How Many Watts Does A RV Air Conditioner Use

Most RVs are at least prepped for an air conditioner if they don’t already come with one. And since many of us like to camp in hot weather, an RV air conditioner is a necessity. So, how much power does an RV air conditioner use?

An RV air conditioner can use anywhere from 4-15 amps of power when running. On a hot day, your air conditioner will have to work harder and use more power. While this number can fluctuate, it generally translates to about 500-1500 watts of power.

How Many Watts Does A RV Air Conditioner Use

What Generator Size Is Needed To Power An RV AC?

You will need at least a 3000-watt generator to run an RV air conditioner.

If you have other appliances that you need to power, like a fridge or microwave, you will need something even bigger to accommodate the extra appliances.

You also have to remember that appliances use more power upon startup than they do when they’re running, so you need extra power from your generator to accommodate for this as well.

However, some RVs have more than one air conditioner, which requires an even larger generator. We have an RV with 50-amp service and 3 air conditioners, so we use an 8500-watt generator to power our unit, and it just barely does the trick.

You also have to ensure that your generator has the connections you need. Most generators have several 110-volt household outlets.

Some have USB ports or 220-volt outlets. For an RV, you want to make sure you get a generator with a 30-amp or 50-amp outlet so you can plug your RV directly into it without converting it.

How To Work Out The AC BTU Needed For Your RV

The BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement that determines the amount of heat that needs to be removed from a space in order to cool it down.

To calculate the BTU needed for your RV, you need to know the square footage of your RV.

Once you have this number, multiply it by 25 (this number varies depending on who you ask, but 25 is a good middle-of-the-road number). So, if your RV is 400 square feet, you would need 10,000 BTUs to adequately cool the space.

Again, this number will fluctuate depending on the outside temperature, how much sun your RV is getting, and whether or not you have any windows open.

But it’s a good starting point to give you an idea of how much power your RV air conditioner will use.

15000 BTUs is the most common size for RV air conditioners, so if you have a smaller RV, this should be more than sufficient.

If you have a larger RV, you may need two air conditioners or a larger one.

RV AC Wattage & BTU Guide

RV LengthNumber of SlidesRV SizeBTU RequiredRunning Wattage
15 feet0150 square feet3750 BTU480
15 feet1175 square feet4400 BTU480-600
15 feet2200 square feet5000 BTU600
20 feet1225 square feet5700 BTU600-720
20 feet2250 square feet6250 BTU720-840
20 feet4300 square feet7500 BTU840-960
25 feet2300 square feet7500 BTU840-960
25 feet4350 square feet8750 BTU960-1080
30 feet2350 square feet8750 BTU960-1080
30 feet4400 square feet10,000 BTU1200
35 feet2400 square feet10,000 BTU1200
35 feet4450 square feet11,250 BTU1320-1440
40 feet2450 square feet11,250 BTU1320-1440
40 feet4500 square feet12,500 BTU1440-1560
45 feet2500 square feet12,500 BTU1440-1560
45 feet4550 square feet13,750 BTU1560-1680

Do All RVs Come With AC?

No, not all RVs come with air conditioning. Some people prefer to camp in cooler weather or don’t think they need it, so they don’t have it installed.

However, most RVs are prepped for an air conditioner so you can add it later if you decide you want one.

If your RV doesn’t have an air conditioner, you can still use a portable air conditioner. These are great because you can take them with you in any vehicle and they don’t require any installation.

If you decide you do want to have an RV air conditioner installed, many RV dealerships or repair shops offer this service. It’s generally not too expensive or difficult to have it done.

It’s more complicated to have it connected to your existing thermostat, so when you have an aftermarket air conditioner installed, it usually can’t be controlled with a thermostat.

Instead, it will have a control panel directly on the unit.

Can You Install A Second Air Conditioning Unit In Your RV? 

Yes, you can install multiple air conditioners in your RV, as long as it’s prepped to handle them. Just keep in mind that for RVs that aren’t prepped to handle it, it will be more expensive.

You also need to be careful, because whether your RV is prepped for multiple air conditioners or not, they can put quite a strain on your electrical system, so don’t do it unless you absolutely need it.

It’s generally not necessary unless you have a very large RV or one that gets a lot of sun. For example, we have a 45-foot fifth wheel, and we have three air conditioners because we live in it full-time.

When it gets really hot during the summer months, not even 3 air conditioners can keep it cooler than about 75-80 degrees inside, even with the shades drawn.

What you may find when you have multiple air conditioners is that your electrical system still can’t handle everything that’s wired to it.

You have to keep track of everything you have plugged in and running. If all of our air conditioners are running at the same time, we need to make sure we’re not powering all of our electronic devices like TVs at the same time, and we have to make sure we don’t vacuum or do laundry.

This helps prevent excess strain on the system that could cause a lot of expensive damage.

Can You Run An RV AC Using Solar Panels?

Solar panels are a great way to power your RV, and they can be used to run your air conditioner.

