What Is The Best RV AC Unit?
RV air conditioners have changed a lot over the years and it may be time for an upgrade.
Big brand names like Dometic, Airxcel/Coleman, and Advent have been making better, more efficient, and sometimes slimmer, AC units for campers.
Related Product: Power an RV AC using a smaller generator using a Hutch Mountain Microair Easy Start (click to view on Amazon)
Newer RV air conditioners are not only better in design and function.
Did you know you can install an RV air conditioner in a normal vent cover with no ducts necessary?
You can have an extra AC in the bedroom of your travel trailer or easily install one in your van or newly converted bus.
I’ve researched the best RV AC units for ducted and non-ducted RVs, trailers, vans, buses, and even horse trailers.
There are 15,000 and 13,500 BTU RV air conditioners, low profile, and standard.
Whatever your RV AC need, this review has you covered.
Summary (Links to Amaz0n)
- Best Overall – Dometic Brisk II RV Air Conditioner
- Least Wind Resistance – Dometic Penguin II Low Profile RV AC
- Coleman Mach RV Air Conditioners
- Lowest Power Usage – ASA Electronics Advent Air RV AC
- Furrion Chill Rooftop RV Air Conditioner
Least Wind Resistance
Lowest Power Usage
Last update on 2023-09-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
Best RV AC Units Reviews & Info
Dometic is one of the biggest names in camper appliances and gear. There’s a good chance that the air conditioner on your RV is a Dometic.
The Brisk II is Dometic’s standard air conditioner for RVs, travel trailers, 5th-wheels, buses, and even vans.
If you’re replacing an older AC, the Brisk II is going to be a big upgrade.
Dometic spent 2 years redesigning its classic RV AC units.
They ended up making a more durable, lighter, quieter, smaller, and more environmentally friendly camper air conditioner.
It has 15% more airflow than the Brisk I and is 19% lighter.
Both the 13.5k BTU and the 15k BTU (click to view on Amazon) version of the Brisk II have an electrical rating of 115 V AC and are compatible with ducted or non-ducted systems.
On the high setting, they have a 350 CFM airflow which is higher than most.
They both use the universal 14″x14″ roof fit.
Almost all the vents in campers use a 14″x14″ hole as well so if you want an extra RV AC unit for your bedroom Dometic Brisk II will most likely work.
There is even a black version (click to view on Amazon) available.
Both sizes of units are 27.23″ long, 29.18″ wide, and 12.7″ tall.
If you installing this camper air conditioner into a ducted system, use the Dometic Quick-Cool Return Air Package (click to view on Amazon) to replace the vent cover on the inside.
If you are installing a Brisk II Dometic RV AC in a non-ducted system like in a van, bus, small trailer, or camper you are going to need the compatible Dometic Non-Ducted Control Panel (click to view on Amazon).
This ceiling panel is both a duct to blow out the cold air from the Dometic AC unit, and the control panel where you adjust the temperature and turn it on and off.
It is also compatible with the Dometic Brisk II with Heat (click to view on Amazon) if you want the AC+Heat combo.
Note that the Brisk II with heat weights significantly more than the standard Brisk II at 82 lbs.
Now let’s talk about the differences between the 13,500 BTU and the 15,000 BTU Dometic Brisk II.
The 13,500 BTU Brisk II which is the smaller version weighs 72 lbs, uses 3,953 initial start-up watts, and uses 1,670 watts when running.
If you are going to run this with a generator, I suggest getting one that has at least 5,000 running watts.
The Dometic Brisk II 15,000 BTU weighs 75 lbs, uses 4,392 initial start-up watts and 1,725 watts when running.
The 15,000 BTU RV AC unit is 11% more powerful than the 13,500 BTU unit.
It can run on the same size of generator and doesn’t take that much more power or weigh much more.
If you are buying an AC for a bus, RV, travel trailer, or 5th-wheel I suggest going with the 15,000 BTU because you get more bang for your buck and it puts out more cold air.
The Dometic Brisk II RV Air Conditioner is a true classic when it comes to RV air conditioners.
Dometic makes high-quality RV accessories and its standard RV AC unit is affordable and works just like it should.
It’s perfect if you already have a Dometic unit and need a replacement that will be an upgrade.
- 13,500 & 15,000 BTU Options
- Ducted & Non-Ducted Compatible
- High Profile Creates Wind Drag
The Dometic Penguin II is a lot like the Brisk II just a much more low profile version.
