4 Best RV Air Conditioner Units in 2020 (Complete Buyer’s Guide)

best rv air conditioner

Summer is the perfect time to jump in your RV for a relaxing vacation.

But, with Summer comes extreme heat. And without a quality air conditioner, even the most luxurious RV can become miserable.

So, to ensure you stay cool on your next vacation, we’ve put together a list of the best RV air conditioner units on the market today. Plus, check out our AC buyers guide to help you make the most informed buying decision.

Let’s get to it!

AC Comparison Chart

DescriptionAwardPrice
Editor’s Choice Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air ConditionerBest ChoiceSEE PRICE »
Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner with Manual Control Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner with Manual ControlBest valueSEE PRICE »
Coleman Mach 13.5 BTU Rugged Roughneck Upper Unit Coleman Mach 13.5 BTU Rugged Roughneck Upper UnitBest Choice for Off-RoadSEE PRICE »
Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air ConditionerBest Low Profile Air Conditioner UnitSEE PRICE »

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Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner

  • Best Choice

Dometic has become one of the most popular manufacturers in the RV industry in recent years, and they deserve it. All Dometic air conditioners are high-quality, reliable units, so you really can’t go wrong with any of them. With that said, the Dometic Brisk II tops our list of the best RV air conditioners.

This lightweight unit produces 13,500 BTU of cold air per hour. The smart design maximizes airflow and ensures peak performance. Compared to previous models and most of its competitors, this reengineered RV rooftop AC unit moves 15% more air through your motor home.

To make the Brisk II even better, it includes dampening brackets to reduce noise and vibration inside your rig. This ensures you have a smooth running and quiet RV AC.

Plus, its 2-year warranty will ensure your investment will keep you cool through many travels.

Video Overview

Key Features

  • The fan runs without the compressor on for air circulation when you don’t need the full AC
  • Easy installation
  • Enhanced air circulation
  • Black or white color options
  • Works with both ducted and non-ducted RV’s

Specifications

  • Weight: 77 pounds
  • Capacity: 13,500 BTUs
  • Dimensions: 29 5/8″ long by 27 5/8″ wide by 13 7/8″ high
  • Power: 115 volts
Pros
  • Quiet
  • 2-year warranty
  • Easy to install
Cons
  • No heat pump
  • Control unit sold separately
Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner

Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner

Price:
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Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner with Manual Control

  • Best Value

In the past, RV air conditioning units had a reputation for being noisy, heavy, and extremely energy inefficient. The Furrion CHILL Rooftop air conditioner proves that today’s models have none of those characteristics.

This unit has two fans that work together to make it 25% more energy efficient than the standard rooftop setup. The short working cycle keeps your rig at the ideal temperature without long periods of watching the thermometer rise before the unit kicks on again. You won’t have to choose between a comfortable temperature and saving your generator’s juice with this on top of your camper.

To further protect your RV’s energy stores, Furrion built in a start capacitor. This feature helps start the AC without the typical large power draw that comes with turning on a unit. You can use this air conditioner even when a campsite hookup or your generator doesn’t have adequate power.

Key Features

  • Two fans for ultimate cooling efficiency
  • Black or white color options
  • Short cycle with a boosting start capacitor
  • Runs with almost no noise
  • Compatible with ducted and ductless systems

Specifications

  • Weight: 88 pounds
  • Capacity: 14,500 BTUs
  • Dimensions: 34 13/16 long by 27 9/16″ wide by 13 5/8″ high
  • Power: 115 volts
Pros
  • Two fans
  • Low profile rooftop design
  • UV-resistant cover
  • Eco-friendly refrigerant
Cons
  • Heavy unit
Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner with Manual Control

Furrion CHILL Rooftop Air Conditioner with Manual Control

Price:
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Coleman Mach 13.5 BTU Rugged Roughneck Upper Unit

  • Best Choice for Off-Road

For some, their perfect RV getaway does not involve a luxury park with paved spaces and hookups. Many people like to take their rig down dirt roads to far-out, undeveloped places. These adventures require camper components that can handle the bounces and bumps of an unmaintained campsite.

The Coleman Mach Rugged Roughneck rooftop AC unit comes designed to handle any road you choose to travel. It has a sealed shaft protected from the elements and an interior design with parts that won’t rattle loose.

Another impressive feature that boosts the Coleman Mach Rugged Roughneck toward the top of our list of best RV air conditioner choices is its use of an eco-friendly refrigerant. Most older RV ACs use R-22, a refrigerant that creates more dangerous greenhouse gases to cool your RV. This model uses the R-410A refrigerant that’s safe for both your family and the environment.