However, you need to have enough solar panels to generate the amount of power you need, and this can be difficult to do if you’re constantly using your AC.

For example, if you have a 1000-watt AC unit, you would need at least 2000 watts of solar panels to generate enough power to run it continuously.

And, even then, you may not be able to run it during the hottest part of the day, when you need it the most.

It’s also important to remember that if your solar panels aren’t getting sun on a cloudy day, they won’t be able to bank enough power to run your AC at night.

So, if you’re planning to use solar panels to power your RV air conditioner, you need to have a backup plan for when the sun isn’t shining.

How Much Does It Cost To Run An RV AC Unit?

This, again, will depend on the size of your AC unit and how much you use it. However, as a general rule of thumb, you can expect to pay about $0.15 per hour to run a 15000 BTU RV air conditioner.

So, if you use your AC for 10 hours a day, it will cost you about $1.50 per day, or $45 per month, to run it. Of course, this will also depend on the price of electricity in your area.

Like I said before, we have 3 air conditioning units, 2 of which run continuously during the summer months.

The third only runs during the hottest parts of the day, for about 5-6 hours. Our electricity bill goes up about $200 in the summer.

Different Types of RV AC Units

types of RV AC

There are three main types of RV air conditioners. Each one has its own set of pros and cons, so it’s important to choose the right one for your needs.

1. Central AC Unit

Central AC units are the most expensive option, but they’re also the most powerful and energy-efficient. They work by cooling the entire RV at once, so you don’t have to worry about any hot spots.

These air conditioning units are ducted, which means the unit pushes air through ducts in your ceiling, much like a stick-built home would.

This allows your RV AC to cool every room, not just the room where it’s mounted.

2. Roof AC Unit

Roof AC units are the most popular type of RV air conditioner. They’re less expensive than central AC units, and they’re also pretty energy-efficient.

They work by cooling the air in the RV and then circulating it throughout the space.

One of the downsides to roof AC units is that they can cause hot spots in your RV. This is because the cool air falls from the ceiling where it’s mounted, so it’s not evenly distributed as if it were ducted.

If you have a large RV, you may want to consider a central AC unit or multiple roof units to avoid this issue.

3. Portable AC Unit

Portable AC units are the least expensive option, but they’re also the least energy-efficient. They work by cooling the air in one room and then circulating it throughout the space.

The main downside to portable AC units is that they’re not very powerful, so they may not be able to cool your entire RV.

If you have a small RV or you only need to cool one room, a portable AC unit may be a good option for you.

However, you also have to keep in mind that these units aren’t mounted anywhere, so they could take up valuable floor space.

Tips To Get The Best Use Out Your Camper AC

No matter what type of RV air conditioner you have, there are a few tips you can follow to get the best use out of it.

Your AC won’t have to work as hard if you can do other things to keep your RV cool.

  • Use awnings and other shading techniques to keep your RV cool.
  • Park in shady spots whenever possible.
  • Invest in an RV cover to keep your RV cool when it’s not in use.
  • Use fans to circulate the air and help your AC unit work less hard.
  • Don’t use your stove or oven during the hottest part of the day. This will heat up your RV and make it harder for your AC to keep it cool.
  • Avoid using high-wattage appliances during the daytime. Things like hair dryers and coffee makers can add a lot of heat to your RV.
  • Keep your windows and doors closed as much as possible. This will help keep the cool air in and the hot air out.
  • Use reflective window treatments to keep the sun from heating up your RV.
  • Run your AC unit in the morning or evening when it’s not as hot outside. This will help you avoid using as much electricity and will prolong the life of your AC unit.
  • Regularly clean your filters.
  • Get a programmable thermostat so you can set your AC to turn on and off at specific times. This will help you save electricity and money.


Will A 2500 Watt Generator Run An RV Air Conditioner?

No, a 2500-watt generator will not run an RV air conditioner. You need at least 3000 watts to do that.

In general, you need about 1000 watts for the AC unit itself, and another 1000 watts for other things like lights and TVs.

So, a 2500-watt generator will only be able to power your RV air conditioner for a short period of time, and it will put a strain on the generator.

You will quickly find that even if you only have 1 air conditioner in your RV, you’ll need at least 3000 watts, and it’s safer to assume about 3500 watts so you’ll have extra power to draw from if your RV starts pulling extra power.

Most appliances draw extra power upon startup and then start running more efficiently shortly after. Having extra power will prevent a power surge from damaging your generator or your RV’s electrical system.

It’s also important to remember that generators can be very loud, so if you’re planning to use one to power your RV air conditioner, make sure you’re not parked near any neighbors who might be bothered by the noise.

How Many Watts Does A 13500 BTU Air Conditioner Use?

A 13500 BTU air conditioner uses about 2750 watts for startup and then an average of about 1250 watts after that.

So, you would need at least a 3000-watt generator to run it if you’re using a generator. If you’re plugged into shore power, you should have enough power.

Madeline Cooper