Skip to Content

Is There Such a Thing as a 12V RV Air Conditioner?

Is There Such a Thing as a 12V RV Air Conditioner?

Most RVs today are equipped with a 120V AC air conditioner that requires shore power, a generator or an inverter if running on batteries. However, it’s possible to reduce the power consumption by switching to a 12V RV air conditioner.  

In this article, we’ll be looking at some of the things you need to know about running a 12V air conditioner in your RV and a few of the options. Let’s dig a little deeper.

Why RVers Want a 12V RV Air Conditioner

A typical RV air conditioner runs on a 120V AC power socket. The hiccup is you’ll need an inverter to turn the 12V DC electric charge from your RV battery into 120V AC power to run the air conditioner. Doing so will incur extra electrical losses and even generate more heat, the very thing you are probably trying to avoid.

120V ac rv air conditioner

But if you’re not using an inverter, you’ll require a generator to power the 120V AC air conditioner in your RV. Sure, a generator is a convenient backup option, but it could be a nuisance because of the noise, especially if you’re boondocking at night.

On the other hand, you can power a 12V RV air conditioner directly off your battery without relying on an inverter. Besides that, a 12V DC RV air conditioner tend to be more energy-efficient, especially when operating on a battery since you don’t have to worry about losing a fraction of the converted power through the RV inverter.

Battery-Operated Air Conditioner

Here’s the thing; it’s challenging to run a 120V AC air conditioner consistently while the engine/generator is off unless it’s hooked to a generator or solar system. However, a battery-operated 12V RV air conditioner consumes less power, and it can run longer than a 120V AC air conditioner while the engine is off.  

That means you can go outside for a few hours and come back to a cool RV. Not to mention, if you’re on a public campground, you won’t upset your neighbors with a loud generator all night long.

Drawbacks to 12V Air Conditioners

The biggest drawback to a 12V air conditioner is the current draw. We don’t use 12V in our homes because the wires would need to be huge. For an RV air conditioner operating on 12V the wires will need to be larger and the electronics need to handle higher currents which can cause voltage drops and efficiency losses.

Because of these high currents, you will also need lots of battery capacity. This means to run them overnight on batteries you will most likely need to make the investment in lithium batteries.

Once again the high current draw comes back to bite when thinking about powering 12V air conditioners from shore power. To do so you need a high current converter or inverter charger. This also means that your batteries will charge slowly when running the air conditioner hard.

Because of this 12V air conditioners are mainly suited for smaller RVs that require a lot less cooling. On a larger RV, 24, 48 or higher voltage units will most likely still be the best option.

Do They Make 12V RV Air Conditioners?

Even though battery-powered RV air conditioners are not yet mainstream, a couple of manufacturers such as Dometic, Nomadic Cooling, Indel B, and Rigid have introduced them to the market.

dometic rtx 2000 air conditioner

Most of these models had their start and inspiration in the trucking market. Truckers who want to shut their vehicles down overnight instead of letting them idle to remain powered frequently install 24V air conditioners. Slowly, these technologies and models have been converted from 24V to 12V to fit campers and motorhomes as well.

Some of the biggest 12V RV air conditioners can produce up to 12,000 BTU, which is enough to cool most average-sized RVs. On the flip side, you’d have to dig deeper into your pockets to purchase a powerful battery-operated air conditioner.

Then again, if you want a budget-friendly option and you’re mainly traveling to dry climates, you could choose a 12V RV swamp cooler.

What Is a Swamp Cooler? 

A swamp cooler, otherwise known as an evaporative cooler, uses a technique that blows hot, dry air through a moistened cooling pad. The wet pad absorbs the heat causing the water to evaporate and cool your RV. These coolers can often run off 12V power as well.

Since a swamp cooler increases the humidity level in the air, it’s better suited for dry, arid climates. Of course, if you’re living in a humid environment, a swamp cooler wouldn’t be effective.

Swamp Cooler vs. Air Conditioner

Unlike a swamp cooler that needs water in the reservoir, an air conditioner uses chemical refrigerants to cool a room. Sure, air conditioners are better at controlling temperature than evaporative coolers, but the latter consumes a lot less energy.

Also, swamp coolers are usually cheaper and easier to install than air conditioners. 

4 Best 12V RV Air Conditioners

Let’s have a look at some of the best 12V RV air conditioners (the ones that use compressors and run off 12V power) on the market.

