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RVs are pretty expensive and can sometimes require fixtures that further drain your wallet. It is reasonable to wonder if the AC is going to be one of them.

Saving up for a camper can be quite a task, and the potential expense of adding air-conditioning can make prospective RV owners walk away from the idea of owning a camper. But before dismissing the idea or adjusting your budget, you should find out if additional air-conditioning is needed in the first place.

Camper trailers have air conditioning pre-installed when they're introduced to the market. The only way an RV doesn't have an AC is if its previous owner removed the pre-installed AC. While your camper is likely to have an AC, it will not work with the engine power and will need a generator.

As you can see, air-conditioning in an RV isn't as simple as cooling a mini-van. This article serves as a guide to camper ACs and covers different power sources, the pros, and cons of each, things to buy to avoid damaging your RV AC and the best way to decrease electricity costs when using a camper AC.

To understand how RV ACs differ from car ACs and home air conditioning, you should understand the hybrid nature of RV power. The front of the RV, which includes indicator controls, windshield wipers, etc., is powered by direct current. But the trailer almost entirely relies on alternating current. Let's start by exploring where the RV air conditioner fits.



Camper Trailers and Air-Conditioning: A Brief Overview

As you know by now, a camper trailer is very likely to have built-in air conditioning. However, unlike a car's AC, the RV AC has higher power demands. You cannot power the camper's AC with the RV engine's electric output. So, running the AC incurs extra power demands.

You should also consider the total power supply voltage to the RV. If your RV has a general voltage supply of 110V, then you should confirm whether your RV AC can run on a 110-volt battery. Generally, the supply capacity is not the issue, but the actual power can be, which is why you should be aware of the potential power sources of camper trailer ACs.

Camper Trailer AC: Primary and Secondary Power Sources


A generator is considered one of the primary power sources of the RV, and any generator with 120V electric output can easily power the AC and have enough supply for the rest of the trailer to function. The greatest feature of this power source is that it is highly portable and doesn't require a perpetual external hookup that needs the RV to be stationary.

You can drive the trailer around while using the RV AC. Its greatest drawback is that it requires fuel to run, and the fuel-to-electricity conversion almost always leads to more expensive electricity than the power grid.

This is because of the economy of scale as larger power generators can afford to generate electricity by means that result in a much cheaper per/watt rate. There is no way to offset this drawback, and using minimal electricity when powered by a generator is the best way to save money. Since RV ACs running wattage is 600 to 1500 watts, it has to be turned off if you want to save generator fuel.

Direct Hookup

As mentioned earlier, generator-powered electricity is more expensive than the electric grid. That makes a direct electric hookup far more budget-friendly. Common electric supply in American households ranges from 120V to 220V. The latter needs to be stepped down using a transformer, so your RV's electronic components don't get fired.

120V and 110V electric supply from a household connection or the RV park electric facility can be used to run the RV AC. A direct electric link shouldn't be confused with a direct current. The RV vehicle electronics, like light indicators, function on direct current while the trailer AC (airconditioner) uses AC (alternating current). This, too, is considered a primary power source.

Rockstone Power Step Up, and Down Transformer is an excellent device to have if you plan to connect your RV to the electric supply from your home. It can step down the voltage from 220 to 110, which makes the supply safe for AC operation.

Moreover, it comes with a 220V outlet as well in case you want to use it for other heavy-duty appliances around the house. The transformer can be attached superficially, so extensive electricity operation knowledge is not required. It also features a USB power output for easy smartphone charging.

The transformer has over 2,800 reviews and ratings, making it Amazon's choice of product for its respective category. Out of 5 stars, this product has a global average rating of 4.3 stars, with its ease of use being its best-rated feature, followed by its versatility.

While such transformers are crucial for campers in general, not all RV owners have to buy them. If your RV's voltage range is within your home's electric supply, you do not need a transformer. You need it only if your electric power is 220 V, the odds of which are pretty high, especially in coastal states.

Given that RVs can require getting hooked up to different power sources at various campgrounds as well as at friends' properties, it would be wiser to invest in a voltage tester. AstroAI Multimeter 2000 gives a pretty straightforward reading which is why it is preferred by novices and electricians alike. It has an average rating of 4.5 stars on a five-star scale from a total of over 27,000 reviews and ratings.

The greatest feature of an alternate current hookup is that it provides virtually unlimited and uninterrupted power. While you have to pay for the power, you don't have to be afraid of running out. Of course, there is a major drawback.

With a direct hookup, you sacrifice mobility. An RV that is using an external power supply cannot move. There's also the problem of voltage limits. With a single supply line, the total voltage of the RV might be reduced to whatever is available. And if the available voltage is 110V, then the other electronics in the trailer need to be turned off to run the AC.

AC-Specific Supply (UPS)

A secondary power supply can solve the problem of total voltage demand exceeding the total voltage supply. A UPS can be used to power the AC, while one of the primary power sources can run the other components. UPS stands for uninterrupted power supply and is usually a staple in computer setups where the electric supply is unreliable. It prevents sudden power interruption from immediately turning off a computer.

The UPS acts like a battery with automatic charging and supply usage. If appropriately added to the AC's power flow, it can charge up electricity when the RV is hooked up and is not being used by other appliances. After that, it can be used to power the AC. The obvious advantage of this method is that it provides the portability of using a generator while having the same cost-demand as household electricity.

Its drawback is that it is pretty difficult to set up and needs an expert to get involved. But the cost of one hour of a handyman's time is well worth what you'll save using your UPS for the AC instead of a generator. The generator use should be reserved for low-demand appliances.

CyberPower CP1500AVRLCD is an excellent UPS with 120V output compatible with camper ACs. It has a 900W output which is well within RV airconditioners' 600 to 1500 wattage requirements.

Final Thoughts

RV ACs are usually pre-installed, so when you get a camper, the only cost you need to worry about is the cost of electricity to power the AC. The best way to decrease electricity costs for AC usage is to charge a UPS with household electricity and use it instead of a petroleum-fuelled generator. The RV generator is best reserved for powering the lights and charging outlets.