Guide: How To Choose A Ductless Air Conditioner For Your RV

A ductless air conditioner is an excellent addition to an RV. It’s a relatively small setup that provides excellent cooling plus heating for the winter. These systems are whisper-quiet, which is ideal for close quarters. And while they rely on electricity, they use much less energy than conventional systems.

If you’re ready to increase the year-round comfort in your RV, keep reading to learn about the benefits of ductless air conditioners, or mini splits. I’ll also explore how they work and what to consider when choosing and installing one.

I’ll also explore what to watch for in general when adding climate control to a recreational vehicle.

To put this all together, I”m leaning on my 14 years as a product manager for the national HVAC distributor Peirce Phelps. It’s been my job to stay up-to-date on high-efficiency heating and cooling solutions. And to work closely with dozens of contractors who have put in thousands of systems for homeowners and RVers across Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey.

You can download the free product guide for a better idea of what can work for you. Or, if you live in the mid-Atlantic region, set up a free consultation with one of our certified installers.

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Common Heating and Cooling Challenges With an RV

Before you start shopping for a ductless air conditioner for your RV, it’s essential to understand the common heating and cooling challenges that you may face on the road. The main challenges include:

Noise And Vibration

One of the most significant challenges of using an air conditioner in an RV is the noise and vibration produced by the unit. This issue can be particularly problematic if you’re trying to sleep while the air conditioner is running.

To avoid this issue, you should consider a ductless air conditioner that operates quietly and has minimal vibration.

Electricity Needs

Another challenge you may face when using an air conditioner in your RV is meeting the electricity needs of the unit. Since RVs have a limited power supply, you need to choose an air conditioner that is energy-efficient and does not consume too much electricity.

Space Inside The RV

Space is always an issue in an RV, so you need to choose an air conditioner that is compact and does not take up too much space inside your RV.

Traveling Through Different Climates

Traveling through different climates can be a significant challenge for RV air conditioners. For example, you may need a powerful air conditioner in the summer and a heater in the winter.

Therefore, it’s crucial to choose a ductless air conditioner that can operate efficiently in all weather conditions.

How A Mini Split Works

A ductless air conditioner, also known as a mini-split system, is an efficient way to cool or heat an RV. It is a compact, split-system air conditioner that consists of two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. Understanding how a mini-split works will help you choose the right one for your RV.

Parts Of A Ductless System

A mini-split system has two main components: an indoor unit and an outdoor unit. The outdoor unit contains the compressor, which pumps refrigerant through the system.

The indoor unit contains the evaporator, which cools or heats the air, and the blower, which circulates the air.

Other parts of a mini-split system include the following:

Heat Transfer Process

The heat transfer process is the key to how a mini-split system works. The system uses a vapor compression refrigeration circuit to move heat from one place to another.

The refrigerant absorbs heat from the indoor air and carries it to the outdoor unit, where it releases the heat into the outside air. This cycle continues until the desired temperature is reached.

High-Efficiency Heating and Cooling

Mini split air conditioners provide both cooling and heating for your RV. In cooling mode, the evaporator absorbs heat from the indoor air and releases it to the outdoor unit. Then, it circulates the now-cool air throughout the vehicle.

In heating mode, the process is reversed, and the evaporator absorbs heat from the outdoor air and releases it to the indoor unit.

This is possible because the refrigerant can absorb and release heat, depending on the direction of the heat flow.

What to Consider When Choosing a Mini Split AC for RVs

Ductless air conditioners are popular choices for RVs due to their ease of use, energy efficiency, and compact design. Here are some important factors to consider when selecting a mini split AC for your RV.

Professional Install Vs. DIY

While DIY installation can save you money, it’s essential to have a professional install your mini split AC system to ensure that it’s done correctly. A professional installation guarantees that the system will be up and running efficiently and safely, and any warranty requirements are met.

Where to Place the Components

Consider the placement of both indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit must be positioned appropriately for optimal air distribution throughout the RV. The outdoor unit should be placed in a location that provides sufficient space for heat dissipation and easy maintenance access.

Outdoor Unit’s Effect On Aerodynamics

The outdoor unit’s size and placement can affect your RV’s aerodynamics and fuel efficiency. If possible, choose a rooftop unit that is streamlined and aerodynamically designed to minimize wind resistance. This also helps reduce the system’s impact on your RV’s center of gravity.

