Can RV Air Conditioners be Recharged?

Camping in an RV can be an extremely relaxing and enjoyable experience. RV camping and living can also be flat-out miserable when things don’t go according to plan.

One of the things that can lead to a very negative RV experience is when your air conditioner isn’t working correctly. It leads to the question if you can recharge your camper’s AC unit or not.

The good news is that you can recharge your RV air conditioner if it’s low on freon. Regenerating an RV AC is much like recharging a house air conditioner, but it’s a little easier. While it could be necessary to have a certified HVAC technician recharge your AC, you can also do it yourself to save some money.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at RV air conditioners and how to maintain them. We’ll talk about recharging your AC and common issues that can pop up if you don’t have them serviced regularly. 

Can Camper Air Conditioners Be Recharged?

If the air conditioner in your camper needs a recharge, you can most definitely recharge it. It isn’t always that simple, though. There could be any number of reasons why your air conditioner isn’t working correctly. A low charge is only one of these many reasons.

Before jumping to conclusions, it would be wise to contact an RV service technician and allow them to diagnose the problem correctly.

There could be any number of reasons why your AC is acting up, and low freon is only one of them. To be sure that this is the cause, have a certified HVAC technician service your AC. 

How Do You Know if Your RV AC is Low on Freon? 

There are several ways to tell if your RV AC is low on freon. Apart from having a certified HVAC technician come out and put gauges on your air conditioner to measure the freon, here are a few ways that you can tell when you need more freon. 

  • Low airflow is coming out of your air conditioner vents. If your AC is low on freon, then you’ll notice that little to no air is emerging from your ceiling vents. 
  • Warm air is blowing out of your vents when the air conditioner is on. Even worse than small amounts of air coming from your vents is when warm air starts blowing. If this happens, then you’re low on freon. 
  • Ice builds up on the copper line set of your coil. Ice building up on your AC coil and copper lines is one of the easiest ways to tell that you’re low on freon.

    Ice buildup happens because there isn’t enough freon flowing through your pipes to cool down the warm air that’s also flowing over them from the outside. As a result, condensation builds up on the copper and coils and freezes over. 
  • Electric bills are higher than usual. The more your air conditioner runs, the higher your utility bill is going to be. Low freon will mean that your AC is running longer and more often, which means higher bills. 
  • Your RV takes an unusually long time to cool down. Along with higher bills, your RV will also take longer to cool down because of the reduced or warm airflow. 

    If you begin to notice these symptoms of your air conditioner, it’s time to call an HVAC technician and have them come out and make sure. If they determine that your AC is low on freon, they will recharge your unit and get it operating like normal. 

How Do I Add Freon to My RV Air Conditioner? 

If you are confident that you are low on freon, you can recharge your RV air conditioner. If you are going to attempt to charge your air conditioner yourself, here are the steps to follow:

1. Turn the Power Off to the Air Conditioner

You can turn the RV’s power off by flipping off the breaker that controls the air conditioner in the panel box of your RV.

2. Determine What Kind of Refrigerant You Need to Charge Your System

Freon is not a one-size-fits-all kind of thing. If you put the wrong type of freon into your system, you risk ruining it, and you will need to replace your air conditioner.

You can find out the exact freon required by either contacting your RV maker or, sometimes, the type of freon needed may show on the side of the air conditioner. 

Side note: Do not mix and match the refrigerants, as this can cause immense damage to your AC unit.

3. Remove the Lid of the AC System

There will be a protective cover over the top of your air conditioner to protect it from animals and tree branches. Once you remove the lid, the recharge can begin. 

4. Use a Refrigerant Gauge to Measure the Amount of Freon Added

For this step, it would be wise to take a quick online how-to course to find out how to read the gauges properly and how much freon your specific unit requires. You can easily do this with a refrigerant gauge. You’ll want to make sure it fits your refrigerant.

5. Slowly Add Refrigerant to the Air Conditioning Unit

Adding refrigerant is the final and most challenging step throughout the process. Be careful not to add refrigerant too quickly, as it could seriously damage your compressor. Also, be careful not to overcharge your AC as this will also cause problems. 

What Does it Mean When My RV Air Conditioner Has a Low Charge?

Now that you know how to recharge your air conditioner let’s break down some of these terms to understand what we’re talking about. When speaking in air conditioner terms, “charge” refers to the amount of refrigerant in your AC system.

Refrigerant is the liquid that gets circulated through a series of copper or aluminum coils, through a condenser, and then an evaporator.

Throughout this process, the liquid refrigerant is supercharged and cools the air flowing over the coils. This air, which is now cold, gets blown through vents and into the RV. 

If your air conditioner is low on the liquid refrigerant flowing through the coils, the coils will not be cold enough to cool the air simultaneously flowing over the coils. As a result, the air blowing out of your vents will feel warm instead of cold. 

By adding more refrigerant or recharging your air conditioner, there will be sufficient liquid in your system to cool the air flowing over the AC coils.  

Is My RV Air Conditioner Broken?

RV air conditioners can be pretty finicky and fragile at times. Depending on the type of RV you own, your air conditioner may be of very high quality or very cheap quality.

