Question Marks

Can I Run an Air Conditioner on RV batteries?

Hello folks and welcome to Today we will be taking another look at RVs, batteries, and air conditioners. There has been a trend lately of dry camping, also known as boon-docking. This consists of going off-grid for your camping adventures. No power-source nearby. Just you and nature. While this sounds appealing it is not for everyone. Many folks find that they miss the creature comforts of home, such as air conditioning.

This is where today’s question comes from. Is it possible to run your RV’s air conditioner while only on battery power? To answer your question… yes, it is possible. The distinction here though is how long do you want to run your air conditioner? You see air conditioners require A LOT of power to run. If you are running the unit solely on your batteries then at most you are going to get an hour or two out of it, and that is if your power inverter is even big enough to convert your wattage over from DC (Direct Current) to AC (Alternating Current).

With RVs, or motor homes, there are two different power sources. DC is the same type of power that your car or other vehicle produces. This type of power is created by the engine and alternator. It is then stored in your batteries. The other type of power is known as AC. This power is just like what we have in our homes today. Since RVs are a mobile home it makes sense to have both vehicle and home power sources.

Since an air conditioner is a home appliance you are going to need AC watts to power it. There are four ways to obtain AC power for your RV. The first is what is known as ‘Shore Power.’ Shore power is when you are at a camp-site or RV park and there is a thirty or fifty amp power source nearby. All you need to do here is plug-in your RV and you now have full AC power. You’ll be able to power your air conditioner and any other appliance you need.

The second type of power source is using a portable or built-in generator. The generator acts the same as shore power, but it is mobile. In other words, you are not tied down to using a camp-site. You can get AC power as long as your generator has fuel. This is the top choice for most dry-dockers. Another option for creating AC power is storing DC power in your batteries as your RV’s engine runs. Then, when you need AC power, a power inverter runs and converts the energy from DC over to AC. As we mentioned above though, this is not sustainable for air conditioners. They simply require too much power.

The last option to get AC power for your RV is by using solar panels. I’m going to tell you the same though as I did when it comes to battery DC power. There just isn’t enough power provided by solar panels to allow the powering of an air conditioner. You would need a ton of solar panels to make it feasible and no one is going to have the space required for this. If you have your heart-set on using solar panels then you will NOT be using your air conditioner. It is as simple as that.

A Further Look

Let’s look at this a bit further now. Most RVs, or motor homes, come equipped with a standard fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner. They require around thirty-five hundred surge watts just to start and can take any where between fifteen-hundred to two-hundred watts to continually run the appliance. On these larger appliances, like air conditioners, they require an extra boost of power just to start the appliance up. This is known as surge watts. Once the machine has been turned on and begins to run it moves over to running watts. These running watts are much lower then surge watts. If you do NOT have enough watts to cover the initial surge then you cannot start the appliance. Simple as that.

To power this fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner you are going to need an inverter that converts the battery’s DC power over to AC power. Some RVs do come with inverters… but the factory installed models are typically only rated to convert between one-thousand to two-thousand watts. To power an air conditioner you would need a power inverter rated at a minimum of four-thousand watts. In some cases, on larger RVs, they have a larger sized air conditioner or multiple air conditioners. So, now you would need a power inverter of nearly seven-thousand watts.

For example’s sake though lets say you have the inverter in place and you have three one-hundred amp-hour lithium ion-phosphate batteries (These are the top recommended batteries for RVs). With all of this in place you would be able to run one fifteen-thousand BTU air conditioner for a few hours before the batteries are drained. It just is not worth it.


In short ladies and gentlemen, if you want to power your air conditioner for your RV you need one of two things. You either need shore power by plugging in your RV directly or you need a generator. There are not other options here. The good news here is that most newer RV models out there come with a built-in generator and if your unit comes with an air conditioner then chances are the generator is strong enough to run the air conditioner. To make this even easier most of the built-in generators share the same fuel tank that the RV’s engine uses. SO, this allows for a seamless setup and gets you cold-air right away.

Lastly, please note that this article is intended to give advice and informational value only. We here at ToughAssTools are not liable for any damage when it comes to using generators rather it be personal, injury, or property.

Thanks for reading,

Alec Johnson


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