How Do RV Air Conditioners Work?

by Giselle Diamond


Recreational vehicle air systems have not changed much since the RV was invented in the 1960s. An RV usually has just enough room to store what you need, places to sit, eat, sleep and an air conditioner. RVs are typically used in the summer time when vacation season is in full swing. While in the RV, a person may wish to keep the air conditioner on in the back for their family. These air vents for the air conditioner are located on the ceiling of the recreational vehicle. 

Energy Source

The air conditioner runs on what is known as AC power. The AC power is derived from a 120 volt socket that is plugged into a generator or a home. A gas generator burns a gallon of gas every hour and may be costly. It is a wise idea to use another power source such as a home or a generator that does not use gasoline. Many RV owners are using solar power as a power source. Solar panels can be attached to the RV to store up energy. 

How RV Air Conditioners Work

Recreational vehicles normally have an air conditioner vents located on the rooftop. The location of the air conditioner means excellent cooling power and it can work well even when you are driving on the highway. Air conditioners in RV's work like a typical refrigerator does. It does not cool the room down, instead it removes the heat. It will then take the heat from the RV and dispose of it outside.

Parts of the Air Conditioner

An air conditioner has eight main parts: a compressor, condenser, evaporator, wires that connect the parts together, an air moving system, a fan to push the air over the condenser and another fan to push air over the evaporator. It also contains liquid for cooling.

The Compressor

The compressor will condense the refrigerant vapors and heat it up as it condenses it. Then it will move to the condenser where the heat is taken out by the fan. This will make the vapor cool and it will become a liquid. The liquid will slide down the capillary tubes and on to the evaporator. The liquid will begin to soak up the heat from the air in the RV as it moves along it by the evaporators fan. This will make the liquid expand and when the liquid has soaked up enough of the RV's heat, it will then become a vapor once again. This overly heated vapor will be sucked by the suction the compressor creates and the cycle will repeat itself.

The Refrigeration Process

The process of refrigeration takes a great deal of energy to change a substance from one form to another. In this case, a gas to a liquid and then back to a gas. The energy an air conditioner uses is measured in what is known as a BTU. To take ice that is 32 degrees Fahrenheit and change it to water at the same temperature, uses 144 BTU. In air conditioners, the heat is soaked up because the refrigerant is a liquid changing into a gas. If you do not have your air conditioner at full charge, this conversion will not happen and it will not work well or not at all.


RV air conditioners are mostly used in the summer, so during the fall, winter and spring months, the air vents and filters will be come rather dirty. Before you use the air conditioner, always clean your filters and make sure all the parts are functioning properly. That way you have time to replace the parts before your summer vacation.

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