Friday, December 8, 2023


Invest in RV A/C? Wife says “yes”; hubby says “no”

Dear RV Shrink:
rvshrinkWe love our new trailer. We are teachers and take each summer off and head to the mountains. Our kids love the many National Parks we visit and learn so much from our travels.

One thing we never considered when planning our purchase was the summer heat. My wife wants me to add an air conditioner to our rig. I think it would be a waste of money as we spend the majority of our time camped in National Forests and Parks with no electricity. She has become very insistent on this point especially on hot days when we do have access to power.

Could you give me your take on this point? —Hot tongue and Cold shoulder in Sandpoint

Dear Hot and Cold:
I would look at it this way. AC is not a bad investment. Even if you do not use it that often, it is wonderful to have when you need it and have access to power. It would also help in resale value.

Another option would be a swamp cooler. They can cost as much as an air conditioner, but allow you to operate on 12 volt power. They are simple to install on an existing roof vent.

Until you work this decision out I would suggest you find a shady campsite on hot days, make use of 12 volt fans, and pick a site that may offer lake frontage or a breeze.

Another thing for people to consider on very hot days are their pets. If you’re going off for the day and leave a pet in your rig, consider the extreme temps that can build in an RV if you do not take precautions.

We have a 12V fan made by the Fan-Tastic Vent company called “Endless Breeze.” It was designed for pets but we enjoy it as much as our cat.

By the way, I grew up just like your kids. My parents took us to the mountain parks each summer, in an Airstream, on great adventures. It has had a continual and dramatic impact on my life, as I am sure it will on your children. I applaud you. —Keep Smilin’, RV Shrink

Editor: Here’s a link with more info on the Endless Breeze fan at Amazon.




0 0 votes
Article Rating
Subscribe to comments
Notify of

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Oldest Most Voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

Steve Peterson (@guest_2023)
7 years ago

Get the AC unit, have it installed and remember – happy wife – happy life!

Sandy Frankus (@guest_2016)
7 years ago

I need to ask RV Shrink a different question. Is it OK to remove bedroom walls in a 2005 Springdale? We’re planning on living year round in a couple of years and with the bedroom walls in place my husband’s feet hang over. He thinks it will compromise the trailers stability and it could twist the frame. If that could happen could we use a support beam across ceiling to stabilize the frame? Thank you Sandy from Sandy Or.

padgett (@guest_2014)
7 years ago

All good ideas depending on where you camp. Keep in mind that some modern RV ACs are heat pumps so can both heat and cool.

Major issue is power and comes in several stages but none is really suitable for battery power (400W of Solar is about 3A at 120vac through an inverter). First stage is 5,000-7500 btuh. This is enough for outside temperatures in the 80s and during the dark hours. Temps in the 90s will need at least 9,000-11,000 btuh during the day. The most common RV AC is 13,500 and will pull a well insulated 175 sq ft travel trailer into the 60s on a 90+ Florida day.

(Solar collectors over the bed area will also provide shade during the day).

However unless pulling a flatbed filled with solar cells and GC2 batteries, this is not a suitable power source for any modern AC. Currently the only energy efficient solution other than shore power is a small generator/inverter coupled with a soft-start device (usually allows ECO mode on the generator) for the AC compressor to reduce the starting surge.

In the last century, finding a small, powerful, quiet portable generator was difficult. Today there are several (my AC is louder than the generator), a good 2000KW generator/inverter can run the smaller ACs, and are several that weigh less than 50 lbs. For 13,500 and up a 2400W class is preferred in order to have excess capacity (inverter generators provide much smoother power than a conventional generator often under 5% THD) for Infotainment and coffee.

ps a ’06 Coleman 13,500 Roof AC pulls 12A/1440W once started. Personally do not like to run a generator for long over 80% of the continuous rating.

Elaine Schuster (@guest_2008)
7 years ago

We are longtime campers and this is our second RV with AC. Although we got along fine without it in our other RVs, we did mostly travel in cooler locations north of the 45th.. We definitely appreciate having it now that we travel with a dog. It allows us to enjoy an nice lunch out without worrying about the heat of the day. We have not used it at night, preferring the open windows and Fantastic fan. I say invest in the AC, the wife and kids will be a lot less crabby.

LHS (@guest_2007)
7 years ago

A swamp cooler is worthless in high humidity areas. I have been in the NM desert for the past 6 years. When local temps are 95F and up, humidity levels need to be 10% and lower (cooling capacity is 10-15 degrees below the outside temperature in my actual experience). The hotter it is, the lower the humidity needs to be. But there is also the “odd” smell you get sometimes. My “window” air conditioners (built in) tend to work pretty well although once temps go above 105F the interior is in the 90’s (cooling capacity is 20-30 degrees below the outside temperature.) My built in “window” airs are still cooling when the swamp coolers stop working.

Jerry X Shea (@guest_1997)
7 years ago

Here is an alternative solution. Go to one of those discount “home improvement” stores and buy a portable (has wheels) A/C. They have attachments for any window (hot air out) and can easily cool down 300 sq ft. Mine runs on 9.8 amps, far better than 18.6 for the built in one. Very important when hooked up to only 30 amps. Have owned 2 motorhome and bought a portable for each one. Bonus, in winter you can leave it at home.

Greg Illes (@guest_1991)
7 years ago

We hate running a generator, and we hate even more being in an RV park. We elected to install the Turbokool unit (swamp cooler), and it’s a blessing. Runs on 12V and water, no generator or other power required. Quiet except for the fan/air noise. Drops the outside temperature about 15F or so, enough to take the pain out of a hot day.

Wil (@guest_1984)
7 years ago

A happy wife when camping makes for a more pleasant experience for the hubby. It is inevitable that you will have an A/C. Resistance is futile. If you really don’t want to spend $1500 for the installation, you could always try out a salvage yard unit and DIY. Then again, with kids, the least you’ll spend in a divorce is ten grand. Stop being an a** and cool the situation off.

Dave Telenko (@guest_1983)
7 years ago

I was thinking that perhaps a portable generator that would match the need of the A/C could be an alternate. You don’t have to use it all the time, only when needed. Also nice to have if for some unknown reason ALL the batteries go dead!

Sign up for the

RVtravel Newsletter

Sign up and receive 3 FREE RV Checklists: Set-Up, Take-Down and Packing List.