Can You Put Freon in an RV Air Conditioner?

RV air conditioners are expensive to repair or replace. Over time, you may notice that your RV air conditioning system becomes less efficient and does not cool you down like it used to. But can you put Freon in an RV air conditioner?

It is possible to put Freon in an RV air conditioner by welding a charging port into the air conditioning system. This is a highly skilled job, and it can be expensive. So if an RV AC system is leaking and requires frequent refilling, repairing or replacing the unit is a better long-term solution.

The ease and cost of this procedure depend on your type of air conditioning unit and where the unit is located in your RV.

Freon is a refrigerant that your AC unit uses to cool down your RV.

Over time, the levels of refrigerant in your RV can drop. Let’s have a look at how you can recharge your RV air conditioner, how to know when your AC is low on Freon, and how to improve the performance of your current AC unit.

rv ac freon lg

Can RV air conditioners be recharged?

You can recharge your RV air conditioner with refrigerant; however, it is not as easy as recharging a normal portable AC unit you may have at home. Some RV air conditioners have to be recharged more frequently than others. A well-maintained air conditioner won’t need recharging as frequently.

Some RV air conditioners are easy to recharge, some are difficult, and some are almost impossible unless you’re an expert. It all depends on the type of air conditioner you have and where it is located in your RV. Let’s have a look at how you can recharge your RV refrigerant.

Firstly, make sure you have the right refrigerant – you can check this by using the owner’s manual of your RV. Then turn off the power for safety reasons.

After turning the breaker off, begin dismantling your AC.

RV AC units are hard to open, unlike home AC units. That’s because they are not designed to be opened. You will have to look at your owner’s manual for the AC or check on YouTube. Another great way to get tips for your specific AC unit is to check on forums with people that own the same AC unit as you.

Once you’re in, check the current levels of refrigerant. 

Most RV AC units don’t have a specific place where you can check the levels of refrigerant. Therefore, you may have to buy a line tap, to which you attack your refrigerant gauge to check.

After that, check your AC user manual to find out how much refrigerant your AC unit should hold. Then add your refrigerant by unscrewing the refrigerant port (sometimes called coolant port) and slowly adding the refrigerant until you have reached the levels stated in the user manual.

Finally, reassemble the unit, go back inside your RV, and run the AC to test it.

How to Recharge Your RV’s Air Conditioner With Freon

1. What Kind of Freon to Buy

When selecting Freon for your RV air conditioner, opt for R-410A, commonly used in newer RV AC units. Unlike its predecessor R-22, R-410A is environmentally friendlier and offers better cooling efficiency. Always check your RV AC’s specifications or consult the manufacturer to ensure compatibility. Purchasing the right Freon ensures optimal performance and longevity for your unit.

2. Turn Off Power

Before working on your RV air conditioner, safety first! Locate the RV’s main breaker panel and switch off the breaker labeled for the AC unit. If unsure, turn off the main breaker to cut power to the entire RV. Always double-check by trying to turn the AC on from its control panel to ensure it’s powered down.

This step ensures a safe environment while recharging.

3. Open Your Air Conditioner

To access your RV’s rooftop air conditioner, first, ensure you have a stable ladder or platform. Once on the roof, locate the AC unit’s shroud or outer cover. Typically, there are screws around the base of this cover. Using a screwdriver or drill, remove these screws and carefully lift off the shroud. This will expose the internal components, allowing you to proceed with maintenance or recharging tasks.

Always handle with care to avoid damage.

4. Check the Current Freon Levels

To check the freon in your RV’s rooftop air conditioner, you’ll need a set of AC gauges.

Connect the gauges to the service ports: the low side (blue) to the larger tube and the high side (red) to the smaller one. Read the pressures. If they’re lower than the recommended range for your specific model, it indicates a potential freon shortage.

Always refer to your AC’s manual for precise pressure levels and safety precautions.

5. Add the Freon

To add freon to your RV’s rooftop air conditioner, first, connect the freon canister to the service hose of your AC gauge set. Open the valve on the canister and release freon into the system via the low-side port. Monitor the gauge readings to ensure you don’t overcharge. Add freon slowly, allowing the compressor to pull in the refrigerant. Once you reach the desired pressure, close the canister valve, disconnect the hose, and cap the service port. Always wear safety gloves and goggles.

6. Re-assemble the AC unit

7. Restore Power

What Is Freon?

Freon is a brand name that has become synonymous with refrigerants used in air conditioning systems, including those in RVs. It’s a chlorofluorocarbon (CFC), hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), or hydrofluorocarbon (HFC) compound, which are chemicals that can efficiently absorb and release heat, making them ideal for cooling processes.