It’s a fantastic option if you have a large RV or trailer with multiple AC units or you travel a lot and want to cut down on fuel costs with a more aerodynamic RV air conditioner.
It has all the benefits of the Dometic Brisk II, like the lower vibrations, quieter running, and high cold air output but with half the height.
There is a 13.5K BTU polar white and a black version (click to view on Amazon) available.
Now for the differences.
The Dometic Penguin II is short, measuring only 10 inches tall once installed, but it is longer than your average RV AC unit, measuring 40 inches long and 29 inches wide.
It’s also much heavier than the Dometic Brisk II reviewed above.
The 13,5000 version weighs 99 lbs and is for non-ducted campers only.
You need a Dometic Control Assembly (click to view on Amazon) to run it.
The electrical rating is 115V AC, initial start up watts is 3,953 with 1,731 running watts, and airflow on high is 320 CFM.
The “High Capacity” or 15,000 BTU Penguin II (click to view on Amazon) weighs 110 lbs and is both duct and non-duct compatible. The electrical rating is 120V AC.
The initial start up watts is 4,392 with 1,762 running watts.
When using it in the ducted application, it can be controlled using the Dometic Duo Therm Comfort Control 2 (click to view on Amazon).
The airflow on high is 310 CFM.
Both versions of the Penguin II can be run with a 5,000 or higher watt generator and have the universal 14″x14″ opening for almost any RV or trailer vents.
The Dometic Penguin II Low Profile RV AC has all the things you love about Dometic RV air conditioners but with a very slim aerodynamic body.
The low profile will save you on gas mileage, especially if you have more than one.
Some people even use these on small trailers or vans because luggage racks fit over them. The only downside is how heavy they are.
- 13,500 & 15,000 BTU Options
- Only 10″ Tall
- Less Wind Resistance Than Standard Options
- 15K BTU Ducted & Non-Ducted Compatible
- 13.5K Non-Ducted Only
Airxcel makes the Coleman Mach RV air conditioners, which are also very popular in the world of camping.
Its RV AC units are a lot like the Dometic Brisk II in power usage and style.
But they have a few additions in quality and craftsmanship that make their RV air conditioners some of the best around.
There are two size options, the Coleman Mach 15 Plus that is 15,000 BTU (linked to in the picture above). And the Coleman Mach 3 Plus, which is 13,500 btu.
The Coleman Mach 3 Plus (click to view on Amazon) is powerful enough to work as a ducted and non-ducted unit.
If you use it as a non-ducted RV AC, get the compatible Coleman Mach Non-Duct Ceiling Assembly (click to view on Amazon).
The Mach 3 Plus has a heating element with a 5,600 BTU rating and weighs 90 lbs.
It has a 115V AC electrical rating, uses 3,500 initial start up watts, and runs on 1,695 watts.
It produces a 320 CFM airflow, weighs a reasonable 90 lbs, and has all copper tubing and gas-flux brazed joints for durability when driving down the road.
The Coleman Mach 15 Plus comes in white or black (click to view on Amazon) and also weighs 90 lbs.
It has an electrical rating of 115V AC, the initial start up watts are 3,900, and runs on 1,800 watts.
The airflow on high is 320 CFM. All the tubing is gas-flux brazed copper.
If you want an RV air conditioner and heater combo, there is a version of the Coleman Mach 15 Plus with heating and cooling capabilities (click to view on Amazon).
Both sizes of Coleman Mach RV AC units are duct and non-duct compatible with a variety of uses, such as vans, buses, and small RVs.
If you are replacing an existing ducted RV AC with a Colman Mach, you can use the existing thermostat already on your RV or trailer.
If you are installing a brand new system, you will need a Coleman Mach Thermostat (click to view on Amazon).
All the Coleman Mach camper air conditioners in this review fit in the universal 14″x14″ hole and are 42″ long, 28″ wide, and 16″ tall.
Both versions need to be run with a 5,000 watt or larger generator.
The Coleman Mach RV Air Conditioners are made with high-quality materials and put together the right way.
They will withstand the constant bumps of long dirt roads and freeways.
If you spend most of your time boondocking and driving on rough roads, the Coleman brand may stay in better shape than other RV AC brands.
- 13,500 & 15,000 BTU Options
- Duct & Non-Duct Compatible
- Lowest Initial Start Up Watt Usage (Both Versions)
- RV AC/Heater Combo Option
- High Profile Creates Wind Drag
ASA Electronics is another large camper air conditioner brand.
