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If you love to go camping and traveling for your vacations, especially during the hotter months, then you must make sure that your camper van or RV has an efficient air conditioning system to prevent any overheating.
Having a portable air conditioner installed in the rooftop vent during those warmer days will mean that you will have plenty of cool air distributed throughout the vehicle which in turn will ensure that you have a more enjoyable experience as you are staying safe.
Camper van air conditioners are known for being expensive but they are investments and are designed to last for years with high-quality performance.
In this guide, we’ll be taking you through everything you need to know about camper van air conditioners including their advantages, the different types of air conditioners available followed by a selection of the top five models on the market as well as an exclusive buyers guide and FAQ so you can learn what to expect from your purchase. Once you finish this article, you’ll be able to make a fully informed decision with confidence.
Although camper van air conditioners are extremely advantageous, there are entirely necessary as there are other ways you can keep your vehicle cool during the summer. However, if you follow these instructions and still find that your vehicle is too hot then you may want to consider purchasing a camper van air conditioner so you can be assured of cool air being circulated throughout the van.
Cooking Meals Outside The Vehicle
The first tip to follow is to make sure that you cook all of your meals outside the vehicle. This will prevent the heat from the cooking from spreading through your van and ensure that the inside of the vehicle is as cool as possible.
Do Not Park In The Sun
If possible, avoid parking in the sun as this will cause the inside of your vehicle to heat up extremely fast. Trying to find a shaded area to park in or use curtains and awnings if you cannot locate one. This will ensure that your vehicle won’t be heated when you return.
Purchasing high-quality curtains will prevent the sun and heat from penetrating as they will be able to absorb the heat. Although curtains are not completely protective against heat, they will make the vehicle cooler than driving without curtains. Protective curtains can also provide coverage at night giving you plenty of privacy.
Opening The Windows And Vents
Another tip that you should follow is to make sure that all of the windows and vents are open to allow as much fresh air into the vehicle at all times.
Different Types Of Air Conditioner
If you have decided to purchase an air conditioner for your camper van then the next step is knowing the different types of air conditioners available on the market. What kind you go for should be dependent on your criteria as well as your vehicle needs and how long you are traveling.
As mentioned before, air conditioners can be expensive and this is dependent on how advanced the technology integrated is. Here are the different types of air conditioners that you should consider:
Ducted And Non-Ducted
The first camper van air conditioner you should learn about is ducted and non-ducted kinds. These are the main two styles and each type has a different kind of performance as they function in different ways.
Ducted air conditioners are connected to your vehicle directly through the walls or ceiling. Ideal for larger vehicles, ducted air conditioners provide plenty of air distribution but can be difficult to install by yourself. On the other hand, non-ducted air conditioners can take longer to cool the vehicle down as the air comes from the unit itself rather than a duct system.
This is better for smaller vehicles but if you own a larger vehicle and insist on purchasing a non-ducted air conditioner then you may want to purchase numerous units for even distribution.
The most common kind of air conditioner purchased when it comes to camper vans and RVs are portable ones as they can be installed quickly and easily compared to non-portable units. They are also more versatile as you can use them in your home as well as your vehicle.
The main disadvantage that comes with portable units is that they are large and therefore bulky as they contain all the technology needed in an air conditioner. Therefore, if you are wanting to apply a portable air conditioner to your vehicle then make sure that there is plenty of space.
Rooftop air conditioners are placed on the roof of the vehicle and are available in both ducted and non-ducted units meaning that there are plenty of options available on the market. These types of air conditioners are especially ideal for those who have a smaller vehicle and want to take up as little space as possible as they are mounted on the roof.
The downside to these units is that they add more height which means that you have to check that your vehicle has the height clearance when traveling through tunnels or having to park indoors among other scenarios. You’ll also ensure that you have the unit professionally installed.
If you require an extremely powerful AC then opt for a split AC. Not only are they very efficient but they are used in a variety of scenarios such as hotels and households.
However, they are popular for camper van use as well thanks to their structure which works well in distributing air throughout the vehicle. They are made with an air handling segment and air compressing segment which means that you are saving energy while still maintaining a high performance compared to other kinds of air conditioners.
