What is a “good” alternative to an RV rooftop air conditioner? The more I look at it, the more confusing it gets. I should have added a second A/C when I ordered my current rig. I am open to any options! Thank you. —Randy, 2022 Flagstaff 8529RLS
I don’t know if there is a “good” alternative due to the beating any type of air conditioner on an RV gets while rolling down the road or sitting idle in 100+ degree and -0 degree temperatures.
The traditional RV roof air conditioner works very similar to a residential style by drawing interior air up through the return air vent by the fan/motor. It is pulled over the evaporator coils that have a series of zigzag copper tubing where the refrigerant flashes and pulls heat and moisture out of the air. We have had numerous comments in a recent article about why they can’t be recharged like automotive or residential models can, so we won’t go into that.
Mini split units
I have found several posts recently about mini split units that have been installed by owners, but I don’t have any experience with that myself. From what I have researched, the mini split works the same as a residential or conventional RV air conditioner. It has become popular in residential applications for rooms that need a little boost in cooling. There are many different brands such as LG, Pioneer, and others, and it seems the average size is 9,000 BTU and can go up to 12,000 BTU. You can find them on Amazon here.
The evaporator goes inside and compresses the refrigerant just like a conventional RV roof air conditioner, while the condenser goes outside the rig and is the larger box with the fan. Most of the applications that I found were on trailers, and the condenser was placed on the trailer tongue. I think due to the weight and road vibration it would not hold up so well on a backwall outside, which would need to be the application for a motorhome. There are also models available up to 24,000 BTU; however, they do require 208/230V. The smaller unit weighs an average of 20–40 lbs., while the larger unit is 65–90 lbs.
The downside of these units that I have found is the ductless system has a limited cooling space and a larger rig would most likely need two. However, since you already have one roof air now, it might be an option. And the reviews look good but most, I believe, are not from RV owners.
What about portables
I have tried a few portable units in the past, including a tabletop model, and most are worthless. They simply provide a water mist with a fan and that adds humidity to the room. I see them “hawked” all the time at RV shows, but the same vendor or manufacturer is never back at the show the next year.
Let’s see what our readers have found with the mini splits and portables.
You might also enjoy this from Dave
How can my RV’s roof air conditioner run more efficiently?
I’d like to improve the efficiency of our roof air conditioner. The factory shrouds are black. I’d like to paint them white. Second, I’d like to insulate the pipe from the compressor to the evaporator. Thanks. —Joe, 2019 Coachmen Pursuit
Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
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