portable ac for rv

10 Best Portable RV Air Conditioners For Summer Camping

If you like to go on long summer trips in your RV, chances are you will need a good portable RV air conditioner to chase out the heat. Compared to a non-portable type that’s installed on the roof or the window, these portable units are compact, lightweight and can be rolled on wheels to wherever you need them for instant relief. 

There’s a catch though, that is a smaller AC is understandably less powerful. Therefore, selecting the best portable air conditioner that’s sufficient for cooling your particular home on wheels on a fixed budget requires some balancing of different considerations.

But worry not, as here you will find an in-depth review of the 10 best portable RV AC units that will suit every wallet, RV size and cooling needs. You will find something here, whether you are looking for the most powerful unit, the quietest, the most energy efficient, and/or the most portable model. 

Best Portable RV AC: Quick Recommendations

  • Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT
  • Best For Small To Medium RVs: ZAFRO A5405CEYITENG
  • Best WiFi-Controlled Unit: Pro Breeze PB-AC01-US 10,000 BTU
  • Best Dual Hose Unit For Larger RVs: Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU
  • Most Quiet and Energy Efficient: Midea 8,000 BTU ASHRAE
  • Ultra Quiet Unit For Small RVs: LG 8,000 BTU
  • Best With Child Lock: TOSOT 10,000 BTU
  • Most Affordable Unit For Medium Space: EUHOMY 10,000 BTU
  • Best For High Humidity: Shinco 12,000 BTU

Why You Need A Portable Air Conditioner For Your RV?

portable rv ac unit

Inside the confined space of an RV, it can get pretty hot and stuffy pretty quickly in the hotter months or climates. While sweating during an excursion in the mountains is one thing, losing sleep at night because it’s too hot inside is another issue.

And while you might not want to live like royalty when you’re traveling on the open road, you would want to at least maintain a comfortable living space that’s conducive to good health and good moods. When the weather gets hot, a portable air conditioner for RV will do just that.

No Installation

There are many benefits to owning a portable AC. While a roof mounted or window mounted unit might cost you either a lot of time to install yourself or money for professional service, a portable unit requires absolutely no installation.

You just need to install the airflow vent outlet to your window openings, which can be done in minutes, plug them in, set your desired temperature and mode and let it run away. When you want to move the AC to another room, the window vent kit can be removed and reinstalled in the new spot effortlessly. 

Portable

Secondly, these are typically designed with wheels, so you can flexibly roll them to wherever you most need instant relief. So instead of waiting a long time for the whole rig to cool down, you can put your portable AC in the bedroom when it’s time to go to sleep. This will help reduce your energy consumption while still keeping you comfortable. 

Portability also means that when you’re not camping, you can use your portable RV AC in your home or in your garage while working on your DIY projects. 

Versatile and Energy Efficient

Another thing that helps with energy saving is that most portable RV AC units these days come with different modes and settings. You can combine them depending on the circumstances to maintain a liveable atmosphere while not wasting energy on keeping your rig too cool at all times. 

For instance, the cooling mode is used for quick heat relief. After the interior has cooled down to a satisfactory level or when you’re going to bed, you can switch to sleep mode so that the unit will need to work less hard and thus quieter, since now it only needs to maintain the already cooler atmosphere. 

Another way to save energy while effectively cooling down your RV is to use the air circulation mode or fan mode. Air circulation will create a cooler feel at the same temperature. Similarly, the dehumidification mode will repel excess moisture from the air and make you feel cooler at the same temperature. These will use much less power than keeping the unit run on high no stop.

10 Best Portable RV Air Conditioners: Review

To make your purchasing decision as painless as possible, here’s an in-depth review and comparison of the 10 best portable air conditioners for RV.

These models are selected so that there’s something for every budget and cooling need, whether you’re a budget or first time RV owner and whether you own a tiny or large size RV.

Furthermore, each model offers a good balance of price, portability and cooling capacity, so that you get the most value for your money. 

Let’s dive right in! If you don’t know what to look for yet, jump to the next section to learn about crucial specifications and buying criteria in order to make the most informed decision based on your own camping circumstances. 

