Caravan Air Conditioners - Quick Overview
With the importation of Coleman and Denso into the Australian RV Industry stopped, and the acquisition of AirCommand, Dometic now has almost a complete monopoly on RV air conditioners in Australia.
Due to this most caravan air conditioners available in the Australian market today follow the same general rules of features vs price. They are fully reverse cycle, include a remote control, with an airflow from between 88L/s to 216L/s. The range includes air-conditioners suitable for 5 metre caravans up to 7.5 metres, with overall size vs power of the units ultimately dictating the price.
Larger roof top units (
generally have the greater cooling capacity at a good price point. As you move towards more slimline profiles (
the price increases for equal or reduced cooling capacity. Finally you you have the compact lightweight air conditioners (Sparrow) which are around 25% lighter and ideal for smaller caravans.
We have put together a Comparison Chart which clearly displays price, power and size making it easy to short list the units which suit your needs.
What is the best air conditioner for my Caravan or Motorhome?
If you don't have time to read the entire article, just read the answers to your questions.
I will look at the most important questions you should ask yourself and explain what each feature means.
Not everyone needs the best Air Conditioner, but it is important
to get one that has the features you need. Some items will
be pointed out that would be considered as a disadvantage
in certain situations. I have no inclination toward any particular
brand but some models have definite advantages. Some points
on spare parts price and availability will also be explained.
Why do I need an RV air conditioner? Will a household air conditioner do the same job?
Household split systems or window mounted air conditioners
are cheaper than the specialist RV air conditioners. If you
are installing them into an onsite caravan, a mobile home,
or an RV that rarely moves then you should also check out
the household versions available from other retailers.
You should only look at specialist RV air conditioners if
you will be travelling. They are designed to keep water out
when travelling and the mountings and fittings are designed
for constant vibration that occurs when travelling.
What does the 360mm or 400mm opening mean?
Roof top air conditioners are made to fit either a 360mm
square opening in your roof, or a 400mm square opening. The
400mm typically originate in Europe while the 360mm are based
on the 14 inch American style roof vent. Some models provide adapters to suit both sizes, this will be mentioned in the products description.
Whilst a newly built Caravan or RV can be made to suit either
size, the extra work to modify an existing hole could be a
deciding factor in your purchase. Why make things more difficult
unless you need to. Thickness of your ceiling is also a consideration,
but many allow for quite a range in thickness. This should
be included in the specifications.
Above: The weights of each model shown for comparison.
Which is best, a roof top air conditioner or built-in style?
Because there are a number of each style on the market, there is clearly
no overall winner.
The first preference should be to have a roof top air conditioner
because cold air likes to drop, so it is preferable to start
It does not take up any of your valuable internal space. With
almost all recreational vehicle layouts you can get the most
If you have a Pop-Top, Camper Trailer or Camper Van with an single
skin roof you should seriously look at the built-in models. Any air conditioner added to a Pop-Top roof or a Camper Trailer roof will add additional weight that will effect the lifting of the roof, irrespective of the roof strength. Additional gas struts, canopy lifters or changing the gearing in a winch must be considered if attempting this.
All roof mounted and built in air conditioners are shown using the link below:
What is the difference between reverse cycle and those with
A number of air conditioners use heat exchange to cool, while they
use a simple heat element just like a fan
heater for heating. This is less efficient for heating, however
it works at any outside temperature.
Reverse cycle uses heat exchange when cooling or
heating. Cooling moves the heat from inside to outside. Heating moves
the outside heat to the inside. But this heating method does cause problems
when the exchange fins ice up in very cold outside air.
This is an important consideration, often intentionally overlooked
by sales people when describing the benefits of their brand.
You should check how outside temperatures will effect the heating function
of your proposed air conditioner if you intend using your RV in very
cold climates. Some air conditioners give disappointing results for
heating when outside temperatures drop toward Zero.
An air conditioner that gets over this problem will make a point of
specifying this in their features or specification section.
How cold or hot will they make my RV?
You can expect the manufacturers to quote the maximum size
RV their air conditioners will work with. They will always
assume you have insulation in your walls and ceilings.
Pop-Tops and Camper Trailers will loose or gain much more heat through
the vinyl section and non insulated walls or ceilings. This does not mean you cannot use an
air conditioner on these RVs, but the effect will be less,
or a more powerful unit should be used.
Even a change of a few degrees can make the interior more pleasant than without.
What does BTU or kW mean?
