10 Best Camper Air Conditioning Systems
last updated: Aug 16, 2023
There’s nothing quite like cruising around in your campervan during the summertime.
However, hot temperatures and long sunny days can be a bit uncomfortable if you can’t cool your van down.
That’s why investing in campervan air conditioning can make your campervan experience that much more comfortable.
Especially at nighttime when it’s humid and impossible to sleep.
There are a lot of options on the market for camper air conditioning units, and it’s easy to get a little lost under all the different options.
In this guide, we clearly lay out the three different types of camper air conditioning units, as well as cover the 10 best camper air conditioning units to choose from.
Let’s jump right in!
Compressor Camper Air Conditioning Systems
One of the most common and popular types of camper air conditioning units is a compressor unit.
A compressor air conditioning unit works by first drawing warm air into the unit. Then, the warm air is blown onto the refrigerant in the cooling unit.
Then, the compressor unit compresses the warm refrigerant down, and passes it through condenser coils which reduces the heat, until only cold air remains to blow back through the compressor unit.
1. Nomadic 3000
The Nomadic 12V air conditioning unit is a high-powered compressor unit that conveniently runs on 12V DC power.
This unit is lightweight, and has four different modes so you can cool your campervan effectively without draining your battery.
This is a very unique camper air conditioning unit in that it runs on 12V DC. Most camper air conditioning units need to be plugged into shore power, which is what sets this camper air conditioning unit apart from all the rest.
- Voltage: 12V DC
- Weight: 27 kg/ 61lbs
- Price: $$$
Pros of the Nomadic 12V
- This is a stand-alone air conditioning unit, and does not need to be connected to the engine to operate.
- This is a non-polluting air conditioning unit.
- This is an excellent air conditioning unit for those looking to get off-grid.
Cons of the Nomadic 12V
- This is a very expensive air conditioning unit.
2. Dometic Penguin II
The Dometic Penguin II is another great compressor air conditioner for campervans, although it is at a much more affordable price point than the Nomadic 3000w.
It has a low profile, requires only a small opening, and comes with multiple types of thermostat controls.
This unit runs on 115AC, meaning it should be plugged into shore power or an inverter while running.
However, due to its larger power draw it is best to run this cooling unit off of shore power so as to not drain your camper’s battery.
If you’re looking for an extra-small rooftop air conditioning unit, this is the best option on the market.
- Voltage: 115AC
- Weight: 45kg/ 99lbs
- Price: $$
Pros of the Dometic Penguin II 115 AC
- It uses an eco-friendly refrigerant.
- It is easy to install.
- It is a high-efficiency cooler, and will keep your van cool even on the hottest days.
- Due to its low profile, this unit won’t cause enough drag to reduce your van’s fuel efficiency, or block your solar panels!
Cons of the Dometic Penguin II 115 AC
- It can be a little noisy while running.
- It’s heavier than other air conditioning units of a similar size.
- This is not a DC system, so it is not the best cooling unit for those looking to get off-grid.
3. Coleman-Mach 15
The Coleman-Mach 15 is another high-efficiency cooling unit. This air conditioning unit has one of the largest motors of any camper air conditioner- however it is still incredibly quiet.
This cooling unit is designed for ducted units, and performs well under extremely hot conditions.
Plus, it even has a heating feature! If you’re looking for campervan air conditioning you can use all year, this is a fantastic option.
- Voltage: 115V AC
- Weight: 40kg/ 90lbs
Pros of the Coleman-Mach 15
- It has a heating feature.
- It is a very quiet air conditioning unit.
- It is an extremely powerful van air conditioner.
Cons of the Coleman-Mach 15
- It can be difficult to install.
- It runs off of AC and uses a considerable amount of power, so it is not a good choice for off-grid setups.
4. Dometic Brisk II
The Dometic Brisk II is a cooling unit that runs on 110V AC, and has an optional heat pump.
This camper and rv air conditioning unit is made by Dometic, which is such a reliable company that even NASA uses their products!
