Can you run rv ac while driving

Can you run rv ac while driving

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Air conditioner is one of the most important appliances in motorhome or rv. Many motorhomes also come with dual ac’s. Running an air conditioner during the travel specially summer times is something many people try. Most people know they can definitely switch on the dash air conditioner, but some of us are confused whether we can start the roof top air conditioner or not. Roof top air conditioner has more power and cools more area. Lest see, if we can start it while driving and what other considerations we should keep in mind.

can i run the air conditioner while driving the RV

Yes, one can run both the dash air conditioner as well as the roof top air conditioner in RV while driving. But it also depends what source of energy you are using for running the roof top air conditioner. Dash air conditioner can always be running, that’s not an issue.

Running air conditioner needs power, and that means more gas utilization for your dash air conditioner. But, i assume comfort is more important than miles per gallon (At least for most of us, i guess). Also, i haven’t seen much decrease in mpg when i run the dash AC most of the times. Next, the question is; can i run my roof top air conditioner while the rv is running. Well, since we would need generator to start the roof top air conditioner, it is dependent on what source of fuel the generator uses.

A propane run generator should not be running while driving because of the issue that can arise if there is any leakage of propane. For other cases if the genny is using diesel source, the engine fuel then it should be okay to star and use it.

Can’t i just use the dash Air conditioner instead of both or only roof top Air conditioner

Well, one can. But most of the times what i see is that only dash engine air conditioner is not sufficient. Especially, when you have passenger sitting backside. A dash engine can only cool it to some extent in drivers area. And that too, only to some extent. Thus, running the roof top air conditioner is the only option, specially during hot seasons. A 105 or more temperature and you just cant be okay with only dash air conditioner.

Can you use the AC in towable RV or travel trailer

Well, its just not allowed to travel in travel trailer. So, there is no question of running the air conditioner in travel trailer. Fifth wheels do allow traveling in same states, in which cases same can be done. A generator, that is running on proper fuel source can be used to run the air conditioner.

Is it good to run the generator while driving to power the air conditioner?

Well, if the generator isn’t powered by propane then running it shouldn’t be much of a problem. Also, a lot of people under utilize their generators. With campsites giving you electricity, not many people end up using generator to good number of hours. In fact, most of the times, the generators fail to work or need repairs because they are under utilized. While driving, if you use the generator; the hours of usage increases and help keeping it in good working condition. I have seen people using it for thousand of hours, for years; without having any problem, and in most cases they said that they use it while the rv is being driven.

Getting a quality and efficient portable generator for RV is thus important. Do check price and features of this Champion super quite generator on amazon.

Keep an eye on fuel level – Air conditioners use lot of energy

With air conditioners, you always end up getting less mileage if the rv fuel is indirectly used through generator. Air conditioners need more power than any other appliance in your motorhome. Even more than refrigerators; which only need little to keep running. Air conditioners on the other hand, are power eaters. They would need much more than others. Hence, you should keep an eye on how much fuel is left in your motorhome.

When the distance is much more, the fuel tank may just reach the levels you don’t want to see. Hence make sure you do the check regularly. One can also try to use batteries to power the air conditioner though an inverter but not many people find this a better solution. A sit would draw much more power from batteries and if you needed the batteries for something else then you may in trouble. This is specially to be avoided if you are heading for camping rather than returning home.

Does the chassis or the dash Air conditioner needs more energy than roof top AC

Many a time i see people saying that they only used the dash air conditioner and still saw a drop in mileage. That happens with all of us. We try to protect the mileage thinking that roof top air conditioner running will wipe out our fuel. But, the case may be opposite. A dash air conditioner sees to taking more fuel as compared to the a portable generator that powers the roof top air conditioner.

The reason could be that the dash air conditioner puts load on engine and results in utilizing more fuel to power the motorhome engine. Also if you have been only using dash air conditioners, it needs to cool greater area. A small air conditioner to cool a 40 feet rv? That’s too much for it to do. And thus it may not work at its best. If the drivers cabin is closed with a door or a good fixed curtain then it may do well, this is what i have felt most of the times. Good air circulation is very much necessary in motorhome to keep it cool.

What other things can you do to keep the RV cool while driving

The reason why only dash air conditioner does not work while moving is because the motorhome is so big. A small dash AC cannot be doing this for entire space. Also, with big windshields the sun is continuously heating the area. And thus, temperature increases and you need more air conditioning. One thing that i have tried many times is just place an curtain behind the drivers area, what this does is at least reduced the temperature behind little bit. But with that too roof top air conditioner is not avoidable. When you are camping and the motorhome is at one place, you either cover the windshield and just place the rv is cool shade.

Read : Compete guide to keep RV cool without an Air Conditioner

Use Special RV floor insulation covers – During summer times, the temperatures soar and the heat can be too much to get away with. Specially when you have 3- 4 people as passenger inside a very big 35-40 feet motorhome. On top of that the heat produced by the motorhome engine can add to it. The engine heat can easily come inside via the floor; if it is not insulated properly. In most cases, this can happen unless you utilize some special insulation on the floor. There have been some product that can help you do this and if you are planning for long trips then you should definitely try them. Insulating covers can be bought from any online portals or local RV repair or parts shops. It shouldn’t cost you much. Covering the rv floor with this insulation covers can help a lot.

Close Windows with covers – During sunny days its not only the engine heat but also the direct sunlight. For bigger class A motorhome specially, the windows are bigger. This gives you good picturesque views but can also be a reason why you feel so hot inside. The sunlight and heat lead to increase in temperature and that cannot be negated with just dash air conditioners. So its better to have them closed with some curtains and coverings. Doing this will definitely make a great difference.

Cooling RV before starting the trip – When starting a long trip make sure you start cooling the rv before you start the travel. Doing this will make sure once you turn on the roof top air conditioner, it will start cooling from the beginning itself. This will give some buffer time for the air conditioner and it will work better. Also when the rv is idle before starting you can try keeping the windows open so as to make sure air circulation. Also always try to park the rv or motorhome in good shade. A motorhome parked in sun will lead to heating the roof and it will take lot of time to cool it off, thus better to be shade or garage.

Try Outside grilling or cooking – While the rv is parked in campsite or you are boondocking ,try to make sure you cook outside. You may very well have full kitchen, but trying outside grilling and cooking can be fun and also help reduce the temperature inside the rv. A full swing cooking inside rv kitchen during summer days when the normal temperature itself is so high, this will lead to further heating. Thus as far as possible make sure to use outside cooking facilities. Check out this portable Weber grill on amazon.


One can definitely use roof top and dash air conditioner while driving but need to be little bit careful and know the fuel source that is being used. Propane run generators are to be avoided while driving. With 2 way or 3 way air conditioners or generators you shouldn’t have the issue in running it while driving. Along with running air conditioner while driving , taking care of few thing can itself help beat the high temperatures

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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