How Many Watts Do I Need to Run a Camper AC? Facts You Need To Know


Camping in a camper during the summer is hot and muggy. Needing to know how much wattage a camper AC unit uses is essential to ensure you have a great camping experience, especially when trying to figure out how compatible your generator will be for all your other needs.

How many watts do I need to run a Camper AC? The average air conditioning unit in an average size camper needs between 1,900 to 3,500 watts to startup and uses between 600 to 1,700 watts to run. The startup amount is what will take up the most power, while the running amount will be lower, about half as much of the starting power usage.

Of course, the biggest concern one might have when purchasing a camper trailer would be the wattage usage for the AC unit.

The AC unit is one of the most power-consuming appliances, and in the opinion of most camper owners, the most essential.

Without an air conditioner, you might be amazed just how much hotter it can be inside your camper on an already hot day. There is little to no insulation, and the camper mostly metal.

BTU’s And How They Are Significant In Wattage For Ac Units

BTUs (British Thermal Unit) are what determine how the air conditioning unit will cool a specific amount of area, and how much power the air conditioner will use.

The bigger the camper, the more BTUs the air conditioner will need to make the space cool and stay that way. The more BTU there is in a unit, the more power it uses.

Here is an example chart of amounts of BTU that some air conditioners may use, and how much wattage they require to start and run.

BTUsStart-up wattageRunning wattagePer Square Feet
15,0003,200 to 3,5001,200 to 1,700700-800
13,5002,700 to 2,9001,000 to 1,300500
10,0001,900 to 2,050600 to 750450
7,0001,600 to 1,800500 to 650300
5,0001,100 to 1,300300 to 450100 to 200
How many watts does an RV air conditioner use

With this chart as your guide, you can select an air conditioner that fits your needs based on what size your camper is while keeping in mind exactly how much wattage you’ll need to use.

While generators come in different sizes and wattage use, size does not always matter with how much wattage output it has.

Ideally, you will need to figure out which one would be best based on how much wattage ALL of your appliances require. Remember to keep track of what you are using at one time, along with your air conditioner.

Power Consumption Chart for RV Electrical Appliances

It is important to keep in mind other appliances that you will use in addition to your air conditioner.

It would be unwise to use every single appliance all at once because you could cause a breaker trip on your generator – things like your refrigerator, TV, stove, oven, microwave, and hairdryer that use quite a bit of power when used at the same time.

Here in the chart below you can see the average power consumption for electrical appliances:

RV and Camping AppliancesRates Watts (running)
RV Roof-Top AC (15,000 BTU)2,000 W
RV Roof-Top AC (13,500 BTU)1,500 W
RV Roof-Top AC (11,000 BTU)1,010 W
Dehumidifier785 W
Vacuum1,100 W
Electric Water Heater (6 Gal.)1,440 W
Clothes Washer1,150 W
Fan200 W
Electric Blanket80 W
Space Heater1,800 W
Coffee Maker800 W
Electric Grill1,650 W
Toaster850 – 1,250 W
Dorm Size Refrigerator350 W
12″ B&W TV30 W
27″ Color TV500 W
Laptop200 W
Satellite Dish & Receiver30 W
Battery Charger (Cell Phone)25 W
Inflator Pump50 W
power consumption chart for electrical appliances

How Many Watts Does a RV AC Use?

How many watts does a RV air conditioner use – How Much Power Does An Air Conditioner Use >> Check put the video below:

What Kind Of AC Unit Would I Need To Keep My Camper Cool?

As mentioned above, you will need to consider the size of your RV when you pick an AC unit. You wouldn’t want to get an air conditioner with too few BTUs because then your space will not be adequately cooled.

But on top of that, you need to think about where you want to fit it into the camper. There are a few different models to choose from.

1. Rooftop Air Conditioners

These are the most common people may use. They contain between 5,000 to 15,000 BTUs. It doesn’t take up as much room. However, it does use a lot of power.