1. Best Overall: BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT Portable Air Conditioner 

BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT AC with Remote Control Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 8,000 BTU, 10,000 BTU, 12,000 BTU and 14,000 BTU
  • Sufficient for: 350 sq ft, 450 sq ft, 550 sq ft and 700 sq ft
  • Coolest setting: 61°F
  • Modes: cool, fan (3 fan levels), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, LED control panel, auto-control sleep mode, self-evaporating dehumidification, swivel casters and handles
  • Noise level: 54 bB at high and 51 dB at low fan speed
  • Weight: 62.4 lbs
  • Warranty: 1 year parts and labor, 5 years compressor parts

Why we love it:

When it comes to portable RV air conditioner, seasoned campers and the experts would universally agree that the BPACT10WT model by BLACK+DECKER is the top choice out there. BLACK+DECKER is known for many things, including portable AC units, and the brand really exceeds all expectations with this long standing best seller. It’s just pure perfection: powerful yet not too noisy, portable, intuitive and user friendly, sleek looking and portable, and fully functional with handy modes and settings. 

The BPACT10WT series is available in different cooling capacities to suit RVs of different sizes, from the 8,000 BTU model rated for 350 square feet all the way to the 14,000 BTU that can effectively cool a space of 700 square feet. The BPACT10WT series is one of a few options on the market that offers a cooling capacity of 12,000 BTU and over. 

While not all portable AC units out there are really capable of quickly bringing down the indoor temperature of a space they’re rated for, the BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT really delivers in this regard. The coolest setting is 61°F, which is impressive for a portable unit, and the large front vented airflow outlet with 2-way adjustable louvers also contribute to this unit’s superior cooling capacity. On very hot and humid days, this portable RV AC will make your RV cool, dry and comfortable in no time.

This fantastic portable AC not only can bring down temperature fast, it will also repel excess moisture in dehumidification mode, thanks to an advanced self-evaporating dehumidification technology. This means that it conveniently requires no collecting buckets or drain pans. 

In addition to the cool mode and dehumidification mode, there is also fan or vent mode and sleep mode. This will allow you to choose the suitable mode and setting based on changing cooling needs to save energy while maintaining the most liveable environment at all times, without the need to crank the AC on high for long stretches at a time. The 24 hour timer will let you further customize your cooling needs without overtaxing your power system. 

In sleep mode, the unit will automatically regulate the temperature to make you most comfortable at a reasonably low temperature while running more quietly at a lower fan speed. In cooling mode, you can also use the auto-fan setting which adjusts the fan speed based on real time temperature to reduce the unit’s noise level. In general, this portable air conditioner for RV runs pretty quiet given that it’s really powerful. 

Other perks include the remote control function, slide-out removable air filters, and the four casters on the bottom and two side handles for portability, so you can roll the unit to wherever you want instant heat relief. 

The BPACT10WT is not only functional in every way but it’s also solidly constructed and made to last. BLACK+DECKER offers only 1 year warranty for parts and labor, but 5 years for compressor parts, which is the component subject to the most wear and tear. I really cannot praise this portable AC enough. Just get it if you often camp in warm weather, you’ll only regret not having bought it sooner!

2. Best For Small To Medium RVs: ZAFRO A5405CEYITENG Portable Air Conditioner

ZAFRO Air Conditioner, 8,500 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 8,500 BTU (8,000 BTU and 10,000 BTU also available)
  • Sufficient for: 250 sq ft (10,000 BTU model rated for 300 sq ft)
  • Temperature range: 62°F to 86°F (17°C to 30°C)
  • Modes: cool, fan (2 fan levels), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: self evaporation dehumidification, 24 hours timer, remote control, adjustable shutters, swivel casters and handles
  • Noise level: 54 bB
  • Weight: 49.4 lbs

Why we love it:

If you have a small sized RV or if you camp in more moderate climates with more bearable summer, a portable AC rated for around 8,000 BTU might be sufficient. Although the A5405CEYITENG model from ZAFRO pales in comparison with the previous one from BLACK+DECKER in terms of cooling capacity, it is still one of the best portable RV AC units for smaller spaces. 

A unique selling point that I absolutely adore is its adjustable shutters that allows you to change wind direction vertically and horizontally. With this, you can be far away from the unit so that its noise will not bother you while you sleep, for instance, yet still enjoy drafts of cool dry air.  