Its 13,500 btu RV AC is one of the few you can run with a 3,500 watt generator without using a soft start kit (read more about RV AC soft start kits in FAQ section below).
There is both a 15,000 BTU (click to view on Amazon) and 13,500 BTU option.
Both sizes of the Advent rooftop RV air conditioners are made with metal base pans, non-ozone depleting coolants, and silicone coated cooling fins to reduce freeze-ups.
They have a 320 cfm airflow and both are duct and non-duct compatible.
You need the ASA non-ducted ceiling assembly (click to view on Amazon) for non-duct installation.
Both versions run off of 115V AC power and fit 14.25″x14.25″ holes.
Advent’s 13,500 BTU RV air conditioner weighs 69 lbs and measures 35″ long, 30″ wide, and 13.2″ tall.
It uses 3,000 initial watts and runs on 1,450 watts. You can run it with a 3,500 watt generator.
The 15,000 BTU RV AC unit weighs 69 lbs and measures 33.5″ long, 25.6″ wide, and 15″ tall.
It uses 4,500 initial watts and runs on 1,800 watts. You need a 5,000 watt generator to run it.
The ASA Electronics Advent Air RV AC Units are the more basic camper air conditioners, but when you need to keep your RV, trailer, van, or bus cool, they will do the job.
The 13,500 option could be the best choice for van owners because it’s the lightest RV AC unit in this review and also uses the lowest start up watts.
- Good Basic Option
- 13.5K BTU Uses Least Amount Of Watts
- Duct & Non-Duct Compatible
- 13,500 & 15,000 BTU Options
- High Profile Creates Wind Drag
The Furrion Chill Rooftop RV AC units not only look different from your average camper air conditioner, they also use slightly different BTU ratings.
Instead of going with the standard 13,500 and 15,000, the Furrion Chills are 14,500 and 15,500 BTUs.
The difference is small, but it’s something to note when reviewing.
Both sizes of the Furrion RV AC units have two fans which help with better air distribution and efficiency.
Furrion advertises them to be 25% more efficient than the standard single fan RV AC’s.
For better durability and resistance against the wear and tear of RV travel, these RV AC units use Vibrationsmart and Climatesmart technology.
The Vibrationsmart helps keep everything together while driving. The Climatesmart helps the RV AC work at full capacity in extreme climates.
Like all RV AC units, the Furrion Chill goes on the roof, and reducing wind resistance to help with gas mileage is a priority.
To help with this, the units are fairly lightweight and have an aerodynamic design with a narrow nose that cuts into the wind and directs it away.
The 14,500 BTU version (linked to above) weighs 88 lbs and measures 35 inches long, 28 inches wide, and 14 inches tall.
It uses 115V power, and runs with 3,450 starting watts, and 1,620 running watts.
The 15,500 BTU (click to view on Amazon) weighs 90 lbs and measures around 36 inches long, 28.5 inches wide, 14 inches tall.
It’s not that much larger than the 14,500 version.
It uses 115V power and runs with 3,760 watts and 1,720 running watts.
The Furrion Chills are compatible with both ducted and non-ducted systems.
For either system you will need to get the Furrion Chill Air Distribution Box (click to view on Amazon) and the Furrion Single Zone Wall Thermostat (click to view on Amazon).
The Furrion Chill Rooftop RV Air Conditioner is going to be the best choice for a direct Furrion RV AC replacement.
It’s also a nice upgrade if you are looking to swap out your old rooftop RV AC for a newer one.
The power usage of both versions is fairly low and they aren’t as heavy as some of the other RV AC units in this review.
Furrion is a very trusted name in the camper industry and you may already have a lot of its products in your own RV or trailer.
They make good quality RV products and the Chill AC units are built to last and cool in hot climates.
- 14,500 & 15,500 BTU Options
- Duct & Non-Duct Compatible
- Made For Extra Hot Climates
- Fairly Quiet When Running
- 2 Fans
- High Profile Creates Wind Drag
- Need To Get Inner Cover & Thermo Control
- No Single Non-Ducted Cover
What To Look For In An RV AC Unit
Total Watts Used (Starting Watts)
If you only look at the running watts used, an RV roof AC doesn’t look like it needs very much power.
But if your generator isn’t powerful enough, or you are plugged into a 15 or 20 amp outlet, you will definitely trip the breaker when you try to run it.
The reason for this is the initial or start up watts that are used to start the compressor inside the AC unit.
