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Best 5 RV Rooftop Air Conditioners (2020)

Camping represents an opportunity to enjoy the great outdoors, but the hard truth of it is that the outdoors aren’t always so great. Uncomfortably hot weather is one of the circumstances that can prompt you to spend more time inside the camper—that is, if it’s properly air-conditioned.

To help you keep cool during the dog days, here’s our list of the best 5 RV rooftop air conditioners out there.

  • Dometic Brisk Air II
  • ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air
  • Atwood 15027
  • Airxcel’s Mach 8 Cub
  • Dometic Penguin II

What To Consider Before Buying A Rooftop Air Conditioner

It’s always best to do as much research as possible before making a major purchase like this one. Here’s what you need to know about shopping for RV air conditioners.

BTUs

A BTU (British Thermal Unit) is defined as the amount of energy required to raise one pound of water by one degree Fahrenheit. If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around this concept, one BTU is roughly equal to the amount of heat that’s generated by a single lighted match.

What does this have to do with an air conditioning unit? When you see the BTU rating for any given model, you’ll gain a better understanding of how much energy will be required in order to run it. As a rule of thumb, a BTU rating of 13,500 is standard for most RV air conditioners.

To find the right model, think about how often you might need to run the air conditioner. Exceptionally powerful units carry a higher price tag and are more expensive to run, so these should only be considered by serious campers who spend a great deal of time in warm climates.

Conversely, units with low BTU ratings will have to run for a longer period of time in order to sufficiently cool the living space. If you don’t plan on using the air conditioner that often, the 13,500 BTU threshold is likely high enough to suit your needs.

Ducted vs. Non-Ducted

You’re bound to run into this term a lot, so it’s best if you understand the distinction ahead of time.

Ducted air conditioners work by circulating the cooler air through the ducts in an RV’s structure, usually through the ceiling or walls. Because ducted units are capable of creating multiple “cool zones” throughout the rig, they’re a good choice for larger RVs. These versions are also better at controlling humidity than their non-ducted counterparts. Check out this intriguing YouTube video for a virtual tour through an RV’s duct system.

Non-ducted air conditioners, meanwhile, use a more straightforward method: Cool air is blown directly out of the bottom of the unit. This makes them a better fit for smaller rigs. They’re also a solid option for anyone who doesn’t want to bother with a ducted system, especially if they’re mainly interested in cooling just one section of the camper.

Clearance Height

Remember that a rooftop AC unit will increase the height of your RV. If you frequently drive on bridges or beneath overpasses that have a low clearance height, it might be in your best interests to select a low-profile air conditioning system. Some of these units can add as little as 10 inches to the overall RV height.

Cost

It’s always a good idea to stay within your budget. That said, try to choose a quality air conditioning unit that will last long enough to be worth the investment. A higher price doesn’t always indicate better quality, so pay close attention to what the customer reviews have to say. Our Product Review Guide, below, should provide key insight regarding the quality of the selected units.

Heat Pump

Do you plan on using your air conditioning unit all year round, or only during the summer months? If you take your camper on the road during all seasons, you should look specifically for a model that includes a built-in heat pump.

Year-round RVers who travel through a variety of different climates should appreciate the heat pump, as it allows the AC unit to transition to a heater when the weather is cooler. For example, if you routinely park your camper in New England or the Pacific Northwest in the winter, the heating function should come in handy.

Campers who generally restrict their RV travel to the summer season, meanwhile, aren’t likely to benefit from the dual-use option. Because these units are usually more expensive, think carefully about whether or not you might take advantage of the heat pump before you start shopping.

Brand

Finally, take a look at the company’s name and reputation. While newer brands might be capable of turning out a quality product, companies with longer histories are easier to judge. Some of the better-known RV air conditioning manufacturers include Airxcel, ASA Electronics, Atwood, Dometic, and Advent. As you can see from our Product Review Guide below, most of these brands are well-represented in the current market.

Best 5 RV Rooftop Air Conditioners—Product Review Guide

Best Overall

1. Dometic Brisk Air II

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The Dometic Brisk Air II is our pick for the best all-around RV rooftop air conditioner available.

Why? To put it simply, this unit delivers on just about every level. It cranks out 15,000 BTUs, making it powerful enough for frequent use. It measures just 13 inches tall, so it won’t add a great deal of height to the roof of your RV.

Although it’s a ductless system, the extra power makes it suitable for larger rigs. There’s also a built-in heat pump, which gives it a boost in the versatility department.

The Brisk Air II is a lightweight and aerodynamic model that’s very easy to install. Despite its bold performance, it runs more quietly than the majority of the competition.

Be aware that this version of the Brisk Air II is not cheap—you should consider it only if you’re a seasoned RVer who doesn’t mind investing in a top-notch ductless AC unit. Also note that Dometic offers a two-year warranty with the purchase of this model.

