Do RV Air Conditioners Run On Propane?

There are a lot of appliances in an RV that you can run on propane. But, do RV air conditioners run on propane? Can you purchase propane models, or are you limited to using generated electrical power?

On this page, we want to answer all of the most burning questions that you have about RV air conditioners and whether they can run on propane. 

What is an RV air conditioner?

An RV air conditioner is an air conditioner designed specifically for RVs. They will normally be a single unit that sits on the roof of the RV.

The RV air conditioner will cool down the RV by sucking heat out of it. The hotter the RV, the harder it is going to need to be working.

Do RV Air Conditioners Run On Propane?

No. There isn’t a single RV air conditioner on the market that will run on propane. The only air conditioners that you can find for use in an RV will run on electricity. There are a few good reasons for that, and we will discuss that soon.

Now, it is true that you can get propane air conditioners that can be used in a home. However, you will never find one that you can use in an RV.

We do know that there are some people that have attempted to convert their standard RV air conditioner into a propane air conditioner. These people have been successful. However, it is not something that we can recommend that you do. It requires a solid knowledge of how everything works. It isn’t a DIY job. If you tried to make a DIY job of it, then you are pretty much going to be sitting on a DIY ticking timebomb.

Why Don’t RV AC Units Run On Propane?

There are a few reasons why an RV air conditioner unit tends not to run on propane.

For starters, it would have to be huge. People underestimate just how much power an air conditioner uses. Propane appliances will have their own mini generator inside of them. This may be fine for an appliance like a fridge. However, an AC unit would need that generator to be massive. Not to mention the fact that you would forever be refilling the air conditioner to ensure that it continues to keep you cool.

The big issues, however, are more on the safety front.

As you may well know, propane produces carbon monoxide as a by-product of the burning process. Carbon monoxide, even in small quantities, can be deadly. The last thing you want is there to be an issue with the air conditioner that causes carbon monoxide to be spread throughout your RV, right?

In addition to this, propane always has the risk of leaking out. It is also something that catches alight incredibly easily. If that propane leaks, you wouldn’t know it. It will just be circling throughout your RV. The second you light something up, the entire RV is going to go up in flames. We can assure you, you won’t be walking away from that unscathed. 

It is also worth noting that it gets very expensive to run a propane air conditioner. A lot of people opt for propane because it is cheap. That’s true. It is. However, that is only for small appliances. If you use it to run something like an air conditioner, it will get very expensive very quickly. 

Can I Use Propane To Run An RV AC Unit?

While you will not be able to find an air conditioner unit that runs on propane directly, you may still be able to use propane to run the RV air conditioner. Although, the method is going to be slightly more convoluted.

In order to run an RV air conditioner on propane, you are going to need to get your hands on a propane generator. These shouldn’t be too tough to find. Anywhere that sells RV accessories and supplies should have a few that you can choose from.

The propane generator will then be able to produce electricity that you will be able to direct toward your air conditioning unit.

You may run into a major problem here, though. This is the fact that an AC is going to be burning through power like crazy. It is the electrical appliance in your RV that is going to require more power than anything else. This means that if you have a fairly hefty AC in your RV, then there is a good chance that the propane generator may not be able to produce enough power to keep it running.

You should also bear in mind that when an AC switches on, it requires a ton of energy to get up and running. A lot of propane generators are not going to be able to deal with this sort of power surge. This means that even if the propane generator has enough power to keep your air conditioner chugging along, it may not be able to produce enough power to get the air conditioner actually switched on.

Can the RV AC Run All Day?

As long as you have the power to run an RV AC, then you will be able to run it all day. There will be no issues with that. In fact, your RV air conditioner would have been designed to be used 24/7.

Your only sticking point is going to be the power consumption of the AC. What a lot of people fail to realize is just how much power an air conditioner will actually use. In fact, it is likely to be the biggest power hog in your whole RV.

If you are connected up to a mains electrical supply at a campground, then it is fine to run the RV air conditioner all day. You are never going to be running out of power.

If you are using solar power, generator power, or even wind power, to keep the air conditioner running, then you are going to be dealing with problems. These sources of power, unless you have some way to store them, are going to be a finite resource. 

It is important that you look at the spec of your air conditioner as well as your power generation system. This will tell you the following:

  • How much power the AC needs each hour
  • How much power you can produce

Don’t forget to think about everything else inside of your RV that needs that juice!

A lot of people that have an air conditioner inside of their RV will likely have a dedicated power source for their AC. Honestly, this is the only possible way that we can see you being able to run the air conditioner all day without having a negative impact on everything else that you want to keep powered.

Do RV Air Conditioners Run On Propane? – Final Thoughts

There are no propane air conditioners that you can purchase for your RV. If you want to run an air conditioner using propane, then you will need to find a propane generator. However, do bear in mind that the vast majority of propane generators on the market will not be able to pump out enough juice to keep that air conditioner running. 

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