How Do I Put an RV Air Conditioner on My Roof?

A parked RV with an air conditioner on its roof.

There’s your trusty RV. There’s an A/C you’ll need to install on its roof. Oh, and there’s also you nervously wondering: now, how do I put this RV air conditioner on my roof? Does this sound a bit too familiar? If so, you’ll find our today’s topic pretty darn interesting!

First of all, don’t worry. Installing an air conditioner on your RV’s roof ain’t such a big deal. However, it ain’t something you’d call a piece of cake either. With some useful tips, we’re sure that you’ll handle the process of putting an RV air conditioner on your roof without much hassle. Stay tuned and see how’s that possible!

Add a wooden frame that will help the roof of your RV support the unit since they tend to be a bit heavy. You’ll have to cut a 14-inch square out of your roof (that’s the standard measure). While mounting the unit, make sure that the side of your RV you’re working on is covered with a blanket. 

There was no way to re-size even the littlest guide on installing your RV’s A/C to fit three lines of text. That’s why you should enjoy the whole thing!

Table of Contents

Summer’s almost here

So, we’re nearing the first day of summer. Whether or not that statement’s true will depend on where you’re from. However, let’s just say that summer’s near and get it over with. Okay, so summer’s almost here and you’ve planned out some RV outdoor adventures during the hottest months of the year. Needless to say, your thoughts should all be pointing at one thing: your RV’s A/C system. That being said, the fact that many folks consider installing a rooftop A/C unit on their RVs makes a lot of sense and it ain’t surprising at all.

If you’re wondering if RV awnings should be tied, click on the highlighted text.

Why opt for a rooftop RV A/C?

Okay, so one might think: what’s so special about a rooftop A/C unit? Couldn’t you survive by simply sporting a portable air conditioner? Let’s see why would one want to opt for a rooftop RV A/C instead of a portable one:

  • Effectiveness. This might be their biggest advantage over the portable units. Rooftop A/C units are much more powerful than portable units. It’s like comparing a central A/C unit inside your apartment and a portable air conditioner.
  • More floor space. You’d lose some valuable floor space by sporting a portable A/C unit. We all how much floor space matters inside an RV.
  • Noise reduction. They’re typically less noisy than their portable counterparts.
  • Less hassle. You just put ’em up there and do nothing for about 5 years (if, of course, something doesn’t choose to go awry). There are no day-to-day issues that are common with portable units.

Now that we’ve gone through the reasons why one would want to put an RV air conditioner on their roof (your furry buddies will love the addition, too), it’s time to see how should you handle that very same process!

An RV with a roof air conditioner, on the road.

How do I put an RV air conditioner on my roof?

Before we kick-start the process of installing an RV A/C unit on your roof, let’s just say that it’s fairly easy. The word count of the guide you’re about to read shouldn’t discourage you. Okay, let’s begin!

As we’ve already said, the whole process is fairly simple. Not to mention the fact that you’ll have to get used to cutting holes into your vehicle if you’re doing any type of RV renovation/conversion. Yup, you’ll have to cut a “typical” 14″ x 14″ (35.56 x 35.56 cm) square hole since those are the dimensions of almost every rooftop vent, vent fan, or an A/C unit. All of the mentioned share the same opening.

Provide some support

The first thing you might want to do is to create a wooden frame for an interior support system. That’s because most A/C units tend to be pretty heavy. You don’t want your metal RV roof supporting the unit completely on its own. For instance, if your A/C is to “sit” behind the cab area, you’ll want to add some so-called structural ribs to support the ceiling panels above which the unit’s located. Also, you’ll want to create a wooden frame with the 14″ x 14″ (35.56 x 35.56 cm) square hole cut out that will surround that very same hole in your RV’s roof.

Run the wiring

Next up, you’ll want to run the 120V A/C wiring from your load center to the desired location of your air conditioning unit. You can use a 14 gauge wire for this process since we’re talking about a 15A circuit. Once you’ve finished handling the wiring, you’ll want to continue working on the support for your RV’s air conditioning unit by placing two larger (longer) supports right in front and behind where the aforementioned square opening would be. Glue and screw them into the base.

Prepare the ceiling panel

Okay, so now you’ll want to prepare the ceiling panel for the front-most part of the ceiling. It will also need to possess a square opening for the air conditioning unit. Also, it’ll need to possess holes for the LED light that you’ll place on this section of the ceiling. Lastly, you’ll want to waterproof the wooden frame that forms the already famous 14-inch opening by using liquid rubber.

It’s drilling time

Of course, you couldn’t have avoided this part, you’ll have to drill some holes from your RV’s interior. To be more precise: you’ll drill four holes, one for each corner of the 14-inch opening. Once you’ve done that, get up there, on your RV’s roof, and cut the 14-inch opening by using a jig saw. Keep in mind that it’s of utmost importance that you catch most of the metal bits that will forms once you cut into your RV’s roof. If it’s possible, you’ll want someone handling a shop vac right behind the jig saw while you’re cutting. Afterward, you’ll use a magnet and vacuum cleaner combo to tackle any remaining bits.

Okay, so once you’ve created the hole, simply file the edges and coat the metal with primer.

Presumably, the most difficult part

Now, you’ll have to get that 90-pound (about 41 kilos) A/C unit up on your roof. Before you try out anything, we strongly recommend that you cover the desired side of your RV with a blankie just so you avoid any harm being done to your vehicle’s exterior. Once you’ve done that, have someone help you push the unit up on the roof. Mount it, lined up with the 14-inch opening.

Back inside

Now you’re back inside. Here’s the thing: the ceiling assembly “sports” a metal frame and four of those super long bolts; the frame will match your ceiling paneling. The four bolts will have to go through this metal frame to reach the threaded nuts that were built into your RV’s A/C unit. You’ll only have to tighten these bolts to make sure that your RV’s rooftop unit stays in place.

Let’s wrap up the process

Last but not least, connect the electrical wires that you’ll find inside the ceiling assembly’s junction box. Don’t worry since it won’t be much of a hassle: use the supplied wire nuts to match the hot, neutral, and ground supply wires to the ones you’ll find on the ceiling assembly. Once you’ve taken care of that, cut the flexible fabric duct material to the desired length. Afterward, match it against the ceiling assembly by utilizing the VHB (Very High Bond) tape.

And that, folks, is everything there’s to know about the process of putting an RV air conditioner on your roof. As you could’ve noticed, there’s a lot of work but it ain’t so hard. Let’s see if there’s something we forgot to mention! Oh, and if you’re wondering if you can leave your RV out all the time, simply visit this page.

Can you use solar panels to power your RV’s roof A/C?

Now, this is one of the more frequently asked questions concerning rooftop units: whether or not is it possible to power an A/C unit with solar panels? It’s free energy, so why shouldn’t on try this out? Why use batteries when you can use solar panels? Needless to say, things aren’t so simple.

To directly answer the question in the paragraph’s title: nope, it’s not so doable. The thing is: there just isn’t enough room on your RV’s roof to create enough solar energy to substitute your A/C batteries. At least that’s the thing about most RVs.

The bottom line

Okay, RV-loving people, that’s that on the subject of putting an RV air conditioner on your roof! Hopefully, now you’re all set and ready to make your RV a safe haven from extreme summer temperatures. Otherwise, you’ll have to endure a not-so-pleasant RV summer adventure. Not to mention the fact that a poorly-equipped RV (in terms of cooling) can demotivate some folks from even starting the engine and hitting the road.

For more tips on similar topics (dealing with RVs and RV-related subjects), feel free to visit this section of our trusty blog.

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