Portable AC For RV: How To Vent a Portable AC in RV (Guide)

The difficulty in venting a portable AC depends on the material your RV is made from. Getting cool on those rare days the temperatures spike may not be as simple as plugging in an AC unit and turning it on.

If you have an all fiberglass RV or trailer, the last thing you want to do is put a hole in the fiberglass. The best way to vent a portable AC unit is to go through your floor. Then you can use a deck plate to seal up the hole when you are not using the AC unit.

To learn more about6 this topic and what can be done, just continue to read our article. It explores the topic so you can have the best options to try for your situation. Take a few minutes to see if this information will help you or not.

Can You Use a Portable Air Conditioner In an RV?


There is nothing wrong with using a portable air conditioning unit in your RV or trailer. Everyone needs a break from the heat, even when traveling so having one along for the ride will be a benefit.

The key question you have to answer is how big an area do you want to cool? Unlike rooftop air conditioners, portables have limited reach. That is because they may not have the BTUs or the power to spread the cold air evenly throughout your RV.

They will work when you cannot use your rooftop air conditioning unit. There are several types of portable air conditioners with some not really being more than a swamp cooler. Those swamp coolers use water to help cool the air and are of no value when the humidity levels are high.

What that means is that you will have to do some research to find the perfect model for your intended destinations and weather conditions. Then you will need to worry about the number of hoses the unit needs to vent properly. A one-hose unit may not properly vent.

Do your homework and make sure you have the right type before you make your purchase.

Does a Portable Air Conditioner Need To Be Vented Outside?

Most do need to be vented outside. There is one type called the vent free air conditioner but their effectiveness is questionable when you are in a high humidity region of the country.

The reason for saying that is because these air conditioners use evaporated water to cool the interior of your RV and that adds moisture to the room, not remove it. When you look for a portable air conditioner, look for one that has to be vented outside.

The hot air in your RV has to go somewhere. It makes using a portable air conditioner moot if that hot air is sent back into the same room it was taken from. The vent and hose make sure the hot air is sent outside and all you get inside is nice refreshing cool air.

Having vented to outside AC units is very efficient. You could try to vent one room into another but that is not a very practical idea. Although some people have thought of doing just that.

The good news is that you have lots of options when it comes to locating that vent. You are not restricted to the window only though that is an ideal spot for most air conditioning units.

Pros and Cons Of Portable Air Conditioners


A look at both sides of the story will help you decide whether this is a good option for your situation or not. Like any product, these little portable units have their positive side and their negative side. You have to decide if one outweighs the other.


  • Easy to move- Most have wheels or are lightweight making them easy to carry or roll where you want them.
  • Come with a timer- you can shut these units off when you need them to shut off.
  • They have a thermostat- not all units do but those that have this control help you keep the room at a temperature you like.
  • Can dehumidify- Again not all portable AC units have this ability but enough do so you have some choice in which unit to buy.
  • Versatility- you can get these units in different sizes. That means you can use them in either big spaces or smaller rooms without having to turn on the rooftop air conditioner.
  • Easy to maintain- usually only the filters need to be cleaned or the bucket needs to be emptied.
  • Great features- If you buy the right unit, you can get some great features along with a remote to operate them all.
  • Don't take up a lot of space- This will depend on the size of unit you buy but generally, these units are small enough to leave you plenty of room to move.


  • Can be expensive- portable air conditioners are not made the same. Some are cheap while others can cost you a lot of money.
  • They make noise- if you do not like noise, then you may have to buy some earplugs while the unit is operating.
  • Not energy efficient- while some are labeled energy efficient that does not always mean that they are. Some of these units use up a lot of power, especially when on high fan speed.
  • Most need venting- The good ones do and that means extra work and finding the right spot to place the vent hose. In some cases, you may need special kits to vent through doors or windows.
  • Most need venting- The good ones do and that means extra work and finding the right spot to place the vent hose. In some cases, you may need special kits to vent through doors or windows.
  • Once in place, you can't move them- once the vent is placed in your window, wall, floor, or ceiling, that is where the AC unit will remain.
  • Need to fit the AC unit to your RV- space is at a premium in an RV and you have to find the right empty spot to place these units. That means you may not be able to get the one you want.

