While connected to the RV site shore power, you may be tempted to keep your AC system running continuously. Since the electrical cost is already included with your campsite daily rate, we tend to be less concerned about energy consumption. I’m sure we have all been scolded as a child for leaving the house door open in the summer to hear someone shout, “We are not paying to cool the outside!” We are less likely to be as concerned about cooling the outside at an RV site, with electrical already included.
But back to the question, can an RV air conditioner run continuously? The simple answer is “yes.” However, there are some advantages and disadvantages you should be aware of before deciding to do such a thing. This article will review all the advantages and disadvantages of running the ac continuously, including:
- Energy Consumption
- The strain on the AC system
- Indoor Air Quality
I always like to look at the positive aspect of life, so let’s start out with the advantages of having your RV air conditioner run continuously.
Table of Contents
- Final Thoughts
Although there are not many, some advantages help justify running the cooling system all the time.
The main advantage of running the air conditioner continuously is creating a consistent temperature within your camper. That consistency has two benefits. The first benefit is that it creates a comfortable living space where the air and the surrounding materials are at the same temperatures. There is less of a chance for warm air zones.
The second benefit is that the AC system is not working overtime to raise the RV temperature several degrees. The most load on an RV air conditioner is when it needs to take hot air and get it down to cool air. The greater the difference, the more the AC system must work. And with that work, it is added strain on the system.
On the other hand, when the ac system is always running, the temperature difference is only a few degrees. And with this smaller difference from the outside temperature, the AC system will not work as hard to reach the desired thermostat temperature.
Another advantage is that you can experience better indoor air quality. If you are like me and have any allergies, you know that keeping the RV windows open at night may make you wake up with a stuffy nose.
But, by keeping your windows closed and running the AC unit, you are reducing the allergens in your camper. As your AC unit runs, it takes only a portion of the exterior air with interior air and then runs it through the filter. This filter will help keep some of those pesky allergens at bay.
Be careful to replace your filter with regular maintenance. Dometic recommends the following maintenance on your filter:
- Dirty Air Filter. Periodically (a minimum of every 2 weeks of operation) remove the return air filter located behind the return air vent grille and wash it with soap and warm water, let dry and then reinstall.
- NEVER run unit without return air filter in place. This will plug the unit evaporator coil with dirt and may substantially degrade the unit’s overall performance.
Although not a big advantage, not messing with the thermostat is a plus in my book. Just set the temperature you want and never return to the thermostat again!
With AC (as well as heat), you have the option to have the fan set to “auto” or to “on.” When set to “auto,” the AC system will turn on and off as cold air is needed to meet the set thermostat temperature. When set to the “on” position, the fan will always be on, but the AC cooling unit will only turn on when the temperature rises, and there is a need for cold air.
Yes, it’s true of life; where there are advantages, there are disadvantages. And the case of your RV air conditioner is no exception.
Depending on your RV site, you likely have all your shore power included in your daily or weekly rate. With that liberty of no-cost power, many RVgoers (myself included) have fallen victim to unnecessary waste of power.
At around 15 amps of ac power, a single RV AC unit is the most power-consuming appliance in your camper. Nothing comes really close to that much power needed. The microwave and a large electric fridge will only be at most a third of that energy consumption. Even with solar power, that is a lot of power, and many inverters are not rated to power up the air conditioner.
By keeping your AC running all the time, you are consuming energy that may be unnecessary. As we discussed above, there is an advantage to keeping a consistent temperate. And it takes less energy to raise the temperature in the camper a few degrees vs several degrees.
The challenge is to determine how long you don’t need the air conditioner vs keeping it running to maintain the temperature. For example, if you are not at your RV site most of the day, it may be worth it from an energy factor to not keep it running the entire time, even though the AC will work a little harder that short period when you return.
Any electrical or mechanical component has a service life and ac maintenance. And the more often something runs, the less life it will have and must be replaced sooner. The AC system is no different and has many parts and components that may have a reduced life if running continuously.
When the ac compressor runs continuously, it generates heat and puts a constant strain on the compressor motor. Over time, this can cause the compressor motor to wear out faster, potentially leading to the entire air conditioning system breakdown.
Another main component of an air conditioner is the evaporator coil. As you run the AC, it can cause the coil to become dirty or clogged with dust and debris. This can reduce the airflow through the coil and cause a frozen evaporator coil.
Resting the air conditioner periodically prevents the evaporator coil from becoming excessively cold and freezing.
Your AC blower fan is an electric motor with ball bearings. These bearings are sealed and provide many hours of trouble service.
The motor and ball bearings rotate and reduce their service life while using the AC and the blower fan. By running the air conditioner continuously, this motor can also need service or replacement sooner rather than later.
While connected to an all-inclusive shore power source, keeping your RV air conditioning unit running continuously is tempting. In doing so, there are advantages, such as consistent air temperature and better indoor air quality. On the flip side, there are also disadvantages to consider, such as energy consumption and reduced service life of major AC components like the compressor motor, evaporator coil, and blower fan. Knowing this information will help you decide whether to run your air conditioner continuously or not. Stay cool!
Tony is an avid camper and RV traveler. He fell in love with camping on his first RV trip with his wife over 25 years ago. Tony loves sharing lessons learned and tips about RV maintenance and safe traveling.