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Whether you’re RVing for vacation or you live in one, knowing something like your average RV AC wattage is going to come in handy in a lot of situations.
You’ll definitely appreciate it on those hot days when you want to be able to run the AC all day long, but don’t want to worry about overloading your power source.
So, what is the average RV AC wattage?
The watts that an RV AC uses varies anywhere from 500 watts for a 5,000 BTU AC unit to 2,700 watts for a 27,000 BTU unit. This corresponds to the amount of power that you draw from the generator. Knowing your average RV AC wattage stops you from overloading your power source.
Below, we’ll take a look at what your RV AC wattage means and how to calculate it using the BTUs.
A Quick Overview of RV AC Wattage and BTUs
Energy for AC units is measured in BTUs or British Thermal Units. BTUs are used to measure the amount of energy that it takes to remove a certain amount of heat and moisture from the air in an hour. Basically, it measures the cooling capabilities.
Knowing the cooling capabilities is important because if you have a unit that isn’t big enough to cool the area you’re in, it just isn’t going to work as effectively. People use information about the BTUs to determine what size RV AC they need if they’re buying a new one.
Plus, knowing the BTUs helps you calculate the wattage and what size generator you need for your RV. Whether you have a built-in generator or you have to buy one (some RVs like fifth-wheels don’t always have a generator), having this information is important.
Depending on the type of RV AC that you have, the average BTUs could range from 5,000 to 27,0000. Air conditioners that have a higher number of BTUs consume more energy and work more efficiently in large areas.
How Many Watts Does an RV AC Use?
The average wattage that an RV air conditioner uses is anywhere from 500 watts for a smaller, 5,000 BTU air conditioner to 2,700 watts for a larger, 27,000-watt rooftop air conditioner. You’re most likely to find a 27,000-watt RV AC in a class A motorhome because of its larger size.
The wattage that an RV AC uses depends on the amount of energy it consumes. For example, smaller window AC units are usually much more energy efficient than larger, rooftop models.
This amount can also be smaller or larger depending on the Energy Efficiency Rating (EER). This is usually a number between 8 and 12 that describes how efficiently the air conditioner uses the power that’s drawing in. Generally, the higher numbers are more energy efficient.
Calculating RV AC Power Usage
I’m assuming that you’re here because you’ve lost the specification sheet or just don’t know where to look for the information on wattage. There is a chance that you’ll be able to find this information printed on a sticker on the air conditioning unit.
If you can’t find this information, something you will need to know is the BTU. Even if you don’t have this handy in the manual or printed on the unit, you can probably find information about the model specifications and look it up online.
Average RV AC Wattage Chart (for an EER Rating of 8)
RV AC Capacity (BTUs) | Average RV Running Wattage |
5,000 BTUs | 625 Watts |
7,000 BTUs | 875 Watts |
10,000 BTUs | 1250 Watts |
13,500 BTUs | 1688 Watts |
15,000 BTUs | 1875 Watts |
20,000 BTUs | 2,500 Watts |
24,000 BTUs | 3,000 Watts |
27,000 BTUs | 3,375 Watts |
RV AC Wattage Chart (for an EER Rating of 10)
RV AC Capacity (BTUs) | Average RV Running Wattage |
5,000 BTUs | 500 Watts |
7,000 BTUs | 700 Watts |
10,000 BTUs | 1,000 Watts |
13,500 BTUs | 1,350 Watts |
15,000 BTUs | 1,500 Watts |
20,000 BTUs | 2,000 Watts |
24,000 BTUs | 2,400 Watts |
27,000 BTUs | 2,700 Watts |
RV AC Wattage Chart (for an EER Rating of 12)
RV AC Capacity (BTUs) | Average RV Running Wattage |
5,000 BTUs | 417 Watts |
7,000 BTUs | 583 Watts |
10,000 BTUs | 833 Watts |
13,500 BTUs | 1,125 Watts |
15,000 BTUs | 1250 Watts |
20,000 BTUs | 1,667 Watts |
24,000 BTUs | 2,000 Watts |
27,000 BTUs | 2,250 Watts |
Start-Up Wattage vs. Running AC Wattage
In addition to knowing the running AC wattage, which is the amount of power your AC consumes while it’s running, knowing the start-up wattage is useful.
The amount of energy that it takes for your air conditioner to start is not the same amount of energy that it consumes per hour while running. It takes more than twice the power for an AC to start compared to just running.
The problem is that even if you have a generator capable of running an AC, it doesn’t always have the power to start up the AC. Even though it’s possible to get it started, starting it with a lower voltage than it needs can damage your generator and shortens the life of your AC over time.