- Voltage: 110V AC
- Weight: 35kg/ 77lbs
- Price: $$
Pros of the Dometic Brisk II
- It is easy to install.
- It has a heating function.
- The Dometic Brisk II is very lightweight.
Cons of the Dometic Brisk II
- It is a noisy air conditioning unit.
5. Furrion Chill
The Furrion Chill air conditioner for campers makes this list as it claims the title of the quietest campervan air conditioner on the market.
This compressor unit uses anti-vibration technology to stay quiet while cooling your van.
It is also rated to still cool very efficiently in extremely hot temperatures.
- Voltage: 115V AC
- Weight: 40kg/90lbs
- Price: $$
Pros of the Furrion Chill
- This is the quietest camper and rv rooftop air conditioner on the market.
- The Furrion Chill is very powerful and can cool a large space very quickly.
Cons of the Furrion Chill
- This air conditioner for camper uses a lot of electricity, and is really only suitable for use if attached to a main.
6. B-Cool 9000 RM
If you’re looking for another 12V camper air conditioner but aren’t quite sold on the Nomadic II, then consider the B-Cool 9000 RM air conditioner.
The B-Cool is a great air conditioner for a camper van that is looking to get off-grid in a hot location where air conditioning is necessary.
- Voltage: 12V DC
- Weight: 38kg/ 83 lbs
- Price: $$$
Pros of the B-Cool 9000 RM
- This is a powerful cooling unit.
- This air conditioner runs on 12V DC, so it’ll function well off of your campervan’s leisure battery and not need to be plugged into shore power.
- It is not a noisy air conditioner.
Cons of the B-Cool 9000 RM
- It comes at an expensive price point.
Portable Camper Air Conditioning
Portable air conditioning for campers is truly innovative. With a portable air conditioning unit, you won’t have to cut a large square into your campervan like with compressor and evaporative units!
While portable air conditioning units do need ventilation for their exhaust pies, this only requires a small hole for the exhaust pipe.
Rather than needing to be plugged into shore power, or wired to your campervan’s leisure battery, some portable air conditioning for rvs and campers runs off of the unit’s own personal battery.
This means you can have powerful, cordless air conditioning in your campervan without draining your van’s leisure batteries!
7. Zerobreeze Mark 2
The Zerobreeze Mark 2 is one of the best portable campervan air conditioning units on the market.
This portable ac for camper contains a mini compressor unit, so it doesn’t need any water to operate like other small portable units.
This unit is lightweight, even runs off of its own 24v Lithium-Ion battery which allows it to cool for a whopping 5 hours.
**For more information on this portable air conditioner, check out my video testing the Zerobreeze Mark 2.**
- Voltage: Battery/ 240V AC
- Weight: 7kg/ 16lbs
Pros of the Zerobreeze Mark 2
- It is extremely lightweight.
- It has its own battery and is a cordless cooling unit.
- It can cool down a small campervan incredibly quickly.
Cons of the Zerobreeze Mark 2
- It comes at a fairly expensive price point.
8. The Honeywell MN12CESBB
The Honeywell MN12CESBB is a powerful portable heater that is more than equipped to cool campervans and buses alike!
This cooling unit runs off of 120V AC, and is a great cooling option for vanlifers plugged into shore power.
- Voltage: 120V AC
- Weight: 31kg/70lbs
- Price: $$
Pros of the Honeywell MN12CESBB
- It can cool a very large space.
- This unit comes equipped with a dehumidifier.
Cons of the Honeywell MN12CESBB
- It is heavy compared to the Zerobreeze Mark 2.
- It should only be used with shore power as it has such a large power draw.
Evaporative Air Conditioning Systems
Also known as ‘swamp coolers’, evaporative air conditioning units utilize the evaporation process in order to cool the air.
Essentially, evaporative coolers suck in hot, dry air through a fan, and that hot air passes through a water system that then evaporates, causing the air temperature to drop.
Then, that cooled air is blown back into your campervan.
Because evaporative air conditioners use water to cool the air, they can cause the humidity levels to rise.
