How many solar panels are needed to run AC on an RV?

This is one of our most frequently asked questions. Having the ability to run air conditioning in your RV is a huge bonus for boondockers. Find out how much solar power you need to stay cool in the summer.

#rvsolar #solaracunit #rvairconditionersolar

Northern Arizona Wind & Sun has been supplying and installing solar power systems for over 40 years, since 1979. We can design almost any type of solar electric system. We do water pumping (submersible well pumps, pressure pumps etc.), grid tie solar, off-grid power systems, battery backup, cathodic protection, and many other types of solar electric systems.

Northern Arizona Wind & Sun would love to send you a price quotation on individual components or an estimate for a complete plug and play system. Let us know what you’re looking for and we’ll send you a quote within 24 hours (Monday – Friday).

Phone: 800-383-0195

Use the online load calculator to estimate your average energy usage:


  1. I've got 2400w of solar for my 1500kwh battery bank with (2)x5000w inverters. The system is being installed now, can't wait to go boondocking in it!

  2. Besides the AC draw, the inverter and solar controller and what ever else runs in the back ground, will have to be accounted for…And you have to generate more than that so you don't empty your batteries and it charges them some. Another thing is some controllers won't charge unless they see X amount of current available, so if you only have 5 amps left over after powering everything, your batteries might not charge. So you need to investigate and then do some math… And get a more efficient AC unit. Some of the old RV's aren't that efficient because solar wasn't affordable… And you were running off grid power.

  3. if you want to know how to make it yourself , just go to Avasva . There you'll find your answers 🙂

  4. Roof top rv ac = notoriously expensive inefficient poorly built power hog.
    30+ seer mini split ac
    1kw+ LifePo4 battery bank
    2000w+ solar
    Victron 120/240 inverter setup
    Hurricane Power permanent magnet DC alternators belt driven by honda clone engine through voltage regulator into battery bank. (very fuel efficient, no conversion losses).

  5. Its amazing how much crap they put on the roof if an RV these days. Of course they configure everything in the least symmetrical way known to mankind. Its amazing there is room for anything up there.
    It's one of the reasons I'm building my own. I have room for 4850 watts of solar panels on the roof of my 34 foot gooseneck, 12 feet of which is a non climate controlled garage. Even at half of the rated solar output, I will have enough to run my mini split all day and still charge my batteries.

  6. Batteries, panels, is that all you need? No. What about the inverter? I have 2000 watts of solar panels, and 10 900cca batteries, but still no AC. My 3000 watt inverter shuts down when turning on the rooftop unit. I have had to buy a window unit that the inverter CAN handle.

  7. Here are some tips if you want to run A/C off of solar in your RV:

    1 – Seek cooler weather/higher altitudes. This is going to have the greatest impact on your need for A/C as well as how much power will be required when you run it.

    2 – Insulate your RV as well as you possibly can. The better insulated your RV, the less power is needed to cool it. Especially, focus on covering windows with Reflectix, custom cut styrofoam inserts, etc. And, remember, the more solar panels you mount on the roof of your RV the less sunlight will be hitting it and heating up the inside of your RV – so, you get both the benefit of more power generation capacity and less energy requirements for cooling.

    3 – Replace a standard RV A/C unit with a high efficiency mini-split system. Residential mini-split A/C units are designed to be both higher efficiency and greater reliability than RV units that are designed for occasional use while traveling on vacation. You can expect an RV A/C unit to last three to five years of fulltime RV use. A mini-split system could last you 20 years, or more, of fulltime RV use.

    4 – Get the largest LiFePO4 battery bank you can afford. It should have, at least, 5kwh of storage, as a bare minimum – otherwise, it's just not going to be worth it to try to run A/C off your system. You should also consider configuring your system for 48 volts, rather than 12 volts. This will reduce your cabling costs, increase efficency of your inverters and charge controllers, and make installation faster and easier. Use a 48 volt – 13.8 volt converter for 12 volt appliances that cannot run on 48 volts. Do not attempt to use lead-acid battery banks, if you're trying to run A/C. The charge/discharge inefficiency and weight of lead-acid batteries is enough to make the whole project not feasible for an RV.

    5 – Get the highest powered pure sine wave inverter you can afford. A/C units have high current demands, especially on start up. And, lower powered inverters are just not going to be up to the task. Your inverter should be rated for a continuous output of, at least, twice the running power requirements of the A/C unit, preferably even more. If you try to cheap out, here, you're going to regret it – because, you are likely to kill a cheaper inverter, rendering your investment in it worthless, and you will end up buying the larger inverter, anyway.

