Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving?

Traveling in an RV offers unparalleled freedom and flexibility, allowing you to explore the open road and create unforgettable memories. But, when the temperature rises, one question looms large: Can you run an RV air conditioner while driving? The answer is a resounding YES, and with the right knowledge, you can ensure a comfortable journey for you and your passengers.

In this comprehensive guide, We will walk you through everything you need to know about running your RV air conditioner while driving. We’ll share essential tips, debunk common myths, and provide insights on how to optimize your RV air conditioning system for maximum comfort and efficiency.

Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving -

Understanding the Basics of RV Air Conditioning

To effectively run your RV air conditioner while driving, it’s important to have a solid understanding of the basics. This will empower you to make informed decisions and maximize your system’s performance.

Types of RV Air Conditioners

  • Roof-Mounted Air Conditioners: These units are installed on the roof of your RV, providing efficient cooling by drawing in outside air and expelling hot air through the vents. Roof-mounted air conditioners are popular due to their space-saving design and ease of installation.
  • Portable Air Conditioners: As the name suggests, these air conditioners are mobile and can be moved around your RV as needed. They typically require a vent hose that leads outside the RV to remove hot air. While they offer flexibility, portable units may not be as powerful or efficient as other options.
  • Built-In Air Conditioners: These air conditioners are integrated into the RV’s design and are usually located in the basement or under a bench. Built-in units can provide powerful cooling and save space but may be more challenging to access for maintenance and repairs.

Power Source

RV air conditioners typically require a 120-volt AC power source, which can be supplied by your vehicle’s alternator or an external generator. Both options are viable when driving, but the best choice for your RV will depend on factors like your specific model, available power, and desired level of comfort.

BTU Ratings

British Thermal Units (BTUs) are used to measure the cooling capacity of air conditioners. When selecting an air conditioner for your RV, it’s important to choose a unit with an appropriate BTU rating to effectively cool your space. Factors to consider include the size of your RV, insulation, and the climate in which you’ll be traveling.

Energy Efficiency

The efficiency of an RV air conditioner is important not only for reducing energy consumption but also for ensuring optimal performance while driving. Look for units with a high Energy Efficiency Ratio (EER) to save on power and keep your RV cool without overloading your electrical system.

By familiarizing yourself with the essentials of RV air conditioning, you’ll be better prepared to select the right system for your needs and successfully run it while driving. This knowledge will pave the way for a comfortable and enjoyable travel experience.

Find Out More: How To Run RV AC Without Generator?

Common Myths About Running RV Air Conditioners While Driving

As you embark on your RV adventures, it’s important to separate fact from fiction. In this section, we debunk some common myths surrounding running RV air conditioners while driving, providing clarity and peace of mind as you navigate the open road.

  • Myth 1: It’s Illegal to Run an RV Air Conditioner While Driving: There is no law prohibiting the use of an RV air conditioner while driving. However, always follow local regulations and safety guidelines to ensure a secure and enjoyable journey.
  • Myth 2: Running Your RV Air Conditioner While Driving Will Damage Your System: As long as your air conditioner is properly maintained and your power supply is adequate, running your unit while driving should not cause any damage.
  • Myth 3: You Can’t Run a Roof-Mounted Air Conditioner While Driving: While it’s true that roof-mounted units can be more susceptible to damage from low-hanging obstacles, they are designed to withstand the rigors of road travel. Ensure your unit is securely mounted and maintained, and you can confidently run your roof-mounted air conditioner while driving.
  • Myth 4: Running Your RV Air Conditioner Will Significantly Reduce Fuel Efficiency: While it’s true that running an air conditioner consumes additional power, the impact on fuel efficiency is generally minimal. Proper maintenance, insulation, and driving habits can help offset any potential increases in fuel consumption.
  • Myth 5: You Need a Special Type of Air Conditioner for Driving: There are no specific air conditioner models designed exclusively for use while driving. As long as your chosen RV air conditioner meets your power requirements and is compatible with your vehicle, you can run it while driving.
  • Myth 6: You Can’t Run Your Air Conditioner While Driving in Extreme Weather Conditions: While it’s always important to exercise caution in extreme weather, modern RV air conditioners are designed to withstand various conditions, including high winds and heavy rain. Always follow the manufacturer’s guidelines and use common sense when operating your air conditioner in challenging weather.
  • Myth 7: It’s Unsafe to Sleep in Your RV with the Air Conditioner Running: As long as your air conditioner is properly maintained and your RV is well-ventilated, it’s safe to sleep in your RV with the air conditioner running. Be sure to follow all safety guidelines and maintain a proper balance between temperature and humidity levels for a comfortable night’s sleep.

By debunking these common myths, you can make well-informed decisions regarding the operation of your RV air conditioner while driving. Keep in mind that each RV and air conditioning system is unique, so always consult your owner’s manual and seek professional advice when necessary. With accurate information and a proactive approach, you can enjoy a comfortable and worry-free RV experience.