How To Vent Portable AC In RV

1- Find the optimum location for the portable air conditioner. Some people have removed a sink and placed the unit where the sink’s pipes were originally located. The spot where you place your portable AC will influence every other step in this process.

Also, you may need about 6 to 8 inches of space between the wall of your RV and the unit.

2- Once you have located the right spot, take good measurements as not all units will be large or small enough to fill that space. If you have selected an open spot where there are no obstructions, then you can skip this step

3- Go shopping. You will need to find a unit that will not only fit the space you have selected but will be easy to vent the hot air and the excess moisture it removes from the air.

The spot you select should be convenient and easy for both those tasks.

4- Once you have purchased the AC unit that will work for you, gather the tools you will need. Those tools will be influenced by the style of venting you will use or need.

You may need your RV’s owner manual as there are so many hidden parts, pipes, and wires, you do not want to sever or damage any of those hidden parts. You will also need duct tape, a sealant screwdriver, and other tools.

5- Turn off the power. The last thing you need is to cut into alive wire. Use extension cords to bring power to any power tools you may be using.

6- Draw your holes and make your marks. Make sure you have the proper template you need to make all marks before you get started. The holes need to be tight for security reasons and to make sure you miss any hidden parts, etc.

7- Find the best direction for the vents. For those units that dehumidify, you will need to use a low spot for the water line to expel the excess moisture. The hot air vent simply needs to be vented to the outside and you can use the floor if that is your best option.

8- Secure your vent lines so that they do not get damaged while you are driving. Tape or use holders that screw into wood or metal frames. As you work on the vents, you may need to add some screens and insulation to block any air holes and prevent small animals from making a nest inside.

The tape will help block those holes around the vent openings and the screens can g inside the vents themselves. The vent hose should follow the easiest path. If you are going to use your window, then you may need a kit to help seal the window portion that is not covered by the vent outlet.

 9: When you are done, turn the power on, plug the AC unit in and turn it on. You will need to double-check your work to make sure you sealed every hole and the AC unit is properly vented.

10: If there are no problems, clean up your tools and materials and put everything away. Then enjoy the cool air.

What Type of Portable AC For RV


There are several portable AC units you can buy for your RV. The issue will be is are they large enough or too large for your current vehicle or trailer? There is the vented, the vent free, and the window portable AC unit.

Each one has its own positive and negative points and you will be the judge of which unit will work best for you. Another portable type is the rooftop version. But if you go with this option, it would be better just to put a permanent AC unit in and solve all your cooling problems.

To find the right one for you you need to consider several factors:

1. Square foot rating- some 10,000 BTU units are only rated for rooms up to 250 square feet. If your trailer is over 31 feet long this unit may not be good for you.

2. BTUs- this is an important factor as the lower the BTU output the smaller the room the unit will be good for. A small BTU AC unit is good for pop-up campers, smaller Class B RVs, and trailers but not so good for larger RVs and trailers.

3. Features- you will want one that comes with lots of features. Those features, like remote control, multiple fan speeds, thermostats, and sleep mode or timer, all come in handy. They let you use the air conditioner to its fullest potential without using a lot of energy.

4. Size- no matter how good and inexpensive those portable units are, if they do not fit the RV they will be a waste of money. You will want to buy the one that will fit the spaces you have available and still cool your rooms.

Most smaller RVs will not have the extra space for larger more featured filled portable air conditioning units.

5. Weight- this is always going to be a concern as some of those portable units weigh a lot. If you do not have much weight capacity room left over, you may have to start thinking about what item you can do without. make sure the unit is light enough for your RV situation.

6. Brand- find a unit that comes from a reputable company. While unknown brands may be cheaper, they also may not work as well and you will be spending more money replacing it with a name brand model.