This unit is available in 8,000 BTU, 8,500 BTU and 10,000 BTU, but considering the price and the rated square feet, the 8,500 BTU version makes the most sense. If you need 10,000 BTU and up for a larger space though and if you only need something for the hotter months, the previous BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT would actually be the better pick in my opinion. 

All in all, this ZAFRO portable RV AC is fully functional and well made. It has a temperature range of 62°F to 86°F, or 17°C to 30°C. It allows you to customize your cooling needs for utmost comfort without wasting energy, thanks to the 24 hour timer and four modes, namely cool, dehumidifier, sleep and fan with two fan speeds. It also runs pretty quietly, which is on par with the BLACK+DECKER BPACT10WT. 

Other user-friendly and low-maintenance features include remote control, swivel casters and two handles for mobility, and the washable filter designed to prevent dust and pet hair from entering the unit. All in all, this unit makes a perfect portable unit for small to medium sized home on wheels. 

3. Best WiFi-Controlled Unit: Pro Breeze PB-AC01-US 10,000 BTU Smart Portable Air Conditioner  

Pro Breeze Smart Air Conditioner Portable 10,000 BTU

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 10,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 300 sq ft
  • Temperature range: 62°F to 86°F (17°C to 30°C)
  • Modes: cool, fan (2 fan speeds), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, WiFi and app-controlled, adjustable shutters, swivel casters 
  • Energy efficiency: 6.6 CEER Energy Efficiency rating

Why we love it:

If you like the above A5405CEYITENG model from ZAFRO, there’s another excellent deal you should check out, the smart portable AC by Pro Breeze. This Pro Breeze 10,000 BTU air conditioner with Smart App Wifi control lets you use an app or voice command to ask Alexa or Google Home to quickly and efficiently cool down spaces of up to 300 square feet  to as low as 61°F. 

It is quite comparable to the ZAFRO unit in many ways. At 10,000 BTU, it is sufficient for small to medium rigs of up to 300 square feet. It also has a temperature range of 62°F to 86°F or 17°C to 30°C, and four modes, namely cool, dehumidifier, fan (2 fan speeds), and sleep. In addition, it also boasts a 24 hours timer, remote control, adjustable shutters, and swivel casters and handles. On top of the different modes and timer that would allow you to regulate indoor temperature at lower power draw, another notable plus is that it has a stellar 6.6 CEER Energy Efficiency rating, so this should be a great choice for campers who want to also use other electrical appliances at the same time without overloading their system. 

As for installation, it is made easy with two straightforward window venting kits included to fit the AC unit to either slide or hinged windows.

The only flaw is that its dehumidification method is not self-evaporating, so there’s a 3.8 pint water tank that you need to empty every now and then, or you can use the continuous drainage hose included in the kit. Other than that, the dehumidifier mode works efficiently to remove up to 2.3 pints of moisture from the air per hour in temperatures above 62°F, thus keeping your living space cool and dry. 

4. Best Dual Hose Unit For Larger RVs: Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner

Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU Dual Hose Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 14,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 500 sq ft
  • Temperature range: 62°F to 89°F (17°C to 32°C)
  • Modes: cool, fan (3 fan speeds), dehumidifier (71 pints/day), sleep
  • Features: remote control, 24 hours timer, washable pre-filter, activated carbon filter, hose-free lower drain port and self evaporation dehumidification
  • Noise level: 56 dB

Why we love it:

If you are looking for an extra powerful AC for quick heat relief in a larger sized motorhome, the Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU model will be one of the best portable RV air conditioner units for varying camping settings. What’s special about this particular unit is its dual hose operation that provides for optimal cooling in a larger space of up to 500 square feet.

Dual hose portable AC units can cool an area more quickly and efficiently than the single hose type, making them ideal for larger spaces. While the process of cooling air generates heat inside the air conditioner itself, the second hose will transfer air from the outside to cool the unit’s condenser coils and compressor. Overheating universally has a negative impact on any machine’s performance and lifespan, so this self-cooling method of a dual hose design allows for optimal efficiency while maximizing the unit’s lifespan.  

Indeed, superior quick cooling and impressive durability are two major selling points of this little powerhouse, making it one of the best selling portable RV ACs at both offline and online retailers. Whynter is not as well known as BLACK+DECKER, and you might not have heard of the brand before, yet this particular ARC-14S 14,000 BTU model alone has amassed some 12,000 happy buyers on Amazon alone. 