Historically, the most common type of Freon used in RV air conditioners was R-22, an HCFC.

However, due to environmental concerns, particularly its potential to deplete the ozone layer, the production of R-22 has been phased out in favor of more eco-friendly alternatives. Today, many RV air conditioners use R-410A, an HFC, which doesn’t have the ozone-depleting properties of its predecessor.

It’s essential to know which type of refrigerant your RV AC unit uses because mixing different types can lead to system damage. The type is typically labeled on the unit itself or found in the owner’s manual.

Freon, in its liquid form, absorbs heat from the surrounding environment, turning it into gas. As it circulates through the AC system, it releases the absorbed heat and reverts back to its liquid state, ready to start the process again. This cycle of evaporation and condensation is what cools the air blown into your RV.

While Freon itself is non-toxic and non-flammable, it can become harmful if exposed to open flames, producing toxic gases. It’s also crucial to handle it with care, ensuring no leaks, as it can contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. Proper maintenance and regular checks of your RV’s AC system can prevent such issues and ensure efficient cooling during your travels.

How Do You Know If Your Air Conditioner Is Low on Freon?

You can check if your RV AC is low on Freon by opening the AC, attaching a line tap to a refrigerant gauge, and then checking the reading and comparing it to what the AC user manual says it should be.

Some signs your RV AC is low on Freon include the AC taking a long time to cool down your RV, the vents inside your AC are not blowing cold air as fast as they used to, and your AC is using more energy.

When there is not enough refrigerant in your RV AC unit, the performance decreases. This means your RV has to use more energy to cool you down, as an RV AC with less refrigerant is less efficient than one with sufficient levels.

The biggest giveaway of low Freon levels is that the RV doesn’t cool down as much as it used to, or it takes a longer time for the RV to cool down.

Let’s have a look at some other problems with RV AC units and how to improve the performance of your AC. Not all RV AC units run on Freon. Some brands run on other refrigerants.

But if you have to replace your AC unit, is one brand better than another?

If you want to learn more about the best RV AC brands, check out this recent article on my site, where I explain what the most high-performance and efficient RV AC units are.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Other ways you might notice your RV’s AC unit is low on freon:

1. Use a Freon Gauge

To check the Freon level in an RV’s rooftop air conditioner, using a Freon gauge is essential. Attach the gauge to the unit’s low-pressure service port. A reading within the unit’s specified range indicates an adequate Freon level.

However, a low reading suggests the system might be undercharged and may require a top-up. Always refer to the RV AC’s manual for specific pressure ranges and ensure the system is off before attaching the gauge.

2. You Notice Low Airflow

Low airflow from your RV’s vents can be a telltale sign that the AC unit might be low on Freon.

When the refrigerant level drops, the system struggles to produce and circulate cool air effectively. This reduced efficiency manifests as weak or diminished airflow. If you observe this, it’s a good idea to check the Freon levels and inspect for potential leaks or blockages in the system.

3. You Feel Warm Airflow

Feeling warm air from your RV’s vents, especially when the AC is set to cool, can indicate a potential Freon shortage. Insufficient Freon hampers the system’s ability to cool the air effectively. If the air isn’t as cold as it should be or feels lukewarm, it’s advisable to check the Freon levels and ensure the system is operating optimally.

4. You See Ice Buildup

Ice buildup on your RV’s AC unit is a telltale sign of potential Freon issues.

When Freon levels drop, the cooling system can become imbalanced, causing condensation to freeze on the coils. Regularly inspecting the unit for ice or frost can help detect low Freon levels early, preventing further complications and ensuring efficient cooling performance.

5. It Takes Longer to Get Cold (or doesn’t)

If your RV’s AC unit takes an unusually long time to cool down or fails to cool altogether, it could indicate low Freon levels. Freon is essential for the cooling process, and when it’s insufficient, the system struggles to achieve the desired temperature.

Monitoring the time it takes for your AC to reach optimal coolness can help identify potential Freon deficiencies and ensure consistent comfort during your travels.

How Much Freon Does Your RV Air Conditioner Need?

RV AC units require 2-4 lbs of refrigerant per ton of power. So, if you have a small unit with 2 tons of power, you will need at least 4 lbs of refrigerant. If you have a unit with 4 tons of power, you will need about 8 lbs of refrigerant.

The only way to be certain of how much Freon your RV AC needs is to consult your owner’s manual and then check the refrigerant levels in your AC unit using the method we discussed previously.

Troubleshooting Your RV AC Before Adding Freon

Check the Filter(s)

Inspecting the filter(s) in your RV’s AC unit is a crucial troubleshooting step.

