Does Air Conditioning Actually Work In a Pop Up Camper ?

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Susan of RVBlogger owned a pop-up camper for over 10 years. While her daughters were growing up she used to take them camping on most weekends every spring, summer, and fall. The one thing she wished she had in her pop-up camper was air conditioning. And that comment made me wonder – does air conditioning actually work in a pop-up camper? I was surprised to learn that the answer is yes!

Of course, before you decide to add A/C to your pop-up camper it is important to understand what your needs are so you can find the right A/C unit for you. So in this article, we will discuss the three types of air conditioners for pop-up campers. We will also discuss how to determine the size of the A/C unit you need to cool your pop-up properly. In addition, we will provide examples of the cost of popular A/C units and finally, we will offer some tips for keeping your pop-up cool.

Does AC in a Pop Up Camper Really Work

What Type of A/C Do You Need?

There are three types of air conditioners for a pop-up trailer. Portable A/C units, Window units, and Rooftop units. We will discuss the advantages and disadvantages of all three types below so you can determine which type will work best for you.

Portable A/C Units

Portable AC In an RVPortable A/C Units for RVs are the newest of the three types of A/C Units. They are typically on wheels and they can be placed anywhere you want in your pop-up camper. They vary in size, but they often resemble a tall dehumidifier and they also have fans to keep the air moving inside the pop-up camper.

Advantages:

Portable air conditioners are very easy to use, and they require little effort from you in order to have cool air. Their main benefits are that they are inexpensive, they are small and lightweight and you can move them around. Older units were not very strong but there are units on the market now that go up to 12,500 BTU’s and cost under $500.

Disadvantages:

The biggest disadvantage with a Portable A/C Unit is that it needs to be placed near a window because they use one or two vent lines that transfer the hot air from the device to the outside. They do come with an adjustable frame that is placed below a window to keep the hoses in place but the unit needs to be placed close to a window. And of course, they take up precious floor space inside your pop-up.

Although Portable air conditioners are relatively cheap some Rvers complain that these types of units are loud since the compressor of the air conditioner is inside the camper. So you will hear the cooling sound while inside your pop up.

Window Mounted A/C Units

Window RV AC UnitAnother type of portable air conditioning unit is the Window-Mounted A/C Unit. They are secured in the window of the pop-up trailer, and they are very easy to install, so you can easily mount them yourself.

Advantages:

The window-mounted A/C Unit offers outstanding cooling ability and it doesn’t take up space since it’s installed outside of the window. Also, they plug into a standard wall receptacle so they are very easy to set up. In addition, they are easy to mount and the compressor and cooling components are outside the window so although you will hear it, noise won’t be much of a problem.

Disadvantages:

Although they are stronger than the smaller, wheeled portable air conditioning units, they are less powerful than the rooftop models. Also, you will need to remove the unit from the window every time you break camp and travel. This is somewhat of a hassle but the work is very minimal.

Rooftop A/C Units

Rooftop AC UnitAn RV Rooftop A/C Unit is the most popular of the three options. Rooftop air conditioners resemble a box which is mounted on top of the pop-up trailer.  Most rooftop air conditioners are strong enough to efficiently cool your pop-up. A single rooftop air conditioner can cool an area of 10 feet by 20 feet rather easily.

Advantages

There are many advantages to adding a rooftop air conditioner to your pop-up camper. They are efficient and powerful enough to provide cool air inside even during very hot and humid summer weather. The newer models of rooftop air conditioners are quieter than portable or window mounted A/C units which makes them a great choice for sleeping comfort. And, once they are installed you don’t have to remove them when you travel.

Also, rooftop A/C units are equipped with a thermostat so you can set them to your desired temperature. In addition, many rooftop units can double as a heater which can extend your camping season from early spring to late fall.

Disadvantages

The biggest disadvantages of a rooftop A/C unit are price, installation requirements and energy draw. Rooftop air conditioners can also be costly to repair. The A/C unit itself costs more than the other A/C options and it is much more difficult to install.

You may need to add roof supports in your pop-up trailer to handle the weight of the A/C unit and to ensure proper water runoff from your roof. It’s definitely recommended that you have it professionally installed, which means that you will also incur an added installation expense.

Depending on the size of the unit it can use a ton of power, so this is not the best choice for those who are conserving energy or like to camp off the grid.

