What is a Non-ducted RV Air Conditioner? (Ducted vs. Non-ducted)


Getting an entire RV to cool off can be a bit of work. But with the right air conditioner for your specific trailer, it’s possible. Many people don’t realize that there are two types of air conditioners being a duct air conditioner for an RV and a non-ducted air conditioner for an RV. 

What is a non-ducted RV air conditioner? A non-ducted recreational vehicle air conditioner is one that blows the air out of the bottom of the unit. Whereas ducted air conditioners go through several ducts in the ceiling of the recreational vehicle. 

What are the advantages of having a non-ducted, and what does it do? Are there, drawbacks? These are all important things to know when it comes to what exactly a non-ducted air conditioner is, and we will get into all the information you need below!

What Does Non-ducted Mean and What Is it?

Think of a traditional air conditioner one would have hanging out of a window in their house.

The air conditioning unites blows the cool air through a vent singularly through itself.

It’s not attached to anything, and that is the only source of cool air in the room or area. 

It’s the opposite of a central air system in a house where the cool air is dispersed through many ducts and vents throughout the room or area.

A conduct air conditioner is less efficient than one with ducts as it has to work harder, possibly longer, to spread the cool air throughout the place. 

However, not all recreational vehicles, campers, and trailers have a duct system for air conditioning.

In fact, if it is a single room RV, there is a good chance it is ductless, and you will have to work with a non-duct air conditioner for the vehicle. Some even work with both duct and non-duct vents making the convenience factor go up. 

Using One

If there is no option other than to use a non-duct air conditioner for the RV that here are some simple questions that need to be answered to ensure efficiency and safety when using one.

For starters, knowing where it is or where it goes in the recreational vehicle is important—also knowing how to manually operate one as well as what options do you have when it comes to brands and quality. 

Best Place For Non-Ducted AC In the RV

While you do have the option to place the unit where you like in the RV, depending on the size of the recreational vehicle would determine whether you may need more than one non-duct air conditioner.

The units go on the ceiling, and if you do have more than one, it is recommended to put one in the front of the recreational vehicle and one towards the back to make the spread of cool air even and let it disperse quickly.

The only downside is that it hangs from the ceiling, which reduces headspace. For taller people, it’s not uncommon to bang their heads into the air conditioning units. 

How To Use It?

Every air conditioner for recreational vehicle functions a little differently as far as buttons go for different functions.

But as far as the overall ability to operate, you would use it as any other air conditioner you would have in your home.

While technology keeps developing, certain good quality air conditioners offer fascinating options. 

Non-ducted Air Conditioner

While many starts with an old fashioned remote with a button to turn on and off and control the temperatures, some machines now operate with the ability to control it from your phone.

This is just like the thermostats that you can control from your phone that sits on the wall of your home. 

With this technology, though, it will function a little different as you will either need to have the recreational vehicle running or be plugged into a power source from the outside.

The only other opinion is if it comes with a charge running option to keep going even if the RV is not on. 


There is not always the ability to choose between have a non-ducted air conditioning system for a recreational vehicle or having ducts and vents in the ceiling of an RV.

As it is a newer system, a lot of older models and smaller versions of recreational vehicles will have an AC single unit system over a ducted air conditioning system. 

However, there are drawbacks and negatives to having the non-ducted system, and if given the choice, one should be aware of what the issues are that come with it. Below are some of those problems. 

1. Dispersion of Air

The same goes for having central air cooling systems in a house or condo verse, having a unit air conditioner in one part of the home. The dispersion of air is not equal, as it comes from one area only.

Some areas of the house will remain much colder than others, and the same goes for a recreational vehicle.

Not only that, but if you have one unit towards the front of the vehicle, the back of the vehicle may take some time to feel any cool air and vice versa. 

2. Maintenance Issues

Depending on which AC unit you but for your recreational vehicle will determine the costs that you put up here and there.

A ducted air condition system though more expensive to install, turns out to be lower maintenance and cost-effective option in the future.

Having to replace singular air conditioning units because of constant maintenance will become expensive over time since they are also not cheap one-time purchases.

Most recreational vehicle owners look for singular units with warranties in an effort to combat this issue. 

Related reading: This Is Why Your RV Air Conditioner Is So Loud – [Do This First]

Good Brands

So if a singular unit is a way you wish to go, then look no further than the list of some of the most highly recommended brands and air conditioners one can buy.