Find Out More: Best Generator For RV Air Conditioner

Tips to Keep Your RV Cool Naturally While Driving

As mentioned earlier, if you don’t have passengers in the back area of your RV, you can keep your RV cool with just dash AC. To enhance its cooling a bit more, try putting on some curtains on the backside of the driving and passenger seats. This will allow you to lock in cooling in a minimal area and will make it extra cool. Also, during camping, park your RV in a well-shaded area to avoid sunlight.

As sunlight will make your RV super hot, it will require lots of time and energy consumption to cool again. I am listing some bonus tips below that you can implement to cut down AC costs as much as possible and make your trip cool, refreshing, enjoyable, and affordable so let’s dive in.

1. Try RV insulation floor cover

Use RV insulation floor cover - Tips to keep your RV cool naturally while driving - Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving

Large vehicles like RVs have an engine that heats up too quickly. If you are planning to go on a trip during summer, keep in mind that heat easily gets into the floor and makes large vehicles extra hot but you can avoid this situation by using a floor insulation cover. They, will not cost you much but will make a huge impact. 

2. Cover Windows with Blinds

Cover windows with blinds - Tips to keep your RV cool naturally while driving - Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving

Even though it is such a common tip that you might already know, I mentioned it here as a reminder. Put on window blinders to lock in AC cooling. This will help to keep your RV Cool for a longer duration. 

3. Cool it before Starting your Trip

Cool it before starting your trip - Tips to keep your RV cool naturally while driving - Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving

It is such a good tip that you would thank me later. Try cooling your RV before going on a long trip. This will give a buffer time to make your AC cool faster from the very beginning. Also, try opening windows when your RV is idle. This will allow good air circulation and will expel any hot heat waves. To make it extra cool, try doing it in a shaded area or a garage. If you cool your car in sunlight, it will heat up again quickly. 

4. Cook and Grill Outside 

Cook and grill outside - Tips to keep your RV cool naturally while driving - Run an RV Air Conditioner while Driving

No matter how tempting it sounds to cook and grill inside your motor home, it is better to do it in an open area. This is because cooking and grilling make the atmosphere hot and your RV AC might not help you much. Outside food preparation is thrilling and adventurous. You will not only enjoy yourself and will make memories but will also cut down on AC costs. 


In conclusion, the answer to the question, “Can you run an RV air conditioner while driving?” is a definitive YES. By understanding the basics of RV air conditioning, following essential tips, debunking common myths, and addressing frequently asked questions, you can ensure a comfortable journey for you and your passengers. With the right knowledge and preparation, you can experience the ultimate freedom of comfortable RV travel, creating lasting memories on the open road.

Read More: How to Keep Rv Cool in Summer?
Read More: What Size Generator For 30 Amp RV Air Conditioner?

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Running an RV AC While Driving

To further empower you with knowledge, we’ve compiled a list of frequently asked questions related to running an RV air conditioner while driving. This will help address any remaining concerns and provide valuable guidance as you embark on your RV adventures.

How often should I perform maintenance on my RV air conditioner?

Regular maintenance is crucial for optimal performance and longevity of your air conditioner. It is recommended to inspect and clean the air filter monthly, while more in-depth maintenance, such as checking the refrigerant levels and cleaning the coils, should be performed annually or as specified in your owner’s manual.

Can I run multiple RV air conditioners at once while driving?

It’s possible to run multiple air conditioners simultaneously while driving, as long as your RV’s electrical system can handle the additional load. Be sure to verify your system’s capacity and consider staggering the use of high-energy appliances to avoid overloading your electrical system.

What if my RV air conditioner isn’t cooling effectively while driving?

If you notice a decrease in cooling efficiency while driving, there could be several factors at play. Check for proper insulation, ensure that the air filters and coils are clean, and verify that your power source is adequate. If the issue persists, consult a professional technician for further assistance.

How do I know when it’s time to replace my RV air conditioner?

Signs that it may be time to replace your RV air conditioner include declining cooling efficiency, excessive noise or vibrations, and frequent breakdowns or repairs. The typical lifespan of an RV air conditioner is around 10 years, but this can vary depending on usage and maintenance.

Can I use solar power to run my RV air conditioner while driving?

While solar power is an eco-friendly and sustainable option, it’s generally not sufficient to power an RV air conditioner on its own, particularly while driving. Solar power can be used to supplement your RV’s energy needs, but relying solely on solar panels for air conditioning may not be feasible.

Can’t just dashboard AC be enough or should I use rooftop AC and dashboard AC both?

RV dashboard AC has vents that keep air cool but they are just in front of the driver and passenger seat. If you don’t have passengers seated at the back of your RV, dashboard AC is more than enough for you. To lock in the cooling of the RV dashboard AC in the front area, try putting on some curtains or blinds. But, if your RV’s backside is loaded with other family members and friends, dashboard AC will not be enough. A big vehicle like an RV, needs both dashboard and roof Top ACs to beat the heat of hot summer days.

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