A kilowatt (kW) is a measure of cooling output or heating output.
BTU stands for British Thermal Unit. It is a different unit
but measures the same thing.
1 kW = 3412 BTU
Please check current specifications of products that may vary each year as efficiencies are made.
Above: The kWs of cooling of each model shown for comparison.
Does the profile affect wind resistance?
Not really. The roof top versions seem to all provide about
the same frontal area that needs to go through the air, however
some are short and wide and others are higher and wider.
The following shows the relative height of each roof top
unit in mm. Please check current specifications of products that may vary from below.
Above: The heights of each model shown for comparison.
The height may be important if you need to get under a garage
doorway, but it will have little effect on air flow.
The height could be considered a very important cosmetic consideration, especially
on smaller RVs. The cost to produce a low profile unit is higher than a standard
height unit due to the need to specially make more compact components. This
may change over time.
You may think that a higher unit will alter the centre of
gravity. Since the air conditioners are already located in
the centre of the roof, and the heavier components are toward
the base, there is very little difference in the centre of
gravity, certainly much less than the eye perceives. But again
this does effect the cosmetics of your whole RV.
Amperage. Is it important?
Yes and No. If you are staying at caravan parks where your
fees already include your power, then apart from your conscience
at using extra power for one model against another, the amperage
is not the most important consideration.
However, if you often use your air conditioner from a generator,
this may be VERY important. The amperage should reflect
the generator size but this is not strictly correct. An air
conditioner will require more than the rated amps to get started,
and for continuous use, the generator should be able to provide
more kW than the air conditioner requires. Where we have this
information it is stated in the description. There have been great improvements in this area and soft start options are very important if using an generator.
Also be aware that budget generators often over-quote their rated output and it may refer to just a short burst, being unable to maintain that level for very long at all. If you are intending to use a generator for an air conditioner stick with a well known brand with a proven agent network.
Does Caravans Plus have a model recommendation?
Firstly, if we do not think the air conditioner offers good
features or reasonable value for money then we do not sell
it. However just because we do not sell an air conditioner
does not mean we would not recommend it.
There may be new models we have not yet evaluated or there
may be alternate suppliers that we do not deal with.
If we receive a number of bad reports of inherent problems
with a particular model we stop selling them.
Waeco 12V CA-1000 -
Was removed following poor customer feedback.
We welcome customer feedback or reviews for air conditioners they have used.
If there is insufficient brand after sales support in the
form of service agents, we will stop selling the product or
at the very least mention this in the product description.
Carrier Air V - Was removed after supply problems.
In short if we list it, it is either a new product
or an established model with a good reputation.
Do we provide brand recommendations?
As an independent reseller of multiple brands we are happy
to provide an overview of our experience.
They are a large international
company with a reputation for quality RV products. They offer
good warranty support and hold a good supply of spare parts within
Australia. They have a very comprehensive service agent network.
Service agents are listed on www.dometic.com.au.
However, we believe the cost of spare parts, (even the ones we sell) are relatively expensive.
Dometic has acquired Air Command which was previously was a separate Australian entity. The products are very good and have been made to a high standard in China for a number of years. Many of the features, durability and ease of use cannot be faulted.
have always been reasonably priced. The service agent network will increase with the new ownership structure and parts prices are expected to increase.
Coleman (No Longer Imported by Major RV Wholesalers)
Manufactured in the USA they are a proven product with very few problems. We have had many customers replace their old Coleman with a new Coleman after many years of faultless operation.
The low profile Coleman have now been on the market for a number of years and are very powerful and reliable. There are probably
less service agents than Dometic/Air Command, but Coast
To Coast (www.coastrv.com.au
) keeps an up-to-date
list, and we find them quick to provide technical advice and
fast warranty service.
Spare parts are readily available and at a reasonable price.
Denso (No Longer Imported by Major RV Wholesalers)
Denso is an international company heavily involved in Car and Truck air conditioning. Their Australian arm has designed and built a rooftop and under-bunk version specifically for the local RV industry. While these products have only been on the market for a few years, their experience and existing service network appear to match their local competitors.
What is best value for money?
Suppliers change their prices or offer discounts from time
to time, so this can effect the value for money of one or
more brands. Specials that we offer are genuine and would
usually represent a recommendation provided the features meet
your needs. Quantity buys or popular models allow us to pass discounts directly to purchasers.
Real feedback from real
customers shown on our website and forums give additional information to help you make your final decision.
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