Considering how to power your caravan air conditioner when you don't have access to mains power? Your options are a small portable camping generator or caravan batteries... yes it is possible to run a caravan air conditioner from the right RV battery system, but there are a few things you need to know first. Find out more below:
Let's use The Dometic Aircommand Ibis 4 as an example for our explanation.
The Dometic Aircommand Ibis 4 has an inverter controller compressor so it has a very low start up power draw. It will slowly ramp up to its peak power draw. The peak power draw is around 1600W.
Therefore, you could use a good quality 2000W inverter, such as the Enerdrive ePOWER 2000W 12V Pure Sine Wave, connected to your battery bank. However, you need to understand the reality of of an RV air conditioners (be it an inverter or a non inverter) power draw.
Say the air conditioner draws an average of 1200W per hour. In a 12V system , that is 100 Amps. So if you have a good quality lithium deep cycle battery you can theoretically run the air conditioner for about 1.5 hours before you need to recharge your batteries. That is the big factor that most people miss. You will need to recharge those batteries and it takes a while to recharge a big battery bank.
If you have a 40Amp DC to DC charger it will take about 3 hours of driving to compensate for charge lost from 1 hour of running your air conditioner. If you are using 600W of solar on the roof, it will take 1 full day of solar to replace that 1 hour of air conditioner running! Now, that is not taking into account any of your other appliances.
So a long story short, you can do it if you are aware of how that will affect your battery storage and charge loss and knowing how to manage that system.
For a real life example, Justin from Trip In A Van takes us through running their Dometic Harrier Air Conditioner from a 400Ah Enerdrive Lithium Battery System - skip to 25:29 in the video below!
The Dometic Harrier Plus Rooftop Air Conditioner only drew 45-55 Amps, which means they could comfortably run the system for 3 to 4 hours per day with an input of 30 Amps of solar in full sun. In this test example, the air con was only drawing the difference of 15 Amps from the battery system.
Obviously you have to take into account all the other appliances and electronics you need to power during your off-grid camping trip. The takeaway message is the Dometic Harrier Plus Air Conditioner ran more efficiently than theoretically calculated solely from the manufacturers specifications.
This is a big win for the Dometic Inverter Air Conditioner Models:
Enerdrive offer a range of 400Ah Lithium Battery & Solar bundles to accommodate running one of these Dometic caravan air conditioners:
If you are just pulling up for lunch and you are doing a lot of driving, you can run your caravan air con unit from your batteries for a short time. Some of our customers do this and as new caravan air con models get more and more energy efficient and lithium battery technology becomes even more powerful, lightweight and affordable, we will no doubt gradually see more of this... see our full range of caravan lithium battery bundles HERE and our power systems HERE.
For the serious off-grid caravan installation we have created an ultimate caravan off-grid bundle exclusively using Victron products, all with a 5 year warranty!
This bundle has a big enough inverter to run any roof top air conditioner on the market. You can easily scale it up by paralleling multiple 200Ah lithium batteries together to increase your run time off the grid.
But for many of our customers wanting to free camp and use their air con in their van, the best solution is often a caravan/camping generator. You'll need fuel and oil and an extension lead of course, but a good generator will allow you to run your air con for more than 6-8 hours straight without having to worry about re-fueling. In hot climates when you want a good night's sleep in a cool van, this generator option is therefore most likely going to be the best one, unless you have a decent sized lithium battery system.
Another worthy mention is cost. It depends on what power system you already have in your van, but if you are starting from scratch, then a new large lithium battery power system can be several thousands of dollars. There are however, a huge amount of benefits that the latest RV lithium battery systems offer for your next adventure, and they can be worth every penny for many customers - some of these benefits can be seen here in more detail in our related article: 'Power on the go: Generator vs. Battery'.
But if we just stick to the the consideration of wanting to run your caravan aircon whilst free camping, you can get yourself a quality inverter generator such as the Cromtech 2400W for over $1,000 or the MaxWatt 2500W for just under $1,100.
So overall, whilst you can run your caravan aircon from a battery bank, its important to know how long you will be able to run it and how long it is going to take you to recharge your batteries. It can be done... but often (although not in every case) a caravan generator is a better and cheaper solution.
Need help selecting a generator to run your caravan air con? Check out our blog post "Running a Caravan Air Conditioner from a Generator" or give one of our product experts a call on 1300 400 122!
We would love to hear about how long you run your air conditioner from your battery bank. Comment below!
DISCLAIMER* Please note, this advice is general in nature and we strongly recommend consulting the product manual and where relevant, a professional installer.