Swamp coolers are also known as evaporative coolers which is the best option for those who want to be as eco-friendly as possible. This is because they run on water sources which add moisture to the air to keep the vehicle as cool as possible.
They also require less electricity than other air conditioner units by a large amount meaning that they use less power. If you are traveling to dryer places, this is the best air conditioner to have as it provides plenty of water and moisture in the air.
One of the cheapest options available is purchasing a window air conditioner which is a temporary choice that is ideal for those on a stricter budget. They are installed by being mounted on one of your windows and allowing the cooler air to filter throughout the vehicle’s space.
Bear in mind that due to their structure and cheap technology that they do not last as long and should not be viewed as a long-term solution.
Here are the top five campervan air conditioners that you should consider
The 5 BEST Campervan Air Conditioners
Our first recommendation is the Senville SENL-12CD Mini Split Air Conditioner which is extremely efficient in its performance thanks to its mini-split structure which contains a non-ducted style conditioner and heater.
Not only does this mean that your vehicle will have a consistent amount of air circulated throughout but the versatility of the unit is both a cooler and heater means that you can use it during any weather conditions. The four-in-one design means that this unit can act as an air conditioner, heater, dehumidifier, and fan making it the best choice for those who want an overall stellar performance.
The reason why this unit is our top pick is that it comes with a low ambient kit meaning that you can cool and heat the space even when exposed to temperatures as little as 5F. The easy installation kit comes with everything you need so you can set the unit up yourself no matter if you don’t have any experience installing similar technology. This unit features Whisper Technology meaning that the engine runs quietly regardless of where it is placed.
- Features a mini-split structure that contains a non-ducted style conditioner and heater
- The four-in-one design means that this unit can act as an air conditioner, heater, dehumidifier, and fan
- Features Whisper Technology meaning that the engine runs quietly regardless of where it is placed
- Can take time to install
- Mini Split Ductless Air Conditioner and Heater - 19 SEER
- 4-in-1 Design - With air conditioning, heating, dehumidifier and fan.
- Low Ambient Kit - Cool and heat your room even in temperatures as low as 5F
- Includes Easy Installation Kit with 16 Ft. Copper Line Set
- Whisper Technology for Quiet Operation, Great for Bedrooms, Additions, Living Rooms and Commercial Applications. Self Service did not work, need to make manual changes to product bullet features.
Our second selection is the BLACK+DECKER Portable Air Conditioner with Remote Control which comes with a quiet and powerful engine that will ensure that your vehicle remains at a cool and comfortable temperature.
The adjustable fan speed means that you can easily control the air circulation while the sleep mode means that the engine runs quietly while you sleep. This air conditioner is the best option for those who have a smaller vehicle and is floor-standing which means it takes up less space.
Quick to install and easy to use, this portable air conditioner can be used in a variety of different environments making it extremely versatile. This unit also comes with everything you need to connect it to any kind of outlet with ease.
This unit runs via a simple remote control and has a top-mounted LED display that consists of a timer which means you can control the air temperature. The filter can be easily cleaned by sliding it out twice a month and rinsing it with water. This unit comes with a three-in-one functionality which includes cooling, fan, and dehumidifying modes within the one unit for extra convenience.
- The best option for those who have a smaller vehicle and is floor-standing which means it takes up less space
- Quick to install and easy to use, this portable air conditioner can be used in a variety of different environments making it extremely versatile
- Comes with a three-in-one functionality which includes cooling, fan, and dehumidifying modes within the one unit for extra convenience
- The engine can run quite loud
- QUIET & POWERFUL - Our 6,500 DOE DOE (12,000 BTU ASHRAE) compact air conditioner (17.1 x 13.8 x 28.1 in,) will keep you cool and comfortable all summer. An adjustable fan speed cools the air to 65°F at the coolest setting. Sleep mode makes it extra quiet while you rest, Auto Water Evaporation
- PERFECT FOR SMALL ROOMS - This floor-standing portable AC unit provides steady, fast, effective cooling for rooms up to 300 sq. ft. It’s the ideal small air conditioner for dorms, apartments, cabins, campers, offices, bedrooms, or living rooms
- SIMPLE & QUICK TO INSTALL – Just wheel this portable air conditioner into any room with a double hung or sliding window. Attach the included hose (4’ 11”) & window adapter, & plug it in to an outlet! At the end of the season, just unhook & store
- EASY TO USE & CLEAN – The simple remote control & top-mounted LED display with 24-hour timer allow you to precisely control the air temperature. To clean the filter, just slide it out twice a month, rinse it thoroughly under running water, & put it back
- 3-in-1 FUNCTIONALITY - Combines 3 energy efficient functions for all of your cooling & ventilation needs with cool, fan, & dehumidifying modes all in one machine. Bucket-less, self-evaporating operation makes your living space cool, clean and dry
Our third choice is the Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner which is one of the most popular options on the market. This is because the Dometic brand is favored thanks to its advanced technology and reliable reputation in the industry.