    6 – Plan to not use A/C in the mornings until your battery bank has been replenished completely. So, the more solar power you have, the sooner you will be able to run your A/C.

    7 – Top off your battery bank late in the afternoon, using your generator or shore power, if available, so you will have maximum capacity to run your A/C after the sun goes down.

    8 – If possible, supplement your rooftop solar array with portable solar panels you can deploy on the ground. These solar panels can be turned and tilted in the direction of the Sun more easily and provide extended hours of power generation.

    9 – As much as possible, learn how to live without A/C.

  8. Thats why you install the new 12V ductless split system in your RV, three solar panels run it.

  9. Honestly efficiency is the largest key factor… instead of trying to cool the entire RV down just cool the master bedroom that you stay in 80% of the time with the little small 5000 BTU unit….

  10. The best in the market hands down THEY KNOW THE IN'S AND OUT'S about Solar I have purchaced an off grid system DIY with Victron equipment here in Milo, Maine VERY HAPPY WITH EVERYTHING FROM them THEY WER EASY TO TALK TO. and understanding. 100 points We plan for more in the future. Mr Magoo.

  11. I have a question about combining multiple arrays to a single combiner box. I have (2 150w in series) (2 150w in series) and want to add (3 200w panels) I have in either series or paralell whichever is optimal. Each array will be running through a breaker in the CB and out in 2ga wire to a 100Amp Epever controller. I am trying to understand the effects of this on the panels and the controller by doing this combination at the combiner box. I'm having a hard time finding a answer. 150w specs are VOC 22.92 IMP 8.20 200w specs are VOC 24.29 IMP 9.52

  12. Maybe might want to mention solar panels are less efficient when running in high heat — another factor to make this a difficult proposition. Then there's the idea that when you have used up all of your battery to run your AC unit, what's left for all your other appliances since you don't want to have dead batteries all night long.

    Hoping to add a bit more solar to my system (maybe 720 watts more? for a total of 2000 watts) and then use my 6000 btu 470-watt soft-start AC unit (until I can afford a mini-split). Planning on walling off the back 1/3 of my rig so I only have about 64 sq ft to cool. Hoping that will make this a more doable idea, too.

    A few weeks ago my 1280-watt solar panels put out 1315 watts power (at some point during the day – I'm always thrilled to exceed the total rated capacity of my solar panels). But it was extra COLD that day. Solar CAN and DOES go a LONG way to running high power appliances. I think my system is proof of that — right?

    Max I've run so far is 4.1 kilowatts used for one day with excess still to burn. … with 200 AH batteries.

  13. I think honestly instead of trying to cool the entire RV down why not dissection a back room that has only about 5000 BTUs of AC and then you would need so much less solar to be comfortable

  14. Almost everyone that I know that runs their AC for any length of time from a solar charged battery bank uses a very efficient mini-split AC instead of their inefficient roof AC. There are mini-split systems that are over twice as efficient as your typical roof mounted AC. They are quieter too. So doesn't it make sense to get a 12k Btu mini-split that consumes between 750 and 500 watts that might cost $2,000, and install maybe a $8k-$10k solar system/battery bank, or try to use your existing roof AC and spend $20k because you'll need twice as much solar and batteries (at twice the weight and roof space too)? Most folks don't have either, so it only makes sense to get something like a Harvest Host DC only mini split (that produces 12k Btu's of cooling while only consuming 11.5 amps at 48V (560 watts.) They have no startup surges due to their rotary (danfoss type) compressors. Add to that a 5-10 kw, 48v lithium battery bank, 2,700-3,000 watts of solar (to power your AC during the day while charging your batteries for night use) and you've got a good start on a practical solar powered AC system. I'm planning on a similar system on my motorhome in a couple years. I already installed a smaller, 620 watt system on the side of my MH, for my 12v power needs, to leave the roof available for my big system. I got the panels and some components from N. Arizona Wind & Sun, BTW. Great guys! Of course if you need more cooling than that, you'd have to increase the system's size, expense and weight. Instead I recommend getting an RV with good insulation, double pane windows and using reflectix liberally (just not inside double pane windows).

  15. It would matter greatly as to whether the RV is parked in a deep shade spot. Probably then could get by with a 5000 BTU (500 W) instead of 12000 BTU air conditioner.

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