Pop up camper Air conditioning – a Complete Guide

Pop up camper Air conditioning – a Complete Guide

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Pop up campers are small and convenient. They provide just about all you need to have a great time camping in the outdoors at any time of the year. However, the one thing that most pop up owners really want that most of these campers don’t provide, is air conditioning.

Many people wonder if air conditioning can actually work in a pop up tent trailer. The answer to this question is yes. You can have an air conditioning in your pop up camper, and it does work!

Before you rush off to buy air conditioning for your pop up however, there are a few important things that you need to consider. One of the main ones being what your needs are, so that you can add the A/C that will work for you.

In this article lets explore all things that you need to know before adding an air conditioner to a pop up camper.

Which type of A/C is best for you?

Do your homework and determine whether your pop up should have a rooftop or window A/C, or if a simple portable unit is enough for your needs.

This is an important aspect as getting a portable AC is much easier than a roof top one. And thus, understand your needs clearly before going with the installation.

Do you want an A/C or a heater combo?

This is where you need to decide whether just an A/C will suit your needs. If you only make camping trips in the warmer seasons then only AC can do the job.

A heater combo is a better option if you need a unit that will make the temperature inside your tent trailer comfortable for camping at any time of the year.

Will you be able to do the installation by yourself?

If you have a budget to work to and don’t want to spend too much money, then bear in mind that while some A/C units can easily be installed by a DIY-er, there are others that need to be installed by a professional. This will inflate the cost of adding an A/C to your pop up camper.

What are your A/C options?

 pop up camper air conditioner options
pop up camper air conditioner options

There are three different types of A/Cs that you can choose from for your pop up camper. And those are portable units, window units and rooftop units.

Following are all details regarding each of the three types, together with their pros and cons, as well as how to install them in your pop up camper. The choice is yours as to which one will suit your needs best.

Portable units

These units are the newest on the market. The great thing about portable units, is that they are on wheels. So you can put them wherever you want to in your camper. They are available in a few sizes, but most of them look like tall humidifiers.

Portable A/Cs have fans too, so the air is circulating all the time, keeping the air nice and cool inside the camper. Lets see their advantages and disadvantages.

1. They are extremely simple to use
2. Can cool pop up camper efficiently.
3. Small and lightweight
4. Inexpensive

1. Must stand near a window so it can use one or two of the vent lines to transfer the hot air inside to the outside.
2. Has to stand near a window.
3. They take up space, which is already limited in the camper.
4. Some people say that they are noisy because of the compressor in the air conditioner being inside the camper. Thus, the cooling sound is noticeable while the A/C is being used.

Window units

The window-mounted A/C is another kind of portable air conditioning unit that is simply secured in the pop up’s window. Installing this type of A/C is extremely easy. So, it will be no problem at all for you to mount it yourself.

1. Provides incredible cooling ability
2. Takes up no inside space at all
3. Easy to set up, since they simply plug into a standard wall power point
4. Easy to mount
5. Although it can be heard, noise is not an issue because the unit is installed on the outside of the window

1. Although stronger than the portable units with wheels, window units are not as powerful as those designed for pop up rooftops
2. The unit has to be removed from the window each time you shut up camp and hit the road – a bit of a problem, but not much effort.

Rooftop units

roof top ac in rv
roof top ac in rv

Resembling a box which is mounted on top of the tent trailer, rooftop units are the most popular of the three choices. Most models have the strength to cool the air inside your camper efficiently. One rooftop unit can cool an area measuring 10′ x 12′ pretty well.

The benefits of adding a rooftop unit to your pop up are many and include:

1. They have sufficient power to cool the air efficiently inside pop ups, even on the hottest summer days.
2. Compared to portable and window units, the newer models of rooftop units are quieter, making them a lot more comfortable when you are sleeping.
3. After being installed, they don’t have to be removed for traveling.
4. They come with a thermostat, so you can set it to the temperature you want inside your camper.
5. Many models double as a heater, meaning that they can be used at any time of the year

1. Price – the unit is more expensive than other options.
2. More difficult to install – roof supports might need to be added to carry the weight of the unit and to make sure of proper water runoff from the camper’s roof.
3. Should normally be installed by professionals – extra installation costs.
4. Energy draw – depending on the size of the A/C unit, it can use a significant amount of power. The rooftop option is therefore not a good choice for campers who are trying to save energy or want to live off the grid while camping outdoors.

How to install a rooftop A/C on your camper roof

Some pop ups come with A/Cs, but because they add extra weight, this doesn’t happen as often as it does with larger RVs. Sometimes even smaller travel trailer or other small RV’s like class B motorhomes may not include RVs.

