A zoomed image of an RV focusing it's ac unit with a mountain view

Can RV AC Run Continuously?

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Stepping into a hot RV after a long day of summer activities can quickly dampen your mood. You may want to leave your AC on continuously during the day while you’re out exploring. However, you’re first wondering if you even can – or should – run your AC all day.

Can my RV air conditioner run all day?

You can run your RV’s air conditioner continuously without causing a problem. If you’re going to run the AC all day, adjust your thermostat a bit lower so your compressor can still cycle on and off. Most importantly, you need to have enough of your power source if you would like to keep your RV’s AC on all day. 

If you have 2 units you can alternate between the front and rear AC to give each a break.

AC is undoubtedly an essential in my rig. I can’t imagine going on a summer trip without it, considering how quickly RVs – especially trailers – can heat up in the sun. 

Most RVs have AC units. In fact, it’s rare to find one that doesn’t. This post will answer all of your questions about running your AC all day; I’ll even give you some tips on how to do this most efficiently.

How Does RV AC Work?

An RV’s air conditioner works to remove heat from the air inside your RV. This can be done through two separate types of AC systems: ducted or ductless air conditioner units.

A zoomed image of an RV focusing it's ac unit with a mountain view
A roof-mounted air conditioning unit on top of an RV.

Smaller motorhomes or RVs usually have ductless AC systems – these are often found on top of the RV or in a window. These simply blow cool air from the unit into the room via one-way vents instead of a ducted system.

Larger motorhomes that have more than one AC unit, and include ducts in the ceilings, have ducted RV AC systems. Ducted systems are generally more expensive, but are also more efficient and quieter. A ducted system may also be known as a compressor system.

Here is how an RV air conditioning system works:

  • First, gaseous refrigerant vapors are pressurized and heated in the compressor. These vapors get piped through a condenser and into the evaporator.
  • The evaporator is meanwhile absorbing heat from the warm air of the RV’s interior. As this warm air travels over the cool coils of the evaporator, the temperature of the air drops.
  • This cooler air then gets blown back into the RV’s interior through vents. The refrigerant flows back into the compressor and the cycle continues to repeat itself.

This process cools the RV interior by dissipating, circulating and dehumidifying the air. Some warm air is also pushed out of the RV by fans and the condenser.

How Long Can You Safely Run an AC in an RV?

You can safely let the AC run in your RV continuously – even all day long – as long as you have a consistent and adequate power source. This will either be a 30- or 50-amp hookup or a large enough generator.

However, it’s also important to make sure your power source will supply enough starting and running wattage. If your wattage is too low, your AC might not start up or it will quit running before it should.

Keep in mind that an RV’s AC unit can generally only cool the air inside your rig to about 20 degrees lower than the temperature outside. So if the temperature is forecasted to be over 100* Fahrenheit that day, your RV will only be able to cool off to about 80* F.

How Many Watts Do I Need to Run My RV AC All Day?

If you’re planning on leaving your RV air conditioning unit running all day, you need to make sure you have enough power supply to provide adequate wattage to start and run your AC unit. This will depend on the BTU of your RV AC.

The BTU, or British thermal unit, measures how much energy your AC unit uses to remove heat from the air. A smaller, 7,000 BTU unit will require only about 1,700 watts to start and 600 to continue to run. However, AC units of 13,500-15,000 BTUs require around 3,000 watts for start up and 1250-1500 running watts.

It’s important to consider the “running wattage” needed for your AC unit, as this will allow the air conditioner to run continuously and maintain coolness inside your RV.

Your thermostat also will help balance and control the temperature of your RV per your preference. 

An RV thermostat in an interior RV wall
AC thermostat in an RV’s interior

How Do I Set My RV AC to Run All Day?

Your RV’s air conditioner is designed to operate off of an intake temperature from outside air. So you should expect your AC unit to be able to cool the air only to about 20 degrees cooler than outside temperatures.

This is important to keep in mind when setting your thermostat, especially if you plan to let it run all day long.

To set your RV AC to run continuously, follow these steps:

  • First, set your AC unit to either “high cool” or “low cool”. This adjusts the fan speed and how hard the air blows into the RV.
  • Then, set the temperature to “cool” or “cold”.  The “fan” setting only brings in outside air without cooling it, so you want to make sure it’s actually being cooled off.
  • Last, set your preferred temperature to about 73-77 degrees Fahrenheit. If you set the temperature too low and the air is too humid, the AC could freeze up.

Pro Tip: Don’t go lower than 70 degrees on the thermostat as this can put the whole system at risk.

For more efficient cooling, get up early to turn your AC on. This will prevent the inside of your rig from getting too warm first, which will take longer to cool off later.

You will have a consistent temperature until night. During the night is also the best time to set your thermostat to a lower temperature.

Is It OK to Run Your RV AC All the Time?

Your RV’s air conditioner can safely run continuously as long as you are plugged into a continuous power supply. Your AC can run all day long, without causing problems, if you are on a large enough generator or other adequate electric source. However, keep in mind that if you’re on a generator, your neighbors may get a bit irritated listening to it run all day long.

A close shot of an electric panel at a campground
An electric panel at a campground

Tips on Maintaining RV AC Unit

Generally, an RV’s air conditioner will last about 4-8 years. However, with proper care and maintenance, it can be longer than that. 

