One of the biggest issues when it comes to air conditioners (AC) in RVs is the amount of power, they require in order to function properly thus resulting in a need for shore power in the form of an inverter or generator, depending on whether it uses batteries. In order to avoid this and save some energy, switching to a 12V air conditioner is a great option and this article will give you all the information’s and outs of 12V RV air conditioners. So, let’s start!
Why It Is Good To Have a 12V RV Air Conditioner?
The main issue with 120V AC units is the fact that your RV (recreational vehicle) battery produces 12V DC energy which is incompatible with the 120V AC that is required by your air conditioner. And if you decide to power your AC unit this way, you will most likely use up more energy and even produce heat, which could nullify the use of the air conditioner, due to the fact that you need an inverter that converts the 12V DC into 120V AC.
Another option, which might interfere with your sleeping schedule due to the excess noise, is to get your hands on a generator that could power the air conditioner. Even though it is a good idea to have one, the noise might just prove to be too big of an issue.
Unlike the 120V AC, the 12V DC one is efficient, energy-saving, and still gets the job done. Firstly, there is no need for an energy inverter since this air conditioner is compatible with the current created by your RV battery. Secondly, since it doesn’t require an inverter, you will not lose any energy in the conversion.
Also, be sure to read How To Clean RV Air Conditioner Filter? (5 Easy Steps).
Benefits of 12V Battery-Operated Air Conditioner
Running a 120V air conditioner without a generator or solar panels is a problem if you decide to turn off your RV engine or the generator itself. However, using a generator to power an RV has another drawback, due to it being so loud, you will upset your neighbors if you decide to spend the night on a campground. On the other hand, a 12V battery-operated AC unit is silent and more energy-efficient, and you can leave it running even after you turn off the engine, which guarantees a cool and comfortable temperature once you return.
Drawbacks Of 12V Air Conditioners In RVs
Of course, even 12V DC air conditioners have some drawbacks. For example, you will need more powerful batteries with more battery capacity. This might prove costly since you will have to switch to lithium batteries. Furthermore, for the air conditioner to draw sufficient energy, you will need bigger wires and special electronics that can endure the higher currents. This is also the reason why 12V isn’t used in homes.
One of the biggest setbacks is the prolonged charging of your batteries when the air conditioner is running. This is why we recommend using 12V air conditioners in smaller RVs in which the air conditioner isn’t going to be working as much. In that case, an inverter charger or high current converter is a must-have in order to power your air conditioner. In order to cool a larger RV, you will need higher voltage units.
Can You Purchase a 12V RV Air Conditioner?
The idea for 12V air conditioners is not yet mainstream from the 24V AC used by truckers to keep their trucks cool at night without leaving the engine running. The 24V systems were remade into 12V in order to fit the needs of campers. The companies that currently produce these devices are: Indel B, Nomadic Cooling, Rigid, and Dometic. They are trying to raise the popularity of 12V air conditioners by referring to the many useful traits possessed by these devices.
The options for 12V air conditioners are numerous, depending on your budget. A more economically friendly air conditioner is the 12V RV swamp cooler, which is cheaper than the standard battery-powered air conditioner. This unit produces around 12,000 BTU. The more powerful option is not as budget-friendly as the swamp cooler, so be sure to choose according to your budget.
What Is a Swamp Cooler?
A swamp cooler (known as an evaporative cooler) blows hot and dry air through a cooling pad. Keep in mind that a swamp cooler is most useful for areas that lack humidity, in other words for dry and hot areas. A moisturized pad is used through which hot air circulates. Through this process, the water turns into steam which slowly cools down the interior of your vehicle. These types of cooling devices also run on 12V power.
Difference Between Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioner
The most important difference between a swamp cooler and an air conditioner for most people is the price difference; the swamp cooler is undeniably cheaper. Not only this, but since it uses far less energy, it will also save you some money.
On the other hand, an air conditioner is much more efficient when it comes to lowering the temperature of your RV. Furthermore, an air conditioner works with the help of chemicals, while the swamp cooler requires a reservoir filled with water in order for the system to function properly.
Best 12V RV Air Conditioners
To help you choose the best option we will go through four of the best 12V air conditioner for your RV which function by using a compressor.
1. Dometic RTX 2000
The Dometic RTX 2000 is one of the air conditioners which was designed for truck drivers, as previously mentioned. It is still new on the market, but most importantly, it runs on 12V, and hopefully, in the near future we will see an even better model produced by one of the more well-known manufacturers.
