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Caravan Air Conditioners Guide


Household vs RV Air Conditions

  • Household vs RV Air ConditionsHousehold (domestic) style air conditioners are only suitable for use on caravans if the van is being used as permanent on-site accommodation and rarely moves. They are simply not designed to take the bumps and impacts imposed during travelling. The extreme conditions will quickly break internal components and cause leaks around the installation interface.


Roof Top vs Built-In

  • Roof Top vs Built-InFor most (full-height) caravans and motorhomes, a roof mounted air conditioner is the way to go. It doesn't take up any valuable cupboard / storage space, and works efficiently due to cold air dropping from the ceiling.
  • For pop-tops, campers & expandas, you have the option of either roof mounted, or built-in style units. Some lift-up roofs simply can't take the weight of even the smaller roof mounted air conditioners. For most of these types of vans, you will need to use an external H frame to support the weight of the air conditioner. You will probably also need to increase the pressure in your gas struts to counter balance the added weight on the roof.


Reverse Cycle vs Heating Elements

  • Reverse Cycle vs Heating ElementsMany people call air conditioners "Reverse Cycle" if they both heat AND cool - however there is a technical difference.
  • A TRUE "Reverse Cycle" air conditioner runs the compressor in BOTH heating and cooling modes. They are the most efficient at heating. However, they can suffer from the cooling fins icing up in very cold weather, causing the heater to stop functioning.
  • A "Heating Element" style air conditioner simply uses a resistance element (like a blow heater) and will work in very cold temperatures as they don't suffer the icing up issue.

Capacity - Air Con Sizing

  • Capacity - Air Con SizingMost air conditioners are rated in kW and this is the easiest way to compare the cooling capacity.
  • Generally there are two categories of air conditioner sizes
    - 3+ kW:  Suitable for caravans / motorhomes up to 24'
    - 2-2.5kW: Suitable for vans up to 16'


Generators and Amperage

  • Generators and AmperageAll generators are specified with a certain amperage - the current they take while operating. 
  • Ensuring you select the correct size generator for your air conditioner is imperative, however it is not simple.
  • Generally, the specifications will tell you most large 3.2kW air conditioners require a 2.8kVA generator minimum.
  • However, many people have good success using a Yamaha or Honda 2.0kVa generator to run large 3.2kW air conditioners. They do struggle in more extreme ambient temperatures and if the air con is cycling on and off regularly. These generators are a nice, portable, handlable size.
  • The Yamaha 2.4kVa generator has been a popular choice as it will run most air cons, most of the time, but is physically larger than the 2kVa units.


12V / 24V DC Air Conditioners

  • 12V / 24V DC Air ConditionersBasically forget about it for any real world application.
    There are some evaporative style air conditioners used for truck cabs, but these cabs are tiny compared to most vans


Air Conditioner Brand Comparison


Opening Size: 360mm or 400mm

  • Opening Size: 360mm or 400mmThis is the size of the opening in the roof. 
  • These are the two common sizes. 
  • The 360mm size is based on the common 14" American style roof vent.
  • The 400mm size is for European style air conditioners.
  • If you have an existing opening if the roof of your van, it is easiest to get the correct size air conditioner to fit this opening, rather than try to modify it.



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