This fully functional portable air conditioner for RV has four operating modes with three fan speeds, and an excellent dehumidifier mode that can repel as much as 71 pints of water per day, making it a top choice for highly humid weather. On top of this, the unit also features advanced auto drain technology with a hose-free lower drain port, which uses and recycles moisture collected during the cooling process to produce cool air.  

What I particularly love about this wonderful AC is that it uses washable pre-filter and activated carbon air filters to also keep the indoor air fresh and clean, giving you the most comfortable and healthy indoor air as possible. Although not a deal breaker, another plus still for the environmentally conscious campers is that it uses CFC free GREEN R-32A refrigerant and lead free RoHS compliant components. 

The only thing that might make some budget campers shy away from this perfect machine is its price tag, which is north of $500. That said,the Whynter ARC-14S 14,000 BTU is not only efficient but also long lasting, so it’s well worth it if you have a larger rig and if you often camp in hot weather with very high humidity.

5. Most Quiet and Energy Efficient: Midea 8,000 BTU ASHRAE Portable Air Conditioner

Midea 8,000 BTU ASHRAE Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 8,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 175 sq ft
  • Temperature range: 62°F to 90°F (17°C to 32°C)
  • Modes: cool, fan (2 fan speeds), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: self evaporation dehumidification, 24 hours timer, remote control, washable filters, casters and handles
  • Noise level: 52 dB on high

Why we love it:

For owners of smaller RVs who prioritize energy efficiency, this Midea 8,000 BTU ASHRAE portable AC will be one of the most practical options. It is sufficient for a small space of up to 175 square feet, not much, but what makes it great is that it’s ultra quiet. This makes it ideal for use in the bedroom. This also means that in case you own a larger RV but often camp in more moderate climates with bearable summers, you can choose to place this unit in the bedroom or in the main living area, where you would be spending most of your time while you’re indoors, so as to minimize power consumption. 

Talking about power consumption, energy efficiency is another thing that makes the Midea ASHRAE’s name. It has a 6.5 Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio (SEER), which is impressive, and recognized as ENERGY STAR 2022 Most Efficient Portable Air Conditioner. This makes it a practical choice for those who don’t always have access to shore power to keep many appliances running. 

Other than that, this is a fully functional portable RV air conditioner for smaller spaces, with four operating modes, two fan speeds, 24 hours timer, remote control, casters and handles for mobility, and an installation kit with everything you need included.

6. Ultra Quiet Unit For Small RVs: LG 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

LG 6,000 BTU (DOE) / 8,000 BTU (ASHRAE) Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 8,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 250 sq ft
  • Modes: cool, fan (2 speeds), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, vertical swinging shutters, washable filters, casters, change filter alert
  • Noise level: 51 dB on high

Why we love it:

A noisy machine in operation will be extra annoying in a small space. If your RV is less than 250 square feet, you will love how this compact, sleek looking and fully functional LG portable air conditioner maintains a livable indoor atmosphere on hot days without disturbing your sleep. It has an unmatched low noise level of 51 dB on high fan speed, which is even quieter than the previous model. 

portable air conditioner for RV trailer stays true to LG’s quality standard and attention to user’s experience. Apart from all the handy features for temperature control, a feature that I love that not all portable AC units on the market offer is the alert that tells you when to change the washable filter to ensure optimal performance.

7. Best With Child Lock: TOSOT 10,000 BTU 400 Sq. Ft. Portable Air Conditioner

TOSOT 10,000 BTU(ASHRAE) 6,000 BTU (DOE) Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 10,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 400 sq ft
  • Modes: cool, fan, dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, washable filters, casters and handles, self evaporation dehumidification
  • Noise level: 53 dB on high and 49 dB on low fan speed

Why we love it:

If you travel with kids and don’t want your over-active children to toy with the portable air conditioner, thus destroying the energy efficient settings you have chosen, look no further than this 10,000 BTU unit from TOSOT. Simply press and hold the + and – buttons for 3 seconds to activate the child lock function, the remote control will be locked to send any signal to the air conditioners.

This unit is rated for medium sized spaces of up to 400 square feet. That is more than what most competitors with the same BTU rating can effectively cool, which is typically between 300 and 350 square feet. In addition to its super quick and efficient cooling capabilities, it is also very quiet, portable and fully functional with all the necessary modes and settings for utmost comfort while saving energy. Another huge plus for traveling in hot and humid weather is that it is highly effective in the dehumidification mode and can remove 2.5 pints or 1.2 liters of water per hour or 61 pints per day. 

