Sustainability and adventure may be your main motives behind trading in your house keys for your van keys full-time. Consuming less energy is always positive, but sometimes the weather can be a wet blanket, requiring you to have an AC unit to brave the heat. Fortunately, you can choose the right van life AC unit that’s energy-efficient and keeps you cool.

How Van AC Units Work

It helps to understand how a van AC unit works before you dive deep into your options. Five integral components cool your surroundings: a thermostat, liquid refrigerant, compressor, evaporator, and condenser coil.

The unit fires up when the thermostat senses a temperature rise, signaling the fan that triggers the evaporator coil. The coil absorbs the excess heat using the liquid refrigerant before it travels through the compressor. Once it goes through the compressor, the refrigerant heat turns liquid to gas, releasing the air outside.

Understanding all the moving parts helps you realize how much power you need for the unit to run efficiently without tripping the rest of your system.

Answering Questions

Asking yourself a handful of questions that pertain to your lifestyle also paints a picture of the type of unit you need. While some people may only spend their free time sleeping, others might prefer to kick their feet up and enjoy the BTUs of compressed air if it’s a scorcher outside.

What’s the climate you’ll be traveling in? If you’re sticking to a humid area, you’re better off getting a unit that doubles as a dehumidifier. Excess moisture may lead to mold problems and possible rust, so you must have a dehumidifier to avoid those issues.

How many people are living in the van? If it’s just you exploring what this world offers, then there’s no need to get a huge unit. However, a family cramping up the van will generate more heat and moisture, requiring a more robust unit.

Where will you do your cooking? You can easily feel the rise in temperature in a much larger home when the oven is on or you are boiling pasta on the stovetop. Take that feeling and intensify it due to the van’s close quarters. However, you might not need a huge unit if you often cook over an open flame outside.

Will you have access to shore power?  If you will have access to shore power you will have the luxury of considering less expensive and more powerful 120V AC (alternating current) powered AC (air conditioning) units.  

Things To Remember

A top-tier AC rooftop unit may last for many years if properly maintained. Routine air conditioner maintenance is typically quick and easy and will significantly enhance your cooling system’s effectiveness and durability. Besides your random inspections, we strongly advise a specialist to inspect your rooftop AC once a year to replenish the refrigerant and clean the coils.

The power usage of your van’s AC contributes to your monthly energy cost. So, of course, you’ll want to choose the model that uses the least resources while providing an adequate cooling capacity.

If you have a portable air conditioner, having a large battery bank is a terrific option since it enables you to operate your AC in times that you won't have access to shore power.

Choosing the right van life AC unit for you boils down to your answers to those questions. Once you know the answers, browse Unaka Gear Company’s conversion van accessories and our AC units. We understand that finding the best unit may still be confusing, so please contact us with any questions—we’re happy to help!