12V Air Conditioner for Van: Thumbs Up or Down

My family and I are rovers – we love to travel. The definition of a perfect trip for us is riding our van with good music, company, and aircon! So recently, I have been thinking of having a 12-Volts air conditioner installed for improved travel and camping experience. I decided to weigh things out whether it’s ideal or not. Glad, I had a clearer understanding before making my final decision!

Is it ideal to install a 12V aircon in a van? A 12V aircon is energy-efficient,does not require an inverter, battery-operated, runs longer while the engine is off and quiet when operating, so installing one is ideal. However, the downtimes are required usage of larger wires and investment in batteries that would cost you higher

Deciding whether to install something on your van is crucial. One should be knowledgeable enough before diving into the decision to be able to find whether it’s an advantage on your part or not. I know you are here because you would like to find out more about installing a 12V air conditioner for you. Below, the benefits and drawbacks of 12V aircon are discussed to help you out!

Getting to know 12-Volts Air Conditioner

A vehicle attribute that owners give importance to is an air conditioner. It’s undeniable that a cool environment makes us relaxed and comfortable. At this time, let us come to know the 12-Volt van aircon!

All About the 12V Aircon

There are many things that you should know about the 12-Volts aircon. One, unlike any other air conditioning systems, 12-Volts aircon for van is equipped with a highly efficient compressor which is designed to work on a 12-Volt direct current. When it comes to power sources, this type of air conditioning system can operate with the use of vehicle battery, a grid, car power or solar power with the help of the solar panels.

12-Volts aircon for Van has two types where you can freely choose from. These are the Portable and Rooftop Aircon Units. A portable unit is a lightweight unit that can be easily carried or moved. Some portable units also come with wheels, making it much easier to transfer from one location to another. Carry it with you anytime, anywhere. This is what makes it different from the Rooftop aircon which should be mounted at the ceiling of the RV and can’t be transferred that easily as installation requires much effort and time.

While portable aircon units are loved because it is easily transferable, it won’t be as powerful as a central unit, the ones in our homes and offices. However, a portable 12-Volts aircon is a better option for those van owners who need air conditioners during certain seasons only or in areas where there is high humidity. It also comes in different sizes. One is a smaller unit suited for small cars. Another is a larger unit for bigger automobiles, most likely bigger vans such as campers and RVs.

On the other hand, let us talk about the Rooftop aircon units. Unlike the portable unit that would take a certain space as it is typically sitted on the floor, rooftop aircons are designed to save space, consuming just a little space on your ceiling. Also, if you want a unit that is way more stylish and modern-looking, you can opt to install this type!

Installing 12V Aircon for a Van: Its Benefits

In everything we install in our vehicle, we make sure we benefit from them. Like any other air conditioning system, the 12V air conditioning system has advantages, making it ideal for installation!

Reduced Power Usage: Energy-efficient 12V Aircon

The fact that the 12V aircon uses a highly efficient compressor, making it work on a 12DC battery, no wonder most van owners choose to install it. As compared to a 120V aircon, no current conversion is needed. It doesn’t require an inverter, unlike the 120V system, where conversion of alternating current to direct current takes place. There in that conversion, about 10-15% of energy is lost.

When it comes to power consumption, a 12-Volts air conditioning system consumes less energy making it ideal for off-grid. It runs on batteries. Another good thing is that it can operate through solar power, where you can save a lot of energy.

Quiet Air Conditioning System

We all know that generators create noise when turned on. So, when you install a 12-Volts aircon right on your van, say hello to a quiet and travel camp! 12-Volts air conditioner doesn’t need to connect to a generator to operate if a shore power outlet isn’t available.

Best Suits Smaller Units

Smaller units like camper vans or Class B RVs require less cooling. That is why, when you have a smaller van unit, a 12-Volts air conditioning system is perfect for you. You don’t have to worry about consuming a lot of energy or be uncomfortable to be in an environment where there is high humidity.

Drawbacks of 12V Aircon Installation for Van

Bigger Wire Usage

While installing a 12V air conditioner in a van is beneficial, certain things make others not want to have them. The disadvantages will be discussed below.

Going back to what was taught in our physics, the lower the voltage, the higher the current entering the wire, and vice versa. The higher the current (measured in Ampere or Amps), the larger the wiring and circuit protection components need to be. This is the reason why larger diameter cables are needed when one decides to install a 12-Volt aircon in a van. These bigger wires cost more than those smaller wires. So, I’d you opt to install; you should ready your pocket and spend a little more to purchase bigger wires which is also for your safety.

Investment in Batteries

For a 12-Volt aircon to operate, one will need batteries as it is a battery-powered type of conditioning system. To run a 12V aircon, it is most recommended to purchase the 100AH lithium phosphate batteries. For your information, one 100AH battery equals a 1-hour usage of aircon. Longer trips need more batteries and so result to be very expensive and battery draining. So, if you wish to use an air conditioner for a longer run, you should invest in batteries. Every battery costs an average of $1000 each. But as solar power can be a good energy source and you can charge your batteries, one can utilize solar panels to reduce battery expense. But, take note, purchasing solar panels results in incurring a separate cost other than the battery.

Why Install 12 Volts Air Conditioner Over Other Conditioning System

How Ideal It Is To Choose 12 Volts Air Conditioner Over 120 Volts Air Conditioner

One of the major reasons a 12V air conditioner best fits a van is because it runs on 12 DC, the default current produced by vehicle batteries. When camping, only your vehicle battery is enough to power the aircon. Unlike the 120 Volts AirCon, you will need to hook up to shore power in a campground or use a generator in order for it to operate. Running a 12V aircon requires not as much energy as a 120V aircon does. As the 120 Volt air conditioner is AC powered and is a higher voltage, it consumes a lot more energy. A 12V aircon averagely consumes a maximum current at 73 amps, while a 120V aircon consumes 175 amps. A 120 Volt aircon costs at an average of $875, without an inverter or generator, while a 12V aircon averagely costs at $3,875, not in need of an inverter.

How Ideal It Is To Choose 12 Volts Air Conditioner Over 24 Volts Air Conditioning System

Air conditioners of different models and technologies for vans and vehicles have been slowly converted from 24V to 12V. Manufacturers like Nomadic Cooling, Domestic, Sleeping Well, and Rigid have started the conversion of 24V aircon to 12V aircon and started introducing it to the market.

They even produce bigger 12V Air conditioners, which are available in the market that lets you not think of purchasing an air conditioner designed with a higher voltage. These bigger 12V air conditioners produce 12,000 BTU or even higher, which is enough to cool a vehicle that is average-sized. BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which is the amount of energy needed to cool a room or area. Aside from the bigger units, smaller units produce 5,000 to 8,00 BTU, enough to cool a smaller area.


Selecting the right air conditioning system can seem to be a daunting task. One should take time in weighing things out from their usefulness up to their downtimes to ensure installing it would be a wise decision. As you have read all the information above, 12V aircon may cost you a lot more penny upfront, but in the long run, purchasing one could be worthwhile! Installing an aircon that is 12V has promising efficiency, suited for all van owners, including you and me!

Recent Posts