A Guide to RV Air Conditioners and Furnaces
Perhaps the biggest advantage of camping in a RV is the simple fact that you have the ability to control the rig’s interior temperature. With the push of a button on your thermostat, you can kick on the heat to take the chill off in the morning, or crank up the AC to beat the afternoon heat (sometimes doing both in the same day). There are a couple of ways that RV manufacturers handle their heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems, so we put together this handy guide to make sure you know what to look for when you’re shopping for a new camper.
RV Air Conditioners: The Basics
Nothing’s better than coming back from a long hike and cooling off in your air conditioned travel trailer. RV air conditioners come in a variety of styles, and the size of your RV AC unit will depend on a number of factors, including your own personal cooling preferences, the square footage of your travel trailer, the layout of the interior space, and the amount of insulation in the walls (the better the insulation, the easier it will be for the AC to keep the space cool). Bowlus takes a different approach, and we’ll cover that later in the article.
Most RVs on the market today come with either a high profile or low profile overhead air conditioning unit that’s mounted to the roof of your camper. Common brands include Dometic Brisk Air, Coleman Mach 15, Furrion Chill, or Advent ACM150. The high profile unit is taller and more powerful than most low profile units. Low profile RV air conditioner units, on the other hand, are lighter weight and give you more clearance under bridges and canopies at gas stations. Larger RVs like motorhomes, 5th wheels, and long travel trailers may come with two AC units – one in the living area and one in the bedroom area. The RV air conditioner’s thermostat will likely have two zones, one for each AC unit. In order to run both the front and rear units at the same time, you’ll need 50 amp service at your campsite.
Depending on the size of your RV, your travel trailer’s air conditioner will be ducted, non-ducted, or, like the Bowlus, vented. Most travel trailers, motorhomes and 5th wheels have ducted air, with outlets spread throughout the larger unit to ensure even cooling and airflow. Smaller travel trailers, teardrops, and class B’s (camper vans) will likely be non-ducted, or ductless. Ductless RV air conditioner units can be as powerful as their ducted counterparts. Since the area inside the RV is so small, the roof mounted air conditioner keeps the space cool by blowing chilled air directly out of the unit’s vents.
Your air conditioner will need some basic maintenance to keep things running smoothly. Just like your air conditioner at home, you’ll need to change or clean the filters periodically. Clogged filters can make your air conditioner less efficient, so if your unit doesn’t seem to be cooling the space as quickly as it had been, it may be time to do a little maintenance.
Bowlus Takes a Different Approach to RV AC
At Bowlus, we’re always looking for new and better ways to do things. When we designed the air conditioning system for our Terra Firma and Endless Highways Edition, we threw out the industry norm and went our own way. The first thing you’ll notice is that we don’t have a rooftop air conditioner. We’ve placed our RV AC unit low within the Bowlus shell to keep the trailer’s center of gravity low and balanced. This makes the Bowlus more aerodynamic, easier to handle, and you’ll have more clearance than RVs with the traditional rooftop mounted units. It also means there isn’t a big hole in your roof for the AC unit’s ceiling assembly. Big holes mean potentially big leaks if the air conditioner’s seals and gaskets start to break down.
We use a vented air conditioning system, which is similar to a ducted system in that it has adjustable vents located in the living room, bedroom, and bathroom. But, our system
The Bowlus air conditioning unit has three filters: a washable pre-filter, a paper filter within the AC unit, and a HEPA filter. A HEPA, or high efficiency particulate air filter, is a pleated air filter capable of removing 99.97% of dust, pollen, mold, bacteria, and other particulates. Originally created by the scientists working on the Manhattan project, HEPA filters are often found on vacuum cleaners and high end air conditioners, like the one in the Bowlus.
RV Furnaces: The Basics
There are two ways to keep your camper warm. Your unit may be equipped with a heat pump, which runs off electricity and is a part of the rooftop AC unit. You’ll need to check your instruction manual, as not all RV ACs have a heat pump included. Heat pumps warm your rig quickly and efficiently, but they can’t handle extreme cold. If it’s below 45 degrees outside, you’ll want to use the propane powered furnace. Propane furnaces send warm air out through vents often located near the floor. Like the air conditioner, their power is also measured in BTUs.
The furnace unit in each Bowlus goes beyond your typical RV furnace. Our silent hydronic heating system is powered by propane or 120V if you’re connected to shore power. With a computer controller and eight silent radiators for evenly distributed heat, our furnace is very efficient.
The Bowlus heating system also serves multiple purposes. The same unit that keeps your space toasty and warm also serves as the hot water heater. Our design ensures that you have instant hot water whenever you need it, which means it’s environmentally friendly because you’re not wasting energy maintaining a tank full of hot water. Because we want your camping experience to be as luxurious as possible, we also power our in-floor heating with the same unit. No more cold floors for your bare feet! And, if you’re camping with your dog, you won’t have to share the couch because they’ll be content to sprawl out on the heated floors.
So pack up the trailer and hit the road no matter the time of the year. With a properly designed HVAC system, you can comfortably enjoy your RV in all 4 seasons.