How Many Batteries Do You Need To Run RV Air Conditioner (AC)?Anthony Day
This article may contain affiliate links where we earn a commission from qualifying purchases.
If you own an RV and camp in the warmer months then you have probably wondered at some point how many batteries you need to run your air conditioner.
Powering the air conditioner in your RV requires a lot of power and most people connect their RV to a power source or generator to run the air conditioner, however, you can run the air conditioner solely off of battery power.
For every hour that you want to run your RV air conditioner solely off of battery power, you will need 1-3 12 volt batteries to operate the air conditioner. You must calculate the number of ampere-hours that are needed to run your air conditioning unit and the power that your batteries hold.
Being aware of the battery requirements that are needed to run your RV air conditioning unit is important in order to have an enjoyable RV experience.
You can run your air conditioning unit based off of battery power alone, but you must know if your current battery system can support the air conditioner and what options you have available. The information in this guide has been reviewed over many years by RV industry professionals and provides you with proven and up to date information.
RV Battery Overview
If you own an RV, it is a good idea to have knowledge about the types of batteries that are in your RV. This will allow you to know how to properly maintain your RV and what can be powered within your RV off of battery power alone.
The Chassis battery in an RV is the battery that will start the RV engine. It is also referred to as the starter battery and uses large currents over short periods of time. The chassis battery is unable to perform deep cycle operations.
The 12-volt battery in your RV is also referred to as the house battery. Each RV is different, but some RVs will have more than one 12-volt battery. This type of battery is a deep cycle battery that is intended to power the appliances within your RV. The 12-volt battery is rated in amp hours or reserve capacity.
How Much Power Is Needed To Run an RV Air Conditioner?
Running an air conditioner in an RV does require quite a bit of power as does any air conditioning unit. It is possible to run the air conditioner in your RV solely off of battery power, but it can take some work and adjusting to get to that point.
If you plan to run the air conditioner for several hours or overnight on battery power alone then you will need a large battery and potentially an inverter to convert DC power to AC power. For every hour of usage of the RV air conditioner, you will need approximately 90-130 amp hours of battery energy.
This means that for every hour that you want to run your RV air conditioner solely off of battery power, you will need 1-3 12 volt batteries.
Air conditioning units will typically run at maximum power when they are turned on and then once they reach the temperature you have set them to then they will shut off. Therefore, the power needed is measured based off of the max power that the unit holds.
When the weather is warmer, the air conditioning unit will be on much more frequently. Instead of having a duty cycle of running 50% of the time, the unit may be running 70%-90% of the time which will increase the amount of power needed to run the air conditioner.
Measurement of Battery Energy
Energy that is produced by electricity is measured in watt-hours also known as Wh or amp-hours which are also known as Ah.
Watt-hours are calculated by multiplying watts by the time in hours. Amp-hours are calculated by multiplying amperage by the time in hours.
Therefore, if you need to find out the energy that is required by a certain appliance, you will need the wattage and the amount of time the appliance will run. You can then calculate the energy by the hour or what is needed over a long period of time.
Although you will need 12-volt batteries to run your air conditioning unit, you can determine exactly what you will need based on the chemistry of a battery. There are different types of 12-volt batteries available and each will put out different amounts of power.
It is important to under the battery’s depth of discharge or DoD. If you run your battery over the depth of discharge for a long period of time you can damage the battery and it will not work as efficiently. Some batteries can only run at 50% DoD and others can run at 80% DoD. If a battery has 100 Ah capacity and runs at 50% DoD then you will have 50Ah available for use.
Alternate Options to Run Air Conditioner in RV
If you have a powerful air conditioning unit in your RV and your batteries are struggling to power the unit without any additional power then you should consider other options in order to effectively run your RV air conditioning unit.
Some people will choose to have a solar power system hooked up in their RV. This can be a costly addition to your RV, but for those that hit the road frequently, it can be worthwhile. Once your RV is able to support solar panels then you can power any appliance in your RV including your air conditioning unit with solar power.
As with batteries, you would need to calculate how many solar panels are needed on your RV in order to power your air conditioning unit. Solar panels come in different sizes, which can produce certain amounts of power. This will all be dependent upon the size of your RV and how many solar panels can fit on your RV as well as how much you want to spend.
If you are looking for another option that does not require a power hookup at a campsite, then a generator can be a good option. There are different generator options and sizes available for your RV depending upon how big your RV is and how much power you want to have. However, you can plug your RV into the generator and have the ability to run your air conditioning unit overnight if you wish to do so without draining your RV batteries.
The best option to efficiently run your air conditioning unit is a power hookup. You may be able to run your air conditioning unit by battery power alone for a short amount of time, but if you do not have enough battery power it is going to be easiest to hook up to a power source especially if you want to run your air conditioning overnight.
If you are camping without a power hookup, then there are the other options such as a generator or solar panels in order to power your RV without being plugged into a power source.