RV camping is awesome because it allows you to get out into nature while still staying comfortable. No matter where you go, you’ll have your bed, a bathroom, and even a kitchen in tow. Not only that, you’ll also have a furnace for when it gets cold—and for those hot summer months that are just around the corner, an air conditioner. That’s what we’re going to be talking about today.
For the most part, using your RV air conditioner is pretty straightforward. Turn it on, adjust the thermostat if you have one, and let it do its thing. That said, there are some things you should know about RV air conditioners before you set out on your first summer camping trip. Knowing these things will help you keep your RV A/C in tip-top shape for years to come.
If you look at your air conditioner from the outside of the rig, the first thing you’ll see is not the A/C itself, but the plastic shroud that goes over it. Many people believe these shrouds are just for looks, but this isn’t the case at all. These covers actually do the very important job of keeping dirt and debris out of the A/C. Since a dirty air conditioner won’t work well, you definitely want your shroud to be in good shape.
The unfortunate thing is that because these A/C covers are plastic, the hot sun often causes them to become brittle. Once this happens, something as simple as camping in high winds or driving under low-hanging branches can break the shroud.
For this reason, we recommend visually inspecting your RV A/C cover at least a couple times a year to ensure it’s still doing its job well.
Care for the Coils
If you remove the A/C shroud, you’ll notice a set of metal coils on the air conditioner. These coils must be clean and straight in order to work effectively. Unfortunately, fine dust can sneak through the cover, creating a dirty coating on the coils. Additionally, the coils can very easily become bent out of shape.
To combat these problems and keep your A/C up and running, you will want to inspect the coils a couple of times a year. You can gently vacuum them, spray them clean with a spray bottle of water with a few drops of mild soap, and straighten the coils carefully with a fin comb when necessary.
Clean the Filter
If you head inside your RV and look up at the A/C unit, you’ll notice a removable plastic cover. Just inside this cover, at the air intake, is an air conditioner filter that can become quite dirty quite fast.
Obviously, if your filter is dirty enough to block airflow, the A/C unit won’t be able to function properly. It’s incredibly important that you clean or replace your air conditioner filter at least once every 6 months, and even more often if you use the A/C on a regular basis.
These filters can be washed in warm water with gentle soap a few times before they must be replaced by a new filter. If you can’t find a filter in the correct size when it does come time to replace it, you can purchase a larger filter and simply cut it to size.
Park in the Shade
RVs aren’t the most well insulated things in the world, and a small RV air conditioner has to work hard to lower the temperature even just 10 or 15 degrees. In fact, no RV A/C is made to lower the room temperature more than 16 degrees below the outside temperature.
With this in mind, it’s in your best interest to park in the shade if you can, where the temperature can be as much as 20 degrees lower than if the rig was parked in full sunlight. This will help keep your home-on-wheels as cool as possible without overworking your air conditioner.
Finally, it is very important that you ensure you have enough power before running your A/C.
An air conditioner compressor requires quite a lot of power as it kicks on (after which it drops off a bit), and attempting to go through this process while plugged into a 15- or 20-amp outlet will eventually hurt your compressor and can be a fire hazard. The same can be said of attempting to start two A/C units simultaneously when plugged into 30-amp electric.
Instead, the two units should be started at different times, so they aren’t both drawing the max amount of electricity at the same time.
If you often find yourself in situations that require you to run your air conditioner when plugged into 20 amps or when using a smaller generator, you might consider investing in a “soft start” upgrade that makes this power draw more gradual rather than letting it happen all at once.
About the author: Chelsea Gonzales
Chelsea has the amazing opportunity to take part in full-time RV living and traveling with her tiny tribe. She homeschools her five-year-old son as they travel, and takes full advantage of their unique situation by using the entire world as her son’s classroom. A group of total Disney fanatics, Chelsea and her family often find themselves in the Orlando area in order to visit the Disney parks, but they have also visited over 25 of the 50 states with plans to see many more along the way. No matter where her travels take her, Chelsea enjoys riding bikes, gazing at beautiful sunsets, finding new coffee shops, Irish dancing, and sitting around a campfire with her family.
You can join her adventures through her blog, Wonder Wherever We Wander.
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