Fitting Into Storage Space

Another essential factor to consider when choosing a mini split AC for your RV is whether it will fit into your storage space. Check the dimensions of the indoor and outdoor units, and consider if you will need to remove or disassemble the units for storage.

Single Zone vs. Multi Zone setup

A single-zone configuration is ideal for small RVs. A multi-zone configuration with more than one air handler is better for larger RVs or those with multiple rooms.

Power Supplies For Mini Split Air Conditioning Systems

A split air conditioner can run on 110-120V or 220V. You may also consider a split-phase inverter system for a more efficient unit. You can also power a system via solar panels.

What To Look For an RV Ductless Air Conditioner

To choose the right mini-split system for your RV, you need to consider factors such as the size of your RV and plus the ac unit’s SEER and BTU ratings. The higher the SEER and BTU ratings, the more efficient the system will be at cooling and heating.

BTUs and Square Footage

When shopping for a ductless air conditioner for your RV, it is important to choose a unit with the right number of BTUs to cool your space efficiently. The size of your RV will determine the BTUs required for your air conditioning unit.

Typically, a 9,000 BTU unit can cool up to 400 square feet, while a 12,000 BTU unit can cool up to 550 square feet.

SEER and HSPF Ratings

The SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) and HSPF (Heating Seasonal Performance Factor) ratings are important factors to consider when choosing a ductless air conditioner for your RV.

A higher SEER rating means that the unit is more energy-efficient, while a higher HSPF rating means that it will provide better heating performance.

It is recommended to choose a unit with a SEER rating of at least 13 and an HSPF rating of at least 7.

Heating Features

Some ductless air conditioners also come with heating features, which can be useful if you plan to travel during colder months. Look for units with a heat pump that can provide efficient heating, and consider a unit with a dehumidifying mode to help control air quality.

Ductless RV Air Conditioner Installation Process

If you have decided to install a ductless air conditioner in your RV, it is important to follow the proper installation process to ensure that your unit runs efficiently and effectively. Here are the key steps involved in installing a ductless RV air conditioner.

Step 1: Choose a Location

The first step in the installation process is to choose a location for your indoor and outdoor units. The indoor unit should be mounted high on a wall to ensure efficient air distribution throughout the RV. The outdoor unit should be placed on a flat, stable surface and positioned in an area with good airflow.

Step 2: Install the Indoor Unit

The indoor unit should be installed on a wall using brackets and flexible lines that connect it to the outdoor unit. The lines should be run through a small hole in the wall, and the unit should be securely mounted using screws.

Step 3: Install the Outdoor Unit

The outdoor unit should be connected to the indoor unit using flexible lines that run through the wall. The unit should be secured to the mounting surface using brackets and screws, and the lines should be sealed with weatherproofing material to prevent air leaks.

Step 4: Connect the Power Supply

Once the indoor and outdoor units are installed, you will need to connect the power supply. Most ductless RV air conditioners require a 110-120V or 220V power source, which can be provided by your RV’s electrical system or a separate solar power system.

Caring for Your RV’s Mini Split System

To keep your ductless RV air conditioner running smoothly and efficiently, it is important to perform regular cleaning and maintenance tasks. Here are some tips for caring for your mini split system:

Regular Cleaning

Dust and debris can accumulate on the air conditioner filter and indoor unit, reducing efficiency and air quality. Clean the filter and indoor unit regularly using a soft cloth and mild detergent.

Annual Check-Ups

Schedule an annual check-up with a qualified HVAC technician to inspect your ductless air conditioner and ensure that it is running efficiently. The technician can also perform any necessary maintenance or repairs.

How much does it cost to install a mini split in an RV?

The cost to install a mini split in an RV varies depending on the size and model of the unit, as well as the complexity of the installation. On average, the cost can range from $1,500 to $4,000, including both the unit and installation.

Where do you put a mini split in an RV?

A roof-mounted heat pump is best it allows for the most efficient cooling and heating, as well as saves space inside the RV. However, if the roof is not an option, it can also be installed on a sidewall.

Do you need an electrician to install a mini split?

Yes, it is highly recommended to hire a licensed electrician to install a mini split. This is because it involves electrical work, such as wiring the unit and connecting it to a power source. Hiring a professional ensures the installation is safe and up to code.

Click here to learn more about the benefits of Cherry Hill, NJ ductless air conditioner installation services, or anywhere in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware or Maryland. 

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