A clogged or dirty filter restricts airflow, reducing the system’s efficiency and cooling capability. Regularly checking and cleaning or replacing filters ensures optimal performance and can prevent unnecessary strain on the unit. A well-maintained filter can often resolve cooling issues without resorting to adding Freon.

Is It Freezing Up?

If your RV’s AC unit is freezing up, it’s a clear sign of an issue.

This can result from restricted airflow, low refrigerant levels, or malfunctioning components. Ensure filters are clean and vents aren’t obstructed. A frozen unit can’t cool efficiently and may lead to more significant problems. Before considering adding Freon, address and resolve any freezing issues.

Are There Air leaks?

Air leaks in your RV’s AC unit can significantly reduce its cooling efficiency.

It’s essential to inspect the unit for any gaps or cracks that might allow cool air to escape or warm air to enter. Sealing these leaks with appropriate materials ensures the AC operates at peak performance, conserving energy and maintaining desired temperatures.

Before adding Freon, always check for potential air leaks.

Should You Defrost Your RV’s Air Conditioner?

Defrosting your RV’s air conditioner might not be the first maintenance task that comes to mind, but it’s an essential one.

Over time, AC units can accumulate ice due to various reasons, including low refrigerant levels, restricted airflow, or continuously running the system in cold temperatures. This ice buildup can hinder the unit’s efficiency, making it work harder and consume more energy.

When you notice reduced cooling or see visible ice on the coils or vents, it’s a clear indication that defrosting is needed. Ignoring this can lead to more significant issues, such as damage to the unit’s components or even a complete system breakdown. Moreover, a frozen AC unit can’t effectively dehumidify the air, leading to increased moisture inside your RV, which can cause mold or mildew growth.

To defrost the unit, simply turn it off and allow the accumulated ice to melt naturally.

Avoid using any sharp objects to speed up the process, as this can damage the coils. Ensure proper drainage for the melted ice to prevent water damage inside your RV. Once defrosted, inspect the unit for any underlying issues that might have caused the freezing in the first place.

It might be a good idea to consult with an RV AC specialist if the problem persists.

Final Thoughts

Most RV air conditioners can be recharged with refrigerant. However, recharging an RV AC is not as easy as recharging a household AC unit. To recharge your RV AC, you have to use the correct refrigerant and recharging kit.

The main giveaway that your AC is low on refrigerant is that the performance of your AC decreases. To make your RV AC colder, check the refrigerant levels, clean your filter, ensure there are no air leaks, park in the shade, and keep windows closed when the AC is running.

Most of the time, campgrounds have at least 30-amp service, if not 50-amp. But what happens if they only have a standard 15 or 20 amp household outlet and breaker?

Check out this recent article on my site about RV campground power pedestals and what the minimum requirements would be for powering an AC unit.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I make my RV air conditioner colder?

To make your RV air conditioner colder, you should ensure it is well-maintained. Clean the filter of the AC, ensure there are no air leaks, tidy up and replace old and damaged wires, clean the part of the AC unit that is outside the RV, and check if there is no rust, dust, or debris in the unit.

If the filter of your AC unit is covered in dust, it can cause electrical problems, and reduce airflow, so your AC won’t cool you down as fast. Also, dust in the filter can cause respiratory problems and worsen asthma symptoms.

Make sure your AC is not leaking air. 

Again, if there is air leaking, you are wasting energy. You need to check the ducts and vents of the AC. If you notice there are holes anywhere, or if things are not fitted tightly together, you can simply turn off the power, screw things back together, and cover holes with a strong, high-quality duct tape.

If you have had your RV AC for a few years, you should check that the wiring is in good condition. Wires that are worn out or that are damaged from accidents won’t be able to carry the power to the unit, as well as new wires in optimum condition.

To make your RV air conditioner colder, you should also get on top of your RV, open the cover, and remove dust, debris, and leaves from the air conditioner. These all reduce airflow, making the AC less efficient.

You can also park in the shade, make sure all windows are closed, and close the curtains to make sure no heat comes into your RV while your AC is on.

As a final point, make sure to be careful running your AC if you aren’t connected to shore power. 

Check out this recent article on my site where I talk about how long you can run your RV AC off batteries or a generator.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Do they sell an RV air conditioner recharge kit?

You can buy an RV air conditioner recharge kit online. It is important to select the right refrigerant for you and make sure the kit is easy to use.

RV air conditioner units can have hard-to-reach charging ports, so selecting a refrigerant recharge kit that has a long hose is essential.

My favorite kit is the AC Pro Car Air Conditioner refrigerant kit. It has everything you need – a long hose, a great trigger, a reusable dispenser, and even a built-in pressure gauge.

It’s the real deal in a simple package, and like most things, you can buy it today on Amazon.

Image by Siggy Nowak from Pixabay

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