8. Most Affordable Unit For Medium Space: EUHOMY 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Dehumidifier

EUHOMY 10,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Dehumidifier, Portable Ac Unit With Remote Control

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 10,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 350 sq ft
  • Temperature range: 62°F to 90°F (17°C to 32°C)
  • Modes: cool, fan (3 speeds), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, washable filters, casters and handles, self evaporation dehumidification

Among the many 10,000 BTU portable AC units on the market, the one by EUHOMY is one of the more affordable models that are less well known yet perfectly functional, portable and easy to use. It is sufficient for quickly cooling spaces of up to 350 square feet with powerful dual motors. 

Despite being more affordable than many competitors of the same capacity, this small portable air conditioner for r still comes with everything you would need, including the four basic modes, three fan speeds and timer to suit varying cooling needs, as well as the advanced self-evaporating dehumidification technology. 

What I particularly love about this particular EUHOMY AC is the Sleep mode. I find it extra comfortable while noticeably reducing power draw on my system. In Sleep mode, the temperature will rise twice in the first hour then maintain this temperature for 6 hours before automatically ending the sleep mode. 

9. Best For High Humidity: Shinco 12,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner 

Shinco 8,000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner with Built-in Dehumidifier Function

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 12,000 BTU (8,000 and 10,000 BTU also available)
  • Sufficient for: 400 sq ft
  • Modes: cool, fan (3 speeds), dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: self evaporation dehumidification, 24 hours timer, remote control, swinging shutters, washable filters, casters and handles
  • Noise level: 52 dB on high
  • 1 year warranty

Why we love it:

If you often camp in very humid weather, the 12,000 BTU portable RV air conditioner from Shinco might not be the most powerful or energy efficient, but it has by far the most effective self-evaporation dehumidification function in this list and perhaps in the whole market. While the second best option in this list in terms of dehumidification can repel 71 pints of water per day or 33.6 liters, this unit can get rid of as much as 91 pints or 43.2 liters per day. 

You will immediately notice the difference it makes on a hot and humid day. Furthermore, as dry air feels cooler at the same temperature, this unmatched dehumidification capacity will maintain the most comfortable indoor environment while consuming less power than another unit with the same BTU rating but with less effective moisture removing technology. What I also love about this Shinco portable AC is that it is more affordable than many competitors with similar ratings.

10. hOmeLabs 12,000 BTU 450 Sq. Ft. Portable Air Conditioner

hOmeLabs 12000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner

Notable Features:

  • Cooling capacity: 12,000 BTU 
  • Sufficient for: 450 sq ft
  • Modes: cool, fan, dehumidifier, sleep
  • Features: 24 hours timer, remote control, vertical swinging shutters, washable filters, casters and handles
  • Noise level: 53 dB on high
  • Weight: 82 lbs

Why we love it:

Another fully functional option rated at 12,000 BTU is this one by hOmeLabs, a relatively new kid on the block that has quickly made a name for itself with high performance and well made products in various arenas. This unit really has superb cooling capacity to quickly relieve you of the heat and humidity, and it is sufficient for medium sized RVs of up to 450 square feet, which is more than what many competitors can effectively handle. 

Overall, it is solidly constructed, runs quietly and extremely easy to install within less than 10 minutes. A handy feature that I find increasingly useful over long term use is the filter indicator light, which will illuminate to remind you when to clean the air filter for optimal performance. 

Unlike the more common design with swinging shutters on the front, this unit is equipped with an automatic vertical swing function that evenly distributes airflow throughout the room. Press the swing button to initiate the auto swing feature, or choose the airflow direction by pressing the swing button to stop the air outlet door at your desired angle.

The only flaw, unfortunately, is that this portable AC does not have self-evaporating dehumidification, so you will need to use the included drain hose to drain the collected moisture into a kitchen sink or bucket. If you own a small to medium rig, you might be able to set this portable AC up at a permanent location where the hose can run into a sink or drain.

Otherwise, if you really need to move the unit around, this shortcoming might be a deal breaker. With self-evaporating dehumidification though, this would make a high performance and long lasting unit.

