical appliance is designed to work and how much energy (amps) will be consumed at that voltage.
  • This is important because usually a RV only has approximately 30 amps total of power available to use for everything.
  • If the AC unit is pulling off more then half of the RV’s available power (for example 19 amps), then it leaves much less energy to operate the converter and other electrical appliances such as the hot water heater and microwave over and other electrical appliances.
  • An electrical rating of 1 phase 60 hertz 120 volts is usually considered ideal for a Rooftop RV AC unit.

#5 – Determine the Roof Opening Fit

  • Standard Roof Opening Fit to accommodate a Rooftop RV AC unit is usually 14 by 14 inches.

#6 – Use the Best Refrigerant Possible for Your AC Unit

  • Optimum refrigerants which will cool air down quickly include the R410A refrigerant.

#7 – Determine the Colors that are Available

  • Most RV Rooftop AC units come in either black or white colors with black and white shrouds.

#8 – Get the Best Type of Warranty

  • The standard manufacturer’s warranty is for 2 years. Extended warranties are usually recommended.

#9 – Make Sure Spare Parts are Available

  • It is important to make sure that spare parts for your Rooftop RV AC unit are readily available

Types of RV Air Conditioners

There are 4 basic types of RV Air Conditioners. These include: Rooftop AC units, Vent Free Portable AC units, Portable AC units and Window AC units.

Rooftop AC RV units

  • Rooftop AC RV Units save space and are strategically placed in an appropriate spot on the roof of the RV.
  • They can either be ducted or non-ducted but ducted versions tend to consume 30% of total efficiency.
  • Non-ducted Rooftop AC units blow air down from the ceiling unit.
  • Rooftop RV Air Conditioners are cooled by the external air and so are affected by the external ambient temperature and weather.
  • Many Rooftop AC RV units can weigh more than one hundred pounds and require at least 2 experienced people for installation.
  • These types of AC units also require connection of wires and installation of vents for vented units.

Rooftop AC RV units with a Heat Pump

  • Rooftop AC RV units with a Heat Pump are useful for heating and cooling year around. A heat pump can be combined with your Rooftop AC RV unit.
  • A heat pump that is part of a central air conditioning and heating system works by moving heat instead of creating heat and so is a more energy efficient HVAC system.
  • For example, in the winter when it is cold outside, a heat pump extracts the heat (available heat is always present in cold air) from the outside cold air and transfers it inside to heat the vehicle interior.
  • When it is hot outside, a heat pump moves hot air from inside to the outside cooling like an air conditioner would.

Vent Free Portable AC Units

  • A Vent Free Portable AC Unit which is also called a “swamp cooler” is a small unit which does not use the refrigeration process for cooling.
  • Air within the RV is brought into the AC unit where it is evaporated and then cooled and released to cool the entire RV.
  • One drawback of this type of cooling unit is that it takes up precious useable floor space within the RV.
  • Another problem is that a Vent Free Portable AC Unit requires use of a hose to eliminate leakage of water that is drawn in from the air.
  • A Vent Free Portable AC Unit for an RV can only be used in dry climates and does not function efficiently in humid climates.

Portable AC Units

  • Portable AC units can also be used to cool an RV.
  • They usually require the use of 1 to 2 hoses and are the least expensive option for AC cooling of an RV.
  •  These hoses can allow hot air to seep back into the RV’s interior and take up a significant amount of floor space.
  • A drawback is that they are not particularly energy efficient and tend to be somewhat noisy.

Window AC Units for a RV

  • A Window AC Unit for an RV is usually small and takes up less floor space than other types of air conditioning units.
  • These types of units are relatively quick and easy to install and can be as narrow as 14 inches wide.
  • In addition, Window AC Units for an RV tend to be less noisy than portable AC units.

Can You Install it Yourself?

  • If you are handy and have basic tool skills and wiring experience and have a friend who can help you, there should be no problem installing your new RV Rooftop AC Unit yourself.
  • No special tools are necessary and the entire procedure should not take very long.
  • The first step is to protect the area on the roof around the installation site with thick cloths to avoid denting or scratching the roof’s surface especially if it has a smooth finish.
  • Then make sure the roof can support your weight and reinforce the roof with plywood if needed.
  • Now remove the external AC unit shroud (covering) which is usually done by removing 4 bolts or screws.
  • Then, remove the old AC unit from the rooftop by first removing four long bolts that are holding the AC unit to the roof.
  • Now, remove the old AC unit and lift it off from the roof of your RV.
  • Then, place the new AC unit over the 14 by 14 inch opening square ceiling hole and follow instructions to ensure the unit is properly placed.
  • Now install any ducts as applicable and attach all AC electrical connections.
  • Finally, put the cover over the control unit and attach the shroud over the air conditioning unit as directed.

Care and Maintenance Tips

  • Proper care and maintenance of your Rooftop RV AC unit is crucial for proper functioning and longevity.
  • First, take a ladder and go up onto the roof of your RV and examine the cover of your AC unit.
  • Check for any cracks or breaks in the plastic AC unit cover.
  • Determine if any water has entered the unit and if the gaskets are intact.
  • Make sure that the cooling fins are straight and not bent.
  • Also, examine the plastic shroud covering the AC unit on the inside ceiling for any defects and wash the filters per instructions.
  • Be sure to also clean out the duct work as applicable.
  • Finally, run the AC unit to make sure it is running effectively.