They are also challenging to maintain and exceedingly tricky to install on your own, especially if you do not know how to.

2. Portable Air Conditioners

These seem to be a great fit if you don’t want to use so much power. Portable air conditioners are easier to maintain, and they aren’t particularly loud.

They work by using the humidity in the air and turning the air it projects cool. They are also a cheaper option. The downside is they will take up some space, but you can pretty much install them in any area inside of your RV.

3. Portable RV Air Conditioners

These are very similar to the regular portable units. Except they have a tube and need a hole to the outside to be able to ventilate.

They’re also a cheaper option but take up a lot of space since you have to keep that ventilation hose in place.

They also use about as much energy as the rooftop air conditioners, so they aren’t very energy saving.

4. In-Window Air Conditioners

Just like the air conditioners you would install in your home, you can install an in-window unit in your camper.

This route would be the easiest to deal with and perhaps a better option, especially for maintenance and cost. It’s out of the way.

However, it would take away a window you could see out of. These are energy-efficient, as well. Also, a plus side is that you can install it in any window where you want to be cooler in a particular area of your RV.

Related reading: What is an Inverter in an RV and Why Do You Need it?

Camper AC Unit Not Cooling Properly? What to Do?

It is a good idea to turn on the unit in the morning before it gets too hot outside to help cool the camper. That way, the unit is not working so hard to get it cold inside once it already got too hot to stand it.

The way air conditioners work is they do not exactly push cold air into the space, but instead remove the heat from the carpet, bedding, and couches.

So, if those things are already hot inside, it’s going to take a lot of energy to fix that.

1. Make Sure The Filter Is Clean

Turn off the AC unit and pull the filter out. You can vacuum the filter or wash it with soap and water. It will run a lot more efficiently, and you won’t be breathing in dust and potential allergens. Clean air makes for a happy camper.

Related reading: Do RV Thermostats Go Bad? How To Check It?

2. Make Sure You Keep Doors, Windows, And Vents Closed While Operating The AC Unit

It would only make sense to do this as the AC unit would be fighting the hot outside air and working harder at trying to remove heat.

So, if you have children going in and out and you want to enjoy the outside air if it’s not too hot, it would probably be best to just shut off the AC for a while to make sure you’re not overworking the unit

How to Properly Use The Air Conditioner (AC) in Your Camper >> Check out the video below:

Could I Install A Second AC Unit?

Yes, you can. If just one AC is not doing it for you, you have the option of using an extra air conditioner to help.

While it comes with a few drawbacks as far as wattage consumption goes. If both units are running at the average 13,500 BTU, the wattage use would be double than just using one.

So, with that in mind, you must be careful about using other high-power consuming appliances at the same time. Maybe even consider not using them at all while both are running.

There Are Many Things To Consider About Camping Or Traveling In An RV

Knowing how much wattage you need for AC’s and other appliances in your RV is one of the most important. However, don’t forget to unplug and enjoy the moment wherever you are, whether you are traveling and visiting new places, or just on a basic camping trip.

Instead of watching TV, explore the area you are in. Instead of listening to the radio to sleep, listen to the night sounds mother nature has provided.

Instead of cooking inside your camper, even though it may be more convenient, don’t forget how much fun it is to roast hot dogs and marshmallows over the fire.

Recommended reading

For more helpful articles about RVing please check out our articles below:

How Many Watts Does a Pop-up Camper Use? (Facts & Numbers)

Does Your Travel Trailer Have an Inverter? Here’s How to Check

This Is Why Your RV Inverter Is Beeping [Facts You Should Know]

How to Use a Generator with a Travel Trailer: Complete Guide

Do RV Rentals Have WiFi? Your 5 Best Options Explained

Mike Gilmour

Hi, I'm Mike, co-founder, and editor of RV and Playa. My passion is traveling (with my RV) and enjoying the day at the beach (Playa)! Well, I originally created this blog as a way to share what I've learned by experimenting with the RV lifestyle, and I want to help others develop in life through new skills and opportunities.

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