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Can RV Air Conditioners Run On Propane?

Some people try to find ways to save on electricity and one way is to use propane instead of gas or diesel. They don’t want to spend a lot of money on their AC unit and are looking for a good, viable alternative.

Many people ask the question: can RV air conditioners run on propane? The answer is yes, its possible- but it’s also a lot of hassle. You need mechanical knowledge on how to set it up properly.

Running an RV air conditioner on propane is a very interesting idea, and it could actually be cost-effective when compared to other methods of powering your RV. In the past, there were gas-powered home air conditioners, so why not try running your RV’s air conditioner with propane?
In this article, we’ll take a closer look at how you can switch to propane for the air conditioner in your RV.

RV Air Conditioner And Propane

Most experts would agree that switching to propane simply not going to save you as much money as you might think. After all, while it’s true that propane is less expensive, it would require a lot to keep your RV cool.

Even if you are able to convert your RV to propane, you’re still going to need electricity to power on your air conditioner. One option might be to get a propane generator to provide the electricity you need.

RV Fridge And Propane

Yes, you can use propane to power your fridge. If it’s small, say 5 to 7 cubic feet, it’s not going to need a lot of propane to stay cool. Your typical RV is about 8’ by 7’ by 37’. This means that it’s almost 300 times bigger than your fridge, which means that propane is not an effective option for keeping your RV cooler.

DIY AC Unit Run By Propane

Since this is not common practice, you’ll have a hard time finding an RV that comes with AC units powered by propane. This means if you want to convert over to propane power, you’ll need to be creative and innovative.

Typically, propane powered air conditioner units are adaptable- but it’s hard to know without getting into it. Keep in mind that propane air conditioners range between $700 to $7,000. However, the electrical and mechanical designs are not difficult for experienced DIY-ers.

May Not Be Cost Effective

When people start paying attention to the prices at gas stations, they might believe that switching to propane from gas or diesel would save them money. However, they don’t think about the fact that you’ll need a lot more propane than you would other types of fuel. The reality is that you may end up spending $20 or more on propane each day, depending on how much you’re using.

Of course, you may not have a large enough RV to be spending that much on a daily basis, but after you spend the money to convert the unit, you’re still going to be spending a lot running your air conditioner, especially when temps get hot.

Risks Associated With Propane Use

One thing people often don’t think about is the volatility of propane and the risks that it brings that electricity doesn’t have. Even if the cost is a bit higher, it’s safer to use electricity than propane. If you opt to use propane, you’d have to spend money on ventilation to make sure that the air inside your RV doesn’t become contaminated.

Following are a few of the risks associated with propane use.

  • Propane needs to have an odor so that you can smell it. If this smell is removed by the air filter in your AC, you won’t know that you’re not breathing oxygen, but propane.
  • Propane tanks can leak, which can cause the gas to spread through the RV before igniting and bursting into flame.
  • Propane contains carbon monoxide, which means that you could end up succumbing to carbon monoxide poisoning before you realize it.

Steps To Safely Use Propane

In order to properly use propane, you’d need to take certain steps that are not required if you stick with electricity. One step would be to install carbon monoxide detectors- but these would need to be close to the ground since carbon monoxide is heavy and sinks to the ground.

Finally, you’d want to make sure you were checking for propane leaks on a regular basis and this takes up lots of valuable vacation time. Plus, your RV would need to be well-ventilated, which means your AC would have to work much harder, which would use more propane and end up costing you more money.

Bottom Line

While it’s true that it is possible to use propane to power your RV air conditioner, it’s not a very effective or efficient option. There are better ways, such as solar or electric. If you do decide to switch to propane, you must be aware that you’ll spend more on the conversion than you would on electricity during RV season.

The size of your RV matters. Chances are, you’d end up using more propane than you figured you would. While there are some great propane units out there, it might be a better idea to stick with electricity to avoid the risks that propane brings along.

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