The first thing to talk about is obviously the price. The cost of this device’s 12V air conditioner is around $2,700. The air conditioner is very efficient since it has more working modes such as turbo cooling and ECO mode. The ECO mode is much more practical since it uses only 19 amps in 12 hours of operating time when it comes to power consumption. The turbo cooling mode is used when you want to cool down your vehicle quickly. The power consumption rises rapidly in this model. The design is also very modern and eye-pleasing.
For those of you who are seriously considering this device check out the link with installation instructions: Dometic RTX 2000 Installation Video!
2. Nomadic Cooling 2000 12V RV AC
There are actually two models to consider when it comes to the Nomadic Cooling brand. Also, they are one of the first manufacturers that created 12V air conditioners. This model runs with a 75 Amp compressor, and it also comes with an ECO operating mode which uses between 35 and 40 amps.
Furthermore, the cooling capacity of this device is 9830 BTU. On the other hand, the stronger model, Nomadic Cooling 3000 12V has a cooling capacity of 11,830 BTU and it uses 100 amps. Another interesting fact is that the noise created by this device is under 60dBA, and it doesn’t produce vibrations.
The two mentioned air conditioners produced by Nomadic Cooling are far stronger than the Dometic RTX 2000, and their price matches this. The price of the Nomadic Cooling 2000 is in the range of $3800, while the 3000 model will cost you $4290. Fortunately, this includes all parts you need to install the air conditioner properly and if you want to spend another $750, you could have it installed professionally by the Nomadic Cooling team.
3. Sleeping Well 12V Air Conditioners
Sleeping Well is an Italian company that offers also 12V AC units for RVs. Just as the previously mentioned options, these air conditioners also come with a Turbo and an ECO mode, and they run on a 12V Direct Current Secop compressor. There are three options from which you can choose that are produced by Indel B. They are all incredibly noiseless and feature cooling capacities of 3250 BTU.
The only issue that arises is the lack of these air conditioners in the USA, mainly because they are produced in Europe, and if you would like to get your hands on one of these, you would need to order it from Europe.
4. Rigid 12V Cooling System
The Rigid 12V AC unit is the cheapest of all the options on this list. You can get it for only $770, and it is a great solution for smaller RVs or single room cooling. It comes with a capillary mini rotary compressor, evaporator, driver board, and condenser. The cooling capacity is also not as good as the other options, with a capacity of 1535 BTU and a maximum input of 150W.
12V RV Air Coolers (Swamp Cooler or Evaporative)
As we’ve previously mentioned, swamp coolers are an amazing option if you often travel through dry areas. Below we will list some of the best RV swamp coolers on the market.
Turbokool 2B-0001 12V Evaporative Swamp Air Cooler
The Turbokool 2B-0001 has the ability to cool the air by 30 degrees while drawing only 4.6 amps. It is meant to be mounted on the roof of your RV, more precisely, you should connect it to a 14” x 14” roof vent. In the off case that this is not possible, you could install it instead of your regular air conditioner by getting your hands on a vent frame.
If you are really interested in this swamp cooler, check out the video below to witness firsthand how it operates. Your wallet will be thankful if you indeed do decide to buy this swamp cooler since it costs only $600. The only downside is that as the humidity rises, the effectiveness of this device declines. For example, if the relative humidity goes above 75%, the overall effect will be diminished rapidly.
MightyKool Swamp Cooler
The MightyKool Swamp Cooler is a 12V swamp cooler. Before buying this product, you have to keep in mind that it is a swamp cooler, not an air conditioner! The manufacturer also insists on you knowing this fact before deciding to acquire this device.
Just like all other swamp coolers, in order for this device to function at its best, dry climates are required. Unlike other similar devices, instead of using ice to cool, it uses water and blows out air at a speed of around 25 mph. It comes with two air vents, and it is perfect for small, enclosed areas.
Are 12V RV Air Conditioners The Future?
Even though 12V RV air conditioners are not as popular or widespread as the standard 120V ones, they are becoming increasingly popular due to their effectiveness and energy efficiency. Even though they will most definitely save you some money, they can be quite expensive to acquire. Most importantly, you should choose what suits you best and definitely do think about 12V RV air conditioners if you enjoy activities such as boondocking.
For those RV owners, we also recommend you to read RV Air Conditioner Repair and Troubleshooting Guide.
12V RV air conditioners are amazing options, especially if you care about energy usage and enjoy activities such as off-grid boondocking. Some of the most popular companies such as the Nomadic Cooling Co. are pioneers in this field and they are certainly making an impact with their AC units which can offer much higher efficiency than the more standard 120V units. If you enjoy energy-efficient devices and a cool van, be sure to check out these cool air conditioners!