What is the best Air Conditioner for my caravan or motor home?
I'll look at the most important questions you should ask
yourself and explain what each feature means.
Not everyone needs the best Air Conditioner, but it is important
to get one that has the features you need. Some items will
be pointed out that would be considered as a disadvantage
in certain situations. I have no inclination toward any particular
brand but some models have definite advantages. Some points
on spare parts price and availability will also be explained.
Why do I need an RV air conditioner? Will a household
air conditioner do the same job?
Household split systems or window mounted air conditioners
are cheaper than the specialist RV air conditioners. If you
are installing them into an onsite caravan, a mobile home
or an RV that rarely moves then you should also check out
the household versions available from other retailers.
You should only look at specialist RV air conditioners if
you will be traveling. They are designed to keep water out
when travelling and the mountings and fittings are designed
for constant vibration that occurs when traveling.
What does the 360mm or 400mm opening mean?
Roof top air conditioners are made to fit either a 360mm
square opening in your roof, or a 400mm square opening. The
400mm typically originate in Europe while the 360mm are based
on the 14" American style roof vent.
Whilst a newly built caravan or RV can be made to suit either
size, the extra work to modify an existing hole could be a
deciding factor in your purchase. Why make things more difficult
unless you need to. Thickness of your ceiling is also a consideration,
but many allow for quite a range in thickness. This should
be included in the specifications.
Which is best, a roof top Air Conditioner or built-in style?
Because there are a number of each style on the market, there is clearly
no overall winner.
The first preference should be to have a roof top air conditioner
because cold air likes to drop, so it is preferable to start
It does not take up any of your valuable internal space. With
almost all recreational vehicle layouts you can get the most
If you have a Pop-Top, Camper Trailer or Camper van with an single
skin roof you should seriously look at the built-in models.
What's the difference between Reverse Cycle and those with
A number of air conditioners use heat exchange to cool, while they
use a simple heat element just like a fan
heater for heating. This is less efficient for heating, however
it works at any outside temperature.
Reverse cycle uses heat exchange when cooling or
heating. Cooling moves the heat from inside to outside. Heating moves
the outside heat to the inside. But this heating method does cause problems
when the exchange fins ice up.
This is an important consideration, often intentionally overlooked
by sales people, when describing the benefits of their brand.
You should check how outside temperatures will effect the heating function
of your proposed air conditioner if you intend using your RV in very
cold climates. Some air conditioners give disappointing results for
heating when outside temperatures drop toward Zero.
An air conditioner that gets over this problem will make a point of
specifying this in their features section.
How cold or hot will they make my RV?
You can expect the manufacturers to quote the maximum size
RV their air conditioners will work with. They will always
assume you have insulation in your walls and ceilings.
Pop-Tops and Camper Trailers will loose much more heat through
the vinyl section and non insulated walls or ceilings and
will not stay as cool. This does not mean you cannot use an
Air Conditioner on these RV's, but the effect will be less,
or a more powerful unit should be used.
Even a drop of a few degrees can make the difference you
What does BTU or kW mean?
A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of cooling output or heating output.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It is a different unit
but measures the same thing.
1 kW = 3412 BTU
The following shows the relative cooling and heat capacity
Does the profile affect wind resistance?
Not really. The roof top versions seem to all provide about
the same frontal area that needs to go through the air, however
some are short and wide and others are higher and wider.
The following shows the relative height of each roof top
unit in mm.
The height may be important if you need to get in a garage
doorway, but it will have little effect on air flow. It will
also affect clearance parking under trees.
The height could be considered a very important cosmetic consideration, especially
on smaller RV's. The cost to produce a low profile unit is higher than a standard
height unit due to the need to specially make more compact components. This
may change over time.
You may think that a higher unit will alter the centre of
gravity. Since the Air conditioners are already located in
the centre of the roof, and the heavier components are toward
the base, there is very little difference in the centre of
gravity, certainly much less than the eye perceives. But again
this does effect the cosmetics of your whole RV.
Amperage. Is it important?
Yes and No. If you are staying at caravan parks where your
fees already include your power, then apart from your conscience
at using extra power for one model against another then amperage
is not the most important consideration.
However, if you often use your air conditioner from a generator,
then this may be VERY important. The amperage should reflect
the generator size but this is not strictly correct. An Air
Conditioner will require more than the rated amps to get started,
and for continuous use, the generator should be able to provide
more kW than the Air Conditioner requires. Where we have this
information it is stated in the description.
Does Caravans Plus have a model recommendation?
Firstly, if we don't think the air conditioner offers good
features or reasonable value for money then we do not sell
it. However just because we do not sell an air conditioner
does not mean we would not recommend it.
There may be new models we have not yet evaluated or there
may be alternate suppliers that we do not deal with.
If we receive a number of bad reports of inherent problems
with a particular model we stop selling them. Waeco
12V CA-1000 was removed following poor customer feedback.
We welcome customer feedback for this.
If there is insufficient brand after sales support in the
form of service agents, we will stop selling the product or
at the very least mention this in the product description.
Carrier Air V was removed after supply problems..
In short, then if we list it, it is either a new product,
or it is an established model with a good reputation.
Do we provide Brand recommendations?
As an independent reseller of multiple brands we are happy
to provide an overview of our experience.
Dometic/Truma: They are a large international
company with a reputation for quality RV products. They offer
good warranty support and hold a good supply of spare parts within
Australia. They have a very comprehensive service agent network.
Service agents are listed on www.dometic.com.au.
However, we believe the cost of spare parts, when
needed, to be more than they should be.
Air Command: They are an Australian company
that only make air conditioners. Their products are very good
quality and they are innovators. There is no problem getting
spare parts or finding service agents. Spare parts
are reasonably priced. They list all spare parts
and service agents at www.aircommand.com.au
Coleman: These are imported by Coast to
Coast RV from USA and are a proven product with very few problems.
We believe the TSR to be less than beautiful, however they
are reliable and common spare parts are readily available
and at a reasonable price. There are probably
less service agents than Air Command and Dometic but Coast
To Coast (www.coastrv.com.au) keeps an up-to-date
list, and we find them quick to provide technical advice and
fast warranty service.
What is best value for money?
If a number of Air Conditioners meet your requirements, and
you require a recommendation, we would be happy to provide
a recommendation at that point in time. Use our technical
email address Click here
and list the features you need.
Suppliers change their prices or offer discounts from time
to time, so this can effect the value for money of one or
more brands. Specials that we offer are genuine and would
usually represent a recommendation provided the features meet
As time goes by we will be requesting feedback from real
customers of real products to give greater information to
you to help make your final decision.