What Is A 12V AIR CONDITIONER? Do they actually work?

What Is A 12V AIR CONDITIONER? Do they actually work?

12v air conditioner

People are starting to use 12V Air Conditioners more often. But what are they? 12V Air Conditioners are small, portable, and use electricity. They are plugged into the cigarette lighter in your car or other 12V power source. You can also get back-up generators that run off of gas to power them if you don't want to rely on an engine.

A 12v Air Conditioner has less power than a normal one, but they use less energy when running at full speed which is why it's more efficient. A regular unit can be 70% more efficient because it uses only what the room needs instead of trying to cool the whole house all at once. This means they can save you money on your electricity bills especially if you're living off grid with solar panels and a battery bank for energy storage since it will reduce your load during certain times of the day.

There's no reason that they wouldn't work providing you have a properly wired van and deep cycle batteries to run it off of.

Here are a few 12 volt air conditioners you can use on your rv. They're all sold on amazon.

  1. NEKPOKKA 12V DC air conditioner
  2. EF ECOFLOW Wave 2 Portable Air Conditioner, Air Conditioning Unit with Heat
  3. CHUANG Gouku 12 Volt DC Air Conditioner Fast Cooling Truck Cab RV AC Unit for Rvs, Trucks, Construction Vehicles, Harvesters, Agricultural Machinery, Parking Wider Vent, White (EAC009.22-1)

What's the difference between a 120V and 12V Air Conditioner in an rv?

white 12v air conditioner and black 120v air conditioner

The main difference between the two is that the 120V air conditioner is waste more energy through the process of converting electricity from 12V DC to 120V AC. With a 12v air conditioner, it's easier to take advantage of solar panels and other types of renewable energy sources because of the fact that you can use a standard battery for energy storage since it will reduce your load during certain times of the day.

When operating a 12v air conditioner there can be a slight hum from the compressor but this is not nearly as loud as the high-pitched whine that you get from a 120V unit.

12 Volt Air Conditioning In Your RV?

A 12-volt air conditioning system has many benefits that will keep you cool and comfortable on those days when you're spending more time in your RV. Although traditionally sized window units would not work for an RV, newer models available should fit perfectly fine. Just make sure to check the dimensions first before purchasing one so you know it will fit where planned.

What's wrong with regular Air Conditioners?

A regular air conditioner works by drawing high levels of power all at once, then sending it through refrigerant that chills into cold coils inside the metal housing. The cold coils then blow that chilled air into your home via ducts and vents releasing loads of heat as they do so. This creates what you call "cold spots" where the air feels colder.

To make up for the energy loss associated with switching from DC to AC, manufacturers of these units must increase their wattage rating drastically. This means that if you plan on running your regular air conditioner off a 12v battery bank, chances are it will not last long before you drain your batteries dry.

Sizing an Air Conditioner for Your RV

When buying an air conditioner for your RV or campervan, consider what size is best suited for the space in which it will be installed.

For instance, the basic rule of thumb is 12000btu/h per 100 sq ft up to 400 sq ft max.

If you will be using your rv in a hot area such as Florida, then you might want to consider a unit with higher cooling capacity.

Most air conditioners classified as "portable" and rated to cool up to 200sqft (18000btu/h) will work in smaller rv's, but this is the minimum size you want to get.

For larger units, such as for campervans or extended stay RVs, look at models that are 22000btu/h or higher.

However, keep in mind that Air Conditioners use much less energy than heaters when operating; buying an oversized unit will cost you more money to buy and operate without providing additional benefits because it doesn't run long enough.

What Are The Drawbacks to 12V Air Conditioners?

12V Air Conditioners are great at what they do. However, there are some drawbacks to them. Knowing all the different drawbacks will let you decide if it's the right choice for you.

