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A Comprehensive Guide for Your RV Air Conditioner or portable air conditioner

When embarking on an adventurous journey in your RV, keeping cool and comfortable is vital, especially during hot summer days.

RV air conditioners or portable air conditioner provide the much-needed relief from the scorching heat, but to power them effectively, you need a reliable generator. In this comprehensive guide, we'll explore the different types of RV air conditioners, their technologies, and the best generators to ensure your comfort during your travels.

RV air conditioners are specially designed cooling systems to fit the unique needs of mobile living spaces. They come in various types, portable air conditioner, including rooftop, portable, and ducted models. Depending on your RV’s size and layout, you may opt for a specific type that suits your needs best.

Types of Generators for RV Air Conditioners: To keep your RV air conditioner running smoothly, you’ll need a generator that can handle its power requirements. Here are the main types of generators suitable for RVs:

    • Inverter Generators: Inverter generators offer clean and stable power, making them ideal for sensitive electronic devices like air conditioners. Brands like Honda and Yamaha are well-known for their reliable and efficient inverter generators.

    • Portable Generators: Portable generators are another option, especially those with higher starting and running wattages. Look for reputable brands such as Westinghouse, Generac, and Briggs & Stratton, offering portable generators suitable for RV use.

    • RV Generators: Many RVs come equipped with built-in generators specifically designed to power all appliances, including air conditioners. Check with your RV manufacturer or dealer to see if your vehicle has this feature.

The key to powering your RV air conditioner effectively is matching the generator’s wattage to the air conditioner’s requirements. Check the nameplate or owner’s manual of your air conditioner to determine its running and starting wattage.

Ensure the generator you choose has enough capacity to handle the air conditioner’s startup surge.

  1. Here are some examples of notable generator models suitable for powering RV air conditioners

    • Honda EU2200i: A reliable and compact inverter generator offering a maximum output of 2200 watts, perfect for smaller RV air conditioners.

    • Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel Inverter Generator: This dual-fuel option provides versatility, with 3400 starting watts and 3100 running watts, ideal for mid-sized RV air conditioners.

    • Generac GP3000i: A compact inverter generator with 3000 starting watts and 2300 running watts, suitable for smaller to mid-sized RV air conditioners.

  2. When selecting a generator for your RV air conditioner, consider these factors:
    • Noise Level: Opt for a generator with a quieter operation, especially if you’ll be camping in noise-sensitive areas.

    • Fuel Efficiency: Look for generators that offer fuel efficiency, ensuring longer run times between refueling.

    • Portability: If you need to move your generator frequently, choose a lightweight and portable model

You can do some calculations and consider a totally silent generator like a power station. Read the specification on the air conditioner and the time you wish it will operate. Example: Air conditioner 500W and you have a power station that can deliver 2000Wh, that’s approximately 4 hours

Portable air conditioners typically use one of the following technologies or a combination of them to cool the air


  1. Compressor-Based Portable Air Conditioners: These units operate similarly to traditional window or central air conditioners. They use a compressor and refrigerant to cool the air. The hot air from the room is drawn into the unit, and the heat is transferred outdoors through an exhaust hose. The cooled air is then circulated back into the room. Compressor-based portable air conditioners are effective at cooling larger spaces but can be noisier and bulkier compared to other types.

  2. Evaporative Portable Air Conditioners (Swamp Coolers): Evaporative coolers work by using water to cool the air. These units have a water tank that supplies water to a cooling pad or filter. A fan draws warm air through the damp pad, causing the water to evaporate and cool the air. The cooled air is then blown back into the room. Evaporative coolers are most effective in dry climates, as they increase humidity. They are more energy-efficient than compressor-based models but have limited cooling capacity and may not be as effective in humid environments.

  3. Dual-Hose Portable Air Conditioners: Dual-hose portable ACs have two separate hoses – one for intake and another for exhaust. This design reduces the negative pressure inside the room, making them more efficient than single-hose models. They can cool the air faster and are generally better suited for larger rooms. However, they may be slightly more complex to install and operate.

  4. Single-Hose Portable Air Conditioners: Single-hose models use one hose to exhaust hot air outside while drawing in fresh air from the room for cooling. The drawback is that the negative pressure created can cause warm air from outside or other parts of the house to infiltrate the room. This can reduce the unit’s overall efficiency, but they are often more straightforward to install and more commonly available.

  5. Battery-Powered Portable Air Conditioners: Some portable air conditioners come with built-in batteries, allowing them to operate without being directly connected to a power source for a limited time. These units are useful for outdoor activities, camping, or situations where access to electricity is limited.

It’s essential to consider factors like room size, climate, energy efficiency, noise level, and portability when choosing a portable air conditioner. Each technology has its pros and cons, and the most suitable option will depend on individual preferences and specific cooling needs.

Brands that has a portable air conditioner with built in battery

  1. Zero Breeze: Zero Breeze is a brand that specialized in portable air conditioners with built-in batteries. Their products were designed to be compact and easy to carry, making them suitable for outdoor use or in areas without a traditional power source.

  2. Evapolar: Evapolar produced portable air conditioners that were not only battery-operated but also used evaporative cooling technology. They were designed for personal use and were often compact and lightweight.

  3. Honeywell: Honeywell, a well-known brand in the HVAC industry, had introduced some models of portable air conditioners with built-in batteries. Their products were aimed at providing cooling solutions for small spaces or when traditional air conditioning was not available.

