Air Conditioner Buying Guide

Are you a bit unsure of how to choose the perfect air conditioner for your caravan? Perhaps you’ve read all the information online and still remain a bit confused?

Well, that is completely understandable! With so many different types of air conditioners available, it can be overwhelming trying to figure out which best suits your caravan. Here, we have simplified it for you.

First of all, the choice of air conditioner depends on the size and features of your vehicle:

  • How long is your motor home? Larger vehicles need a more powerful air conditioner or, in some cases, several units that are coordinated with each other.
  • Where can the air conditioner be installed? On the roof or in the storage area of your vehicle
  • Is your RV a dark colour and has large panorama windows? If so, it will heat up faster and therefore requires more cooling than a white vehicle with small windows.
  • How well is your RV insulated? For a new vehicle that is well insulated, it is generally enough to have one low-powered air conditioner.

When you’re buying an RV air conditioner, these personal preferences play an important role:

  • In which regions and at what times of year do you travel?
  • How many people will be travelling with you?
  • Do you cook often in the RV and does steam form?
  • Do you shower regularly in your RV, increasing the humidity?
  • Do you prefer air conditioning in the entire vehicle or only in the sleeping area?
  • To what temperature do you want to cool the vehicle?

Why do I need a Caravan air conditioner? Will a household air conditioner do the same job?

If you plan to travel around in your Caravan, you’ll need an air conditioner to suit. A standard household air conditioner might work in your home, but it’s not designed to withstand the rigors of travel.

You need a unit that is built to withstand vibrations, constant movement, and other environmental factors that a Caravan air conditioner can easily deal with.

Furthermore, a Caravan air conditioner also has to be big enough to cool an entire space – not just one room. Make sure that you select an air conditioner with a high CFM (cubic feet per minute) rating, as this will ensure that the unit can work hard and efficiently to cool down your caravan.

What types of Caravan Air conditioners are there?

There are two main Caravan air conditioner types on the market. Roof Mounted and Under bunk Air conditioners.

1. Roof Mounted Air conditioners

If you are purchasing a brand-new caravan air conditioner and have the space, a roof-top air conditioner is a great choice. This allows you to maximise space and/or storage within the cabin. Other benefits include:

  • Easy to retrofit.
  • Don’t take up storage space.
  • Cool directly via the inside air distributor.
  • Outlets can be adjusted individually.

Roof-top units come in different sizes, and also different weights. Something to consider when choosing a roof-top unit is the extra weight you might be adding to the top of your caravan or vehicle, especially if you already have solar panels or other heavy items on the roof.

The roof cut-out needed for fitting one of these units could vary between 360x360mm or 400x400mm.

If you are using an existing roof hatch cut-out and replacing it with an aircon, you may find the cut out size is closer to 360x360mm, so you may need a specific adaptor to fit an aircon designed for a 400x400 cut-out.

What does the 360mm or 400mm opening mean?

Caravan air conditioner models include a number next to the ‘opening’ measurement.

This refers to the size of the front panel of the air conditioner and is usually measured in either 360mm or 400mm. It’s important to make sure that the size of your chosen model fits the opening of your caravan.

If the measurements don’t match, you’ll need to have the unit fitted by a professional. Make sure to measure the width and height of the space where you want to install the air conditioner.

This will help you find the perfect model for your home away from home.

Chart for weight of each air conditioner models

The Truma air conditioning systems are especially silent, light, and powerful. They can be used in a variety of vehicles, including vans and motor homes, in a variety of sizes and operating levels.

Aventa Comfort is suitable roof mounted air conditioner for vehicles up to 6.5 metres in length. It cools the vehicle's interior rapidly and creates a pleasant environment.

During spring and autumn, the caravan's air conditioning system can be utilised as an additional heater thanks to the integrated heat pump.

Aventa comfort air conditioner


2. Under bunk Air conditioners or Storage Box Air conditioners

Under bunk or Storage box air conditioners are installed in the storage space of your vehicle. The cool air is directed upward through ducts. Under bunk air conditioners are suitable when a Roof mounted air conditioners are not possible.

For example, Pop top caravans and Small off-road camper trailers generally do not have the suitable structure to hold a roof-mounted air conditioner so an under bunk is an ideal solution.

Benefits of an under bunk or Storage Box Air Conditioner include:

  • Distributes the air flexibly.
  • Cools very quietly.
  • Shifts the vehicle's centre of gravity downward, which has a positive effect on driving properties.
  • Skylight remains.

Vans that have been converted have typically gone with the under bunk air conditioner to maximise space on the roof for other caravan accessories such as solar panels.

Truma offers suitable storage box air conditioning systems for all sizes of vehicle. They can be installed so that they require very little space and have many different options to distribute cool air throughout the vehicle interior.

This is done with the flexible cold air ducts that distribute the air evenly where it is needed without any draughts. 

Saphir RC is the most powerful Truma storage box air conditioning system. It also has a heat pump mode so that it can be used as a heater during spring and autumn.

Truma Saphir heating/cooling system


Understanding the Cooling/Heating System

When buying a caravan air conditioner, one thing to look out for is how the cooling/heating system works. Some air conditioners use heat exchange to cool the air and an electrical heating element to warm.

While not the most efficient heating method out there, it does a good job of keeping your caravan warm even in the coldest of weather conditions.

Most caravan air conditioners are the reverse cycle units wherein a compressor is used for both cooling and heating. These types of units are the most efficient ones out there, but can suffer from component damage when the temperatures are freezing.

For Australian weather, we recommend a reverse cycle unit due to its energy efficiency. But if you plan on travelling to areas with a particularly cold climate, then a heating element system will work best for you.

Does the profile affect wind resistance?

The roof top versions seem to all provide about the same frontal area that needs to go through the air, however some are short and wide and others are higher and wider.

The following shows the relative height of each roof top unit in mm. Please check current specifications of products that may vary from below.

Chart of height of each roof top aircon unit

How cold or hot will an Air-Conditioner make my Caravan?

This will depend on a number of factors such as the size of your caravan, the size of the unit and the settings you choose when installing the air conditioner.

For example, if you have a small unit, you may find that it doesn’t cool the entire space. If you have a larger one, it will be able to cool the entire space much quicker.

If you have a smaller unit, you may want to consider adding a couple of fans to help circulate the air and cool the space even quicker.

Furthermore, make sure you follow the installation instructions carefully and read the owner’s manual carefully. This will help you determine the perfect placement of your unit and how to set it up correctly.

This will also ensure that you are using your appliance correctly and that it’s running efficiently.

The Comfort Zone

The balance between temperature and humidity has an effect on your well-being. As the room temperature increases, humidity will decrease.

Rooms with a temperature of 18 to 24 degrees and relative humidity of 40 to 70 per cent are considered comfortable.

Example: Temperature of 27°C and relative humidity of 65%. The comfort zone can be achieved with a compressor air conditioning system (dark blue arrow), but not with an evaporative system (light blue arrow).

Air conditioner comfort zone

Installing My Caravan Air-Conditioner

Before you install your caravan air conditioner, make sure you have read the instructions and are familiar with the model that you have purchased.

You don’t want the installation process to be rushed and you want to make sure that you do it correctly – this includes where you place the unit.

Make sure that it is not blocking any doors and is positioned in the best possible place.

If you have young children or pets, you may also want to consider installing a safety gate to avoid them touching or getting too close to the unit.

This will help to avoid any accidents and make your caravan safe.

If you are in any doubt, please get in touch with a professional to help you install your air conditioner. They will be able to advise you and make sure the installation is done correctly.