BTUsType of SystemHeat PumpHeightWarranty
15,000DuctlessYes13 inches2 years
Pros
  • Aerodynamic and conveniently sized
  • Easy to install
  • Dual-use heat pump included
  • 2-year warranty
Cons
  • Fairly expensive
  • Ductless system is somewhat limiting

Best Budget

2. ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air

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ASA Electronics ACM135 Advent Air is an affordable RV rooftop AC unit that should be a good bet for bargain shoppers. With a sturdy construction and three fan speeds, it offers a good value for the price. While there might be lower-priced units out there, we wouldn’t recommend dipping below this price point if you’re interested in quality as well as cash savings.

With the ACM135, you can choose between a ducted or ductless cooling operation. An optional plug-in heat strip is available with this model as well. The thick foam pads are effective at keeping the noise level down—an especially appealing feature in a budget model. The unit is well-built overall, with a durable plastic cover to keep out bugs and road debris.

At 15 inches, this is one of the taller models we’ve listed, but it’s still compact enough to be installed easily. All in all, this is a nifty little AC unit that would be a good fit for casual RVers who don’t want to spend a fortune in order to keep cool.

BTUsType of SystemHeat PumpHeightWarranty
13,500Both options availableHeat strip only15 inches1 year
Pros
  • Relatively low price point
  • Three fan speeds
  • Heat strip for chilly weather
  • Compatible with ducted and ductless systems
Cons
  • Measures 15 inches tall
  • Basic unit without a lot of extras

Best Runner-Up

3. Atwood 15027

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Want to keep your options open? The Atwood 15027 offers up some solid competition. Compatible with a ducted system, this 13,500-BTU unit comes with a digital temperature display and a wireless remote control for convenience.

The dual motor allows you to run the condenser fan and blower fan separately, which is another favorable touch. However, even when it’s running solely on the blower setting, the unit is still generating cool air. There’s even a separate option that will direct a frigid blast right down from the ceiling to give you an extra respite on scorching days.

At 15 inches, the Atwood 15027 sits slightly higher than some comparable models. It weighs in at just 84 pounds, though, and is fairly easy to install. Because of the digital control panel and wireless remote, it’s extremely user-friendly. It also generates an impressively low amount of noise, even for a ducted system.

BTUsType of SystemHeat PumpHeightWarranty
13,500DuctedYes15 inches2 years
Pros
  • Easy-to-read digital display
  • Ducted system will cool the entire cabin
  • Wireless remote included
  • Durable construction
Cons
  • Measures higher than some comparable models
  • Fan runs continuously when unit is in AC mode
  • Product advertising contains misleading information about the BTU rating

4. Airxcel’s Mach 8 Cub

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If you don’t expect to use your air conditioner that often, Airxcel’s Mach 8 Cub could be a good bet. Because it comes with a minimal BTU rating of 9,200, it’s suitable for cooling smaller RV cabins in a pinch, but shouldn’t be relied upon in extremely hot weather.

The Mach 8 Cub measures in at just under 10 inches, making it an excellent fit for truck campers and fifth wheels. In fact, the entire unit has a compact footprint, although it’s also quite durable and heavy for its size (112 pounds). We would recommend giving this unit a try if you prefer to run your AC system only at night to keep the sleeping area cool.

BTUsType of SystemHeat PumpHeightWarranty
9,200DuctedYes9.99 inches2 years
Pros
  • Sleek, low-profile construction
  • Durable materials
  • Additional 3-year warranty available for a fee
  • Optional heating element
Cons
  • May not be powerful enough to cool larger cabins
  • Some shipping issues reported

5. Dometic Penguin II

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If none of these models are available—or you’d just like to keep your options open—you might consider the Dometic Penguin II. Another quality offering from one of the top-rated brands on the market, this is an exceptionally quiet and user-friendly model that’s built to suit a variety of different needs.

Although the company advertises this as a 13,500 BTU model, the air it cranks out feels much colder than that, especially in smaller RVs. You have the option of choosing from a ducted or non-ducted system, another appealing feature. Installation is quick, and the instructions are clear and easy to follow.

The sleek design will add just 9.5 inches of space to your RV’s roof, making it a good selection if you’re worried about clearance space. At 99 pounds, it’s also one of the most lightweight selections listed here.

BTUsType of SystemHeat PumpHeightWarranty
13,500Both options availableYes9.5 inches2 years
Pros
  • Versatile unit offering choice between ducted and non-ducted system
  • Easy installation and operation
  • Highly efficient
  • Low profile
Cons
  • Fairly high price point
  • Customer service can be slow to respond to concerns

In Conclusion

While we feel confident recommending the models we’ve listed above, personal preference plays a big role here. Which unit you buy depends on the size of your RV, your travel habits, and—above all—how often you plan to use the air conditioning system.

Once you’ve decided what you’re looking for in a unit, making the right choice will be that much simpler.

Best of luck, and happy camping!

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