What the Heck Is a Propane Air Conditioner?

Are you in the market for a new RV air conditioner and want to know what a propane air conditioner is? Let's delve deeper into what it is.

Seasoned campers will be well aware of the challenges of trying to stay cool when sleeping in an RV in the height of the summer.

It’s all very well planning road trips and adventures in the great outdoors when skies are blue and the sun is shining, but once you retreat indoors for the night, you’re likely to find that it’s virtually impossible to sleep.

Hot, sticky nights are par for the course when you tour the roads in your RV during the warmer months.

The solution for most is installing an air conditioner. With the right system in place, you can put a stop to sweaty nights and make the most of your summer vacation.

Enter; a propane air conditioner.

What is a propane air conditioner?

If you’ve been researching air conditioners for an RV, you may have stumbled across a propane air conditioner. Now what the heck is a propane air conditioner?

As the name suggests, a propane air conditioner is an air conditioner, which utilizes propane rather than electricity.

Propane is used to power appliances commonly found in RVs, so it’s natural to wonder whether it’s possible to run other systems, such as air conditioning, on propane.

Source: YouTube

The answer is yes, but there is some small print attached to this response. It’s not always as simple as switching to propane to power your AC system. To utilize propane effectively and safely, you have to be aware of how to use propane in your RV.

What are the options with a propane air conditioner for RVs?

It is uncommon to come across RVs with propane air conditioners. If you are toying with the idea of revamping your RV to switch from electricity to a propane air conditioner, you may end up taking on a fairly extensive DIY project.

There are propane air conditioners available to buy, but they tend to be targeted towards homeowners, rather than RV owners.

It may be possible to adapt your unit, but it is important to note that propane air conditioners that are designed for home use may not be rated for RVs. Systems that power properties are likely to be too large for an RV. 

If you do manage to adjust a propane unit or find an RV with a propane-powered air conditioner, the next step is to analyze potential costs and savings.

It’s understandable to assume that propane is a cheaper alternative but there are complications that impact the cost.

Adapting a unit will cost money, but keeping it running could also be more expensive than anticipated. To run the AC unit, you will need to use electricity. It is possible to invest in a propane generator, but this will add to your outgoings.

Using propane safely

Safety should always come first when adapting your RV or modifying systems to save money or make your van or camper more efficient.

When dealing with propane, there are some important steps to take, including:

  • Choosing the right propane tank size
  • Checking the system frequently
  • Installing detectors for fire, carbon monoxide and propane
  • Check individual appliance function
  • Use a gauge to determine when to refill the propane tank

I’ve written a post covering the risks of using propane indoors. Give it a read.

Are there risks? Will I be safe?

Nobody wants to head off on a jaunt worrying about whether it’s safe to turn the air conditioning on. If it’s boiling outside, and you’re looking forward to crashing out in a nice cool RV after a day of outdoor pursuits, you want to ensure that you feel safe.

When compared to electricity, propane can be a pretty dangerous proposition. This is because propane is highly flammable and very volatile. The main risks include:

RiskWhy is it a risk?
FlammabilityPropane is a highly flammable hydrocarbon.
RestrictionsThe use of propane is restricted within many countries, including the US, which makes other fuel sources more appealing.
Handling requirementsTo utilize propane safely, you’ll need to adhere to guidelines related to special handling.
OdorlessPropane leakages are odorless which means that they can only be flagged by a dedicated detector.

Propane can be a tricky customer which is why it’s SO essential to be aware of the risks of using propane – especially indoors!

Is a propane air conditioner a good idea?

Source: RV Blogger

If you’ve been reading about air conditioning systems for RVs and you’re wondering whether a propane air conditioner is an ingenious idea, it’s critical to weigh up the pros and cons.

Propane is used widely by RV owners to power appliances, such as refrigerators, but there are reasons why it’s rare to come across RVs that have propane powered air conditioners installed.

Propane is more dangerous than electricity, and in most cases, you would need to adapt a system that is designed for home use, which might not be a task you’re all that excited about taking on.

Unless you have the expertise required to adapt or convert an air conditioner for your RV, you may feel that it’s more hassle than it’s worth. 

If you do have the skills to revamp your RV’s air conditioning system and you’re keen to give it a go, there are advantages of using a propane air conditioner, including environmental benefits, potential cost savings and increased efficiency.

Final thoughts

It’s not common to find RVs with propane air conditioners, so it’s natural to wonder what on earth a propane conditioner is.

In the simplest terms, a propane air conditioner is an AC system that is powered by propane. It is possible to run an RV air conditioner on propane, but there are limitations and complications to consider, including adapting systems for RV use and operating your unit safely.

It’s wise to weigh up the pros and cons before choosing which type of air conditioner to use.

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Jakob Staudal

I love to spend time outside and reconnect with nature every now and then and cut-off all the noise from social media and everyday life.