To get things running, an AC will use a high surge of power that is normally about double what the running watts are.
Many home electronics like microwaves and residential refrigerators do this as well, which is why campers have their own specialty appliances that are more power friendly.
Even if you are plugged into 30 or 50 amp shore power, make sure you aren’t using too many appliances when you start up the RV air conditioner because the surge watts could still trip the breaker.
If you are planning on using a generator to run your RV AC, look at the surge watts so you know how many total watts it will need to output to start the compressor.
There is a way around the start up watts you can read about in the FAQ section below.
RV AC units are a lot heavier than they look.
While the wiring and general installation process are fairly easy, getting the old unit off of the camper roof and getting the new one up safely can be a bit of a challenge.
If you don’t have the resources to lift a heavy 100 lbs rooftop air conditioner onto your camper, consider getting one of the lighter ones.
Weight could also be a factor when loading your camper. If you never use your RV AC, getting rid of that extra weight will help a lot.
Ducted Or Non-Ducted
Many large RVs, travel trailers, and 5th-wheels come with ducted RV air conditioners.
The duct openings are the round vents you may have noticed throughout your camper’s ceiling.
Many RV AC units are compatible with ducted campers, but some are for non-ducted only.
Non-ducted RV AC units are found mostly in smaller trailers and vans.
Instead of a duct system, the air is blown out directly under the unit via an interior vent cover.
The difference between a non-ducted RV AC inside cover and a ducted one is normally the control system.
On a ducted system, the controls are normally on the thermostat on the wall.
A non-ducted system usually has the controls on the inner vent cover itself.
If you are planning on replacing the RV AC unit in your camper, finding out if it’s a ducted system may help you decide on which one is best for you.
Conclusion & My RV Air Conditioner Recommendations
Even in mild climates, campers can get really warm inside. The sun has a way of heating them up.
If you camp in a van, it can be even more difficult to stay cool on hot sunny days.
RV air conditioner units are one of the best ways to keep your RV cool, but only if you are connected to 30 amp or 50 amp power or have a high power generator.
Standard RV AC units won’t work with regular 15 or 20 amp 120V outlets (home wall outlets) because of the high initial watt usage.
That being said, there is a way to add what’s called an easy start, sometimes referred to as a “soft start” that allows you to use an RV AC with a smaller generator.
You can read more about it in the FAQ section below.
All the RV AC units in this review are the standard rooftop kind and the options are mostly between the 13,500 and 15,000 BTU versions.
Looking at things like total power usage, weight, and wind resistance will help you choose the best style for your camper.
Best Overall – Dometic Brisk II RV Air Conditioner
I have to go with the Dometic Brisk II as the best overall RV air conditioner.
The reason it beat out similar RV ACs is mostly because of the overall performance and weight.
It’s around 20 lbs lighter than the other high performance option in this review.
Saving weight not only helps when installing, but helps save on travel costs in the long run.
Another reason it’s my top pick is it has the highest airflow output in this review.
Airflow is important for cooling down RVs because they don’t normally have great insulation.
It can take a lot of initial cold air to cool them down.
Another thing I like about Dometic is the availability of replacement parts.
They have excellent customer service and because of how used their brand is you can find a lot of their parts at local dealers and RV stores.
The unit is compact and has a sleek aerodynamic design that will reduce wind drag and hold up against all kinds of weather and the sun.
Least Wind Resistance – Dometic Penguin II Low Profile RV AC
If you are a snowbird or full-time RVer who travels long distances in an RV or trailer, getting an RV AC unit that doesn’t stick up very high is a good idea for a few reasons.
The biggest benefit to a low profile RV AC like the Dometic Penguin II, is saving on gas mileage.
It also reduces the risk of being too tall for structures you have to drive under, like gas station roofs and bridges.
It may not seem like a lot, but 6 inches of height can be the difference between smashing the RV AC into something and narrowly missing it.
I’ve seen several destroyed rooftop air conditioners, and it was just a few inches too tall every time.
If you are tired of worrying about the bulky RV AC on the roof and want to save a little on gas mileage, switching to a low profile RV AC will help a lot.
Lowest Power Usage (Initial & Running Watts) – ASA Electronics Advent Air RV AC
If you like having an RV AC, but you rarely camp connected to 30 or 50 amp power, consider getting a low power air conditioner like the ASA Electronics Advent 13,500 BTU.
It uses the least amount of both running watts (1,4500) and starting watts (3,000).