Key Features

  • Eco-friendly refrigerant
  • Designed to withstand off-road driving
  • Lightweight unit
  • Fits standard 14″ by 14″ vent opening

Specifications

  • Weight: 79.5 pounds
  • Capacity: 13,500 BTUs
  • Dimensions: 38″ long by 26.1″ wide by 13.8″ high
  • Power: 120 volts, 50 Hz
Pros
  • Eco-friendly
  • Easy installation
  • Off-road capable
Cons
  • Larger exterior profile
  • Heater and ceiling assembly sold separately
Coleman Mach 13.5 BTU Rugged Roughneck Upper Unit

Coleman Mach 13.5 BTU Rugged Roughneck Upper Unit

Price:
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Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner

  • Best Low Profile Air Conditioner Unit

Whether you’re in a large RV trying to keep the overall height of your rig as low as possible or a camper van attempting to remain stealthy in the city, choosing a low profile air conditioner has a ton of benefits. Unlike other low profile models, the Penguin II doesn’t force you to sacrifice quality and cooling power for space. It has the capacity of units twice its size.

The sleek design of the Penguin II improves the overall aerodynamic qualities of your RV. With increased aerodynamics, you’ll experience an increase in the miles driven per gallon of gas, and it will be easier to maneuver. Plus, with this shorter footprint, you reduce the risk of hitting tree branches or parking structures.

Dometic products come built to last. This air conditioner has a rib-reinforced base pan to ensure it will handle many years of use. If anything were to happen, the company’s comprehensive warranty has you covered.

Video Overview

Key Features

  • Uses environmentally friendly coolant
  • Works for single or multi-zoned thermostats
  • Low profile
  • Perfect for ducted or ductless cooling systems

Specifications

  • Weight: 99 pounds
  • Capacity: 13,500 BTUs
  • Dimensions: 29 3/4″ long by 41 1/2″ wide by 12″ high
  • Power: 115 volts, 60 Hz
Pros
  • Low profile – under 10″ high
  • Eco-friendly
  • Quiet
Cons
  • Heavy unit
  • Does not include control box
  • Heat pump not included (but is optional)
Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner

Dometic Penguin II Low Profile Rooftop Air Conditioner

Price:
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RV Air Conditioner Buying Guide

In our best RV air conditioner list above, we’ve highlighted each unit’s defining features and the ideal situations for each model.

However, every camper and camping family is unique. No one-size-fits-all option exists for the best RV air conditioner. Evaluating the specifications and features will help you choose the best model for your lifestyle and rig.

Below, we’ve highlighted the most important features to consider when choosing the next rooftop air conditioning unit for your motor home.

Features to Consider

Six primary features distinguish an excellent RV air conditioner from the others on the market:

1. BTU Cooling Capacity

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit and measures the cooling capacity of an air conditioner. Most RV AC units produce 13,500 BTU per hour. Of course, some options cool at higher levels and others lower.

BTUs at 13,500 will cool most large RVs. However, if you frequently travel in areas with high humidity or extremely high temperatures, you’ll probably need a unit with higher BTU capacity.

2. Noise Level

All RV air conditioners will make some noise. A motor runs and a fan blows inside the unit’s casing. To expect total silence is unrealistic.

The best RV air conditioners produce a noticeably extensive range of noise levels. If you have trouble sleeping at night with unusual nature sounds outside, then an AC unit might act as a white noise machine and drown out the unknown. On the other hand, if you spend most of your time camping in RV parks with close neighbors, you’ll want a quieter unit so you don’t annoy everyone around you.

We measure noise in decibels. Higher decibels indicate a louder sound. Most RV air conditioner manufacturers list the working decibels in the specifications of their product.

3. Power Consumption

Air conditioners are notoriously massive power draws, no matter where you install them. Rooftop units for a motor home are no exception. Plan for your electrical setup to run your AC as long as you need.

All of the best RV air conditioners on our list require at least 110 volts of power. This requirement means you’ll need either a generator, campground plug-in, or inverter setup to run the unit. It won’t work on your typical battery setup.

If you’re using a generator or battery bank with an inverter setup, calculate how long you can run an AC unit with your electrical capacity. You don’t want to cut a trip short because you ran out of battery power or gasoline.

Don’t forget that electricity costs money. More efficient units may cost more up front, but they’ll save you money in the long run.

4. Heat Pump

Some RV air conditioner units are dual setups that both heat and cool the air. A combo unit allows you to travel comfortably year-round without a separate unit taking up space and adding weight when it isn’t in-season.

The downside to these units is that they’re often heavier and taller than a rooftop setup that only cools. Consider the clearance of the places you plan to travel and the strength of your roof. Older motor homes might not be able to handle a dual unit.