Even though these are just three recommendations, these three have different features, whether it be price, power, or size.

Depending on individual and family needs, these differences will help determine which air conditioner suits you. 

Dometic Brisk II Rooftop Air Conditioner $780– With noise being one of the major concerns for air conditioners in RV’s this one, in particular, comes with brackets to dampen the noise and vibrations. 

– As far as AC goes, this is a lightweight and small unit taking up minimal space in the vehicle.

– Has the ability to pair with Honeywell Digital Thermostat as long as a battery charged RV is the vehicle you’re using. 
Airxcel Mach 15$844– Built with unbelievable power to match those with ducted systems. Meant to disperse the air quickly throughout the recreational vehicle. 
– Engineered to start efficiently no matter the climate it is faced with. 
Advent ACM150$649– A more affordable option for those who aren’t wanting to spend closer to a grand for air conditioning, and still reliable. 

– Compatible with both a duct and ductless AC system so that if you change vehicles you can take it with you. 

How Do RV Air Conditioners Work?

How do RV air conditioners work? RV air conditioners use cooling chemicals called refrigerants to lower the temperature of hot ambient air in an RV. The basic principle is that the AC picks up hot air inside the RV via an intake vent and runs the warm air over evaporator coils with refrigerants inside them.

When they come into contact with warm air, the refrigerant turns from a gaseous state into liquids. The AC then transforms those refrigerants back into liquids via a compressor.

The compressor pressurizes the gaseous refrigerants that they back into liquid form and dispel the initial heat. This heat is dispersed outside the RV via the condenser coils and the RV vent and fan system.

To change gas to a liquid and back to gas again takes energy, and an RV AC energy is measured in BTUs (British Thermal Units.) 

BTU is a unit of heat and refers to the amount of heat required to raise water temperature by one degree Fahrenheit (it’s a standard term in America to discuss heating and air conditioning units.)

The standard BTU ratings in RV air-conditioning systems are 11,000, 13,000, and 15,000and the come in standard and low profile models.

Depending on the RV size, owners may incorporate a ducted variety of AC that has vents through the coach body or a non-ducted variety that blows directly into the coach.

How Can I Keep My RV Cool Without AC?

There are tricks to surviving the summer when the heat kicks in, and you have no air conditioner. These include:

1. Positioning Your RV 

Where possible, park your RV near the cooling shade of trees or near the water for cooling breezes. Of course, these prize spots are the first to be taken, so if you are exposed, try to expose the side of your RV with fewer windows to the full midday sun.

The process of solar heat gain is the heat from direct sunlight, which means your solar gains are mostly through your windows. If you can, place and waning over the entrance side of the RV.

Related reading: What is Better: Vinyl or Acrylic Awning? (Acrylic vs. Vinyl Awnings)

2. Window Coverings

Windows will increase your heat even if they are double-paned or tinted, and the blame for much of the heat accumulation in your RVUse awning wherever you can to increase your shade and lessen the heat transfer through your windows.

Reflectix is a reflective insulation that you may cut down to window size and block the sun from warming your RV. You can use a newspaper as a template and use Velcro tape to adhere it to your insulation inside the camper.

A cheaper DIY version is to hand white towels from dowel rods above your windows to use the white to reflect the sun’s rays out of your RV.

3. Ventilation

Once you have all awnings up and the camper is placed the best you can to lessen the sun’s impact, you need to make sure your RV is ventilated.

Close the window on the hot side of the camper and open the windows on the cooler side to increase ventilation. As warm air rises, you may think of running a roof fan or floor fan to circulate the air.

A neat trick is to fill a large bowl with ice and direct the fan’s breeze over the ice as a temporary DIY AC. 

4. Keep your appliance heat down

Refrigerators kick up a lot of heat while cooling your perishables, and the heat can accumulate in a small space.

Direct your fridge vent to outside your RV and try and keep you fridge panels from the sun. Likewise, do your cooking outside during summer; its always more fun that way, and you won’t make your RV an oven.

Related reading: Does RV Refrigerator Work Better on Gas or Electric? [Gas vs DC Fridge]

Can I Run My RV Air Conditioner On Battery Power?

Can I run my RV air conditioner on battery power? Yes, you can run an RV Air conditioner off a battery if you find yourself without a power source for your RV. The problem comes in when you start up a larger BTU AC, which needs quite a kick to get going. 