Due to this feature, evaporative coolers should really only be used in hot, dry environments.
The biggest benefit of evaporative coolers is that they are extremely energy efficient- which makes them a great option for campervan air conditioners.
9. Fresair Air Conditioner
The Fresair Air Conditioner is a powerful evaporative cooling system.
This rv rooftop air conditioner is powered by water and 12V DC, and is extremely effective at cooling in dry environments.
Plus, unlike most other swamp coolers the Fresair is a rooftop cooler, which helps the unit actually draw the warm air out and keep the van from becoming overly humid.
- Voltage: 12V DC
- Weight: 11kg/25lbs
- Price: $$
Pros of the Fresair
- The Fresair runs off of 12V DC, and uses very little electricity.
- This is an eco-friendly air conditioning option.
- In areas with low humidity, this is a very powerful ac for camper.
- The Fresair is very lightweight.
Cons of the Fresair
- This unit will only work in areas with low humidity.
- This air conditioner for camper is fairly expensive.
10. MightyKool K2
The MightyKool K2 is a small and portable evaporative cooling unit.
This unit runs off of 12V DC and water that must be added to the unit.
This cooling unit is a good solution for anyone looking for budget camper air conditioners, and who doesn’t need heavy duty cooling in their campervan.
- Voltage: 12V
- Weight: 2kg/5lbs
- Price: $
Pros of the MightyKool K2
- It comes at a very affordable price point.
- It runs off of 12V DC, and needs a very small amount of electricity to run.
- It is portable.
Cons of the MightyKool K2
- It is not a very powerful cooling unit.
- This will only work in areas with low humidity.
Should you use a DC or AC air conditioning unit?
This post highlights a variety of DC and AC air conditioning units. Which type of unit is best for you depends on a variety of factors.
Most campervan leisure batteries run on 12V DC. This means that most campervan electrical systems are already going to be set up to run off of DC.
Having an air conditioning unit that takes the same voltage as your van’s battery is a huge perk, because it means you will be able to use your air conditioning unit off-grid!
However, there are also perks to buying an AC air conditioning unit- namely, if you plan to be plugged into shore power.
If you are going to be primarily plugged into shore power then there is no reason to not purchase an air conditioning unit that runs on DC.
DC air conditioning units are best if you:
- Want to use your air conditioner off-grid.
- Have a large enough battery bank that can run your air conditioning unit.
- Have the budget in your overall cost of van conversion to purchase a 12V DC air conditioning unit.
AC air conditioning units are best if you:
- Will be spending a lot of time plugged into shore power.
- Don’t have the budget to purchase a 12V DC system.
Alternative ways to keep your campervan cool
While there are lots of awesome camper air conditioning units on the market, some vanlifers still prefer alternative methods to cool their vans.
And that’s great! Purchasing an air conditioning unit isn’t for everyone.
The best way to keep your campervan cool without air conditioning is to utilize passive cooling.
Passive cooling is essentially keeping your van cool in any way that doesn’t utilize an AC unit.
Some of the best ways to practice passive cooling in your campervan include:
- Paint your campervan with a color that will reflect the sun, like white.
- Try to always park your van in the shade.
This is the easiest way to keep your van cool!
- Insulate your van properly.
Proper insulation will not only keep your van warm on cold nights, but will also help prevent your campervan from baking in the sun.
- Install windows and vents in your campervan.
If you install a combination of windows and vents like the Maxxair fan, then you can maintain a steady flow of air through your campervan which will work wonders in keeping your van cool.
Wrapping up 10 Best Camper Air Conditioning Solutions
That concludes our list of the 10 best camper air conditioning solutions.
Whether you’re aspiring to adventure off-road in the desert, or want to be cool and comfortable living in a parked campervan with shore power, there’s an air conditioning unit out there for you!
Having air conditioning in your campervan is one of those luxuries that brings van life one step above tent camping, and while it’s not for everyone, it sure can be nice to have a comfortably cooled campervan.
Which of these awesome campervan air conditioners would you choose?
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