There are several reputable brands that manufacture air conditioners specifically designed for use in recreational vehicles (RVs)

  1. Dometic: Dometic is a leading manufacturer of various RV appliances and equipment, including air conditioners. They offer a wide range of RV air conditioners, from rooftop models to portable units, suitable for different RV sizes and configurations.

  2. Coleman-Mach: Coleman-Mach is another popular brand specializing in RV air conditioners. They are known for their durable and efficient rooftop air conditioning units commonly found in many RVs.

  3. Atwood: Atwood, now part of Dometic Group, produces RV air conditioners with a focus on providing reliable cooling solutions for RV enthusiasts.

What does it take to power an air conditioner in your RV

When selecting a generator for this purpose, it's important to consider the air conditioner's wattage requirements and the generator's capacity to handle the startup surge, which can be higher than the rated running wattage.

Here are some generator options commonly used to power RV air conditioners:


  1. Inverter Generators: Inverter generators are popular choices for RVs because they provide clean and stable power, making them suitable for sensitive electronic devices like air conditioners. They typically have a lower total harmonic distortion (THD), which reduces the risk of damaging your air conditioner’s compressor. Brands like Honda, Yamaha, and Champion offer inverter generators known for their reliability and quiet operation.

  2. Portable Generators: Portable generators, particularly those with higher starting and running wattages, can also power RV air conditioners. However, it’s essential to ensure that the generator has enough capacity to handle the air conditioner’s startup surge. Some reputable brands offering portable generators for RV use include Westinghouse, Generac, and Briggs & Stratton.

  3. RV Generators: Some RVs come equipped with built-in generators specifically designed to power all the appliances, including the air conditioner. These generators are often integrated into the RV’s electrical system and are sized to handle the power demands of the onboard appliances.

When choosing a generator for your RV air conditioner, pay attention to the following:

  • Wattage: Ensure the generator has sufficient wattage to handle both the running and starting wattage of your RV air conditioner. The air conditioner’s wattage requirements can typically be found on the unit’s nameplate or in the owner’s manual.

  • Noise Level: If noise is a concern, consider investing in a quieter generator, especially if you plan to camp in locations with noise restrictions or prefer a quieter camping experience.

  • Portability: If you intend to move the generator frequently or use it for other purposes, consider the weight and portability features of the generator.

  • Fuel Type: Generators are available in different fuel types, such as gasoline, propane, or dual-fuel (gasoline and propane). Choose the one that best suits your preferences and accessibility to fuel sources.

Commonly asked questions

“What size or BTU rating of air conditioner do I need for my RV?”

Choosing the right size air conditioner for an RV is crucial for efficient cooling and energy consumption. RVs come in various sizes, and the cooling requirements can vary depending on factors like the size of the living space, insulation, number of windows, and the average climate where the RV will be used.

To determine the appropriate BTU rating (British Thermal Units) for the air conditioner, RV owners need to consider the cubic footage of their living space and refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines. Installing an air conditioner with insufficient BTUs may struggle to cool the space adequately, while one with too many BTUs could lead to unnecessary energy consumption and may not dehumidify the air effectively.

It’s essential for RV owners to understand their RV’s cooling needs and select an air conditioner that matches those requirements to ensure a comfortable and energy-efficient environment inside the vehicle.

More common question about the size and BTU rating of air conditioners in RVs, people often ask a range of other questions related to RV air conditioning. Some of these frequently asked questions include:

  1. “Can I run my RV air conditioner on a generator?” RVers often inquire about using their air conditioner with a generator, especially when they are camping in locations without shore power or electrical hookups. They want to know the generator’s capacity required to power their specific air conditioner model.

  2. “How can I improve the efficiency of my RV air conditioner?” RV owners may seek tips and tricks to optimize their air conditioner’s performance and reduce energy consumption while still maintaining a comfortable indoor temperature.

  3. “Can I install a second air conditioner in my RV?” Some RVers, especially those with larger RVs, consider adding a second air conditioner to improve cooling throughout the living space. They might ask about the installation process and the compatibility with their RV’s electrical system.

  4. “What maintenance does my RV air conditioner need?” RV owners want to know how to properly maintain their air conditioner to ensure it operates efficiently and lasts longer. This may include cleaning filters, checking for leaks, and routine inspections.

  5. “How do I troubleshoot common issues with my RV air conditioner?” When their air conditioner malfunctions or doesn’t perform optimally, RVers may seek guidance on diagnosing and troubleshooting common problems before seeking professional assistance.

  6. “Are there any solar-powered air conditioners for RVs?” With the increasing interest in sustainable and eco-friendly solutions, some people inquire about the availability of air conditioners that can be powered by solar panels on their RVs.

  7. “Can I use my RV air conditioner while driving?” Travelers might wonder whether it’s safe and permissible to run their RV’s air conditioner while driving to keep the interior cool during long journeys.

  8. “What is the average lifespan of an RV air conditioner?” RV owners often inquire about the expected lifespan of their air conditioner and when it might be time for a replacement.

  9. “Can I use my RV air conditioner with an inverter system?” Some RVers may consider using an inverter to power their air conditioner while boondocking or using battery power. They want to know about the feasibility and potential power requirements.


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