RV air conditioners can add much-needed comfort to an RV during the hot summer months. Yet in order to keep cool, you will need a dedicated power source on your RV. This article takes a look at some of the best solutions for running an air conditioner off-grid and how they can help you stay cooler when you’re camping.
Air Conditioning is one of the things that consume a lot of power in your RV. In this article, we will also discuss whether you can run your camper’s air conditioner using a solar generator and pick the best one.
How Much Power does an RV Air Conditioner Use
An Air Conditioner power depends on the BTU. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, a unit of measurement for energy. It is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of 1 pound of water by 1 degree Fahrenheit. BTU is used in air conditioners to measure the cooling capacity. The higher the BTU, the more cooling capacity the air conditioner has.
The BTU will determine the wattage of the Air Conditioner. This is usually by a factor of ten or 10% depending on the EER Rating. For example, the Domestic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner will have a BTU rating of 15000. Its wattage will be anything between 1500-1700 watts.
This means to power this unit for around 3 hours will need around 5000 Watt-hours which is a lot. A 13000 BTU unit that will consume 1300 watts or 3900Wh in the same three hours. This difference might not seem a lot but 1100Watt-hours could be an extra battery or solar panel in a solar system.
Solar Generator to Run a Portable Air Conditioner
Opting for a smaller AC like 5000 BTU can be less costly to run but it limits the room that you can run it in (200 sq ft). However, it will be portable and you will be able to move it around. This unit will need around 800 watts of power.
To run this unit for 3 hours will need around 2400 watt-hours almost half the power of the bigger unit. For this, you can use the Blueetti AC200P LiFePO4 Solar generator. With a 2000 watt inverter and a 2000Wh battery, it can run the unit for three hours and is even more supported by Solar panels.
So What Size Solar Generator for an RV
As mentioned before an Air Conditioner is one of the biggest consumers of power in your camper, and you won’t be getting a solar generator just to run your AC alone. An RV requires around 3000 watts to run all the appliances through shore power. So when you are off-grid if you will need to replace this power source with the same wattage if not more.
A solar generator combines a battery, controller, and inverter and you can simply plug solar panels to recharge the unit. You can also use a gas generator or power from the grid. To run all your appliances and your Air conditioner in your RV you will need a 3000-watt solar generator like the Titan Solar Generator.
The Titan solar generator is rated at 3000 watts and has a 2000 watt-hour capacity. It comes with two lithium-ion batteries that can be charged up to 1450 watts with two 25A chargers. This means you can replenish the battery as soon as you use it. This makes it great for running appliances continuously throughout the day and night 24/7!.
The 30-amp output is convenient for RVs as you can easily plugin your RV connector and power all your 120-volt appliances. However, this unit is bulky, heavy, and quite expensive. It will not suit if you intend to use a power station for portable use.
How many Solar Panels to run an RV Air Conditioner
To run an appliance through Solar panels you simply match the wattages. So for the 13000 BTU 1500 watts unit, you will need 2000 watts to cover for losses and cloudy conditions. For the 5000 BTU unit, you will need a 1000 watt solar panel in order to run the unit.
However, this needs to be properly matched to the battery as not every battery or solar generator will take the amps fed into it. This takes us to the next part; the battery.
How many 12-volt batteries to run an AC
We have already determined the number of Watt-hours required to run our AC. It is easy to match this up to batteries as some batteries like solar generators will have watt-hours indicated.
A watt-hour is a unit of energy. It is equal to the amount of energy transferred or used in one hour by a power of one watt.
To calculate the number of batteries you will simply divide the watt-hours required by the appliance by the watt-hours of the battery.
In most batteries, however, you will find the indicated in Amp-hours. Amp-hours is the measure of how many amps a battery can supply for hours. 1 amp-hour is equal to 1 amp supplied in one hour.
To get the Amp-hours required you will simply divide the Watt-hours by the voltage of your system. To get the number of 12-volt batteries required for 13000 BTU unit for 3 hours which is 5000 watt-hours:
5000/12 = 416
For our 13000 BTU unit you will need 416 Amp-hours that’s two 220 amp-hour batteries or 4 110 Amp-hour batteries. And these have to be lithium-ion batteries that you can use more than 90% of the capacity. For lead-acid batteries, you will have to double as they can only be discharged up to half of their capacity.
For a 5000 BTU unit, you will need around 166 Amp-hours
2000/12 = 166
For this, you can use a single 200 Amp-hour LiFePO4 battery.
12-volt Off-grid Air Conditioners
Another option would be to buy a battery-operated 12-volt Air conditioner. This is one of the coolest inventions. Pun intended. It’s a portable, battery-operated evaporative AC that draws water from the air to cool it. It’s mostly used for camping – you can use it in any situation where there is no power source available.
It may not be enough to cool down a whole room but it is suitable for one user; people or pets. And this appliance can be easily powered through solar with no problem whatsoever of putting a strain on your battery bank. On the flip side, it may require some DIY wiring.