How To Pick The Best Portable RV Air Conditioner: Criteria

The best portable air conditioner for RV doesn’t need to be the most powerful or the most expensive option. Instead, the best unit for you should be the best balance of various crucial criteria.

Keep in mind the following considerations in order to get the most for your money while being energy efficient: 

Cooling Capacity (BTU Rating)

First of all, it’s important to point out that the cooling capacity of an RV air conditioner should be considered in relation to the unit’s price. This is because the more powerful an AC or the more effective it is at cooling a space, the more expensive it will be. 

The price of most portable RV air conditioners these days range between $250 and $450. The most affordable units typically are rated at 5,000 BTUs, while at the other end of the spectrum are more powerful units rated for 10,000 to 13,000 BTUs. You might find a very few models rated for 15,000 BTUs, which can cost as much as $500. 

However, do note that some of them might not match the cooling capacity of roof mounted and window mounted models with the same BTU rating. As such, you might want to consider getting one of these permanently installed units instead, if you’re okay with having to install it. 

How to estimate how much BTUs you need

To get the best value for your money as well as to avoid over-taxing your electrical system, you should estimate how powerful your portable AC should be based on how big the space it needs to cool is. This will help avoid buying an overkill model that’s unnecessarily expensive, powerful and power hungry. 

The rule of thumb is that, to estimate the BTU rating that’s required for an AC unit to effectively cool a space, you need to multiply the total square feet area of your rig by 20. 

For instance, your RV’s floor space is 15 feet x 40 ft, or a total of 600 square feet. Multiply 600 with 20 we get 12,000. So you would need a portable air conditioner for RV rated for 12,000 BTUs or 13,000 BTUs if you desire quick and effective cooling for instant relief. 

Single Hose vs Dual Hose Units

In addition to BTU rating, another specification that would tell you whether a certain unit will be efficient at quickly cooling down a larger space is whether it has a dual hose design. Dual hose portable AC units can cool an area more quickly and efficiently than the single hose type, making them ideal for larger spaces. 

This is because while the process of cooling air generates heat inside the air conditioner itself, the second hose will transfer air from the outside to cool the unit’s condenser coils and compressor.

We all know that overheating is detrimental to the performance as well as lifespan of any machine, so this dual hose design allows for optimal capacity while making sure the unit will suffer less wear and tear due to heating up during operation. 

Size and Portability

The major advantage of a portable air conditioner is that it does not require installation like a roof or window mounted AC. You just need to plug it in, set your desired temperature and let it run.

However, it comes with a major disadvantage, that is a portable AC is not mounted off the floor and thus takes up valuable floor space in a small RV. If you’re looking for a portable RV, chances are you own a small to medium sized rig. 

The best portable RV AC therefore should be as compact as possible to be less obtrusive to traffic flow. Furthermore, it should be portable to allow easy relocation from one corner to where you most need quick relief from the heat, either thanks to its wheels, its light weight or other design features that facilitate moving.

best portable air conditioner for RV

Noise

A portable AC unit can be quite loud, or at least louder than the larger roof mounted types. If you plan to put your portable RV air conditioner in the bedroom, for instance, and if you’re sensitive to noise, make sure to choose quiet RV air conditioners with low noise output level. The noise output level of a model is measured in decibel or dB.

While the quietest roof mounted AC unit for camping has a noise level from 20dB to 40dB, the average noise level of most portable RV ACs fall between 40dB and 60dB. There are a few things you can try to make your portable AC just a little bit quieter though. Check it out in the FAQs section at the end of this article.

Modes, Settings and Energy Efficiency

An important criteria related to noise level is whether a portable camper air conditioner has different modes of operation. The best portable units should have four modes, namely cooling, air circulation, dehumidification and sleep mode. This would allow you to select the most appropriate mode based on your needs to always maintain a comfortable temperature while using less energy. 

Some models claim to be more energy efficient than competitors, but you would only know after using one. So when comparing different options, the best thing you can do is to select a unit with multiple modes as well as temperature control and settings that you can play with depending on your circumstances. 

The cooling mode is used for quick heat relief. After the interior has cooled down to a satisfactory level or when you’re going to bed, you can switch to sleep mode so that the unit will need to work less hard and thus quieter, since now it only needs to maintain the already cooler atmosphere. 

