Whether you are replacing an old air conditioner for your RV or you are about to embark on a new install, choosing the right one can be confusing. After all, you’re pretty much choosing between lots of differently shaped white (or black) boxes and who knows what goes on inside them or what else you’re going to need to get them up and running. But don’t panic we’ve got all that covered for you in our guide below. We’ve chosen the best out there in terms of performance and durability but we’ve also taken into account their design. We’ll tell you why that’s important and it’s not just for aesthetic reasons.
Lastly, Dometic are a company you hear us mention a few times and that’s because they are market leaders in what they do. There is good reason why they beat all competition and we’re chosen by NASA to design an air conditioner when they needed one in 2011.
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The Best RV Air Conditioners Reviewed
The Best RV Air Conditioner: Brisk Air II 13,500 BTU Air Conditioner by Dometic
The Brisk Air II 13,500 BTU Air Conditioner by Dometic wins our best choice award for RV air conditioners. Whether you’re replacing an older unit or starting from scratch, this is the one we recommend you go for. Simply put, for its price point, you will be getting a super compact size that will save you valuable roof space without compromising on airflow or performance, but don’t worry, we’re about to go into more details about why this air conditioner is such a good choice.
Firstly, you should know that Dometic are not a company to rest on their laurels, they spent two years redesigning their already popular, and revered among RV-ers, air conditioner. The resulting Brisk Air II is stronger, lighter, smaller and more environmentally friendly than its older predecessor and best of all, it has a 15% increased airflow.
Measuring just 29.2 x 27.2 x 12.7 inches, the Brisk Air II is so much smaller than its competitors. If you compare it with the AIRXCEL, for example, which has the same output but costs more than the Brisk Air II and measures 42 x 28 x 16 inches, you’ll see what we mean. This makes the Brisk Air II a great little space saver, leaving you more room for any other devices you might have or want to add to your roof. Of course, you’ll already know how valuable roof space is if you have, or are thinking of investing in, solar roof panels, (if you haven’t already, read our Best Solar Roof Panels for RV guide here).
Our point is, the roof space on your RV is limited, and even if solar panels are not something you’d get much benefit from, if you have a smaller RV, this unit is going to look a lot neater, sleeker and cause less wind resistance than a huge box sticking out on your roof. If you have a large RV (over 8m) you’ll likely need to install more than one air conditioner, and not because the Brisk Air II isn’t powerful enough, the 15,000 BTU Brisk Air II is as powerful as they come, but it’s normal for larger RVs to need more than one air conditioner to cool the entire vehicle, so again, smaller, nicer looking, compact ones that cause less wind resistance like these will be so much better.
What’s more, if you have a black RV you can blend your Brisk Air II in to match your rig, as shown below left.
Our top choice, shown above, is the 13,000 BTU version. British Thermal Units are a measure of how much cooling capacity per hour the air condition is capable of. The higher the BTU the faster the drop in temperature, so if you have a larger RV or need the maximum cooling capacity possible due to spending the majority of your RV time in a hotter climate, you should go for the 15,000 BTU version instead.
Now we’ll take a closer look at the features that make this unit such a good choice.
All Dometic’s rooftop air conditioners are performance-tested to ensure they can withstand harsh road and weather conditions and they have consistently outperformed other models which, under the same testing, have broken down after a few hours. The strength and durability of the Brisk Air is due in no small part, to the galvanized steel top plate and carbon steel base but the protective EPP foam housing, which reduces weight and improves the unit’s cooling abilities, also adds to the strength and durability of the unit and its working parts.
You’ll notice that the Brisk Air II has large air openings at the back, shown right and to the sides, shown in our top image. These are an improvement on the previous model and not only promote an increase in the airflow by 15 % but they also aid in the cooling capacity of the unit.
You will no doubt be wondering how noisy the unit is to run, and we have to say they are all pretty noisy, whichever air conditioning unit you go for, but the Brisk Air II is much quieter than its older version due to its redesign whereby the motor, compressor, and evaporator are bracketed together for a vibration-free, quieter operation. It is white noise though, and as such, you get used to it. It’s not annoying, distracting or particularly loud so its noise level shouldn’t be a problem.
Lastly, we must give the shroud itself a mention because it’s made form a custom-composite laminate that is UV-protected, so you’re not going to end up with a tatty yellowing box on your roof after a few weeks out in the sun.
…And if you need any more convincing as to the quality and elegance of this unit, take a few seconds to look at this short video below.
What We Like:
- Smaller, More Compact than Competitors – This makes the Brisk Air II a great little space saver, leaving you more room for any other devices you might have or want to add to your roof.
- Performance Tested – All Dometic’s rooftop air conditioners are performance-tested to ensure they can withstand harsh road and weather conditions and they have consistently outperformed other models which, under the same testing, have broken down after a few hours.
- Powerful Output – Choose between a 13,500 BTU version or a 15,000 BTU version. Brisk Air II is one of the most powerful models out there.
- UV-protected Shroud – The shroud is made form a custom-composite laminate that is UV-protected, so you’re not going to end up with a scrappy yellowing box on your roof after a few weeks out in the sun.