This air conditioner has a nominal capacity of 13,500 BTU per hour and can be installed with either a ducted or non-ducted set up depending on your preference. This unit comes with a high-performance motor and fan so you can be sure of reliable performance and long-lasting efficiency.
What makes this air conditioner such a great option is that it is incredibly easy to install and maintain. The EPP foam housing structure helps to reduce the overall weight of the unit as well as increasing the cooling performance. This unit also comes with a two-year warranty thanks to Dometic’s protection plus program meaning that you can purchase this with extra peace of mind.
- Has a nominal capacity of 13,500 BTU per hour and can be installed with either a ducted or non-ducted set up depending on your preference
- This unit comes with a two-year warranty thanks to Dometic’s protection plus program
- Comes with a high-performance motor and fan so you can be sure of reliable performance and long-lasting efficiency
- The control unit is sold separately
- Nominal capacity, 13, 500 BTU/Hour; Installation type: ducted or non ducted
- High-performance motor and fan
- Electrical rating- 115V AC, 60 Hz, 1 Phase
- Easy installation and maintenance. EPP foam housing reduces weight and increases cooling performance
- 2 Year Protection Plus
Our penultimate recommendation is the Dometic 640315C Penguin II 410 Amp Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner which has an impressive aerodynamic low profile that helps to reduce the amount of wind drag used which in turn helps to save fuel.
The engine runs incredibly quietly while delivering an optimum amount of airflow so you can be comfortable during your trip. The controls are easy to navigate and reach and also feature a three-speed blower so you can control the amount of air that is circulated in the space.
This unit incorporates a variety of different thermostat controls such as manual, electronic, and wall variations which means that it is a versatile option to have for those who don’t have access to electrical outlets on their journey. The pre-installed module board and heat strip also provide a thin ceiling application that is quick and easy.
- Has an impressive aerodynamic low profile that helps to reduce the amount of wind drag used which in turn helps to save fuel
- The controls are easy to navigate and reach
- The pre-installed module board and heat strip also provide a thin ceiling application that is quick and easy
- High price point
- Aerodynamic low profile reduces wind drag, saves fuel
- Quiet power: Delivers the optimum balance of air flow
- Easy-to-reach, easy-to-use controls - three-speed blower
- Manual, electronic and wall thermostat controls; Input voltage (AC): 115 V
- Pre-installed module board & heat strip for thin ceiling application
Our final selection is the Atwood 15028 Ducted A/C Unit which boasts an elaborate ducted system that allows for optional customization such as a wall mount thermostat and remote control which you can purchase separately should you wish.
This unit will fit the majority of roof cutouts meaning that you can install and use it with ease with one of the most popular features being an incredibly cold rush of air from the assembly which will make your traveling more comfortable if you are driving in hot temperatures.
This unit is perfect for larger vehicles as it boasts an impressive 15,000 BTU per hour which means that you can be assured of quality performance while the air circulation remains efficient throughout the majority of spaces. This air conditioner also comes with a heat pump which means you can use this conditioner to heat the space during the colder months. It comes with a two-year are warranty so you can be assured of the longevity of the product.