Dometic RTX 2000

This Dometic RTX 2000 was designed for truck drivers, having been adapted from a 24V unit available in Europe. As a relatively new product on the US market, we’re very excited to see a bigger RV parts manufacturer offer a solution for 12V air conditioning.

Source: Dometic.com

This 12V air conditioner can keep your RV cool for 12 hours and draw just 19 amps on eco mode. But if you want to control the temperature quickly, you can switch on the turbo cooling operating mode and pump it up to 6,824 BTU or 2000W.

When installed, it has a slim and sleek profile that sits just 6 inches above your RV roof.

It’ll cost you about $2700.

Dometic CoolAir RTX 2000 | 12 Volt Air Conditioner | UNBOXING + FIRST IMPRESSIONS | Nomadic Cooling

If you’re interested, also check out the Dometic RTX 2000 Installation Video!

Nomadic Cooling 2000 12V RV Air Conditioner

The Nomadic Cooling 2000 12V RV air conditioner was created by Nomadic Cooling, pioneers of the 12V cooling realm for vans and campers. This RV AC unit has a 75 Amp compressor that runs about 35-40 amps on Eco mode. It has a cooling capacity of 9830 BTU.

The slightly bigger Nomadic Cooling 3000 12V air conditioner can deliver up to 11,830 BTU while drawing 100 amps.

What’s more, it doesn’t vibrate, and the noise level is below 60dBA, so the sound probably won’t distract you.

Fortunately, it comes with everything you need to install it on the roof. The 2000 model runs at $3,890 and the 3000 model is $4,290 – which is pretty high for an air conditioner and is more than the Dometic RTX. However, these models have significantly higher BTU capacities, so would likely work better for larger rigs.

Nomadic Cooling 12V RV air conditioner
Source: NomadicCooling.com

If you’re not feeling up to doing the installation yourself, you can visit these guys in Arizona and for a $750 installation fee, they’ll get you all taken care of.

Sleeping Well 12V Air Conditioners – Oblo, Aircon, & Cube

Italian company Indel B offers several models of “Sleeping Well,” or SW, 12V air conditioners: the SW Oblo, the SW Aircon 1600, and the SW Cube.

These units all use the highly efficient 12V Direct Current Secop (formerly Danfoss) compressor to deliver safe and quiet cooling. The AC units have 2 settings, Turbo and Eco modes. Cooling capacities are at 3250 BTU.

Unfortunately, these models are not intuitively available in the North American market with a major distributor. You will likely need to figure out a way to ship/import from a European distributor if this is the way you’d like to go, and here is one in the UK you could look into.

sw cube 12v air conditioner

Rigid 12V Cooling System

The Rigid 12V Cooling System is a bit more of a DIY solution for your 12V air conditioning needs. This kit has a driver board, condenser, capillary mini rotary compressor, and evaporator.

Even though its maximum power input is 150W, it has a cooling capacity of 1535 BTU. This means that it is definitely more suited to very small, compact campers, like off-road campers and vans. It may also work for cooling a single room in a medium-large RV.

The price is about $770.

12V Compact Refrigeration Cooling Systems Air...
  • Maximum cooling temperature the micro dc a/c achieves, 15-20...
  • Rated Voltage: DC 12V; Max Current : 10A; Power:150W; Rated...
  • Ultra compact direct refrigeration unit with miniature dc rotary...

12V RV Air Coolers (Evaporative or Swamp Cooler)

There are a few benefits to having a swamp cooler if you live in arid regions. If you want 12V RV swamp coolers, consider the following options.

Turbokool 2B-0001 White 12 Volt Evaporative Swamp Air Cooler

The Turbokool 2B-0001 12 Volt Evaporative Swamp Air Cooler is designed to be roof-mounted over an existing 14″ x 14″ roof vent or can replace an existing RV air conditioner with purchase of a metal vent frame.

The makers of Turbokool say it will cool air by 20 to 30 degrees while only drawing on 4.6 amps of 12v power. It is not recommended to be used in places where the average relative humidity exceeds 75 percent, and you might want to expect degradation in performance the closer to that 75 percent threshold you get.

Price tag comes in around $600, and you can get a better idea of its operation in the video below:

MightyKool Swamp Cooler

MightyKool K2 is a Personal 12-Volt Cooler for...
  • We will ship your order sooner if you answer our email and...
  • The K2 will not cool a vehicle, however it will typically may...
  • The MightyKool K2 Evaporative Cooler produces 25 mph of cool air...

