Can I Run My RV AC without a Generator?

Most RVs use built-in generators to power their components that use electricity. This includes the air-conditioning (AC) system, as most of these systems run on generator power while driving and parked. When purchasing a new RV, it’s helpful to consider what you can do if your generator isn’t working to ensure you can keep journeying and stay comfortable while doing so. Here are some alternative ways to run your RV’s AC system, even without a generator to power it.

Extra Batteries

One of the simplest ways to run your RV’s AC without a generator is to use additional batteries. Since many RVs use batteries as their primary power source, and most include built-in batteries with high power levels, you likely already have strong batteries on board. However, using an RV’s main batteries to power the AC is not advisable, as that system requires huge amounts of electricity. Using the main batteries for the AC can drain them quickly, which could leave you unable to start the engine.

To mitigate this, you can install additional batteries in your RV that you delegate only for using the AC system. You can often find extra batteries for this purpose at dealerships and automotive shops, and they typically offer a wide range of voltage, so you can find the exact strength you need. Once you find a battery with enough power to fuel your AC system, you can install it yourself or hire a professional. Since AC systems use a significant amount of electricity, you’ll likely need multiple extra batteries to be safe.

Aside from the batteries, you’ll also need an inverter to connect to the system. This ensures that the circuits direct the power from the extra batteries to the AC rather than other systems in the RV. The strength of the inverter you buy will depend largely on the size of your RV and the amount of electricity the AC system needs. A 3,000-watt inverter is sufficient for most RV AC systems. However, you may need more powerful devices if your AC requires more power.

Direct Power Source

Another option for powering an RV’s AC system without a generator is to connect it to a direct power source. Examples of direct power sources you can use for this purpose are wall outlets, car chargers, or stationary solar panels. All these power sources provide large amounts of power quickly in a direct current that doesn’t affect your vehicle’s other devices or features, meaning that you’ll be able to power your AC without draining your RV’s battery.

To run your RV AC using a direct power source, you can use an inverter to connect the power source to the AC system. This ensures that the power from the direct source goes immediately to your AC system rather than to your RV’s battery or other electric devices. Then, you’ll be able to run the AC while connected to the direct current, and it should have enough power to stay on for as long as it’s connected. 

Be mindful when doing this, however, as connecting this system to your home’s power grid can use a large amount of electricity, leading to an unexpectedly high electric bill. While it can be a quick way to get your AC working while you’re parked, this method is not typically recommended for long-haul use.

Solar Panels

You can also run your RV’s AC system without a generator if solar panels are installed. Attaching solar panels to your RV can allow it to maintain power and charge its batteries continuously while driving by using energy from the sun. If you want to use the AC while your RV is parked, you can also use the solar panels as a direct power source to run your AC without sending power to other parts of the vehicle.

When you attach the solar panels to the top of your RV and hook them up to your vehicle’s power sources, they’ll start directing electricity to your devices. You’ll likely need solar panels that can generate at least 2,000 watts to continuously power an AC in an RV. This is because most RV AC systems use between 1,300 and 1,500 watts of electricity.

Tips for Running Your RV’s AC Without a Generator

Here are a few quick tips that can help you run your RV’s AC without a generator:

Upgrade Your Batteries

Upgrading your batteries is one of the easiest ways to add more power to your RV. For example, you can upgrade to the more powerful lithium batteries, which weigh less than classic lead-acid batteries while producing up to twice the power.

Limit Your Use of Other Appliances

Another way to ensure that your RV AC has enough power to run without a generator is to monitor your use of other appliances in the vehicle. For example, if you simultaneously use an RV’s television, lights, and microwave, there may not be as much battery power left for the AC to function.

Check Your Power Usage

To determine the sweet spot for your power usage and how much power you need to run your AC effectively, monitor your usage over a few days or weeks. This can show you which devices you can turn off or refrain from using as often, which will leave more electrical power for your AC.

Keep Your AC on Low

Keeping your AC at a moderate temperature can also help it to do its job effectively without a generator. By ensuring the system stays at a subtle temperature, you can preserve power for longer than you may have otherwise if you’d kept the AC at an extremely low or high temperature.

Let Bretz RV & Marine Power Your RV

It’s possible to run your RV’s AC without a generator, and these are three of the most effective ways to do so. Do you have questions about which option is best for your specific vehicle? Contact us at Bretz RV & Marine, and our team will be ready to help with whatever you need. You can also browse our extensive inventory of new and pre-owned RVs to get up close and personal with your favorite models. Let us help you get into the RV of your dreams today so you can set off on exciting adventures.

Solar Panel Collecting Power for a Class B Camper Van by Cindy Shebley is licensed with CC BY 2.0

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