How Long Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner?


Sometimes, you want to boondock or camp where there isn’t any available electricity. This has some people wondering how long can you run an RV air conditioner?

Here’s what I know from my RV:

You can run your RV air conditioner off your generator for as long as you have gasoline in your tank. Since generators use very little gas, many people will run their air conditioning all night without issue.

But there’s a lot more to know about running your RV air conditioner than that!

We boondocked at a Walmart parking lot just a week ago. In our case, we ran the heat since it was chilly. It was on all night (both of them). My tank had just been filled up before parking, and when I checked the gauge in the morning, I couldn’t even tell if it had moved.

That’s how good the generator is at fuel efficiency (and the fridge was powered off of it too).

But we’ll explain how it works, and how you’ll know how long you can run yours. Just keep reading!

Can I run my RV AC all night?

Yes. You can run your RV air conditioner all night either from a generator or if you are connected to a 50 amp hookup where you are parked. And most generators can run your AC all night using very little gasoline.

But if you have a roof air conditioner, which you probably do, you may find yourself surprised at how inefficient it is.

Roof air conditioners can only cool the ambient temperature inside about 20 degrees, even if it’s working perfectly. So if you’re in a really hot area, you’re going to want your air conditioning to function at optimal levels.

There are a few things you can do to optimize your RV air conditioner’s performance.

  1. Make sure your filters are clean and unobstructed. They can be blown out with an air compressor. Or they can be washed gently with lukewarm water and a mild detergent. Rinse well and let dry overnight.
  2. Make sure the air return is clear as well.
  3. Make sure condenser coils are not obstructed or pinched. This ensures the fan will blow hot air to the outside.
  4. Make sure you have at least 115 volts of AC power going to the unit. The unit will still operate at a lower voltage, but not at maximum capacity.
  5. Keep the windows shut, and the blinds closed during the day. This keeps as much cool air in as possible. It also keeps the heat out.
  6. Finally, and probably the easiest thing to do, park in the shade. Getting out of the sun means your unit won’t have to work as hard. It also means your rig will get cooler.

In short, if you want to run your RV air conditioner all night, make sure it’s maintained properly and that you park in the shade.

That will allow the air conditioner to work hard without working harder than it has to.

Can you run an RV AC on the battery?

No. Most RVs will not be able run an air conditioner off battery power. While many RVs do have more than 1 battery, it is not typically enough power to operate an air conditioning unit, and many RVs have 2 or more AC units.

Air conditioning requires a lot of electricity just to get started. It also involves a lot of electricity to keep running for just an hour.

Most newer RVs come equipped with a 15,000 BTU air conditioning unit. These units need a minimum of 3,500 watts to get the unit started. Then, it takes about 1,500 watts to keep it running.

Most RVs don’t come with an inverter. And the ones that do come with an inverter that ranges from 1,000 watts to 2,000 watts.

This is not enough juice to convert your battery power to usable AC electricity. You will need at least a 4,000-watt DC-to-AC power inverter.

Only the higher-end, larger fifth-wheel trailers, Class A motorhomes, and higher-end Class B vans come equipped with power inverters.

And most of those come with two or three air conditioning units. This means you will need a power inverter as high as 7,000 watts to start and run the air conditioning.

If you want to run your air conditioning off battery power, you would need three 100 AH (amp-hour) Lithium Ion-Phosphate batteries, about 1,500 watts of solar panels, and a 7,000-watt power inverter.

This would run two 15,000 BTU air conditioning units for about an hour. To get 8 hours of running time, you will need about eight lithium batteries. That’s 240 pounds of batteries alone.

You will also need solar panels to recharge the batteries.

With batteries, solar panels, and other miscellaneous parts, you’re looking at spending upwards of $12,000 just to run two air conditioning units for only 8 hours per day.

Can I run my RV air conditioner on 110?

Technically, 110v is enough to power an RV air conditioner. However, most are hardwired into the RV and not easily just plugged into a 110v outlet. Most RVs are designed to be connected to 50 amp, or 30 amp connectors supplied by the campground.

But there are a few things you need to be aware of when using 110.

Firstly, you should be aware of how RV electricity works. Typically, homes run on AC, and vehicles run on DC type of current. Luckily, most RVs come with both DC and a system to hook up AC, such as when you are plugging into a home outlet.

A typical household electrical socket is 15 amps. This means you’ll need a 30 amp adapter like this one on Amazon, so you can get the full 30 amps needed to run your air conditioning.

If your RV AC does have an accessible cord, then it would be best if you also used a heavy-duty extension cord to plug into the 110v outlet. Using the wrong kind of cord could not only be a fire hazard, but it won’t pull the amperage you need.

Secondly, run the A/C on the lowest setting.

On average, roof air conditioners pull 12-16 amps. Then when it kicks in, it will draw up to 7 times the number of amps than it does while it’s just running. It needs to be on the lowest setting so that the A/C kicking surge doesn’t risk damage to your RV or the home.

Finally, the only thing running should be the air conditioner. Don’t run anything else in the RV while the air conditioning is running on a home outlet.

How much gas does an RV air conditioner use?

You can run the AC in your RV on a generator for 8 hours and not likely use more than 2 gallons of gas. And diesel-operated generators burn even less fuel than unleaded gas.

If you are camping off-grid or don’t want to run your air conditioner off of electricity, you can use a portable generator. Portable generators are great because you can run more than just the air conditioning, unlike using a 110 outlet.

The three most common types of generators are diesel, LP, and gasoline.

Of course, the more load you have, the more fuel you will use. So if you just want to run the air conditioning, you won’t burn as much fuel as if you were running the refrigerator, coffee maker, and TV at the same time.

When considering an RV, there are a few factors to consider.

Diesel operated generators burn cleaner than gasoline or propane. And both diesel or unleaded generators in an RV will typically use the same gas tank as the motor.

When properly cared for, you can get 1,000 or more hours out of both propane and diesel before they need to be overhauled.

You may also want to consider flammability. Gasoline and propane are highly flammable, while diesel is the least flammable.

Noise levels are also something to consider. Propane generators are usually the least noisy, whereas diesel generators are the noisiest.

But I can attest, that with the generator on and the windows closed, the generator noise is pretty minimal on any somewhat modern RV.

Can you run an RV air conditioner while driving?

Yes. You can use both the dash air conditioner as well as the rooftop air conditioner while driving. The dash air conditioning can always be running as long as the engine is on. The rooftop air conditioner will require the generator to be on to provide its power.

In fact, it may be a good thing to run your air conditioning while you are driving.

Just like any motor-driven thing, if your generator isn’t used frequently enough, it will fail to work or need repairs more frequently.

For my family, the generator is almost always on except when we are parked at a campsite and connected to hookups. That’s because my daughters not only like to watch TV while I’m driving but more importantly because the fridge is powered by the generator unless we’re connected.

Oftentimes, people underutilize their generators because campsites provide electricity. So using it while driving can increase the usage to help keep it in good working order.

Did I answer everything you wanted to know about how long you can run your RV air conditioner?

You can run your RV air conditioner for long periods, including all night when using electricity or your generator.

If you really want to run your RV air conditioner on battery power, it’s going to require quite an extensive set up with Lithium-Ion Phosphate batteries, solar panels, and a power inverter.

It is possible to run the air conditioning on a 110 outlet. Just be careful and follow proper procedures. Generators are necessary if you want to camp in hot areas and want to use the air conditioning.

In order to keep your generator in good working order, consider running it while you are driving.

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Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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