Quiet RV Air Conditioner

by Jennifer Porterfield | Last Updated: April 24, 2022
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Are you soon to be taking a road trip with family or a few of your friends? I’m sure you already know where you want to go but are maybe considering a new quiet RV air conditioner to deal with the sweltering heat.

A quiet option will allow you to get uninterrupted sleep at night, along with pleasant silence during the day to take in your surroundings. Fear no more, this article will discuss all the necessary information and specs on the best quiet air conditioning units to help you make a responsible decision when buying one.

What to Look for in RV Air Conditioners

Before deciding on the quietest RV air conditioner for you, it is important to understand all the specifications and features of quiet RV air conditioner units. Here are some important specifications we will take a look to help you decide which RV air conditioner best suits your needs:

  • BTU power, cooling capacity, and noise
  • Ducter or non-ducted
  • Weight, size, and height
  • Power consumption
  • Heating extensions
  • Air purifier
  • Warranty

BTU Power, Cooling Capacity, and Noise

BTU stands for British Thermal Unit, which is a measure that helps you decide which air conditioner suits your RV based on its size and average local weather conditions. Ultimately, the final decision on which RV AC unit to buy will depend on its cooling capacity.

On average, an air conditioning unit will have around 13,500 BTU of power. This is enough power to cool down a large RV. The area isn’t the only thing to consider. Here are a few additional tips:

  • If you plan on visiting high humidity areas you will need an air conditioner with a much higher BTU power. You should generally aim to increase BTU by around 10%.
  • If the design of your RV rooms is heavily shaded, you should reduce BTU by 10%.
  • If the room’s regular occupancy is more than two persons, you should add 600 BTUs per person.

Now in regards to noise level, there is no doubt that all air conditioners make noise. The higher the BTU power, the more likely the AC is to make noise. However, many manufacturers design units to be quiet, or at least have features that permit a “quiet” mode. The units presented in this article are some of the quietest available on the market.

Getting the quietest RV air conditioner unit will allow you to have better sleep at night. If you only have small AC unit noise then it can easily blend into the background.

Ducted or Non-Ducted

There are two main types of RV air conditioners. The ducted and the non-ducted. In a ducted installation, the RV air conditioner connects to the RV’s indoor ducting system in order to distribute cold air evenly throughout the whole area of the RV. 

This is ideal for big RVs. A ducted RV air conditioner will enable you to control the temperatures of multiple rooms at once. Air passes through the duct system, usually in pipes across the RV’s floors, walls, or ceilings.

The AC unit just blows the air in whatever direction the output nozzles are facing in a non-ducted installation, they do not go through the piping. A non-ducted RV air conditioner is ideal for cooling a specific room, or a smaller RV, rather than multiple rooms. If you have a camper or motorhome, it is definitely recommended to get a ducted air conditioner as they’re practical and economical.

Weight, Size, and Height

Before purchasing an RV air conditioner, you must make sure your RV has the cargo capacity and the space for the AC unit, especially if you’re purchasing a portable one. Your RV may have limited space or weight which can become an issue.

Height is also as important since a lot of the RV air conditioner models available are rooftop A/C units. An increase in the height of an RV will negatively impact the aerodynamics and therefore fuel efficiency. Now, this is something you’ll definitely want to avoid!

Height clearance is something you should be mindful of too. If your RV is already quite tall, the additional height may result in some problems when passing through tunnels or under bridges.

Power Consumption

An RV air conditioning unit will consume a lot of energy to function which could be a cause for concern if your RV uses a portable generator. It might be better, in that case, to consider an RV air conditioner that consumes less power, allowing you to save a lot of money in the long run.

You should consider the starting & running wattage and the number of amperes that the AC unit requires to be able to match your power source with the consumption. You will need to consider the power of any heater you wish to add also.

If you travel great distances with your RV, you may also wish to consider the compatibility with the various power outlets in different countries. There are environmentally friendly options in the market too.

Heating Extensions

Some RV air conditioners are capable of providing both cooling and heating. An AC unit with a heat pump or heat strip means you can keep yourselves warm and cozy when the temperature drops in the evenings or colder months.

This is definitely useful if you like to travel throughout the whole year. However, this will of course be at an extra cost. If you only plan on using your RV during the summer, a regular RV air conditioner will suffice.

Air Purifier

Not all quiet RV air conditioners will have built-in air purifying systems. This is usually an extra feature that may be important for those who are sensitive to odors or have allergies. An air purifier works to improve the quality of air inside your RV. It will take away the risk of a health hazard, and maintain a fresh and clean breathable air environment, regardless of what the conditions are outside.