5. Air Purification

If you have allergies, travel is hard. You’ll often find yourself exposed to pollen and other allergens. If you have an older RV with mold or mildew buildup, you might also find yourself with symptoms inside your rig.

To avoid health issues and allergy symptoms on your camping trips, consider a model with air purification. This feature helps keep you feeling fantastic throughout your entire vacation.

6. Ducted Versus Non-Ducted Units

At a glance, ducted and non-ducted RV air conditioning units don’t seem so different. The rooftop appearance is the same for both, but how they distribute air changes inside the camper.

As the name suggests, a ducted AC unit sends the cold air through pipes in the rig’s walls and ceiling. Ducted air conditioners are ideal for large RVs with several rooms to cool using one rooftop machine.

A non-ducted AC blows air down directly from the unit. It acts like a cooling vent fan that pulls the cold air into the RV and spreads it around. This setup is best for smaller RVs with only one room and fewer obstacles to block the cold air from dispersing.

Benefits of an RV AC

Installing an efficient air conditioner in your motor home is a game changer. You’ll find yourself with many new options for longer trips and more exotic locations.

With an air conditioner, you can camp in more extreme temperatures. You don’t have to stay home because of heat or afternoon thunderstorms. Conditions that previously prevented comfortable camping are no longer cause for canceled plans.

Similarly, an air conditioner makes your RV feel more like home. Crisp, fresh air will greet you when you walk in the door. You’ll sleep better and feel more rested for your adventures. These feelings will reduce your homesickness for the comforts of a permanent dwelling.

As we’ve discussed, many RV air conditioner models clean the air in your living area. You will have fewer allergy symptoms on the road. You’re also less likely to find mold or mildew growing inside your camper thanks to the air conditioner keeping the space dry.

RV Air Conditioners: FAQs

We understand that purchasing a new RV air conditioner is a big decision. That’s why we’ve answered some of the most frequently asked questions about the process. An RV AC does not have to be a complicated or overwhelming addition to your road travel setup.

How Do I Choose the Best RV Air Conditioner for Me?

The two most important factors to consider when choosing your new RV air conditioner are the size of your rig and the weather where you will travel most frequently. If you install an option that can handle both of these, then you’ll be set.

When you consider the size of your RV, you should also take into account how many rooms you have. An open, 300-square-foot RV is much easier to cool than one with a separate bedroom. For larger RVs or those with multiple rooms, you’ll need a higher BTU capacity and possibly a ducted setup.

Most of the specifications that RV manufacturers list with their products assume perfect conditions outside. If you are in places with extreme humidity or extra high temperatures, you’ll need a higher cooling capacity than the general recommendations.

Another factor to keep in mind is any height restrictions you might encounter regularly. Does your favorite campground have a low-hanging tree where you typically park? Does your rig’s carport have minimal clearance? Be sure you can still take your camper to your desired destinations.

Are RV Air Conditioners Universal?

Most RV air conditioners fit in a standard 14″ by 14″ vent hole. However, some have a bigger opening requirement. Check to be sure your motor home can handle the model you want.

Older RVs might not be able to handle the weight of a hefty AC unit. Setups with a weaker generator or solar power might not have the capacity to run less efficient generators around the clock.

Do RV Air Conditioners Require Extensive Maintenance?

In years past, RV air conditioners developed a reputation for needing lots of repairs and almost constant maintenance. With advances in technology and reengineered designs, that’s not true anymore. All of the options on our best RV air conditioner list will withstand regular use without problems for many years.

However, preventative maintenance guarantees your air conditioner remains in top shape and working efficiently. Every few months, clean and check the components of the AC. Simply add these tasks to your regular RV care routine for optimal results and minimal extra work.

When you’re cleaning the roof of your camper, check for damage to the unit. Repair any cracks from accidental impacts with tree branches or other objects. Clean the rooftop covers to prevent any mold or mildew growth. If your RV air conditioner leaks when it rains you’ll know there’s been damage where the unit connects to the roof.

Your air filters also require regular cleaning or replacing. How often these chores must happen depends on your frequency of use. The general recommendation is to clean the air filters after two weeks of camper use. Check out our guide on how to clean an RV air conditioner filter for more information.

Once every year, you must clean the components inside the unit itself. The AC coils, evaporator, and condenser can all experience buildup on their surfaces. Either soap and a scrubber or a specialty cleaner will get the job done.

If your air conditioner isn’t working as well as on previous trips, it might need a charge. To charge an AC means to add coolant. Check the refrigerant gauge and add more coolant if necessary.

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