Things To Consider:
- Not as Aerodynamic as the Penguin II – We’ve talked about how compact this unit is in comparison with others on the market making. It’s not just a roof space saver but a good model to choose for low wind resistance to aid in more efficient fuel consumption. However, the Brisk Air is not as low profile as our next choice, and if being as fuel efficient as possible matters to you, you should consider the Penguin II which we will be looking at next.
The Best Low Profile Air Conditioner for RV: The Penguin II 13,500 BTU by Dometic
You wouldn’t think you could get a more compact air conditioner than our top choice. The Brisk Air II is much smaller than its competitors without compromising on cooling capacity or airflow. There is one air conditioner than does beat it though, but it’s not made by a competitor, Dometic themselves make this ultra-low-profile air conditioner.
It costs around $200 more than the Brisk Air II, which is the best air conditioner for its price point, small size, quality, and performance, and the reason why it won our top choice award.
The Penguin II, however, is a more specialized option, perfect for those RV’ers who spend a lot of the time on the road. You see the Penguin II has been aerodynamically designed to reduced wind resistance and so save on your fuel consumption – and this, of course, will save you money.
You can see from the image above, that it’s sleek neat and roof-hugging, but it’s even better than it looks – it’s only 9.5 inches high. To give you an idea for comparison, the average height of a standard air conditioner is around 15 or 16 inches. That’s a phenomenal difference, considering that this isn’t a mini version with a lower output. It’s powerful cooling and air distribution properties outclass its competitor’s top of the range models.
That hight difference will not only make your RV more aerodynamic and fuel-efficient but it will help keep your clearance height as low as possible.
You get the same high standards that you get with the Brisk Air II and you can choose whether to opt for a 13,500 BTU or the 15,000 BTU version, though this model actually runs a little quieter than the Brisk Air II. You can also choose from either the white option shown or a black option if you want to blend it in with a black or darker RV.
What We Like:
- Aerodynamic Design – This unit is unique in its ultra low profile design. Not only does it have the most attractive, sleek, modern look out there, but at just 9.5 inches high, it’s as roof hugging as you’re going to get. This will help with your RV’s overall clearance height and save you money on fuel due to its low wind resistance design.
Things To Consider:
- Cost – The Penguin II is quite costly. It is excellent in terms of performance and quality – and it’s by far the sleekest and best-looking air conditioner on the market. You won’t spoil the look of your lovely RV with a big ugly box sticking up on your roof like you would with others out there. You will also save yourself money on fuel because of the aerodynamic shape of its design. You would just need to consider whether it would be worth it to you to pay that couple of hundred dollars extra or whether our top choice might be the more value for money option for you.
We’ll now take a look at what you’ll need to get your air conditioner set up and ready to run.
What Else Do I Need to Get it Up and Running?
You may be replacing an older unit, in which case, depending on your setup, installing this air conditioner may just be a simple case of plug and play, but we’ll walk you through what else you might need to get your Brisk Air II or Penguin II up and running. You can scan through the next sections, and skip anything that’s not relevant to you.
Rooftop air conditioners fit over the window in your RVs roof. Usually, this hole will be 14 x 14″ and that is perfect because that is the size you will need.
To be clear, these are just the rooftop units Both come with everything you need to install them on your RV’s roof. You will still need an inside ceiling assembly, and this will consist of either an Air Distribution Box for non-ducted air conditioning setups or a Return Air Package for ducted systems.
Ducted systems will also need a CC2 or a CT wall thermostat, depending on your RVs wiring. All Dometic’s thermostats have a control board that communicates between the air conditioning unit and the thermostat. Non-ducted assemblies come with inbuilt ceiling controls.
The Brisk Air II and the Penguin II do come with a gasket, so you don’t need to buy one separately.
You can also add a Heat Strip if you wish.
Lastly, you’re going to need a power source and we’ll talk about that next.
How Much Power Do I Need to Run My Air Conditioner?
Unless you are going to be hooked up to shore power, you are going to need a generator in order to run your air conditioning unit. To give you an idea of how powerful your generator should be, the 15,000 BTU versions, require a minimum generator size of 3,500 watts for one unit and 5,000 watts for 2 units.
If you are traveling to an RV park and will be relying on being hooked up to shore power, you should check ahead that the camp provides a 30 amp electrical supply as this is the requirement for the 15,000 BTU version, the 13,500 BTU version needs a 20 amp service.
Neither the Brisk Air II or the Penguin II will not run from your DC battery. The Brisk Air II or Penguin II will need to be run through your inverter so you should make sure it is capable of providing 110v at 30 amps.
How Eco-Friendly Are Air Conditioners?
Both the Brisk Air II the Penguin II use 410A refrigerant which was developed as a greener alternative to Freon – the cause of many environmental concerns. R-410A is chlorine-free and meets the US EPA’s strictest environmental guidelines.
Ducted or Non-Ducted?
The Brisk Air II and the Penguin II are suitable for either ducted or non-ducted systems, and it is only the inside assembly that will make them either ducted or non-ducted. As we’ve mentioned above you will need either an Air Distribution Box for a non-ducted system or a Return Air Package for a ducted system.
Ducted systems are in general much better than non-ducted systems, they allow cool air to be more effectively distributed around the entire vehicle. This may mean that where a second air conditioner might otherwise be required, just one will get the job done. They are also quieter than non-ducted setups.