To run your AC off batteries, you would need an inverter to convert from DC to AC power first. The problem is that it most probably last very long, depending on the BUT rating of your AC.

You will probably need more than one battery to provide sufficient power to run the AC, and the higher your BTUs, the shorter your battery would last.

  • If you are using a small AC of 6,000 BTUs, you would need about 560 watts. 
  • If you are using a 13,500 BTU AC unit, you would need 3000 watts
  • If you are using a 15,000 BTU AC, you would need 3500 watts to start the AC and 1,800 watts to maintain operation initially.

So you will only get about 90 minutes of run time if you power a 15,000 BTU with two lithium batteries before you would need to recharge.

What Is The Smallest RV Air Conditioner?

With advances in technology, you can now buy a powerful RV air conditioner that fits your coach neatly. Portable ACs may be smaller, but they end up being in the way when you are on the road.

What is the smallest RV air conditioner? Dometic Freshjet 1700 is one of the smallest, most potent rooftop RV ACs and can cool an RV up to 6 meters:

  • depth 787 mm
  • height 225 mm
  • width 562 mm
  • weight 29 kg
  • Cut out height 400.00 mm
  • Cut out width 400.00 mm

How Many Amps Does An RV Air Conditioner Draw?

The average amps that an RV Air conditioner will use depending on BTUs. Like most Air conditioning systems, the compressor pulls many amps for the startup, which is called locked rotor amps or inrush current.

How many Amps does an RV AC draw? On average you can expect between 13 Amps and up to 18 Amps. The start-up amps will be higher than your running amps from your RV air conditioner.

An example of a 15k BTU RV AC amp stats:

Process phaseAmperage
RV Air Conditioner (Start-up)16-18 Amps
RV Air Conditioner (Running)13-16 Amps

Frequently Asked Questions

Here are a few common questions people often have about AC:

Should I Cover My RV Air Conditioner?

Some RV enthusiasts are against covering your RV air conditioner because they believe the cover may damage your RV by scratching the RV surface. Others claim that a cover causes moisture build-up that causes mold.

Should I cover my RV Air conditioner? Yes, if your cover is made of waterproof material and fits snugly on your AC, there is no reason why it shouldn’t protect your AC from UV damage or dirt/snow when not in use.

Not only does it reduce UV wear and tear (when outside), but it may protect the workings of your compressor when it stands for long stretches in a garage.

Why Is My RV AC Not Blowing Cold Air?

Why my RV AC not blowing cold air? There are several reasons why your RV air conditioner is not blowing cold air.

The most common reasons are:

Clogging. Your AC may get clogged by dirt or debris lodged in the condenser coils. Your foam filter may be clogged and need to be cleaned or replaced. Ensure that your evaporator and blower motor fins have nor become obstructed by dirt or grime.

Leaks in your AC intake and exhaust may be to blame and if you see wires poking up through the AC duct, seal them with foil tape. If the seal between the exhaust duct and roof is damaged, you may repair it with weather seal foam. 

The compressor may become clogged with dirt or debris, and you should seek professional assistance when tackling the repairs.

How Much Does An RV Air Conditioner Cost?

How much does an RV AC cost? You could pick a no-frills entry-level AC for around 200 dollars for a ductless rooftop AC to $1000 or more for a duct version with the frills.

However, your RV Air conditioner’s price depends on what kind of AC it is, what the BUT rating is, and the add on features the AC may have.

Final Thoughts

Simple answered a non-ducted air conditioner is similar to one that is in your own. The difference is they tend to be small in order to fit with the comfort of taking up space in the recreational vehicle.

There are a lot of positives to having non-duct air conditioners but there are also drawbacks to consider. 

Within the non-duct air conditioners themselves, there are many to chose from each having their own individual features that may be more appealing to one person than to another.

Once you determine the price you are willing to pay than the decision because a little easier when choosing a non-duct air conditioner. 

Recommended Reading

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

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

What Does Solar Ready or Prep on A Camper Mean?

Why Are RV Bathroom Doors So Short? – All You Need To Know

How To Repair Travel Trailer Walls [Must-Read]

What Is The Average Cost To Install Trailer Brake Controller – (Facts & Numbers)

Where to Find VIN Number on Camper and Trailer? | Detailed Guide

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.

Recent Posts

error: Content is protected !!