Most RV AC units require a 4,000 to 5,000 watt generator, but the Advent could be run with a 3,000 water generator with a high surge watt rating.
You could even use a 2,000 watt generator if you add a soft start kit.
It’s not the most powerful option, but for boondockers and dry campers, it could be the most usable option.
Frequently Asked Questions About RV Air Conditioners
How can I make an RV AC run quieter?
RV AC units are loud. The compressor humming combined with the large, loud fan running usually results in a lot of noise.
To make things worse, everything is happening directly over your head, which makes it that much more annoying.
It’s mostly something you just have to live with if you want cold air inside your RV.
If it seems like your RV AC unit is way louder than it should be, you can check a few things to fix it.
First, make sure all the bolts and screws securing the unit to the roof are tight.
You may need to remove the inner cover to get to the main bolts. Once you’ve tightened those, make sure the inner cover is replaced and secured.
Cleaning the filter may also help reduce noise, as the fan could be working overtime to push air through a dirty filter.
Also check the fan underneath the shroud. It’s not uncommon for debris to get caught underneath the cover.
If there’s stuff inside the RV AC, the fan will move it around, which can make a lot of noise and vibrations.
There are also products out there called RV AC Silencers. They are basically an inner cover that is insulated to help reduce the noise that gets into the camper.
The last thing you can try is upgrading your RV air conditioner.
Newer fans are much quieter and a brand new fully charged RV AC probably won’t have to be run as long to fully chill your RV and less run time means less noise.
Why is the initial start up wattage higher than the running wattage on an RV AC Unit?
Camper air conditioners use compressors to cool down air and when a compressor starts up it draws a lot of power to get going.
Once it’s started, it drops back down to what is called the running wattage.
Some people are fooled when they see the wattage of an AC and think they can use a small generator to run it.
In most cases, they will need a generator that can output almost double the number of running watts to start the RV AC’s compressor.
How to run an RV AC with a small generator (Easy Start)
Now you know what initial start up watts are and why you need a large generator to run an RV air conditioner.
But there is a way to cheat the system and run an RV AC on a smaller generator by using a soft start.
With a soft start, you can use a 2000 watt Honda generator or a 3,000 watt generator of any other brand with a 121cc engine to run most 13,500 and 15,000 BTU RV air conditioners.
You can also use the soft start to run 2 RV AC units at the same time on a 30 amp power source.
The best soft start is the Hutch Mountain MicroAir Easy Start (click to view on Amazon).
It works by using a microprocessor to deliver the perfect amount of power at a certain time to start up the air compressor.
In other words, it tricks the compressor into starting even though the initial watts are lower than it normally needs.
The soft start connects directly to your AC roof unit and is an easy installation.
For detailed instructions, check out this video by the RVgeeks.
Can RV air conditioners be recharged?
RV air conditioners are not made to be recharged.
If your AC system is leaking the refrigerant, there may be something that needs fixing or the unit will need to be replaced.
Does an RV air conditioner run on propane?
No, RV air conditioners run on electricity only, even the ones with heating elements.
What causes RV air conditioners to freeze up?
A common problem with the AC units on RVs is the coils or cooling fins freezing up.
If your AC is getting noisy, or the fan isn’t blowing out the normal amount of cold air, you may have a frozen unit.
You can check by taking off the shroud on your RV’s AC and looking for visible ice.
If your AC is frozen, turn it off immediately. Further freezing can damage it.
There are a few reasons an AC freezes: the coils are dirty, there is a lot of moisture in the air, the thermostat isn’t working correctly, the refrigerant levels are low, the air filter is clogged, or the condenser coils are dirty.
I suggest checking the air filter first because that’s the most common problem.
Once you’ve cleaned the air filter, run the fan part of the AC for a few hours.
This will defrost the coils. If the coils look dirty, clean them before turning your AC back on.
How to clean an RV air conditioner filter.
A dirty RV air conditioner filter is the most common reason for an RV AC to not be putting out enough air.
If you use your RV AC regularly, you need to check the filter at least once a month. A dirty AC filter can damage the AC or cause it to freeze up.
You can clean an RV AC filter a few times with water or even with a vacuum. Eventually, the filter will need to be replaced because even cleaning it with water and a vacuum will not be enough.
The good news is RV AC filters are easy to find and inexpensive.
Do I Need To Run A Dehumidifier When The RV AC Is Running?
I’ve written a full post answering this question. You can find it here.
Have any more questions about RV air conditioners? Leave a comment below.