Warranty

The warranty of any product is very important when investing this amount of money into something. Most air conditioner units will come with a 2-year warranty as standard, which should cover you for breakdowns and defective parts but some may only come with a 1-year. It’s completely up to you whether you look for extended warranties.

How to Find the Quietest RV Air Conditioner Unit

Choosing a quiet RV air conditioner unit involves the same principles as choosing any quiet air conditioner unit. The only thing that goes against you is size. Although you may think the bigger and more powerful the AC, the more noise it will make, which is correct. But, generally speaking, smaller AC units will weigh less and have smaller parts, which can also equate to more noise.

Average AC noise

The average air conditioner unit will be able to produce somewhere between 35dB (decibels) and 82dB depending on the model and build quality of the unit. The absolute quietest RV air conditioner will produce around 35dB, which is far less noise than a desk fan.

You should expect somewhere around 50dB for an RV unit because they’re often not fitted with the same kind of sound-dampening technology.

What works in your favor is that the fans in these units are a lot smaller which is one major noise source, and is something you can’t do much about considering all air conditioner units need to circulate air.

What Affects AC Noise Level

Just like any electronic unit, an air conditioner is always going to make some amount of noise. But, knowing which parts make the most noise will help you to choose the quietest model for you RV.

Here’s are the main noise-emitting components of air conditioner units:

  • Compressor
  • Fan
  • Installation
  • Fan motor type
  • Cooling capacity

Compressor

The compressor is probably the noisiest component of an air conditioner. They do most the work, turning refrigerant into a gas. The compressor produces a lot of noise because they generally have the most moving parts.

However, you often do not need to deal with the noise as the compressor tends to be located outside of the space you’re aiming to cool, unless you have a portable model.

You may notice how noisy the compressor is if you have a home air conditioner unit, and you walk outside. But, when you’re inside you’ll notice the difference in noise as it’ll almost be silent.

Fan

The fan is located in the indoor AC unit and is the component that circulates the cool air around the room. A fan on its own can emit up to 60dB, but this will depend on a number of factors including the speed it’s running, the size of the blades, and more.

Installation

For rooftop RV air conditioner units, the installation will often involve securing the AC to the RV’s roof using bolts. This easy installation is helpful, of course, but it isn’t ideal when it comes to noise reduction as the bolts can create an effective transmission pathway for vibrations.

When the vibrations pass into the RV’s structure, they will likely enter the RV as irritable sound. That’ll make the AC unit sound louder than it actually is. To avoid this, you should choose a unit that has rubber dampeners fitted. If this is not possible, you could use fit some isolation pads.

Fan Motor Type

A quiet RV air conditioner will use either an electronically communicated (EC) motor or a permanent split capacitor (PSC) to blow air. An EC motor is capable of modulating the rotational speed of the fan in order to control the airflow. This speed variability and the modern technology allow EC motors to be quieter and more energy-efficient.

A PSC motor, on the other hand, doesn’t provide this variability. It can only either be on or off. The design is far more primitive, and, while it does the job, you may wish to avoid it if you have the choice.

Cooling Capacity

We measure an air conditioner’s cooling capacity in BTU, British Thermal Unit, which is the amount of heat needed to raise the temperature of a 1lb of water by 1 degree F. In relation to air conditioners, which cool the air, this refers to how many BTUs the unit can remove from the air in an hour.

More is not necessarily better unfortunately, as the higher the BTU, the greater air capacity the, therefore, greater noise emissions. A unit with a BTU rating too high for its space won’t work efficiently. A too-powerful unit will cool the space unevenly, leading to warmer pockets of air due to it cycling on and off too often. 

Most of the quietest RV air conditioners will typically sit between 12,000 and 15,000 BTUs. This is enough to cool a room between 550 and 1,000 square feet, which is far more than enough for an RV. This might sound too powerful, but you must factor in things like the environment, sun exposure, and ambient heat. All of these variables can add plenty extra to the necessary BTU level.

For example, you should expect to add around 600 BTU per person and up to 4,000 BTU for kitchen appliances that generate heat. Considering many RVs are single-room spaces, these numbers will start to make more sense.

Top Quiet RV Air Conditioners

Choosing the best air conditioner for your RV isn’t easy and we totally understand that. There are so many different quiet RV air conditioners with a variety of specifications and features to inspect and compare before even being able to consider the noise levels.

Luckily for you, we have done the homework for you so you can find only the best quietest RV air conditioner that suits your RV. The majority of these quiet RV air conditioners combine a lot of benefits together so you can be confident you’re getting a great deal in both a low noise rating and the number of features.

