RV Propane AC: Does an RV Air Conditioner Run on Propane?

One way some people come up with is to substitute propane for electricity. They do not want to spend a lot of money powering their RV air conditioning unit. They are looking for good viable alternatives to save on their expenses.

Does an RV Air Conditioner Run on Propane? While it is possible to run an RV air conditioner off of propane, it would take a lot of mechanical knowledge to set up the system so that it does not cost you a lot to operate. There have been gas powered home air conditioners in the past but the majority of them are not being made anymore.

It is an interesting idea to run an RV air conditioner off propane and it may be cost effective. Just keep reading to find out how you can switch to propane for your RV air conditioner and save a few bucks.

Propane Air Conditioner RV

The experts seem to agree that turning to propane to cool your RV would not save you any money. While propane is considerably cheaper to buy than electricity, it would take too much propane to effectively cool your RV’s interior.

Even if you do successfully do convert to propane, you would still need to produce electricity to power the RV’s AC unit. One solution would be to purchase a propane powered generator to produce that electricity.

RV’s Use Propane For Fridges

This is true but you must compare the size of the fridge to the size of the interior of your RV. The fridge is very small, between 5 and 7 cubic feet, and does not require a lot of propane to run its cooling system.

On the other hand, a typical RV may only be 8 by 7 by 35 feet. This makes it about 280 times larger than a RV fridge. The cost of cooling your RV’s interior by propane would escalate immensely

DIY Propane Driven RV AC Unit

It is very difficult to find an RV that comes with propane powered AC units. This means you have to be a little innovative to cut your costs. To change from electric power to propane power to air condition your RV may take a little ingenuity and a lot of DIY experience.

One example is that an old time farmer took a propane powered air con unit from a train car and adapted it to his home. This took a lot of duct work and special zoning system to make sure it ran properly but he was successful.

Of course, that unit may be too large for an RV to handle. You can buy propane powered air conditioners but they may not be rated for RVs and only are designed to be used in your home.

These units may be adaptable but it is hard to say. The mechanical and electrical designs involved in RVs is a little difficult for many DIY masters to comprehend. Of course, the cost of these propane air conditioners run quite high. They range between $700 to $7,000.

It Really May not be Cost Effective

People may be confused when it comes to saving money by switching from electricity to propane to cool their RV. They see the cheap prices at their local gas stations and think that expense is a lot less than they pay for electrical hook ups and the gas it costs to recharge the RV battery.

In reality though, there may not be any savings if you switch from electrical power to propane to operate your RV AC. In one standard propane AC unit, when the temperatures hit 100+, the owner was spending $20 a day to keep the propane tank filled. Over 7 days they burned 57 gallons of propane costing them $132.

Now your RV may not be as big as that room, but after spending the money to convert the AC unit, you are still looking at spending a lot more money running the air conditioner. Especially if it gets too hot outside.

The savings may not be realized.

The Risks of Using Propane

Propane is a very volatile gas and it comes with risks that electricity does not have. It is far safer to use electric power, even if the cost is high, than it is to use propane. You would need to spend money on special venting to make sure your RV’s interior remained healthy to breathe.

Here are some of those risks:

  • Propane needs to have an odor added to it so that it can be detected by the nose. If that ingredient is removed somehow, you won’t realize you are breathing propane instead of oxygen.
  • Propane can spring a leak. When this happens it can spread throughout your RV long before it is ignited and erupts into flames.
  • Propane has carbon monoxide. This means that without using carbon Monoxide detectors you could succumb to the poisoning without realizing it.
  • To use propane safely, you would need to take special safety steps you would not have to if you stuck with electricity. One step would be to install carbon monoxide detectors. But these do not go high on your walls or your ceiling.
  • Propane is a heavy gas and it sinks to your floor and a little higher as it spreads. Those detectors would have to be at floor level to make sure they find any carbon monoxide
  • Another safety step to take would be to continually check for any propane leaks. That takes a lot of time. You would also need to keep your RV well ventilated just in case and that might make your RV AC unit work harder and cost you more money.

Some Final Comments

Using propane to cool your RV may look and sound good but in the end it may not be such a good idea. You are looking at paying more to do the conversion than it would cost you to use electricity for the amount of time you use your RV.

Then the size of your RV would also be a factor. You would probably use more propane than you figured over one two week vacation. There are good propane units out there but in the long run it would be safer to stick with electricity than run the risks propane brings with it.

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