Installing rooftop air conditioners on pop up can be little difficult task as compared to other types of AC units. However, those who are into DIY can install a rooftop unit in their pop up camper over a weekend.

They work the same as window A/Cs meant for houses, except that the unit comes in two parts. Follow steps 1 to 6 to install your rooftop A/C.

Step 1 – Choose an area on the roof of your pop up where you want to place the A/C. Make sure that there are no lights or wires below this area inside the camper. Also, make sure that where you plan on installing the A/C is no less than 8″ from the edge of the roof.

Step 2 – Mark out a square on the roof big enough to hold the connections between the roof and ceiling parts of the A/C, as well as where the installation bolts will go. Make sure that your measurements are correct before you start cutting.

Step 3 – Drill a hole at each corner of the square you have marked out. With a saw, start cutting the square out from one hole, working all the way around to the fourth hole. Remove the square and place the roof section of the A/C over the hole and using mounting bolts, secure it into place.

Step 4 – From inside the pop up, install the bolts to hold the ceiling section of the unit in place.

Step 5 – Apply sealant between the roof section of the A/C and the roof. Connect the color-coded wires and plug the ceiling and roof sections of the A/C into each other.

Step 6 – Switch on the power to the A/C and turn it on.

install air conditioner in pop up camper

Lets continue with other things to consider before adding A/C to your pop up camper.

What size air conditioner for your pop-up camper?

Before you purchase an A/C for your pop up, it’s important that you find out what amount of BTUs you need to cool your camper. BTU stands for British Thermal Units.

The higher the BTUs, the stronger the A/C. So, how many BTUs you need for a pop up camper? The simplest way to determine the correct amount of BTUs for your pop up, is to multiply the square foots of your camper by 40.

Bear in mind though, that your pop up is not insulated, so it is best for you to buy a unit with a sufficient amount of BTUs so that the A/C is strong enough to cool the air inside your camper.

Power requirements for pop up camper AC

Air conditioner is one appliance in an RV that draws most power. The watts requirement is higher as compared to other appliances like refrigerator or TV. It is because of the same reason why pop up camper owners do not get the ACs installed.

When you are boondocking with your pop up camper, you obviously won’t have the shore-power facility. So, how do you run the AC then? The only option that you have is a portable generator. You may have DC battery or even solar kit but that may not really help here.

So, how many watts does the RV AC consume? And how big generator you may need inside your pop up camper? Lets figure out the basic watts calculation and then decide on the generator size.

  1. A 5000-BTU AC will consume around 300 to 400 watts for running.
  2. A 7000 BTU AC will consume around 500 to 600 watts for running
  3. A 1000 BTU AC will consume around 700 watts for running

For starting purpose the average watts are highers as mentioned below,

  1. 5000 BTU AC needs around 1000 watts for starting
  2. 7000 BTU AC will use around 1500 to 1800 watts on an average for starting
  3. 10000 BTU AC will consume around 2000 watts for starting on an average.

Obviously with lesser insulation these numbers can go higher. So, a good thing is to keep the best possible insulation in your pop up camper when the air conditioner is running.

So, how big generator to get for your pop up camper when you have AC to run? Get something that will easily handle the starting watts in addition to the other watts requirements of your appliances.

How much do you want to pay?

When you are shopping for an A/C for your pop up that suits your needs, the main thing you should do is look at the BTUs. The cost of A/Cs usually rises the higher the BTU, so shop depending on your budgte and fair BTUs. Look at the different brands available, their BTUs and choose the one that is the most suitable for your pop up as well as your needs.

Tips to maximize the efficiency of your pop up air conditioner

Sure, an air conditioner in a pop up camper can make things cool. But, there are lots of other things that you can do to keep RV cool even without an air conditioner.

1. Park your pop-up camper in the shade if possible
2. To keep the air circulating inside, use a fan as well as your A/C
3. Insulate the interior of your camper
4. Keep your A/C well maintained to make sure that it’s always operating at its best
5. Check and clean the filter if necessary, on a regular basis
6. Make sure camper is leveled when parked

In conclusion

Main purpose of this article was to address the question “does air conditioning work with pop up camper or not”. By going through this guide i am sure it has been answered in best possible way. Air conditioning units for pop up campers and travel trailers, priced at anything between $200 and $1500, depending on the brand and BTUs, are not too pricey. Therefore, if you are an enthusiastic camper, then investing in any of the above air conditioning units for your pop up camper or travel trailer, will be well worth the money you spend.

G. Yoganand

A RV enthusiast who spends countless hours researching and learning various things related to RV camping. He believes in spending time doing Outdoor activities.
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