How To Run RV AC Without Generator

A summer vacation in your Recreational Vehicle (RV) requires air conditioning (AC). As the heat increases, so will crankiness and general unease. Maintaining a cool interior is crucial for a happy vacation.


Your RV needs a large amount of power to run RV AC. Not every campground has electrical facilities. Equipping your rig with solar panels, additional batteries, an inverter, a mini-split unit, and a soft start kit will run your AC.


It’s a good idea to know your options when powering your motorhome. This article offers practical solutions to keep your RV AC running without a generator.

How to Use AC in RV Without a Generator?

Generally, people use a generator to run their RV. However, your RV generator can suddenly stop working.


Additionally, there are some drawbacks to a generator. For example, there’s a constant unpleasant noise when using a generator. They’re large, cumbersome, and take up much space.


Use of Solar Panels

Use AC in RV Without a GeneratorSolar panels are an alternate source of power for your RV. You can apply solar paneled electricity to your RV in two ways.


Firstly, directly connect the solar panels to your RV AC.


Secondly, connect your solar panels to your RV’s battery to charge them. The freshly charged batteries will power your RV AC.


Your RV determines your solar panel choice- for example, the size and required power.


Installing and connecting solar panels to your RV and batteries is simple. There are two options for solar panel installation, manual and roof mounted.


Roof mounted requires professional installation.


Manual solar setup assists travelers whose rig is too small for roof-installed solar panels. You can take your manual solar design whenever you stop your vehicle, connect it to your RV or batteries, and allow it to recharge outside.


If you decide on the manual setup, there are a couple of steps to follow. Firstly, keep your charge controller mounted inside while charging your solar panels outside. They must remain out of the weather.


A primary issue with solar power to your RV is that it’s dependent on sunshine exposure. Therefore, your travel is restricted, as you can’t travel to cloudy climates with lots of rain. Sudden rainfall will prevent your RV from adequately powering up.


Use of Inverter

An inverter is one of the primary features of solar power as a source for your RV. An inverter is an indispensable part of your RV travels. It converts power or energy for RV AC to function.


An inverter supplies power, otherwise called power conversion. Shore power refers to supplying electrical power to RVs, which plug into grid power when stopped to preserve their batteries. Shore power prevents excessive strain on RV fuel.


Therefore, inverters are involved with power supply and power conversion. An inverter is an electric charge device that converts direct current (DC) to alternating current (AC).


Typically, RV electrical appliances operate off 12-volt DC power. Your motorhome’s air conditioning unit needs AC power. Always have an inverter in your camper to convert the DC to the required AC.


An RV inverter enables you to power various electrical devices that would need to be plugged into a generator or power outlet.


If you have travel plans to remote off-grid areas and campsites, ensure you bring an inverter.


Use of Additional Batteries with Solar Panel

It’s advisable to use both solar panels and batteries for your RV journeys.


You’ll be better prepared, and it’s better for your budget in the long run.


Additionally, it’s reliable and environmentally friendly.


Solar panels charge batteries throughout the day, ensuring a constant power supply.


Importance of Calculating Power to Run RV AC on Solar Panel

A standard AC unit uses about 1300 to 1500 watts as its compressor runs.


Your RV needs at least 1800 watts of the sun’s power to generate its AC for several hours.


Many RVs require between 1700 to 3500 to start and 600 to 1500 to operate. Therefore, install about 2000 watts of solar panels on your motorhome for an adequate energy supply.


Use of Additional Batteries

Batteries are often the primary source of RV power. Many RVs on the market are equipped with built-in batteries that will last a few days.


However, your RV AC requires a lot of electricity. So, there’s a good chance they won’t last long. Therefore, installing additional batteries is a helpful solution.


A motorhome cannot sustain its AC on battery power alone.


It’s a good idea to store additional batteries and familiarize yourself with different types- their strength and capabilities.


Use of Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are the most powerful batteries. Therefore, it’s advisable to use lithium batteries as the AC expends an enormous amount of energy quickly.


An increasing number of campers are upgrading their RV batteries to lithium. As mentioned above, you’ll need an inverter to transfer DC power to AC power.


Use of Lead-Acid Batteries

Lead-acid batteries are the standard batteries often found in motorhomes and are not as strong as lithium.


It’s nearly impossible to run your RV AC on lead-acid batteries. So, you’ll need to upgrade to lithium to power your RV AC.


Use of Mini Split Unit

A mini split unit is a more popular AC option with campers.


A mini split AC has an indoor and outdoor unit, and each unit is connected via two refrigerant pipes- liquid and gas.


It has two additional cables, an inverter cable, and a set of power cables with neutral-live-earth connections.


There are two mini split designs: the cool-heat model (or heat pump) and the cool-only (air conditioning) model.


The BTU (British Thermal Unit- measurement or unit of heat as energy degree) mini split units on the market are anywhere from 9000 to 24000 BTU, and a few are at highs of 30 000 and 36 000 BTU.


A mini split unit is efficient and consumes 30% less energy.


A traditional RV rooftop AC runs at either 100% or 0% capacity. In contrast, a mini-split unit starts at maximum capacity and steadily decelerates to regular room temperature- saving energy.


Direct Power Source Usage

Direct power describes plugging your RV directly into an electrical grid. The power accessed is measured in amps. General RV connections consist of 30 and 50 amps.