- It will fit the majority of roof cutouts meaning that you can install and use them with ease
- Perfect for larger vehicles as it boasts an impressive 15,000 BTU per hour which means that you can be assured of quality performance
- Comes with a two-year warranty so you can be assured of the longevity of the product
- High price point
Now that we have provided you with the best options on the market as well as the different styles of air conditioners that you can purchase, it’s essential that you know what qualities to look out for when making your choice. Not only does this mean that you’ll be able to make your decision with confidence, but you’ll know what to expect when it comes to the unit’s performance and will also have less chance of disappointment or having to return the product.
Regardless of your criteria, always consider the BTU, budget, durability, efficiency, installation, and noise. Once you have thought about these factors and compared them to your own needs and requirements, you’ll be in a position to make your choice.
The BTU is known as the British Thermal Unit which is a measurement provided with all air conditioners dictating how much heat can be removed using the unit. You want to ensure that the BTU figure is as high as possible to maximize the chances of efficient performance and provide plenty of cool air throughout the vehicle.
Make sure that the unit you choose has a BTU of at least 13,000 to ensure that your vehicle won’t overheat. The general rule of thumb is that the larger your vehicle is, the higher the BTU figure should be.
The next factor that you always need to consider is your budget. As mentioned earlier in this guide, air conditioner units can be extremely costly depending on what kind of style you want to purchase.
Therefore, it’s important to have a clear budget in mind to ensure that you are not buying outside of your means. As you can see from the options provided in this article, there are high-quality options in the market at varying prices.
It’s important to bear in mind that extremely cheap options that cost less than $250 should not be viewed as permanent solutions as they are only designed to last for a short period and also do not guarantee the caliber of performance that higher-priced units provide.
Following on from the budget, you must look into the durability of the unit. This is especially important if you are planning on spending a high amount of money on the air conditioner.
Not only will this reassure you of the product’s quality, but it will also prevent you from choosing a product that breaks after a few months or doesn’t give you the results you want.
To prevent any disappointment or extensive return period, always look into the materials used to construct the unit as well as what technology it incorporates. This could also include checking for any warranty period or returns policy that may come with the product to give you extra peace of mind.
The efficiency of the unit is arguably the most important factor that you need to think about. This is because the efficiency of the unit relates to how much power it uses and how well it cools the vehicle.
If you are traveling into isolated areas then purchasing a unit that can rely on solar power will ensure that you will have cool air throughout your travels as well as batteries. For those who want to be as eco-conscious with their choice, there are split AC units which not only provide high performance and results but are also a lot friendlier to the environment than other kinds of air conditioning units.
Air conditioning units may not always have a complicated structure but some designs require more installation than others. If you are not comfortable or confident installing the unit yourself then always entrust the help from a professional who can make sure that the unit is fitted in properly and works well.
If you can’t afford to pay a professional to install the unit for you then choose a unit that has been designed with as little installation as possible so you can do it yourself without hindering the performance of the unit.
Lastly, the amount of noise that the unit generates is something that should be considered as well. Although not as important as the other factors listed, you should expect your air conditioning unit to create a certain level of noise.
However, you’ll find that some units are louder than others and if this matters to you, you should do further research into reviews of the products to see what previous buyers have said in regards to the volume. This is especially important if you plan on sleeping in the vehicle as you have to weigh up whether you will be disturbed by the noise and, if so if the amount of noise will bother you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I Use A Portable Air Conditioner In A Camper?
Portable air conditioners can be used in camper vans and are very popular among the community thanks to their convenience and versatility. However, bear in mind that they work best in certain environments and that certain styles may cause an increase in humidity throughout the vehicle.
Is It Worth Buying A Portable Air Conditioner?
If you want a consistent level of cool air pumping throughout your vehicle then purchasing an air conditioner is a worthy investment. They are not necessary but a lot of campers rely on them to prevent the vehicle from overheating, especially during the warmer months of the year. If you want to try a temporary solution then choosing a portable air conditioner is the best option for you to take.
What Happens If You Don’t Drain Your Portable Air Conditioner?
Certain consequences can happen if you don’t drain your portable air conditioner properly. The most likely issue that will occur is that the unit may shut down and not turn back on. This will mean that your unit will be ineffective and won’t be able to circulate cool air throughout the vehicle.