Prices pulled from the Amazon Product Advertising API on:

Atwood 1507 Ducted AC Unit

Most Powerful Rooftop AC

  • BTU: 16,000
  • Ducted: Yes
  • Remote: Yes
  • Weight: 84 pounds
  • Dimensions: 21.82 x 15.6 x 6.36 inches
  • Warranty: 24 months

This quiet AC unit from Atwood is the most powerful AC provided in this article. This AC unit has a great BTU rating of 16,000, which is a lot higher than required to cool the inside of an RV quickly and efficiently.

While it doesn’t come with a dB rating, which I admit is annoying, many users have reviewed the product and specified how it is much quieter than other rooftop AC units they’ve used in the past. The fan can be set to low-speed mode, where users claim the fan makes almost no noise at all.

The dual motor on this quiet RV air conditioner also lets you run a condenser fan motor and a blower fan separately to adjust your cooling preference. The unit allows you to control temperature, fan speed, and the sleep timer with its wireless remote. It boasts a digital temperature readout to allow you to know exactly what you’re setting it to.

Potentially the only real negative with this product is that it’s only compatible with ducted systems. Therefore, if you have a non-ducted air conditioner system in your RV, you will need to look for a different product.

Note: Atwood does an equivalent non-ducted model.

One feature that some users tend to point out and dislike is the permanent fan setting. The fan runs all the time, even when the condenser is turned off. While this isn’t a significant issue, it may seem a bit pointless to some.

Also, the unit doesn’t use normal thermostat wiring. However, the rest of the installation is very easy, so just be sure to get some help with the wiring if you’re unsure what to do.

ProsCons
High output powerFan runs constantly
Energy efficientRequires specific thermostat wiring
Dual motor performance
Ultra-quiet
Wireless remote control
Atwood 1507 Ducted AC Unit Pros and Cons Table

Domestic Brisk II

Best Overall Rooftop AC

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Ducted: Yes and no (suitable for both)
  • Remote: No
  • Weight: 54.9 pounds
  • Dimensions: 29.18 x 27.23 x 12.7 inches
  • Warranty: 12 months

The Dometic Brisk II is a great pick for a quiet RV air conditioner due to its high performance and sleek design. Dometic has made various improvements to its original design for this model, including the use of improved materials, better energy consumption, and a new base pan.

This model is available with both 13,500 or 15,000 BTU-rated cooling power. The lower-rated model will be fine for the majority of trips but opt for the greater cooling power if you’re traveling into hotter areas.

The Dometic Brisk II unit arrives with damping brackets, designed to help reduce the vibration. This will, in turn, help to significantly reduce noise pollution. This model also doesn’t come with a specific dB rating, however, the damping brackets and customer reviews are a great indication of the quietness of this fan.

This unit is popular with RV drivers because you can install it in either ducted or non-ducted systems, meaning that people don’t need to make any alterations to their RV. It is fairly easy to install as it comes with a gasket that fits into the vehicle’s roof.

A downfall of this unit is that some users have reported a rattling sound after installation due to improper alignment. But this is probably due to their own errors, and it is advised to seek a professional to install it. On top of this, you will need a specific Dometic controller for the thermostat, which doesn’t come with the unit and you have to buy it separately.

ProsCons
Available with 2 different cooling options (13,500 & 15,000 BTU)Be sure to buy a Dometic controller unit
Includes damping brackets for noise reductionInstallation is easy but must be done properly to avoid noise problems
Fits both ducted and non-ducted systems
Easy to install
Comes with a complete ceiling kit
Domestic Brisk II Pros and Cons Table

Dometic Penguin II

Best Low Profile Rooftop AC

  • BTU: 13,500
  • Ducted: Yes and no (suitable for both)
  • Remote: No
  • Weight:‎ 97.8 pounds
  • Dimensions: ‎29 x 40 x 9.5 inches
  • Warranty: 2-Year protection plus warranty

The Dometic Penguin II is your best option for a low-profile RV air conditioner. This AC unit shroud’s design improves its longevity. It boasts excellent durable qualities and undoubtedly makes every customer happy with their investment.

You are given the option of a lower 13,500 BTU or a higher capacity of 15,000 BTU. This is a testament that the Dometic brand is eager to make sure every RV owner can use its products. Just like the last Dometic RV AC units presented, the Penguin II is perfect for ducted or non-ducted cooling systems.

What really sets the Penguin II low-profile air conditioner apart from other designs is its aerodynamic abilities. It is capable of reducing wind drag which ultimately results in saved fuel.