Product Comparisons – Our Top Rooftop RV Air Conditioner Reviews

#1 – Dometic B 595 16.xx 1 CO Brisk II Air Conditioner 15,000 BTU 410A

Dometic B59516.XX1C0 Brisk II Polar White Air Conditioner (15,000 BTU 410A)

  • Unit color – White
  • Shroud Color – Black or white
  • BTU’s – 15,000 BTU
  • Ducted or Non-Ducted –  Both Ducted and Non-Ducted
  • Motor and Fan – High performance motor and fan
  • Electrical Rating – 115 AC, 60 Hz. 1 Phase
  • Installation – Easy installation and fits into all 14- inch roof vent openings
  • Maintenance – Easy maintenance
  • Warranty – Manufacturer’s 2- year warranty on parts with 2- year Protection Plus Warranty available
  • Weight – 74 pounds
  • Product Dimensions – 29.2 inches x 27.2 inches x 12.7 inches
  • Folding – No Folding

Summary of Pros and Cons

  • Pros – The Dometic B 595 16.xx 1 CO Brisk II Polar Air Conditioner is a strong, reliable unit that is easy to install. It is 19% lighter than similar models with an increased air flow of 15% over older models. It is one of the smallest rooftop a/c units available and fits a standard 14 x 14 air vent. It has center discharge air delivery which increases airflow and improves the unit’s cooling capacity. It has a heavy – duty motor and a more rigid shroud then previously along with a strong and stable rib reinforced base pan. It operates on a 15,000 BTU/hour capacity.
  • Cons – This unit was judged to be relatively expensive with somewhat poor packaging protection.

#2 – Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit

Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C Unit

  • Unit color – White
  • Shroud Color – Black or white
  • BTU’s – 15,000 BTU
  • Ducted or Non-Ducted –  Ducted
  • Motor and Fan – High performance motor and fan
  • Electrical Rating – 120 volts, 1800 watts
  • Installation – Easy installation
  • Maintenance – Easy maintenance
  • Warranty – Manufacturer’s 2- year warranty on parts
  • Weight – 90 pounds
  • Product Dimensions – 42 inches x 28 inches x 16 inches
  • Folding – No Folding

Summary of Pros and Cons

  • Pros – The Coleman 48204C866 Mach 15+ A/C unit has a strong, heavy duty motor with a one third horsepower fan. This is the largest motor used for RV’s. it has a high cooling output and provides cool air at 320 cubic feet per meter (CFM). It has a streamlined shape and is durable and sturdy. It contains all copper tubing and gas-fluxed brazed joints. It has a large evaporator that dissipates heat efficiently in conjunction with  condenser coils with raised lanced fins. It also has built in condenser coil protection.
  • Cons – The most common complaint about the Coleman 48204C86 a/c unit was that it only blows cold air in a single, straight down direction and has no up and down adjustment available.

#3 – Coleman 48205C966 Mach 3+ AC Unit

Coleman 48208C966 RV Air Conditioner

  • Unit Color – White
  • Shroud Color – Black or White
  • Ducted or Non-Ducted – Both Ducted and Non-Ducted units are available
  • Motor and Fan – Heavy duty 1/3 horse power fan motor
  • Electrical Rating  120 volts
  • Installation – Easy installation
  • Maintenance – Easy maintenance
  • Warranty – 2 Year warranty on parts
  • Weight – 90 pounds
  • Product Dimensions – 41.2 inches x 28.5 inches x 15.8 inches
  • Folding – No Folding

Summary of Pros and Cons

  • Pros – The Coleman 48208C966 Mach 3+ RV Air Conditioner Unit has a 13,500 BTU capacity but uses less power and provides more cooling then a typical 13,500 BTU unit. It is extremely reliable and has all-copper tubing and gas-flexed brazed joints. This unit has a one third horse power fan motor which starts easily. It also has a plastic drain pan that prevents and eliminates corrosion. This unit has better heat dissipation due to a large evaporator and condenser coils. It is structured to prevent angle distortion of the blower heel and has a sealed shaft to prevent harmful effects from the elements.
  • Cons – The only reported complaints for this unit was that it tended to be relatively noisy.

#4 – Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low profile Rooftop Air Conditioner

Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner(Polar White)

  • Unit Color – White
  • Shroud Color – Black or White
  • Ducted or Non-Ducted – Both Ducted and Non-Ducted units are available
  • Motor and Fan – Heavy duty fan motor
  • Refrigerant – R410A refrigerant which releases heat more efficiently
  • Electrical Rating  120 volts AC. 60 Hz, 1 PH, 410 Amps, 3000 Watts
  • Installation – Easy installation
  • Maintenance – Easy maintenance
  • Warranty – 2 Year warranty on parts
  • Weight – 99 pounds
  • Exterior – Smooth
  • Product Dimensions – 29 inches x 40 inches x 9.5inches Tits standard 14 X 14-inch roof opening
  • Folding – No Folding

Summary of Pros and Cons

  • Pros – The Dometic 640315CXXIJO  Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner is ideal for either ducted or non-ducted AC systems. It has a very low profile and a streamlined design which decrease air resistance and drag. It has a high-quality fan and uses environmentally acceptable R410A refrigerant. It is light weight but sturdy and durable.
  • Cons – This unit tends to produce various sounds during operation which can be annoying.

Conclusion

One of the most important decisions to ensure comfort and safety in your RV travels is to select a RV Rooftop Air Conditioner Unit that is energy, cost and space efficient. By placing the AC unit on the roof in an aerodynamic manner, air resistance and drag is decreased while precious space within the RV is freed up to provide increased room for normal activities. Vented Rooftop RV AC units can circulate cool air directly into vents eliminating the need for a ceiling control panel that decreases headroom. Adequate BTU levels of from 15,000 to 18,000 BTUs per hour are usually necessary for effective cooling of large RV’s. By carefully considering the foregoing information you can purchase the very best Rooftop RV AC unit with the best value and warranty that will provide years of reliable cooling function to ensure RV travelling comfort in all types of conditions for you and your family.

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