Use of Inverter

As mentioned above, an inverter is essential to any RV travel as it converts direct power (DC) to the necessary alternating power (AC).


When purchasing an inverter, there are three aspects to remember.


Firstly, it must provide continuous power. If an inverter is rated at 3000 watts, it supplies 3000 watts continuously. The continuous power rating is higher than the power required for your AC. The inverter must have sufficient wattage to enable your RV to run comfortably and smoothly.


Secondly, the surge power must be sufficient. Surge power is measured in watts and is determined by the max wattage an inverter can instantly supply. Measuring an inverter’s surge power is useful with appliances that require significant start-up power- like AC and refrigerators. Therefore, choose an inverter that can manage the start-up power of your AC- it must have start-up efficiency.


Thirdly, the inverter’s input voltage converts low-voltage DC power (12, 24, or 48 volts) to higher AC voltage (120). The inverter’s input is hooked up to the battery’s terminalis, and the output is to the air conditioner or the RV’s fuse panel. Your RV’s air conditioning unit can only run off AC power.


Use of Soft Start Kit

A soft start kit is an excellent way to preserve your RV’s energy.


The AC compressor requires a strong current to start, which utilizes four to eight times the power amount.


This required energy is called a surge current.


A soft start kit assists the AC start-up efficiency and limits the draw on your RV batteries.


How Long Can You Run an Air Conditioner on The Batteries?

You can run your AC on batteries for 90 minutes.


For example, if your RV has a 15 000 BTU (British Thermal Unit) AC, it’ll need 1500 watts to run. Two lithium batteries will fuel your AC for about 90 minutes.


Your camper AC will drain your battery bank entirely. Therefore, bring an inverter and install solar panels.


It also depends on the battery size and the battery bank size. Amp hour (Ah) describes a battery’s current volume over a fixed time.


For example, a 100 Ah lithium battery supplies energy to a standard AC unit for about 30 minutes. A bank of several 100 Ah lithium batteries will power your RV Ac for about three and a half hours.


How Expensive is it to Run RV AC on Batteries?

It is expensive to run your RV AC on battery power.


Lithium batteries, although effective, are pricey. A regular 100 Ah lithium battery costs between $800 and $1200. Yet, they have a life span of five years. So, the cost may be worth it.


An inverter costs between $1000 to $1500.


How Many Wattages Do You Need to Run RV AC?

Many Wattages Do You Need to Run RV ACUsually, an RV AC requires about 1000 to 1500 watts.


Tips to Consider to Keep Your RV Cool

The following are a few practical steps to maintain a cool interior during your RV vacation.


Insulation and Shades on Windows

The insulation in an RV is usually poor. So, reinforcing insulation and adding extra shade is a helpful trick to keep your RV cool.


Car window sunscreen and Reflectix are affordable and simple ways to reflect 97% of the sun’s radiant heat off your vehicle.


You can cut Reflectix to size and velcro the homemade window screen. There are many advantages to Reflectix, including longevity and durability.


Bubble wrap and tinfoil are cheap and a little challenging to use. However, they offer an effective solution. For black-out options, try Velimax static cling film.


Try to Park in the Shade

Try to Park in the ShadeAlthough parking in the shade is an obvious solution, it must be stated. Do everything you can to park in the shade. Shade makes a significant difference to the interior of your RV.


Consider shade when reserving your camping ground spot. Check Google maps and other map types to help you find shady areas. If you book over the phone, ask for a shady spot.


Cooling of Individual Rooms

Shut off individual rooms and close the AC vents if you’re not using the space. This ensures the AC goes where it’s needed.


Clean Your Filters

It’s simple to clean your RV filters and makes a real difference to your travels. Therefore, regularly maintain your air conditioning filters.


Frequently Asked Questions


These are frequently asked questions concerning RV AC.


Why is my RV AC overheating?

Overheating usually indicates that there is an issue with the condenser coil. If the coils are dirty and dusty, your AC will overheat.


Regular cleaning and maintenance will prevent overheating.


How much electricity is required to run an RV AC?

An average AC unit requires 1300 to 1500 watts, with a starting (surge) requirement of 6000-7000 watts. A general AC BTU rating is 13500 to 15000.


How many solar panels are needed to run a 1-ton air conditioner?

A 1-ton AC needs 1500 watts of solar power supply. Additionally, it’ll need a 500 Ah battery backup bank.


How much does it cost to replace an RV air conditioner?

A rooftop AC can cost anything from $700 to $1400. Installation costs are between $200 to $600. Therefore, it costs a total of $1000 to $2000.


Why are RV air conditioners so loud?

Your RV AC is loud for several reasons:


  • the fan motor, loose fittings
  • overtightened fittings
  • worn rubber parts or rubber cushions
  • build-up of dirt and grime
  • general working conditions


What refrigerant do RV air conditioners use?

Mainly, RV AC uses two types of refrigerants. One type is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC) refrigerant, referred to as R-22. The other is a hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) called R-471A.


Final Thoughts

There are several ways you can run an RV AC without a generator. These are solar panels, batteries, an inverter, a mini split unit, direct power, and a soft starter kit. Solar paneling provides clean energy and must be used with additional batteries. Upgrade your batteries to lithium, as these are significantly more powerful than acid lead.



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