Though it is not as important as its functionality, aesthetics are always a good bonus. Dometic products offer customers a good variety of colors & sizes to choose from. They typically come in classic, sleek polar white, or black.

One downfall of the Penguin II is that it doesn’t come with its own remote control. However, due to its slick easy to reach design, you will have no problem adjusting it. The unit is fully automated, meaning it will be very easy to use.

ProsCons
Low-profile designNo control board
Easy to use
Quiet yet powerful
Reasonably priced
Dometic Penguin II Pros and Cons Table

De’Longhi Portable

Best Portable AC for Large RVs

  • BTU: 14,000
  • Ducted: No
  • Remote: Yes
  • Weight: 83 pounds
  • Dimensions: 14 x 16.3 x 31.5 inches
  • Warranty: 24 months

Rooftop options are not the only possibilities when shopping for a quiet RV air conditioner. This De’Longhi portable air conditioning unit is a great option for larger RVs as it can simply stand on the floor and be plugged into a regular wall outlet.

The unit comes with a 51” hose that you feed out of a window to allow the warm air out. This makes it really easy to set up and run inside an RV as long as you have the space. It also comes with a fitted air filter and dehumidifier option, which can both be very helpful in an RV.

The De’Longhi portable AC is very energy-efficient, allowing you to run it off your RV’s generator. The unit boasts a noise rating of 52dB, which is up to 50% less than other portable unit options. It is pretty quiet and is certainly suitable for use while sleeping. Especially as it features a whisper mode that makes it even quieter!

A few drawbacks include the AC being reported in some reviews that after using it all day, the AC starts rattling. This is easy to fix, however, by simply giving it a break every now and then. Another drawback is the weight of the AC; yes it is portable, but some people may have difficulties moving it around.

ProsCons
Easy to set upMay rattle if run all-day
Energy-efficientThe unit is heavy and may be difficult to move
52 dB operating volume
Comes with a dehumidifier option
De’Longhi Portable Pros and Cons Table

Black & Decker Portable AC

Best Selling Portable AC

  • BTU: 10,000
  • Ducted: No
  • Remote: Yes
  • Weight: 52.9 pounds
  • Dimensions: 16.5 x 11.5 x 26 inches
  • Warranty: 24 months

This Black & Decker portable model is a great choice for a quiet RV air conditioner. It’s compact, energy-efficient, and light enough to move around with ease. Its 3-in-1 functionality combines 3 energy-efficient functions for all of your cooling & ventilation needs with cool, fan, & dehumidifying modes all in one machine. The bucket-less, self-evaporating operation makes your living space cool, clean, and dry.

This floor-standing portable AC unit provides steady, fast, effective cooling for rooms up to 150 sq. ft. It comes with an exhaust hose and window adapter. You can simply plug the AC into a wall outlet, turn it on, and it’ll start cooling your RV with ease. The remote control makes the whole control process easier as it allows you to adjust the fan speed and temperature.

The unit has an operating noise of 75dB, equivalent to a washing machine, which is fairly quiet for an AC unit. In addition to this, the portable AC unit boasts a sleep setting that helps to reduce the noise, allowing you to keep it running while you sleep.

One drawback is that some users have reported issues related to the air direction, as it can generally only circulate air up. This isn’t much of a problem for cooling but it can be on the fan setting when trying to circulate heat as you may want the air pointed directly at you. Unfortunately, however, there is no heat setting, but the fan setting itself allows you to circulate warm air already in the room.

Other users have reported issues with the AC’s temperature reading, which means it doesn’t regulate its own temperature as efficiently.

ProsCons
Quick to set up and runNo options for air direction
Easy to transportPossible issues with temperature reading
Auto timer and sleep functions help save energy
Dehumidifier and air filter function help in an RV
Black & Decker Portable AC Pros and Cons Table

FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)

How do I quiet my RV air conditioner?

The best ways to quiet your RV air conditioner is by fitting dampening materials to absorb the vibrations, conducting regular inspections and maintenance, considering moving the location of the RV AC, along with using the AC on a lower power setting.

Do they make quiet RV air conditioner?

Yes, there are many RV air conditioners that are designed to be quiet. Some of these quiet RV air conditioners will produce as low as 50 decibels of sound.

What is the quietest ducted RV air conditioner?

The Atwood 1507 Ducted AC Unit is reviewed by users as being the quietest ducted RV air conditioner they’ve found on the market. The product doesn’t provide an exact dB rating, however, many users have sworn by how quiet the AC unit is.

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