Proper, routine maintenance is key to increasing the lifespan of your RV’s AC unit. Here are 5 simple ways to keep your air conditioner working longer:

  1. When your AC is not in use, open your roof vent to let the moisture evaporate.
  2. Keep the fan inside your AC unit oiled. This will help the fan – as well as the rest of the unit – to work more effectively.
  3. When your RV is not in use or during the off-season, make sure to cover the AC unit. If you can, invest in a good quality cover, like this one from Amazon. This will help protect your AC unit from rain, snow, UV rays, and debris.
  4. Clean your AC’s air filter. Depending on how often you use the AC, you should clean the filter at least once or twice a month. If necessary, you can easily find replacement filters online.
  5. Avoid overworking your AC. Try to set the temperature a little warmer (75 deg F) so it doesn’t have to work as hard. Also, only run it all day when necessary – not all the time.

How to Keep Your RV Cool During Summer

RV parked in a camp ground
There are other ways to help keep your RV cool aside from running your AC.
Image source: Joanne Dale stock.adobe.com

Besides running the AC all day long, there are other ways to keep your rig cool while you’re off the road. Here are a few tips to help you keep your camper cool during summer:

  1. Park in the shade. If you can’t find a spot that shades the whole rig, try to at least make sure your AC and refrigerator are shaded.
  2. Use an awning or window shades. Covering your RV windows with awnings or shades will help your RV absorb less heat. (Read here whether Blinds or Curtains are better)
  3. Try cooking outside. Cooking inside your RV, especially on the gas stove top, will quickly heat up the whole RV. So instead of cooking every meal inside, try grilling or cooking on a gas stovetop outside.
  4. Use LED lights instead of incandescent. LED lights are much cooler and more efficient on a hot day. LEDs will last longer on battery, too.
  5. Cover your skylights. Just like windows, skylights are a big source of solar gain inside your RV. If you don’t need them for the light, cover them with a shade. You can find magnetic skylight covers on Amazon – they’re very affordable and easy to use.

Important Related Questions

How Cold Should an RV AC Get?

Most people will stay pretty comfortable in an RV set at 73-75 degrees Fahrenheit. However, as discussed earlier, your AC unit is only able to cool your RV off to about 20 degrees lower than the outside temperature.

Can I Run My AC with Solar Power?

An RV air conditioner can run on a solar panel – as long as the panel is large enough. Your AC unit may require additional watts to start up. At least 3,500 watts is generally recommended for start-up and 1,800 watts for continuous running.

If you’re going to run your RV’s AC all day, you will need a continuous supply of power. Most RV systems will not get this with solar power and battery banks.

When Is the Best Time to Run My RV AC – During the Day or at Night?

There is no “best time” to run your RV’s AC. However, there is a more “effective” time to start running your AC, especially if you plan to let it run all day.

If you’re planning to run your AC continuously on a hot day, turn it on early in the morning – or even at night – is best. That way it can start cooling off your RV before the air inside gets too hot.

What Size of AC Do I Need for My RV?

The size of air conditioning unit you’ll need for an RV depends on the size of your rig.

If you want to get technical, use the following formula to determine what size AC unit you need for your RV:

  • RV A=V/.416
  • RV A is the RV air conditioner size (or btu)
  • V is the volume of the RV, which can be found by multiplying the RV’s length, width, and height

In other words, divide the RV’s volume (length x width x height) by .416

The two most common sizes of RV air conditioner units are 13,500 and 15,000 BTUs. Generally, an RV will require about 60-80 BTUs per square foot to stay cool.

In Layman’s terms, small motorhomes or campers will stay cool with smaller AC units, while bigger RV’s will require larger ACs. Some larger rigs are equipped with two AC units that can be used alternately to avoid unnecessary wear and tear.

Can I Run RV AC on Battery?

Running your RV AC requires a lot of power. Therefore, it is not recommended to run your RV’s AC unit on battery unless it’s a small unit that you only plan to run for a short time.

Another way you can run your camper’s AC on battery is by using a 4,000 watts DC-to-AC power converter. However, most RVs only have a maximum inverter of 2000 watts. Some high-end RVs that come with 2 or 3 air conditioning units, though, may already have a larger power inverter.

A woman standing outside of an open RV door with a mug in hand.
Can an RV AC Run All Day?

Final Thoughts in Running an RV AC All-day

It’s common to want to conserve energy by only running our AC units when inside our campers. However, running it all day – regardless if you’re inside or outside the rig – is actually better for both you and your AC. 

Your AC consumes a lot of energy upon starting. In addition, it will consume extra energy trying to cool off an already-hot rig. Turning it on and off multiple times a day also wastes extra energy.

Instead, start your AC at night or early in the morning. That way, your RV won’t have the chance to build up extra heat. Your air conditioning unit will use much less energy keeping the rig cool if it starts off at a cooler temperature.

Keep the tips we discussed earlier in mind, and remember to perform regular maintenance on your AC unit for maximum efficiency and a longer lifespan.

There are also many other things you need to keep in mind when planning to take your RV out on the road. For helpful checklists and planners, visit my Etsy store here.

If you want other RV tips and hacks, you can start here.

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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    1. I am afraid that it will not be safe to keep the air conditioner on continuously in my RV, the information you share helps me a lot. Now I can comfortably turn it on without worrying about anything happening.

      1. Hello. Not to worry about constant A/C use. Due to work, I, my husband & cat (who adopted us on the road), live full time 8yrs in our (now a) 2018 Cougar 5th wheel. Having the furball means the place can’t get over 80 (99* was once hit, windows open, fans on, but he was sprawled on the floor near his water, and camper took FOREVER to cool, once I turned A/Cs on) Much of this article is perfect info for an average vacationer. We gotta do what we gotta do! Currently, we’re are at a campground with NO SHADE. And gusty winds preventing awning or canopy use 90% of the time. Especially when husband is home, they run constantly. Like the Arctic. Our & A/C health is fine. Keep regular maintenance on units (we have 2 & alternate.) clean filters weekly. And hope to relocate to a place with trees (but then there can be issues with mold and critter damage) Life’s a gamble. Live it & enjoy!

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