Start-Up vs. Running Wattage Chart for RV ACs
RV AC Capacity (BTUs) |
Starting RV AC Wattage | Average RV AC Running Wattage |
5,000 BTUs |
1,100-1,300 Watts | 500 Watts |
7,000 BTUs |
1,600-1,800 Watts |
700 Watts |
10,000 BTUs | 1,900-2,050 Watts |
1,000 Watts |
13,500 BTUs | 2,700-2,900 Watts |
1,350 Watts |
15,000 BTUs | 3,200-3,500 Watts |
1,500 Watts |
How Soft-Start Devices for Your Air Conditioner Help?
Soft-start devices can be a lifesaver when you’re trying to run an air conditioner using a 2,000 or even a 4,000 watt generator if you’re running a high-capacity AC unit.
I’ve used one and you can actually hear them working. The generator doesn’t get as loud as it usually does when you kick on the AC and there isn’t that big power draw.
Instead, the AC turns on a little slower and doesn’t make power fluctuate like it normally does. If you’re running on a lower setting,
Why It’s Important to Know How Many Watts an RV AC Uses?
It’s important to know how many watts your RV AC is using because all your electrical appliances and outlets draw power from your generator or another power source when they are being used.
All the little amounts of energy really do add up. While the average RV rooftop AC wattage ranges anywhere from 1,000-2,000, your energy source also powers things like your television, phone chargers, refrigerator, washer, and everything else in your RV when they’re in use.
Overloading your generator or power source damages a lot of devices. Plus, they don’t get the full power they need so they don’t run as efficiently as they should. For people who don’t have the power, upgrading to a generator for an RV air conditioner can give you the power to run your AC when you’d like.
Can a 2000 Watt Generator Run an RV AC?
The average 15,000 BTU RV air conditioner needs around 1,500 watts of power to run for an hour, so yes, a 2,000-watt generator could keep it running. That being said, a 15,000 BTU air conditioner also pulls around 3,200 watts of power for start-up energy.
The start-up wattage for a 7,000 BTU air conditioner, on the other hand, is 1,600-1,800 watts and it runs at a lower capacity. As long as your AC unit didn’t exceed 7,000 BTUs, it could start and run.
Can a 4000 Watt Generator Run an RV AC?
If you have other devices powered by the generator, then it’s best to use a 15,000 BTU air conditioner if you don’t have a soft starter.
You can even run a 27,000 BTU air conditioner like the type common in Class A motorhomes on a 4,000-watt generator since it only needs around 2,700 watts to run. However, you may need a soft starter since it takes more than 5,000 watts to start up.
Will Solar Panels Produce Enough Energy to Run an RV Air Conditioner?
While it is possible to run an AC using a solar panel, you’d need at least 15,000 watts of power from your solar panels to run the AC unit for at least 8 hours each day. It is possible, but it’s not necessarily practical unless you’ve made major upgrades to your RV.
Can I Run an RV AC on Battery Power?
No, you cannot run your RV air conditioner on battery power. While it would be possible, the amount of energy draw that an AC requires makes it impractical. Plus, most RVs are not even equipped with an inverter capable of handling this type of power load.
BTUs and Room Size
Generator capacity aside, knowing the BTU rating for your RV AC unit is really helpful when your air conditioner needs replaced. Most RV AC units need to be replaced every 3-5 years, though this can change based on things like maintenance and usage.
One of the ways to ensure your AC is running efficiently and not working over time is to follow the recommendations for room size and BTU ratings. Usually, this is measured using square footage. Here’s a quick look at what different room sizes air conditioners can cool effectively.
RV AC Capacity (BTUs) | Cooling Capabilities (square feet) |
5,000 BTUs | 100-200 sq. ft. |
7,000 BTUs | 300 sq. ft. |
10,000 BTUs | 450 sq. ft. |
13,500 BTUs | 500 sq. ft. |
15,000 BTUs | 700-800 sq. ft. |
20,000 BTUs | 900-1,000 sq. ft. |
27,000 BTUs | 1,050-1,100 sq. ft. |
What Happens if I Run My RV Air Conditioner at a Lower Voltage?
You should never run your RV AC at a lower voltage than it needs. It will still try to consume the energy that it needs to run.
Most ACs will still run at low voltage, however, this way the motor works overtime, and the internal parts of the AC run hot. Not only does it not keep the room cool as efficiently as it could, but running an AC at low voltage can decrease their life. It can also damage the electrical parts and it might quit working altogether.
Final Word
One of the nice things about RV-ing over camping is that you don’t have to leave all your comforts at home and that includes the air conditioning. Being able to find some relief from the sun really comes in nice on those hot summer days, particularly if you’re vacationing somewhere warm.
Knowing your average RV wattage is really useful for knowing how much power you need. Whether you’re boondocking and running off your generator or parked somewhere you can use a campground’s electric, connecting your RV to a high enough voltage keeps it running how it’s supposed to.