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Everything You Need To Know About Your RV’s A/C Unit!

Everything You Need To Know About Your RV’s A/C Unit!

Your RV is your home away from home, either full time, on the weekends or seasonally. Knowing about every aspect of your trailer is valuable information to have in case you run into any problems when you are on the road.  With a hot, humid summer in full swing we thought that this would be the ideal time to fill you in with all the facts and some helpful tips about your RV’s A/C unit.

There are two possible types of A/C units available for travel trailers or motorhomes  - rooftop and “basement”. Most RV’s will have a rooftop unit but “basement” units are sometimes seen in park model trailers.  RV air conditioning units come in two standard capacities: 13.5K BTU and 15K BTU. BTU’s (British Thermal Units) measure the quantity of heat that an air conditioning unit can remove from a room per hour. The size of your travel trailer will factor greatly into which unit you choose.  15K BTU versions are usually used in long RVs that only have a single AC unit. You will also need to factor in just how cool you want your rig to be, if you are travelling to particularly hot locations or if your current unit just isn’t throwing enough power.

Rooftop units also come in various height profiles (medium, low and ultra-low).  If you need to replace your RV’s rooftop A/C unit at some point, you will need to consider the clearance that large class A motorhomes or tall fifth wheels require when they are on the road.  It might also come down to whether or not you are able to get under low bridges or even in to your own garage.

The profile of your unit can also come into consideration in regards to costs incurred.  A smaller profile A/C unit is typically less expensive than the larger ones but, when it comes to fuel efficiency, the smaller unit will win hands down.  Even still, having a larger profile rooftop unit will create more drag when hauling your trailer, thus using more fuel. The smaller RV A/C units may not have the same power as their larger peers, but they’ll often make up for it in terms of discounted price and cost in the long run. It would be wise to sit down, crunch some numbers and consider all of your needs if you are in the market for a new A/C unit.

Now that you know about the types of A/C units, let’s talk about the components involved with your system.  The complete installation will require a rooftop unit, which we just covered, and an inside ceiling assembly. You have two choices when it comes to ceiling assemblies: Ducted and Non-Ducted. Ducted units carry cold air along the ceiling to multiple vents in the motorhome or travel trailer, much like the ducts in your home would. Ducted units will require an external wall thermostat to control the temperature. Non-Ducted units have the controls mounted into the ceiling assembly. Optional Heat Strips are also available, which are heating elements that allow you to use the air conditioner as a heating appliance during shoulder seasons.

For Ducted systems, wall thermostats are available for single and dual air conditioner unit configurations. You can choose cool only, or be able to control both the air conditioning and furnaces in your RV unit.  Manual and digital configurations are also available.

Now that you’ve chosen the right type of air conditioning unit for your travel trailer, it is time to install it. This is a pretty simple task and most manufacturers will have included step-by-step instructions on how to do it. All rigs have a standard 14” X 14” ceiling vent for A/C units to be installed to. Installation should be fairly straightforward, provided you have 110V power pre-installed at the roof opening by the manufacturer and low voltage wiring down to the thermostat. Ducting configuration should also be standard to fit any ducted ceiling assembly.

If your air conditioning unit isn’t performing like it should, it is time to do some troubleshooting. When was the last time that you cleaned the filters? Depending on how often you are using your rig’s unit, you should be cleaning your A/C air filters every 2-4 weeks. Dirty filters reduce air flow and cause the A/C to work harder, costing you more in electricity and shortening the life of the unit.  Condenser fins and coils can also become bent, dirty or damaged but the repair of these components is better left to a pro.

Another area to check is the pan that collects water as a result of condensation. Some of these drains have small openings and can be easily blocked, causing the water to leak through the roof and into the RV.  Make sure the drains and hoses are clear by carefully loosening any debris that might be trapped and blowing them clean with condensed air.

You must also take into consideration if your RV’s A/C unit is receiving too much or too little power. Either could spell major damage for your system. Check for fluctuations in the power level coming from your generator or your outlet to avoid any expensive issues.

Some buyers’ choices might be swayed by brand loyalty and the want or need to have an A/C unit manufactured by the same company as their travel trailer. This may not always be the best choice, as going with a lesser known name may mean the difference between buying a replacement part and having to purchase an entirely new unit.

RV Part Shop carries a wide variety of parts to make repairing and maintaining your RV’s air conditioning unit a breeze! We carry parts from manufacturers like Coleman Mach, Dometic, and more. Check out our Heating and Cooling section for everything you need to keep your A/C unit running in tip-top shape.  As always, if you don’t see what you need, give us a call at 1-877-607-4446 and we’ll do our best to help you. Stay cool out there!

July 19, 2018

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