Last updated on February 17th, 2023 at 09:49 am
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When you first got the idea to get an RV, you probably weren’t expecting that so much math and electrical knowledge would need to become second nature to you.
When you’re in a house or apartment, you rarely have to think about amps or how much power your appliances use. In an RV it’s important to have that knowledge in mind as you plug into hookups so you don’t trip any circuits or overload your electrical system.
It’s especially important to know about your RVs air conditioner and how many amps it uses since this will typically be a larger draw on your amperage than other appliances.
So, how many amps does an RV AC use?
An RV AC will, on average, require an amperage between 11 and 16 while it’s running. All RV air conditioners use 2-3 times the running amperage while starting up. The specifics of your AC will depend on its size, age, and efficiency. An exact amperage can be calculated by dividing the wattage by the voltage.
This article will explain how to figure out the amperage requirements of your RV air conditioner and if it is safe to run on a smaller amp circuit, on a generator, and on a battery.
Average Amps Required for an RV Air Conditioner
An RV air conditioner will typically require an amperage of between 11 and 16 amps while it is running. The actual requirements of your air conditioner will vary depending on the size, model, and how old the air conditioner unit is.
Newer units tend to have better efficiency than older ones, so they will usually need closer to 11 amps than 16. If you’re in the market for a new air conditioning unit, this article explores the most energy-efficient options on the market.
It’s also worth mentioning that these are the amperage requirements while the unit is running, when an air conditioner starts up it draws more power. An air conditioner needs about double the running amperage to start up, but that draw only lasts for a short amount of time.
RV power hookups will usually have 30 or 50-amp connections, so they can handle this initial surge from the air conditioner starting up. There is, however, a possibility that you will have too many appliances running at the same time and that can hinder your air conditioner from starting up.
Similarly, you can have the air conditioner running just fine, but if you turn on too many appliances at once, it might trip the circuit breaker. For example, if you start a hair dryer while having your fridge, air conditioner, microwave, and coffee maker going all at once, you may end up tripping the circuit breaker.
Can You Run RV Air Conditioner on 15 Amps?
As we mentioned above, the average RV air conditioner will draw between 11 and 16 amps. If the place you’re staying at doesn’t have a 30 or 50-amp hookup, but a 15-amp hookup instead then there’s a chance that your air conditioner will put too much strain on the system.
That’s why it’s probably not the best idea to attempt to run your RV air conditioner on a 15-amp circuit.
If you want to hook up your RV to a 15 amp circuit then you will need an adapter. You will also need to ensure that you have no other appliances running inside the RV. Remember, when the air conditioner turns on it will draw an initial surge of power, so you really just have to cross your fingers and hope that it doesn’t trip the circuit.
Can You Run RV Air Conditioner on 20 Amps?
You need to remember that the smaller the circuit, the more strain your air conditioner will put on the system. So, f you’re thinking of hooking up your RV to a 20-amp circuit then it’s more likely to work.
However, it’s still risky to run your RV air conditioner on either a 15 or 20-amp circuit. The video below demonstrates what can happen when you run your air conditioner on 20 amps.
Can You Run RV Air Conditioner on 30 Amps?
As I’ve mentioned before, it’s perfectly reasonable to run your RV air conditioner on a 30-amp circuit. You won’t be able to plug in or use as many appliances simultaneously as you would if you were plugged into a 50-amp circuit, but you could run a fair amount.
It’s good to have a general idea of how many amps each of your appliances use so that you know what you can run at the same time as your air conditioner. This chart gives you a good idea of what standard appliances use for amperage.
It would also be a good idea to have as little as possible running when you initially start your air conditioner so it doesn’t blow any fuses or trip the breaker when starting up.
How to Figure Out How Many Amps Your RV Air Conditioner Needs
It’s all well and good to know the average amperage an RV air conditioner needs, but how much amperage does your RV air conditioner actually need? There’s a big difference between 11 and 16 amps and in an RV, that matters, especially with the initial power surge when you turn on the air conditioner.
There are a few things you will need to know in order to figure out how many amps your specific air conditioner needs.
You need to know that all RV air conditioner units run on a 115-volt circuit, the BTU capacity of your air conditioner, and the energy efficiency rating of your air conditioner. Two air conditioners that are the same size can draw different amperages because of their energy efficiency or lack thereof.
