button in a car of the AC

What to Consider When Installing an Air Conditioner for your Campervan

Updated on: May 2024

Do you spend the majority of your time travelling about in your camper van? If that’s the case, you’ll be familiar with how hot it can get while driving in an Australian summer. Installing an air conditioner is the greatest way to keep cool when touring in a campervan.
Because you’ll be spending a lot of time in your motorhome on the road and camping overnight, you want it to be as nice as possible. A camper van air conditioner is a must-have if you’re travelling in your camper van during the summer months.
Air conditioners, on the other hand, are not inexpensive. As a result, consider the following factors before you decide to invest your money in a camper van air conditioner:

What to Look For When Choosing Your Campervan Air Conditioner


The two primary types of caravan air conditioners are rooftop units and built-in units. Depending on the camper van you have, both may offer advantages and disadvantages.

When shopping for an air conditioner, it’s essential to be mindful of the type and size needed. Most times a household unit will not work well with your RV as they are too powerful or energy inefficient compared to campervan units.

A lot goes into deciding which AC system is the right fit – what size space do we need? How often will it be used?

Camper van air conditioners are intended for mobile homes and should take centre stage in your search. When looking through the available options, consider where you will mount it.

Rooftop air conditioner

These rooftop air conditioners are designed to fit on the roof of your caravan. The primary benefit of using a rooftop air conditioner is that it takes up little room in your living area, so you have more space for other things.

It is easy to install an air conditioner. It is the most popular type of air conditioner to install on a campervan with a roof style like this one.

The cold air falls down when the air conditioner is placed on top of the RV. It is more effective at cooling this way.

Roof-mounted air conditioners are designed to keep water from getting into the vehicle. They fit into the existing hole and also handle vibration while travelling in a campervan.

Built-in campervan air conditioners

For camper vans and trailers with a single layer roof, the built-in caravan air conditioners are ideal. Adding a rooftop air conditioner to these caravans will add weight to the top of the vehicle. The roof may droop as a result of this, affecting how effectively the AC operates.

There are two types of air conditioners for camper vans- split systems and duct units. Split systems are usually installed in a cabinet or beneath a bench, while roof-mounted air conditioners are noisier. However, the minimal space demands of tiny caravans make these models ideal.

Reverse cycle vs heating elements

When looking at a cooler’s actual heating and cooling features, it’s worth noting how it reaches the selected temperatures.

Reverse-cycling is often chosen, as it compresses air to reverse the direction of airflow from the blades – thus, hot air is expelled when it’s cooling and received when it’s heating.

This is the most efficient technique of cooling an area over a greater distance and keeping your van’s temperature constant.

Heating elements use a clever trick to provide both heating and cooling: they exchange. This works quite well in extreme conditions, but relying on one specific type of element can limit how far that energy spreads out through your van’s space.

Size and Weight

There are two types of air conditioners that can be used in caravans. If the caravan is 5 meters long, a 2-2.5 kW air conditioner is needed for good cooling. If the caravan is more than 7 meters long, a 3 kW or larger air conditioner is necessary.

The size of the air conditioner you buy for your caravan should be based on your budget. However, if the air conditioner is too small, it won’t cool the caravan enough. You can ask your installer what size air conditioner you need for your caravan.

Size is important, but another thing to consider is weight. Air conditioners are heavy and need to be placed safely. Make sure the brackets used are sturdy enough for your caravan’s roof or floor.

Rooftop ACs can increase the stress on your vehicle’s ability to carry weight because of their size and weight, so you should always install it safely.

Installing Your AC unit

Installing a campervan air conditioner is quite simple since most come with all of the tools and instructions needed to do it safely. However, it’s always a good idea to invest in some additional equipment to ensure everything is safe, including:

Adaptors – Some adaptors are required to mount the AC securely. For example, if you want to put a 360mm AC unit into a larger space so it can stay fixed, you’ll need a 400mm adaptor for your roof. Other adaptors may be found that offer extra support for the roof thickness and allow them to support the weight and size of a large air conditioner.

H-Frames. H-Frames are a fantastic little addition that attaches to the roof of your van to provide extra support for your vehicle and the AC unit. They aren’t necessary, but they’re definitely worth it if you have any concerns.

If you want to install a dedicated split-system unit in your camper, you’ll need expert assistance.

Because some units will need refrigerated lines to create cold air, you’ll need an AC technician to install this in your car to satisfy all of the necessary legal standards. Many RV dealerships and workshops will install a unit regardless of size or style if you are unsure how to mount your AC Unit.

Portable Air Conditioner

The portable air conditioners are a popular choice for campervans. They are a little noisy but have the advantage of being able to be moved from one room to another.

The disadvantages of portable air conditioners are that they need to be vented outside and they can be quite heavy.

If you are using a portable air conditioner, make sure you measure the size of the room you want to cool before you buy it.

So, when considering an air conditioner for your campervan, think about the following:

  • The size of the AC unit and how well it will cool your space
  • Weight and installation concerns
  • How portable the AC unit is and whether or not it can be moved from one room to another
  • The cost of the AC unit
  • What type of air conditioner is best for your needs (portable or rooftop)
  • Whether you need expert installation or not.

Take all of these factors into consideration when deciding on the perfect air conditioner for your campervan. With the right air conditioner, you’ll be able to enjoy a cool, comfortable journey wherever you go.

Final thoughts

Choosing the correct caravan air conditioner might be difficult, but it’s important to consider several variables while you’re making your selection. Most importantly, you need to ensure your van’s AC unit will fit within the space provided.

If you’re installing a rooftop air conditioner on your caravan, ensure there are solid anchors installed, so it doesn’t fall while travelling. If you’d prefer not to work with complicated installations or installations that require additional equipment, consider a portable air conditioner.