Most people choose to travel with an air conditioner and many modern day caravans include an air conditioner as standard. Not only is an air conditioner is a great way to keep cool on a hot summer day, but a reverse cycle unit also provides heating capacity when required. There are still many models that do not have an air conditioning unit, including older caravans. Fortunately, it is easy to retrofit an air conditioning unit to your caravan or recreational vehicle. The following is a guide to help you choose the best caravan air conditioner for your needs.
Heating and Cooling Capacity
The heating and cooling capacity is the most important factor when choosing an air conditioner. Choosing the correct power can be difficult, but in general it is better to choose a slightly more powerful model than required. An underpowered unit may not perform to your satisfaction and will have to work harder to achieve the desired results (using more energy to do it). The cooling and heating capacity should be measured in kilowatts and the most common sizes range from 1.0 to 3.2 kW. If you are unsure about the capacity you require then it is best to speak with an expert. It is also important to ensure your air conditioner offers reverse cycle heating capacity. This is very effective and much more efficient than a traditional electrical element heater.
Roof Top Air Conditioner
A roof top air conditioner is most popular option for a caravan. These are low profile and do not take up much internal space. There are two main sizes of roof top air conditioner units: 360mm (European style) and 400mm (US style). These units are efficient because warm air is drawn into the unit and then the cool air sinks into the van. The most important considerations when installing a roof top air conditioner is ensuring you have enough space available and ensuring your roof is thick/strong enough to accommodate the weight of the air conditioning unit. The main downsides of this type of unit are the increase in height of your van and the running noise.
A split system is another great option for installation in your caravan. These units are similar to the standard split systems that are installed in homes and offices. They consist of a compressor unit, which can be installed in a hidden location, and a cooling unit. They are very efficient and provide high quality heating and cooling for your caravan. They are quiet and can be completely built in to the van or motorhome. These units are more suitable than roof top air conditioners when the roof cannot take the weight. However, the downside of a split system is that it will take up valuable cupboard space, where the air handler is installed.
Underbunk ducted systems are the main alternative option, but these are relatively rare. One of the past alternatives was to install a built in box air conditioner, but these are no longer sold on the Australian market and there are better options available. If your van remains in a fixed position then it may be cheaper and more suitable to install a home quality air conditioner unit.
Many caravaners choose to run solar power to charge batteries and power appliances. This means that you can take advantage of this by choosing an air conditioner that will run from the solar panels or battery unit. A 12 volt air conditioner is a great option for a caravan and will run from a solar panel or battery. If you decide on this option then it is a good idea to choose an air con with the best energy efficiency possible.
You can have your air conditioner installed by a professional or simply choose to do-it-yourself. There are many installation guides on the internet, including this great guide for installing a roof mounted air conditioner to a caravan. If you take the DIY option then you need to make sure that you use a qualified electrician for the 240 V wiring. A professional installation is not cheap, but it is the recommended option if you have little DIY experience.