Another way to save energy while effectively cooling down your RV is to use the air circulation mode or fan mode. This will distribute the cool air more evenly inside your rig to reach farther corners, and also air circulation will create a cooler feel at the same temperature. 

Similarly, a lower humidity level would make your living space feel cooler at the same temperature, so you can run your unit at the dehumidification mode before the cooling mode to use less energy. The best portable air conditioner for RV trailer today should boast a high tech dehumidification mode that runs on a fuss free bucket-less, self-evaporating operation, thus ensuring your home on wheels  is always dry and clean.

Portable Air Conditioner for RV: FAQs

Can you use a portable air conditioner in an RV? 

As long as your RV’s power system is sufficient for running a portable AC unit, you can use it in your RV, although a portable will take up valuable floor space. A portable AC consumes less power than a roof mounted model or a window mounted unit, yet perhaps it would still be the most power hungry appliance in your rig. 

The cooling capacity of portable RV air conditioner units these days can range from as low as 5,000 BTUs to 13,000 BTUs. Depending on how powerful and thus how much power your portable AC draws from your system, you might need a solar charging system in place or a generator to be able to run the AC plus other electronics.  

How to install a portable air conditioner in an RV?

Unlike permanently installed units like the roof mounted and the window mounted type, portable RV AC units  require absolutely no installation. They are just like a free standing dehumidifier on wheels. Just plug them in and they will run. 

What size of AC do you need in a pop-up camper?

Larger RVs would require a larger or higher output portable AC unit, that is one rated at a higher cooling capacity. The rule of thumb is that, to estimate the BTU rating that’s required for an AC unit to effectively cool a space, you need to multiply the total square feet area of your rig by 20. 

For instance, your RV’s floor space is 15 feet x 40 ft, or a total of 600 square feet. Multiply 600 with 20 we get 12,000. So you would need a portable AC for RV trailer rated for 12,000 BTUs or higher if you desire quick and effective cooling for instant relief. 

As the majority of portable AC units these days max out at 13,000 BTUs, with a very few models rated for 15,000 BTUs, you will still be able to choose among them a suitable model. If your RV’s floor space exceeds 800 square feet, you can still use a 15,000 BTUs portable AC, but such a unit will take longer to cool down the entire rig. Here are our recommendations for the best pop up camper air conditioners.

How much does a portable RV air conditioner cost? 

The majority of portable RV AC units on the market cost between $250 to $450. The higher the BTU rating or cooling capacity of a model, the generally more expensive it will be.

To get the best value for your money as well as to avoid over-taxing your electrical system, you should estimate the BTU rating you need based on your RV’s total square feet. This will help avoid buying an overkill model that’s unnecessarily expensive, powerful and power hungry.

How do I make my portable RV air conditioner quieter?

Here’s a few quick fixes when your portable RV AC is too noisy to sleep. You can try to combine more than one methods that work the best for you:

Make sure the unit is on level ground: A major source of noise for these free standing AC units is vibration caused when the four legs or wheels are not level. All the moving parts inside like the compressor and the fan will vibrate, causing rattling noise. You can add some DIY padding on the odd feet to keep the AC level.

Place your unit away from direct sunlight: Placing an AC unit, whether it is portable or not, under strong direct sunlight is a common mistake many campers make. Your portable air conditioner for RVwill get heated up then, thus the harder it has to work. The harder a machine has to work, the noisier it will be. So place your unit somewhere away from sunlight.  

Place your unit on a thick rug or better yet, an anti-vibration mat: A thick and heavy rug will absorb some of the noise produced by your portable AC. The thicker it is, the better the result. This also helps if your unit does not sit evenly. You can even go one step further by getting a special anti-absorption mat. These are much more effective at dampening noise than regular carpet.

Put the unit further away: A simple solution is to move your noisy portable AC further away from you. You will lose the cooling effect, so to make up for this, you will need a fan to circulate the cool air your way. 

Keep the unit on low: Of course, running the AC on low means it will take longer to cool down your space. If you want to enjoy both quick cooling and a good night’s sleep, you only need some planning. For some time before going to bed, you can crank the AC up on the highest level to cool down your sleeping quarter. Then, when you’re going to bed, put it on low to maintain a comfortable temperature while significantly reducing the unit’s noise level.

Check out our full guide on how to quiet an RV AC

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