So, if you’re wondering if your RV air conditioner broke, the only way to know for sure is to have a qualified RV service technician check it. 

If your AC is on and running but is not cooling your camper, there could be a simple explanation. An AC that is low on refrigerant will often work but will blow limited or lukewarm air.

For an RV air conditioner to be “broken,” it has to be beyond the point of fixing or is too expensive to fix.

The concept is similar to a totaled vehicle. If your money installing a new air conditioner rather than repairing an old one saves money, then that’s what you should do.  

Why Isn’t My RV Air Conditioner Working?

There could be several reasons why your RV air conditioner isn’t working. To precisely find out what’s wrong with your RV air conditioner, contact an RV service tech and have them diagnose the problem.

However, here are some common issues to look for with your air conditioner:

1. Your Thermostat May be Broken

The first and easiest thing to check if your AC isn’t working is the thermostat. It could be possible that a wire in the thermostat has become disconnected or frayed or that your thermostat has given up the ghost. 

Thermostats don’t last forever, and most have a lifespan of 10 years or less. A broken thermostat is a relatively cheap and easy fix for your air conditioner.

2. The Air Conditioner Fan May be Compromised

The way an air conditioner works is that air is cooled inside the coils, condenser, and evaporator and is then blown out the vents of your RV by a fan.

If this fan isn’t working, air will get cooled while flowing over the air conditioner’s coils, but the fan will not be blowing the air out. 

As a result, this steady flow of cold air mixing with the chilled liquid in the coils will evaporate and freeze, forming ice on the evaporator coils. It would help if you had the fan repaired or replaced by a service tech to get your AC working again. 

3. Low Freon Levels

As mentioned before, low freon or refrigerant levels will also result in your AC not working. Your AC will have little airflow, and the evaporator coils will freeze over as with a compromised blower fan. You must get your AC recharged by adding refrigerant to prevent this problem from reoccurring. 

4. A Dirty Compressor

Sometimes, air conditioning problems can be the result of a dirty or faulty compressor. A dirty compressor is often the result of an overused or burnt-out compressor.

Suppose you notice that your air conditioner is extra noisy while in operation or a buildup of dirt on the evaporator coils. In that case, a dirty compressor is likely a culprit. If the condenser completely burns out, then you will probably have to replace the entire AC unit. 

5. Electrical Problems

From time to time, your RV may experience a power surge if the campgrounds system gets overloaded. When this happens, it’s typical for much of the electricity in your RV to kick off.

If this happens and your AC turns off, check the breaker, reset your thermostat, and the problem should solve itself. 

6. A Burned-out Capacitor

A capacitor is a physically small but essential part of the air conditioning system. It stores electricity and provides a kickstart of power any time the AC or the fan turns on. There will be several telltale signs if your capacitor is going bad. 

  1. The AC will make a humming noise when it tries to start up. 
  2. The AC will trip a breaker or blow a fuse after running for a few minutes. 
  3. The fan will not push air through the vents. 
  4. The fan blows hot or warm air due to the compressor not activating. 

If you let your RV sit idle for close to a year without using the air conditioner, your capacitor is more likely to burn out. 

How Do I Make My RV Air Conditioner Colder?

Like most things in life, an RV air conditioner will work better and more efficiently if taken care of. There are several easy ways to extend the life of your air conditioner and increase its efficiency

1. Schedule Maintenance Checkup with a Technician

The first way to boost the health of your RV air conditioner is by scheduling a maintenance checkup with a service technician. It is wise to do this every three months, depending on how often you use your air conditioner.

We recommend that an RV technician do the checkup, but any air conditioning service tech should have the tools and knowledge to get the job done. 

2. Leave the Thermostat Alone

Another way to increase the lifespan and efficiency of your RV air conditioner is by leaving the thermostat alone. Constantly turning the temperature up and down will add unnecessary wear and tear to the air conditioning system and cause severe damage. Pick a temperature, and stick with it. 

3. Clean the AC Unit Regularly

If you want to add the maximum amount of life and efficiency to your air conditioning unit, take time to clean it regularly.

This task doesn’t require any special skills or tools, just a willingness to take a little time and get a little dirty. By removing the protective cover from the top of the air conditioner, you can get to the evaporator coils and clean them. 

On the inside of the RV, your air conditioner will have filters that keep dirt from getting into the unit. Removing filters and running water over them then wiping them clean and dry will boost the efficiency of your AC. 

4. Utilize a Dehumidifier

A final tip to improving the efficiency of your air conditioner is by utilizing a dehumidifier. A dehumidifier will take additional humidity out of the inside of your RV and will put less stress on the AC itself.

With less humidity, your air conditioner can focus on simply cooling down the internal temperature of the RV. With less humidity, your RV will cool down quicker, meaning your AC will run less and last longer.  

Conclusion

There you have it, most everything you need to know about your RVs air conditioning unit or units. Hopefully, we have answered some of the questions you may have. We are confident that you know a little more about the ins and outs of your RVs cooling system!

Camping should be a fun getaway with friends and family or even a little downtime by yourself. By taking care of your RVs air conditioner and by recharging the system when necessary, you will be able to get the maximum amount of joy out of your RV experience. 

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.
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