  • First, they are expensive compared to other options on the market.
  • There is no thermostat for your unit so it will run all the time without turning off when you don't need it.
  • 12V air conditioner units do not usually have an adjustable temperature range. They either turn on or off and that's the only control you get.
  • You cannot set a timer to turn your 12v AC on an hour before you wake up in order to cool down your RV's interior so by the time you wake up its nice and chilly inside.
  • The biggest drawback to a 12V air conditioner is generally power consumption; each unit draws between 50-200 amps (sometimes more), which can mean breaker problems.
  • Since most trailers don't supply enough power for an air conditioner, the only way to use one is to install a battery bank, solar panels and an inverter (basically adding another weekender).
  • Since 12V is not used in homes you would need large wires which can cause voltage drops and reduced efficiency. So it's more efficient to run the AC on 110v house current with dedicated wiring that will likely already be there. If connecting to existing wiring is too much work then 100W RV window units are available at big box retailers like Walmart for less than $100.00 USD without being too complicated or time consuming.

12V Air Conditioner Prices

Prices vary depending on the output power you choose, the brand, and size of the unit. You can expect to pay between $700.00 - $5000.00 USD for the bigger units, but you can also find lower priced units if you are willing to sacrifice some power and features.

What affects energy consumption?

Many different aspects of an air conditioner will affect how much energy it will consume. Generally the bigger the 12V air conditioner the more power it will use, but not always. Here are a few of the aspects that affect energy consumption:

  • Size and shape of an evaporator/condenser coil – This is what touches your vehicle's internal components and the outside environment, which determines how large or small they can be; usually related to cooling capacity (watts).
  • Pumping power – Little difference between 12V vs 120V regarding pumping power required.
  • Condenser fan motor(s) – Fans draw varying amounts of current depending on size and load; higher or lower CFM fans will draw more or less respectively.
  • Ambient temperature – The cooler the air surrounding your evaporator coil, the more effective it will be at cooling your vehicle's interior; cooling will decrease when ambient air is warm, heating will increase when ambient air is cold.
  • Outside temperature – As the outside temperature increases, your breathing heat will increase, so the inside of your vehicle will heat up faster; using a 12V AC or DC system longer than necessary to cool down your space can result in overheating, unless you are able to open windows for fresh air.
  • Number/size of occupants – The more people occupying the available space, the greater demand placed upon equipment that generates both heating and cooling; this means fans and compressors need to work harder (and use more power) to keep each occupant comfortable.
  • Air filtration systems – Dirty filters restrict airflow. Systems with dirty filters may not be able to pull enough air through the filters, and will work less efficiently; this affects both heating and cooling.
  • Room size – The larger the room, the harder your A/C has to work to cool it down; better suited for RVs than standard vehicles (not most cars).
  • Outside humidity levels – The more humid the air surrounding your evaporator coil, the less effective it will be at cooling it down; best used in arid regions or during winter when humidity is low.
  • Heating/Defrost function – This requires a lot of power because defrosters use resistive heating coils which are very inefficient. Some units have automatic defrost, but they still draw around three times as much current to use the heater circuit.


You just leaned about 12V air conditioners! There's nothing like having a 12v air conditioner when you're boondocking your RV. They don't require any inverters or converters, and there are no wires that need to be run to the battery compartment of your rig. Its quick, safe, and easy to install if you have some basic equipment on hand. No one wants to get caught in the sweltering heat without their A/C hooked up during summer time camping trips so always get your ac ready before heading out on an adventure! If you want all the features of a big AC unit but don't have access to 110v power, then a 12v AC is perfect for you.

About Author:

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Hi, I'm Kevin Pommells, a lover of camping and the great outdoors as everyone says nowadays. I'm also a passionate soccer fan and the proud owner of CamperRules.com, a website dedicated to helping campers and outdoor enthusiasts make the most of their adventures. With years of experience exploring the wilderness and a deep love for the sport of soccer, I'm always looking for new ways to combine my two passions and share my knowledge with others. Follow me for tips, tricks, and insights on all things camping and outdoor recreation.

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