What Size A/C Do You Need?

Before buying an air conditioner you need to know the amount of BTUs needed to cool your pop-up camper. BTU means British Thermal Units, and the higher the BTUs the stronger the air conditioner. The easiest way to find the right number of BTUs for your pop-up camper trailer is by multiplying the square foot area of the trailer by 40.

However, since your pop-up trailer is not insulated you should aim for the high side of the recommended BTUs so you don’t buy an A/C unit that is too weak and can’t cool your RV. Below is a chart to help calculate your  BTUs needed to cool the air in your pop-up or RV.

BTU Chart

How Much Do A/C Units Cost?

When you are looking for the most suitable air conditioner unit brand for your pop-up camper, the most important figure to look for is the BTUs. Usually, the price of an air conditioner also rises with the BTU number. Below we have provided some examples of costs for all three types of A/C units along with BTUs so you can see how they all compare.

  • MIDEA EasyCool 3-in1 Window Air Conditioner with Dehumidifier – 8,000 Btu – $224.00
  • BLACK + DECKER 14000 BTU Portable Air Conditioner Unit + 11000 BTU Heater – $384.00
  • Dometic Polar White 13,500 BTU Rooftop Air Conditioner only – $601.90
  • Advent Air Rooftop RV Air Conditioner w/Vent, Start Capacitor, and Heat Strip – 13,500 Btu – $766.45
  • Atwood Air Command Rooftop RV Air Conditioner w Heat Pump – 15,000 Btu – Non-Ducted – $886.00
  • Coleman RVP 45203876 MACH 10 13.5 BTU AC White – $900.00

Tips to Maximize A/C

Here are a few tips that will help to keep you cool in your pop-up.

  • Try to park in the shade
  • Use a fan in addition to the A/C to keep the air moving
  • Insulate the inside of your pop up
  • Keep your A/C unit maintained so it is operating at peak performance
  • Clean the A/C filter regularly
  • Make sure your popup is level – Check out our article called How To Level a Travel Trailer on a Slope for more info!

Conclusion

Air conditioning units for pop-up trailers are not too expensive. They cost anywhere between $200 and $1500 depending on the type and the BTUs. If you are an avid camper then making an investment in a rooftop air conditioner is well worth the money. Otherwise, you can get by spending much less money on a portable or window unit air conditioner.

For more helpful info about Pop-up Campers check out some of our other articles below.

Do you have any thoughts or questions about air conditioning your pop-up? Please share any comments or suggestions below.

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14 thoughts on “Does Air Conditioning Actually Work In a Pop Up Camper ?”

  1. I bought a popup with a roof mounted ac. I was shocked at how well it actually kept it at 68 degrees with no shade on an 85 degree day!

    Reply
  2. Choosing what type of AC units to install in your popup campers is depend on the RV owners situation. Although installing Rooftop AC unit is more convenient, you should also consider the advantages of installing Window-Mounted AC and Portable AC as well. Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  3. Have roof top ac don’t like the fact it drains on bed canvas.is there any solution to this don’t like to have wet canvas when ready to put pop up down

    Reply
    • Hi Linda,

      I don’t know for sure but I have installed many air conditioner condensate lines in residences but never on an RV. But you can probably connect some tubbing to where your A/C condensate line exits your rooftop A/C and run it from there down the side of your pop up. It may require an adapter but you can most likely find everything to do the job at Home Depot. You may have given me an idea for a future article!

      Thanks for reading!

      Mike

      Reply
      • Some people take hollow pool noodle, cut a slit lengthwise then place the noodle where the roof meets the bedend canvas with a bit of pitch overhanging the side a bit. Presto, instant gutter!

        Reply
        • We use a hollow pool noodle on the side of our TV in the RV so it doesn’t bang against the wall while we are driving down the road!
          A million and one uses for the pool noodles!
          Mike

          Reply
  4. Great article but I need help figuring out exactly how to install a portable a/c in a pop up since portable’s come with a hose. Do you just stick it out a window? How is that possible since the pop up windows are all covered in a mesh screen?

    Reply
  5. I have a portable that does not have a drain hose. It only needs to be drained when set on dry (dehumidify) and you can open the plug and empty outside or in a bowl. If the one you have has to be drained constantly, you might be able to rig it to drain into a 2 Liter bottle and just empty it daily.

    Reply

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