With these, you can figure out the necessary amperage to safely run your air conditioner. Often, you can find this information in the owner’s manual or the sticker label on the air conditioner. Of course, that is an incredibly easy way of figuring out the amps for your air conditioner, but if you don’t have the label or if the specs are missing, there is still a way!
Amperage can be calculated by dividing the wattage by the voltage. You already have the voltage, because all RV air conditioners should run on 115-volt circuits. To get the wattage, you will need to use the rule of thumb that every 1000 BTU cooling output will require about 100 watts. So if your RV air conditioner is 15,000 BTU, then it will run on 1500 watts. Divide 1500 watts by 115 volts and you get the amperage, which is roughly 13 amps.
If that seems too complicated, you can google it and plenty of calculators will pop up to do the math for you.
Can an RV AC Run On A Generator?
You can certainly run your RV air conditioning unit on a generator. This comes in handy when you are boondocking or traveling places with no electrical hookups.
You need to make sure that your generator has enough power to safely run your air conditioner though. If you have one that is equipped with your RV, then it’s pretty safe to assume that it can handle whatever air conditioner you have. If you need to purchase one, make sure you take into account how much power your RV air conditioner needs.
Generators are usually rated by wattage instead of amperage. We went over calculating the wattage above, and if you have the label intact on your unit, then all you need to do is read a number off of the sticker. In the example above, you would need a generator rated for 1500 watts. There are also “hard start” kits that will help a generator handle the initial start-up power surge of an air conditioner.
If you have a larger RV with more than one air conditioner, you will probably only be able to run one on a generator, simply because two will require more power than it’s possible to supply. Typically an RV with two air conditioners will run them on a split system, so they don’t overload while both running. Usually, a generator will only be able to supply power to one of these in the split system.
Can an RV AC Run On A Battery?
If you are looking to camp off-grid and are hoping to use battery power instead of a generator to run your air conditioner, it’s possible but you will need a lot of batteries.
The length of time you plan on running your air conditioner for will make a difference here. Lithium batteries are the best option for this purpose, but to figure out how many you need, you will have to think about the amperage draw of your air conditioner.
If your air conditioner draws 150 amps per hour and you plan on running it for 3 hours per day, you will be using 450 amp-hours per day. If you’re running everything else in your RV on battery, you’ll need to keep that number in mind as well. Maybe you can run everything else in your RV on a 200 amp-hour battery bank, so you need at least a 650 amp-hour battery bank to run your air conditioner and everything else.
This might not be possible due to the weight and size limitation of your RV and the cost of a battery bank that large might be out of reach. You would also need an inverter in order to make this work, and you would have to charge your batteries after just a few hours of running your air conditioner.
This isn’t an option I would recommend. A generator will be a far more efficient option to explore.
Can I Add A Second Air Conditioner?
It’s possible, but not exactly necessary or recommended, especially if you have a 30-amp RV. As I mentioned before, a 50 amp RV with two air conditioner units could run those on a split system so they don’t overwhelm the power.
A 30-amp RV could have a second air conditioner, but you wouldn’t be able to keep them running at the same time, which kind of defeats the purpose.
An installation of a second unit would also require the help of a professional or someone who really knows what they are doing. This installation would require running new electrical wiring from the main circuit breaker of your RV to the new air conditioner.
If you are really intent on getting your space a few extra degrees cooler, you could install a very small window air conditioner and plug it into a standard wall plug. Putting this in your bedroom, letting it run at night, and keeping the main air conditioning unit off will help keep the place cool. Just don’t try running both at the same time, because that could still overload the circuit breaker.
There isn’t a hard and set number for how many amps your RV air conditioner is going to use. It entirely depends on the size, age, and type of unit you have. A general rule of thumb is that an average air conditioner unit will use between 11 and 16 amps, but you can use a bit of math to figure out exactly how many amps your specific unit uses.
It’s important to know the amperage draw of your air conditioner unit so that you don’t trip the breaker and cause strain on your RV electrical system. Running your air conditioner on too small of a circuit or running too many appliances at one time can prove to be damaging over time, if not just annoying because you have to reset the breaker each time.