Portable AC For RV Options

There are many different brands and types of portable air conditioners you can buy. Here is a brief list of 6 brands that have similar features:

1. Midea Smart 3-in-1 Portable Air Conditioner- this unit puts out 1,000 BTUs and has enough power to cool a room measuring 275 square feet. Its best features are its voice or smartphone commands and it can cool dehumidify or be a fan only.

2. SereneLife SLACHT108- when you camp in the winter, the heating function on this unit will come in handy. It is an all-seasons air conditioning unit that has 4 functions instead of three. It comes with castor wheels for better placement and can remove over 75 pints of excess moisture each day.

3. BLACK+DECKER BPACT08WT- if you do not like noise, this unit is said to be one of the quieter options you have available. Plus, it provides fan, cooling, and dehumidifying functions to help keep you comfortable. The slide-out filter is easy to wash making sure you get clean fresh air all the time.

4. Whynter ARC-14S- The dual hose system on this unit makes it ideal to cool any room in your RV. Its 14,000 BTUs has it rated for rooms measuring up to 500 square feet But you are looking at using 1400 watts at full power. The decibel level is below 56.

5. Honeywell HF8CESWK5- This is a model that can be vented through your window. It comes with a window kit to make sure you are not losing any cool air and letting in more warm air. A built-in thermal overload system adds another level of safety for you and your loved ones.

6. JHS 3-in-1 Floor portable AC Unit- This is a smaller 8,000 BTU air conditioner. it is perfect for smaller RVs and those rooms that are under 180 square feet. it comes with temperature and humidity settings so you can get the right comfort level for your under 22-foot long vehicle.

How To Install a Portable AC In a Camper

How-To-Install-a-Portable AC-In-a-Camper

Installation depends on the model and design of the portable air conditioner you buy. The models listed immediately above may need to have their wheels removed so that they do not travel anywhere while you are driving.

Many will come with a window kit and all you have to do is follow the instructions that come with the unit. Venting is going to be your biggest problem as you need to find a spot in your RV that has no hidden parts.

Some people like the floor as it is the easiest option available. A simple deck plate will cover the hole when you are not using the air conditioner. Again, you will have to pick the right spot to avoid damaging key components that are hidden under the floor.

The tools you will need will be your RV owner’s manual, a small saw, a screwdriver, and possibly a pair of pliers. Make sure to turn the power off before you start working as you do not want any accidents to happen.

When looking to install your new unit, the location of the air conditioner is essential. You will want to get the maximum potential out of its cooling prowess and cool all the room not just one section of it.

Window units may be your best bet, but you may end up taking them out and putting them back in every time you stop or move to a new location. That is more work than you need to do in this situation.

What Happens If You Don't Vent a Portable Air Conditioner?

There will be no damage done to your air conditioner unit except that it may wear out faster. It will be working harder to cool the room and with the hot air returning, the room may not get as cool as you would like.

That is the main concern in this situation. You want the hot air to go outside so your AC unit cools the room to the temperature you want. Plus, it will help the unit last longer.

The only benefit you would get out of doing this is that the AC unit would act as a dehumidifier and simply remove the excess moisture and not the heat. But you really do not need to do this as many of these portable units already have a dehumidifier function built-in.

The best thing to do is find a good location that allows you to use 7 feet of exhaust hose or less. That way you will get the best exhaust results and keep your room nice and cool.

RV Air Conditioner Modification


One modification you can do to the portable units is to take their wheels off. Once you have done that and have found a permanent home for the unit, you can bolt it to the floor. This will keep it in place and from moving while you are in motion.

Keep in mind that any modification you do, the AC unit needs to remain about 8 inches from the wall. There is a very long and detailed modification you can do to your regular rooftop AC unit. You can get all the instructions at this link.

But for the most part, the portable units cannot be modified that much. They are self-contained units and the best modification you can do will come in the venting stage. Finding the quickest and best path for the water and hot air hoses is going to be the work you need to focus on.

Some Final Words

Portable AC units come in handy when you do not want to spend a lot of energy using your rooftop unit or when your RV does not have any air conditioning. The key will be getting the right model that fits your RV and is rated for the room you want to keep cool.

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