Can You Run an RV Air Conditioner While Driving?

can you run an rv air conditioner while driving

Can you run an RV air conditioner while driving? Of course, you can, provided you have the correct power source to supply electricity to the air conditioning unit.

Going on an extended road trip is more fun during the summer, allowing RV families to enjoy Mother Nature at its best. Unfortunately, moving from one location to another can be uncomfortable, no thanks to the sun.

A motorhome that can run RV AC while driving is essential. Read on.

Running an RV AC while Driving: Is it Possible?

It’s a certainty that you can drive your RV with the AC turned on.

You have two options for ensuring a more comfortable living environment for your RV family on a summer road trip. You could rely on the air conditioning from the vehicle’s dashboard or activate the RV’s rooftop AC.

1. Dash Air Conditioner


This RV AC system is not different from your car’s AC technology. Small vents on the vehicle’s dashboard (facing the driver and the front passenger) blow cool air through horizontal spaces, reducing the RV’s ambient temperature.

Unfortunately, RVs are bigger than conventional sedans, making the dash AC an unreliable cooling mechanism for an RV family on the road.

The dash AC might be unable to cool the RV’s interior, especially at the back. Hence, most RVers turn on the ACU on the motorhome’s rooftop during the hot summer months.

Another reason many RVers ditch the dash AC for a more robust solution is the strain the dash AC puts on the engine.

This air conditioning system draws its power from the car’s alternator, which, in turn, obtains its energy from the engine.

Hence, driving the RV uphill further strains the engine because it must supply energy to the wheels and the alternator to keep the dash AC running.

And that’s why most RVers prefer a more efficient cooling mechanism – the rooftop air conditioner.

2. Rooftop Air Conditioner


As the name implies, this air conditioning unit sits atop the RV’s roof, allowing its downward cool air venting to lower the motorhome’s living space temperature.

The rooftop ACU ensures a more comfortable cabin for everyone, wherever they are inside the RV. You could be lounging in the “mini living room,” enjoying coffee at the kitchenette, or doing stuff at the back. You’ll never break a sweat.

There’s one hiccup, though. Even the smallest RV AC unit demands considerably more power than the dash ACU. Hence, a power generator is a must when running an RV AC.

So, you can turn on the generator while driving to enjoy a more comfortable summer RV road trip.

Most RVers turn on rooftop and dash ACUs to ensure a more relaxing ride. This trick allows RVers to minimize fuel consumption by setting both systems on an energy-saving mode. After all, the generator and the engine (powering the alternator) run on fuel.

That answers the issue of whether you can run an RV ACU while driving. Without generator units delivering electricity to the RV ACU, you can expect a “less pleasant” summer RVing road trip.

Factors that You Need to Consider Before Running AC in an RV

Here are some considerations when running the RV AC.

1. Ensure the generator can power your AC

RV ACUs are power-hungry appliances requiring power generators with at least 2,000 watts. Hence, you might want to check your RV ACU’s electrical requirements to match the generator’s output.

However, other RV appliances draw electricity from the generator when the RV is not on shore power. Hence, considering these appliances’ electrical requirements can help determine whether powering the RV AC is feasible.

2. Consider state laws and regulations

Some RV generators run on propane, making it illegal in some states and communities. For instance, Maryland has strict laws against operating a propane generator when driving through a tunnel.


You might want to consider other power source options when visiting Maryland and states with similar laws using the propane generator to run the RV AC.

3. Check gas consumption


RV generators vary in fuel consumption. For instance, a 4,000-watt generator running on diesel can spend a gallon every three hours at 50% operating capacity. Meanwhile, a comparable petrol-powered generator uses a gallon for two hours at 100% capacity.

Please note that most RV generators draw fuel from the same tank as your engine. Hence, a gas-guzzling air conditioner will only hasten the RV’s overall fuel consumption (you have the engine and generator dependent on a single fuel supply).

Hence, you might want to top off your fuel tank at the gas station and plan subsequent refills.

If you’re worried about gas consumption, consider solar power to run your RV AC while driving. However, the solar system’s energy production capacity must meet the AC’s electrical requirements.

For example, a 2,500-watt RV AC should run efficiently on a 3,000-watt solar system. You might want to add solar panels or install more energy-efficient systems to run other RV appliances.


Can you run an RV air conditioner while driving? Absolutely! However, you might want to ensure the generator’s proper functioning and consider other factors before operating it. Otherwise, you’ll have to make do with the dash AC to keep you comfortable on your road trip.

A fully functioning air conditioning system makes RVing adventures more worthwhile. Despite concerns with fuel costs and electrical safety issues, your family will be ecstatic to look forward to the next RVing road trip – even on a blistering summer day.

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