This MightyKool Swamp Cooler is a 12v swamp cooler that makes no claims of being an air conditioner. In fact, the manufacturer won’t even send it to you unless they verify that you understand what you’re buying!

Be sure to read the reviews and not expect it to do what it can’t. Again, swamp coolers work best in dry climates.

This model features two cool air vents that can blow humidified air at 25 mph. It uses water (any temperature) and not ice to evaporatively cool people and pets in non-moving small enclosures like RV campers.

Are 12V RV Air Conditioners The Future?

The currently available 12V RV air conditioners may not pack the same power as a traditional 120V unit, but it’s a good solution for a small RV. These units can be pricey, so weigh the pros and cons before buying.

In general, 12V air conditioners are gaining some popularity with the growing interest in boondocking off-grid and the availability of lithium RV batteries. We fully expect to see more companies and models pop up on the market in the coming years to meet the demand to have more efficient air conditioning capabilities.

Become A Mortons On The Move Insider

Join 10,000+ other adventurers to receive educating, entertaining, and inspiring articles about RV Travel Destinations, RV Gear, and Off-Grid Living to jump-start your adventures today!

About Mortons on the Move

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of The RVers, producers of “Go North” on Amazon Prime, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

About Us

Sharing is caring!

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Don Pascual

Tuesday 31st of May 2022

This is great click-bait. Basically if you really want to sacrifice the storage space, you'll perhaps find the resources to stow away enough LiFePo4 batteries to power your 12V A/C for a few hours but you'll need to start the engine or a generator each day to recharge because there is no solar array that will fit on a common size vehicle that will charge a bank of batteries enough to have them topped up every night for another long-haul session of 75 amps out to continuously run a 12V A/C system. Unless you drive every day to recharge, it won't be practical even if you do spend 10-15K$ for both the batteries and a descent A/C system. And if you are going to run your generator all day to charge the all night depletion for HVAC use, you may as well just design a quieter generator and run it all night because the cost and inconvenience is the same and by doing that, you can cut the expenses about 75% or more by using conventional 120vac/240vac equipment.

Ricus Smit

Thursday 3rd of March 2022

12v roof mount aircon required for my RV which is cost effective.

Gail Hinson

Monday 28th of February 2022

Hi "Mortons on the Move!" Have you any good information on the 12V KoolCat AC's? I've seen them installed in cabinets with the cooling vents and buttons put at the back of the top surface. There's also a vent panel or connection on the outside too. They can be found in early fold down top A-liner RVs, though many have switched to standard window unit ACs probably due to high costs of purchase. I 've heard good things, but have never encountered anyone in person who's actually used one of these units. Have you guys? Thanks!

Mortons on the Move

Friday 18th of March 2022

Hi Gail, good question. Cant say i was aware of this brand but it looks like a neat little mini-split. Seems designed for truckers mainly, but not sure why it wouldn't work well in a small RV like thos A-Liners!

Gregory

Thursday 9th of September 2021

Why is it that there are no evaporative coolers that have a heat exchanger as part of the unit? The evap cooler cools the outside air and passes it into the heat exchanger which vents back out to atmosphere. The air from inside the RV/Trailer is then recirculated through the heat exchanger where it is chilled and is then passed back into the space being cooled. The advantage here is that there is no humidity added to the RV/Trailer space thus keeping it more comfortable because the humidity is kept low.

Richard George Craine

Sunday 11th of July 2021

I would be interested to hear real reviews when installed on a truck camper. I have a Host on order with the biggest solar off grid package they offer but have read reviews on how loud the standard 110AC unit is inside the camper. I will do some boondock camping but want to be able to do more with an AC unit. plan to have a Honda 2200 gen with me for charging backup. Not sure if you are familiar with the Host off-grid systems but they have 4 190 amp panels and 1440 AH of lithium battery. I realize the weather was not probably too hot on your trip to Alaska in your Lance....but thoughts??

Mortons on the Move

Sunday 11th of July 2021

We just installed the Dometic on our new truck camper and will be sharing real-world reviews soon. Electrical systems is not built out yet but should be soon. As far as our Alaska trip, no we didn't use the AC at all except to test it. Your right it was crazy loud! The new domestic we have is fully variable so we will see how loud it is.

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.