An air conditioner can be very important on an RV. Many RV owners tend to lean toward warm areas, and might get attached to the area and not leave with it gets really hot. Heatwaves can also come on suddenly before you want to leave.
Getting a good burst of cool air is critical in these situations to avoid sweating while inside. One question we’ve heard is whether or not you can run your RV air conditioner on 15 amp power. While it’s not a very common problem, it’s a bit of a technical question and concerns safety.
It’s possible to run an RV air conditioner on 15 amp, but there are some things you’ll want to check first to make sure it’s safe.
How many amps is your RV air conditioner?
Generally, you can check the manual for your RV air conditioner to see how many watts it requires. It might actually be low enough, like below 15 watts, that it’s not going to matter.
The amps might also show on the exterior shell of the RV air conditioner or on the motor. Check this before doing anything just to make sure.
An RV air conditioner can be between 15 to 30 watts depending on the size of your RV and the power of the air conditioner.
How do I check the amps in my circuit box?
Go to your main breaker box for your RV and open it. The inside should have labeled circuits – and in most cases, per electrical code, written in pen in clear writing. Look for the one that says air conditioner.
The breaker should have a number on it that says a number between 15 to 30.
The goal is to have the number on the breaker be the same or higher than the amps needed by the air conditioner.
What happens if the numbers are off?
There are certainly some issues that can happen.
If your RV air conditioner has a higher draw of amps than the circuit, you will likely trip the breaker in the process. The electrical system will detect that the air conditioner is receiving less power than it should, which could potentially damage the motor, and shut off the breaker. This is like when you plug too many devices into one outlet and the breaker can’t handle all of it.
If your electrical system or breaker are faulty, this can cause larger problems, including sparks, quick burnout of the motor or even a fire.
You are in better shape of the breaker has more power than the air conditioner. To give an example: You can plug in a laptop that requires 1.5W into an outlet in your RV when the breaker itself can carry 15.
What are the chances of having an issue if the air conditioner is underpowered?
Pretty good. If your RV’s electrical system works as designed, it will notice that the motor is not receiving the electrical it needs and either shut off the AC unit or trip the breaker.
What can I do to fix it?
First, design your electrical system around the needs of the air conditioner, not the other way around.
You can also call an electrician and have them change out the breaker and potentially the electrical wire to a higher capacity carrier in order to accommodate the air conditioner.
This is also true when upgrading your air conditioner. Check the breaker size versus the needs of the air conditioner before deciding what to install.
Why would you be in the situation where you needed more power?
Some people like cool RVs, and a 15 amp or lower air conditioner might not work well for them.
You’ll actually go through a similar process if you install an air conditioner for an older home that doesn’t have one – you’ll have to wire it up and add a breaker with the right capacity.
Can I prevent this situation?
You don’t necessarily need a higher powered air conditioner to get more cooling for your RV. Consider instead looking at reviews and trying other air conditioners with a similar capacity to see if they satisfy your needs.
It’s also possible your current AC needs a tune up, replacing, or other problems.
Can I change our breakers myself?
Yes, you can. While we don’t recommend diving into electrical by changing out a breaker without doing a lot of research, you can indeed change a breaker by yourself. The next issue is that you might need to change the electrical wire headed to your air conditioner too.
Changing out the wire is not as simple as standing in front of the electrical box.
Matching your air conditioner up to your cooling needs and your RV powers ability to cool is crucial to keep things cool and safe in our RV. Repeated breaker trips are bad news and a sign that things aren’t working as planned.
Consider talking to an electrical or air conditioning expert to see how you can make things work in your RV and satisfy all safety needs too.